I wonder why more citizens here in New Jersey don’t make the time to attend the New Jersey Environmental Federation Conference; an annual event held at Rutgers Law School in Newark. At very least, it’s an exercise in expanding the mind, by learning, listening, growing; it’s just a better thing to do than sleeping to 10 AM on a Saturday, watching television for an hour and making two passes around Costco’s bakery department. One summer back in 1967, I worked in an industrial bakery in Newark and I fell in love with the bakery smell; so that’s why occasionally I make two passes through Costco’s; it’s a close enough smell and it takes me back to the days of the ‘Lone Ranger.’
So where does this expression come from? “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired” One of my heroes, Fannie Lou Hamer said this. She was instrumental in organizing Mississippi Freedom Summer for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and later became the Vice-Chair of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, attending the 1964 Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey. She believed fervently in the righteousness of the cause of civil rights. This past Saturday, I attended the New Jersey Environmental Federation Conference in Newark at Rutgers Law School. I’ve been going for years, especially looking forward to Dr. Nicky Sheats talk about environmental justice; one of the causes that mean so much. For me, being in college during the decade of civil rights in the 1960’s and then attending the very first Earth Day on April 22nd 1970 and now seeing civil rights and environment become concentric circles of commonality is painfully relevant in 2012.
After breakfast and introductory speeches, the conference separated into workshops. I circled the ‘Enough is Enough’ workshop; needed to learn how the cumulative effect of pollution in water, air and food is making people sick and what we can do about it. The speakers were amazingly credentialed; Dr. Nicky Sheats, Phd, Center of Urban Development, Steve Anderson, Research Scientist, Peter Montague, PhD, Environmental Research Foundation(I love listening to his rational dire global warming warning words) and Henry Rose, State Coordinator, NJ Environmental Justice Alliance. Henry was passionate and right on when he uttered “environmental apartheid.” I learned that Hess (Oil) Corporation plans to build a 655-megawatt natural gas power plant in the East Ward (Ironbound) section of Newark, a city and a section dangerously overburdened by an onslaught of environmental affronts, degradation and pollutants. By a 7-1 vote, the Newark board approved a measure last Thursday night and despite grass roots opposition, the board gave the project the go-ahead in a 15-minute meeting. When I heard this, I raised my hand and suggested that the title of this workshop should be changed to “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.”
My using Fannie Lou Hamer’s words simply mean I’m sick and tired of hearing year after year about blatant examples of environmental injustice. There are enough graphs and statistics which clearly show the amount of pollution is related to the color of skin and how much money someone has in their pocket. People’s health around this new Hess energy center is going to be impacted again. Since the 19th century, Newark Ironbound has been a manufacturing hub, producing everything from iron to beer to paint. In the 1950s and 1960s, Ironbound’s Diamond Alkali/Diamond Shamrock Chemicals Corp. produced Agent Orange, a carcinogenic chemical weapon used extensively in the Vietnam War.
Last year at the Conference, I was outraged when PurGen wanted to build a coal firing plant in Linden and the reason officials gave me was that Linden(already off the charts in asthmatic rates) had the infra-structure in place to support a plant which needed an ocean to dump waste into and railroad tracks to move coal. I raised my hand and pointed out that exactly the same railroad tracks and ocean run up and down the rest of the east coast. There was silence; always silence
Environmentally our time is running out. I voiced this to one of my favorite PhD speakers after his talk. Global warming and climate change is so here. The Pentagon even knows this and is beginning to project huge population shifts from coastlines and how it impacts our future security. I’ve been observing attitudes that if we put a man on the moon so fast, we can do anything but maybe once we can’t. Then I got cute. I told the PhD scientist about the movie ‘The Graduate’ when Dustin Hoffman’s character, Benjamin Braddock hears the word “plastics” at his graduation party. I’ve done the same thing to a myriad of graduates over the years. Most graduates never know what I’m talking about when I whisper, “plastics.” I recently whispered, “water” to my son instead. “America will get out of debt with China one day when we start shipping them water,” I said semi-seriously. But then the PhD smiled at me.
I was pleased later in the day at the second workshop when I heard NJ State Senator Jennifer Beck mention how she voted against her Republican Party and Governor on certain environmental issues. We need more courage and commitment like that. I keep looking at big picture of things; the planet and how we keep ignoring, violating and nothing changes.
Amy Goldsmith, State Director, was honored for her amazing dedicated years of service and unlimited energy. Lisa Plevin, Chief of Staff USEPA, Gray Russell (a former rocker too) Environmental Coordinator, Montclair, John Weber, Northeast Regional Manager, Surfrider Foundation and Robert Westreich, Esq. (he never lost a case with First Amendment right to canvass neighborhoods throughout the state for over 20 years) all received Conference Awards. By the way, the luncheons are worth the price of admission alone.
In the keynote address, Retired Brigadier General Steve Anderson electrified with his candor and passion for environmental change. Here’s a few of his quotes rapid fire. “We’ve got to get off oil. We won’t exist.” “The increased competition for oil is a threat to our security.” “Green economy is where the money is.” “President Obama was absolutely right when he stopped the Keystone pipeline.” General Anderson made a point as soon as he started to speak, saying he was a Republican. Sometimes he fooled me and other audience members. He just cares. “It’s a 20 year process to get off oil. We need to do it under our terms.” “1000 Americans died moving oil around over there. We spend $20 billion a year on oil. The Pentagon is the world’s largest consumer of energy.” “We are funding both sides of war. We buy oil and the money ends up in Iran.” “What troops need is renewable energy. Afghanistan has 340 days of sun; so harness solar. And wind, geothermal and waste to energy systems.” “How do we help? Pressure the Department of Defense (DOD).”
