FOOD FIGHT! – Hip Hop Video Teaches Dangers of Processed Foods

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In FOOD FIGHT!, a video released early this morning by filmmaker Ben Zolno (New Message Media), a boy runs for his life after witnessing a murder in a convenience store. This murder, however, isn’t done with conventional weapons but with junk food.

What ensues is a life-and-death struggle as citizens of the boy’s community come together to fight against the snack foods that fill store shelves by brandishing real food. It’s a comedic musical, but the message is far from funny: We are dying from the foods we eat while the corporations that manufacture, market, and sell them to us get rich at our expense.

Odd as the story setup is, the battle between healthy and disease-inducing foods is a reality; with every bite and sip we take, we determine how long we will live and how healthy we will be.

I can almost hear readers saying, “Well, that’s obvious.” If it’s so obvious, why is the U.S. (and much of the world) in a health crisis of obesity? Is it just that we have no self-control? Or does much of the problem lie in the “foods” themselves? …

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On My Way to Someplace Else by Sandra Hurtes

January 15, 2013 by  
Filed under Blog, Books, Front Page, Immigrants, Slideshow

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On My Way to Someplace Else begins with liberation, on the day Russian soldiers entered Auschwitz and set Rifka and her fellow prisoners free. “A handsome soldier lifted my mother off her feet and although she was just skin and bones, he kissed her cheeks and told her she was beautiful,” writes Sandra Hurtes. It’s […]

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Solar in the Community – Creating a Greener Britain

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Grey skies, wind, rain and no sign of the sun. That’s the British Winter, most of the Autumn, much of the Spring, and a good deal of the Summer too! But, regardless of the climate, there is clearly enough sunshine for solar energy to thrive, and in recent years the UK has witnessed an unprecedented […]

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Iglu by Jacob Sackin

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As I walked outside on the day that I wrote this, I smelled the sweet air of springtime. Though I had gloves, I didn’t need them. My coat was open, and I didn’t shiver. Not so strange if this had been early in May. But it’s December in Iowa. Much as I love spring and enjoy the relative warmth of 63-degree days, I find the moderate temperature most unsettling. December isn’t supposed to be warm where I live. This false, fall “spring” is the harbinger of a changed climate that is already dramatically altering weather patterns around the world. Yet, climate skeptics still fill the airwaves with denial.

In his young adult novel, Iglu, author Jacob Sackin imagines a world in which climate change is no longer questioned by anyone. Climate refugees are fleeing the lower 48 states to Alaska, pushing back the Native people and seizing the land for themselves. War rages on as the Inuit people fight back against the encroaching masses and the cruel Skyhawk soldiers sent to ensure the safety of the refugees.

The heroine of the story is April, an Inupiaq girl running for her life, narrowly evading the Skyhawk troops who have captured — or possibly killed — her parents. Everything familiar to April has been destroyed by bombing or bulldozers. Inupiaq people are being rounded up, forced into camps where they can be contained and controlled. April’s family has been torn apart, and she is left alone to fend for herself. In this futuristic coming-of-age story, April finds the strength not only to survive, but also to fight against the cruelty and injustice of the powerful U.S. government. She isn’t perfect — no realistic character is — but she makes a powerful role model for youngsters who are themselves coming to grips with an unfair world and an uncertain environmental future….

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Obama, Romney, and Women’s Healthcare

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In this election, arguments about women’s healthcare have often focused on abortion and contraception coverage. While I agree these are important issues, I would like to share my views from the perspective of a female cancer patient. The Affordable Care Act (ACA), a.k.a. “Obamacare,” requires insurance companies to cover such preventative services as breast cancer mammography screenings every one to two years for women over 40, breast cancer chemoprevention counseling for women at higher risk, and annual screenings for cervical cancer. Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have pledged to repeal Obamacare, meaning many women could lose these important benefits from their paid insurance plans.

Even worse is the Republican plan, or lack thereof, for the many women currently without coverage. When money is tight, women are often the family members who go uncovered because we are often charged as much as three times the insurance rates of men (a problem Obamacare resolves as of 2014). I know many hard-working women — single and married — who are self-employed or work jobs that offer no insurance coverage and who can’t afford to pay for coverage themselves. Many married women whose spouse has a good health insurance policy still go uncovered because of the high cost of adding family coverage. Obamacare will make more options available to ALL women when the program goes into full force in 2014. But meanwhile, women without coverage need Planned Parenthood….

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Notes from Iowa: 100 Grannies … for a Livable Future

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Don’t we all want a livable future? Why would I target grandmothers? Why not everyone working in every way possible to make the necessary changes to our way of living now so that the children of the future will have a life that is full of the goodness of creation?

The answer to this is that we have to start somewhere, and I am a granny who happens to think that action is needed now. I believe there are others who think so, too.

Grannies have some advantages. We have lived long enough to have seen changes in our climate and our society and not like what we see. We are often retired and have time and underpinnings to be able to devote a considerable portion of our energy to the effort of reducing human impact on the environment, especially the atmosphere.

We know that “older means bolder.” What do we have to lose compared to what our grandchildren may not have?

