Do lifestyle environmentalists count?

I don’t know if it’s a good or bad thing, but I’m getting a kind of reputation here in the Netherlands as an environmentalist. And truth be told, that both excites me and makes me uncomfortable. Now here is the question; what do people mean when they call me an environmentalist? Are they referring to my eco-friendly  ideologies and lifestyle or do they mistake me for someone with a scientific mind who can explain why global warming is a reality, or lay out the intricacies of the marine ecosystem and how our misuse of the ocean as a trash can combined with over fishing are destroying this vast resource? Well, I can do that to a degree, but not without first referencing the research that experts in the field have conducted. I’m admitting to the following; there is not a scientific bone in my body.

Snottykins organic hankies
Snottykins organic hankies

On the other hand, thanks to a bachelor’s degree in English Literature and years of writing experience, I can read and digest information about the environment and (often) convey it in an intelligible manner; but is this enough? That is the question that has always haunted this “lifestyle environmentalist.”

Is there room in the environmental movement for those not steeped in science? This question represents a fear I’ve nurtured and given legs throughout my life, leaving me with the following damning conviction: you can’t be an environmentalist, Kristin, because you didn’t study environmental science, marine biology and geography. You’re more of an environmental cheerleader; your sleek words the pom poms, your enthusiasm the cheer, your soap box the half-time show. Glitz and glamour without the substance to back it up. Sure it’s cute. But the game (the real environmentalists) is what matters. But is this true?

I mean, I have done a fair bit of good for the environment with those pom poms; I’ve made lifestyle choices that reduce my impact on the environment, I’ve volunteered for environmental organizations, I aided and abetted the Handkerchief revolution in the U.S., I’ve grown gardens and planted seeds in community projects, I  initiated a sustainability project at the firm I used to work for, I was on the sustainability committee at our church in the U.S., and I’ve written a novel called GREEN where the environment is far more than the half time show.

But when someone calls me an environmentalist, I feel a need to slow them down and make the distinction. “I”m more of a lifestyle environmentalist,” I hear myself saying.

And this lifestyle environmentalist is currently organizing a mini “Earth Day Celebration” in The Hague, slated for Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014 at the ABC Treehut from 17:00-19:00

Boy was that fun to put into a block quote! More details on this Earth Day Celebration will be forthcoming on this blog, on Facebook and via emails to my peeps in The Hague.

What are your thoughts? Do lifestyle environmentalists Count? Can they play an important role in expanding the environmental movement?



Throwback 2004: BS in concert

I was searching through archived CDs for an article I wrote for an architecture magazine. Wow was I shocked when I came upon this little walk down memory lane. I wrote this in the Spring of 2004 when I was temporarily living in Amsterdam, dating my now husband. I apologize to Britney  Spears up front for the absolute harshness of this write-up. I’m sure she has accomplished all sorts of great successes in the years before and after this concert.

I wonder how the other participants remember this event!


Open up your eyes


Last night I did an awful thing. Not only did I do it, but I dragged three friends into the whole mess. There was a monetary value involved of about 200 euro. We could have the experience for free. That made it appealing. Everyone knew it was an act below their better judgment.  But the idea, as a joke, had its stand-alone charm, and the margarita’s Pam was making for Cinco de Mayo added another smooth layer of recklessness. So we made a pact to go that Friday. Friday arrived and four educated adults from four different nationalities piled into an Audi, and headed to Rotterdam to see a Brittany Spears concert.


I know. I know. You’re saying ‘you couldn’t pay me to see Brittany Spears.’ And, well, I’m sure I’ve said something just like that in the past. When I was wiser, more intuitive. On the drive to Rotterdam we listened to a few songs of a Britney Spears CD Aila’s[1] husband had received from a coworker (uh huh). After two songs I began to have some serious reservations about our decision. Our English companion Jessie put it best. ‘Her voice is crap.’


If this was as good as it got, with all the help of a top of the line recording studio and all the special effects money could buy, the evening would be musically bereft—unless there was a warm up band. Our Dutch friend Aila offered a helpful out.

“Perhaps we should just sell the tickets when we arrive.” Yet, in the end, curiosity got the better of us.


“I think we should just go for it.  I’m quite curious,” said the Aussie. A serious writer and past journalist, her enthusiasm and courage made the rest of us feel like sissies for wanting to jump ship.


“Yeah. I mean, if it absolutely sucks we can leave,” I added.


Being the American in the group who had accepted the tickets for free, I felt a strong desire to 1) make sure my friends felt no obligation to stay if it was as bad as we expected it to be and 2) to clarify that just because I’m American does not necessarily mean I embrace or support our pop culture.  In fact, I’d lived without a TV for the past two years and was about as far removed from pop music culture as one can be in the electronic age. Yet, I too was curious. My 11-year-old niece had talked up Britney to be the best thing on the market. My niece is a smart little girl. She has a great voice. Already better than Britney’s if the CD was any indication, and she could dance (my niece, that is).  So, in a way, my curiosity was not so much about Britney as it was about relating to my niece who was speeding a thousand miles a minute into the heart of American pop culture. I would have an edge. I would know something. I would be more than her thirty-something niece living abroad who likes to give her ‘educational presents’ and keeps pestering her about when she’s reading Anne Frank in school. I could say I’d seen Britney in concert. Was I brave enough to admit such a thing?


