Youth is the hope of tomorrow, the famous quote says. This is true, especially when different youth organizations ally to forward a cause on matters concerning our environment, human rights, and social issues.
In 2008, when the Taliban gained control of some regions of Pakistan and all school for girls were shut down, the brave 11-year-old Malala Yousafzai started to speak publicly on behalf of girls and their right to education. This made her a target, and she was shot in the head for it. But after a few months, she had fully recovered from her surgeries.
She established the Malala Fund, a charity which aims to give every girl an opportunity for the future that she wants. And today, another extraordinary youth created change when she saw an alarming problem concerning our environment.
Politicians from Norway nominated Greta Thunberg for a Nobel peace prize, a climate activist from Sweden. She became famous worldwide for her campaigns against climate change, which drew attention from the public. What is interesting about her is that at sixteen, she is the leader of the Youth Strike for Climate movement.
She started a solo protest in front of the Swedish Parliament last August 2018, to raise awareness of global warming. She missed an estimated three weeks of classes and demanded that Swedish politicians must help in advocating minimized carbon emissions with regards to the Paris Agreement.
Thunberg inspired hundreds of other young individuals to skip their classes and join the protests. These protests urge for faster action on climate change. Her movement has spread not only in Sweden but globally — reaching European nations. Currently, regular walkouts are happening globally, including countries such as Germany, Belgium, the United Kingdom, France, Australia, and Japan.
Freddy Andre Oevstegaard is one of the lawmakers who nominated Greta. He told AFP news agency that they chose her because if we don’t do anything to stop climate change, it can lead to wars, conflicts, and refugees. Furthermore, he believed that Greta’s immense movement would lead to a significant peace contribution.
If Greta wins the Nobel prize, she will be the youngest awardee ever. She will be followed by Malala Yousafzai, who was 17 years old when she received her award.
On Twitter, Greta expressed that she was very grateful and honored to be nominated. She added, “Tomorrow we will continue to #schoolstrike for our future. And we shall continue to do it for as long as it takes.”
Greta continues to attract global attention after participating in the following events. Last 2018 at the UN Climate Summit, she accused world leaders of acting like children and challenged them to do better. And In January, she also participated in the World Economic Forum in Davos. According to her, change is coming whether we want it or not.
International Officials, National Politicians, some University professors, and past winners can nominate someone for a Nobel Peace Prize.
The winner of the Nobel prize will be announced this October and will be awarded in December at Oslo. Overall, for the 2019 title, there are 301 nominees composed of 223 individuals and 78 organizations.
Meanwhile, the Norwegian Nobel Committee is known not to give comments regarding the nominations. Usually, the names of nominators and nominees are not made public after 50 years.
So, what can we learn from Greta? We need to see climate change as a severe problem, and it does not only affect a few countries or selected people only; this is everyone’s concern — even the youth can see its threats to our environment, living organisms, and especially to humans.
We need to be more environmentally conscious and make personal changes in our lifestyle to save the planet. Greta told CNN, that as much as possible, she avoids flying, eating meat, and buying new stuff unless it’s necessary.
We need to practice what we preach. Greta is known to practice what she preaches. Greta traveled to Davos for 32 hours via trains while political and business leaders went there using 1,500 private jets.
Greta told in her speech at Davos that, we are running out of time, but we can still do something to save the planet. Furthermore, she stated that “no one is too small to make a difference.”
It’s Time To Raise The ‘Federal Minimum Wage’
The United States has set a record for maintaining its federal minimum wage without increases for the longest time in the nation’s history. The news calls for immediate action aligned with the economic expansion in the US and increasing inflation rates.
The last increase to the US federal minimum wage was July 2009 — which is almost a decade ago. The federal minimum wage was raised from $6.55 an hour to the current $7.25 an hour.
According to CNN calculations, the current $7.25 an hour minimum wage can barely cover basic expenses with prices for healthcare, oil, and commodities gone up within the past decade. CBS reported that $7.25 in 2009 is valued at only about $6 in 2019. The cost of living has soared 18% since the last increase.
In an estimate, minimum-wage employees working 40 hours a week for 52 weeks, equates to just $15,080 annually. Researchers estimate with the current market that two working parents in a family of four would need to earn $67,146 to cover expenses. That equates to $16.14 an hour for each parent, CNN reported.
The New York Times, meanwhile, reported that the average wage being paid to all minimum wage workers can go as low as $12 an hour, according to an economist who served in the Treasury Department under President Barack Obama.
“There is not a single community in the U.S. where someone can have a decent quality of life at the current federal minimum wage,” said David Cooper, an EPI researcher on the minimum wage. “Congress has never waited this long to lift up the wages of workers at the bottom.”
