Archive for July, 2008

The Rocks Are Alive!

Thursday, July 31st, 2008

     This short excerpt is from The Sacred Balance by David Suzuki, a scientist and environmental activist.–April Moore

     “Despite their microscopic size, soil microorganisms are so abundant that they make up a significant biomass;  in fact, they may be the major life-form in any given area.  Core samples taken from solid rock four kilometers beneath the Earth’s surface are filled with microorganisms.  The rocks are alive!” 

Thoughts from a ‘Dated’ Kitchen

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008

     I have a dated kitchen.  For the six years I’ve lived in my house, I didn’t even realize my kitchen was dated.  In fact, I thought it was a wonderful kitchen–large, spacious, full of light, beautiful cabinets, an island, tile floor. 

     But now that my husband and I are in the process of selling our house (not a pleasant process for a seller in this buyers’ market), I have learned that this kitchen I love is ‘dated.’  The report we get from virtually every prospective buyer is that the kitchen would require a complete renovation.

      I can understand that some might say it’s time to replace our 20+ year-old oven and stove;  they do look a bit worn.  But our motto has been, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’  So it took me by surprise to hear that so many other features in our kitchen are seen as hopelessly  ‘out of style.’   But why would these features have to be replaced before any prospective buyer could consider living here? 

     For instance, we are told that no one uses 8-inch floor tiles any more.  The tiles now in place (so 20th century!) would have to go, in favor of the now-popular 12-inch tiles.  And our perfectly serviceable, pleasant-looking formica counter-tops would have to be ripped out, in favor of the now-popular granite.  And it doesn’t seem to matter that our oak cabinets, attractive (we think) and in good condition, are not the kind of kitchen cabinets now in vogue.  They’ve got to go!

     What does it mean that functional, decent-looking kitchen features must be replaced with the very newest forms available? 

     As I ponder this question, it seems to me there are a couple of issues at work here.  One is materialism.  Our society has become so wealthy that a kitchen, once a place valued mainly for its food preparation and storage functions, is now a place to display one’s affluence and style.  A kitchen has beome a statement, it seems to me.  “I’m a (high-priced) granite counter-top sort of person, not the lower-class laminate type.”  

     I can understand how a kitchen, a car, or clothing can all be forms of self-expression, even at times, of beauty.  A kitchen, like any other human creation, can have an aesthetic dimension.  Even so, it seems that, more and more, people are identified with their things, especially when the things are new, expensive, and desired by others.  Just how much of an emphasis on things is healthy?  

     A strong identification with objects can lead to waste, the other issue that our kitchen plight brings to my mind.  In our wealthy society (we’re still the wealthiest society the planet has ever seen, even if cracks are forming in the economy), one is able to replace perfectly adequate but ‘dated’ 8-inch tiles with the up-to-date larger tiles simply because one would prefer the newest over anything older.  The same is true for counter-tops and cabinets.

     I am a life-long environmentalist, and so the ethic of conserving is in my bones.  I tend to use things until they are used up, rather than get rid of them when something new comes along.  Why expend the earth’s resources and energy in destroying perfectly good counter-tops and cabinets and a nice tile floor, and in putting in new replacements, which also have a cost in resources and energy?

      But it’s not a simple matter of saying, “Caring for the earth means not replacing anything unles it’s absolutely necessary.”  My kitchen musings are but one example of the many choices we middle-class Americans face every day.  How much are we entitled to give ourselves what we want, just because we want it?  And when, instead, should we ask ourselves to forgeo a new car, a new pair of shoes, or a trip because of its negative impact on the planet?  

     With such a large human population (closing in on 7 billion), and with so many of us now able to have so much of what we want, our daily actions affect Mother Earth, especially by contributing to global warming.

     Be that as it may, selling our house in today’s society means we’re paying a price for our lovely but unfashionable kitchen.  Maybe we should just wait another 25 years to sell.  By then, our kitchen may have moved beyond ‘dated,’ into the realm of ‘retro,’ just like a current kitchen that sports a 1950s dinette set and juke box!   

We Are the Air

Monday, July 28th, 2008

     The following short excerpts are from the book The Sacred Balance by David Suzuki.  The author explains how air has ‘evolved’ over time, how it has shaped life on earth, and how it supports us perfectly.  Suzuki shows that we truly are the air we breathe.–April Moore

     “Air is a physical substance;  it embraces us so intimately that it is hard to say where we leave off and air begins.  Inside as well as outside we are minutely designed for the central activity of our existence–drawing the atmosphere into the centre of our being, deep into the moist, delicate membranous labyrinth within our chests, and putting it to use.”

