Community Voices - Lisa Kavanagh

Lisa KavanaghLisa Kavanagh is a retired Oberlin resident with a rare mitochondrial disorder caused by Lyme disease who is passionate about influencing change towards a sustainable future. Although she only has a few hours of energy a day, she is very active through online forums, writing letters, and making environmentally conscious consumer choices. More than anything she makes sure she starts with herself, nurturing a holistic philosophy with the natural environment.

Q: What word(s) or image(s) would you use to describe Oberlin:

A: Oberlin is like a microcosm of people, a collection of people with so many different backgrounds, coming together in a peaceful way. I think that we are people who are progressive, who want a better world, that want to live in a better place.”

Q: Can you elaborate a little bit?

A: From a social perspective, from the environmental perspective, and the humanitarian perspective, Oberlin works toward the betterment of society.

Q: How is it that you came to live, work, educate/or be educated, play, or establish a business in Oberlin?

A: My sister lived here for about 20 years, we were both on the East Coast in Connecticut.  When she moved out here, I’d come and visit, and fell in love with it. There was some sort of creative energy that I would feel, a sense of peace, serenity, that I didn’t feel on the east coast, with everybody rushing and everybody out to make a dollar, fighting for parking spot, hours on I-95 trying to get to work when its fifteen miles away. It’s just crazy. And when I came to Oberlin, I felt I could breathe. I ended up moving out here, my mom had moved out here as well, so I wanted to be close to my family.

Q: Some people use the word “sustainability” to mean actions that enhance/maintain the economic, environmental and social welfare of the Oberlin community. What does sustainability mean in your life?

A: The same. It's a constant chore, I shouldn’t say chore, labor of love…to maintain sustainability in every aspect of life. It's a balance when you have a group of people working towards that in all aspects of their life, because we are little environments ourselves. On the cellular level, what’s going on in here depends on what’s going on out there in the world. So maintaining homeostasis is a constant effort.

Q: What actions are you engaged in that relate to sustainability?

A: I’m an activist from my computer. As far as conservation, the products that I use at home are either things that I’ve made or things that don’t disturb the environment. Cleaning stuff… for example, vinegar and water. Natural. Nothing artificial. Nothing artificial goes into my body.

Q: Can you elaborate a little bit on that too?

A: I make my own shampoo. Cleaning solutions – vinegar and water. That’s all you need, you don’t need all the sprays and stuff like that. I like to think that whatever I put down my drain, I might be drinking some day. Because if you look at it from that point of view…. you really have to hold yourself accountable for how you use your water. I kind of wish that was the way it was, we were all given a supply of water and it was only up to us to maintain. Some people would just destroy it, just like they do their bodies. Other people would just take really good care of it. I have a rare disorder, in my mitochondria. The mitochondria are the powerhouse of every cell, so that means it’s where all your energy is produced. So conserving energy, is really personal to me, I have this much a day and I have to use it in a right away, or everything begins to slow down, heart….other organs. If you look at what we have here in terms of energy, we only have so much, use it to the best of your ability, think about it everyday, and I try to do that, in the way I live, I try to not be excessive.“

Q: You’re doing this for yourself?

A: I have to. When you think about the stress eating something with pesticides has on your body that stress depletes you of energy.

Q: Are you a big advocate for organic foods?

A: Absolutely. Our soil is living, it’s alive, and it’s a life. If we kill it, it’s our fault, and we’re supposed to be stewards, it’s our job.

You know our practices haven’t done service to the soil at all. We’ve gone from 21 inches of topsoil to barely 4 inches in some parts of the states.

My sister and her husband in Pennsylvania are organic farmers, so I’ve seen how it can be done, how it can be done cheaply.  With raspberries for instance, for mulch they use sheep wool because it doesn’t break down, it’s organic, and it keeps the weeds and pests out. So it's a pretty amazing process. I’ve learned a lot from them, from what it means to conserve. They intern organic farmers, and take them to farmer’s markets. And when you see it working, you know it’s possible, it looks so overwhelming from the outside, but it’s so doable.

Farming has changed a lot now…

Yet farming is not for dummies, it takes a lot of organization, planning. I mean, it’s incredible the time that’s involved. People don’t realize what’s involved, they think it’s simple planting - they’re like, “What’s the big deal?” Like the perennial flowers so many people plant in their gardens; we don't know how they were grown, if they are GMO, and that's a huge concern.
Three concerns that I have for our planet and I think they’re doable… I don’t think that it’s too late. One is cleaning our air, we’ve got to know the truth, about what goes in our air, and that we’re not being told, there is no transparency. These are just basic things to sustain. Second, we need pure water. Why are we putting fluoride in our water?  It is poison. Third is growing healthy food.

It’s unreal that people are trying to control water too!

Absolutely, and there’s a huge monopoly around who owns the water. It’s like a crazy cartoon that you would laugh at, if it weren’t true.

These are the topics I advocate for online. I sign petitions and write letters to senators and congressman about things that I see going on, or that I hear. After reading articles of concern, even if I have no energy to get out and do, I can sit in my bed and do this, and spend little energy, and feel like I’ve accomplished something.

Q: Any advice for your fellow community members regarding care for the environment/sustainable living respect for nature?

Start with yourself, start with your own world, in your own body. Tai chi, qigong, meditation, increased awareness of what goes on with your body, how you keep yourself. What you’re giving yourself will eventually trickle out to everything around you, and you will begin to have more respect for the environment. Start from the inside and move out. Look within first.

Also, I really believe that it would be great if the city of Oberlin would allow everyone to have maybe two chickens or a couple rabbits in their yard just so one can get the idea of what farming is like, what sustainability is like. How they interact with each other, having chickens with bees for instance.

I think there’s a disconnection, and it’s not a healthy disconnect, because if you look where it leads, that’s where the troubles start. The disconnection is with our mother, Earth. If we disconnect from her we all lose out.

 

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Jerry Meltzer March 29, 2015

I am an acquaintance of Lisa. She is an exceptional human being. Jerry Meltzer

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Guest March 15, 2017

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