Friday, April 12, 2013

Using Our Voices: We will not be Silent on Tar Sands Expansion

               Last Tuesday I attended a talk at the Brookings Institute - a DC based non-profit think tank - titled US Alberta Energy Relations: A Conversation with Allison Redford. I attended with the full intention of having a conversation about Tar Sands extraction and the climate consequences with Premier Allison Redford - the lead government official from Alberta, Canada. When I arrived I quickly realized that I was not going to be having a conversation with anyone. In this form of "conversation" the Brookings Institute asks audience participants to write down their questions on a card that get passed up, then a woman chooses which questions get asked and the Chairman of Cambridge Energy Research Association, Daniel Yergin get's to talk to Premier Redford about the question. 
My viewpoint looking at Premier Redford and Alex Yergin
                According to the dictionary the definition of conversation is "The informal exchange of ideas by spoken words." Instead of having a conversation -which by everyone's connotation implies an exchange of ideas with voices - the Brooking Institute chose to assault and kick-out anyone who sought to use their voices to have a real conversation with Premier Allison Redford. By the end of my time at the hearing, I would be assaulted by security guards and removed from the room for attempting a conversation about the climate impacts of tar sands extraction and proliferation. Here's the video and below is my story.  Here's a link to a major news outlet that covered "the interruption." Here's a link to the entire conversation via webcast made available by the Brookings Institute.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Label GMO's! Stone Soup Rally, part of my story, and a recording of the song "Adam Smith"

As many of you know, I just completed a three year walk across America picking up trash the entire way called Pick Up America. I am writing this to tell one of many stories about our country that I was able to witness firsthand.I am also writing this to build momentum for the Stone Soup Rally happening next Monday at the FDA in College Park. (RSVP here).  Here's the flyer for the rally. 
 For about 1,400 miles of the American heartland I saw the same thing. Everyday, I'd gaze into what seemed to be an endless field of corn or soybean. I'd see rivers choked with sediment and on particularly humid days I could even smell the pesticides hanging in the air. It was a far cry from the "down on the farm" vision I had always had for the Midwest. Aside from the small towns, the midwest seemed to be one giant corn and soybean field spanning to the north, east, south and west for more than 10 states.
Growing just one or two heavily subsidized crops throughout our hearltand is an environmental travesty in itself. It causes rapid degradation of two of life's most precious resources - our soil and our flowing water. It requires huge amounts of climate altering, fossil fuel fertilizers to produce our food. It pours herbicides and pesticides all over our countryside killing bees and the diversity of bugs that can provide resilience to evolving pathogens. It keeps diversity of life, the staple of planetary evolution, at an abysmal low. And it is only this way only because large agriculture industries seek to control our entire seed bank and food chain to maximize profits.
  After these GMO corn and soybeans are processed they are mostly transferred to CAFO's -Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations - to make the meat most American's believe to be the staple of a "real meal." The other corn and soybeans are made into intensely processed foods that come into our lives as fast food, TV dinners, and high fructose corn syrup. While this may seem to be an overstatement to some, with all I've seen and heard I stand by this honestly - The primary reason for disease and illness in America is this process of producing our food. And it's all done this way because there are a vast majority of people who don't know any better and with their ignorance are supporting a fossil fuel drenched status quo that is on track to destroying a livable planet. 

Saturday, March 9, 2013

The Foreword for the Dream City Community Plan

This business, community, and general plan to heal the track of human interaction with self, community, and nature comes from the sons and daughters who grew up dumbfounded and helpless to the confusing reality of a world not grounded in gratitude, humility, and courage for a peaceful way. We went to your schools. We did our best to follow your rules. But even our pure, honest light was oppressed in a society based on conspicuous consumption, intimidation, and fear. 

As we grew older, we further realized the degradation of morality within industrial civilization. We'd see and feel pain for how our ancestors had disavowed the sanctity of life, for the pursuit of greed, profit, and exploitation. We'd ask ourselves "Could it have always been this way?" And in many cases we'd escape through mindless self indulgence. But at end the end of the day our pain still remained.

Then some of us were inspired. We started taking steps to learn another path. But in doing so, we felt isolated in our purge of consumer civilization. We'd wonder "Could there really be others out there like us? Everything I see on the TV tells me that this deep inclination for truth and respect is one I must keep in secret. One that if I speak too candidly about I will be laughed at and degraded." 

