May 21st, 2013
I have just learned something I would like to pass on to EARTH CONNECTION readers, and to everyone else, for that matter.
A few days ago I watched this short video that my stepson Aaron enthusiastically told me about.
When most of us wash our hands in a public restroom, we grab at least two, maybe even three or four, paper towels from the dispenser to dry our hands. ¬†We know from experience that just one paper towel won’t get the job done.
But this entertaining little video shows that it¬†is possible to get your hands quite dry, using just one paper towel. ¬†And that’s good news because if all
Americans adopt the ‘one towel method,’ we can save 571 million pounds of paper every year. ¬†And that means five million trees don’t have to lose their lives.
I admit, I watched the video with some skepticism. ¬†But then I spent most of the weekend at a meeting at a conference facility. ¬†There I had many chances to try the new technique. ¬†Well, I’m sold. ¬†It really works.
I hope you’ll watch–and try it out.–April Moore
May 12th, 2013
Andy and I just returned home after a trip. ¬†How very much greener and leafier it is here than it was when we left 12 days ago. ¬†Spring is in full bloom. ¬†I post here this sweet poem by Mary Oliver. ¬†Truly, spring is a wonder, whether we’ve seen dozens of them or just a few.–April Moore
CHILDREN, IT’S SPRING
¬† ¬† ¬†by Mary Oliver
And this is the lady
Whom everyone loves,
in her purple gown
Or, on special occasions,
A dress the color
Of sunlight. She sits
In the mossy weeds and waits
To be noticed.
She loves dampness.
She loves attention.
She loves especially
To be picked by careful fingers,
Young fingers, entranced
By what has happened
To the world.
We, the older ones,
Call in Spring,
And we have been through it
But there is still nothing
Like the children bringing home
In their small hands.
April 29th, 2013
The piece below, by my husband Andy Schmookler, has appeared in two Virginia newspapers.
Hurricane Sandy as viewed from space
‚ÄúIf these are the early stages, I shudder to think what’s on the path ahead.‚ÄĚ
Two things brought that thought to mind.
One is my own aging. Aches and pains, stiffer muscles, presbyopia, diminished energy. As I approach my 67th birthday, I can imagine the kind of hard experience that led Bette Davis to say that old age isn‚Äôt for sissies.¬† It‚Äôs no small challenge to come to terms with the ancient truth that the uphill part of life‚Äôs cycle is followed by the downhill.
As a way of coming to terms with personal deterioration, we can always take the larger view in which we see ourselves as part of the circle of life. We have children; we have grandchildren; life renews itself. Although as individuals we may come and go, we are part of something bigger than ourselves that carries forward the stream of life.
But now that larger view of life has also become disturbing. That same alarming thought –If these are the early stages, what the heck is on the path ahead? ‚ÄĒ has come to mind in relation to another reality: the early stages of climate change.
Like what happened last June, when an unpredicted enormous wind swept across the Midwest and the Mid-Atlantic, knocking down trees for hundreds of miles, including some right around our house in the Shenandoah Valley. Just a few months later, Hurricane Sandy — whose eye never approached within hundreds of miles of us -‚ÄĒ attacked our area with 24 hours of hard-driving rain that found its way onto our wood floors and into the homes of our neighbors. Sandy’s winds took down still more trees.
Extreme weather has become far more frequent, just as scientists predicted.
Another weather development scared me even more.
All through March, I was pining for spring and¬† looking at the extended forecast to see when warmer weather would be coming. The average high temperature for March in my area of year is the mid-50s, but we had less than a handful of days that have reached that average. Most days were a good 15 degrees colder than that.
Then I read this in the Guardian (UK):
“Climate scientists have linked the massive snowstorms and bitter spring weather now being experienced across Britain and large parts of Europe and North America to the dramatic loss of Arctic sea ice.‚ÄĚ
Even this frustratingly prolonged winter appears to be part of the larger picture called ‚Äúclimate change.‚ÄĚ
Global warming has diminished the sea ice in the Arctic to levels unprecedented in recorded history, and this altered the course of the jet stream in a way that allowed cold Arctic air to descend to lower latitudes than is normal.
