Bees and Our Future

Photo by Jim Drivas, neighbor and Healthy Bees supporter

Bees are really cool. I have two different bee families happily buzzing and sipping nectar in my backyard. One was a real surprise! I had put out a beautiful bird house that I bought from a vendor at Saturday Market. Instead of a family of finches, I attracted a batch of bumble bees. I see them going in and out of the opening into which they stuffed bits of fluff and string to give themselves privacy!

My second bee family is humming along in a traditional bee box hive. Like the bumble bee crew, the honey bees were gifted a cheerfully painted box from my neighbor Linda, an artist who usually paints furniture and flower boxes. Her bee hive design is wonderful!

I love knowing that my bees are visiting the flowers and vegetables of my neighbors as far away as a few miles, helping to make food grow and bring native plants to life.

I am able to host the bee hive because I have pledged to be pesticide-free, and all the neighbors on my block have taken the same pledge. Nearby Washington Park is also a No-Spray zone, which the Friendly Area Neighbors work hard to maintain without the use of harmful chemicals in partnership with the City of Eugene. Local beekeepers Jen and Doug Hornaday are introducing bee hives and doing the actual beekeeping for residents like me who pledge to make our neighborhoods safe for bees (and kids)! I really want to thank Jen and Doug for helping learn how awesome bees are and helping me host a hive in my backyard.

Bees. Gardens. Food. Health. The Future.

These five things are all related, and intimately so. As the bee goes, so do we. Seventy-five percent of all the flowering plants in North America needs pollination from an insect or bird; bees are the most prodigious pollinator of them all! According to The Daily Green news, a recent National Academy of Sciences report documented a crisis among honey bees and native bumblebees. European studies have documented similar declines in pollinators there. It is a global phenomenon related to the use of pesticides (and other related practices).

If bees disappeared from North America, or from the earth for that matter, a chain of events would be set in motion leading to plant extinctions, crop failures, and eventually famine.

We can make sure this doesn’t happen in our cities, our counties and Oregon! It is so easy to take action that has meaningful and long-lasting results. All you have to do is take the Honey Bee Friend pledge and become a messenger for the sake of the bees in your immediate block. Tell your neighbors how they can pledge, too! And you can help us help the Hornadays build hive boxes and nurture bees throughout our community by becoming one of 1000 Save Oregon’s Bees. We would appreciate your donation of $10 (or more) toward this worthy cause! (from the “Program Designation” option near the top of the page, simply choose the 1000 Save Oregon’s Bees by clicking on the down arrow). We need and very much appreciate your support for this project!

I’ll let you know when the honey is ripe and I have a garden party to celebrate.

Lisa Arkin, Executive Director

Taking Responsibility for Justice

Eugene, nationally recognized as a bike city, a community near nature and a place where we value sustainability, would not normally attract attention around environmental human rights and justice issues. Which is why for one day, Beyond Toxics and Centro LatinoAmericano invited city and agency officials, students and community leaders on an environmental justice bus tour to West Eugene where we got the opportunity to see how families live through the lens of “environmental justice”.

To achieve justice, we need to help major decision makers in our community face some of the injustices that unfortunately exists so uncomfortably close to home. To achieve justice, we need to challenge the current structures in place so that other people and certain communities also gain access to political attention and social resources that may not normally be readily available.  Unveiling the hidden discomforts that exists in our society, forces both believers and nonbelievers of environmental injustices to take a second look and determine the action needed.

The truth is that communities, specifically low-income communities, live in areas that are in critical need of public health improvements due to their disproportionate exposures to toxics such as polluted air and contaminated ground water. If we don’t watch out for the health of our children AND acknowledge that communities are disproportionately affected by poverty, then who will? Let us continue to move forward and not resign ourselves to stagnancy and a calcified system- regardless of the privileges you have access to.

As Winona LaDuke put it, “Take responsibility for history. Recognize that sometimes things take a long time to change.” So, what is the lesson for us in Eugene? Don’t be weary of fighting for what is just in Eugene. You never know how many lives you may save or change by your actions in the long run.

As if a wall of chemical gas is enveloping us…

When we take our children to the playground, the smell of
chemicals overwhelms us. We can’t stay outside.
It’s awful … as if a wall of chemical gas 
is enveloping us.

This is how one young mother described what it is like to live across the street from a chemical company in West Eugene. She spoke to over 75 people who attended Beyond Toxics’ Environmental Justice Bus Tour (the first-ever in Oregon). They met her in Lark City Park in Bethel where she takes her children to play.

