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Seeing Red on Climate

Todd Tanner has a pretty sweet offer for his fellow Montanans: a new shotgun in exchange for science-based evidence that he’s wrong about climate change.

The conservationist uses the challenge in an attempt to raise awareness about our warming planet. A lot of people where Tanner lives in Bigfork, Montana, would probably like to take him up on his offer: The state has one of the highest rates of outdoor recreationists in the country, and Tanner is no exception. He was planning on going hunting after we finished our interview. “You wouldn’t know it,” he said over the phone, “but I’m literally walking around in a pair of wool pants.”

Tanner is sure he’ll never have to hand over that new shotgun, though he says he would love to find out that anthropogenic climate change isn’t real. “If someone shows me the error of my ways they can have their choice,” he said. “They can have any rifle, shotgun, pistol, or rod I own, and I’ll walk away feeling like I got the better end of the bargain.”

Since 2011, Tanner has harnessed his prominent position in Montana’s hunting and fishing communities to get people engaged. After wildfires incinerated forests and droughts desiccated rivers in Big Sky Country this year, agitated sportsmen and women have become easier to find. Tanner’s nonprofit, Conservation Hawks, is part of a coalition of grassroots organizations trying to pull conservatives into the conversation about rising temperatures.

And it’s starting to work. There’s a small but growing alliance of concerned conservatives who want to reclaim climate change as a nonpartisan issue. This motley crew of lobbyists, Evangelical Christians, and far-right radicals call themselves the “eco-right.”

Christine Todd Whitman, former chief of the Environmental Protection Agency under President George W. Bush, believes the eco-right has a real chance at inspiring action in Congress. With Republicans controlling both houses of Congress and the White House, and a record-breaking year of environmental disasters finally behind us, 2018 could be the year the party reverses course. “If you look at the damage from just this last summer, from the floods, the droughts, the fires, it’s pushing $300 billion out of our economy,” Whitman said.

In Montana, Tanner diligently crafts his messaging in the hopes that he can turn even a small portion of the red state’s hunters and anglers into climate activists. There’s also a broader, national effort to target American conservatives. RepublicEn, for instance, is a coalition of more than 4,000 conservatives and libertarians pushing for environmental action. The organization hopes that, generations from now, the eco-right will be remembered for leading the United States out of the climate crisis and into the clean energy revolution.

Alex Bozmoski is the director of strategy and operations at RepublicEn. It’s a job he’s well-suited for — he used to be a climate denier himself.


Alex Bozmoski

As an undergrad at Georgetown, Bozmoski enrolled in a climate science class as a joke, planning to heckle the professor. But when challenged to justify his skepticism, Bozmoski found he had drawn erroneous conclusions fueled by conservative radio shows and Fox News. He cast around in his network of fellow Republicans and conservatives for people he could discuss his newfound understanding of climate change with, but he kept coming up empty.

Bozmoski found that, despite a long legacy of environmental leadership in the Republican Party, most modern-day members weren’t even thinking about our overheating planet, let alone figuring out how to address the problem.

Environmental issues weren’t always this polarizing. President Nixon set a firm national precedent when he created the EPA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in 1970. The Senate passed the Clean Air Act that same year, 73 votes to 0.

Fast-forward to the 2012 presidential election, when multiple Republican candidates advocated for abolishing the EPA. Two years later, just one of all the 107 Republicans running for Senate mentioned climate change.

It’s no wonder Bozmoski felt betrayed by his party and ill-equipped to apply his conservative thinking to the issue. Yet he could still understand why his fellow conservatives didn’t care.

“When you don’t trust anyone talking about climate change, when you don’t see your tribe talking about solutions that fit with your worldview, it’s really easy to cope with the problem by ignoring it or denying it,” he said. Bozmoski did neither.

He went hunting for like-minded Republicans and found Bob Inglis, a former U.S. representative from South Carolina who came out swinging against global warming in 2010 (a position that likely cost him his seat in the House). Bozmoski tracked the ousted politician down in 2012, and they started a project called the Energy and Enterprise Initiative. RepublicEn grew out of that project. They popularized the term “eco-right.”

RepublicEn hit the road in 2014, traveling across the country to persuade conservatives that their principles and values can be applied to curbing greenhouse gas emissions. Since then, RepublicEn has held 300 events across America, mostly for expressly conservative audiences. Bozmoski estimates that the organization has reached more than 26,000 Americans. He gets people to listen by reminding them that they have power.

