I am grateful for moments when it all comes into line!

“Do we have any cold water bottles?” – The sing song voice of my sister’s question hit me sideways, as the idea of single use plastics makes me cringe.  Then I heard the answer, “No”.  While I’d like to say that my heart was flipping cartwheels, I really was to busy trying to get everything ready to go to the pool to realize the enormity of the situation.   I don’t remember who was speaking at this point, but I do remember the idea behind the words – all my preaching was working it’s way into the practices and habits of my family!

Yes, I’m one of those people who does more than recycle plastic, I refuse it every possible chance!  What does that mean?  It’s simple, I tell people, vendors and corporations that I don’t want their plastic. I do what it takes to avoid new single use plastic in my life, I recycle everything that should be recycled, regardless of what the recycling company requests I limit my items to (in order to assist with their profit model).  I may be considered a radical by many, including my own family, but that’s just how I roll – revolutions don’t occur quietly and change doesn’t happen effectively without leaders giving the example.

By the way, this task isn’t for the meek in heart or spirit.  I mean consider any given day in your world – unless you are out somewhere in the part of the world that resembles the planet pre 1850’s, you have used plastic that has been viewed as ‘Single Use Plastic’.  This could have been in the form of a portable beverage container, drinking straw, a sandwich bag, a plastic grocery sack, and the packaging your food came in – it’s all considered single use plastic by the manufacturer.

Single use – it’s interesting to think about how many things in the world are intended to be single use.  Besides toilet paper and tampons there aren’t many things that I can truly justify as single use, other than Gasoline and other burned fuel sources.  I’m sure the reasons why items aren’t make for single use are obvious, but today I want to focus on just one of them.

We have a limited amount of natural resources.  Yes I said limited.  For every manufactured item, there were a series of process that had to be used to extract and refine the natural elements from our planet.  For every step of that process cost time, energy and financial expense.  This is true for both natural as well as man made products.  A great example of the realities of limited and finite resources can be found in the work of John Muir and Stephen Mather who proved to America’s west that responsible use and conservation efforts are necessary to provide resources and stability for generations to live off the land and enjoy it’s beauty.  These efforts from 100 years ago are what have allowed our great nation to preserve the natural beauty we have today, while having provisioned to provide income not only for past generations, but for those of the foreseeable future as well.

While these examples of conservation show that American’s have the potential to protect and preserve the resources we have, no effort has ever been successful without a battle of some sort.  I have a feeling that these battles will wear many of you down.  I know they do me.  Which is why it’s important to stand back and appreciate every once in a while.  It becomes apparent that while progress may be slow, it happens.    This is the reason I have to step back for a moment and acknowledge this win publicly.   So the next time your friends do something simple like rinsing out a plastic container and putting it the recycling bin, or requesting that no straws be brought to the dinner table when going out to eat, or when family members start bringing grocery bags and stop buying plastic water bottles – remember that these are huge wins in the fight against plastic.

How do voices get lost in the crowd?

Sometimes, as a mid-lifer I enjoy taking the time to sit back and evaluate things… it’s much different than in my youth where I just moved and maybe if an adult was lucky, I’d actually consider the consequences of my actions sometime in the near future.  There are a lot of things to think about these days.  Science and progress are moving at rates that are unchecked and many predictions I remember from the classroom, my family and all the reading I did in magazines like National Geographic, Popular Science, Field and Stream is coming back to me.  Stories about how human expansion and development would cause problems, how changes were necessary to curb the damage the usage of fossil fuels, accelerate the development of renewable energy, protect the environment and remember the lessons of generations past.  My fathers stacks of magazines from the 60’s and 70’s showed wildlife in nature like I would never have a chance to see and they stressed the importance of conservation, on taking care of nature as we enjoy it so that it will sustain us for years to come.  I’ve become more and more aware of how much these warnings are coming true.  The concepts within Science fiction from 100 years ago is part of modern life, and many modern day science fiction movies are predicting a sad future for us.  On example is including the popular children’s cartoon by Pixar Studios – Wall-E where the main character has been cleaning up Planet Earth’s garbage for over 700 years with no shortage of work in site.