Last week, Beyond Toxics hosted dozens of people who boarded two school buses and journeyed out (see the map of the route the bus tour took) to visit several key toxic hot spots, like Lark City Park, where air and ground water pollution harms Eugene families every day.

Travelers included:

  • Mayor Kitty Piercy,
  • City Councilors Andrea Ortiz and George Brown, and Lane County Commissioner Rob Handy
  • Bethel School District Superintendent Colt Gill and members of their staff,
  • Many local organizations
  • Staff from city, county and state agencies and the EPA,
  • UO students and equal numbers of West Eugene residents.

Bus travelers gathered at Lark Park to hear residents testify to everyday exposure to dangerous toxic chemicals.

You might ask me, what was the purpose of our Environmental Justice Bus Tour? Beyond Toxics set out to demonstrate that we need a set of air toxics solutions based on a notion of justice, and not just a weak regulatory system. We did this with both facts and with the voices of vulnerable residents. I am proud that we were able to show that Eugene does have an Environmental Justice community because we don’t talk about this much in the public discourse. These residents are not able to enjoy their equal right to clean air and water and receive special consideration for children and pregnant women who are most at risk for harm.

I felt one thing that became very clear during the bus tour is that Eugene is actually two different communities, two different worlds of experience. Many people on the bus had never seen the row of air and water polluters along Roosevelt Avenue (hidden behind trees and frontage buildings); and they had never considered what it must be like to raise a family less than one block from some of the nation’s most notorious polluters (e.g., JH Baxters). In fact, link to this NPR Report on worst polluters and see what it is like in Eugene!

When we drove our bus north on NW Expressway, I described the scenario of coal trains entering Eugene’s rail yard to park and switch tracks – the length of one train would take up nearly the stretch of road hugging the west side of the River Road neighborhood. If coal trains are allowed to come to Eugene, there will be coal dust over gardens, on cars, coming in windows, and choking the lungs of very child in Trainsong and River Road neighborhood.

I was also struck by the look of realization on the faces of the travelers as we drove down Prairie Road and Highway 99, while adding up the cumulative exposures to some very dangerous air toxics. We learned that 99% of all the air toxics in Eugene are located in the Bethel 97402 zip code area – according to the Eugene Toxics Reporting system, about 500,000 pounds of airborne chemicals every year.

I saw the look of panic on some faces when we did an exercise (right there on the bus) showing how it feels to have an asthma attack. Some of the people on my bus said it felt like they were drowning from lack of air. I hope the data and the experience got people thinking –is it time to factor the intensity of daily exposures to these asthma triggers into a public health plan?

Beyond Toxics pointed out that Envision Eugene, the plan to expand Eugene city limits, recommends building new homes, schools and parks across the street from creosote factories, biomass plants, chemical manufacturers and sawmills (a distance of about ¼ to ¾ mile). I hope that people thought about the need to pay more attention to siting homes and schools near heavy industrial sites.

There will always be debates about the costs of protecting health versus the costs of doing business. An Environmental Justice bus tour attempts to get us past these arguments.

Our Environmental Justice Bus Tour overcame doubts and arguments by using both local data and the voices of local residents to expose the underbelly of Eugene’s toxic Industrial Corridor. We are calling on our City to hear the voices of the disenfranchised residents –Spanish and English alike. We need to put those voices at the forefront of decision-making processes on land use, air protection and public health.

Lisa Arkin, Executive Director, Beyond Toxics

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Mourning the Results of the Government’s Conclusions on the Highway 36 Pesticide Study

This bag of Atrazine was found dumped in a stream in the Highway 36 area. Atrazine was one of the forestry herbicides that was found in the urine of local residents.

I wish all of you reading this blog here were sitting with me as I write. Together we would mourn this week’s release of the report, Exposure Investigation: Biological Monitoring for Exposure to Herbicides in the Highway 36 Corridor. The report contains vague statistics about ways the government can “normalize” pesticide detections in our bodies.

I shake my head in disbelief at their murky conclusions. The report’s attempt to diffuse accountability and transparency help us understand how rural Oregonians, recently speaking at our rallies in Lane and Josephine counties (Chemical Trespass: Voices of the People) feel. Over 130 stood up to lament and protest against the wrongness and inhumanity of pesticide sprays by large industrial interests. We have to keep it up, get out and rally, sign petitions and take grassroots action!

