Marcia G. Yerman

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“After Fire” — The Challenges Facing Female Veterans

“After Fire” — The Challenges Facing Female Veterans

Women vets are encouraged to suppress their feelings and not appear “weak.” This leads to isolation and an absence of support.

December 6, 2016 | 1 comment | Read More »

“After Fire” — The Challenges Facing Female Veterans

“After Fire” — The Challenges Facing Female Veterans

Women vets are encouraged to suppress their feelings and not appear “weak.” This leads to isolation and an absence of support.

December 6, 2016 | 1 comment | Read More »

Post-Election: New Women in Congress Inspire Hope

Post-Election: New Women in Congress Inspire Hope

On Election Day, I cast my vote full of hope.

On Wednesday morning, I went to bed at 3 a.m. — after watching eight hours of election returns. When I woke up, I had a severe case of dread. Not an existential dread. Rather, a version that I could feel in every fiber of my body.

I have been writing about the environment for six years.

As I looked over all the articles I have produced,

November 17, 2016 | No comment | Read More »

Moving Forward with Grassroots Activism

Moving Forward with Grassroots Activism

The biggest take away from this deadly election cycle is that grassroots action is the key to the success of any movement or ideology.

December 26, 2016 | No comment | Read More »

Spotlight

Moving Forward with Grassroots Activism

mcaf-exxon_ceo_sec_state

2016 is finally coming to a close.

For those who care about the environment, the only choice is to look forward toward mobilizing in 2017 — with the goal of keeping progress from backsliding.

Easier said than done?

Not really.

True, there will not be a pro-active partner in the White House. However, the biggest take away from this deadly election cycle is that grassroots action is the key to the success of any movement or ideology. Change emanates from the strength at the bottom, creating a shift that may be slower than desired — but that in the end yields a monumental force.

Too many people are already throwing up their hands, convinced that there is nothing that they — as an individual — can do.

Not true.

There is a much bigger picture here. What cannot be overlooked is the essential hyperlocal aspect of the struggle.

Has your district been gerrymandered so that people faced with environmental justice challenges are not being equitably represented? Does your Councilperson share your alarm about particulate matter in air pollution or the high rates of asthma in children? How about your State Senator?

Do you know where your elected officials stand on state-based deregulation or why the electrical industry is pushing to restructure itself to become a “tradable commodity?”

I recently read Frackopoly by Wenonah Hauter. One of the biggest insights culled from her well-researched book was how actively interconnected fossil fuel companies, finance, government, media, and influence have become. Hauter introduces her story with the evolution of today’s top fossil fuel companies. They evolved out of the 1911 Supreme Court decision to break up the Standard Oil monopoly, which was divided into thirty-four companies, because it violated the Sherman Anti-Trust  Act.

In 1946, Congress opened up public lands that were not yet developed, making them easier to lease and accessible to the grasp of fossil fuel interests. In post-World War II America, there was an expansion of infrastructure devoted to pipelines. It is during this period that fossil fuel interests began to seek out connections within Congress, in order to exert their influence and become active players.

Hauter revisits the history of the CIA’s involvement in the 1953 coup against the democratically elected Iranian government. The purpose was to secure the oil resources connection. In a déjà vu scenario, Trump has spoken about taking all the oil in Iraq as part of his “plan” to defeat the Islamic State.

By 1980, Hauter writes that those in the gas and oil sector began aggressively working to defeat those in the House and Senate who didn’t support their agenda.

The fossil fuel sector had a friend in Ronald Reagan, who appointed James Watt as the Secretary of the Interior. Watt could be a model for what Trump has in mind for appointments, including posts for the Interior, Energy, and the EPA. Watt was a lawyer who was on the side of those opposing regulations and conservation. He became known as the “anti-environmentalist.”

Not too long ago, Dick Cheney was behind getting fracking exempted from national environmental laws with a clause known as “The Halliburton Loophole?”

Today, energy companies have an outsized influence on American politics. It’s easy to make the connections: just follow the money. The Koch brothers have opposed regulations at every turn to make sure that their bottom line stays untouched? They have backed up their agenda with generous campaign contributions.

Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), a staunch climate denier, has received in excess of 1.7 million dollars from gas and oil companies during the period of 1989 to 2015. Oklahoma has seen an upsurge in earthquakes (5,417 in 2014), attributed to the increase in fracking activity.

When Rachel Maddow broke the story that President-elect Donald Trump was widening his Secretary of State search to include both the former and present CEOs of Exxon Mobil, a shudder went through me. (So much for draining the swamp of special interests and the big money boys.) The possibility was clear that Trump was considering a mashup of corporate, big energy, and Wall Street interests. (Fossil fuels was one of the stocks to shoot up after the Trump win.)

ExxonMobil ranks as the top fracking company in the United States. Yet, Rex Tillerson made news when he didn’t want fracking in his backyard.

Now, he is a nominee-in-waiting.

Hauter calls for a “grassroots insurgency” to take place both in the United States and around the world.

The country is witnessing a true example of organic activism in the Standing Rock movement. Solidarity and support came from groups inclusive of religious leaders, war veterans, and anti-pipeline advocates.