If you can take anything from this life, know that YOU ARE NOT ALONE in this inclination. Deep down we all seek healing and inner peace. Right now, it is obvious to say that some of us fight harder to achieve it, but no matter what it is an achievable goal for any who choose the path. 

Within your being, you hold the seed for the great social rebirth that will be 21st century living. You possess a personal power to engender an abundant relationship with nature. You are the only one who can transform your spirit to pursue compassion in all interactions. No one else besides you is going to save you. No politician. No sweeping technological fix. No environmentalist. No friend or lover. And you are equally not doomed by any enemy or unforeseen force to a painful uncertainty. You are your only hope at a better world. 

Once you believe more in the healing potential of the human spirit than the greed and convenient consumption of a debt based monetary system you will find true freedom. 

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Plans for The Harvest Collective in 2013

If we choose to embody COMPASSIONATE EARTH WORK, we are the consciousness that will solve our society's present economic, social, and environmental crisis. We must choose to cultivate life - people, communities, social movements, animals, plants, fungus - in their most abundant and healthy form of self expression, rather than give our entire being to a modern civilization that is causing irreparable damage to our biosphere and the consciousness of humanity. 

Davey Speaking at PUA's Stepping Forward Day - 11/11/2012

The mission of The Harvest Collective is to create a network for individuals, communities, and businesses to actively share resources to provide families with cost savings, healthy local food, and community supported spaces for art and healing. We are now looking for volunteers, donors, and input on our vision to help us build our programs, website, and network. Below is a list of our most immediate initiatives. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to support our work to empower our mission by donating through the Pick Up America website. If interested in any of these ideas, please get in touch with me as soon as possible - 

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Re-Entering the Blogosphere

Dear Friend,        
      It's been a long time since I've blogged. It's not that I lost interest in sharing my story or that I didn't have anything to write about. I just simply needed a break from this electronic medium of communication. I needed to spend sometime living in the real world, learning from real world interactions, before I could get back onto the blogosphere to share the realizations that the real world can bring you to.

        What has re-kindled my interest in blogging is knowing how unique of an individual I am. I know that that the experiences I've had for three years living on the road with Pick Up America and the streak of activism and truth that has been my path for over 6 years make me very unique. The intense energetic interactions that bound me to understand the interconnectedness of life at a deeper level than most I've met, afford knowledge and understanding that is very unique. I am ready to blog again simply because my yearn for compassion tells me that my story as maybe it could be of some help to you.

Hard at work in Cincinnati with Pick Up America - a non-profit I co-founded 
that removed more than 100 tons of litter over three years across 14 states.

        God or the summation of all the energies in the universe that have been, presently are, and will be, (please except whichever term you are most comfortable with) have brought a game changing and ultimately fulfilling perspective into my life. My soul yearns to bring compassion and speak truth so that many of my fellow men and women might also align their mental, spiritual, and physical yearning with a path that brings them to their highest truth and allows them to tread out of consumer culture without hesitation, fear, or regret.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Composting Our Way to Freedom

By Davey Rogner

This past Saturday I volunteered with my good friend, Christian Melendez, who is building three greenhouses to grow massive amounts of food. He and his counterpart Vinnie Bevivino have been learning and producing food in urban settings for the past three seasons. In College Park, my home, they are the face of the growing movement of individuals recognizing the need to produce our food in local, carefully managed ecosystems.

Christian and Vinnie in the Tunnel; Photo by Chris Mentzer

They have both apprenticed with Will Allen a Macarthur Fellow, former NBA player and urban farmer who has designed techniques for urban farming and related educational programs with Growing Power, a non-profit based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. They will be hosting Mr. Allen at the Sowing Seeds Here and Now! A Chesapeake Urban Farming Summit on June 18th, 2010. If you are interested in a future where Urban Farming is commonplace, this conference is a must go. For more information on the summit or helping out with the garden, please check the conference website, or call Vinnie at (202-360-1805).

In the past they have both worked with many beautiful people at a place called the Engaged University; a former collaborative program of the University of Maryland. The program taught about bicycle maintenance and growing food, while providing workshops on art and poetry to the young people of Riverdale, MD. To many who knew of the space it represented a vision for future community engagement, sustainability and empowerment.