     “Air exits your nose to go right up your neighbour’s nose.  In everyday life we absorb atoms from the air that were once a part of birds and trees and snakes and worms, because all aerobic forms of life share that same air (aquatic life also exchanges gases that dissolve back and forth at the interface between air and water).

     “Air is a matrix that joins all life together.  It is constantly changing as life and geophysical forces add and subtract constituents to the composition of air, and yet over vast stretches of time the basic composition of air has remained in dynamic equilibrium.  The longer each of us lives, the greater the likelihood that we will absorb atoms that were once part of Joan of Arc and Jesus Christ, of Neanderthal people and woolly mammoths.  As we have breathed in our forebears, so our grandchildren and their grandchildren will take us in with their breath.  We are bound up inseparably with the past and the future by the spirit we share.

        “Viewed over the long sweep of geological change, Earth’s atmosphere has been in constant flux, affecting and being affected by life itself.  But for several hundred thousand years, through ice ages and interglacial periods, the atmosphere has remained relatively static.  Oxygen has hovered around 21 per cent of the atmosphere, a propitious level, since 25 per cent oxygen could well ignite the atmosphere;  if the atmosphere contained only 15 per cent oxygen, it would be lethal to life.  Carbon dioxide and water vapour, which are greenhouse gases and are also conducive to photsynthesis, have kept the surface temperature of the planet within the limits of a comfortable 7 degrees Centigrade variation over the past 3 million years. . . . .Moving and turning above us, around us, within us is the invisible element that first animated the planet–the breath of life.”

     “Every breath is a sacrament, an affirmation of our connection with all other living things, a renewal of our link with our ancestors and a contribution to generations yet to come.  Our breath is a part of life’s breath, the ocean of air that envelops Earth.  Unique in the solar system, air is both the creator and the creation of life itself.”

At-Risk Teens Restore Nature

Friday, July 25th, 2008

     I deeply believe that nature is a great healer.  Time spent outside, in the natural world can be especially therapeutic for young people who have had little opportunity in their young lives to be healed by nature.  So I was excited to learn that one northern Michigan county is working to provide such opportunities for teens who have committed minor crimes, in lieu of community service.

     Instead of assigning young offenders meaningless busywork, explains Marquette County Probation Officer Bill Mankee, his county’s Juvenile Court gets the kids outside, engaged in efforts that benefit the natural world and the community. 

     One particularly impressive Marquette County youth progam is the Manoomin Project.  For the last four years, 13-15 year old at-risk teens helped restore wild rice to Upper Peninsula waterways where it had once grown abundantly.  Under the supervision of local Native Americanguides, the young people planted wild rice in seven Upper Peninsula sites where it had disappeared years before.  

     The wild rice, “manoomin” in Ojibwa, is central to the Upper Peninsula environment and the Native culture, explains Don Chosa, one of the guides.  Food for fish, waterfowl, deer, and other animals, the wild rice is also central to the area’s Indian tribes.  For centuries it was a major source of nutrition and is still used ceremonially at a wide variety of occasions.

     The teens helped their Native guides plant and harvest the wild rice, and they even monitored the growth of the rice they had planted by testing water for temperature and acidity.  

     Throughout their participation in the Manoomin Project, the teens were treated with appreciation and respect.  “You are the first ones to bring wild rice back to the area,” they were told by David Anthony, their guide from the Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians.  The teens were reminded, adds Marquette County Juvenile Court counselor Jim Rule that what they were doing mattered.  After all, they were giving something back to the community and to nature. 

     While many teens were not at all happy at first to be compelled to participate in the Manoomin Project, many came to appreciate it.  They were excited by the wildlife they saw, and they valued their time in the woods, the experience of broadcasting seed from a canoe, and the new relationships they formed.  The teens also learned about Ojibwa culture, and some even volunteered for the program after they had completed their mandatory service.       

     To view photos from the Manoomin Project, click on the link below:

 http://www.cedartreeinstitute.org/wildrice2007.html

Nature–Nourishment for All Generations

Thursday, July 24th, 2008

      In this short excerpt from WALDEN, Henry David Thoreau marvels that the unusual light he witnessed one afternoon was not a one-time event but would happen again and again, cheering and reassuring future generations just as it had him. 

