Archive for August, 2014

Putting Population in Perspective

Thursday, August 28th, 2014


I remember the late 1960s and early 70s, when the issue of overpopulation first gained widespread attention.  Paul Ehrlich sounded the alarm with his popular book THE POPULATION BOMB;  environmentalists and others warned that the human population was simply growing too large to be sustainable.  Well, since that time, the earth’s human population has more than doubled! We are now past seven billion and climbing.

It seems clear to me that our inability to keep our human numbers in check threatens human health and well-being, not to mention the very survival of many other species with whom we share the planet.

I am posting here today a link to an accessible, informative research graphic called The Effect of Overpopulation on Public Health   

This vivid, easy-to-understand presentation was sent to me by Earth Connection reader Emily Maynard, who helped prepare it for MPHonline, a website that provides information on Master’s degree programs in Public Health.–April Moore



Some Reflections on The Earth Connection

Friday, August 22nd, 2014

My friend Elizabeth Cottrell recently invited me to participate in a “writing blog tour.”  Elizabeth publishes a beautiful blog,  On her blog, Elizabeth speaks eloquently and from her heart about life’s essential connections–with God, with self, with others, and with nature.  She has posted many pieces that I have appreciated–some she has written, and some by others.  She has published a number of pieces from The Earth Connection. 

As a participant in the “writing blog tour,” I am answering four questions here about my writing process.  Elizabeth will also post these answers on her site.  Elizabeth and I are part of a larger ‘blog tour.’  She was invited by another blogger to participate, and, in the coming months, I will be asking three other bloggers to participate as well.  These three bloggers are people whose work I admire and will be pleased to introduce to The Earth Connection readers.

So here goes:

Although I worked as a professional writer and editor for many years, my writing energies for the last six years have been focused mainly on The Earth Connection.  While writing is an important part of my life, I am actually more of an activist and am secondarily a writer.  For the last several years, I have been working, through writing, speaking, fundraising, and even civil disobedience, to address our climate crisis.  

My work is unique, I think, in that my blog features four quite diverse threads:
1) Celebrating Our Beautiful Earth.  This thread celebrates our marvelous planet and its abundance of wonders.  This thread is also where I express my sorrow and anger about the climate crisis and about the decline of all the earth’s major ecosystems.

2) Act Now to Save Our Beloved Earth!  On this thread I post concrete actions people can take to help save our planet, from small, daily actions for greener living, to public acts such as calling our Senators and Member of Congress to call for passage of important environmental legislation.

3)  Good News for Mother Earth!  Here I share information about good things that are happening, for example the surprising return of sturgeon to the Chesapeake Bay, or the comeback of the leatherback sea turtle.

4) Insights and Visions on the State of the Earth.  Here I share my findings about questions about the natural world that interest me, such as how our local birds stay warm during the winter, and why palm trees are actually grasses rather than trees.

Writing on each of these four threads is satisfying to me.  I can revel in the wonders of nature, or urge people to act on behalf of the planet. I can remind myself and others that efforts are being made to help heal the earth, and that many of these efforts are bearing fruit.  And I love learning about the natural world and sharing what I learn with others.   


I write The Earth Connection for several reasons.  For one thing, thinking about what I want to write for upcoming postings helps me stay aware of and engaged with what’s going on with me.  Am I feeling especially curious to know more about why there are so many more bird and insect species in the tropics than in our temperate region?  Am I eager to share with readers a new and very hopeful piece of legislation to  address our climate crisis?  Or am I feeling moved to describe  an experience I’ve just had in the forest near my house?

The Earth Connection is for me a valuable outlet for my feelings and thoughts about the natural world I passionately love.  I am grateful that hundreds of others who feel similarly are interested in reading my postings.

There is nothing more important to me than giving my best to protecting our planet and the incredible array of life that makes up a healthy whole.  The Earth Connection is one of the ways I am working for a healthier planet.  My other current endeavors include climate activism, and serving as a Virginia Master Naturalist and as a board member of a local nonprofit dedicated to protecting the North Fork of the Shenandoah River.


Often when I come back to the house after a half-hour or so in the woods, I have an idea for a short piece, along with some descriptive phrases that please me.  I try to sit down immediately and jot down my thoughts before they escape.  I also take photos on these little forest jaunts, to help me remember what I’ve noticed and to illustrate pieces I will write later for The Earth Connection.

When I am writing another sort of piece for The Earth Connection, my process is different.  I generate as much of the piece as I can in the first sitting, and then I revisit the piece a day or two later.  Even if I think I’ve written the entire piece on the first day, I find there is always room for improvement!

I also like to post the work of others.  I appreciate it when a friend forwards me a poem that delights me or writes a short piece or sends me photos for the site.–April Moore

Appreciating John Burroughs

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014

John Burroughs, naturalist and essayist, 1837-1921

I have long heard the name of John Burroughs, the naturalist and essayist.  But I have known little about him.  He was far more popular in the nineteenth century than he is today.  I came across these words of his, below, and I like them very much.

