Archive for September, 2008

Peeling an Orange

Monday, September 29th, 2008

I love the pleasure Terry Tempest Williams feels and the wonder she sees in the simple act of peeling and eating an orange!  The following is an excerpt from her book REFUGE:

     “Peeling an orange is a good thing to do in the mountains.  It slows you down.  You bite into the tart rind, pull it back with your teeth and then let your fingers undress the citrus.  Nothing else exists beyond or before this task.  The naked fruit is in your hands waiting for sections to be separated.  Halves.  Quarters.  And then the delicacy of breaking the orange down to its smallest smile.

     “I lay out these ten sections on the flat granite rock I am sitting on.  The sun threatens to dry them.  But I wait for the birds.  Within minutes, Clark’s nutcrackers and gray jays join me.  I suck on oranges as the mountains begin to work on me.

     “This is why I always return.  This is why I can always go home.”

God’s World

Saturday, September 27th, 2008

     I included this poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay in my seventh grade poetry notebook.  In rereading the poem, I can feel the young person’s spontaneous exuberance that made me like the poem in the first place.  And still, decades later, the earth’s beauty can fill me so full that, like Millay, I can hardly bear it.–April Moore

O World, I cannot hold thee close enough!
     Thy winds, thy wide grey skies!
     Thy mists, that roll and rise!
Thy woods, this autumn day, that ache and sag
And all but cry with colour!  That gaunt crag
To crush!  To lift the lean of that black bluff!
World, World, I cannot get thee close enough!

Long have I known a glory in it all,
     But never knew I this:
     Here such a passion is
As stretcheth me apart,–Lord, I do fear
Thou’st made the world too beautiful this year;
My soul is all but out of me,–let fall
No burning leaf;  prithee, let no bird call.


Recycle Your Old Cell Phone

Wednesday, September 24th, 2008

     Who doesn’t have an old cell phone sitting in a drawer somewhere?  With new phone features, services, and accessories becoming available every year, it doesn’t take long for a cell phone to become too old and too easily replaceable.

     But what happens to the old cell phone?  Since it contains lead, mercury, cadmium, arsenic, and other toxic substances, you can’t just throw it in the trash.  So what DO you do with it?

     You can recycle your no longer needed cell phone by sending it to an organization called Collective Good.  Collective Good’s purpose is to keep toxic waste out of the landfill.   The organization is concerned that with millions of cell phones entering the waste stream every year, these toxic substances are leaking into our water supply.  Even worse, cities that incinerate trash are sending these toxins into the air, only to return to us later in the form of rain.

     Collective Good refurbishes many of the phones it receives and donates them to charities that want them.  With phones that cannot be refurbished, the recyclable components are recycled, while the toxic materials are disposed of safely. 

     I encourage you to visit Collective Good’s website,  Collective Good also recycles cell phone batteries, chargers, and accessories, as well as pagers and PDAs.


Type of Food v. Source of Food

Monday, September 22nd, 2008

     I applaud the growing interest in lowering our carbon footprint by eating locally grown food.  It’s a good thing to avoid the greenhouse gas emissions caused by transporting food long distances.  In fact, the interest in eating locally is so widespread that a new word–’locavore’–has entered the lexicon, joining  ‘carnivore,’ herbivore,’ and ‘omnivore’ in describing how we eat.      

     While becoming a locavore is a good thing, reducing the environmental impact of one’s eating is more complicated.   According to a recent study, described in Science News (5/24/08), one can do much more to cut greenhouse gas emissions by eating less red meat and dairy than by eating locally-grown food. 

     Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh found that the greenhouse gas emissions associated with food delivery account for just 4% of food-associated greenhouse gas emissions, compared with 83% from food production

     Researchers Christopher Weber and H. Scott Matthews learned that greenhouse gas emissions caused by the production of red meat and dairy products, in particular, are far greater than the emissions caused by the delivery of foods to the consumer.  Further, their study showed that getting one-seventh of a week’s calories from chicken, fish or vegetables, instead of from red meat or dairy, reduces greenhouse gas emissions more than buying all local all the time.   

     The point is not that eating locally doesn’t matter.  The point, I believe, is that making an effort to reduce one’s consumption of meat and dairy products will do more to stop global warming than will making an effort to eat locally-grown food.  And doing both is better still.  Even if the greenhouse gas savings from eating locally are less than those associated with a low-meat, low-dairy diet, every earth-friendly shift helps. 

