Posts Tagged With: environment

Leilani Münter

Leilani Münter is a race car-driving environmental activist. Sounds unusual? It is, because she is one of a kind. After studying biology at the University of California, San Diego, this self-described “adrenaline junkie” discovered she had a knack for racing fast cars. That was the start of a new career for her, but she brought her environmental passions along for the ride.

Since her start in 2001, Leilani has had nine top 5 finishes in the male-dominated sport. Amidst competing, Leilani has been working to change the car racing industry from the inside out. In 2007, she became the first driver to neutralize her carbon footprint by adopting an acre of rainforest each time she races. In 2012 at Daytona, she spotlighted dolphin kills in Taiji, Japan with “The Cove” movie logo emblazoned on her car (she also gave away copies of the documentary to fans). Her overall goal is to green the entire enterprise by ensuring that racing stadiums are powered by renewable energy, race cars run on biofuels, and used tires are recycled. Leilani knows that some people think she’s crazy trying to change a practice that seems far from “green”, but this rallier firmly disbelieves in preaching to the choir.

Leilani says:

“If I stopped racing, I would not take a race car off the grid. I would just be replaced by another driver. Likely one that doesn’t go out of their way to take care of the environment, is not offsetting their carbon footprint with rainforest, and is not promoting green technologies at the racetrack. I would simply lose my ability to talk to 75 million race fans about green living and hopefully win some of them over.”*

After all, Leilani asserts, “That’s how you start creating change, by having a dialogue with people who don’t agree with you.“** And she certainly has a large audience to speak to- car racing is the #1 spectator sport in the US, and the second most watched sport on television. It is a fitting place to start showcasing sustainability in the 21st century (and a burgeoning one at that: in 2010, the Pocono Raceway installed a complete 25-acre solar farm and this year, NASCAR began using 15% biofuel in its cars). 

When Leilani is not advocating on the track, you can find her participating in dolphin hunt protests, lobbying Congress, or writing guest pieces for various green blogs. Food sustainability sits close to her heart, and Leilani, a vegetarian since age 6, wants people to consider their meal’s carbon footprint (she points out that “40% more greenhouse gas emissions come from raising animals for food than all the planes, trains, cars, SUVs, ships, and race cars in the world combined”). She also promotes the use of reusable shopping bags and energy efficient light bulbs and wants legislators to transition to supporting a green economy. Leilani says:

Green jobs in the form of renewable energy are waiting to be created, but we need Washington to act now to phase out the old fossil fuel economy, cut subsidies for oil and coal, and reward clean renewable energy that will create thousands of jobs here in the U.S. We need a smart grid to support electric cars, infrastructure for cars running on alternative fuels, and green buildings utilizing energy efficient systems and capturing solar and wind wherever we can and being able to send that energy captured back into the electrical grid.***

Leilani believes our continued reliance on oil poses national security issues and hopes to one day see gas stations being revamped as electric car charging stations. She knows the fight won’t be easy though…after all, she points out, “The top five oil companies spend $150 million every year on 750 full time lobbyists that live in DC working to get the laws written in their favor.”***

To learn more about Leilani (who was voted the #1 eco athlete in the world by Discovery’s Planet Green):

-visit her website (she even lists movie recommendations there!)
-read her essay “Why A Plant Based Diet Will Save the World“.
-*read the Discovery interview “Vegetarian Hippie Chick Leilani Münter Drives Change with Her Race Car“, 11/29/12.
-**read the CNN article “She’s Racing to Save the Environment“, 9/2/10.
-***read the Eco-Chick article “Heroines for the Planet: Race Car Driver & Environmental Activist Leilani Munter“, 7/1/11.

Categories: Leilani Munter, North Carolina | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dr. Anthony Ingraffea

Dr. Anthony Ingraffea is a Professor of engineering at Cornell University and a member of the Cornell Fracture Group. As an expert in the field of fracture mechanics, he travels around the U.S. to inform citizens about unconventional hydraulic fracturing, the new practice that has quickly gained momentum in states like Pennsylvania and Ohio. Dr. Ingraffea approaches his audiences factually in an effort to help landowners make smarter decisions when confronted by natural gas companies. He works to dispel myths propagated by these companies that may otherwise misinform.

