Dead white corral and no sea shells – a first observation

On September 6, 2015 I left for the “other side of the world”, to places I have never been but have read about in books and online.  The anxiety and angst of leaving the comforts of home, exhaustion from spending the last week packing over and over again, and the stresses of being in a horrible automobile accident where the at fault party could have very well lost his life had all taken a toll on me, but life and time move forward.  The process of experiencing change is very important to me.  To be in the midst of changes in the global processes means that the battlefront is exactly where you and I are at this moment in time.  According to many including 5 Gyres, our first challenge is to REDUCE the amount of manufactured goods we consume on a daily basis.  Here are some important words from “The Dude” – Jeff Bridges about this specific issue via his partnership with the Plastic Pollution Coalition.

Having arrived on the island of Oahu and have been on the island for 24 hours, I have had the pleasure of touring the island, seeing many beautiful locations.  The beaches we swam in were beautiful, but turbid (cloudy/murky)   from recent tropical storms and hurricanes that have been traveling through to Pacific Ocean.  There were not large quantities of plastics or any waste on the beaches I went to.  Much of the beach had storm debris and dead corral that has come in from the storms that have been occurring. Based on tidal patterns, the north shore of Kauai is relatively immune from ocean plastic.  Today I anticipate going to see some of those beaches.  I was quite intrigued to learn about the hurricanes and had to do some research of my own this morning.  This brief article by Mother Jones will provide some greater insight to both the weather and an some of the leading agencies indicating why this trend will continue to grow. In addition to going swimming and snorkeling in the Pacific Ocean, we took a tour of some of the places on the North Shore like animal sanctuaries, recycling drop off locations including places where Jurassic Park was filmed like this scene!

Last night I had the pleasure of speaking to one of the island’s civil servants, one whom is responsible for much of the island’s recycling efforts.  With effective recycling at about 40%, with directional movement towards 70% – I enjoyed an insightful, and very tired, conversation about the issues and struggles facing creating regulations to require effective solutions that are integrated into all parts of culture.  Many of the classroom discussions from the last 2 years have popped into my head over this time.  The visits and interviews with the operators of MRF units in Denver like that of Alpine Waste.  MRF Units are where single stream recycling occurs.  This system is not currently available on most islands, but is a type of facility that more and more communities are developing, as the greater demands for reclaiming natural goods instead of filling landfills.  Here is a quick video about how these units work.

As I awoke today, I spent some early morning time to meditate on the things I have experienced.  The strongest of all yesterday’s activities was the fact that while swimming and snorkeling, I recognized lots of bleached, dead corral in the water and on the beach.  This occurs when the acidity of the water, CO2 concentrations and other factors cause corral reefs to die.  In addition to the dead corral, I noticed the lack of sea shells.  We did find 3 yesterday, ones that were on the inland side of the beach, at the farthest reaches where waters could come ashore.  The real and lasting impact of carbon emissions, waste management and agricultural processes and tourism are visible already, and the vision of the dead corral awakens me.

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.

Do your values align with your actions? or Why shopping at Wal-Mart is bad for you and your friends.

For ten years now I have successfully NOT shopped at Wal-Mart for myself. In 10 years, I have been there – to my memory 6 times. Two were to return items purchased for me, the rest were for family members. It’s a passion for me, I am not a wealthy person so I understand how important each and every dollar I spend speaks for my core values. In this quickly written and extremely brief outline (only 4 points) I don’t hope to convince you that Wal-mart is the Devil. Instead I argue that American’s have the responsibility to align their values with their actions. If what you read makes you feel good about shopping at Wal-mart, then it is your freedom to do so. If you become aware that you are supporting something you don’t approve of then it is your responsibility to change your behaviors.

Core values? Yes – the ideals I carry as an American, as a Christian and as a supporter for the fair and decent treatment of all humanity and the earth we live on. So, let us begin.

1. Sam Walton’s Wal-Mart grew in popularity based on penny pinching, – share the discounts received from the supplier with the customer. A very American idea. However, he did it with intentional value, something that his heirs missed out on; “Wal-Mart’s new leaders took to heart one element of the founder’s business philosophy — the importance of reducing costs — but they didn’t show his intuition about the importance of making employees feel as though they had a stake in the company” – excerpt from ( http://reclaimdemocracy.org/brief-history-of-walmart/)

Sam Walton was also anti union. In truth, the fall of the American Union and it’s position to protect the American employee with honest wages and health and welfare benefits is one of the main reasons Wal-mart makes in excess of $175 million dollars in profits annually. It also can be tied to why The Affordable Health Care Act – also known as ObamaCare became a necessity. This article is one of thousands you can find describing the practices of this organization (http://www.theglobalist.com/storyid.aspx?storyid=9769)

2 The platform of ‘Made in America’, one that proved to be untrue as NBC’s Dateline revealed back in the 90’s. According to PBS, “In fact, only after Wal-Mart’s “Buy American” ad campaign was in full swing did the company become the country’s largest importer of Chinese goods in any industry.”

http://www.pbs.org/itvs/storewars/stores3.html (paragraph 9)

3 Wal-Mart is the leading reason the American Economy is in such disarray, forcing American manufacturing to shut down and move overseas.

http://www.demos.org/publication/not-made-america-top-10-ways-walmart-destroys-us-manufacturing-jobs

4. Locally owned and operated businesses close when Wal-Mart comes to town. I’ve seen it with my own eyes, and have had conversations with people that have had to close their doors. Here is an interesting piece,”Is Wal-Mart Good for Small Town America?” by Ken Lambert effectively surmises many aspects of the anti Wal-Mart argument.

http://www.deltacollege.edu/org/deltawinds/DWOnline08/iswalmartgoodforsmalltown.html

Getting off my horse now, hope all of these pieces of information will cause you to pause and think about how you spend your money. The question is, if you shop at Wal-Mart – do you think you will change your habits?