Townie guide to... fighting the green fight

Simran Sethi, Environmental Journalist & Professional-in-Residence at the University of Kansas School of Journalism and Mass Communications, enjoys running with her friend Carol, eating truffle-filled figs from her sister, and reading The Sun and Utne Reader

Coal fired power plants in Western Kansas-awesome idea or about as diametrically opposed to concept of awesomeness as possible?

"The opposite of awesome. It looks like a financial win for Holcolmb in the short term, but will leave us with a lot of problems in the long term, from mercury contamination to record breaking carbon emissions. There are other, smarter ways to make Western Kansas prosper."

What's the best way for someone to prevent the plants from happening? Build a time machine and go back to the Precambrian era so you can destroy all plant life before it has a chance to evolve, therefore preventing it from dying and fossilizing into coal? Or maybe just stop breathing in protest?

"Time machines-great idea! The most impactful thing we can all do is take responsibility. Learn about ways you can reduce your greenhouse gas emissions-drive less, use efficient lighting and appliances, lower your thermostat, eat less meat, etc. : I would say the area that is just coming to light is looking at our diet. The average food item on a North American plate travels about 1500 miles from farm to fork. Food grown with pesticides and fertilizers have a lot of petroleum-based inputs, and the meat industry is responsible for a sizable amount of our methane contributions:

And let people know how you feel. Yes, it takes time to write our elected officials or attend hearings but this is a really big deal. If you care about the economic and environmental sustainability of Kansas, make the effort. The Climate and Energy Project website is a great resource: Also, Mayor Sue Hack has created a Climate Change Task Force that will meet within the next month. I am on it and we will need your feedback."

You've worked for both NBC News and the Sundance Channel-who's more manly in their leathery-ness, Brian Williams or Robert Redford?

"Robert Redford. A love of the Earth is very hot."


In the presidential election, which candidate do you think has the best environmental platform? Which candidate do you think could best power a wind farm with their sheer amount of bloviation?

"Edwards hands down had the best policy because he took nuclear energy off the table as a potential energy source-it is just too dangerous. What is interesting is how similar the Democratic candidates' platforms are and how polarized John McCain's platform is-meaning he supports climate change policy at the federal level and is also a proponent of coal. I think we'll see clearer differences in the Obama and Clinton platforms as the months progress."

Kathleen Sebelius-green governor or silver fox?


Am I a bad person if I don't recycle? How about if I regularly dump barrels of mercury into the Kansas River just for the hell of it?

"Yes Gavon, you are a bad person if you don't recycle! Come on, I am not the green judge but it is pretty easy to do and it makes a huge difference. Some Lawrencians have given the City a bad rap for not introducing curbside recycling but, trust me, it has been considered and it is a question of making sure it's affordable to do it. Bob Yoos, Kathy Richardson, and the other folks at Waste Reduction and Recycling are my heroes. They have launched programs to take back hazardous materials, create and distribute compost, and make the most of the recycling programs we do have. And Cans for the Community ( is an amazing local non-profit that collects aluminum cans for recycling and gives the recycling proceeds back to non-profits in the community :

How much are clean air, clean soil, and clean water worth to us? Is it worth a little bit more of our time and a little bit more of our money if we can afford it?

I think so. We have the opportunity to make a difference every day. I'm not just saying that, I mean it. In aggregate, our actions are awesome. Take responsibility for what you do, let your actions be a reflection of what you care about, and do what your mother told you-clean up your mess."


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