Seems There’s Plenty To Be Done

Not sure where I first found Orion Magazine – read a blurb somewhere and subscribed.  Branding itself as “Amerca’s Finest Environmental Magazine” I’d have to say it lives up to that billing quite well.  It’s also a terrific legacy project (more on that below), that’s right up my alley since my legacy interests are focused on environmental preservation, conservation, sustainability and clean renewable energy technologies. But that’s why a particular article caught my attention recently.  It’s by biologist Sandra Steingraber, entitled “The Whole Fracking Enchilada”, and I it hope catches the attention of many people in generations currently alive and able (and willing) to respond –  for the sake of future ones.

Here’s an excerpt from Barbara’s article – hopefully you’ll see why it got my attention:

THE ENVIRONMENTAL CRISIS can be viewed as a tree with two trunks. One trunk represents what we are doing to the planet through atmospheric accumulation of heat-trapping gasses. Follow this trunk along and you find droughts, floods, acidification of oceans, dissolving coral reefs, and species extinctions.

The other trunk represents what we are doing to ourselves and other animals through the chemical adulteration of the planet with inherently toxic synthetic pollutants. Follow this trunk along and you find asthma, infertility, cancer, and male fish in the Potomac River whose testicles have eggs inside them.

At the base of both these trunks is an economic dependency on fossil fuels, primarily coal (plant fossils) and petroleum (animal fossils). When we light them on fire, we threaten the global ecosystem. When we use them as feedstocks for making stuff, we create substances—pesticides, solvents, plastics—that can tinker with our subcellular machinery and the various signaling pathways that make it run.”

It seems there is much to be done if we are to shift this planet and its people (not to mention other species) to a truly healthy, life-enhancing environment.  We must move away from our dependency on fossil fuels, and the products of the petrochemical industy and era.  Many legacy level projects could contribute to that end, from the successful women and men of the planet looking for what’s next and ready to give back in some way – large or small – and who are looking for a subject to wrap that ambition around.

As for the legacy that is the magazine, it started as the Orion Nature Quarterly in June 1982 as a program of the Myrin Institute, a private operating foundation based in New York. Later, the magazine operation move to The Orion Society, an independent nonprofit, which also conducted additional programming, moved the operation to Massachusetts and obtained 501(c)3 designation for its ongoing work. The magazine has lots of great topics, no advertising, an easily accessible online version and a very reasonable subscription price.  They basically want people to read the content.

The publication’s first Editor-in-Chief, George Russell clearly illuminated Orion’s underlying values, which stand today:  “It is Orion’s fundamental conviction that humans are morally responsible for the world in which we live, and that the individual comes to sense this responsibility as he or she develops a personal bond with nature.”

Hear, hear.  Almost 30 years later, his words couldn’t ring any truer. Seems we need to go another direction … very soon.  Will you be one of the enlightened leaders who helps turn this bus, and all of us bozos on it, toward a better destination?

I hope so. All the best to you, Dolly

American Labor For Sustainability – Woo Hoo!

Mainstream America is coming to an understanding of the need to get behind efforts to clean up the planet.  The American labor movement has for some time supported expanding “green jobs” that will help create a cleaner, renewable energy economy and address global climate change.  Three unions recently took additional action and announced their support for the science-based targets called for by the IPCC to reduce greehouse gas emissions that cost us all, and future generations, far more than any savings offered (to anyone) by maintainining the status quo in our current fossil fuel based economy.  More on this story here:

Learning the issues and taking action to be for the right kinds of change, are legacy level leadership activities! Right on!

The Solar Race Is On – Now There’s a Developing Legacy to Get Behind!

Many of you know my personal legacy is devoted to environmental protection, conservation and support for the development of clean, renewable energy technologies. Now that folks seem to be getting the sense that global climate change is happening, addressing it is important and that it is economically and common sensically viable to do so (not only crucial to life as we know it on Earth), it seems the race to innovate and initiate new solutions is on.  Yea!!

From the Las Vegas Sun news online comes the story of the race between Nevada and Arizona to be the first to employ solar energy production and storage.

Imagine: what would the world be like if we all were racing to create better solutions, especially to environmental problems?  From my perspective, it would allow us to eventually get away from fossil fuel based energy production, which is important why?  Again, from where I live on the ocean it would stop us from killing the ocean and a crucial food chain all us Earthians depend on.  The ocean is not the vast resource we once thought, that we can treat as a giant dumping ground (and unfortunately have).  Between doing that and adding carbon to the atmosphere, which the ocean tries to help moderate by absorbing it and creating carbonic acid (H20 + CO2 = carbonic acid), not to mention unsustainable fishing practices, the ocean and its resources are dying. 

