Human Rights


Here at Autonomie Project, we have made a valiant effort to support the planet and fight against Climate Change in the manufacturing of our products right down to the way we live personally.  We use organic cottons, all natural FSC certified rubber, plant based dyes in our tees and footwear. On top of this we use recycled materials for shipping and printing, as well as local wind energy and purchase only previously used furniture. We commute with public transportation, bicycles, and on foot.

Needless to say, we have made a commitment to the environment and we plan on continuing on that path. Recently, we took steps to carbon offset our shipping output.  We recently invested in Native Energy, a carbon offset program that funds a number of renewable energy projects throughout the country. Not only have they built 48 renewable energy projects, ranging from wind farms to biogas, but they encourage renewable energy to be built in Native American communities. This is really important because unfortunately, Native Americans are a vastly underrepresented and disenfranchised population within the US. The company is also largely Native American owned. Our recent investment kept a total of 17 tons of CO2 out of the air and your lungs!

Some of the amazing projects Native Energy has worked on recently include the Wewoka Biogas Project, which creates biogas via methane created by landfills and re-uses it in local brick kilns. They are also working toward wind farms in Iowa and Indiana and the NorthEast Farm Separation Project , which creates natural gas out of cow manure. The also boast a long list of previous and successful running projects including solar and hydro power! These are innovative and exciting projects and Autonomie is excited to be on board!

Native Energy is not just for businesses either. Individuals, including yourself can purchase offsets for any travel or daily energy you use. Keep up to date with Native Energy and their projects through their Twitter or Blog, they post great updates on their renewable projects as well as Climate Change news and information.

And know that every purchase you make with Autonomie is directly fighting Climate Change in every step of the process!

We all know the history of the American Civil War, but did you know about the second largest armed uprising within the United States? I am probably the biggest history nerd I know and I only recently read about the Battle of Blair Mountain . Sure, I know about the struggles of the early 20th Century workers and the power of early corporations, but somehow this story circumvented my radar, or was buried in my brain caverns under all the history books I’ve read in the past twenty years. The story plays out like a modern day sweatshop:

During the late 19th and early 20th Centuries “Big Coal” was running the show in West Virginia. They had set up “company towns,” meaning a single company not only owned the mine and equipment, but the workers, the hospitals, the houses, the utilities, the stores and the government as well. Workers were subjugated to long days and dangerous working conditions–some of which would make your hair stand on end. In a recent re-telling of the story, Robert F Kennedy Jr explained, “Working conditions were horrendous: men and their sons worked 12 to 16 grueling hours in dark, dangerous mines dying from a notorious plague of subsurface explosions, cave-ins and black lung

On top of dealing with these conditions the workers were basically feudal serfs to the coal lords. In the towns in which they lived, the companies owned the police and hired cronies to carry out intimidation and suppression, even using tactics such as espionage and murder. And just to add salt to their wounds, some local and state governments condoned these actions by turning a blind eye and supporting the companies.

Well in the early 20th Century the miners were fed up with this controlled lifestyle, which is deliciously ironic considering they existed in a “free” society. With workers unionizing all over the country during this time, union leaders entered the area through some sympathetic politicians. After a major supporter of the miners, Sid Hatfield, was assassinated in broad daylight, the workers formed a 10,000 member protest and marched for six days to the top of Blair Mountain. What proceeded was a deadly battle between Big Coal cronies and miners that included an order from President Warren G Harding (perhaps one of the most corrupt US Presidents ever–which is saying A LOT) to intercede on the side of the coal companies. The miners were gunned down and surplus WWI bombs were dropped upon them. Not to say they didn’t arm themselves and after intervention from the US Forces on their own citizens, they dispersed. Fearing they may be convicted by a corrupt government for treason, they tossed their ammunition and arms into the woods surrounding Blair Mountain. Almost a century old artifacts can still be found along the mountain, which is quite literally a gold, or shall I say “coal”mine for a history lover like myself.

