Saturday, December 17, 2016
Environmental Justice is Reproductive Justice
Environmental Justice is Reproductive Justice is Racial Justice
The next posts, in my blog, are dedicated to the long term impact of polluting factors on mothers, babies and the long term health of children and our communities.
Let's start with some statistics.....
One in ten babies in the United States are born preterm ( before 37 weeks)
It is the highest cause of death in children under the age of five.
The rate is increasing/ not decreasing.
36% of all infant deaths in the United States are caused by preterm births
African American women are 50% more likely to have a preterm baby than a white woman.
In Washington State, preterm births for Native Americans, are 49% higher than for any other ethnic group
The cost of a preterm birth is $26 billion dollars annually with some medical bills being over 2 million dollars for one baby. This does not include the long term educational needs related to disabilities.
Babies born preterm may experience difficulty breathing, staying warm, feeding and just staying alive. Later in life, they may experience many other health and developmental challenges. It is not the way anyone wants a baby to begin life on earth.
The risk factors for preterm birth include many factors and one of them is simply being poor and not white. Smoking, poor nutrition and lack of access to prenatal care make it worst but even if you do everything "right" being raised with less or being a woman of color puts your baby at a higher risk. For years researchers have looked for why poor women and women of color have more preterm babies.
I am suggesting we look at where they lived. I am suggesting we look at our cities and where our fossil fuels come from. I am suggesting we look at our city's "sacrifice zoning plans" for our answer.
I am suggesting that we look where capitalism and the exploitation of colonization took the wealthy for our answers.
For if you look at the research carefully, it is clear that environmental exposure to poor air quality, fracking, lead in the water and pollutants in soil and paint and food all increase the rates of preterm birth and pre-eclampsia.
What we also know is that poor women and women of color are far more likely to live in high pollution area or parts of the city dedicated to pollution so that the wealthier people can breathe clean air and have parks and clean water. These women, in pristine neighbourhoods, also have fewer birth complications.
So why, if we know that pollution and fracking and pipe lines and superfund sites are causing over one million babies to die each year do we allow these practices to go on?
But it is not just in my city or my country. The World Health Organisation estimates that 1 million children die from preterm births each year. They estimate 15 million preterm births, world wide, each year. The United State is amongst the ten countries with the highest preterm rate. It sits between Indonesia and Bangladesh. China and India with the highest rates, also have high levels of air pollution.
Babies are an indicator species. They and their mother's reproductive system and her placenta are all sensitive to the pollutants in our air and water and soil and pipes and paint. What we know now, is that the harm done to a woman's reproductive system is generational. What we know is that the very air your mother breathes can effect the outcome of your birth and your baby.
Getting the tobacco industry to take responsibility for the harm they caused was near to impossible and the fossil fuel industry will be even harder. First of all. most people like 'sacrifice zones' because it keeps pollution out of their neighbourhoods where they don't have to look at it. Second everyone loves fossil fuel products and feels like it has to be somewhere. They are happy their baby is not sick and give themselves credit for doing everything right. The March of Dimes knows and the CDC knows but it is so huge and so hard to change.
I am a midwife but I believe it "takes a village" to deliver a healthy baby to a healthy mother. Perhaps you always wanted to be a midwife; that you always wanted to help mothers and babies. You can be a Climate Justice Midwife and ensure better outcomes for mothers and babies by working to protect our communities form air and water pollution and beginning the long journey to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy.
This is a long, long labor. Just like good midwives, we will have to try many, many things but we will not give up because a healthy baby is always our goal. When we take midwifery into our hearts, we take in our commitment to love each and every baby as our own. We stretch our hands across the universe and answer the call to protect and provide for the next generation. With love in my heart, I ask you to consider this calling and join me as a Climate Justice Midwife.
I now suspect the significant number of women dying of eclampsia in Haiti is related to the environment. There is good research to support it. It is perhaps lead in the pipes or house paint or chemicals put in the soil.
Fossil Fuel poison is a form of genocide. One you pollute the water and air and soil, it is very difficult to overcome the problems created by it. It is like small pox on blankets all over again.
Find out where your fuel and electricity is coming from? What part of your community is sacrificed for oil exports or for your home energy use. Where are the babies in your region most likely to be born premature due to exposure to lead or air or water pollution?