J500 Media and the Environment


Reflections on the semester: The whole enchilada by jmuselmann

Food is at the fiber of our very being. It is passed around piping hot with potholders, it is handed to us, self-contained, through the car door in paper sacks and divvied accordingly. It’s what we eat because our family does, our friends have tried, our mothers can afford. We throw it away, and we raise it high above our heads for to honor a friend or deity as an intentional sacrifice. Boxed up, it is heaved and flown across the world, passing some to bless others.

One way or another, people get their hands on food. And then we all have the decision of what to do with it. Some have the luxury of waiting to eat it, others use it as currency or a positioning of power, while for many others, who have not been able to make the decision in quite some time, it is always this: Put it into the holes in our faces in time to prolong death.

Of course by this point, we know we aren’t just talking about food. But rather, how food passes and intersects with our needs for a healthy environment and body whole. The need for change is dire and yet lingers on. The idea of going green is gaining unprecedented momentum, and yet, in many ways, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. People can easily eat their organic cake and not recycle, and we let them. But even within the green universe, there lies a wad of inconsistencies and tradeoffs to be sifted through and decided upon. It’s a voyage that has caused more than one breakdown in the grocery store, where I’m stunned into inaction, clutching my wallet in front of the onions, biting my lip at the global repercussions. Often I leave almost empty-handed. Pressure too great.

People say, “the choice is up to us” as consumers, but it sure is hard. Without good legislative infrastructure to guide food ways, it shouldn’t be surprising that it veers toward the same reckless trajectory as other things in this country, trailing irreversible damage in the wake of progress and profit.

Take me, for example: At least in some point in my life, I have recycled. I have also littered. Oh, and I have been the one calling into report the tags of those I see throw things out of their cars while driving: approximate time of infringement, rough location, type of violation, what kind of model and the company make. I guess this class has shown me that maybe I don’t need a number in my glove box to bring about change, I need only open my fridge instead.

—Jacob Muselmann

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Pop Your Green Collar by matthewj77

Tension without flexibility.  I’ve been struggling to find the best way to explain the relationship between environmental organizations and the blue-collar workforce, and this is it.  My primary goal in conducting field work for the CEP was to gain an understanding of the relationship that exists between environmental issues and blue-collar interests, as well as the values that exist within the labor sector as they relate to climate and energy issues. 

 

I had the pleasure of interviewing Wil Leiker, the Executive Vice President of the AFL-CIO.  My objective was to focus on the environment, the economy and communication, and Wil was paramount in providing useful information not only from his professional perspective, but personal as well.  Here are the key points from that discussion:

 

          EDUCATION!  This is the foremost thing that our country must do to bridge the Labor-Environment gap.  Clean energy also requires advanced technical and engineering skills.  Continuing education, recertification and training are required to effectively transition to a renewable energy workforce.

          Today’s blue-collar worker will do whatever he/she has to do to keep his/her job.  Whether it’s working in a coal plant, drilling for oil or building wind turbines, workers will find a way to get the training they need to stay employed.

          Communication is a struggle.  Just as the CEP’s goal is to stand apart from the existing discourse on clean energy by speaking to particular audiences because of the large number of different interests, within the AFL-CIO alone there are over 300 member Locals and Lodges, each of which has a set of values important to each specific group.  Communication between the AFL-CIO and its members on “green” issues is lacking because of this.

 

I use the term tension without flexibility to describe this relationship because the perception is that environmental organizations are made up mostly of white-collar, upper-class people and labor appeals to more diverse, blue-collar constituents.   Especially now, in questionable economic times, this is an adverse relationship.  I think the current discourse on environmental issues and job creation focuses on the idea of simply transitioning workers out of their current areas of employment rather than moving toward higher paying, clean jobs that will ultimately improve our society.

 

Matt Johnson

 



Green is the New Red, White, and Blue by mindeeforman

I had an experience a few months ago that really opened my eyes about just how far mainstream “going green” has become.

I regularly challenge my workplace to do better environmentally, and was horrified to walk into the cafeteria and see mostly foam and plastic dishware during a recent remodel. I tried to implement a better way and was told by the Powers That Be that it just wasn’t a priority at the moment.

I’m known as a pretty liberal environmentalist type, and was relaying this story to a friend of mine at work who’s a Republican but is always up for a good political discussion with me anyway. When I told him this story he said, “Wow, Mindee – way to be patriotic!”

Did I miss something? When did trying to be environmentally friendly become PATRIOTIC?!? And WOO HOO!! It’s about time…

This idea of green being patriotic has apparently been percolating for some time.

