Archive for the ‘Celebrating our beautiful Earth’ Category
Sunday, May 12th, 2013
Andy and I just returned home after a trip. ¬†How very much greener and leafier it is here than it was when we left 12 days ago. ¬†Spring is in full bloom. ¬†I post here this sweet poem by Mary Oliver. ¬†Truly, spring is a wonder, whether we’ve seen dozens of them or just a few.–April Moore
CHILDREN, IT’S SPRING
¬† ¬† ¬†by Mary Oliver
And this is the lady
Whom everyone loves,
in her purple gown
Or, on special occasions,
A dress the color
Of sunlight. She sits
In the mossy weeds and waits
To be noticed.
She loves dampness.
She loves attention.
She loves especially
To be picked by careful fingers,
Young fingers, entranced
By what has happened
To the world.
We, the older ones,
Call in Spring,
And we have been through it
But there is still nothing
Like the children bringing home
In their small hands.
Monday, April 29th, 2013
The piece below, by my husband Andy Schmookler, has appeared in two Virginia newspapers.
Hurricane Sandy as viewed from space
‚ÄúIf these are the early stages, I shudder to think what’s on the path ahead.‚ÄĚ
Two things brought that thought to mind.
One is my own aging. Aches and pains, stiffer muscles, presbyopia, diminished energy. As I approach my 67th birthday, I can imagine the kind of hard experience that led Bette Davis to say that old age isn‚Äôt for sissies.¬† It‚Äôs no small challenge to come to terms with the ancient truth that the uphill part of life‚Äôs cycle is followed by the downhill.
As a way of coming to terms with personal deterioration, we can always take the larger view in which we see ourselves as part of the circle of life. We have children; we have grandchildren; life renews itself. Although as individuals we may come and go, we are part of something bigger than ourselves that carries forward the stream of life.
But now that larger view of life has also become disturbing. That same alarming thought –If these are the early stages, what the heck is on the path ahead? ‚ÄĒ has come to mind in relation to another reality: the early stages of climate change.
Like what happened last June, when an unpredicted enormous wind swept across the Midwest and the Mid-Atlantic, knocking down trees for hundreds of miles, including some right around our house in the Shenandoah Valley. Just a few months later, Hurricane Sandy — whose eye never approached within hundreds of miles of us -‚ÄĒ attacked our area with 24 hours of hard-driving rain that found its way onto our wood floors and into the homes of our neighbors. Sandy’s winds took down still more trees.
Extreme weather has become far more frequent, just as scientists predicted.
Another weather development scared me even more.
All through March, I was pining for spring and¬† looking at the extended forecast to see when warmer weather would be coming. The average high temperature for March in my area of year is the mid-50s, but we had less than a handful of days that have reached that average. Most days were a good 15 degrees colder than that.
Then I read this in the Guardian (UK):
“Climate scientists have linked the massive snowstorms and bitter spring weather now being experienced across Britain and large parts of Europe and North America to the dramatic loss of Arctic sea ice.‚ÄĚ
Even this frustratingly prolonged winter appears to be part of the larger picture called ‚Äúclimate change.‚ÄĚ
Global warming has diminished the sea ice in the Arctic to levels unprecedented in recorded history, and this altered the course of the jet stream in a way that allowed cold Arctic air to descend to lower latitudes than is normal.
This, climate scientists warn, is just the beginning. The momentum of these changes is gathering, some vicious cycles have been triggered, and the ultimate effect of our generations-long spewing of greenhouse gases into Earth‚Äôs atmosphere will be far greater than anything we‚Äôve yet seen.
It‚Äôs scary. What powers of this planet are we unleashing? What will life be like for our children and grandchildren?
How well will living systems around us survive? Apparently not so well.¬† For a couple of years, I‚Äôve been worrying about all the dead wood in the forest surrounding our house. A few weeks ago I read in USA Today:
”Years of drought and high temperatures are thinning forests in the upper Great Lakes and the eastern United States, NASA satellites show. Nearly 40% of the Mid-Atlantic’s forests lost tree canopy cover, ranging from 10% to 15% between 2000 and 2010, according to a NASA study released this week.”