“You are the most important environmental champions on planet Earth,” he tells them. “Republicans won’t lead without first being led by their constituents. You have an outsized influence on our ability as humanity to deal with this problem.”

RepublicEn hopes to generate conservative support for a revenue-neutral carbon tax. “It’s the only solution that’s effective enough to address climate change and fits with conservative principles,” Bozmoski said.

A carbon tax is pragmatic and relatively simple: Put a rising fee on the use of fossil fuels, forcing companies to curb their emissions. To make it revenue neutral — and more acceptable to conservatives — the money generated by that fee goes back to Americans through checks or by cutting payroll or sales taxes.

A carbon tax in any form is unlikely to make it through today’s highly partisan Congress, so, in the meantime, RepublicEn advocates for a level playing field for wind and solar energy, less leaky oil and gas infrastructure, and nuclear power.


Jessica Fernandez, a lifelong Floridian and conservative, was one of the people inspired by RepublicEn’s national eco-right tour. Her upbringing might have had something to do with it. “At my house,” she said, “we grew up with solar panels on the roof and composting.”

Jessica Fernandez

In 2014, she met Alex Bozmoski and Debbie Dooley, head of a subset of the Tea Party called the Green Tea Party. Fernandez, a long-time director of the Miami Young Republicans, liked their pitch that conservatives should be leaders in conserving the environment. “It’s groundbreaking, I know,” she said with a chuckle. When trying to engage other Republicans on green issues, she quickly learned that an alarmist attitude just doesn’t work.

What approach does work? A focus on money. Fernandez said that conservatives are more likely to respond positively if you say, “Hey! Fixing the climate is something that can benefit you economically.” She tells them about community solutions like solar co-ops, groups of homeowners who use their collective purchasing power to install solar on the cheap, thereby reducing monthly electric bills.

Tanner, the conservationist from Montana, approaches the issue from a different angle. He thinks talking to conservatives about climate change requires language that is hyper-specific and localized.

The fine lines between demographics are razor-sharp. Messaging that works for a hunter might not work for a fisherman, even though both face the same set of environmental consequences: a scarcity of fish and game. “It’s almost like code,” he said. “As soon as you try and talk to people who aren’t like you, all of these barriers go up.”

For that reason, Tanner says the messenger and the message have to be authentic. He spends his weeks customizing language that personally appeals to various sub-demographics of sportsmen and women. There are millions of hunters and anglers in the United States. “That’s a ton of us,” he said. “If even 20 percent or 30 percent of them got engaged, it would have a huge impact.”


James Tolbert

James Tolbert is an unlikely environmental lobbyist. He spent 27 years helping big corporations clean up pollution. In 2013, the engineer was wrapping up work on the fallout from a million gallons of crude oil spilling from the Enbridge Pipeline into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan when he decided to switch teams. He traded in his senior position at energy infrastructure firm AECOM for a role as a lobbyist at Citizens’ Climate Lobby.

While Conservation Hawks and RepublicEn use grassroots organizing to drum up support among conservatives, lobbyists like Tolbert use a “grasstops” approach to push Republican representatives in Congress to support solutions.

We “create political space with a member of Congress by showing him that there is support from key members in his community,” Tolbert said. Citizens’ Climate Lobby calls these key community members “influencers” — business leaders, members of the chamber of commerce, even regional newspaper editorial boards. He sees them as crucial to getting anywhere with members of Congress.

When a Republican representative hesitates to accept climate change for fear of losing an upcoming reelection campaign, a well-placed opinion piece in a hometown newspaper or an endorsement from a local business leader can occasionally tip the scales.

It’s premature to say the winds of change are blowing, but we may be seeing the beginnings of a breeze. This month, more than 100 congressional lawmakers, including 11 House Republicans, wrote a letter to President Trump urging him to address climate change and the threat it poses to national security after his administration left the issue out of its national security strategy.

William Ruckelshaus, who served as EPA administrator under Nixon and President Reagan, has met with a number of eco-right organizations. He believes massive support for significant action on global warming is “going to have to include conservative groups, and virtually every discipline in society.” When Republicans do finally warm up to the idea of a conservative environmental movement, the eco-right will step out of the wings.

