Stories and green tips related to nature, adventure, placemaking, and food systems, written by a beginning farmer/gardener and seasoned sustainability educator who loves to grow, cook, ferment, and eat local and ecologically happy food.
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
I got this idea from Yes and Yes. Here is a brief list of the things I've accomplished this year:
- Helped run four clubs at my school--Photography, Environmental, Drama, Human Rights.
- Hiked to the top of Half Dome.
- Became vegan.
- Applied to college and was accepted to three--Prescott College, San Francisco State, Humboldt State (so far!).
- Taught a native plant uses class for Halloween.
- Hiked through a creek and wrote an article about a nature summer camp.
- Experienced the Welcome Home for Sully Sullenberger.
- Wrote my first published article for the California PTA on my school district's "green" efforts.
- Became a member of a local cycling group and rode my bike a lot.
- Directed a one act with my best friend and was a technician for the first time in my life.
- Met some new people and made some new friends: Tiffany, Nicole, Mackenzie, Liana, Patricia, Cameron, Kirby, Maddi, Sierra, Jessica, Rachel, Hailey, Marilyn, Megan, Katelyn, and more.
- Learned some words in a new language.
- Got a debit card and checking account.
- Saw two bears.
- Finished writing a novella. Printed it. Lost the computer file.
- Turned 17 and still don't have a license.
- Helped add content to a green tips website.
- Went no shampoo for four months before calling it quits.
- Went kayaking for the first time.
- Climbed up the side of a rocky hill at Pinecrest Lake and truly understood why people rock climb.
- Swing-danced in front of a bunch of strangers.
- Created and maintained a blog--this one!
What have you accomplished this year?
Happy New Year!
I said I would be posting my research paper as my next post, but it seems to be hidden in my mom's computer, so we'll just have to wait for that...
The first word that I memorized is honon, which means bear. Mi-Wuk is not entirely a written language, so I write the words phonetically or based on how Alexys says they should be written. Phonetically, honon is "hoe-no-n."I'm making a picture book with the words I've learned. It is helping me memorize them since I am a visual learner. I will try to post new words every other day or so. I love learning new languages! I am teaching my sister the words I learn, as well.
There are many different dialects of Mi-Wuk, and some consider them different enough to be different languages. Some of them have already become extinct. The ones that are still alive are only known by a few and spoken fluently or commonly by even fewer. It's fascinating to learn a language that is so specific to the region where it originated. There are only words for things that the Native Americans in the area would have encountered, like mountain, bear, tree, different plants, etc. There are no words for shopping mall or car, and no word exists in the language for hate.
I'm so excited to be learning it, and hopefully I can pass along some new words to you to help the language spread, even if just a little.
Have a nice day, and I hope you don't encounter honon on any hikes or walks anytime soon!
Language is the blood of the soul into which thoughts run and out of which they grow.
--Oliver Wendell Holmes
Friday, December 25, 2009
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
This Sunday, I attended Cirque du Soleil's OVO (meaning Egg) in San Francisco with my best friend, my dad, my step-mom, and a family friend. The show was fantastic--and all about insects!
The performers' strength is practically superhuman and the artistic director is an utter genius. The costumes, too, were incredibly creative. Grasshoppers complete with hind legs, spiders with creepy-crawly prickly hair on their arms and lower legs, spiders on stilts, a fly with a cap made of bug-eye designs. But this is all expected at any Cirque du Soleil performance. It goes without saying that the show will be fabulous, over-the-top, and that the performing will be beyond normal human capacity. What I want to share with you is the appreciation I have for the theme they chose for OVO.
The insect theme was a superb idea. The show takes you to a smaller world that we never see, one with a lady bug and a fly falling in love, spiders fending off grasshoppers from their territory, dragonflies balancing on one hand, and grasshoppers jumping up walls and flipping around. The zoom-in-on-life effect was neat if you thought about it, but my favorite part was the response of the audience--specifically the children.
All around us, small children were in awe of what was happening onstage--everyone was, of course. But when the young audience members shouted out what insect was coming onstage, it made me really glad. Hopefully the next time they see an insect, they'll think of the show and get excited to know what insect it is, or to have a connection with the insect that will get them jazzed about nature. Not all of them will, but I would bet there are some kids coming out of that show going "man, insects sure are neat!"
If you get a chance to see OVO, or any Cirque show, I highly recommend taking the opportunity. The shows are definitely worth it and the caliber of performance and design is something you won't see anywhere else.
Visit the website at http://www.cirquedusoleil.com/ or watch the OVO trailer here.
- Green Gal
Monday, December 21, 2009
Interestingly, Christians celebrate Christmas around the same time as the Winter Solstice, taking folk traditions and Pagan celebrations of Yule and other ancient rituals and combining them with the story of the birth of Christ to create a holiday that coincides with other festivities, perhaps to encourage more people to accept Christianity or to make Pagan celebrations more acceptable. The Pagans and other folk cultures celebrate the birth of the Sun. The Christians celebrate the birth of the Son.
Christmas songs of today often find their roots in older folk traditions. German songs like "O Christmas Tree" (originally "O Tannenbaum"), "Silent Night" ("Stille Nacht"), and "Ode to Joy" ("An die Freude") have become synonymous with Christmastime, and most people don't realize that they were originally written in German.
The Winter Solstice has been celebrated for thousands of years. People during late Neolithic and Bronze Age eras may have been holding ceremonies to celebrate the Solstice. Folk traditions and religious ceremonies throughout the world coincide with this time of new life, the mark of mid-winter.
According to Wikipedia:
Mummer's Day is an ancient Cornish midwinter celebration that occurs every year on December 26 and New Year's Day in Padstow, Cornwall. It was originally part of the pagan heritage of midwinter celebrations that were regularly celebrated all over Cornwall where people would dance and disguise themselves by blackening up their faces or wearing masks. In Penzance the festival has been given the name Montol believing it to be the Celtic Cornish word for Winter Solstice.What holiday do you celebrate?
