Posts Tagged ‘planet’

Yesterday, in response to the picture I posted of my grandfather on the farm, Jeff asked,

When you have time, could you tell us more of the story of your grandfather and his family? Where in France was the picture taken? What did he farm? What would he have thought about all this climate change problem that we’ve created?

I lost my grandfather when I was 5. To this day, ‘Pepe Marcel‘ still looms tall in my memory. I realize I owe it to him to care so much for nature, and what’s happening currently. Times on the farm with my him are some of the most precious items in my green memory bank. Like my French blogging sister, Nadine, much of what I write is informed by these early moments.

I started writing a sappy response to Jeff’s question. A romantic interpretation of what I thought ‘Pepe Marcel‘ would be telling me now. Imbued with nostalgia about the old days, without cars, and planes, and supermarkets. Times when his old village was still very much a real community, and seasons dictated the rhythm of people’s daily lives. When organic was a word that did not exist, and yet everything we ate was organic. When tractors had not yet replaced the horse led ploughs in the fields, and the plots were still small and not cultivated to excess. When the bread we ate tasted like the real thing, and was not whitened artificially to make it ‘more enticing’.

Soon, my grandfather’s real voice came through, and it whispered a very different message. If I was living now, you can be sure I would be living just like you and your friends. I would drive a car and shop to Neuville at the supermarket. I would ride a tractor, so I could be home sooner. Actually, I am not even sure I would be a farmer still. Life on the farm is hard. May work instead as a cook in a restaurant  in Poitiers, and drive the 50 kilometers commute every day. I would have upgraded the farm, so that we have all the modern conveniences and your grandmother did not have to do laundry in the big old boiler, and hang it on the lines. I am sure we would have a TV. We may still have a vegetable garden and fruit orchard in the back, but I am not even sure. It’s so convenient getting that stuff at the store. For vacations, we would go on cruises, or fly to America, like all the neighbors. 

That’s when I realized there is no stopping ‘progress’, whether here, or in China, or India, or anywhere else. Moving forward means imagining new ways to live sustainably again, that may appear almost similar to the old. But the motivations, and the awareness are on a different level. Jungian analyst Aldo Carotenuto‘ s image of ‘The Spiral Way‘ comes to mind:

Book Cover for The Spiral Way

Book Cover for The Spiral Way

This time applied to healing not just one woman, but the whole world. 

PS- Jeff, to finish answering your question. My grandfather came from a long line of farmers in the Poitou region of France. The farm is in Champigny, a small village where I spent every summer when I was a child. Pepe Marcel cultivated about 40 acres, most of it in wheat and vineyards. After he died, we farmed it out to other farmers. Now there are only three farmers left in the whole village, and their farms are more akin to industrial enterprises. 

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La Marguerite is a rather serious blog, with lots of heavy duty discussion on climate solutions. Lately, I have been feeling the need to step back a bit. And lighten up. I am ready to bet other people are feeling this as well. This is when humor can help with green fatigue. Here, for your enjoyment, is a short routine from George Carlin on environmentalists:

George Carlin will be receiving the Mark Twain Humor Prize later this year. Well deserved!

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Rasio stopped by La Marguerite a few days ago, and left a comment that caused me to stop, and wonder who was hiding behind such a sensitive and responsible soul. Her real name is Clara, and I asked her to share her story:

Hi. I am a 13-year-old girl who goes to Thomas W. Pyle Middle School in Bethesda , Maryland. I love nature, books, and climbing things. I want to help save this wonderful planet, earth, from ourselves, and enlighten people in the ways of nature.

Where do I start? Well, I didn’t always want to save the world; I began as any normal child. I have never discovered the foundation of my love of nature, for even my mother does not adore it the way I do. Perhaps it was the books I often read, because I am and have always been a quiet, unsocial person. Not lonely, however. I find books and nature to be much more forgiving than any human being. I still have a certain book which I worship, about a man who lives in the wilderness with his wife. He explains every aspect of survival in an interesting, yet informative manner. I guess that was what first made me want to ditch mankind and run off into the woods, living out the rest of my life as a hermit. However, I never got the chance, and as I grew older and learned more and more about the devastation the human race has caused, I realized something: I could not just bury my head in the sand like an ostrich, pretending there was nothing wrong and ignoring the facts. I had to remove myself from that flock of birds, sitting there on the beach, pretending they were happy when they really weren’t. I had to spread my wings and explore the world around me.

