The Sky is Falling

I’ve been feeling a bit claustrophobic of late. Due to all the wildfires in the Pacific Northwest, I went about a week without seeing the sky. The sun and the moon both looked blood red from the pollution, and the smoke seemed to be pressing down upon us. I lost my mountain views at work, and in the little valley where I live, it seemed like a grey pot lid was sitting on the hills, closing us off from the rest of the universe.

Every day I’d come out to find my car coated in a blanket of ash. And at work, when I’d do my sweaty maintenance and then walk through these cinder showers, I’d wind up looking like a coal miner. Nothing quite like being coated with gunk to make your work day feel like it’s going that much slower.

I hate it when my horizons shrink. It’s bad enough that winter is approaching, which here in the Seattle area means cloudy skies for months on end. (Time to break out my SAD light in order to avoid a deep, dark depression.) I’m starting to look at it as the price I have to pay for amazing springs and summers.

But as global warming advances, I suspect I can look forward to a lot more smoky skies in the summer, and either killing droughts or torrential downpours. I’m not sure if I can adapt to this new world. I worry for my grandnephews, who will have no memory of how things used to be. I worry for my friends in Florida, who will be chewed up and spit out by one hurricane after another until the whole state disappears.

This does not feel like the planet I was born on. And we’ve brought it on ourselves. Something has got to give.

Moon
The moon feels like it’s getting closer every day.

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You Don’t Have to Believe in Global Warming

It must be awfully stressful to be a climate change denier. If you fall into that category, I have to admire your tenacity, your grit, your firmness of conviction. Especially in light of the fact that fewer and fewer people agree with you.

According to a Gallup Poll in March, 2016, 64 percent of Americans are extremely concerned about it, up from the all-time recorded low of 51 percent back in 2011. And 65 percent of us believe global warming is caused by human activities.

And scientists (the ones who study these things, after all), are even more definitive. According to Wikipedia, “A survey found 97% agreed that global temperatures have increased during the past 100 years; 84% say they personally believe human-induced warming is occurring, and 74% agree that ‘currently available scientific evidence’ substantiates its occurrence.”

No one likes to be a member of an ever-shrinking group, but hey, you are entitled to your opinion. And opinions don’t have to have anything at all to do with facts. For example, I am of the opinion that cranberries are torture devices that get trotted out every Thanksgiving. You don’t have to agree with me.

Even so, I’m sure we can find some common ground. For example, most of us should be able to agree that we need to take care of the planet on which we live, for ourselves and for future generations. It’s the only planet we’ve got, right? We can all agree that our actions have consequences, even if we don’t agree about what those consequences will be.

So it’s official. I will no longer judge you harshly for being of an opinion that flies in the face of science. I will no longer ridicule you for having a belief that is so foreign to my own. Don’t you feel better already? I do. What a load off our minds. Group hug!

But in exchange, I’m going to double down on you if you neglect or abuse the planet. Just as I would be wrong to go out and destroy all the cranberry bogs, so you would be wrong to negatively impact the earth. Fair’s fair.

If you aren’t willing to stand on that common ground, then I can only conclude that your agenda is far more nefarious, and you might want to take a hard look at your level of selfishness, laziness, and greed. In that case, you’d feel a whole lot better if you simply come clean and admit that it isn’t that you don’t believe in global warming. It’s actually that you don’t give a shit.

But I’d like to have more faith in you than that. I think you can believe what you will and still do what you must. Your actions mean much more to me than your thoughts. Especially if you’re choosing to be thoughtless.

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Give Your Child the World

At the risk of alienating half the American population, I genuinely don’t think that building walls between countries brings about world peace or understanding. In fact, the more that we interact with the rest of the world, the less we will fear it. It’s the unknown that is scary. The more you travel, the more you know.

I believe it’s important to get your kids thinking about the wider world at an early age. Anything that inspires curiosity and imagination and creativity and expands one’s worldview can only be a good thing. That’s why I got very excited when my niece told me about Little Passports.

This is a program for children ages 3 to 12. When they sign up, they get a little suitcase, a passport, and a map of the world. Then each month they get an age-appropriate package in the mail that teaches them about other world concepts, countries and states, and includes letters, souvenirs and fun activities.

