About Writing vs. Whining

  What good is a house if you haven’t got a decent planet to put it on?
   – Henry David Thoreau

Writing for me is a therapeutic substitute for whining. Witnessing the deterioration of the environment during my lifetime had always been painful, but like many progressives, I did little more than grumble to like-minded friends that seemingly little was being done to stop it. I felt frustrated and powerless.

The presidential election of 2000 changed all that. The certainty I felt that a Bush presidency would usher in an era of anti-environmental policies transformed me from whiner to activist. I saw two choices: ratchet up the hand-wringing or do something tangible to bring about change. Thankfully, I chose the latter.

Looking back, there were also two earlier pivotal moments laying the foundation for my activism. The more recent was the lesson inherent in losing my father to cancer, that life is short and the time for living a principled life is now. I had always felt that enslaving and slaughtering animals for food was immoral given that perfectly good alternative protein sources are readily available. I became a vegetarian the day my father died, and learning since about the heavy environmental tolls of a meat-based diet has only deepened the resonance I feel with that decision two decades ago.

The other pivotal moment took place very early in my career, right after completing a Ph.D. in the area of neuroscience from Princeton University and then a post-doctoral fellowship at U.C. San Diego. I was a successful and reasonably talented young brain scientist, seeing my work published in respected journals. Yet the fact that my contributions necessitated the sacrifice of countless lab animals always left me wrestling with an ethical dilemma about whether the discoveries fully warranted the animal suffering. With no resolution in sight, I took a left turn, retraining as a licensed psychologist and sleep disorders specialist and refocusing my research onto the area of human sleep disorders. These are the professional hats I wear to this day.

My activism began as a volunteer for Earth Resource Foundation, a grass roots environmental organization in Costa Mesa, California. Convinced that petroleum-based plastics represent serious threats to the environment, wildlife and human health, I first drew on my scientific training to educate the public about plastics through an in depth series of articles and a detailed slide presentation.

I have since researched and written about many other environmental issues, ranging from the threats to the ocean, utilizing solar energy, and toxic chemicals in toys to planning a green funeral. I contribute pieces to local newspapers, environmental magazines and Sierra Club publications.

Most recently, I am writing blogs for the Long Beach-based Algalita Marine Research Institute about the potential treats posed to the ocean food web by toxic chemicals associated with plastic ocean debris.

I would like for the the content of this site to be, in some small way, a vehicle for change. Hopefully readers will learn something worthy of remembering and passing on to others. Changes are needed at every level of society, from the individual on up, if we are to reverse the damage humanity is inflicting on our planet and the biosphere, and change can occur only when people become informed.

The combined sense of urgency and excitement I experience in writing about the environmental challenges we face is great. And it sure feels a whole lot better than whining.

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