Archive for March, 2009

The True Nature of Be-ing

Monday, March 30th, 2009

     I thank John Cochrane for forwarding me these very wise words.  They make me feel peaceful, and they remind me that there is no limit to the richness available to me right here, in me and around me.–April Moore 

 BE-ING: JOE DAVID

 
Joe David, renowned Northwest Coast carver and medicine person, writes eloquently about a life entrusted to the natural world. 
 
For about sixteen years I lived on Echachisht, a remote little island off the west coast of Vancouver Island. Living with the tides and experiencing the seasons coming and going and the sun and moon going round and round.
 
For many of those tides and seasons I was the only two legged amidst a constant family of four leggeds, winged ones, creep and crawlers, finned ones and stand talls. I lived simply on rice and beans, oats and fish. I lived quietly, some times not speaking a word “forever and a day” except to sing traditional family songs celebrating my family’s ancient union with the natural and supernatural worlds. And because of my relatively quiet blissful state the birds and animals and spirit beings trusted and confided in me teachings and blessings of BE-ING.
 
I learned not to want to be someone or something else or want or prepare to be some place else. I learned not to pray to some greater being elsewhere or long for and prepare for a paradise that was infinitely distant and painful to acquire. Instead, sitting with fish swimming in my stomach, birds singing in my ears and flying through my hair and deer dancing to my songs I learned that where I was and who I was is all that there is and all that I needed. And now that I am an elder and have shared with other traditional people of Turtle Island I see that this state of BE-ING has been practiced down through the ages. All our sacred ceremonies are Mother Earth rituals giving birth to us, nurturing and healing and in the end burying us. Even our spirits are given berth and remain and can be and regularly are called upon, always responding, respectfully present.
 
Live well, and what ever is NEXT will happen and come into BE-ING naturally.
O-she-emss Ha-cha-tuc!  (All My Relations!)
Joe David

Economic Recovery and Global Warming

Friday, March 27th, 2009

     All the talk about how we citizens (I hate the term ‘consumers’) need to spend our way out of the economic crisis makes me uneasy.  While I know that we need to strengthen the economy so that people can keep their jobs and provide for their families, it does not feel right to me to try to go back to the way things were before. 

     I don’t really want a return to booming construction of housing developments and shopping malls that eat up wildlife habitat.   I am not eager to see us all tank up on more stuff, much of it we can probably live quite well without.  I would actually like to see a return to an earlier national habit of thrift.  But then our newfound thriftiness is apparently depressing the economy.

     So what’s the answer?  Can’t we have a healthy economy that is sustainable, that does not mean an increase in the greenhouse emissions that are fueling global warming?

      I have done a little Internet research, hoping to find thoughtful articles by people who both ’get ‘ the urgency of addressing global warming, and who also understand economics and the need to keep jobs and money from disappearing.

     I didn’t see much, but I did find a sensible proposal by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) calling for comprehensive ‘cap and invest’ legislation.  The idea is to set a cap on greenhouse emissions, and make polluters buy pollution allowances.  The government would direct the revenues from such allowances  toward green energy in the form of infrastructure improvements and incentives for innovation.     

      If done right, the NRDC maintains, this strategy would create millions of jobs, while moving us significantly closer to the goal of reducing greenhouse emissions to 80% below 2005 levels.  This is a goal we absolutely must meet by mid-century, many scientists say, if we are to avoid the most catastrophic impacts of global warming.

     But what else else can we do to create an economy that is both healthy and sustainable?  If any readers of The Earth Connection have ideas or know of good ideas that others are proposing, please share them!  In the meantime, you can click on the link below to learn more about NRDC’s ‘cap and invest’ proposal.–April Moore

http://www.nrdc.org/globalWarming/cap2.0/default.asp

My Grief

Wednesday, March 25th, 2009

     The other evening I came across an article by Ross Gelbspan, a journalist I admire for his work on global warming.  The article, “Beyond the Point of No Return,” (available at his website www.heatisonline.org) is full of important information.  But the following paragraph affected me especially deeply: 

“This slow-motion collapse of the planet leaves us with the bitterest kind of awakening.  For parents of young children, it provokes the most intimate kind of despair.  For people whose happiness derives from a fulfilling sense of achievement in their work, this realization feels like a sudden, violent mugging.  For those who feel a debt to all those past generations who worked so hard to create this civilization we have enjoyed, it feels like the ultimate trashing of history and tradition.  For anyone anywhere who truly absorbs this reality and all that it implies, this realization leads into the deepest center of grief.”

