Climate Change: Are We Finished Being Selfish Yet?

It’s time to wake up.

I started writing posts about climate change back in 2013. I’m sure I would have written about it sooner, but I only started blogging back in December, 2012. All my posts on the subject back then seemed dire and anxious and urgent.

The good news is that I no longer feel like I’m the only one who is concerned. According to this article, the number of Americans who are alarmed about climate change has more than doubled since back then. And this article from Newsweek says that now only 10 percent of us are non-believers. The bad news is that we’re still not doing enough to stop it. In fact, many scientists believe we’re past the point of being able to do so. But we’re not even doing enough to slow it down. Frustration is mounting, yet political inaction still rules the day. There’s just too much profit still to be had from fossil fuels. To hell with the fact that we’re killing our grandchildren.

Today I read an article that broke my heart. Entitled, “The least-visited country in the world may be the first to disappear”, it discusses the tiny country of Tuvalu, nestled halfway between Australia and Hawaii. At this point, it doesn’t really stand a chance. And it’s the fault of humanity. Can you imagine having your country washed away? Can you imagine intentionally making that happen? Well, mission accomplished. We are doing this.

If you really want your heart broken, read this speech that the Prime Minister of Tuvalu gave to the United Nations back in 2007. He is all but begging them to prevent his nation, language, and unique culture from dying. And yet we did nothing. And here we are.

I know that people prefer not to dwell on bad news. I know it is so much easier if this is someone else’s problem to solve. But this is everyone’s problem now. It’s just that some of us will be treading water sooner than others, and the rest of us will be fighting for a foothold on our ever-shrinking, sun-blasted land masses. Shame on us.

For a basic primer on climate change, read my blog post from 2013 entitled Climate Change: Points to Ponder. The most discouraging thing about that post is that every single ponderous point has been proven to be true. Nealy 10 years later, I stand by every word.

It’s time to wake up.


Save Our Jumping Slugs!

They actually provide a valuable service.

Now, there’s a sentence I never thought I’d utter. Then I heard this delightful story on KUOW, my local NPR station. It seems that the Pacific Northwest is the only place in the entire world that has jumping slugs. Lucky us!

These slugs, which are about a half inch long, and range from Vancouver Island to the Oregon coast, and as far inland as Idaho, are remarkable in that they manage to keep a really low profile. They are so camouflaged that they mostly avoid detection, but just in case, they’ve developed another defense mechanism: they will break their own slime trail in order to confuse predators who are trying to track them.

Calling what they do “jumping” is a bit of a stretch. Check out the video that’s attached to that KUOW story to see what I mean. To me it looks more like an enthusiastic wiggle, and that wiggle might cause them to fall off the already fallen maple or alder leaves they prefer to hang out in, but they aren’t exactly pole vaulters. Still, other slugs don’t get up to these types of shenanigans. There are only about six species of jumping slug.

Another cool thing about these little guys is that, while other slugs have done away with their shells entirely, these have little half shells on their backs, hidden under the skin. (Why? Beats me. But they do.) These humps of hidden shell make them look like they’re sporting shiny little backpacks. They look pretty cool, by slug standards.

Another fun fact, according to this article from the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, is that a jumping slug has a stronger, more nimble and muscular “foot” than other slugs have, primarily because its vital organs are mainly up under that little shell, rather than inside the foot as with other slugs. So that’s a nifty little backpack, indeed. It wouldn’t pay to accidentally leave it in the slug equivalent of a schoolyard.

One species in particular, the Burrington Jumping Slug, is experiencing diminished populations. In fact, the Center for Biological Diversity is suing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to have them designated as an endangered species. This may seem extreme to those of you reading this who don’t think the environment should be a priority, but these jumping slugs actually provide a valuable service.

If it weren’t for slugs decomposing stuff, we’d be up to our chins in leaf litter in our forests. That would be bad, because more fires would have the fuel to cause even more havoc. In exchange for all their hard work, all the slugs require are cool, wet places in which to live. (This, Mr. Trump, is why we should not rake our forests. And why the rest of us shouldn’t overlook the fact that fallen vegetation is also a habitat. We should stop trying so hard to make our yards so perfectly manicured.)

With their love of cool, wet places, slugs are not enjoying global warming any more than we are. More heat, fewer slugs. Fewer slugs, more leaves. More leaves, bigger fires, which then release more carbon into the atmosphere, thus causing even more heat. Everything is connected.

Apparently the slug watching community is rather close-knit. But their earnestness does not belie a sense of humor. There are slug jokes. This one must be the most popular, because it is in both articles. So I leave you with it.

While jumping slugs may not be the best jumpers, they can jump higher than the Empire State Building…

Because the Empire State Building can’t jump.

You’re welcome.

Enjoy my random musings? Then you’ll love my book!

I Wish I Were Older

That’s a sentence I haven’t uttered since childhood.

