Archive for February, 2015

Some Big News–Part II

Thursday, February 26th, 2015

My husband Andy, our friend Laura, and I were talking over lunch recently about how I might reach more people with my climate message.  (See Some Big News–Part I)

Andy, who is remarkably creative and a great strategic thinker, came up with the idea that there was a platform right here in Virginia’s political arena, available to me.   Andy saw a perfect intersection between climate change and the high degree of corruption in our Virginia government.  Even people who are not receptive to my climate message most likely don’t want a state government that regularly sacrifices the public good to wealthy special interests.

When our current state senator Mark Obenshain, a powerful, well-funded, savvy politician, acts to impede responsible action on climate, that’s just part of a much larger picture of the corruption of our legislature by big money.  The General Assembly’s deplorable refusal to address the climate crisis takes us directly into the deep sickness in Virginia politics today.  Obenshain, who came close to winning statewide office two years ago, and many of his fellow legislators, are serving as lackeys for big corporate interests.  

For example, the General Assembly just passed a bill to exempt the utility Dominion Power from state oversight for five years.  Obenshain supported the legislation (written by Dominion itself) that will increase the monopoly’s profits, at the cost of higher utility bills for more than two million households (including tens of thousands of customers here in the district Obenshain is supposed to represent). 

Related to the grip big money holds over the General Assembly is the refusal by Obenshain and many of his colleagues to enact meaningful ethics reform.  In the wake of an ethics scandal that resulted in former Governor McDonnell being sentenced to prison, Obenshain and others succeeded in blocking real reform.  Instead, the legislature passed a toothless gesture that changes little.

And ethics reform is sorely needed!  The nonpartisan Center for Public Integrity (CPI) ranks Virginia 47th among the 50 states when it comes to government integrity.  Further, Virginia earns an F on the corruption risk report card CPI issues for each state.

These terrible ethics scores are unacceptable to me, and I imagine, to a great many other Virginians, liberal and conservative alike.  Mark Obenshain is on the wrong side of the ethics issue, and a vigorous truth-telling campaign against him might get even good conservatives who have supported him in the past to see that.  

Fighting for a General Assembly that serves the people, rather than big corporate interests, is an essential part of fighting for an effective response to the climate crisis here in Virginia.  We can’t let Obenshain and his ilk sacrifice our grandchildren for the short-term profits of a giant monopoly utility.

And so, on March 17, in Harrisonburg, Virginia, I will officially announce my campaign against Mark Obenshain to represent this district in the Virginia state senate.  So my work as a climate warrior is taking a new and unexpected turn.

And now I have a special additional reason to move outside my comfort zone for this mission.  More on that in the next installment!–April Moore

 

Some Big News–Part I

Sunday, February 22nd, 2015

I didn ‘t see this coming.  As recently as two weeks ago this big decision wasn’t even on my radar.  But because of an unexpected turn in the trail, I find myself taking a leap that I hadn’t anticipated or planned.  

If you are a regular visitor to this site, you likely know how determined I have been for quite awhile in my efforts to address climate change.  I love this planet.  I love the living earth. That’s what this website–The Earth Connection.org–is all about.  And it pains me deeply to contemplate what we’re doing to this marvelous planet and to the well-being of life on earth. 

Because of my grief, anger, and fear about the planet we are likely leaving to my two dear granddaughters and to all young people, I have made myself a ‘climate warrior.’  I’ve made several January plunges into the Potomac River to raise money for the Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN), an organization Bill McKibben describes as “the most effective regional climate organization in the entire world!”  I am honored to now be a member of  CCAN’s board.  I have also been going around, every chance I get, talking to various groups about the climate crisis.  Reactions are often quite chilly–stony faces, arms crossed tightly across chests.  The only audience in which most react with the concern and commitment I want to see are high school students in a gifted and talented program.  But these speaking opportunities have been few and far between.  And turnout is often trivial, making the energy and effort I expend far out of proportion.

On one such day, Monday, February 9, after I spoke to a group of just eight elderly ladies, I had lunch with my husband Andy and my friend Laura.  In our conversation, a question arose–how could I get bigger audiences for my talks?

That question precipitated a quite unexpected, creative breakthrough and life decision.  Stay tuned for the ‘rest of the story!’– April Moore  

Greening Your Pet’s ‘Output’

Sunday, February 15th, 2015

how_to_use_the_litter_box

For a great many of us, our dog or cat is a dear companion.  

