Ho Hum, Another Earth Day …

I don’t want to sound too exasperated when I say ….another earth day …but really, what of it? Time to again acknowledge we are not taking care of our home, planet Earth, as we should? Haven’t we been talking about many issues with little to no action?

I remember April 22, 1970, when Earth Day’s founder Gaylord Nelson said, “Our goal is not just an environment of clean air and water and scenic beauty. The objective is an environment of decency, quality and mutual respect for all other human beings and all living creatures.” That was interesting as he was concerned about the environment along with poverty, hunger and urban blight. He like the rest of us, about 10% of the US population, was seeing the detrimental effects of DDT on our declining bald eagle population, news reports of a polluted river in Ohio catching fire and an oil rig leaking off the coast of Santa Barbara. I was studying organophosphates in college. For a short time we had a recognition of the balance needed in our water, air, land, plants and animals then and for future generations.

Sure there had been discussion of electric cars … in the 1800’s there were electric vehicles, but not till the 1970’s when gas prices soared and we were rationing and buying our gas on an odd or even day, did the idea seem to kick up again. Finally in June 2009 we have the first 500 vehicles using cutting edge battery technology and electric powertrain in Tesla’s cars.

Talk of solar power happened. June 1979, thirty-two solar panels were installed on the West Wing roof of the White House per President Carter’s acknowledgement of renewable energy. The panels were removed in 1986 and funding for renewable energy research was slashed in 1981 per President Reagan. President George W. Bush had the first solar electric system providing electricity and hot water on White House property. President Obama, in 2010, signed a bill to increase efforts in renewable energy and to make federal buildings energy efficient.

Many of us by the first Earth Day had read Rachel Carson’s 1962 book titled, “Silent Spring”. She had already documented the effects of DDT on marine life and was now sounding the alarm on how bird populations were declining due to their ingestion of the pesticide and the resulting thin-shelled eggs that broke prematurely in the nest. DDT was banned in 1972. At the same time I was in college studying organophosphates, a common pesticide used in commercial agriculture. It was not till 2001 when the Environmental Protection Agency banned its residential use. (Commercially still used, thus people are now looking more seriously at ingesting specific organic products to target avoidance of organophosphates since we cannot avoid them totally.)

In reality, every day should be “Earth Day”. Political leaders should consult with and understand the science to know how to have best practices when dealing with water sources, waste disposal sites, air quality, and the importance of grasslands, riparian areas, oceans, and all that is needed for healthy plant and animal life, which does include humans! Profit cannot be the determiner in any future decision-making, but instead the welfare of our people now and tomorrow is what is most important.

So, 51 years later we celebrate another Earth Day. More young people are angry and speaking their concerns, wanting to have a healthy Earth, a healthy home and a long and healthy life. Proactive efforts and actions are wanted, not reactive and remediating ones once something goes wrong. We are smarter than that! The science is here. Do we have the tenacity and will to speak out, take action, and support the entities that are working for the betterment of us all? I hope so even if it may mean not supporting a business we once did. Corporations need to understand that we the people do not make the profit. We the people want a healthy Earth. When their business can employ healthy environmental practices, then the consumer will be with them. We are all in on this together and we need to act together for the betterment of us all. There is only this planet available for us to live on; let’s respect it!

I love this Rachel Carson quote, “The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonder and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.” For sure, I hope.

Vote for Leaders With Character.

While outdoors, with this quiet park’s world around me, I have time to think. For years, experiences were provided for my students, faculty and staff with me to learn and understand the importance of conflict resolution with mediation and character education. Today, now more than ever, I wonder why our leaders lack the ability to be positive role models or work to build confidence in resolving issues to the benefit of all and not just a few. It seems the general population now has more anxiety, less trust and little to no confidence in their leaders working for them.

In character education programs, my students, faculty and staff with me learned, practiced, and were reminded of the importance of consciously doing the right thing even when it may be the toughest thing to be done or when no one was around to notice. To be a fair and caring person for the school, local and world communities is a responsibility of good citizenship. If we could trust that all of us will receive healthcare, social safety, food and shelter through legislation generated by our leaders there would be greater respect for them. Yet, leaders seem to protect their wallets and lifestyles with no respect of the constituency to which they represent. Decisions are made promoting agendas not of equality for all, but with a bias that alienates or squashes many with no path for growth or success.

