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Starbucks & McDonald’s Take Huge Steps Towards Sustainability By Eliminating Plastic & Foam Cups

Do these companies really care about the environment or are these new sustainable business practices a direct result of you, the consumer, putting your money where your mouth is?

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Hey, you’re here, you made it! Congratulations on making it this far. I’m assuming the majority of people who saw this post only read the headline and then formed an opinion. It’s okay of course, everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but I’m here to offer you another perspective on this story.

Sure, fast food restaurants and major corporations tend to have only one thing in mind, money. Hence the phrase that is often used to describe corporations; put profit before the people… and the environment. In most cases, this is true, but, should we remain jaded to even the victories from these corporations or should we celebrate these successes, remain hopeful and keep on keeping’ on by voting with our dollar? You see, as the consumer, whether you are aware of it or not you have a direct say in the business practices of these corporations, and that say comes from where you decide to spend your dollar and if you really choose to put your money where your mouth is.  

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What Are They Changing?

McDonald’s has now announced a definite timeline to its goal of completely eliminating plastic and foam cups from their restaurants. By the end of the year, every soft drink holder will be made with a packaging made from fiber or certified recycled material. This same design will incorporate all of the packaging in use from the brand by 2020, according to their website.

Starbucks is taking similar action in the U.K. This February, customers will be charged about 7 cents for each paper cup in 20 to 25 stores in central London with the hopes of motivating the customers to choose reusable mugs instead. The money raised from the cup fee will be donated to an environmental charity and behaviour analyst, Hubbub, who is dedicated to “investigating how the public can be encouraged to choose reusable drink containers.” Another incentive given from the company is a discount of 34 cents to those who do bring a reusable cup of their own, which will encourage those who frequent Starbucks to bring their own mugs! We can only hope that these reusable mugs are made from sustainable materials.

But I Don’t Eat At McDonald’s Or Starbucks…

Sure, many of you probably don’t eat at McDonald’s or Starbucks because of their unsustainable business practices and unhealthy food and drink options, good for you! But, guess what? This is exactly what has caused these two major corporations to make this type of change. Yes, they still want your money and they are still, most likely, all about profit before people, but because they have lost the revenue from consumers like you, they are scrambling and trying to find a way to continue making tons of money. They know that in this day and age, many people are waking up to the fact that we can no longer continue doing things in the same old fashion if we want to have a chance at saving our environment.

So, with this awareness, they might think something along the lines of, “hey, if we stopped using foam and encouraged reusable cups, maybe we could gain back some of those lost customers and get our profits back up.” And you know what? They probably will. Because this type of thing is very important to some people and for good reason. However, if some of us continue to boycott such establishments,  they may start serving soda sweetened with Xylitol, or switch the oil they use to cook their fries, perhaps they may switch to hormone and antibiotic free meat products. The bottom line is that they will do whatever it takes to stay in business, a great example is the launch of their recent  vegan burger to appeal to a larger consumer base. But the irony here is that as we continue to wake up and do our part for our environment, the animals, planet and ourselves, these establishments will cease to exist.

At least on their way out, and that’s because  they are making the changes that we need to see big corporations make in order to truly change the way we are currently doing things here on planet Earth. As awareness increases, so do these changes. They go hand in hand. 

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So, just because they are doing something positive, does that mean that we should go and spend our money there? Not necessarily, but should we celebrate even these small successes? Absolutely. One step at a time and these times, are indeed changing. Let’s remain hopeful, because the opposite is projecting the negative, the lack, the destruction and with that kind of energy how can we expect anything to really change?

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‘Jeffrey Epstein Committed Suicide’ Rules Medical Examiner

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    New York’s chief medical examiner has ruled Jeffrey Epstein's death suicide by hanging.

  • Reflect On:

    How could the biggest most important witness of our lifetime die so carelessly before trial? Why is there still so much we haven't been told about this Epstein case?

New York’s chief medical examiner has completed their autopsy and ruled that Jeffrey Epstein committed suicide by hanging himself his jail cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York City.

Epstein was awaiting trial on federal sex trafficking charges that had been reported for years but not much was done about them. His case is the highest profile case in a very long time involving many high level and elite figures and politicians.  Due to this, many believe he may have been murdered, and regardless of this ruling, that may still be the case.