In line with the report, states have passed bills that raise state minimum wages higher than the federal baseline. As of June this year, 21 states have passed minimum wage hikes—some even at the $15 an hour threshold.
However, the state minimum wage varies. In Florida, the minimum wage stands at $8.46 an hour; in Hawaii, it’s $10.10 an hour; in California, the minimum wage goes up to $12 an hour. Meanwhile, in states like New York and Seattle, the minimum wage reaches $15 an hour and even $16 an hour, respectively.
On the other hand, Republican-led states are known to reject Democrat appeals for minimum wage hikes. An estimate of around 700,000 minimum-wage workers in areas that have not passed local increases are still paid $7.25 an hour, the New York Times said.
Republican-led states like Arkansas, Arizona, and Missouri are some exceptions due to public support via ballot initiatives. In the polls, over 60% in each state voted in favor of minimum wage hikes.
However, in order to gain public support from ballot initiatives state leaders first need to put it in motion. With Republicans abstaining such initiatives, the citizens have resulted to demand higher minimum wages from the federal government directly.
In other efforts, big companies like Amazon and Walmart have raised their minimum wage to $15 and $14.26 an hour, respectively. The move has prompted government states to follow suit.
Additionally, it’s not just large companies that are on board with a wage hike. There are around 800 companies, most of which are small businesses, who are willing to support the raising minimum wage to $15 by 2024.
The record delay also comes after the US experiencing significant economic growth. The US has enjoyed roughly 10 years of economic expansion, which may soon become the longest such expansion in this country’s history, according to USA Today.
Analysts have also shared that raising the minimum wage would improve employee recruitment and retention in a tight labor market—higher wages would easily attract employment-seeking individuals. Moreover, higher pay also means more spending money salary-makers, which boosts the local economy.
Comparatively, May’s employment report showed that there were only 75,000 jobs provided in the month — a disappointing number compared to expectations of 185,000. Furthermore, employment rates are evidence of cracks forming in the economy.
In 2012, Texas had 452,000 workers making the minimum wage or less, according to federal data. By 2017, that number had fallen to 196,000, despite a slight increase in hourly workers, Dallas News reports.
“The minimum wage is still relevant; it just needs to be raised to a level where more workers benefit,” said Tsedeye Gebreselassie, work quality director at the National Employment Law Project.
Adding a dollar or two to the minimum scoops up a lot of people and spills over to other workers. “But at $15 an hour, you’re starting to affect a significant portion of the workforce,” Gebreselassie said.
Pope Tells Oil Execs: The World Needs A “Radical Energy Transition”
Pope Francis has declared a global “climate emergency” and preach to oil companies executives, pointing out that specific measures are needed to alleviate the problem with rising global temperatures. “The climate crisis requires our decisive action, here and now and the Church is fully committed to playing her part.”
“Time is running out!” Francis said. “Deliberations must go beyond mere exploration of what can be done, and concentrate on what needs to be done. We do not have the luxury of waiting for others to step forward, or of prioritizing short-term economic benefits.”
This is the second year that oil executives have gathered in Rome at the invitation of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Integral Human Development and Notre Dame University’s Mendoza College of Business. The theme of this year’s meeting is “The Energy Transition and Care for our Common Home.”
Attendees of the said event were the CEOs of Royal Dutch Shell, Eni, BP, Repsol, Conoco Phillips, Chevron, ExxonMobil, and executives of investment funds.
The Pope took the opportunity to urge oil executives to find solutions to address the rapidly rising global temperatures. “Faced with a climate emergency, we must take action accordingly, in order to avoid [perpetuating] a brutal act of injustice towards the poor and future generations,” he said. “We must take responsible actions bearing in mind their impact in the short and in the long term,” the Pope added.
Particularly, Pope Francis called for “open, transparent, science-based and standardized” reporting of climate risk and a “radical energy transition.” Furthermore, Francis encouraged the idea of carbon pricing.
“Such a transition involves managing the social and employment impact of the move to a low-carbon society,” Francis said. “If managed well, this transition can generate new jobs, reduce inequality and improve the quality of life for those affected by climate change.”
Carbon pricing is a way for governments to encourage innovations in low-carbon technology by implementing higher taxes or emissions trading schemes. It directly applies the costs of using fossil fuels that cause global warming to consumers. The signatories called for a “combination of policies and carbon pricing mechanisms … designed in a way that simultaneously delivers innovation and investment in low-carbon solutions while assisting those least able to pay”.
The Pope also emphasized the 1.5C limit on temperature from a United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report—noting that the world has a decade or so to bring greenhouse gases under control or otherwise let the world face devastating effects such as droughts, floods, heatwaves and damage to agriculture.