My one hope is for leaders to someday understand we are all human, each with a mind, heart and honesty about what is best for ourselves. There often is not one directive to be taken; therein lies the importance of mediation in a conflict or creation of legislative action. Could leaders listen to all sides and work with all to discover a resolution maybe never heard before? Could they be respectful and trust not to have all the answers on how to make this a better world for all of us today, but also for future generations? As each leader displays their character, moral and ethical qualities that define them, and influence the choices they make, we will be watching their every move. It is in the choices they make where each of us decides if that is a leader for this citizenship. Another reason why we all must vote! Please be sure you do!

September Migrant Flies By

After considerable time spent trying to identify this bird, I believe it is a Hammond’s Flycatcher. Is that eye ring oval enough; is the bill short and dark; does it have a small, bull-head … whatever that means … to confidently identify this bird correctly? I know for sure it is a flycatcher, one of 17, and not the boxy-headed vermilion flycatcher which I see all the time here in SW Arizona as it is a resident at my elevation!

Hammond’s flycatcher

While this flycatcher can be seen from Alaska, USA to Nicaragua on its potential migration route, it is known to be in winter at elevations between 3000 – 5500 feet in my area. Now that I have added this bird to my life list, I will keep my eyes open when on the mountain roads this winter and look forward to its return in the spring.

Our Country is Burning!

I was thinking about the wildfires burning millions of acres in the western USA right now as I noticed a sign while walking a road in the town of Summerhaven, Arizona. Seventeen years ago this town burnt down due to a wildfire and 4 months ago the Bighorn wildfire once again threatened the town. Everyone in the town was evacuated for weeks and forest trails will remain closed till November.

Almost 120,000 acres burned here and now millions of acres are burning in Washington, Oregon and California. Why is our country burning? A whole host of things contribute to the issue. With increased greenhouse gas emissions, there are warmer temperatures drying organic material. Droughts add to the increase of dry vegetation thus fuel for fires. Strong winds and lighting strikes add to the increased size of wildfires.

Controlled burns help and so do homeowner assist programs such as being stated here on this sign:

More people are building in wilderness areas, power lines are above ground and people are not safely putting out campfires and/or participating in creating defensible space. Wind and lightning will continue, but we do need to reduce the fuel a fire survives on. We also should be concerned about the drought affecting so many areas in the west and southwest. All wildfires leave us with devastation of communities along with air and water pollution. The economics and social implications are huge as people try to return, rebuild, and survive never knowing if they will be met with support and success.

As we look to the future, we need to research and support programs addressing greenhouse issues with alternative methods. A closer look should be taken of our own backyard and local neighborhood to ascertain if we could have a wildfire, flooding or other natural disaster concern and what we can do now to prevent it. There is scientific information available so we can be pro-active in understanding and preparing for whatever concern we may have.

While today I am talking about our country burning, we should also think about why coastline areas are flooding. When will we think and do something so we have less loss of life and property? Should we build in the wilderness, on a flood plain, or along a coastline? What can we do now to help ourselves and plan for future building zones or whatever else is needed? Much of our country is burning and we all should be concerned!

Vote! Here is how to do it …

If you are unsure about what you need to do to vote, then discover what you need to know at the Better Know A Ballot link:
https://www.betterknowaballot.com/

This site will provide you with the needed information. It has details specific for every state in the USA so it will be informative for your needs.

Everyone needs to vote. There is no excuse not to vote. 
Here is the link: https://www.betterknowaballot.com/

Click on the link above, be informed and VOTE!

Love is Carried on the Wind

My sister, mom and friend celebrate September birthdays and I am physically thousands of miles away from them. I don’t speak of love 365 days a year, but I would hope each knows my heart feels for them everyday.

My daily routine includes meditative moments where I send positive energy. Most recent for my sister, mom and friend I hope my positive energy radiates to each of you for your day’s activity to be somewhat eased or your personal struggles to be lessened. When we live in the moment of hope and positivity a birthday celebration can be enjoyed with all near and far.

Think of my love being carried on the wind and you are wrapped around on all sides by that wind; that is my loving hug to you as you celebrate your special day. Live in that moment and know you are loved. Happy birthday!

Time to Think …

No matter how busy we are or not, it is time to pause and think: will we learn something, or anything, from our current state of affairs?