     Thoreau seems to me, like Walt Whitman, unusual in his sense of himself as part of a long flow of life, conscious of  those who will come later, as well as of those who went before.  I like his joy at the thought that those yet unborn will find the same nourishment he just experienced in the phenomenon he witnessed. 

     Thinking of future generations in this way seems to me a hopeful thing.–April Moore

“I was walking in a meadow, the source of a small brook, when the sun at last, just before setting, after a cold, gray day, reached a clear stratum in the horizon, and the softest, brightest morning sunight fell on the dry grass and on the stems of the trees in the opposite horizon and on the leaves of the shrub oaks on the hillside. . . . It was such a light as we could not have imagined a moment before, and the air also was so warm and serene that nothing was wanting to make a paradise of that meadow.  When we reflected that this was not a solitary phenomenon, never to happen again, but that it would happen forever and ever, an infinite number of evenings, and cheer and reassure the latest child that walked there, it was more glorious still. . . .”–Henry David Thoreau

Take Up Al Gore’s Challenge

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008

     Last week Al Gore challenged America to shift entirely to renewable sources of energy within the next 10 years.  His speech is reprinted below.  I hope you will join Gore’s call for true energy independence.  Please pick up the phone and call your Representative and Senators in Washington, D.C.  Tell them that you want them to accept Gore’s challenge.  Call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121. Just ask for the office of Sen. ___________ or Rep. ___________.  Future generations will thank you!–April Moore 

Ladies and gentlemen:

There are times in the history of our nation when our very way of life depends upon dispelling illusions and awakening to the challenge of a present danger. In such moments, we are called upon to move quickly and boldly to shake off complacency, throw aside old habits and rise, clear-eyed and alert, to the necessity of big changes. Those who, for whatever reason, refuse to do their part must either be persuaded to join the effort or asked to step aside. This is such a moment. The survival of the United States of America as we know it is at risk. And even more — if more should be required — the future of human civilization is at stake.

I don’t remember a time in our country when so many things seemed to be going so wrong simultaneously. Our economy is in terrible shape and getting worse, gasoline prices are increasing dramatically, and so are electricity rates. Jobs are being outsourced. Home mortgages are in trouble. Banks, automobile companies and other institutions we depend upon are under growing pressure. Distinguished senior business leaders are telling us that this is just the beginning unless we find the courage to make some major changes quickly.

The climate crisis, in particular, is getting a lot worse — much more quickly than predicted. Scientists with access to data from Navy submarines traversing underneath the North polar ice cap have warned that there is now a 75 percent chance that within five years the entire ice cap will completely disappear during the summer months. This will further increase the melting pressure on Greenland. According to experts, the Jakobshavn glacier, one of Greenland’s largest, is moving at a faster rate than ever before, losing 20 million tons of ice every day, equivalent to the amount of water used every year by the residents of New York City.

Two major studies from military intelligence experts have warned our leaders about the dangerous national security implications of the climate crisis, including the possibility of hundreds of millions of climate refugees destabilizing nations around the world.

Just two days ago, 27 senior statesmen and retired military leaders warned of the national security threat from an “energy tsunami” that would be triggered by a loss of our access to foreign oil. Meanwhile, the war in Iraq continues, and now the war in Afghanistan appears to be getting worse.

And by the way, our weather sure is getting strange, isn’t it? There seem to be more tornadoes than in living memory, longer droughts, bigger downpours and record floods. Unprecedented fires are burning in California and elsewhere in the American West. Higher temperatures lead to drier vegetation that makes kindling for mega-fires of the kind that have been raging in Canada, Greece, Russia, China, South America, Australia and Africa. Scientists in the Department of Geophysics and Planetary Science at Tel Aviv University tell us that for every one degree increase in temperature, lightning strikes will go up another 10 percent. And it is lightning, after all, that is principally responsible for igniting the conflagration in California today.

Like a lot of people, it seems to me that all these problems are bigger than any of the solutions that have thus far been proposed for them, and that’s been worrying me.

I’m convinced that one reason we’ve seemed paralyzed in the face of these crises is our tendency to offer old solutions to each crisis separately — without taking the others into account. And these outdated proposals have not only been ineffective – they almost always make the other crises even worse.