This, climate scientists warn, is just the beginning. The momentum of these changes is gathering, some vicious cycles have been triggered, and the ultimate effect of our generations-long spewing of greenhouse gases into Earth‚Äôs atmosphere will be far greater than anything we‚Äôve yet seen.
It‚Äôs scary. What powers of this planet are we unleashing? What will life be like for our children and grandchildren?
How well will living systems around us survive? Apparently not so well.¬† For a couple of years, I‚Äôve been worrying about all the dead wood in the forest surrounding our house. A few weeks ago I read in USA Today:
”Years of drought and high temperatures are thinning forests in the upper Great Lakes and the eastern United States, NASA satellites show. Nearly 40% of the Mid-Atlantic’s forests lost tree canopy cover, ranging from 10% to 15% between 2000 and 2010, according to a NASA study released this week.”
Climate change has stopped being hypothetical. It‚Äôs already part of our lived experience. It‚Äôs visible. It‚Äôs palpable. These early stages are rough enough.¬† But if the climate scientists are right, we ain‚Äôt seen nothing yet. We and our kind are in for a bumpy ride.
One would think that faced with a challenge this profound, we Americans would be responding with an all-out quest for ways of solving, or at least ameliorating the problem. That‚Äôs how we responded to World War II, when fascism threatened us. That‚Äôs how we responded to Sputnik, when the Soviets seemed to be overtaking us.
And yet, despite these real and ever-more-visible dangers, one of our two major political parties has made it dogma that there‚Äôs nothing happening in our climate that we as a nation are obliged to address.¬† What gets done? Not nearly enough.
This is dangerous.
Andy Schmookler, recently the Democratic candidate for Congress in Virginia‚Äôs 6th District, is an author whose books include Debating the Good Society: A Quest to Bridge America‚Äôs Moral Divide.
April 27th, 2013
¬† ¬† ¬†Some new neighbors moved in a few weeks ago. ¬†And they are very friendly neighbors. ¬†In fact, their motto seems to be “su casa es mi casa.” ¬†These neighbors are showing a surprising degree of interest in our house!
¬† ¬† ¬†You guessed it. ¬†Our new neighbors are birds. ¬†Phoebes. ¬†I so often see them flitting about near our windows, swooping up under the eaves of the house, and emerging from our three-sided tool shed.
¬† ¬† Phoebes, apparently, are known for living in close proximity to humans. ¬†Unlike shyer birds, phoebes build their nests on the ledges of buildings, under steps, and under the eaves of houses. ¬†Phoebes are not at all distressed by human activity nearby. ¬†In fact, I read of one phoebe pair that built their nest on the underside of a railroad bridge. ¬†There they raised their young, unconcerned about the trains that roared over them every day! ¬† ¬†Ornithologists say that the phoebe is one bird whose numbers have ¬†increased, rather than decreased, along with rising human numbers and humans’ geographical expansion. ¬†More people mean more buildings. ¬†And more buildings, it seems, mean more potential nest sites.
¬† ¬† ¬†Phoebes are not colorful birds. ¬†They have a dark head and a dark back and tail feathers. ¬†The breast is white, with smudgy grey on the upper part. ¬†The cutest thing about the phoebe, I think, is its tail, which seems made to move. ¬†When a phoebe arrives at its perch, the tail gets activated– flipping, dipping, and quivering. ¬†The ph0ebe is easy to recognize by its raspy-sounding call. ¬†It says its name. ¬†
¬† ¬† ¬†Phoebes are flycatchers, a large family of birds that eat insects by darting out from a perch and catching them in mid-air. ¬†During the winter, phoebes may supplement their diet with berries. ¬†
¬† ¬† ¬†While I have mostly enjoyed observing the habits of our new neighbors, I have to admit they have also been annoying. ¬† One of the phoebes began to hang out around a couple of the windows of our house, just below a small balcony. ¬†The bird would hover, then scrabble its feet against one of the windows. ¬†After a few moments, the bird would then move to the adjacent screen, and press against it, ¬†clutching the screen with its feet and facing in, tail feathers spread wide, for balance, I assume. ¬†Then the routine would resume: ¬†hover; scrabble; cling. ¬†
¬† ¬† ¬†Well, it didn’t take long for the windows and screens to become streaked and dotted with globs of white. ¬†I wasn’t happy to have to wash the windows and scrub the screens. ¬†But once I covered the outside of the windows and screens with newspaper, the phoebe left them alone.
