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ESSAY: “ON OUR BURNING HOME”

This is the first in a series of essays: “A QUESTIONABLE FUTURE – TENNESSEE HIGH SCHOOLERS TALK CLIMATE”

Srihita Adabala is 16 years old, attends Ravenwood High School, and part of The Sunrise Movement – Franklin “building an army of young people to stop climate change and create millions of good jobs in the process” – contact them: sunrisefranklintn@gmail.com 

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TN GOP Rep. Smith Blames Rise in Youth Suicides on “Leftist Indoctrination”, Schools, Climate Science

There’s a lot going on right now, but we wanted to make sure to show you this remarkable post from TN GOP State Rep. Robin Smith (R-Chattanooga) in something called the Patriot Post, which was brought to our attention by former congressional candidate Chris Hale.

In the post Smith lays the rise in youth suicides at the feet of “leftist indoctrination” – apparently meaning schools, climate science, biology, and sex, coupled with her misguided sense of the Democratic platform as a whole.

Keep in mind, Smith was previously the chair of the Tennessee Republican Party, and recently ran for House caucus chair, so she’s not exactly a fringe player.

She starts out with a simple fact:

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data this past week that youth suicide rates increased 56% from 2007 to 2017 among 10- to 24-year-olds.”

Smith then notes that the author of the article says “researchers aren’t certain” what exactly the causes are… but who needs research? The causes are clear to Rep. Smith:

“The Wall Street Journal’s analysis of this report includes the statement that researchers aren’t certain of the cause, yet factors such as a “rise in depression, drug use, stress and access to firearms” along with the influence of social media are cited as areas of interest and study.

Access to firearms” is not all that different from 50 years ago, but let’s take an honest look at the cultural forces and influences on our youth and young adults today that may offer some real causation, not just correlation…”

Notice how Smith doesn’t like the “access to firearms part”, so she throws that out – claiming it hasn’t changed in 50 years, when there is absolutely no evidence that’s the case.

Proliferation of firearms in America has continued over the last 50 years, so it would stand to reason that access to firearms for teens would increase along with that. Calling something “an honest look” doesn’t make it so. But we digress.

Smith then talks about the detachment that results from phone and social media addiction before pointing the finger squarely at our schools for teaching about science in the form of climate change, biology, and sex:

“Once our kids are out the door, they’re headed to middle school, high school, or some type of instruction in a two-year college or four-year university. And what do our kids encounter in their day at these “institutions of higher learning”? Of late, the message has been that the Earth will cease to exist in less than 12 years because of climate change. Our kids are told that it’s their right to determine their own gender rather than live within the capacity of their biological being while maximizing their gifts and talents. Too many students hear that life is a wad of cells until a baby is outside the mother’s womb and wanted by both the biological donors — formerly called the mother and father.

Students of all ages hear that part of growing up is being sexually active, having access to abortion as a type of birth control and part of a female’s health care, and that choosing a life of discipline, maturity, and restraint is not possible — much less a characteristic of an individual living at the fullest extent of their “rights.”

Smith’s use of quotations around “institutions of higher learning” are reminiscent of the calls for the abolition of state-sponsored higher learning by Republican senators Kerry Roberts and Mark Pody. When asked, Roberts claimed he was joking – but it has become clearer and clearer that doing away with state-backed higher education is a popular policy position in the TN GOP.

It’s one thing not to believe in Climate science, but linking gender, climate, and not calling parents a mother and father (say what?) to youth suicide is quite the stretch.

Smith then says our schools are “populated with activists”, and points to Democratic policy proposals like health care, education, and higher wages (the horror!) as somehow causes of suicide because they make kids “wards of the state”:

“Our institutions entrusted with the high trust of academic instruction are populated with activists who are invested in more than educational excellence and accomplishment and are now turning to the playbook seen in failing cultures of sameness for the common good and a posture of dependency rather than self-reliance. Don’t believe this? With the demands for “free” college tuition, free health care, a universal wage for those who don’t even work and for the express doctrine of this sameness to guarantee no individual excels above another, the role of government metastasizes to a cancer that consumes its host to pay for those who don’t excel and aren’t driven to self-reliance. Shorter, we’re teaching kids to be wards of the State.”

So helping kids learn, see doctors, and earn more money makes them want to take their own lives. Or something. Hoo-wee.

To clarify: “Free” college tuition means we pay for it with our taxes and our kids go to school, as we already do with lower education.

“Free health care” again would mean we pay taxes, and we get what we pay for – as opposed to now where we pay taxes, and premiums, and deductibles… and many are still going broke and dying for lack of coverage, especially here in Tennessee.

And say what you will about a universal basic income proposal – which has gained little traction in the Democratic Party – but it’s worth noting Smith opposes the Democratic proposal for a “living wage”, which means raising the $7.25 an hour minimum to a number people can actually live on.

Tennessee is #1 in % of minimum wage jobs, so that would actually help a lot of people.