Dr. Ingraffea knows the technology well and is an affable, well-versed speaker. His main points are that:

  1. Unconventional shale gas development (the new “fracking”) is a relatively recent enterprise, fewer than 15 years old, and is the result of 4 new combined technologies that did not become available until the time period of 1996-2007.
  2. The new fracking technology is still being invented and much of the research studying the process and its effects has not yet been done.
  3. This new unconventional fracturing technology takes a lot longer than conventional fracturing and results in much greater amounts of air, light, and noise pollution.
  4. The new technology has a higher risk to the environment and human health and has higher fugitive emissions of methane, which is 20x more powerful a greenhouse gas than CO2. It’s possible that the total footprint of the natural gas drilling process is not better than coal or oil’s.
  5. The cumulative effect of purposeful ground and air releases that occur in the fracking process are still unknown.
  6. The industry does not have complete control of the technology; they rely on imperfect models.
  7. Natural gas cannot solve our energy crisis– it’s nowhere near production levels to drastically decrease the US’ current dependence on foreign oil.

Just from watching even one of Dr. Ingraffea’s community lectures, I learned a lot. What impresses me most about Dr. Ingraffea is that he’s aware that it is ultimately the landowner’s decision whether or not they want unconventional fracing done on their property and he tries to empower them in the process.  He attempts to leave his opinion out of his lectures until it’s asked, and leave the “Is it worth it?” question largely up to the citizen. He believes that “forewarned is forearmed” and wants listeners to be aware of the risks involved, such as the probability that 1 in 20 wells will leak immediately (which is a great number when you consider the 400,000 wells drillers have planned). He really tries to encourage a thorough understanding in the average American of this new phenomenon that may otherwise seem confusing and unclear. In the process, I think he probably causes a lot of people (even initial skeptics) to reach much more environmentally sound conclusions!

To listen to Dr. Ingraffea yourself, here is his presentation “The Facts on Fracking”, Luzerne County, 2010:

Categories: Dr. Anthony Ingraffea, New York | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Annie Leonard

Annie Leonard is a Barnard graduate (wahoo!) who has become a mastermind behind our system of “stuff”. While attending college in New York City and witnessing mountains of trash piled on the curb, she took a trip to Fresh Kills Landfill and was astounded by our economy of waste. She started researching the path of our “stuff” and has since spent over 10 years investigating where our products come from, where they go when we’re through with them, and what their overall impact is on all of us. She created an hour-long talk on “The Story of Stuff” which in 2007, was compacted into an illustrated 21-minute video. That video has since had over 15 million views in over 200 countries, making it one of the most well-known environmental videos of all time!

Annie’s belief is that in our current western lifestyle, we’re trashing the planet, we’re trashing each other, and we’re not even having fun. We’re at an “ecological brink” of disaster on a lot of issues and by 2050, we’ll be living over 500% above the planet’s resources. Communities across the world are suffering environmental and health damage to make our products and then bearing the burden of our hazardous trash when it’s shipped back to them. We’re spending the majority of our time watching tv and shopping, which often doesn’t give us lasting happiness (it’s been found that the key factors to happiness beyond basic fundamental needs are: having purpose or meaning in life, having strong social relationships, and spending leisure time with friends or family). We have become consumers first and everything that used to be provided by the community and social interaction has been commodified. As a result, we have to work more to get more stuff, which now has become a burden to us. Our stuff owns us.

Annie has looked further into this issue to discover that our increasing identification with material objects and our ability to purchase them (thank you advertising!) is connected to a broader phenomenon in which corporations in this country have made our society and government serve them above the population. As Annie says, our tax money has been “hijacked” to subsidize a whole manner of unsustainable practices and industries that aren’t good for anything in the long run except the corporation’s profits (for example, why are we granting oil and gas companies $10 million in subsidies every year when ExxonMobil alone made over $10 billion in profits in 2011??)  We’re financing processes that pollute people and the environment with our own tax dollars– we’re essentially paying these corporations to destroy the planet. And with the 2010 Citizens United v. FEC Supreme Court decision, in which 5 Justices decided that corporations can essentially pay as much money as they want to influence our votes, the corporation’s control of our government has increased all the more.

So what does Annie suggest?  She recommends that we 1) reclaim our power and identity as citizens, first and foremost; 2) reduce the quantity of what we consume (and also, in hand, aim for better quality as to lengthen the lives of our products); 3) demand more from our tax dollars (after all, it’s our money!), and 4) increase our social connections in our communities. Our democracy was built to serve us, not corporations (in fact, corporations used to be disbanded once they had concluded their projects!) Our priority is to engage as citizens, not to consume (look where focusing mostly on consumption has gotten us today- we’re working more hours, our houses are filled with crap and we’re constantly schlepping). With so much focus on consumption, Annie believes our social fabric is deteriorating– and banding together as a group can fix that. She says that heroes are just “regular people who get involved in making this world better”. We can all be heroes.

To learn more about Annie’s Story of Stuff and various projects, watch her fun, illustrated videos:

Categories: Annie Leonard, California | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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