Getting Fed Up

 

By Susan Lutz

Sometimes the hardest thing to do is watch. We know we should speak up. We know we should act. But, at times, we must let go and watch.

For years I’ve watched young people around me participate in life according to what others have told them. Advertisers cram sugar down kids’ throats; plastic toys fill up bins; we consume and consume and create chaos in our drive to satiate our desires.

I’ve worked to be a model for my kids in how I eat. I speak up about how the milk on the table is made and where the eggs in the carton come from. I show them videos about ecology, recycling, and humane treatment to animals. After awhile, I feel like the teacher in the comic strip, the Peanuts: bla bla bla – after awhile, my message thinned over the airwaves of our home. I knew some was getting in, but society pushes hard. I gave up on some issues, even warmed to a few I once staunchly disliked (i.e. Disney comes to mind).

As I watched my kids and friends’ kids grow, I’d learn of one becoming a vegetarian, another off to build a solar boat, and others blossoming in their awareness of the environment. When a young person’s mind turns on, it’s an amazing thing to stand witness too.

After a class of kids I know saw the documentary film, Fed Up, some were appalled at the treatment of our food system and as if awoken from their childhood world and were shocked at how corporations had a grip on what went into our food. Some I talked to truly empathized with people in the story, suffering from obesity or health issues all so companies could turn a buck.

The light bulbs didn’t just go on – the passion arose. I could see their minds ticking and their ire rise. Discovering the message the film was way more powerful than me just babbling on about it at the dinner table. I am sure the message will fade and settle over time but perhaps a few will let it truly sink in.

The hard truth is we have to go back into the grocery stores, feed our families, and ourselves drink our water, and breathe the polluted air. Cutting out sugar is a lot harder once we realize it is in almost everything we eat. Yet, the power in what they now know gives me the confidence to now watch as they take on these issues for a new generation. And, once they’ve grabbed on and owned it, we can join together and speak up with a louder voice than before.

The Olympics: The View from Here

By Susan Lutz

Warming up to these 2016 Olympics took awhile. All the reports of the toxic water, Zika threats, and displacement of people from their homes made the Summer Olympics seem superfluous – an extra we might be able to live without or at the very least change?

But the games began. I’ve plopped in front of the television so many times over the years to watch the athletic phenoms, it felt odd to ignore it. The hype is hard to ignore. With kids, I grapple how we can understand what the tradition these games are, yet bring in a balance of the very real costs to the environment and world it can cause.

From the nightly news to social media, reporters highlight the trash in the water or the post a picture of the protests in the street. I want to cheer them on, stand up and do a fist pump when a swimmer gets another gold, and marvel over the mind-boggling gymnasts. Yet the images of cost both environmentally and socially linger in my consciousness while I watch. The hour broadcast delay also adds to the disconnection the larger powers have with the people who play and support the athletes.

Because it is about the athletes, the coming together of nations for a few weeks, in the hopes of putting down hostilities and instead playing some hoops (and all other games). As an athlete that competed at the collegiate and national level, I found inner strength, trained to break barriers (especially my own), and came together day after day with teammates for the purpose of a higher goal. That feeling in the gut, from throwing that pitch, making that shot, nailing that dive, or winning that sprint, those moments represent a long path of people working together and can translate to a deep connection to others. I see it when my son takes a shot in soccer or gets back out there after falling down – he’s rallied around, supported, and finds a strength to continue on. I truly believe these skills help him in his daily challenges.

Yet, we can’t play our games and shoot down others in the process. When the Olympics leave Rio, how will the country change? How will we change? What will happen to the neighborhood once the torch is extinguished? So many Olympic villages rode into town and left behind an empty land. What will we do differently before the next summer – and winter – Olympics return? Maybe it’s time to have one permanent spot for the Olympics. Or a guaranteed plan that the immense building that takes place due to the creation of the Olympic village has a useful, environmentally effective, re-purposed to move a city, state, and its people forward.

I’ve also lived in a country where the site of trash in the waters and along the road was tough to stomach, sometimes literally. Shaming a country from our the screens of our phones casts a quick judgment on the deep challenges a society faces from budget to resources to societal norms. We can embrace the change and ignite other nations by working at change in our homes and villages.

