4 Easy Ways to Help Bees

The death of 25,000 bumblebees in Wilsonville, Oregon, can be read as a sure sign of things to come if we don’t all pitch in to help save the bee population.

Here are ways you can help protect bees, and, in turn, our global food supply.

1. Stop using chemical pesticides.

There are many reasons to avoid the use of chemicals in your lawn and garden. By killing off insects deemed pests, you also endanger the helpful predators on your lawn, such as ladybugs and lacewings, and the birds that will happily eat your “pesky” bugs for you. Chemical pesticides are one of the major reasons for the decline in the bee population, and without bees, who’s going to pollinate your plants? Are you planning on manually completing this task? When bees come through your yard, they are providing a free gardening service. Think of it as a work safety issue – don’t poison your labor (the birds, the bees, and their friends).

Also, if you are growing a fruit or vegetable garden, do you really want to ingest chemicals designed to kill living things?

2. Provide habitats for bees.

When looking for information on how to encourage bumblebees in our garden, I found an article with that very same title.

Apparently, my overworked husband and I have been doing the right thing already without even trying. According to the author, “[W]hat do you do if you want bumblebees in your garden?  You need to provide three types of habitat — foraging, nesting, and hibernating. […T]he easiest solution is just to leave some areas of your yard completely alone to grow into native plants and provide a natural nesting and hibernating ground.”

So great news, you don’t have to do anything to help with this part! Just let your lawn do what it wants. Job #2: Done, my friends.

And honestly, which is prettier:

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(Picture taken from article entitled “Lawn Mower Injuries a Growing Problem“: “More than 200,000 adults (and some 17,000 children) were treated for lawn mower injuries [in 2010] – a 3 percent increase over 2009 numbers.” Ick!)

Or a yard full of this:

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(Thanks, Wikipedia!)

3. Get involved.

The other major threat to bees is lack of corporate accountability. Even Russia recognizes the dangers of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), and scientists globally have acknowledged the danger of GMO crops for bees and human consumption. Considering all that energy you have saved by not spraying your lawn with pesticides and not having to mow it, take a minute to write your local government representatives about your concern for the environment. Heck, don’t even bother typing anything more than CTRL+C to copy this content and CTRL+V to paste it into an email. Sign your name at the bottom of the letter if you really want to put some effort into the cause.

Dear Representative/ Senator/ President/ [Insult Deleted] Exec at Monsanto,

I am concerned about the negative impact that Monsanto’s GMO crops have had on the global bee population and will have on the human population as a result. Much scientific research has pointed to the fact that GMOs are bad for the environment, and many European countries have already taken steps to eliminate this threat for their own populations. The fact that our nation has not yet taken steps to ban these crops, let alone label them, coupled with the ethical concerns about the profiteering by US politicians who have protected Monsanto’s investments, should not be taken lightly. I urge you to help protect our environment. Protect our bees, and protect us.

Sincerely,

A Concerned Citizen,

[Your Name Here]

Here is Monsanto’s contact information, although it is probably more useful to contact legislators.

For example, you can send your thanks to Senator Jeff Merkley from Oregon for working to overturn the Monsanto Protection Act. Here is his contact information. I even wrote a letter you can send to him just by copying and pasting:

Dear Senator Merkley,

Regarding your actions on the Monsanto Protection Act:

Rock on!

Sincerely,

A Concerned Citizen

And finally,

4. Stop singing the “Bumblebee Song.”

Our toddler has been coming home from her Christian daycare for the last several weeks doing what I thought was an awkward attempt at prayer. (As agnostics, you can imagine our concern.) However, walking into her daycare the other day, I realized it’s much worse: she’s been trying to emulate the squishing motion of the song, “Baby Bumblebee”.

It’s a song about the innocent slaughter of a baby. A baby bumblebee. The song promotes MURDER!

Obviously censorship might be one step over the line. My point is we have a responsibility to the younger generation to teach them compassion and respect for our environment.  I admit, I am intensely afraid of many kinds of bugs, but I am working to change my initial knee-jerk reaction to spiders (KILL IT WITH FIRE!) into the thoughtful act of ushering them outside (if I’m home by myself, otherwise, it’s someone else’s duty).

We need to teach our kids about the vast inter-connections of the ecosystem. It’s not a task we should leave up to the school system (and apparently not our seemingly innocent and kind daycare director!) because kids are more impacted by what WE teach them outside the classroom. Play outside, explain the important role insects, like bees, play in protecting our environment, and teach children about the long-term dangers of using quick fixes such as pesticides to kill the ones that we consider “nuisances”.

Let’s work together to protect our little buzz-y friends, and they’ll protect us.

Suzanne Skaar

Tear Gas is a Women’s Issue: Men, Stand Up for Women!

