Get the Lead Out

By Susan Lutz

Tests came back from our school’s water samples. The results indicated elevated levels of lead and copper in faucets throughout the system. Drinking fountains were shut off; signs posted. Our school initiated testing, something they did voluntarily. Many samples were “first draws,” from the water sitting in the faucets during the night. Fixing water supplies is a difficult and expensive task. I threw extra water bottles for my son into his backpack. He’d been in some of the rooms that tested positive. Water fountains are located right in many of the rooms. He loves drinking fountains. I’ve watched kids saunter up to fountains after a good romp on the playground. They are empowered, quenching their thirst on their terms and rewarding their body and mind for a job well done. Clear and cold, the water tasted great and at the same time, full of toxins.

Flint, Michigan. Once the words meant simple a town, now they spell a disaster. Many schools around the country report problems with their water supply. Old buildings mean aging pipes. Schools struggle with budgets to keep up everything from teachers to infrastructure. The story in Flint raised a flag of the dangers in our waters supply across the country.

I’ve always worried about toxins in water. When I lived in Central America, water was checked for the levels of cockroach droppings in it. Chlorine was a regular addition to many water supplies. I tried keeping up with buying bottled water, but news reports showed even that supply was tainted, and, the price kept going up. Bottled water adds yet another dimension to the environmental impact that fills the land with plastic. Many of the brands of bottled water are not better than the water from the tap and the cost can be 2000 times more than tap water. Yet, now what? Does bottled water now return as our water source? What do we do?

My son runs to a water fountain with such glee. The water flies out, and he takes a sip. I can’t always stop him. Even in school, signs are posted to not drink out of certain fountains. My child can’t read those yet. At the library, the shopping center, or any other public places, water now makes me worry. We make messes that become so hard to clean up. From the little plastic, disposable coffee K-cup, to the use of plastic bags, to glow-in-the dark plastic wands, I have a choice to consume these or not. Though not always easy to avoid, I feel maybe I have a fighting chance. With water, however, we as a nation must deal with it. We start with schools, and then we must move on to open our eyes and not ignore the problem that most likely is flowing everywhere we drink.

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.

1609: Move, New York

Crowded trains, broken roads, and traffic jams are all part of the commuting nightmare we face as citizens living in the NY Metro area.

Traffic, what is it good for, absolutely nothing…. Crowded trains, broken roads, and traffic jams are all part of the commuting nightmare we face as citizens living in the NY Metro area. There are solutions at hand, and our guest this week, Alex Matthiessen, who is the Director of the Move NY Campaign, and President of The Blue Marble Project is working on those solutions. How can the NY Fair Plan help decrease traffic congestion, and create a source of funding for the MTA and City Transit to make improvements to fix the problems? It’s time to bring our transportation system into the 21st century. Listen in and learn how. Get more info at iheartmoveny.org

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

Women Farmers Turn Over the Land with Success

By Susan Lutz

The roles of farmers often seem to go to men. Perhaps rooting from generations of roll assignments – the men work the land, the women raise the children and support their husbands. My family’s roots stretch back to farming. I remember the stories of my grandmothers supporting their husbands, doing the chores, and feeding the family and the extra farm hands. Without these women, the farms wouldn’t run. As times change, the farm is changing, too.

Organic lifestyles are creating demands for less pesticides, more local crops, and food grown without GMOs. Farms used to rely on the next generation of children, usually the son, to step up and take over. As large corporations took over acres, they created a mass production and marketing system and small farms couldn’t compete. We watched family farms collapse in the ’80s. Today, women are finding ways to farm with new insight and success.

The US Department of Agriculture reports that, beginning in the 1980s, women farmers were the “fastest-growing sector of the country’s changing agricultural landscape” and they will continue to be well into the next 25 years. The number continues to rise and women farmers are gaining visibility. The economic challenge for farmers has shifted from the tradition of turning the farm over to their children, especially to the boys, to the unknown. Many families turn away from the farm for work, but today more girls and women are choosing to stay. Some enter farming for reasons such as wanting to raise children in the rural lifestyle while others may see it as a profitable way to live. Some simply want to promote organic living. Some women choose sustainable farming and some undertake a larger scale.