“They’re going to begin to get worried” about the growing impacts of a warming planet, Ruckelshaus said. “If there are organizations that they feel more comfortable with, they’re more likely to sign on.”


Todd Tanner.Image credit: Jeremy Roberts

The eco-right hasn’t exactly received a warm embrace from the conservative movement. In 2014, the Washington, D.C.-based public relations firm Berman and Company launched the Environmental Policy Alliance — yes, EPA for short. The outfit is “devoted to uncovering the funding and hidden agendas behind environmental activist groups.” Among its targets: climate-conscious organizations like Tanner’s Conservation Hawks.

Shortly after it started, the alliance launched a website called Green Decoys, which claims that left-wing environmental NGOs use sportsmen as a cover for their “radical environmental activist” agendas.

The site has a different informational video targeting each kind of American conservation group. In the “Montana” video, a man in camouflage carrying a rifle speaks straight into the camera. “I’m a real sportsman,” he says. “And I’m a member of organizations that support hunting and fishing.” His double appears on screen, wearing a camo neckerchief. “And I’m a phony sportsman,” the double says. “I support candidates that think we cling to our guns because we just don’t know any better.”

Tanner isn’t worried about people who question his legitimacy. “If the folks who run Green Decoys, and I’m well aware of who they are, want to get together and see who’s a better hunter or fisher, or who’s the real deal and who’s not,” he said, “we are more than happy to have that conversation.”

Bozmoski recognizes that some conservatives have gone too far down the path of denial to be receptive to RepublicEn’s message. “We aren’t big enough to go around persuading people who really believe, to their core, that this is a government conspiracy,” he said. “We don’t worry about the people on the fringe who are hobbyists in antagonism on climate change.”

Fernandez hopes the tide of support for environmental legislation will rise to the highest levels of government.

“Climate change doesn’t have a political affiliation,” she said. She believes that even President Trump might change his tune if the solution is “repackaged as something that benefits the United States of America.”

What should the eco-right do while the top dogs on Capitol Hill insist on looking the other way? Ruckelshaus, the former EPA chief, says to “keep on.” But as we descend into ever-worsening environmental chaos, the question remains: How soon can these conservatives alter the course of history?

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Seeing Red on Climate

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Trump admin lets Florida opt out of controversial offshore drilling plans.

People who lived through last year’s hurricanes may experience grief, anxiety, and depression for months or years, experts say.

“They’re grieving about the loss of what was,” Judith Andrews, co-chair of the Texas Psychological Association, told AP. Her organization provides free counseling to Texans affected by Hurricane Harvey.

Following a natural disaster, people experience an arc of emotional responses. This usually starts with a “heroic” phase, when people rise to the occasion to survive and help others, Andrews says. Then disillusionment sets in as people come to grips with a new reality post-disaster.

In Puerto Rico, calls to the health department’s emergency hotline for psychiatric crises have doubled following Hurricane Maria, and the number of suicides has also risen.“Hurricane Maria is probably the largest psychosocial disaster in the United States,” Joseph Prewitt-Diaz, the head of the American Red Cross’ mental health disaster response, told Grist.

Hurricanes can have long-term effects on mental health. Five years after Hurricane Sandy, the rate of adult psychiatric hospitalizations in the Queens neighborhoods hit worst by the storm are nearly double that of New York City as a whole. The city’s health department is working with local organizers to connect residents with preventative care so that they can get help before reaching a crisis point.

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Trump admin lets Florida opt out of controversial offshore drilling plans.

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New York City is taking BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, and Royal Dutch Shell to court.

People who lived through last year’s hurricanes may experience grief, anxiety, and depression for months or years, experts say.

“They’re grieving about the loss of what was,” Judith Andrews, co-chair of the Texas Psychological Association, told AP. Her organization provides free counseling to Texans affected by Hurricane Harvey.

Following a natural disaster, people experience an arc of emotional responses. This usually starts with a “heroic” phase, when people rise to the occasion to survive and help others, Andrews says. Then disillusionment sets in as people come to grips with a new reality post-disaster.

In Puerto Rico, calls to the health department’s emergency hotline for psychiatric crises have doubled following Hurricane Maria, and the number of suicides has also risen.“Hurricane Maria is probably the largest psychosocial disaster in the United States,” Joseph Prewitt-Diaz, the head of the American Red Cross’ mental health disaster response, told Grist.

