JD Slajchert

Engineer of Words. Division 1 Student-Athlete. Author.

Grab a pencil and a sheet of paper. Ready? Write down JD Slajchert. You’ll want to remember his name. Although JD is just 23 years old, he already is a published author. MoonFlower, his debut novel, has done extremely well — especially, as a first time author. To elaborate, on Amazon the book has only earned “5 Star Reviews” from 16 different Amazon members and has two fantastic editorial reviews. Further, what’s very unique about JD’s writing process is how few people knew about the book before it was published.

“I wanted to keep the writing of my first book a secret because I was afraid of what people might think. To be a full time student and a college basketball player while writing a novel is a pretty strange combination, to say the least. So, rather than trying to sound high and mighty about my routine, I kept it all to myself.” — JD

For those who have not read the book, our writing staff would highly encourage it. MoonFlower is a great story because it captures two of the most powerful emotions humans can experience — love and loss. Inspired by true events, JD expertly navigates the trenches of heartbreak warfare by allowing the reader the chance to witness whimsical love. As the story unfolds, the reader is introduced to difficult, real-world concepts like how to be a co-parent to a chronically ill sister and more. While many of the reviews on Amazon for the book left the reader in tears, the love JD shares in the story is unquestionably real.

Q: In your own words, who are you and what motivates you in life? — Ryan

A: I am someone that focuses on the little details. In my opinion helping someone or doing the right thing doesn't have to be some grand gesture, so I strive to live by that. It's the small things that excite me which is why I wanted to become a writer. The loss of my best friend at the age of ten years old motivates me everyday. I know that he had dreams and goals, so it is up to me to not only pursue my dreams for myself, but also for Luc Bodden. — JD

When JD was only ten years old, his best friend died. Luc Bodden passed away from sickle cell disease. The book is just one of the ways that JD honors the life of his former best friend. Currently, he serves as the Director of Relationship Development on the Luc Strong Foundation. The Luc Strong Foundation was established by Luc Bodden’s parents to help alleviate the financial hardships of families. In particular, the foundation focuses on reducing costs for children with sickle cell disease who are undergoing a bone marrow transplant process.

Tangentially, in life, we have all crossed paths with individuals who say something and do something else. With JD, he was never like that. For him, writing is a method to capture emotions, thoughts, and even moments in a snapshot of time. Our guess is, if you ever were to praise JD for the work he has done to honor Luc Bodden’s memory, he would either sheepishly say thanks and redirect the conversation or politely dismiss the gratitude by mentioning that there is much more work that needs to be done.

Environmental Stewardship & Disaster Relief

When considering how to balance the concepts of environmental stewardship and disaster relief for the Woolsey fire, JD had several great thoughts. According to him, “[success] in my opinion for our disaster relief is coincidentally the same as success with our campaign for the book. If we helped one person then it was worth it.“

“If one person read my book and it helped them through a tough time or showed them to follow their dreams then it was all worth it. If our disaster relief helps one person bounce back who lost their home in the fire then I'm more than happy with our effort.” — JD

Further on the topic of environmental stewardship is the idea of waste. Personally, as a writer, JD has not experienced too much waste in the industry. Generally, all forms of communications are done electronically and this reduces the need for paper. His book is even available on the Kindle which is encouraging. Despite the importance of environmental stewardship, JD is primarily focusing on rehabilitation as it relates to disaster relief.

“The protection and conservation of our environment is the most important political topic for our country. No other topic matters if we don't have a planet to execute these orders on and if we continue to waste and pollute our environment then we will have irreversible consequences. We have to do a better job.” — JD

Philanthropy: The Woolsey Fire & Teresa Alaniz

Until March 3rd, 100% of the book sales from Moonflower will be donated to the victims of the Woolsey Fire. So if you want to buy a copy of the book, JD encourages reader to buy prior to the deadline. Here is the Amazon link, if you are interested!

