Our Changing Environment

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Forest, image courtesy of pixabay.com

As I move along in my Humane Education classes, I’ve begun thinking about some issues in more detail than I used to, and sometimes it can get a bit depressing, I won’t lie. When it gets to me, I try to remember a few essays we read in the beginning of the semester on keeping hope alive in the face of what looks to be insurmountable problems, such as the warming of the planet and what appears to be the unwillingness of many to acknowledge what is going on, and that we have to take some actions now to preserve the planet for our kids, grandkids, great grandkids, and so on.   All too often, it is to easy to just say “oh, I’m only one person, what can I do?” and throw your hands up in despair without having at least  tried to make a difference or a change.

To me, that is almost as bad a strategy to have about climate change as the one undertaken by many to deny it exists whatsoever. Such is the case with the Heartland Institute having mailed books to science teachers all across the country this past March.  Have you heard about the Heartland Institute? They’re the same organization that used to argue that second hand smoke didn’t cause cancer.  I think we all know how (un)truthful that statement is now.

One of those times that it seemed a bit depressing to me is when I talked to my sister in  Michigan, who has three kids, ages 15, 12 and 9.  I asked her what they were learning about climate change in the schools, if anything.  Turns out, they haven’t touched on the topic at all. Not even as part of a unit on something related to climate change like the hurricanes of this past summer, or the fact that what was once-in-a-century storms seem to be happening with much more frequency lately.  Why is that, I wonder?  Is it because it might be considered “controversial” and therefore they should stay away from it?  Is it because it’s not on a standardized test and therefore the school can’t show how proficient their teaching methods are?  If so, that’s just ….. sad.

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tropical cyclone, courtesy of pixabay.com

So if you’re reading this and you’re a parent, I would ask you to ask your kids if they are talking about any of the following in their science classes:  climate change, the weather (such as hurricanes, droughts in California, forest fires),  rising ocean temperatures,  coral reefs dying near Australia, how the ice is melting at the poles and in Greenland, how our glaciers keep shrinking every year.   You don’t have to ask them all of this at once – that’s way too overwhelming.  Just broach one topic at a time.

If you’re a parent, maybe you can attend a PTA meeting or school board of education meeting at your school to discuss the curriculum.  If there are any climate deniers on the board of education, you can point out some of the facts and studies that debunk the ideas espoused by the likes of Heartland Institute,  on the Skeptical Science website.   Call your school’s principal and find out if the teachers are using or mentioning Heartland Institute’s book.  If so, provide them with a copy of this flyer, explaining five reasons why the book shouldn’t be used in the classroom.

if your kids have questions that you don’t feel comfortable answering, maybe showing them one of the three flyers linked here, created by the NCSE (National Center for Science Education).  And take them to their local science museum – in Albuquerque, we have one that is very hands on, called Explora. (Check out your local library to see if there is a pass you can use so you can attend it at a discounted price or possibly even for free!!!)  The point is to get them thinking and getting excited about science and the human effect on the world around them.

If you’re interested in reading further about this, or how to talk to your kids about climate change and the environment, please check out the following resources, as well as those mentioned on my Helpful Books page.  (It’s been revised and republished!)

Or, even better, if there are woods or a lake nearby, take your kids there for a short field trip.  Encourage their love of the outdoors and ask them questions about the trees or the water, or any of the living creatures that might cross their path (age-appropriate questions, of course.)  You might want to talk about experiences you had as a kid with different animals or species we don’t see so much of anymore, such as fireflies.  (If you’re in the US, around my age, think back – when was the last time you saw one??  Didn’t they seem to be everywhere when you were a kid?!)  Ask your kids why they think that might be, that some species seem to be disappearing from our planet.

Finally, if your kids are learning about climate change or any of its related issues in school, I’d love for you to drop me a comment and let me know where you live (just a state is fine if in the US, or a country if not in the US), and how they are discussing it so that we can help spread the word.  And if they’re not discussing it, but you think they should, then let’s get a conversation started and maybe we can brainstorm ideas on how you can approach your local school or community and raise its consciousness on the issue of climate change.  It’s here.  Let’s not close our eyes to what is happening right before us.

If you’ve liked this post or think you know someone who could benefit from reading it, please hit the like button or any of the share buttons!  As always, thanks for reading.

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lightning flash, image courtesy of pixabay.com

Reconnecting to Nature: Take (another) field trip

IMG_20171001_145040.jpgToward the end of last month, I took a trip up to Edmonton, Alberta, where I spent some time with my now boyfriend! (Yes, it finally happened.  I met someone and am happy in that part of my life.)  The area around there reminds me of parts of western Massachusetts as well as upstate NY.

