Native Americans represent just one per cent of the US population and some languages have only one speaker left. Now a new generation is fighting to preserve the culture.
Native Americans represent just one per cent of the US population and some languages have only one speaker left. Now a new generation is fighting to preserve the culture.
Teen scientist harnesses sun power to help Navajo community
New Mexico teen Raquel Redshirt uses everyday materials and the sun to build solar ovens, fulfilling a Navajo community need and winning an award at the Intel ISEF competition.
Growing up on New Mexico’s Navajo Nation, Raquel Redshirt was well aware of the needs of her community. Many of her impoverished neighbors lacked basics such as electricity, as well as stoves and ovens to cook food.
Though resources in the high desert are limited, Raquel realized one was inexhaustible: the sun. “That’s where I got the idea of building a solar oven,” the teen says.
She researched solar ovens and found that most incorporate mirrors or other expensive materials. Raquel wanted to create a design that anyone could easily afford and replicate, using readily available materials.
On good days, St. Louis’s Air Quality Index sits on the high end of green—polluted, but not dangerously high. On these days, the city’s air is often just about to slip from the green “good,” to the yellow “moderate.” As summer intensifies though, the year-round pollution caused by the coal industry, tobacco use, and radon gas starts to take its toll. The index slips from green to yellow, orange, even red as the seasons change, ranging between “unhealthy for sensitive groups” and “unhealthy” for all St. Louis citizens. High levels of pollutants emitted from the combustion of fossil fuels, as well as the city’s lax environmental regulations, denote St. Louis as having the 12th unhealthiest air in the United States, according to American Lung Association’s 2013 report.
Modern pollution has negative, but insidious, ramifications for health. Pollution is traditionally considered to have more immediate, tangible effects: drink polluted water, get sick the same day. The illness spread by air pollution, however, builds slowly. Effects often only appear after decades, and even then, there are so many pollutive forces that the origins of disease can be hard to track. What we do know: particulates from air pollution—from places prevalent as exhaust pipes of cars and coal power plants—build up in the lungs, causing inflammation, long-term lung problems, and, eventually, lethal heart problems. Ozone pollution shortens life span, and is associated with cardiovascular disease, strokes, and further respiratory problems. Cancer has also been linked to air pollution. Further, this relationship between air pollution and respiratory processes means that any source of air pollution also worsens asthma, particularly in children and senior citizens.
The effects of air pollution run rampant in the communities around St. Louis’s metropolitan area.
Professor Krummenacher of Washington University explains, “We’re a city that has a lot of industrial pollution; we’re an old industrial city, we’re a river city. We’re also a city that has big traffic problems. Those things come together here in the region to give us a pretty nasty mess.”
Asthma causes the highest frequencies of admissions to St. Louis Children’s Hospital. One quarter of the state’s childhood asthma deaths occur in St. Louis City. Lung-related health problems disproportionately plague the racial and ethnic communities that live near St. Louis highways and coal power plants. St. Louis Children’s Hospital reports that zip codes in East St. Louis have significantly higher admission than the rest of the city, showing direct correlation between health disparity and socioeconomic situation.
More than that, East St. Louis has been determined to have the worst asthma rates in the nation.
Further parallel is evident between health disparity and race: African-American children account for over 90% of childhood asthma emergency department visits in St. Louis City.
Susannah Fuchs, director of the local branch of the American Lung Association, works to improve air quality. “In my community work, we’ve seen no matter how much public education you provide, no matter how many ads you buy, people still don’t immediately see how air pollution relates to health,” she says. She describes the education process as difficult, but entirely necessary, and entirely worth the good it can do. “If you look at the last couple of decades, the levels of air pollution have definitely gone down. However, it’s still being fought for—because as it’s reducing, we’re seeing studies coming out that show the health ramifications of air pollution are much worse than we thought they were.”
In St. Louis, these ramifications might surprise you. In a lawsuit recently filed, a local advocacy group, the Sierra Club, cites almost 8,000 violations of the Clean Air Act committed by Ameren. The Clean Air Task Force is a non-profit organization that studies the effects of air pollution.
