J500 Media and the Environment

Where’s Nemo? by Victor Vijayakirthi

Not for Assignment.

Last week the US Supreme Court ruled on the Couer vs Southeast Alaska Conservation Council case. What an environmental disaster! The net effect of this ruling is that any company in the country can dump toxic materials in a lake or river as long as the toxic dump can be classified as “fill” or slurry.

Coer Alaska, a gold mining operation, will, over the lifetime of the mine, dump over 4.5 million tons of toxic waste containing concentrations of aluminum, copper, lead, and mercury into the Lower Slate Lake. This will raise the lake bed 50 feet—to what is now the lake’s surface—and will increase the lake’s area from 23 to about 60 acres. The discharge would kill all of the lake’s fish and nearly all of its other aquatic life.

The discharge from the lake would flow about 2 miles through Slate Creek into Berner’s Bay eventually.

This ruling flies in the face of the Clean Water Act which expressly states that its goal is to protect the integrity of the nation’s water so that they can support “the protection and propagation of fish, shellfish, and wildlife and recreation in and on the water.”

The ruling also states that the EPA’s section 402 permit (permit for the discharge of a pollutant) “authorizes Coeur Alaska to discharge water from Lower Slate Lake into the down-stream creek, subject to strict water-quality limits that Coeur Alaska must regularly monitor“. Seriously?

The argument made by the company was that this was the “least environmentally damaging practicable” way to dispose of the tailings. In other words, that’s the price of doing business. I’m not so sure. If the company wants to, it can build sludge recycling systems to properly recycle these hazardous wastes and be true to its corporate social responsibility statements. Or it can just greenwash while focusing on just the bottom line.

The question we must ask ourselves is, where does this stop, and what can we do about it? While I believe that it’s important for each of us to do what we can, in our own backyards, to be environmentally (and socially) responsible, I also believe that we need to ask our elected officials and business leaders to take us seriously and stop abusing the environment. We must ask them to stop putting in every imaginable loophole into environmental laws and regulations. We must ask them to walk the talk.

More importantly, we must do the same. And we must act before every lake and river becomes a toxic dumping ground.

I believe in environmental conservation and preservation. I believe in advocacy. And I believe that if we try, we can still find Nemo.

Victor V


About me: CindyOl by cindyol

“It’s never too late,” would be great lyrics for a song on my iPod these days. As I’m hitting the closing act of my fifth decade, my list of new experiences is growing quickly: learn new technology, acquire new eating habits, go back to school, get a job in a new industry, be a grandmother, and now becoming sustainable. It’s all happening to me. But no complaints here.

When I was born, there were no home versions of VCRs, let alone DVRs, or microwave ovens. I remember getting our first color television, and it certainly wasn’t flat. The idea that a home personal computer was even possible didn’t gain ground until I was in college, and we didn’t own one until our oldest child was entering first grade. If you mentioned the Internet and social media? You might have been considered a bit “teched.”  So the idea that I am the digital communications subject matter expert in my current job is amusing to me.

A year ago, if I was making a list to describe my interests and passions, sustainability Brewster Sunsetwould not be among them. I grew up in a small Massachusetts town surrounded by incredible natural resources. (I often long for the times when I dawdled away my summer days on an ocean beach.) It gave me an appreciation of the things that sustainability stands for. But I would have to say my experience with sustainability is more awareness than action. Civic and social responsibility (causes that include people) has always been a part of my life. From the Girl Scouts to faith-based service to others, helping people and teaching my children to help people is a foundational principle in my life.

Jersey CowIn my new job as a communicator in the dairy industry, I interact with people who are staunch advocates for the land and their animals. They bring the perspective of generations of experience. They are concerned about food safety and our health. And they want to do what’s right. I’m excited to be able to help them bring their stories to the public.
Cindy O.

About Me: Cheri LeBlond by CheriL
June 3, 2009, 9:59 pm
Filed under: Business + Politics, J840 Week 1 | Tags: , , ,
Can we get back to greener pastures?

Can we ever return to greener pastures?

Building character is what my parents called it.  Indentured servitude is what we called it.  Today I call it a lost paradise. 