¬† ¬† ¬†I assumed the bird had been interested in building a nest in the balcony eaves, and that it interpreted its reflection in the window below as a rival that must be driven away. ¬†While I would love to have a nest of baby birds so close by, I wasn’t willing to put up with filthy windows. ¬†The birds would just have to find another spot for their nest. ¬†
¬† ¬† ¬†And it seems they have. ¬†Even as I sit here writing, I have been hearing bird feet scrabbling against a sliding glass door and on our basement windows. ¬†Uh-oh. ¬†I am not looking forward to washing these larger windows and taping newspapers onto them. ¬†But I am also hoping the phoebes will build their cup-shaped nest in a near enough place that I’ll be able to observe the little ones.–April Moore
¬† ¬† ¬†
April 21st, 2013
Good news from New Jersey! ¬†The invasive long-horned beetle, which had destroyed many trees, has been completely eradicated from the state. ¬† The victory was hard-won, taking more than a decade of painstaking work on the part of local, state, and federal officials, with the cooperation of citizens living in and near the infested area.
¬† ¬† ¬†The Asian long-horned beetle is a black beetle dotted with white. ¬†Its most distinguishing features are its black and white striped antennae, which are longer than its body. ¬†The adult beetles mate in early summer, and the female lays her eggs in tiny indentations she makes in the bark of certain trees. ¬†When the larvae hatch, they burrow their way into the tree’s heartwood, where they feed on the tree’s wood all winter. ¬†A cross-section of an infested tree looks like Swiss cheese, explains Rhonda Santos, a public information officer at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
¬† ¬† ¬†Native to China, this invasive beetle was first spotted in the U.S. in Brooklyn, New York, in 1996. ¬†The beetles, it is believed, made their way into the country in wood packing materials. ¬†In 1998, the U.S. government responded by banning from U.S. ports wooden pallets that had not been heat-treated or treated with methyl bromide to kill the beetle larvae. ¬†Some of the nation’s most common hardwoods–all maple species, birches, and poplars–are vulnerable to the invaders. ¬†
¬† ¬† ¬†It did not take long for the beetles to start causing problems in five states–New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Massachusetts, and Ohio. ¬†New Jersey’s first infestation showed up Jersey City in 2002, when more than 100 trees were infested. ¬†There was a more serious outbreak two years later in a nearby community. ¬†¬†
¬† ¬† ¬†A variety of approaches were required to eradicate the beetle from the entire state of New Jersey: ¬†tree removal; injections of insecticides; public education; and surveillance. ¬†For the two years following the 2004 infestation, New Jersey agricultural officials defined a 25 square mile zone across four communities, including residential and industrial neighborhoods, and inspected more than 129,000 trees. ¬†Officials urged citizens in the area not to transport firewood, the main way the beetles were spreading in the state.
¬† ¬† ¬†Workers removed not only infested trees, but also a wide swath of nearby trees that were at high risk. ¬†For instance, reports Lisa Foderaro in The New York Times, in the town of Linden, only 11 trees were infested, but more than 14,000 trees, including saplings, were cut down because their proximity to infested trees put them at great risk. ¬†Those trees were then chipped and burned. ¬†The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection offered many home owners to replace their infested trees with non-vulnerable tree species. ¬†About one-third of the removed trees were replaced with much less vulnerable oaks and lindens.
