When Meredith Efken approached me in March with the suggestion that we do a "blog tour" to promote Teresa Heinz Kerry's upcoming Pittsburgh conference on Women's Health and the Environment, I had no idea what a blog tour was. To make it more intriguing, I learned from Meredith that a "blog tour" is something more and more book authors are doing to promote their newly released books - but Meredith was suggesting to adapt the technique to promoting the conference. Hmmm. Why not? So with the approval of the good folks at the Heinz Family Philanthropies and Teresa herself, we embarked.
Since 4/14 Teresa has visited 15 blogs, with great answers to interesting and challenging questions at each. In between, she prepared for and delivered (with of course the help of the other wonderful sponsors) the main event, an absolutely great conference on April 20th.
More...and LOTS of links...after the flip!
I had the good fortune to attend and live-blog the conference. I must say it surpassed my expectations - I have been to conferences before that left me thinking along the lines of "ok, fascinating, but so what? Will any progress happen because of this conference?" Of course I realize that some of my cynicism is just due to lack of knowledge on my part; it is quite possible that all of those conferences have been plenty productive, but I'm just not insider enough to know about it. But in this case - and maybe it was because I was at the blogger's table, and thanks to a shout out from Jeff Lewis in the introductions everybody knew we were there, we had a chance to meet a lot of people and hear a lot about efforts going on in the real world to put this great information to use. I saw real connections happening that I think will result in information being delivered to people who need it and will use it - eventually, even if not overnight.
The list of great moments at the conference is too long to give recognition to everyone, but I would say that the following were highlights for me:
- Steve Curwood - I just love that man. I really do. Steve moderated the panel discussions and did a wonderful job.
- Herbert Needleman's discussion of lead poisoning, and the history of lead poisoning awareness - he pointed out that the US was much later to legislate against lead exposure, compared with other western societies - I wonder if that could explain our belligerence as a nation?
- Fran Drescher - who would have thought that listening to someone talk about cancer could be fun?
- Laurie Valeriano, of the Washington Toxics Coalition - I think I led off the applause when she said that we should be able to walk down a supermarket aisle and pick up a product and know it's safe, without first having to go home and look it up on the internet!
- and of course Teresa herself. Not only was she delightful at the conference, we have had quite the conversation with her over the course of the blog tour - I have learned quite a lot and really come to understand what a wealth of information she has, and what a long-term commitment to environment and health that knowledge must come from.
From the blog tour, it is just impossible for me to select any favorites - every set of questions was interesting, and all the answers were well thought out, detailed, and informative. I learned something at every stop! Here is a list of the stops with direct links to the blog tour posts:
4/14 Culture Kitchen
4/17 A Dem Fine Woman
4/18 Big Green Purse
4/20 The Democratic Daily
4/23 Culture Kitchen
4/24 We Love John Kerry
4/25 Violet Voices
4/26 Cocking A Snook
4/27 VB Dems
4/28 Tough Enough
4/29 Liberal Values
Finally, I want to close with a list of (a few of the) links that were given out in the conference and the blog tour - these are some key resources we can use as we "continue the conversation" and just as importantly, start taking action in our own lives, to reduce ours and our children's exposure to environmental toxins:
- The new Women's Health and the Environment web page, where you can download the toolkit that was given otu at the conference
- Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep database - find out how safe (or not) are the cosmetics you are using
- Safer, flushable diapers (yes!)
- For your brain - finding common ground and workable solutions to environmental problems at the Heinz Center
- Don't get snookered - Evaluate the information you find on the web
- Find out about resources for buying locally at relocalize.net
- Find a community health center near you, where you can get health care whether you have insurance or not
Thanks to everyone who joined us on this wonderful trip - I hope you enjoyed yourself! And most especially a heartfelt thank you to Teresa Heinz Kerry, Jeff Lewis, Meredith Efken, Karen & Richard, all the bloggers who asked such great questions and made such great posts, and all those other wonderful souls who helped out in various ways - we couldn't have done this without you. Great job, everyone!
Shall we do it again for the Boston edition of this conference, this fall?
Note: this is cross-posted from my blog, Freedom's Fire, Brightly Burning, where I posted it last night.