Category: Green Movement

A Holiday Respite at Eastern Market, a Midwestern Institution

On a weekend when the nation was consumed by an act of unspeakable violence at Sandy Hook School in Connecticut, I joined my cousin Linda in seeking consolation from the pain in a joyful community experience in the heart of Detroit.  The Eastern Market is notable as one of the most authentic urban adventures in the country – a local food district with more than 250 vendors and merchants.  And it dates back to 1891 at that location! http://www.detroiteasternmarket.com/

On a weekend when the nation was consumed by an act of unspeakable violence at Sandy Hook School in Connecticut, I joined my cousin Linda in seeking consolation from the pain in a joyful community experience in the heart of Detroit.  The Eastern Market is notable as one of the most authentic urban adventures in the country – a local food district with more than 250 vendors and merchants.  And it dates back to 1891 at that location!  http://www.detroiteasternmarket.com/

It was an incredible experience to mingle with joyful families and food vendors in a holiday atmosphere, watching children’s faces light up as they sampled holiday specialties and listened to the live music.  A special van featured freshly cooked beignets, which always reminds me of the French Quarter in New Orleans – and it was an opportunity to introduce my cousin to this wonderful treat. We laughed that the company was based in Hamtramck, a Polish neighborhood, eliciting visions of beignets and kielbasa!  We also tasted spicy, warm Apple Cider, nibbled on delectable pears, and marveled at all the varieties of holiday baked goods.

I finally felt that I had found a local institution that could inspire the devotion I had for my beloved Brooklyn neighborhood, with its thriving Flatbush Food Coop in Ditmas Park, featuring locally grown produce, and a Sunday farmer’s market ( http://flatbushfood.coop/).

In fact, I can now add the Eastern Market to my list of favorite local farm produce experiences around the country.  In Los Angeles, I was part of a publicity team for the famous Original Farmers Market at Third and Fairfax and grew to love the uniqueness of its vendors and their histories (http://www.farmersmarketla.com/)

In San Francisco, the downtown farmers market was housed in the historic Ferry Building and you could spot famous local chefs like Alice Waters sampling the mouth-watering produce (http://www.ferrybuildingmarketplace.com/farmers_market.php).

Last Saturday evening reality returned as I watched the news unfold on the national tragedy and mourning.  I remain convinced it is the many healthy ways we express our sense of togetherness and community across this country that will ultimately heal us.

It was an incredible experience to mingle with joyful families and food vendors in a holiday atmosphere, watching children’s faces light up as they sampled holiday specialties and listened to the live music.  A special van featured freshly cooked beignets, which always reminds me of the French Quarter in New Orleans – and it was an opportunity to introduce my cousin to this wonderful treat. We laughed that the company was based in Hamtramck, a Polish neighborhood, eliciting visions of beignets and kielbasa!  We also tasted spicy, warm apple cider, nibbled on delectable pears, and marveled at all the varieties of holiday baked goods.

I finally felt that I had found a local institution that could inspire the devotion I had for my beloved Brooklyn neighborhood, with its thriving Flatbush Food Coop in Ditmas Park, featuring locally grown produce, and a Sunday farmer’s market ( http://flatbushfood.coop/).

In fact, I can now add the Eastern Market to my list of favorite local farm produce experiences around the country.  In Los Angeles, I was part of a publicity team for the famous Original Farmers Market at Third and Fairfax and grew to love the uniqueness of its vendors and their histories (http://www.farmersmarketla.com/).

In San Francisco, the downtown farmers market was housed in the historic Ferry Building and you could spot famous local chefs like Alice Waters sampling the mouth-watering produce (http://www.ferrybuildingmarketplace.com/farmers_market.php).

Last Saturday evening reality returned as I watched the news unfold on the national tragedy and mourning.  I remain convinced it is the many healthy ways we express our sense of togetherness and community across this country that will ultimately heal us.

THE WITNESS TREE: Recording Climate Change in Cost Rica, Antarctica and the Amazon Rainforest

Brooklyn landscape photographer Carolyn Monastra recently completed an adventure-filled ride down the Amazon River in February as she continued her travels to record the effects of climate change.  I first wrote last fall about her project The Witness Tree, which will continue to take Carolyn around the world this year to document sites affected by the warming temperatures.  I wanted to track her artistic project further, because I believe it is a truly courageous one, funded by a grant as well as donations.

Carolyn is targeting international locations like the Amazon River that represent a diversity of natural environments and cultures to demonstrate, in her words, “that this is indeed a global epidemic.”  She started her current travels in Costa Rica, where she first visited two permaculture farms started by concerned citizens working to restore Mother Earth’s Greenery. This was a fun-filled side-trip showcasing heroic farming efforts by volunteers from the U.S. and other countries to thwart climate change.  She then chronicled her visit to the threatened Monteverde Cloud Forest.  This usually misty forest has environmentalists concerned, she says, because it is being affected by warming temperatures which are causing its vital clouds to form higher up in the atmosphere, decreasing the number of misty days during the dry season.  She has amazing photographs of the flora and fauna in the forest that are already being affected, and she especially loves the beautiful orchids.

