Plastic Free July

 

Okay, so I know the month is halfway over, but even a plastic free day is a plus, eh?  Have a look at this guest post by my sister, environmentalist, educator extraordinaire, yoga instructor, dog rescuer, and now, advocate for a plastic-free world.  Read on and remember, taking even one less plastic bag is a start!

 

Plastic Free July!

As the forefathers wrote in the Declaration of Independence, the unalienable rights endowed to men (and women) of this country are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. Fast forward 242 years and we are seriously messing with those rights as we clamor for a faster, more convenient lifestyle, adding up to a seemingly disposable endgame for all. From our food system to our thirst to develop everything (land and products) deemed profitable, we are creating a world where the pursuit of happiness will be so much harder to attain because of the laissez-fare attitude with which we have treated the earth’s resources. A look at our everyday habits and a willingness to make some not so difficult changes can help us support mother nature in gaining some balance with her ever growing population of human tenants.

Enter Plastic Free July, a practical start to begin the healing. The initiative started humbly in 2011 by a group of office workers in Western Australia. Today they are independent non profit with a mission to build a global movement that dramatically reduces plastic use and improves recycling. Over 2 million people in 159 countries are choosing to be part of the annual Plastic Free July challenge, reducing their consumption of single use plastic in July and beyond. 

Let’s take a quick look at why it’s so important to reduce single use plastic. Below is the Earth Day Network’s fact sheet on plastic pollution: 

10 Shocking Facts About Plastic Pollution

FACT #1 8.3 BILLION Metric Tons (9.1 BILLION US Tons) of plastic has been produced since plastic was introduced in the 1950s. The amount of plastic produced in a year is roughly the same as the entire weight of humanity.
FACT #2 Virtually every piece of plastic that was ever made still exists in some shape or form (with the exception of the small amount that has been incinerated).
FACT #3 91% of plastic waste isn’t recycled. And since most plastics don’t biodegrade in any meaningful sense, all that plastic waste could exist for hundreds or even thousands of years.
FACT #4 500 MILLION plastic straws are used EVERY DAY in America. That’s enough to circle the Earth twice.
FACT #5 Nearly TWO MILLION single-use plastic bags are distributed worldwide every minute.
FACT #6 100 BILLION plastic bags are used by Americans every year. Tied together, they would reach around the Earth’s equator 773 times.
FACT #7 ONE MILLION plastic bottles are bought EVERY MINUTE around the world — and that number will top half a TRILLION by 2021. Less than half of those bottles end up getting recycled.
FACT #8 8 MILLION METRIC TONS of plastic winds up in our oceans each year. That’s enough trash to cover every foot of coastline around the world with five full trash bags of plastic…compounding every year. 
FACT #9 There is more microplastic in the ocean than there are stars in the Milky Way.
FACT #10 If plastic production isn’t curbed, plastic pollution will outweigh fish pound for pound by 2050.

Hopefully, the thought of plastic outweighing fish in the ocean by 2050 or the fact that every piece of plastic ever made still exists today, will catapult you into action. The Plastic Free July website has made it easy to start making changes in your daily routine. They’ve even made a Choose Your Challenge list and posted actions in order of ease and popularity as well as biggest impact so your plan can be well thought out. 

I would like to leave you with some final encouraging thoughts. There are many people doing amazing things to help clean up our oceans and raise awareness about single use plastics. The Plastic Pollution Coalition, The Ocean Cleanup , 4Ocean and Surfrider are just a few of the groups that have made it their business to address this issue. So let the inspiration of Independence Day propel you to take action, so that future generations can have the same inalienable rights we have been gifted by our beloved Mother Earth.

stacey lazos 7.15.18

 

 

 

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Just Mercy

JUST MERCY

Bryan Stevenson reminds me of Percy Jackson, the boy in those Rick Riordan novels, walking through life trying to fit in like a normal kid, but sensing something’s up, then discovering he’s the offspring of Poseidon and learning superhuman tricks that mere mortals don’t have the strength (or resolve, tenacity, or sense of self?) to accomplish.  Am I in awe of this guy?  Yes sir and yes, ma’am, I am.  Could I ever do what he does?  Not in a million years, but I do so appreciate the effort and understand the sacrifices it took to make that effort.  Just Mercy — once named of Time Magazine’s 10 Best Books of Nonfiction (2014) — chronicles that effort.  

In 1983, Stevenson was attending Harvard Law School and doing a brief one-month stint as an intern with the Southern Prisoners Defense Committee (SPDC) in downtown Atlanta, Georgia, a non-profit that assisted prisoners on death row.  It was then he met Steve Bright, his first mentor, an enthusiastic, mid-thirties trial lawyer and former Public Defender who had taken over the operation of SPDC and who told Stevenson “capital punishment means ‘them without the capital get the punishment.”  The office ran on a shoestring budget and there were never enough lawyers for all the man-hours needed; they considered themselves lucky if they maintained enough supplies.   Stevenson did his first interview with a condemned man while at SPDC and the nervousness he felt over his lack of experience accompanied him on the interview.  Turns out it went so well that it set Stevenson’s lifelong career goals in motion.

