art meets ocean

Sometimes we just want to watch a good movie. And a short movie is better than no movie at all. PS: No models were actually harmed in the making of this film. Cheers.

don’t reuse that water bottle

goodbyeDear Water Bottle, We’ve had a beautiful romance, but I’m breaking up with you. It’s simple, really: I’ve learned that you’re a slow poison, and that just doesn’t work for me. In my quest to compost and recycle more I have been studying the various plastics in my life, which until now, I’ve considered a convenience. Well, an evil convenience, but still. Oh Plastic, you have made my life easier, but the fact remains that when the landfills are overloaded and when the Pacific Island of Trash manages finally to put us in a collective gasping choke-hold, I will have no one to blame but myself.

Here are five everyday plastics and why I need to rethink them:

#1 : The most commonly used plastic and can be found in microwavable food trays, water and juice bottles. This plastic absorbs bacteria and should not be reused.

#2: A stiff plastic used in toys, plastic lumber, picnic tables, detergent, household cleaner and shampoo bottles. This plastic is nearly neutral and can be recycled to make detergent bottles, floor tiles, pens.

#3: PVC is a soft, flexible plastic used to make teething rings, toys, cooking oil bottles clear food packaging, mouthwash bottles. Sometimes called “the poison plastic,” it contains phalates that interfere with hormonal development.

#6:  Polystyrene is used to make disposable cups and plates, egg cartons, take-out containers. This material leaches  styrene, a carcinogen, into food (especially when microwaved) and should be avoided.

#7:  Polycarbonates are used to make baby bottles, sippy cups, three and five gallon water jugs. Contains bisphenol (BPA), which migrate especially if heated, and has been linked to heart disease. BPA, is a xenoestrogen, a known ednocrine disruptor.

So you see Water Bottle, it’s over. You and your extended family are simply toxic and I’m done with you.  Now that I know, I will recycle your ilk whenever possible and avoid the worst of you when I can.

Ciao, baby.

Bee Serious

And Then There Were None

A recent text conversation between my husband and I went something like this:

bee text

First of all, ignore the typos. I blame the smartphone. It gets a little too involved. Second, there were not enough of those little crying emoticon thingees to portray the appropriate degree of sadness, despair, and outright terror I felt about the bee situation. The honey bees, our fuzzy four-winged friends responsible for pollination of about 70% of the foods we eat are dying by degrees and we, seemingly, are powerless to stop it. The story with the wild honeybees is this:  READ MORE HERE…

kiss a frog

Earth Day (2)Have you kissed a frog lately and thanked it? If not, this is your chance because May is National Wetlands Month.

“Wait…what?”you say. “What the heck is National Wetlands Month?”

Funny you should ask. You see, the federal government recognizes the beauty, the raw power, and the undeniable necessity of wetlands, not because of the commercial development value, but because of their intrinsic and strategic value in maintaining a healthy ecosystem.

Wetlands have three distinct parameters that earn them the title. First, they are water-saturated and can always be wet, like swamps, marshes, bogs and coastal wetlands, or seasonally wet, resulting from winter snow melt, and occurring in forested or wooded or open areas that collect standing water, and sometimes dry like ephemeral pools or streams which reemerge after a rain event and dry out with the sun until the next rain event. Second, their soils are hydric meaning that at least for some part of the year the soils will be immersed in water. Thirdly, they have more than less hydrophytic vegetation which simply means that this type of plant thrives in a water environment. Unless it’s an obvious wetland like a marsh or bog or coastal plain, a bit of scientific investigation is necessary to make a wetlands determination as it’s not always apparent to the naked eye. Permits are required to build in wetlands as well as avoidance and minimization of the planned disturbance and mitigation for whatever amount of wetlands are converted to uplands. It’s a bit of a complicated process, but with the federal government’s “no net loss”of wetlands policy, a crucial one.

Why, gosh darn it, are these mosquito-infested swamps so important? Well, wetlands act like a sponge. They control flooding, filter pollutants, and buffer storm surges like nobody’s business. The Mississippi Delta which is practically one huge wetland has over 40% of the wetlands in the lower 48 states and has lost over 1,900 square miles since the 1930’s. About two football fields worth of wetlands are lost every hour. It used to be that 50 miles of wetlands separated New Orleans from the next hurricane, but no more. Now storm surges and big winds have their way with her.

Philadelphia, was also a big wetland when the colonists first settled, but they ditched and drained their way to what is now known as Center City Philadelphia. The problem is not necessarily the conversion of wetlands. Many port towns around the coasts of our country were once inundated with wetlands and are now bustling metropolises rather than said mosquito-filled swamps, but overdevelopment, such as in the Florida Keyes and surrounding environs, has resulted in life out of balance. As coastal cities continue to build out, or develop their barrier islands beyond holding capacity, the 100-year storm which now seems to happen every five or ten years will continue to pound what used to be only shoreline, but is now littered with million dollar homes.

