Friday, April 22, 2016

Simple Habits Make a Big Difference

Grabbin' my handy-dandy Arizona International Film Fest water bottle.
When attempting to get people involved in fighting climate change, I often hear, "What can I do? I'm just one person."

Since Dan and I committed to transitioning to a more sustainable lifestyle, I am always on the lookout for simple actions we can incorporate into our daily routines that don't contribute to climate change. Here are two things we found that make a big difference.
1) Instead of buying bottled water, we bring a refillable water bottle wherever we go.
2) Rather than taking home numerous plastic grocery bags, we try to bring reusable bags whenever we go to the store. (Our previous method was to reuse the bags for trash or to pick up after our dog Poo. But there was still a whole box full left!)

Maybe Poo can help me remember the That joke never gets old! .

It's actually pretty easy once it becomes a habit. Dan has a special pocket in his man purse (I mean backpack) where he always keeps a bottle of water. I have a lightweight bag I throw mine in. We live in the desert - so it's a good idea to bring water anyway.

Yeah, I know. It takes a real effort to change ingrained habits. But it can be done. You might recall my frustration when I kept forgetting to bring reusable bags while walking to the store. But with my son's help, I am getting in the habit of grabbing those bags (strategically placed by the front door)! I've seen people who keep them in their car (we don't have one) or handbag. (Gotta try that one!) We can change. My boys and I are a testament to that. We were addicted, I mean totally addicted, to diet Pepsi. Now we don't even miss it. And every change just improves the quality of our lives.

We got to take home our water jars from WMG as favors!
A special note to Tucson's incredible sustainability groups.... Thanks for all you do. We love you guys! I want to thank you for implementing a BYOC (bring your own cup) policy!  I know it's so much easier to put on an event using bottled water and disposable tableware. But our convenient, disposable life style is exactly the problem.  Watershed Management Group led the way by using real tableware for their Flow and Feast picnic at the river. What a treat to eat off of real plates! And they made it more fun by supplying reusable jars filled with yummy rainwater! Many thanks to the generous volunteers who did dishes out there in the field! It got me thinking about how many plates and glasses I would have used throughout the evening. I suggest that every sustainability group invest in a big water jug. And include a reminder in your event announcements to bring cups to be filled up (and plates for potlucks).

As you can see from this video, using reusable water bottles and grocery bags can make a HUGE difference! If you don't believe me try a little experiment - leave all the water bottles you use in a month (or from your next BBQ) in your front room! And that's just one household. Imagine the impact if we all made this simple lifestyle change!

Check out the video above and PASS IT ON.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Documentaries on Climate Change and Hope

Between doing research for this blog and Reel Inspiration, Dan and I have seen a plethora of films on climate change. Recently we watched “This Changes Everything,” screened as part of the Social Justice series held at the Loft Cinema. In the opening, narrator Stacey Raab admitted that she didn’t want to make another climate change documentary with polar bears. I found her doc in turns infuriating and inspiring. It was particularly painful to see conference attendees from the Heartland Institute (a think tank owned by the Koch brothers) cheering their success in convincing Americans that there was no global warming. But I loved the overall theme that we could rewrite our story. We don’t have to continue the narrative of profit at all cost. We can work together to take care of each other and the planet.

The film shared powerful stories of people from all over the world uniting to do just that. Members of the first peoples of Alberta, Canada investigated a pipeline oil spill on their ancestral hunting lands. Indigenous people were studying up on the law in order to better fight for their rights. They were even installing their own solar panels. The movie demonstrated how much power people have when they stand together. Villagers in India succeeded in stopping a coal-fired power plant from being built in their backyard by using their bodies to block anyone from the power company from entering their village. People from around the world are now successfully using this ploy. This is the kind of message that people can get behind – one of hope.

Friday night at the Arizona International Film Festival, we had the pleasure of seeing “The Anthropologist.” One of the great things about attending a film festival is hearing the filmmakers illuminate us on their process and what inspired their projects. Director Seth Kramer also commented on how he didn’t want to make yet another climate change movie with polar bears and scientists explaining the greenhouse effect. Fortunately, the National Science Foundation sponsored the project based on the angle of an anthropologist studying the effect of climate change on people.