Now that’s a sentence I haven’t uttered since childhood. Sadly, though, it’s true. The world is going to hell, and I genuinely wish I were a little closer to dying peacefully of old age after having led a full life that was full of love and abundance. I really don’t enjoy witnessing us circling the drain.

Megadroughts. Floods, Wildfires. Unrelenting heat, horrific storms, and deadly winters. This is just the beginning of our downward spiral. I am terrified for my grandnephews, who will experience the stuff of nightmares at the rate we’re going. Mass extinctions. Food and water shortages and the wars they will cause. The die off of pollinators, and the permanent die off of many crops.

Another thing I’d rather not stick around for is the justified recriminations that younger generations will direct at us for having brought all this on ourselves. Make no mistake, we’ve all had a hand in this.

Our primary crime is that we’ve done nothing about the abuses of big corporations, which continue to do 70 percent of the global warming damage. If we could bring them all to heel, like, tomorrow, we might still stand a chance. But we all know that’s not going to happen, don’t we? Greed will kill us in the end.

If future generations want to know how I felt as we crossed the point of no return, I can say I felt frustrated, helpless, angry, and terrified. I feel like we’re all being pushed toward a cliff, and I don’t know what to do. It will no longer be possible for this pilotless cruise ship to avoid the iceberg, but we can still mitigate some of the damage. It can be done. We could still be okay. But no one seems to be doing enough. Recycling is nice, but it isn’t going to cut it. We need leadership with a backbone.

Soon, certain foods will become a faint memory for my nephews. Berries, and their related pies and jams and juices. Berries are already withering from the heat and becoming scarce as I write this.

We will also stop growing luxury crops that are not essential for human survival, because there will not be enough water for them. Say goodbye to coffee, tea, and tobacco. Chocolate and sugar will be a thing of the past. And no more beef. Adios to almonds, pistachios, and wine. We might actually be healthier due to many of these losses, but our diets will be bland.

It breaks my heart to watch all of this go. It scares me to look into the future. It makes me weep to think of the way children today will be forced to redefine and ratchet downward their quality of life.

We could have stopped this. We didn’t. We just didn’t. Our ignorance, greed and selfishness are how we will be remembered.

True Reform?

Incentives for inmate firefighters.

I just did a Google search to see when fire season is in California. What I learned from this website is that it is easier to say when fire season isn’t. The answer to that is May. The rest of the year is pretty much the danger zone. That’s rather sobering.

Fire seasons have gotten longer and longer and and have become progressively more devastating over the years, due to global warming. With increasing droughts, increasing heat, and increasing winds, we’ve got a recipe going on that makes for a heaping helping of flame and destruction. Not good.

And fighting fires isn’t for sissies. Anyone who does so is putting his or her life at risk. It’s a heroic sacrifice.

Sadly, there seem to be fewer and fewer heroes in this world. Because of this, we’ve had to rely on a population that already tends to be stuck with the dirty jobs: inmates. But according to this article, there are fewer inmates to draw upon because there has been a reduction in low-level offenders being housed in the prisons. And now, due to the pandemic, a lot of prisoners have been released early, reducing the pool of potential firefighters even further.

So Gavin Newsom, the Governor of California, recently signed California bill AB2147. Basically, it gives some prison firefighters the opportunity to have their records expunged after they’ve served their sentences. This means, for the first time, they’ll be able to apply for any of 200 jobs that require a state license, including, of course, firefighters. And they’ll certainly be able to say they have experience.

This bill won’t apply to people who commit murder, kidnapping, rape, arson or any felony that’s punishable by life imprisonment or death. That makes sense to me. But I have mixed emotions about this entire endeavor.

On the one hand, it seems as though, for the first time, someone has created a pathway to actual reform for prisoners. We all know that once you’re convicted, it’s nearly impossible to get a decent job. In my opinion, that leaves no other opportunity for survival than crime. Now there will be opportunities. I think this is fantastic.

On the other hand, let’s face it. California isn’t doing this out of the goodness of its heart. They’re desperate for firefighters. And their desperation is only bound to get worse. So, plain and simple, they need these guys to want to put their lives at risk. And they’ll do it. And many will die in the attempt.

But I honesty don’t see any other options. I just hope they don’t start arresting more people for petty b.s., simply to feed them into that firefighting meat grinder. That would be really bad.

Bad, but conceivable. So, yeah, I’m worried that this bill could backfire. (Sorry. Had to.)

Portable gratitude. Inspiring pictures. Claim your copy of my first collection of favorite posts!

Once Upon a Time, Not Long Ago…

I’m so sorry. We have no excuse.

I know you’re still young, and can’t remember a world that wasn’t like the one that we have today. That’s entirely the fault of human beings, and I’m really sorry for what you’re missing out on. I hope someday you grow up to make the kind of differences that we adults have failed to make for you.