Today, Stevenson teaches law at New York University, is the founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) in Montgomery, Alabama, and has received 29 honorary doctoral degrees and won beaucoup awards for his work.  At EJI, lawyers represent the underrepresented, generally poor, usually of color, often wrongly condemned.  In the beginning, it was just Stevenson and another attorney.  Today, there are 50 lawyers working tirelessly (okay, they’re pretty tired, but they just keep on working) to see that justice is served for those who would otherwise have little access to it.  

Just Mercy weaves through Stevenson’s early career while detailing his relationship with Walter McMillian, a man wrongly convicted of murder, beginning with their first meeting while Walter was on death row.  Despite underwhelming evidence, an abbreviated trial, three witnesses whose credibility was strained, and not much of a defense, Walter was convicted and sentenced to death.  Once on Alabama’s death row, it was near impossible to extricate him.  Through Stevenson’s advocacy, Walter was eventually set free, but not before serving years six years for a crime he didn’t commit.  Walter’s story, and the dozens of others Stevenson recounts in this book shine a light on the problems with our current penal system and the lengths Stevenson went to ensure justice was served.

Just Mercy is not just Stevenson’s story about representing the condemned, but an exposé on the poor, disenfranchised, mostly non-white members of society who historically and presently have and are being judged by a different standard, one that includes no breaks because of heritage or parentage or caste.  If you’re black — even if you’re a business owner as Walter was — you already have a hurdle of legal standards that will be higher than your white counterparts and the tenet of innocent until proven guilty does not routinely apply.

If you want a memoir that leaves a lasting impression, gives you a glimpse into what needs fixing, and will immerse you in a story that reads like a crime thriller, then read Just Mercy.

Happy July 4th, America!  Let us not now or ever forget the final words of our pledge of allegiance — “with liberty and justice for all.”

pjlazos 7.4.18

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#WATWB – Summertime Summertime

Just for today, because it’s #WATWB day, I’m going to pretend my socially liberal, economically conservative, and environmental values are not imperiled now more than ever, that the Supreme Court is not about to swerve fervently to the right, that immigrant families will be treated with more kindness and less animosity, in addition to not being separated at the border, and that the Bill of Rights survives the ever-deepening and widening plutocratic state of the Union.  Just for today.

And when I wake up tomorrow from my dream and realize that there’s still much work to do, I’ll have the following stories to keep me sane and centered.  Thank God for small miracles.

First.  Picnicking this summer?  Then read this story about how the EU is both banning plastic and creating a more robust market for recycled plastics in an effort to make the world a more sustainable place. Yay, EU!

Here’s another story about how India’s fisherman are pulling plastic out of the ocean and creating roads with the refuse.  With help from a few government agencies and a bunch of local women, the boat owners in the fishing town of Kollam have started the first recycling center in the area.  So far they’ve collected 71 tons of plastic!  Go fish!

This month’s #WATWB co-hosts are Damyanti BiswasShilpa GargMary J MelangeDan Antion, and Simon Falk. Go check out their posts, and others on the link below.

Guidelines for spreading the good word are:  be brief, post feel good stories to accentuate the positive, spread the word on social media with the #WATWB hastag, and join us by clicking here to enter your link.

Thanks for playing!

pjlazos 6.29.18

 

 

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Father’s Day Photo Caption Contest

                     (photo by Scott Eberly)

Father’s Day Photo Caption Contest

Here’s our dog, Apollo, our cat, Raul, and the poor chipmunk, a victim of an unfortunate accident, or being in the wrong place at the wrong time, that is, Raul’s line of sight.

Raul loves to chase chipmunks, field mice, voles, whatever is in range.  He’ll sit in the yard, motionless, all 9.5 pounds of him (he’s a skinny little thing), as if in meditation and then, suddenly, he’s off, across the yard, up and around a tree, through the bushes and the flowers, almost flying he’s so fast.  Raul’s such a sweet little cat that I have a hard time reconciling his killer instinct, but for him it’s not the goal, but the journey, and the chase is everything.

My husband, Scott, who had just let the Raul out en route to walking Apollo, was sitting on the porch, putting on his sandals when he saw Raul approach Apollo with a chipmunk in his mouth as if he were taunting him. Scott couldn’t get his phone out of his pocket fast enough to get that photo, but he got this follow-up, Apollo investigating the random massacre while Raul, Special Forces Operative One, walked away.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, what are yours?   I’ll give away a copy of one of my books, choice of paperback or kindle version, to the best photo caption, either:

Oil and Water

or Six Sisters

 

Here’s my caption to get you started:  “Dude, what have you done?!”

I’ll run it for a week — all in good fun — unless you’re the chipmunk and then nothing is funny anymore.

Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there!

pjlazos 6.17.18

 

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Launch Day for Life in the Hollywood Lane

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My friend, Ann Crawford, and her new book, Life in the Hollywood Lane!

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Ethical Consumerism, Part 7 – How to Sustain the Population in 2050.