Concurrently, JD is attempting to raise $20,000 for a little girl named Teresa Alaniz. In the last week, JD has already managed to raise $4,860 to help Teresa. For those who are unfamiliar, Teresa suffers from a multitude of issues. Several include: “a lack of proper facial development, internal structural issues involving the location where her brain sits in her skull, the inability to breathe properly through her nose and mouth due to internal developmental problems, the inability to talk because of missing facial muscles, and trouble with spatial recognition cause by the unusual location of her brain.” If you want to donate or learn more, here is the Go Fund Me link!

Parting Thoughts

When we asked about plans for a second book, JD mentioned that “[only] a select few people are aware of the contents for my second novel and I plan on keeping it that way to protect the creative aspect of creating a compelling story.” Understandably, we’ll just have to read it when it debuts later in 2019!

Generally, when Counter Current features individuals or products on our site, we are doing so for informational purposes only. However, personally, I plan to buy a copy of JD’s book and definitely will donate to Teresa’s GoFundMe. If you like what we write, follow Counter Current on Twitter @CountCurrent, on Instagram at @thecountercurrent, and like our Facebook page! If you like the message JD is promoting, check out his website, follow him on Twitter @JD_Slajchert, and on Instagram @jd_slajchert! Happy Monday!

Kier Mellour: Eco Bikini Girl

Be Glam and Give a Damn.

Kier Mellour is the hottest environmental fashion, beauty, and travel blogger to hit the L.A. scene. Her wildly successful “classy, sassy, over-the-top style” fashionista blog is emblematic of the true Kier Couture image. However, at first glance, many wouldn’t know that Kier Mellour lives a not-so-secret, double life. Just like Christian Bale was the best Batman of our generation, Kier Mellour is unequivocally the best “Eco Bikini Girl” of our generation. She demonstrates on a daily basis that it is possible to both take care of our planet and remain ever-so fashionable. Or, in her words, you can “be glam and give a damn'.

Boy Scouts, Water Taste Test, and An Instagram Friend

Kier’s life — like all great stories — starts in the outskirts of a small town. Growing up as a regular kid in the Pacific Northwest, she learned to foster a great love and respect for nature, animals, and the earth. She credits her father and his former experience as a Boy Scout for nurturing her love for the wild. Whether she was camping in the summer, growing their own food, or reading books inside when it rained, Kier learned what it meant to incorporate sustainable practices into daily life. For example, she would mend clothes and fix toys instead of tossing them or buying new. This lifestyle made her that friend who would talk about how to live an eco-friendly life in a consumer-based society. That’s a good thing. You want to be that friend because environmental causes are not fringe issues, they are universal common goods that impact the lives of everyone.

Q: “After your first photo and beach clean-up, what happened?” —Ryan

A: “I began to talk more about plastic and easy swaps people could make in my stories and I realize that my audience was really interested in hearing more… They started to ask questions and I started to get messages about how much I had inspired them to make changes in their life which just encouraged me further.” —Kier

In 2017, Kier wanted to create more videos for her Youtube channel. The idea was to conduct a blind taste test of water bottles in California. Oddly enough, California was also experiencing a severe drought, even though Kier was buying most of her water bottles from the state. How was the private sector able to sell water that originated from a state that, supposedly, was lacking water sources? After extensive research, she discovered how terrible bottle water was for the environment. She thought about what she learned until one fateful day at the beach. Kier could absolutely not just relax in the sun or lie in the sand, as plastics had washed ashore and were scattered around the formerly, pristine beach. Therefore, she took action. She spent the day cleaning up the beach and at the end, she had her picture taken. Nearly immediately, the photo spread like wildfire and her flame for the environment was ignited even more.

Eco Bikini Girl represents that “women can be intelligent, conscious, and compassionate as well as stylish, sexy, and beautiful.”