When we have notice of impending doom, will we prepare for it or will we nonchalantly envision no harm coming our way?

Will we observe, record, analyze and problem solve next steps to be taken to ensure our safety or scoff at and ignore scientists?

Walking helps me think.

As of this writing I believe there will be a future. Yet let us understand we have other impending issues needing our attention, such as ending racial and economic inequalities and addressing climate change. These issues are important for an overall healthy people and planet. Today, many of us are staying healthy from Covid-19 thanks to following the science. And in time scientists will have, once again, a vaccine to help us save ourselves from another virus. We will be saddened for the lives lost most recently these past months. Life will go on requiring us to look ahead and act responsibly. I say this with hope in my heart.

The question is, will we have learned to act now on impending doom or will we wait and again be mired in the next issue with no leadership, losing lives, and only slowly wake up to the chaos beyond our control? There is no vaccine to cure racial and economic inequalities or the devastating effects of climate change. If we want to survive, we need to take action now on all these fronts. A magic wand does not exist.

Time to do more than think about it all. Time to register to vote and to vote in November. Time to write state and federal legislators, representing you, to always respect science, respect nature and respect each other. Simply put it would get us further in solving issues we have now and which are only getting worse with the passage of time. We need to be concerned about the mental and physical health of our people and planet. Or, there will be no future for generations to come to enjoy.

You may not be concerned about any of this happening to us today or in the future, but I am. If you are concerned, take action. I thank you and so will all those yet to walk this planet. It is time for action!

Monday Memories: India and Bhutan

In 2017, my goal was to visit northern India from west to east, and then the small country of Bhutan. Only my daily journal could capture all I experienced during this trip. It was a fascinating experience and I have hopes of returning to see all of India some day.

Here’s a capsule of the adventure. After arriving in New Delhi, India, walking through various neighborhoods with our guide and seeing historic buildings, we headed toward the India – Pakistan border to watch the daily military ceremony referred to as a “border ceremony”. In the city of Amritsar, where the famous Golden Temple – a religious complex of the Sikh religion – is, I had unique experience with a local man who had poor vision. While helping him cross an area with road barriers, he and I talked. I invited him to join me for a soda or tea. I located a place to have our drink, much to the surprise of the shop owner and adolescent boys sitting in the shop, but my new friend and I had a good conversation.

Our tour continued north to Dharamshala where exiled Tibetan people live and work. The Dalai Lama resides here too when he is not speaking around the world. I loved seeing the Himalayan Mountains once again; last seen in 2001. Shops here support the Tibetan culture and handicrafts.

Women spinning wool.

We returned to New Delhi for a few more days and touring, then flew to Darjeeling, famous for its tea cultivation. While the streets of New Delhi and Delhi are hectic with wandering cows, people with push carts, wires hanging everywhere from poles, I appreciated people allowing me to photograph them; one man even asked that I photograph him! People in the countryside provided permission for me to photograph them too. But it was while I was in a moving vehicle that I caught sight of a man at his roadside dental appointment. Along that wall, many businesses were conducted.

I bought tea while in Darjeeling, relaxed in the British flair of this city, but I wanted to return to the Himalayan Mountains and visit Bhutan! Bhutan caps the number of visitors entering their country and maintains some traditions to hold on to their culture. Bhutan is a very small country between two super powers: India and China. It is an environmentally aware country and known for its “Gross National Happiness” philosophy. I asked for a specific example of where the people’s happiness and decision of the government may influence that philosophical index. Thimphu is the capital of Bhutan and many workers live on the other side of the mountain and have an hour’s drive to work each day. Workers wanting a shorter drive requested the government build a tunnel through the mountain. The government thought it best to use the construction money to build paved roads throughout the country to help a larger number of people, and thus did not build a tunnel. Great example, and roads were being built mostly by Indian workers throughout the country.

Thimphu is the main city; however, just outside of it you will see a huge statue of Buddha that has many more Buddhas within it. The countryside is beautiful and at one point we did stop to talk with a nomad.

We stayed in Paro, Bhutan for a couple of days so we could climb to Tiger’s Nest Monastery, a sacred Buddhist site. It requires an entire day to drive about 10 miles to the site, climb the 2 miles up to the monastery with an elevation gain of 1700 feet, and be at 10,232 feet where the air is thin. No vehicles are in this area, one must climb. It was worth the hike!

