Sunday, April 27, 2008

Lucky Me!

Wow, another Bloggy Carnival giveaway is over and I won another prize! Thanks to Big Blueberry Eyes, I am the winner of Yoplait Kids yogurt coupons for two six-packs! I really love those carnivals, I get to visit so many blogs I would never have found in a million years! Big Blueberry Eyes is a SAHM with a beautiful family and a busy life. She does these neat Friday Freebies with free stuff you can send for -- I love free stuff! Maybe when the next Carnival (or the one after, or eventually . . .) rolls around, I'll be nervy like Snowbird and be a giver. In the meantime, being a taker is FUN!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

If it walks like a duck . . .

The grandkids (and their parents) and I went to play in a local park last Sunday. I love seeing them, my face hurts after they leave from smiling so much, which makes me realize how little I smile otherwise.
While the kids were playing, some other parents tipped us off that we should keep the kids away from a large bouncy platform shaped like a fire engine. There was a mother mallard underneath, annoyed as all get out and pushing herself flatter and flatter on her next as kids jumped up above.

We don’t have the advantage of CROW here, but I figured it was a city park so I called the city park office. They said it was not their job to protect a duck. Then I called the city police and asked them if they could just tape it off to warn parents to keep their kids off for a few more days. They said no, they did not think there was any reason to do that. Then I called the Department of Natural Resources, Fish and Wildlife Division (the same people who bring us Ding Darling and other wonderful refuges) and they asked me if I would buy a roll of caution tape and tape the area off. I asked them if I could do that when the city told me it wasn’t necessary, and they said it didn’t matter because (as I already believed) the protection of waterfowl is a federal matter.
So I stopped by my local hardware store on the way home, hightailed it back to the park (where the mama was again hissing while kids jumped up above, not knowing she was there) and barricaded the little nursery. I talked to several parents there and told them what I was doing, and they were all for it.
Sadly, I am a little afraid that bringing attention to the nest could itself be dangerous, but I am trying to believe in the best of human nature . . . even so, I’ll be checking back there every day or so. There always has been a busy-body in me, yearning to come out!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Part III: Grains of sand

It’s crazy, isn’t it, that things have gotten to such a state of crisis that we feel helpless? The idea of taking personal responsibility for it is daunting. Although I would like to, I cannot personally save the polar bears or the ice cap or the rain forests or the ocean. I cannot even save the little lake that borders my city. And so everything I do seems inadequate and a little pathetic, and I want to put my head under the pillow. No wonder a lot of people decide that there's no point in doing anything at all.

But I think of it like this: have you heard about the shell mounds that were built, for reasons unknown, by the now-extinct Calusa tribe in Florida? (stay with me, I do have a point here somewhere.) Our foreign ancestors wiped out every last Calusa back in the 1700s with imported violence and disease, and as far as scholars can tell, there are no descendants. So the Calusa are long gone, but even today, some of their shell mounds remain. More than merely remain, some of them are still 30 feet high, and we have no idea how tall they were before they were worn down by wind, rain, tourists and vandals. I have read that whole good-sized islands were created by human design, by some of those piles of shells. Now, I visit Calusa territory when I can and pick up shells, lots of them, every time I go to Sanibel Island. In fact, I have bowls and vases and baskets of shells. But, despite all my best efforts, I do not have anywhere near enough shells to build a mound, much less an island.

And this, finally and obviously, is the point. Yes, I know it sounds smarmy, but that doesn't make it any less true. Just as a single Calusa couldn't build a seashell island alone, I can’t fix the problems of the world alone. Until I have the support of our social structures, there will be some things - like using mass transit - that are out of reach for me. But that doesn’t excuse me from doing everything I can, because even my small contributions might matter in the long run. So I keep putting my environmental "seashells" on the pile, and hope that you are doing the same.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Part II: Things I (try to) do right

1. I am trying to educate myself and become more aware of the variety of human actions that are damaging. I take the environment into account when I make a decision, and try to choose the least damaging option.

2. I try not to buy things I don’t need and won’t really use, or won’t use for long. I am much better at not buying unnecessary things for myself than in refraining from purchases for others.
3. I try not to buy or use chemicals unless I have to – no fertilizers or pesticides on my lawn, no bleach, few cleaning products, that sort of thing.