     Besides, when it comes to taste, what can beat a just-picked tomato or apple?  And foods eaten soon after harvesting retain more of their nutritional value than foods that have taken a long road trip!  Bon appetit!–April Moore

A Sioux Prayer

Friday, September 19th, 2008


Grandfather Great Spirit
All over the world the faces of living ones
     are alike.
With tenderness they have come up out
     of the ground.
Look upon your children that they may
face the winds and walk the good road to
     the Day of Quiet.
Grandfather Great Spirit
Fill us with the Light.
Give us the strength to understand,
and the eyes to see.
Teach us to walk the soft Earth as relatives
     to all that live.

Monarch Butterflies Protected through International Cooperation

Wednesday, September 17th, 2008


    In an impressive example of what I hope will become commonplace in conservation efforts, the United States, Canada, and Mexico are working together to protect an important North American symbol–the monarch butterfly.

     In recent years this beautiful orange and black butterfly has been threatened.  Deforestation in Mexico where hundreds of millions of monarchs typically overwinter on just 12 mountaintops has reduced their winter habitat.  Their migratory habitat in the U.S. and southern Canada has also been degraded and diminished by pesticide use and land clearing for human purposes.

     But, thankfully, the three countries essential to monarchs’ survival are working together to ensure the butterfly’s future.  The North American Monarch Conservation Plan, developed by the three countries, with the help of scientists and many others, is a long-term, cooperative agenda committing the three countries to specific actions to meet the following goals:

  • to eliminate deforestation in the monarch’s overwintering habitat in south-central Mexico and coastal California;
  • to address threats of habitat loss and degradation along the monarch’s migratory routes;
  • to address threats of loss, fragmentation, and modification of breeding habitats;
  • to develop innovative ways to promote sustainable livelihoods for people in and around key monarch habitats;  and
  • to monitor monarch populations across North America.

        The monarch is a fragile but tenacious and impressive little animal.  Consider the following:

  • Monarch butterflies live wherever in the U.S. and Canada that milkweed grows. They are most prevalent in the midwest, the region with the most milkweed.
  • Milkweed is the only food of monarch larvae, while adult monarchs sip the nectar of many different flowering plants.
  • While most butterfly species can tolerate low temperatures for some portion of the year, monarchs cannot, and so they migrate each year.  Monarchs east of the Rocky Mountains migrate to a mountainous area of south-central Mexico, while monarchs west of the Rockies migrate to coastal California for the winter months.
  • The monarchs that fly south in the fall are the great grandchildren of the monarchs who began the northern migration just a few months before.  When the first generation of the spring flies north after overwintering in Mexico’s high altitude forests, they breed and die after a few weeks.  The next generation, then, continues the northern journey begun by its parents.  The third generation does the same, advancing still farther north.  Only the fourth and final generation of the year, mature by autumn, makes the southward trip to Mexico, to a place it has never been!

The Most Amazing Tree I Have Ever Seen

Monday, September 15th, 2008

     Seven years ago this month I had the good fortune to experience a tree I will remember always.  My family and I were traveling in Hawaii.  In the town of Lahaina, on Maui, is the most incredible tree any of us had ever seen.  The tree is a banyan tree, and it pretty much fills the town square.  

     What is so amazing about this tree is that it has not one but 12 trunks!  The tree grows by dropping roots from its branches.  These roots grow downward until they reach the ground and take hold.  Once rooted, these long vines thicken, and over time they become trunks.  

     Walking among the 12 trunks of the banyan tree was akin to walking around in a little forest.  Only the forest consisted of a single tree!  

     The Lahaina tree covers 2/3 of an acre, and I am glad to report that it is well-appreciated.  People gather among its trunks and branches to talk, play music, and just enjoy the shady environment this amazing tree has created.

     Just click below to see some photos of this amazing tree.–April Moore 


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I Sing the Praises of Vinegar!

Friday, September 12th, 2008

     Perhaps you’ve seen articles and books about how to make your own green household cleaners.  Well, if you’re like me, it’s hard to remember all the ingredients and proportions.  So I end up cleaning the old-fashioned way–with commercial cleaners, and feeling guilty about it.

     Well, here’s an easy way to get started with greener cleaning.  You only have to buy one product–white vinegar.  It’s easily available in any grocery store.  And buy the biggest container you see because you can use it for a great variety of cleaning jobs.  But make sure you don’t pick up wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, or any other type but white.  Other types of vinegar are likely to stain. 

     And white vinegar is cheap.  I just bought a gallon today for $2.28.  That’s about the same price I paid for a 22 ounce bottle of all-purpose cleaner like Fantastik or 409.  The bargain is even greater, when you stop to think that for most household cleaning uses, vinegar is diluted with water.

