Water Light and Dark

As I write this, I’m in the midst of an epic downpour here in Seattle. Six inches in a 48-hour period. Now I completely understand why the least favorite word in the English language is moist.

This has me thinking about the love/hate relationship we all have with water. We can’t live without it. It’s refreshing on a hot day. It’s fun to swim and surf in. It is vital for food growth and production. And since the world revolves around me, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that my job as a bridgetender depends on its existence.

On the other hand, as global climate change plagues us all, the sea levels are rising, and areas that used to put up with mere nuisance floods are now inundated. In other parts of the world, severe droughts are destroying crops and causing fires the likes of which the world has never seen. People the world over are being forced to relocate. Thanks to our meddling, nature seems to be struggling to find that balance between too much water and not enough. At either extreme, the results can be deadly.

In this current downpour, as I descend the hill from my house, I’ve witnessed water jetting up to three feet out of the storm drains, either because of a blockage down below, or because they simply cannot handle the volume. This has caused the street in the valley below to be closed. Landslides are happening in the region, and more than a few large Pacific Northwest trees are toppling because of the waterlogged soil.

If I were Queen of the world, I’d send some of this water down to California, where it’s desperately needed. But as it stands, I can barely convince Quagmire, my fastidious dachshund, to go outside to potty, so that tells you how powerful I am in the face of this storm. Water can be quite humbling that way.

Singin in the Rain Adam Cooper

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When Will We Get the Message?

I just read a bitterly ironic news article entitled “Italian council is flooded immediately after rejecting measures on climate change”.

It seems that the far right members of the council decided that there was no need to fund renewable resources, green busses, and plans to reduce plastics. And then, as if the universe was weighing in on their arrogance, the water came pouring into the council building for the first time in history.

Venice, the most beautiful city I’ve ever seen in my life, got hit with more than 6 feet of water. It’s the worst flood there in 60 years, and a lot of its damage will be permanent. My heart breaks for the city, and I wonder what I’ll see when I visit next spring.

So many disasters keep occurring due to our hubris. Mega-storms. Fires. Floods. Droughts. Saltwater intrusion. Sea level rise.

None of this is normal. The alarms keep ringing. But no one seems to want to listen.

It will be horrible karma if we kill off this planet and our last thoughts are that we should have done something, but couldn’t be bothered.

It makes me want to slap a whole lot of people upside the head.

Climate Change

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Fire Drill Fridays

I think the first time it really dawned on me that otherwise perfectly reasonable (to my mind) people had extremely different worldviews than I did was when I was 22 and working at a video rental store.

A customer asked me if we had the movie Electric Horseman. I had to ask my boss. She said, with tight lips, that they didn’t carry any Jane Fonda movies. I thought, “Why not? I love her movies.”

I had no idea about her visit to Hanoi, or even what that meant, really, because I was 10 years old when Saigon fell. The Vietnam war was a very confusing, very distant blip on my radar as a child, so one woman’s visit there, and the controversy it stirred up, was something I only learned about later in life.

I’d like to think, though, that if I had been an adult at the time, I’d have been protesting the war, too. Would I have gone about it the way she did? No. Even she admits she has regrets about that now. But I genuinely believe that her intentions were good, and that the mostly debunked rumors surrounding her actions have gotten things so twisted that the truth will never be known.

Love her or hate her, you have to admit that Jane Fonda has lived her beliefs her whole life. She has been an anti-war, pro-feminist, environmental activist, and worked tirelessly for those causes for as long as I have drawn breath.

I really can’t understand people who are against these causes, but I’d at least respect their integrity if they were as devoted and outspoken as Fonda has been. Anyone who puts their convictions into action, and tries so hard to do what they feel is right, is pretty darned impressive. More power to them.

As you read this, Jane Fonda is most likely getting arrested for the 5th Friday in a row as part of her Fire Drill Friday protests for environmental change. She intends to do this every single Friday through January, and actually moved to Washington DC to do these protests on Capitol Hill, to raise awareness in our politicians about the climate emergency we are now in.

As polarizing as she may be, I stand with Jane Fonda in her efforts, and hope you will as well. The health of this planet and all its inhabitants are at stake. There should be no controversy in that.

First Fire Drill Friday in Washington DC

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Ancient Wisdom

It amazes me that so many of us are wont to throw the baby out with the bathwater. There is this view of ancient wisdom that seems to go like this: “Everything from long ago was inaccurate and based on myth and magic, so it shouldn’t be taken seriously.”

