February 17th, 2017
photo by Andy Schmookler
Greetings from Israel! ¬†My husband and I are exploring this¬†fascinating and beautiful country. ¬†Here is a short piece I wrote recently:
It is late afternoon now.¬† Andy and I just spent the last few hours glorying in the sights and sounds of thousands and thousands and thousands of cranes.¬† These graceful birds, with their long and very slender necks, made quite a scene in an agricultural field in the Hula Valley in the northern Galilee.
This field is part of a broad, green, marshy area called the Agamon HaHula. ‚ÄúA Paradise for Birds and People‚ÄĚ reads the sign at the entrance, and that certainly is the case.
Clearly, the birds were in paradise. ¬†As we stood watching, open-mouthed, thousands of cranes whirled around and around in the sky a few hundred meters from us. ¬†And the object of this hubbub was a¬†plain, simple-looking red tractor. ¬†We watched it inch along a dirt road, stirring up thousands of squawking, flapping cranes as it went. ¬†The giant mass of birds moved slowly along, continually mobbing the tractor.
And why do the cranes love this tractor so much?¬† It is the Corn Tractor. ¬†As the Corn Tractor makes its regular rounds, it dispenses corn, which the birds love to eat. ¬†The Corn Tractor feeds these birds well, dispensing 13,000-15,000 pounds of corn for them every day! ¬†
Certainly the Agamon is a paradise for people too.¬† Smiling, excited tourists like us walked, biked, and drove golf carts around the 8.5 kilometer paved trail ¬†that surrounds the fields, enjoying not only the cranes, but the many water fowl and small birds who are also attracted to the reserve.
Since the only moving object that evokes no fear in the cranes is the Corn Tractor, our LONELY PLANET book tells us, some clever person came up with a way to use a tractor to offer tourists a great way to watch the birds. ¬†We saw several tractors pulling long trailers that were open on one side. ¬†These trailers were filled with auditorium-style seating–three rows, with the back row highest and the front row lowest. ¬†This mobile auditorium faced sideways. ¬†The people riding in it ¬†could get a close-up view of the cranes, who were not at all disturbed by their friend The Tractor rolling past.
The corn tractor is actually at the heart of what makes Agamon a grand and creative experiment.¬† In providing regular and abundant food for the cranes, the corn tractor is working hand in glove with the humans growing peanuts in the fields.¬† By devoting one field to the cranes and feeding them plenty of corn every day, the birds leave the nearby peanut fields alone.¬† The birds are happy, and so are the farmers.
This successful experiment, sponsored by the Jewish National Fund, represents an important restoration.¬† The Hula Valley was once a vast wetlands, far, far larger than it is today.¬† It was vital to the lives of millions of birds who migrate between Europe and Africa every year. ¬†With the development of Israel as a nation in the 1950s, the Hula Valley wetlands were rapidly drained to make way for agriculture.
But the dramatic loss of wetland habitat proved devastating to the cranes and the many other birds who depended on the Hula Valley to provide nourishment and a safe resting place during migration. ¬† In the late 1950s, conservationists sounded the alarm.¬† Efforts were launched to protect the remaining Hula Valley wetlands and the birds who depend on them.¬† And in 1964 Israel‚Äôs first national nature reserve was established, here in the Hula Valley.
This is a wonderful win-win-win story‚ÄĒfor the birds, for agriculture, and for all of us who love birds.–April Moore
January 16th, 2017
photo by Ira Shorr
Everyone who knows me¬†understands¬†that I am passionate about climate change. ¬†I truly believe it is the greatest crisis humanity has ever faced. ¬†And we must deal with it for the sake of all we hold dear–our children and grandchildren, all the other species with whom we share our earth, even for the sake of civilization itself.
This month’s posting is different from what I normally post, in that I am asking ¬†for your help. ¬†In a few days I will dunk myself in the Mediterranean Sea at Tel Aviv, Israel! ¬†And I will be doing so to raise needed funds for the Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN).
