Tracker Pixel for Entry

I’m crashing your (balloon release) party

by Tessa Torgeson | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | Last Word | March 15th, 2017

A sea of bright balloons floats against the backdrop of the infinite prairie sky, blotting out the clouds and sun. This is a poetically picturesque scene soon gracing Fargo’s skies.

Gigi’s Playhouse, a Fargo nonprofit that provides services for people with Down Syndrome, is planning their second annual balloon release fundraiser for World Down Syndrome Day, held on March 21st because Down Syndrome is caused by triplication of the 21st chromosome.

Releasing balloons into the air speaks a universal language across the world, transcending borders, cultures, and oceans. This familiar imagery is so embedded into our collective consciousness and entwined with meaningful rituals that we are complacent about considering the repercussions that balloon releases have upon the environment.

This may seem like a small issue, but making the choice to not release balloons contributes to environmental and animal preservation rather than destruction.

With the Trump administration proposing a devastating 25 percent cut to the Environmental Protection Agency, it is a critical time for us to coalesce to protect the planet in any way we can. Trump’s proposed EPA cuts would cut nearly a third of state grant programs that protect air and water quality, fund cleanup of abandoned industrial sites, conduct water quality tests, and buy cleaner school buses.

While I realize the importance of fundraising for nonprofit organizations and understand the sentiment behind balloon releases, the fleeting beauty and symbolism has a lasting detrimental impact on our environment. Specifically, balloon releases create pollution, and kill domestic and marine animals alike.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, “is imploring Americans not to let go of balloons outside.” Many animals mistake the balloons as food or are strangled by balloon strings. Balloons have contributed to the death and harm of marine turtles, of which all seven species are nearing extinction. Balloon releases are banned in five US states: Virginia, California, Connecticut, Tennessee, and Florida.

There have been dramatically disastrous balloon releases and while I realize this is an extreme example, it was the impetus for other organizations to ban balloon releases. On a stormy September day in 1986 The United Way released 1.4 million helium balloons into the sky for a fundraising event in Cleveland, Ohio. Trying to beat the storm, event organizers frantically released the balloons from a giant net in the downtown square. The balloons literally eclipsed skyscrapers, the sun, harbor, and even the airport runways, causing the airport to close down, dozens of car accidents by falling balloons, and power outages. Although the intention of the balloon release was positive and hopeful, it was a frightening reminder of the consequences of litter.

With that said, I hope that Gigi’s Playhouse and other Down Syndrome organizations consider a fundraising method other than balloon releases. This is not intended to criticize the specific organization of Gigi’s Playhouse, but merely ask them to reconsider the damage of balloon releases.

Gigi’s Playhouse positively impacts and improves the quality of life in our community. As someone who has worked in nonprofits for ten years and also with people with disabilities, I am very supportive of the cause and feel it meets a vital need for people with Down Syndrome and their families for support, connection, and services.

It was heartening to see the agency’s 21 Days of Kindness posts on Facebook, where they shared: “Show you care about the environment and let's make it a little cleaner! Pick up some trash or litter as you walk through a parking lot, walk around your neighborhood, or stroll through a park!”

After this post showing commitment for the environment, I was troubled when I saw that Gigi’s Playhouse was joining hundreds of other organizations across the world to release 321 balloons as part of World Down Syndrome Day. If only one organization in each state in the US participated, that would mean 16,050 balloons released into the ether.

Some companies have claimed their latex balloons are biodegradable- freezing when they soar to an altitude of five miles, bursting apart into bits before they fall back to land where they break down into the soil just like a leaf.

Most rubber balloons are made of chemical-treated latex that can take six months to break down, leaving plenty of time to wreak havoc upon animals and creating more litter. Moreover, many supposedly “biodegradable” balloons still have traces of chemical latex, are attached to strings that end up strangling animals or getting caught in power lines and causing power outages. Southern California Edison reported about 470 blackouts caused by these balloons in one year.

Additionally, balloon releases waste helium, a non-renewable, finite resource that is required for important life-saving uses such as MRIs and ventilators, along with space and sea exploration. 

Recently in:

BISMARCK – The Dakota Access Pipeline developer agreed to plant trees to reach a settlement over two misconduct allegations while constructing the pipeline on Wednesday. A total of 20,000 trees are to be planted by December 31,…

photo by Meg Luther Lindholm.Ibtissem (pronounced Ib-tiss-em) Belmihoub is both enjoying her time in Fargo as a doctoral student in Rhetoric, Writing and Culture at NDSU and a community volunteer. She is currently the Project…

Wed-Fri, September 27-29, 8pm; Sat-Sun, 2pmComstock Theatre, Concordia College, 901 8th St S, MoorheadIt is October, 1517, at Wittenberg University in northern Germany, where students and faculty begin another academic year. A…

Our opinion: We’re more than the sum of our partsOver the weekend I was telling a friend of mine that one of the most valuable things a person can gain in life is perspective. My time at the High Plains Reader has gifted me just…

What kind of characters would charge $99 for a case of water?In the days before the solar eclipse safety glasses sold for $8.95 for a five-pack of certified glasses. The day before the eclipse the price was raised to $59. During…

The moment of truth has arrived. After seven weeks of sampling and judging some of the finest libations in the area the results for this year’s Cocktail Showdown have arrived. Christopher Larson, Raul Gomez and Sabrina Hornung…

Brand new and satisfying in so many waysI ventured into Tru Blu on Sunday at noon. As soon as I entered I was immediately astonished by the interior. It’s gorgeous! The brown tufted booths and dark wood give the impression that…

Fall is arriving, and that of course means that the new season of the Fargo-Moorhead Symphony Orchestra’s “Masterworks” series sponsored by Sanford Health is right around the corner.In the last couple concert seasons they…

Rom-coms are a staple of modern movies and have been for well over a century. This summer two very different variations on the genre spotlighting iconic 20th-century superstars made their Blu-ray debuts from Kino-Lorber. One is a…

The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards are presented by the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers. This nonprofit organization described their mission as “To identify students with their exceptional artistic and literary talent and…

‘Heathers’ hits the Empire stage in Grand ForksBefore the pink-clad Plastics or Cher’s group of popular beauties in “Clueless,” the shoulder pad-wearing, croquet mallet-wielding Heathers ruled the halls of Westerberg High…

Humor

​Talking to strangers

by Sabrina Hornung

“I don’t have a tour, like, on the back of a sweatshirt,” comedian Paula Poundstone says. “I go out every weekend. This weekend I went out Friday, Saturday and Monday. Mostly it’s Friday/Saturday or Thursday through…

Up here where it’s north of normal, we can pretty much count on our first cold snap to hit right about now, and the 90 degree day we JUST HAD seems like a distant memory. Goodbye pool parties, BBQs and the patio hang sesh. Hello…

Essential oils. They are all the buzz lately. It seems everyone has heard of them or is purchasing them. Some people know how to use them; others are just interested in the wonder of their complex scents.Essential oils are as…

Live and Learn

​The other shoe

by HPR Contributor

By Elizabeth Nawrotnawrot@mnstate.eduI look up from my hotel lobby breakfast astonished to see a framed print of Wassily Kandinsky's "Mit und Gegen,” a masterpiece of color and composition that just happens to be my favorite…

By Robert Franklin, Esq.parents@nationalparentsorganization.orgIn North Dakota, a child’s chances of spending meaningful time with each parent following divorce have less to do with his parents than what county they divorce…