Climate change has stopped being hypothetical. It‚Äôs already part of our lived experience. It‚Äôs visible. It‚Äôs palpable. These early stages are rough enough.¬† But if the climate scientists are right, we ain‚Äôt seen nothing yet. We and our kind are in for a bumpy ride.
One would think that faced with a challenge this profound, we Americans would be responding with an all-out quest for ways of solving, or at least ameliorating the problem. That‚Äôs how we responded to World War II, when fascism threatened us. That‚Äôs how we responded to Sputnik, when the Soviets seemed to be overtaking us.
And yet, despite these real and ever-more-visible dangers, one of our two major political parties has made it dogma that there‚Äôs nothing happening in our climate that we as a nation are obliged to address.¬† What gets done? Not nearly enough.
This is dangerous.
Andy Schmookler, recently the Democratic candidate for Congress in Virginia‚Äôs 6th District, is an author whose books include Debating the Good Society: A Quest to Bridge America‚Äôs Moral Divide.
Wednesday, April 10th, 2013
Since the recent death of Margaret Thatcher, the news has been filled with commentary about the former British Prime Minister. Never a fan of ‘The Iron Lady’ myself, I was surprised–and impressed–to read what she had stated publicly (below) about global warming.
Mrs. Thatcher spoke caringly and eloquently about the need to make changes and sacrifices “so that we do not live at the expense of future generations.” ¬†And she called on us to “do our duty to Nature before it’s too late.”
Mrs. Thatcher’s words surprised me because I am used to hearing today’s conservative politicians routinely deny the science of climate change. Unlike her conservative counterparts in today’s U.S., Mrs. Thatcher accepted the evidence presented by the overwhelming majority of climate scientists.
Hearing Mrs. Thatcher’s words also reminded me of a shameful fact–that the United States is the only western democracy in which an entire major political party denies the truth of climate science. ¬†Indeed, in last year’s race for the presidency, every single one of the Republican hopefuls dismissed climate change as an issue worthy of action.
I respect Maggie Thatcher. ¬†For her, conservative political principles did not mean denying science. ¬†Not only did she accept the findings of climate scientists, but she spoke out about the urgency of coming together to address this unprecedented challenge.
I hope climate change-denying American conservatives are paying attention to what the Iron Lady said on this subject.–April Moore
But the threat to our world comes not only from tyrants and their tanks. It can be more insidious though less visible.¬†The danger of global warming is as yet unseen, but real enough for us to make changes and sacrifices, so that we do not live at the expense of future generations.Our ability to come together to stop or limit damage to the world’s environment will be perhaps the greatest test of how far we can act as a world community. No-one should under-estimate the imagination that will be required, nor the scientific effort, nor the unprecedented co-operation we shall have to show. We shall need statesmanship of a rare order…
We have become more and more aware of¬†the growing imbalance between our species and other species, between population and resources, between humankind and the natural order of which we are part.
In recent years,¬†we have been playing with the conditions of the life we know on the surface of our planet. We have cared too little for our seas, our forests and our land. We have treated the air and the oceans like a dustbin. We have come to realise that man’s activities and numbers threaten to upset the biological balance which we have taken for granted and on which human life depends.
We must remember our duty to Nature before it is too late…
Saturday, March 30th, 2013
photo by Paulette Moore
I wrote the piece below for www.BlueVirginia.us, a Democratic blog that deals primarily with Virginia politics. ¬†Virginia Democratic Senator Mark Warner recently joined 61 other Senators in voting to go forward with the climate-endangering Keystone XL Pipeline. ¬†350.org is working with citizens around the ¬†the country during the Senate’s spring recess to publicly show these 62 Senators that many of their constituents are very displeased with this vote.
