nature

the trees call out to me
grasses sing their siren call
birds warble their invitation
butterflies whisper theirs
the river murmurs its low, insistent plea
the spanning sky holds out its arms to me
as all the growing things hail entreaty
i hear the many voices of the chorus 
and cannot help but run to them
instinct pulls me toward the mothering font
i am hers and she is mine.

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So grateful to Eugi’s Causerie for this beautiful prompt!

signs of spring

A to Z challenge, theme: anatomy, day 5: E
Flash essay, 100 words

It comes right on the heels of that first, glorious birdsong. My ears discern another unmistakable assurance of spring:  the sound of equipment.

Trucks, herbicide and pesticide sprayers, fertilizer spreaders, lawn mowers, chain saws, forklifts, weed whackers, rototillers, and more. It all comes to life in a rush.

Sure, climate change or health impacts are real concerns, but property values trump all that. Or, perhaps it’s the belief that the fabled Green New Deal is just over the horizon somewhere?

Another demonstration of our willingness to carry on the status quo, even when it’s patently against our own best interests.

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2021: let’s choose health

The new year approaches. It’s the perfect time for all of us to collectively choose a new year’s resolution. What if we all agreed that 2021 is the year we get healthy?

It’s not complicated. For the most part, it’s as simple as transitioning to a whole food, plant-based diet along with getting our bodies into some motion. Throw in some fresh air and sunshine, and it’s a wonderful package that improves our individual and collective health while also addressing the number one factor that can help to heal our planetary environmental crisis.

The data is out there (science, you know) that demonstrates a whole food, plant-based diet can prevent, mitigate, or reverse the big name killer diseases we’ve been living with for far too long — you know, these are all those co-morbidities that have sadly compromised so many with the coronavirus. Heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, cancers, kidney disease, high blood pressure — all of these things and more can be prevented, mitigated, or reversed by simply making the switch from meat-dairy-processed to plants.

The data is out there (yup, that pesky science again), that shows animal agriculture’s negative impact on our personal health as well as the health of our planet. It is the number one factor contributing to our climate crisis as it bulldozes rainforests, pollutes our air, soils, and oceans, and drives species to extinction at an alarming rate. We are all part of this problem and have the power to fix it with a simple lifestyle change that only benefits us.

We spent 2020 collectively fear-focused on fighting Covid-19. We spent the entire year engaging in stop-gap measures, many of which were destructive for people in terms of economics, social fabric, mental health, education, and, yes, even physical health. We could have chosen health during that time, but, even now, many choose instead to simply wait, masked and reclusive, breathlessly placing their trust in a vaccine for which long-term safety is an absolute unknown.

Next year could be different. Let’s make 2021 the year we take a positive, no-fear approach to a better, safer world. Let’s make 2021 the year we actually focus on getting and being healthy — together. 

turtle in the pond

turtle in the pond
live free
and happy
while the sun shines down
and the leaves flutter in the breeze
and the fish swim by
and the birds dip low
and the dragonflies skitter past
and the greenness of growing things surrounds you

turtle in the pond
live free 
and happy
until day the researcher bands you
or the birds and the dragonflies mysteriously disappear
or the fish die off from pollutants
or the agricultural run-off chokes your lifeblood 
or the net dips down for you
or the bulldozers come

turtle in the pond
we are not so different, are we?
live free
and happy
we are all turtles in the pond

metamorphosis

We found the eggs of a Monarch butterfly on the underside of a milkweed leaf. Dad got a big jar and put the milkweed leaf there, along with other milkweed leaves. And we watched it every day. 

Soon, there was a little caterpillar that quickly grew into a big, tigerish caterpillar. We kept bringing fresh milkweed leaves, and the caterpillar ate and ate and ate. We put our faces right up to the jar to see.

One day, the caterpillar switched gears entirely and got about the business of creating its astonishing chrysalis, that ethereal pale green with the touch of gold, like an angel’s wing. And every day, we just watched and waited.

Finally, more magic happened. The new Monarch emerged with its limp wings. We stared, as the butterfly pumped and tested the wings. Then, we knew it was time. 

We took the jar outside and opened it up near the milkweed patch and the trees. The Monarch flew up into the skies. We stood gazing, amazed and happy. 

Little did we know then how tenuous life was already becoming for the Monarchs. We would watch every year for their migration, and slowly realize that something was happening. Their numbers were dwindling.