Yet when we look at all three of these seemingly intractable challenges at the same time, we can see the common thread running through them, deeply ironic in its simplicity: our dangerous over-reliance on carbon-based fuels is at the core of all three of these challenges — the economic, environmental and national security crises.

We’re borrowing money from China to buy oil from the Persian Gulf to burn it in ways that destroy the planet. Every bit of that’s got to change.

But if we grab hold of that common thread and pull it hard, all of these complex problems begin to unravel and we will find that we’re holding the answer to all of them right in our hand.

The answer is to end our reliance on carbon-based fuels.

In my search for genuinely effective answers to the climate crisis, I have held a series of “solutions summits” with engineers, scientists, and CEOs. In those discussions, one thing has become abundantly clear: when you connect the dots, it turns out that the real solutions to the climate crisis are the very same measures needed to renew our economy and escape the trap of ever-rising energy prices. Moreover, they are also the very same solutions we need to guarantee our national security without having to go to war in the Persian Gulf.

What if we could use fuels that are not expensive, don’t cause pollution and are abundantly available right here at home?

We have such fuels. Scientists have confirmed that enough solar energy falls on the surface of the earth every 40 minutes to meet 100 percent of the entire world’s energy needs for a full year. Tapping just a small portion of this solar energy could provide all of the electricity America uses.

And enough wind power blows through the Midwest corridor every day to also meet 100 percent of US electricity demand. Geothermal energy, similarly, is capable of providing enormous supplies of electricity for America.

The quickest, cheapest and best way to start using all this renewable energy is in the production of electricity. In fact, we can start right now using solar power, wind power and geothermal power to make electricity for our homes and businesses.

But to make this exciting potential a reality, and truly solve our nation’s problems, we need a new start.

That’s why I’m proposing today a strategic initiative designed to free us from the crises that are holding us down and to regain control of our own destiny. It’s not the only thing we need to do. But this strategic challenge is the lynchpin of a bold new strategy needed to re-power America.

Today I challenge our nation to commit to producing 100 percent of our electricity from renewable energy and truly clean carbon-free sources within 10 years.

This goal is achievable, affordable and transformative. It represents a challenge to all Americans — in every walk of life: to our political leaders, entrepreneurs, innovators, engineers, and to every citizen.

A few years ago, it would not have been possible to issue such a challenge. But here’s what’s changed: the sharp cost reductions now beginning to take place in solar, wind, and geothermal power – coupled with the recent dramatic price increases for oil and coal — have radically changed the economics of energy.

When I first went to Congress 32 years ago, I listened to experts testify that if oil ever got to $35 a barrel, then renewable sources of energy would become competitive. Well, today, the price of oil is over $135 per barrel. And sure enough, billions of dollars of new investment are flowing into the development of concentrated solar thermal, photovoltaics, windmills, geothermal plants, and a variety of ingenious new ways to improve our efficiency and conserve presently wasted energy.

And as the demand for renewable energy grows, the costs will continue to fall. Let me give you one revealing example: the price of the specialized silicon used to make solar cells was recently as high as $300 per kilogram. But the newest contracts have prices as low as $50 a kilogram.

You know, the same thing happened with computer chips — also made out of silicon. The price paid for the same performance came down by 50 percent every 18 months — year after year, and that’s what’s happened for 40 years in a row.

To those who argue that we do not yet have the technology to accomplish these results with renewable energy: I ask them to come with me to meet the entrepreneurs who will drive this revolution. I’ve seen what they are doing and I have no doubt that we can meet this challenge.

To those who say the costs are still too high: I ask them to consider whether the costs of oil and coal will ever stop increasing if we keep relying on quickly depleting energy sources to feed a rapidly growing demand all around the world. When demand for oil and coal increases, their price goes up. When demand for solar cells increases, the price often comes down.

When we send money to foreign countries to buy nearly 70 percent of the oil we use every day, they build new skyscrapers and we lose jobs. When we spend that money building solar arrays and windmills, we build competitive industries and gain jobs here at home.

Of course there are those who will tell us this can’t be done. Some of the voices we hear are the defenders of the status quo — the ones with a vested interest in perpetuating the current system, no matter how high a price the rest of us will have to pay. But even those who reap the profits of the carbon age have to recognize the inevitability of its demise. As one OPEC oil minister observed, “The Stone Age didn’t end because of a shortage of stones.”