And I find it interesting that his biographer Edward Renehan described Burroughs as less a scientific naturalist and more of a “literary naturalist with a duty to record his  down unique perceptions of the natural world.”  I identify with a literary love of nature, although in recent years I have developed a keen interest in learning about the natural world from a scientific standpoint.  I find evolutionary biology especially fascinating.–April Moore 


Nature–love as Emerson knew it, and as Wordsworth knew it, and as any of the choicer spirits of our time have known it, has distinctly a religious value. 

It does not come to a man or a woman who is wholly absorbed in selfish or worldly or material ends.  Except ye become in a measure as little children, ye cannot enter the kingdom of Nature–as Audubon entered it, as Thoreau entered it, as Bryant and Amiel entered it, and as all those enter it who make it a resource in their lives and an instrument of their culture. 

The forms and creeds of religion change, but the sentiments of religion–the wonder and reverence and love we feel in the presence of the inscrutable universe–persist. . . .

If we do not go to church as much as did our fathers, we go to the woods much more, and are much more inclined to make a temple of them than they were.–John Burroughs



How to Win Back Our Climate–and Make Money at the Same Time

Saturday, August 9th, 2014

I am excited to tell you about the best approach I’ve heard yet for dealing with our climate crisis.  It’s a solution that brings greenhouse gas emissions down to very low levels, while also putting money in the pockets of most Americans.  Doesn’t that sound good?

The solution is a truly landmark piece of legislation, the Healthy Climate and Family Security Act, which has just been introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives by Chris Van Hollen of Maryland.  

Now before you assume that no comprehensive climate solution bill can pass in today’s dysfunctional Congress, let me tell you some basics about the bill that should appeal to practically everyone.

This is a simple, fair, and ‘built-to-last’ solution.  Over time, it reduces greenhouse gas emissions to 80% below 2005 levels, which is what scientists say is needed if we are to avert the worst climate outcomes.  And, at the same time, it directly benefits all Americans in the form of quarterly  payments or dividends.  

The Act puts a tightening cap on carbon emissions- 20% below 2005 levels by 2020; 40% lower by 2030 and 80% lower by 2050.  Companies that mine or import coal, oil, or natural gas will be required to purchase pollution permits at auction.  These 2,500 or so companies must buy a permit for every ton of carbon dioxide, or CO2, those fuels would emit once introduced into the U.S. economy.  The companies will buy these permits at auctions organized by the U.S. Treasury.  Over the first 10 years of the Act’s implementation, more than $500 billion would be raised.

But this is not a big government solution.  ALL of the money raised  from the permits purchased will be paid out to the American public, with a check mailed, every three months, to every U.S. resident with a Social Security number.  It is expected that the median income family of four will receive a net benefit of $260 per year at the beginning of the program.  And that benefit will grow over time, as the fossil fuels cap tightens and the United States transitions away from fossil fuels and toward a clean energy economy.

In rebating the money equally to all Americans, the Act benefits middle and lower income Americans more than it benefits the richest.  Since the companies buying the emission permits will pass their costs on to the public, in the form of higher gasoline and other prices, the quarterly checks to citizens will cover far more of middle and lower income Americans’ spending on carbon-producing activities than it will cover of the carbon-producing activities of the wealthy.  After all, the wealthy tend live in ways that result in a greater carbon footprint than do the rest of us. 

The bill includes needed flexibility on reduction targets.  If subsequent science-based evidence shows greater reductions are needed, the bill states that carbon reduction targets and schedules can “be revised by Congress in order to avert catastrophic climate impacts.”  The bill also protects American companies from unfair competition from the companies of countries that are not subject to such required emission permit purchases.  

The bill also explicitly prohibits big banks and Wall Street traders from buying or selling the emission permits.  Companies are not allowed the option of planting trees or taking other ‘offsetting’ actions in lieu of buying the emission permits.

Surely, this bill will be wildly popular with the public, once they understand it.  After all, Alaska has paid out more than $17 billion in dividends from oil royalties to all Alaskan citizens since 1982.  That’s when then-Governor Republican Jay Hammond established the Alaska Permanent Fund, maintaining that the state’s natural wealth belongs to all its people.  Not surprisingly, the Permanent Fund is extremely popular among Alaskans.

I hear from Hill-savvy climate activists that many Republicans in Congress now take the climate crisis seriously and are looking for a face-saving way to speak out.  I pray that the Healthy Climate and Family Security Act will be that way.  After all, it is not a tax but more of a tax cut.  It would return billions of dollars from government to the people.