     That passage took me  into the center of my own grief.  It’s a familiar space , one I experience often.   I grieve because so much that I love is being lost.  

     Nature, along with human love, are my greatest sources of sustenance.  Yet, so many of my joyful moments in nature are tinged with darkness.  Although my heart may surge with delight at the whispering sound of a bird flitting between nearby branches, the next moment may bring a stab of pain, as I remember that even our common birds are in steep decline.  

     There is little joy for me these days in imagining the lives of polar bears.  The pictures in my appointment book of a mother and her white, furry cubs make me think, instead, of their struggle to survive when the polar ice is melting all around them.  It hurts.  

     I grieve because we humans have carelessly set in train a process so powerful that it is strangling the earth’s incredible ability to support literally millions of species in mutual dependence.

      If birds continue to decline, as they most likely will, could I bear to live in a world without them?  And, according to many sources, polar bears may be extinct within a century.  Could I tolerate knowing they no longer exist, that our way of life has extinguished them forever? 

     And of course the peril goes far beyond birds and polar bears.  These creatures, and a handful of others, are just the ones that have made it onto our mental and emotional maps.  These are indeed ‘the canaries in the coal mine,’ representing myriads of other species who are also struggling to survive.

     But those many other species, of course, include us.  It is not just the non-human world that is under siege.  Mr. Gelbspan’s article reminded me that the great achievements of civilization are also threatened–democracy, great music and art, scientific and medical advances. 

     And then I think of my son,  a bright, ambitious college student.  What does the future hold for him?  I long for his safety, comfort, and opportunity.  How I wish he could take the stability of the planet for granted, as all previous generations have done.  But what will the world look like in one, two, three decades as it continues to warm?  I am afraid, grieving, and angry.  

    Despite all the above, I hate to end on such a hopeless note.  While I believe that we are too late to stop many severe impacts of global warming, our actions do matter.  I believe that Gelbspan offers some good advice.  “The key to our survival as a civil species during a period of profound natural upheaval,” he says, “lies in an enhanced sense of community.”  He urges us to come together as a global community, “to change our economic and political structures that determine how we behave, to elevate the ethic of cooperation over the deeply ingrained reflex of competition.”–April Moore

The Silver Lining

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

     While I am as distressed as the next person about our tanking economy, I can’t help but see in it a silver lining for the planet.

     With people cutting back in so many ways, we’re reducing the strain, at least temporarily, that our extravagant, high consuming ways typically place on the earth.   

     One place where it is easy to see that people are consuming much less these days is the landfill.  The following information is from “A Trashed Economy Foretold,” a piece by Brigid Schulte in   The Washington Post (March 14, 2009). 

   Landfill managers observe that trash levels have been steadily declining over the last year.  Some landfills are receiving up to 30% less trash than they were a year ago.  At a landfill in Montgomery County, Maryland, for example, where it had not been unusual to see 40 garbage trucks lined up to dump their loads, there is never a line now.  The manager of the Loudoun County (Va.) landfill notes that so much less trash is coming his way that the landfill won’t be full by 2012 as had been predicted.  Instead, the landfill will have space for another year and a half.

     So why are people generating so much less trash than they were just a year ago? 

     There are many reasons.  For one thing, people are buying fewer appliances and other major items, so there is less packaging to throw out.  And packaging typically accounts for about a third of the trash in landfills.  And with fewer houses being built, less housing debris is going to the landfill.  People are eating out less, so restaurants are generating less trash.  And landscapers are working less, so there is less yard debris going into landfills. 

     People are also using things longer.  Clothing is a prime example.  In 2007, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Americans threw away (not gave away) 7 million pounds of clothing and shoes.  But recent declines in retail clothing sales and drops in clothing donations to thrift shops suggest that people are wearing their clothes longer.  And sales are so brisk at second hand stores that some are putting out requests for more donations in order to keep up with the demand. 

     People are also more inclined, these days, to repair, rather than throw away, what’s broken.  Cars, appliances, and computers are more often fixed these days, and repair businesses are reporting that business is up.