It appears Epstein fashioned a noose out of a bedsheet and hung himself from a bunk bed in his cell. Epstein was allegedly able to kill himself just days after being taken off suicide watch at the prison as he had previously attempted suicide. Just so happens, guards on duty at the prison reportedly left Epstein unsupervised for longer than prison regulations require, giving him the time to commit suicide.

If Epstein’s case is this high profile, and he is likely the biggest most important witness is perhaps our lifetimes, how is it that the prison could have let this happen so easily and carelessly? Worthy of questioning regardless of the medical examiners ruling.

More details to come.

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The First & Only No-Kill State For Shelter Animals In The US Has Been Declared

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Photo courtesy of Brandywine Valley SPCA
Photo courtesy of Brandywine Valley SPCA

In Brief

  • The Facts:

    America has finally announced its first no-kill state: Delaware. All brick-and-mortar shelters in the First State have at least a 90% save rate which qualifies it as the very first full state working to lead a no-kill movement.

  • Reflect On:

    The no-kill movement is a beautiful one. It shows that the human-animal bond is not only seen and felt, but important enough to us as a collective to take action. Do you believe the goal of having all of America being no-kill by 2025 is attainable?

Sound the alarm! Happy news to share with you all today… Amid all of the perceived chaos that is taking over our screens and mainstream media, it’s always important to touch base on the good news that occurs. This week, Delaware has become the first official no-kill state for shelter animals, and I couldn’t be happier to hear and share this.

As not only a pet lover myself, but a cat-mom of 3 amazing shelter animals as well, I know and have seen the various traumas that can result from either life before being placed into a shelter or during their time there due to anxiety, etc. — and it doesn’t stop there. We’ve all heard the stories, and though I had yet to dive into the details myself personally due to not having the heart for it, it is a fact that some shelters rid themselves of ‘unwanted pets’ every cycle as the shelter seeks more room for new-coming potentials.

A volunteer cradles three rescued kittens.

Photo courtesy of Brandywine Valley SPCA

With that said, this is very BIG news — not only has Delaware taken on the task to reevaluate how its shelters are run and deal with overcrowding, but Delaware has also taken initiative in the ‘no-kill’ movement.

A Best Friends Animal Society volunteer hugs a rescue dog.

Photo courtesy of Brandywine Valley SPCA — The work of staff and volunteers at rescue organizations across the country and public support have already helped drastically reduce the number of pets dying each year in shelters from an estimated 17 million in the 1980s to now around 733,000 dogs and cats. Photo courtesy of Best Friends Animal Society

The nonprofit Best Friends Animal Society, which is working with shelters, animal welfare organizations and government agencies across the country to make America a no-kill country by 2025, announced the news at their annual conference in Dallas, Texas.

Linda Torelli, director of marketing for the Brandywine Valley SPCA, which has three locations in Delaware and cares for more than 14,000 animals each year, credited a multipronged approach with helping the First State achieve no-kill status — and its citizens.

“The community in Delaware is very oriented to pet advocacy, so we had their support,” she told TODAY.

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Brandywine Valley SPCA implemented numerous programs so that 95% of animals that enter the open-admission shelter find homes. Torelli said because cats are euthanized at twice the rate of dogs, the nonprofit instituted the practice called trap, neuter and return, aka TNR, to save the lives of feral or “community” cats that would otherwise be euthanized. In TNR, advocates humanely trap the felines, and veterinarians spay or neuter them before they are released back into the community.

Open adoptions — which don’t require time-intensive applications that involve things like home inspections but instead focus on matching a pet with a potential adopter’s lifestyle — help move animals more quickly through the shelters. – As reported by TODAY

The Takeaway

We all either know someone or are that someone who has gone to a shelter and adopted their best friend at some point. And while we all aim to do our part, it’s a HUGE step to know that shelters themselves are now also taking initiative so that there is ‘no pet left behind’ if you will.