Hurricanes can have long-term effects on mental health. Five years after Hurricane Sandy, the rate of adult psychiatric hospitalizations in the Queens neighborhoods hit worst by the storm are nearly double that of New York City as a whole. The city’s health department is working with local organizers to connect residents with preventative care so that they can get help before reaching a crisis point.

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New York City is taking BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, and Royal Dutch Shell to court.

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Mainstream media sucks at talking about climate change.

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Mainstream media sucks at talking about climate change.

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Hurricane survivors are still dealing with the emotional toll of 2017’s horrific storms.

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Hurricane survivors are still dealing with the emotional toll of 2017’s horrific storms.

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‘Climate gentrification’ is coming to Miami’s real estate market.

In 2017, I couldn’t stop trying to identify corvids. It’s harder than you might think. My latest challenge: a photo of a black bird on the ground. It’s got the fluffy neck feathers of an adult raven and the blue eyes of a baby crow. I’m going with: Raven.

Turns out it’s an Australian raven, a species identifiable by their bright blue eyes. By the rules of #CrowOrNo, I win, because I correctly guessed it’s not a crow. (Though in fairness, I’d call it a draw.)

#CrowOrNo is a weekly Twitter challenge hosted by University of Washington crow scientist Kaeli Swift. Each week, she posts a picture of a bird, which always — to the untrained eye — looks an awful lot like a crow. For a few hours, the eager public submits guesses as to whether it’s a crow, or no. After the big reveal, she explains the clues to use to tell crows from their cousins.

The challenge helps illustrate the large and surprisingly complex world of corvids, a smart family of big-brained birds that includes crows, ravens, and jays. It also shines light on some great crow-themed mysteries, like why some crows have caramel-colored feathers.

For me, the more I learn about crows, the more I see the extraordinary in the most seemingly ordinary birds — like the fact they can recognize faces and might even give gifts.

That’s the value of taking science out of the lab to the social media sphere, like Swift is doing. And, crow or no, I think we could all use a little more science in our lives.

Jesse Nichols is a contributing assistant video producer at Grist.

Continued here:

‘Climate gentrification’ is coming to Miami’s real estate market.

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Trump trolls America during a cold snap that covers 1 percent of the Earth’s surface.

In 2017, I couldn’t stop trying to identify corvids. It’s harder than you might think. My latest challenge: a photo of a black bird on the ground. It’s got the fluffy neck feathers of an adult raven and the blue eyes of a baby crow. I’m going with: Raven.

Turns out it’s an Australian raven, a species identifiable by their bright blue eyes. By the rules of #CrowOrNo, I win, because I correctly guessed it’s not a crow. (Though in fairness, I’d call it a draw.)

#CrowOrNo is a weekly Twitter challenge hosted by University of Washington crow scientist Kaeli Swift. Each week, she posts a picture of a bird, which always — to the untrained eye — looks an awful lot like a crow. For a few hours, the eager public submits guesses as to whether it’s a crow, or no. After the big reveal, she explains the clues to use to tell crows from their cousins.

The challenge helps illustrate the large and surprisingly complex world of corvids, a smart family of big-brained birds that includes crows, ravens, and jays. It also shines light on some great crow-themed mysteries, like why some crows have caramel-colored feathers.

For me, the more I learn about crows, the more I see the extraordinary in the most seemingly ordinary birds — like the fact they can recognize faces and might even give gifts.

That’s the value of taking science out of the lab to the social media sphere, like Swift is doing. And, crow or no, I think we could all use a little more science in our lives.

Jesse Nichols is a contributing assistant video producer at Grist.

Continue reading here – 

Trump trolls America during a cold snap that covers 1 percent of the Earth’s surface.

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The Great Lakes are having Great Snowstorms partly thanks to climate change.

It started with the cinematic, widely serenaded death of spunky little spacebot Cassini, closing out a 13-year mission to Saturn with a headlong dive into the planet’s gaseous atmosphere.

Meanwhile, back on a more familiar planet, an orbiting satellite named DMSP F19 quietly blinked out. The DMSP weather-tracking satellites have meticulously recorded Arctic sea ice coverage since 1978, which makes them one of our longest-running climate observations. But in 2015, Congress voted to mothball the last satellite in the series. Now, on the cusp of the biggest planetary shift humans have ever seen, we stand to lose one of our best means for understanding it.