Following the first beach clean-up, Kier started to participate in clean-ups once or twice a month. She also began following an Instagram account @CleanOurSeas and quickly became friends with the account manager, Natalie. After several Direct Messages (DM) and with the goal to spread as much awareness as possible, Kier began to write “#CleanOurSeas” on Instagram posts to encourage others to cleanup the environment. Naturally, Natalie loved Kier’s work and featured the post on the @CleanOurSeas account. Unfortunately, a male — unnamed for this article — derisively degraded the purpose of Kier’s actions. He insinuated that she had only participated in these clean-ups for Instagram “likes” and not because she cared for the environment. At that moment, the “Eco Bikini Girl” was born and she hasn’t looked back.

Thoughts on Consumer Behavior and Environmental Stewardship

With respect to consumer behavior, there are two great options that Kier recommends. The first is re-homing products and the second is to buy secondhand. As a consumer-based society, the value of our dollar is important. In fact, we have the ability to vote for the society we want based upon the products we sell. Therefore, it is necessary to practice a certain level of mindfulness when browsing Amazon or shopping in L.A.

“Literally, I’ve posted “free clothes hangers” and had a friend come and pick them up within an hour. There is so much stuff already out there, but you could use this tactic in reverse, as well…”Does anybody have a blow up mattress I could borrow for a week” will not only save you money, but it might reconnect you with a friend you haven’t seen in a while. [Facebook] prohibits you from buying something that you might not need forever.” —Kier on Consumerism

Further, Facebook and other social media platforms are great tools when connecting with others. It’s more than possible and should be encouraged to reach out to friends and family when it comes to products you may need for only a short amount of time. Whether it is borrowing a blow-up mattress or giving away hangers, there is not a need to constantly “buy”. However, thoughtful exchange could revolutionize the way we interact with others by furthering friendships and protecting our planet at the same time.

Thoughts on Defining Success and Environmental Stewardship

Success occurs on an individual level for Kier. Whenever there is a shift in thinking from someone who did not recycle and now they recycle, refuse, reuse, and practice conscious green consumerism — that is a win. She definitely feels successful in proactively reaching out to others, but her greater goal is to curb cigarette waste. Cigarette brands ought to switch to compost-able, natural filters. As many readers may know, cigarette butts are the number one most littered item, so if there was a shift from cigarette firms (either through legislation or profitability metrics) that would be a huge success. The implementation is the difficult part.

Thoughts on Politics and Environmental Stewardship

As a libertarian, Kier often finds herself arguing with both sides and, generally, thinks government should stay out of a person’s life. However, as an environmentalist and as a libertarian that possesses a strong belief in limited government, she is very torn on the best method to decrease nonessential plastics. Taxes on nonessential plastics or incentives in the form of tax credits or subsidies often come to mind — however, she is conflicted.

In Oregon, the cash redemption value machines have had astonishing success — it would be excellent if programs like these could be implemented nationwide. Witnessing the “success of common sense laws” that allow for cashback or discounts help any person on a budget. Further, it keeps plastic, glass, and metal containers in a circular economy for longer without needing to be placed in a landfill or dumped into an ocean. Anecdotally, California could be massively improved by implementing machines that are more visible, in higher frequency, and socially encouraged. However, often times these machines are swarmed with homeless people which typically makes it less than appealing to most people — this is another social problem that ought to be addressed.

“We can’t trust the government to protect us — we need to be the change we see.”

On the flip side, our government is incredibly wasteful — “I don’t think they know anything about how to be sustainable!” If sustainability was a greater focus, recycling and redemption facilities would be more frequent and self-education on the topic would be less necessary. Similar to the idea of including the true environmental cost when taxing a company for using plastic, it is not that rough of a thought to consider plastic as hazardous waste. This term would require companies who produce it to be responsible for disposal and cleanup. This is a realignment of our consumer-based economy, again, to reflect the true environmental costs.

