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Monthly Archives: April 2011

The best parts of nature sometimes only reveal themselves when you aren't looking for them.  That's what Planet Harmony's Erica Baker discovered when she set off on a hike.

Erica Baker: I remember when I was twelve years old, and I was at a sleepover. Every kid loves a Saturday- a sunny Saturday- even better! My friend Erica and I decided we should find something to do outside- Erica said she knew of a trail by the main road. She passed by it everyday when she gets on and off the bus but said, today we should see where it goes. Excited about the prospect of adventure, we charted a path. As we left the house, we picked up Erica’s two cousins who lived a couple of houses down. Then, off the four of us went into the great Georgia woods.

You see we come from Stone Mountain, Georgia. A part of Metro Atlanta, and home to the largest exposed piece of Granite rock in the world! It’s a scenic place full of nature and wildlife. The Piedmont region of Georgia is home to many foxes, deer, an array of insects, and different types of trees like the dogwood.

As we walked the trail the sun peered through the trees. The leaves and twigs crunched under our feet as we ran on the red Georgia clay. We were so distracted, playing that we lost track of time and how far we’d walked. We were deep in the forest, surrounded by trees but Erica suggested we walk some more.

Another five minutes passed and we began to see the area open up ahead. Curious about what was there, the four of us ran to the light. When we got there we discovered what seemed to be a picture on a stamp… it was a hidden lake! The lake was huge and looked so pretty as the late afternoon sun glistened on the water. The four of us sat down and skipped rocks until it was time to go. When we left we held onto the feeling of excitement of our day preserved in our minds forever.

If you are stressed, bored, or just curious… take a walk. Experience the natural world around you. Just maybe you’ll find a hidden lake, valley, field, mountain, or even a beach that you never knew existed in your own back yard.

Erica Baker- Hidden LAKE.mp3 1.7 MB

Sometimes you don't realize how much you depend on something until you try to give it up.  That's what Planet Harmony's Alexandria Collins learned when she tried to cast out her inner-carnivore.

Alexandria Collins: I love meat. Eating it could be considered an American pastime. Ever since I was a little girl my parents made sure that I had some sort of meat with every meal. Even with cereal, my mom wanted me to have ham or chicken to get protein. Crazy, I know. Now that I’m older and more health-conscious, I don’t want to eat meat all time.

This led me to want to become a vegetarian. About 2 months ago, I gave it a shot. I stopped eating meat—“cold turkey”. That’s the hardest thing I have ever done! When you can’t eat meat you realize how much of your food has meat in it! I lasted two days. I know that sounds horrible but I went about it totally wrong.

One of the biggest challenges didn’t come from me or the food I saw, but my family. My sisters laughed when I told them I was trying to be a vegetarian. My mom had this look of worry on her face and my dad pulled out some steak from the freezer and told me to cook dinner that night. It was hard! In the Black community we’ve grown up thinking that food defines the family. A ‘hearty’ meal defines what kind of man you are. Women are supposed to love cooking and making sure their family is full, and the only way we’ve been taught to do that is through fattening, greasy and meaty foods. It’s not healthy but at the time I didn’t have the will to see it through.

But now, I want to give it another shot. I spoke with my good friend Hannah Brooks who is a vegetarian and fellow socially conscious individual. Her advice to me is to start out small. I can’t try to stop completely or I’ll end up with the problem I had before where I craved a beef burrito more than I ever have in my entire life. She also told me to relax and think about the reasons I want to do it. Yes everyone, loving animals is a good reason, but if your conviction isn’t strong enough to move mountains, it won’t last. I’m heeding her advice and trying it again, even though I must say, it is still super hard.

But despite it all, I’m doing it. Hannah also gave me some great advice for my future family—way down the line—to secure our healthy place in the world. She said it’s important to start early. Especially with African-Americans we have to shift ourselves out of this unhealthy mindset and the more settled in our ways we become, the more difficult that is.