Here’s a picture of where we’re going if we don’t race to find solutions.  This is not just a scary story, we’re already actually on our way to this end:

Coral reefs and climate change, a message for Copenhagen from Earth Touch on Vimeo.

It was a video shown in Copenhagen as part of the effort to urge global solutions to climate change (of which the ocean acidification I mentioned is part).  Consider your children and grandchildren and the world they will inherit from the current generation if we don’t get behind efforts to change things for the better. 

Knowing this, what solution could you race toward as part of your consciously chosen life legacy?  Let us know how we can help you!

Legacy-Level Holiday Gift-Giving Ideas

This holiday season, remember the 4 R’s: Reduce, Re-use, Recycle and Rot. Not words you think of when it comes to the holidays? You can easily begin to incorporate these terms of environmental conservation into your gift-giving plans.

What do the 4 R’s really mean? Many people understand them to be equal alternatives, when really they form a hierarchy. The best first step is to Reduce the amount of material consumed, and therefore the energy used and waste produced in making it. Next in line is to Re-use goods and material that no longer serve their original purpose, but can serve another one with minimal process until their useful is exhausted. This is the one that is probably the least used or most mis-used in what has become a worldwide throwaway society. How many one-use items will you throw away today alone (think coffee cups, other beverage and food containers plastic bags)? Recycling is only third in line — its benefit only kicks in when it’s not possible to avoid consuming new materials to begin with or to re-use them. And while a great thing to do, recycling requires use of additional resources for transportation to processing facilities and for the recycling process itself. Think: “an ounce of prevention vs. a pound of cure.” Finally, Rotting (composting organic materials) is always available but is primarily an activity of the agrarian age gone-by that too few of us utilize. It happens naturally in landfills and our water supply, with little benefit and the need to expend energy to clean or reclaim those resources after compostable items are discarded or washed down a drain. That valuable organic matter could instead be going back into the soil to enrich it.

So, how can you make a difference in this arena, especially during the holidays? Here are some suggestions:

Reduce by just limiting the amount of stuff — plain old consumer goods and consumables — you purchase and interact with this holiday season. Your savings account and waistline will thank you. And you will reduce the amount of packaging and overall energy expenditures involved (including your own personal life energy). Let simplicity be the watchword — meaningful quality rather than quantity in gift-giving. The Story of Stuff also sheds some important light on issues of over-consumption and the true cost of things you may otherwise consider a bargain. When you think you’re getting a deal and can therefore buy more — think again about the hidden costs … and buy less.

There are many ways to Re-use other than to save wrapping paper and make last year’s paper greeting cards into gift tags (although those are good ideas, too). Gifts don’t have to be shiny and brand new to be significant and meaningful. They can be hand-crafted, one of a kind wonders (a different way to say homemade, but heck, what’s wrong with homemade?) Some examples are shown below.

Hopefully, you are already utilizing the environmental conservation practice of Recycling. Of course it’s hardly a new concept. Prior to synthetics, mass production, and particularly the end of WWII, conservation and recycling were the way we lived. Goods made from nylon, real rubber and many metals were rationed and reused. The environmental movement of the 1960s and 70s brought the practice back into “fashion” after the “throwaway society” heralded by Life Magazine in 1955 —. The invention of disposables was a way to free up the modern housewife (and baby, just look how encumbered we’ve become!) Fortunately, Earth Day and the movement that followed created a whole new (old) way to look at what it means to waste, and what we consider trash (which, as they say, is often someone else’s treasure). So when you shop for that holiday party, take your own cloth shopping bags, buy beverages in glass and aluminum containers that can be re-fashioned into new items, and consider using recyclable corn cups and bamboo plates for informal gatherings. The latter can go into your compost.

Which brings us to Rot. Don’t forget being generous to your compost bin or pile. You can easily create the gift some beautiful rich fertilized soil for your plants and garden beds when discarding anything organic — from the morning’s coffee grounds and eggshells to all your veggie and fruit trimmings and peelings. Bigger gatherings, more food = more of this precious organic matter that may go to waste without a consciousness of how valuable it is. Learning how to compost is easy. Even winter and snow don’t need to stop you. Think of it as your gift to the planet and future generations on a very basic level … because it is.

The 4 R’s are a back to the future, or maybe forward into the past (?!) concept at its best!

Here are some other specific gift ideas that can keep you in the holiday spirit in a down economy, as well as, add to your environmentally friendly practices:

Spa1. Give Services instead of Goods. You can give a gift certificate for salon or spa services, a car wash, a gardening service (like tree-planting or mulching the planting beds around the house), or organic cooking lessons. You can also give the gift of your own time, energy and expertise. Giving someone a book of coupons representing anything from computer training to your help doing household chores can be a very meaningful … and useful gift.