At the birthday party after the conference for the 40th year of ‘Clean Water Action,’ General Anderson was quite accessible. I managed to pay him my highest compliment, when I said, “Listening to you, I don’t think anyone could tell what political party you’re in which means you care about doing the right things for people.” He smiled and we took a picture together. Finally my exhortation to all those within earshot of me; “Get thee to the NJ Environmental Federation conference next year. And join the organization in the meantime.” I’ve heard it through the grapevine that both actions increases cerebral vascular circulation which makes you smarter.
One goes through life and sometimes gets to look in an old attic mirror or through a looking glass or slips down a rabbit hole and manages to be a guest at a tea party. Since November, I’ve plunged into Jersey and Asbury Park music and somebody noticed me and my purist enthusiasm. I was set to cover the Jersey Acoustic Music (JAM) Awards a couple of weeks ago for NJ Discover TV when I got a call asking me to be a presenter at the prestigious awards in Asbury Park. I was overwhelmed and deeply honored; right up there with anything in this or any one of my past lives. I’d give the award for ‘Top Accompanying Musician.’ A little background music:
Sometime ago, I discovered my writing effectiveness is more heightened if I experience the subject, emote, then draw from the gut to express. Hemingway, an idol of mine, was that way too; he drove an ambulance in World War I and wrote ‘A Farewell to Arms.’ I got to Asbury Park and site of the Third Annual Jersey Acoustic Music Awards nearly two hours early to begin feeling that special electricity in the air of the Stage Performance Hall at the Lutheran Atonement Church.
The Jersey Acoustic Music Awards honors original artists who tirelessly perform around the state at small venues. To prepare, on the Friday before the awards, I went to Point Pleasant’s Green Planet Coffeehouse to see Alexandra Inglis, a sixteen year old nominee (and winner) for ‘Top 18 and Under Performer’ and was, as they say, ‘blown away’ by her voice and lyrics.
As the hall filled it became evident to this first time Acoustic awards attendee that most everyone knew one another in this special community of Jersey Acoustic Music. MC Anton Daub stressed the night was more about getting recognition from fellow musicians. A wondrous array of singers performed in the round throughout the program in between awards. Jo Wymer’s singing ‘dazzled.’ She liked my one word description of her then went on to win Top Female Performer. Emily Grove won Top Female Vocalist and perhaps was taken back when I mentioned writing about her talent in my blog nearly two years ago, after seeing her sing at Asbury Park’s Clearwater Festival.
A few weeks ago, I journeyed to the Strand Theatre for this amazing intimate interactive ‘Songwriters by the Sea’ Backstage event and saw Cat Cosentino sing. She won for Top Pop/Rock and deservedly so. I also met Lo Kloza nominated for Top Female Vocalist and Top New Act. Exuberant and excited, she mentioned her much anticipated CD release party at ‘Downtown’ in Red Bank on June 20th. With Jon Caspi’s ‘the little ones’ I was noticeably moved by his song of children in the African war zones being kidnapped and made into soldiers. Right out of sixties protestation; I was home.
At intermission, strangely I wondered what folks do in Billings, Montana or near the Bridges of Madison County, Iowa, when they can sing but don’t have an Asbury Park, a musical mecca nearby. Kevin John Allen, nominated for Top Male Songwriter, performed the final song with a powerful emotional moving twist. He brought a number of singers together in a choir like mode to sing, ‘Jesus Could You Call Me’ from his new CD ‘Life’s Lonely Rodeo.’ Sounds of silence filled the hall while they sang. So here I am in the middle of all this magic music when a few months ago, I was eating large bowls of oatmeal, self-sprinkled with raisins and cinnamon (controls sugar metabolism) and wondering what I was doing with the rest of my life; now I presented an award at JAM to Taylor Hope, winner of Top Accompanying Musician.
The power of media; It was announced earlier today that name Mason is the number two baby name in America because a Kardashian named her son that. I wish media could rally folks into more proactive environmental stances. I finally figured out who and what I am in this world and what I’ve been most of my life since I looked at the world from a back window on a Newark bus. I am and always will be an eracist. I’d love to see racism erased. What a silly species we are; focusing on color or gender or God. Go sign the Kyoto protocol. Stop building polluting institutions where poor people live. And now to close, I’m whispering to you all, “water.” I’m going upstairs now to watch ‘The Graduate.’ April she will come. So will December and January. And I wish just one boutique food store would sell parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme next to each other in the herb/spices aisle.
NOW HERE THIS: a bit of an advertisement. I don’t do those very much here. BUT there’s a very unusual upbeat funny precious 2 minute video involving 102 year old Emily Cook who talks about the life briefly and then invites me back to her room. Not to be missed especially the last 23 seconds. PLEASE check it out and share it.
Judy Feinstein: Female Pilot:
Judy Feinstein pilot:
Ida Gonzalez: A Mother’s Journey to Light:
Common Sense Approach to Common Sense:
Meryl Streep and Me:
A Real College Pep Band Video (yes 85 seconds):
Also a very worthwhile cause to read up on:
Butterfly Circle of Friends. http://www.butterflycircleoffriends.org
MY CONTACT INFORMATION
Facebook: Cal Schwartz
book trailer. hey its 65 seconds long
If on Facebook check out this NJ Discover site:
LINKS TO VIDEOS. Please Watch.
1. ZOMBIE WALK October 22, 2011
2. VETERANS DAY NJ VIETNAM MEMORIAL
Nov 11, 2011
3. RANDALL HAYWOOD & VICTOR JONES JAZZ CONCERT
Nov 19, 2011