love your mother

budding-tree1For the last week, we excerpted ourselves, from our First Blush files. Why, you may well ask? Because we have so much to say about our home planet, and we love her too much to let her languish while we stand idly by. Read more here — and join the revolution.

There are sonnets and sonatas that our Mother has not written yet, complex plant life that She has not yet evolved to produce, future medicines found in the leaves of Her favorite plants that She has not yet decided to share. Should we wipe this all out before we see what She has in store for us? As we evolve, She evolves, not one without the other, but both in tandem for we are part of Nature and that is its essence, a lyrical dance where She and We constantly reveal ourselves to ourselves. Why would we ever want to stop the dance of so much possibility?

 

seedlings to saplings

seedling (2)As a writer, I don’t just like paper, I adore it. Yet, what if I had to pay the real cost for paper? It takes 3 gallons of water to make a sheet of paper. Then there’s the cost of the land and logs, the cost of the fuel to run the equipment to cut the tree down, the cost of getting the tree to the paper mill, of packaging and distributing the paper, of labor, and other costs I’m not thinking of, and the most hidden cost, the increased CO2 emissions because of the loss of the tree. If I had to pay, say $3 for a piece of paper, would I squander it or use every precious inch? (Hint: pay and conserve.) We have oversimplified many an environmental argument by hiding the true cost of bringing the product to market.

Perhaps if we stopped, took a breath and a pay check, i.e., tally our resources. We live in a time where denial has become de rigueur. It’s not effecting me today, so let tomorrow’s people deal with it. Yet our children are tomorrow’s people and what are we leaving them except a set of problems that have become near impossible to unravel, like the Gordian knot. If we have to whack it off and start fresh — given the intractability of some of these issues — it’s not likely that fresh is going to comport with easy-peasy. Somewhere in the muck of logging and deforestation is a solution, probably a more expensive one, yes, but one where people get to keep a job and the planet. It may not be the same job so flexibility is a bonus. However, without flexibility and thoughtful discussion, as opposed to the high octane verbal sparring you see on talk shows, there can be no consensus, and without consensus, how will the riddle of supplying ourselves with sufficient resources to fuel our modern lifestyle without overtaxing our very generous Mother ever be solved, but badly? Often it’s only in the absence of something that people finally recognize its brilliance. Unfortunately for us, there may be no one left to see the light.

There are healthy ways to harvest the planet’s resources while allowing Her to thrive. In the Pacific Northwest in the early1990s, clear-cutting was slowly being replaced with more sustainable harvesting techniques. That was because residents got a clear picture of what the future looked like with erosion and sedimentation runoff from the naked hillsides, extinction of both plant and animal species, and the degradation of watersheds and reduced water quality, to name a few, so they started speaking up, and more importantly, they voted — with their wallets. You think you are just one person, but you are wrong. You are a global force and what you think and say and intend matters. More than anything, it is the consumer that drives the marketplace and if consumers are clamoring for sustainably harvested forests, then that’s what they shall have. It takes a forest to house a complex community of macro and microorganisms sufficient to support not just life, but growth and it takes READ THE REST HERE.

 

coming up for air

old growth

Close your eyes. Take a deep, slow breath. Feel your lungs swell with air. Notice how your chest expands gently and as you exhale, sense the relaxation of your body. Your lungs pump oxygen into the bloodstream, which flows faithfully throughout the body and when that sweet rush of oxygen reaches the brain, you are instantly calmer, more relaxed. Most days, we don’t think about the breath. And still, a breath, consciously observed, has the power to regulate the temperature of the body. It brings clarity of the mind. It releases tension, It quiets the ego.  Some would even say that it is not you or me doing the breathing, but the act of taking in and releasing air, is God breathing Us.