Once upon a time, we could breathe the air without a filter.

Once upon a time, the sun was so bright that you couldn’t look directly at it.

Once upon a time, you got to see the full face of everyone you encountered, and that made it a lot easier to know how they were feeling.

Once upon a time, there were things called concerts.

Once upon a time, you could see the stars.

Once upon a time, kids your age enjoyed riding bikes and playing little league.

Once upon a time, you could travel to other countries.

Once upon a time, people could hug one another.

Once upon a time, people actually went outside on purpose, for pleasure. (You’d have loved camping.)

Once upon a time, there was a thing called democracy.

Once upon a time, the rivers weren’t choked with algae.

Once upon a time, we didn’t fight over water.

Once upon a time, people got together in large groups for school and just for fun.

Once upon a time, the world was a lot more populated, and maybe that’s where everything started going wrong.

I’m so sorry. We have no excuse for what we’ve done. I wish you had had the chance to know the world the way I remember it. You deserve so much better.

Read any good books lately? Try mine!

Water Light and Dark

We all have a love/hate relationship with water.

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

Read any good books lately? Try mine!

Fire Drill Fridays

Convictions put into action. Admirable.

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

Portable gratitude. Inspiring pictures. Claim your copy of my first collection of favorite posts!

The Hard Truth about Coal

There’s no point in propping up a dying industry.

There are few things that I find more annoying than being forced to listen to someone who is misinformed. I hate being spoon fed false information, and I hate it even more when it’s obviously biased and unresearched. For example, when someone spouts ignorance about the Koran, I automatically say, “Have you ever even READ the Koran? No? Then get back to me when you have.”

So imagine how much it rankled when I was stuck listening to a tour guide on a train, with no way out, when she said (twice!) that she didn’t know why the Alaska coal export industry collapsed, leaving thousands unemployed, but “it happened during the Obama administration.” Wink, wink.

By the way, this woman also said that global warming is “cyclical”, despite every single solitary graph that shows that what’s happening now is extreme and unnatural. So let’s face it, the woman was a fool. And I was stuck on the train with her, there was no escaping that fact, and I knew there was no point in attempting to lead her out of ignorance. It would have just gotten awkward. So I gritted my teeth.

But all this irritation has to go somewhere, dear reader, so brace yourself. I’m about to purge myself. You’re going to be vented upon.

I decided to do a little bit of research about the coal industry in general, and Alaska’s in particular. I learned a lot of interesting things. (And it provided the delightful side benefit of reinforcing my belief that that tour guide was a dunce. So, yay.)

First of all, it’s true that Usibelli Coal Mine, currently the only operational coal mine in Alaska, is no longer exporting coal to foreign countries. It used to export to South Korea, Chile, Japan, and other pacific rim countries, but no more. It now has only about 115 employees, and their focus is on Alaska power plants.

Why is this? First of all, according to this article, in 2011 Usibelli exported 1.3 million tons of coal, but in 2012 this number fell to 877,000 tons, and by 2014 was only 513,000 tons.  In 2015, no shipments were made to South Korea or Chile and a mere 150,000 tons were exported to Japan.

This drop in demand has made it unfeasible to export coal to Asia. The high production costs, the remote locations, and the shipping expenses make this coal uncompetitive. Also, according to this article, China, the largest consumer of coal on the planet by a country mile, has drastically reduced its imports. In fact, its consumption “appears to have peaked in 2014.”

According to this article, China has closed over 1,000 of its own mines, due to lack of need, so it’s certainly not going to prioritize imports. And the price of coal is dropping globally, with no end in sight.

South Korea and Chile’s markets were a mere drop in the bucket compared to China’s. By that I mean they constitute about 1 percent of global consumption. India takes up about 10 percent of the world’s coal consumption, but even their consumption is dropping annually. That means exporters around the globe are hurting. It’s not just us. Australia’s coal mining industry is in poor shape as well.

So, yeah, if you’re looking to make money from coal, you’re wasting your time. As more and more countries turn to green energy sources, they’re turning away from coal. As more and more countries realize they should invest in service industries rather than factories, they’re turning away from coal. Investing in coal is tantamount to investing in the Model A Ford.

Coal is dying. And it should. It’s long overdue.

Do I feel sorry for the people who have lost jobs? Of course. But it’s unreasonable to expect the world to prop up an industry that has no demand or use because of that. Some realities are harsh, but they’re still inevitable.

If you’re too short-sighted to realize that the world is outgrowing coal, and you’re looking for someone to blame, don’t blame Obama. Don’t be that simplistic. Realize that the times are changing, and you’d be well advised to change with them.

And, um, don’t spread your ignorance to a captive audience. This train is moving down the track, honey. With or without you. Just sayin’.

Coal Miners

Claim your copy of A Bridgetender’s View: Notes on Gratitude today and you’ll be supporting StoryCorps too!