                                                                                                        ***********************

     I sympathize with the many people who are suffering and having difficulty meeting basic needs in today’s economy.  But I also hope the more thrifty, careful habits many people are developing these days will last.–April Moore

Bowing

Saturday, March 21st, 2009
     I thank John Cochrane for sending me the following excerpt from Barry Lopez’s book Arctic Dreams.   While I read the book 20 years ago, parts of it still live vividly in my mind.  Lopez did a wonderful job of depicting Arctic life and landscapes.–April Moore
 
Glaucous gulls fly over. In the shore lead are phalaropes, with their twig like legs. In the distance I can see flocks of oldsquaw against the sky, and a few cormorants. A patch of shadow that could be several thousand crested auklets too far away to know.
 
Out there are whales. I have seen six or eight gray whales as I walked this evening. And the ice, pale as the dove colored sky. The wind raises the surface of the water. Wake of a seal in the shore lead, gone now. I bowed. I bowed to what knows no deliberating legislature or parliament, no religion, no competing theories of economics, an expression of allegiance with the mystery of life.
 
I looked out over the Bering Sea and brought my hands folded to the breast of my parka and bowed from the waist deeply toward the north, that great strait filled with life, the ice and the water. I held the bow to the pale sulphur sky at the northern rim of the earth. I held the bow until my back ached, and my mind was emptied of its categories and designs, its plans and speculations. I bowed before the simple evidence of the moment in my life in a tangible place on the earth that was beautiful.
 
When I stood I thought I glimpsed my own desire. The landscape and the animals were like something found at the end of a dream. The edges of the real landscape became one with the edges of something I had dreamed. But what I had dreamed was only a pattern, some beautiful pattern of light. The continuous work of the imagination, I thought, to bring what is actual together with what is dreamed is an expression of human evolution. The conscious desire is to achieve a state, even momentarily, that like light is unbounded, nurturing, suffused with wisdom and creation, a state in which one has absorbed that very darkness which before was the perpetual sign of defeat.
 
Whatever world that is, it lies far ahead. But its outline, its adumbration, is clear in the landscape, and upon this one can actually hope we will find our way.
 
I bowed again, deeply, toward the north, and turned south to retrace my steps over the dark cobbles to the home where I was staying. I was full of appreciation for all that I had seen.
 

Make Your Office Greener: Save Paper

Wednesday, March 18th, 2009

     Using less paper at work is a good way to lessen our burden on Mother Earth.  After all, according to a study cited by David Bach in his book  Go Green, Live Rich, the average American office worker uses about 10,000 sheets of paper–a stack four feet high–every year!  And, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the pulp and paper industry may contribute more to environmental problems–such as destroying trees and wildlife habitat and polluting waterways–than any other industry.

     Fortunately, cutting back on paper use in the office is easy.  Here are some suggestions from Go Green, Live Rich:

  • Before you routinely print out emails and other documents, ask yourself if you really need a hard copy.  It’s so easy to file materials on the computer.  Some businesses even include in their corporate email signatures a reminder to recipients to think twice before printing an email.
  • If your office printer prints double-sided documents, make ‘double-sided’ the default setting.
  • Make sure the paper purchased for office use has been recycled.  When buying paper, look for the word ‘postconsumer.’  It means that the paper has been recycled from paper that has actually been used.  And the higher the proportion of recycled content, the better.  Recycled paper stock should be readily available at most office supply chains.  
  • Save money as well as paper by implementing a “Smart Paper” program, developed by NRDC.  You can learn more by visiting http://www.nrdc.org/cities/living/paper/bintro.asp
  • If you don’t yet recycle the paper used in your office, why not start now?  If your building doesn’t have a recycling program, you can likely find a recycling service in your area by visiting www.earth911.com.     

     Good luck!  And enjoy working in a greener office!–April Moore

I Am Part of Everything I See

Monday, March 16th, 2009

I am part of everything I see.

     Author D. H. Lawrence wrote, “I am part of the sun as my eye is part of me.”  Just as every cell in our body is part of us, we–along with everything else–are like cells in the body of the earth.

