“A tree is best measured when it is down,” the poet Carl Sandburg once observed, “and so it is with people.” The recent death of Harry Belafonte at the age of 96 has prompted many assessments of what this pioneering singer-actor-activist accomplished in a long and fruitful life.
Belafonte’s career as a ground-breaking entertainer brought him substantial wealth and fame; according to Playbill magazine, “By 1959, he was the highest paid Black entertainer in the industry, appearing in raucously successful engagements in Las Vegas, New York, and Los Angeles.” He scored on Broadway, winning a 1954 Tony for Best Featured Actor in a Musical – John Murray Anderson's Almanac. Belafonte was the first Black person to win the prestigious award. A 1960 television special, “Tonight with Belafonte,” brought him an Emmy for Outstanding Performance in a Variety or Musical Program or Series, making him the first Black person to win that award. He found equal success in the recording studio, bringing Calypso music to the masses via such hits as “Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)” and “Jamaica Farewell.”
Harry Belafonte - Day-O (The Banana Boat Song) (Live)www.youtube.com
Belafonte’s blockbuster stardom is all the more remarkable for happening in a world plagued by virulent systemic racism. Though he never stopped performing, by the early 1960s he’d shifted his energies to the nascent Civil Right movement. He was a friend and adviser to the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. and, as the New York Times stated, Belafonte “put up much of the seed money to help start the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and was one of the principal fund-raisers for that organization and Dr. King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center notes that “he helped launch one of Mississippi’s first voter registration drives and provided funding for the Freedom Riders. His activism extended beyond the U.S. as he fought against apartheid alongside Nelson Mandela and Miriam Makeba, campaigned for Mandela’s release from prison, and advocated for famine relief in Africa.” And in 1987, he received an appointment to UNICEF as a goodwill ambassador.
Over a career spanning more than seventy years, Belafonte brought joy to millions of people. He also did something that is, perhaps, even greater: he fostered the hope that a better world for all could be created. And, by his example, demonstrated how we might go about bringing that world into existence.
What are some easy ways to help the environment?
As scientists argue about the best ways to preserve the environment and politicians disagree on climate change, you can take control by changing small habits. You don't have to make drastic or expensive changes to have a big impact on the environment. Consider the following five small things you can do to help save the planet.
1. Skip the plastic straws
If you've been paying attention to the plastic straw debate, then you've probably seen that Starbucks is getting rid of them. It's switching to straw-less lids and paper straws, and other companies are either considering making the change or adopting the same policy. For instance: Alaska Airlines and Bon Appétit.
Several cities, states, and countries are also joining the trend. Vancouver is the first major city in Canada to ban plastic straws. In the U.S., Miami Beach and Fort Myers have followed suit. States like California, New York, and Hawaii are also considering the ban. Meanwhile, Taiwan has banned all plastic straws, bags, and other single-use items.
According to Plastic Pollution Coalition, people use 500,000,000 plastic straws in the United States every day. The single-use straws are wasteful and add to the landfill problem. So skip the plastic straw the next time you order coffee or a smoothie. You can also call your local representatives and ask them to support legislation to ban straws.
2. Switch to CFL light bulbs
Changing the light bulbs in your house can be a quick and easy way to help the environment. A compact fluorescent light bulb (CFL) uses 70 percent less energy than an incandescent one. Not only can it help lower your utility bills, it also creates less heat. In addition, CFLs last longer than incandescents, so you'll be saving money as well.
3. Skip eating meat once a week
No one is forcing you to go completely vegan or vegetarian. Instead, you can still help the environment by not eating meat once a week. You'll help lower the greenhouse emissions, which currently make up 20 percent of all man-made emissions, created by the meat industry. In addition, you'll also decrease how much water this industry uses because one pound of meat requires 2,400 gallons of water to get to your table.
Consider taking the meatless Monday pledge. Once a week, make breakfast, lunch, and dinner without any meat. Try an egg omelet for breakfast, get a vegetarian burrito for lunch, and make tofu for dinner.
4. Get rid of bleached coffee filters
If you're already making coffee at home to help the environment, then you can take it another step by changing the type of filters you use. To make bleached coffee filters, manufacturers use chlorine and other chemicals such as dioxin. Not only are these chemicals bad for your health, they're also harmful to the environment. The next time you're shopping for coffee filters, reach for the unbleached ones. Bleached filters are white, while the unbleached versions tend to be brown.
Another option, is to get rid of single-use coffee filters completely. Check to see if your coffeemaker can work with a stainless steel coffee filter.
5. Unplug electronics when they're not being used
It may seem like a simple change, but unplugging all of your electronics when you're not using them can have a big impact. It's estimated that 5 to 10 percent of all energy usage in a typical household comes from electronics being in standby mode, which means they're plugged in but not used.
For instance, when your MacBook is turned off and charging, it draws 27 Watts of power. Even an HDTV that is off and simply plugged in can draw 1 Watt of power. Don't leave your chargers, computers, TVs, or other electronics plugged in.
You don't have to make enormous lifestyle changes to help the environment. Even small steps to lower your consumption and waste can help.