To those who say 10 years is not enough time, I respectfully ask them to consider what the world’s scientists are telling us about the risks we face if we don’t act in 10 years. The leading experts predict that we have less than 10 years to make dramatic changes in our global warming pollution lest we lose our ability to ever recover from this environmental crisis. When the use of oil and coal goes up, pollution goes up. When the use of solar, wind and geothermal increases, pollution comes down.

To those who say the challenge is not politically viable: I suggest they go before the American people and try to defend the status quo. Then bear witness to the people’s appetite for change.

I for one do not believe our country can withstand 10 more years of the status quo. Our families cannot stand 10 more years of gas price increases. Our workers cannot stand 10 more years of job losses and outsourcing of factories. Our economy cannot stand 10 more years of sending $2 billion every 24 hours to foreign countries for oil. And our soldiers and their families cannot take another 10 years of repeated troop deployments to dangerous regions that just happen to have large oil supplies.

What could we do instead for the next 10 years? What should we do during the next 10 years? Some of our greatest accomplishments as a nation have resulted from commitments to reach a goal that fell well beyond the next election: the Marshall Plan, Social Security, the interstate highway system. But a political promise to do something 40 years from now is universally ignored because everyone knows that it’s meaningless. Ten years is about the maximum time that we as a nation can hold a steady aim and hit our target.

When President John F. Kennedy challenged our nation to land a man on the moon and bring him back safely in 10 years, many people doubted we could accomplish that goal. But 8 years and 2 months later, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the surface of the moon.

To be sure, reaching the goal of 100 percent renewable and truly clean electricity within 10 years will require us to overcome many obstacles. At present, for example, we do not have a unified national grid that is sufficiently advanced to link the areas where the sun shines and the wind blows to the cities in the East and the West that need the electricity. Our national electric grid is critical infrastructure, as vital to the health and security of our economy as our highways and telecommunication networks. Today, our grids are antiquated, fragile, and vulnerable to cascading failure. Power outages and defects in the current grid system cost US businesses more than $120 billion dollars a year. It has to be upgraded anyway.

We could further increase the value and efficiency of a Unified National Grid by helping our struggling auto giants switch to the manufacture of plug-in electric cars. An electric vehicle fleet would sharply reduce the cost of driving a car, reduce pollution, and increase the flexibility of our electricity grid.

At the same time, of course, we need to greatly improve our commitment to efficiency and conservation. That’s the best investment we can make.

America’s transition to renewable energy sources must also include adequate provisions to assist those Americans who would unfairly face hardship. For example, we must recognize those who have toiled in dangerous conditions to bring us our present energy supply. We should guarantee good jobs in the fresh air and sunshine for any coal miner displaced by impacts on the coal industry. Every single one of them.

Of course, we could and should speed up this transition by insisting that the price of carbon-based energy include the costs of the environmental damage it causes. I have long supported a sharp reduction in payroll taxes with the difference made up in CO2 taxes. We should tax what we burn, not what we earn. This is the single most important policy change we can make.

In order to foster international cooperation, it is also essential that the United States rejoin the global community and lead efforts to secure an international treaty at Copenhagen in December of next year that includes a cap on CO2 emissions and a global partnership that recognizes the necessity of addressing the threats of extreme poverty and disease as part of the world’s agenda for solving the climate crisis.

Of course the greatest obstacle to meeting the challenge of 100 percent renewable electricity in 10 years may be the deep dysfunction of our politics and our self-governing system as it exists today. In recent years, our politics has tended toward incremental proposals made up of small policies designed to avoid offending special interests, alternating with occasional baby steps in the right direction. Our democracy has become sclerotic at a time when these crises require boldness.

It is only a truly dysfunctional system that would buy into the perverse logic that the short-term answer to high gasoline prices is drilling for more oil ten years from now.

Am I the only one who finds it strange that our government so often adopts a so-called solution that has absolutely nothing to do with the problem it is supposed to address? When people rightly complain about higher gasoline prices, we propose to give more money to the oil companies and pretend that they’re going to bring gasoline prices down. It will do nothing of the sort, and everyone knows it. If we keep going back to the same policies that have never ever worked in the past and have served only to produce the highest gasoline prices in history alongside the greatest oil company profits in history, nobody should be surprised if we get the same result over and over again. But the Congress may be poised to move in that direction anyway because some of them are being stampeded by lobbyists for special interests that know how to make the system work for them instead of the American people.