Clearly, any policy change would need bipartisan support. The easiest way to make a change now is to convince others to “vote with their dollar” and not buy plastic. Companies want to be profitable. Companies will realign their strategic vision and operations to what the consumer wants and that’s why the “consumer truly holds the most power”. Changing our actions on a personal level are a lot easier than changing laws that have undercurrent agendas.

Counter Current Parting Thoughts

This article is dedicated to Vivian. Vivian is Kier’s chihuahua who was laid to rest on January 30th. For the last 13 years, Vivian is the one who showed the world that “you can be small and make a huge difference.” Nothing will replace you Vivian and you are forever treasured in the hearts of so many. We love you.

If you liked what you read, be sure to subscribe to Kier’s YouTube channel, follow her Instagram, and pray for Vivian. All links are in the article.

Tulsi Gabbard

Tulsi’s running.

For the 2020 Presidential Race, we are planning to profile the environmental political positions of each US candidate. We do not plan on providing any type of endorsements because we want our readers to be informed, but ultimately make decisions that best serve them. Our analysis will include a summary of (1) who they are, (2) what environmental issues they have voted for, (3) any sponsored legislation, and (4) any notable environmental endorsements. The length of each article on a given candidate will be correlated to the available content in each person’s background.

Who is Tulsi Gabbard?

From Bernie Sander’s supporters to Justice Democrats, Representative Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) is a rising star among Progressives and, generally, well-liked in Hawaii. As a state legislator, a combat veteran, and an environmental non-profit founder, she has done a lot in just 37 years. She announced her candidacy on 11 January 2019 and, subsequently, was featured on the Van Jones Show.

Although she is in a different tier than Elizabeth Warren or Kamala Harris when it comes to being a house-hold name, her vibrant persona could sway the younger base of the Democratic party to vote for her. It is our assumption, Gabbard will be influenced by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) or receive some type of endorsement from his camp, given her decision to resign as Vice Chair of the Democrat National Committee in the 2016 election cycle. This high-profile exodus raised her profile to greater national prominence

Voting Record On The Environment

From 2013 to 2017, Rep. Gabbard (HI-02) has voted in favor of pro-environmental policies 165 times in her last three terms. The data is provided from the League Of Conservation Voters and is only recent until 2017. Further, in only 6 instances did Representative Tulsi Gabbard vote against any type of bill when she was serving in the House. The following legislation pieces were voted as “Nay” votes by Rep. Gabbard in 2017: (1) Attacking Wilderness in the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge, (2) Undermining Flood Insurance Reform, and (3) Flood Insurance Reform. We encourage our readers to read the text of the legislation and not merely the titles.

Environmental Legislation Sponsored by Tulsi Gabbard

On her campaign website, her team listed both H.R. 4811 (114th) and H.Res. 540 (114th) as her two greatest accomplishments in the environmental field. Rep. Gabbard was either a sponsor or a co-sponsor of the legislation. For reference, H.R. 4811 is now referred as the “Coral Reef Sustainability Through Innovation Act of 2016” and is an amendment to the Coral Reef Conservation Act of 2000. Essentially, the amendment allows for awards to be given out to stimulate innovation and references the Stevenson-Wydler Technology Innovation Act of 1980 on various methodology to best protect the coral reefs.

As a Representative from Hawaii, the legislation she sponsored coincides with the tourism industry. Tourism is the largest attraction in the Hawaii economy and this bill would be closer to an incremental change that is built off of previous house resolutions. This does not mean that this action is inconsistent with Progressive ideology (a political thought that generally favors broad-sweeping legislation like the New Deal under FDR), but not necessarily monumental change.

Who Has Endorsed Representative Tulsi Gabbard?

The three greatest endorsements that Rep. Gabbard (HI-02) has received are from the following organizations: the (1) Sierra Club, the (2) League of Conservation Voters, and the (3) Ocean Champions.

We hoped you liked our informational analysis of Rep. Gabbard. As the campaign progresses, please check back often to learn more about Rep. Gabbard and other candidates!

