As Maryland residents, regardless of how long you’ve been here, it’s easy to see how important the Chesapeake Bay is to our way of life. Despite this, tons of plastic waste are carried out from our cities and towns into the Bay, poisoning wildlife up and down the food chain. Styrofoam in particular is rapidly degrading our waterways and takes 500 years or more to fully break down. Nothing we use for 5 minutes should pollute the Bay for 500 years. We need to phase out styrofoam as soon as possible for the sake of the Chesapeake Bay. Cheap alternatives exist, but we need to demonstrate wide, public support to ban styrofoam in Maryland. That’s where MaryPIRG comes in. A bill is reaching the state legislature this Spring, but we need to pressure our representatives and testify in support of the ban. We know we can do it - last year we won a major victory for clean water when we banned fracking in MD. This year we’ve been collecting hundreds of petitions in support of a styrofoam ban, but we need all the help we can get to push this campaign over the finish line. We need more volunteers and leaders on our side if we have any hope of passing it.
Textbooks are incredibly expensive, and students are finding them harder and harder to afford. Oftentimes, students have to prioritize a quality education over purchasing pricey textbooks and access codes . Because of the increasingly high cost of educational resources, the Affordable Textbooks campaign is working on making textbooks more affordable by promoting the use of Open Source Textbooks. This semester, we are planning on going and speaking with 100 faculty members to educate them on advantages of OERs and help them transition from traditional textbooks to open source textbooks. We are also planning on having a rally for students to voice their concerns about rising textbook prices, in order to promote awareness through a collective voice of UMD's students. Everyone knows that textbooks prices are outrageous. Students spend an average of $1,200 a year on textbooks and course materials, and prices have been rising more than for times the rate of inflation for the past two decades! It’s no accident that textbooks are so expensive. Publishing companies are raking in huge profits while engaging in bad practices that drive up costs: issuing new editions that make used books hard to find, bundling textbooks with unnecessary CDs and pass-codes, and more. They get away with it because students don’t have a choice -- we’ve got to buy the book they’re selling, even if the price is outrageous. The good news is that we're making progress. Students can save hundreds through discounted options like renting, used books and bookswaps on campus.The real momentum comes from lasting solutions like open-source textbooks, which could literally revolutionize the textbook market by offering free online access and reducing costs up to 80%. Open source textbooks are faculty-written and peer reviewed just like published textbooks, but they're available free online, free to download, and affordable in print.So we're fighting to rein in costs by promoting cost-saving solutions on campus, while also tackling publishers' stranglehold on the market to change prices for good. We're educating students, faculty and bookstores, and raising awareness through research and the media. We're also calling on publishers, colleges and foundations to give faculty the training and resources they need to adopt open-source textbooks and save students millions each year.
Our democracy is built on the basic premise that people—regardless of gender, creed, geography, states, or religion—are politically equal. One person, one vote. Special interest money has long had a corrosive effect on our politics, but in 2010, the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision unleashed a new era of unprecedented spending by a handful of millionaires and corporations on our elections. The decision opened the floodgates for big money in our elections, enabling a small number of mega-donors to drown out the voices of average Americans. In the 2012 election the top 32 donors to Super PACs, giving an average of $9.9 million each, contributed as much as every small donor to Obama and Romney combined Fortunately, Citizens United also sparked a movement across the country to reclaim our democracy and pass a constitutional amendment to limit big money in elections. In the meantime, we're also working on several short-term strategies to stanch the flow of big money in our elections. Taking the fight directly to corporate political donors (and would-be donors): We’re partnering with shareholder advocacy groups in pressing corporations such as Target and Bank of America to refrain from spending on political campaigns. Forcing political spending into the light of day: Our researchers have documented the rise of Super PACs and other groups funneling secret money into our elections, and we're also prodding our state and federal lawmakers to implement more thorough disclosure laws. Amplifying the power of small donors: Encouraging millions of everyday Americans to small contributions can help counterbalance the influence of special interests in our elections. We are working to implement programs like tax credits, campaign vouchers, and matching public funds to create a swell of grassroots funding.
No one should have to worry about whether they will have food on their plate or a roof over their head. But the reality is that hunger and homelessness are widespread problems that affect far too many people. In the U.S.: Many Americans are living on the edge, forced to choose between basic necessities like purchasing food, paying rent, or going to the doctor. In 2014, almost 46.7 million Americans were living below the poverty level, and on a typical night, more than 578,000 Americans were homeless. On Campus: Poverty isn’t exclusive to any one community. Even college campuses are not immune. Our latest research suggests that one in five students may currently experience hunger. Worldwide: At the global level, the problem is even more serious. While there has been slow but steady progress over the past thirty years, there are still 795 million people – or one in nine people in the world – who do not have enough to eat. 896 million people in developing countries live on $1.90 a day or less. We have the resources and knowledge to eliminate hunger and homelessness in our time, but it remains to be seen whether we have the political will to do so. Fortunately, on campuses across the country, there are students like us who are dedicated to making their communities a better place, and improving the lives and well-being of those around them. Our Hunger Campaign takes this passion and dedication and harnesses it through a combination of direct service, fundraising events, and political advocacy. As students, we have the ideas, solutions and resources to make change – and by joining together, we can end hunger and homelessness.
We are at risk of entering the post-antibiotic era. Since their introduction, antibiotics have been a staple in protecting the public health. However, their overuse has led to the creation of "superbugs," which cause illnesses that can't be cured. Last year 2 million Americans got antibiotic resistant infections, and 23,000 people died. This is happening partly because 70% of antibiotics are sold to factory farms, where they are used on animals that often aren't even sick. We have to stop the overuse of antibiotics, and protect our life-saving drugs. In March 2015, we helped convince McDonald’s to stop serving chicken raised on our life-saving medicines. Shortly after, Tyson Foods, a major chicken producer and McDonald's supplier, followed suit. Then, in October, we convinced Subway, with more restaurants than any other chain in the United States, to make a commitment to stop serving any meat raised on antibiotics, starting with chicken by the end of 2016. In April of 2017, KFC announced their commitment to stop serving chicken raised on medically important antibiotics by the end of 2018. These were huge victories to protect public health, but now, other major chains need to take action. Unsurprisingly, the industry is fighting back, trying to confuse consumers with misleading arguments about whether these commitments mean sick animals won't get treatment. But we know that's not true, and not the problem here. The problem is that farms are giving antibiotics to animals in their daily feed as a preventative measure — not just to treat sick animals. That's why our call is for meat raised without the routine use of antibiotics. With thousands of Americans dying, and millions more getting sick from antibiotic-resistant infections every year, it's time for more chains to follow the lead of Subway, McDonald's, and many others. If we don’t take decisive action soon, we could face a world in which life-saving antibiotics no longer work. This is why we need your help today.