Compared with other environmental docs I’ve seen, this is a light-hearted romp. It stars a squabbling mother (Mary Bateson) and daughter (Susie Crate.) Susie is your typical American teenager. She doesn’t understand why she has to go with her mom to third world countries when she just wants to stay at home and hang out with friends. The film also featured segments with legendary anthropologist Margaret Mead’s now adult daughter about what life was like growing up in the field. It was included to explore how Susie might turn out.

As audience members we might relate to her discomfort of being dragged along on physically challenging trips to witness communities suffering from the effects of climate change, while being very aware of the great opportunity it is to see breath-taking scenery and colorful cultures.

Their first trip is a sort of family reunion with Susie’s relatives on her father’s side in Siberia. (Her mom met her father while working there as a young anthropologist.) We soon discover that Susie knows the language. In fact, she has a keen ear for languages and blatantly expresses her embarrassment when her mother struggles to communicate. We watch this teen grow as she sees firsthand how climate change is affecting that part of her family. The permafrost has melted causing the ground to turn to mush. The hay they need to feed their cows (their main source of food) has died as well as the trees. The change in Susie is especially evident when they return home and she visits with her friends. You can see it in her eyes as one of her friends says she doesn’t know if she believes in climate change because her father says it isn’t true.

After witnessing the devastation on island villages in the South Pacific being bombarded by the rising sea or the impact of glaciers melting in Peru, it’s hard not to believe in climate change. Traveling along with an anthropologist, we got a glimpse of the effect on the indigenous people, their cultures, and communities. What we learned about people left us with hope. People are durable and capable of change, and will find a way to adapt.

Both of these movies express hope for the people who inhabit this planet that we call home. “The Anthropologist” shows how people are capable of change and “This Changes Everything” shows how we can change our story to one where we unite to save it.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Enjoying the Living Streets of Tucson

It was a dark and stormy night...

No. Really. It was. After a Saturday that had what could only be described as "Chamber of Commerce" weather with mild temperatures, beautiful clear skies, and just a slight breeze, threatening grey clouds rolled in. But that didn't deter anyone - they jumped on their bicycles, got out the strollers, put a leash on the dog, and headed out to take over the streets.

The idea of closing off city streets to allow bicyclists, pedestrians, and the community at large to enjoy car free streets started in the 70s in Columbia, with Bogota CiclovĂ­a. To this day, major cities in Columbia close roads to auto traffic every Sunday and holiday. Unfortunately, Tucson doesn't close the streets as often as that, but, twice a year - once in the Spring and once in the Fall - the Living Streets Alliance hosts Cyclovia Tucson.  The event this Spring featured a 2.5 mile auto-free route from the Lost Barrio to Himmel Park.

And, even with the threat of rain (and several downpours), the people were there!

They were jousting.

They were walking tightropes.
They were showing off their neighborhoods.

Setting up "Urban Lounges."
Riding zip lines.
Getting information about community organizations.
Eating food.
Drinking beer.
But, most of all, just being together with other Tucsonans.
Isn't that what community is all about: Talking to our neighbors, getting some fresh air, and enjoying our beautiful city? I think so. And, luckily, we have Cyclovia Tucson to remind us what our streets and neighborhoods could be like, if we chose to make them that way.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Restore the Flow!

The water must flow.
Yet it so often does not.
The water must flow.

I'll's a pretty bad haiku. That was my entry in the poetry slam at the Watershed Management Group's Flow & Feast event held last night at a ranch that straddles Sabino Creek. I was inspired by the good fellowship, great food and drink, and by the number of enthusiastic people who joined together to share the dream of restoring Tucson's watershed.

Did you know that most of the now dry riverbeds in Tucson used to have running water in them nearly year-round? That Sabino Creek had running water for 200 days this year? We can increase that number by implementing common sense measures to reduce our impact on Tucson's aquifer. For much of Tucson's history, we were water self-sufficient, but over-development and unsustainable practices have made that impossible. So, we joined together on Saturday night, wearing our blue to symbolize flowing water, to envision a future where Sabino Creek flows nearly year round.

Restore the flow!
We can do this. It's really not that hard, it just requires being mindful of how we use water and where our water goes to and comes from. It's actually a lot of fun to observe the water flows in your own yard and imagine how you can redesign your landscape to make use of that totally free resource we all have available to us. When we think of the Sonoran desert, we think of Saguaro - and with good reason. But we should remember that these are also native to our desert:

We can restore our riparian areas. We can restore the flow.