I had to do my own math to realize that the investigation found the pesticide 2,4-D in the urine of 92% of local residents! I guess the investigation team was afraid to actually spell that out. The report also found 2,4-D in the urine of two children under the age of 6, but dismissed the significance of that by assuring us that at least it was “below the group mean” (note: they didn’t disclose how far below the mean). I’ll bet their parents are not reassured at all.

The last sentence in the report’s conclusion states “Despite an apparent greater exposure than the US population, these data indicate that, at the time of testing, the participants were not exposed to 2,4-D at levels expected to cause adverse health effects.” Again, the investigators neglected to tell us the full truth – that the agency did find that levels of 2,4-D, even in the absence of active spraying, were above what was expected based on nationwide statistics!

Compare the conclusion of this report – our government’s responses to chemical poisoning from forestry pesticide exposures – to a recent court ruling and pesticide policy transformation in France. A few weeks ago, a French court ruled in favor of a grain farmer who was harmed by an herbicide and found chemical manufacturing giant Monsanto guilty of “chemical poisoning.” The farmer reported experiencing neurological harm including memory loss, headaches and stammering. Now the Court is requiring Monsanto to pay monetary damages for harming the farmer.

What’s more, the government of France is taking the issue of protecting the public’s health seriously: As the largest agricultural producer in the European Union, the country has pledged to cut pesticide use by 50 percent before 2018. This includes private farming and forestry.

Oregon’s response is a far cry from France’s wake-up call on pesticides and health. People exposed to chemical trespass in Oregon are told they are just “complainers.” Our state agencies treat Oregonians who file pesticide complaints with dismissiveness and disdain. Beyond Toxics has been trying for 4 months to get an appointment with the Governor’s Natural Resource advisor staff, and there hasn’t yet been a single answer to our many polite phone calls and email messages.

I believe that there are some underlying moral and scientific failings that have our state agencies running in the opposite direction of true public health protections.

1. Our society tends to doubt and dismiss women and women’s health problems. Many women in the Highway 36 Pesticide Investigation area have told authorities that, after a forestry spray they have had menstrual problems. I take offense that this Investigation tried to predict what a lifetime of chronic low level exposures might do to the hormonal systems of young girls and women of childbearing age by concluding that their exposure is “not expected to cause adverse health effects.” Case in point: in a presentation at the recent Environmental Law Conference at the UO, Dr. Hayes of UC Berkeley reported that exposures to forestry herbicide atrazine resulted in visible deformation of female breast tissue in laboratory experiments, changes associated with the onset of breast cancer. These cellular changes were found when atrazine levels were similar to those found in the Highway 36 folks.

2. The study said very little to nothing about what health problems people in the study have experienced. The study focused on amorphous statistics and never reported on the actual health problems. This de-humanizes those who agreed to be tested and ignore a history of cancer and other ailments reported by residents. Some people had illnesses just like the French farmer experienced.

3. The investigators made no mention of whether the 6 participants with statistically high levels of 2,4-D in their urine analysis are children, women, men and said nothing about their ages and occupations. Being reduced to mere statistics, we are less likely to think of these people as our neighbors who have a moral and medical right not to be subjected to chemical trespass from industrial forestry activities.

How dare the Oregon Health Authority claim that 2,4-D in the bodies of children “aren’t expected to have adverse health effects.” Why isn’t our government using the precautionary principle to keep our children safe?

If it is a constitutional right to be guaranteed safety of person and private property, why can’t we get a single government official to stand up for justice? If the entire country of France can acknowledge the importance of protecting people from chemical trespass by pledging to reduce pesticides and ban the worst of them, why hasn’t our Governor and our legislators said, by golly, so can Oregon!?

We are your David in a world of Goliaths!

A recent report* published in the national news has bad news for the viability of grassroots environmental groups. The study showed that large national NGOs get far and away the biggest funding for environmental causes, and yet it is the small grassroots groups that carry out the most effective and lasting change! The study reminded me of many examples from history: from women’s suffrage to the Arab Spring. Grassroots groups like Beyond Toxics get an itty-bitty, tiny share of the donations that fund environmental protection, yet it is smaller groups that carry out the lion’s share of the work to make significant changes in the quality of life we’re all striving for.

Feisty. Tenacious. Grassroots. We are your David in a world of Goliaths!

These are words our members have used to describe us. I offer proof that we are living up to that reputation! In the span of just 9 days, Beyond Toxics has made its mark in towns across the state: in Portland, Salem, Triangle Lake, Selma and Eugene!

