Certain simple ideas have the power to transform humanity (for the better). Creating an organic community garden is one of those life-changing concepts. The forward-thinking nonprofit, EnrichLA, builds gardens at schools, using students, parents, and community volunteers to construct irrigated planting beds, trees, flowers, and vegetables. In the tradition of Habitat for Humanity, it all happens in one antic day. This is possible thanks to a smartly refined template — they’re in more than 50 locations; they know what they’re doing — and a charismatic leader, Tomas O’Grady, a handsome Irishman equally handy with power tools and public relations. Volunteer. Plant a seed. Watch what grows.
Were you aware that bottled water is “bad for the environment,” “bad for public water sources,” and “bad for your wallet”?
Neither were we! It’s pretty funny to think of something so obviously good – so amazing, when you think about it – as inherently evil, or something. Bottled water is, like, one of the greatest innovations of the last thirty years. Before bottled water was introduced in the marketplace, people had to drink out of taps, or “water fountains.” (This water was more or less free, but, hey, you get what you pay for.) Instead of having a conveniently disposable plastic bottle, people used to have to drink out of cups and thermoses and such, which, you can imagine, was very inconvenient.
Bottled water = convenient. And if that’s not a good enough reason to embrace a life-improving product, we can’t think of a better one.
Originally posted April 7th, 2013
By Michael Konik
We’ll never win a popularity contest, that’s for certain. We’re OK with that. To us, it’s more important to do what’s right than to be liked and admired and affirmed. That’s why we feel comfortable sticking up for society’s downtrodden, the friendless, powerless folks who bear the daily aspersions and derision of those who think them inferior. We love all our brothers and sisters. Even the ones no one else does.
Let us hereby celebrate smokers and litterbugs, two groups of people that consistently suffer unfair, unkind, and unhelpful criticisms.
The Los Angeles Times recently ran an editorial declaring that employers looking for job applicants who don’t smoke are making a big mistake. The paper thinks that avoiding smokers is a lamentable and unwarranted intrusion into an applicant’s private life. We agree! Employers with an eye on the bottom line – and is there another kind? – . . . → Read More: Sticking Up for Society’s Most Unloved
Originally posted October 7th, 2012
By Michael Konik
He had a name that you might call Dickensian, except Barry Commoner, who died this week at 95, was anything but his nomenclature. A man of the people, yes. Common, no.
Barry Commoner was uncommon.
Today, millions of Earth’s inhabitants believe that overpopulation, increased affluence, and advanced technology are the root causes of environmental degradation. Back in 1971, when Commoner published his catalytic book, “The Closing Circle: Man, Nature, and Technology,” his ideas were considered radical, annoying, and revolutionary. Gasoline at the time cost 36-cents per gallon. Automobiles cost around $2,500. The phrases “peak oil” and “Middle Eastern jihadi” had not entered the lexicon. Many conservatives – those who liked things just the way they were – couldn’t understand why anyone would want to disrupt a fossil fuel energy model that seemed to provide human beings with a “better” . . . → Read More: In Praise of Barry Commoner
Originally posted August 12th, 2012
By Michael Konik
SINCE ORIGINALLY PUBLISHING THIS ESSAY, WE’VE COLLECTED NEARLY 2,000 PIECES OF LITTER IN RUNYON CANYON.
The results are in!
After nearly one week of highly un-scientific sampling, we’ve collected and analyzed the data. Literally.
During the test period, we visited Runyon Canyon, Hollywood’s celebrated nature area, and collected as much trash as we could carry – two handfuls and four pockets – between garbage cans. These receptacles are spaced about 200 meters apart (or less), conspicuously stationed beside the Canyon’s main hiking path, the paved one that climbs from the end of Sheryl Crow’s front gate on Vista Street to Mulholland Drive and the one-horse-three-car ranches in the Hollywood Hills. The garbage cans are green and have round bubble tops with swinging flaps; they look remarkably like garbage cans.
A surprising number of visitors to Runyon Canyon don’t seem able to locate them. Or maybe . . . → Read More: Litter Forensics
Originally posted June 14th, 2012
By Michael Konik
There may be places in South Africa that offer a higher density of game than the Madikwe reserve, near Botswana. But few offer as low of a humans-to-wild-animals ratio as you’ll find at Madikwe Safari Lodge. This sense of solitude helps connect visitors to the rhythms of the bush — that and a terrific staff of kind and informative locals. You will see everything you dreamed you might. And you will eat and sleep well. Because that’s how paradise works.