In any event, it’s up to us, the people, to make sure our Congress does the right thing.  Even in our diminished democracy, if our elected representatives hear from their constituents, in no uncertain terms, that we want this legislation, they will have to act if they want to stay in office.  Here’s what you can do to help make the Healthy Climate and Family Security Act a reality:

  • Sign a petition to Congress, calling for the passage of the Healthy Climate and Family Security Act.  Sign the petition.
  • Read the bill.  Unlike may pieces of legislation that are hundreds of pages long, the Healthy Climate and Family Security Act is a lean 28 pages. By reading it, you will be better able to spread the word to others.  Read the bill    
  • Tell others about the Healthy Climate and Family Security Act, especially those who believe there is nothing we can do about the climate crisis.
  • Gather a small group of people who support the bill, and make an appointment to meet with your Member of Congress next time s/he is in the District.  Tell your Representative how important the legislation is to all of us and to our country’s future, that you want him/her to support it.  Tell the local press about the results of your meeting, or even bring a local reporter to the meeting with you.

Together, we can–and must–win this!–April Moore




sign petition.  read the bill

Huff post piece about the bill



A Year of Watching

Friday, August 1st, 2014

april's spot

A couple of years ago, I read about a man who identified a small piece of land and then observed that spot at regular intervals over the course of an entire year.  On each visit, he made notes on the changes he observed.  After the year had ended, he wrote a book about the experience of getting to know a place in every season and weather.   I don’t remember the name of the man or his book, but the idea intrigued me.  

So a year ago in June, I chose a small spot in the forest near my house and began making weekly forays down into the woods.  

Full disclosure requires me to confess, though, that my project got off to an inauspicious start.  I chose a spot, made some notes, and then couldn’t find the place again the following week!  So I had to choose another spot, one that was easier for me to identify!

My new spot was triangular in shape, bounded on two sides by long logs.  And I could always locate it because nearby was a dead tree leaning against a living one.

So for a year, once every week (except for the few occasions when we were gone for the entire week), I visited my spot in the woods.  There I sat on one of the two logs, looking, listening, taking notes and sometimes photos.  On days when the logs were wet or snow-covered, I stood or squatted as I watched and listened.

Well, my year of visits to that spot ended in June, and I have two small notebooks full of a year’s worth of ‘noticings.’  I will share here some of last summer’s notes,  from mid-June through the end of July.  And from time to time over the coming months, I will share noticings from the rest of the year as well.   


  • When I took my glasses from their case, I let it snap shut.  Instantly, a deer leaped up from just the other side of a nearby oak.  Frightened by my loud noise, it bounded off.  I had no idea a deer had been sleeping so close by.  
  • I notice my first Indian Pipes of the season.  They are shaped like tiny croquet hoops with both ends in the ground.  I assume the top ends will soon emerge, and the little plants will assume their usual cane-shape.  I’ve never noticed Indian Pipes at this early stage before.
  • Out of the brown, leaf-strewn ground are growing lots of plants: several small bushes (I never was able to identify them); numerous baby chestnut oaks, each sporting two bright green leaves; and several tiny red maples.  The leaves of the very young maples seem to be longer than the wide leaves of mature trees.  Then there are acorns scattered about, in various stages of decomposing.
  • Mosquitoes whine near me, and the air is never empty of birdsong.


  • The Indian Pipes are changing.  One clump is withered and brown.  Another clump, still whitish, is missing all its caps.  I’ve never seen a bunch of Indian Pipes without their flowers.
  • The birds are quieter today.  I hear fairly steady chirping, but not the full-throated singing I heard here last week.
  • The baby oaks are thriving.  Many have sprouted another pair of leaves, much lighter and brighter than the first pair.  Might any of these baby oaks actually make it to adulthood?  Near one of them is a split acorn.  And inside the empty shell is attached a little film or net.  On either end is a big hole.  What tiny animal has made a home of this old acorn?
  • After a night of a good soaking rain, it’s a wet morning.  Every breeze is accompanied by one of my favorite sounds–raindrops blown from the leaves above onto the dead ones below.  In my space is a full, healthy-looking mushroom that was not there before.
  • There is no sign of most of the Indian Pipes I saw here before.  Only one of the clumps is visible at all, and the pipes are dark and shrunken.  They would have gone completely unnoticed in the dead, brown leaves if I hadn’t been looking for them.  Amazing how many plants–animals too, I guess, come and go without leaving a trace.
  • No more new, baby green leaves on the tiny oaks in my spot.  In fact, a few of the young oak leaves already look ragged and beat-up.
  • It’s a warm, humid morning.  Birds are singing casually–a phoebe and another I can’t identify.  The plump, damp mushroom that looked so healthy just a few days ago has vanished.  I know roughly where it was, but now I see no sign of its ever having been there.  The leaning, dead tree that last week was black with absorbed rain is paler now;  it has dried some.  I think a pileated woodpecker has been working on the log where I sit.  The bird bored such a long, deep hole that the log is cracking underneath.
  • The longer I sit, the more I hear.  A woodpecker tapping in the distance.  A bird chirp that I cannot identify.  An insect flying by.  The growing buzz of mosquitoes in my ears.  Then a shadow of a hovering insect appears on the open page of my notebook.–April Moore  






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