Author Thomas Friedman wrote about this in an article for the New York Times in 2006:

“[B]eing green, focusing the nation on greater energy efficiency and conservation, is not some girlie-man issue. It is actually the most tough-minded, geostrategic, pro-growth and patriotic thing we can do.”

His 2007 interview with Time Magazine provides more food for thought:

Linguistics professor George Lakoff talks about framing the environmental protection issue in a way that appeals to both conservatives and liberals. I can think of no better way than making going green the most patriotic thing an American citizen can do.

-Mindee Forman



GREEN DREAMS DO COME TRUE! by shemme

I recently returned from the Engineers Without Borders conference on “Sustainable Engineering and Global Health” in Seattle. The flight on Southwest was disappointing to say the least, from an environmental perspective, but the conference was a green dream come true, thanks to a “sustainability coordinator” in charge of making the conference itself as sustainable and carbon neutral as possible.

The first thing that I noticed was the in-room recycle bin at the hotel, shortly followed by the Project Planet door-hanging in the bathroom encouraging me to conserve water and use my towels more than once.

The next morning I discovered it was a mere 10-minute stroll from the hotel to the conference venue on the University of Washington campus. Cool, I thought, no need to waste money on a taxi.

Once at the conference hall, I lost myself in the fairyland of recycle and compost bins, zero paper handouts, and fully compostable beverage cups and napkins. It only got better as I picked up my t-shirt made from 100% fair-trade organic cotton and water-based ink. Lunch came and I found myself relishing the local, organic fare pre-boxed in compostable packaging. I had never been to a conference planned quite like this before – it was exciting!

To top it all off, EWB gave each of us a “Carbon Offset Care Package” complete with two hybrid Poplar tree cuttings to plant when we got home. After all, flying the 3,105 miles from Kansas City to Seattle I had emitted approximately 1,400 lbs. of CO2. I planted them as soon as I got home, because it was going to take the two of them together almost 20 years to offset my emissions from this single trip.

(My cute little Poplar trees are already growing after 1 week!)

The whole experience made me feel good. Sometimes, I feel as if I’m one of only a handful of people recycling or bringing my own cup to the coffee place, but at the conference, there were hundreds of us walking, recycling, composting, and maybe even planting all those trees. I felt like I was a part of something bigger than me and that that something was making a real difference in just one weekend. It was a real green dream come true!

Curious about how you might create a green dream for attendees at your next conference or meeting? See my next post: Wow your stakeholders (AND please eco-critics) with your next business conference.

~ Sarah H

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The hardest working photog in the enviro business by travisjbrown

Who is the greatest environmental photographer in this history of the environment and photography?

Funny you should ask—considering I just spent my morning researching that exact topic.

Ansel Adams would be your man. I know, I never thought of it before now, either. Until now, I just thought he made pretty outdoor pictures that people put in their offices when they didn’t know much about art.

Now, I know you instantly scanned through your mental environmental photographer Rolodex and picked out your favorite modern environmental photog but I seriously doubt they hold a CFL to Adams’ efforts.

After years of photographing nature, Adams became so inspired that he became a full-blown environmental advocate, according to this essay by Peter Barr. He joined the Sierra Club board of directors, he lobbied congress for environmental aid in King’s River Canyon, and he was assigned to photograph national parks by the Department of Interior (however, this project quickly ended because of WWII). Adams personally met with LBJ, Johnson, Ford, and Carter to discuss environmental policy. He was also awarded the Conservation Service Award by the Interior Department and recieved a Presidential Medal of Freedom for his environmental efforts. Thats what I call a hard-working advocate.

And just look at the man’s stuff:

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Ansel Adams. Bridveil Fall. Yosemite, 1967

Waterfall: “I am nature. Hear me roar. RAAGH!”
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Ansel Adams. Snake River, Grand Tetons, 1942

Mountain: “I see you eyeing me. I will destroy you. Do not screw with me.

“The photographer showed Americans the beauty of nature. But he also put alot of American problems in perspective.

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Ansel Adams. Freeway Interchange, Los Angeles, 1967

This photograph was taken in 1967—an era when a lot of people (aka hippies) were complaining about what was wrong with the world, while driving around in psychadelic buses powered by fossil fuels and love.

It is as if Adams was telling us “Hey guys, take a step back and look at all this progress. Maybe we need to slow down and meditate on this for a while. I mean, check this other picture. Goodness, are those some pretty trees or what?”

You know, come to think of it, I’m going to have to get me an Ansel Adams for my office. Maybe it’ll make me feel like I’m working amidst nature

-Travis Brown