The aftermath of this insurrection proved to be pivotal not only for the workers but for the union movement itself. Sixty years later, unions are one of the Average Joe’s only protection from somewhat unchecked corporate power. Sure, the government now includes higher working standards and moderation of companies, but how long will that last? Only a year ago, the Federal government ruled corporations have the same access to First Amendment Free Speech as a US citizen, and can legally fund campaigns with no limitations. At first glance, this may seem minor, but the consequences have the power to rattle the very foundation of our democracy. The corporations, which have proven themselves can not be trusted, will literally and legally buy out elections. On top of this, the extreme right, who says they stand for the people, have taken an all out war against public unions in the MidWest.

Although the country and world has changed drastically since the Battle of Blair Mountain, Big Coal still exists and is currently backed by many a politician. Recently, Blair Mountain has been pegged to have it’s top blown off and mined. Mountaintop removal mining is not only ecological harmful, but it also results in job loss for the area and in this case destroys a historic landmark–still filled with artifacts, if I may remind you. Luckily, environmentalists, labor groups, and historians have banded together to save Blair Mountain and bring attention to worker’s rights, sustainability, and the protection of the Appalachian legacy. The March on Blair Mountain began earlier this week and will culminate with thousands of supporters atop the symbolic mountain. Hundreds have been marching in the heat and thunderstorms all week and a few hundred, including ex marines and a wheel chair bound grandmother have been arrested.

Thousands are expected tomorrow, June 11th, to show solidarity. If you are not in the region, you can follow the March online and send your support virtually. Even more important, let you voice be heard. Sign the petition for Obama to preserve Blair Mountain and end mountaintop removal mining simultaneously.

So it seems we have entered a new era where rather than evolving and working on the unions, who by the way are not a perfect solution either, we are letting them be destroyed. This is where the people step in. We need to preserve our democratic power.

Gina Williams

The tangible world that we once knew is long gone. Paper records, the Dewey Decimal system, and paper money protected under lock and key, is a dwindling reality. The United States’ entire economic system is represented by a keyboard stroke. Business owners have substituted office space and filing cabinets for cell phones. Moms have replaced crumbled pieces of paper with grocery list apps.

Purchasing a smartphone, particularly an iphone, has proven to be a valuable investment for millions of people. If you are not a small business owner, or a mom, or a banker, but an environmentally conscious participant in the game of life, your iphone purchase can be just as valuable an investment as theirs have been.

I have put together a list of Apps that promote a ‘greener’ lifestyle, and in doing so, discovered the remarkable impact of a seemingly indulgent purchase.

My Carbon Footprint: This app was created by the Blue Chip Marketing Company. It is an easy-to-use application that lets you calculate your carbon footprint. Getting started, you are prompted to answer 10 initial questions and then 1 question everyday after that, to track your impact on the environment.

Free 2 Work: Supported by the company Juniper Networks and U.S. Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Person, this app is part of a larger movement that grades companies based on their labor practices. The Free2Work app was designed to allow consumers to easily browse companies’ labor practices, and aid in making socially conscious purchases. This is app is free to download, and very easy to use.

A Real Tree: Created by Mokugift, this app allows you to plant a tree from your iphone. It is truly remarkable. The trees are planted in one of 12 countries fighting deforestation: Belize, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Burundi, Senegal, Zambia, India, Philippines, and Haiti. A Real Tree works with, Trees for the Future and Sustainable Harvest International to, “provide materials and education to local communities o plant trees in an ecologically-beneficial manner.

GoodGuide: This app allows the consumer to monitor the environmental and social impact of an individual product. Before a purchase is made, the consumer can read a brief review on the products’ impact. The GoodGuide’s database consists of nearly 70,000 products and reviews.

Green Car Buddy: This app is a client/server app that facilitates that sharing of rides and parking spaces. The idea is to promote carpooling, and decrease the amount of cars on the road, thus causing less pollution. You can register through your facebook account, or create a username distinct to Green Car Buddy. You can browse the app for rideshares leaving from one specified location to another. You can limit your search to a particular time of departure, or the gender of the driver. As a server, you can limit who is eligible to accept a ride from you by designating a gender option. If your search does not have what you are looking for at the moment, the app will email you when what you are looking for becomes available. This app is free to download and very easy to use. Green Car Buddy is a truly revolutionary idea. As its users grow, so will its impact. My only concern is your safety. Be careful my friends, and always tell someone where you are going.