On December 4, the Army Corps of Engineers announced it would not move forward with granting a permit for the Dakota Access pipeline to drill under the Missouri River.

This example goes beyond serving as a template. It exemplifies the importance of demanding accountability, and stands as a reminder that what transpires is on each of us, as American citizens.

January 20th isn’t the end. It is, in fact, a new beginning….
To protect our communities, our children, and the future of the planet.

This article originally appeared on Moms Clean Air Force.

Tell Your Senators: Stand Up to Trump’s Climate Denial

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Dec 26, 2016 | No comment | Read More »

We Need the EPA Now More Than Ever

In the course of the election, Donald Trump was clear about his views on climate disruption, the Paris agreement, and most specifically — the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Now that Trump is President-elect, he is wasting no time in putting his ideas into play. To start the ball rolling, he has appointed Scott Pruitt to head the EPA.

Reaction has been swift and overwhelming negative.

Pruitt is part of a cabal that promotes the concept that clean energy is antithetical to a robust economy.

Unsurprisingly, Pruitt fits in perfectly with the other cabinet picks, who have glaring conflicts of interest. (No surprise that Kellyanne Conway told reporters, “Attorney General Pruitt has great qualifications.”).

Is Pruitt’s nomination a crisis? You bet it is!

Let’s go over some of what the EPA does and why Pruitt should not be anywhere near the reins.

What the EPA Does:

The EPA has a plainly stated mission: “To protect human health and the environment.” Its job is “to reduce environmental risk based on the best available scientific information.” This includes creating and implementing federal laws “fairly and effectively.”

In December 1970, Richard Nixon initiated the EPA with an Executive Order. The concept was to integrate protections for the America public into policy that would interact with the domestic agendas of energy, transportation, industry, and agriculture.

The scope of the EPA touches almost every aspect of an American’s daily life. It goes beyond clean air and water to the physical impacts of asbestos, mercury, lead, and the recognition of billions of chemicals in our households, beauty products, and plastics.

So, what happens if Pruitt gets confirmed? The EPA becomes refashioned to reflect a Trumpian point of view.

Trump and the EPA

Firstly, a disclaimer will be needed to explain the agency is now an operative for big polluters and fossil fuel interests.

The message is clear. Industries and businesses who use toxic materials in their products will have potentially relaxed standards and lowered oversight. The driving factor will be the bottom line of dollars and cents.

Ironically, the Trump rhetoric of how the EPA is stifling the economy has been disproved. There have been three peer-reviewed studies that examined the benefits of a cleaner environment. The circle is larger than just jobs. It takes into account spiraling health costs occurring from illnesses related to pollution factors, lost school and work days — and premature deaths.

Trump may promote getting big government out of people’s lives, but when the reality of a toxin appearing in water or food comes to light, people will want answers. When hazardous waste gets dumped in landfills that end up near schools or homes, folks will demand to know how and why it happened.

When things aren’t working, people get mad. It’s also when they reach out to government for help.

What happens to the people suffering from environmental injustice because they live in a low-income community or are from minorities populations? Or the elderly who are more susceptible to lung disease, and the youngest of children who are at risk while their minds and bodies are developing?

They’re out of luck.

Check out the EPA’s Strategic Plan for 2014-2018. It pinpoints “Working Toward a Sustainable Future.” If the goals of a Trump EPA are to roll back eight years of domestic progress and stymie leadership on the international stage, there will be no interest in a sustainable future.

Climate Change, Public Health and the EPA

Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del), who will serve as ranking member on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW) in the 115th Congress, said in reaction to Pruitt’s announcement:

“Since the EPA was created by President Nixon forty-six years ago, this country has seen cleaner air and cleaner water for all Americans. This progress has been made while growing our economy and putting Americans to work. Despite all our successes, we know more must be done to safeguard public health and ensure we leave a better environment for our children and grandchildren. This is especially true when it comes to tackling climate change.” Carper underscored that he was committed to a full and fair confirmation process.” He also added pointedly, “Any individual charged with leading the EPA who wants to ignore science or look out for special interests at the expense of public health can expect a fight with me.”

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), a stalwart champion of environmental rights who is retiring from the Senate, was quite succinct in her reaction. She asserted:

“President-elect Trump has selected someone who, as Oklahoma Attorney General, has fought on the side of big polluters and special interests over the health of the people of his state.  He has sued the EPA to overturn common-sense public health protections, and he stands with climate deniers. There can be no doubt that Mr. Pruitt is the wrong choice because he will continue to try to roll back our landmark environmental laws like the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act, and that is disastrous for the American people.”

The EPA is supposed to be non-partisan. If you care about the important work of this agency, you must be pro-active.

Now is the time for all parents to stop this anti-science madness and let their Senators know our kids need the EPA more than ever.

stop_pollution

Tell Your Senators: Scott Pruitt is a Dangerous EPA Nominee

A version of this article originally appeared on the website Moms Clean Air Force.

