Sunday, May 19, marked the Golden Anniversary of the annual Eckerd College graduation commencement in Saint Petersburg. More than 500 graduates, their families and well-wishers, the faculty and the board of trustees all gathered under a circus-styled big top for the ceremony. This year’s commencement address was delivered by Bill McKibben, a world-renowned environmental activist and educator.
McKibben has written several books on global warming and alternative energy, and is the founder of the grassroots climate movement 350.org. The 350 number refers to the amount of CO2 in parts per million which is the safe upper limit on a human tolerance scale.
Scientists, including McKibben, assert that an accelerated greenhouse effect will be the outcome if 350 ppm is exceeded, and that translates directly into bizarre and erratic climate change. 350.org is behind what's considered to be the largest globally coordinated protest, with 5,200 simultaneous demonstrations in 181 countries.
As Floridians, hurricanes are routine. We are conditioned to it, the pace of preparation every year like clockwork. But as one New Yorker wrote me this morning, "Yes, you guys have hurricanes down there unfortunately. NYC does not, sadly."
So here are some ways people in the area are helping or can help.
"There was no abortion, nothing, we didn't have any rights," Leza said Saturday in front of Jannus Live in St. Petersburg. "That woman was Gloria Steinem."
On Saturday, feminist, journalist and writer Gloria Steinem spoke against Amendment 6 — read more about the amendment here — at the I Am Choice rally at Jannus Live. More than 15 people spoke at the rally, which was attended by 400 plus people. The crowd was primarily composed of young women, with older women and men of all ages also in attendance.
"We certainly think women's issues are family issues because women primarily run their households," said Barbara Zdravecky, president of the Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates.
"It's not definitely not getting better," Grefe said. "It is getting younger and older. There is no doubt we've seen an increase in people under 12 years old. Also, more males are being affected today."
Starting yesterday, The National Eating Disorders Association hosts a three-day conference at The Vinoy in St. Petersburg. This year's theme is, "What about us? Diversity and complexity in Eating Disorders."
"The idea is to bring experts from all over the world to communities and family," Grefe said. "We want to get people information, resources, and support."
Grefe said that awareness of eating disorders is improving, which is why numbers for those affected are increasing.
On Monday, I Am Choice announced that the writer and feminist will headline its Saturday, Oct. 20, Get Out The Vote Unplugged rally against Amendment 6 (read more about the amendment here). The rally takes place at Jannus Live in St. Pete and features Steinem along with Congresswoman Kathy Castor, Rep. Rick Kriseman, and congressional candidate Jessica Ehrlich.
Is Florida’s Amendment 8 a mandate for religious freedom? That was the theme of a public meeting last held last Saturday at the First Congregational United Church of Christ.
Americans United for Separation of Church and State organized the gathering. The three keynote speakers and the roughly 40 people in attendance painted a foreboding picture if the amendment passes.
Amendment 8 is colloquially referred to as “Florida’s Religious Freedom Amendment” but according to some the wording is disingenuous. If it passes it will abolish the Florida Constitutional No-Aid Provision. Currently, the Florida government is prohibited allocating public funds to be used “directly or indirectly in aid of any church, sect, or religious denomination or in aid of any sectarian institution.”
At the time, The Sun Sentinel reported that, "among his proposals, Martinez wants a state law requiring women seeking abortions be tested if they are at least 20 weeks pregnant a reduction of the states current 24-week standard. If doctors determine that the fetus can survive outside the womb, abortion would be allowed only to save the woman's life, under the governor's proposal."
We live in a society where a majority of the population shops at mainstream businesses. For this reason, it's sometimes difficult for local businesses to flourish. It's also more time consuming for shoppers to discover and experience smaller-scale, mom-and-pop shops that offer a more personalized experience, as well as familiarity.
Big box stores have local businesses outmatched when it comes to convenience — a concern relevant to central Pinellas, one of the Tampa Bay area's most chain store-congested areas. Convenience helps explain why most shoppers overlook the fact that some corporations' — such as Walmart — annual sales exceed $400 billion, while local businesses offer the same services and are struggling to stay afloat.
One problem is that finding these alternatives isn't always easy. This is where a promising new program comes into play: The Pinellas Park/Gateway Chamber of Commerce has partnered with the City of Pinellas Park and LocalShops1 to launch the "Buy Local Pinellas Park" program in an effort to promote and grow the local economy. The program, which kicked off on Aug. 15, is effective immediately.
"Hey, hey, Mitt Romney! Anti-choice doesn't represent me!" the group shouted in unison. But this was just a test. Code Pink was training activists in everything from protest chants to protest wardrobe.
"We are teaching chants and educating people on issues," actions coordinator Medea Benjamin said. "Florida isn't as progressive when it comes to women's reproductive rights, for example."
Throughout the rehearsal, the activists held up pink banners that read "Bring our war $$$ home." Some of the people sported human-sized vagina suits for the initiative "Bring your vagina to the RNC." A suitcase overflowing with fabric signs, pink duct tape, and stickers was on the floor, while laminated cutouts of Romney, Ryan and other Republicans sat on the table.
Radical Canadian femme rocker Peaches wrote Free Pussy Riot, in solidarity with the band. The Knife, Lykke Li, Miike Snow and others joined Peaches in the video.