They have determined that Ameren’s Labadie coal plant, Meramec coal plant, and Rush Island coal plant (all located in proximity to St. Louis) contribute to 3,870 asthma attacks, 360 heart attacks, and 226 premature deaths every year.
Much of this illness and death relates to the violations cited by the Sierra Club, and could be mitigated if legal action were taken.
More than this, a company called Peabody Energy threatens to worsen current air quality conditions in general. Although they do not have power plants around St. Louis, they are headquartered in Missouri and have a seat on the board at large institutions like Washington University and Barnes Jewish Hospital. In this case, air pollution enabled by a Missouri company has consequences all across the nation.
Due to the efforts of organizations like the American Lung Association, over the past fourteen years of air monitoring, air quality has improved. Legislation that limits the emissions of coal-fired power plants and restricts tobacco use in public areas was passed in the form of 1970’s EPA Clean Air Act and 2011’s Indoor Clean Air Code. St. Louisans now breathe cleaner air. However, there is still work to be done: despite the overall positive trend, last year, air quality worsened. Through groups like the Sierra Club, the fight continues to actually make industry powers adhere to these legislations.
Fuchs says, “These health effects of air pollution have a huge community cost that everyone shoulders—including industry, who’s fighting the reductions. So even if people fight these changes, in the long run it turns out to benefit everybody.” And meanwhile, American Lung Association continues to educate the community through programs that teach students how to manage their health and understand environment-to-health relationships.
Despite all this, Fuchs offers hope through the future, saying, “Ideally we can continue to reduce air pollution, continue to push the edge of the envelope to make stronger restrictions and reduce pollution from all the different sources.” Through the efforts of community organizations and local attention, perhaps, indeed, this could be achieved.
In solidarity with Students Against Peabody.
Environmental justice is social justice.
There’s some awesome stuff going down at Washington University in St. Louis right now. Namely, a coalition of student environmental & social justice groups have banded together to protest the human and environmental rights violations of Peabody…
Eva Mirabal wasn’t just the first female Native American cartoonist—she was one of the first Native American cartoonists period, and one of the first female creators to have her own strip. Born Eah-Ha-Wa (“Fast Growing Corn” in the Tiwa language), Mirabal grew up surrounded by art: her father served as an artists’ model, she spent years studying art at the Santa Fe Indian school under director Dorothy Dunn, who recognized her “ability to translate everyday events into scenes of warmth and seminaturalistic beauty” right off the bat, and at nineteen was featured as part of a gallery exhibition in Chicago. World War II brought her work to a wider audience when, after enlisting in the Woman’s Army Corps in 1943, she was commissioned to create a strip for the Corps newsletter. G.I. Gertie gave canny, irreverent voice to women in the military, and Mirabal was quickly commissioned for more work, most notably her posters advertising war bonds. After the war, she served as an Artist-in-Residence at Southern Illinois University, painted murals for schools, planetariums, and military facilities, and eventually returned to the Taos Pueblo. Her later works, signed not as Eva Mirabal but as Eah-Ha-Wah, depict everyday Pueblo life with uncommon passion and candor.
Today, Eva Mirabal is far from celebrated. You’re really only going to find the same G.I.Gertie strip over and over again if you search online, many of her murals have been demolished, and her tumblr tag is empty. But her work—intimate, warm, and keenly felt—stands strong, decades after her death. The comics and art world stand in sore need of women like Mirabal: G.I. Gertie was not the work of a male cartoonist, cracking jokes about those silly women and their silly woman concerns, nor are her paintings the product of a white observer, smearing his bias across a community he “discovered.” Mirabal was a woman writing for women, a member of the Taos Pueblo creating for the Taos Pueblo—an artist committed to her world and its validity.
(Third in a series on women in the comics industry.)