  • On February 6, we met with Lane County Health officials to discuss a ban on children’s products laced with BPA along with our local partner Lane Coalition for Healthy Active Youth.
  • On February 8, I was interviewed on Jefferson Public Radio, reaching thousands of people about pesticides and rampant chemical trespass.
  • On February 10, staff member Alison Guzman and I gave a report to a room full of health care professionals at the 4th Annual NW Environmental Health Conference at Portland State University. We spoke about children’s health and environmental justice in West Eugene and the toxics in their air that contributes to asthma. This is exactly the kind of topic that doctors and nurses need to hear about.
  • On February 11, Beyond Toxics co-sponsored two large and energetic rallies to protest the chemical trespass that comes from aerial pesticide spraying of forests in Josephine County and Lane County.
  • Four days later on February 15, I testified in front of the Oregon Transportation Commission on the results of our Highway Spray report, Environmental Impact Quotients of Highway Spray. My testimony, highlighting the dousing of our highways in pesticides, was a key part of the message of the Pesticide Panel, a panel we advocated to convene.

This means your support has guaranteed our hard-won victories.

L to R: Lisa Arkin, John Jordan-Cascade, Alison Guzman

What will we do next to continue to demonstrate to you, our supporters, that we are keeping our promise to be all the things you admire about us: feisty, tenacious and grassroots-based?

1. We are linking up with others to stop coal trains from rumbling through Eugene and the Willamette Valley. These mile-long trains, if allowed to pass through our communities, will pollute a pound of “black lung” coal dust, per car, per mile!

2. We are mapping how air toxics hot spots harms the families who live in impacted neighborhoods with an incredible ARC GIS project. We’ll shine a light on the problem of cumulative air pollution exposures.

3. We are planning a protest on the State Capitol steps to draw the Governor’s attention to the issue of aerial pesticide spray drift.

So, the bottom line is simple: never underestimate the power of the small, local, grassroots group! When it comes to change, think small. It’s the best investment you can make.


*The report, “Cultivating the Grassroots: A Winning Approach for Environment and Climate Funders,” is at www.ncrp.org.

Asthma Awareness Workshop – This Friday!

What’s in the air we breathe, both indoors and outdoors?

Join us: Friday, February 24th, 2012!

Beyond Toxics and Centro LatinoAmericano present a FREE Bilingual Workshop on controlling asthma and green cleaning alternatives for a healthier life!

Come and learn what you can do to make your home healthy for you and your family!
Tips on:

  • Green Cleaning,
  • Controlling asthma and allergies
  • General good health practices

WHEN: Friday, February 24th / 4:30 – 6:00pm

WHERE:
American Red Cross
862 Bethel Drive, Eugene, OR 9740

For more information, please contact:
Roxanne or Alison at Beyond Toxics: 541.465.8860 or at Centro: 541.687.266

Every participant will receive a FREE Eco-Cleaning kit, sponsored by Coastwide Laboratories.

Tribal Elders and Rally Speakers To Our Dr. Governor – Protect Us from Pesticide Drift!

A nearby neighbor who has a house on the shores of Triangle Lake heard the loudspeaker from the Chemical Witness Rally, and wandered over to see what was going on. What she found was an open microphone at the lakeshore park, a place and time for people to speak to their personal experience about being harmed by pesticides. She said she knew nothing about the growing movement to stop aerial pesticide sprays on the forestlands of her own community, nevertheless she stepped up to the microphone.

What this neighbor said was poignant. To paraphrase: At some point in my life, I became highly sensitive to scents, chemicals, and many common air pollutants. My employer had to create a “bubble-like” environment for me, just so that I could function at work. It is torture to live with these severe reactions to chemicals. I can really appreciate and support what you folks are talking about today. Exposures like this make so many people ill.

The energy of water and sun sparkled down on the twin-planned events at Triangle Lake and Lake Selmac. Over 140 people gathered from many different communities to give witness to an unacceptable situation – pesticides sprayed from helicopters all over Oregon’s beautiful coastal mountain range. Vapors get carried onto private property by wind currents, fog and droplet drift. Rural communities want protection from the state government.

