Teaching Green

With Carol Baxter

Tips for teachers, parents and kids on how to live "greener" everyday lives. Contact me at Teachgreen@aol.com

Hi! Thanks for stopping by. I will answer your questions onhow to bring environmental studies into the classroom, how to deepen ourenvironmental awareness and how to live more "green". I'll suggest seasonalactivities that can help our children get closer to nature and givesuggestions on how to encourage them to be loving caretakers of our greatplanet earth. I want to encourage our children (and ourselves) to fall inlove with nature. When you love something, you will take care of it.

I look forward to hearing from teachers and parents about environmentalprojects that you've done that have been successful. E-mail me at Teachgreen@AOL.com and I'll share with others what you are doing.


In my last column, I addressed the reasons why we should consider choosing organic foods. Following is an article in which I asked this question of Meryl Streep.


The Environment: Future Foods -
An interview with Meryl Streep
by Carol Baxter Plotkin

Meryl Streep, actor, mother, and environmental activist has not only seen changes in how we grow foods in the last decade, but she's been instrumental in these changes. In 1989, when the Natural Resources Defense Council released it's report, Intolerable Risks: Pesticides in Our Children's Food, it was the first time that the public was made aware of the potential hazards of children eating food grown with pesticides. Alarmed by this study, Ms. Streep and a group of mothers in Connecticut, gathered together, at kitchen tables, to discuss ways they could change the way they shopped, in order to eliminate and/or limit their children's pesticide exposure.

Beginning with their own families, they spread their message to others; grocery store managers, restaurants, friends and relatives. They first named their group Mothers & Others for Pesticides Limits. After receiving sponsorship by the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) where one of the founding members, Wendy Gordon, was a research scientist, they changed their named to Mothers & Others for a Livable Planet.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, all farming was organic. During the 1940's and 1950's, pesticides and other "miracle" agricultural chemicals were developed and introduced into the marketplace. In 1991, it was estimated that farmers annually spent $6.1 billion on pesticides.

"How we grow food, greatly effects the environment," says Streep. "Keeping focused on this issue is of utmost importance. Pesticide use can have a devastating effect on animal and insect life, is a major cause of water and soil pollution, is the cause of terminal illnesses of farm workers who inappropriately apply the chemicals, and is hazardous to the health of children and adults who consume inappropriate amounts of pesticide residues on their foods. As we leave the twentieth century, it is clear that the public is beginning to understand this and statistics show the increase in organic sales, which proves that people are choosing pesticide-free foods. The USDA is in the process of setting, for the first time, national standards for organic food production. This is very exciting."

"According to the organization Farm Aid," states Streep, "of all occupations in America, farming is among those facing the greatest decline. Between 1993 and 1997, the number of mid-sized family farms dropped by 74,440. It is difficult for them to compete with corporate agriculture. These large agribusinesses are threatening the ecosystem, the food chain and the livelihoods of family farmers across the country, who are the very people who have been sustaining the land and providing us with food for so long. It's important for consumers to support local agriculture."

"As we entered the year 2000, consumers were and are still not savvy about the issue of Genetically Engineered Foods," continues Streep. "This poses a shortsighted environmental strain and health hazard of another kind."

According to the article, "Seeds of Change" in Consumers' Report , more than a quarter of American cropland, (more than 90 million acres) is growing genetically engineered crops. This includes 35% of all corn, 55% of all soybeans, and 50% of all cotton. As of today, 50 genetically engineered crop plants have been approved by the Department of Agriculture (USDA). These include potatoes, tomatoes, melons, and beets. Meanwhile, rice, wheat, cucumbers, strawberries, apples, sugarcane and walnuts are still being grown in test sites.

The public was first introduced to genetically engineered foods in 1993 when rbGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone) was approved for use. rbGH is injected into cows for the sole purpose of increasing milk production, making cows produce 10% more milk. While the USDA denied consumers appeals to have rgBH milk, dairy and meat products labeled, the European Union (13 countries) and Canada banned its use totally. In 1998-1999, in the U.S., organic milk, half and half and sour cream sales increased by 72.9%, as concerned consumers sought out and bought organic, rbGH-free milk. In general, in the last decade, organic food sales have increased four-fold.

"Since the inception of Mothers & Others," says Betsy Lydon, ProgramDirector, "our mission has been to educate shoppers and retailers on the merits of choosing organic, locally grown, seasonal foods and products without preservatives, chemical additives and excess packaging. As we enter the new millennium, Mothers & Others will add up-to-the-minute information on genetically engineered foods. Since 1993, their Mothers' Milk List, which lists rbGH-free companies, has been Mothers & Others' most popular request.

For further information about Farm Aid, call 1-800-FARM AID.

(reprint, Carol Baxter: January 2011)


EARTH PATROL KIDS

I want to hear from you Kids! E-mail your poems and stories about nature,ecology and our great Planet Earth, to Teachgreen@aol.com and I will share yourfeelings with other kids in this Earth Patrol Kids section. I'm looking forward to hearing from you!


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Carol Baxter is a free-lance writer specializing in articles regarding environmental issues, with special interest in how environmental negligence impact on the health of our children, family and the planet. Her articles have appeared nationwide in parenting magazines and newspapers and in environmental publications. In 1989, she founded MY FAVORITE PLANET, INC, a company sellingproducts that have a positive environmental impact, inspire the love of nature, and encourage kids to take care of our planet. She is currently working on the book Teaching the Green which will be an "at your finger-tips"resource guide for educators and parents, that will make accessing environmental educational materials convenient.

She is a co-developer of the Nyack Farmers' Market and presently serves as its Market Manager and Program Coordinator. She is a very involved member ofthe New York City based Mothers & Others for a Livable Planet and is an active volunteer for the Cornell Cooperative Extension in Rockland County. She isalso a 4-H leader. Her club the Hudson River Mermaids, are focused on learning and discovering "how things work" in the natural world and are energetic caretakers of the world around them.

In 1993, she became an ardent activist against the use of rbGH hormones in milk production and was co-founder of the New York City Safe Milk Coalition,which set out to convince the New York City Public School System to join the hundred school districts nationwide to ban rbGH-treated milk in the schools.

Prior to writing, she was a professional dancer in New York City for fifteen years. She currently lives in the Hudson River Valley with her husband and twochildren. She can be reached at her e-mail address, Teachgreen@aol.com

Copyright Carol Baxter 1999-2011

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