"When Cynthia Koenig, a young social entrepreneur from New York, learned that millions of girls and women around the world spend hours each day collecting water from distant sources, she decided to create a new way to help people in poor communities transport water and it’s called the WaterWheel. Koenig’s WaterWheel allows people to roll water in a 50-liter container versus carrying it in 5 gallon (19 liter) jugs. Koenig estimates that the WaterWheel can save women 35 hours per week in water transport time, as well as prevent the physical strain that comes from balancing 40 pounds of water on top of their heads for hours each day.
Every day around the world, over 200 million hours are spent each day fetching water, often from water sources miles from home, and this task usually falls to women and girls. By freeing up valuable time, the WaterWheel allows women to spend time on income-generating activities that can help pull her family out of poverty. The time savings also means that there is a greater likelihood that girls will be allowed to stay in school, further reducing the rate of intergenerational poverty.
After receiving a $100,000 Grand Challenges Canada prize to develop the WaterWheel, Koenig founded a social enterprise company, Wello. The company is in an early stage of development and has been piloting the WaterWheel in rural communities in India. Koenig also plans on continuing to make the WaterWheel itself more useful by adding in filtration, drip irrigation kits, even a cell phone charger that uses the rotation of the wheel to charge the battery of the cell phone and give people more access to essentials like communication and education.
To learn more about this invention and its potential to transform the lives of many girls and women around the world, check out Koenig’s TED talk and you can read a recent article in The Guardian about her venture. To learn more about how to support her work, visit Wello’s website.”
For a wonderful book about more female innovators and inventors throughout history, check out “Girls Think of Everything: Stories of Ingenious Inventions by Women” for readers 8 to 13.
To help children and teens better understand the challenges many children around the world face in order to go to school, check out the blog post, “Honoring Malala: Mighty Girl Books on Children’s Fight for Education,” showcasing our top books for young readers on children’s educational access issues.
A Mighty Girl also has a section highlighting stories that feature poverty and hardship as a significant theme. Such stories provide opportunities for parents to discuss these topics with their children while also helping to foster children’s empathy for people living in difficult circumstances. Learn more here.”
In tales of badass women today…
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Hello! I am so excited to present this week’s girl fighting evil. Kailey runs one of my favorite blogs, a pink-filled positive wonderland called Mermaidens. Not only that, but she’s a lovely illustrator and has an amazing personal style. Let’s dive right in.
Interview with a Real-Life Girl Fighting Evil!
Today’s girl fighting evil is someone I’ve admired for a long time! Kaley runs Honeypie on Etsy, a delightful shop that sells beautiful floral crowns and adorable hair bows. She’s incredibly nice and has a great blog! Her headbands are stunning, and guaranteed to make you feel like you live in a fairy tale.
Jen at Achromatic Gold explores make up in unique and beautiful ways. While giving you autumn make-up colors or suggestions, she also gives you looks inspired by mermaids and the galaxy, or a Halloween deer look! Not only that, but she’s incredibly kind and wonderful. Her Tumblr is filled with beautiful images as well!She’s also an awesome person and so fun to follow. She’s a great friend.
1. What does make up mean to you?
Makeup is, boiled down to the simplest of terms, art. The face is a canvas and with a little practice, you can transform yourself into anything you’d like. The “rules” that are sometimes presented are meant to be broken. If someone can use makeup to become a skull or a lion or a monster, you can do anything you want with it. But it’s more than that—it’s how a person can control how they look and that’s powerful.
2. On your beauty blog, you have looks inspired by mermaids and the galaxy. Why do you like to make looks for such themes?
I think it’s important to break out of the norm and draw inspiration from everything. It forces you to utilize that all-powerful talent of creativity because you can find a single picture that you’d like to use as inspiration, but how can you make it translate into a look? There are so many themes you can use that go unnoticed! It’s fun to emulate the immensely talented people in the beauty community, but it’s even more fun to come up with something original that you can claim as your own and therefore inspire others to do the same.
3. What makes you feel brave?
Taking the leap. This is something with which I struggle every single day because I have such a fear of failure, but I’m starting to come to terms with the fact that failure is something to experience. It doesn’t have to mean jumping off of a cliff with no end in sight; it might mean making a phone call you’ve been dreading or putting yourself out there, whatever that might mean to you, but I always feel better after I take a chance and succumb to sponteneity.
