Marcia G. Yerman

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Women’s Voices Stymie Trump Agenda

Women’s Voices Stymie Trump Agenda

Just as mothers understand the pain of others trying to save their children from violence and desperate situations; that children must be defended against the horrors of unregulated guns; they also get that deregulating environmental regulations spells disaster.

July 10, 2018 | No comment | Read More »

“Nelly” —  New Film Looks at Life and Work of Canadian Writer

“Nelly” —  New Film Looks at Life and Work of Canadian Writer

Arcan was both appreciated and reviled. She was a finalist for the revered French literary awards, the Prix Médicis and the Prix Fémina. Perhaps the public couldn’t forgive her for living the life that she wrote about.

September 7, 2018 | No comment | Read More »

Women’s Voices Stymie Trump Agenda

Women’s Voices Stymie Trump Agenda

Just as mothers understand the pain of others trying to save their children from violence and desperate situations; that children must be defended against the horrors of unregulated guns; they also get that deregulating environmental regulations spells disaster.

July 10, 2018 | No comment | Read More »

The Environment 2018: A Look Back and a Look Ahead

The Environment 2018: A Look Back and a Look Ahead

BAD NEWS: Trump’s EPA — under the leadership of Andrew Wheeler — has hit its lowest, in its radical agenda to destroy protections against pollution.

GOOD NEWS: Youth climate activism is growing. Example: Swedish 15-year-old Greta Thunberg.

December 23, 2018 | No comment | Read More »

Spotlight

The Environment 2018: A Look Back and a Look Ahead

2018 is drawing to a close. It was an exhausting year, but I’m excited about 2019. In fact, I’m counting down the days to January 3, when the House of Representatives turns Democratic. (Yes, every vote counts!)

It’s impossible to keep up with the news cycle, but there are a few glimpses of good news.

Before I accentuate the positive, let’s get the negative out of the way:

  • Trump’s EPA — under the leadership of Andrew Wheeler — has hit its lowest, in its radical agenda to destroy protections against pollution. EPA has launched a process to sabotage and ultimately destroy our Mercury and Air Toxics Standards. These are protections that keep a terrible poison from harming babies’ brains. This  is proof that Trump’s EPA will stop at nothing to protect polluter profits.
  • According to a New York Times report, Trump’s efforts to decrease the efficacy of the car emissions rulings had a helping hand from Marathon Petroleum.
  • Trump’s EPA, along with the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, has moved to roll back the standards put in place to keep our water safe. They were originally instituted by President George H.W. Bush.
  • Trump’s EPA has closed the book on a civil rights complaint in the African-American community of Tallassee, Alabama, underscoring that Environmental Justice has taken a hit under their watch. Chalk it up to politics.
  • Protection for the at-risk sage grouse have been loosened, to facilitate new oil exploration.
  • The seven-person Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC) has eliminated the subcommittees of scientific experts need to furnish guidance on “ozone and particulate standards.” Chris Frey, former chair of CASAC from 2012 to 2015, has been highly critical.
  • Poor air quality has forced children in Utah to stay indoors. Brian Moench, who I previously interviewed, recently spoke about the impact of poor air quality on kids. He stated, “There are now many studies that show air pollution affects the ability of our school children to actually learn at school. It affects their ability to think. Air pollution that a child breathes on the way to school can affect their ability to learn that same day at school.”
  • Increased exposure to air pollution, even for a small time frame, can increase the threat of miscarriage in women by 16%.
  • Trump’s EPA is looking to alter the Obama regulations which directed that the maximum of 1400 pounds of carbon be emitted per mega watt-hour…to 1900 pounds.
  • The Trump administration is seeking to turn nineteen million acres of Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge into an oil drilling field, making short-term financial profits a priority. While insects continue to diminish in number, Trump’s EPA is considering a request by Dow Chemical to expand the use of their poisonous product, sulfoxaflor.
  • A new study has proposed that “a growing body of evidence strongly suggests an association between PM2·5 pollution and the risk of diabetes.
  • Under Trump, relations between China and America have deteriorated. This will impact joint action on climate change from the two top global carbon emitters (40 percent total).