The glimpse we had of the precious and beautiful life of our Monarch butterfly made us open our eyes to the wide world and all of the ways we are connected — mysteriously and wonderfully. So now we watch for the butterflies and the birds and the fish and the bears and the bees and the milkweed and the trees and so much more, and we tread ever more softly in the home we share.

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Many thanks to Eugie’s Causerie for the prompt, “observation,” that inspired these words.

you change the world

be kind to yourself, others, animals, earth – go plant-based

The United Nations Environment Programme yesterday released a report that looks at the role human activity plays in giving rise to zoonotic diseases. These are diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans, as COVID-19 is supposed to have originated.

The report calls out seven “human-mediated factors … most likely driving the emergence of zoonotic diseases.” They cite seven “disease drivers”:

1) increasing human demand for animal protein; 2) unsustainable agricultural intensification;
3) increased use and exploitation of wildlife; 4) unsustainable utilization of natural resources accelerated by urbanization, land use change and extractive industries; 5) increased travel and transportation; 6) changes in food supply; and 7) climate change.

No big surprises here. It’s the usual culprits for so many of the things ailing us, particularly the impoverished citizens of the globe.

Given all that we know, it’s still startling how little we’re actually doing about any of it. As the report mentions, these negative impact factors are actually increasing or intensifying.

Human demand for animal protein is just one of them. It’s startling to realize that even though it is common knowledge that our insatiable demand for meat and dairy directly contributes to profound health and environmental issues, it remains on the increase.

Data from the Global Meat & Poultry Trends report released by Packaged Facts in February of this year shows that:

“Meat consumption worldwide is expected to increase 1.4% per year through 2023…”

It predicts that “…global meat and poultry consumption will reach 313 million metric tons in 2023. Global per capita consumption will rise slightly to 39 kilograms per year.” That’s roughly 86 pounds per person — globally.

USDA data cited by the The National Chicken Council shows that in the United States, per capita meat consumption (including beef, pork, and poultry) in 1960 was 167.2 pounds. In 2019 that number was 224.3. Although a slight dip to 220.2 pounds is predicted in 2020, meat consumption is forecast to be on the increase again, up to 223.5 pounds in 2021.

That is a lot of dead animals. And repercussions.

While plenty of folks are being religious about wearing masks and social distancing, the UNEP report underscores that there are other truly meaningful things we could be doing to help the world both now and in the future relative to pandemics and beyond. Just look at that list of seven things above. There is no doubt in my mind that there are at least several that each of us, personally, can directly impact. Reducing meat consumption is just one of them. 

Don’t wait for the powers that be to tell you how they’re gonna change the world (and then figure out if you can like it). YOU change the world.

narrative of fear

Some days I wake up scared. I wake up not having a clue what’s going to happen next. Or worse, maybe I do. Everything feels a little out of control like I need to hold onto something. 

Seems like things come out of left field almost every day now and it’s hard to process. Everyone I meet feels the same way. We are just holding onto our various pieces of flotsam while these giant waves carry us along. We look at each other behind our masks from our six-foot stations imprinted on the floor with the question in our eyes where are we going? 

The sun comes up and I listen to the birds singing it’s as if everything is normal but I know it’s not. Maybe for the first time ever I find myself fearing for our fundamental freedom as human beings on this earth and I wonder how to fight for that. I fear the actions of our species far more than what nature may bring. But fear is how it all works isn’t it? And we are going mach 5. 

I have to make myself stop and listen awhile to what’s true and beautiful outside my window in the trees in the sky in the air in my soul and then I am not scared but my heart still rends for what is happening.

It doesn’t make me feel safe to be masked to be distanced to be tracked to be left to die alone in the hands of masked strangers to be tested to be medicated to be genetically altered to be fed gibberish data to suckle a debilitating narrative merely masquerading as science to be cut off from community culture the very rhythm of life no this, this is not the way.

I finally let go of that piece of flotsam only to discover I am the leviathan. The fear dissipates in a poof of anger that just as quickly transforms into power. I claim that.

glyphosate and critical thinking

Yes, I know, glyphosate is an herbicide, but you get the idea.