Also this year, I started following LandsatBot, a project by Welsh glaciologist Martin O’Leary that tweets out random satellite views of Earth’s surface hourly. Like a geographic Chat Roulette, LandsatBot scratches the same imaginative itch that high-def images of Saturn’s rings do, but its alien views are all terrestrial. From satellite height, every landscape looks like an abstract painting, all fractal rivers and impressionist daubs of cloud.

These days, amidst an unending torrent of Game of Thrones gifs, signs of the end of democracy, and variations on that distracted boyfriend meme, I sometimes come across a Landsat image dropped without comment into the clutter. I stop and stare. Whether it’s an astroturf-green wedge of land somewhere in the Indonesian archipelago or the Crest-colored swirl of icy Antarctic seas, I try to imagine the world down there: A place I will probably never go, without landmarks or footprints, but irrevocably changed by us. Whether you recognize it or not, it’s home.

Amelia Urry is an associate editor at Grist.

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The Great Lakes are having Great Snowstorms partly thanks to climate change.

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Upstream – Langdon Cook

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Upstream

Searching for Wild Salmon, from River to Table

Langdon Cook

Genre: Nature

Price: $1.99

Publish Date: May 30, 2017

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group

Seller: Penguin Random House LLC


From the award-winning author of The Mushroom Hunters comes the story of an iconic fish, perhaps the last great wild food: salmon. For some, a salmon evokes the distant wild, thrashing in the jaws of a hungry grizzly bear on TV. For others, it’s the catch of the day on a restaurant menu, or a deep red fillet at the market. For others still, it’s the jolt of adrenaline on a successful fishing trip. Our fascination with these superlative fish is as old as humanity itself. Long a source of sustenance among native peoples, salmon is now more popular than ever. Fish hatcheries and farms serve modern appetites with a domesticated “product”—while wild runs of salmon dwindle across the globe. How has this once-abundant resource reached this point, and what can we do to safeguard wild populations for future generations? Langdon Cook goes in search of the salmon in Upstream, his timely and in-depth look at how these beloved fish have nourished humankind through the ages and why their destiny is so closely tied to our own. Cook journeys up and down salmon country, from the glacial rivers of Alaska to the rainforests of the Pacific Northwest to California’s drought-stricken Central Valley and a wealth of places in between. Reporting from remote coastlines and busy city streets, he follows today’s commercial pipeline from fisherman’s net to corporate seafood vendor to boutique marketplace. At stake is nothing less than an ancient livelihood. But salmon are more than food. They are game fish, wildlife spectacle, sacred totem, and inspiration—and their fate is largely in our hands. Cook introduces us to tribal fishermen handing down an age-old tradition, sport anglers seeking adventure and a renewed connection to the wild, and scientists and activists working tirelessly to restore salmon runs. In sharing their stories, Cook covers all sides of the debate: the legacy of overfishing and industrial development; the conflicts between fishermen, environmentalists, and Native Americans; the modern proliferation of fish hatcheries and farms; and the longstanding battle lines of science versus politics, wilderness versus civilization. This firsthand account—reminiscent of the work of John McPhee and Mark Kurlansky—is filled with the keen insights and observations of the best narrative writing. Cook offers an absorbing portrait of a remarkable fish and the many obstacles it faces, while taking readers on a fast-paced fishing trip through salmon country. Upstream is an essential look at the intersection of man, food, and nature. Praise for Upstream “Invigorating . . . Mr. Cook is a congenial and intrepid companion, happily hiking into hinterlands and snorkeling in headwaters. Along the way we learn about filleting techniques, native cooking methods and self-pollinating almond trees, and his continual curiosity ensures that the narrative unfurls gradually, like a long spey cast. . . . With a pedigree that includes Mark Kurlansky, John McPhee and Roderick Haig-Brown, Mr. Cook’s style is suitably fluent, an occasional phrase flashing like a flank in the current. . . . For all its rehearsal of the perils and vicissitudes facing Pacific salmon, Upstream remains a celebration.” — The Wall Street Journal “Passionate . . . Cook deftly conveys his love of nature, the beauty of the Pacific Northwest, and the delectable eating provided by fresh caught wild salmon.” — Library Journal “Insightful . . . this work is a great place to learn what needs to done—and an entertaining view on the positive and negative connections humans have with the natural environment.” — Publishers Weekly

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Upstream – Langdon Cook

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8.3 Billion Reasons to Break Free From Plastic

Ever since seeing the now famous YouTube clip of a sea turtle with a straw stuck in its nose, I?ve made an effort to avoid plastic straws. When I go grocery shopping I take my own bags and I also make a point of eschewing the single-use bags in the fresh produce section (much to the consternation of the person weighing my fruit and vegetables).