¬† ¬† ¬†The last living long-horned beetle was seen in New Jersey in 2006. ¬†Yet victory could not yet be declared. ¬†USDA officials required New Jersey localities to go through three ‘confirmation cycles,’ in which no long-horned beetles were found. ¬†That process took several years. By March 2013, it was clear that there were no Asian long-horned beetles alive in New Jersey. ¬†”We can declare New Jersey is free of this invasive pest,” declared New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas Fisher. ¬†He added that the eradication program had been “a herculean effort.”
¬† ¬† ¬†With the March 2013 declaration, New Jersey joined Illinois as the two states that have completely eradicated the Asian long-horned beetle. ¬†Ohio, Massachusetts, and New York are still battling it. ¬†New York’s efforts are proving effective, with Manhattan and Staten Island expected to be proclaimed ‘long-horn beetle free’ this summer.
To ensure that long-horned beetles don’t return to U.S. shores, U.S. inspectors are periodically traveling to China to make sure that wood pallets used in shipping products to the United States are treated to kill the beetle larvae.–April Moore
April 10th, 2013
Since the recent death of Margaret Thatcher, the news has been filled with commentary about the former British Prime Minister. Never a fan of ‘The Iron Lady’ myself, I was surprised–and impressed–to read what she had stated publicly (below) about global warming.
Mrs. Thatcher spoke caringly and eloquently about the need to make changes and sacrifices “so that we do not live at the expense of future generations.” ¬†And she called on us to “do our duty to Nature before it’s too late.”
Mrs. Thatcher’s words surprised me because I am used to hearing today’s conservative politicians routinely deny the science of climate change. Unlike her conservative counterparts in today’s U.S., Mrs. Thatcher accepted the evidence presented by the overwhelming majority of climate scientists.
Hearing Mrs. Thatcher’s words also reminded me of a shameful fact–that the United States is the only western democracy in which an entire major political party denies the truth of climate science. ¬†Indeed, in last year’s race for the presidency, every single one of the Republican hopefuls dismissed climate change as an issue worthy of action.
I respect Maggie Thatcher. ¬†For her, conservative political principles did not mean denying science. ¬†Not only did she accept the findings of climate scientists, but she spoke out about the urgency of coming together to address this unprecedented challenge.
I hope climate change-denying American conservatives are paying attention to what the Iron Lady said on this subject.–April Moore
But the threat to our world comes not only from tyrants and their tanks. It can be more insidious though less visible.¬†The danger of global warming is as yet unseen, but real enough for us to make changes and sacrifices, so that we do not live at the expense of future generations.Our ability to come together to stop or limit damage to the world’s environment will be perhaps the greatest test of how far we can act as a world community. No-one should under-estimate the imagination that will be required, nor the scientific effort, nor the unprecedented co-operation we shall have to show. We shall need statesmanship of a rare order…
We have become more and more aware of¬†the growing imbalance between our species and other species, between population and resources, between humankind and the natural order of which we are part.
In recent years,¬†we have been playing with the conditions of the life we know on the surface of our planet. We have cared too little for our seas, our forests and our land. We have treated the air and the oceans like a dustbin. We have come to realise that man’s activities and numbers threaten to upset the biological balance which we have taken for granted and on which human life depends.
We must remember our duty to Nature before it is too late…
April 7th, 2013
My husband Andy has been urging me to write a piece about the differences between ravens and crows. ¬†That seemed like a good idea to me, since the extent of my knowledge was merely a vague “ravens are bigger.”
First of all, ravens are crows, but crows are not ravens. ¬†The Common Raven and the American Crow are members of the corvidae family. ¬†Magpies and jays are also corvids.
A raven is typically the size of a hawk, while the smaller crow is about the size of a pigeon. ¬†And the two birds differ in shape as well as size. ¬†The raven’s tail ends in a triangular point, while the tip of the crow’s tail is more-or-less straight across, perhaps a little rounded. ¬†The raven has a flatter head than the crow. ¬†And their beaks are different. ¬†Experts explain that the crow’s beak is sharper and shorter than the raven’s, that the upper part of the raven’s beak is more curved than that of the crow. ¬† Even so, the two birds’ ¬†beaks look practically the same to me, and I would not use their beaks to try to tell them apart.
