Local effort for global sustainability
Many evenings he can be found sitting in the dark, sipping fresh mint tea while watching the fireflies in the backyard. “It’s the best show in town,” says Dr. Tony Pereira. He then points out that fireflies are not found in the yard to the left, or to the right.
“They just spray, spray and spray all the time.” Pesticides not only get rid of undesirable bugs that eat plants, but also kills off desirable insects such as fireflies and bees.
Pereira is a post doctoral researcher who came to Texas from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). He is working on the fuel cell project at Lamar. Pereira is not at liberty to talk about his research because it is a Department of Defense contract. He says that is the difficult part, because he is used to writing papers and collaborating with colleagues, which is not allowed.
Though he can’t speak about his current research, it doesn’t prevent him from pursuing his life’s passion; teaching global sustainability.
“It’s not just global warming, there are a bunch of things out of whack, 70-90 percent of the bees in California are dying. Frogs are dying worldwide for the last 10-15 years. These are not opinions, these are facts that can be corroborated. Four to five major rivers world wide no longer reach the ocean. Huge wetlands have dried up and are deserts now. Twenty to 30 percent of the coral in the world is already dead. These are very dire facts, very, very scary facts.”
Decades ago, only one in 40 people died from cancer. Today says Pereira that number is one in two. One of the main reasons, he said, is we’re being poisoned by our food through the use of pesticides and other unnatural practices.
“We are destroying the soil, we are putting too much pesticides, too much herbicides, too much nitrogen. We are turning the soil into a lifeless thing. The soil is not a lifeless thing. The soil harbors life. When it fails, it is a failure in our understanding of how life works and how our nature works.”
Pesticides, chemicals and other unthinkable additives can be found throughout our food chain and even shows up in mother’s milk. “We have more pesticides in our homes and lawns [in the United States] than the rest of the world combined.” When it rains where does it go? It goes into the rivers, streams, and oceans where it is absorbed by fish that we eat or other animals that eat the fish.
Leftover animal carcasses, after slaughter, are cooked down (rendered) into a powder and added to feed for cattle and other animals. “They are turning herbivores (animals that only eat vegetation) into carnivores (meat eaters).”
He says the solution to world’s problems is not developing new technology, but fixing what we have now. Clean food, clean water and clean air being the solution.
Pereira eats only organic foods, in fact, that was a condition before he came to Texas. When he first asked if it was available he was told, “Are you kidding? This is Beaumont.” He refused to come. They called him back when they learned about Basic Foods, an organic grocery store on Dowlen in Beaumont. “OK, I can come,” he told them.
He is also growing tomatoes, carrots and other vegetables where he lives and is setting up organic food exchanges in the area.
Pereira drove to Beaumont in a hybrid car that gets 60 miles to the gallon. Though Pereira started flying when he was 14 and once held a pilot’s license, he doesn’t like to fly anymore than necessary because of the amount of CO2 planes release into the atmosphere.
He says we need a global initiative on sustainable living. In California he has given comprehensive presentations to city planners, city managers, officials in gas, water, electricity. He said the larger Texas cities of Austin, Dallas and Houston have taken some good steps toward sustainability.
Austin recently needed a new 600 megawatt power plant that would have been about the size of a city block and cost over $3 to $4 billion dollars. They tried something different. They went home to home to see how energy consumption could be reduced. It may have been changing the type of light bulbs used, giving incentives to replace items with more energy efficient ones, those acts alone cut consumption by 600 megawatts, meaning the city no longer had to spend the money on a new power plant. They have not stopped yet. They feel they can still double or triple that amount of savings.
“That’s what I’ve been saying for many, many years. That’s what needs to be done.” Pereira said water should be next, then the food supply, waste and sewer then gray water systems. “Redesign our cities one by one, redesign our homes, one by one. Is everybody going to want to do it? No.” But Pereira is happy to help those that do.
He’s very interested in the plans for revitalization of downtown Orange and would like to promote ideas to make it eco-friendly. He has given several presentations on sustainability in the Golden Triangle, including the Barking Dog in Orange.
Solar energy can be harnessed in many ways, from the simplicity of outdoor lighting to homes run completely by the sun. A solar oven will get as high as 325 degrees and cook a chicken while you’re at work. The Barking Dog is considering installation of one and several individuals are also interested in installing ovens in their homes.
Pereira is qualified to teach organic gardening and composting, gray water treatment, solar energy, wind energy, any of the techniques required to provide ‘basic needs’, organic food, shelter, clean water and education. In fact, he won the Mondialogo Award from the United Nations in 2007 with his sustainability project that could be used anywhere in the world.
What he wants to do now is find a university where he can set up a program to teach global sustainability. When he was looking for a university with a program years ago, there were none in the U.S. but he has compiled a list of 35 schools in Europe all of which carry masters or doctorate programs.
He says there still isn’t a program in the United States that covers the subject comprehensibly. We need to get ahead of the curve. The United States is only 5 percent of the world’s population, but we consume 30 percent of the resources.
“We need to get away from what we are doing. The planet is the only lifeboat we have. We need to preserve it so we don’t flunk the test.”
Pereira is the chief sustainability advisor to several organizations and is happy to help anyway he can. He would also be willing to start a community organic garden where participants could learn to raise crops organically if land was made available and permission given from proper public entities.
To contact Pereira about a group presentation, or if you have questions e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.