4. I try really really hard not to buy plastic, but toys are, so far, irresistible to me.

5. I buy organic and local products whenever possible.

6. I eat many meatless meals.

7. I have CFL lightbulbs in almost all outlets in my house, with the exception of a few that are so low wattage that I can’t yet find a CFL to fit. I don't watch television very often and try to be careful with my use of electricity.

8. I dial down my thermostat, at home and at work.

9. I keep my car tuned and my tires properly inflated to save gas.

10. I write letters and sign petitions.

11. I recycle. Recycling is not only good for the environment, it is a good reminder for me about which products contain excess packaging.

There are lots more things I should do – I am wasteful of paper towels and I still buy newspapers and magazines. I dry my clothes in a dryer – did you know that electric dryers account for about 10% of the electricity used in this country? – but I am not likely put up a clothesline while my house is listed for sale. Still . . .

12. I am working in the direction of overcoming those habits.

And it goes without saying, no bottled water! What steps have you thought of that you can recommend to me so that my "good things" list can grow?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Part I: what I do wrong (the short list)

Really, it seems like it is almost impossible for me to do anything ‘right’ for the environment in my daily life.

1. My normal workday involves getting up in the dark, turning on one light (with a cfl bulb), making a pot of [imported after destroying who knows how much rain forest] coffee, with filtered (another environmental disaster) water.

2. And drinking a glass of non-local grapefruit juice poured out of a plastic bottle.

3. I grab something to call breakfast, which inevitably contains sugar and some level of plastic packaging. Today’s healthy choice was a handful of animal crackers from a plastic tub. Tomorrow it might be cereal, but I ask you, really, what’s the difference? Plastic, may I remind you, is the devil, and sugar plantations are causing the downfall of the Okeechobee River, the Gulf of Mexico, the Australian Reef and pretty much the whole universe because of pesticide and fertilizer run off. [Imagine telling our grandchildren that they will never see a reef, that the everglades are gone, and that they can’t have life as we know it because we had to have more and more sugar.]

4. I drive to work, alone, in my 1997 Corolla, which is well tuned and still, after a few hundred thousand miles, gets good gas mileage. I love that car. But I drive a lot, and fill up about 7 times a month. I live in a no-mass-transit part of the world.

5. At work, I do not turn on my office lights, and I power off when I leave, but I do use a computer all day. I don’t even like my job, which makes it all seem even more wasteful.

6. Lunch. If I have groceries in the house, I will try to bring it, and it will be at least as healthy as breakfast (yum). I will warm it up in a toxic plastic container. If there are no groceries in the house, I will try to do without, but if I can’t a Styrofoam container is inevitable.

7. A coworker stops by, with adorable mini hostess cupcakes in a plastic sleeve, and I tell her, again, about plastic and sugar plantations, and offer to send her some websites. But then I eat the cupcakes and throw away the plastic, and worry that next time she won’t share them with me.

8. I drive home, alone.

9. Home is fairly small, but inhabited by only one person, and still a place with a gas furnace, air conditioning, electricity, sanitary water, a computer.

10. And then I drive some more. I drive on errands and appointments, drive to take Mr. Cranky out for food, drive 2 hours north to see my grandchildren, or drive to go shopping with my sister while trying to comply with Crunchy Chicken’s Buy Nothing Challenge.

It is likely that my personal ‘carbon footprint’ is no bigger than average, but that really doesn’t matter because it is multiplied millions of times. Even knowing better, it is hard to change my lifestyle against the tide of the social environment I live in, and we can’t all move to the west coast or Europe where people are apparently smarter. It’s hard to make better living a habit, hard to reach for the (local) fruit instead, hard to make the time to shop well and cook and preserve my food, really hard to cut my portions back to sensible 1950-sized portions, and harder still to limit my sugar intake. Sometimes I wonder if I am evolved enough to maintain the necessary sense of fear and/or commitment to make the changes that need to be made. It is not easy to convince that dinosaur inside me to get shaking!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Ready, set . . .