What a brilliant idea. But even if you can’t afford to participate in Little Passports, I strongly encourage you to promote global understanding, especially for your children. Maybe choose one country a month and learn about it with your child. Prepare a meal from that country. Listen to their music. Learn their history. Check out their art. Everything you need can be found on line.

As social media expands, and as the sea levels rise, the world is shrinking. It is really important to prepare your kids for the fact that the planet is becoming even more of a melting pot than it already is. Walls won’t help you in this effort. Instead, build bridges.

World_Flag_map

Environmental Meddling

Anyone who lives in the Southeastern United States is familiar with kudzu. This amazingly insidious vine was introduced to this country by the Japanese at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, and since then, according to Wikipedia, it’s been spreading at the rate of 150,000 acres annually, which seems really intimidating until you realize that that’s roughly equivalent to the amount of rain forest that’s chopped down every day.

A great deal of time and money is spent attempting to keep the kudzu invasion in check, and nothing seems to work. It has been known to suffocate acres of trees, pull down power lines, and crush abandoned houses under the sheer weight of its proliferation.

Like it or not, we need to accept the fact that kudzu is here to stay. And since that’s the case, we should try to turn this negative into a positive. Most Americans would be surprised to know that kudzu is edible. It’s a great source of starch and is eaten regularly in Vietnam and Japan and other parts of Asia. It also makes great grazing fodder. Goats, in particular, love it. The vines can be used in basket weaving, and its fiber can be made into cloth and paper. Some people use it to treat migraines, tinnitus, vertigo, and hangovers.

In light of this, I say, why not let kudzu run rampant? Help feed and clothe those in need, and reduce the cost of feeding grazing animals. Even better, if we really let it take over, think of the time we’d regain by never having to maintain our lawns again. Each time we fertilize our lawns, more harmful nutrients are entering our water table, causing algae blooms in our rivers and doing untold amounts of damage to the environment. Kudzu is the perfect solution for that. All we’d have to do is cut new holes where our doors and windows should be every few weeks, and voila! No fertilizing, no other yard work.

We wouldn’t ever have to paint our houses, because no one would be able to see them. Also, as our ozone depletes, skin cancer is on the rise. Kudzu would greatly reduce this problem because it’s an excellent source of shade. In fact, if given half the chance, kudzu would ensure that we never see the sun again.

I also have a theory that if we introduced kudzu to the moon and mars, they’d both be lush and green and producing oxygen within a year. All thanks to a pretty little plant that never should have been here in the first place.

We humans are just sooooo good at fiddling with the planet. Why not go for it? What’s the worst that could happen?

kudzu

Yes, that’s a house.

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Kudzu gone wild. Every Southerner in the US has seen this somewhere at least once in their lives.

There’s a Freakin’ HOLE in the Sun!

NASA released a video of a hole in the sun so massive it’s the equivalent of 50 planet earths across, and takes up about a quarter of the sun’s surface. It’s this big black mass, and it makes your basic sun spot look like a walk in the park. You can see the video here. This hole is causing magnetic field lines to whip out into the solar wind instead of back to the sun’s surface.

But here’s what I find most horrifying about this news: Apparently these holes are quite common. They come, they go.

Gloriosky. How have I managed to live on this planet for 48 years without knowing this? That’s like, I don’t know, living on Nantucket and not knowing about whales. Living in Orlando and not knowing about Mickey Mouse.

What else am I overlooking?

And how is this change in solar weather impacting us? I have no idea, but I fully intend to blame it for the foul mood I’ve been in for the past few days. Yeah. It’s all the sun’s fault. That’s it.

sun hole

Happy Earth Day!

It’s Earth Day, and that has me thinking about the intimate encounters I’ve had with nature in my lifetime.

  • I have swum with manatee, dolphins and stingrays.
  • I briefly dated a guy who could imitate a barn owl so accurately that every owl in the region would respond to his call. He also taught me how to walk through the woods at 2 am without a flashlight. (Lift your toes to avoid tripping, and hold a stick ahead of you to thwart spider webs, and you’ll be amazed how quickly your eyes adjust to the lack of light.)
  • Working graveyard shift for 10 years, I’ve probably seen about 2000 sunrises, enough to know each one is as unique as a snowflake.
  • Many times I have watched that moment when the moon expands and turns orange just before it sinks below the horizon.
  • I’ve hiked beyond the overlooks at Yellowstone Park, and was told by a ranger that less than 5 percent of the parks visitors bother to do so. I find this astounding, and a bit disheartening.
  • I’ve rescued wild birds with my bare hands.
  • I’ve pulled my car over to remove lizards from my windshield.
  • I have reclined in a mountain meadow and watched bats fly overhead.
  • I’ve ridden horses through national parks.
  • I’ve seen solar eclipses, lunar eclipses, shooting stars and comets.
  • I have snorkeled above a coral reef.
  • I have danced in the rain.