We come by that belief honestly. No doubt about it, a lot of what was considered truth hundreds of years ago has turned out to be bunk. Bleeding people by hand or with leeches, when they are already weak from illness, generally will not have a happy ending. Dumping sewage into waterways is not a good idea. No sacrifice is required during a solar eclipse in order for the sun to come out again. Drilling holes in one’s head is more apt to scramble the brains and introduce infection than relieve the pressure. Backbreaking child labor does not make for strong, healthy adults. Not every tooth that causes you pain must be yanked from your mouth. Killing all the predators in your area causes unexpected consequences. And yes, sometimes there are answers that are less extreme than amputation.

Those things mentioned above are the bathwater. Feel free to throw those habits out. But, now, more than ever, we need to take the babies where we find them. We need good ideas if we’re going to survive.

For example, I don’t really understand why so few westerners are willing to try acupuncture. We may not understand how it works, but it’s been around for centuries. I’ve written about this before. I swear by it, and I know a lot of people who have had positive results with acupuncture when no Western medicine seems to be working. So why not try?

I’ve also written about bee pollen. I recommend it to people all the time. But I’m usually ignored. Which is a shame, because I haven’t had an allergy problem in 5 years, and have only had two colds. That’s saying something.

And as this article attests, there’s a lot of native knowledge out there that we’d benefit from if only we took it more seriously. For example, having a holistic view of the ecosystem, as aboriginal peoples do, is very important to species survival. They know that an increase in beaver populations will reduce spawning habitat for salmon and that means less prey for whales. The great web of life should not be ignored.

Indigenous people have much to tell us about how to cope with climate change. They know about the use of controlled burns to manage our forests so that catastrophic wildfires will not occur. They are also more sensitive to altered migration patterns, which are early warning systems of change. They also knew about the importance of biodiversity long before we even considered the concept.

It’s about time we checked our egos at the door and take wisdom where we can find it. Before it’s too late.

Ready to Dance

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What Does God Think of Climate Change?

Always supposing you believe climate change is real (and I do), I have a thought experiment for you. If you believe in God, then what do you think God thinks about what we are doing to our planet? I mean, we’re taking this amazing gift, and we’re basically pooping all over it. My guess is she or it or he would be mighty disappointed in us. If I were God, I’d be totally rethinking this whole “free will” thing. Because we are definitely screwing things up.

Or maybe the old testament got it right, and what we have is a vengeful, fear-inducing God. If that’s the case, then climate change is some form of punishment, and we better start paying attention. The time for basking in our blissful ignorance is long past.

Here’s an even bigger thought experiment for you: Even if you don’t believe in God and/or climate change, please explain to me why it doesn’t make sense to live a green and clean life? What are the disadvantages?

If our actions just boil down to laziness, selfishness, greed and a basic resistance to change, then God doesn’t even need to be in this equation. We should all be disappointed in ourselves.

climate change

Glacier National Park, Montana

I’ve been wanting to see Glacier National Park for many years. As the glaciers are rapidly disappearing, I feel as though time is of the essence, so I planned a trip for this August. (Climate change waits for no blogger.)

Just my luck, a few weeks before our visit, the park caught fire. The western portion of the park is STILL closed, as of this writing. I can’t even begin to tell you how profoundly disappointing that was.

And yet, even greatly reduced in size, even smoky, Glacier National Park caused me to fall in love with it. When we woke up on day two, after the rain had poured down all night and the temperature had dropped to 35 degrees and all the mountain peaks were covered in snow, it was even more stunning. I’m so glad we went.

It didn’t occur to me that there would be so many gigantic, gorgeous lakes. (Duh. Glaciers do melt and carve the landscape.) And on many of them, you can take boat trips. There’s also horseback riding and rafting in the park.

None of which we did, because we had three dogs with us. While dogs are allowed in the national parks, they are not allowed on any of the trails, and technically they’re not supposed to be left unattended. They were quite comfortable in their cozy dog beds in the SUV, because heaven knows it wasn’t hot, but we didn’t think it was a good idea to leave them for more than 10 or 15 minutes. So we did a short hike to the beautiful Baring Falls, and then visited every overlook and visitor center that we came across. (I was once told by a park ranger that 99% of all visitors never get farther than the overlooks, so hey, we were still ahead of the game by taking that one, gorgeous hike.)