Her next posting was even further south in Antarctica, where she reported that ice is melting more in this region than anywhere else in the world and the rate of melting is accelerating more rapidly than was initially thought. Ninety percent of the world’s ice and about 70 percent of the world’s fresh water is contained in Antarctica, she warns.  Despite the subzero cold, Carolyn can’t find enough superlatives to describe the beauty of the scenery as she eagerly photographs it. She also issues an alarm about the consequences facing the rest of the world if this rate of melting continues.

As Carolyn heads into the seventh month of her journey, I hope you won’t want to miss the opportunity to share the drama of her latest explorations, including her dramatic photographs of the Amazon Rainforest, on her blog at http://witnesstreephotography.wordpress.com/ .  Carolyn’s Witness Tree Project is both an incredible educational experience and a tribute to the power of one individual in our global media  age.

 

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The Witness Tree: A Brooklyn Landscape Photographer Captures our Disappearing Natural Treasures

My Ditmas Park neighbor and friend Carolyn Monastra is a landscape photographer on a mission.

She’s just returned from photographing the disappearing glaciers in Glacier National Park in Montana and reports that of the 150 original glaciers, only 25 remain – and those are expected to be gone by 2030 at the latest.  That’s only one of the areas affected by climate change that made her decide to create a project called The Witness Tree so that she could document breathtaking natural beauty around the world that is fast disappearing.

You still have a few days to learn more about her amazing work and help Carolyn raise additional funds by logging onto the websites listed below.  At the very least, give yourself the pleasure of reviewing her spectacular photography!

To make a donation:

http://www.indiegogo.com/The-Witness-Tree

 

To learn more about Carolyn’s project:

http://carolynmonastra.com/cm/a_WT_start.html

 

To watch a video discussion about her work with artists Zach Keeting and Chris Joy:

http://www.gorkysgranddaughter.com/2011/08/carolyn-monastra-july-2011.html

 

Related stories:

How global warming is making hurricanes like Irene worse:

http://thinkprogress.org/green/2011/08/26/305265/how-global-warming-is-making-hurricane-irene-worse/

 

Pete Seeger’s Sloop Clearwater – Living a Dream

Back in 1966, it was just the dream of one of my folk singing heroes, Pete Seeger.   As I sailed in early July with friends from the Flatbush Food Coop on the sloop Clearwater http://www.clearwater.org/about, we listened to the story of Seeger’s determination to save the polluted Hudson River and enact national legislation.  He started more than 40 years ago with the Great Hudson River Revival, an on-going music festival that helped raise the funds to build the  Clearwater and create a non-profit organization to carry out his mission. The Clearwater is a replica of the original Dutch sloops that sailed the Hudson in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Back in the late 60s, our country’s waterways were suffering from uncontrolled pollution, including the Hudson River in the East and Lake Erie in the Midwest, where I went swimming during a great part of my childhood.  In 1969, I remember how it broke my heart when Lake Erie was declared a giant cesspool because of all the contaminants pouring into it from manufacturing. The TheClearwater Sloop today spreads the word of the successes and remaining challenges in protecting our nation’s waterways. Yes, there were big successes – including the enactment of the Clean Water Act and the non-profit’s key role in the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to remove PCBs from the Hudson River, speeding the final stages of its recovery.

Today most of our major waterways are healing – Lake Erie is no longer considered dead. Yet recovery requires constant vigilance from new threats like hydrofracking.  For instance, I learned on the cruise that dangerous levels of PCBs are still being absorbed by fish and some species are more contaminated than others.  Upstate in areas of the Hudson River near Troy and Saratoga, where the manufacturing sites originally dumped the PCB waste, it is still too contaminated for fishing.   The Hudson is much cleaner as it flows by Manhattan and empties into the harbor, but there will still be reason for concern until all the PCBs are dredged from the waterbeds.

We were on the sloop Clearwater not only to celebrate the cleanup of the Hudson, but to celebrate another unfurling dream – the 35th anniversary of the Flatbush Food Coop in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn – founded when the harmful effects of pesticides on our produce was just being chronicled  and organic food was still a new idea.  The cruise reminded me again of the importance of impossible dreams!  Whether you are an artist, an activist or a business owner, dream on!

Environmental Miracles Grown in Detroit

‘Grown in Detroit,’ an award-winning documentary made by Dutch filmmakers Mascha and Manfred Poppenk, sees promise in the abandoned lots in my hometown, where others see only devastation.  The documentary chronicles an environmental miracle and unfolds a lesson for everyone about failure and renewal and why we should never give up hope. The city has tragically lost half of its residents, but one third of the city has become green again, and the Detroit government is allowing its residents to become urban farmers.

The documentary focuses on a public school where young African American girls who are pregnant or already young mothers are taught agricultural skills on the school’s own

Farm, located where the playground used to be.  The students are learning by farming to become more independent women and knowledgeable about the importance of nutritional foods. They are also learning to make honey, since the bee population, almost extinct in America, is flourishing in Detroit. The extensive variety of native flowers on the vacant lots and the lack of pesticides make Detroit’s unique environment perfect for a very pure, organic honey production.

On their website at http://grownindetroit.filmmij.nl/,  the filmmakers talk about how they have grown in love with Detroit and its residents. Sure, they admit, Detroit could be in a better shape but they argue that it’s one of the few cities left in the region with such beautiful architecture, history, community spirit and abundant nature.  Too bad most of this country only believes the Murder Capital headlines – I prefer the optimistic view of the Poppenks and that after the most tragic circumstances, we can learn from our failures and help each other to start all over again.