The Positive Correlation between Women in Parliament and Standard of Living in High Income Nations.

¨The religious heterosexual male majority has homogeneously denied women´s inclusion¨

For high income nations there is a correlation between the percentage of women in parliament (congress) and the standard of living in a society. According to the World Bank, a high income nation can be described as a country whose working citizens earn above $12,746 per capita (2013). Countries with high incomes have intricate and diverse economies that allocate taxes in order to provide services for the population that support it. The doctrine of ¨No Taxation Without Representation¨ was part of the English-speaking world´s Enlightenment period, but it still rings true today in that women, who represent 50% or more of the human population, are not properly represented in various governments worldwide.

¨Rich¨ countries are able to provide more social services from taxes than ¨poor¨ countries. High income nations have a focus on the family, health, education, equality, and security; while acts of aggression like war, the death penalty, and lengthy incarceration are not priority. In all these cases, the United States and Japan seems to be the outliers, but in two distinct ways.

Data provided for this opinion and social commentary come from a website that monitors women in government. Because of failure of transparency and disclosure of information, commentaries are made based only on the number of women in the lower house of parliament. For Americans, the graph represents the percentage of women in the House of Representatives, not the Senate.

 

women in parliaments

 

Not included on this graph is the country of Rwanda, whose parliament is composed of 63.8% women. It is currently the only country in the world where women form the majority of the lower or single house. Rwanda, although it had a devastating civil war and genocide in the 1990s is beginning to recuperate and reconcile with those who had committed atrocities. Now it is one of the fastest growing economies in Africa.

Andorra, a principality located between Spain and France, has a General Council that is 50% women.  The country has the third highest life expectancy in the world at 82 years. Andorra, like many European nations, enjoy a free healthcare system and free higher education.

Nordic countries like Finland, Sweden, Norway, Iceland, and Denmark have a range between 39% – 45% women in their lower houses of parliament. These countries are known for their high standards of living, low crime, human rights, and gender equality. Free education and healthcare are values that have become a thing of culture, not politics.

The Romance-speaking countries like Spain, France, Italy and Portugal vary with respect to women and their representation in government. Spain has the highest number of women in their lower house (Congress of Deputies) at 39.7%; France has the lowest at 26.2%. These countries are still bastions for Catholicism, whose doctrines are opposed to women´s reproductive rights like abortion, birth control instruments like the IUD, and contraception medication, yet politics and religion do not get in the way of women´s health.

All four of these countries also have a higher life expectancy than the United States maybe because their healthcare system is subsidized by the everyone, including the government, much like the Nordic countries, to ensure  that a larger portion of the population have free and easy access to a doctor. There is recognition among political leaders and citizens in these countries that contraception medication is not only for preventing pregnancy, but for preventative health against tumors, to regulate hormones, and some types of cancers. The Spanish government, currently ruled by the conservative People´s Party, decided to restrict women´s access to abortion and birth control. No one is really sure how the law works, or when it goes into effect, but it is understood that state-run hospitals (under social security) no longer provide abortions, it must be provided by a privately-run hospital with private healthcare*.

Anglophone countries like New Zealand, Australia, United Kingdom and Canada also have free healthcare and free higher education. They also have higher life expectancies than the United States as well.  Generally, Western Europe, Canada, Australia and New Zealand have higher life expectancies based on their social systems that have more women in government. These high income nations can afford to balance their mixed economies in order to provide for a well-educated public where political debate on whether or not citizens should be offered free health services is a ¨no brainer.¨

¨On a substantive level, studies systematically show that female politicians are more likely to concentrate on issues that matter more to women such as daycare, gender equality, reproductive rights, flex time, elderly care, children’s welfare.1 It seems pretty intuitive that there are some issues that are more important to women and affect them more. It also seems like common sense that women would be more likely to focus on these issues than men.¨ Christine Cheng

Maternity leave, which also includes paternity leave in progressive countries, is another concept foreign to the general American citizen. Although Americans would claim that they live in the richest and best country in the world, it provides about as much subsidized, ¨free¨ healthcare and maternity leave as the Democratic Republic of the Congo – zero.