I try to buy things packaged in glass, I drink filtered tap water and wear flip-flops made from recycled rubber. There are plenty of zero-waste activists out there who make my efforts seem positively puny, but at least I?m doing something, right?

It?s better than doing nothing, sure, but when you consider that humans have created 8.3 billion metric tons of plastics since large-scale production of the synthetic materials began in the early 1950s, and most of it now resides in landfills or the natural environment, you realize its time to up your game.

I mean, it?s a little embarrassing to learn that Rwanda has banned plastic bags in their entirety and the campaign to eliminate plastic straws was started by a nine-year-old, when you?re still buying the occasional single-use plastic item just because it?s easier.

As if that wasn?t enough of a wakeup call, I then found out about Break Free From Plastic, a global movement on a mission to stop plastic pollution for good. With The Story of Stuff Project as one of their anchor organizations, members on almost every continent and the likes of Greenpeace joining forces with them, Break Free is fast becoming a force to be reckoned with.

All the Plastic Ever Made: Breaking Study Tallies 8.3 Billion Metric Tons

There?s literally a ton of plastic garbage for every person on earth. Think about that for a moment and then ruminate on this: of the 8.3 billion tons of plastic produced since the 1950s, over half of it was made between 2004 and now.

We all know that plastic is a problem, but whether it?s the desire for convenience, the fact that we?re lazy or that the problem just seems overwhelmingly large, we?re all acting as if nothing?s wrong. That has to change.

I caught up with Shilpi Chhotray, Senior Communications Officer at Break Free From Plastic to find out how. Her suggestions for effecting change at both a domestic and civic level are more than doable. Literally, we have no excuse not to implement them.

Shilpi isn?t just paying lip service to the movement either. She?s implemented these practices at her own company?Sumudra Skin + Sea?as well. She?started the?skincare line with an ?ocean-first? business model (Sumudra means ‘ocean’ in Sanskrit)?that uses?reusable glass containers?instead of plastic and edible-grade kelp as an ingredient source.

Photo Credit: Sumadra Skin + Sea

How did you come to be involved in the Break Free From Plastic movement?

I’ve been involved in ocean advocacy for a decade and became immersed in plastic waste issues a few years ago through my work in stakeholder engagement with an ocean plastic lens. I took a deep dive, if you will, on the major players (the companies creating it and the organizations fighting against it) and the key research around the issue during this time. In July 2017, I was recruited to take the role as a Senior Communications Officer to amplify the work of the organizations behind the movement.

We?re each drawn to the causes we support for different reasons. What prompted you to focus your efforts on ocean conservation?

It was a study abroad trip to Cairns, Australia, home to the Great Barrier Reef, when I was a college undergrad at Virginia Tech University. Being exposed to the human impacts on the environment, specifically the ocean, sparked a lifelong desire to protect our blue planet. I took my interest a step further and focused my efforts in graduate school on marine protected areas, or creating underwater national parks to safeguard earth’s most precious resources. After being introduced to the rocky intertidal ecosystem (and the magical world of seaweeds), I was inspired to study marine organisms through underwater exploration via scuba (and a human-powered submersible in a later position!).

The stats released in the latest study (8.3 billion tons of plastic produced since 1950) are overwhelming to say the very least. Is it really possible to turn the tide on plastic pollution?

And to add to that, only 9 percent has been recycled since, which sparks two major considerations not being discussed enough: first, the global north (US + Europe) export copious amounts of waste overseas and second, recycling is clearly not a viable solution to the plastic waste crisis.

It’s absolutely possible to turn the tide on plastic pollution and that’s what Break Free From Plastic is all about. By emphasizing source reduction and investing in zero waste solutions at the city-level, we can greatly combat plastic waste ending up in our ocean, roads and waterways.