Earth day is just around the corner, one week from today. This week I have heard news reports about the projected world food shortages as a result of the surge in first generation bio-fuels (from foodstuff), about china’s intention to build more coal fired industrial plants, and about Michigan’s consideration of the same, whether to build new coal plants in Bay City and Midland. It is incredible to me that anyone still thinks that new coal plants are an option. The ice caps seem to be melting more quickly every day, and I have heard projections for the state of the earth in as little as ten years that make my blood run cold. So this Earth Day really is a good time to consider what we are willing to give up for our own survival.

I am the first to admit that it all seems so hard and impractical. We have been spoiled by decades of convenience, and I’m afraid there is no painless way to retrain ourselves. But there are lots of thoughtful options to consider.

Many people have become more thoughtful by ‘fasting’ from consumption, people who’ve made the Buy Nothing pledge. I haven’t taken the Buy Nothing pledge, but I’ve certainly read the books – does that count? – and yes, in perfect irony, I bought those books before I read them. In this modified economic fast, people are urged to buy only the things they really need – food and heat and transportation – and nothing else, no extra clothing, no extra toys, no extra extra anything. I’m not old enough to have lived during the depression, when people were forced to make careful choices, but there are good reasons to take the Buy Nothing pledge in addition to the environmental reasons. I’ve seen reports that the cost of manufactured goods are expected to triple in the next year, and I’m not sure that anything I buy is worth three times what I’m paying for it now. Perhaps I would squander fewer personal and environment resources if I could consistently remember why I’m trying to conserve them -- really, did I need the snack crackers and individual grapefruit cups from Costco, or could I, for the sake of my grandchildren and yours, have done without them?

Other people (other books) have created the ‘eat local’ challenge. In my case, since we have local cows and sugar beets, I guess I could have all the ice cream I need, but it would be nearly impossible to find a quick lunch and would cut way back on my fruit and vegetable consumption for the next several months. Maybe this summer I will finally preserve and freeze local produce so that I will have it to rely on next winter. (I’ve already checked the internet for local farmers’ markets )

If that is too daunting, Crunchy Chicken suggests experimenting with small categories of sacrifice . (Now that woman is fearless - she has even done the cloth wipe challenge. Although I am not quite ready for that, I have to admit that it would change my consumption habits if I had to face myself from . . . er . . . both ends.) If you dare, you can sign up for one of her challenges today, giving up, for example, paper or plastic products. Can we even imagine a world without plastic anymore? It is everywhere, from the deepest parts of the ocean to the closet in my home. I remember how surprised I was to learn, at a crime lab demonstration about fiber evidence, that several of my winter blazers are made out of plastic fibers, spun soda pop bottles. And, as they do every Earth Day, several cities are organizing a no transportation day. For me that would mean biking or walking to work along a busy interstate freeway, or through difficult neighborhoods, neither of which sounds like a good idea.

So each of us has a week to decide. Small sacrifices make a difference, and as a bonus, our commitment will send a mandate to our lawmakers. How will they dare vote for the environment, at the expense of industry and profit, if they don’t have our support? How can they believe they have our support in changing the world if we aren’t willing to give up anything? But - no pressure here - we should all decide to do something, because if we aren’t willing to sacrifice something for a single day, we might be forced to sacrifice a lot more, and sooner than we think.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

What a prize!

What fun, I was a winner in the Bloggy Carnival, and promised a prize from Pretty Posh Princess! Because of this and that, my prize didn't arrive until last week, but it was totally worth the wait -- these absolutely adorable shoes by Aleja LAkroy for my absolutely adorable granddaughter! Not yet two years old, she is already a fashion diva when it comes to shoes, so she was very happy to get this unexpected pair. And oh! what shoes! They are apple green, with pretty pink bows, and they are soft and comfortable. But best of all, they have a special hidden surprise - although it doesn't stay t hidden for very long. They SQUEAK! There are squeakers embedded in each heel, so that every step is a musical delight. My little sweetie-pie-pie loves the sounds she makes when she walks in those shoes - and you should hear it when she jumps! It was so much fun to watch her - this is what I hear and see: step, squeak, shout "I squeaking!", jump, squeak squeak, laugh laugh laugh! (And we never had to wonder where she was!) I wanted to take a picture of the shoes on her feet, but they never held still long enough. These are the cutest shoes I've ever seen - but maybe not for trips to the library or for church!