Children need us . . .

10 09 2011

And not in the way that we normally hear about, although there are certainly unfortunate children who need our monetary help around the world. Today, however, I saw something that got me thinking about the one thing all children need and mostly don’t get, especially in America.

I am talking about nature role models.

As I walked in my (sub)urban townhome complex today, I spied two small children milling about a uniform patch of grass under a tree. They seemed to be searching for some fun and adventure in that dull spot, as they restlessly combed the grass together. I heard their parents loudly talking through the open townhouse door nearby.

What those children need is a parent, relative or family friend to show them the fun, the adventure, the curiosities and surprises they seek. I see this often, especially so close to a city, where the suburb is really just an extension of urban nature exclusion. In homogenizing our environments for comfort, we have sterilized them of the things children intuitively know they need.

So, the next time you are around children listlessly searching for that experience they can’t define; the next time they seem antsy or declare, “I’m bored,” take them outside  and play, even if all you have is a dull patch of grass.  Look at every bug and interesting leaf. Let the children lead – they just need an adult to be excited along with them. The future of our world is, in that moment, in your own capable hands.

The Hummer and the Butterfly

28 07 2011
Male Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly

The tiger swallowtails are out.

They are floating, sometimes recklessly, sometimes purposefully, their yellow bright against the blazing skies of July. They cross our 21st century byways, but they are just passing through our chronology. Theirs is an evolutionary time and place, one built – as layers of sand become the shore –  tiny life by tiny life.

Watching them, I can feel the simplicity of that life, if only for a tiny moment.

Then, one floats between me and the yellow Hummer in front of me. Its license plate reads, “Our Farms, Our Future.” Behind me, the couple smokes, his Bluetooth on, her tailgating mindlessly.

We are also in an evolutionary timeline. Which will predominate – the Hummer or the Butterfly? The moment or the mindless?

We can tell ourselves that one person cannot influence such monumental forces as evolution. I say, it depends what is evolving, and what we want to come of it.

Sunchips Ditches Green Bags

6 10 2010
Who Knew? The Kitty Likes SunChips

Image by cmcgough via Flickr

This just in: Sunchips is changing back to normal bags due to falling revenue and consumer complaints about the noisier biodegradable bags. Only the plain, Original flavor will remain in the greener packaging until they can find a quieter bag. Would you complain about a more sustainable choice because of aesthetics, or do you think consumers are worried about their spouse hearing the bag and coveting their chips?

I can’t help but notice that the only flavor that gets to be eco-friendly is plain. Is that what environmentalists are – self-punishing to the degree that Sunchips knows they will eat the plain just for the biodegradable bag? Well, maybe they’re right, but 10% of the time I’d spring for the flavor anyway. Life is too short, after all.

I’ll be on hiatus until next week for a fall foliage vacation. I hope we all get out to enjoy the season surrounding us!

Going “Moneyless”

21 09 2010

Spending a year without spending a dollar

As I am newly unemployed, the idea of purposeful unemployment intrigues me.

In 2008, businessman Mark Boyle went on a one-year hiatus from making money and lived in a trailer on an organic farm, trading labor for rent and foraging for all of his food. Now, the “Moneyless Man” has published a book about his experiences, which he describes as overwhelmingly positive. The book offers tips for reducing your expenses, as well as your carbon footprint.

I wonder if Boyle was motivated more by his economics training, a desire for sustainability, or an escape from the rat race? Many ethical issues arise here, from foraging for food in supermarket dumpsters to the fact that Boyle was still technically earning a living, only in exchange for accommodation instead of cash. I am definitely interested to know more about what he sought to demonstrate or learn through his experiment, and I love his idea for a  “freeconomy community,” in which members teach each other skills at free events.

Are you interested in Boyle’s story, or do you think he went too far to prove a point?

Because it’s there

8 09 2010

Most of the time we do things just because they present themselves to us first.

We tend to the screaming child, when the silent one has needs unseen. We do the chore most visibly urgent. We read the magazine on the table, not the books on the shelf. We talk to the people we see daily, forgetting long lost friends.

I think that this kind of rut is entirely different and more dangerous than ordinary laziness, because non-lazy people do it, too. We all do it. But remember how good it felt to reconnect with that person, or complete that scrapbook you had to dust off to hold? Change up your life by moving things around on your shelves and tables. Really look out your windows and appreciate your wall hangings. Take a deep breath, a long look, and what can you find?

Do one little thing differently every day, and you will begin to see how easy it really is to change habits when you change this one habit of seeing something just because it’s there. Your creative flair will flourish.

You might find it’s also easier to pick up a habit that gives back – taking a few moments to find local produce at the store; grouping your errands to save more gas. Green habits are one form of daily creative rebellion, and that’s something we all could use.

A Gleaning Revival

7 09 2010
Annapolis Maryland looking across an estuary t...