She’s right. Even though this bacon-lover is having a hard time adjusting, I’m doing it! Every day is a new journey towards a healthier me.

Alexandria Collins- Vegetarian.mp3 1.7 MB

The Gulf oil spill has kept people away from a once-popular fishing spots, 40 minutes from Tallahassee. Planet Harmony's Ashton Wilkins misses what used to be one of her favorite hidden getaways.

Ashton Wilkins: I remember the first time, five years ago when I stumbled upon St. Teresa, a tiny beach village on Florida’s forgotten coast. While fishing and spending time along those emerald waters, I have spent some of my most memorable college days.

The seafoam colored waters contrast sharply with hanging oaks and pine trees that line the tread.

I’ve been fishing in Florida waters since I was seven. My grandma taught me the old spit and bait method, and I’ve been hooked ever since. I have often rigged my pole deep into the sand at St. Teresa, cast my line into the ocean, and cracked a cold one… until my line started to run sideways. I’d pull silver trout, black sea bass and mackerel until I had caught too many to carry.

Fishing at St. Teresa became a home for me. I knew the good spots and was friends with some of the locals. But in May 2010 small black balls started showing up on the beach and in the water. As I waded through the shallow water, I noticed the ocean floor was scattered with tarballs of all sizes.

These were the infamous tarballs on the news-that rode around 500 miles to reach my beach from the Deepwater Horizon.

Dr. Jack Rudloe is the owner and head marine biologist at the Gulf Specimen Marine Laboratory, and a local activist and fisherman. He says that one of the main concerns he has for the Gulf is toxicity of the fish and what long term effects they will have on people.

He says that the water near his aquarium in neighboring Carabelle is saturated with oil and dispersants, which add to the toxicity levels in fish. He added that there is not a comparable study because there has yet to be a spill of this size.

Jack and his staff installed new tanks in their aquarium, as they can no longer rely on fresh water from the Gulf. Jack’s son Cypress, who helps out at the lab says, “There is a giant science project going on out in the Gulf right now.”

In 2011, research and updates about how the Gulf is doing are sparse. However, the locals know how fishing is going.

Roland Crum, owner of Crum Mini Mall and Bait Shop relayed to me the facts about how the North Florida coast’s fishing industry has been doing this year. “I feel that the BP effect is still causing tourists to stay home.” he says. “As far as sales go, January 2011’s numbers are down compared to last year at the same time.”

The last time that I fished St. Teresa, I found that the fish were scarce and when I grilled them the taste was different. This was the last time that I fished at my favorite spot, but I will always have hopes that a new tide will bring life back to the Gulf.

You can take a look at Ashton's fishing spot through the St. Teresa Beach Cam

Ashton Wilkins Fishing for Answers 2.mp3 1.9 MB

Jerome Ringo Speaks at FAMU from Planet Harmony on Vimeo.

Jerome Ringo has overcome an addiction to crack, being a teen parent, and suffering sexual molestation to become the first black head of a major environmental organization.
Ironically, Ringo began his environmental career working in a petrochemical plant in Louisiana's infamous Cancer Alley in southern Louisiana.
Ringo's plant was responsible for dumping 100,000 gallons of cancer-causing chemical waste into the poor neighborhoods that surrounded the plant.  Cancer Alley is now infamous for its high incidence of respiratory diseases and cancer rates well above the national average.
Ringo became a whistle blower against his company and began organizing and educating the community about living in the toxic shadow of the plant.  In an effort to silence his complaints- his plant then assigned him to Malaysia.
Seven years later, after finally being able to return to the U.S., the plant offered him an early retirement.  Ringo accepted and went on to become the first black member of the National Wildlife Federation where he would later become head of the organization. 
Jerome Ringo is now the senior executive for global strategies of Green Port, a company that establishes green ports around the world.  
In March of 2010, Jerome Ringo gave the keynote address to Florida A&M University  students about environmental racism and where the U.S. stands in this global industry.