My “green” perspectives are rooted in an 18-acre hobby farm in rural Minnesota where my parents transferred our suburban lifestyle when I was nine.  It included a rundown, sad-looking ranch with barbed wire wrapped around trees, snakes everywhere and mosquitoes that carried away small animals.

My parents insisted we heat the house by wood stove, grow food in the backyard and wrangle cows.  We chopped wood, broke ice in stock tanks, lived in sleeping bags and suffered frozen/bursting pipes.  My brother and I hated it. 

Today…  I long for it. 

I miss the prairie wildflowers, the groves of trees, the dry bed streams and the tall grasses.  The air was clean, the diversity stable and the soil rich.  Living in that world, I grew up strong, healthy and unafraid of hard work.  The land sustained me, and I helped to sustain it.  Not a bad working relationship. 

Now I’m back in the suburbs, living with my husband and nine-year-old son, but as a freelance marketing communications professional and master’s student, this early relationship with nature continually inspires me to look again for another great working relationship. 

Right now, I provide publication support, consulting and training to small and nonprofit business clients.  As the idea of sustainability as a business model starts to take hold, I would love some day to market that momentum and inspire my clients to be the incubators.   

But what does that sustainable, closed-end business loop look like?  What system allows business, individuals and communities to prosper in each other’s backyards?  What kind of business “eco-system” nourishes, liberates and honors the greater societal and environmental system?   

Sustainability comes in many colors, not just green.  I’m looking forward to hearing what kind of palette the class creates.  It’s an exciting subject.  What kind of working relationships are you searching for in your career or business?

Cheri L.

Food for Everyone by marybethw

There are as many different types of consumers of local food as there are different types of urban farmers and different types of food grown. Consumers with different needs can all benefit from urban farming. Three farms on the Kansas City Center for Urban Agriculture farm tour explain this perfectly. Kurlbaum’s Heirloom Tomatoes, J-14 Agricultural Enterprises and the Troostwood Youth Garden and provide food for many different kinds of people. 


Kurlbaum’s heirloom tomatoes are sold locally at McGonigal’s, Brookside Market, and many Kansas City restaurants including Michael Smith’s in the crossroads, Café Trio in midtown and Webster House downtown. By selling to many different places Co-owner Liz Kurlbaum can have better control over the price and feed a larger group of people.  While this urban farmer chooses to sell their product mostly to restaurants, Joe Jennings at J-14 Agricultural Enterprises has a different approach.

Jennings has developed a community based CSA where potential customers can pay 300$ for up to 500 pounds of produce. Extra food is taken to elderly community members, including some in nursing homes. Jennings also uses some of the food grown for his family.

The Troostwood Youth Garden is the only place that fresh vegetables are available in the busy Paseo Blvd. neighborhood in Kansas City.  This local produce can be bought there Monday through Saturday before dark. Troostwood feeds the community as well as educates them about the importance of eating healthy and knowing where food really comes from.

These different urban farms show that everyone can eat well with the help of urban farmers. Whether someone is eating at a restaurant, buying a large supply of food for their family, or trying to find something fresh in a busy neighborhood, urban farming is helping people enjoy food that is local, healthy and delicious.

~ Tyler Waugh, Group 4 blog post

Farmer’s market photo credit.

V is for Victory and Veggies by meganr21

What is a Victory Garden?  A Victory Garden is a kitchen garden planted to relieve food shortages. Victory gardens were very commonplace during World War II.  World War II began in September 1939 and by January 1940 the United States began rationing food.  The government asked people to plant gardens to support the troops.  By growing their own food, it freed up commercially farmed fruits and vegetables for troops overseas.

By 1943 over 20 million Victory Gardens had sprung up throughout the United States in backyards, empty lots, even on rooftops in the city. As people began growing their own food canning became very popular so produce could be used outside of the growing season. The result? The United States Department of Agriculture estimates that during the war almost 10 million tons of fruits and vegetables were harvested at home and in the community.