The good news:

  • Ryan Zinke steps down. Perhaps the thought of a serious Congressional look into his actions was the motivator. Regardless, he’s gone.
  • Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania, the state which holds the number two ranking for gas production, has proposed stronger rules for oil and gas emissions from extraction fields. This would reduce methane emissions.
  • During the United Nations climate change talks in Katowice, Poland, over 1,000 institutions agreed to divest from fossil fuels. Faith-based organizations made up 28 percent of those on board.
  • The Keystone Pipeline project is back on hold, thanks to the judge who rejected the Trump executive order to proceed.
  • Renewable energies are increasingly being adapted by corporate entities.
  • Youth climate activism is growing. Example: Swedish 15-year-old Greta Thunberg.
  • The hole in the ozone is shrinking. Negative effects could be reversed by the 2060s.

For thoughts on how new leadership will impact the fight to protect the environment, I reached out Rep. Nancy Pelosi. She responded by e-mail:

“On Election Day, voters delivered a resounding verdict against Washington Republicans’ attacks on the health of our families, democracy and planet. Mothers have been on the frontlines of the climate fight since day one, and their strong voices and advocacy have been critical to changing the national conversation and forging progress on this looming crisis. Our House Democratic Majority will make fighting the climate crisis a top priority, and looks forward to the courageous leadership that America’s mothers will bring as we fight for a clean energy future for all our children. Together, we can create the good-paying clean jobs of the future, take bold action to fight the devastation of the climate crisis and safeguard clean air, clean water and public lands for the generations to come.”

 

This article originally appeared on the website Moms Clean Air Force .

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Dec 23, 2018 | No comment | Read More »

The 2018 IPCC Climate Report Issues Stern Warning

The 2018 IPCC Special Report on Global Warming reads like a horror movie. The findings are frightening, especially if action is not taken.

The study was presented in Incheon, Republic of Korea. The product was the result of the work of ninety-one scientists from forty countries. They reviewed and analyzed 6,000 scientific papers. International governments have two months to review before the Katowice Climate Change Conference in Poland.

The 2015 Paris Agreement was approved to set limits on global temperature rise from 1.5˚C to 2˚C (2.7˚F to 3.6˚F). This latest report drives home the deadly difference half a degree can make.

The top takeaway is that to inhibit warming to 1.5˚C, a major global transformation will have to be undertaken. It needs to be swift and far-reaching. Low-carbon technology and efficacy has to be increased exponentially, five times the rate of what was achieved in 2015.

The findings underscore that a warming rate of 1˚C has already delivered significant damage to the oceans and low-lying areas. World health is impacted, with elevated detriments to those who are economically disadvantaged. This has been evidenced by food insecurity and population displacement.

Examples illustrate the differences that result from a 2˚C global increase in warming as compared to a 1.5˚C measurement. It’s not encouraging. Examples include:

  • 6x worse extreme heat.
  • 2x worse species loss of vertebrates and plants.
  • Up to 29% worse for coral reef decline.

The scientific models lay out the variables in attacking the problem. One possibility is the approach of exceeding the desired 1.5˚C threshold for several years, and then revert to lower temperatures. That might work in some situations, but if the “overshoot” takes place it’s a region with a precarious ecosystem and the negative impact is likely to be irreversible. So even if 1.5˚C is reestablished, there could be species extinction during the “overshoot period.”

Also pointed out is that different reduction activities yield different results. In the case of industrial black carbon being reduced at an accelerated rate, the diminishment of snow and ice in the Arctic can be modified.

Since the pre-Industrial era, the world has become 1˚C hotter. This has resulted in a substantial melting of Arctic sea ice and an 8-inch rise in sea levels since 1880.