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Dec 23, 2016 | No comment | Read More »

“After Fire” — The Challenges Facing Female Veterans

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Laly Cholak arrives on Capitol Hill to lobby Congress on behalf of the VFA

 

“Every day is Veteran’s Day,” says a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) team in After Fire, a documentary by Brittany Huckabee.

They are canvassing Capitol Hill on behalf of top issues impacting those who have served.

Unfortunately, this is not the case.

After Fire takes an on-the-ground look at how three female veterans are struggling to cope and move forward in the aftermath of their service.

Huckabee places her account in San Antonio, Texas, where one of the biggest populations of female veterans in the nation resides.

Before unrolling the narratives of her main characters, Huckabee presents stats on women in the military:

  • One in five new recruits to the military are women.
  • Women are the fastest growing group of veterans.
  • Among women who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, estimates show that one in ten suffer from Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).
  • The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) reports that one in five women have PTSD; one in four are victims of rape or Military Sexual Trauma (MST).
  • 85 percent of MST assaults go unreported.

Projections show that by 2025 more than one-quarter of the military will be women. It’s time to pay more than lip service to this underserved and underrecognized demographic of the armed services. As one woman states, “It’s a life altering event to go to war. You don’t come back the same.”

In a male-driven military culture, a specific mindset is promoted: “It’s all about the mission.” The mantra is, “Another day, another death. Do your job.”

Coming back to civilian life from a “surreal situation” is a major shock. It demands a transition from a form of coping where hiding the truth about negative encounters is key. Speaking about them makes what happened too real. Women vets are encouraged to suppress their feelings and not appear “weak.” This leads to isolation and an absence of support.

The women profiled — Valerie Sullivan, Laly Cholak, and Roberta Castaneda — share their individual experiences. The common thread is the struggle to come to terms with the challenges they have faced and the road back to healing, self-understanding, and self-acceptance.

At the start of the film, each woman appears best at offering assistance to their peers at weekly support groups. They admit, “Dealing with others’ stuff is easier than dealing with your own.”

Valerie served as a Security Policeman in the Air Force from 1986 to 2007, joining out of high school. “I did SWAT stuff,” she relates. She holds a dual Master’s Degree, a Black Belt, and is a body builder. The camera follows her through her role as a social worker.

Entering the Army at 17, Laly served from 1999-2013, in locations including Kuwait and Iraq. She works with veteran treatment courts, as well as promoting the needs of vets with elected Texas officials.

Roberta served in the Army for ten years, joining in 2000. She was motivated to provide a better life for her children and to be a role model. She is a facilitator with Grace After Fire, and has a Master of Arts in Counseling.

In the course of following the women’s daily activities, the audience is exposed to numerous topics. There is a hearing on Texas House Bill 867, tasked to establish a Texas Women Veterans Program. Only a few state veterans commissions have official programs for women. Additionally, 30 percent of VA hospitals have no gynecologists on staff.

A key problem is the handling of rape and MST in the forces. Vets claiming MST must meet a “separate standard of proof than all other PTSD claims.” Those who file claims with the VA for MST have a one in three chance of getting it approved.

When women apply to the VA for benefits related to MST and don’t receive them, they feel invalidated — that “nobody cares.” The Ruth Moore Act is seeking to remove obstacles facing women submitting claims to be compensated for benefits as a result of MST.

I spoke to director Huckabee about her goals for the movie. “I wanted to give women veterans a starting point to owning what happened to them,” she emphasized.  Huckabee hopes that the doc will be a tool for military women and their families — to open conversations. “It’s about what happens next,” Huckabee underscored.

At an event where Roberta addresses a gathering, she captures the essence of the ongoing endeavor:

“We all have our stories. We’re all on our own journey. Embracing our truth is the only way we’re going to be able to progress. There are so many resources out there. You are not alone.”

Additional Resources:

Grace After Fire

Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN)

Department of Veterans Affairs – Center for Women Veterans

Department of Veterans Affairs – Women’s Trauma Recovery Program

Photo: Brittany Huckabee

This article originally appeared on the website Ravishly.com

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Dec 6, 2016 | 1 comment | Read More »

Local Activism Pays Off

Individuals from all walks of life, who are concerned about the future of their children...

Dec 18, 2014 | No comment | Read More »

The Military Battles Climate Change

Ret. Adm. David Titley said,"The ocean, atmosphere and ice do not caucus, do not vote,...

Jul 27, 2014 | 1 comment | Read More »

EPA Adminstrator McCarthy Makes A “Moral Obligation To The Next Generation”

McCarthy, who doesn’t pull any punches, stated, “Climate change caused by carbon pollution is one...

Oct 11, 2013 | No comment | Read More »

IPCC Report: Man-Made Climate Change Is A Scientific Certainty

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its new report on September...

Oct 2, 2013 | No comment | Read More »

Small Businesses Support President Obama’s Climate Plan

After extreme weather incidents like Hurricane Sandy, 40 percent of small businesses do not reopen....

Jul 23, 2013 | No comment | Read More »

President Obama Vows To Cut Pollution

Obama addressed the climate deniers with the simple sentence, “We don’t have time for the...

Jun 27, 2013 | No comment | Read More »