I was assigned the position at the back door of the restaurant.¬† If Sen. Warner tried to avoid the large, determined crowd in front of the Harrisonburg eatery by sneaking in through the back, he would first have to deal with me.
And I knew just what I would tell him.¬† I would first remind him that we had met last Labor Day when my husband Andy Schmookler, the 6th District Congressional candidate, gave what Lowell Feld, Blue Virginia editor, called a ‘kick ass’ speech that brought 350 Democrats to their feet, including Sen. Warner.¬† But this time I felt we would be meeting on less harmonious ground because of his vote last week in support of a non-binding resolution recommending that the Keystone XL Pipeline project go forward.
“Your legacy is going to depend on one thing above all,” I was going to tell him.¬† “It won’t be long before everyone realizes that we are in great peril because of climate change.¬† People will want to know,” I would continue, “what he did–or failed to do–to protect us from the ravages of a changing climate.”
But then, the folks in front of the restaurant sent me word that I should abandon my post;¬† the Senator had already made his way through the crowd in front and was inside the restaurant.¬† When I rejoined my companions in front, I gathered that they were less than satisfied with the interactions they’d been able to have with the Senator.¬† Nonetheless, he’d had to push his way through about 70 of his unhappy constituents, whose deep concerns were reflected in numerous signs, sporting such slogans as “Sen. Warner:¬† What Have You Done for the Climate?” and “Don’t Commit to Dirty Oil.¬† Invest in Renewable Energy.”
The Keystone XL Pipeline, if built, would carry some of the world’s highest carbon tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada, through America’s heartland, to Texas for refining and shipment to world markets. ¬† Leading climate scientists tell us that the pipeline’s impact on the climate would be devastating.
Even though Warner had made it into Clementine’s, he hadn’t escaped me yet.¬† I headed down into the restaurant basement where his session with businesspeople was to be held.¬† I arrived in time to see him interviewed by local TV reporters. And I was disturbed by what I heard.
It wasn’t his telling the TV reporters, “I’m very concerned about climate change” that disturbed me, but rather his citing the State Department’s recently issued Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) as evidence that Keystone would have no major environmental impact.¬† Didn’t he know it has been revealed that the EIS had been prepared by individuals with close ties to TransCanada, the company pushing to build the pipeline?
As distressing as it was to think that a U.S. Senator might not know the truth about the EIS, it was less distressing than to think that maybe he did know.¬† If he did know, how genuine was his expressed concern about climate change?
At the end of the TV interview, I reached out to shake Mr. Warner’s hand.¬† He was visibly eager to escape me and join the group he was there to meet with, and I barely had a chance to deliver a couple of choice sentences to underscore the importance of the climate issue.¬† Then he was gone.¬† So I turned to the journalists and told them that the Senator’s remarks about the EIS had been misleading.¬† How could we be reassured by a statement prepared by people with a huge financial interest in the project?
But the reporters replied that they were running late;.¬† It was clear that the problems with this Environmental Impact Statement were not going to be part of the story.
Later, when I told Sen. Warner’s chief of staff Luke Albee about the problematic nature of the EIS his boss had praised, Mr. Albee said it was news to him.
The organization that planned the Harrisonburg confrontation with Sen. Warner, 350.org, is planning similar encounters at Sen. Warner’s events around the state during the rest of the Senate’s spring recess.¬† When the recess is over, maybe Warner and his people will have learned some things about the Keystone Pipeline and our climate, about the corrupting infiltration of special interests into the federal decision-making process, and about the passionate concerns of many of his constituents.
And I hope that from now on, Sen. Warner will join Virginia’s other Democratic Senator, Tim Kaine, in voting in ways that show appropriate concern for the challenge we face with climate change.–April Moore
Friday, March 22nd, 2013
Yesterday was a big day for me.
Normally a law-abiding citizen, I joined with 15 others in breaking the law and being arrested in front of the White House. The reason for this uncharacteristic behavior was climate change.
