Archive for December, 2009

New Year’s Resolutions

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

     Do you make New Year’s resolutions?  I used to make lots of them, and they usually ended up forgotten, typically after just a few days.   So, since I like success, I started limiting my New Year’s resolve to just one or two commitments, and they were the kind of resolutions I thought I could actually keep.

     When it comes to Mother Earth, I think our planet will be healthier if we make changes in our lives to live more simply.  We can all think of scores of things we could do to lessen our impact on the planet, but actually doing these things is daunting.  We, myself included, are unwilling and unprepared to change our lives in all the ways that are really needed if we are to save our beloved earth from the ravages of habitat loss, poisoning of the air and water, and climate change.

     So instead of making numerous environmental resolutions that we won’t keep, and then feeling guilty besides, I suggest another approach.  On January 1, how about making just one resolution for a specific change you will make in your life, a change that  lessens your impact, even if just a little?  And really think about what resolution you will make;  be sure you can stick with it all year, and that you want to.

     So, I invite you to think of a single thing you could be doing now, but aren’t.  Ask yourself if you’re ready commit to it for the duration of 2010, and if so, make your resolution.

     Here are just a few  examples of resolutions you might consider making for 2010:

1.  I will make make own household cleaning materials.  Many commercial cleaning products contain substances that are toxic for the environment and for human health.  Some simple substances, especially white vinegar, make effective cleaners.  You can read about vinegar’s many household cleaning applications on this website.  Just click on http://www.theearthconnection.org/blog/2008/09/i-sing-the-praises-of-vinegar/

2.  I will stop using paper coffee filters and, instead, invest in a plastic or metal reusable filter.  Why keep adding chlorinated paper to the landfill?  Of course the unbleached paper filters are an improvement, but the reusable coffee filter is the best alternative. 

3.  I will keep a reusable bag in my car or purse, so that I can easily avoid taking plastic bags when I shop.  I love my nylon shopping bag that stuffs into a tiny sack that fits right into my purse. 

4.  I will replace all my household incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescents.  Give yourself a pat on the back if you’ve already done this.  If you’ve replaced some incandescents, but not others, now is the time.

5.  I will recycle my household aluminum, tin, glass, and paper.  If you already do recycle, think about starting a recycling program where you work.  If colleagues also care about recycling, perhaps you can take turns being the one to deliver the recyclables to your local recycling center.

6.  I will ride a bike.  Now may be the time to dust off your bike or, if you don’t own one, to buy one.  And start riding it.  Challenge yourself to run at least one of your regular errands by bike.  Look for opportunities to leave your car in the garage and get some great exercise while you also get where you need to go.

7.  I won’t buy bottled water.  There’s simply no need to inundate the environment with plastic bottles that aren’t going to degrade.  Besides, much commercially available bottled water is of no higher quality than tap water.  If you like to have water with you when you’re away from home, you can invest in a metal, reusable water bottle.  Many of the plastic ones contain the harmful bisphenol-A.

8.  I will stay home more.  This could be a hard one, but our addiction to driving whenever and wherever we please is a major cause of global warming.  Ask yourself before planning any car trip whether the drive is important enough that it should be made, despite its harmful impact on the climate.  Try to combine trips, carpool, bike, walk, take public transportation, and socialize in your own neighborhood.  Or simply forego some outings and enjoy yourself at home instead.

9.  I will set and stick to a budget for new clothes.  Most of us have more clothes than we need.  Challenge yourself to keep new clothing purchases in 2010 below a dollar amount that is less than you would normally spend but still doable for you.  Or promise yourself you won’t buy more than a certain number of clothing items during the year, fewer than you would normally buy.  Don’t forget that thrift shops often offer a variety of ‘gently worn,’ very inexpensive, and often good looking clothes.  

10.  I will use fewer cosmetics.  Americans consume a staggering amount of skin creams, shampoos, conditioners, fragrances, lipstick, and on and on.  Phthalates and other harmful chemicals in many cosmetics make their way into our waterways and are contributing to fish kills and fish with both male and female characteristics.  Decide on one product you now use regularly that you can give up.

     So have a healthy, happy 2010!  I hope you’ll take on something more you can do for a healthy planet.  And feel good about it.April Moore

  

  

 

Extraordinary Icicles

Saturday, December 26th, 2009

     I was sad when I looked out the window this morning.  There was the world, snowy and beautiful, certainly.  But for the first time in days I was not looking out around and between a translucent line of wintry swords. 

     Since our 20 inch snowfall a week ago, icicles had been growing and growing, lengthening from all  the eaves.  And these icicles were not the sparkly little crystalized drippings that normally trim a roof after a snowfall.  No, these icicles had gravitas.  They were muscular, burly, roughened and growing longer and more massive every day. 

