Sweater Weather

Hello everyone!

I hope you’re doing well and staying warm now that we’re into December.  It may be tempting in these colder months to simply crank the heat up, but I’m sure you’re aware that it wastes energy.  It’s an argument we’ve all heard time and again, but what exactly is so bad about wasting energy?  Where does it come from?  We’ve grown up in a society where it’s so easy to just plug our appliances into an outlet and watch the electricity do its job.  We never seem to question where this electricity comes from or why some people (like myself) flip out when someone forgets to turn off the lights when they leave the room.  What could possibly be so bad about such a simple action?

As a child I always just assumed that electricity was this magical substance that inexplicably sprung from the walls of everyone’s houses.  It was just there.  It was an unlimited supply.  We would never run out.  Of course I eventually figured out that this wasn’t the case, but I still didn’t know where it actually came from.  It was only a few years ago that I learned where it really is produced:  for most of us this is a factory that burns coal.  The heat from this is converted into electricity and sent to our homes to help keep us warm through the frigid winter.  An unfortunate byproduct of this is that burning coal produces CO2, one of the main contributors to climate change.  By leaving the lights on when we leave the room we are forcing these factories to burn more coal.  Some of us are lucky – we might live in a place where, instead of a coal burning factory, our energy comes from a dam or wind turbines.  Green energy such as hydro-power and wind-power have much less averse effects on the environment.  Even then, however, it is still a good idea to unplug appliances and turn off lights when they aren’t in use.

A little known fact is that any piece of electronic equipment continues to burn energy if it’s plugged in, regardless of whether or not it’s on or off.  Let’s show the earth some love this winter by unplugging our electronic devices and resisting the urge to turn up the heat.  Your laptop can stand to run off of just its battery for a few minutes,  and sweaters are an incredibly fuzzy (as well as fashionable) alternative to raising the thermostat a few degrees.  Plus, you’ll avoid getting any environmental freaks annoyed by turning off your lights!  Imagine how much CO2 we can keep out of the atmosphere if everyone works together to do these small things.  It will make a difference.

Wear fuzzy sweaters everyone!

-Joan

Rock some awesome sweaters like these two dapper fellows.

Rock some awesome sweaters like these two dapper fellows.

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What Wildlife Conservation Really Looks Like

Hello everyone!

I’m sorry I broke our promise and didn’t update on Monday.  It is possible that my updates will be coming primarily on Thursdays because those are the days when I actually have free time!  Now that I’m in college I have embarked on the journey of independent life, but I want to take a moment to look back on this most recent summer, and share with you guys the amazing experience I had.

I was privileged enough to be able to work with the endangered Oregon Silverspot Butterfly at my local zoo.  I got to be a part of a real wildlife conservation team and I am proud to be able to say that I contributed to making a difference for this species.  Now I’m here to tell you firsthand what wildlife conservation really looks like.

It looks like piles of bins filled with frass (commonly known as caterpillar poo), waiting for me to wash them.  It looks like row upon row of violets – the only thing the caterpillars eat.  It looks like empty buckets that I must spend three hours filling with leaves.  It looks like my coworkers bending over a caterpillar that I’m not allowed to touch because I’m just an intern.  It looks like a sterile lab with bins carefully stacked on shelves, housing precious members of an endangered species.  It looks like yet another boring day stretching out ahead of me.

It also looks like the promise of a trip to the Oregon coastline.  I still remember how excited I was at the prospect of getting to see live butterflies in their natural habitat.  The car ride was long and cramped, but the trek up to the site where we would release our fully fledged butterflies was misty and included a beautiful view of the ocean.  My coworkers were grumbling about the lack of sun, but I didn’t mind seeing as how I’ve always preferred rainy weather.  I had a feeling this was going to be good.  When we reached the top of the hill we could see little boxes dotting the field.  The butterflies were housed in these.  Unzipping the mesh around the containers we peeked inside.  Most of the chrysali were still intact, but a couple butterflies were clinging to the mesh, fanning their newly formed wings.  Because my fellow intern and I had gotten all the boring tasks over the summer, our supervisors suggested that we be the ones who got to release them.  Gently, oh so gently, I leaned over and nudged one onto my index finger.  Straightening, I held it to my face and studied it.  It was beautiful!  It’s orange wings seemed like fire against the grey sky, and the little silver spots on the undersides of its wings gleamed with new life.  I was standing here on this Earth with an endangered species perching on my hand, and I had been one of the key contributors in giving it life.  Suddenly, in a burst of energy, it fluttered away.  In that moment I knew that no matter how mundane my job had been over the summer, it was all worth it.  I was an active participant in giving hope to a species that had been on the decline.  I could call myself a wildlife conservationist.  A few minutes later the sun burst through the clouds, and as if on cue the field was suddenly filled with butterflies.  They danced through the air, courting one another, promising a new generation of an age old species.  And I was happy.

