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Sustainability: Water, Food, and More, The Exchange


Today on The Exchange, we talk about sustainability in water, food and the agriculture in general. We speak with award-winning writer Mary Swander. Swander has several projects she is producing in support of sustainable agriculture.  We also with a activist who works with local populations in Central American countries to help them fight for clean water. And we find out why one newspaper editor and author to went to work in a slaughterhouse in England. We also talk with the inventors of a new app that helps sustain family rescipes for future generations. 

But first, we stay close to home, and talk about the potentional threat posed by agricultural runoff in Iowa’s rivers, lakes and streams, and how those contaminents could possibly make you sick if you ingest water while you are out kayaking or swimming.  David Cwiertny is the director of the University of Iowa’s Center for Health Effects of Environmental contamination.  He says there is a difference in how we look at contaminents in drinking water and water used for recreational purposes.

David Cwietny, Director, Center for Health Effects of Environmental Contamination, The University of Iowa

A lot of people have stood their ground against several enivornmental threats in the last five years.  Whether it is the xl pipeline, the lead in the water in Flint Michigan or the battle stop runoff in animal confinements in Iowa, there is a continuing effort to protect our natural resources.  

In the book, The Water Defenders: How Ordinary People Saved A country from Corporate Greed, authors and husband and wife John Cavanagh and Robin Broad tell the David and Goliath story of a coaltion of local residents and international allies succeeded in ousting the Pacific Rim Mining Company and thereby ending the pollution of its water.

I talked to Cavanagh about the work being done to oust transnational companies that pollute water in the U.S. and in developing countries.

The Water Defenders by John Cavanagh and Robin Broad

A lot of love our pets and animals in general, but how does that comport with eating beef or pork?  And is there a better way feed ourselves and in the process improve life on the planet?  Financial Times Chief Features writer Henry Mance went on a personal journey to find out if eating meat and killing animals for consumption was worth the cost. 

His book, How to Love Animals: In A Human Shaped World is a portrait of our constantly changing relationship with animals and how we can share our planet fairly. Mance says having a child made him want to take on those issues. 

How to Love Animals In Human-Shaped World

Mary Swander has spent her life writing books, teaching students and she is a powerful creative force in the arts.  Now retired, she lives in Kalona, just outside of Iowa City, in the Amish Community, where she moved many years ago to deal with her health and free her self from the contaminents of the modern world that were making her feel ill.

Today, Swander has an office in Kalona, where she works to promote sustainable farming, community conversations and art. She has an online AgArts Circle, which is Zoom meeting for artists that was inspired by on an online conference of the Practical Farmers of Iowa. She says it is a group of farmers, mostly, who are also artists.  Swander is now retired from many years of teaching at Iowa State University and other schools and she is not slowing down.  I talked to Swander about what she calls her fifth career.

Mary Swander's Podcast, AgArts from Horse and Buggy Land

Henry Mance and Mary Swander

Many families have special recipies they hand down to several generations of descendants. But sustaining those memories and recipes can be hard as recipe cards fade and are sometimes lost forevers. Now two Midwest entrepreneurs are trying to to help retain those memories. Chris Kozak and Dan Zawisza used the pandemic lockdown to conceive of and launch an app to keep families stay connected through food. 

Together, they founded Dishtory, an app that makes it possible to record, save and share kitchen memories through audio heirlooms that will last forever.  I talked with Dan Zawisza and his wife and Andrea about how and why they created the app. 

DISHtory the podcast


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