     At the top of an eave, for example, a wide icy bulge formed, turning into a coarse, craggy curtain as it descended.  This drapery individuated into several pointed icicles only after it had lengthened by a foot or more.  And with the many brief thaws over the last week, the icicles dripped and refroze, dripped and refroze, growing longer every time. 

     And the icicles did not all lengthen evenly or gracefully.  No, the wind had other plans for them.  Some attenuated crookedly, others veered noticeably to one side;  some developed two points instead of one. 

     A few days ago I marveled that some of the icicles had reached a length of more than two feet.  The next day,  some had to have been at least a yard long.  By Christmas morning, some of the icicles were longer than most humans are tall!  One particularly dramatic icicle hung about five feet from the eave over an outdoor stairway, where it met the stair railing, gathered momentum from the snow melting there, and kept going.  Finally, this icicle came to a sharp, pointy end at least a foot below the railing.     

     There were also what I dubbed ‘secondary’ and even ‘tertiary’ icicles.  During the dripping phases, the icicles hanging from the eave outside our front door dripped onto the top branches of the bony, bare shrub on the slope below.  These drops, in turn, became new icicles that hung into the naked branches of the shrub.  As these ‘secondary’ icicles dripped through the shrub, more icicles formed, hanging from the shrub’s lowest branches, stabbing the snow on the ground.

     Even at night, the icicles made their presence felt.  When I looked out a window, all was hidden in darkness.  Except the icicles.  All I could see was my own reflection, behind shining sheaths of ice.  They did not seem so friendly;  I felt eerily like a prisoner  behind bars.

     And now all that is left of all these wintry beings, these creations of Mother Nature, in conjunction with our heated house, are a few short, dripping drapes.  The daggers and swords that have surrounded us for the past week are reduced to tiny pen knives, which soon will be gone.–April Moore

Astonishing Array of Creatures Found on ‘Barren’ Ocean Floor

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

     Scientists have discovered thousands of animal species living in an area on the planet previously thought devoid of life–the ocean floor.   Through a decade-long Census of Marine Life, research scientists from around the world have learned that the deepest parts of the oceans, places where sunlight never penetrates, are teeming with diverse animal life. 

      Revealed through the use of submersible vehicles, deep-towed cameras, sonar, and other vanguard technologies, newly discovered animals thriving in the frigid, watery darkness range from crabs to shrimp to worms.

     “It’s quite amazing to have documented close to 20,000 forms of life in a zone that was thought to be barren,” environmental scientist Jesse Ausubel told Discover magazine.  “The deep sea is the least explored environment on earth.”

     The ‘new’ species include several species of gelatinous, eight-tentacled creatures that swim by flapping a pair of ear-like fins.  A tubeworm was found eating chemicals from decomposing oil.  When scientists extracted it from a hole in the sea floor, crude oil gushed out.

     Thanks to photographic advances, we can see what many of these strange and fantastic creatures look like.  Just click on the link below to view photos of  some of the ocean creatures  recently discovered as a result of the Census on Marine Life:

http://www.coml.org/imagegallery/

     THE WEEK, 12/11/09 is the source for much of the above information.–April Moore

Forest Longings

Friday, December 18th, 2009

     When I was a child, Christmas morning would have been disappointing had it not included a new “Little Miss Christmas” coloring book in my stocking. 

     How I admired–and envied–Little Miss Christmas.  A pretty blond girl dressed in robes of red, trimmed in ermine and big silver stars, she led the perfect life.  Her home was the forest, and the animals loved her.  The birds, deer, rabbits, and chipmunks were her friends.  Birds sat on her shoulders, while the other animals gathered around her.  Always at her side, the animals were her constant companions. 

     Ah, what a life, I thought.  I imagined myself living in the deep forest, among the trees, loving and being loved by the animals. 

     As you might imagine from the coloring book’s title, the story was about more than living in the woods with the animals.  Little Miss Christmas played an important role in helping Santa Claus.  But I don’t remember much about that part of the story;  I was more interested in Little Miss Christmas’s enviable life in her natural habitat.

     My attraction to Little Miss Christmas was similar to my response to certain fairy tales about girls living in the woods, girls like  Sleeping Beauty and Snow White, who had giant trees for neighbors and animals for friends.  The forest was the place for the wonder, mystery, and friendships with animals that I longed for.

     Little Miss Christmas and the other female forest dwellers fueled my imaginative play.  My dolls also lived in the woods, where they led exciting, interesting lives.  They foraged for nuts and berries, slept in caves or piles of leaves, played with rabbits and chipmunks, and delighted in the singing of birds who perched on their shoulders.  My dolls were happy.  Unlike me, they lived in the best place, the most alive place, far away from the dullness of staid suburbia. 

     I don’t think my longing to be part of the forest, at one with the birds and other animals, has ever left me.  Wouldn’t I love to be like Little Miss Christmas or Sleeping Beauty or Snow White?  To stand in the sunshine of a forest glade, with a singing bird perched on my shoulder would be heaven.  