Almost immediately after this realization, I severed nearly all dependency on electronics such as television and computer. I have never possessed any of those useless but common items most people own at my age, like cell phones and even laptops. In addition, I have no desire to waste my time in such a ridiculous and unproductive manner. I would prefer to go outside and sit in the sun, watching birds fly past. I also have no attachment to shopping, even avoiding it if possible. I do well in school, and give the teachers what they want, but always hear, in the back of my mind, this ticking – the ticking of the clock counting the time remaining until our end. Over the past few months, this ticking has gotten louder, and with it my morale has dropped considerably. I feel quite sad nearly all the time and mostly keep to myself. I suppose it really plummeted after my failure to convince fellow class mates that the crisis was real. I actually created a binder, for the particular object of informing people on environmental problems. I worked for an extremely long time on it and it includes global warming, critically endangered species and the great pacific garbage patch. I even printed on the backs of the papers. However, the effort was wasted: when I presented the binder to other kids in my science class, they laughed – and called me a freak.

I am quite disappointed that schools have not added environmental studies to the curriculum. I think it would increase public knowledge of this subject by an incredible amount and it may even get kids off their Nintendo’s. On that note, I conducted an informal study of people talking on cell phones in their cars. I was on the highway and looked out the window at 16 cars passing by. 6 of the 16 people in the cars were talking on their cell phones. It no longer surprises me that there are so many accidents nowadays.

I also joined the World Citizen’s Club and the Chesapeake Bay Club at my school. However, I still don’t think people have the right idea about nature and saving the world. We should do it for nature because nature has done so much for us, and… well, I can’t explain it. This is our home. Why are we destroying it? Don’t people see the beauty, the wonderful, natural beauty that is our planet earth?

The earth is terribly sick and we have a responsibility to help it get better – especially since we caused the disease!

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Many of the discussions on this blog deal with the question of, how to evangelize the crowds and get them mobilized in the climate fight. It may be, that part of the solution lies in the unlikely realm of organized religion. ‘Renewal‘, a new documentary by Marty Ostrow and Terry Kay Rockefeller, depicts a convincing picture of the rise in environmentalist activism among religious communities of different faiths throughout America. From The Boston Globe:

The congregations include evangelical Christians in Kentucky and Muslims in Chicago, Connecticut Jews and Mississippi Baptists. All are striving to preserve what they see as God’s creation, and all are increasingly working together as conscious stewards of the earth. Says one of the committed, “What gives me hope on this is that I’ve never seen a wider coalition.”

The film, accordingly, is earnest, idealistic, and fired with the righteous potential of making a difference. And maybe it’s right to: When New Mexico Catholics and Native Americans joined forces recently to protest development that was siphoning water from farms, the results were a very pretty community celebration – and pro-environment resolutions passed by the local planning commission.

Renewal” is really eight short documentaries stitched into a 90-minute whole, each focusing on a local action spearheaded by a different religious organization. Catholics and evangelicals in Appalachia raise awareness of the coal-mining practice known as “mountaintop removal” by flying over in helicopters and videotaping the devastation.

A Crime Against Creation‘ is only one of eight trailers, and also my favorite. I encourage you to watch all eight. I found it uplifting to see all these communities place some of their religious fervor into the climate fight. Faith can move mountains. Maybe now, it can protect them from being destroyed.

Thanks Kyle for the link.

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Obama speaking on the environment. I had to watch:

I listened attentively to Obama’s words, and felt encouraged by his speech. Part of me wished he would be more aggressive. But then, I have to remember, policy making is a process, and  it has to start somewhere. My favorite moments were his speech to the guys in Detroit and the shots of his two daughters.

Imagine for a second, if you were President of the United States, what would your plan for a sustainable world be? Would it be any different from Barack Obama’s?

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Last night’s Democratic debate between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton kept me on the edge of my seat. Being an Obama girl, I wanted Obama to do well, and I had invited two girlfriends for support. There were only ninety minutes, and lots to cover. The three interviewers took turn asking questions, including some from the public, that had been preselected prior to the debate. Health care, taxes, immigration, and the war on Iraq, of course. Towards the end, Obama was asked about Hollywood, sex and violence. What did he think? The grand finale was a question to both candidates about their dream tickets.

What did you think?’ My friend Christine wanted to know what I thought of Obama. I couldn’t help but appreciate Hillary‘s strong performance. Still, our man had done well, especially on the topic of Iraq, and we could be proud. This had been a good debate between two formidable candidates. After my friends left, I rushed to the Huffington Post to leave a few comments for my candidate.