     White vinegar is truly the wonder product of environmental cleaning.  I have been using it for years to clean windows and mirrors.  It actually does a better job than glass cleaner, I find, because it doesn’t leave a residue.  In a spray bottle I combine one-quarter cup of white vinegar and a cup of water.  The solution lasts quite awhile, so I don’t need to mix up a new batch every time I want (well, need, anyway) to clean. 

     Vinegar is versatile.  Try putting it to use in these other ways too:  

  • Use undiluted vinegar to remove toilet rings.
  • Keep a spray bottle of half-vinegar and half-water on hand for cleaning counter tops, cleaning the inside of the refrigerator, and for getting rid of mildew. 
  • Get rid of baked-on food and odors in your microwave.  Just pour a cup of white vinegar and a cup of water into a bowl.  Put the bowl inside the microwave, and bring the liquid to a boil for a minute or two.  Let the bowl sit, and then wipe out the microwave oven.
  • Clean chrome sink fixtures regularly with your 1:4, vinegar-water solution.
  • Remove lime build-up on fixtures with a paste made from 1 teaspoon of white vinegar and 2 tablespoons of salt.
  • Clean copper, brass, and pewter with a paste of equal parts white vinegar and salt.
  • Make cloudy glasses clear again by wrapping them in a vinegar-soaked paper towel or cloth.  Put another towel inside each glass.  Let the glasses sit for a few minutes and then rinse.
  • Make an oven window clear again.  Open the oven door.  Pour undiluted white vinegar onto the glass and let it sit for 10-15 minutes.  Then wipe with a sponge.
  • Freshen the dishwasher by pouring a cup of white vinegar into the empty machine.  Run for a full cycle.
  • Clean stained coffee and tea cups with a paste made from equal parts white vinegar and baking soda.

Have fun cleaning in an easy and earth-friendly way!  And you’ll save money at the same time!–April Moore

The Pledge

Wednesday, September 10th, 2008

 I thank my friend Jan for bringing the following pledge to my attention: pledge allegiance to the earth
and all the life which it supports.
One planet, in our care,
with sustenance and respect for all.

The Encyclopedia of Life

Tuesday, September 9th, 2008

     I am excited about the creation of what may well be one of the greatest scientific achievements of the 21st century!  And it could also be an important contribution to meeting the challenge of our time–the  halting of global warming.

     I am talking about the Encyclopedia of Life (EOL), the dream of biologist and conservationist Edmund O. Wilson.  EOL is an electronic encyclopedia covering all organisms known to man–all 1.8 million of them.  EOL’s mission is to advance and preserve knowledge about the world’s species and to make that knowledge readily available to people around the world. 

     Creators of EOL are working to build one infinitely expandable page for every known animal, plant, and microorganism.  Users of the site can customize their experience by choosing content at one of three levels:  beginner, any audience, or specialized.  Thus, the site will be as useful for schoolchildren as it is for scientists. 

     Further, EOL operates like Wikipedia.  Users, even laypeople, will be able to contribute their own text, video, and images to the Encyclopedia. 

     The Encyclopedia of Life went online in February, with its first 40,000 species.  And the Encyclopedia is growing, in terms of the number of species covered, the amount of information offered for each, and in terms of technological possibilities.  For instance, users will soon be able to view selected natural specimens housed in museums, research facilities, and other scientific collections in more detail than ever before, thanks to the Microsoft program Photosynth.

     Why is this first-ever Encyclopedia of Life good news for the earth?  If we are to save the planet, Wilson explains, we first need to understand what’s here.  And the EOL is the most ambitious attempt ever to do that.  The 1.8 million species we now know make up only about 10% of the planet’s species, scientists believe.  And developing a database for those 1.8 million species is essential for discovering the other 90% of the earth’s species, according to Wilson.      

     The EOL has come about none too soon.  Global warming and the destruction of natural habitats threaten to render half the species on earth extinct by the end of this century, scientists say.  Without a central source of indepth information about life on the planet, any unified effort to halt global warming is made more difficult.  And that central information source will be the EOL. 

     The EOL has come to fruition this year thanks to a talk Wilson gave last year.  In it, he said he dreamed that funders would come forward to support this ambitious, important project.  And they did.  With major funding then offered by the MacArthur Foundation and the Sloan Foundation, the project got off the ground.

     Curious to know more about a particular animal or plant?  Want to see some great photos?  I encourage you to join the millions around the world who have already visited the Encyclopedia of Life.  Just click on  –April Moore   

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