Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Time to look after ourselves

When one brings up the notion of sustainability, immediately you can almost sense the reaction from people wary of environmental extremism. How do HUMANS fit in to this idea?

It’s a fair question and, obviously, must be key in any dialogue on sustainable development. But of course, without a healthy environment, where are humans? Waiting for a boat from their roof in New Orleans after a class-five hurricane? Rowing to their underwater home in Iowa after another one hundred year flood event?

Humans are already beginning to feel the effects of global climate change, whether it is these recent weather events, or less dramatic changes in weather patterns, such as the drought in East Timor, which has left 61 percent of the children there with stunted growth and 10 percent of the children in a state of acute malnutrition.

Critics point out that there will be winners and losers as the climate changes and, of course, that is true any time there is chaotic change, especially in the case of the unraveling of very old weather patterns.

Humans are a part of this system, and in many parts of the world, especially Europe, the need for employees to have a break from work is honored with standard four- and five-week vacations. This prevents burnout and helps keep companies competitive, as they don’t need to pay higher health costs, or the high cost of constantly training new employees.

In the U.S., this has not gone unnoticed, and the founders of Take Back Your Time Day report:

“It’s time to protect vacations before they disappear altogether. Unlike 127 other countries, the U.S. has no minimum paid-leave law. Australians have four weeks off by law, the Europeans four and five weeks. The Japanese two weeks. We have zero.  The lack of annual leave standards means many Americans never get time off.”

There is legislation in Congress that would change this and it’s called The Minimum Leave Protection, Family Bonding and Personal Well-Being Act of 2007. (I am guessing it was not a poet who conceived of this title.) This law, an amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act, would guarantee anyone who’s been at a job for at least a year would get three weeks of vacation. Most Americans support it.

As an Auburn resident, do YOU have enough vacation time? What would Congress do?

Sustainable Auburn is a regular column in the Auburn Reporter, created by Paul Nelson, who has covered sustainability issues

since 1990, and whose organization Global Voices Radio works

to expand the dialogue about the

need for sustainability through

the project of the same name.

Details at www.Sustainable (

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