Thursday, January 29, 2009

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Another Quote from "This Moment on Earth"

"The most fundamental responsibility of any government is to protect its citizens from physical harm. Sometimes that harm comes from hostile foreign powers, or from terrorists, or from criminals. But as this chapter shows, it also comes from toxic materials, from air and water pollution, and from those who carelessly expose others to the real and horrible consequences of their own greed or negligence.The environmental justice movement was founded on the simple expectation of American citizens that their government will fight, not tolerate, such harm. Taking up that fight does not involve an expansion of government, or an intrusion of government into private matters, but a vindication of public trust in democratic government itself." from "This Moment on Earth" by John Kerry and Teresa Heinz Kerry

This is from Chapter 3 that speaks 'truth to power' and chronicles Majora Carter's struggle to bring change to her community (essentially a minority community that became a major dumping ground for NYC) via the Sustainable South Bronx organization.

New Bird

I have been a fan of Mountain Ash trees since I was in elementary school when I was collecting Red Rose Tea Cards. They came out in different nature-themed series and the books to glue them into only cost 25 cents! The tree series cards had beautiful little paintings of the various types to North American trees. I was particularly attracted to the picture and name of the Mountain Ash. I do not believe that I actually saw one in real life until I moved west in my early 20's. As a gardener I had heard that they were "messy" trees because of the small leaves and berries but they attract birds like crazy in the dead of winter. Robins, waxwings and nuthatches love to feast on the large red meaty packets of energy. This Saturday I spotted a group of medium sized birds and suspected that they were waxwings but upon a closer inspection they were entirely different with thick, slightly crossed bills. It was my fist sighting of the Pine Grosbeak (# 229 on my Life List)! The males plumage in winter is rather muted but the females plumage looks just like in the bird guides. They were literally outside my front living room window in the Mountain Ash tree. They were pretty tame when I went out onto the front porch to leave. Here is an interesting fact...I did not even plant the tree. It was a volunteer from some bird who made a deposit one day and grew up by the downspout from the eves.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Amazing TV Viewing Stats

Here are some stats that I found:

American adults watch an average of 4 hours of TV a day and the TV is on an average of 8 hours a day.

By the age of 65 the average American has seen 2 million TV commercials.

The average American youth spends 900 hours a year in school and 1000 hours a year watching TV.

(TV-Turnoff Network)

Just imagine how much more you could get accomplished or how much more exercise or how much more enjoyment of life you could wring out of each day if you minimized your time in front of the tube!

Monday, January 19, 2009

To Face Book or Not to Face Book

I am having a difficult time deciding if I should take the plunge. Two of my friends have invited me to join the facebook craze. I just heard that fully 65% of younger people have on-line interfaces and now it is up to 35 % of older adults do as well. My fear is that it will cause me to be on-line even more than I am now. I mainly check news, email, a hobby site and Sparkpeople along with the limited blogging I do. It already feels like this takes me away from 'reality' too much at times. I do like the idea of keeping up with what is going on in my friends lives and maybe reconnecting with lost friends. There is continued debate about whether this sort of communication is bringing people together or making us more physically isolated. I hope it is the later. If it had been so easy to communicate using facebook and myspace in the past I wonder if I would have lost touch with so many of my friends....

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Not This Cat!

Another Quote from "This Moment on Earth"

"A few decades ago, the World Health Organization (WHO) tried to end a malaria epidemic in Borneo by using DDT to wipe out the local mosquito population. Unfortunately, there were unintended consequences, just as Rachel Carson had described in Silent Spring. In the case of Borneo, the DDT also wiped out the wasps that controlled the local thatch-eating insects, with the result that many of the roofs on the Bornean homes started to cave in. Meanwhile, the DDT accumulated in the local lizard population, which caused the cats that ate the lizards to die, thereby unleashing a ferocious infestation of rats. Ultimately, WHO was forced to parachute in 14,000 new cats to control the rats in what was known officially as Operation Cat Drop.The story illustrates the high price of linear thinking. The simple fact is that problems never exist in isolation--nor do solutions. Assuming otherwise invites a host of unintended consequences and leads us where we never intended to go. A lot of what we do in life is like that. We make simple assumptions, we act in a hurry, we forget to worry about the details. And one day we wake up and all the cats are dead."