For an unknown period, Lá an Dreoilín or Wren day has been celebrated in Ireland, the Isle of Man and Wales on December 26. Crowds of people, called wrenboys, take to the roads in various parts of Ireland, dressed in motley clothing, wearing masks or straw suits and accompanied by musicians supposedly in remembrance of the festival that was celebrated by the Druids. Previously the practice involved the killing of a wren, and singing songs while carrying the bird from house to house, stopping in for food and merriment.
Influenced by the Ancient Greek Lenaia festival, Brumalia was an ancient Roman solstice festival honoring Bacchus, generally held for a month and ending December 25. The festival included drinking and merriment. The name is derived from the Latin word bruma, meaning "shortest day" or "winter solstice". The festivities almost always occurred on the night of December 24.
Saturnalia was the feast at which the Romans commemorated the dedication of the temple of Saturn, which originally took place on 17 December, but expanded to a whole week, up to 23 December. A large and important public festival in Rome, it involved the conventional sacrifices, a couch set in front of the temple of Saturn and the untying of the ropes that bound the statue of Saturn during the rest of the year. Besides the public rites there were a series of holidays and customs celebrated privately. The celebrations included a school holiday, the making and giving of small presents (saturnalia et sigillaricia) and a special market (sigillaria). Gambling was allowed for all, even slaves during this period. The toga was not worn, but rather the synthesis, i.e., colorful, informal "dinner clothes" and the pileus (freedman's hat) was worn by everyone. Slaves were exempt from punishment, and treated their masters with disrespect. The slaves celebrated a banquet before, with, or served by the masters. Saturnalia became one of the most popular Roman festivals which led to more tomfoolery, marked chiefly by having masters and slaves ostensibly switch places, temporarily reversing the social order. In Greek and Cypriot folklore it was believed that children born during the festival were in danger of turning into Kallikantzaroi which come out of the Earth after the solstice to cause trouble for mortals. Some would leave colanders on their doorsteps to distract them until the sun returned.
In late seventh century Japan, festivities were held to celebrate the reemergence of Amaterasu or Amateras, the sun goddess of Japanese mythology, from her seclusion in a cave. Tricked by the other gods with a loud celebration, she peeks out to look and finds the image of herself in a mirror and is convinced by the other gods to return, bringing sunlight back to the universe. Requiems for the dead were held and Manzai and Shishimai were performed throughout the night, awaiting the sunrise. Aspects of this tradition have continued to this day on New Years.
In the Aegean civilizations, the exclusively female midwinter ritual, Lenaea or Lenaia, was the Festival of the Wild Women. In the forest, a man or bull representing the god Dionysus was torn to pieces and eaten by Maenads. Later in the ritual a baby, representing Dionysus reborn, was presented. Lenaion, the first month of the Delian calendar, derived its name from the festival's name. By classical times, the human sacrifice had been replaced by that of a goat, and the women's role had changed to that of funeral mourners and observers of the birth. Wine miracles were performed by the priests, in which priests would seal water or juice in a room overnight and the next day they would have turned into wine. The miracle was said to have been performed by Dionysus and the Lenaians. By the 5th century BCE the ritual had become a Gamelion festival for theatrical competitions, often held in Athens in the Lenaion theater. The festival influenced the ancient Roman Brumalia.
Originally the name Giuli signified a 60 day tide beginning at the lunar midwinter of the late Scandinavian Norse and Germanic tribes. The arrival of Juletid thus came to refer to the midwinter celebrations. By the late Viking Age, the Yule celebrations came to specify a great solstitial Midwinter festival that amalgamated the traditions of various midwinter celebrations across Europe, like Mitwinternacht, Modrasnach, Midvinterblot, and the Teutonic solstice celebration, Feast of the Dead. A documented example of this is in 960, when King Håkon of Norway signed into law that Jul was to be celebrated on the night leading into December 25, to align it with the Christian celebrations. For some Norse sects, Yule logs were lit to honor Thor, the god of thunder. Feasting would continue until the log burned out, three or as many as twelve days. The indigenous lore of the Icelandic Jól continued beyond the Middle Ages, but was condemned when the Reformation arrived. The celebration continues today throughout Northern Europe and elsewhere in name and traditions, for Christians as representative of the nativity of Jesus on the night of December 24, and for others as a cultural winter celebration on the 24th or for some, the date of the solstice.
In Germanic Neopagan sects, Yule is celebrated with gatherings that often involve a meal and gift giving. Further attempts at reconstruction of surviving accounts of historical celebrations are often made, a hallmark being variations of the traditional. However it has been pointed out that this is not really reconstruction as these traditions never died out – they have merely removed the Christian elements from the celebration and replaced the event at the solstice.
The Icelandic Ásatrú and the Asatru Folk Assembly in the US recognize Jól or Yule as lasting for 12 days, beginning on the date of the winter solstice.
In Wicca, a form of the holiday is observed as one of the eight solar holidays, or Sabbat. In most Wiccan sects, this holiday is celebrated as the rebirth of the Great God, who is viewed as the newborn solstice sun. Although the name Yule has been appropriated from Germanic and Norsk paganism, elements of the celebration itself are of modern origin.
Do you have any interesting stories about its roots or history? Family traditions? I'd love to hear from you.
Happy Winter Solstice!
Friday, December 18, 2009
Years later, my dream job was to be an English teacher. I imagined myself teaching British literature, probably due to six years of Shakespeare camp and my continued practice of “To be or not to be.” But as I grew older and developed a variety of interests, I realized that English and expression through writing would better serve me as a tool with which I could express my other interests, one being preservation of the natural world.
My appreciation for nature is almost hereditary; a lifetime before I sat in that rocking chair reciting centuries-old lines, my maternal great-grandparents took their two sons to the Sierra Nevada Mountains near Yosemite. It was the first of many trips to the area, where a small lake, two stores, a restaurant, campgrounds, and cabins comprise the quaint mountain town of Pinecrest, where my mom spent two months every summer growing up. The smoky air, lake with distant mountain ridges nestled into the background, and nearby trails are familiar reminders of my family’s tradition and the many summers spent among the pines.