 

Maternity-leave-chart-final

 

The United States government does not have provisions for maternity leave. After giving birth, you basically have to get back to work in 3 days or quit your job.

The United States has a lot in common with countries that have poor records in human rights or countries that have very restrictive women´s reproductive rights. At 27.7% and 25.3%, Afghanistan and Iraq both currently have more women in their lower house than the United States. Only 18.2% of the House of Representatives is represented by women in the United States.  Saudi Arabia has 19.9% in their lower house and women aren´t even allowed to drive! Qatar, a major U.S. ally in the Middle East currently has 0.0% women in their government. Apparently, they currently have no restrictions on women running for positions in an Advisory Council. Qatar is technically the richest country in the world per capita, and like Saudi Arabia, is ruled by a family monarchy.

Ireland, although lauded for its high standard of living and general health of the public, has maintained a strict anti-abortion policy. There was a fire storm in Ireland in 2012 when a woman of Indian heritage, who had severe pain and was miscarrying, was repeatedly denied an abortion. She was denied because ¨Ireland is a Catholic country and the fetus still had a heartbeat.¨ She eventually died of sepsis (septicemia). Another case involves a woman in Ireland – apparently suicidal – who was also repeatedly denied an abortion. They ¨legally¨forced her to submit to a C-section at only 25 weeks of pregnancy after her attempts at a hunger strike.

Pro Life Campaign spokeswoman, Dr Ruth Cullen, said the news “underlines the horror and deep-seated flaws of the government’s legislation”.

“To induce a pregnancy at such an early stage inevitably puts the baby at risk of serious harm, such as brain damage, blindness or even death,” she said.

The lower house in Ireland is composed of only  15.7% women. This could be a direct correlation of how women´s health is buried beneath the apparent Catholic theocracy in Ireland.

India, the world´s largest democracy has a huge problem with women´s rights, rape, sexual assault and other indigenous beliefs that force underage women into marriages with significantly older men. In a country with more than 1 billion people, women are only 11% of the lower and upper house of parliament. The lack of representation in India has serious consequences in that male sex offenders are often not punished for violating women.  In the heart of Africa, there is the problem of female genital mutilation, which is performed in countries, where women represent less than 11% of the parliament (Kenya, Nigeria, Cote d´Ivoire, Mali, Sudan, Congo etc). They are forced against their will to submit to a barbaric practice for the benefit of men who want women to remain virgins.

The main outlier in this correlation between standard of living and women in parliament is Japan, where women represent only 8.1% of their 480 seats of the house. Japan, which has one of the lowest birthrates in the world and second highest life expectancy, is struggling with internal issues that would need to be further studied by sociologist and anthropologists specializing in Japan. Recent sexist comments by Japanese parliament members like ¨ Breed, don´t lead¨  have cause a wave of protests. Low birth rates were attributed to both men and women: women, who under threat of losing their jobs after taking maternity leave, prefer to keep working in order to maintain their careers; and men, who have similar goals, have replaced physical contact with ¨digital contact.¨

In Iran, the Ayatollah called for a ¨population boost¨ effectively banning ¨permanent¨ birth control for men and women in various forms. Doctors can be imprisoned for performing vasectomies, abortions or other operations like installing an IUD. This is an example of a theocratic government controlling reproductive rights for men and women in a country where their lower house in parliament is only 3% women. Controlling the population by prohibiting birth control can be seen as an act of aggression in that more soldiers are wanted for an anticipated war.