Many who know me personally know that I have been fighting for justice for the loss of my first pregnancy to CS gas exposure (a.k.a. “tear gas”) since 2011. I started the website, http://banteargasnow.com, in order to compile my research for others who may be facing the same tragedy, lost and alone, fighting against forces with much more money, and therefore seemingly more power. At first, I received insults, laughing off the effects of tear gas. Then I received thanks from other activists who also understood the dangers of tear gas. I received requests for help. I received encouragement that I wasn’t alone in my battle against producers of tear gas and the government which allows its continued production and distribution.

Tear gas was banned for use in conventional warfare, yet it is still used to prevent domestic dissent (in violation of the First Amendment in US, and several aspects of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights). Both the U.S. government and corporations such as Combined Systems (a corporation which profits off all manner of weapons, not just the “less-lethal” tear gas ) have ignored reports of increased miscarriage rates in response to tear gas exposure. Pregnant women don’t have this luxury. When women live in areas where tear gas is released on a regular basis, many are forced to remain indoors if they want to ensure a healthy pregnancy.  If a woman loses her child due to exposure, she has no recourse to justice. The fetus may be expelled or lost before she can reach medical help, but even then, doctors do not test the fetus for exposure to tear gas. Because letters from doctors can be dismissed in court as hearsay, I myself was forced to seek research studies proving what I and thousands of other women know first-hand worldwide.

While the US government and corporations may proclaim this weapon is safe if used properly, there is no way to properly use a weapon on innocent civilians. Furthermore, the human studies referenced as proof of safety were all conducted on healthy young male military recruits in a controlled setting: not women of childbearing age, elderly people with various age-related health concerns, or children. The result is that while we see in real life what happens to citizens recklessly exposed to tear gas, the government and the corporations that produce the weapon point to the original biased “study”.

Imagine trying to prove a bullet killed a loved one, not relying on the evidence at hand, but on laboratory studies. How long would it take for you to prove your case? Now imagine if you are a woman trying to support your family without time or the resources to conduct this kind of research. On top of that, what if the only research available on the subject has not been translated into your language? Even more, imagine if you have only an arbitrary 60 days to meet deadlines of which you were unaware, in which you must prove your case, recover from physical and/ or mental trauma, and continue meeting your other responsibilities. Would you get justice then?

The half of the population that’s responsible for bearing and protecting future generations is at great risk from this weapon. I am asking you to stand up. Contact your senators and government representatives. Hold the US government and corporations like Combined Systems accountable not just for the pain and suffering of citizens across the globe, but violation of legal rights.

Women are the backbone of society. Protect us. Ban tear gas now!

Do-gooders Despite Impossible Odds

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Sometimes it just helps to remember that despite seemingly insurmountable barriers, there are people out there who are willing to try anyway.

For example, Greece is a country facing many challenges: corrupt politicians, poverty made worse by austerity measures (necessitated by corrupt politicians), violations of human rights (abuse of tear gas, inhumane conditions for illegal immigrant detainees), etc. One of the many heartbreaking sights, however, are the large groups of strays that roam the city centers.

Pets tend to be viewed as disposable and not as family. Therefore, when a pet becomes a nuisance or is no longer convenient (and this is made worse by very real economic choices previously comfortable families now have to make), it is turned loose. Dogs roam Syntagma Square and the base of the Parthenon, reliant on the handouts of foreigners. This reliance has turned tragic in the past, as some locals have poisoned large numbers at a time. But real solutions, such as shelters and spay/ neuter clinics are not priorities for a people facing one of the highest unemployment rates. Many citizens no longer view Greece as a place to live, but as a place to leave in search of jobs and family security.

Let’s get to the good. One kind individual has taken it upon herself to care for the unloved animals of Crete, find new homes when possible, and provide compassion when nothing can else can be done. Silke of the Noah’s Ark Sanctuary consistently takes in animals of all kinds to help alleviate the suffering of an often overlooked part of Greece’s population.

From their Facebook support page:

“This group was created to raise awareness of the organization Noah’s Little Ark, Chania Animal Rescue and Welfare. A German woman named Silke Wrobel has dedicated her life to looking after the stray animals in Chania, Crete. The proud recipient of the medal of Honor in Germany for her Helleno-German relations, Silke has spent over 24 years and immense sums of her own money for her cause. Unfortunately the task is now overwhelming and the stray animal population is at an all time high. Costs for caring, feeding, therapies and medicines are exorbitant. 


For information on adopting animals which will regularly be posted, just comment on the specific post or send an email to one of the administrators. Since we are a non profit organization dependent solely on donations any support would be very much appreciated. Not only money donations but donations of food, medicines, used clean linens, etc.

For monetary donations please deposit to the following account:
IBAN no: GR 910 140 776 0776 00210 104 7064
BIC no: CRBAGRAA
PAYPAL noahslittleark3@yahoo.com

For all other info please contact Silke Wrobel at mobile +30 6946 881155 or +30 28210 55030.”