Growing up, my dad and his family went camping at places like Sequoia National Park and Big Sur. In high school, he was an avid rock climber, ascending up the cable-clad granite of Yosemite’s Half Dome—without the cables. He once backpacked from the same mountain town my mom spent her summers in to Yosemite Valley, a 70 mile trip and no small feat for a junior in high school. He vividly remembers being enthusiastic about the first Earth Day in 1970, and after high school he spent many afternoons scaling Castle Rock in Saratoga, California.
My parents’ combined enthusiasm for the outdoors made camping in Pinecrest a first vacation choice. Then little blonde-haired me arrived, tagging along at three-months-old on my first camping trip. I frequently accompanied my parents on jogs along mountain roads in my neon green baby jogger. Waking up to mountain bird songs and a crackling campfire, hiking up Half Dome this past June—with cables—and ascending an unmarked rock hillside this summer with my dad: these are the memories I cherish most. No doubt my parents’ decision to camp when I was young influenced my preference for the open air, or as John Muir called it, “that one great bedroom” that spans the atmosphere.
As I was growing up, I wasn’t cognizant of the value I placed in nature. But between the end of eighth grade and the beginning of my sophomore year, I realized the deeply ingrained reverence I felt for the place I ventured to every summer. I matured alongside the green fad that has since become a movement and I developed a consciousness for the impact my actions have on the world. I developed “green” habits, but more importantly I recognized the respect and appreciation for nature that runs through my veins. The immersion in nature as a young child and the passion for the outdoors that my dad and mom introduced me to have made my place in the natural world something that influences everything I do. During the growth of this admiration for nature, and consequently my desire to help stop environmental degradation, I didn’t see the correlation between nature and English. It wasn’t clear until I became interested in nature writing—Thoreau, Emerson, and later Muir. Reading Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild opened the door to transcendental ideas and truly changed the way I think about the world. Continued reading of nature writers led me naturally to John Muir, another great influence on my view of life. Nature writing, I realized, was a way to fuse my love of nature with English.
The opportunity to combine writing with nature in an academic setting arose my junior year in my United States history class. When choosing a research topic for a paper, my eye was drawn to a topic near the end of the list: “Should we protect the environment at the expense of the economy?” I utilized my knowledge about the environment to craft a paper based in logic and fact that supported the environmental, with the suggestion that the economy doesn’t always have to suffer when the environment gets priority.
For me, environmental sensitivity has become who I am. I don’t have to think about the fact that I’m using my reusable mug at the coffee shop—if I go in to buy coffee without my own mug, I feel guilty for wasting resources. As a youth member of my city’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee, I advocate for alternative transportation. I am always looking for opportunities to support the environment: I’m currently interning for a grassroots organization called Climate Prosperity Citizens. We’re developing a database of green tips from hundreds of sources on the internet. My school’s Environmental Club needed a new secretary this year, and I volunteered. I’m planning for our club to help a local elementary school with their new garden, and our school’s bulletin now has weekly green tips to encourage a more environmentally-conscious campus culture. And I’ve found a way to combine my love of writing with my concern and appreciation of nature; I began a “green” blog in January 2009 as both a resource of green tips and to share stories from my life relating to the environment. As of November 2009, I’ve written thirty-five posts and had visitors to the site from Africa, Australia, Canada, Europe, and all over the United States. Practicing what I preach is important to me, but conservation has become more than a hobby; it’s a part of me, as inseparable as my philosophical or spiritual beliefs.
I love to teach others about how to conserve and I enjoy reading about nature and the environment, but nothing compares to actually being in the mountains, looking at wildflowers or gazing across a pine-filled valley. That is what I want to experience—not only text and pictures on a page. Prescott College interests me because of that promise of experiential learning—doing, not merely watching or reading. At this point in my life and experiences, nature is where I want to work. I want to study nature; I want to be a naturalist. But a person cannot become a naturalist just by reading books about plants and animals. The greatest teacher is nature and Her bounty of plants and wildlife. John Muir was a persuasive expert on nature because he lived to observe, explore, and discover the essence of life. Muir’s greatest teacher was Nature, and he considered himself a pupil in the “Universe of Wilderness.” I want a college experience that will allow the Wilderness to be as important a teacher to me as the professors, an experience beyond some four walls, a white board and a computer. I want to acquire the knowledge and experience to effectively express my thoughts on nature through writing. I know Prescott is the best place I can achieve that.
Friday, December 11, 2009
The college application process is sure a journey, but I know the destination will be worth it. I have at least three weeks until I find out from anyone--but most likely it will be months before I hear back. I have to file my FAFSA, and then I just wait by the door for that letter. And now, for a list of where I applied...
San Francisco State UniversitySonoma State UniversityRocky Mountain CollegeUniversity of San Francisco
So that sort of introduces why I haven't posted since Halloween. Writing essays, revising essays, filling out applications, sending SAT scores, sending transcripts, figuring out which schools want what, and at the same time keeping up with school work--the blog got pushed to the bottom of my to-do list.
In many of my college essays, I mention Green Gal, along with many other environmental things I've done. One such environmental thing is the club I'm now secretary of...
The Environmental Club at my school has been invisible my three and a half years of high school. It would show up at environmental fairs and various events, but it wasn't accessible, no one could join it, and they did nothing to influence campus culture. The new girls in charge this year have stepped down, and I couldn't help but take the opportunity to jump in and try to actually make it into a club that did stuff. So now I'm secretary (I would have been President, except that I'm publicist for Drama Club, Human Rights Club, and co-president of Photo Club and I tend to over-committ) and there are two co-presidents. Some ideas I brought to the club have already been set in motion: we now have green tips on our weekly bulletin at school, and we're planning on helping a local elementary with their garden. We posted green tips around campus and our club now has weekly goals (I got the idea from Reduce Footprints' Change the World Wednesday) to try and meet. This week's is to avoid plastic water bottles. Some of the people in the club don't have reusable bottles (we're gonna have to do something about that for sure!), so we altered the goal to either no plastic water bottles, or reuse the plastic water bottle multiple times to reduce. Hey, it's a start.
