Sustainability and the environment are not just for hippies anymore.
Although when you think about it, hippies were late to the game on wanting save the Earth. The greatest environmentalists in American history is most likely the 26th President of the United States and great New Yorker, Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt used the power of his Presidency to create national parks and other public lands. And when you think about it, accomplished hunters like Roosevelt are among the best environmentalists.
Ask yourself what would Theodore Roosevelt do? If he were still with us today, he would probably be bold enough to bicycle from Oyster Bay to the Flushing Quaker Meeting House (a trip of only 25 miles, an easy two hours for T.R.) and find common cause with the many diverse people working for the preservation of our natural world at the Flushing Eco-Fest on Saturday, March 23.
The festival is being organized by Flushing C.S.A. (Community Supported Agriculture), a local farm share group (full disclosure: our family is a member of the Flushing C.S.A. and my wife is a core member and Eco-Fest organizer) and being cohosted by the Flushing Chamber of Commerce.
The Eco-Fest is free and offers free workshops, eco-friendly kids’ crafts sponsored by Macaroni Kid, and a host of vendors with locally grown and organic goods. There will be well over a dozen vendors and groups there, each one is in some way working towards making things on the planet more sustainable.
There is guaranteed to be something to appeal to everyone. My personal favorites are some of the local food businesses such as Spice Tree Organics and Astor Apiaries. You will be doing something good for the environment when you attend, even if you just stick around to learn something about watersheds or how to compost or get a few cycling or energy-saving tips. There will also be environmentally-friendly soaps, home décor, seedlings, and baked goods for sale. And a raffle. Nothing is too small to do to make a difference.
You will also meet an interesting group of people there. Events like this can give you a great cross-section of this part of Queens. The Flushing Quaker Meeting House is the oldest, continually-used house of worship in New York City, and Flushing has several important landmarks in the cause of religious freedom in the U.S. Inside the Meeting House, you will be surrounded by history older than the United States. And whatever you think of the current trajectory of the U.S. or its politics, there is no disputing that this is an interesting time to be alive.
And it is a perfect time to increase your civic and conservationist involvement. Don’t let cultural stereotypes about environmentalists dissuade you from joining with those who want to keep our nation’s land strong. Everyone has a part to play.
Teddy Roosevelt promoted national greatness, and he understood that a nation that depleted its natural resources and did not invest time in strengthening its land and future could not sustain itself. In Flushing, people will gather and, consciously or not, help build on Roosevelt’s vision of a great America that treasures its natural resources and strives to be a unified community.
One of the odors that comprises the urban bouquet is that of garbage. The smell can be ubiquitous and is unmistakable, and the air of the hot summer months amplifies the oppressive stench when it sits uncollected for too long.
New York City has had recycling laws on the books for some time now, and while the success of the city’s recycling program is mixed—plenty of trash goes in recycling still, and the most ardent recyclers are homeless people who collect aluminum cans for the deposit money—recycling has wound its way into the everyday bustle of city life. It’s accepted as part of our routine.
The new frontier in responsible trash processing today is in composting: separating out the organic matter that can be used to create rich soil and put back into agricultural use. To this end the New York Department of Sanitation began a program that collects food scraps and yard waste to both promote composing and to help cut down on rats and roaches. The more edible food that’s in the garbage, the more vermin there will be to feast upon it.
But recently the Department of Sanitation halted the expansion of the program, saying it would focus on increasing adoption in those areas that were already in the program before expanding it. I can see why they did this. One could easily confuse these smaller brown bins for medical waste receptacles or for regular small garbage cans. No doubt people are adding their own manner of organic matter to these bins and probably making a mess of it.
Whatever the merits of the city’s program, you don’t need the Department of Sanitation to begin composting on your own. You can do it yourself and there are several organizations that will help you do it.
Among the enthusiastic composters in the city is my wife, who grew up in Eastern Queens and her family had a house with a yard when she was a youngster, and her family had a composting pile in their garden. She is one of the leaders of our local community supported agriculture program, Flushing C.S.A., and brings compost to a drop-off location at Queens Botanical Garden.
I was very skeptical of my wife’s plan to keep rotting food in our kitchen on purpose, but the composing has worked out so far and is easier to do than you might think. You can buy an inexpensive (about $20) countertop composting bin with charcoal filters to contain the odors. And the odor doesn’t get that bad, it actually smells like someone is trying to make pruno in your kitchen for a few seconds after you open and close the bin.
We have healthy jalapeno plants growing on our windowsill in containers filled with compost we got back from Queens Botanical Garden. Our basil plans, which make half our kitchen smell like a fancy Italian restaurant, are also growing in soil that is partly compost.
Why is this kind of thing important? Because we are running out of places to dump our garbage, with China recently refusing to handle more trash and recycling from other parts of the world. New York City ships much of its garbage out of state, but that is getting more expensive and it’s only a matter of time until that becomes unfeasible.
This kind of thing is smart to do. It’s for survival and the fittest people that are going to survive are the ones who can do more with less and organize to consume resources in a reasonable and sustainable way.
It would be easy to brush off composting as tree-hugging hippie nonsense, but it is not. Hippies are slackers who only want the trappings of conservation so they can feel good about themselves. Real conservationists and survivors are willing to do the hard work and build real systems to have the confidence in their future.
So embrace the rot and death of life to cut down on the rats and roaches and add more nutritious soil to our land. It is the smart thing to do.
