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Apr 222011
 

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Mother Nature will tell stories at the Omni Center's "World Peace Wetland Prairie Earthday Celebration" Sunday, April 17 from 1 to 5 p.m. at the World Peace Wetland Prairie at 11th and S. Duncan in Fayetteville.My reflection on Earth Day last year wasn’t very rosy.  I’m not sure I have great news now that another one has rolled around.  This year, with the passing of Representative Paul Ryan’s 2012 Republican Budget Plan in the House of Representatives, clearly that side of the aisle is bent on slowing any progress towards addressing the coming calamity of climate change and protecting the environment. The bill includes a huge cut ($1.6 billion) in the Environmental Protection Agency budget and hits the Energy Department hard with harsh cuts to energy efficiency and renewable energy programs and doesn’t touch the approximate $4 billion in subsidies to oil and gas companies – the most profitable companies in the world.  I think this is wrong-headed. 

Rather than wallow in my disappointment thereby contributing to your own consternation that we are still slipping backwards on important environmental issues, I feel it’s more important to share a few positive ideas and actions.

earth_day_WA DCEarth Day Network has a plethora of activities, videos, campaigns and important information throughout the year. 

If you are in New York City, you might want to check out some of the events hosted by New York University during NYUEarthWeek from April 11 through April 28.  This Sunday, the fabulous Vandana Shiva will be featured at a luncheon. 

Kaboose has a wide range of activities for kids to keep them busy and exposed to environmental issues.

If you are a teacher, EdHelper provides a variety of printable Earth Day puzzles and activities.

And, how about a view of Earth courtesy of NASA.

Wherever you are, I hope that you are enjoying the gifts of Mother Earth and paying forward by stewardship.  Happy Earth Day!

 Posted by at 7:32 pm
Apr 222010
 

I don’t know about you, but this year’s Earth Day leaves me bereft,  feeling somewhathot-earth225x225 frustrated and depressed that I am not doing enough and that we, collectively, are still in denial about the human impact on climate change and resultant planet degradation. Those of us not still in denial who live in the so-called “developed” countries appear to be apathetically slow to make meaningful ecological choices, and we are too easily influenced by “pseudo-greening” or “green-washing” that is meant to deceive the actual reality of continuing to practice a destructive status quo. Based on evidence, it appears that we continue to create problems, not solve them, in spite of all those good intentions we project (or lie about, in some cases). Let’s look at a few facts that confront us. 

According to IPCC, farmers who practice rain-fed agriculture could see a 50 percent reduction in yield in the coming decade. This has led to coining the term, “food insecurity”, which itself seems too gentle a term for the reality of mass starvation.  Rain-fed agriculture is a major source of food and fiber. About 60% of world staple food production relies on rain-fed agriculture. Rainfall is also responsible for meat production through grazing and for wood from the forest. In Tanzania and other Sub-Saharan African countries where irrigation is very limited, almost all food and most cash crops such as cotton, tobacco and wood depend on rainfall (Rockström, 2000). It is a fact that the talks at Copenhagen failed miserably and that the powerful shut out the voices of the not-so-powerful. The rich technocrats (Bill Gates, Richard Branson, etc.) would have us believe that climate engineering is a simple solution to solve the problem, in spite of the many reluctant scientists and engineers who cautiously report in any one of the 209,000 papers found here on the Google.

These statistics alone should be alarming enough to spur us to action for a reversal of harmful practices like CO2 emissions, but layers of other negative influences complicate our possible actions.  Influences that many of us feel powerless to stop.

man_eating_earth226x211 The concept of (self regulated) corporate social responsibility that emerged in the 70’s, with no actual watchdog over emerging multi-national corporations is widely debated, with proponents advocating that corporations benefit in multiple ways by operating with a perspective broader and longer than their own immediate, short-term profits. Critics argue that CSR distracts from the fundamental economic role of businesses; others argue that it is nothing more than superficial window-dressing; others yet argue that it is an attempt to pre-empt the role of governments as a watchdog over powerful multinational corporations (Wikipedia).  The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OCED) Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises are the only corporate responsibility instrument formally adopted by state governments. This critical analysis from 2008 gives us more detail about the limitations of developing countries to monitor or regulate foreign corporations, and  there has been little conclusive evidence that these corporate investments do promote growth and employment in developing countries. Human rights are neglected or abused, ecosystems are disrupted, completely wiping out indigenous people’s livelihood in some instances.