One day, he had to work, so I decided to take another field trip for my Environmental Ethics class.  Being so much further north, the leaves were starting to turn already and there was a definite nip in the air. Only the end of September, the air felt as cold as I remember it used to feel in November while growing up in central NY.  I guess that’s the difference a few hundred miles of latitude will get you.

You’ll notice the post below is much shorter than the first. Sometimes there is peace in brevity.

Mill Creek Ravine, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, 9/30/17

Cold and very windy, the ravine flows below me. The wind whips through the tops of the aspens and evergreen trees towering above me as I sit on the cold, black metal bench.  The leaves that have fallen to the ground then crunching beneath my feet as I walk to warm myself.  At some places, the water in the ravine flows quickly; in others, not.  The flowing water is peaceful, not turbulent.  The still water smells sour, almost a bit like sewage, so I move away.

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The earth is moist and damp.  Who knows how long some of these leaves may have lain here?  The sky is grey above me.  I wonder – will it rain? Or even snow?

I see trees uprooted, yet with golden and red leaves still on their branches.  Fallen trees create natural bridges over the narrow parts of the ravine.  I hear the occasional voice or see bounding feet of a dog who stops and lays down before me for a belly rub, sharing his joy after taking a dip in the stream.  Grateful for this little slice of nature in the midst of a city.

If you’ve enjoyed this post, please let me know by dropping a comment below or sharing it with someone you think might benefit from it. And as always, thanks for reading.

 

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Thought it was interesting that this almost completely uprooted tree, hanging on by seemingly just a thread, had fall covered leaves on it.

 

Reconnecting to Nature: Take a Field Trip

 

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The site of my field trip (sunflowers were behind me.)

My Environmental Ethics requires us to go on four field trips in our neck of the woods. The goal is to remain in the present for at least 30 minutes.  No cell phones.  No thoughts of what happened earlier today or what can happen tonight.  When you find your thoughts drifting away from the present, you do your best to bring them back to the here and now.  Try and use all of your senses: sight, smell, touch, hear, etc.  Our assignment limits us to the number of words, and I’m finding I’m embracing those limits rather than fighting them. One of my fellow students said I should publish them somehow and he would want to read one of them every day to reconnect himself to nature. So, I thought I would do so here, in the hope that it can have some beneficial effect to those of you reading it.

Our assignment limits us to the number of words, and I’m finding I’m embracing those limits rather than fighting them. So without further adieu, here goes nothing, er, my first field trip.

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Yesterday, I took a field trip to the section of the Bosque knowns as Tingley Beach.  The Bosque is a wooded area located along the banks of the Rio Grande in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  It stretches for miles with lots of dirt paths for walkers, runners, bikers, and nature enthusiasts.  Usually, I run there.  But yesterday, I decided I would just sit and observe.

I wonder – what made me choose this spot?  Because it’s familiar?  But, I’ve never sat here on a log and just looked and listened while not moving.  There are so many wild sunflowers growing here, some out of what appears to be dead, inhospitable wood accumulated on the ground.  How did all these dead tree branches come to be here on the ground?  Were they cut down?  No, they’re too randomly placed.  Did they break off in the wind?  That seems more likely, given the winds we have here in Albuquerque, a high desert city.

The breeze blows through the green leaves of the tall cottonwoods above me.  I’m comforted by it, even though I can tell by its ferocity that a rainstorm might be coming.  I welcome that.  To the south are dark clouds.  To the north are white puffy clouds that seem to be speeding effortlessly through the sky because of that strong wind.  The sun keeps peeking in and out from among the dark clouds, alternately warming and cooling my body.

Sitting quietly, I start to hear the sounds of birds chirping.  I hear one chirp, then another, and then a third, all from different locations.  They are of different types; each chirp is unique.  And are those crickets or cicadas I hear?  I love the sound of them, but seeing them in person freaks me out.  I’m not a fan of big bugs.

I hear the sounds of civilization off in the distance: traffic noise, a plane flying overhead, the sounds of humans along the dirt path.  The humans are close enough that we could both see each other, but they’re too engrossed in their conversations or own thoughts to notice me sitting amongst the cottonwoods.  And I am grateful because I want to be left alone to observe, to feel, to hear, to smell.  I’m irritated by the intrusion.

I realize I haven’t seen a single bug crawling along the log on which I sit.  Surprising, because I usually see them everywhere on the path when I run.  And this is the woods! As if I willed it into existence, one appears, and it’s time for me to shift positions.  I take a seat on the ground near the sunflowers.  I can see the honeybees darting from one flower to the next.  But I don’t hear them making a sound.  Funny, I thought this was grass, but it feels more like straw.  Looking closer, I notice it covers the dead branches and twigs found below it.  It’s uncomfortable, and it’s time for me to go, so I walk toward the river.

If this post touches you somehow, please share it.  And thank you for reading.

 

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Wild sunflowers abound in the Bosque, not too far from where I sat