2. Give the Gift of An Adventure or Event. This is my personal favorite. At this point in my Honeymoon 1life, I’ve got enough stuff. But sharing time and experiences with people I care about means a lot to me. A card redeemable for lunch with a friend is worth a lot. My husband and I create trips and adventures (from local to international) to share with one another — which also supports the economies of the places we visit.

Honeymoon 2Here are a couple of photos from our recent honeymoon / “staycation” in our hometown of Key West. We had great fun being hometown tourists. Yes, we’ve chosen to live in this paradise at the end of a long road (which has its trade-offs folks), but I’m guessing your hometown paradise has great things to recommend it, too. Re-watch the Wizard of Oz if you need more of a reminder.

Gift certificates in the form of tickets to the movies, a concert or a local playhouse can be great fun especially if you get to be one of the ticket holders. This is also true for local attractions — to play golf (or mini-golf), enjoy a water park or spend the day at a botanical garden or museum. Memberships in local nonprofit organizations — producing the gift of involvement — are also an option.

Gold Watch3. The Gift of Personal Treasures. You may have family heirlooms, antiques, collectibles, artwork or jewelry that someone else would treasure, too — especially since it once belonged to you. This is true also of crystal, wood carvings, geodes or similar pieces of nature as art. They contain part of your story and lots of sentimental value, two things you can’t buy anyway.

Baked Goods4. Special or Healthy Edibles. This is when “homemade,” or hand-crafted with heart, is something especially good. Pies, cakes and cookies, barbecue or hot sauce (perhaps complete with the old family recipe) or even fresh or dried herbs from your garden are easy on the environment and convey your heartfelt wishes through the effort you put into exercising your culinary skills. Making up a few batches as gifts probably won’t take more time than trudging to and through the shopping mall, and it will be time more pleasantly spent by you, especially if the weather outside is frightful. And you never know what the effort might produce – see our Legacy Story this issue.

5. Gifts of Social Good – another of my favorites. I decided a couple years ago to make gifts in the names of family, clients and friends, that make a contribution in the world. Farm girl that I am, one of my favorites is Heifer International, an organization that provides needy individuals and families with the gift of sustainability by providing them with numerous farm animals that can then be used to produce commodities like dairy products, wool, honey, etc. — not to mention offspring, which the beneficiary agrees to pass along to another member of the community in effect “sharing the wealth.” Some of the other organizations we support are:

  • — an organization focused on linking renewable energy resources around the world using international electricity transmission in attempt to answer the question: “How do we make the world work for 100‰ of humanity in the shortest possible time through spontaneous cooperation without ecological damage or disadvantage to anyone?”
  • — which provides micro loans that give poor women the opportunity to work their way out of poverty; and
  • — which helps women survivors of war rebuild their lives. (This one is particularly special to me since my own mother was a survivor of WWII who came to the United States to rebuild her life and work).

Each one is an amazing legacy story of its own, and we’ll tell them here by and by. For this holiday season consider making a donation to one of them, or any other organization that moves your heart, in the name of someone you care about. You’ll be making an important difference at the same time.

68% of Americans Know We Can Do This – And We Can! Now Tell Congress To Get It Done

Two fascinating bits of news I ran across today:

As reported in Solar Nation, 68% of people in this country believe that passing strong clean, renewable energy legislation to address climate change will result in new jobs (as opposed to job loss).  And why would investing in creating and developing new green technologies not result in new jobs?! 

This is great news because the Senate is currently deliberating the Waxman Markey climate change legislation that came out of the House of Representatives a couple months ago.  If you want to let your Senators know how you feel about the U.S. taking a global lead in reducing the use of fossil fuels and addressing climate change, you can easily find and contact them here.

The second piece of good news is of the we have the technology variety.  Well, so many of them, but this one is amazing.  This isn’t some pie in the sky notion – creating these new clean technologies.  We now have the Algeaus: the first car with a gasoline engine (as opposed to diesel engine as in bio-diesel), to cross the United States powered by fuel derived from algae.  This story is being told in a film called The Fuel Film a winner in the prestigious Sundance Film Festival.  And what a legacy story that is!! World changing in a big, positive way.  Take that big oil!

Remember photosynthesis?  The process by which plants take up carbon dioxide and, using sunlight, produce oxygen? Well algae can do it and produce fuel – more fuel than any crop based ethanol or other biofuel.  Take that big agriculture!!

More about the film and the car:

But there is more to know and do, so oh!, now maybe we can move some of our tax dollars being devoted to oil and corn subsidies and pass them along to the production of clean, renewable energy sources?! As a consistent form of support they can count on so the needed business infrastructures can be built around them?  The kind of leadership being shown by the developers of this news and these technologies is the kind we need in our government representatives – focused on a more positive future for us all and following generations.

That would be a significant impact and a great thing.