How we care for our pet matters, for the animal’s well-being, of course, and also for the well-being of our planet.  One way our pets impact the environment is through their waste–that’s right, poop.  Our nation’s dogs and cats produce more than six million tons of it a year!  And there are pathogens in these dogs’ and cats’ feces that are transmissible to humans and wildlife.

Dog poop can contain E. coli, Salmonella, Giardia, roundworm, and more.  But cat poop is much worse.  It can contain a parasite called Toxoplasma gondii, a pathogen associated in humans with miscarriages, fatal food poisoning, encephalitis, and even schizophrenia, scientists say.  Toxo is common in urban and suburban soils, where house cats use flowerbeds as litter boxes.

Toxo is also very harmful to wildlife.  In the 1990s, a mysterious die-off of sea otters off the California coast turned out to have been caused by toxoplasmosis.  The parasite could have reached the otters through runoff from the land and also through the flushing of cat poop down the toilet.  While sewage treatment kills many pathogens, it unfortunately does not reliably kill toxo.  Scientists attribute about 16% of current sea otter deaths to toxo.

Toxo has spread through the oceans and has been found in dolphins, walruses, beluga whales, and even polar bears.  The health consequences to these animals is not known.

So how can you manage your dog’s or cat’s ‘output’ in ways that do not harm humans and other animals?  Audubon writer Susan McGrath recommends the following:

FOR DOG OWNERS:

  • Check online to learn what your local sewage utility wants you to do.  Some utilities call for bagging the poop tightly in plastic and throwing it in the trash.  Don’t bother to invest in biodegradable dog poop bags.  Given the low-oxygen environment of the typical landfill, very little biodegradation can take place anyway.  So save your money and use ordinary plastic bags instead. 
  • If your utility prefers that you flush dog poop down the toilet, you can scoop up the poop in a plastic bag, empty the contents into the toilet,  then tie off the bag and dispose of it.
  • If you have a small dog, you might consider buying flushable dog poop bags.  These bags are not recommended for use with large dogs because their larger output may be toilet-clogging.
  • If you’re willing to go to some trouble, you might follow the example of Sharon Slack of Vancouver, British Columbia, who composts her dog’s poop!  She cut the bottom out of an old trash can and bored some holes in the sides.  She then buried the can, to just below the rim, in an out of the way spot in her garden.  With a small shovel, she adds each poop deposit to the can.  Now and then she sprinkles in water and an over-the-counter enzyme product used in septic systems.  When the compost is finished, she spreads it in her garden and starts another batch.

FOR CAT OWNERS:

  • Because of toxo, do not flush cat poop down the toilet.  Instead, bag it tightly in plastic and put it in the garbage.
  • Some kitty litters are more environmentally friendly than others.  The Environmental Working Group (EWG) recommends avoiding clay-based silica, clumping, and sand litters.  They are obtained through strip-mining, which is very harmful to land. 
  • Litters EWG considers greener include plant-based products made from wheat, corn, ground corncobs, alfalfa pellets, and recycled newspaper pellets.–April Moore

 

 

  

 

Wintertime Observations

Saturday, February 7th, 2015

woods_in_winter

Starting in June of 2013, I spent a year making weekly visits to the same little spot in the forest on the side of the ridge where I live in the Shenandoah Valley.  During each visit I jotted my observations in a little book.  It was a fascinating experience to notice the changes in one small patch of forest over the cycle of four seasons.

Here, at THE EARTH CONNECTION, I have been, from time to time, sharing some of those observations.  Below are some of my jottings from the months of January and February of last year:

  • The ground is covered in snow.  And with the leaning tree trunk that always marked the spot now fallen, I have to do some searching to find my ‘spot.’  I notice quite a few footprints.  Clearly, animals have been making their way across my spot.
  • Crows call in the distance.  I hear the wind blowing in the treetops, high overhead, but all is quiet on the ground, where I sit on a log.
  • Subdued winter beauty in all directions.  The snow-covered ground is punctuated with brown twigs poking through the whiteness, angling every which way.  To see some green, I must raise my head and look high into the tops of the giant White Pines.
  • The air is still, except for a woodpecker, hard at work in the distance.
  • The forest is mainly brown now, except for a stripe of snow here and there, hidden from the sun in the curve of a log or the lee of a stump.
  • The wind picks up.  Downed, dead leaves whisper among themselves as they whirl about, disturbed by the wind.  I hear from down the hill a tree creaking under the wind’s push.
  • Now, toward the end of February, bits of color are starting to emerge.  The tiny, outermost twigs growing from the thin, woody plants in my spot are red!  Just a few of them!  They are even tipped with tiny red buds.  Spring can’t be far off!–April Moore      

 

 

 

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