I want my grandchildren to grow up in a world where there is clean water and air, healthy food, and where nature is usually friendly and beautiful. I do not want them to live in a world with frequent flooding, drought, heat that kills, and strong storms that require immense financial and emotional resources to recover from.

I live in Iowa and went through the floods in 2008. I know that this scenario will be repeated all over this country and the rest of the world if we do not do everything in our power to reduce the use of fossil fuels that contribute to climate change.

Two women friends—also grandmothers—Beth Robbins and Ann Christenson, and I read James Hansen’s Storms of My Grandchildren. We trust NASA’s top climate scientist of many years to be honest about what lies ahead if we do not curb our carbon addiction and if we continue to extract oil from dirty tar sands and natural gas by fracking. “Game Over,” is his conclusion….

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Huddling for the Home Team (Habitat for Humanity) on Super Sunday

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Super Sunday is an American tradition and, football fan or not, the vast majority of us find ourselves in someone’s living room or den gathered around the television watching the game (okay, the ads). For enterprising fundraisers, it’s also a fantastic opportunity to gather friends together for a good cause.

This evening, Jeff Capps, Executive Director of Cedar Valley Habitat for Humanity, and his wife, Amber, hosted one of 85 house parties that will benefit the local Habitat for Humanity organization. These Home Team Huddles raise money that goes directly to building homes for deserving—and hard-working—families….

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Together, We Change the World

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This past February, Blue Planet Green Living published a post by Dipak Singh, a writer from India who advocates for safer conditions for the people of his country. His post, Notes from India: We Are Poisoning Our Planet, described the horrific effects of spraying the chemical Endosulfan on crops in India and other nations. He wrote, in part:

“The grapes you and I eat could be from a vine that was sprayed 30 times in a single year with pesticides such as Endosulfan. That makes 300 sprayings in a decade. This chemical has nowhere to go, so it just gets washed into the groundwater.

“Endosulfan has a half-life of up to 20 days in water and 60 to 800 days in soil. So, think of the accumulation of this pesticide in crop-growing villages. In the Indian state of Kerala, Endosulphan has been linked to the birth of malformed children. . . .”

Three months after we posted his editorial, Dipak sent me a Facebook message with the following comment:

“Hello, this is just to tell you that yesterday the Indian Supreme Court put an interim ban on Endosulfan, despite the lobbyist asking for an eleven year time frame. This is one of the sentences from the judgement: ‘When a certain something affected right to life, then every other right, even the fundamental right to business, took a backseat.’ ” …

Dipak followed by thanking me for making a difference in the fight against Endosulfan. Me? All I had done was post his editorial. How could I accept any credit?

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Breaking the Silence

October 24, 2011 by  
Filed under Blog, Family, Front Page, Slideshow, Social Action, Women

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While brokenness is all around us, and much of it is quite apparent, there’s one form still hidden in darkness—a darkness I have known.

News stories break, from time to time, reminding us that this netherworld exists. In November 1987, Joel Steinberg and Hedda Nussbaum were arrested for the murder of their young daughter, Lisa. We sat glued to our televisions during that trial and eventually learned that both Lisa, and Hedda, had been violently abused by Mr. Steinberg. In June 1994, the murder of Nicole Brown Simpson sparked the sensational trial of her ex-husband, O.J., and again we sat glued to our television sets.

But beyond these, and other headlines that hit the news, lie countless untold stories—hidden even from the families and friends of those who suffer. This is the paradox of domestic violence. A feeling of shame, along with other factors, causes victims to stay silent. They guard the secret along with their batterer….

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Pioneers for the Planet: The High Wind Story

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On a windswept acreage overlooking a lush valley in mid-eastern Wisconsin, a small group of committed visionaries sowed a seed for change called High Wind, an “intentional community” that grew and blossomed in the late 1970s and 1980s. Although its life as an intentional community formally ended in 1992, the ecovillage legacy of High Wind […]

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In Memory of 9/11: Let Us Wage Peace

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We all speak today of healing, understanding, and peacemaking.

The images of September 11, 2001 are etched in our minds. But we need to be more concerned with what we have done with 9/11 than with 9/11 itself.

Yes, we mourn the loss of so many innocent victims. We laud the heroism of the firefighters and so many others. And we will always be outraged at the inhumanity of the attackers. But I don’t think that the 2,977 victims on 9/11 died to usher in a period of perpetual war….

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Edible Gardens Make Summer Tasty and Fun in Iowa City

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When I first moved to Iowa City, I decided to try and conquer my terrible sense of direction by walking around and getting to know the area. Instead, I did what I always do. I found one path that took me from Point A to Point B, and I started taking that path every day.

Along my walk is the Robert A. Lee Community Recreation Center. I first noticed the Recreation Center because I was looking for a gym to attend while living in Iowa City (I can proudly say that I’ve been to the gym a total of one time.) But, I was more intrigued by the garden attached to the side of the building.