Making fast and extensive change is going to take enormous political will. The longer change is delayed, the more damage will ensue – and that includes financial loss. The study outlined estimates of economic fallout around the globe from warming:

  • $54 trillion if the earth warms by 1.5˚C by 2100
  • $69 trillion if the earth warms by 2˚C by 2100

Typically, the cost of making changes now is presented as an attack on the economy. However, studies have posited that fighting climate change could actually boost the international economy.

So, what kind of adjustments have to be undertaken to get the ball rolling to effect a robust difference? There are several paths that can lead to traction:

Energy

  • Eliminating fossil fuels is a no-brainer. Net CO2 emissions must hit the zero mark by 2050, although achieving that marker a decade earlier is the central to reaching the 1.5˚C goal.
  • Activating specific strategies to pull carbon out of the air such as Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR).
  • Taxing carbon dioxide emissions.
  • Cutting short-lived but highly potent climate pollutants dramatically. This points to methane and hydrofluorocarbons (HFC).
  • Increasing energy efficiency and lowering the demand for energy. Electric cars become mainstream. Urban planning implements green solutions.

Food and Agriculture

  • Changing the way food is produced, the amount of waste that takes place, and reevaluating diet impacts on climate change.
  • Agriculture is related to almost one-quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions (2010).
  • Deforestation, which adds to 10 percent of the world’s emissions, must end and landscapes need to be restored. This is termed a “Net-negative emissions quest.” (Forests are being demolished to grow crops like soy and oil palms.)
  • Agriculture is responsible for 80 percent of tropical deforestation.
  • Agriculture depends on 70 % of all “freshwater withdrawn from rivers lakes, and aquifers.”

Can the top industrialized nations lead the way when the United States, under the Trump administration, refuses to accept “settled science?” What about the influence of groups looking to maintain their bottom lines? (The World Coal Association wasted no time in commenting on the IPCC findings.)

America, the world’s largest economy, is also the second largest greenhouse gas emitter (China is first). Ironically, both of these countries will be in line for intense coastal flooding by 2040.

Debra Roberts, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group II noted succinctly:

The decisions we make today are critical in ensuring a safe and sustainable world for everyone, both now and in the future. This report gives policymakers and practitioners the information they need to make decisions that tackle climate change while considering local context and people’s needs. The next few years are probably the most important in our history.”

 

Image: Courtesy of World Resources Institute

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

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Oct 14, 2018 | No comment | Read More »

“Nelly” —  New Film Looks at Life and Work of Canadian Writer

Nelly Arcan: “Life has pierced me through.”

What, for contemporary women, is true agency? Is it being able to throw off the shackles of needing to conform to the expectations of others? The desire to secure approval of one’s physical attributes? The validation of one’s work or role in society? Ownership of one’s sexuality?

These, and other questions are explored in “Nelly,” written and directed by Anne Émond.

The film tells the story of Isabelle Fortier, who took the pen name Nelly Arcan. Her work is well-known in French-Canadian circles, as well in France. Her first book, Putain (Whore), hurtled to the top of the lists in Quebec in 2001, and sold over 30,000 copies in France.

In telling the personal history of Arcan, Émond employs a fluid approach to embody Arcan’s complicated and conflicting personas. The viewer watches the disjointed mashup of Arcan’s story, feeling the same turmoil that Arcan experienced. She is presented from her days as a school-age youth to the age of 36, when she ended her life in her Montreal apartment.

Mylène Mackay, the actress tasked with capturing the insecurities and false bravado of Arcan, delivers a brilliant performance. She serves up the dark-haired cocaine addict who is impossibly jealous; the dazzling blonde prostitute-celebrity; the demure, simply dressed author — all with equal authority.

A traditional biopic would have nailed down the basics of Arcan’s background, elaborating upon her small-town upbringing in a predominately Catholic area with rigid values. Arcan wrote that her main goal was to escape the suffocation of that life — whether it was the strictures of the nuns or being limited in her choices. She decided to come to Montreal to study literature at the Université du Québec.

Instead, Émond gives the audience glimpses of Arcan’s early life. We see her performing at a talent show, a precursor to how she will later find the spotlight not only appealing — but another form of intoxication.