We arrived. We parked the car. We walked through the rain across the useless 2 kilometers of pavement surrounding the Ahoy stadium and, with our complimentary tickets, entered the arena seating area. The first sensation that hit us was an all out assault on the eardrums. Thousands of screaming fans did ‘the wave’ up in the bleacher seating. I did that when I was a child too. Floor to ceiling stacks of speakers stood on either side of the huge stage currently hidden behind a red flowing curtain. Videos played on large, distorted screens as the audience eagerly awaited the opening of the red curtain. My friends looked as embarrassed as I felt. We went to the bar and got a round of beers and potato crisps. The arena was standing room only and most of the people were closer to our age than to the thirteen-year-olds I’d expected.  Perhaps this was the over 21 area? So, Britney had some sort of broad appeal to many age groups. A tall twenty-something gay man with a pink boa shook his bootie to the music blaring over the speakers. Soon the inevitable happened. The red curtain came down.


Vegas baby! Or, more correctly, a whole multi-tiered stage set dubbed Hotel Onyx, with shiny lights, café tables, and sleek dancing poles. A fat man in a purple suit came into the spotlight, and did his best absurd laugh after beckoning us all into the world of Britney.  Dancers with parasols suspended above the stage were slowly lowered through the air on almost invisible cables toward the stage. Bright lights, fire torches, and a scantily clad dance troop all set the stage for the star.


Britney came out on a metal vehicle with its very own shiny poles to slip and slide up against. The crowd went crazy. She wore a black leather skintight suit that pressed her breasts into a two tight masses of silicon beauty. She gyrated and flipped her hair and made little screeching sounds.  The audience roared. The back up dance troop was very good. Britney’s dancing seemed to consist of some basic pelvic gyrations, breast fondling, lip puffing and hair flipping. Overall, not very impressive. The music changed, her outfits changed, but nothing redeeming was offered. I felt the disappointment setting in. This was the epitome of American pop music. She was it. She is the icon. I didn’t think it could get much worse. Then, Britney spoke.


“Hi Netherlands. Whew! Allright. Okay! Look at how many of you there are! Whew! You know, you’re a really good audience!” she said with hair-flipping accompaniment.


I felt the first waves of depression as thousands of fans screamed their enthusiasm. I looked to my friends. I saw the initial looks of horror had not left their faces. We left after the fifth or sixth song. I didn’t feel bad that I used the ticket rather than some real fan. I figured, I spared them this experience. I was certain my martyrdom would be misunderstood. So this was what my homeland was producing. I say my homeland, as it takes more than one teen pop star grown old to create the horror I had just witnessed. It was a display of sexuality, accompanied by a soulless message. I had witnessed a world full of desire, but a world without soul. I had learned nothing with which to further relate to my dynamic little niece. In fact, I felt betrayed. I must save her from this artless craft.


[1] Names have been changed to protect the identities of the participants in this event.

City, Forest, Luck, Love

This morning I left the house for an early morning appointment on my two-wheeled transportation and entered bike path rush hour. I still can’t get used to seeing men and women in business attire and fancy shoes peddling along, some with children on the front or back of the bicycle en route to school drop off before heading to the office.

The morning bicycling crowd is more adamant than the afternoon crowds I’ve encountered. People lay on the bicycle bell if you’re not cycling fast enough, and if you don’t merge to the right of the bike path for them to pass, they sometimes make gutsy moves to overtake you. I witnessed that myself this morning as two teenage girls cycling at a slower pace chatting away, were overtaken by people in suits, utilizing the lengths of brick between the street lamps as a temporary third lane. If the timing wasn’t quite right and they weren’t able to cut back in time, my bet would be on the street lamp.

The sun was out, but it was bone-chilling cold. A slight mist oozed from the urban forest as I peddled by with the crowd of cyclists.

After my appointment an hour and a half later, the bike paths were quiet, the sun climbing higher in the sky.

By afternoon pick up at school, the sun was bringing a rare warmth to The Hague. Jackets were shed and faces were turned upward. Within an hour, I felt like I might actually have a sunburn, and I wanted to be inside. Ezra, acting a bit vampire like, also wanted to stay indoors, but the weather was so undeniably beautiful, I felt obligated to extend our outdoor time. I opened the patio door and we had our afternoon snack on the front porch, but not before Ezra lowered the awning to block most of the sun’s rays.

By late afternoon, we headed to the forest for dog therapy with a friend who needed Ezra’s help walking her dog. My friend’s puppy barks at children, but is very friendly and doesn’t bite. She needs exposure to children to get over her tendency to bark. Ezra has grown wary of dogs after a recent bite episode and needs positive exposure to dogs to put that one negative experience into perspective; thus the origin of our win-win dog therapy sessions.

I’m not asking my son to wrestle with Doberman Pinschers or Rottweilers, but to take a small, friendly five-month-old dog for a walk.

He didn’t want to go at first. When he saw the dog, he tensed up, pulling his hands protectively out of reach. But my amazing friend coached him through the interaction as the dog started to bark. Before long, Ezra was keenly aware of dog ear positions and what they indicate. He opened his hand flat, and started to laugh when the puppy lavished it with licks and kisses. Within 5 minutes, he was holding her leash, walking the little dog and using basic commands to tell her to halt and cross.

By the time we reached the forest, they were pals. She began to follow him toward the tree he likes to climb and rather than reacting in fear, he seemed to view his new little companion as another interested party, bathing him in attention. The real test was when a second dog approached. The last time, Ezra climbed the tree and stayed up in its branches until the other dog departed. Today, he came out of the tree and stayed on the ground. He didn’t touch the other dog, but his body language didn’t emanate fear either.

By the time we were walking home, Ezra was telling us how he would like to have his own dog; how he didn’t want to leave his new companion. I informed him that dad was making dinner and it was time to get home. My friend commented on how nice it was to have a husband who was cooking dinner. Yes. I realize I am incredibly lucky; I have kind and thoughtful friends, a son who is overcoming a fear and a husband who is not only a good cook, but a man I love.