Recently, I had the amazing opportunity to get involved in a newer grassroots movement that continues to bring me amazement in the efforts of altruistic humanity vs the reality of greed and power.  While I know the history of the human effort to rise up against the oppressor is always a story of the one that does not have against the one that has; today’s oppressors are not the Kings and Queens or a murderous barbarian with his legions but instead are the face of private corporations with visions of Global domination in their marketplace.  Not all companies are ‘oppressors’ mind you.  There are many who’s leadership and the culture developed within them are intended to be beneficial not only as a company who’s services are useful to their customer base, but also have a moral and ethical guiding within them to provide products and services that are intended to benefit the world around them.

So many times this can happen where the consequences of such actions over time become a beast that turns the public against the company.  We don’t always know how the change has gone from a good idea to a bad one – but when a good idea has gone bad, it becomes clear to all of those who look at the problem in an unbiased way.  In the 70’s it was a good idea to open up trade on a global level – expose 2nd and 3rd world countries to manufacturing opportunities – until companies like Wal-Mart went to American businesses and said, “If you don’t take these manufacturing positions out of the country, we’re going to stop doing business with your company because we demand you lower the core cost of these items.”

Have you ever had a packaged beverage?  If you are reading this blog the obvious answer is of course: you have.  Virtually every very form of consumable product manufactured today has some form of plastic used as part of the system you pay for to have relatively safe, fresh, and consumable food to eat when you are ready for it.  While the manufacture of plastic polymer’s has been occurring for over 150 years, the active efforts of creating efficient ‘depolymerization’  efforts are so new that most people don’t even know the technology exists. Instead, we live in a world where plastic is considered ‘trash’ or ‘garbage’ as if the item has found the end of it’s useful purposes and is now devoid of value.  Instead, pristine locations around the world are becoming trash dumps.

Instead of having a unified voice of discontent forcing effective change on the wheels of corporate responsibility, large corporations have little to worry about as 1000’s of environmental organizations, fight for your attention to achieve aligned results.  The focus on education, raising funds to stay solvent, and achieve the stated objectives has each individual group swimming upstream while the flood of environmental toxins continues to be manufactured without thought to the reclamation process.  Big companies are safe from lots of little voices  talking at one time creating a din of noise.  The size and scope of lobbies and political action organizations in the United States has become what it is, because some of the little voices, and many of the big ones have come to understand that the impact of the unified voice.  Unions created at the turn of the 20th century were looked upon an unamerican and a danger to our country and way of life, yet they only wanted to have fair and equal treatment, and only by gathering in a unified voice were they able to achieve it.  Today companies like Wal-Mart, continue to teach disadvantaged Americans the ‘harms of the union’

Earlier this year, some people with inside information helped inspire, develop and legislate a measure commonly known as the, “Monsanto Protection Act”  because somewhere in the executive chain at Monsanto someone felt that it was time to seek federal protections from the liability from damages that their products could potentially inflict on local American Biospheres due to the fact that man made genetic organisms are being created on a regular basis and released into the world with only the manufacture of these creatures being determined to be responsible and liable to test these organisms and determine if they are safe for release outside of white sterile facilities to be released into the real world.  The problem with this is that the companies doing all the science behind creating these new life forms are indeed the ones being held responsible by our government, to test the safety. Here is an example on the FDA’s website. Why the United States government is following these uncommon practices might not make much sense to the common person, unless you understood how the system works.

The department within the United States government that is tasked with the responsibility of unbiased third party food safety regulation is the FDA or the Food and Drug Administration. Roughly thirty years ago, a young idealist was working for this very organization probably had no idea that history books in 100 years may point the fingers of blame directly on his role as a perpetrator in the poisoning and destruction of the American Population from within.  However, as  Michael R. Taylor, J.D., Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine’s own FDA profile indicates, he’s a former VP for Monsanto.

Here’s how things get tricky.  The FDA’s mission [according to this Powerpoint (found on their site)]:

“ helping to speed the innovations that make medicines and foods more effective, safer and more affordable; and helping the public get accurate, science-based information they need to use medicines and foods to improve their health.”  Simply put, the only way to ensure ‘science-based information’ is accurate is to have 3rd party testing, something the FDA is NOT currently doing in this arena.  The example I provided is one where the manufacturer has said, “Our scientists believe this” and the regulator has said, “Great! Thank you for doing all the work – on your own products, for us.”