But perhaps most importantly I have looked skyward and thanked the universe for allowing me to live on this planet and feel the wind upon my face. I hope everyone will take a moment today and do the same.

earth day

Image credit: mauiearthday.org

Chaos: The New Normal?

A coworker of mine was describing a situation in which he and his brother were watching TV and they got into an argument which then escalated into a fist fight, and the police had to be called. Just a regular Tuesday night at Chez Coworker, apparently. I remember thinking, “Huh. My whole life, the police have never been called to my house. Am I normal, or is he?”

Someone else I know regularly shouts and makes intimidating gestures, causing tension, fear and anxiety in his household. He says that he’s of Mediterranean descent, so he can’t help it. That made me wonder about all the Italians and Greeks and Turks that I’ve passed on the street who have managed to behave themselves and act with courtesy and respect. Who’s the stereotype?

And then there’s the girl whose husband tried to choke her. But she’s still with him, because she loves him. I tried to imagine sleeping under the same roof with someone, even for one night, who had tried to kill me. I’m not getting any pictures.

Another story: this guy left his car keys on the counter and went to sleep. One of his relatives took the car without permission and got into an accident. The guy wakes up, sees the damage to the car, asks who was responsible, and no one admits to it. And they all (every one of them is an adult) still live with him. Oh no. Not me. Not even for a second. I’d have gathered them all in one room and said, “Either someone confesses and makes arrangements to pay for damages, or every single one of you is out on the street.”

Another woman racked up thousands of dollars in phone bills by calling her boyfriend who was in the military overseas. She was the only one in the house who even knew someone overseas, so there was no doubt who was responsible. Not only did she not pay the bills, but since the phone was in her parent’s name, their service got cut off, and they haven’t been able to have a house phone for years because of it. Not to mention the fact that their credit is ruined. It’s the great unspoken thing in the family, but apparently she has no remorse whatsoever. That same girl’s sister stole her own 10 year old child’s birthday money.

All of these things have me wondering, who is living a life outside the norm? Me, for being shocked by all of the above, or them? Are most of the people on the planet just animals with no moral compass whatsoever? Should the Jerry Springer Show be considered a documentary? And to think there are people out there who still refuse to believe we’re related to primates. Sheesh.

chimp

Darkness Revealed

When I drive to work at night it’s a completely different experience than when I work a day shift. Even the nuclear power plant, normally a blight upon the landscape, looks beautiful. It is all lit up and floating in a sea of blackness like a nighttime cruise heading for the Bahamas.

The traffic flow is different as well. There’s less of it, and although it seems like a more lawless group of drivers, and definitely a more alcohol-soaked one, it feels safer. This is a dangerous illusion that requires one to be on the alert.

Criminals rule the night, or at least that is what Hollywood would have us believe. So there’s also this underlying sense of excitement and danger. Most people who are out at night are there either because they have no choice or they like the thrill and the atmosphere or they don’t have the sense to be vigilant. Or they are predators who are up to no good. And since these people can’t be told apart, you have to assume the worst.

What I like about the dark hours is the sense of isolation. Even though there are still the same number of humans on the planet, somehow at night you can often feel as if you have it all to yourself. What a luxury. I look up at the sky and revel in the quiet and imagine that all those stars are a part of me. We are star stuff, after all. I seem to breathe easier at night. I feel embraced by it. I’m where I’m supposed to be.

It takes a certain amount of faith to feel safe at night. You are, after all, being deprived of one of your senses. Anything could be in the darkness. Anything at all. You can’t really be sure. There’s so much out there that you can’t see. Everything is hidden from you, and there’s quite a lot of it.

Indeed, that feeling of abundance can overtake our senses. At night we become more. More romantic, more fearful, more uninhibited, more exuberant, or more lonely and depressed. People hate to be alone on a Friday night. You never hear them complain about being alone on a Friday afternoon.