Monday, January 12, 2009

Environmental Impact of a Common Convenience

I came across this quote in an environmental book that I am reading on-line (This Moment on Earth by John Kerry and Teresa Heinz Kerry) and found it pretty shocking.

"The disposable diaper was convenient and gave millions of American parents--especially mothers--a new sense of freedom. But what did the introduction of the disposable diaper mean for the planet? Sixty years or so after the "Boater" hit Saks, it is estimated that more than 18 billion disposable diapers are used in this country each year. The manufacture of these diapers requires 82,000 tons of plastic, which is made, in part, with crude oil. The absorbent inner layer is manufactured from wood pulp, derived from more than a quarter of a million trees cut down each year solely for this purpose. To make the diapers a crisp white color, a sign of cleanliness and sterility, the wood pulp is bleached with chlorine gas, a process that emits some of the most toxic chemicals ever made by humans, including dioxins, which are associated with birth defects, miscarriages, and cancer. Additionally, 18 billion diapers each year translate into a lot of trash.Diapers are now the third-largest single contributor to solid waste at landfills, where they may take as long as 500 years to biodegrade. Furthermore, the waste that goes to the landfill with the diaper, should parents not first flush it, brings with it viruses and bacteria that can end up in our waterways, posing serious health risks."

My wife and I used a cloth diaper service in the 80's when we were raising out two daughters. I have always tried to be sensitive to environmental concerns. I still remember the first Earth Day celebreation in middle school when we walked around the neighborhood picking up litter. I recycle as much as I can and bring it home from work as well.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Tonight's Evening Snowshoe

After finishing up a movie this evening with my sweetheart (we first met 30 years ago this week in Albuquerque!) I decide to go snowshoeing. We have just set a record for the most snowfall for one month in Spokane and it just keeping piling up. Today, however, it began warming up (known locally as a Chinook wind or the Pineapple Express) and melting. I was invited to go cross-country skiing but I declined as it is no fun when the snow is this wet.

As I put on my snowshoes in the howling wind and began my little trek the sky was ablaze with an orange-tinted glow from nearby city lights. The beautiful silhouettes of the pine trees where a wonderful greeting. I headed past my favorite Ponderosa Pine in the nearby woods with its large trunk and thinning crown. The snow is thick but because of its moisture content I was not sinking as deep as the other night.

As I sunk into a rhythm with my poles and exaggerated steps my mind began to wander. I started thinking about trappers checking their lines out in the wilderness and about northern indigenous people eking out a living from the land. My meandering thoughts also took me trekking along with polar explorers advancing toward an invisible goal.

With all the deep snow around lately I had seen no animal tracks of any kind. I was approaching the ridge line overlooking the valley as I was thinking these thoughts and then, there they were. A set of day old tracks, possibly of coyotes. It has been awhile since I have heard their calls around home. Following the ridge line south I began to see more tracks and then a big circle of them with a dark patch in the middle... the carcass of a porcupine. All that was left was his pelt, a leg and his head. A few steps further and I saw the spot under a fallen pine where he must have been hunkered down in the snow and the signs of struggle. Many tracks led to and from this scene of death and survival.

Alone with these thoughts I climbed the hill to our "view point" and stood in the strong wind and looked out over the valley and at the city of Spokane 4 miles off. I trudged on past the old sledding hill and back home.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Experience Comparison

I had an interesting thought while I was shoveling snow off my roof today. This was triggered by 4 people on snowmobiles who were passing by in the woods and fields north of my house. They had paused and were shouting back and forth over the sound of their engines. I could hear them screeching from 150 yards away. Then they passed to the east of the house on their little noisy adventure. I have ridden a snowmobile once in Colorado and found it sort of fun but not for me. The whole idea of Noise while you are trying to enjoy nature baffles me. Other examples include personal watercraft, ATV's and dirt bikes. I would rather be in a canoe, hiking or bike riding. I know that this is in the realm of personal preference but the difference in the quality of the experience is stark.