On another note, I'm writing a really interesting research paper on human impact on extinctions, past and present. Most of my essay is on megafaunal extinctions in the late Pleistocene epoch and those extinctions that took place whenever man reached new territory. I also discuss modern extinctions--like those of amphibians and bats that are taking place now--and will end the paper with conservation efforts currently taking place. I will post the paper to this blog once it's turned in. It's due next Thursday, so this weekend I will be rewriting my rough draft and editing and adding information. I love research papers!Obviously the holidays are here--Happy Hanukkah tonight to those who celebrate it!--so I will conclude this long-overdue post with some green holiday tips!
Holiday Tip #1: Turn off those holiday lights!
From sundown until the time you go to sleep, your LED (hopefully!) holiday lights (inside and out) can and should be gleaming all of their holiday spirit for the world. But once your head hits the pillow, those lights should be off. Leaving them on all night wastes a lot of energy, and no one is going to see them at midnight, one, two, three o'clock in the morning! So turn them off before bed and don't turn them back on until sundown the next day. It seems like this would be an obvious way to conserve, but it's always good to be reminded.Holiday Tip #2: Wrap Consciously
Gift wrapping can be fun or tedious, depending upon how many gifts and how much time you have before Christmas morning! But it can also be wasteful if it isn't done with a consciousness. First of all, choose your materials wisely. Most wrapping paper cannot be recycled, so be sure to choose brown paper, newspaper, cloth, or a recyclable/reusable material. Use as little of the material as possible. Don't be wasteful with cutting too much paper and being left with an oddly-shaped scrap that has no where else to go except for the recycle bin. Be creative and use old pillow cases to sew the gift into their gift wrap. Add buttons, sew greetings--the possibilities are endless! If you're using paper, be conservative with your tape. A lot can go a long way if you place it correctly. Reuse ribbons and bows, or make ribbon strings out of the remaining pillow case scraps or old yarn. Often the most resourceful wrapping jobs are the most creative and the most appreciated. I love using old pillowcases and shirts to wrap gifts, and I usually safety pin them together. It's grand to see the recipients expression when you hand them a cloth-wrapped gift.
Holiday Tip #3: Save the paper, ribbons, and tags!
I'm usually the crazy niece/cousin/granddaughter on Christmas who's catching the falling wrapping paper, folding it nicely and saving it. My grandma and I always collect the ribbons, so at least for that part I'm not alone in my conservation. I have a drawer full of folded wrapping paper that I save for small gifts. I try to find an unwrinkled portion of the paper to wrap the gift with. I just gave my friend Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind today and I wrapped it with some old red and white striped paper. It still had a sticky tag with my name on it from last Christmas. She's used to my conservation antics and didn't mind one bit. Most of my friends will be receiving gifts wrapped in old paper. For teachers and people who I don't know as well, of course, I will wrap their gifts with fresh paper or cloth. (There are varying degrees of "Greenness" that you can apply to each gift you wrap.) So save the gift paper as it falls, remove as much tape as possible/fold the tape down so it doesn't stick to the other sides of paper, fold it into a manageable size and place in a bag. Later, tie it with the other pieces using twine, and stash it in a drawer for next year. (I discussed these paper-saving ideas in my May 21 post, Paper.) You can also save those little hanging tags that you write the recipient's name on. White-out the name, paste some paper over it, or use the tag for the same person next year. That may be considered overkill by some, but at least you're conserving some paper and string--not to mention the plastic those little tags come in.Well, that concludes my post. I will almost certainly be posting over my winter break, which begins next Friday.
P.S. You can also learn how to Sew Your Own Christmas Wrapping and reduce the waste of paper wrapping all together!
Every man and woman is born into the world to do something unique and something distinctive and if he or she does not do it, it will never be done.
-- Benjamin E. Mays
Saturday, October 31, 2009
Happy Halloween, everyone else!
Here's some information from About.com about Samhain and Halloween:
"What is Samhain?:
Samhain is known by most folks as Halloween, but for Wiccans and Pagans it's considered a Sabbat to honor the ancestors who came before us. It's a good time to contact the spirit world with a seance, because it's the time when the veil between this world and the next is at its thinnest.
Myths and Misconceptions:
Contrary to a popular Internet-based (and Chick Tract-encouraged) rumor, Samhain was not the name of some ancient Celtic god of death, or of anything else, for that matter. Religious scholars agree that the word Samhain (pronounced "sow-en") comes from the Gaelic “Samhuin,” but they’re divided on whether it means the end or beginning of summer. After all, when summer is ending here on earth, it’s just beginning in the Underworld. Samhain actually refers to the daylight portion of the holiday, on November 1st.
All Hallow Mass:
Around the eighth century or so, the Catholic Church decided to use November 1st as All Saints Day. This was actually a pretty smart move on their part – the local pagans were already celebrating that day anyway, so it made sense to use it as a church holiday. All Saints’ became the festival to honor any saint who didn’t already have a day of his or her own. The mass which was said on All Saints’ was called Allhallowmas – the mass of all those who are hallowed. The night before naturally became known as All Hallows Eve, and eventually morphed into what we call Halloween.
The Witch's New Year:
Sunset on Samhain is the beginning of the Celtic New Year. The old year has passed, the harvest has been gathered, cattle and sheep have been brought in from the fields, and the leaves have fallen from the trees. The earth slowly begins to die around us.
This is a good time for us to look at wrapping up the old and preparing for the new in our lives. Think about the things you did in the last twelve months. Have you left anything unresolved? If so, now is the time to wrap things up. Once you’ve gotten all that unfinished stuff cleared away, and out of your life, then you can begin looking towards the next year.