The nighttime feels like an grand entity that the daytime can never even hope to become. It takes a special effort to overcome that prehistoric desire to hide, to hibernate, to wait out the darkness. But if you make the effort, you often reap rare and sensual rewards.

magritte4119Magritte

A Global Perspective. Get One.

Well, it is looking more and more like they’re going to do away with full time positions where I work so they won’t have to provide us with health care. If that happens, I am in deep trouble. I honestly don’t know how I’ll make it. And I’m hearing that same story from more and more of my friends. It feels like we Americans are on the threshold of a brand new way of living, and it may take decades for it all to settle into a routine that can be characterized in any formal way.

But I refuse to panic, because I’ve traveled. I have seen what people do to survive, and I know that I’ve yet to tap in to even one percent of my survival skills. I may feel like I’m falling, but I have a LONG way to fall before I get to where most of the planet is. I’m still in fantastic shape, relatively speaking. And I think the fact that most Americans do not travel internationally is what makes them so closed minded and nervous about their future. A global perspective will demonstrate to you that human beings can survive under the harshest of circumstances. We are a hardy breed. And even the poorest American is so much better off than the vast majority of the world that it kind of makes me blush that we complain at all.

Here are some statistics from the Global Issues website that will certainly make you think.

  • Around 27-28 percent of all children in developing countries are estimated to be underweight or stunted. The two regions that account for the bulk of the deficit are South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Based on enrollment data, about 72 million children of primary school age in the developing world were not in school in 2005; 57 per cent of them were girls. And these are regarded as optimistic numbers.
  • Nearly a billion people entered the 21st century unable to read a book or sign their names.
  • Less than one per cent of what the world spent every year on weapons was needed to put every child into school by the year 2000 and yet it didn’t happen.
  • Access to piped water into the household averages about 85% for the wealthiest 20% of the population, compared with 25% for the poorest 20%.
  • There are 2.2 billion children in the world. 1 billion of them live in poverty.
  • In 2005, the wealthiest 20% of the world accounted for 76.6% of total private consumption. The poorest fifth just 1.5%.
  • Approximately 790 million people in the developing world are still chronically undernourished, almost two-thirds of whom reside in Asia and the Pacific.

It’s a brutal world in which we live. No matter how far I may fall, I know that I can always look over my shoulder and see billions of people who are worse off than I am. And if you have the leisure time and the ability to sit and read this blog, you are in the same position that I am. This position does not make me proud, but it does give me perspective. And as more and more things start to unravel, I’m grateful for that perspective.

PlanetEarth

Where is China, Greenland and the Whole of Africa?

Since I haven’t been able to afford international travel in the past several years, I travel vicariously by checking out the countries of origin of the people who visit my blog. WordPress is even kind enough to provide a nifty little world map, with the countries that have visited colored in for me.

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When I get a new country visitor, I’m always so excited. I imagine someone from Bangladesh, for example, sitting at their computer on the other side of the world, looking at something I’ve written. What is that person like, I wonder. What does the room in which they’re sitting look like? What sounds are they hearing out their window? What drew them to my blog? Did I make them think about something in a different way? If it’s a country that I know very little about, I rush off to Google and learn a thing or two.

It’s a particular thrill when it’s a little tiny country, because I figure the odds are a lot longer that someone there would visit. I’d love to get Andorra or Lichtenstein, for example.

I’ve had visitors from 49 countries so far. In addition to the countries visible on the list from my screengrab picture above are Switzerland, Chile, Singapore, Austria, Greece, Ukraine, Slovenia, Malaysia, Mongolia, Finland, Mauritius, Israel, Guatemala, Iceland, Thailand, Croatia, Turkey, Viet Nam, France, Lithuania, Nepal and Brunei Darussalam.

I was particularly excited when I got my first visitor from the Russian Federation, because that REALLY added color to my map! What I can’t figure out, though, is why I haven’t sparked any interest at all from any nation on the African continent. What does a girl have to do? I’d also love to get Greenland and China. I’ll really know I’ve arrived, though, when I get someone from North Korea. But I won’t hold my breath.

So if you are a new visitor, welcome! I am waving hello to you from another part of the planet, and I’m really glad you’re here! Come back soon and bring your friends!