Every January, CCAN gathers dozens¬†of¬†crazy, committed climate¬†activists at National Harbor, outside Washington, DC, for a plunge into the cold, cold Potomac River. ¬† All of the ‘plungers’ raise money for CCAN’s climate change-fighting work by inviting friends and family to sponsor their plunge with a donation to CCAN.
I have participated in CCAN’s Polar Bear Plunge five times before and have been able to raise well over $10,000 to fund CCAN’s work throughout Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, DC. ¬†
But this year my husband and I will be¬†in Israel on the day of CCAN’s Plunge, so I assumed I would have to miss out. ¬†And while¬†I didn’t exactly mind missing a dip in numbingly cold water, I did mind foregoing a chance to raise money for the organization called by international climate leader Bill McKibben “the most effective regional climate action group in the world.“
Then it occurred to me that I could still participate! ¬†I’ll just jump into a different body of water on a different continent! ¬†The CCAN staff is up for my participating at a distance, so I am planning to take my plunge into the–I hope–warmer waters of the Mediterranean. ¬†
I can honestly think of no better way to address climate change than to raise money for CCAN. ¬†With Trump poised to undo the progress we’ve made on¬†climate at the federal level, many climate activists believe we¬†must redouble our efforts at the state and regional levels. ¬†I agree.
And even for people who do not live in the mid-Atlantic region, a donation to CCAN makes sense. ¬†CCAN has helped expand renewable energy, has stood up to those who want to build fracked-gas pipelines, and has educated many, many people throughout the region. ¬†Besides, given the global nature of climate change, effective action anywhere benefits all of us everywhere.
So. ¬†I earnestly invite you to sponsor my upcoming march into the Mediterranean! ¬†Please help make CCAN’s work even more effective. ¬†If you ¬†click on my fundraising page below, you can donate to CCAN, easily and quickly.
And I promise to send photos from Israel to all who sponsor my plunge. ¬†Thanks!–April Moore
December 28th, 2016
One of my truly sweet memories from a mostly unhappy year of teaching fourth grade was when I taught my students about a Japanese poet who wrote beautifully about nature.
Basho, the seventeenth century master of haiku, is beloved in Japan still, more than 300 years after he lived.
I had long taken pleasure in Basho’s haikus, these 17-syllable slivers of nature, lovingly and creatively wrought. ¬†But only when I found myself enchanted by the description of him in the fourth grade literature book did it occur to me to share him with my students.
Through tender story-telling and rich illustrations, the lit book portrayed Basho as a kind and gentle soul. ¬†He deeply loved nature and took long sojourns, on foot, all over the Japanese countryside. ¬†And in these woodland wanderings he found inspiration for his poems.
Although Basho did not invent haiku–the three-line poem with five syllables in the first line, seven in the second, and five in the third–it is fair to say that he popularized it. ¬†And in addition to his many nature-themed haikus, Basho also wrote humorous ones, some gently poking fun at himself.
My students responded wonderfully to Basho! ¬†They were fascinated by his peripatetic life, and they delighted in the immediacy of his tiny poems.¬† We read many of them and talked about how they made us feel, about¬†the pictures they evoked in our minds.¬† And we had fun writing our own haikus.
I know that much of why I found sharing Basho with my students so rewarding is that I was giving them something I truly love. ¬†And they received it in the same spirit.¬† Kids can readily tell when their teacher’s enthusiasm for a subject is real, when he or she is coming from the heart.
Recalling this experience from more than a decade ago made me decide to learn more about the nature-loving Basho. ¬†So I was surprised, although I probably shouldn’t have been, to learn that the real Basho’s life was not as ideal as that portrayed in an elementary school literature book!
While Basho was famous and revered in his lifetime, he was often lonely and dissatisfied. A star in fashionable literary circles, he later renounced the social, urban, literary life to live instead as a recluse. ¬†But the solitary life did not make him happy either.
It was after his little hut that some disciples had built for him burned down and his mother died, that Basho decided to take to the road.¬† This was considered a very dangerous act in medieval Japan.¬† Basho himself expected to die in the middle of nowhere or to be killed by bandits.
