A Pitbull? I’ve Been Called Worse . . .
Gary Smith, a writer from Washington, D.C., sent me a preview of his article today that he’s writing in advance of our film premiere at the Environmental Film Festival on March 26 at the Globe Theater. Please spread the word.
A Chemical Reaction Producer, Paul Tukey
Meet the Lawn Care Pitbull
He appears, in the words of one writer, to be “a beach-blonde thirtysomething” without a care in the world. He laughs easily, prefers shorts and sandals to suits and, at age 49, claims to have never learned how to knot his own necktie.
To judge Paul Tukey by appearances, however, would be vastly deceiving. When it comes to his chosen cause — lawn care chemicals — Tukey is nothing short of a one-man gang of pitbulls.
“I saw a poster last week put out by the chemical lawn care industry in Canada,” said Tukey with a chuckle. “It claimed I was ‘Canada’s Most Wanted’ man. They said they’ll stop me ‘no matter what the cost.’ My response to the chemical industry is ‘thanks for the free publicity and let’s rumble.’”
Tukey, a magazine and newspaper journalist for most of the past 30 years, was also a licensed lawn pesticide applicator back in the early ‘90s in his home state of Maine. Since being diagnosed with acute chemical sensitivity from exposure to lawn pesticides, he’s been an outspoken advocate for maintaining lawns and gardens without synthetic chemicals. The 2007 publication of the best-selling book, The Organic Lawn Care Manual and the formation of a non-profit organization known as SafeLawns.org have thrust Tukey into the national spotlight.
“Paul Tukey is the Al Gore of organic lawn care,” wrote Virginia Smith of the Philadelphia Inquirer, just one of more than 1,000 journalists of have called SafeLawns.org for lawn care information in the past four years.
His stature as a leader of a national movement is increasing exponentially these days with the release of the excellent award-winning film, A Chemical Reaction. Centered around Hudson, Quebec, the first town in North America to ban lawn and garden pesticides on public and private property, the movie features Tukey as interviewer and narrator — thereby showcasing his skills as both a journalist and activist. He insists he never intended to be the latter, but feels he has no choice.
“The chemical industry has hundreds of millions of dollars to spend each year on advertising to convince people that they’re somehow un-American if they let dandelions grow on their lawns,” said Tukey. “All we really have on our side is each other, one conversation at a time. These chemicals are dangerous — for kids, pets, the water supply, the whole planet — and somebody needed to get on the proverbial soapbox and get the message out. I looked around and some organizations like Beyond Pesticides and Pesticide Action Network were doing great work, but no individuals were really sticking their neck out there. So I jumped into the fray, or maybe I’m helping to create the fray.”
To join in, visit www.safelawns.org, or to learn more about the film, visit www.chemicalreactionmovie.com.
— Gary Smith