The United States still hovers around 20% women in the House of Representatives and 20% in the Senate. In 2016, American citizens might have the opportunity to elect the first female U.S. president. Hillary Clinton is closer than any other women in history due to her popularity among Americans of all walks of life. But electing just the first female president is not enough to close the gender gap in congress. Hopefully in the midterm elections there will be a cultural shift to honor the demands of the nation´s women and promote the diversity that makes the United States unique. LBGT peoples and minorities should also be represented in all facets of life and protected by the law (the religious heterosexual male majority has homogeneously denied their inclusion). Americans have to decide whether civil rights for all people will be distributed by force or by principle. As Abraham Lincoln famously said:

¨A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half slave and half free.¨

 

By: Opton A. Martin

 

* http://www.para-abortar.es/aborto/ley-actual-del-aborto-2014-enero/

Recycling Everything is Good For The Economy and The Environment.

¨Why is it everything for the economy regardless of the Earth´s destruction? We are in the 21st Century. We could do better. Environmentalism is good for the economy¨

 

Recycling is a noble and necessary cause for industrialized human societies. The problem is that people generally forget about the devastating effects of solids floating in our oceans, the exponential growth of landfills, and the excess of energy needed to produce more and more physical products from scratch. Since 1/2 of world´s 7 billion people now live in cities and urban areas, the garbage we produce is concentrated in landfills in which a mountain of material wealth is buried and forgotten. City dwellers see some of the garbage dispersed in the vast landscapes of concrete and steel, which looks a bit unattractive when not placed inside the trash containers, but when the trash is inside the containers, which are always filled to the brim, they are taken away and sent to who knows where – out of sight and out of mind, and we continue to throw potentially useful material away.

The idea of garbage, waste, rubbish, trash or whatever you want to call it, is useless to the Earth in that products made out of plastic, rubber, metal and glass will not disintegrate for it to use; that is why we as humans should recycle and continue using them.

The problems people face in advanced and industrialized countries with regard to recycling might not be their fault. The problem is that there is a general lack of innovation and lack of profit-driven advancements in the use of recycled materials. There are no universal methods for recycling in many places. Just look at any state, city or town in the United States: There is a different method and process for garbage and recycling collection in each municipality. This also occurs in some places in Europe in that there is no universal method or financial resources for collecting all that is recyclable. Some towns collect and recycle batteries, cooking oils, used cell phones, organic materials, some towns have public ashtrays (so cigarette butts don´t float among the streets), some towns don´t recycle at all, some have organized a weekly collection of large household furniture, etc. The lack of universal practices within individual states and countries make recycling an impossible task for most people.

There are a few ways to incentivize people to recycle:

1) Make it illegal to not recycle: Fining people for not recycling is not a new idea, but not recycling is much like throwing garbage in the street, which also carries a punishment of a fine.

2) Containers: If people have the resources, they just might use them. Organic material, plastic, glass, paper, metal, electronic equipment (including batteries), oils, and cloths (clothes, furniture cushions, etc) seem to be the majority of the things city dwellers throw out. It seems like a lot of different containers, but the initial sorting these materials could be profitable later on.

3) Innovation: Scarcity and abundance of materials is wealth – like having fresh water and good soil in the desert. The amount of food and organic material that is thrown out by people who live in areas with an abundance of sun (i.e. Southern California, southern coast of Spain, Arizona, and Egypt) can be used as compost for agriculture if treated properly. In the ¨sea of plastic¨ or ¨Europe´s salad bowl¨ in southeast Spain, there are cultivars of tomatoes and cucumbers who use the discarded husks or hairs of coconuts as a growing medium. It is an organic solution to recycle a material that normally would be buried in a landfill.

An unorthodox but innovative way of recycling comes from Sweden in that they incinerate some of their garbage to produce heat and electric energy for homes. Sweden recycles 96% of its rubbish while the remaining 4% is put in landfills, which eventually gets used. They recycle so well that they actually have to buy garbage from their neighbors to continue producing energy for heating by incineration.

Electronic material, which is probably the wealthiest item city dwellers constantly throw into the trash, is very easy to dispose of, but difficult to recycle. The amount of components that make up something as complex as a computer, mobile telephone or television: precious metals, glass, plastic, wiring, and rubber, make it so much more difficult to recycle. This is why there should be a separate container and resources to recycle electronic materials.