This week, Senators John Kerry, Joseph Lieberman and Lindsey Graham plan to introduce a climate bill that will eliminate the EPA’s authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.  “First of all, one of the conditions of the bill we’re hearing is that it will eliminate the EPA authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, which is a slap in the face to everything that Earth Day stands for . . . Secondly, it will include cap-and-trade provisions between utilities, so you could have a nuclear power company trading with a coal power company, but if it’s too expensive for them to meet their emissions targets, they could buy offsets . . . and, unanimously, all of the statements that are coming out of the different working groups here at the Bolivian Climate Conference are condemning carbon markets.”, Activist Daphne Wysham, a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, DC, and co-director of the Sustainable Energy and Economy Network reported today.

The interconnected complexity of all this seems overwhelming.  Can I, and others like me,    Healing_Mother revive and cultivate optimism and actually take meaningful action, especially when our government and major corporations seem to be dragging their feet or acting against our greater interests in this regard?  In spite of the powerful country-corporate refusal to listen, there are thoughts and ideas coming out of Bolivia this week for us to contemplate. 

A key initiative to come out of the Bolivia Climate Conference is a Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth. The key points here encourage me and hopeful that after this long discourse intended to move you to gather more information to support alternative solutions, you still have the time and inclination to contemplate them yourself.

Happy Earth Day,
Marcia

P.S. I have to give great thanks to Amy Goodman and Democracy Now, who I share my breakfast with every weekday morning for at least a decade now.  I also weep with sadness for us all that the great Bill Moyers Journal, another great source for my social, environmental and economic chops, will be leaving PBS. I am encouraged to know that Bill Moyers Blog will continue to be carried online by PBS, at least for now.  Nobody is saying the reasons for his retirement out loud, but I suspect the more conservative Board at PBS is a factor, especially when we see no progressive replacement. 

 Posted by at 4:42 pm
May 202009
 

Pot_w_grasses_250 I want to continue exploring gardening ideas that will address climate disruption and help each of us in our local environments.  I certainly have noticed drastic changes in our state that can only be attributed to either increased warming, or, conversely, increased rainfall and ice/snow.

As an example, trees in old growth forests are dying in increasing numbers and most scientists conclude that longer, hotter summers are the primary cause.  This trend is affecting both young and old trees, in crowded and sparse stands and at different elevations.  The reason is warmer average temperatures across the West, says Nathan Stephenson of the USGS Western Ecological Research Center, which creates greater stress on trees from lack of water, leaving them vulnerable to disease and insects.   The rising death rate could produce a cascading decline that leads to less habitat for fish and wildlife, an increased risk of wildfires and vulnerability to sudden forest die-offs.  The study examined data between 1955 and 2007 in 76 research plots in BC, Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho and Arizona, and has no predictable conclusions and is challenged by some who resist the idea of climate change or disruption altogether.

In my own garden, I have seen a couple of plants mysteriously die, some well established trees (native and non-native) just giving up the ghost abruptly.   For the past several years, I notice that cool weather crops (lettuce, leaf vegetables) simply cannot sustain into late summer and bolt even with good mulch and shade cloth.   Here are some thoughts that might help you avoid frustration in the garden while learning more about the changing climate in your area.  Investing in a little research with your county extension agent might also save you cash otherwise invested into a disappointing garden that’s not designed to stand up to a changing climate.

Plant Selection  I’ve finally outgrown the habit of choosing non-native, non-local and hybridized species which sometimes don’t do well under the best conditions and are certain to fail to thrive with the challenges that come with global warming.  Look for heritage varieties that you can save seeds or take cuttings from.  When purchasing plant starts, make sure you ascertain that they are from a local greenhouse and are grown specifically for your area.  If you live in an area where rainfall is predicted to drop, check out regions close by with less rainfall and choose native plantings (especially large trees and shrubs) that thrive in a more arid climate.  Here in Puget Sound, we are trending to more rainfall, more snow, longer and colder winters, so I will adjust accordingly.

Lawns   I have never been a fan of mowing grass (and I doubt you are, either) so I’m slowly turning the golf-course sized lawn the previous owner put in into other planting areas that more suit my lifestyle.   In one part, I am letting the grass give way to the native moss and turning it back to a natural forested area.  This will serve as a privacy barrier as well as eventually reverting back to a self-sustaining ecosystem.  I covered good ideas for maintaining healthy lawns in the blog on May 5.