So many wonderful pets, companions, and memories are birthed thanks to adoption and it is beautiful to see that more intention is being set on creating a community that is aware of a movement to aid in eliminating the need to kill for the lack of insufficient adoptees. As a personal thank you to all of you who have or will adopt and welcome a new friend into your lives & homes – a reminder to remember you are saving a life when doing so. So, THANK YOU! And thank you, Delaware, for being the shift!

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What Are The Hong Kong Protests All About?

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Photos by Anthony Kwan & Peter Y. Chuang, Unsplash

In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Protests in Hong Kong against an 'Extradition Bill' that threatens the freedom of residents have ramped up, to the point where the Hong Kong Airport had to be shut down and the Chinese army is closer to intervening upon this semi-autonomous nation.

  • Reflect On:

    Is Hong Kong now the central theatre playing out the struggle between Eastern and Western sociopolitical ideologies?

I decided to take on this article, first to inform myself better about the motivations behind the Hong Kong protests, which have been ratcheting up in recent days, and then to pass on a basic understanding to you, the reader, so that together we can follow the events going on in this allegedly ‘autonomous’ Chinese territory with some degree of context.

First, it must be understood that Hong Kong developed into a commercial powerhouse as a British colony, and its residents enjoyed some aspects of democratic freedom not available on mainland China. British rule of Hong Kong ended when it was returned to China in July of 1997 under the framework of “one country, two systems.” The “Basic Law” constitution guaranteed to protect, for the next 50 years, the democratic institutions that make Hong Kong distinct from Communist-ruled mainland China.

The struggle for an expansion of democratic freedoms on the island have been ongoing in some form or another ever since, with some initiatives specifically supported by the “Basic Law.” Meanwhile, the national Chinese government has attempted to resist such reforms, and has been working to augment its own power and influence over Hong Kong:

  • In 2003, Hong Kong’s leaders introduced legislation that would forbid acts of treason and subversion against the Chinese government. But when an estimated half a million people turned out to protest against the bill, it did not go forward.
  • In 2007, China delayed constitutional plans to implement universal suffrage in elections for the chief executive of Hong Kong until 2017; however, they added more seats for lawmakers elected by direct vote in a way that divided the pro-democracy camp.
  • In 2014, the Chinese government introduced a bill allowing Hong Kong residents to vote for their leader in 2017, but the candidates still needed to be approved by Beijing. Massive protests led legislators to formally reject the bill, and electoral reform stalled. As a result, the current chief executive, Carrie Lam, was hand-picked in 2017 by a 1,200-person committee dominated by pro-Beijing elites.

In other words, it was not a question of if there would be another populist uprising in Hong Kong, but when.

New Extradition Bill Is The Catalyst

Earlier this year, Chief Executive Lam pushed amendments to extradition laws that would allow people to be sent to mainland China to face charges. In some ways, this had a similar agenda to the bill introduced in 2003 that would have directly forbidden acts of treason and subversion against the Chinese government.

This latest bill is a bit more subtle, but the end result would be the same: those Chinese dissidents who are working for greater autonomy from mainland China and full democracy in Hong Kong are de facto enemies of the state, since they are working to erode China’s power over the economic and political affairs of Hong Kong. And China wants to be able prosecute such activities.

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Even before this bill, Beijing’s influence over Hong Kong had been on the rise. Activists have been jailed and pro-democracy lawmakers disqualified from running or holding office, while independent booksellers started disappearing from the city, before reappearing in mainland China facing charges. And so when the extradition bill came out, the population of Hong Kong clearly saw it as an attempt to undermine and subvert The “Basic Law” and give Beijing full authority to try pro-democracy activists under the judicial system of the mainland.

Protests Erupted

Protests started small, relatively speaking, but as we have seen with the Yellow Vest protests, attempts to crack down with a hard hand are not deterring people as much as they used to, and in fact protesters become emboldened by seeing an increase in participation. Here is an early timeline of the protests:

  • March 31: the first protest was attended by 12,000 pro-democracy protesters according to organizers (police put the peak figure at 5,200).
  • April 28: an estimated 130,000 protesters joined the march against the proposed extradition law (police estimated 22,800 joined at its height), the largest since an estimated 510,000 joined the annual July 1 protests in 2014. A day after the protest, Chief Executive Carrie Lam was adamant that the bill would be enacted and said the Legislative Councillors had to pass new extradition laws before their summer break.
  • June 9th: while reports suggested it had been the largest ever, it was certainly the largest protest Hong Kong has seen since the 1997 handover, surpassing the turnout seen at mass rallies in support of the Tiananmen protests of 1989 and July 1st demonstration of 2003. CHRF convenor Jimmy Sham said that 1.03 million people attended the march, while the police put the crowd at 270,000 at its peak.
  • June 16th: even though a day earlier Carrie Lam announced that she would suspend the second reading of the bill without a set a time frame on the seeking of public views, the pro-democracy camp demanded a full withdrawal of the bill, and went ahead with the rally, which the Civil Human Rights Front claimed saw the participation of “almost 2 million plus 1 citizens.” The government issued a statement at 8:30 pm where Carrie Lam apologized to Hong Kong residents and promised to “sincerely and humbly accept all criticism and to improve and serve the public.” Still, she did not meet the protesters’ demands of withdrawing the bill completely or resigning.

As the timeline goes forward beyond the suspension of the second reading of the bill, the protests have grown bigger, with more widespread involvement. It is impossible to list all the events that have taken place, but a good compilation can be found here.

Police have violently clashed directly with protesters, repeatedly firing teargas and rubber bullets. As well, it seems that there have been instances of unsanctioned pro-Beijing thugs on a mission to injure protesters, where police did not intervene. However, as political authorities are slowly learning in recent times, protests that resist strong-arm tactics see their demands grow beyond their initial grievance and demand reparations for state violence that has occurred during the protests themselves. Protesters have vowed to keep their movement going until these core demands are met:

  • the resignation of the city’s leader, Carrie Lam
  • an independent inquiry into police tactics
  • an amnesty for those arrested
  • a permanent withdrawal of the bill

The Geopolitical Context

The protests here are emblematic of a larger struggle between different systems of national governance. Hong Kong is a particularly unique case as it is a region that developed some mature institutions of Western Democracy while still always being tied to a major Eastern civilization.

Beijing has issued increasingly shrill condemnations of the protest but has left it to the city’s semi-autonomous government to deal with the situation. But that does not mean they cannot influence even more serious internal measures. On Thursday, Chen Daoxiang, the head of the Chinese army garrison in Hong Kong, said the military was “determined to protect [the] national sovereignty” of Hong Kong and would help put down the “intolerable” unrest if requested. The army released a promotional video showing tanks and soldiers firing on citizens in an anti-riot drill.

A tweet yesterday from the Editor in Chief of China’s state-owned tabloid, Hu Xijin, warns of an imminent showdown in the wake of protests at the Hong Kong airport that were so disruptive that the Hong Kong airport authority advised all passengers to leave the terminal buildings as soon as possible:

There is an implied threat that the mainland Chinese army may get involved. Chinese military vehicles have gathered in Shenzhen, a city in mainland China bordering Hong Kong, and military exercises may soon be underway.

Of course, the actions of the Chinese government are being closely watched by the Western world, and there has been no lack of condemnation for the strong-armed tactics of police. The condemnation will only increase if the Chinese government institutes even more severe measures. Countering this, Beijing has ramped up its accusations that foreign countries are “fanning the fire” of unrest in the city. China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi has ordered the US to “immediately stop interfering in Hong Kong affairs in any form”.

Whatever happens, the people in Hong Kong seem quite steadfast in demonstrating that they don’t want to allow meaningful change to be kicked down the road any longer, and certainly don’t want any more limitations to their freedom. We will see how this struggle plays out this time around.

The Takeaway

Before we start taking sides on the issues behind this protest, it is important to note that neither Chinese-style communism nor any current implementation of Western-style democracy present themselves as true vehicles for the full burgeoning of our individual sovereignty and our collective evolution.

Certainly the struggle in Hong Kong provides more and more individual citizens the opportunity to implicate themselves directly in our system of governance, and the ripple effect of this is that more people in the world will awaken to the fact that each and every one of us has an innate choice in the way we consent to be governed as a society.

Once we clear the veils of control-based deception and come to truly grasp our sovereignty and our ability to choose, we will then be in a much better position to give an informed consent to any social or political institutions we decide to create and maintain.

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