I’m still drawn in by the bottom line of the Olympics. I tell both stories to my children, the challenges and the successes, with the hopes of opening their awareness to the cause and effect we have on our world. I am not sure the world today is better or worse with the Olympics. The cost seems awfully high, but it won’t disappear in the next years. Cities will bid for the right to host until we all decide to change. The Olympics, like us all, are in a process of growth. What I hope is that looks to the future with an eye for making the world better for us all.

 

 

 

 

 

1612: The Boys are Back in Town

The boys are back in town, as my Token Bros Phil and Mitch Margo join me this week, to discuss the greening of the music industry. Are music venues being more eco-conscious, and are musical artists doing more to promote environmental issues? Both Phil and Mitch drive hybrid/electric cars, reuse and recycle, are doing their part to be more sustainable on a daily basis. Is the peaceful village in The Token’s famous song, The Lion Sleeps Tonight, powered by solar yet? For more information, visit thetokens.com.

Star Power

By Susan Lutz

Looking up to the sky, I seem so small. “100 Billion Galaxies each with 100 Billion Stars,” said Carl Sagan in the Cosmos episode 7, “The Backbone of Night.”

The power of his message grew with the rise of his own star. Today, many stars lend their voice to our star, planet earth, in hopes of fixing the mess we find ourselves in.

That smallness continues as the dawn breaks, I look around, and wonder how we can do anything to create change. We’re choking on plastic, dumping toxins in rivers, and spewing harmful gasses into the atmosphere. This is just the short list. Again, I look to the stars.

There are a lot of people doing important, tough work for our environment. I’d have to Google their names though because I can’t remember them. The moment a star, a film or literary or political star, begins talking about the environment – that I remember. I sit up and listen, or at least pause, when a star speaks about the work we need to do concerning the environment.

The reality is, a familiar face brings attention to the issue. Leonard DiCapprio spoke to the Pope about the environment. He has his own foundation called, The Leonard DiCapprio Foundation, dedicated to protecting the world’s last wild places. Julia Roberts is Mother Nature in a gorgeous, short video, “Nature is Speaking.”

Woody Harrelson hosts “Ethos,” a documentary looking “into the flaws in our systems, and the mechanisms that work against democracy, our environment and the common good.” Jeff Bridges narrates the video for the Plastic Pollution Coalition, “Open Your Eyes.”

Either I am starry-eyed or I am truly hearing the important message these spokespersons relate. After I saw the video narrated by Jeff Bridges, I felt nauseas at all the plastic I used. And I consider myself an aware person. Though the practice could seem cliché, I see a twinkle of light and hope as perhaps the message breaks through the atmosphere or our messy minds for just a moment. And funny, after hanging with Julia, Leonardo, Woody, Jeff, and even Carl, I feel like a bit of a bigger star. I feel inspired to do more, to and to help, even if it is the smallest of things.

 

 

 

John Parker – Riverkeeper

john-luis-parker-environmental-lawyerRiverkeeper, the guardian of the water, land and air celebrates its 50th Anniversary this year, and it is fitting to have friend of the show, John Parker, Director of Legal Programs at Riverkeeper, as my guest this week. We discuss all the great work Riverkeeper has done over these last five decades, as well as what they will continue to do to preserve and protect the environment. Keeping the waterways vibrant, and our drinking water clean, is essential to the health and well being of the citizens in New York State and beyond. To find out more about this great organization, go to Riverkeeper.org.

Get the Lead Out

1610-Get-The-Lead-Out-The-Many-Shades-of-Green-promoAs the people of Flint Michigan fight for better quality water, the problem of lead pipes has come to the forefront of the newscycle. Enter our guest this week, Bill Spataro, a metallurgist who has worked for the New York Power Authority. Bill explains how chemicals from lead leach into the water systems, and what effect those chemicals have on those who bathe in and drink lead laced water. This is not just a problem in Flint, it could happen in your own backyard or community. Is this all preventable? To find out more about this issue go to health.ny.gov/environmental/lead/

1607: The Essence of Effluence

My guest this week is Carl Gilpatrick, Senior Sewer Operator for the Town of Stony Point, NY. We discuss the essence of effluence a/k/a how waste gets treated when it is flushed, what sludge is comprised of, and what goes through the sewer system. The process is quite interesting, and sewage treatment plants are crucial to proper waste management, as well as the health and safety of the citizenry. There are things that should never be flushed or be put down the drain. Tune in to find out what those items are. You can get more info by visiting www3.epa.gov