An easier-to-detect difference, I think, is the shaggy ‘ruff’ of feathers around the raven’s neck, different from the smooth feathers surrounding the crow’s neck.
The two birds clearly behave differently during flight. ¬†While the raven mostly soars silently, the crow flaps its wings and calls again and again. ¬†And upon landing, the crow flicks its wings and tail feathers, while the raven simply sets its feet down, ‘calmly,’ without excess movement.
Ravens and crows can be fairly easily distinguished by their sound. ¬†The raven sounds like this: ¬† the raven\’s call The crow sounds like this: ¬†sound of a crow The raven’s call is deeper and throatier than the crow’s call, which can be described as louder and harsher.
The crow and raven often share habitat, but each has its own preferences. ¬†Ravens prefer a more natural environment and can be found in forests, deserts, and tundra, usually at higher altitudes. ¬†Crows are found throughout America’s lowlands, especially in agricultural areas. ¬†And crows do extremely well in urban areas. ¬†I even read (Rare Encounters with Ordinary Birds by Lyanda Lynn Haupt) of two crows spotted near a garbage can in a McDonald’s parking lot; ¬†they were dipping fries in honey mustard sauce and then eating them!
Another difference, not noticeable to the observer, is lifespan. ¬†A raven typically lives about 30 years, while a crow lives only about eight years.
Another difference between the two corvids, it seems to me, is image. ¬†Crows are commonplace, everyday birds, while ravens have an air of the exotic. ¬†The term ‘raven-black hair’ sounds beautifully vivid; ¬†’crow-black hair’ wouldn’t be the same.
And in Edgar Allan Poe’s beloved poem “The Raven,” the following verse is just a sample of the dark, foreboding mystery associated with the raven perched above the writer’s chamber door:
`Prophet!’ said I, `thing of evil! – prophet still, if bird or devil!
By that Heaven that bends above us – by that God we both adore -
Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels named Lenore -
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden, whom the angels named Lenore?’
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.’
March 30th, 2013
photo by Paulette Moore
I wrote the piece below for www.BlueVirginia.us, a Democratic blog that deals primarily with Virginia politics. ¬†Virginia Democratic Senator Mark Warner recently joined 61 other Senators in voting to go forward with the climate-endangering Keystone XL Pipeline. ¬†350.org is working with citizens around the ¬†the country during the Senate’s spring recess to publicly show these 62 Senators that many of their constituents are very displeased with this vote.
I was assigned the position at the back door of the restaurant.¬† If Sen. Warner tried to avoid the large, determined crowd in front of the Harrisonburg eatery by sneaking in through the back, he would first have to deal with me.
And I knew just what I would tell him.¬† I would first remind him that we had met last Labor Day when my husband Andy Schmookler, the 6th District Congressional candidate, gave what Lowell Feld, Blue Virginia editor, called a ‘kick ass’ speech that brought 350 Democrats to their feet, including Sen. Warner.¬† But this time I felt we would be meeting on less harmonious ground because of his vote last week in support of a non-binding resolution recommending that the Keystone XL Pipeline project go forward.
“Your legacy is going to depend on one thing above all,” I was going to tell him.¬† “It won’t be long before everyone realizes that we are in great peril because of climate change.¬† People will want to know,” I would continue, “what he did–or failed to do–to protect us from the ravages of a changing climate.”
But then, the folks in front of the restaurant sent me word that I should abandon my post;¬† the Senator had already made his way through the crowd in front and was inside the restaurant.¬† When I rejoined my companions in front, I gathered that they were less than satisfied with the interactions they’d been able to have with the Senator.¬† Nonetheless, he’d had to push his way through about 70 of his unhappy constituents, whose deep concerns were reflected in numerous signs, sporting such slogans as “Sen. Warner:¬† What Have You Done for the Climate?” and “Don’t Commit to Dirty Oil.¬† Invest in Renewable Energy.”