It was an amazing experience, and if you guys want to help the Oregon Silverspot Butterfly, one easy way is to buy the Silverspot IPA made by the Pelican Pub and Brewery.  (But only if you’re 21 or older – despite the fact that I’m in college I can’t condone underage drinking!)  Part of the proceeds of this beer go towards my zoo’s conservation program.  If you can’t find this beer in any stores near you, then do some research on endangered species in your area and see if there are any easy ways to help!

Enjoy the beautiful fall colors,

Joan

One of the beautiful creatures I released into the wild.

One of the beautiful creatures I released into the wild.

Rapid Extinction

“The planet has been through a lot worse than us. Been through earthquakes, volcanoes, plate tectonics, continental drift, solar flares, sun spots, magnetic storms, the magnetic reversal of the poles … hundreds of thousands of years of bombardment by comets and asteroids and meteors, worldwide floods, tidal waves, worldwide fires, erosion, cosmic rays, recurring ice ages … And we think some plastic bags and some aluminum cans are going to make a difference? The planet isn’t going anywhere. WE are!

We’re going away. Pack your shit, folks. We’re going away. And we won’t leave much of a trace, either. Maybe a little Styrofoam … The planet’ll be here and we’ll be long gone. Just another failed mutation. Just another closed-end biological mistake. An evolutionary cul-de-sac. The planet’ll shake us off like a bad case of fleas.” George Carlin

Upon discovering George Carlin, I immediately loved his wit.

In one stand up of his, he made a few points about saving the environment. I agree with absolutely everything he said… except how the plastic bags and aluminum cans won’t make a difference. No litter makes a difference to Earth, when you look at Earth as if it’s not a life form containing millions and billions of other lifeforms. Oh, but it does.

Species go extinct, yes. That happens a lot, actually. 99% of life that has ever existed on Earth is now dead…and look how much life we still have. There’s been a lot of life. The thing is…. That 99% of life has gone extinct over the course of ~2.7 billion years. In the past 7 years alone, 121 species have gone extinct16,928 species are threatened to be extinct. The rate of extinction has gone up not due to natural causes, but us. For things like aluminum cans and plastic.

The power to change the rate of extinction does not lie within the big companies that dominate the world. It lies within the consumers; us. The key to changing the world is not feeding the fire. To be a responsible consumer, buy from responsible sellers.

  • Reuse what you were originally going to throw away (or recycle, but reusing is the best option).
  • Buy organic produce (produce grown without the use of pesticides or other unnatural agents in the soil)
  • Don’t buy from the big corporations that are money hungry. Focus on local businesses and honest organizations.

If we don’t feed the corporations that are using their tools to hurt the environment (typically as a byproduct, but a careless one), they cease to exist. Without a public to serve, they can’t keep harming the environment.

We don’t only practice environmental conservation because it’ll save our behinds in the future, we practice it because we care for the wellbeing of all species inhabiting this planet. We’re only a fraction of the population; the fraction that has the most influence; the responsibility to not get carried away with our technological ability and weapons of destruction.

Be responsible, recognize your power, change the world.

Love, Laura

Sources in MLA 7 Format

Endangered Species International. “Total Number of Extinct Species: 905 (was 784 in 2006).” Endangered Species International. Endangered Species International, 2006. Web. 29 Aug. 2013. <http://www.endangeredspeciesinternational.org/overview1.html&gt;.
Smithsonian. “Archean : The First Life on Earth.” Archean : The First Life on Earth. Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, n.d. Web. 29 Aug. 2013. <http://paleobiology.si.edu/geotime/main/htmlversion/archean3.html&gt;.

Fun DIYs and Ways to Reuse

Fun DIYs and Ways to Reuse

Stumbled upon this page on StumbleUpon. Here’s the link to many fun crafts and interesting ways to reuse certain items. 🙂

Includes:

  1. Marshmallow cupcake frosting
  2. Growing lettuce from “old” purchased bunches of lettuce
  3. Instant sunburn relief with Aloe trick
  4. Color gradient eggs for Easter
  5. Easy embossed jars
  6. Faux stones on a concrete patio
  7. Magnetic scrabble wall board for an ongoing family game
  8. Pallets to patio furniture
  9. Paint swatches to homemade calendar
  10. Pallets to puns signs
  11. How to make a polka dot cake
  12. Reclaimed window coffee table
  13. Bunk bed into stargazing tree house
  14. Rose petal tea light
  15. Harmless fresh scent for a bathroom
  16. Old tire to an ottoman
  17. Funky ice cube “tray”
  18. PVC pipe hair appliance holders
  19. Colored tape for highlights