Honoring the Ancestors:
For some of us, Samhain is when we honor our ancestors who came before us. If you’ve ever done genealogy research, or if you’ve had a loved one die in the past year, this is the perfect night to celebrate their memory. If we’re fortunate, they will return to communicate with us from beyond the veil, and offer advice, protection and guidance for the upcoming year.
If you want to celebrate Samhain in the Celtic tradition, spread the festivities out over three consecutive days. You can hold a ritual and feast each night. Be flexible, though, so you can work around trick-or-treating schedules!
Try one -- or all -- of these rituals to celebrate Samhain and welcome the new year.
- Celebrating the End of the Harvest
- Samhain Ritual for Animals
- Honoring the Ancestors
- Hold a Seance at Samhain
- Host a Dumb Supper
- Honor the God and Goddess at Samhain
- Celebrating the Cycle of Life and Death
- Ancestor Meditation
Even if you're celebrating Samhain as a Pagan holiday, you may want to read up on some of the traditions of the secular celebration of Halloween:
I will hopefully find time to post again soon.
Enjoy your Halloween/Samhain :-)
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Today is Blog Action Day, as you probably have heard. The theme for this year is climate change, which isn’t a stretch for me to write about at all—which you would obviously know if you’ve read my blog.
But today I’ve decided to write about something that is beyond my breadth of knowledge: Denmark, and a bit about the economy. I have a friend named Emil who is from Denmark, and he and I were talking recently about climate change. He started talking about all the great things Denmark does that makes it sustainable and it was so interesting! I asked him if he would give me some information for my blog and he did.He mentioned that wind energy supplies one fifth of all energy used there, adding that “a large part of the coasts and green fields” are covered with wind turbines. I’m not a huge supporter of covering every windy space with wind turbines, but I also don’t have another solution, other than that we reduce the demand for energy and live simpler. That can’t solve the use of energy, of course, but it can help to reduce the need. I’ll be honest and say I’m fairly conflicted on “green” technology. While I see some of it as necessary, there’s a part of me that says it’s leading us in the wrong direction. (Read What We Leave Behind if you want to see why I feel that way.)
Anyway, the best part of what Emil was telling me is that “Denmark is very community based, it is easy to find everything you need within a small area, and thus simple transportation such as riding bikes and public transportation is more common and easier [than in other places].” That is so vital. So vital! Without that community-based living, we cannot become sustainable. Globalization has made us dependent on China for our cheap plastic bins (as my world history teacher Mr. Murphy always used to remind us), and we now expect to have certain things because we’ve been spoiled by their cheap availability at Walmart and Target. Community-based living provides you with the things you need without the need to import or export. Food grown locally is distributed locally. Clothing is made locally. Everything you need is made within the community and you stop depending on foreign imports. It’s sad to me that we have lost the ability to consider that feasible, since we lived that way for centuries before the industrial revolution. Now we have created this tangled web of reliance—oil being the most well-known, problematic thing we depend on (read Josh Tickell’s Biodiesel America or watch his film based on the book…I don’t exactly agree with everything he says, but he does a nice job of showing how oil is a serious issue and how it causes war and cancer, among other problems.) While globalization can be a good thing—bringing countries out of poverty, connecting people across the globe—it seems to me it brings more problems than solutions. It encourages rapid development and intertwines and encourages the widespread use of economies based solely on exploitation and the sale of landfill-destined product (like ours).
Check out this excerpt from a thought-provoking article I came across (New Green Deal or Not: Industrial Capitalism Is Assured Death by Dr. Glen Barry). We need to be having discussions like this if we want to make the best decisions at this critical time. We need to question all the steps our governments and decision makers are taking to reduce climate change and we must be a voice for the physical, living planet, rather merely than for the growth of the economy:
The web and hallways of power are abuzz with the promise of green technologies to fix the financial system, solve climate change, all while providing jobs. Who can be against green jobs? It has become as American as baseball and apple pie. Yet in this single-minded pursuit of the holy grail of green growth, we are putting all our money and efforts into reforming an economic system whose dysfunction -- equating growth based upon ecosystem destruction with progress -- is precisely why we find ourselves in twin crises of growing poverty for the formerly affluent, and collapsing global ecosystems.
I am against green jobs, if the emphasis upon jobs includes more economic growth on the back of ecosystem harm. Nothing grows forever. And certainly not industrial and speculative capitalism which kills all it encounters through explosive growth. Economic stimulus is like feeding a cancer cell. There are few new wildernesses to liquidate in order to bump up GDP, and more growth is not the answer to anything but protecting the narrow interests of the ruling elite. Something was lost when capitalism went from providing local markets to exchange surplus, to becoming faceless global corporations pushing growth above all else, and finding all types of speculative tomfoolery to do so.
Now I don't know an extensive amount about the economy, but I do live in a developed country and have gone to school (where a lot of the time we just learn the way the world works) for the past 12 years of my life. From that basis of experience, it seems to me that our governments and many actions taken by people in the world (Fast Food Nation gives some great gory examples) are often persuaded in the favor of those "faceless global corporations." Yes, many of our economic lives depend on the function of those corporations because we've invested in them and their downfall means the downfall of the entire economic system. But that is not the only way to live--we may have reached the point in civilization where turning back to a life not run by the stock market would be catastrophe and utter chaos, but living with such realiance on the economy that we have today is not the only way to live. The alternative may not be pretty, but it may be necessary. I don't believe I have enough evidence to support that on my own because, like I said, I'm not an expert on economics. And perhaps I shouldn't even bring it up because I will most likely lose the battle on that discussion at this point if someone chooses to pick one with me (but, hey, it's Blog Action Day and making statements like that creates dialogue and that is precisely the purpose of posting about climate change all over the planet!). But there are people out there who get how economics work and can explain why the way we're living isn't going to work. We can't keep this culture and economic system and survive or continue to live on Earth. We certainly cannot have rainforests and biodiversity and keep our culture at the same time; that much is definitely clear to me. Dr. Barry (the guy who wrote that excerpt up there) puts it this way and I had thought the same exact thing before even reading his article: we cannot have our cake and eat it too.