Originally posted June 10th, 2012
By Michael Konik
During a recent trip to South Africa, I went on a safari into the bush near Botswana. The main lodge there, in Madikwe, seemed to have some sort of cellular service and internet connection, but I had decided prior to departing Los Angeles that I would spend at least three days away from the information matrix.
If the Internet connects us all, then I would be disconnected. No email, no texts (which I don’t do anyway), no Twitter, no Facebook, no Web updates, and no phone calls except in an emergency.
The idea wasn’t to go completely off the grid, without any means of being contacted. What I was hoping for was an opportunity to refocus my attention and recalibrate my energy.
That I got. For three glorious days and nights I looked at animals and birds doing their thing in the wild. I showered outdoors . . . → Read More: Being Connected
Originally posted August 7th, 2011
By Michael Konik
When you walk into a room, the dining room let’s say for the sake of useful metaphor, her solitude is silent, screaming mutely and crying in the quiet.
The loneliness of the orchid.
The stillness of the table. The gentle droop, a swan’s neck, a dancer’s bow to the enveloping sound of love.
Cursed with wakefulness, the flowers cannot sleep. The talking goes on and then some more, shuffling the proper order of things. Renovating the piquant plan that our unseen hand once imagined in a fever fit. Ceaselessly yearning for light and the enveloping sound of love.
We can’t know her any more than ourselves. She’s white and frail and open, vulnerable to cold and cruelty. Her language is a mystery.
Originally posted July 10th, 2011
By Michael Konik
Here’s how we feed everyone, repair our environment, and provide meaningful work: convert lawns into organic vegetable gardens.
Imagine if all the property owners currently pumping water and fertilzer into their grass carpets used our precious natural resources to grow food — healthy, unprocessed, nutrient-rich vegetables. Imagine if vast swaths of public land currently serving as paved parking lots and grass-covered parks were parceled out to non-stakeholders for community gardens. Imagine if we used our wealth to feed each other.
An entire city block in my Hollywood neighborhood is devoted to such a cause. It’s called Wattles Garden. Hundreds of apartement renters in the area are granted a small plot of arable land to grow what they wish. This being Southern California, where the sun shines year-round, residents harvest thousands of pounds of real food derived directly from the ground, steps away from the Star Tour . . . → Read More: A Simple Plan to Save the World
For more than three years I’ve enjoyed a vegetarian diet, which has left me feeling altogether better. Better energy, better sleep, better digestion, better physical fitness, better health and wellness.
I grow a good portion of what I eat. The correlation may be circumstantial or fanciful, but farming my food seems to have made me healthier, too.
I’m tilting now toward eating vegan. No animals. No eggs or dairy. Instead, mostly stuff that’s live or sprouted or green.
I haven’t yet decided what I think about bivalves and invertabrates (or fish). But I’m certain that our society’s current model for producing and consuming meat is dangerous and unsustainable. There are several ways to measure how bad eating animals is for our health and for our planet. Cattle consume 80% of all farmland, pastures that could be used to grow food to feed billions. Cattle account for . . . → Read More: Eating Animals
Luckily for Barack Obama, news of improper shenanigans at the IRS stole attention from the week’s biggest story: that the President’s Justice Department had secretly seized call information from at least 20 phone lines belonging to Associated Press reporters, including personal cell phones and the main switchboard of the AP’s Washington bureau. While Obama thundered on about “inexcusable behavior” at the IRS, he said he would “make no apology” for his latest foray into Nixonian…
The commonly understood reason why terrorists wish to kill and maim Americans is because they hate our freedoms. That’s what’s behind all the civilian violence: they hate our freedoms. You can go ahead and enumerate all the freedoms the terrorists hate, but it doesn’t really matter which ones –freedom to…
Author James Goodale was chief counsel for the New York Times during the Nixon era. His new book, “Fighting for the Press: The Inside Story of the Pentagon Papers and Other Battles,” outlines our government’s pernicious (and ongoing) threat to media freedom. Some prescient authors get all the luck: Every morning it seems we’re greeted to [...]