Mulch, Mulch, Mulch  Adding layers of biodegradable organic matter to the soil surface of your vegetable and flower beds serves as both a protective barrier and nutrient source.  This will make a huge difference to water retention and help with weed control.   An investment into a good composting system and worm bed will pay you back in spades.   I’ve learned over the years that maintaining good soil is the primary chore for a healthy garden.

Animals and Insects  Beneficial critters will need to adapt to the inevitable changes in the plants they rely on, either directly or indirectly.  The timing of natural events in relation to breeding that has been fine tuned over millennia is being thrown into disarray.  We can help by planting species that are beneficial and provide food sources for insects, birds and other animals that help our gardening efforts.  The recent concern in the decline of butterflies and bees is a concern and providing habitats such as Mason bee blocks and planting butterfly attractors will be a great boon to your success.    

This will give you some ideas to start with and we’ll revisit this in later blogs.

image Special (through Tuesday, May 26):  In addition to your 5% online discount ,take an extra 10% off all hydrosols.   Good time to stock up on lavender,  helichrysum and Healthy Skin blend for the harsh effects of summer sun, wind and being outdoors.  Many others to choose from.  Orders over $35 will also receive a free decorative tea light holder (pictured at left).    Enter “Earth Day #4” (no quotes) in promotional code on checkout page.
http://www.wingedseed.com

 Posted by at 5:16 pm
Apr 262009
 

As we continue to look at simple ways to be kinder to the Earth in our every day lives, I become acutely aware of our climactic Caleb_Tree_Farm_250 changes and challenges.  Here in the Cascade foothills in Snohomish county, WA, we are noticing a trend of colder winters and more often several feet of snow when we used to rarely get inches if any at all.  Early Spring is wetter and floods now happen earlier in the year and longer in duration and intensity.  Wind storms are more prevalent and there are more downed trees to deal with.  And, it’s hotter in the summer months, making it imperative to pay closer attention to the garden plants to insure they are well watered, mulched/composted and sometimes shaded from the sun’s intensity.   We continue the discussion with more ideas to create the optimum circumstances for success in the garden.

A COMMUNITY GARDEN is a wonderful way for urbanites to grow a flower and vegetable garden when you don’t have the space or want to interact with others in the community to create a more green urban environment.  This is also a fabulous way to introduce young people to the joys of growing their own food.  Here’s a few resources in larger cities.
Houston TX:  http://www.urbanharvest.org/
Buffalo NY: http://www.urbanroots.org/
Denver CO: http://www.dug.org/home.asp
Rutgers University has a community garden self help guide: http://tinyurl.com/c83fvu
If you start a community garden, make sure that the soil is tested to insure there are no contaminants like lead or other hazardous chemicals that might permeate the crops grown.  Some communities are starting gardens for the poor to help supplement the diminishing budgets of our older citizens and those who make do with less.   All of these endeavors are rewarding, and again, a good place to introduce children to a sense of ‘community’ while connecting them with Nature.

PLANTING SIMILAR SPECIES of vegetables, like broccoli with cabbage or Brussels sprouts should be avoided as they will compete for nutrients.  Companion planting is aesthetically delightful and helps improve soil while keeping pests at bay.  Here’s a great companion planting guide: http://www.ghorganics.com/page2.html

DIG DEEP when preparing soil for planting.  Digging adds air pockets which help repel root-dwelling insects and oxygenate the soil.  This helps plants put down healthy roots.  This is perhaps the single most important thing you can do to condition the soil.  All organic gardeners I know prefer to turn soil by hand after using a garden tiller.

Special this week only (through Sunday, May 3) take 10% additional in addition to your 5% web discount off all aroma jewelry and natural perfumes.  Enter “Earth Day#3” (no quotes) in promotional code on checkout page.
http://www.wingedseed.com

 Posted by at 6:46 pm
Apr 202009
 

Last week, we talked about ways to be more gentle with the Earth Garden planted 2003_300 in our everyday lives.  It’s warm and sunny here in the Cascade foothills, so I thought I’d continue with ideas for your lawn and garden, thinking this might be where your attention is joyfully focused at this time.

GROW HERBS IN YOUR GARDEN; they are easy to grow and help encourage birds and butterflies, as well as other useful insects.  They are a great choice for planting between other flowers and vegetables to increase diversity.  Planting basil, oregano, cilantro, sage and tarragon alongside vegetables will remind you to use them together.  Having herbs in your garden is one more thing you can take off your shopping list.