I realize some of the things I'm saying may sound naive. However, I'm not making them up--I have a reason for saying them. The evidence is clear to me, even if I can't articulate the facts clearly. I haven't studied this stuff in detail; I've just heard the argument and it makes sense to me. I first read about it in What We Leave Behind by the passionate and honest writers Derrick Jensen and Aric McBay. I bought their book at Bound Together, an anarchist bookstore on Haight Street in SF (no I'm not an anarchist in case you were wondering...I just happen to have a weakness when it comes to bookstores), but I also saw it on the shelf at Borders, so people who avoid anarchist bookstores can read it, too. Let me warn you, the book is not G rated in all its content, BUT what they are saying needs to be heard and given some thought. I'm not saying I agree with everything they say, but I definitely think they have many valid points that have not been adequately questioned or addressed--similar to Dr. Glen Barry's article.Now for the fun part--discussion time!
If you've read this post, please let me know your thoughts. I think the most important part of Blog Action Day is the discussions it raises. I want to know what you agree with, disagree with, think is insane, crazy, legitimate, etc. Add something to what I'm saying or at least let me know what you think.
Saturday, October 10, 2009
I've been walking to and from school when I've had time and it's a lovely mode of transportation when you can slow down and appreciate your environment. Part of my walk home takes me through a park which I have been in thousands of times but have never truly slowed down to appreciate. When I ride my bike, I have hardly enough time to appreciate the sunlight on the leaves, the curve of the paths, the bark on the various trees or the hills and dips of the grassy knolls. Walking offers you quiet time to think and observe. It creates a sense of place.
Reduce Footprints's Change the World Wednesday challenge for this week was to take a walk and pick up trash. I planned on going on Sunday to the creek to pick up trash there, but my sister doesn't want to venture down there in the morning. So instead, my sister and I went on a walk through the park with the intention of picking up some of the autumnal-tinctured leaves on the ground, and perhaps collect any trash we found along the way. My step-mom asked us to also go to Safeway, which is just across the street from the park, and we agreed.
My sister scootered and I walked and we stopped every once in a while to pick up leaves. I threw away a Ring Pop someone had left on the sidewalk and then we came across a note attached to a piece of ribbon attached to a tree branch. We read it. It was part of a invitation to take someone to the upcoming Homecoming dance at my high school. I started to pull it off of the tree branch to throw it away, but then realized that the clue may not have been read yet and the surprise invitation not yet completed. I left it on the branch so it wouldn't ruin the fun. At one entrance to the park was a popped balloon and the first clue for the invitation. I pulled the poor balloon from its place around a light post and stuck it in my bag to throw away later.
After leaving with our reusable bag filled with ingredients for our calzones tonight, my sister and I walked back toward the park. Growing between the curb and the asphalt was a green plant, choked with fallen leaves around its base. I pointed it out to my sister. "Life will find a way," my dad put it when he encountered a similar flower growing up through a crack in the street when my sister was still in the hospital. We continued our walk home. My sister picked up a pine cone and we both picked up more fallen leaves. I found a discarded Starbucks straw (grr...straws...) and picked it up to throw away at home. Our walk ended with a bag full of fall leaves, one pine cone, ingredients for dinner, and two pieces of trash. Okay so we didn't exactly clean up the world--at least we enjoyed the autumn air and afternoon sunlight.
Earlier today, I did continued research on the uses of aloe vera, yarrow and willow. I'm participating in a Halloween event at the nearby Alviso Adobe Community Park. I will be dressing up as a Native American medicine woman to teach attendees (mostly children) about the medicinal uses of various plants to show that it isn't witchcraft that gives these plants the abilities to treat illnesses. The event is being put on by the City Naturalist, Eric Nicholas. It's the first year this event is taking place, so my role in it is not set in stone and can be as elaborate as my imagination makes it. I'm creating a script or general outline for my presentation that will be used in future years. It's a fun experience and I'm excited to come up with more ideas.
My step-mom, sister and I ventured downtown this afternoon for lunch. I went into the local bookstore to speak with the owner about an upcoming Neil Gaiman party they're putting on relating to his book, The Graveyard Book. As a child, Coraline was my favorite book, so I am excited to read Gaiman's new book and help plan and participate in the Halloween party. After all, Halloween is my favorite holiday...perhaps its the actor in me that enjoys dressing up and being a part of the huge production that is Halloween night :)
We also went by the American Cancer Society Discovery Shop to look for some decorations for my "witch's kitchen" display for the Alviso Adobe event. I found two perfect decorations and a book of holiday crafts--including Earth Day crafts! I will post pictures if I make any of the Halloween crafts sometime this month. It looks like it will be a very fun way to celebrate holidays throughout the year.Sometime before the event I hope to find time to go down to the creek and harvest some bay or eucalyptus leaves for the Alviso event. Eric told me how to harvest them, so I hope I am able to correctly identify some trees and collect some leaves.
I've been thinking about what to write about for Blog Action Day October 15. This year's action day is all about climate change, so I'm looking forward to participating in this world-wide blogging day! I have been talking to my friend who's from Denmark about the way the environment and climate change is viewed there, and I do have some idea of what I'll be writing about. If you have a blog, you should really consider participating. It doesn't take a lot, just one post relating to climate change on October 15.
Have a great weekend!
Ask who keeps the wind
Ask what is sacred.
