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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Making a Difference Winners Part II

Air Date: Week of

16-year-old Catherine Reeser reads her winning entry and talks to Steve about her ideas.


CURWOOD: And now, some of our own news: the Grand Prize winners of the Living on Earth / Stonyfield Farm Yogurt contest . We challenged our listeners to tell us what they'd do to make a difference in the environment in 1993 if they were President. We received entries from the young and old all over the country. The deluge challenged the postal service, exhausted our staff, and brought out the keenest deliberative powers of our judges. But finally, the selections were made - one adult, Delilah Flynn from Seattle, and we'll hear from her next week, and one youth, Catherine Reeser. She's a 16-year-old high school junior from New Berlin, New York. Catherine Reeser travelled to the studios of WSKG, in nearby Binghamton, New York to talk with us, and to read her winning essay.

REESER: When I was elected in 1993, I wanted to make the retention of a clean environment the mission of all Americans. I knew it was not new laws alone that made it happen. It was the people who were ready to change, ready to care about their environment, supporting a whole new lifestyle that centered around the "green attitude." The "green attitude" is the pledge that the Earth comes first, always. The pioneer step under its rule is to stop refuse. The number of materials that could be recycled has increased, and unrecyclable products were no longer manufactured. Regulations were passed, gradually getting stiffer, until landfills would only take recyclables. It became habit to sort and recycle, and became easier to find recycling bins in public places than general garbage cans. Information on composting was circulated, and every household began composting food scraps into fertilizer to use in the increasing number of backyard gardens. GEPA was formed, the Green Earth Packaging Association. They made the stores mass-package, using paper instead of plastic wrapping, and using only one layer of packaging instead of three or four. Dry substances such as flour and sugar were kept in reusable barrels, and customers brought their own containers. Sewage treatment systems were remade and repaired, reducing the pollution of drinking water and rivers dramatically. The money for these repairs came from the defense budget, and the military personnel who would have been laid off were reemployed temporarily in city work crews, breaking down gas stations and planting gardens in their place. All gas stations are obsolete now, because every car bought in America was run only by electricity. I also helped open up Federally-owned lots to volunteer tree planters. Old, unused land tracts in cities began turning into flourishing gardens, open to the public and to the carbon dioxide that the leaves used up. Carbon dioxide emissions were cut incredibly. Laws were passed that made factories plant and maintain several square acres of forest around a factory to help clean the air. Soon there was no open habitable spot in cities around factories that was not striped with green vegetation. Huge hedges grow on highways, reducing noise pollution and granting a better view for roadside houses. As I was leaving office, the last few days of my two terms racing away, there is a fresh environmental President-elect following me. She already had many foreign meetings lined up, and she would be tackling the worldwide environmental changes that included UN regulations on toxic emissions and huge tracts of preserved rainforest. I knew the improvement to our environment was only beginning.

CURWOOD: Good. Well, I'm quite impressed with this, and let me say congratulations.

REESER: Thank you.

CURWOOD: I want to ask you about this wonderful essay, and it really is so thoughtful. First question is, why did you decide to write it as a matter of history, rather than as a matter of promises?

REESER: Well, I thought it was a lot stronger that way. I think that actions mean a lot more when you've done them rather than say you're going to do them. I mean, a lot of people make promises.

CURWOOD: Catherine Reeser, when you first sat down to write this essay, about what you would do if you were President of the United States, where did you first turn for your inspiration?

REESER: I turned mostly to personal observations - little things I'd seen, and I started to build on the little things, and try to expand them to help out larger problems than they had been. Some things that we've done, my community and me, myself, is in our school we have recycling bins. This is very new, this is only this year we've had recycling bins in every one of the classrooms for all the paper, and if one kid tries not to, you know, if one kid just sort of absent-mindedly throws something in the garbage can, the entire class would get up and make him go over, pick it out of the garbage can, unfold it, and stick it back in the recycling bin. It's just something you have to do now.

CURWOOD: And I think you translate that to the world at large. What do you think we should change, those of us who aren't in class but who are out here making livings, raising families - what should we do?

REESER: They're very small, personal things. Like I, what I do a lot is even though we live far away from everything, and we have to drive, we have to use a car all the time, I try not to, I walk home from practice a lot, from softball practice. It's three miles, but it's a really nice walk. Unless it's raining, I usually walk home. And I car-pool a lot, a lot with my friends. I even car-pooled to the prom.

CURWOOD: Thank you. Catherine Reeser, of New Berlin, New York. Pretty soon she won't have to walk home from softball practice - she can ride the new bike she's won as the Grand Prize winner in the under-18 division of our Living on Earth / Stonyfield Farm Yogurt "Making a Difference" Contest. She'll also receive a thousand-dollar US savings bond. Next week, the Grand Prize winner in the adult division - Delilah Flynn, of Seattle, Washington.



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