Sunday, September 27, 2009

Writer's Block

The pictures above are from a project I took part in called Writer's Block-- which involved setting up strangely shaped writing surfaces around campus with questions and chalk to generate community dialogue on Constitution Day. Some of the questions were:

Should students be required to participate in National Service?

Should states be required to make higher education affordable to all?

Should teachers be allowed to share their political views in the classroom?

Should convicted domestic abusers be allowed to purchase firearms?

Should students be required to get the swine flu vaccination?

Autumn's Town

I went for the most sensual and centering autumn walk. Staring at scenes that made my heart break. With their beauty. humanness. transience. and nostalgia. Yards scattered with tricycles, red and yellow Fisher Price cars, and different-sized kick balls. Overgrown gardens-- their vines drooping with swollen tomatoes and the delicate remnants of rain. I experienced deep front porches, seeping supper smells, and the first chimney puffs. Warm lights flicked on, house by house and I heard music and murmurs. A gray, flowing- haired couple with wool shawl and puffy vest unlocked the door to their home. The black pavement was speckled beneath my feet with red, yellow, and brown leaves, and the heat had waned from the setting sun. I drank in the scenes and thought to myself

this is how humans live. This is what it feels like to be alive. And everything was perfect to my open mouth, cool cheeks, and shining eyes.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Obama Speaks Out

These speeches are worth reading, listening to, and talking about:

Obama addresses American students

Obama addresses health care reform

Monday, September 7, 2009

Recyclable Clothing

According to the U.S. EPA Office of Solid Waste, Americans dispose of 68 pounds of clothing and textiles per person per year. While glass and aluminum recycling have pervaded national consciousness, we need to become more aware of the environmental repercussions of clothing production and the avenues for recycling our clothes.

The information below is from Earth 911's website and provides insight into the impact of what goes into our clothing:
  • Polyester, the most commonly used manufactured fiber, is made from petroleum in an energy-intensive process that emits volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and acid gases into the air. The process also uses a large amount of water for cooling.
  • The manufacturing of nylon emits nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas with a carbon footprint 310 times that of carbon dioxide.
  • Rayon, derived from wood pulp, often relies on clearing old growth forests to make way for water-hungry eucalyptus trees, from which the fiber is derived.
  • Cotton, found in most clothing, is the most pesticide-dependent crop in the world. It takes one-third of a pound of pesticides to make one t-shirt.
  • When manufacturing clothes, dyeing requires a hefty amount of water, and its fixatives often flow into rivers and sewers. Also, all 'easy care' and 'permanent press' cottons are treated with formadehyde."

For more information on the environmental impact of the clothing industry, see the "Waste Couture" report in Environews.

In 2005, Patagonia created it Common Threads Garment Recycling Program, which aims to make all Patagonia products recyclable by 2010. While the company has faced challenges in this mission, it exemplifies corporate social responsibility for consumers, investors, and others in the industry.

Moving from awareness to action, what is our role? Earth 911 suggests that if you are going to buy new clothes, purchase those made with sustainable materials: sustainable cotton, hemp, and bamboo. The following is a directory of stores that sell sustainable clothing:

An even better option (if you need to purchase at all) is used clothing: "The 12 to 15 percent of people who shopped at consignment and thrift stores in 2006 saved 2.5 billion pounds of clothes from re-entering the waste stream."

You can also do your part by recycling clothes you do not want. This can be done by selling them online; donating to organizations like Salvation Army, Goodwill, or Purple Heart; or setting up a community sharing event like the one I wrote about below.

Buy Less, Share More

On Friday, I met an inspiring bunch. Their faces were ruddy from autumn's nip and their long hair had a somewhat oily sheen, which made me self-conscious of my sweet-smelling locks. Their earth-toned shirts looked soft and darkened by wear. Yet the most memorable thing about them was their energy. Their eyes shone, and they practically danced in place. They were so filled with purpose and fire.

I was first attracted to the area when I saw homemade wooden trailers hitched to bikes. My eyes then traveled to the grass where wool sweaters, dog-eared gardening books and Irish short stories, an old radio, and leather boots lay. A cardboard box bearing the words "Buy Less, Share More" sat amidst the items. I browsed the stuff with other curious students, and then approached the boys who stood off to the side.

They were excited to see their idea of giving away used items come to fruition. According to them, hundreds of students and professors had stopped or walked by throughout the day, and many asked if they could contribute their own things. The project will continue every Friday with nice weather this fall. Given the extent of consumerism in our country, I respect their example and plan to contribute my own items to the sharing pile.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Cleaning Day

It is an inside-out sort of day. My outer skin of feelers and stimuli has been working overtime to take in and process these first two weeks, and has now gone inside for a rest. It has gone inside of my body, as a car goes to the shop or as a boat goes to the yard. My outer skin needs some touching-up. I need to scrape the impressions off like the barnacles on the bottom of a boat. I need to scrape, scrape, scrape until I can see the peachy, soft skin. Too much of this skin is hard and calloused now. Too much of it is worn and incapable of receiving and absorbing. I need to run water through the mesh and put things back in working condition. When the skin is inside, the body is inverted. Muscle meat and organs are exposed and they flinch at external interruptions. Time to go into the cave. Time to go into the cave which can serve as my skin for awhile. It’s cleaning day.