Where does a woman, either working alone or with a partner, turn for resources? The growing number of women farmers has created new opportunities in education, management, production, and financial resources. The Internet, blogging, and social media have opened up a new avenue of community to women farmers. With a quick click, any woman can look up how to attack a cucumber beetle without pesticides or when the best time to plant a certain crop is, and they can share stories and develop friendships with other farmers.

Women are taking back the earth. Not from men, but together as partners. My grandmother and grandfather left the farm even before the economy suffered. Over time they gravitated closer to factories and industries offering steady pay. I wonder, if the resources today were available to them, would they have had a chance to grow their farm and adapt with help rather than flee in the hopes of just staying alive and making ends meet. The organic movement is so important to so many women I know. One farm at a time, we may see the land and its caretakers turn over a whole new leaf.

 

WECAN: Women’s Earth & Climate Action Network

Maxine-Abba-Meg_2This weeks episode takes us to the Global Women’s Climate Justice Day of Action at the UN, sponsored by the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN). This event was attended by women from over 50 countries. To have such a collection of amazing women in one place, who presented stories of courage and resilience in combating climate change was deeply touching. Women play a key role in adapting solutions to climate change, and it was an honor to speak with WECAN founder Osprey Lake, environmentalist visionary Sally Ranney, as well as Neha Misra founder of Solar Sister, Harriet Shugarman Executive Director of ClimateMama, Executive Director of CELF Katie Ginsberg and student Coreena, and Patricia Gualinga-Montalvo, Indigenous Leader of Ecuador, whose interview was translated by Amazon Watch’s Executive Director Leila Salazar-López. For more information visit wecaninternational.org

 

We’re Melting

By Susan Lutz

Forests are dying. Polar bears starving, ice caps shrinking. The list grows. We’ve spent a lifetime stomping on the planet and now world leaders gather in the hopes of finding a solution before we hit the tipping point. Can we pull back? Can we save ourselves?

I read positive stories: a community garden in Haiti becomes a center of growth and revitalization; the price of solar power is dropping fast and becoming an extremely viable alternative energy source; climate adapted strategies are manifesting and working to stabilize wildlife. Around towns, I see trees being planted, youth conversing about important issues. This is great. And there are many more examples of success and ideas which are moving us forward.

Yet, I read bad news, too: the UK starts to cut millions of dollars from its renewable resources; the threat of disease increases due to insects gaining the ability to live longer and travel farther; the sea level is rising; and of course, we’ve all seen the pictures of the polar bears starving. Some days, it’s hard to read the news. Some days it does seem like we’re just going to tip over and sink.

I recently heard a lecture on the cause and effect of our actions and the impact our choices have on climate change. The most interesting, and most powerful, I thought, was this: What are we willing to give up? In this country, the majority of cars during rush hour consist of single drivers. Bottled water and soda fill our vending machines, and we don’t give a second thought to the short pleasure we get versus the amount of toxins in each bottle. We like our stuff. We like our creams, cars, deals online, new phones, and processed, over-packaged foods.

The summit on climate change brings together world leaders. The model of coming together to talk; understanding our differences; taking note of those suffering the most; and, moving forward with dialogue. Regardless of how difficult the task is, it is one we must implement from the highest of offices to the grass-roots level.

We wait too long to act. We wait to change gun laws until terror steps into our cafes (if even then). We wait to ban trophy hunting and poaching and watch as species become threatened and face habitat loss and even become extinct. We’re slowly melting under the take-the-money-and-run philosophy of getting what we need, now, and forgetting how it will hurt us in the future.

When my son picked up an acorn the other day, he thought it was the grandest of discoveries. I held it up and told him it was amazing. We carried it with us as if it were a piece of gold. Our food supply, our land, our water – they truly are gold. We must realize this now, or we will watch as the world melts and slowly slips away.