Cool finds like these remind us how easy it is to give a new life to our used items. This is important. Think of how many things we throw away a year that could have been put to a nifty use? A lot, that’s how many. Fun DIY projects not only reduce waste, but give you a sense of accomplishment. A sense of accomplishment gives us that extra “umph” to get through the daily grind, a true necessity. If we don’t feel like we’ve accomplished anything, we’ll just feel stuck and glum! So get crackin’ and have fun!

Love, Laura

A Small Miracle, Often Overlooked

We’ve just hit midsummer in our neck of the woods, and yesterday, for the first time in weeks, it actually rained!  Of course the majority of the population in our town grumbled about how the sun was gone and everything was dreary and grey again, but I’m one of those few people who adores wet weather.  As those sunny dry weeks had dragged on I’d been drinking more and more water (dehydration doesn’t suit me well at all), and fretting over my poor basil plant that I kept forgetting to water (over the years I’ve discovered that I didn’t inherit my mother’s green thumb).  The sun returned today, and it’s forecasted to stay for at least another week, but even that one day of rain lifted my spirits.

It also got me thinking.

We live in a world where it rains.  Isn’t that amazing?  No really, think about it – water is the lifeblood of our world, the very thing that allows life to flourish here on Earth, and we live in a place where fresh, drinkable water literally falls from the sky!  Does that not astound you?

“But,” you say, “it’s simple science.  It’s just the water cycle.”

And yes, I am aware that there is a perfectly logical scientific explanation as to why we have rain.  But nevertheless this phenomenon continues to astonish me.  It is also why I think water conservation is so important.

About 75% of our Earth consists of water, but only about 1% of that water is actually safe to drink.  Of course, most of this water is in our oceans, but since it isn’t economical to purify ocean water, we get the majority of our clean water from glaciers.  If climate change continues as it has been, those glaciers will all melt.  And where will all that fresh drinkable water go?  The oceans.

As Ismail Serageldin once said:

“If the wars of this century were fought over oil, the wars of the next century will be fought over water.”

Not only will we begin to see less and less available drinking water, but these melting glaciers will also pose a problem for coastal cities.  As the sea level rises, coastal flooding will become more common, until millions of people will likely have to relocate.

On top of all this, there’s also the trash problem that we currently have, which I think this Climate Quickie illustrates better than I can:

http://www.grindtv.com/action-sports/surf/post/surfing-paradise-has-a-serious-trash-problem/

And just in case you’re wondering, no, those photographs aren’t photoshopped.

So though I know you’ve all heard this before, I’m going to encourage you to take shorter showers, turn off the faucet when you brush your teeth, and recycle and compost rather than throwing things in the trash.  It really does add up to make a difference.  Just imagine how many gallons of water you’ll save if for the next year the showers you take every day are five minutes shorter than normal.  See?  You will make an impact if you do that.

So what changes will you make to help conserve water?

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Love,

Joan

Disney Was Right About One Thing…

Disney has been known to sugarcoat plays and historical events to portray them to young children in a “safe” manner. I watched Pocahontas when I was pretty little, and I didn’t understand a lot of it. However, coming from an older lens, a plethora of things have been revealed. I just stumbled across this video on YouTube and felt that it was uncannily appropriate for this page! Especially since Joan digs Disney princesses 😉

The lyrics aren’t just a simple Disney song, they make known the cultural barriers between the Native Americans and the new settlers. Moving past that, our society is quite similar in the sense we believe “the Earth is just a dead thing [we] can claim.” Look closer; just walk two moons in another’s shoes and you’d see it isn’t so. Feel free to comment your thoughts.

Here are the lyrics to Colors of the Wind

You think I’m an ignorant savage
And you’ve been so many places
I guess it must be so
But still I cannot see
If the savage one is me
How can there be so much that you don’t know?
You don’t know …

You think you own whatever land you land on
The Earth is just a dead thing you can claim
But I know every rock and tree and creature
Has a life, has a spirit, has a name

You think the only people who are people
Are the people who look and think like you
But if you walk the footsteps of a stranger
You’ll learn things you never knew you never knew

Have you ever heard the wolf cry to the blue corn moon
Or asked the grinning bobcat why he grinned?
Can you sing with all the voices of the mountains?
Can you paint with all the colors of the wind?
Can you paint with all the colors of the wind?