Please consider helping Silke in her mission to make the world a better place.

–Suzanne Skaar

Women’s Rights to Health Care: UW Medicine

The announcement that UW Medicine will be partnering with the Catholic organization Peace Health should be cause for alarm throughout the state, but particularly for any student or student employee dependent on health coverage through the University of Washington. While the current insurance policy offered to students and workers does not cover 100% of medical costs, it covers even less if you must get medical attention outside of the covered network (i.e., UW Medicine and Hall Health).

From my own personal experience, even if you are working for the University at the time of your injury and receive medical care at a different facility due to your work duties, you will have to fight your way through the system for reimbursement. I am currently waiting for the Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals to schedule a hearing, more than two years after my work site exposure to tear gas overseas caused me to miscarry my first pregnancy. It was not covered fully under my UW employee insurance because the insurance company did not consider a D&C an emergency procedure (the only way it would have been fully covered), despite factors such as debilitating pain, uncontrolled bleeding, the heightened risk of infection,  my doctor saying I should not get on the plane home without having the operation, and the loss of what was to be my first child.

Legally speaking, the first amendment guarantees that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Allowing one religion’s dogmas to determine which types of health care patients can receive in a public medical institution infringes upon the legal rights of those patients who do not have the same beliefs, yet must use the facility for UW insurance purposes, time sensitivity, or other reasons.

In a Catholic affiliated hospital where “elective abortions” such as mine are not permitted, women will be forced to seek medical treatment elsewhere, therefore paying more than they should have to, like I was forced to. This religious affiliation is one more insulting way to institutionalize gender discrimination at the University of Washington. Given the fact that the UW and its various branches, such as the University Medical Center, receive federal and state funding, neither this new religious affiliation nor other UW discriminatory practices should be allowed to stand.

I am calling on other citizens to stand up for women’s health and the right of equal access to medical care. I am calling on both the Governor and Attorney General of our state to step in and stop this partnership between the University of Washington and the Catholic Church from progressing. Separation of church and state is not just a phrase; where women are concerned, it is a matter of life and death.

— Suzanne Skaar

Forcing VA Women to Report Miscarriages to Police

So according to Salon.com, the new GOP candidate for Virginia’s Attorney General wants to force women to report their miscarriages to the police or spend up to a year in jail.

Although I live on the opposite side of the country, sure, I’ll report mine to the police right now. Two years ago, I was walking through a parking lot with the students I was chaperoning, when the police decided to break up a small fight with American made tear gas. So how do you report the police to police, because that’s who caused my miscarriage. Read about what happens when women have miscarriages due to government actions and try to get justice:www.banteargasnow.com.

One wonders how quickly he’d change his tune if women actually DID report their miscarriages to the police. Let’s try an experiment, report my or your own story to the police: say Mark Obenshain told you to do it. http://www.vcp.state.va.us/

Or better yet, Virginians, get out there and make sure this guy isn’t nowhere near a position of authority!!! The voter registration deadline is today at 5 p.m.!!

Tell your friends!!!

18 year old woman expelled from high school, faces felony for same-sex relationship

This news comes from Think Progress:

“A Florida family says their 18-year-old daughter was charged with a felony and expelled from high school as a result of a consensual, same-sex relationship with another student.

“Kaitlyn Hunt started dating a female classmate at the beginning of the school year when she was 17 and the girl she was dating was about three years younger.”

This is a clear misuse of Florida’s justice system to discriminate against someone based on their sexual orientation, and the charges threaten to ruin this innocent young woman’s future. You can help: sign the Change.org petition to tell Florida Assistant State Attorney to drop the charges against Kate.

Help Kate fight this injustice!

Help Kate fight this injustice! Sign the petition!

Keeping the Choice in Pro-Choice (or “Yo, where are ALL the women at?”)

Last week I took part in the protests for choice against the anti-abortion “doctor” that was paid to speak to students about the supposed science of abortion. His talk was infuriating and sickening on many levels. It was also funny, although in ways which Doctor Bruchalski probably did not intend. I can talk about the outrageous “associations” (his term after I called him out for saying that abortions caused breast cancer using outdated statistics from the Soviet Union) he made between the outright baby murderer Gosnell and actual licensed health care professionals who are trained to safely provide D&C’s/D&E’s. I think it would be more beneficial to discuss the debate between the two sides itself, and how the two extremes have the potential to alienate everyone else in between to the detriment of women’s health care options.

