Archive for July, 2008

READING THE BOOK OF HILLS AND SEAS

Monday, July 14th, 2008

     I thank Jim Zelenski for this lovely little celebration of summer by the Taoist nature poet T’ao Ch’ien, who lived in China from 372-427 AD.  The poem was translated by A. Waley.  Sometimes the natural world is the most perfect companion of all.–April Moore

In the month of June the grass grows high
And round my cottage thick-leaved branches sway.
There is not a bird but delights in the place where it rests.
And I too – love my thatched cottage.
I have done my ploughing.
I have sown my seed.
Again I have time to sit and read my books.
In the narrow lane there are no deep ruts;
Often my friends’ carriages turn back.
In high spirits I pour out my spring wine
And pluck the lettuce growing in my garden.
A gentle rain comes stealing up from the east
And a sweet wind bears it company.
My thoughts float idly over the story of the king of Chou
My eyes wander over the pictures of Hills and Seas.
At a single glance I survey the whole Universe.
He will never be happy, whom such pleasures fail to please!”

Today is World Population Day

Friday, July 11th, 2008

     Today, July 11, is World Population Day.  The purpose of this annual observance, designated by the United Nations, is to focus attention on global population issues.  Population growth has been a concern of mine for many years.  Back in 1970 when I started college, the world’s population was 3.4 billion.  Now, less than 40 years later, the population has climbed to 6.7 billion.  Almost twice as many people are living on the planet today.  And the rate of growth is accelerating.

     To me, the relationship between human population growth and environmental damage is clear.  More people means that more forest and wetland habitats must give way to agriculture, housing, and other human activity.  And human needs and wants, growing along with our numbers, are fueling global warming. 

     Many people, however, including some who care about the environment, do not see a connection between human population growth and a healthy planet.  Whether or not population growth is a concern of yours, I urge you to click on the link below to Population and Habitat:  Making the Connection.  This brief, easy-to-read report, created by the National Audubon Society, makes a strong case for supporting family planning programs in countries with rapidly growing populations.  Such programs have produced impressive results.

     http://www.audubon.org/campaign/population_habitat/pdf/PopHabitatBrochure.pdf

Pandas–After the Earthquake

Thursday, July 10th, 2008

I thank Judy Miller for forwarding me these photos of pandas and their rescuers in the aftermath of the recent earthquake in China.  I was inspired both by the beauty of the pandas and by the devotion of their rescuers.

 

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Passing Over Dayu Peak

Wednesday, July 9th, 2008

I appreciate this short poem by Su Dongpo, an eleventh century Zen poet, because it reminds me of how I can lose my small ‘self’ in nature by becoming part of the much larger ‘Self’ of the natural world.–April Moore

In a moment, all my defilements have vanished,
Leaving both body and soul transparently pure.
So vast is it here between heaven and earth
That even alone, all is well with me.
Today as I travel along the mountain peaks
Self and world are once and for all forgotten.
The winds of the immortals seem to caress my head,
As, tying up my hair, I receive their secrets.

The Border ‘Fence’ Is Terrible and We Must Fight It

Tuesday, July 8th, 2008

Thanks to Ted Williams and Audubon Magazine (July-August 2008) for most of the information in the following piece.  Don’t miss the borderlands photos at the end.–April Moore

    The 854 mile long fence the U.S. government is building along the border with Mexico is a terrible thing.  Its impact on wildlife will be extensive and severe.  And so will its impact on human communities, farmers, and businesses located near the border.  While many people say that keeping Americans safe from terrorists trumps any harm done to wildlife and humans who live in the border region, the sad truth is that the fence will not, in fact, keep us safe.

     So how would this fence cause so much harm?  First of all, the word ‘fence’ is a euphemism.  From photos I’ve seen of the completed sections, the ‘fence’ is a fortress-like wall, similar to walls around prisons.  I call this structure a wall, not a fence.