At the engaged University Vinnie, Christian and others transformed an abandoned school field into the Master Peace Community Garden; a place where they grew food with preteens and sold the yield at a local farmers markets. However, last fall the University of Maryland stripped them of their jobs due to budget shortfalls. Presently, the University hopes to replace the employees with volunteers, a notion that underestimates the talent, passion and drive that the University had in the Engaged University's former employees.

After receiving the dire news about their jobs, some of the former employees regrouped. They reorganized under a non-profit called Engaged Community Offshoots (ECO), to fulfill their vision of involving people of all walks of life in sustainable living activities. The farm, located on other side of the levee of the Northeast Branch of The Anacostia, in a town called Edmonston is amongst the first programs of the group. The farm will not only grow a plethora of crops, but it will also host an aquaponics system to raise tilapia in a closed system.

A possibly even more impressive feat than the farm is that they are managing all of the nutrient inputs to the farm in a holistic manner. Instead of using fertilizers that are fossil fuel intensive and could potentially harm their neighboring stream they are composting on an industrial scale at another site and transporting the compost back to the farm. They are receiving the food waste from Whole Foods and providing the company with an outlet to divert what would be sent to a landfill, and subsequently rot producing the extremely potent greenhouse gas methane.

Composting with a Wildcat; Photo by Christian Melendez

The vision provided by ECO is a realization of a community's assets and following through with the creativity to generate something that will alleviate the pangs of an under served area. In this case, the founders had the vision and worked to involve the proper stakeholders, Prince George's County Parks and Planning, Whole Foods, Kaiser Permanente, to achieve what to some would have seemed impossible. But in the end, this is only connecting the dots with those groups to do something great with underutilized land or someone's waste.

All over the country there are ares known as food deserts, where a community has little or no access to healthy food found in a super market. The communities sustenance comes from McDonalds or the local "carry out." Last summer I worked in a food desert, located in the Kenilworth neighborhood of Washington DC. In a twist of inspiration, this farm is located about 4 miles from Kenilworth. If this farm is successful it will hopefully provide a model to eliminate these food deserts and get children the healthy food they need to grow and thrive.

Check those muscles! Photo Courtesy of Chris Mentzer

While driving metal stakes into the ground that would soon prop up steel frames, ultimately constructing the large greenhouses I couldn't help but feel like a nineteenth century railroad builder. However, my brute force was going to be used to enhance natural resource wealth in a local community, rather than ship it somewhere else. As the stakes were connected we could see the frame of a greenhouse appear. A symbol that will become common place as people recognize and act upon the need to localize our food production.

Diverting our food waste for composting is the initial step to generating real resource wealth within local communities. Transforming that compost into gardens will provide monetary gain, but it also provides a way of not having to buy food that has nasty preservatives, has been shipped across the globe, and produced in an industrial manner that is underming workers and the environment.

Engaged Community Offshoots, Christian Melendez and Vinnie Bevivino inspire me. They are walking the walk in an age of talking, an age of advertising, an age of PR and marketing, an age where we get people to believe in something more than ever getting them to do it. They realize the rest will follow.

In homage to my last post with intense number crunching, I leave you with two equations I hope to calculate many times in my life. These are inspired by Engaged Community Offshoots and a future vision for The Harvest Collective.

(Inspiration + Navigating Red Tape + Composting + Volunteers + Sunlight + Water) * Love = Fresh Garden

(Garden + Renewable Energy Source + Clean Water + sustainable housing) * (community *Love) = Freedom from Corporate Oppression

Thursday, February 25, 2010

An Extra Serving of Bis-Phenol A at the Check Out Counter

By Davey Rogner

Earlier today, the Maryland Senate unanimously passed a bill that would ban the chemical bisphenol A from baby bottles and sippy cups that toddlers use. Last week, the house passed a similar bill. If Governor Martin O'Malley signs on to the bill, which he is expected to do, Maryland will be the fourth state in the country to pass measures that reduce the risk of exposing our children to the dangerous effects of the plastic hardening chemical.