To the poet‚Äôs great surprise, the wandering life brightened his mood; his depression lifted. ¬†Basho enjoyed his days spent walking, taking pleasure in the changing scenery and seasons.¬† His poems took on a less introspective tone, as he observed‚ÄĒand delighted in‚ÄĒthe natural world around him.
But historians tell us that Basho never found lasting happiness.¬† He could never feel at peace with himself and was constantly in the throes of mental turmoil.¬† At one point, he wrote a friend, ‚Äú I am disturbed by others.¬† I have no peace of mind.‚ÄĚ
I was surprised to learn of Basho‚Äôs deep discontent.¬† I wondered if his idealized wanderings were actually attempts to escape his inner torment.¬† Perhaps like me, and many others, he was able to lose himself in nature, there to live in the moment, not plagued by the worries and obsessions that plagued him at other times.
Here are a few of Basho‚Äôs poems.¬† (note that, in translation, haiku can lose its 5-7-5 structure)
A cicada shell;
it sang itself utterly away.
An ancient pond‚Ä¶
a frog leaps in
the splash of water.
A little irreverent:
shits on the rice cakes
on the porch rail.
A little self-deprecating:
Now then, let’s go out
To enjoy the snow. . . .until
I slip and fall.
Finally, I love this line from Basho‚Äôs final work, his masterpiece, THE NARROW ROAD TO THE INTERIOR.¬† ‚ÄúDo not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise.¬† Seek what they sought.”—April Moore
November 18th, 2016
What an amazing sight–the sun coming over the ridge seemed to focus all its illuminating energy on a single dogwood.
¬†This morning my daily exercise routine was punctuated by a surge of joy. ¬†
¬† ¬† ¬†Looking out the window, I noticed a handful of dried leaves suddenly fly off a little red maple, swirl rapidly around each other, then quickly disperse.
¬† ¬† ¬†Moments like this one gladden and feed my heart. ¬†But these nature delights, for me, have their shadow side as well.
¬† ¬† ¬†Never far removed from my great pleasure in nature is grief. ¬†How quickly my joyous heart becomes my broken heart. ¬†I grieve that the natural beauty I see from every window of my home is far less healthy than it once was; ¬†I grieve for the many species silently disappearing all around me; ¬†I grieve that we are not acting nearly fast enough to prevent climate change from making my little¬†granddaughters’ future very difficult.
¬† ¬† ¬†For me it can be a challenge to let myself feel all of this, both the great joy and the great grief. ¬†But as the poet Stanley Kunitz says, “the heart breaks and breaks, and lives by breaking.” ¬†To be heart-broken is to be truly alive.
¬† ¬† ¬† When I think of our efforts to protect the planet, the decades-old saying, “little victories, big defeats” crosses my mind.¬†¬†We do win victories; ¬†the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act have truly improved the quality of our air and water; ¬†some species, through great effort, have been saved from extinction; and certain pristine lands have been set aside for protection. ¬†
¬† ¬† ¬†But meanwhile, we are rapidly losing so much more than we are gaining. ¬†Scientists tell us we are in the Sixth Great Extinction in the earth’s four billion year history. ¬†Species are disappearing at a rate that has been matched only five times before. ¬†Ever. ¬†What’s different this time is that it’ a living creature–namely humans–that are the main cause. ¬†And that’s why scientists have named this period the Anthropocene. ¬†Man has become the main driver of changes in the biosphere.
