"It is not enough for you to feed on the good pasture? Must you also trample the rest of your pasture with your feet? It is not enough for you to drink of the clear water? Must you also muddy the rest with your feet?" Ezekiel 34:18

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Public Lands, Public Goods

Nicolas Kristof has a great article in the NY Times this morning about the state of our public lands. He describes how he and his daughter hiked the Pacific Crest Trail and how the trails and bridges were collapsing in on themselves. The most poignant part of the article is when Kristof says we built up out public lands when we were a poor country, and now as a rich country they are decaying from neglect. And the reason for this? "That’s not because of resources. It’s because they were visionaries, and we are blind."

I am afraid this is a wider symptom of "if you want to enjoy the great outdoors, then buy it" syndrome. My worry is that soon there will be no more public goods in this country. Public schools, National Parks, clean water....they will all be former shadows of themselves, which you can argue that they already are. 

Friday, July 12, 2013

Fruit Foraging

So, the other day I was working from home and at lunch I decided to go for a stroll around the neighborhood with my son. Low and behold, as I turned out onto Lee Hwy., I saw her. An older woman with a sweat rag wrapped around her neck. She was picking wild blackberries on the side of the highway. She was grunting a lot, and with the presence of a sweat rag I deduced that this was serious and hard work in the Virginia summer sun. In fact, my husband Andrew pointed out later that day that we frequently drive by people on the side of the highway foraging wild berries.

I think this is great and environmentally friendly to boot!. I am just not so sure that I could ever bring myself to stop running into Wegmans for a fresh, $20 fruit pie when I am in a pinch. It is not so much that I am above foraging on the side of the road as my fellow American blow by me in a car driving 50 mph, but the thought of cooking the stuff exhausts me. And fruit has a short self life when means I couldn't take 3 weeks to finally work up the energy to cook something with the fruit. And don't mention that I could freeze or can the fruit. That seems even more daunting than baking.

Well, if you don't have an aversion to baking, NPR has a great article on modern-day fruit foraging. They even have a map where you can find locations near where you live to go foraging. Maybe you will tun into my neighbor?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Chinese Fog

Here is a picture from December 2nd (courtesy of European Pressphoto Agency) of Chinese Fog, commonly known as Air Pollution, in Beijing. This is similar to what used to be called London Fog, but  mysteriously vanished thanks to air pollution regulations dating from the 1950s on.

So, next time you hear someone complain about the Clean Air Act here in the U.S., just tell them to be thankful we don't have American Fog.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Ocean-front property

For the past few years I have felt that global climate change has offered me a rare opportunity to turn lemons into lemonade. If I could only figure out how much of the eastern seaboard would be wiped out by rising tides, than I would be in a prime position to buy some first-rate ocean-front property in-the-making.

Alas, this may not be the case. In an early preview from The Economist it appears that a professor out of Oregon State University is set to publish an article in Science claiming that the Earth's atmosphere isn't as sensitive to CO2 as many fear.

No doubt that global climate change is occurring but wouldn't it be great if this scenario turned out to be true? That we aren't completely doomed to a mid-life relocation to the Midwest or maybe the Moon, along with the remaining polar bears is undoubtedly a positive thing.  Of course, I will have to find another business venture in which to make my instant millions.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Nature-Deficit Disorder

There is a fantastic article in Newsweek on what Dr. Andrew Weil refers to as America's "Nature-Deficit Disorder". Here is a quote from the article,

"In my experience, the more people have, the less likely they are to be contented. Indeed, there is abundant evidence that depression is a disease of affluence, a disorder of modern life in the industrialized world. People who live in poorer countries have a lower risk of depression than those in industrialized nations. In general, countries with lifestyles that are furthest removed from modern standards have the lowest rates of depression."

He goes on to highlight the work of another psychologist Stephen Ilardi who has conducted research among the Old Order Amish that has found that members of this religious group -that shuns modern conveniences like cars or mobile phones- have far lower rates of depression than other Americans.

It seems that the more time we spend in doors in front of our t.v.'s and computers, the more depressed we become.  Behaviors strongly associated with depression such as reduced physical activity and human contact, and eating processed foods are the very things that nowadays our jobs and home lives literally force us to do.

I have always argued that a more sustainable life-style is also one that coincides with a happier, and healthier one. Just from my own experience those evenings when I come home from work after sitting in front of the computer all day and crash in front of the t.v. are the days when I feel more stressed and anxious. When I come home and talk with my neighbors, cook a nice meal, and go for a walk with my husband, I feel a lot more calm and relaxed.

So, I guess the moral of the story is that all of us need to conquer our "Nature Deficit Disorder", not just for the sake of the environment, but for ourselves as well.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Carnivores vs. People

There is a great article in the NY Times this morning on the changing relationships between wolves and ranchers. If you don't follow the state of large carnivores in the western U.S. here is that back story: In 1995 grey wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park. The wolves had long been extirpated from the area and, as a result, elk populations had exploded and were destroying the vegetation in the park. The program was a success and wolves rapidly spread outside the park boundaries.

The relationship between ranchers and wolves has always been a tense one. Most wolves do not prey on livestock but a minority can become chronic livestock predators. One of the ranchers had an interesting take on the situation. He argues that if Americans along the coasts want to see the grey wolf maintain a presence in the western U.S. than they should have to share the costs. I agree. And I also believe that maintaining healthy large carnivore populations is a necessary if we truly care about the health and diversity of our ecosystems and that the cost is well-worth it.

The red wolf is native to the southeastern U.S. They became extinct in the wild but, thanks to a captive breeding program, are now successfully breeding in North Carolina. I wander if the range of the red wolf starts to spread and the animals move into populated areas, will easterners be as eager to provide protection for this species versus the grey wolf which is out of sight and, therefore, out of mind for the most part?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Beware of exotic carnivores

This summer when our illustrious leaders tried as hard as they could to shut down the federal government, I got in the habit of rolling my eyes at folks when they excitedly exclaimed that we would all be better off if the federal government did indeed shut down. I rolled my eyes because we Americans take for granted all the great things that yes, gasp, the bureaucrats inside the Beltway actually do for us. These things I am referring to include the availability of clean drinking water, the development of life-saving vaccines, and providing safe air travel.  I am now happy to add another item that the federal government should take up: protection of citizens from exotic animals. If you somehow have missed out on this story it goes something like this: Ohio has some of the weakest exotic species laws on the books in the U.S. A crazy man (he qualifies as crazy in my mind) was able to house upwards of 50 exotic species of mammals on his property. These animals included lions and tigers and bears, oh my! Local officials had to warn people to stay in the cars and homes for fear of becoming dinner.

Where the federal government comes into play with this issue is that federal legislation should be enacted to prohibit the private ownership of exotic animals. Amazingly, the illegal trade in wildlife is second only to that of drugs in the United States, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). Federal law is often circumvented by breeding these animals in captivity and selling them with state lines. No one needs to keep a Bengal Tiger as a pet. Most people can barely take care of their golden labs.