We also didn’t go to the portion of the park that extends into Canada, again, because of the dogs. We hadn’t gotten the right paperwork for them. But we got so close to the border that my phone assumed I was roaming. That counts for something!

It seems like I’m always in a fantastic mood whenever I cross the continental divide. I’d do it again and again if I could. I’d also love to get a closer look at the buffalo I saw on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, which borders the park. I wasn’t expecting such a huge herd. There were at least a hundred, which is even more than I saw at Yellowstone. I was so glad to discover they were there. I could imagine a time when they covered the entire prairie.

I was left with a tantalizing taste of this awe-inspiring park. I hope to go back again someday. When I do, I won’t bring the dogs, and I’ll focus on the Western side and Canada, and I’ll take that boat trip and go horseback riding. Something to look forward to.

So do I suggest a visit to Glacier National Park? Heck yes! Again and again! In the meantime, you can help preserve this valuable natural resource by donating to the Glacier National Park Conservancy at glacier.org.

Here are some pictures we took, to whet your appetite.

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Biosphere 2

Recently, I visited Tucson, Arizona for the first time. I met a lot of really great people, ate a lot of delicious food, and the desert is so amazing that these topics will call for additional blog posts, but I thought I’d start with the first thing we did on our first day, because it was so geek-fabulous that even as I write this I have a silly grin on my face.

Please forgive me. I’m bouncing up and down in my chair, and I can barely contain an excited scream. I got to see Biosphere 2!!!!!!!!!!

This facility, in Oracle, Arizona, first captured my imagination in 1991, when 4 women and 4 men entered its closed ecological system to conduct scientific experiments for two years. They produced their own food, and maintained a mini ocean, rainforest, fog desert, and mangrove swamp as well as a fruit orchard. They even grew their own coffee, but only produced enough for a cup once every few weeks, which must have been torture for coffee lovers.

The purpose of this entire elaborate experiment was to see if it would be possible to maintain human life in outer space. That was what I found so exciting. It was like a space mission right here on earth. I wanted to pull up stakes and move right in myself.

It’s probably best that I didn’t, though. It was hard work. They were constantly hungry. They burned 400 more calories than they ate on most days. I’d have been grumpy. I’d have wanted ice cream.

And, in fact, the psychological aspect of the experiment was what intrigued me the most. The group of 8 wound up splitting into two groups of 4, and the two groups really didn’t like one another. They barely spoke. And yet they still managed to put the biosphere first and maintain the mission. The divisions make me sad for humanity and its attraction to drama, but the fact that they still worked toward a common goal, the health of the biosphere, gives me hope.

Because where’s Biosphere 1? You’re living in it. We all are. It’s planet earth. This complex, life-sustaining ecosystem of ours is critical for our survival, and if we don’t start taking climate change seriously, we’re not going to leave much for future generations. And as the saying goes, there is no Planet B. To heck with surviving in outer space. We need to be able to survive right here, and we’re certainly doing our level best to make that a challenge.

The tour of Biosphere 2 also takes you beneath it, to where all the mechanical systems are, and into the gigantic lung, which kept the facility from imploding or exploding during differing pressure systems. A picture of the lung room is below. (A fun fact is that it was also used as a film set for a very bad movie starring William Shatner in 2002, entitled Groom Lake, which sounds like an entirely miss-able movie.)

Both closed missions in this facility were fraught with controversy, but they taught us much. Currently, Biosphere 2 is owned by the University of Arizona, and they’re doing untold numbers of research experiments, including a Landscape Evolution Observatory (LEO), a Lunar Greenhouse, and a vertical farming project. I’m so glad that this amazing place is still contributing to our knowledge. We need all that we can get, in this age of ignorance.

If you ever get a chance to take a tour, I highly recommend it. I’m also adding a book that was written by two of the original biospherians to the very top of my reading list. Life Under Glass: The Inside story of Biosphere 2 by Abigail Alling and Mark Nelson sounds like a fascinating read. There are actually several books on the subject, but this seems like a great place to start.

Without further ado, here are some of the pictures from my visit.

Biosphere 2

Biosphere 2 Rainforest
The rainforest
Biosphere 2 Cloud Desert
The Cloud Desert
Biosphere 2 Ocean
The Ocean
Biosphere 2 Lung
The lung. That heavy aluminum plate sinks to the ground when it’s cold, and rises when it is hot. It was 100 degrees that day.

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