¬† ¬† ¬†And now we are entering a new era, the era of ¬†President Trump.¬†¬†As frightening and discouraging as it is to hear him vow to scrap the Paris climate accord, to open up¬†all¬†of our public lands to oil and gas drilling, and to undo the federal Clean Power Plan, I am heartened by the determination I see on the part of environmental organizations to work ¬†harder than they ever have to prevent Trump from sacrificing our treasured planet for the short-term greed of the fossil fuel industry.¬†
¬† ¬† ¬†I will continue to let my heart break open to the beauty that surrounds me. ¬†And I will remember the words of¬†Jane Goodall, “there is still a lot left that is¬†worth fighting for.” ¬† We cannot know how successful we will be in saving our planet, but we can never give up on Mother Earth.–April Moore¬†
October 20th, 2016
¬† ¬†On a recent morning, my forest wanderings drew me to look at a downed tree. ¬†This mighty¬†chestnut¬†oak, who once soared high above the earth, has lain on the forest floor now for quite some time.
¬† ¬† I have seen this dead tree many times. ¬†But this day it was a marvel. ¬†Some fierce wind had once pushed it so hard that its giant root base was ripped right from the earth. ¬†Standing near the broad, tangled, sandy mass of roots, I looked out over the trunk’s length. ¬†On and on it snaked along the ground. ¬†Walking its¬†length was a journey of more than 30 steps.
¬† ¬† ¬†Imagine¬†being this tall, thrusting so far away from the ground. ¬†As I bent down and felt the furrowed bark along the tapering trunk, I thought how seldom I am this close to the top of a giant tree. ¬†Typically, I can observe a tree’s top only from far below. ¬†Those top branches are so far away. ¬†And here is the top of the tree, right beside me, so close, resting on the ground.¬†
¬† ¬† ¬† I love the chestnut oaks that dominate the forest near our house, whether standing and flourishing in leafy extravagance, or lying dead on the ground. ¬†Even this tree, the flow of life through its trunk stilled, feeds my spirit.–April Moore
September 24th, 2016
Dry brown leaves
Resting on the forest floor,
Brittle, ¬†thin, lifeless.
Their work is done.
Once they were young,
Fresh, supple, and oh so green,
Open to the sun’s rays
And carrying that sunshine
Straight into the tree,
Bringing the tree exactly what it needs
To live and grow.
And once a leaf’s work is complete,
Its life drains away
And the leaf lets go.
Severed from the tree from which it came,
The¬†tree¬†the leaf fed for many months.
Now the leaf lies shriveled and curled,
Lying among its fellows
On the forest floor.
Yet even in death, the leaf gives life,
Each dead leaf returns to the soil,
To support and feed a new tree,
This time from below.--April Moore
September 8th, 2016
Greetings, all of you who love our marvelous and endangered planet!
¬† ¬† ¬†After a very long ‘silence,’ I have decided to revive THE EARTH CONNECTION. ¬†The last time I posted here was February 2015. ¬†That was¬†when I told readers I was suspending my postings in order to devote myself fully to a run for the Virginia state senate.
¬† ¬† ¬†I didn’t win. ¬†Nonetheless, I feel very good about the run I made. ¬†I became a candidate because of my passion about climate change and my desire to find a much bigger platform to sound the alarm in defense of our Mother Earth. ¬†The campaign gave me a marvelous opportunity to do just that. ¬†I made the most of it. ¬†¬†And thanks to messaging help from my husband Andy Schmookler, my message got out there widely and boldly.
¬† ¬† ¬†Even though the election was last November, it has taken me this long to be ready to put¬†significant energy into a solitary, creative space like THE EARTH CONNECTION. ¬†Instead, I have been continuing to work, as a board member, with two organizations dedicated, in different ways, to protecting the planet–the Chesapeake Climate Action Network and¬†Friends of the North Fork of the Shenandoah River.
¬† ¬† ¬†And now I want to resume publishing THE EARTH CONNECTION.
¬† ¬† ¬†I plan to post at least once a month. ¬†I hope you will continue to follow my blog. ¬†And please spread the word if you like what you see here. ¬†Remember, it is free to subscribe to THE EARTH CONNECTION. ¬†By subscribing, you will receive an email to alert you every time there is a new ¬†EARTH CONNECTION posting. ¬†And, of course I do not share THE EARTH CONNECTION’s subscriber list with anyone.