April 22 is Earth Day and no doubt many of the Earth Day observances will be obnoxious and useless. People have given environmentalism a bad name. Whether trying to tie helping the environment to New Age mysticism, linking terrorism to climate change, or comparing eating meat to the Holocaust, the mantle of environmentalism and appreciation of the Earth is a damaged one.
Just because hippies are doing it, doesn’t mean it’s necessarily wrong or bad. Hippies were one of the first groups to organize against prohibitions against marijuana and now only the most dyed-in-the-wool authoritarian throwback wants to keep banning the weed. There are some things hippies get right, and appreciating nature is one of them, even if they do it in ham-handed and atrocious ways.
There is no American in history who embodied personal greatness and strength more than Theodore Roosevelt. And Teddy Roosevelt never met a nature preserve he didn’t like. To him, men who sat around inside all day were pussies who deserved to be thinned out of the bloodlines. Enjoying the great outdoors is a necessary part of life Roosevelt would tell you if he were still with us today, and anyone who doesn’t appreciate nature is some kind of effete nincompoop who should have no say in civic affairs. Even after he was president, at a time when most people retire to the quiet life, Roosevelt nearly died on an expedition in South America. You can go to the American Museum of Natural History today and see animals that Roosevelt went and shot so you could enjoy looking at them today.
Theodore Roosevelt would rightfully despise hippies and other layabouts but he would approve of Earth Day.
In order to appreciate the world and the great outdoors, it has to be there and in good working order. If you’ve ever gone to a favorite camping spot and found logging going on nearby, or seen heat-induced drought dry up streams in a favorite deer hunting spot, you will be drawn to the cause of the environment not matter what your politics.
Environmentalism used to be the exclusive province of more left-leaning groups, but now there is much common ground and elements on all ends of the political spectrum have found reason to embrace elements of the environmentalist movement.
And contemporary Earth Day observations will feature a lot of DIY community organizations acting independently and doing things that involve lower-cost, non-government solutions to some of our problems. For example, my wife is one of the founders of our local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) group, which is a cooperative that allows members to get fresh produce from a local farm. Flushing CSA is taking part in several Earth Day events, and CSA groups are one of a lot of different cooperative organizations out there that are doing very direct and helpful things outside of what is normally thought of as environmental activism.
Earth Day may still be stigmatized as a lot of nonsensical claptrap, but that’s not excuse not to do something that is helpful to the Earth. It’s what Theodore Roosevelt would do.
New York State may soon embrace medical marijuana. We’d be better off if the government legalized it outright. Why talk half-steps when other states have already made cannabis legal?
It was Tommy Chong who put it to New York via social media, saying that we were behind the high times. New York used to be the place that this kind of progress was launched, Chong mourned, now we’re catching up with Colorado and Washington.
Tommy Chong is right. Marijuana should be legal in all 50 states. It’s ludicrous that people are in jail for growing it or smoking it or having a big wad of it rolled into a cigar leaf or in a brownie or anal suppository or however else people are getting it into their bodies today. Legalize it.
The people have spoken. In times that it’s been put to a vote, voters support legalization of marijuana. Whether it’s medical marijuana, which is more widespread, or the outright legalization that we’ve seen recently in Washington and Colorado. But beyond that, even in places that still enforce draconian laws against the weed, marijuana use is very high (pun intended).
We are not far from the prohibition of marijuana being as antiquated and ridiculous as the prohibition against alcohol that started almost 100 years ago. That prohibition is rightfully considered a joke today, and our grandchildren will look down their noses at the outlawing of marijuana in the 20th Century. Rightly so.
So let us join our voices to the millions that already call for legalizing electric lettuce in New York. Let the City lead the way and hopefully the state will follow. Let the fifty states tax and regulate cannabis like they do tobacco and alcohol. The government can’t stop people from smoking it, so it might as well make a few bucks to help keep the roads paved.
But where there is support for legalization, let’s also support some healthy distrust of the marijuana industry. Wanting to legalize it shouldn’t stop us from criticizing it. Marijuana does not belong on a list of outlawed substances (if any do is another matter), but that doesn’t mean it belongs in our bodies.
There is a lot of awareness and opposition to genetically modified foods and the potential dangers they pose to people’s health. There’s a greater demand now for natural and organic foods made free from the use of dangerous chemicals or genetic manipulation. Yet none of this scrutiny is being applied to marijuana cultivation.
If you’re not willing to eat a plant that was grown with a genetically modified seed, then don’t smoke something that’s named for a Star Trek character. I’ll do what I can to avoid food made possible by Monsanto, but I’m also not going to smoke something named “Vulcan Mind Meld No. 6.” Do we really need to be a lazier, slower-witted country that eats even more junk food at two o’clock in the morning?
Let’s definitely legalize the chronic, but let’s also approach it with the same skepticism as we would any other element of big agribusiness. And that’s what marijuana is: big business. No one is selling weed out the kindness of their heart. Tobacco and alcohol companies are rightly treated with suspicion. The people hawking ganja are no more saintly.
Medical marijuana is great, but the overwhelming majority of people using weed are using it to get high for its own sake. They have every right to do that. But unless you have a serious medical condition, marijuana isn’t good for you. I want to live in a world where people are not persecuted for smoking a plant. But I also know that the world does not need more pot heads.
Let’s increase the sanity of the conversation. Marijuana legalization is the right thing to do. But let us embrace legalization of marijuana without having to embrace marijuana itself.