Check out this Interview with the Winner of the 2019 Lynn Wolbarst Award: Paul Lauenstein
First of all, congratulations— tell us a little bit about yourself and how you became interested and involved in environmental causes.
I’m 70 now, but nature and wildlife continue to thrill me as they did when I was a boy. However, today I am more concerned than ever about disappearing wildlife habitat, oceans filling with plastic, and a rapidly changing climate. Greta Thunberg challenged us adults to forge a sustainable future for her generation and beyond. We must meet that challenge. Each of us has a part to play in that effort.
Your work exemplifies the spirit of the Lynn Wolbarst Award. With this award, how do you plan to take it to the next level?
In 2014, Lynn Wolbarst and I hated seeing all those plastic empties in our parks and along our roadways. So we teamed up to collect over 1,000 signatures to help put a question on the state-wide ballot to expand the Bottle Bill to include a nickel deposit on bottled water and other non-carbonated beverage containers. Altogether, over 150,000 signatures were gathered across the state. Then came $8 million in attack ads from the food and beverage industry. We got killed in the election. That’s when I realized that we need a constitutional amendment to overturn Supreme Court decisions such as Citizens United v. FEC that opened the floodgates to big money in politics. Without an amendment, we cannot get campaign finance reform. And without campaign finance reform, we cannot get environmental protection.
What advice would you give for someone in our community who is interested in environmental causes but has yet to take action?
Join Sustainable Sharon Coalition. Pick an issue you care about and join others with similar feelings in taking action to make a difference. As Margaret Mead said, “A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
When you sit with your children/ grandchildren to talk about the environment five years from now, what do you hope to be able to tell them? And how do you hope the Lynn Wolbarst Award will have helped?
I have two grown daughters but no grandchildren…yet. Receiving the Lynn Wolbarst Award made me feel like the work I do to protect the environment matters to both present and future generations. As a boy I loved tramping around in the local woods and swamps, catching frogs and snakes and experiencing nature on my own terms. I still do. I realize that people who went before me protected those woods and swamps. It feels good to pay it forward.