From a Nature Lover’s Broken Heart

November 18th, 2016
What an amazing sight--the sun coming over the ridge seemed to focus all its illuminating energy on a single dogwood.

What an amazing sight–the sun coming over the ridge seemed to focus all its illuminating energy on a single dogwood.

   

 This morning my daily exercise routine was punctuated by a surge of joy.  

     Looking out the window, I noticed a handful of dried leaves suddenly fly off a little red maple, swirl rapidly around each other, then quickly disperse.

     Moments like this one gladden and feed my heart.  But these nature delights, for me, have their shadow side as well.

     Never far removed from my great pleasure in nature is grief.  How quickly my joyous heart becomes my broken heart.  I grieve that the natural beauty I see from every window of my home is far less healthy than it once was;  I grieve for the many species silently disappearing all around me;  I grieve that we are not acting nearly fast enough to prevent climate change from making my little granddaughters’ future very difficult.

     For me it can be a challenge to let myself feel all of this, both the great joy and the great grief.  But as the poet Stanley Kunitz says, “the heart breaks and breaks, and lives by breaking.”  To be heart-broken is to be truly alive.

      When I think of our efforts to protect the planet, the decades-old saying, “little victories, big defeats” crosses my mind.  We do win victories;  the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act have truly improved the quality of our air and water;  some species, through great effort, have been saved from extinction; and certain pristine lands have been set aside for protection.  

     But meanwhile, we are rapidly losing so much more than we are gaining.  Scientists tell us we are in the Sixth Great Extinction in the earth’s four billion year history.  Species are disappearing at a rate that has been matched only five times before.  Ever.  What’s different this time is that it’ a living creature–namely humans–that are the main cause.  And that’s why scientists have named this period the Anthropocene.  Man has become the main driver of changes in the biosphere.

     And now we are entering a new era, the era of  President Trump.  As frightening and discouraging as it is to hear him vow to scrap the Paris climate accord, to open up all of our public lands to oil and gas drilling, and to undo the federal Clean Power Plan, I am heartened by the determination I see on the part of environmental organizations to work  harder than they ever have to prevent Trump from sacrificing our treasured planet for the short-term greed of the fossil fuel industry. 

     I will continue to let my heart break open to the beauty that surrounds me.  And I will remember the words of Jane Goodall, “there is still a lot left that is worth fighting for.”   We cannot know how successful we will be in saving our planet, but we can never give up on Mother Earth.April Moore 

 

 

 

 

You Are Still Amazing

October 20th, 2016

turned tree photo 

   On a recent morning, my forest wanderings drew me to look at a downed tree.  This mighty chestnut oak, who once soared high above the earth, has lain on the forest floor now for quite some time.

    I have seen this dead tree many times.  But this day it was a marvel.  Some fierce wind had once pushed it so hard that its giant root base was ripped right from the earth.  Standing near the broad, tangled, sandy mass of roots, I looked out over the trunk’s length.  On and on it snaked along the ground.  Walking its length was a journey of more than 30 steps.

     Imagine being this tall, thrusting so far away from the ground.  As I bent down and felt the furrowed bark along the tapering trunk, I thought how seldom I am this close to the top of a giant tree.  Typically, I can observe a tree’s top only from far below.  Those top branches are so far away.  And here is the top of the tree, right beside me, so close, resting on the ground. 

      I love the chestnut oaks that dominate the forest near our house, whether standing and flourishing in leafy extravagance, or lying dead on the ground.  Even this tree, the flow of life through its trunk stilled, feeds my spirit.–April Moore

An Ode to Dead Leaves

September 24th, 2016

IMG_1110

 

Dry brown leaves
Resting on the forest floor,
Brittle,  thin, lifeless.
Their work is done.

Once they were young,
Fresh, supple, and oh so green,
Open to the sun’s rays
And carrying that sunshine
Straight into the tree,
Bringing the tree exactly what it needs
To live and grow.

And once a leaf’s work is complete,
Its life drains away
And the leaf lets go.
Sever
ed from the tree from which it came,
The
 tree the leaf fed for many months.

Now the leaf lies shriveled and curled,
Lying among its fellows
On the forest floor.

Yet even in death, the leaf gives life,
Each dead leaf returns to the soil,
To support and feed a new tree,
This time from below.-
-April Moore

 

 

 

 

 

The Earth Connection is Back!

September 8th, 2016

Greetings, all of you who love our marvelous and endangered planet!