The Keystone XL Pipeline, if built, would carry some of the world’s highest carbon tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada, through America’s heartland, to Texas for refining and shipment to world markets. ¬† Leading climate scientists tell us that the pipeline’s impact on the climate would be devastating.
Even though Warner had made it into Clementine’s, he hadn’t escaped me yet.¬† I headed down into the restaurant basement where his session with businesspeople was to be held.¬† I arrived in time to see him interviewed by local TV reporters. And I was disturbed by what I heard.
It wasn’t his telling the TV reporters, “I’m very concerned about climate change” that disturbed me, but rather his citing the State Department’s recently issued Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) as evidence that Keystone would have no major environmental impact.¬† Didn’t he know it has been revealed that the EIS had been prepared by individuals with close ties to TransCanada, the company pushing to build the pipeline?
As distressing as it was to think that a U.S. Senator might not know the truth about the EIS, it was less distressing than to think that maybe he did know.¬† If he did know, how genuine was his expressed concern about climate change?
At the end of the TV interview, I reached out to shake Mr. Warner’s hand.¬† He was visibly eager to escape me and join the group he was there to meet with, and I barely had a chance to deliver a couple of choice sentences to underscore the importance of the climate issue.¬† Then he was gone.¬† So I turned to the journalists and told them that the Senator’s remarks about the EIS had been misleading.¬† How could we be reassured by a statement prepared by people with a huge financial interest in the project?
But the reporters replied that they were running late;.¬† It was clear that the problems with this Environmental Impact Statement were not going to be part of the story.
Later, when I told Sen. Warner’s chief of staff Luke Albee about the problematic nature of the EIS his boss had praised, Mr. Albee said it was news to him.
The organization that planned the Harrisonburg confrontation with Sen. Warner, 350.org, is planning similar encounters at Sen. Warner’s events around the state during the rest of the Senate’s spring recess.¬† When the recess is over, maybe Warner and his people will have learned some things about the Keystone Pipeline and our climate, about the corrupting infiltration of special interests into the federal decision-making process, and about the passionate concerns of many of his constituents.
And I hope that from now on, Sen. Warner will join Virginia’s other Democratic Senator, Tim Kaine, in voting in ways that show appropriate concern for the challenge we face with climate change.–April Moore
March 22nd, 2013
Yesterday was a big day for me.
Normally a law-abiding citizen, I joined with 15 others in breaking the law and being arrested in front of the White House. The reason for this uncharacteristic behavior was climate change.
For several years now, I have viewed climate change as a global emergency, the greatest problem humanity has ever faced, a situation that requires nothing short of a World War II-level of effort to address. ¬†I have only recently put climate change action at the top of my personal agenda, after spending the last two years focused on helping my husband Andy Schmookler in his run for Congress. ¬†(I felt that helping his campaign was the best way available to me to address the problem of climate change).
Since the election, I have been looking for other, more direct ways to address climate change. ¬†I feel fortunate to have found Fifty Over Fifty (www.fiftyoverfifty.org), a group of people over age 50 who are eager to engage in nonviolent civil disobedience and willing to risk arrest for the sake of the our planet’s health. ¬†If not we baby boomers, then who? ¬†My age cohort, more than any other, CAN risk arrest. ¬†After all, we boomers are no longer raising children, and many of us no longer work full-time. ¬†Besides, my generation owes it to younger people to act on their behalf. ¬†While it is too late to ensure that our grandchildren will be born into a world as healthy as the one we inherited, it is our duty to do our best to stop as much of the ravaging impact of climate change as we can.
Yesterday’s event, organized by Interfaith Moral Action on Climate, was a multi-faith outdoor service near the White House. ¬†Christian, Jewish, Native American, and Muslim leaders called on President Obama to take strong action on climate change, especially to say no to the Keystone XL Pipeline.