Not until this afternoon did I place the debate in the context of global warming, and realized that not a single question had been asked on the topic. I could understand other people not paying attention, but I, out of all people? I spent the morning answering readers’ comments about the post I wrote yesterday on ‘Global Warming and the Press‘. The irony is simply too much.

How about other journalists? Had they noticed? No mention in Arianna Huffington‘s post on the debate. Same notable absence in the Washington Post, and the New York Times. To the credit of both candidates, a review of the debate’s transcripts shows them mentioning globlal warming in each of their opening statements:

Obama: “Our planet is in peril

Hillary: “. . . global warming which the U.S. must lead in trying to contend with and reverse.

That it took me nearly twenty four hours to notice, that the interviewers did not bother with asking the question, and that the media also failed to notice, all three of these facts combined say a lot about our collective state of mind vis a vis global warming.

Did you notice?

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How to Save the Planet in Five Easy Paragraphs‘. Now, that’s one catchy headline. No Impact Man‘s done it again. He got me hooked and reading his post, and all the comments below. Could it be that the answer to our big problem, lie in five easy paragraphs? I was hoping. It turns out, it is not so simple. Global warming is a big monster with many heads, all of which need to be dealt with, at the same time. No matter how we look at it, there is lots of work involved, for all parties involved. Scientists need to work like mad to develop groundbreaking technologies, many of them. Businesses need to market the right products. Governments at all levels need to set in place courageous policies. Influencers need to continue spreading the good word. And citizens need to take personal responsibility for their action, and stop consuming like there is no tomorrow. Because of the number of actors and roles involved, the complexity can become mind boggling. And my fantasy of a Super Green Conductor, that we could just follow blindly, has yet to materialize.

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Lynette Evans wrote a great article, ‘Save the Money by Saving the Planet’, about the win win strategy of buying natural cleaning products instead of the usual commercial paraphernalia. Her maths are pretty convincing:

Commercial products: Windex Original, $4.39; Pine-Sol Cleaner, $4.69; Kaboom Shower Tub & Tile Cleaner, $5.69; Chlorox Disinfecting Wipes, $6.19; Formula 409 All Purpose Cleaner, $4,19; Palmolive Ultra Original Dish Soap, $3.49; Clorox Bleach, $2.29; O-Cel-O Sponges, $2.59; Swiffer Duster, $6.09. Total: $39.61.

Natural cleaning products: Heinz Distilled Vinegar, $3.90; Arm & Hammer Baking Soda. $1.15; Planet Ultra Dishwashing Liquid, $3.49; Mule Team Borax, $4.39; Hydrogen Peroxide, $.59; Old cotton towels, $o; Crumpled newspaper, $0. Total: $13.52.

Lynette did the maths. $26.09 savings for us, and for the planet. I wrote a similar post a while back, where I stated my good intentions. The smell of all those chemicals was getting to me. Yet, I did not take any steps. Our cleaning cabinet is still filled with the same poisonous chemicals. Seems like another item to add to my green to-do-list.

To-do-list: get rid of existing cleaning products and buy natural substitutes instead

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I ran across an interesting article in last Sunday’s San Francisco Chronicle. The article, by Arthur Max and Toby Sterling discusses the ways in which happiness differs amongst citizens of different nations, and steps that can be taken towards increasing the overall happiness level on a national level: ‘The tiny Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan long ago dispensed with the notion of Gross National Product as a gauge of well-being. The king decreed that his people would aspire to Gross National Happiness instead.’

This is no joke, and the fact that Bhutan, ranked way higher on the happiness scale than the US – #8 versus #15, deserves further examination. In Bhutan, ‘less than half of the people can read or write, and 90 percent are subsistence farmers. . . Its notion of GNH is based on equitable development, environmental conservation, cultural heritage, and good governance.’ I feel this very much. Some things are amiss in our modern culture, and I am yearning for a change, a new life built on a different value system, that promotes connecting with nature, and others, and reverses the state of alienation I am (we are) increasingly feeling as a result of so called progress and industrialization. Not that I trying to get off the hook. I know I still need to do my share. Good governance, the glue that can solidify and multiply of all our individual actions, is what I am after.

The authors quote Martin Seligman, the University of Pennsylvania psychologist: “Although economic output has risen steeply over the past decades, there has been no rise in life satisfaction during this period, and there has been a substantial increase in depression and distrust”. Not only is our steadily increasing consumption slowly killing the planet, it is also not helping us become any happier. Something is wrong with this picture.

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