Tiger’s Nest Monastery

Two men from Bhutan will always remain in my memory. In my wandering I started speaking with a young man asking about his work. He acknowledged he was a young artist, but his job now was to sell the owner’s art work. I asked to see what he had drawn and I bought a piece of his work. Today it is framed and hangs on my wall. The other man was carving wood with his feet. I learned Bhutan’s Queen Jetsun Pema supports people living with disabilities and he has gained a thriving business as a result of Her Majesty’s support.

There are so many more memories of my visit to India and Bhutan, but I have kept these for now along with a fraction of photos taken during this trip. Someday I will return and create new memories. People have asked why I did not go to the Taj Mahal, etc. My answer: those areas are so over-run with tourists and I believe I will be able to visit them while in a wheel chair. On this trip I wanted to go where I had to hike to see the sites.

Never in my mind did I think there would be a global pandemic, as we have happening now, where country borders and sites are closed. I am so glad I traveled when I did. I look forward to more travel in the future.

Monday Memories: Poland

As I look back on 2019, I am thrilled I did not put off international travel to save money for future trips: New Zealand, Australia, the Arctic and Antartica. On this trip to Poland I had an opportunity to volunteer for a week with Habitat for Humanity (H4H) in Gliwice, Poland. Once realizing I was flying from western USA to Poland, I decided to travel on my own prior to my H4H responsibility.

I arrived in Warsaw, Poland and spent a few days joining walking tours to learn about and understand Poland’s history. I walked around the city which has so many museums and places to visit, such as the POLIN Museum about the history of the Polish Jewish community and the Warsaw Rising Museum, just to mention a couple of museums. I was glad to return to this city for a couple of days before flying home at the end of this trip, especially to decompress while walking through the Royal Łazienki Park.

Walk the city of Warsaw and see where the ghetto wall held in the Jewish people.

My travel around the country was by train so I could talk with people and see the countryside while traveling. Polish people were very friendly and there were interesting small towns and beautiful fields along the way to Gdańsk on the Baltic Sea. Buildings here were more colorful than Warsaw and the Museum of the Second World War was definitely worth visiting. I took the train to Sopot and Gdynia for a day trip. Sopot was unbelievably crowded and Gydnia’s Emigration Museum telling the history of migrating Poles was worth visiting.

My two favorite meals while in Poland were pierogies stuffed with potato and cheese, cooked in boiling water and not pan-fried, and kielbasa and sauerkraut. I was becoming a critic of the best of each during my 3 weeks in Poland and loved eating it all!

There were so many cities to visit in Poland, yet I hop off the train in Wrocław. As you stand in the main square of this city, you’ll see the Gothic Old Town Hall with its astronomical clock and have plenty of time to people watch. I loved looking for the gnomes around the city … visit to find out the history and importance of these characters.

After a few days I visited Kraków. As you stand in its main square you see the Cloth Hall and the 14th century Gothic church: St. Mary’s Basilica, where I also attended an evening organ concert. The Rynek Underground Museum was interesting and the walking tours about Jewish history were informative. There is plenty to do in Kraków and it is an easy city to walk.

I joined a day tour to learn more about the Holocaust and the Nazi crimes against Poles at Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II-Birkenau sites. While some buildings are not open to the public, one clearly feels the horror that occurred at these places. The shoes, luggage and hair collected, the sleeping areas, electric fences, cattle cars which brought people in to these concentration camps, and the crematoriums were just horrifying to see knowing now the history. Another day I toured the Wieliczka Salt Mine where all statues, etc are carved into the salt. It was a good way to decompress after being at the camps the day before.

I met the team of Global Village/Habitat for Humanity volunteers in Krakow and we traveled to Gliwice, northwest of Kraków. For the next 5 days we helped renovate some old buildings to eventually house teenagers with addiction issues. We met and had dinner with some of the young people at their current site. Our work during the day was plastering walls or pulling up old flooring. Our hard-working crews accomplished so much in the short time; however, it may be a year before all work is complete … and that was the prediction before Covid-19 became real.

I returned to Warsaw. I flew home thankful for the opportunity to volunteer my time and energy to a worthy project and also visit a country I had wished to visit someday. Now in 2020 I wonder when my international travel will resume. Only time will tell as the world deals with the coronavirus pandemic.