So maybe some people noticed the more-than-ten-billion-dollars Bayer just agreed to pay out in order to settle thousands of outstanding lawsuits. This involved litigation relative to its subsidiary Monsanto’s product, RoundUp, which contains glyphosate, among other things. The lawsuits had been brought by RoundUp users who became cancer patients suffering from non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Why oh why are people still spraying this stuff on their lawns? Just yesterday, I watched people in a neighborhood, calmly walking around their yards doing just that. Yards where kids play. I imagine some of these conscientious folks wear a mask in the store where they buy their RoundUp. Hmm.

Elsewhere, start noticing those little pesticide/herbicide signs. They are everywhere on the lawns of neighborhood homes and businesses. You know, there’s a reason they have to put an actual warning on a lawn.

I don’t get why people are willing to compromise themselves and others and the natural world for the sake of … weeds. Weeds are a mental construct. That’s about it.

Lawns, honestly, should be a thing of the past anyway. I understand people are concerned about property values, but there’s also the value of life itself. It’s a simple matter of changing perspective about what actually constitutes “beautiful.”

I also don’t get why any glyphosate products are even allowed to be sold in the United States. 

Think about it: Bayer would rather shell out $10 billion dollars than try to defend RoundUp in these cases. That’s how unwinnable it is: $10 billion dollars unwinnable. 

But wait, I do know why RoundUp can still be sold in the United States. It’s because people are still buying it. Which is also why Bayer has $10 billion dollars to spend on this and remain in business.

What, folks, are we thinking? Alas, I fear, there is no thinking involved. At least, not critical thinking.

mosquitoes and beyond: NO to GMO

So now we learn a company called Oxitec is getting ready to release 750 million genetically modified mosquitoes in Key West, Florida, starting this summer and carrying on through 2022. They plan to expand the experiment to include Harris County, Texas as well.

The Oxitec GMO mosquito project is aimed at making it so that the progeny of normal female mosquitoes who mate with male GMO mosquitoes are rendered less viable to survive to maturity. This leads to the “temporary collapse of a wild population.”  One has to wonder how both the altered mosquitoes and the environmental collapses might affect other insects, birds, and mammals that feed on the mosquitoes.

It’s amazing to me that this got the go-ahead from both the Environmental Protection Agency (that’s what they call it, anyway) and the State of Florida, particularly during this time of a heavily studied but still poorly understood pandemic of theoretically zoonotic origins, environmental issues notwithstanding. 

The experiment’s approvals came over the objections of local residents and environmental groups who assert that the risks have not been seriously analyzed. A number of environmental groups plan to sue the EPA over the matter. 

I get that mosquitoes are a real problem for us, spawning serious diseases. I also get that the expressed intent of engineering the GMO mosquitoes is to ultimately reduce the threatening population. I am sorry, though, genetically modifying the composition of life itself to address our problems is not an acceptable approach.

We are not God, not the universe, and we are absolute neophytes in our understanding of our world and its complex interrelationships. I trust no man or woman to act in such a capacity, altering the very design of earth’s creatures.

This is not science. It’s a crap shoot.

Tampering with the genetics of life on this earth is dangerous business. We really have no idea what the ultimate ramifications are or could be. Nor will we know the broad answers to that question in the space of a season, or a year, or ten years.

This is not Oxitec’s first foray into such experimentation. From 2013 to 2015, they released 450,000 GMO mosquitoes every week in the vicinity of Jacobina, Brazil. The results from that experiment were touted as successful, but are, in fact, unclear, when you consider a Yale study that raised questions about the unintended results of the experiment. Of course, Oxitec rebutted such concerns, and what do you know, here we are getting ready to do it again. 

I imagine that when the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is one of your investors, it helps to grease the skids.

Beyond the unknown impacts of these experiments, it is also disturbing to ponder the notion that once you get comfortable modifying plants, and then mosquitoes, bats, and who knows what else, how long will it be before they come to genetically modify You for whatever purposes?

It’s just not that hard to imagine a government somewhere applying that kind of technology in more disturbing ways. Even as we read about the GMO mosquitoes, we learn that China is amassing a vast database of DNA information, sending its police out to collect blood samples from its male population, including children.

At the same time, worldwide, many people have, in the course of a few short months, learned to desire wide scale testing, clamor for a vaccine, and accept the idea of contact tracing. 

It is just not that great a leap to imagine GMO being put to unacceptable and unimaginably dangerous uses.

Conspiracies or not, entities like the Gates Foundation have their hand in all of this.

I trust no profiteering humans, no matter how benevolent the veneer may be polished, to mess around with life in such a fashion. 

NO to GMO.