     The wall, which would extend from San Diego to Brownsville, Texas, passes through some of the most biologically diverse lands in the United States.  The wall would cut through a Global Important Bird Area, through America’s largest remaining stand of sabal palms, and through one of the few remaining homes of three critically endangered cats–the ocelot, the jaguar, and the jaguarundi.  And the 90,000 acre Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge, a string of 115 wildlife corridors to the river and to Mexico, which sustains more than 80 mammal species, 400 bird species, 100 species of reptiles and amphibians, 300 species of butterflies, and 1,200 plant species, will no longer be able to function.  Wildlife will be cut off from water and food, and gene flow will be stemmed. 

     The serious environmental impacts of the wall are being ignored by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the federal agency charged by the 2006 Secure Fence Act with constructing the wall.  DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff has waived important environmental laws, including the National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act. 

       Many along the border are understandably angry.  Local officials’ concerns have been ignored.  Business owners will be cut off from much of their clientele, and many farmers will lose their land.  A group of mayors and other elected officials along the border have formed the Texas Border Coalition to fight the wall.  They have filed suit against DHS for its failure to include local governments in the process. 

     It is easy to understand why people who are concerned about wildlife, and people whose livelihood would be diminished by the wall oppose it.  But why wouldn’t the wall, if it is so formidable, provide protection from terrorists trying to cross our border?  Some border agents have reported that, in testing segments of the wall already built, they can find their way past it in a matter of minutes.  In many sectionsthere is nothing to prevent people from driving a truck alongside the fence, scrambling up to the roof, jumping over the top three feet, and climbing down the other side.  In fact, despite a triple layer of fence at San Diego, illegal crossings increased 7 percent between 2006 and 2007.

     So what can we do to protect the great diversity of wildlife along the U.S.-Mexico border and keep billions of dollars (an estimated $49 billion to build and maintain for 20 years) from being wasted?

What You Can Do:

  • Contact your Member of Congress.  Ask him or her to support the Borderlands Conservation and Security Act (HR 2593), which calls for a flexible approach to border security instead of mandating an unrealistic and harmful wall, according to the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Raul Grijalva of Arizona.  The bill would also ensure that border security efforts would comply with laws designed to protect air, water, wildlife, culture, health and safety.  Call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121.  Give your Representative’s name and ask to be connected with his or her office.  If you can’t reach the aide working on this issue, give your message to the receptionist.
  • Join with others in signing a petition to tell the Bush administration that you oppose the building of the fence.  You can sign the petition by clicking on www.audubonaction.org/campaign/sabalpalm
  • Learn more about the wall by visiting http://notexasborderwall.com.  Here you will find a great deal of information about environmental impacts of the wall in California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas.
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Lives of a Cell

Thursday, July 3rd, 2008

     This fascinating little excerpt from Lewis Thomas’s LIVES OF A CELL illustrates the great mystery of the communication that must go on among the ‘lowliest’ of animals–ants and termites.–April Moore 

 A solitary ant, afield, cannot be considered to have much of anything on his mind; indeed, with only a few neurons strung together by fibers, he can’t be imagined to have a mind at all, much less a thought. He is more like a ganglion on legs. Four ants together, or ten, encircling a dead moth on a path, begin to look more like an idea. They fumble and shove, gradually moving the food toward the Hill, but as though by blind chance. It is only when you watch the dense mass of thousands of ants, crowded together around the Hill, blackening the ground, that you begin to see the whole beast, and now you observe it thinking, planning, calculating. It is an intelligence, a kind of live computer, with crawling bits for its wits…

Termites are even more extraordinary in the way they seem to accumulate intelligence as they gather together. Two or three termines in a chamber will begin to pick up pellets and move them from place to place, but nothing comes of it; nothing is built. As more join in, they seem to reach a critical mass, a quorum, and the thinking begins. They place pellets atop pellets, then throw up columns and beautiful, curving, symmetrical arches, and the crystalline architecture of vaulted chambers is created. It is not known how they communicate with each other, how the chains of termites building one column know when to turn toward the crew on the adjacent column, or how, when the time comes, they manage the flawless joining of the arches. The stimuli that set them off at the outset, building collectively instead of shifting things about, may be pheromones released when they reach committee size. They react as if alarmed. They become agitated, excited, and then they begin working, like artists…