     Well, it turns out that a few real people, not just fictional characters like Little Miss Christmas, do have the gift of attracting birds as I would love to be able to do.  I heard about one such person years ago, when I was on a cross-country bicycle trip.  One day, with my group all gathered at our lunch stop, those who had gotten a later start in the morning than the rest of us eagerly told us about a man they had met, an older gentleman who had showed up at the town park campsite that morning after the rest of us had gone.     

     The ‘bird man’ as my companions called him, held birdseed in each hand.  Then one of my fellow bikers imitated the ‘bird man’ by standing with head held back, arms outstretched, and calling in a high voice,  “Seeds for birds.  Seeds for birds.  Here, Feefee.  Here, Feefee.  Seeds for birds.” 

     Then, and all at once, my friends explained eagerly,  birds from every direction swooped down onto the man and perched on his head, shoulders, and arms.  One after the other, they darted to a hand to pluck out a seed.  When his hands had been emptied, he refilled them from the bag of seed he had brought with him.  The birds stayed, perching and eating.  This gentleman was a virtual human bird feeder, a real life example of Little Miss Christmas’s great gift.

     One night recently, I thought of Little Miss Christmas and of her intimacy with the nature around her.  It led me to realize that, of all the many varied and special landscapes on the planet, it is the forest that most calls to me.  Now I am fortunate enough to live in the forest, the place where I feel most at home, most nourished, most at one with God.  

      And who knows, maybe one day I’ll learn how to get birds to sit on my shoulders!–April Moore

 

    

The People Speak: We Want an Agreement!

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

     The Weekend of Action was just that.  In countries as diverse as the U.S., Mauritius, Slovakia, and the Maldive Islands, people organized events this past weekend to call for a binding agreement at the global warming summit, now taking place in Copenhagen. 

     I organized a candlelight vigil in Woodstock, Virginia, and was thrilled that 35 people turned out on a very cold night to join the call.  I invite you to click on the link below to see several photos from the Woodstock vigil.  http://www.flickr.com/photos/350org/page12/

     The photos were taken by Jeanne Russell.

     While at the site, you might want to take a look at the many pages of photos from actions all around the world.  I find it so heartening to feel part of such a large and growing movement of people who are insisting that the governments of the world act to address global warming.  I know that for me, action is the antidote to despair and fear. 

     Below is a short summary I wrote about our local vigil:

  A crowd of 35 enthusiastic people, ranging in age from senior citizens to high school students, braved a very cold night to form a circle around the statue of Rev. Peter Muhlenberg in the heart of Woodstock, VA.  In 1776, Muhlenberg, a Woodstock minister, did a surprising thing in the middle of his sermon.  He threw open his clerical robe to reveal his military uniform beneath.  Because the cause of liberty could not wait, he challenged his congregants to join him as he stormed out of the church to fight for liberty.  Just as liberty was the cause of his day,  a sustainable planet is the cause of our time, and it is a cause that, like Muhlenberg’s, cannot wait.

      As we all held our lighted candles, I gave a short introduction.  Then we went around the circle reading short segments from a moving speech by Maldives President Nasheed.  We added some comments of our own and concluded by singing in unison, “This Little Light of Mine.”  As we departed, a member of the Climate Action Alliance of the Valley distributed fliers with a list of things individuals can do to reduce carbon emissions.

     One member of our group had made a large sign calling for a reduction in atmospheric carbon to 350 ppm.  The sign helped passersby on the busy main street to understand why we were assembled there. 

     There was quite a bit of advance coverage of our event, including short pieces in two newspapers and an interview with me that aired several times on the largest radio station in the area.–April Moore

 

I’m In Love With Our Planet

Friday, December 11th, 2009

     This short video reminds me of why I fall in love with our planet over and over again.  I invite you to click on the link below.  The video is just over two minutes long.–April Moore

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H1ycacmb8aQ

Add Your Voice to the Call!

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009

     This weekend people all over the world will tell the world’s leaders that the time for decisive action on climate change is now.

     With the leaders of 192 nations gathered in Copenhagen to address global warming, people are insisting that the summit yield a binding treaty that commits nations to significant reductions in carbon emissions that are warming the planet and destabilizing the climate.

     Please add your voice to the call!  The international organization, www.350.org, is coordinating the hundreds of events that are scheduled for this weekend.  To find the event nearest you, just click on the link above.  There you can find a map of planned events all over the world.  350.org, by the way, is an excellent resource for scientific information on global warming, for climate change-related news from around the world, and for the significance of the number ’350.’.

