Free Forum Q&A – GEORGE WOLFE of L.A. River Expeditions & THEA MERCOUFFER, filmmaker of ROCK THE BOATWritten on July 18th, 2013
How many of you know where the LA River is…where it starts, where it runs, where it ends? Okay, how many believe anyone could kayak down the entire river – all 51 miles of it – beginning in Canoga Park in the San Fernando Valley and finally passing the Queen Mary to enter the Pacific in the Port of Long Beach? My next guests believed it was possible, and proved it in 2008, changing the course, if you will, of the river for us all. For the first time in decades, kayaking and fishing are now legal along the waterway, and The L.A. River: used, abused and forgotten, is now at the center of a major vision to transform this concrete metropolis into a more sustainable model city for the 21st century.
My guests will be GEORGE WOLFE of LA River Expeditions and THEA MERCOUFFER producer-director of the film ROCK THE BOAT that documents the successful campaign by Wolfe and others to have the LA River declared a navigable river and open sections of it to boats and kayaks.
Our life on earth depends on a most unlikely love affair – one between flowers and the bees, butterflies, birds and bats which enable plants to reproduce. The brilliant colors and exotic perfumes of flowers are designed to lure their pollinators into an intricate dance of seduction, a dance on which more than one third of our food crops depend, a dance without which we could not survive.
If you’re lucky and observant, you’ve witnessed the visits of bees and those marvels of engineering, hummingbirds, to the plants around you. But now, for the first time, you have a chance to watch that magnificent dance of pollinators and plants in the far corners of the globe and in the darkness of night. WINGS OF LIFE, the latest documentary from remarkable cinematographer and director, LOUIE SCHWARTZBERG, is now available on DVD. More than beautiful – which it is – the film carries an important message about the threats to pollinators and in turn, the threat to life itself.
I’ll be joined by LOUIS and CHIP TAYLOR a Monarch butterfly expert.
A friend tells the story of striking up a conversation with a hip looking man in his late 20s-early 30s in a movie line on the west side of LA shortly before the 2004 election between George Bush and John Kerry. He asked the young man who he planned to vote for, he answered that he hadn’t made up his mind. My friend said to him, “Two words. Supreme Court.” To which the young man replied, “Oh, are we voting for them too?”
While we may be disappointed in his apparent lack of civics knowledge, in his own way, he spoke the truth. The most lasting actions a president takes may be his appointments to the Supreme Court. Supreme Court justices serve for as long as they wish or as long as they are able. Their decisions very often set precedents that can live forever. Bush had appointed John Roberts Chief Justice in his first term, but according to today’s guest, it was his second term appointment of Samuel Alito to replace Sandra Day O’Connor that really solidified the Roberts Court.
O’Connor had been a much more moderate conservative than Alito has proven to be. The center of the court shifted to the right, which may matter little in decisions with large majorities – more than 50% of cases each term are decided unanimously or by 8-1 or 7-2 votes — but can be crucial in decisions decide 5-4.
MARCIA COYLE has chosen to focus her book THE ROBERTS COURT: The Struggle for the Constitution on four such 5-4 decisions – Citizens United on campaign finance; District of Columbia v Heller on gun control; on race in school choice; and on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act.
The Supreme Court’s been in the news a lot lately. Several of the nine justices claim to be originalists, assuming to know what the framers meant when they wrote it, and that they meant for us to follow it for the most part as written for the life of the republic. Well. No less an authority than Thomas Jefferson said the Constitution should be rewritten every 19 years.
And my next guest has taken him up on that. KEVIN BLEYER — who’s won Emmys writing for THE DAILY SHOW and has worked on President Obama’s speeches at the White House Correspondents’ Dinners – has done what he calls “a page one rewrite.” Bleyer joins me on Free Forum to talk about his new book, ME THE PEOPLE: One Man’s Selfless Quest to Rewrite the Constitution of the United States of America.
Some bad news:
In 2008 more than 50% of all US harvested cropland grew only two crops – corn and soybeans and more than 40% of the food calories consumed worldwide came from just three crops: wheat, corn and rice.
30% of Detroit residents receive food stamps, but 92% of Detroit’s food stamp retailers offer few or no fresh fruit or vegetables.
The average plate of food eaten in our homes or restaurants travels 1,500 miles from where the food is grown. Our food system consumes 10.3 calories of fossil fuel energy to produce 1.4 calories of food energy.”
And some good news:
There are now 8000 farm to school programs across the US. Eight years ago there were only 4. There are now 6000 farmers’ markets in the US three times as many as in 1995. 330 hospitals in the US and Canada have pledged to purchase food that is grown according to Fair Food principles.
In recent years a number of books and films have documented the dangers of our current food system, and a number of those have been featured on Free forum. Just as you can’t alter the course of climate change by simply switching to efficient light bulbs, today’s guests believe that you can’t fix the broken food system by simply growing a backyard garden. It requires redesigning our food system.
My first guest, ORAN HESTERMAN has a new book FAIR FOOD, a guide to changing not only what we eat, but how our food is grown, packaged, delivered, marketed and sold. Hesterman opens the book talking about Detroit, Michigan, an unlikely beacon of hope in the fight for fair food.
Prior to starting the Fair Food Network, where he is President & CEO, ORAN HESTERMAN was the inaugural president of Fair Food Foundation, leading their sustainable food systems programs. Before that, he researched and taught in the crop and soil sciences department at Michigan State University in East Lansing, and for more than 15 years he co-led the Integrated Farming Systems and Food and Society Programs for the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, during which time the Foundation seeded the local food systems movement with over $200 million. FAIR FOOD is his first book.
My second guest LEILA CONNERS, a founder of Tree Media in Santa Monica, is a producer of URBAN ROOTS, a documentary on the food revolution taking place in Detroit. Directed by Detroit-native Mark McInnis the film tells the powerful story of a group of dedicated Detroiters working tirelessly to fulfill their vision for locally-grown, sustainably farmed food in a city where people — as in much of the county — have found themselves cut off from real food and limited to lifeless offerings of fast food chains, mini-marts, and grocery stores stocked with processed food from thousands of miles away.
LEILA CONNERS is Founder and President of Tree Media Group. Conners is director, producer, and writer on THE 11TH HOUR, as well as the short films “Global Warning” and “Water Planet” (all with Leonardo DiCaprio). She was Associate Editor at New Perspectives Quarterly and Global Viewpoint, focusing on international politics and social issues. She is producer of URBAN ROOTS.
fairfoodbook.org, fairfoodnetwork.org, urbanrootsamerica.com, treemedia.com