Is Depression the Last Stigma?

Many years ago I read William Styron’s “Darkness Visible,” a brilliant and courageous book about Styron’s lifelong struggle with depression. I highly recommend this short but wonderful story. My mother, brother and I all have dealt with the intensely debilitating effects of depression. Last Sunday’s New York Times Magazine story, Darkness Invisible, reminded me of how easy it is to keep discussion of this chronic disease in the closet. Our silence also discourages others from discussing their depression openly. This silence deprives those who have yet to learn how to manage their depression from the advice and experience of those of us who have learned how. This post in not an attempt in any way to provide advice for those who believe they may be experiencing depression and aren’t sure what to do, only a reminder to those of us who know that we have depression to bring it out of the closet so that we’re available to help others.

Climate Change: The Sins of Our Fathers

This dispatch arrived last night from our good friend and 2006 Change It participant, Joseph Kaifala, who wanted to share some of his thoughts on what’s happening in Africa.

As I was listening to BBC Network Africa this morning I heard of the increasing rainfalls that are currently devastating certain regions in Africa. According to the report, at least 17 countries have been hit in West, Central and East Africa by some of the worst rains in living memory. It also reported that at least 500,000 people have been affected by the floods in just twelve countries. An approximated 400,000 people have been affected in Uganda alone by what the BBC refers to as the country’s heaviest rainfall in 35 years.

At this point you might be thinking exactly what I thought: Climate Change. Well, you are right to think it because scientists have predicted such effects on Africa several times within the past four years. But of course, like everything else that concerns Africa, could anyone ever listen?

Earlier this year it was revealed by scientific investigation that Africa is 0.5 C warmer than it was a century ago, but that Africa is simply bearing the brunt of problems created in the rich industrial countries. The report, (Climate Change and Africa) in May 2007 aired on both BBC Focus and Network Africa reports stated that food production in countries in the Horn and the Sahel regions is always at the mercy of the climate, and the rising temperatures are putting those arid areas in an even more precarious position. Recently, a renewed study by the economist William Cline quantified drastic reductions in agricultural productivity in many of Africa’s poorest countries by the 2080s if greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase. Such declines are expected to be severe in places like Sudan and Senegal where agricultural production is predicted to fall by more than half, while other African countries will experience a reduction by 30-40 percent. I swear we don’t deserve this one.

This to me is tantamount to a pronouncement of future damnation for many African countries, taking into consideration already existing challenges such as diseases and the general lack of basic developmental infrastructures. But the predicted doom itself is not much of a concern as much as the fact that Africa barely has anything to do with the sins for which it must now face punishment. Africa is approximately 14% of the world’s population, responsible for only about 3.2% of global carbon emissions. This is not enough to add much effect to the predicted climatic changes, but Africa has again become the victim of irresponsible behavior in the industrialized countries. We can only pray that the industrial countries will take the matter seriously enough, instead of spending their time with polar beers in Greenland and doing very little to save even those poor creatures. Well, as we say in West Africa, “when a cow threatens to leave a large dung in the middle of the road to stop pedestrians from using it, it must not forget that the dung will first pass through its own rear.”

Bitter Coal’d


Introducing guest blogger Megan Reid. Megan is a student at Berea College and says she’s recently been awakened to the source of the coal that most of the Southeastern United States uses for energy. She writes, “I believe that if everyone knew a little more about it, the majority would have the heart to stand up for what is right and stop sacrificing the mountains and most of all the health of these people that live closest to these sites.” Here’s what else she has to say:

I recently took a field trip to eastern Kentucky, the lower section of the heart of Appalachia where mountain top removal is most popular extraction method of coal. In awe of all the beauty of this natural mountainous section of the world, there were patches of mountains that were just missing and valleys were replaced by low nutritional quality grass on a soil made of shale. Seeing these “reclamation” sites first hand matured my understanding and opinion of mountain top removal.

A “reclaimed” valley covered in this type of razor sharp seeded grass. There used to be a natural stream here.

Learning about the geological history of the Appalachian mountain chain and how coal is naturally manufactured makes it seem all the more ridiculous that we extract it, burn it, fight wars for it, and sacrifice our own people for it. It is a legal rape that effects all the people downstream, at the bottom of the valley, living within range of the vibrations of the explosions used to blow the tops off the mountains. The water is poisoned. The wildlife is poisoned. The people are poisoned.

A mountain top removal site in Perry County. Behind this site is what the mountain should look like.

These fossil fuels are historical keys to the history of the world and we burn them without respect for or any sort of thanks toward the earth. History books teach us that the aboriginal tribes who sacrificed a virgin to the volcano once a year or so were savages, but we sacrifice the health and well being of a whole population of people whom we claim are our brothers and sisters for a substance that feeds our recreation and convenience.

So far, through the history of politics and present day politics I have learned that people continue to follow in their fathers’ footsteps and refuse to open their eyes to the devastation of their actions yet somehow still claim to care as a father – hypocrites. And then those who decide to open their eyes see this trend throughout the history of man, as we know it, and are overwhelmed by the action necessary to simply protect what should be protecting us – Mother Earth.