-Jaclyn Bauman

Imagine sitting around the dinner table with your family. You are laughing, and sharing the day’s events. You help yourself to a serving of mashed potatoes. You descend back into a comfortable sitting position and pick up your fork. Just as the cold steel of the fork touches your mouth, the door slams open and a wave of armed men enter the dining room. Their presence alone is startling, and has frightened you and the rest of your family into a position of powerlessness. They tell you your living room is now the site for a cattle-farm and that although, one day you may resume the meal together, today is not that day.

This scenario is not my first choice for a daydream, but parallel circumstances have been a harsh reality for people, all over the world.

Years of abuse and overproduction of the Earth’s resources has contributed to global climate change, the displacement of indigenous people and wildlife, and has triggered a humanitarian panic to amend our industrial indiscretions.

The Amazon Rainforest often referred to as “the lungs of our planet,” has graciously provided the vital service of recycling carbon dioxide into oxygen, among other things, and has demanded nothing in return.

We are civilized people. No well-mannered men would accept a gift of such generous implications without the returned expression of appreciation. As a token of our humble thanks, this is what we offered the Rainforest:

Since 1970, we have destroyed over 600,000 square kilometers of the Amazon Rainforest and displaced or killed countless amounts of indigenous wildlife and people in the process.

Why?

Cheeseburgers, furniture, oil, and pharmaceuticals.

And now, in the wake of the new climate change resolution trend, it seem our destruction of billions of acres of rainforest is no longer a sufficient offering. In this new era of environmental responsibility, action has just begun for the reconciliation of our misdeeds. Unfortunately, many of the resolutions in effect come with the same cost for the indigenous life.

Deforestation contributes nearly 20% of the total global carbon emissions. We have been taught to equate carbon emissions with global warming, and global warming with a man-caused process that must be stopped, for the sake of our planet.

In a nutshell: by clearing out billions of acres of rainforest for the timber industries, cattle farming, oil, soybean, and paper industries, we have caused irreparable damage to the planet and the life indigenous to the rainforest. Now it is a race to right the wrongs of the human race, and where there is a demand, there is possibility for economic gain. Ironically and tragically, the indigenous people and wildlife who have forcibly suffered in the name of economic gain are once again being made to bare the burden, only this time it is under the guise of going green.

REDD, Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation, is a United Nations collaborative program. According to their website:

Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) is an effort to create a financial value for the carbon stored in forests, offering incentives for developing countries to reduce emissions from forested lands and invest in low-carbon paths to sustainable development. “REDD+” goes beyond deforestation and forest degradation, and includes the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks.”

This simply means that governments, companies or forest owners in the South would be paid for keeping forests standing instead of cutting them down. The main system of finance behind REDD is the carbon-market system. According the Indigenous Environmental Network:

Carbon Markets buy and sell permits to pollute called ‘allowances’ and ‘carbon credits.’ Carbon markets have two parts: emissions trading (also called ‘cap and trade’) and offsets. They are false solutions to climate change because they do not bring about the changes needed to keep fossil fuels in the ground. They claim to solve the climate crisis but really allow polluters to buy their way out of reducing their emissions. These multi-billion dollar trading mechanisms privatize and commodify the earth’s ability to keep its atmosphere balanced. The International Indigenous Peoples’ Forum on Climate Change opposes carbon markets.”

It is no surprise that even the implementation of a socially responsible system is designed for a few key players to make a very large profit. Reuters, an international news agency, reported that an Interpol environmental crime official warned that organized crime syndicates are eyeing the REDD forest carbon credit industry as a potentially lucrative new opportunity for fraud, at a conference in Indonesia. Exploitation was and is inevitable, but what does it mean for the people? Aside from marginalized financial gain, will REDD be a solution to the displacement of indigenous life?

I wish I could say yes.

Previous conservation efforts such as: Dumoga-Bone National Park in Sulawesi, Indonesia and Korup National Park in Cameroon have taught us that the indigenous people often lose more access to their land, and are stripped of their freedoms as governments and corporations implement strict regulations and guidelines, in order to uphold their new systems.

So who do we support?  We are constantly being told to go green and we want to do the right thing. We believe in making a difference in our environment and our world, but at what cost? On the other hand, were told not to trust big corporations; the driving forces behind much of these issues. And why should we?