One of the things I like best about blogging is that it introduces me to other worlds, views, and opinions that I wouldn’t otherwise be exposed to, that I get great quality writing (for free!), and can also take advantage of an accumulation of knowledge that I wouldn’t have access to from my own life’s social circle. There are loads of people out there doing incredible things and posting thought-provoking, enlightening, planet-saving content to boot. The Green Stars Project is one of those truly amazing blogs that just gives and gives. If you want to be on the right side of environmental awareness, and conserve a few forests and maybe an ocean or two for your children’s children, then this is the blog for you. Thank you, Green Stars Project for all your hard work on behalf of the planet.

The Green Stars Project

Hi folks! In the previous post, I looked at how we can take actions as consumers to help curb population growth. This post is about actions we can take to sustain the human population without completely destroying our planet.

Population Growth Fears are Exploited by Corporations

One of the most common abuses of the population growth issue goes something like this:

We must embrace GlobalCorp’s practices because we’re going to have 9 billion people to sustain in 2050.

If the thing in question is sustainable (for example renewable energy) then you don’t even need the population argument. If the thing in question is not sustainable – and this is often the case where the population card is played – then a rising population is a ridiculous argument to use. To adopt a non-sustainable practice to support the Earth’s human population of 2050 is insanity. Particularly considering the delicate…

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NOBILITY

NOBILITY 

If you read my original post about The Twelve Virtues of the Merchant Priests, as suggested in the book, Sacred Commerce, my goal is to reflect upon and write about these  12 virtues — honor, loyalty, nobility, virtue, grace, trust, courage, courtesy, gallantry, authority, service, and humility — one a month for an entire year until I get through the list of twelve.  (I’m a couple months behind schedule, but what is linear time?  Really only a human construct, developed to encourage uniformity of thinking, meaning, I’m only late in some circles while it’s possible that in others I’m operating ahead of schedule.)  The 12 virtues of the merchant priest “automatically lift us to a higher octave of being,” and boy could we use some of that these days.  This month’s virtue is Nobility. 

Nobility sits on a throne of good intentions, but it’s a hard wooden seat without a cushion and a razor-straight back.  Eventually, the sitter tires of the lack of luxury, but not Nobility.  True Nobility doesn’t truck in luxury, but in getting your hands dirty.  You can be born into Nobility, but living up to it is a whole different story (although the modern royals seem to be doing a fine job).

Nobility is not for everyone, but for Mary Harriman Rumsey, it was a driving force.  Born in 1881 to American royalty,  Harriman worked tirelessly to help those less privileged.  Her father, E. H. Harriman made a name and fortune for himself as a railroad magnate, but his civic-minded and philanthropic nature left an impression on his like-minded daughter.  A debutante who came of age to become a force in politics and social activism, Mary founded the first Junior League in 1901 at the age of 18 while studying at Barnard College in New York City.  

Inspired by the work of social reformers active in the “settlement movement” — the idea that those in upper echelons could and should help those less fortunate than themselves, not with just donations, but through their works and deeds — Mary and 80 of her similarly situated colleagues, one of whom was Eleanor Roosevelt, established the Junior League for the Promotion of Settlement Movements which later became the Junior League of the City of New York.  Their first project was on Rivington Street on the Lower East Side, home to a large group of immigrants.  Mary and her friends provided assistance and instruction on issues related to health, education and welfare, and social reform.  Mary thought it “almost inhuman that we should live so close to suffering and poverty” and do nothing about it.  To ensure her workforce was ready, Mary brought in lecturers and leaders in the field to train the Junior Leaguers, a practice which prevails today.

Mary continued her Junior League work for 10 years before moving on to other projects, and later, was tasked by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to chair the Consumer Advisory Board of the National Recovery Administration, which had the distinction of being the first government consumer rights group in the nation.  In between she founded the Community Council of Greater New York, opening almost five hundred playgrounds across the City, and worked with the Block-Aid program which assisted people on a neighborhood-by-neighborhood basis with food and clothing.  She also worked in politics with an eye toward social reform, and entered the publishing world by founding Today magazine in 1932 (which later merged with Newsweek), a magazine with a social conscience.  She even influenced her brother, Averell, to become active in politics and he went on to be the U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union and the governor of New York.  In a time when trivial pursuits were encouraged for women, even the affluent ones, Mary had the tenacity and nobility to forge a path that had not been walked before.

The legacy Mary left behind is the Association of Junior Leagues International Inc. (AJLI), comprising 291 Junior Leagues with about 140,000 women volunteers in Canada, Mexico, the UK and the U.S., women who are improving the community, improving the social dialogue, and improving the lives of those less fortunate in myriad ways.  AJLI’s mission statement includes “promoting voluntarism, developing the potential of women and improving communities through the effective action and leadership of trained volunteers. Its purpose is exclusively educational and charitable.”

It’s not often that people reach a hand down in order to pull someone up.  Through her life’s noble work, Mary Harriman demonstrated that the world itself is buoyed when we reach out in service to others, a lesson we would all do well to emulate.

BTW, it’s the one-year anniversary of the U.S. pulling out of the Paris Climate Accord — a not-so-noble thing — but thankfully, there are some brave and noble leaders determined to keep moving forward:

pjlazos 6.3.18

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