     After a very long ‘silence,’ I have decided to revive THE EARTH CONNECTION.  The last time I posted here was February 2015.  That was when I told readers I was suspending my postings in order to devote myself fully to a run for the Virginia state senate.

     I didn’t win.  Nonetheless, I feel very good about the run I made.  I became a candidate because of my passion about climate change and my desire to find a much bigger platform to sound the alarm in defense of our Mother Earth.  The campaign gave me a marvelous opportunity to do just that.  I made the most of it.   And thanks to messaging help from my husband Andy Schmookler, my message got out there widely and boldly.

     Even though the election was last November, it has taken me this long to be ready to put significant energy into a solitary, creative space like THE EARTH CONNECTION.  Instead, I have been continuing to work, as a board member, with two organizations dedicated, in different ways, to protecting the planet–the Chesapeake Climate Action Network and Friends of the North Fork of the Shenandoah River.

     And now I want to resume publishing THE EARTH CONNECTION.

     I plan to post at least once a month.  I hope you will continue to follow my blog.  And please spread the word if you like what you see here.  Remember, it is free to subscribe to THE EARTH CONNECTION.  By subscribing, you will receive an email to alert you every time there is a new  EARTH CONNECTION posting.  And, of course I do not share THE EARTH CONNECTION’s subscriber list with anyone.

     And one more thing–I am always open to posting other people’s work–poems, photos, narratives, etc.  Thanks!–April Moore

 

 

Some Big News–Part II

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

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’

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

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      

 

 

 

Report from a Plunger

January 30th, 2015

“We did it! On Saturday over 200 of us braved the elements to make the 10th annual “Keep Winter Cold” Polar Bear Plunge our biggest yet. Neither the rain nor an incredibly high tide could stop us from jumping, wading and even diving into the Potomac River! Plungers were as young as nine and as old as 85, including students, community activists and Franciscan priests,” reports Mike Tidwell, Director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN). 

photo by Bruce Rosenthal

photo by Bruce Rosenthal  

Mike is describing last weekend’s CCAN Polar Bear Plunge that I wrote about last week in The Earth Connection.  It was indeed great.  Spirits were high among the crowd gathered to demonstrate our commitment to a healthy climate!  

My friend Diane and I arrived early at National Harbor.  And even though this was to be my fourth Plunge, I felt my familiar ‘pre-plunge jitters.’  The prospect of stepping out into frigid water on a winter day just doesn’t seem to get easier.

Soon Diane and I were met by our friend Barb, who had brought a most welcome pre-plunge treat–hot chocolate!  And this was not just any hot chocolate.  Barb had made it with a yummy liqueur, and she even brought whipped cream.  Sipping hot chocolate while enjoying the pre-plunge rally somehow calmed me.  I felt warm and centered, ready for the shock that lay ahead.

One rally speaker, Rev. Lennox Yearwood of the Hip-Hop Caucus, inspired the crowd with his updated version of Dr. Martin Luther King’s famous statement:   “One day this generation will say, ‘we are fossil fuel-free at last!’”  Who wouldn’t be willing to take the plunge after that!

Another highlight of the rally, for me, was Mike Tidwell’s salute to the 10 ‘Plungers’ who raised the most money, including me as the top fundraiser.  I am thrilled that, thanks to the support of friends and family, I raised more than $4,000 for CCAN!  And CCAN raised more than $82,000 overall, its highest total yet in 10 years of Plunges!

photo by Bruce Rosenthal
photo by Bruce Rosenthal

A few more speeches, and then the moment was here!  Off to the tents went the Plungers, a women’s tent and a men’s tent, where we all shed our sensible coats, hats, and gloves for–bathing suits!  Aaargh! 

Because the water level was higher for this year’s Plunge than for any of the previous nine, there was little beach on which the Plungers could gather.  So instead of all thronging into the river en masse, we plunged in small groups.  As I made my way out of the tent toward the river, I envied a woman who was on her way in, dripping and shivering.  Her Plunge was over!

There we were, some picking our way over the rocks to the water, others wet and moving as fast as they could back to the tents.  Were it not for all the shivering, we could have passed for a bunch of people enjoying a summer dip in the river. 

Every year I vow to walk out as far as my shoulders.  But until this year, I had never succeeded;  my feet went numb too soon.  But either the water was warmer this year or I’m more used to it.  I did manage to go out almost up to my shoulders.  