What should we do?
Who can we believe?

The International Conference on indigenous people’s rights, alternatives and solutions to the climate crisis was held November 4-9 2010. in the Philippines. The conference was organized by the Cordillera Peoples Alliance, Land is Life, IBON International, Asia Pacific Indigenous Youth Network and the People’s Movement on Climate Change.

In their declaration of solidarity, this was said:

We believe that the root cause of the enormous problems we face today is the neoliberal global capitalist system, which puts profits before people and the planet. Central to this system is the expropriation and control of resources by multinational corporations, and dispossession and marginalization of small producers, workers, peasants, women and indigenous peoples.

It is true of the indigenous people of the rainforest, and it is true of you and me. Money is more valuable, globally, than human life. By no means am I suggesting that we fight capitalism or take a political stance one way or the other, but what I am promoting is the value of life above all.

Advocate for the indigenous people of the rainforest. If you have the opportunity to buy goods from a small local company that sells environmentally friendly and fair trade products, give them your money instead of circulating it back into the industries that wreak havoc on humanity.

Most importantly, be informed. Know where your financial support ends up, and what you can do to ensure the quality of life for others, that you get to enjoy yourself.

-Jaclyn Bauman

You may know them as the “cougar and cub” couple or from their many films such as “The Butterfly Effect” or Ghost, but there is so much more to Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore.  We have discussed many different celebrities that have done a variety of things to help our world, but here is a power couple that is doing the same.  This duo has been trying their hardest to educate the world on human trafficking and how to stop it. After meeting and talking with a girl who was trafficked in the United States, Ashton and Demi decided to take action and created the DNA Foundation.

This foundation was created by Ashton and Demi to raise awareness about sex slavery. They believe it is in our DNA, and a basic human right to be free. The global market for sex slavery generates more than $32 billion in revenue each year and about 2 million children are subject to it. There are between 100,000 to 300,000 children in the U.S. alone that are enslaved and sold for sex. DNA believes in spreading the knowledge about the issue and forcing slavery out of the shadows and into the spotlight.

One of the campaigns that Ashton and Demi have created is the “Real Men” advertisements. These are to promote that real men don’t buy girls. The ads will relate men to different situations and promote that “real men don’t buy girls” all while starring A-list celebrities such as Justin Timberlake and Eva Longoria.  Ashton and Demi were receiving some heat from these ads because of the generalization that it is men. Men may not be the only ones involved in the crime, but it is a real issue and if people didn’t buy women, men, and children for sex, than it wouldn’t be a $32 million dollar industry.

Sex trafficking is a serious problem all over the world; however, there aren’t too many people who are aware of the degree of the situation. The truth is that the average age of entry into this industry is thirteen. I think this fact alone is enough to make someone listen. Sex trafficking is the modern day slavery and can be induced by force, fraud, or coercion.

Victims of sex trafficking can be affected psychologically as well as physically.  It can be traumatizing to any person, but especially a young child. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 made the horrendous act a violation against the Federal Law, however the problem still persists.  Victims can face various health issues such as addiction, physical injuries, or diseases. Any and all affects of sex trafficking can have a lifetime, traumatizing affect which no one should have endure.

Handcuff Necklace via GoodMenProject

In order to help raise money for the DNA foundation, Ashton and Demi created a line of handcuff motif necklaces. They worked with the renowned jeweler Jack Vartanian to create the line. The couple hopes the handcuffs will serve as a symbol and will help create more awareness for the child sex slave industry and human trafficking. The pieces are available in white, yellow, and rose gold, as well as black or white diamonds. Although the prices are a bit expensive, the necklaces serve more importance than just a fine piece of jewelry or gift, they represent freedom to men, women, and children all over the world.  In case the necklace is a little too pricey for you, the DNA Foundation also takes any size donations as well as selling cute and hip tees.

We applaud Demi and Ashton for using their star power to the issue of sex slavery. Unfortunately, with all the issues plaguing our world, human trafficking is often overlooked. To learn more about human trafficking check out Not For Sale and the DNA Foundation.  And to learn more about the power couple’s work, watch this video of Demi and Ashton on CNN.