In my mind I immediately conjured up the experience that I had had just two nights previously. My wonderful son-in-law and I went for a night snowshoe in the same area that the snowmobiles just were. The woods were quiet and we watched the moon set from the top of a small hillock. All was still as we suddenly saw a shooting star race from north to south over our heads. We named the constellations that we knew and peacefully snowshoed home.

I was pondering the difference between these two experiences as the smell of combustion engines wafted to me, shovel in hand, up on the roof top.

Quote that Fits!

While reading "Great Books" by David Dunby I came across a great quote that sums up the reason for this blog and how I would like to affect change in people; "the unlived life as spectator". He was referring to his own life but I think it captures the tendency in our culture to be caught up in things that, in the final analysis, amount to frivolous wastes of time.

I, personally, waste time watching tv, sorting and saving useless ephemera as well as a bit too much time on the computer. These 'activities' usually leave me upset with myself for not doing something productive, creative or active. So I try to limit these times and I am way happier and content when I DO something. Of course there are times when I am too tired to do much else so I vegetate in front of the boob tube and hope I find something that holds my interest. I like educational (nature, gardening, history, science) shows. Yes, you are correct in your assumption... I detest 'reality' shows. I prefer my own reality of experiences.

Finally, I do not want to be lying on my back staring a light in a hospital some day with regrets about all the things I never got to do.

Serendipitous Outing

My new friend, Steve, and I decided to spend the day checking out the partially flooding Spokane River back in May of last year. We are a couple of curious, nosey adventure seekers and can find fun just about anywhere. That day was one to remember! I am so glad I didn't stay home watching tv or otherwise wasting time...

We headed to the cemetery along Government Way not too far from where I live. I have never seen the river this high since moving here in 1983. The river banks are fairly tall and steep in this area except for a few spots. As we walked along the trail observing the river and how far up on the trees the water came, we started coming across a wide variety of wildlife. In the first low area we spotted a duckling in the tall grass and brush. We were afraid we would scare it out into the strong current so we froze. Then along came its parents, a pair of mergansers and they calmly swam with their charge back along the edge of the tall grass. Next we spotted a large bull snake in the branches of a bush at the edge of the water. While trying to get a good photo, Steve got a little too close for the snake's comfort and got hissed at rather aggressively! It was pretty funny and is even on video.

At this point we were feeling like a couple of kids out exploring in the woods behind the house. We went back to the car and since I was driving I decided to take the 'scenic' route back to my house. So up Indian Canyon road we went. At the Y I opted for the right sided road that connects with Basalt road. As it started to curve we passed a smallish man sitting cross-legged in the gravel behind his vehicle in a small pull-out area. We looked at each and wondered aloud if he was Native American as he sure looked like it from the glimpse we got. Soon after that I happened to glance to the left and saw 6 young coyotes in a pile playing with 2 adults nearby watching. We stopped and took some photos. It was several seconds before the adults headed down the abandoned road away from us. The youngsters, one by one, got the hint and slowly trotted after their parents. It was a very touching scene. We decided to drive a bit further up and get out to try to get some more close-up looks and photos. We headed down the next path and part way I realised that I had left my camera in the rig. Steve continued down the trail while I climbed up to retrieve the camera. As I came back down the trail I suddenly saw Steve frantically wave me to a stop. As soon as I stopped a medium size black bear strolled across the trail between Steve and I! He got a few pictures and when he was gone we were so excited that we could hardly contain ourselves! I live about a mile as the crow flies from there and across the freeway but have never seen a bear before. We have coyotes, deer, moose and occasionally an elk, but I have only heard any rumors about bears once in our area. We wondered about the connection between the man the the plethora of animals in that area on that day and how close together they all were.

You can see photos from this amazing little adventure on my regular blog, adventuringon.blogspot. I think the photos are under 'May'. Regrettably, they are all that remain of my photos from that day as shortly after that my computer crashed and I lost them all. It pays to back things up!