Glacier Bay

Sometimes I have no idea how I get so lucky.

Sometimes I have no idea how I get so lucky. Taking a Cruise from Seward, Alaska to Vancouver, British Columbia was one of those times. I had this thought, in particular, while sitting on the balcony of my stateroom on Holland America’s Noordam, while gazing at the many glaciers of Glacier Bay National Park. This is the life.

Glacier Bay can only be reached by plane or boat, so I really appreciated seeing the park rangers come alongside the cruise ship to do what they call a “controlled crash” and climb up the rope ladder with everything they needed to set up their visitor center on the ship.

We saw at least 8 glaciers, the most spectacular of which were Johns Hopkins Glacier and my personal favorite, Margerie Glacier, with its spectacular, vivid blue, craggy face. The pictures below don’t do them justice. The experience will be stamped permanently on my brain. For that, I’m extremely grateful.

Yes, the glaciers have been receding at an unprecedented, extreme rate. They were calving into the water even as we watched. 95 percent of all scientists in the world agree that this is caused by global climate change which has been brought upon the planet by human activity. Anyone who thinks otherwise is not using science-based logic.

As I took in these glaciers, with the seals cavorting at their feet, I tried not to dwell on the sadness I felt that future generations would not have this view. Rather, I vowed to do what I can to reduce my impact, and I tried to focus on the fact that right here, right now, I was lucky enough to have this view myself. What a gift.

Like this blog? Then you’ll love this book!

A Blanket Apology to Everyone on Earth

Please forgive us, individually, even if you cannot forgive us collectively.

This post is for all of you who read my blog outside of the U.S. I am an American. I can’t speak for all Americans. No one can. Or at least no one should. But I can certainly speak for myself.

It breaks my heart that my country as a whole is being judged by the rest of the world based on what they see in the news. Most of us are not like the insane people who grab the headlines these days. Many of us are as appalled by what we read as you are. I don’t know if that will be a source of comfort or of increased anxiety for you, but there you have it: for many of us, that feeling of disgust does not stop outside our borders.

So let me tell you a little about who I am, so you can see that not all of us fit that stereotype that has been created by Washington D.C., our nation’s capitol, where you can’t sling a dead cat without hitting someone who is morally bankrupt, unforgivably selfish, and rotting from the inside by the sheer weight of his or her greed. Such blatant abuse of power is unconscionable.

First of all, I am horrified at my government’s total disdain for the environment. We are one of the most environmentally selfish nations on earth, and the least likely to do anything to turn this global warming situation around before it destroys us all. I’m so sorry for that. I wish I felt like I could do something about it. I mean, I vote. I speak out. I do the best I can to reduce my carbon footprint. But I feel like I’m not making an impact, and I know this negatively impacts you as well.

I also happen to think that my country’s stance on guns is absurd and dangerous. We have more mass shootings than anywhere else, and we can’t even agree that the average citizen has no legitimate need for semi-automatic weapons. It makes no sense.

And this damned border wall that Trump is so in love with? I don’t want it. No one I know really wants it. All this political maneuvering is an embarrassment. Honestly, how do these people even look themselves in the mirror?

I don’t think immigrants are a threat. In fact, I’m a second generation American myself. This country would be lost without immigrants. I’m not so greedy that I’m not willing to share the wealth. I actually like you unless you give me some personal reason to feel otherwise. I don’t believe in kidnapping your children at the border. I think the day we stop granting asylum to people in danger is the day when we lose the most vital part of what makes us decent human beings. Jesus wouldn’t turn you away, so how can a country that considers itself mainly Christian do so? I don’t understand this attitude of xenophobia. It makes me sick.

I am also profoundly sorry that we don’t step in to help nearly as often as we butt in to serve our own best interests. We have no right to do this. Clearly, we struggle to get ourselves right, so it’s the height of arrogance to think we can fix anyone else.

And we imprison people to a much higher degree than any other country. I can’t blame you if you think twice about visiting us. I’d be afraid to, if I were you. But I genuinely believe that we need you to come visit. We need our horizons expanded. It’s hard to think of someone as an enemy once we’ve broken bread with that person. Please, come break bread with us.

I guess I do sit squarely in one stereotype. I tend to forget the world doesn’t revolve around us. Perhaps you could care less about what my country says or does. Perhaps you have more important things on your mind than my pompous country. That’s a legitimate response, too, and I can hardly blame you for it.

I just wanted you to know that I’m sorry about all the destruction we cause. I just wanted you to know that somewhere here, in this unbelievable circus of a country, sits a woman in a bridge tower who is every bit as outraged as many of you are. And I know for a fact that I’m not alone. So, please forgive us, individually, even if you cannot bring yourselves to forgive us collectively.

American Flag

I wrote an actual book, and you can own it! How cool is that?