THE WOOD FOR THE TREES (2)

Some of the oldest living organisms on earth are trees. Giant sequoias, for example, can live as long as 2,500 years while some bristlecone pines can live up to 5,000 years. The numbers vary, but let’s just say for simplicity’s sake that a mature tree, i.e., older than a mid-range teenager, consumes about 48 lbs of CO2/yr. (Some accounts are much higher for you skeptics.) The key to this is mature since a prepubescent tree simply doesn’t carry its weight. It’s simple math. CO2 in, oxygen out, but cut 18 million acres off the face of the earth and the numbers skew, the math gets wonky. Saplings start out perky enough, sucking in a bit of CO2, letting out a bit of oxygen, a tree’s waste product (who said it wasn’t a symbiotic world), but it’s not until the tree reaches 100 or 125 that it really hits its stride, exhaling wads of the life-giving stuff each year, chowing down on carbon dioxide like it was candy. The fact is, older trees outperform younger trees by an incredibly wide margin and the older the tree, the more CO2 it can take in because this is one instance where size does matter. So while it’s all cool and hip to plant a tree every time you cut one down, don’t expect the payoff to be that meaningful for awhile. (Please don’t read this and have your take away message be that we shouldn’t be planting trees. We absolutely should and must be, but keep in mind the delayed rate of return.)

Only about half of the world’s tropical forests are still standing. While trees as a whole give the world a great big oxygen boost, the destruction of the same trees to make way for crops — think slash and burn of swaths — doesn’t just deprive us of that oxygen, but contributes to greenhouse gasses because: a) we’re burning them, and b) they’re releasing the carbon they were holding. All tolled, it’s somewhere in the range of a 12-17% carbon increase. Something else trees do is hold water in their roots and then slowly release it into the atmosphere, contributing to the amount of water vapor in the air much like your houseplants release moisture into your home during the dry winter. Amazingly, in the Amazon Basin, about half of the water in the ecosystem is held within the plant life. Without trees, we have deserts.

The writer Aldous Huxley said facts don’t cease to exist simply because we ignore them. About 18 million acres of forest are lost each year to logging for firewood, or pulp and paper, for raising beef cattle, and for growing cash rich crops such as soy, palm oil, and coffee, the latter three of which leave behind poor soil conditions since none of their root systems holds the ground well. All of this results in increased erosion, flooding and a decline in local water quality due to runoff. It takes about 2,000 gallons of water to raise a single pound of beef plus acres of cleared forests to make way for pastureland. Beef is neither ecologically nor agriculturally efficient, and too much is bad for your heart, so why are we eating so much? (Notice I didn’t say “it”, but “much.”) Should we continue cutting down old growth forests to make amazingly beautiful furniture, continue to eat large quantities of beef, continue to grow crops such as soy or palm oil (not the good fat, BTW) to use in our unending supply of processed foods, shampoos (sodium laureth sulfate and stearic acid are derived from palm oil), and cleaning products, continue to log forests for paper, and sadly, firewood, or should we check ourselves and stop living in what is probably the most unsustainable manner since the ruling class of ancient Rome, unless you’re a Kardashian or had a hand in constructing just about anything in Dubai. Shall we ignore the facts?

Approximately 70% of the world’s species, plants and animals alike, live in forests. What happens to those species when the forests are all gone. I think it’s more than speculation to say they’ll go the way of the dinosaur and man as a species will be right behind them. Where I live in Central Pennsylvania, the richest unirrigated farmland in the country is being plowed under for brand new, upper-end housing developments. We all need a place to live, yes, but couldn’t it be a revitalized brownfield instead of the rich, fertile farmland that gave my part of the world its acclaim? I wonder about all the critters living in and around the edges of those farm fields, in the small patches of woods, in the little nooks and crannies and burrows. Where will those little guys go when the tractors arrive? It’s not like they can call a realtor and get a trade-in on read the rest here

out on a limb

redwoodWe love our stories, don’t we? It’s how our small brains are wired. We love stores around a campfire, we love stories before bed. It’s no coincidence that our stories at this time of year are about Nature. Gaia. The seeming return of life from the slumbering earth. As it turns out, we have quite a bit to say about our namesake, Queen of the Dead, Mrs. Hellfire, Persephone Herself. As a collective culture, we haven’t treated her very well, and there may be repercussions. Aretha said it best: give the girl a little    R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