For instance, one of our member organizations in the Philippines, Mother Earth Foundation, helps cities develop programs to manage their waste. In the city of San Fernando 75 percent of waste gets composted or recycled and they aim to hit 93 percent. Mother Earth’s President, Froilan Grate says, “If you truly want to stop ocean pollution, it starts on land, which means rethinking how we manage our waste.”

What do you say to the person on the street who thinks the problem is too big to fix?

We created the problem in the first place so we can also fix it. We HAVE to fix it because we’ve already reached the tipping point of acceptable levels of plastic pollution. Microplastics (broken down from larger pieces of plastic) are literally everywhere, from fish to seabirds to our sources of drinking water, and even sea salt and beer.

Using a reusable bag and skipping the straw is good place to start, but it’s a terrible place to stop. My colleagues at SOSP for instance, encourage a culture of ?leveling up? by taking these practices to your communities ?your office, your child’s school, after school clubs and even your favorite caf?, to effect widespread change.

Where you go next is to engage at the civic level. Talk to the companies! If you don’t like the business practices, tag them on Facebook, write to them about your concerns. You can also write to city government officials to pass regulations…these are all important steps to effect systems change.

I love this quote from our Campaigns Director, Stiv Wilson: “Our consumer muscles have gotten really strong and our citizen muscles have gotten really weak. Not everyone is an activist, figure out where you can contribute and plug in.”

How can we as individuals make a difference? Can you offer some suggestions (small and big) of changes we can make in our daily lives?

It’s important to make smart purchasing decisions and avoid brands emphasizing a throw away lifestyle (single-use plastics). Break Free From Plastic member organizations in the Philippines recently conducted an 8-day coastal cleanup and brand audit in Freedom Island, a critical area for migratory birds, to identify the most polluting brands. Turns out, six international brands are responsible for roughly 54 percent of plastic packaging pollution found there.

Among them are corporate behemoths like Nestl?, Unilever?and Proctor & Gamble ?parent companies of the brands sitting in your kitchen and bathroom right now. Break Free From Plastic is encouraging anyone doing coastal cleanup activities to combine it with a brand audit, because coastal cleanup is simply not enough. For more information visit Plastic Polluters.org.

There are greener alternatives that are better for us and the planet. Personally, I’ve transitioned to shopping for groceries in bulk, buying less, and a lot of DIY. Even slowing down and dining in can help reduce single-use plastic waste, and it’s more fun too!

What is the one thing you?d really like people to understand about the negative impact of plastic that we might not already know?

Plastic pollution is not just an ocean issue, it’s a social justice issue impacting low income people of color who are often on the front-lines of the crisis fighting incineration (or burning of plastic waste) for the safety of their communities. Many of these communities are also in Asia and being blamed for the waste they didn’t create, the waste coming from the developed world.

At Break Free From Plastic we are shining a spotlight on innovative and scalable solutions created by our Asian colleagues, focusing on zero-waste cities and making sure the responsibility falls on the corporations accountable.

Was being a socially conscious brand on the cards from day one for Samudra Skin + Sea or did the brand?s ethos evolve over time?

Absolutely ?it’s a social venture. We have an ?ocean-first? business model, which means protection for the ocean is the foundation for all aspects of our methods and mission. For instance, we hand harvest the wild seaweed used in our products to ensure the regenerative properties of the plant continue to thrive for generations to come.

We have a zero-waste packaging model which means all of our products are encased in reusable glass jars with bamboo lids and/or compostable boxes certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. Our soap bar in particular, created for hair and body, eliminates the need for bottled shampoos and conditioners. We strongly advocate a ?less is more? mentality and repurposing and reusing when possible.

Our mission includes partnering on marine conservation campaigns that benefit people and marine life. The Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito and 5 Gyres (who is also a Break Free From Plastic movement member) are two fantastic organizations we work with to communicate efforts around ocean stewardship. Personal wellness and ecological integrity need to go hand-in-hand, and Samudra is bridging that gap.

With so many people doing what they can to effect positive change in the world, it?s hard to just sit back and pretend that plastic is someone else?s problem. It?s everyone?s problem. In my own life, I?m definitely going to try harder to reduce the amount of waste I generate. What about you? How will you #breakfreefromplastic?

Related Stories:

5 Human Habits Harmful to Ocean Health

How to Tell if Your Sunscreen is Damaging Coral Reefs
22 Freaky Facts About Plastic Pollution

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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8.3 Billion Reasons to Break Free From Plastic

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