Normally I would ask someone about the garden, receive a short explanation, nod my head and go on my way. But, this summer I am a Blue Planet Green Living intern. I get to satisfy my curiosity by being a journalist. So, last Wednesday Hayley Noneman, a summer intern with Iowa City Parks and Recreation, took me on a tour of Parks and Recreation’s garden projects….

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Summer of Solutions Offers Opportunities to Youth Leaders

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Most students use their summer vacations to sleep in, catch up on TV, and relax. For Summer of Solutions project leaders like Jennifer Roach, summer is just another opportunity to create solutions for the problems in their communities.

Roach, along with co-leaders Claudine Constant and Pablo Baeza, is leading a project to start gardens in Hartford, Connecticut’s Frog Hollow neighborhood, one of 15 Summer of Solutions (SoS) projects across the country….

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Iowa City Summer of the Arts Goes Green

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To get a sense of the strong community living in Iowa City, attend one of its summer festivals. This weekend, the annual Iowa City Jazz Festival will take over the downtown area and provide residents with delicious food, music, and the opportunity to learn about the environment.

Environmental education may not be what you expect to see at a festival. But, Iowa City’s summer events attract thousands of people, and that generates a lot of trash. To reduce the waste that Iowa City’s festivals send to the landfill, Summer of the Arts (SotA), the organization behind Iowa City’s festivals, has begun a program called Green Initiatives (GI)….

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Little Princes by Conor Grennan

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In 2004, Conor Grennan began an around-the-world journey with a two-month stint volunteering in Little Princes, a Nepalese orphanage near Kathmandu. He took on the work less as a humanitarian effort than as a way to justify spending the next ten months indulging his urge to travel, he says. He had no intention of making the orphanage or the children of Nepal his life’s work. “Volunteering in an orphanage was a one-off,” Grennan writes in Little Princes, “an experience that you would never forget and never repeat.” He wasn’t callous, just uninvolved.

But what he could not know then was how deeply these children would affect him, compelling him to return again and again to do all that he could to help them. What he also did not learn at first was that most of the children were not orphans, but victims of child trafficking….

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Teaching Tolerance Promotes Civil Rights for ALL

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The Southern Poverty Law (SPLC) is well known for its successes in fighting hate crimes and discrimination and for shining a spotlight on hate groups around the nation. But it also works to prevent the spread of bigotry and intolerance by reaching students and teachers with a message of understanding and inclusion.

The SPLC’s Teaching Tolerance program provides materials and professional development to help teachers “prepare a new generation to live in a diverse world.”

Maureen Costello, director of Teaching Tolerance, spoke with me about how the SPLC’s program addresses pressing issues of fairness and equality with students and school personnel. A former classroom teacher and educational publishing professional, Costello cares deeply about the SPLC’s threefold mission and about her role in integrating the work of the Center’s other divisions with classroom instruction….

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Iowans Take Action to Ban BPA in Baby Products

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There’s good news for the children of Iowa today — though it’s not quite a done deal yet. The Iowa Senate passed a ban on Bisphenol-A (BPA) in the manufacture of certain children’s products sold in the state, including baby bottles, baby bottle liners, sippy cups, pacifiers, and teething rings.

A synthetic estrogen, BPA is used to harden clear plastics in all sorts of products, such as water bottles, containers for storing leftovers, plastic eyeglasses, ice cube trays, beer and soda cans, baby food jar lids, thermoses, and cell phones. It’s even likely to be in the cash register receipt you get at the grocery store. And, you can find BPA in the plastic lining inside cans of food and in some children’s toys….

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International Women’s Day Event to Celebrate Ugandan Hero

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In an early celebration of International Women’s Day, Blue Planet Green Living is partnering with A GEM of An Idea to host a live and interactive, online forum featuring the subject of this post, Agnes Nyamayarwo, founder of Mulago Positive Women’s Network.

We’re focusing on Agnes — both here and in the online forum — to celebrate her singular accomplishments as a woman of initiative, courage, and strength.

We invite you to join us February 26, 2011 from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. EST to speak with Agnes Nyamayarwo live from Uganda via the Internet.

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The Devil You Know

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It is a sad fact
that many of the women
in domestic violence shelters,
at any point in time,
will go back to their abusers.
(yes, it is true)

In fact, a large percentage will go back.
and many will go back more than once.
that means, of course,
that they leave and go back and then
find it necessary to leave again
and go back again
and leave again…

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Green Therapy Grows into Medical Mainstream

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Kathyrn Cummings walks along a wooded nature trail in Hickory Hill Park near Iowa City, with her patient a few steps ahead of her. She stops every so often to examine the colors in a leaf or point out the number of rings in a tree stump. It’s the third time this week that she has visited a park to walk the trails, but not because she enjoys the sunshine.

Cummings, an assisted-living counselor, works with a nonverbal, disabled woman, who suffers from severe anxiety and aggression issues. When the woman begins to show signs of an impending panic attack or begins to clench her fists out of frustration, Cummings knows it’s time to go for a walk. Taking a hike is often the only way to relieve the woman’s symptoms.

This is just one example of how interest in the therapeutic benefits of spending time outdoors is starting to gain attention in the medical mainstream….

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