Come run the hidden pine trails of the forest
Come taste the sunsweet berries of the Earth
Come roll in all the riches all around you
And for once, never wonder what they’re worth

The rainstorm and the river are my brothers
The heron and the otter are my friends
And we are all connected to each other
In a circle, in a hoop that never ends

How high will the sycamore grow?
If you cut it down, then you’ll never know
And you’ll never hear the wolf cry to the blue corn moon

For whether we are white or copper skinned
We need to sing with all the voices of the mountains
We need to paint with all the colors of the wind

You can own the Earth and still
All you’ll own is Earth until
You can paint with all the colors of the wind

With love,

Laura

Convenience…for Whom?

Hello all,

I work as a cashier, and I have to ask the question you’ve probably heard a million times over, Would you like a bag today? Most of the time, the customer will need a bag or two, and I’ll pack up their produce and he’ll be on his way. However, occasionally, a customer will put single items in individual produce bags, and then ask for multiple bags on top of that. In my humble opinion, that’s a little much. Plastic bags can be convenient, but why should we take something that we don’t need? Chances are, that plastic bag will be thrown into the garbage after a single use. According to Statisticbrain.com, 1 trillion plastic bags are used around the globe each year, and 100 billion each year in the United States. The human mind can’t even fathom how many bags that is. Most of these bags end up in places that plastic shouldn’t be, such as the ocean, or a forest, alongside a highway, in drains on the street, or even in an Orca whale’s stomach.When we throw our things away, we would like to think they’re gone forever, or into a landfill, away from our homes. Non-biodegradable waste does not go away for hundreds, even thousands of years. So what can we do? I mean, there’s already so much trash out there that there’s almost no point in trying to make it better. Don’t ever let that get to your head! Late is better than never – always.

TRIP TO THE GROCERY STORE: Bring a reusable bag every time you go, so you aren’t faced with the option of tossing out a plastic bag. Who knows where that thing’s going to end up? For the small produce items, just bring your other small bags and place them in there, they do an excellent job.

GOING TO THE MALL: Oh snap! You got it – bring those reusable bags again. Why be ashamed of reppin’ that Trader Joe’s bag at Macy’s? You’re saving the environment, and money, for Pete’s sake.

UM, I HAVE OLD BAGS…: USE ‘EM, BABY! If they have major tears, you don’t have to use them for their original purpose. Instead, if you have a package to ship, or a fragile item in a box that needs some cushion, ball up the plastic bags and use them as a sort of “packing peanut”. You could also try contacting your local stores and asking if they want your used plastic bags, as long as they’re in good condition, of course.

Just remember: reduce, reuse, recycle. In that exact order. The first step to a clean home and a clean environment is reducing the amount of waste, or product, you have. After that is reusing the item, the second best option. If you can reuse the item in any creative way possible, do it – it gives it another life and reduces how much you throw out. Next is recycling. Recycling allows the product to be ground up, melted or boiled down into another form. Who knows, maybe all those plastic water bottles will turn into a faux fleece sweater (Yes, it does happen. In fact, I have one. It’s warm!).

Here are some photos from the Fremont Solstice Parade in Seattle that I took. (First) a giant whale made out of wiring and woven plastic bags. That took thousands! (Second) A seagull outfit that was also made out of cut up plastic bags and what seems to be bubble wrap, portraying the danger of plastic rings. (Third) a “trash monster” that is wearing a bunch of plastic bags who runs around growling and giving random people hugs.

Taken by Laura M at the Fremont Solstice Parade

Taken by Laura M at the Fremont Solstice Parade

Taken by Laura M at the Fremont Solstice Parade

The world is a busy place, and we’re thrown right into the midst of it all without a say. So we endure it, it’s the only thing we can do! Our modern world revolves around convenience. The stores in our shopping centers provide us with all the tools we need to be a professional consumer. But, we can choose to be mindful consumers and recognize that what is convenient for us, like the plastic bag again, may not be convenient for the suffocating Orca in the pacific ocean who thought it was a jellyfish. We may say to ourselves that we may not have enough time to recycle, not enough time to compost (setting aside a bin for food scraps so they can be recycled into soil), not enough time to relax, even. The only person saying that you can’t do this and that isn’t possible, is yourself. Step beyond the barriers we set up for ourselves and see the endless possibilities that we, individuals part of a big community, can execute and accomplish together. It’s not hard. Do yourself a favor – the next day off you have, go to the park and breathe in the fresh air, go on a walk, get in touch again with a long distant friend. They’d love to hear from you, I’m sure.

With love,

Laura