Although we are by all odds the most social of all social animals– more interdependent, more attached to each other, more inseparable in our behavior than bees– we not often feel our conjoined intelligence. Perhaps, however, we are linked in circuits for the storage, processing, and retrieval of information, since this appears to be the most basic and universal of all human enterprises. It may be our biological function to build a certain kind of a Hill…

The Declaration of Dependence

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2008

     This Fourth of July I commend to your attention not just the usual Declaration of Independence but the Declaration of Dependence as well.  Created two years ago by environmentalist Cliff Seigneur, it draws on the 1776 document’s language and cadence to make a different point.  We are  entirely dependent on Mother Earth for our survival.  

     You may want to consider reading the Declaration aloud at your Fourth of July get-together this year. 


In Paonia, Colorado, the United States of America, on Earth; this twenty-first day of June, 2006.
When, in the course of human events, it becomes apparent that the activities of humankind are causing severe and potentially catastrophic injury to the land, air and water that compose our home – Earth – it becomes necessary to declare humanity’s innate Dependence on the Earth, and demand that governments take immediate action to redress such harmful acts and make elemental changes to prevent further injury. Such declaration requires the causes that impel such demands be set forth.I hold these truths to be self-evident: that all people are created equal, that they are endowed by the Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of Happiness; that humans are but one life-form amidst the chaotic perfection weaving the web of life that exists on Earth; that should human activity damage the web, life, as it is now known, will cease to exist; that time is of the essence. – That to safeguard these rights and ensure the continuity of Homo sapiens as a viable species, Governments are instituted among People, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. – That when world business practices coalesce with the laws of governments to harm life on Earth, it is the right of people to bring an end to such injurious practices and ineffectual laws, and enact new laws; laws rooting their foundations in principles that will secure the continued vigor of the web of life, and provide for the prolonged existence and welfare of humanity. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that laws long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and, accordingly, all experience hath shown that people are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by modifying the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of environmental abuses, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a design to overwhelm life on Earth; it is their right, it is their duty, to alter such design and demand new laws to protect the web of life, thus securing sanctuary for the human race. Such has been the patient sufferance of people, and such is now the necessity, which compels them to demand fundamental changes to laws not suited to safeguard the environment. – The history of humanity’s relationship with the Earth is a history of greed and power to take from nature without recompense, all having in direct object the establishment of monetary wealth with little, if any, regard for the sacredness of life.The world’s current and growing population of over 6,500,000,000 humans transcends the Earth’s capacity to absorb our consumptive and polluting behaviors. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world:I. We are fouling the skies with greenhouse gases that have altered the Earth’s atmosphere, initiating global warming. Such warming is causing planetary climatic change that endangers all life forms.

II. We are polluting the air, water and land in and around towns and cities of the world so that the health of humans, flora and fauna is imperiled on a global scale.

III. We are diverting, depleting and polluting the Earth’s fresh water resources so that humans are oft unable to find potable water and, in many locales, water borne flora and fauna struggle to survive.

IV. We are over fishing and polluting the Earth’s oceans, seas, lakes and rivers so that survival of a growing number of aquatic species is threatened.

V. We are endangering and causing the extinction of a wide variety of plant and animal species by disrupting, polluting and destroying their habitats.

VI. We are contaminating productive soils with fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides; modifying natural crop species via genetic engineering; and paving over and building upon untold acres of fertile land. Taken together, these practices jeopardize the Earth’s agricultural bounty.

VII. We are cutting vast tracts of natural forests resulting in denuded hillsides that erode in rain showers and, in countless locations, no longer sustain trees that recycle carbon dioxide into oxygen.

VIII. We are mining immense amounts of the Earth’s rich ores and minerals causing pollution to land, air and water.

In summary, we are taking freely from the Earth, carelessly using her natural resources with a wanton disregard of the future. We now live in fear of our own unsustainable needs and desires, which gravely injure life on Earth and threaten our ongoing survival.