Following the service, 16 of us separated from the larger group to line up in front of the White House fence. ¬†I was moved almost to tears by the alignment I felt in that moment of my love for the planet and this serious and public step of inviting arrest.
It is illegal to tarry for long in front of the White House. ¬†But tarry we did, singing. ¬†And we were joined in song from across the street by the 25 or so others from the service who were not risking arrest. ¬†I especially loved singing our version of the old song, “He’s got the whole world in his hands.” ¬†We sang, “WE’VE got the whole world in our hands,” spontaneously substituting “the future generations” and “the mountains and the rivers” for “the whole world.”
And truly, we do have the world in our hands. ¬†Currently, those hands are plundering the planet. ¬†But it’s also in our hands to quit trashing the earth and to work for a planet that will support the coming generations as it has so abundantly supported us.
As we sang, we received a series of three official warnings from the Park Police to move on. ¬†Then, when we didn’t, the 16 of us were handcuffed, searched, and escorted, one by one, into waiting paddy wagons, one for the eight women and one for the eight men. ¬†All went smoothly, and the police treated us with courtesy and respect. ¬†One officer, upon escorting me into the wagon, even apologized for the vehicle’s lack of heat!
While the Park Police had been notified in advance that only 10-20 people would be inviting arrest, officers were out in full force. ¬†Four policemen on horseback stood by, along with numerous cops in squad cars and on motorcycles, and about a score of officers on foot. ¬†Good of them to amplify our event!
The paddy wagon ride, a first for me, was unexpectedly exciting. ¬†The two wagons were preceded by an eight-motorcycle police escort. ¬†Lights flashing, the motorcycles roared ahead of us, sometimes on the wrong side of the road. ¬†The wagons followed close behind, as if we were ambulances en route to the hospital. ¬†Inside the wagon, we ladies sat, four on either side of a partition. ¬†Neither group could see the other, but we could hear each other fine. ¬†In high spirits, we sang and stomped and talked our way to the police station.
After the rush through DC streets, it was waiting time at the police station. ¬†We women were led out of the wagon and into a dreary, cement-walled police station basement. ¬†Four women were escorted into each of two holding cells, while the men were held in their paddy wagon. ¬†We continued singing and getting acquainted as we stood around the cell’s sole furnishings–a stainless steel toilet and a stainless steel bench.
After a half-hour or so, our (disposable) handcuffs were cut off, we were issued written citations, we paid our $100 fines, and we were released. ¬†Only then were the men taken from their wagon and brought inside for the same routine.
Once freed, ¬†how cheering it was to see fellow climate activists waiting for us with food and drink and appreciation. ¬†I found their support before, during, and after the arrest meant a great deal to me. ¬†Even though I had been told what to expect in being arrested, I felt a lingering fear, and their support comforted me.
So what did we accomplish yesterday?
While no mainstream media showed up, the alternative press was well-represented. ¬†They filmed and interviewed, and the word went out on Facebook. ¬†Whether President Obama will ever know we were there, we will likely never know. ¬†And while we didn’t turn the climate situation around, I believe our efforts were worth it. ¬†I remind myself that we are just at the beginning; ¬†as more people come to share our alarm about the changing climate, more will join us. ¬†I can see it happening. ¬†Besides, those of us who participated yesterday are getting the word out to our own family, friends, colleagues, and neighbors. ¬†And we are strengthening each other for future actions on behalf of the planet.–April Moore
March 17th, 2013
In California, an experiment is underway that is proving a win-win for birds and for farmers as well.
Working to show that conservation and agriculture can go hand-in-hand, the Nature Conservancy (TNC) is implementing bird-friendly practices on a 9,200 acre farm the organization bought in California’s Central Valley. ¬†Dubbed Conservation Farms and Ranches, the land is 80 miles northeast of San Francisco, on Staten Island. ¬†The land has historically served as a stopover and wintering ground for many migrating birds, including sandhill cranes, snow geese, tundra swans, ducks, herons, plovers, and sandpipers.