So I’ve been thinking, as I stated earlier, that things aren’t always what they seem to be.  It really is possible that all those warnings people have been making, maybe there’s not so much crazy to them after all.  Now, that I’ve exposed one current way that the naysayers might not be crazy, maybe you can help me figure out how to keep large unified voices active, without breaking them up into 100’s or thousands of small insignificant ones…

I was there when the shooting happened, and it’s not going to change my behavior…

Really, it pisses me off more than anything.  Gunfire isn’t exactly a new thing to me.  I’ve fired guns before, I’ve lived in a community where (as aggravating as it is) guns were shot fairly regularly within city limits.  Sitting on the front porch,  I could hear them in the distance, “down the hill” if you will.  Now I don’t feel that I lived in a war zone, but I’m not a stranger to the sound of gunfire in my life.  It’s not like I lived in a war zone or a ghetto where it was around me on a constant basis either.

I moved to  Denver, Colorado about ten months ago.  The first thing I did when moving here – volunteer for HeavenFest as a security agent.  My biggest difficulty was working with security executives that didn’t handle crowd control very well.  As a matter of disclosure I will state that my experiences in security include events from local bars to massive 20,000 in attendance events.  Then there was the Aurora theater shooting,   that occurred within 3 weeks of arriving.  While I personally wasn’t at the theater, my brother-in-law and I  had talked about going.  Fortunately my nephew wore us out that night and we opted out.   When I was at worship that Sunday it was obvious that many of the church had been there for a youth group outing, and had been involved as people- and as pastors in the love given as first responders.  Having been surrounded by people personally impacted by the shooting experience was intense, but over the last several months things have been quiet.

Then there was Saturday.   I decided that I would go to the ‘4/20’ celebrations at Civic Center Park with curiosity in mind.  I am an environmental reporter and one of the most common arguments for the reintroduction of Cannabis and Hemp into the US marketplace on an industrial basis is the Environment.  From paper production to textiles and new bio-fuel production, I expected legitimate information on the plethora of uses for HEMP, to be made available. Additionally, the news indicated that there was to be a significant police presence due to the bombings in Boston.  There were concerns of the size of the event in addition to the recent Boston Bombing that caused my sister to advise caution and quote news reports before I left for the event.  I like many new to Denver, did manage to spend time exploring much of Denver With these voices in the back of my head, as well as personal reasons, I was not on site during the actual ‘zero hour’ when, as I have read, thousands of people participated in consuming Cannabis simultaneously.  Instead I arrived an hour before the zero hour, did some reconnaissance work examining the layout of the event, left for the ‘main event’  and returned afterwards, anticipating a large crowd who would be taking a breather.  Instead I found several things occurring.

First: the event was over in the minds of many.  It appeared that the only ‘cool’ thing was to be on site to participate in the consumption of cannabis, also known as marijuana, for the Pot Holiday.

Second:  Security was a joke.   I’ve done more work preparing for large scale events that were expected to have 1/4 of the crowd, than was probably spent putting up snow or ‘security fencing’.   I found no general comfort at any time in the efforts of the police or other security people in holding any type of presence.

Third:  When gunshots went off, things were a mess.  Yes there was a wave of people fleeing the site, and there were people cowering underneath tables and behind one another.  There was no security to be seen yet I wasn’t afraid.

Now let me be clear, I didn’t run.  I didn’t hide, I counted several pops, said, “oh that’s just some dumb ass with a firework” and watched the crowd.  As the first wave was running by, my phone went off.  It was gunshots after all.  Well, shots were fired, but they aren’t going off anymore.  It took ten minutes to get two items of food because to food vendor was stoned stupid.  I placed my order multiple times before I got my food, but hey the place was emptying out, might as well get something to eat.  By the time we got our meal, ate it and left the grounds a process that took over twenty minutes; I still didn’t see any type of security professional or police on site.