However, with the Vatican’s active campaign for climate change action, it has faced criticism and clashing with leaders like U.S. President Donald Trump who doubts the validity of global warming and rejects the idea that the problem is solely due to human activity.
Last year, Trump rejected projections that were outlined in a report by his own government and that projected climate change will cause severe economic harm to the US economy.
Trump also announced his intent for the US to withdraw from the Paris deal, making it the first country to do so among 200 signatories.
By the end of the 2-day event, oil companies made pledges to take action to resolve the global crisis. However, there were no specific conversations on set dates nor concrete plans to achieve a solution.
The Guardian reports that the oil companies’ pledges did not go far enough, as Mel Evans, climate campaigner for Greenpeace UK said, “The oil majors knew all about the risk from climate change many years before most of us first heard about it. They knew where we were heading, they knew their products were the cause, and yet they kept it quiet and lobbied for business as usual. Moreover, “they’re still lobbying for business as usual. When it comes to saving the planet they will do what they are forced to do, and no more, which is why we’re having to block them from drilling new oil wells as we speak. Expecting leadership from them is a path to certain disaster.”
The Pope concluded by saying, as “human beings, while capable of the worst, are also capable of rising above themselves, choosing again what is good, and making a new start.”
New York Moves To Rule Out Religious Exemption For Vaccines
In the face of the worst measles outbreak in the country within the past 25 years, New York has decided to make necessary immunizations in schoolchildren, citing that religious exemption to vaccinizations can no longer be accepted.
In the past, legislation has allowed parents to reason against vaccines due to religious reasons. They have cited that it is their religious freedom to opt out of the science-based system in exchange for their beliefs.
The decision was made Thursday with a Democrat-led Senate and Assembly. The decision has made all schoolchildren take the first round of immunization shots—for those who have opted out—as a requirement before enrollment.
Furthermore, schoolchildren wishing to enroll in the upcoming school year are given up to 30 days to complete the first dose of each required immunization.
The newly-signed measure was met with mixed reactions from the hundreds of people who flocked the streets of New York. Some expressed that it was about time that the government had taken legislative action towards addressing the measles outbreak given that the problem is spiraling out of control. Moreover, some cited that religious beliefs have been used as a counter-action to opt out from vaccinations, which are due to rampant misinformation regarding the vaccine to cause other side effects.
Meanwhile, anti-vaxxers have complained against the measure citing that their religious freedom is being taken away by the vague impression that public health is in a state of fear due to measles.
New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat who signed the measure told reporters that he believes public health — and the need to protect those who cannot get vaccinated because for medical reasons — outweighs the concerns about religious freedom.
“I understand freedom of religion,” he said. “I have heard the anti-vaxxers’ theory, but I believe both are overwhelmed by the public health risk.”
Bronx Democrat Jeffrey Dinowitz, the bill’s Assembly sponsor added, “I’m not aware of anything in the Torah, the Bible, the Koran or anything else that suggests you should not get vaccinated.” Moreover, “If you choose to not vaccinate your child, therefore potentially endangering other children … then you’re the one choosing not to send your children to school.”
On the other hand, New York is not completely absolving reasons to opt out of vaccinations. Particularly, the government will still allow children to skip taking the required shots for reasons citing medical concerns (some people are medically compromised and cannot take vaccines or immunizations due to risks from detrimental side effects.) These people can be those with compromised immune systems such as HIV or those who are allergic to said medications, to name a few.
Recently, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported an alarmingly increasing number of measles cases in the United States — gaining the highest incidence for the past 25 years.
Moreover, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported about 971 cases of measles in 26 states in the US from January 1 to May 30 of this year — threatening the nation’s elimination status.
The report also indicated that the spike in measles outbreaks was centered in hotspots such as Washington and New York. Also, since the disease is common among children, most of the cases reported are from unvaccinated school-age children.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) told BBC that “If these outbreaks continue through summer and fall, the United States may lose its measles elimination status. That loss would be a huge blow for the nation and erase the hard work done by all levels of public health.”
The issue is also magnified with misinformation that is being widely spread against the measles vaccine—which prompted Facebook to finally take action and try to mitigate false information that is widespread across its platform.
“These Groups and Pages will not be included in recommendations or predictions when you type into Search,” Monika Bickert, Facebook’s vice president of global policy management, said in a statement. She added that when ads that include misinformation about vaccinations are found, “we will reject them.”
With New York’s move, similar exemptions are still allowed in 45 states, though lawmakers in several of them have introduced their own legislation to eliminate the waiver.
California removed personal belief vaccine exemptions for children in both public and private schools in 2015. Maine ended its religious exemption earlier this year. Mississippi and West Virginia also do not allow religious exemptions.
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