For several years now, I have viewed climate change as a global emergency, the greatest problem humanity has ever faced, a situation that requires nothing short of a World War II-level of effort to address. ¬†I have only recently put climate change action at the top of my personal agenda, after spending the last two years focused on helping my husband Andy Schmookler in his run for Congress. ¬†(I felt that helping his campaign was the best way available to me to address the problem of climate change).
Since the election, I have been looking for other, more direct ways to address climate change. ¬†I feel fortunate to have found Fifty Over Fifty (www.fiftyoverfifty.org), a group of people over age 50 who are eager to engage in nonviolent civil disobedience and willing to risk arrest for the sake of the our planet’s health. ¬†If not we baby boomers, then who? ¬†My age cohort, more than any other, CAN risk arrest. ¬†After all, we boomers are no longer raising children, and many of us no longer work full-time. ¬†Besides, my generation owes it to younger people to act on their behalf. ¬†While it is too late to ensure that our grandchildren will be born into a world as healthy as the one we inherited, it is our duty to do our best to stop as much of the ravaging impact of climate change as we can.
Yesterday’s event, organized by Interfaith Moral Action on Climate, was a multi-faith outdoor service near the White House. ¬†Christian, Jewish, Native American, and Muslim leaders called on President Obama to take strong action on climate change, especially to say no to the Keystone XL Pipeline.
Following the service, 16 of us separated from the larger group to line up in front of the White House fence. ¬†I was moved almost to tears by the alignment I felt in that moment of my love for the planet and this serious and public step of inviting arrest.
It is illegal to tarry for long in front of the White House. ¬†But tarry we did, singing. ¬†And we were joined in song from across the street by the 25 or so others from the service who were not risking arrest. ¬†I especially loved singing our version of the old song, “He’s got the whole world in his hands.” ¬†We sang, “WE’VE got the whole world in our hands,” spontaneously substituting “the future generations” and “the mountains and the rivers” for “the whole world.”
And truly, we do have the world in our hands. ¬†Currently, those hands are plundering the planet. ¬†But it’s also in our hands to quit trashing the earth and to work for a planet that will support the coming generations as it has so abundantly supported us.
As we sang, we received a series of three official warnings from the Park Police to move on. ¬†Then, when we didn’t, the 16 of us were handcuffed, searched, and escorted, one by one, into waiting paddy wagons, one for the eight women and one for the eight men. ¬†All went smoothly, and the police treated us with courtesy and respect. ¬†One officer, upon escorting me into the wagon, even apologized for the vehicle’s lack of heat!
While the Park Police had been notified in advance that only 10-20 people would be inviting arrest, officers were out in full force. ¬†Four policemen on horseback stood by, along with numerous cops in squad cars and on motorcycles, and about a score of officers on foot. ¬†Good of them to amplify our event!
The paddy wagon ride, a first for me, was unexpectedly exciting. ¬†The two wagons were preceded by an eight-motorcycle police escort. ¬†Lights flashing, the motorcycles roared ahead of us, sometimes on the wrong side of the road. ¬†The wagons followed close behind, as if we were ambulances en route to the hospital. ¬†Inside the wagon, we ladies sat, four on either side of a partition. ¬†Neither group could see the other, but we could hear each other fine. ¬†In high spirits, we sang and stomped and talked our way to the police station.
After the rush through DC streets, it was waiting time at the police station. ¬†We women were led out of the wagon and into a dreary, cement-walled police station basement. ¬†Four women were escorted into each of two holding cells, while the men were held in their paddy wagon. ¬†We continued singing and getting acquainted as we stood around the cell’s sole furnishings–a stainless steel toilet and a stainless steel bench.
After a half-hour or so, our (disposable) handcuffs were cut off, we were issued written citations, we paid our $100 fines, and we were released. ¬†Only then were the men taken from their wagon and brought inside for the same routine.
Once freed, ¬†how cheering it was to see fellow climate activists waiting for us with food and drink and appreciation. ¬†I found their support before, during, and after the arrest meant a great deal to me. ¬†Even though I had been told what to expect in being arrested, I felt a lingering fear, and their support comforted me.
