Thursday, October 13, 2011

Can We Talk About This?

I just returned from listening to writer/biologist/cancer survivor/activist Sandra Steingraber give a talk at Franklin and Marshall College.  While devoting most of her time to the topic of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in Pennsylvania and New York's Marcellus Shale formation, she questioned why the current state of environmental health doesn't seem to be as much part of our public conversation as things like the state of the economy.  She described how she has been able to easily use online and TV news sources to teach herself about the world's current economic issues, something outside of her technical expertise, but that there doesn't seem to be that same opportunity for public discussion when it comes to our environment.

I agree with Ms. Steingraber, and I wonder how things that are so essential to our life and well-being, such as the air we breathe and the water we drink, are not interesting to us.  Even during the talk today, in a room filled with students, faculty, and community members who were not forced to be there, I noticed that glazed-over look in the eyes of several attendees.

Outside of school environmental clubs and protests staged by tree-hugging adults, why don't we talk about this?  Is it because we can't talk about some environmental processes and their potential health implications with certainty?  Is it because we're opinionated or afraid concerning the financial ramifications?  Is it that the problems seem too vast for us to make any kind of difference?  Is it that it's scary to talk about some of the possible connections between life-style and environmental impact and the resulting human health effects?  Is it that we're afraid to appear too "crunchy"?  Many of these are reasons I tend to keep my mouth shut.

But I'm tired of being quiet.  I'm wondering - can we talk about this?  I don't want to spend time talking to myself; I want to have a conversation.  Can we become, as Ms. Steingraber suggested during her lecture today, several Davids fighting a big Goliath?

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Running Through the Pain

One of the things that I love most about running is that it's tough.  I love the challenge - the feel of my heart pumping, lungs taking air in and pushing it out, muscles burning, mind fighting for positive thoughts.  Running is hard.  Perhaps body build, level of God-given ability, and past experience makes running more difficult for some than others, but we're all out there pushing ourselves when we run.

This morning, I had the opportunity to watch the Hands on House Half Marathon.  I'd been planning to be there since my sister told me about her intent to sign up several months ago.  This was not her first half-marathon, but it was her first since receiving a painful health diagnosis this summer.  My sister has always impressed me with her quiet strength - her ability to push through with humility.  I knew this would be a different race for her.  Training was hampered by mornings where she would have difficulty walking or getting her shoes on.  But she kept at it, without complaint or bitterness.  Her achievement today demonstrates her perseverance; she pushed ahead, despite the pain, and finished strong.  Watching her afterwards, it was evident that she didn't have the kind of race that she had hoped for, her disappointment apparent in her face.  But in my eyes, each day that she is out there, putting one foot in front of the other, is a huge accomplishment.  In my eyes, she's a superhero - attempting things that seem impossible for mere humans, hanging tough, inspiring others.

I know this was one of many stories today.  Friends running first half marathons, others running for a cause, the Amish running complete with head coverings or suspenders - they each gave themselves to the process of training and faced something deep within themselves while competing out there today.  When I watch, I wonder about their stories, and I feel their courage and strength.