The upshot of all of this is that Robin Smith may disagree with things like climate science, and biology, and making sure everyone can see a doctor when they get sick, and higher education, and paying people for their work – but blaming people who support those things for youth suicides with ZERO evidence? That’s unconscionable and downright shameful.

If Smith was really as pro-life as she claims to be, she should reverse her position on not expanding medicaid, which we know is killing people, or blocking common sense gun safety reform, which is also contributing to the deaths of many.

Teen suicide is a serious issue. It’s not something to baselessly politicize for the sake of scoring cheap political points.

Holler at Rep. Smith HERE if you agree.

Rep. Lynn Defends Extra Waste Because “Landfill-Mining” May Be A Thing One Day

Bill, written by corporate special interest group, aims to prohibit cities from regulating plastic containers

As local governments around the world are proposing rules to keep plastic out of rivers and lakes, Tennessee’s legislature is headed the opposite direction.

House Bill 1021, sponsored by Rep. Susan Lynn, R-Mount Juliet, District 57, would prohibit local governments from regulating single-use food containers, plastic grocery bags or eating tools, such as straws. The legislation appears to be copy-and-pasted from the website of corporate special interest group ALEC.

Lynn, who presented the legislation Monday, March 11 to the House Consumer and Human Resources Committee, consulted corporate lobbyists multiple times during her testimony. At one point, the committee chairman Rep. Clark Boyd, R-Lebanon, District 46, called a five-minute recess, during which he, Lynn, Rep. David Hawk, R-Greeneville, District 5, and the corporate lobbyists could be seen leaving the meeting together.

‘Alarming level of microplastics in the Tennessee River’
Though no local governments have enacted rules that would be affected by this preemption law, there is an excellent reason to enact regulations that reduce single-use plastic items: the Tennessee River is one of the most plastic-polluted rivers in the world.

A 2019 report, conducted by geology and hydrology professor Dr. Martin Knoll of the University of the South in Sewanee, said microplastic levels in the Tennessee River are among the highest ever measured.

The study concluded half — 48 percent — of the microplastic in the Tennessee River is polyethylene (plastic bags) and another 17 percent was polypropylene, a water-resistant plastic used widely in food packaging.

National Geographic, which also reported on the study, says freshwater rivers in the United States dump between 5 million and 14 million tons of mircoplastic into oceans each year.

“Scientists have found microplastics in 114 aquatic species, and more than half of those end up on our dinner plates… Enough research has been done now to show that the fish and shellfish we enjoy are suffering from the omnipresence of this plastic.”

Local control
Lynn’s bill to preempt local governments from enacting rules is part of a disturbing trend by the Republican majority to intrude on decisions best made by community leaders.

Rep. Bob Freeman, D-Nashville, District 56, said cities — especially large cities that have challenges distinctly different from small communities — need autonomy to confront those issues.

“In Nashville, we have roughly 700,000 people. The amount of waste that’s produced by 700,000 people, as you can imagine, is fairly substantial,” Freeman said addressing the bill sponsor. “I struggle to understand why you would carry this bill that would essentially take away the ability from large cities that are dealing with this issue — any ability they would have to regulate issues that they see first hand… you have no issue with taking away a local government’s ability to regulate and manage themselves?”

Rep. Lynn responded, “I have no issue with taking this away from a local government. Are they next going to ban—I don’t know—your cereal box?”

Clean water concerns voiced
Rep. Dwayne Thompson, D-Cordova, District 96, challenged the bill sponsor on why she would want to block a local government seeking rules that protect Tennessee’s lakes and rivers.

“I’m committed, like Rep. Freeman, to a great business climate here, but I’m also committed to a clean and healthy environment for our families here to live in,” Thompson said.

At one point, Rep. Lynn appeared to argue in favor of the bill, which will protect plastic solid waste, by suggesting that “someday our landfills will be mined for items that might be of some value.”

Procedural snag
The House Consumer and Human Resources Committee will hear the bill again March 18.

During the meeting on March 11, Rep. Hawk voiced support for the bill, but protested the procedure because Rep. Lynn did not present an amendment to the bill being considered by the Senate.

Part of the reason for the late amendment from the Senate was that the bill was initially filed as a caption bill to change the deadline for counties to provide updated maps to the legislature. (Note: A caption bill is a legislative placeholder that sometimes has nothing to do with its initial stated purpose.) As of this writing, the legislature’s website has still not updated the bill with Lynn’s amendment, which re-writes the entire bill miles away from its starting position.

After the recess called by chairman Boyd, Rep. Lynn agreed to delay a vote until next week.

How they’ve voted so far:
House Consumer Subcommittee passed the bill on a Voice Vote, Ayes Prevailing:
Rep. Mike Sparks, R-Smyrna, District 49
Rep. Clark Boyd, R-Lebanon, District 46
Rep. Mark Cochran, R-Englewood, District 23
Rep. David Hawk, R-Greeneville, District 5
Rep. Lowell Russell, R-Vonore, District 21
Rep. Barbara Cooper, D-Memphis, District 86

You can watch the full committee hearing here.