And now, I’m mad about it.  I’m not going to stop going to public events.  I refuse to fell less safe.  I refuse to be scared.  I am however mad.  I’m mad that we have to be aware that my life could be threatened today.  I’m mad that we aren’t as able to feel safe and free at large community events.  I’m mad that I am analyzing the event and writing this post about it.  I’m mad that people would bring children of all ages to a closed off marijuana  smoking festival and I’m mad that they weren’t safe while they were there.  I hope everyone will share this feeling, “I will not be timid, I will not be confined and I will not focus on fear.”  Were you somewhere something tragic happened?  Go ahead and repeat that italicized sentence a few times, it’s ok.

But I’m digressing.  For the record it’s not the public consumption of marijuana that I’m bothered by.  It’s the way this group of people is treated as second class and not deserving of something that represents events put on by those who are highly respected.  I’ve seen more security at a Winter Jam concert where tens of thousands of Christians combine for a night of worship, fellowship and community and are protected mostly by volunteers there to do the same thing while ensuring everybody else has a good time.    I’m shocked that I entered and left an area with security fencing and no security personnel.   I get that this was a sketchy event to begin with and I’m sure there were concerns about who would or wouldn’t come if there was someone looking at you and your belongings when you come in.   At the same time this was a family event and while  I admit that I don’t know anybody other than the Pillsbury Dough Boy that might enjoy going through security.  However it’s the same measures that might have convinced someone to leave their gun at home.  After all in Colorado it’s still Illegal to have both at the same one time. 

Just say no – Plastic Warriors Unite

“Plastic, plastic, plastic – Is that all you ever talk about?” a friend recently asked me.  Well no I like to talk about other things, like my love of music, Jesus and volunteering.   However I have to ask, what’s the point of changing topics if you don’t ‘get it’ when it comes to plastics?

I thought I had made a good point, I mean how many crusades can one person take on at one single time?  If you and I went around solely participating in the process of evangelizing on the problems with life and the world around us, how quickly would we burn out.  I think the answer is obvious – it would take some days, others a few weeks, but eventually it would happen!

In today’s world plastic is everywhere.  Go out to eat, plastic.  Eat in, plastic.  Shopping, driving, worship, vacations, airline flights, school lunches, household chores the list goes on.  PLASTIC IS EVERYWHERE. Here’s a video on bottles…

Wow, that’s a bit overwhelming.  So what can you do?  The answer isn’t easy, and quite honestly sometimes it’s difficult and can offend others.  Yesterday, for example.  My brother-in-law stopped at McDonald’s for water.  Choice one – a plastic bottle and plastic lid filled with water, shipped and transported into Colorado.  Option two – paper cup with Plastic lid and plastic straw.  I was thirsty but opted out because option two wasn’t really provided to me, it was here’s a plastic bottle of water.  Not perfect, but there was a delicious cup of water from the tap waiting for me when out got home, only problem… I’m drinking out of a plastic cup.

Today, I will continue to take plastic out of the trash and put it in the recycling containers, speak awareness and live simple changes that will reduce my imprint on our planet.    What steps are you taking to ‘cut the plastic’ from your life?

In the beginning…

According to the oldest story known to a large portion of humanity – the earth was created and it was good.  Not so much anymore.  As we have claimed dominion over our planet, we have forgotten the importance of washing our clothes upstream of where we bathe.  It’s gotten so bad that earlier this week, a Chinese politician turned down 30,000 to take a swim in a river of China because of all the pollution in the water. Additionally, things are so bad in China that pigs are being hauled out by the thousands because of the toxicity of the water and the view of what the local biosphere looks like may represent the eastern part of America 100 years ago.

But, as American’s set environmental regulations became focused on protecting the American People and landscape – businesses sought locations where environmental accountability was less stringent.  One of the main reasons for this is your spending habits.  If you make a product following stringent environmental guidelines, it will cost more to manufacture.  Additionally paying fair American wages causes items to be cost prohibitive for daily consumers who demand  cheaper products.  These are reasons outsourcing to places like China, where environmental regulations have become a common manufacturing practice.

However not all American Businesses follow this practice or concept of doing business in this way.

Today I want to look at Method Soap.  I am providing two links today, the first one is to a story about how Method created a use for plastics disposed in the ocean.  The second is a look at who Method is.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/ups/2013/03/14/how-a-company-recycles-ocean-plastic-twice-the-size-of-texas/

http://methodhome.com/methodology/our-story/we-are/

Question of the day: “What company’s are you spending your money on because of their environmental efforts?