How many wetlands do we need to control flooding, keep pollutants out of our rivers and streams, and help blunt the surge of rising winds and tides? It’s a fact specific, case-by-case analysis, but as climate change forces sea levels to rise, I’d hazard a guess that we’re reaching critical mass in some of the more densely populated coastal areas, for example, the Jersey Shore. Maybe a few more acres of wetlands wouldn’t have stopped Hurricane Sandy, but they would have cut down way down on the property damage. As the sea levels rise, wetlands have become more important than ever. Insurance companies are keenly aware of this —pun intended —sea change, and have started charging more for policies on climate-threatened properties. Some are even suing municipalities to pay for the cost of global warming such as Farmers Insurance Co. did with some Chicago-area governments in a landmark class action suit filed on May 2, 2014 (Illinois Farmers Insurance Co. v. The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago District, et al., Case No. 14CH06608, in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois).

By the way, about the frog: they are extremely important to the balance of the ecosystem since they eat bugs, filter our drinking water (tadpoles), and are themselves a source of food for other species, as well as the source of many medical advances for humans. Plus they make the most rockin’music! Unfortunately, they’ve been on the decline for the last 50 years with fewer numbers and more mutations because of a variety of things, but degrading water quality, habitat loss and overuse of pesticides are a few of the major ones. Frogs are to the ecosystem like the canary is to the coal mine. Their death is the first indication that there’s a problem and where frogs go, humans will follow.

We can’t all have beach front property, not at great public and personal cost, but we can all enjoy the beach. What is it the Buddha said? Everything in moderation? So for National Wetlands Month, go ahead and build that dream vacation home, but build it on a upland so tomorrow our kids will still have a frog or two left to kiss.

 

earth day (h)

Unknown-1

WINTER [notes from montana]

        “It was early September and I was driving, literally, to the last road in the United States, a gravel-and-dirt road that paralleled the Canadian border, up in Montana’s Purcell Mountains. It was like going into battle, or falling in love, or walking from a wonderful dream, or falling into one: wading into cold water on a fall day.” –                    Rick Bass, Winter

      Can Rick Bass help it if his Soul’s been on a nature walkabout for all of his life? In Winter [notes from montana], Bass’s wandering spirit is alive and well and living in the Yaak Valley in Montana without electricity, without heat, other than the wood-fired variety, and without much contact with civilization… To read more of this post, go here

earth day (g)

QofL Cover Amzn ver1a

For thousands of years, we’ve used and reused the same water as the dinosaurs, Galileo, Genghis Kahn, and Jesus. Until now. Now the water is chock full of contaminants that the ancients didn’t even know how to pronounce. That’s because Mama Nature doesn’t know how to remove radionuclides, usually held safely within the earth’s crust, and other chemicals found in the fracking wastewater that’s slowly making its way into Her rivers, lakes, and streams. Until now, we’d been sipping the same stuff as Adam and Eve. Until now.

Enjoy an excerpt from THE QUALITY OF LIGHT:

          She died that night. Doc attended the funeral along with dozens and dozens of ranchers and their families all come to pay their respects to this great woman, one of the “stickers” whose family had come in the late-1800s during the first boom and bust era of timbering and mining and oil and construction and who had stayed on to make a living. They worked the land for what it would produce – cattle. So when the time came and they asked if anyone wanted to say anything on behalf of this fine woman, Doc’s hand raised itself, his body stood up, and he took over the funeral.

“Twila’s great-grandfather was thrilled when the first oil men knocked on his door with a check and a promise. They may not have tamed the harsh out of the land, but at least they made it more hospitable. They built roads and paid well, and the ranchers loved them. That was the heyday when oil flowed like free love out of those great big underground reservoirs. Sweet gas, they called it. Back then a whisper could’ve coaxed that oil out of the ground.”   To read more of this post, click here…

earth day (e)

rainbow

Ten Things to Help SAVE THE PLANET

      It’s Earth Day, and you know what that means — Mom’s Birthday! Not your biological mother, but the Mother of Us All. Since it’s a holiday, we won’t dwell on all the intractable environmental problems that could potentially derail us as a species. We’ll save that discussion for another day. Instead, as a tribute to Mother Earth in all her, well, earthiness, here are ten things you can do to assure She makes it to Her next birthday and a few million after that.

1.  Think globally. Act locally.

2.  Eat organic.

3.  Conserve water, and drink more water, too.

4.  Walk more. Bike more. Drive less.

5.  Plant a tree or a pesticide-free garden (but not a rose garden; too much fertilizer).

6.  Sing. Yes, believe it or not. The planet is made up of sound so show your appreciation and join in Her song.

7.  Become consciously aware. Every moment spent rooted in the present is one more you won’t miss. Enjoy it to the fullest.

8.  Buy products that have a smaller environmental and carbon footprint, i.e. it’s okay if you can’t afford a Prius. Start small. Buying food sans excessive packaging that would end up in a landfill is perhaps just as important.

9.  Reduce, reuse, recycle. Not just bottles and cans, but clothes, shoes, appliances, electronics, whatever you can.

10.  Most importantly — vote with your wallet. As consumers, we hold tremendous sway over the products appearing on the shelves in our local markets. If you don’t like them, don’t buy them.  And if you really don’t like them, vote with your feet and walk to another store!

Over the next few months we’ll talk more about these things individually, but for now, Happy Earth Day.

Pam Lazos

4.22.14