So what did we accomplish yesterday?
While no mainstream media showed up, the alternative press was well-represented. ¬†They filmed and interviewed, and the word went out on Facebook. ¬†Whether President Obama will ever know we were there, we will likely never know. ¬†And while we didn’t turn the climate situation around, I believe our efforts were worth it. ¬†I remind myself that we are just at the beginning; ¬†as more people come to share our alarm about the changing climate, more will join us. ¬†I can see it happening. ¬†Besides, those of us who participated yesterday are getting the word out to our own family, friends, colleagues, and neighbors. ¬†And we are strengthening each other for future actions on behalf of the planet.–April Moore
Tuesday, March 5th, 2013
I thank John Cochrane for sending me the link below.
Watching this five-minute video brought tears to my eyes. ¬†While I’ve seen many photos of penguins, and I enjoyed the movie, “The March of the Penguins,” this experience somehow felt more personal. ¬†The Russian camera team seemed to approach their subjects with tenderness and delight. ¬†I felt I was right there inside the penguin colony.
This video shows that penguins are not all that different from us. ¬†Penguin children are every bit as darling and cute as our own children, and their parents are like human parents–watching, chiding, nuzzling their little ones.
If you’re up for a few minutes of delight, I invite you to watch this video.–April Moore
Saturday, February 23rd, 2013
The morning wind blows cold. ¬†But deep in the woods, I find refuge from it.
High above, scraps of cloud hurry eastward at a purposeful clip.
Long-dead trees, leaning against their living cousins, groan slowly as they rub back and forth, pushed by an unseen hand.
Treetops creak as they bend, yielding to every gust.
And below, the trunks of trees are scoured bare of snow, save for a few dots and stripes of white, driven into the bark’s fissures by an untiring wind.–April Moore
Thursday, February 7th, 2013
a chestnut oak in our forest
The day is aging, and color drains from the sky.
Trunks of the tall trees lose their daytime hues of light and golden brown and grey.
Against the colorless sky, leafless oaks and hickories darken into silhouettes.
Friday, January 25th, 2013
Can anyone who’s paying attention not feel despair?
After all, every one of the earth’s major ecosystems is in decline. ¬†The daily news is filled with such horrors as dying ocean coral, declining animal populations and extinctions, record temperatures, record droughts, record floods, and much more.
Indeed, my heart is often heavy. ¬† I lose a lot of sleep, worrying about the fate of the birds I love, about what life will be like for our young people as they make their way in an increasingly inhospitable environment.
Is it possible to live life with equanimity, while also understanding the truth of our situation?
I believe it is possible, although not easy.
One commonly tried approach to equanimity, which I believe does not work, is denial. ¬†Around me I see a great many people who ‘get’ global warming, ¬†who care about the kind of planet we are leaving our children, but who don’t think much about these things. ¬†And I see why they don’t. ¬†Our environmental ills are so large, so complex, that people feel helpless. ¬†And hopeless. ¬†So to avoid the pain of despair, the alternative seems to be to put aside thoughts of our suffering planet.
But denial does not lead to equanimity. ¬†And it hurts us. ¬†Psychologists tell us, and I have experienced the truth of what they say, that the effort to keep painful thoughts at bay saps our ¬† vitality. Some great psychologist (who, I don’t know) said that the route to wholeness and happiness is to head straight toward what we find most frightening and painful. ¬†Plunge in; ¬†don’t turn away. ¬†Confronting what we’d rather avoid is key to wholeness and happiness.
I remember, back in the 1980s, when I was working in the peace movement, a study showed that kids whose parents were actively working to prevent nuclear war had less fear than other kids that a nuclear war would actually take place. ¬†I hypothesize that the children were reflecting the emotional state of their parents, whose spirits were fortified by actively engaging with that fearsome issue.