If you want to know the truth about gasoline prices, here it is: the exploding demand for oil, especially in places like China, is overwhelming the rate of new discoveries by so much that oil prices are almost certain to continue upward over time no matter what the oil companies promise. And politicians cannot bring gasoline prices down in the short term.

However, there actually is one extremely effective way to bring the costs of driving a car way down within a few short years. The way to bring gas prices down is to end our dependence on oil and use the renewable sources that can give us the equivalent of $1 per gallon gasoline.

Many Americans have begun to wonder whether or not we’ve simply lost our appetite for bold policy solutions. And folks who claim to know how our system works these days have told us we might as well forget about our political system doing anything bold, especially if it is contrary to the wishes of special interests. And I’ve got to admit, that sure seems to be the way things have been going. But I’ve begun to hear different voices in this country from people who are not only tired of baby steps and special interest politics, but are hungry for a new, different and bold approach.

We are on the eve of a presidential election. We are in the midst of an international climate treaty process that will conclude its work before the end of the first year of the new president’s term. It is a great error to say that the United States must wait for others to join us in this matter. In fact, we must move first, because that is the key to getting others to follow; and because moving first is in our own national interest.

So I ask you to join with me to call on every candidate, at every level, to accept this challenge — for America to be running on 100 percent zero-carbon electricity in 10 years. It’s time for us to move beyond empty rhetoric. We need to act now.

This is a generational moment. A moment when we decide our own path and our collective fate. I’m asking you – each of you – to join me and build this future. Please join the WE campaign at wecansolveit.org. We need you. And we need you now. We’re committed to changing not just light bulbs, but laws. And laws will only change with leadership.

On July 16, 1969, the United States of America was finally ready to meet President Kennedy’s challenge of landing Americans on the moon. I will never forget standing beside my father a few miles from the launch site, waiting for the giant Saturn 5 rocket to lift Apollo 11 into the sky. I was a young man, 21 years old, who had graduated from college a month before and was enlisting in the United States Army three weeks later.

I will never forget the inspiration of those minutes. The power and the vibration of the giant rocket’s engines shook my entire body. As I watched the rocket rise, slowly at first and then with great speed, the sound was deafening. We craned our necks to follow its path until we were looking straight up into the air. And then four days later, I watched along with hundreds of millions of others around the world as Neil Armstrong took one small step to the surface of the moon and changed the history of the human race.

We must now lift our nation to reach another goal that will change history. Our entire civilization depends upon us now embarking on a new journey of exploration and discovery. Our success depends on our willingness as a people to undertake this journey and to complete it within 10 years. Once again, we have an opportunity to take a giant leap for humankind.

How Birds Sing

Monday, July 21st, 2008

     This lovely little poem was written by Kay Ryan, who was just named Poet Laureate.  The poem is permanently on display at the Central Park Zoo in New York. 

How Birds Sing                                                                                          

One is not taxed;
one need not practice;
one simply tips
the throat back
over the spine axis
and asserts the chest.
The wings and the rest
compress a musical
squeeze which floats
a series of notes
upon the breeze.

Have Fun Hanging Out–The Laundry, That Is

Friday, July 18th, 2008

     My very favorite household job is hanging out the wash.  I enjoy just about every aspect of it–the feel of the damp clothes, pinning the items to the line, the faint dampness that fills the air in our dry New Mexico back yard. 

     Then there is the pleasure of taking the dry clothes off the line.  They smell great!

     So why am I writing about laundry?  Because using a solar, wind-powered clothes dryer (aka the clothesline) is a pleasurable way to act on behalf of Mother Earth.

     Letting your dryer sit, inactive, while you air dry your laundry saves significant energy.  Any household appliance that generates a lot of heat, like a clothes dryer or a dishwasher, is a big energy guzzler.  In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, clothes dryers are the second biggest user of household energy.  The energy these machines consume is so great that the Energy Star efficiency labeling program for appliances does not even include dryers.

     There are more advantages to air drying your clothes than saving energy:

  • You will likely save more than $100 per year on your utility bill.
  •  Sunlight bleaches and disinfects.
  • Clothes smell better, without adding chemicals used in the dryer that may be toxic to the body and the environment.
  • You needn’t fold clothes the moment they are dry, as with a dryer, to keep them from wrinkling.
  • Your clothes will last longer.  No lint.
  • Clothes won’t be shrunk or twisted, as with a dryer, and there is no static cling.
  • Then of course there’s that heavenly smell.  There’s nothing like it.