Courtesy of Penn State University

Bisphenol A -- an endocrine disruptor -- acts similarly to estrogen in the human body. The disruption means that the chemical alters how hormones are either produced and/or received by cells to signal new development stages in the human life cycle. Altering the endocrine system can affect the development of the brain and nervous system, the growth and function of the reproductive system, as well as the metabolism and blood sugar levels in the human body. In laboratory experiments, it has been found that small amounts of exposure to Bisphenol A in laboratory mice or rats can cause serious genital abnormalities, such as a 30% increase in prostate weight and permanent changes in the genital tract. The exposure levels that cause these types of changes are less than the estimated daily exposure to infants and toddlers in America. The bill was well timed and necessary.

The packaging for many consumer food products, such as canned foods, water bottles, and microwaveable dinners contain BPA in the form of epoxy resins and polycarbonate plastics. When we consume food, soda or water from those types of packages we intake BPA leachates. One study found that 93% of Americans tested had BPA in their urine. Additionally, an overwhelming amount of studies performed have found that the chemical is linked to breast cancer, testicular cancer, diabetes, hyperactivity, obesity, low sperm counts, miscarriage and a host of other reproductive failures in laboratory animals. According to the Journal Sentinal, the government has a history of supporting it's determination that BPA is safe. However, those assurances are based on outdated science and chemical industry research. In 2007, the FDA said that BPA does not pose a risk to the health of Americans, because exposure to BPA from these sources is minimal.

A groundbreaking study published last summer states that there are multiple unknown sources of BPA intake to the human body that the FDA may not have accounted for in estimating daily intake. This particular study, exposed Resus Monkeys to 400 times the FDA's estimated amount of daily exposure for the average American, and found that even though the exposure level was astronomically greater, the monkeys still had less BPA in their urine than the average American. Just last month, the FDA decided to take a closer look at BPA. Additionally, the National Institutes of Health is presently providing $30 million in stimulus funds to further the study of BPA's effect on humans.

Between 8 and 9 billion pounds of BPA are produced every year in the United States. The general population is completely unaware of their exposure to the chemical. In 2009, Science News reported that the most common form of exposure to BPA may very well be from the receipts we all receive at check-out counters. According to the Warner Babcock Institute for Green Chemistry, the amount of exposure to BPA leached from polycarbonate bottles is merely nanograms. In contrast, John C. Warner, the co-founder of the Institute, says, “The average cash register receipt that's out there and uses the BPA technology will have 60 to 100 milligrams of free BPA.” And by free, he means loose molecules. This previously unaccounted for exposure may be one of many sources that the FDA ignored when determining that the chemical should continue to be allowed in the marketplace and in everyday commodities.

courtesy of The Center for the Evaluation of Risks to Human Reproduction

About a month ago, I was visiting a close friend for his toddler's first birthday. Almost all of his child's toys were made from hardened plastics. And so I wonder: what kind of developmental risks is little Isiah's taking when he lives inside a plastic playground? Appropriately, I gave my friend a BPA-free sippy cup.

I've been working at restaurants, handling gobs and gobs of printed receipts since I was 15. How much BPA exposure have I had? How has it affected me?

Unfortunately, Warner lacks the resources to publish any reports about the prevalence of BPA in receipts. He also wonders how much of those BPA molecules can actually rub off. And if so, are they entering our bodies through the skin, or are there materials in our skin that prevent their entry?

The overwhelming feeling I am having is that this is not a problem with one single chemical like BPA, but that our exposure is more of an issue of how our society consumes. Products are now valued more for their convenience, rather than their ability to increase our health and well being. This is why plastic packaging is so readily available and piling up in our oceans, landfills, and underutilized areas in the community. We do not need this type of consumption and the burden of dealing with the waste and the effects of exposure to harmful chemicals is beginning to outweigh the convenience at which we can consume.

If we are to improve the health of our children by reducing exposure to BPA, we must mandate by law and demand changes in the way industry package and prepare materials. I'd like to attribute this widespread use of plastics to the huge production capacity demanded by large industries who profit off the fast, large-scale manufacturing, packaging and shipping of goods.

A common theme for the sustainable revolution is empowering local food producers and water sources to overtake the large manufacturers as the predominant supply of nourishment for our communities. While these initiatives are definitely less convenient as they require us to question how we choose to live, they do provide a healthy alternative.

Maybe this could also help with how we document our purchases. Maybe we could purchase less?? Maybe we could develop a widespread system of e-receipts. But most importantly, our choices have to give precedence to our health over convenience. The alternatives may be harder to find. The alternatives might even cost more money initially, but the alternatives do not externalize the value of American health.