     The events during this Weekend of Action will be varied.  On Friday and Saturday evenings many communities will host candlelight vigils.  At the vigils, 350.org has invited people to stand in support of the people of island nations who are already experiencing the first impacts of global warming.  Residents of the Maldives in the Indian Ocean, for example (see link to video below), have been seeing their homeland shrink, thanks to rising seas caused by melting glaciers.  I am organizing a vigil here in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, in the town of Woodstock.  To learn about it, click on:  http://www.350.org/node/13278

     This weekend will also see daytime demonstrations of concern, gatherings featuring education and music, and meetings with elected officials.  On Sunday morning, some churches will ring their bells 350 times.  The number 350 is the concentration in parts per million (ppm) of carbon that our atmosphere can hold and still maintain the stable climate we have known for generations.  The concentration of carbon in the atmosphere is now 387 ppm and rising rapidly.

     It really matters that our own national leaders, as well as those of other nations in the world,’get it’ that the people want action, not more vague promises and calls on other countries to act first.  We are rapidly running out of ‘next years.’

     So I hope you will participate in an event near you this weekend.  If none is scheduled, consider organizing one yourself.  Yes, the time may be short for organizing a public event, but there is certainly plenty of time to gather a group of people together to act for our beloved planet.   Here are just a few ideas:

  •  Invite friends to a pot luck meal and discussion of climate change.  Ask each person to bring some information to share.  Don’t underestimate the value of educational events.  Despite all the talk about global warming, most people are not yet well informed.  For example, most people do not understand the significance of ’350.’
  • Bring people together to brainstorm ideas of what to do about global warming.  You might come up with a list of actions people can take in their daily lives, as well as actions that go beyond the personal to include calling your U.S. Senators to urge them to support the House-passed cap and trade bill when it comes up in the Senate.  When your list is completed, consider sharing it with others by contacting the press or by emailing it to all in your email network.
  • Contact your mayor, county government chair, or Governor’s office to set up an appointment.  Invite several concerned citizens to join you in such a meeting, where you urge your city, county, or state government to institute green policies that will reduce carbon emissions.  Making government buildings more energy-efficient, purchasing hybrid cars for government use, and beefing up public transportation, especially train service, are just a few of the requests you may want to make of your elected officials.   

     Click on the link below to view a brief video of the Maldives Islands’ underwater cabinet meeting.  The meeting is part of an impressive effort by the Maldives to dramatize how global warming is affecting them now and will affect the rest of the nations soon if the world’s leaders fail to act decisively. 

     watch?v=aKoch_iEos8

     And if you organize or participate in a Weekend of Action activity  this weekend, I would love to hear about it!–April Moore

 

 

    

Lead

Friday, December 4th, 2009

      How I admire Mary Oliver.  Not only does she write exquisitely of her love for nature, but she can make something beautiful out of the pain–animals’ and humans’ alike–of what we are doing to our planet. 

     This poem is heartbreakingly beautiful, and it brings to mind an exquisite line from another fine poet–Stanley Kunitz:  “The heart breaks and breaks, and lives by breaking.”–April Moore

 
Lead
 
Here is a story
to break your heart.
Are you willing?
This winter
the loons came to our harbor
and died, one by one,
of nothing we could see.
A friend told me
of one on the shore
that lifted its head and opened
the elegant beak and cried out
in the long, sweet savoring of its life
which, if you have heard it,
you know is a sacred thing,
and for which, if you have not heard it,
you had better hurry to where
they still sing.
And, believe me, tell no one
just where that is.
The next morning
this loon, speckled
and iridescent and with a plan
to fly home
to some hidden lake,
was dead on the shore.
I tell you this
to break your heart,
by which I mean only
that it break open and never close again
to the rest of the world.
 
~ Mary Oliver ~
 
 
(New and Slected Poems Volume Two)
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 
 

 

 

 

Male Whales ‘Sing’ Together

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

     While scientists have long known that male humpback whales ‘sing,’ new research shows that these giant mammals may also alter their singing to sing with other males! 

     Using methods adapted from research on birds’ singing, scientists have recently discovered that a singing male will ’change his tune’ when he hears another male singing nearby.  Humpback whales respond musically to each other’s songs, reports Danielle Cholewiak, a researcher with the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary in Scituate, Massachusetts.

     Cholewiak observed many instances of a male humpback singing alone for about 45 minutes, and then continuing for another 45 minutes when another humpback started singing.  She noticed two changes in the first male’s singing , once the second whale  had joined in.  

     For one thing, the first singer switched more frequently among various musical themes when a second male was ’singing along.’  ”Also,” Science News (November 7) reports, “the first males adjusted their songs so that the pair was more likely to sing the same theme simultaneously.”

     Cholewiak concluded that when whales meet, songs change.

       Scientists are still unsure of just why male humpbacks sing.  It is unclear whether they sing, as male birds do, to defend territory and to attract females. 

     For an audio treat, click on the phrase below to hear a male humpback whale singing.

      A Humpback whale singing

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