-- Margaret Atwood
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
1. I bring a reusable lunch bag to school each day, which both reduces my waste as well as protects my food better (It's also quite cute if I do say so myself!). The one I use most often used to belong to my step-mom, but over time I used it more and more and now I'm the only one who uses it. I also have a metal "I Dream of Jeannie" one, but it isn't large enough to hold my thermos when I take soup and it causes apples to roll around and become dented. If you don't have a reusable lunch bag/box, you really need to get one.2. When I take sandwiches, I bring them in my plastic Wonder Bread container (yes, it's made of plastic which is rather unfortunate, but at least I'm reducing my use of plastic baggies/plastic wrap). Some days my mom or I forget to use it, so I try to leave it in the plastic baggy drawer so we'll see it before it's too late. The container is also great for small pieces of bread, like pita bread, and could really be used for a variety of things. You could put chips, pretzels, cookies, brownies, dry cereal, etc. in it to avoid the plastic bag. Check out this stainless steel sandwich container I just found online; perhaps I'll look into purchasing one.3. Because I do try to avoid putting food in plastic containers, I have little glass Tupperware-like jars for a variety of foods. They're excellent for dips, hummus, thick salad dressing, nuts & seeds, chocolate chips, Corn nuts--the possibilities are endless. I have some 1-cup sized containers, which work for smaller things, but they do make larger sizes that could replace your plastic-leaching Tupperware. They're microwave, freezer and dishwasher safe and are BPA-free. The ones I have are from Anchor Hocking Company (which also sells a ton of other awesome glassware).4. I have switched over to using cloth napkins whenever I can. I try to keep one with me when I'm out, and have tried to become better at putting one in my lunch bag. I use them at home, but remembering to bring them in my purse or backpack when I'm out is more difficult. That's definitely something I need to work on.
5. While this is most likely something most green-minded people already do, don't forget about bringing a reusable water bottle and/or coffee mug with you at lunchtime or whenever you're out. I've stopped drinking individually-bottled drinks on a regular basis and choose to just drink water at lunchtime. There are, of course, occasions when I'll have a canned soda or a bottled tea, but for the most part I stick with water or coffee/tea in my reusable mug.
6. Having variety in your lunch is always important so you don't become bored with the same old thing. Creating variety also reduces the chance that you'll go out for lunch, waste some paper or plastic, and buy something that really isn't very good for you because you're really just craving tasty food. Soup and chili can create that variety--especially as the weather cools down. You'll need, of course, a thermos. I have two or three thermoses in my house that I use quite often. I still use canned soup, but I'm hoping to experiment with making my own soup sometime soon. They make smaller thermoses that are less of a hassle to lug around, but I also have a larger one that fits perfectly in my lunch bag. Choose whichever size works best for you to carry--and for your appetite.
8. Snacks like Clif Bars and other individually-wrapped foods are great for hikes and times when you need a quick snack. But they do create a lot of waste if you're using them everyday. Trail mix is a great alternative that you can make yourself and add whatever you like. Personally, I like almonds, sunflower seeds, and vegan chocolate chips. Stores that sell bulk seeds and nuts are the perfect place for getting trail mix ingredients. And you can put them in those handy glass containers I was telling you about!
How do you reuse or reduce your lunchtime waste?
Last month I posted some links to various websites, including one to the WILD Foundation's World Wilderness Congress. Here's some updated information about the event:
Besides live blogging, tweeting and slide shows that will be available on a central splash page, a dedicated channel will be established on Qik. This channel will allow individuals in attendance to stream live coverage on their cell phones. Furthermore, USTREAM will also have a dedicated channel that will feature all of the keynote addresses....More information...is available in this blog post (http://www.wild.org/blog/Although I won't be attending the event, I'll definitely be following the website to watch videos and read about its progress when it takes place this November 6-13. It definitely sounds like it will produce some great discussions that will be useful to watch and learn from.Thanks for reading!
Don't forget to check tomorrow for the newest Change the World Wednesday at Reduce Footprints's blog.
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
This afternoon on my way home from school, I had to wait at an island in the middle of a major intersection near my high school. When I rode up to the island, there was already one other student on a bike and two on their feet. The light took an unusually long amount of time to grant us permission to cross, and during that time, two more kids on bikes and two more pedestrian students arrived. That island was full to the brim with kids taking alternative transportation home. I almost laughed because of how strange it seemed to have an island filled with students going home. But then I realized that it should be like that everyday. If enough kids rode or walked to school, we'd have a serious space/traffic issue (seeing as younger teens tend to use sidewalks and crosswalks and thus traffic islands rather than the street). It would be great to see the sidewalks overflowing with students walking or biking, and while there are a great number who do, the majority drive once they get their licenses or have their parents drive them because they don't realize how easily it truly is to ride.
There does seem to be some change, though. I used to be one of only two girls at the bike racks. Now there are at least four of us who ride everyday and two or three more who ride every once in a while. And it feels like I see more adult commuters on bicycles, but it could be because I'm more aware of it now than I was before.
What changes have you noticed in your community in regards to transportation?
Hope you all had a wonderful Wednesday!
Thanks for reading,
Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Another awesome way to remember the bag is to buy one of those foldable bags that closes in on itself into a little ball. They fit easily into purses, backpacks, glove compartments and some have little clips so you can attach it to the outside of bags (or key rings if you wish!). The two my mom owns are from Whole Foods, but more and more stores are selling them. I got mine at a hair salon!I've never seen the mug issue addressed before, but I've come up with the obvious solution: leave one in the car, along with those bags. Put it somewhere hidden so you won't accidentally take it inside the house when cleaning out the car. (I've made that mistake in my mom's car and she's taken it in without realizing I left it there on purpose!) Leave one in the glove compartment or center console compartment if you have room, or stash it in the trunk or in that little hiding place some cars have in the way back that shuts. You could even stash two or three just to be safe--if you're with friends they can use one, too :)
Again, remember to replace it once you've used it. Pretend like you don't already have one in the car so you won't be tempted to use it every time and increase the risk of leaving it at home. If you have a big purse (or a small mug), you could bring one in your purse (or backpack), too. And if you ride a bike everywhere, definitely leave one in your bag or saddle bag/basket if you have one on your bike. Suggestion: bring one every time you go somewhere--you never know when you'll find yourself in a coffee shop. I try to leave a mug in my school backpack at all times. I often decide spur-of-the-moment to stop by Starbucks on my bike ride home.