The Eco Shed

The Eco Shed, a store based in England, sells environmentally-friendly household products.

After three months of successful sales in the Trinity Market, a young entrepreneur decided to take his business online. Based out of the fishing city Hull in East Yorkshire, England, Kallum wanted to share his love of the oceans with others. As the son of a fisherman, Kallum’s dad taught him about the importance of oceans from an early age. Coupled with the hit British TV Series, Blue Planet 2, his natural affinity for the environment was nurtured even further. The love imparted to him by his father and cinematographic productions was the basis for his inspiration to start The Eco Shed.

“I was brought up being told to look after the planet, especially the oceans.”

—Kallum

When we were in correspondence, our team asked Kallum how he defines success. To him, he quickly replied that “success to us is spreading the message about looking after the environment to our city and even further”. Clearly, Kallum wants and will make a global impact, but understands that actions start on a local level first. Further, he also believes that this success is achievable, but understands the constraints of only using social media. He has advocated for environmentally-friendly practices at schools, colleges, local groups, and talked on the radio. He is keen on getting the word out and explaining why the oceans matter to him.

Before starting The Eco Shed, Kallum researched what consumers wanted and reflected on his experience as a consumer. To him, he had the greatest issue with plastics — especially single-use plastics. Even more so, so many firms offer alternative products that an individual consumer can purchase that are better aligned with protecting the health of the planet.

Lastly, our team asked him how consumers should be modifying their behavior. How might an individual better respect the oceans? Kallum suggested that firms could provide “warnings on packaging very similar to cigarette warnings. I’ve heard on the grapevine that this may happen, but you never know!” Further, Kallum essentially advocated for having the environmental consequences of using single-use plastics be added into the price of a product. He mentioned firms could “always just cut out single use plastics in their stores and offer the alternatives without the option of single use plastics” for an additional 10 or 20 pence.

Finally, the Counter Current team would like to extend a massive thank you to The Eco Shed for allowing us to conduct our first interview!! We have two other fantastic interviews lined up, so be sure to check back later today and tomorrow!

If you wish to learn more about The Eco Shed, click here! If you wish to follow them on Twitter, they are @ecoshed. If you wish to follow them on Instagram, they are @theecoshed.

MLK Day

Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. Was Right About More Than Race.

On April 16th, 1963, Reverend Martin Luther King Jr penned the famous “Letter from a Birmingham Jail [King, Jr.]”. In that letter, the Reverend discussed how an “appalling silence of the good people,” constricted African-American rights. Not only did Rev. King believe that this inaction allowed for evil to triumph for so long, but he was firmly convinced that it was now “time to lift our national policy from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of human dignity.”

“More and more I feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than have the people of good will. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.”

Letter from a Birmingham Jail

He was right, too. Racial injustice was, truly, an unstable bedrock for social norms. From dining establishment to schools to government institutions, African-Americans faced broad-based discrimination. Despite the growing political and moral necessity to democratize civil rights, the transition was not peaceful. There were, sadly, so many violent clashes.

Black Power movements favoring pan-Africanism struggled for freedom against white supremacy groups like the Ku Klux Klan. Despite the surge of support in the African-American communities to engage in reciprocal violence against whites, history ultimately remembers Martin Luther King Jr.’s movement of non-violent protest that succeeded in bringing equality and freedoms to African-Americans in the United States. The cost was his life, however. Shot on the balcony of the Lorraine hotel in Memphis, Tennessee, Reverend King subsequently died of his wounds. His death cemented his legacy as a civil rights activist and he was only 39 years old at the time. He had lived in a profound way in such a short time.

Despite his humanly faults, Reverend King modeled how activists of large movements ought to behave. In particular, the lessons he taught have application when considering environmental activism. There is an “appalling silence” of so many good people when it comes to waste. While most are aware of the damaging effects of climate change, generally consumer are not eco-conscientious on a daily basis. Say no to the plastic straws!

