Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Be Selfish about it...

Last Sunday the American Visonary Arts Museum in Baltimore hosted The Annual State of Our Earth Eco Conference. We found out about it that morning - and after getting through a few appointments, we stopped by the AVAM.

When we rolled up, it looked like we were at a Toyota dealership - almost every car on the street was a Prius, with a few other hybrids mixed in. This must be the hallmark of an Eco Conference. And since we weren't sure whether or not we'd get to this event, I didn't bring a camera. Sigh. So the images below were shot with my cell phone. Not exactly up to the usual standards, but hopefully you'll still get the idea of the thing.

Inside there were about a dozen vendor tables with varied local artisan goods, books, fair trade coffee & tea, and information on conservation. Two of my favorite tables were the National Aquarium's and another called Cloud 9.

The Aquarium table had loads of information available on the oceans and fish life, as well as real life steps that everyday people can make to help save the world's waters. You can visit them online and learn more - or take a day and go visit the Aquarium in downtown Baltimore.

On a totally different note was Cloud 9 Raw Chocolate. Nathaniel & I stopped back at this table several times - the samples were delicious. Created by Baltimore local Jennifer Popken, raw chocolate is rich with antioxidants - over 25,200! Jennifer crafts her tasty treats with raw, organic chocolate beans, cacao butter, coconut butter, coconut nectar, sea salt, vanilla, dates and raw seeds & nuts. We were instant fans.

Aside from the trade show tables, though, was the heart of AVAM's Eco Conference: the incredible and varied speakers. With over a dozen to choose from, we were able to sit on only a few. The presenters we heard were Susan Shaw, Marine Toxicologist & Director of the Marine Emvironmental Research Institute; John Racanelli, CEO of the National Aquarium; Shira Kramer, PhD, Epidemiologist; and Dr. Sandra Steingraber, Biologist & Keynote Speaker.

To repeat all the hard-hitting facts they shared would take many, many blogs posts. Plus their research is theirs to put out there, not mine. However, I took a few notes on a few of the more hard-hitting facts:

~ Most people discuss trying to "save the planet" for the sake of the environment. But the reality is that we need to save the environment for the sake of humanity. The Earth has survived four extinction events already, and it will go on whether or not people survive.

~ Many fish are more sustainable dining options than poultry or beef. Try red striped bass, mahi-mahi or catfish for an eco-friendly meal.

~ Taking small steps everyday can help save the environment. Doing things like using cold water for laundry and dishwashers, and selecting biodegradable detergents goes a long way to helping preserve waterways.

~ Stop using plastic bags, plastic ear swabs and plastic water bottles. Do it cold turkey. This step will help make huge strides in saving waterways - thus assuring there will be fresh water for all life on Earth for generations to come.

~ In 1970, humans created 1 million tons of chemical waste; in 2000, humans made 400 million tons of chemical waste.

~ There are just over 100,000 known chemical compounds being made today. The World Health Organization has only tested 900 of those for safety; out of that 900 in the tests, 400 chemical compounds were found to be cancer-causing in humans and animals. To date, that leaves 99,100 chemical untested - but still in daily use in our homes, food, and environment.

~ The effects of various chemicals on human health are multi-generation. Some chemicals can alter human (and animal) genetics forever, almost always for the worst. Effects of these chemicals include childhood/adult cancer, asthma, auto-immune disorders, miscarriage/ birth defects, autism and diabetes. Some of the same chemicals never decompose or go away - once made, they are with us on Earth permanently.

~ Over half of the world's oxygen is made by plants in the ocean: plankton. As the ocean heats up, the plankton dies and there's no more air for mammals to breathe. At the current time, there is 40% less plankton in the ocean than there was 20 years ago. It has been "cooked" to death by the rising ocean temperature.

~ Americans often state that our economy would collapse without fossil fuels - that it was built on fossil fuels. However, the American economy has survived major change before. In its early days, the American economy was built on slavery. Not a proud moment for any of us. However, the economy rebounded and grew strong again - without the use of slaves. Who is to say that an economy built on wind and solar power many not be even better than the current model?

~ The public commonly thinks that fixing the environment will be the next generation's dilemma. But if you are a parent, grandparent, older sister/brother, aunt or uncle - look across the dinner table at the child in front of you. It is that child who you need to take action for. If you don't, it will not be too many years into the future that you will hear them ask: Why didn't you do more? How could you let this happen?

Of course, the message of the day was clear. We all need to personally take responsibility and save the planet for ourselves. Each speaker we heard still had hope, but they all impressed a sense of urgency.

So do what you can. Not because you're a dirty hippie; not for any political reason - do it because you want to have a nice, clean planet to live on.

Be selfish about your planet.

~ Rissa

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