Back in the tent, I could hardly feel my feet.  My friend Diane, kindly and patiently, helped me get dry again and dressed.

Then for the best part.  Diane and I joined the other Plungers and supporters at the adjacent restaurant for the Plunge Afterparty.  Did it ever feel good to warm up and celebrate with longtime friends Diane, Barb, Bruce, and Bonnie, and enjoy a hot lunch and a good visit! 

Sitting there in the warm restaurant, I felt deeply happy–for a lot of reasons.  I was glad to have been part of such a rousing event, to have raised so much money for CCAN, to enjoy time with some dear friends, AND to savor the knowledge that I will have no reason to step out into frigid waters again for a whole year!–April Moore  

P.S. Please click here to look at some fun photos from thePlunge that CCAN posted on its website:   photos from the 10th annual ‘Keep Winter Cold’ Polar Bear Plunge

 

 

 

Crazy for Our Climate

January 21st, 2015
photo by Ira Shorr

photo by Ira Shorr

 

This is the fourth January that I am doing something crazy.  On Saturday, just three days from now, I will walk out into the Potomac River, wearing only a bathing suit!  Oh yes, and also a fleecy headband to give me the illusion of warmth!

Actually, I’m plunging into the river not because I’m crazy but because I’m passionate.  I’m passionate about the urgent need to address our climate crisis.  And I will not be alone:  I’ll be plunging with more than 100 people, all who feel strongly about protecting the climate.

This Saturday’s Polar Bear Plunge, at National Harbor, near Washington, D.C., is the annual fundraising event for the Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN).  CCAN works throughout the mid-Atlantic region to enact policies that increase the use of clean, alternative energies, phase out our dependence on fossil fuels, and put us on a path to a stable, healthy climate.  And CCAN is a first rate outfit!  International climate leader Bill McKibben has called CCAN “the most effective regional climate organization in the entire world!”  

So spending a few minutes in frigid water is a small price to pay for a strong, well-funded CCAN.  We Plungers  are raising money for CCAN by inviting our friends and family to sponsor our plunge by making a donation to CCAN.  This Saturday’s event will be CCAN’s 10th annual Polar Bear Plunge, and organizers hope it will raise $100,000.

I think CCAN’s Polar Bear Plunge is a brilliant fundraiser.  Many people, when they see that their friends are willing to make a sacrifice for something important, feel moved to make a financial sacrifice of their own for the same worthy cause.  And dramatic acts, like more than 100 people jumping into a frigid river in the middle of winter, attract attention.  So this event, coupled with a media campaign, can help publicize CCAN’s needed work.   

And the Plunge is quite an event!  It always begins with a boisterous rally, which fortifies us Plungers for the   uncomfortable minutes ahead.  Every time I have taken the Plunge, my friend Diane has accompanied me, encouraging me and greeting me with a towel when I return, shivering, from the river.

I have seen Plungers as young as 10 and as old as 80-something.  In fact, one year an old woman relied on her cane to stay upright as she carefully made her way out into the river!  Last year it was so cold that the Plunge organizers had to hack up river ice so that we Plungers could get into the water!  

As a Plunger, I’m afraid I’m not like the young men who energetically dive into the water head first, and then splash wildly as if it were a hot summer day.  Instead, I approach the water as the fairly timid 60+ woman I am.  I  take a deep breath, put one foot in front of the other as I move from the water’s edge out into deeper water.  

It has  surprised me how quickly my feet lose all feeling.  Then my calves.  Then my thighs.  Last year I had planned to go out up to my neck, but because of my fear of falling and being too numb to get myself out, I turned back when the water was just above my waist.  (My friend Kathy playfully demanded half her money back because I didn’t completely immerse myself!)  But I needn’t have been concerned.  A first aid team is at the ready, perched in a boat nearby. 

The best part of all, though, is the joyous celebration after the Plunge, when Plungers and supporters all gather at the nearby restaurant.  It feels great to sit inside where it’s warm and visit with my friends who have shown up to support me, and to know that the next Plunge is a whole year away.

By the way, I have set an ambitious personal fundraising goal for this year’s Polar Bear Plunge, $4,000.  If you would like to support my Plunge with a donation to CCAN (we know that constructive climate work anywhere in the world benefits all of us no matter where we live) I would, of course, be grateful.  You can click this link to my personal fundraising page, where you can quickly and easily donate online.  April Moore’s Plunge  

I’ll report back next week.–April Moore

 

 

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