Pacific Swell | Southern California environment news and trends

Journalist Jennifer Grayson defines the eco-patriot

Our occasional Q&A with Southern Californians doing green stuff

With all the political chaos in Washington D.C., it’s easy to feel discouraged. Doesn’t it seem like environmental issues are getting crated and shuttled into a giant secret warehouse as a dramatic “Raiders of the Lost Ark” soundtrack plays? Fortunately, there are some activists out there keeping the beat on the green drum. Meet Jennifer Grayson of Los Angeles, eco-patriot. 

Grayson is an environmental journalist and founder of the green political blog, The Red, White and Green. She is also a columnist for The Huffington Post and is regularly featured by media outlets like MSNBC, USA Today, WGN, McClatchy, and PRN. The former opera singer also works on camera, lately as an eco-correspondent for Abe’s Live, a weekly online show described as “Whole Foods meets HSN.”

Recently, we spoke with Grayson about her work and what it means to be an eco-patriot.

Your website tag line is “caring about the environment is patriotic”. Tell us, what exactly does it mean to be an eco-patriot?

An eco-patriot is someone who wants to defend our nation against environmental devastation the same way he/she would want to defend our country against any other threat or invader. It’s the traditional environmentalist, yes, but it’s also the hunter who doesn’t want to see forest converted into a shopping mall, or the truck driver who thinks her rig runs best on biofuel.

I first connected the dots between environmentalism and patriotism when I worked on the Obama campaign. I saw how politicized environmental issues had become, which I thought was crazy. After all, we all have a vested interest in protecting our natural resources, in ensuring that this beautiful country is here for generations to come.

When did you first know you were an environmentalist?

I don’t know that there was any one defining moment. I’ve always been a tree hugger. Literally, as a child I got stuck in the top of a pine tree on a windy day and had to be rescued. I grew up in bucolic Connecticut, where I developed a profound love for nature and the outdoors early on. My fondest childhood memories are of rock hopping across streams and growing pumpkins in our backyard.

Who do you admire the most in the green movement right now?

I’m a big Michael Pollan fan. So many of our environmental and public health ills are linked to our current agricultural system; to the glut of subsidized, genetically modified, pesticide-laden cheap corn flooding the market, not to mention our bodies. I thought the advice in his last book, Food Rules, was particularly profound: Eating organic is great, but most people need to first start eating real food. 

If you could ask a potential presidential candidate one question about the environment, who would you ask and what would the question be?

A number of the Tea Party Patriot presidential hopefuls, including Herman Cain and Michele Bachmann, have said if elected, they would strip the Environmental Protection Agency of much of its authority. I’d like to ask any of them: Do you know what an eco-patriot is? And would you consider becoming one?

Photo courtesy of Jennifer Grayson