Simran Sethi is a five-foot tall dynamo of the new environmental movement who is more than likely powered by photovoltaic cells or some other form of ecologically friendly cyborg technology. There's no other possible explanation for her improbably prodigious output. Simran, a German-born Punjabi who grew up in North Carolina, began her career with MTV Asia and created its India news division. She has contributed to the BBC, PBS, NPR, and is a regular guest of dueling divas Oprah and Martha. When she's not blogging on Treehugger.com, she's either podcasting for Air America Radio or hosting "The Green" on Sundance Channel—oh, and she's a featured author in the book "Ethical Markets: Growing the Green Economy." In between all of this global do-goodery, she somehow found time to move to Lawrence last year so she could be closer to her KU-attending boyfriend, Daniel. Simran joined us-on Earth Day, no less-to talk about her inexhaustible eco-efforts.
Simran Sethi is a five-foot tall dynamo of the new environmental movement who is more than likely powered by photovoltaic cells or some other form of ecologically friendly cyborg technology. There's no other possible explanation for her improbably prodigious output. Simran, a German-born Punjabi who grew up in North Carolina, ...
No-fi excerpts from the podcast
lawrence.com: Why is environmentalism an ethical issue? If I throw an aluminum can out of my speeding Hummer that's fueled by panda blood, that certainly makes me a douche-bag, but how does that relate to social justice?
Simran Sethi: I think the Hummer part of it falls into the realm of social justice:we emit about 20 pounds of carbon for every gallon of gasoline that we burn. That pollution is going into the air, especially in certain neighborhoods in a disproportionate fashion. I used to live in Harlem in New York City, and Harlem has some of the highest asthma rates in the country in large part because of traffic patterns and what the city allows diesel trucks to do, which is go right through Harlem. It's really about the way we consume our natural resources, this sort of renegade idea that we can continue to consume petroleum-based products until they're gone:that's, to me, the moral component of this. What sort of legacy do you want to leave for your children?
- Monday, May 14, 2007, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
- Liberty Hall Cinema, 644 Massachussets Street, Lawrence
- All ages / $5
What path led you to a career in environmental activism?
It started out as me really having a love of music. I started off working at MTV News and I learned that it was really about telling stories and documentary filmmaking. Once I started getting into that, I truly recognized the power of the medium of television. Then I realized that the things I was most interested in at MTV were the social issues we were talking about. It was only when I got my MBA in sustainable business that I started to understand I had a language that could tell different kinds of stories. I never imagined that I'd wind up on the Oprah show, or the Martha Stewart show, or be working for Sundance. All I wanted to do was have people act, have people become more conscious:so I feel real lucky.
What's the path that led you to Lawrence?
Actually, I came to Lawrence for love-for a relationship. I have to say I've now fallen in love with Lawrence. I think it's a great place. Growing up in North Carolina, in Winston-Salem, I understand the idea of having a progressive place where one could really explore issues and find community in a place that might otherwise seem red. A little blue dot. I appreciate the relationships that people have with each other and with the land here in Lawrence. I'm just so heartened by the kinds of sustainability practices that are going on at KU, with local businesses-this is a great place to be. I hope I stop traveling soon enough to start really enjoying it.
What are some of those local sustainability practices that you've witnessed?
KU is now building a sustainability center, so I've been doing some work with Hillel there and speaking with students. Local Burger is one of my favorites. I actually suggested Local Burger to Sundance and they'll be featured in the Sundance series, "Big Ideas for a Small Planet." I think the consciousness you see everywhere-from Bodyworks, to Eco-Boutiquo, to Mirth, to Z's, to Local Burger-about keeping the money in the local economy, supporting independent businesses, really paying people a fair wage, and making sure that they're also being environmentally sound. I think all of these things, to me, are what sustainability is.
Considering this is Earth Day, what do you consider to be the state of the environmental union?
I interviewed a couple of weeks ago a marine biologist named Dr. Sylvia Earl:she's in her 70s. She was Time Magazine's first "Hero of the Planet" and she's absolutely extraordinary. Over 90 percent of our fish stocks are depleted:in addition to the fact that so many of our rivers, streams and oceans are severely polluted. I just looked at her and it was a moment of despair, honestly. I asked, "What could we do?" She grabbed my hand and she said, "Look at all of the opportunity we have. It's not over yet." We want to make sure that every day is sincerely Earth Day, that we're not just saying, "OK, I donned a green ribbon today and praised Mother Earth, but tomorrow I'm going to get back in my Hummer fueled by panda blood and throw my aluminum cans on the ground." This is about a different way of looking at the world and people are taking that to heart. I don't think there's anything more inspiring than that.