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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Contest Runners-Up

Air Date: Week of

After weeks of anticipation, we talk with our "Making A Difference" third place winner Paul Meckes of Orlando Florida and our second place winner Thomas Murphy of Wellsboro, Pennsylvania, and hear excerpts from their entries.


CURWOOD: And now. . . the moment you've all been waiting for. . . the winners of the Living on Earth / Stonyfield Farm Yogurt "Making a Difference" contest. Well, almost. We'll announce the grand prize winners next week. This week we wanted to introduce you to our runners-up -- the second and third place winners. (Contest music up and under) We asked our listeners to tell us, in 500 words or less, what they'd do to make a difference for the environment if they were President in 1993. And our independent judges chose the winners based in part on how well their proposals would translate into real-life application. Our third place winner -- the envelope please -- Our third place winner is Paul Meckes. He's a 16-year-old high-school junior from Orlando, Florida. He heard about the contest through WMFE, in Orlando, and he wrote an essay in which he proposed an eminently practical plan. He vowed to use the President's office to enlist the country's favorite actors and pop stars in getting the environmental message out to kids everywhere. But President Paul Meckes wouldn't stop there. . . He says he'd personally bring the message of environmental responsiblity to kids around the country.

MECKES: If I were President, I personally would visit schools to talk to children about our environment. Most important, I would require all schools to teach a course in environmental science that points out our current threat to our resources and environment. School recycling programs would also be mandated during my term of office.
CURWOOD: Now you focus on education in your essay. Why is this so important, Paul?
MECKES: Well, that's where it should start, basically. You teach kids while they're young and when they get older they'll have a habit.
CURWOOD: What's wrong with the older people in this world in terms of taking care of the environment, do you think?
MECKES: Well, they've lived life in the past the same way they're living now, they're not cleaning up. I mean, a lot of people are different, there are people out there who do protect the environment, but there are those people who haven't been taught yet.
CURWOOD: I was wondering if you could just read for me, Paul, the last two lines of your essay.
MECKES: Even if I never become President, I pledge my life to make a difference for the environment on a daily basis. I really mean it.
CURWOOD: Well, Paul, I want to thank you. Congratulations for a terrific essay. And thanks for talking with us on Living on Earth.
MECKES: Thank you.

CURWOOD: Paul Meckes, of Orlando, Florida. His essay landed him the third-place prize in our Living On Earth / Stonyfield Farm Yogurt "Making a Difference" contest. Our second-place winner also puts a high value on education. Thomas Murphy teaches English at Mansfield University. Recently he left a well-paying job, pulled up stakes with his family, and moved to the small mountain hamlet of Wellsboro, Pennsylvania. In his winning essay, Thomas Murphy proposes a very personal way of making a difference for the environment.

MURPHY: If the problem is that we consume too much and do it wastefully, then the solution cannot itself be big and consume great resources. The way to make a real difference must involve something small and local and personal. Each person must discover that having only what you need is better than having more than you can ever use.
CURWOOD: Congratulations, Tom.
MURPHY: Thanks, Steve.
CURWOOD: Now you say everyone needs to live simpler lives. When did you decide you needed to live a simpler life?
MURPHY: Well, when I was working for a large company in Philadelphia, after I'd been there for about 15 years. We always tried to keep our needs down, to grow food for ourselves and to be careful with the resources that we used, but we decided that we needed to push that a little harder, that in fact we wanted to put ourselves in a situation where we couldn't afford to be wasteful. So my wife and our three kids and I decided that we would begin to figure out what we would do without, so that we could find out how much less we could afford to make, so that we could move to a place where we could live more simply, and that this was important enough to both of us that we were willing to make the sacrifices that it took to do that sort of thing.
CURWOOD: Is it a sacrifice, Tom?
MURPHY: No (laughs ). That's what turned out to be kind of ironic. We're away from many of the cultural resources, but what we lose in that we gain in many other things, and I like to be able to just stand outside and look at the mountains and listen to the birds, and that really -- it hasn't grown old, even after three years being able to do that sort of thing, which was a surprise to us.
CURWOOD: I'd like you to read an excerpt from your essay if you might --
CURWOOD: -- there's a portion there where you talk about the reactions of a colleague to your call for a simpler life.
MURPHY: Yes. Okay. "I remember a co-worker telling me about her career plans, how her ever-rising income would mean a fancier car, a better place to live, better clothes. She was surprised when I commented that my family and I were looking into reducing our needs in order to increase our options. The fewer our needs, the less money we required, so that I might be able to find a job that paid less but perhaps kept me away from my family less and allowed more creative opportunities. My friend was surprised. She'd not thought of it that way before."
CURWOOD: Tom, have any of your friends or family followed your lead?
MURPHY: I don't know yet, I mean, you know, you can't tell how long it takes a seed to develop. I know that once it became clear what I was doing at work, the conversation that I had with that co-worker there was reflected in similar conversations with a lot of people.
CURWOOD: Now you wrote in your essay that everyone on the planet must begin to lead simpler lives -- that's a pretty tall order. How can that happen?
MURPHY: Well, I -- as I also said in the essay, it's gotta happen one by one. I'm convinced that eventually everybody is going to change. I talk in the essay about the idea of people needing to experience directly the positive aspects of conserving resources. Eventually everybody's going to experience directly the shortages connected with not having them, and it's just the difference between being forced into doing without and choosing to do without. If we wait until our backs are against the wall, our options are much less.
CURWOOD: Tom, given that you are now leading a more simple lifestyle, I hazard the guess that you're not really all that disappointed about not winning the grand prize, which is a trip to Costa Rica aboard a gas-guzzling airplane.
MURPHY: (Laughs ) That's right. That's absolutely correct. I still don't know the names of all the wildflowers that grow in our field in the summertime, so I have a lot to learn from what's right around me.
CURWOOD: Thanks so much, Tom, for joining us, and once again, congratulations on doing so well in the contest.
MURPHY: Okay, Steve, thank you.

CURWOOD: Thomas Murphy is an English teacher at Mansfield University in Mansfield, Pennsylvania, and listens to Living on Earth on WSKG, across the border in Binghamton, New York. And again, congratulations to both our second- and third-place winners in the Living on Earth / Stonyfield Farm Yogurt "Making A Difference" contest. They each win a year's supply of Stonyfield Farm Yogurt, a contest tote bag, and a Living on Earth tee-shirt. Tune in next week, when we'll announce the grand prize winners. The creator of the number one entry in our adult division wins a trip for two to the Costa Rican rainforest, courtesy of Overseas Adventure Travel of Cambridge, Massachusetts. The winner in the youth division wins a gift certificate for a bicycle, and thousand-dollar U-S savings bond.



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