     If we remember that we are part of a larger whole, it can change the way we interact with all kinds of events, circumstances, and objects.  When things break down or go wrong, we can think, I am one with this, and we can imagine how to heal ourselves rather than feeling angry and stuck.  We can feel music and poetry enter into our minds and hearts, not just our ears.  We can feel our oneness with people, animals, and plants, and develop a spiritual relationship with them.”  –from Green Spirituality:  Reflections on Belonging to a World Beyond Myself by Veronica Ray

Clean It–and They Will Come

Sunday, March 15th, 2009

     I love learning about–and reporting–good news!  And here is a great story:

      To the astonishment of just about everyone, reports that a beaver was living near an intake canal at Detroit Edison’s plant on the banks of the Detroit River began circulating among Detroit Ed employees. 

     If the reports were accurate, it would be the first time in more than 75 years that anyone had seen beaver activity on this 32-mile long river that separates the city of Detroit from Windsor, Ontario, and flows into Lake Erie. 

     It was highly unlikely that a beaver  could be living on the Detroit River.  After all, relentless hunting of beavers for their pelts during the nineteenth century had meant that few of the animals were left by the early twentieth century.  Then, industrial pollution of the river led to a decline and then to the complete disappearance of beavers from the Detroit River.

     To find out for sure whether the rumors of a beaver’s presence could, in fact, be true, Detroit Ed placed a motion-sensitive camera at the site.  Sure enough, the camera recorded a beaver’s nocturnal gnawings and its movement of logs near a lodge built of sticks and debris on the riverbank.  The company waited several months to share the information with the public, in order to ensure that the beaver and its lodge, on Detroit Ed property, could be protected from any harm humans might cause.  

   The beaver’s presence on the Detroit River is great news for all who value wildlife and clean rivers.  If a beaver can once again thrive on the Detroit River, then clean-up efforts have been successful, according to  John Hartig, Detroit River refuge manager for the US. Fish and Wildlife Service.

     Hartig explains that clean-up efforts over the last 35 years have resulted in a 90% drop in phosphorus loading from municipal sewage plants and a 99% drop in oil discharges into the Detroit River.

     Now that the river is  so much cleaner than it was a few decades ago, other wildlife have also returned.  For example, lake sturgeon, which hadn’t spawned in the Detroit River since the 1970s, are spawning there again.  And bald eagles and peregrine falcons, both of which hadn’t been seen in the Detroit River area in many years, are back as well.

     So thanks to all the advocacy groups and many others who worked to clean up the Detroit River!

     Click on the link below to see a photo of the beaver on the banks of the Detroit River.–April Moore

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_RBw-psMN_Ew/SZsxx1uUKVI/AAAAAAAAC8I/F_Ai5uJpG1s/s1600-h/400,http—d.yimg.com-a-p-ap-20090216-capt.4af824dcfe974811883ff2893732b057.beaver_comeback_ny116.jpg

 

     

Life is Beautiful

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009

     I thank John Cochrane for forwarding me this video.  The nature photos are inspiring, and the advice is wise.  Enjoy.–April Moore

http://www.authorstream.com/presentation/kakatoo-160981-advice-nature-animal

Citizen Scientists Needed

Monday, March 9th, 2009

     If you enjoy plants or even just like being outside, scientists are looking for your help.  Scientific researchers are looking for citizen volunteers to make some simple observations of particular plants in their own back yards, on a regular basis. 

     The USA National Phenology Network (NPN) needs hundreds of people around the country to track signs of a changing climate.  Volunteers will monitor phenophases, the recurring plant and animal life cycle events that mark the changing of seasons, such events as budding, flowering, dropping of leaves, etc.  The list of plants for observation will later be expanded to include animals and such phenomena as bird migration and pond ice.   

     By signing up for one or more individual plants in your yard and entering observations on the particular plants at the NPN website at least once a week, you will be joining hundreds of volunteers in providing scientists with far more direct information about when these life cycle events are now taking place than scientists could obtain on their own.

     Scientists will use the citizen data to learn how we can adapt to the level of climate change that is inevitable, regardless of how effective we are in reducing global warming.  The information may enable us, for example, to more effectively target our efforts to preserve threatened species and to address human health issues caused by a changing distribution of allergens.

     Participation is simple.  Just visit the National Phenology Network’s site at www.usanpn.org.  There you will be guided through four easy steps to get you started.  It’s a worthy cause, and it could be a fun way to help. 

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