As a mother of a very young daughter, I understand the importance of fighting the good fight now to ensure she has every option available to her. This means that when medically trained OB/GYN “professionals” manipulate statistics to make a moral point contrary to the best interests of their patients, women need to stand up and make their voices heard. One patently false claim that particularly got me was Dr. Bruchalski’s statement that a woman who has one abortion is 60% likely to have a preterm pregnancy, and a woman who has two abortions is 150% likely to have a preterm pregnancy. I am unsure where he gets this specific stat. All I can do then is to draw from my own experience, having had an actual D&C for my miscarriage two months prior to the conception of my daughter, who was born at 42 weeks: definitely not preterm.

There are those who may make the distinction between treatment for miscarriages and abortions, but the only differences are the cost (surprisingly higher for D&Cs for miscarriages if they are carried out in a hospital versus an abortion at a local Planned Parenthood) and the effect on the woman. This last difference varies so vastly between individuals that I as a woman who experienced a miscarriage will not speak for another woman who did, and I think it’s absolutely scandalous that a male medical professional would attempt to do so for his women patients, especially since he describes how gross even the smell of the D&C procedure is. Many women who may want to have children still have to have this procedure for medical reasons, such as to prevent infections or to stem hemorrhaging. If you cannot handle those kinds of things with compassion and discretion, then you do not belong in the OB/GYN field. You don’t belong in medicine, period.

Because I brought my daughter along to the event, a funny thing happened: many of the pro-choice protesters, some of whom I had even met before at a previous reproductive health planning summit planning meeting, assumed I was handing out anti-abortion literature. Therefore, I actually received some harsh comments from my own “team” (and, to their credit, some embarrassed apologies after the fact). The anti-abortion leaders, seeing me handing out literature while I was holding a baby, took my literature while refusing literature from the pro-choice activists.

In reality, while the pamphlets I was passing out had the name of the lecture on the front, this was the inside:

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For those who don’t get the reference, these are the lyrics to the major musical number from the first section of Monty Python’s “Meaning of Life.” In this section, they parody what would happen if you were to truly have a baby every time you have sex.  (Just watch the movie.) It is obvious that if you live by these rules, either one or the other of the following will have to suffer: either your sex life or your children’s lives. (Let’s be honest, anyone with small children, Catholic or atheist, especially understands what a farce this scene is.)

While I was pro-choice before I became pregnant for the first time, my beliefs became solidified after the loss of my first child. People on both sides of the line will more often than not avoid referring to my first pregnancy as a child, instead it was a fetus because it was not yet viable. Really, miscarriage in general is not discussed by either side because it is one of those grey areas that make activists (who often feel they must rely on black and white rhetoric to make their case) uncomfortable. However, if pro-choice activists want to make their case stronger, I think they need to make women who have had this experience welcome. And if someone claims to be pro-life out of compassion, then one should recognize that D&Cs are the most compassionate choice that can be offered to a woman in certain situations, and we should stop making this such a difficult and costly procedure to access. It is a medical choice that should be offered to a woman as part of her insurance benefits, regardless of whether it is “elective” (as my D&C for the loss of my very wanted child was determined to be) or “necessary” (as my doctor and a writhing-in-pain me determined it to be).

Abortion is not always done because a woman does not want the child. There are often cases of women who very much want to be mothers but for some reason or other have to have a D&C/ D&E. Whether someone who does not know the pregnant woman agrees or not with the necessity is beside the point. There are many health decisions that males are allowed to make without general consensus. (One word: Viagra.) And on the flip side, just because someone has a child from choice does not mean that they support anti-abortion tactics. A child can also be the “choice” in Pro-choice, just as much as responsible birth control, access to the morning after pill, or as a last resort, an abortion.

So to the protesters from the Seattle Clinic Defense front that came out to combat misinformation from the anti-abortion activists, thank you. I appreciate all that you do to fight for my rights and the rights of my daughter, even if you automatically labeled me as different. (No hard feelings, just chalking it up to a very humorous lesson learned.) To the pro-life community, I hope that you read my story and understand why even though I chose to have my kick-ass daughter, I am firmly planted on the side that promotes medicine over religion. Please think about the women in the middle of this: we are more than our uteri. We are mothers, sisters, daughters, friends, wives, lovers, and strangers. We are human beings, not statistics. Don’t make assumptions about what’s right for me, or what I want. I hope that for both sides, my daughter’s and my attendance was a call to tolerance, understanding, and a willingness to better see the full spectrum of colors between black and white. And I hope that with this tolerance, other women will feel more comfortable in coming forward to speak their truths.

–Suzanne Skaar

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Tonight, University of Washington Seattle 6:30 p.m. Kane Hall

Hi All,

This is just a final reminder that there will be a protest of the latest anti-choice speaker being brought to the University of Washington in front of Kane Hall at 6:30 p.m.

I would be happy to speak with anyone regarding why comprehensive reproductive health care includes access to contraception and D&Cs.

Encourage your friends to come out and show support for women’s right to choose.

And there may be a sing-along if we get enough voices. Come find me for more details.

See you tonight, Seattle-ites!

Suzanne