-Lauren Bowler

About a year ago to the day, the AP blog posted an article concerning California farmworkers and the hellish conditions in which they are made to work.  The very fact that the body of the population is largely composed of migrant and/or immigrant labor, including many who do not speak English and are undocumented, means it is at a supreme disadvantage when attempting to establish the right to a safe working environment, as a whole or individually.  There is little these people can do, and the neglect they suffer can at times lead to a tragic death.

Such was the case in 2008 with Maria Isavel Vasquez Jimenez, a 17-year-old woman, two months pregnant, who was made to prune grapes in San Joaquin County for nine hours in triple-digit heat without adequate shade, water or rest breaks.

A few weeks ago, Maria De Los Angeles Colunga and Elias Armenta, the two farm supervisors most-directly responsible for this gross abuse of labor decency and originally charged with involuntary manslaughter, reached a softened plea bargain.  Colunga was sentenced to 40 hours of community service, three years of probation and a fine of $370, and Armenta to 480 hours of community service, five years of probation and a $1,000 fine.  Both were also banned from engaging in farm worker contracting.

Some might argue this outcome to be bittersweet, but easy on the sugar.  While this prosecution is a small but progressive step toward justice in an industry that, until recently, was left to set it’s own rules and labor standards with miniscule regulation or consequence, common sense suggests that the death of this young woman and her unborn child in such an environment would call for much harsher punishment, including serious jail time, something that might scare other labor companies into doing right by their workforce.  Hopefully such changes won’t require more innocent deaths.
You can read more about this issue here, and review last year’s AP farm labor article hereStay informed and stay active!
-Jeremy Pearson

For their senior project, five teams at the University of Maine created tricycles for landmine victims in Mozambique. These 27 students were part of the Mechanical Engineering Technology program and had to complete their Capstone senior project as one of their last assignments. The year-long project was directed by professor Herb Crosby in conjunction with Coreplan CEO Kim Keeley and Landmine Victim Mobility Vehicle Project. It was not only an educational and fun experience for the students, but it helped hundreds of landmine victims as well.

This South African country has been devastated by years of civil war. Although they are finally at peace, there is still an estimated 3 million landmines scattered across the land, causing an unsettling environment. Innocent people continually fall victim to these landmines and suffer injuries including the loss of limbs. Because of its impoverished state many of the innocent victims can not afford prosthetic limbs. Between that and the unpaved and poor conditions of the roads, transportation is a nightmare for injured parties. Normal wheelchairs are not ideal for the terrain of Mozambique which is why Keeley is working with the University of Maine to create a tricycle for better means of transportation.

Red Team Tricycle

The South African insurance company, Core Plan International, backed the competition. With their support and help the winning design would be patented and produced for the people of Mozambique. CEO, Kim Keeley decided that the final design will probably incorporate different aspects of each team’s prototype.

Each five to six person team had to create a prototype of a hand powered tricycle wheelchair for the landmine victims. At the end of their six month journey, each team presented their design on Maine Day. This is a day that all faculty and students have off in order to clean up the campus and participate in community service events. What a perfect time to show off some coolly designed tricycles while cruising around campus.

Green Team Tricycle

Each team had different ideas of what would be the most cost efficient and the most ideal to ride in. Some of the specific qualifications the product had to have were: accessible to double amputee, effective breaking, easy steering, stable on hilly and uneven terrain, under $200 to create, and able to carry 5 gallon pail of cargo. While the Green team chose to use bamboo with the cargo area in the front, other teams used metals with the cargo in the back.

The MET students really enjoyed themselves while working on this project. Even though the Blue Team officially won (see the video below), all the designs were terrific and everyone involved truly won. Many of them felt that it was the cherry to their ice cream because they were able to use every skill they had learned throughout the year collectively in one project, as well as directly impacting a population in need. It definitely put their education to the test, but the outcome was extraordinary and exponentially beneficial.

-Lauren Bowler


« Previous PageNext Page »

  • Twitter: @autonomie

    Error: Twitter did not respond. Please wait a few minutes and refresh this page.

  • Facebook

  • Topics

  • Recent Posts

  • May 2015
    M T W T F S S
    « Oct    
     123
    45678910
    11121314151617
    18192021222324
    25262728293031
  • Archives

  • Follow

    Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

    Join 45 other followers