THE WOOD FOR THE TREES

In 1995, while still a wide-eyed environmental attorney, I took a meandering road trip through the magnificence of the Pacific Northwest. One evening at a local bar in Forks, Washington (the filming locale of the Twilight series), I found myself embroiled in a discussion, regarding the vicissitudes of logging with one of the locals, a lumberman who was just as passionate about the need for harvesting timber as I was about the need for the preservation of forests, particularly old growth ones. He repeatedly asked me, as if therein lied the answer to the Gordian knot we were trying to unravel, whether I liked my toilet paper one-ply or two-ply.

“Until you’re ready to have that conversation,” he said, “there’s really nothing to say.”

I remember being incensed that I couldn’t get this guy to see that what he was defending could wipe out years, perhaps decades of potential human existence on this planet. He refused to consider the possibility that trees act as the planet’s lungs and their removal jeopardized our oxygen supply just for a few more rolls of toilet paper. So while I saw his point, I didn’t see the need to wipe out whole forests to make it.

There are few things that speak to you like the towering majesty of an old growth forest. The slant and dapple of the light through the leaves, the song of the birds as they alight and fly, the flash of movement caught in the periphery as nature rearranges Herself, the heady smell of peat moss, representing life and death rolled into one. The bottom of peat moss decays to form peat deposits even as the top continues to grow which is basically how Mama Nature rolls, using the nutrients of the dead and decaying to fuel Her rebirth and regeneration, resulting in, ta-da, Spring, or as a microcosm, every dawning day. Take Persephone, the newly crowned Queen of the Dead, sleeping this whole long, lonely winter underground with her uncle cum husband (gross), Hades. Hades stole Persephone from the earth topside on a technicality and Demeter, her sweet mama and the Goddess of Agriculture was so disconsolate, she refused to let another thing grow until Persephone was returned to her. Such is a mother’s love — fierce, unpretentious, unwavering — just like our collective Mother is with her children, that is until we disrespect her and she turns on us like the Titan Cronus, known to the Romans as Saturn, who ate each of his sons when they were born so none could fulfill the prophesy to overthrow him. Coincidence? I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions.

Click here and continue reading

happy spring!

graham danceShe’s here! Persephone has arrived in all her springtime finery. The dark nights are behind us, now: the celebration. Don’t be afraid, take my hand. Together, we’ll have an adventure watching the earth renew herself in joy and love. Namaste!

spring equinox (e)

It’s spring, so let’s get playful. Why not? Hard work is so last winter. It’s been a long season; we’ve fed the fires, shoveled the drive. We’ve shivered and shimmied through the darkest nights of the year. Now, the robins are reappearing, the waxwings are making their annual debut.  It’s time to lighten up; literally. It’s time to shed layers of clothing, time to shed winter weight. Daylight savings has moved the clocks forward, rewarding us an extra hour of pliable evening. After a winter of rest and hibernation, we’re waking up and the world is new. Be intentional.Now is the time to walk more, move more, weed the garden, clean the closet, walk to work, color eggs. How are you going to play today?

spring equinox (d)

The world is changing. . .so are we, as the gods are busy working behind the scenes. A shift of consciousness is having a significant effect on all of us. Our local source of solar light is radiating ever more energy, changing the magnetics of the earth, and as inhabitants, we too.  We are made of minerals, and light, and water. We are the earth, and she is us. How amazing is that?  Maybe that’s why digging in the garden is so soothing, why the shushing of a spring shower, so calming.  Gentle spring is coaxing us to renew our vision of what is possible. What do you desire? Plant that seed now.

singing-in-the-rain-flowers-garden-spring-168513