¬† ¬† ¬†And one more thing–I am always open to posting other people’s work–poems, photos, narratives, etc. ¬†Thanks!–April Moore
February 26th, 2015
My husband Andy, our friend Laura, and I were talking over lunch recently about how I might reach more people with my climate message. ¬†(See Some Big News–Part I)
Andy, who is remarkably creative and a great strategic thinker, came up with the idea that there was a platform right here in Virginia’s political arena, available to me. ¬† Andy saw a perfect intersection between climate change and the high degree of corruption in our Virginia government. ¬†Even people who are not receptive to my climate message most likely don’t want a state government that regularly sacrifices the public good to wealthy special interests.
When our current state senator Mark Obenshain, a powerful, well-funded, savvy politician, acts to impede responsible action on climate, that’s just part of a much larger picture of the corruption of our legislature by big money. ¬†The General Assembly’s deplorable refusal to address the climate crisis takes us directly into the deep sickness in Virginia politics today. ¬†Obenshain, who came close to winning statewide office two years ago, and many of his fellow legislators, are serving as lackeys for big corporate interests. ¬†
For example, the General Assembly just passed a bill to exempt the utility Dominion Power from state oversight for five years. ¬†Obenshain supported the¬†legislation (written by Dominion itself) that will increase the monopoly’s profits, at the cost of higher utility bills for more than two million households (including tens of thousands of customers here in the district Obenshain is supposed to represent).¬†
Related to the grip big money holds over the General Assembly is the refusal by Obenshain and many of his colleagues to enact meaningful ethics reform. ¬†In the wake of an ethics scandal that¬†resulted in former Governor McDonnell being sentenced to prison, Obenshain and others succeeded in blocking real reform. ¬†Instead, the legislature passed a toothless gesture that changes little.
And ethics reform is sorely needed! ¬†The nonpartisan Center for Public Integrity (CPI) ranks Virginia 47th among the 50 states when it comes to government integrity. ¬†Further, Virginia earns an F on the corruption risk report card CPI issues for each state.
These terrible ethics scores are unacceptable to me, and I imagine, to a great many other Virginians, liberal and conservative alike. ¬†Mark Obenshain is on the wrong side of the ethics issue, and a vigorous truth-telling campaign against him might get even good conservatives who have supported him in the past to see that. ¬†
Fighting for a General Assembly that serves the people, rather than big corporate interests, is an essential part of fighting for an effective response to the climate crisis here in Virginia. ¬†We can’t let Obenshain and his ilk sacrifice our grandchildren for the short-term profits of a giant monopoly utility.
And so, on March 17, in Harrisonburg, Virginia, I will officially announce my campaign¬†against Mark Obenshain to represent this district in the Virginia state senate. ¬†So my work as a climate warrior is taking a new and unexpected turn.
And now I have a special additional reason to move outside my comfort zone for this mission. ¬†More on that in the next installment!–April Moore
February 22nd, 2015
I didn ‘t see this coming. ¬†As recently as two weeks ago this big decision wasn’t even on my radar. ¬†But because of an unexpected turn in the trail, I find myself taking a leap that I hadn’t anticipated or planned. ¬†
If you are a regular visitor to this site,¬†you likely know how determined I have been for quite awhile in my efforts to address climate change. ¬†I love this planet. ¬†I love the living earth. That’s what this website–The Earth Connection.org–is all about. ¬†And it pains me deeply to contemplate what we’re doing to this marvelous planet and to the well-being of life on earth.¬†
Because of my grief, anger, and fear about the planet we are likely leaving to my two dear granddaughters and to all young people, I have made myself a ‘climate warrior.’ ¬†I’ve made several January plunges into the Potomac River to raise money for the Chesapeake Climate Action¬†Network (CCAN), an organization Bill McKibben describes as “the most effective regional climate organization in the entire world!” ¬†I am honored to now be a member of ¬†CCAN’s board. ¬†I have also been going around, every chance I get, talking to various groups about the climate crisis. ¬†Reactions are often quite chilly–stony faces, arms crossed¬†tightly across chests. ¬†The only audience in which most react with the concern and commitment I want to see are high school students in a gifted and talented program. ¬†But these speaking opportunities have been few and far between. ¬†And turnout is often trivial, making the energy and effort I expend far out of proportion.