Much of the industrialized world´s electronic equipment goes to places like Nigeria and Thailand where toxic landfills are inhabited by local people who try to scavenge as much material wealth as they can. Places like Lagos, Nigeria, receives about 10,000 tons of trash, garbage, and potentially recyclable material each day. Although there is a community of people who live in a squalid shanty town within the landfill, they depend upon it, since they sell small quantities of useful materials, but it is simply too much garbage – and most of it is absolutely useless.

The paradox with electronic equipment is that although we use less material, we produce more garbage. One example of this paradox is how far we have come technologically with television and computer screens. In the 1980s-1990s, television and computer monitors were heavy, bulky, and expensive. Now in the 2000s, monitors are lightweight, use less materials, and are cheaper. People are buying more computers than ever, and more than ever they end up in landfills. Compare cellular phones in the 1990s to cellular phones in 2010: Large, bulky, and expensive mobile phones from the 1990s were few; small, lightweight, and relatively cheap (except for the iphone) mobile phones in the 2000s are cheap and more abundant than ever. There needs to be a revolution in how we recycle electronic equipment or risk a pandemic in which places like the Olusosun Landfill in Nigeria become commonplace elsewhere.

Imagine if each municipality, town or city had a massive recycling facility in which employees delicately sorted materials into different types of metals, plastics, glass, ceramic, organic material, wood, and electronic equipment. A facility of this type would create an almost endless source of full-time employment, much like the people to retrieve the rubbish in the first place. A better understanding of the materials that people discard will permit the exploitation of these materials again.

Plastic bottles, although recyclable, are one of the most abundant items that end up in landfills. Architects recently demonstrated how many plastic bottles New Yorkers contribute to landfills by building a massive structure with them. Each hour, the residents of New York City throw out more than 50,000 plastic bottles instead of recycling them. The structure is large enough to shelter about 50 people. This project demonstrates not only how much recyclable material is wasted, but also what else can be done with these materials instead of simply throwing them out.

Although Americans in the United States would like to think that it still leads the world in innovation, technology, and socioeconomics, it is evident now more than ever that it is beginning to lag behind its allies in Japan, China, Northern Europe, specifically Germany, and the countries of Scandinavia. Americans waste more than any other people on Earth. Culturally, things in the United States are bigger than in other countries (cars, houses, product packaging, etc)  Predetermined obsolescence of cheap products is also a concept that keeps Americans buying, which also drives the economy. Marketing has a lot to do with the amount of garbage Americans produce in that packaging for small items is large so that it catches the customer´s eyes from a distance.

The packaging for our blenders, x-box, mobile phones, televisions, baby toys, sunglasses, picture frames, tweezers, cans of tuna, boxes of cereals, and everything else people by from places like Wal Mart will be thrown in the trash. They must all be recycled along with styrofoam! What a retched material. Styrofoam is trademarked, whereas the non-brand name for this material is expanded polystyrene foam or EPS foam, whose name makes it sound like what it truly is: an almost impossible to recycle material. EPS foam for take-out foods should be regulated since it is almost impossible to recycle or biodegrade. Places like Oakland, Albany, New York, and San Francisco, have banned EPS foam for take-out foods.  The alternative is to use paper containers which are both recyclable and biodegradable.

Environmentalism involving clean energy and recycling in the United States is facing a lot of backlash in that people who have a stake in the most profitable industries like coal, petroleum, and petrochemical think that it will interrupt their profits, but once people realize that there is money to be made in recycling and innovation, it should catch on. The problem is that many of the policies made by lawmakers outweigh the small ecological movements that haven´t had a chance to grow. The countries of  Japan, Scandinavia, Northern and Central Europe have culturally recognized that recycling is a basic human activity that is part of living in a civilized society. These places have realized that they can be both rich countries that provide healthcare, clean energy, non-GMO food, free education, paid vacation and maternity leave, and great recycling programs without compromising their economy. American culture needs to change from: everything for the economy regardless of the Earth´s destruction. We are in the 21st Century. We could do better. Environmentalism is good for the economy

 

By: Opton A. Martin