4. What are your top five beauty must haves?
Tough one! Definitely a good concealer, and I’m still collecting them until I find the perfect one myself. A brow pencil because sometimes just filling in your brows makes you look so much more put together without much effort. Black gel liner plus a brush because everyone loves a good winged eye. One bright eyeshadow in your favourite colour because if you’re limiting yourself to five products, you definitely need something fun! Aaaand probably a My Lips But Better shade of lip stain so it’s low-maintenance.
5. If you were trapped in a world where demons were attacking, what would be your weapon of choice?
Ideally, my words and some berry lipstick! I’m a writer on my better days and I’m always trying to improve, but I’d like to think that my words are sharp enough to slice up some demons, and a dark lip always boosts my confidence. (As it should! Readers, don’t be afraid to try something new!) But barring that, I think I could do battle with a bow and arrow. I’m the clumsiest person alive so up close and personal is definitely not an option, but the first time I tried archery, I managed to hit bullseye.
(view this interview on the girls fighting evil blog as well)
real life girl fighting evil: Shira Glassman
Shira is an author and a totally awesome blogger on Tumblr. Her book, The Second Mango, recently became available. Read an interview to learn more about the amazing Shira and her wonderful novel.
1. Tell us about your book.
Well, the official blurb is:
It’s hard to find a girlfriend when you don’t know any other lesbians, so the young, nerdy Queen Shulamit hires the legendary warrior Rivka to take her around the kingdom on the back of her dragon in search of other girls like her. But the simple quest quickly turns into a rescue mission when they discover a temple full of women turned to stone by an evil sorcerer.
At its heart, The Second Mango is a friendship story about two very different women who become close like sisters while both looking for love, family, strength in Shulamit’s case (Rivka certainly doesn’t have to look for it!), and their place in the world. There are also heavy romance side plots for both of them — separately, obviously, because Rivka is straight — and the usual amount of Questing and Magic Potions and Flying Around On A Dragon for the average fairy tale. But the main point is that it’s a very woman-centered book. In fact, the only part of the story where two male characters even have an extended conversation is in Rivka’s backstory, which is in general less diverse and more traditional than the “present-day” bulk of the story. (For more on this, see my guest post on Dr. Tof Eklund’s blog.])
2. What inspired you to write The Second Mango?
The Second Mango is the magical result of several separate ideas that all came together after many years. First of all, I’d always wanted to write “the lesbian princess story” that many of us crave after being passively force-fed a visual diet of Disney Princess whatnot. I’ve joked that my brain resembled a waiting room of lesbian princesses, each representing a different story idea that hadn’t quite gotten enough lift to fly out of the nest.
Secondly, I grew up exposed to many, many stories about straight, cisgender women who disguised themselves as men so that they could do men’s jobs without being challenged. In more than one case, these “men” had women interested in them, women whose interest dried up once the “men” were exposed as women. So it was just a lot of straight people interacting in a very queer way. As a bisexual child, this really ate at me. I remember vividly the moment I read the line in Isaac Bashevis Singer’s Yentl the Yeshiva Boy about “Yentl found a way to deflower the bride.” What? She did what? With one casual, throwaway line, the story dismisses what for me could have been a whole novel in and of itself. Anyway, so what would happen if one of those Eowyn types had come face to face with a real lesbian? Would the lesbian be able to move on, and what would that look like? Would they become friends?
It turned out that the answer was yes, thank goodness. So now that I had a lesbian and a straight woman, I needed to find another queer woman so that the lesbian could have her Epic Romance. I decided to do this quite literally by having them try to find another queer woman.
The last missing piece of the puzzle was my lifelong frustration with the absence of my type of guys as the romantic interest in heterosexual fiction. Iam bisexual, but you’d never know it if all i ever watched or read were conventional mainstream fiction. All those guys are either too thin or too buff (and in many cases, too young) for me. Rivka’s wizard is around forty, beefy but “padded”, and sports a goatee. At last, “the guy” was someone I could actually get excited about. He soothes me in other ways, too — some which you’ll have to read the novel to find out, but suffice it to say that even the hetero subplot of my book is fiercely feminist. If Shulamit shows that loving women exclusively doesn’t make you manly, Rivka shows that loving men exclusively doesn’t make you weak. (It’s all about picking the right man.)