LARGE PLASTIC BOTTLES can be used as mini-greenhouses, an excellent protective covering for seedlings.  Cut off the ends and there you go.

RAIN BARRELS are probably going to be a necessity in the future to help conserve water resources.  They now come in a range of sizes, shapes and colors.  Try a decorative one on the deck with a rain chain for melodic ambience and drain it under the deck into the deck-side plantings.   You’ll be surprised at the savings on your water bill and your plants will love you.

SOAKER HOSES AND DRIP IRRIGATION can reduce water waste by as much as 70 percent because their delivery system sends water directly to the roots, unlike sprinklers, which waste water through evaporation.

TRADITIONAL HEIRLOOM SEEDS are a better choice than hybridized newer varieties.  ORGANIC NATURAL FERTILIZERS like fish emulsion, bone meal and seaweed-based products are far better than synthetic alternatives. 

Special this week only (through Sunday, April 26) take 10% additional in addition to your 5% web discount off all hydrosols.  Enter “Earth Day#1” (no quotes) in promotional code on website
http://www.wingedseed.com

 Posted by at 7:43 pm
Apr 142009
 

The time has come to take our responsibility for stewardship of our bountiful planet more seriously.  Focusing our attention only one day a year to img 050_250honor the Earth isn’t going to solve the myriad problems we are creating.   These problems will grow to overwhelm our children and grandchildren as we continue to ignore the realities of global warming and chemical pollution.  The signs of collapsing ecosystems,  endangered and disappearing species are all around.  In our busy lives, we sometimes procrastinate necessary changes.  We need to learn better ecological habits to reverse a destructive trend before it is too late.   This is the beginning of a series of short articles that will contain simple, yet effective ways to replace harsh chemicals that pollute the environment with safe, gentle natural alternatives and make our lives more in tune with the natural world.  We hope you join us in making these sensible choices.

HOUSEPLANTS act as natural air filters, through photosynthesis, using carbon dioxide and water and releasing oxygen as a waste material.  How symbiotic is that!  You can find delightful houseplants that require little care for every room of the house and never have to purchase synthetic chemical air fresheners again.  These commercial products only mask smells and coat nasal passages with chemicals that diminish your sense of smell.  Samara Botane has a lovely variety of natural environmental aromatic products to keep your home environment, car or camper fresh and clean.  Made with antiseptic and antiviral essential oils, they also limit germs and exposure to viral pathogens.  These come in synergies to use in a diffuser and aromatic room misters.  You can also make your own antiseptic spray by simply adding a few drops of essential oil to a spritzer bottle filled with water.  Try tea tree and lavender, sweet orange and cedarwood, rose geranium and lemon.

HOMEMADE WASHER SOAP can be made by mixing 1 cup baking soda with 10 drops each of lavender and grapefruit essential oils, adding drop by drop and mixing thoroughly.  Add 1 cup of borax and 1 cup of powdered castile soap.  Mix well and store in an airtight container.  Add 1/2 cup to each load of wash.   For really tough stains, dissolve 1/2 cup borax, allow to cool completely.  Add 1 cup distilled white vinegar and 6 drops eucalyptus essential oil.  Soak soiled clothes in this blend for 2 hours before laundering.

Special this week only (through Sunday, April 19) take 20% off all essential oils.  Enter “Earth Day#1” (no quotes) in promotional code on website
http://www.wingedseed.com

 Posted by at 5:23 pm
Jun 052008
 

I’ve recently read that our food system is responsible for one-third of global greenhouse emissions.  When you think about bananas being shipped to a U.S. port, then transported by container truck to a distribution point, then trucked across your state to your local grocer, this begins to make sense. 

Here’s a great little calculator to help you compare the relative carbon impacts of your food choices.  The nifty thing is – if you reduce emissions by your eating habits, you will also be eating healthier and maybe learning to grow your own garden and shop at your local farmer’s market (supporting your regional food supply).

You handmade products manufacturers might want to look into being a vendor at your local farmer’s market.  You’ll make good contacts for fresh herbs and flowers to use in your products.  It’s a great way to expand your networking . . . all the time helping the environment.  Excellllent!  (Stroking imaginary beard.)  

 Posted by at 6:04 pm