My great grandmother had a victory garden and grew enough vegetables to supply fresh produce to some of her neighbors that were working in a defense plant.  She even built a root cellar where she kept potatoes, onions and canned vegetables and fruits to use during the winter months. She continued planting gardens and harvesting the bounty until her death at the age of 80.

When WWII ended the government stopped promoting Victory Gardens.  For many decades urban agriculture and home gardens fell by the wayside.  Driven by the economy many people are turning to home gardening this summer to supplement their diets. The recent revival of Victory Gardens leaves one question – have you decided what you’re planting this summer?

-Megan Richards, Group 1 – blog post

Photo credits: Fridge and Tunnel, Farms and Fields Project, Clemson

can serving coffee in polystyrene cups be the ‘greener’ choice? by jessicasb

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how two of my favorite coffee shops use polystyrene cups, one of those making the switch very recently. It was this latter coffee shop where I talked with a barista about their use of polystyrene cups.
polystyrene cups
A few months ago, this coffee shop was serving drinks in paper cups with java jackets. The owner of the shop stopped buying java jackets, and as any avid coffee drinker would know, the feeling of holding a hot cup of morning joe in a paper cup with no java jacket is definitely uncomfortable. “People were taking two cups,” the barista said. For the sake of saving money, and preventing people from taking two cups for every drink, they switched to the polystyrene cups.

“I was getting cussed at by customers” after the switch, she said. So she typed up a polystyrene fact sheet that’s posted on the shop’s register. It says polystyrene is 95% air and is recyclable, among other points. But is the fact sheet misleading, considering polystyrene is not biodegradable and hardly any students who frequent the shop would actually recycle their cup?

“It was one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make working here,” the barista said about making the switch. But she said after looking into polystyrene, it wasn’t “any worse” than doubling up on two paper cups or using a paper cup and a java jacket.

The barista seemed open to discuss other environmental options, and really sympathized with customers’ defiance of their new cups. She said the coffee shop would have a new owner soon, and would possibly switch back to paper cups and java jackets then.

In the meantime, serving in polystyrene cups has shown a more environmentally friendly trend emerging from this shop’s customers.

“If we used paper cups, no one would bring their own cup,” the barista said. “No one wants to use foam, so everyone is bringing their own cup now.”

— Jessica Sain-Baird

This post is a follow-up to my post, “How much responsibility should your coffee shop have?” Thanks to Fillmore Photography for the image.

Laissez les bons temps rouler… at the dinner table, that is by marybethw


3363851089_2424d292e8Warm, puffy, flakey, and covered in powdered sugar. Beignets were one of the very few traditional southern Louisiana foods I’d eat as a vegetarian. Luckily, it’s placement in the French Quarter kept the original Cafe Du Monde (home of the best beignets in NOLA) site relatively safe when Katrina blew through in 2005. Beyond the Quarter was another story. Those without homes were also without food, even with aid coming in from around the globe. FEMA also kept those people in the local food industry (and, indeed, food is one thing New Orleans knows well) willing to use those skills to feed the hungry from doing so in the months that followed. 

Not only did the storm ruin the coastal population’s food supply, but it also hurt the food suppliers. Seafood has always been a major industry in southern Louisiana, with the state being America’s biggest shrimp producer. However, Katrina severely damaged an industry that was already beginning to hurt from foreign shrimp imports. So that, while NOLAs restaurants are making a slow comeback, other food industries in the area are having a harder time. Individuals are struggling as well, with the current economy hurting already overtaxed food banks.

2008_10_06splande1As the storm came and went I watched on TV; in the time since, I’ve watched in anger as the government left southern Louisiana on it’s own. I visited New Orleans for the first time, post-Katrina, in July 2008; we went through the Upper and Lower 9th Wards and into St. Bernard Parish. Many houses still had water lines on them and spray paint, where they were checked for bodies. Many businesses and government offices are still closed. Many people are still awaiting government assistance. Although it’s been years since I lived in southern Louisiana, my parents still do and, even if I’d never lived there I’d be hard pressed to not be struck by how much still needs doing, over three years later. While tourism has helped the restaurants, many individuals still await their own housing and a table for family meals. 

~ Mary Beth

Photo credits: Beignets, Marked house