Nature Conservancy officials are hopeful that practices developed and tested at Staten Island will show area farmers that their farms can be productive and profitable, while also creating needed winter habitat for birds migrating along the Pacific Flyway.
TNC’s efforts are important. ¬†Staten Island is one of the last remaining bird-friendly habitats in the Central Valley. ¬†In fact, only 5% of the area’s once-vast wetlands remain. ¬†If Staten Island farmland is lost as a bird refuge, it could mean the collapse of the entire Pacific Flyway, scientists say. ¬†And a collapse would be devastating; ¬†the flyway is one of North America’s four main migratory routes. ¬†If birds could no longer stop and winter in the Central Valley, it is doubtful they could move to another flyway.
At Conservation Farms and Ranches, birds are allowed to forage, uninterrupted, on the land at any time. ¬†And after grain crops are harvested, waste grain is left behind on the field as forage for birds during the winter months.
After harvest, some of the fields are deliberately flooded with water to make them attractive for roosting. ¬†The amount of flooding varies from field to field because of different species’ different water needs. ¬†For example, “a cornfield that’s deeply flooded is good for certain species but not for shorebirds or cranes,” explains TNC ecologist Greg Golet. ¬†While flooding fields costs farmers money, the practice also helps them by flushing salt from the fields and by keeping weeds from growing.
In some post-harvest cornfields, the dead stalks are mechanically flattened, rather than left upright. ¬†Birds have shown that they prefer foraging in these fields to those in which the dead cornstalks have been left standing. ¬†Researchers speculate that large birds can forage more easily when they don’t have to navigate among tall stalks. ¬†And the more open space makes predators easier to spot.
Flattening dead stalks in the fall benefits farmers as well as the birds. ¬†In the flattening process, stalks are cut into small pieces, which decompose much more quickly than the uncut stalks. ¬†Then, in the spring, the cut stalks can be easily worked into the soil without the use of heavy tillage equipment, explains Brent Tadman, who manages Conservation Farms and Ranches.
TNC scientists are experimenting with crops that mature earlier and therefore are harvested earlier, in order to increase the time that winter forage is available. ¬† For instance, triticale (a cross between wheat and rye) is harvested in late summer, earlier than other grain crops. ¬†Thus, the triticale fields can be flooded earlier, making roost habitat available for early-arriving migrants.
“Helping birds on Staten Island even extends to the farm’s power lines, which have reflective strips attached to twirling pieces of plastic strewn along their lengths to help birds see the lines and prevent collisions,” writes Ker Than in NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC NEWS.
None of the bird-friendly practices implemented at Conservation Farms and Ranches has had any negative impact on crop yields. ¬†”Even though this farm is owned by the Nature Conservancy,” says Brent Tadman, TNC’s manager of the land, “it stands on its own legs and it’s required to be sustainable, and we’re pretty proud of that fact.”
Fortunately, area farmers have expressed interest in the bird-friendly practices at Staten Island. ¬†But because of varying conditions and situations, implementing those practices on other farms can be difficult. ¬†To help farmers overcome obstacles to embracing bird-friendly practices, TNC has teamed up with other conservation organizations to offer farmers cash incentives.
Surprisingly, the greatest impediment to increased bird-friendly agricultural practices in California’s Central Valley comes not from farmers but from consumers. ¬† Growing demand for such foods as grapes, almonds, cherries, olives, and pistachios is tempting many farmers to abandon corn and grain crops in favor of the more profitable vineyard and orchard crops.
Many of the birds that stop and winter at Staten Island have such large wing spans that they would have trouble landing in a vineyard or orchard. ¬†They are also easy prey for coyotes and other predators in vineyards and orchards, Tadman explains. ¬†He notes a conspicuous absence of birds on nearby farms where trees or vineyards have been planted.
TNC scientists are hopeful that cash incentives and education will be enough to save the birds that depend on California’s Central Valley. ¬†Farmers and environmentalists are not naturally at odds, Tadman maintains. ¬†He adds, ¬†”I would say we have more common goals than we have differences.”–April Moore
The information for this article comes from National Geographic News.