Arcan’s mother is briefly depicted as a woman who sleeps excessively, most probably as a path to coping with the vicissitudes of daily living. This form of escapism, albeit benign, heralds an emotional fragility that will also be a part of Arcan’s makeup.

Arcan states, “Something in me was always lacking.”

Did that feeling emanate from the absence of a viable maternal figure in her upbringing? (Ironically, her handler at the escort service is a woman.) Did it stem from an early teenage experience where she watches the interactions of her sexually adventurous friend capture the attention of a boy she likes?

Arcan’s insecurities are clearly delineated in the depiction of the volatile on and off love relationship with her boyfriend, François. Not being the singular object of his devotion, at every moment, is devastating to her. A fog of alcohol and drugs elevates the slightest incident to explosion after explosion. Arcan laments, “People can stop loving you at any moment.”

Finding the control and adulation she craves in servicing men from all walks of life, Arcan tells them what they want to hear about themselves. She reflects back the illusions they crave to believe. Yes, each one is her favorite John. Yes, she wants desperately to be “fucked” by them.

When spending an evening with her friends from “the life,” they read online reviews of themselves and trade shop talk. Arcan is qualified by men as “a goddess, who loves her work.” Throughout the conversation, the contempt that the women feel for these men is palpable. In another sequence, Arcan tells a doctor that she has sex with ten to twenty clients per week. It is simply a matter of fact.

Observing herself in a mirror as she delivers up a compliant self to demanding customers, Arcan is complicit in her own commodification. When a john insists on anal sex, she refuses — only accepting when the price is sufficiently high enough. Nevertheless, he takes it one step further, coercing her to declare to him that she “likes it.”

Arcan begins to wonder if she “wants out.”

The most brutal scene relates an encounter with a well-dressed businessman, Patrick. Is he real, or is he a metaphor for those respectable men who engage prostitutes to act out their rage and violent urges? At first, Arcan tries to soothe him with the revelation that she too “likes it rough.” This time, her submission doesn’t work. He continues to viciously attack her. Fighting back, she escapes to the balcony, where she infers that she will jump to her death.

Later, a magazine interviewer asks Arcan about the episode in her book where a prostitute leaps from a twentieth-floor balcony to escape a sinister client.

“Did I write that?” she replies.

In her role as an author, Arcan noted that she “wrote with passion.” Yet, digging into her psyche was painful for her. Though she said, “Apart from writing, I am nothing,” she doubted her talents and was aware of the toll her self-examination took on her. She questioned if people only bought her book because of her face on the cover. Arcan’s qualms encompassed whether her other works would sell, and what the literary world would think of her — neither of which she could influence.

As portrayed, even in the solid connections Arcan had with her publisher, Mathieu, and during the work she did with her therapist, she still resorted to the use of sexual seduction as a means to struggle for dominance.

Unsurprisingly, Arcan spends time in a “rest home.” Recurring thoughts of suicide, failure, aging, and losing her ability to write, haunt her. She finishes the edits on what would be her final book, days before she dies.

Arcan was both appreciated and reviled. She was a finalist for the revered French literary awards, the Prix Médicis and the Prix Fémina. Perhaps the public couldn’t forgive her for living the life that she wrote about. Putain was a huge success, just as Émile Zola’s Nana was. Yet, his work was considered a naturalistic observation of French life in the decade from 1860–1870. Zola was the narrator of Nana’s life as a prostitute. Arcan was both observer and subject.

Using her writing to dissect her own neuroses and angst, Arcan delved into territory that was both raw and ugly. She explained to her therapist that she saw herself from outside herself. “It’s not really me. I watch her…I play that woman well. I need to be seen, but it’s not me I reveal.”

“Nelly” is an opportunity to ignite a larger discussion about the cultural conundrums Arcan sought to understand and define in her books.

Photo: Yan Turcotte for Cinema Libre Studio

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Sep 7, 2018 | No comment | Read More »

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