In every stage of modern human activity causing harm to the web of life, citizens have petitioned courts for Redress in the most humble terms. These incessant petitions have been met by new and ever-increasing injury to the Earth. Thus, the laws involved are tainted by every act that despoils the environment and are unfit to shield the Earth from harm.

Nor have we been wanting in attention to our governments. We have relentlessly warned them of the daily injuries inflicted upon the Earth and the far-reaching consequences thereof. We have reminded them of our inherent connection to the Earth for everything we have – from air, water, food, clothing and shelter to cell phones, palm pilots, computers, automobiles and atom bombs. We have drawn their attention to our birthright on Earth, and appealed to their intrinsic bonds with nature and religion. They too have been deaf to the voices of reason and action. Hence, I must acquiesce in the necessity, which demands immediate attention to humanity’s peril on Earth and hold them, as I hold myself and present-day civilization, Enemies to our continued existence.

I, therefore, a human on Earth, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the Universe for the rectitude of my intentions, do, in the Name, and by the Authority of the good people of the world, solemnly publish and declare: that humans are dependent on the Earth for our survival; that the Earth is in imminent danger of irreparable injury to her life supporting functions; that we have found these functions unique to the Earth in our exploration of the near bounds of space; that now is the time to act firmly, with resolute conviction, to save our home – the Earth. And for support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, I pledge my life, worldly goods and sacred honor.

Cliff Seigneur, Esq. (inspired by President Thomas Jefferson)
Citizen of Colorado’s Western Slope, United States of America
Resident of the Earth

Joined by: _______________ Signature: _________________

Address: __________________________________________

With the Earth enduring ever-increasing environmental harm each ensuing day, the time is now to declare our dependence on the Earth. Please join me and send a signed copy of this Declaration to the:

Secretary General of the United Nations
UN Headquarters
First Avenue at 46th Street
New York, NY 10017

and the

President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500.

Please also send unsigned copies of this Declaration, and/or forward the website address: www.declarationofdependence.us, to family members, friends and acquaintences. Together, with everyone’s help, we can spread this Declaration worldwide and begin to save our home – the Earth. CS

On the Internet: www.declarationofdependence.us
To contact the author, e-mail: declarationofdependence@hotmail.com

Everglades Protection Dramatically Expanded

Tuesday, July 1st, 2008

     Wonderful news for wetlands, wildlife, and all of us who care about them! 

     In one of the biggest conservation deals in U.S. history, the nation’s largest producer of cane sugar reached a preliminary agreement to get out of the business and sell its 300 square miles in the Everglades to the state of Florida for $1.75 billion.  

     The purchase of the land, now planted with sugar cane, is “an achievement of breathtaking significance and priceless value,” according to the Everglades Foundation, one of many environmental organizations that applauded the purchase. 

     Now a serious problem can be corrected.  Currently, agricultural drainage and water diversions cause the Everglades to dry up too often, causing declines in fish and other Everglades wildlife populations.  Wildfires have been unduly frequent.  Peat soils formed over thousands of years have been lost in an afternoon, according to the Everglades Foundation. 

     This land acquisition will free up an enormous supply of clean water that will sustain these fragile wetlands during droughts.  Fish populations will be able to flourish, and in turn, larger populations of wading birds, alligators, and other flora and fauna unique to the nation’s largest subtropical wilderness will also be sustained.   Survival of the 67 endangered or threatened species native to the Everglades will be greatly aided by the massive addition of land and clean water. 

     The diverse but fragile ecosystem that is the Everglades is now less than half its original 4,000 square miles in size.  The population of 200,000 wading birds is just 10 percent of the 2 million who once lived in the “River of Grass.”  Populations are expected to increase, with the influx of fresh water that will become possible when sugar growing on the purchased land ceases in six years, as per the agreement. 

     Celebrate this wonderful victory for Mother Nature by enjoying these photos of life in the Everglades.

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