Plastic, water, and waste consumption all account for a life that is out of balance with nature and capitalism. The true costs of our actions are not reflected in market forces, thereby disallowing markets to act with true efficiency. These revenue-neutral carbon taxes or cap-and-trade policies fail on a larger scale because bearing the consequences is never popular with re-election. Other times, when an environmental policy is implemented it is egregiously flawed like the plastic straw ban in California. There is a middle, moderate ground were lawmakers ought to function by reducing plastic consumption (i.e. straws), but not by threatening to imprison Santa Barbara bartenders.

We can make a difference each day by doing simple things right. Say no to unnecessary plastic, recycle when you can, and be a good steward of the environment.

Fortnite And Forests

Billionaire Video Game Tycoon Cares.

That’s not a headline you read everyday in the news. Contrary to what many believe or read, members of the ultra-wealthy enjoy giving away their money in causes that they believe in. Just look at the Bill and Melinda Gates’ Giving Pledge, were more than 150 billionaires have decided to donate over half of their assets once they die.

“The idea is to put my money to work for conservation,”

Tim Sweeney in WNC Magazine, May 2014

Tim Sweeney is no different. As an entrepreneur and video game enthusiast, he has created blockbuster hits like Gears of War and, recently, Fortnite. With over 200 million registered players, the multi-billion dollar game gave him the financial ability to help our planet. In particular, with that money, Mr. Sweeney has invested back into his home state of North Carolina. Since 2008, Mr. Sweeney has purchased over 40,000 acres of land. He regularly either donates the land for conservation easement like the 7,000 acres he donated to the Box Creek Wilderness or holds onto the land until he can find the right person.

Mr. Sweeney’s love of nature started when he was young. He grew up taking family vacation to his grandmother’s small farm in the mountains of Southwest Virginia. When asked about his short term plans for a recent 1,500 acre acquisition, he stated “I just plan to hike it and do some tree thinning and burning for ecosystem restoration until I find a permanent conservancy or state home for it.”

Keep doing what you do, Mr. Sweeney. If you’re interested in learning more about our forest, learn more from the National Forest Foundation.

Julia Hill

Julia is an environmental hero for protecting the California Redwoods.

In the last 20 years, Julia Lorraine Hill has emerged as a 20th “eco-celebrity” for her dedication to protecting the California redwoods from Pacific Lumber Company. For over 738 days, she lived in a tree called Luna and endured sickness, isolation, freezing temperatures, and innumerable challenges. For her actions, Julia Hill saved not only Luna, but also all the trees within a 200 foot radius from being cut down.

“…[W]hen you see someone in a tree trying to protect it, you know that every level of our society have failed , the consumers have failed, the companies have failed, the government has failed.”

Julia Butterfly Hill, The Legacy of Luna: The Story of a Tree, a Woman, and the Struggle to Save the Redwoods

Her story received national press and she has used that platform for good. From writing books to staying active in the environmental community — she has modeled a noble path that others have been inspired to follow.

Unfortunately, it can be dangerous to stand up for the environment. Not only do the local indigenous people face an imbalanced eco-system, that they have lived in harmony with for thousands of years, but activists are often killed.

In addition to individual killings, 2017 saw more massacres of defenders than any other year. In at least seven cases, more than four defenders were killed at a single time, which shows that perpetrators are feeling more emboldened, Leather says. In the past, killings have rarely been prosecuted.

National Geographic, Why 2017 Was the Deadliest Year for Environmental Activists

Over 207 people were killed in 2017. This number is likely lower, according to Global Witness, as certain countries that like true freedom of the press (Russia, China, Colombia, etc.) do not disclose this information. Even more upsetting is the fact that most of these deaths do not result in any prosecution of the company or of the people who commit murder.

Change starts with us. When you consume products, understand how and where companies source their goods. If the consumer doesn’t buy the products, those forests won’t be cut down.

Photo credits.