3. What are your favorite things about Shulamit and Rivka? What about them were you most excited to write about?
Rivka: well, I’m thoroughly in love with her for the same reasons Isaac is. She’s confident and competent and protects those that she cares about. She’s a brave and talented warrior. And, most dear to me, she’s a warrior woman who has my nose, my skin color, and my hair color — basically, my ethnic background — and speaks with the same accent that my great-grandparents did. She’s a female Askhenazi Jewish answer to Siegfried, andno way is he getting anywhere near her dragon, not if she has hands to lift a sword. Or even without hands! She’d be like the Black Knight from Monty Python!
….you know what? I love her because she’s a protective spirit. My people, we have this legend about a golem. She may not be made of clay and created by man, but she was created by me, and since she’s a made-up protective spirit, maybe she’s got a little of the golem in her.
As for Shulamit: she’s got a gigantic brain that voraciously devours nonfiction, so in that, she takes after my adorable spouse (who was once mistaken for a Californian by a man on the train in Europe who’d gotten Florida and California mixed up, simply because xe was able to continue answering in extremely knowledgeable detail all his technical questions about California politics!) Another thing I really love about Shulamit is that she’s so much me that she’s a way for me to work through the things I’m going through or have been through. She lost her father; so did I. She went through a stage of being so interested in women that they all looked appealing — I think that may have been me at fifteen. But she’s not entirely me. She’s a lesbian; I do like some men. She hates spectator sports and while I don’t always know what’s going on, I like being around happy people being excited about something. None of them are all me or all Spouseling or my friends or anyone else. Everything is all little bits of real life and imaginary dreams mixed up together. That’s what made it so much fun to write — the reality and yet the newness of it all.
I was most excited to write about Rivka being an Ashkenazi Jewish woman who kicks butt, and about her romance, and I was most excited to write about Shulamit being a queer women with a lot of challenges in her life (loss, food intolerances, feeling isolated) but meets them all head-on and conquers them.
4. What advice do you have for other girls who want to get published?
Write the story you want to write, because then your love for what you’re doing will come out in your work. THEN, find a critique buddy or two that you really trust who also believe in your vision, and will help polish it until it’s ready to shop around. A true critique buddy/beta reader is someone who will help you make your story the best it can be, not someone who’ll try to turn into the story they’d rather read. I owe so much of my experience to the woman I call “Kate the Great”, Katharine Thomas O’Gara, who is herself a fantastic writer.
There is a really wide variety of publishers out there. For the larger ones, you’ll need to shop your book to a literary agent, and they’ll be the ones shopping it to the publishers. For the smaller ones, you submit directly, but make sure you follow all the rules. Piers Anthony has a website that rates and describes a lot of the publishers out there, so Google that and then double-check your research against his—anyway, it’s what I did.
5. If you were stuck in a world where demons are attacking, what would be your weapon of choice?
No, seriously. I’m not Rivka; I’m only the scrawny version of her. (Actually, I’m built like Shulamit, but with Rivka’s ethnicity instead.) So I’ve no hope of getting anywhere with traditional weapons, even cool ones like a sword inherited from a dead wizard boyfriend. But one thing I do have is an absolutely iron will when it comes to tenacity; I will keep trying to think of ideas. What else can we try? What haven’t we thought of? Who can we ask for advice? Who can we ask to help us? What’s that over there, and can it be used to hit anything? Can they be reasoned with? Can they be distracted?
This was fun, and thank you for having me over to play!
The Second Mango is available on eBook for $5.79 on Prizm Books, from Giovanni’s Room, and on Amazon Kindle, and in print/paperback for $14.95 at Wild Iris Books, Florida’s only feminist bookstore. Amazon print linkhere.