And one final note: don't forget that your reusable shopping bags can be used at the thrift store, mall, boutiques, etc. Some stores sell larger ones that work better than the normal sized ones--I have one from Bloomingdales that my step-mom gave me and another that I bought when I saw Cirque du Soleil.
Happy Sunday, everyone!
i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes
-- e.e. cummings
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
This week, for the entire week, refuse to use paper towels. Yep, 7 days ... no paper towels.
I was in, so starting Wednesday I became very cognizant of paper towels and avoided them at all costs. I was home sick Wednesday and most of Thursday, so I always had a dish cloth/hand towel close at hand to use in place of the paper towels.
On Friday, though, I had to remember not to pull a paper towel from the dispenser in the restroom. I had forgotten to bring a cloth napkin to use, so I had to dry my hands on my sweatshirt.
I had a rehearsal for drama after school on Friday and my team was working outside, under some trees by the lunch tables. One of the biggest fears people have in common at my school is the fear of being pooped on by those ridiculous sea gulls (hello, we do not live near a beach where are you coming from?) that flock in to eat all the trash left over by careless students. After lunch, people duck and cover and steer clear of the open quad for fear that they will be targeted and forced to endure the torment and embarrassment that comes with getting bird poop on your head. Fortunately, in my three years and one month of high school, I have never once been targeted (oh, I've been pooped on in other places, just not at school where the embarrassment is far harder to endure). But on Friday, I was unfortunately a little too close to some pavement that had been chosen as a designated landing zone. Some bird up in the sky pooped and the poop bounced upon contact with the cement, flying over and landing on my unfortunately-sandaled shoe. I rushed to the bathroom (as any normal person who's just been attacked would do) and pulled a paper towel right out of that dispenser. I wet it, soaped it up and scrubbed my poor bare foot and sandal strap. Then I realized what I'd done--but there was no way to avoid it, aside from be disgusting and let it sit there until I got home. Strike one.
Then over the weekend at one point, I mindlessly grabbed a paper towel after washing my hands. Strike two.
Monday, Tuesday and today I brought a cloth napkin in my lunch, so when I washed my hands I only needed to reach inside my lunch bag and pull it out. I felt a little conspicuous pulling out an orange and brown cloth napkin to dry my hands--teenagers can be viciously critical and I'm sure those who saw me wondered what was wrong with me. But I used it and completely avoided those pesky paper towels that have somehow hijacked our minds and made it very difficult to remember not to use them. Once or twice I didn't have my lunch bag with me and had to wipe my wet hands on my shorts or t-shirt.
But I've realized that it is not impossible to go without paper towels. Of course, there are those occasions when necessity makes it far more feasible to use them, but I've decided that I'm going to take this challenge beyond its one week goal and integrate it into my life. Perhaps I'll be more outgoing about it and be proud of my cloth napkins. Maybe it will make people think twice about those paper towels. I'm really glad I attempted this challenge and I'm sure glad I didn't get three strikes!
Two nights ago while watching the season premiere of House, I saw a commercial that made me seething mad. I wish I had taken better note of which car company it was, but perhaps one of you readers will know so I can write them a letter.
The commercial begins with a man on a bike, obviously commuting to or from work, in the rain. He's struggling and looks miserable and they've made him out to be a dork. Then, they show a man on a segway trying to get through a crowded sidewalk, showing the difficulties of alternative transportation. A narrator begins speaking, saying how people are trying to contribute, but that it is much too difficult to ride your bike or choose a segway to conserve energy. Instead, the narrator implies, you should buy our hybrid/electric/whatchamacallit type of car to really make an impact, the cool way.
If they were really a company that cared about the environment (which few car companies could ever really make me believe because they're fundamentally based on people driving and using up some sort of energy source), they would embrace every aspect of trying to make a difference and then include themselves in that group, rather than make fun of or point out the difficulties of BETTER ways to save resources. Biking is always going to be better than driving because it takes way less maintenance, resources or energy to make and work. Don't make fun of those who are making a difference--you just isolated a huge group of people who may have been possible consumers for you. Anyone who rides their bike to work is going to be offended or put off--aren't those the people you want buying your "green" car? People who care about the environment? I wish I knew what car company it was so I could say, "way to go, 'car company'! You're pretty bad at marketing to the right audience."
I hope I'm not the only person who noticed this. Please tell me other people have their consumer radars on and spotted this poor marketing. I know many of you who care about the planet don't watch television, so of course you wouldn't have seen it (I'm getting there...it's just that NCIS is much too good of a show to give up!), but for those of you who do, please keep your eyes open for this commercial and let me know what you think (and who it is).
Have a good rest of your week everyone!
Thanks for reading,
The struggle to save the global environment is in one way much more difficult than the struggle to vanquish Hitler, for this time the war is with ourselves. We are the enemy, just as we have only ourselves as allies.
Sunday, September 20, 2009
I've got a bone to pick with a lady at my local Noah's New York bagels. She won't let me reuse a Noah's bag that once held other bagels. I know it isn't her fault that there are regulations to protect companies from getting sued for contaminated food, but she's the only one at that store who follows that rule. Every other employee lets me reuse my bags and they've come to accept it (at first they couldn't understand why I wouldn't just want a new one, but now they see the point).
Of course I understand she wants to follow the regulations, but here's my issue: How is reusing a bag any different than bringing my own mug and filling it with coffee? I could just as easily contaminate my cup and then turn around and sue them (which is utterly ridiculous and should not be allowed) as do the same with a bag. If anyone has any valid reasons as to what the difference is, please let me know. It has been bothering me (even though I still use my old bag each time I go in there--as long as she isn't working!).
It's been a crazy few days with a head cold, sore throat and stuffed up nose, but I'm hangin' in there. Check out my new Twitter feed in the right hand column for my latest happenings. Follow me and I'll follow you!
Another post is coming your way on Wednesday, when I'll be discussing Reduce Footprints most recent Change the World Wednesday challenge and how I managed to stick with it everyday--almost.
See you Wednesday,
What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.
-- Crowfoot quote
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