On one such day, Monday, February 9, after I spoke to a group of just eight elderly ladies, I had lunch with my husband Andy and my friend Laura. ¬†In our conversation, a question arose–how could I get bigger audiences for my talks?
That question precipitated a quite unexpected, creative breakthrough and life decision. ¬†Stay tuned for the ‘rest of the story!’–¬†April Moore¬†¬†
February 15th, 2015
For a great many of us, our dog or cat is a dear companion. ¬†
How we care for our pet matters, for the animal’s well-being, of course, and also for the well-being of our planet. ¬†One way our pets impact the environment is through their waste–that’s right, poop. ¬†Our nation’s dogs and cats produce more than six million tons of it a year! ¬†And there are pathogens in these dogs’ and cats’ feces that are transmissible to humans and wildlife.
Dog poop can contain E. coli, Salmonella, Giardia, roundworm, and more. ¬†But cat poop is much worse. ¬†It can contain a parasite called Toxoplasma¬†gondii, a pathogen associated in humans with miscarriages, fatal food poisoning, encephalitis, and even¬†schizophrenia, scientists say. ¬†Toxo is common in urban and suburban soils, where house cats use flowerbeds as litter boxes.
Toxo is also very harmful to wildlife. ¬†In the 1990s, a mysterious die-off of sea otters off the California coast turned out to have been caused by toxoplasmosis. ¬†The parasite could have reached the otters through runoff from the land and also through the flushing of cat poop down the toilet. ¬†While sewage treatment kills many pathogens, it unfortunately does not reliably kill¬†toxo. ¬†Scientists attribute about 16% of current sea¬†otter deaths to¬†toxo.
Toxo has spread through the oceans and has been found in dolphins, walruses, beluga whales, and even polar bears. ¬†The health consequences to these animals is not known.
So how can you manage your dog’s or cat’s ‘output’ in¬†ways that do not harm humans and other animals? ¬†Audubon¬†writer Susan McGrath recommends the following:
FOR DOG OWNERS:
- Check online to learn what your local sewage utility wants you to do. ¬†Some utilities call for bagging the poop tightly in plastic and throwing it in the trash. ¬†Don’t bother to invest in biodegradable dog poop bags. ¬†Given the low-oxygen environment of the typical landfill, very little biodegradation can take place anyway. ¬†So save your money and use ordinary plastic bags instead.¬†
- If your utility prefers that you flush dog poop down the toilet, you can scoop up the poop in a plastic bag, empty the contents into the toilet, ¬†then tie off the bag and dispose of it.
- If you have a small dog, you might consider buying flushable dog poop bags. ¬†These bags are not recommended for use with large dogs because their larger output may be toilet-clogging.
- If you’re willing to go to some trouble, you might follow the example of Sharon Slack of Vancouver, British Columbia, who composts her dog’s poop! ¬†She cut the bottom out of an old trash can and bored some holes in the sides. ¬†She then buried the can, to just below the rim, in an out of the way spot in her garden. ¬†With a small shovel, she adds each poop deposit to the can. ¬†Now and then she sprinkles in water and an over-the-counter enzyme product used in septic systems. ¬†When the compost is finished, she spreads it in her garden and starts another batch.
FOR CAT OWNERS:
- Because of toxo, do not flush cat poop down the toilet. ¬†Instead, bag it tightly in plastic and put it in the garbage.
- Some kitty litters are more environmentally friendly than others. ¬†The Environmental Working Group (EWG) recommends avoiding clay-based silica, clumping, and sand litters. ¬†They are obtained through strip-mining, which is very harmful to land.¬†
- Litters EWG considers greener include plant-based products made from wheat, corn, ground corncobs, alfalfa pellets, and recycled newspaper pellets.–April Moore