Three national news stories recently did large stories on the problem of pesticide drift in Oregon from forestry pesticide sprays. See these articles and interviews PRWatch.org MSNBC Jefferson Public Radio

I was deeply moved by the heartfelt testimony. To frame the notion of chemical witnessing, both rallies started with an invocation from two prominent tribal elders – Grandma Agnes Pilgrim, one of the original Takilma elders of the Confederated Tribes of Siletz, and Esther Stutzman, a highly regarded Kalapuya and Coos Elder. The two women represented tribes who have fished, hunted, gathered and sustained their traditions through their long-standing and profoundly deep connection with the land. Esther Stutzman reminded us that the members of her tribe have seen the harm caused by pesticides to the native salmon. She told how native women can no longer gather plants and materials from the land to make baskets because of the poisons. Esther spoke strongly: this is the right time to bring our shared concerns to action, to stop the poisoning of the land and the people.

Audrey Moore, the leader of Precious Dirt in Selma, reflected on the electrifying gathering on the shores of Lake Selmac: “So many willing and wanting to share their stories, each unique and yet the same, all knowing this insanity must end, and that we now demand our Human Rights. We expect as much from our Governor, and our State.”

 

Exposures to Air Pollution in Medford, Oregon

Executive Director Lisa Arkin and I made the three hour drive to Medford, Oregon to give an Asthma Care Workshop. A long trip for us, but well worth it. Last summer, UNETE, a farmworkers’ advocacy organization, invited us to collaborate with them in doing a workshop (see our pictures from the workshop) for the people they serve. Perfect, we thought, since they work a lot with timber and agricultural farmworkers and therefore are heavily exposed to herbicides and pesticides. In fact, many of the participants who attended may have worked for the local herbicide manufacture or timber companies. UNETE provides support to Latinos in the Medford community, including education, legal support, labor rights, etc. In fact, UNETE is the only Latino-led non-profit in the Rogue Valley.

As I gave my Asthma presentation, I saw the participants’ facial expressions change when I mentioned a startling statistic. According to a recent USA Today Report, some schools in Medford ranked in the 2nd percentile in the Nation for poor air quality. Rankings are based on modeled concentration and severity of chemicals known or believed to cause cancer. According to the report, this ranking means that there is a “greater likelihood that toxic chemicals could be present at levels that could threaten children’s health.” For example, if you see a school whose overall toxicity shows up in the second percentile, you’ll know only 1% of the nation’s schools had higher toxicity levels.

I could see expressions of concern, curiosity, disbelief, and concern, cross the faces of the people who came to listen. In the midst of delivering the bad news, I knew I was doing my part by empowering citizens to take action in their own lives to improve the air they breathe. In doing so, individuals end up feeling better about their lives and the health of their families.

Though our presentation was billed as an “Asthma Care Workshop”, much of the information shared could have easily applied to anyone. The people who came had a lot of great questions: Do pesticides cause cancer? How will I know if my husband has asthma if I’ve never taken him to the doctor? Why are children more affected by air toxics than adults?  I later found out that most of these parents had children with disabilities. ‘No wonder they looked so worried,’ I thought. Yet, the feeling of empowerment and content was spread throughout as they learned about tips, guidelines, and tools to reduce their families’ exposures to indoor and outdoor air toxics.

Exposures to air toxins can lead to general respiratory illnesses and/or discomforts. In Medford’s Crossroads School alone, for example, at 97% of overall toxicity, the top polluting chemical is formaldehyde.  As the report indicates, “this is the overall toxicity measure, but includes only those chemicals known or thought to cause cancer.” Not only cancer, but also asthma.

Have you heard that saying, “Knowledge is power”? Well, this was especially true in this case. UNETE and Beyond Toxics are looking forward to tackling environmental health issues together for these and other concerned parents.

But I’ll save those details for my next blog…

Hide and Seek: What is the forest industry trying to hide?

As a result of an R-G guest editorial last month, I sparked a firestorm of controversy proposing something simple and obvious: we should speak up if our government tries to convince the public not to worry about finding dangerous pesticides in the bodies of children who live in rural Oregon. Speaking up is not something terribly controversial from our point of view…and many of you wrote in to support our perspective.

In response to this editorial, a PR front group for the chemical industry recruited a local grass seed farmer from their board of directors to respond to the scientific evidence I presented. Here’s his jaw-dropping, arrogant retort: He thinks that finding pesticides in a child’s body is not a concern because there are “thousands of other chemical compounds that we could test for and find in that child’s urine.”

Really? Isn’t that a little like proposing that we put lead back into paint and gasoline just because lead is a toxic substance now found in children?

We realize it may be another David vs. Goliath battle, but we’re not backing down! The timber industry wields tremendous power, especially in Oregon – power to define regulations and policies, to amass financial power and social resources, and to marginalize grassroots movements. They would like to portray the pesticide drift problem in the Triangle Lake area as an isolated aberration, an odd blip from the norm, instead of the pervasive environmental problem it is for Oregonians in virtually every part of the state.

