Thursday, May 31, 2018

General Convention: Disaster Resilience

I've continued to look at resolutions to General Convention that have some relation to healthcare topics. One recently added that I want to hold up is D007: Disaster Resilience Policy. As the text is somewhat lengthy, I won't copy in the whole thing, but I do encourage you to read it.

The larger points of the policy are to commend Episcopal Relief and Development in their past work of disaster relief, and to encourage dioceses and congregations, working with ERD, to develop not only short term but also longer term resources and plans to respond to disaster. That longer term response is the point of "resilience:" that to rebuild and restore after a disaster takes a long time, and a longer commitment of resources and effort.

I was, though, struck by one further sentence: "That the General Convention urge the U.S. federal government to fund and support not only immediate, but also long-term community and economic recovery from human-caused and natural disasters in the 50 States and U.S. Territories in equal treatment,...." [emphasis mine] That seems particularly apt, especially in light of the recently reported Harvard study estimating that in Puerto Rico Hurricane Maria resulted in thousands more deaths than have been reported by official agencies. The study uses the criteria of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (the justly-famous CDC), and reflects both those who died directly (flying debris, floods, etc.) and those who died because the healthcare and social systems around them were destroyed and not quickly rebuilt.

While there can be arguments whether responses of governments at all levels have been adequate in our recent disasters, including Maria (in 2017 territories and states of the United States were also struck by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma), there's a strong case to be made that federal resources to the states affected were significantly and proportionally greater than those provided to Puerto Rico. I can't speak to whether the response to the U.S. Virgin Islands was more similar to the states or to Puerto Rico; but the differences between that territory and the states has been widely reported and evaluated. In that light the call for equal treatment for territories as for states seems especially poignant.

By the way, please remember that the Resolutions in the Virtual Binder for General Convention are available to anyone. Link to the Virtual Binder, or link through from the General Convention web site, and you can see what's proposed. Remember that what's proposed may not be what's actually debated and voted on; but's it's where we'll start. So, take some time to look and see what might interest you.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

General Convention 2018: Environmental Racism

So, it is another General Convention year. We'll be meeting again (yeah, I'm in it one more time) in Austin, Texas, July 4 through 13 - and some of us will arrive earlier or stay later. As I say every three years, "General Convention is coming. Pray hard!"

So far, only one resolution has been entered in the topic of Health. That is resolution A011,  "Oppose Environmental Racism."

Resolved, the House of _______ concurring, That the 79th General Convention affirm that fossil fuel-based power plants are the single largest source of carbon dioxide pollution in the United States and major contributors to climate change; these emissions not only threaten the environmental stability of our planet, but also the health of young children and their families, disproportionately affecting the poorest among us; and be it further

Resolved, That the Church recommit to and direct the Office of Government Relations and the Episcopal Public Policy Network to oppose Environmental Racism expressed in such ways as the locating of extraction, production, and disposal industries where they disproportionately harm neighborhoods inhabited by people of color and low income communities. And to oppose coal, gas, oil, and uranium extraction and its subsequent transportation which threaten the health and sanctity of communities and the livelihood of future generations; especially as such industries are located disproportionately nearby low income communities and neighborhoods inhabited by people of color.

The resolution has been put forth by the Advisory Council on the Stewardship of Creation. They have described the concern about Environmental Racism in the body of there solution. While their report does not go into further detail, it does highlight three Eco-justice sites, all of which would seem to qualify.

I would expect to see other resolutions that would speak to health. In the meantime, we can consider how addressing Environmental Racism could serve the health needs of our neighbors.