It’s similar with the environment, I believe. ¬†While it may seem counter-intuitive to focus on the latest painful news of environmental destruction, rather than avoiding it, facing it head-on can actually be an antidote to despair.
For me, the antidote of squarely facing our painful environmental situation takes two forms–activism and grief.
Activism is helping me right now, as I prepare to join with more than 150 others tomorrow to plunge into the Potomac River! ¬†I expect to feel a sense of camaraderie and fun. ¬†After all, plunging into the river in the middle of winter is a pretty crazy thing to do! ¬†Each of us ‘plungers’ has been inviting friends and family to sponsor our plunge by making a donation to the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. ¬†I’ve had fun telling people what I’m up to. ¬†And I’m thrilled that I have surpassed my $1,000 goal by more than $500! ¬†So while the climate situation remains as dire today as it was when I embarked on this project a few weeks ago, I am feeling more light-hearted and hopeful than before I took this on.
The other part of the antidote is grieving. ¬†That really sounds counter-intuitive, I know. ¬†I am inspired by environmentalist Trebbe Johnson, who spends time grieving damaged environments. ¬†She describes joining with others at a Pennsylvania river, into which toxins have been dumped by a fracking company:
“Spending an hour or so there, just sitting, being with the river on a Saturday morning, the unexpected gift of beauty was the persistent¬†aliveness of this river that we all felt, the sorrow we shared because of its predicament, the sense of community we felt together in simply being with this river as if it were a dear friend who was ill and that we loved no matter what. And of course, the sun was glinting on the water, the birds and butterflies were flitting all about.”
I have read other examples of Trebbe’s work with grief, and she is giving me courage to fully feel my own grief about the planet. ¬†Because she found life and beauty fully present, in spite of great damage, I am learning to trust that I too can yield to my grief, without fear of succumbing to despair. ¬† Trebbe shows that love arises when we allow ourselves to experience our grief. ¬†She also shows, I think, that when people grieve together, they become a stronger community.
And so I embrace activism and grieving. ¬†While it comes naturally to me to throw myself into activism, I have tended to resist grieving. ¬† But practicing both, I believe, is helping me to find equanimity.–April Moore
Tuesday, September 18th, 2012
Dear Earth Connection readers–
Many of you know that my husband Andy Schmookler is the Democratic nominee for Congress where we live, in Virginia’s sixth Congressional district.
As the campaign has become increasingly time-consuming, it has gotten more and more difficult for me to post regularly on THE EARTH CONNECTION.¬† In fact, I have not found the time to post anything at all in the last several weeks.¬† And so I have decided to ‘suspend’ the site, at least until after Election Day, November 6.
I am sad, in a way, to have to give THE EARTH CONNECTION a rest.¬† Since I launched the site on Earth Day 2008, it has been truly a labor of love.¬† Planning regular postings has meant I ‘had’ to spend more time in the woods observing, more time reading about the natural world, more time researching actions that have benefited our planet, and more time investigating steps we all can take to help protect the Earth.¬† Knowing that hundreds of people are visiting THE EARTH CONNECTION every day has spurred me to dig deeper, to work to better express my feelings of love, wonder, and anguish about our magnificent planet.
Part of what has made THE EARTH CONNECTION so rewarding for me has been hearing from you, the people who read my site.¬† I have been inspired, warmed, and educated by many thoughtful comments from readers over the years.¬† Thank you so much for taking the time to visit my site and for posting comments.
And while I am sad in a way to have to set THE EARTH CONNECTION aside, working on Andy’s campaign is simply another way to work for a healthier planet than offering postings on the Web.¬† Andy has been outspoken on the urgent need to address climate change, and his campaign is focusing on the more fundamental problem that what’s going on in our political system these days has made it impossible for us as a nation to act responsibly and constructively to address climate change and the other pressing issues we face.
Here is a link to a video of a five-minute speech Andy gave that has gone viral. ¬†It well describes the nature of our crisis.
Thank you all so much!¬† And stay tuned for future developments. . . . . . .
For Our Earth–