     You may be saying you don’t have room in your yard for a clothesline.  Not to worry.   You can air dry your clothes indoors just as easily.  Just choose one of a variety of indoor clotheslines.  Many of them are retractable, so they stay out of sight when not in use. 

     Fortunately, a clothesline is not a big investment of money.  Whether for outdoor or indoor use, there are a great many types of line available.  On one online site, I saw lines ranging in price from $22-$290.  Many sturdy lines cost well under $100.  

     So I hope you’ll get started.  You might just enjoy it. 

     If you want to browse online for the clothesline that works for you, visit the Clothesline Shop:

  http://theclotheslineshop.com/

     For lots more info about air drying laundry, visit Project Laundry List:

http://www.laundrylist.org/

     Finally, I attach below a short excerpt from an article I loved reading years ago and have never forgotten.  Written by Craig Wilson, “Three Sheets to the Wind:  the Only Way to Dry,” was published May 8, 1999, in USA TODAY.

Clothes hanging is a work of art. Done properly, it can put a Calder to shame. It takes on a life of its own. Shirts shudder. Pants dance. Towels flap and snap.

And the smell! Let me die with my face in a sheet that’s been hanging on a clothesline all afternoon.

Wise Words from Leonardo da Vinci

Thursday, July 17th, 2008

Human subtlety. . . .

will never devise

an invention

more beautiful

more simple or

more direct

than does nature,

because in

her inventions

nothing is lacking, and

nothing is superfluous. . . .

Leonardo da Vinci

Good News in Environmental Education

Wednesday, July 16th, 2008

     If you share my concern that kids today are spending too little time in the great outdoors, take heart!  I, for one, am feeling extremely encouraged by the growing interest I see in environmental education.   Momentum is building for making outdoor learning an integral  part of school curricula.    And if Congress passes the No Child Left Inside Act, the states will receive major funding to provide high quality outdoor learning for students of all ages.

     One particularly exciting environmental ed program is reaching hundreds of middle schoolers in west-central Minnesota.  In Fergus Falls, local fourth and fifth graders spend a significant chunk of each school day at the Prairie Wetlands Learning Center (PWLC) located nearby.  PWLC is a 330 acre site that includes native and restored prairie, wetlands, and several miles of trails.  The town, state, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are all involved in the Center, in some way, explains Ken Garrahan, the Center’s Visitor Services Manager. 

     Depending on the season, the students may catch and band ducks, study snow crystals, observe new growth, and much more.  “The students are outside every day ” notes Garrahan, ”directly experiencing the prairie wetlands and the many changes taking place as the seasons change.”  

     Garrahan reports that the students are affected by their daily outdoor activities.  After about a month, he explains, they seem to slow down, to feel more comfortable outside, to notice more, and to be willing to wait patiently for things to happen.  “They tend to see themselves more as explorers or scientists,” he says, “and less as middle school kids.”

     The positive changes carry over to the classroom as well.  “Teachers tell me,” says Garrahan, “that the students exhibit a more cooperative spirit, a greater gentleness with each other, when they are engaged in outdoor activities on a regular basis.”

     The students’ growing knowledge of the natural world seems to have a positive effect on the students’ performance in their academic subjects.  For example, the students’ writings become more rich over the time they participate in the program, Garrahan observes.  In fact, the students involved in the PWLC program fare as well as or better than students who have not participated in the program, when it comes to standardized tests in academic subjects, says Garrahan.  These test results should allay the fears of many adults who believe that students need more, not less time inside the classroom.

     I hope environmental education programs like the one in Fergus Falls will become available to students all over the country.  Passage of the No Child Left Inside Act (HR 3036)will be a great step toward that goal.  And support for the bill is strong.  The House Committee on Education and Labor passed the bill by a wide margin in June, and the whole House may vote on the bill later this summer. 

     A growing coalition of more than 300 organizations, representing tens of millions of people, is working to enact the legislation.  For more information about the No Child Left Inside Coalition, just click on the link below.

     http://www.cbf.org/site/PageServer?pagename=act_sub_actioncenter_federal_NCLB

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