Image via Wikipedia

In historic Annapolis, Maryland, community garden group Grow Annapolis is trying a new approach to safeguard paid vegetable plots: one plot is outside the fence, where produce is free for the taking. It’s a refreshing show of generosity, but also a clever fix. And it revives an ancient social practice of caring for the poor: gleaning.

The Hebrews of Old Testament fame allowed the poor – immigrants, orphans and widows – to gather food left in the fields after harvesting. (A modern-day organization does the gleaning and brings it to the poor). In today’s economy, it’s heartening to see such an old-fashioned idea put to good use.

Creativity and Being “Green”

5 09 2010

There is something funny about creativity. Mention it and people get nervous. I think this is why some invent inaccurate meanings for it; they don’t understand creativity, and this makes them uncomfortable.

Once upon a time, in the not so distant past, a boss told me I was not as creative as my predecessor. He said it so matter-of-factly that I almost laughed in that “are you serious?” way. I, of course, am heartily inclined to disagree, not because I have proof to the contrary, but because I believe he has no right or means to make this assumption. And I have to say, this may be the one thing of value I gained from his leadership: the will to prove him wrong.

Recent research shows that we can actually cultivate our creativity, even when we may not have a genetic predisposition to certain aspects of it. Other research shows that the traditional ways we try to encourage creativity, such as “brainstorming,” don’t work. We need to feel safe, not forced, to be creative. This was the issue with this boss of mine, and this is too often the issue with people who feel they aren’t creative. They simply don’t feel that they have permission from the world to create they way they would if left to their own devices.

I believe that more people would live a “green” life – making more alive and gentler choices on the earth – if they felt free to expand their thinking beyond the 9 to 5, beyond merely getting by. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs supports this; we cannot care about being the best person we can be without our basic needs of nourishment and love being met. But we needn’t wait for others to give us permission and freedom to create; we can be the authority in our own lives!

I am recommitting myself to creativity. To not caring if some, in their small view, find me less creative than others. In reality, they don’t know us – who we really are when given the freedom to expand to our full potential.

How will you expand?

Working from Home

27 08 2010

Telecommuting is a bizarre experience, especially if you dislike your job. You wake up, get ready, and carry your coffee up the stairs, or down the stairs, or to the space under the stairs where you now work. Suddenly the stress you used to send off into the atmosphere in the vague direction of the office is inside your house, your haven. How did this happen? Well, you asked for it, is how. You begin to have complicated feelings toward your normally relaxing pad, and they don’t have a clear cut-off point at the end of the day. Bizarre emotions spring forth when you glimpse your “home office,” even in off hours.

It was supposed to be liberating, this ability to work in your pajamas. Few people really have the guts to do that, however. You have the sinking suspicion that your boss will find out. Besides, he’s already breathing down your neck more than ever because he doesn’t have the empty yet comforting proof of your productivity that is your body in a chair next door.

So you get dressed and kiss your spouse goodbye, and he or she goes off and you heave a sigh and walk to your “office,” feeling the whole time that you are guilty of some unnamed thing for having the audacity to work at home. During the day. By yourself. Go figure.

The final, awkward component of telecommuting is motivation. Left to your own devices, you can be incredibly productive. There is no one to pop their head endlessly around the carpeted walls of your cubicle. If your phone rings, you can choose to be unavailable – no one will know. This all assumes, of course, that you mean to be productive. If you dislike your job, you are faced with the very real dilemma of sitting alone with loathsome work to do and no one to make you do it. And this is the birthplace of integrity in the modern world, my friends. I have been there.

In fact, I am there right now. So, back to work.

Green New Year’s Resolutions?

3 01 2009

It is natural, I think, for eco-friendly folks to think about green goals for the new year. I, for instance, want to continue expanding my use of green products and reduce my use of disposable and convenience products. An example of the first goal would be switching to more environmentally- and health-friendly cleaning and beauty products; the second goal includes using fewer paper products for cleaning and fewer plastic or paper bags during any shopping.

I actually posted on this topic because I am more interested in the green goals of others. Please share!

Coalition to Sue the EPA; Great Lakes Now Protected

30 10 2008

From the Chesapeake Bay Foundation‘s website:

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF), the Virginia State Waterman’s Association, the Maryland Watermen’s Association, the Maryland Saltwater Sportfishermen’s Association, former Maryland Governor Harry Hughes, retired Maryland Senator Bernie Fowler, former Virginia legislator and Natural Resources Secretary Tayloe Murphy, and former Washington D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams today notified the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that they intend to go to federal court to force EPA to require pollution reduction in the Chesapeake Bay.

Visit CBF’s website if you want to watch a video statement, sign a petition supporting the action, or learn how to attend a upcoming rally. Do you think the action is justified? How should we go about saving the Bay?

On a happier note, a historic law now protects the Great Lakes from “depletion and diversions,” according to the Great Lakes Natural Resource Center‘s press release.

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