7 Mar 2012
In celebration of Women’s History Month, Women Of Green will be featuring each week a film about woman of vision who has dedicated her life to the health and well-being of this Big Beautiful Planet and the beings that live on it. First up is the legendary environmental activist, Wangari Maathai, who became the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004.
Three decades ago, she suggested to rural women in her native Kenya that they plant trees for firewood and to stop soil erosion — an act that grew into a nationwide movement to safeguard the environment, defend human rights, and fight government injustice. The tree-planting groups that formed gave the women a reason to come together and become involved in resolving their communities’ challenges.
Taking Root: The Vision of Wangari Maathai tells the story of Kenya’s Green Belt Movement and follows Maathai, the movement’s founder and the first environmentalist and African woman to win the Nobel Prize. Maathai discovered her life’s work by reconnecting with the rural women with whom she had grown up. They told her they were walking long distances for firewood, and that clean water was scarce. The soil was disappearing from their fields, and their children were suffering from malnutrition. “Well, why not plant trees?” she suggested.
6 Mar 2012
Sharon Salzberg, the queen of loving-kindness meditation, tells a story of a time she was traveling in India. As she was exiting a taxi, a man grabbed her suitcase in attempt to steal it. Sharon, grabbing the handle, struggled back and forth and back and forth with this man. Finally, when she knew he wasn’t letting go, she took her umbrella and hit him over the head “with all the love in my heart,” she says. Hit him over the head with all the love in her heart. You’ve got to smile at that.
So often we think of the word “kindness” and get all mushy and passive. We confuse it with being “nice”. Being meek. Being monkish. I would like to shine a light on a side of kindness that doesn’t get much airtime. Fierce kindness. Sounds like an oxymoron, but it’s not.
2 Mar 2012
The U.S. industrial food and farming system, dominated by fast food restaurants and processed, chemical-laden food, has precipitated a public health crisis. Although nutritionists recommend that consumers avoid eating unhealthy junk foods, every day 75 million Americans “supersize” themselves and damage their health by eating at McDonald’s or other fast food restaurants. Forty percent of American meals are now purchased and consumed outside the home, typically consisting of high-calorie, low-nutrition items such as soft drinks, French fries, and low-grade meat, laced with fat, cheap sweeteners, pesticide residues, chemical additives, and salt. We have become a Fast Food Nation of bulging waistlines and high blood pressure.
Recent studies link pesticide residues and chemical additives like MSG in processed foods and restaurant fare to hormone disruption and obesity. No wonder 60% percent of Americans are either overweight or obese. One in every three children born since the year 2000 will develop diabetes in their lifetime. Diet-related obesity, diabetes, and heart disease are now the nation’s number one public health problem, generating an estimated $150 billion in health care costs every year. Millions of youth and adults have literally become addicted to the chemically enhanced junk food served in fast food restaurants, school lunchrooms, and institutional cafeterias. In 1972, U.S. consumers spent three billion dollars a year on fast food – today we spend more than $110 billion.
The junk food industry, now under attack by public health advocates and parents, finds itself in a similar position to where the tobacco industry was in the 1990s. After decades of lies and industry propaganda, the truth is finally coming out: junk food kills.
Indeed, despite individual efforts by some states to tax soda pop, require healthier school lunches, or mandate calorie information in chain restaurants, obesity rates in the United States are growing. It is time for the federal government to stop subsiding, with billions of dollars of public tax money, the factory-farmed crops and animal products (corn, soybeans, cotton, dairy, and meat) that create the artificially low prices that prop up the nation’s junk food industry.