Here’s where it gets interesting. The Oregon Department of Forestry seems to be playing a game of “hide” in response to other state and federal agencies “seeking” accurate spray records.

First, a little background…Whenever pesticides are applied by a timber company, the Forest Practices Act requires that daily spray records are kept. These records must be made available to the government upon request for a minimum of three years. To figure how these dangerous pesticides are getting into children’s bodies, the government needs the private timber companies to turn over their records – describing what, where and when pesticides have been sprayed.

Three months ago, the Oregon Health Authority issued a request for those pesticides spray records for the purposes of the current Highway 36 Pesticide Health Investigation. The Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) can demand the spray records from the timber operators pursuant to their authority under the Oregon Administrative Rule 629-620-0600(4). Timber companies are, so far, resisting government requests to provide their spray records.

By law, timber companies must produce the records within 7 days of the State’s request, so those records should be available by now. But they have not been made available. That fact constitutes a violation of State forest practice regulations. It begs the question, is the ODF delaying attempts to get these records? In fact, Beyond Toxic members were told by ODF staff that they are “just trying to reduce hardship for the timber companies. We want to be fair to everybody.”

How is requesting records required by the law not “fair?” Is it fair for parents to worry if and when their children will get sick as a result of these pesticides in their bodies? We think it’s worth a little effort on the part of the timber industry to help us determine what the risks are to our families.

What you can do…

You can take action today by writing [email:doug.s.decker@state.or.us] or calling [(503) 373-7677Doug Decker, the State Forester, and requesting that he take immediate action on two things :

1.) Demand the pesticide spray records NOW and impose a hefty fine on any timber company that delays handing these records over to the government investigation.
2.) Tell the Oregon Department of Forestry that it is time to make all forestry pesticide spray notifications and spray records available on a public access website.

All Oregonians have a right to know about chemical trespass. This information should not be held in secret by those using pesticides for industrial forestry.

Lisa Arkin, Executive Director
Beyond Toxics

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Pitch in to support what we’re trying to accomplish!

ALSO…

Generational Shift and Environmental Justice: Madres para la Salud

Alison stands next to Josefina Cano, one of the Madres group members, and Sheryl Stohs, of the EPA region 10 Environmental Justice Program

To be honest, I felt like an outsider when we first formed the Mothers for Health groups. After about five meetings I now really feel like one of the women of the Madres para la Salud community. It quickly dawned on me that relating to them was easier than I thought, since they reminded me of my own mother (who is Latina also and from Paraguay- a country in the heart of South America).

I think for many community organizers, the initial phases of reaching out to new people can be tricky. It is quite easy to fall into the trap of perceiving oneself as an outsider and in turn, being perceived by the group as an outsider. Yet, once you find common ground by relating as a person and not just the issues- whether it be language, culture, personal experiences- it becomes easier to merge as a member of the group.

Focusing on the bonds helps. I think one of the bonds that have emerged between myself and the Latina mothers is that to a certain extent, I am representing the kind of woman their daughters could be someday: Latina, educated in a US university, speaks English with an American accent, bi-cultural and bi-lingual, and with more Western traditions than their mothers (not necessarily a good or bad thing, just a fact). I believe this bond provides hope in the sense that the mothers wish every possible positive opportunity for their daughters in America- including living and growing up in a safe environment free from disproportionate environmental health risks.

The Bethel area, a Northwest Eugene working class neighborhood, is next door to many polluting smokestackes like this one.

Madres para la Salud met again last Friday. Though it was a small turnout (as it always is when it comes to cold, Friday evenings in Eugene), I felt it was a great outcome. Initially I began working with the mothers in the idea that I would be providing them with new information and knowledge about environmental health and toxics, but I quickly learned that the learning process is quite the opposite of the way I thought. I’ve learned that the topics and goals must come from the mothers themselves to truly motivate them! I can’t help but ask community-participatory questions like: What are they interested in learning? Why? How does it fit into their daily lives? Will this be of use to them? What information can I bring to them next time we meet? Every meeting is a fresh new beginning with new concepts and ideas to discuss and meanwhile, I hope the Madres para la Salud group helps raise the bar on what it means to educate ourselves on toxic exposures and to determine what actions we can take to protect our health and the health of future generations.

Next meeting time:
Wednesday, January 18th – 6:00 pm
Location:
Centro LatinoAmericano
944 W.5th Avenue, Eugene OR 97402