Allow me to introduce myself . . .

November 19, 2012 by Categorized: Natural Reflections.

I was flabbergasted when Lupa offered me this position at No Unsacred Places.  NUP is one of the few blogs I check and read on a regular basis, though I rarely comment. I appreciate the many different voices and emphasis on ecology NUP provides. It has often given me much to think about and inspired a few articles on my personal blog PostPagan.

PostPagan? You might be asking. It is a tongue-in-cheek label I give myself and ecological-aware people I know who have been and/or are involved in the modern pagan movement, but (for whatever reason) do not identify as pagan themselves. Myself and others in this category often affiliate strongly with “Eco-Pagans” which NUP is an excellent example. I consider myself to practice what I term 21st Century Sacred Ecology.

I use the label 21st Century to differentiate from Traditional Sacred Ecology. Where Traditional Sacred Ecology describes the intricate relationships that traditional/indigenous people have developed over thousands of years with their environment, 21st Century Sacred Ecology focuses on developing new traditions, mythology, and relationships with the land from the perspective of those whose culture (e.g. western society) has long diverged from our traditional/indigenous roots. 21st Century Ecology strives  not to (mis)appropriate from other cultures and from the past. For me personally, this involves a combination of modes of thinking and interacting with the world – Including but not limited to (and in no particular order):

However, my primary religious and spiritual identity is that of a Unitarian Universalist.

Now that I may have thoroughly confused you, a bit about my self. I live in The Palouse region of the Inland Northwest (U.S.). Here I have fallen in love with the rolling hills of wheat and canola along with the nearby North Central Rockies. Here I’ve learned important lessons in how to relate to the land around me. My beliefs and practice are centered around the place where I live and its ecology. As such, my spiritual practice needs to adapt to the unique places where I have lived. I am very active in my Unitarian Universalist Church, where I am a co-facilitator for our new Green Sanctuary Committee and  Sacred Ecology Covenant. The latter is focused on bringing ecological awareness into Unitarian Universalist worship and celebration. I have given a small handful of sermons at my church on ecology and spirituality.

In the recent past, I was an active member of the Bio-regional Animism community and with the help of a friend, we created the BioRegional Animism in 5 Minutes Video:

YouTube Preview Image

I am excited to start my journey with No Unsacred Places, and acknowledge I have some rather big shoes to fill left behind by my predecessors. I look forward to interacting with the NUP community and working with the terrific writers who contribute.

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In Your Name: a call to action

September 22, 2012 by Categorized: Restorying the Sacred.

Gaia, may we rise up with the inspiration of Spring

Gaia, may we step forth with the passion of Summer

Gaia, may we open with the compassion of Autumn

Gaia, may we persist with the patience of Winter

Gaia, may we move ever deeper in the Spiral of the Years

Earth from s
Earth from space. Photo by NASA.

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Loving the Broken

June 12, 2012 by Categorized: Restorying the Sacred.

Lake felt awful. All sorts of chemicals were being pumped into it, and nonnative species wreaked havoc on its equilibrium.

And Lake was lonely. Many animals who had once come to its shores to drink stay away now, because the water was no longer healthy, and the invasive species weren’t as friendly as the natives.

One day, one of the Upright Folks stood on Lake’s sheer, staring in dismay. “I swam in this lake as a child,” ze said. “I loved its clear waters. We have to do something.”

The Upright One gathered hir friends and neighbors who loved Lake. They wrote letters, held meetings, organized cleanup days. They fought for Lake’s health and slowly began to restore it. They forced those responsible for the chemical dumping to stop. They sent the invasive species back home and enticed the natives to return. And they visited often, honoring Lake as gently as they knew how.

Lake felt restored and surrounded by love, now that it was no longer so alone. Communicating with the Upright Folk was seldom easy, but Lake had to try. When the Upright One Lake thought of as its own returned next, Lake said, “Thank you.”

Realizing Lake was speaking to hir startled the Upright One, but ze smiled. “You’re welcome.”

What Lake had to ask next, it could not ask in words, but it got the message through somehow. Why did you do it?

“Because I love you.”

How could you love me when I was broken?

Legs of a person by a lake.

"Lake" by toriewearsprada. Some rights reserved.

“I loved you all the more because you were broken,” ze said. “When you seemed perfect, I took you for granted. But when I saw that you had been damaged, my heart went out to you, and it spurred my love into action.”

The Upright One returned to hir home soon after, but ze had given Lake much to think about.

Many days passed. The Upright Folk continued to visit Lake, but not the one who had loved Lake so much. But Lake didn’t worry; the Upright One had hir own life to lead, and so did Lake.

Until, one day, the Upright One did return. Ze looked awful. My friend! Lake exclaimed, what’s wrong with you?

The Upright One looked angry and impatient. “It’s just this stupid body, Lake. It’s injured, and it’s taking forever to heal. I’m so tired of the pain. I wish my body would quit messing around and get better.”

Now, Lake understood pain and injury. But it couldn’t understand the Upright One’s impatience with hir healing, and the lack of love ze seemed to bear hir own body. You loved m all the more when I was broken, Lake reminded hir. Shouldn’t the same be true of this body you are?

“It’s different,” the Upright One insisted.

Why?

“Because you’re Nature. You’re sacred.”

You are not apart from Nature. Aren’t you sacred, too?

The Upright One had no answer, because ze had begun to realize that Lake was right.

When you seemed perfect, you took yourself for granted, Lake told hir. Now that you have been damaged, it should spur you into action—and perhaps greater love, as well.

“Easier said than done,” ze said.

Lake acknowledged that this was so, but still the need for this love remained. The Upright One returned to hir home soon after, but Lake knew it had given hir much to think about.

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Earth and Nature Holidays – April 2012

March 31, 2012 by Categorized: Nature in the News.

All over the world, people are celebrating and honoring earth, nature and environmental awareness and education in their communities. Here are just a few national and international “green holidays” to liven up your month.

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International Year of Sustainable Energy (2012)

  • The United Nations General Assembly declared 2012 the International Year of Sustainable Energy in order to “increase awareness of the importance of addressing energy issues, including modern energy services for all, access to affordable energy, energy efficiency and the sustainability of energy sources and use, for the achievement of the internationally agreed development goals, sustainable development and the protection of the global climate, and to promote action at the local, national, regional and international level” to work towards ensuring energy access for all and to protect the environment through the sustainable use of traditional energy resources, cleaner technologies and newer energy sources. You can learn more about this project and related events on their website.

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Keep America Beautiful Month

  • “In 1953 a group of individuals formed an organization called ‘Keep America Beautiful‘ aimed at reducing the amount of littering on public lands, highways and waterways, encouraging Americans to take pride in America. It is the nation’s largest volunteer based community action and education group. Since its conception, it really has grown in leaps and bounds with campaigns and promotions such as:
    - ‘Close the Loop, Buy Recycled’ U.S. EPA partnership
    - Web-based educational tools, including Clean Sweep U.S.A
    - ‘Back By Popular Neglect’ PSA campaign

    “Each April is Keep America Beautiful month drawing attention to the campaigns and research done by Keep America Beautiful and their three primary areas of focus: litter reduction, waste minimization, and beautification.” (from ecofriendlydaily.com)

National Garden Month

  • “Every April communities, organizations, and individuals nationwide celebrate gardening during National Garden Month. Gardeners know, and research confirms, that nurturing plants is good for us: attitudes toward health and nutrition improve, kids perform better at school, and community spirit grows. Join the celebration and help to make America a greener, healthier, more livable place!” (from the official website)

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International Holidays

  • April 7World Health Day
    “Every year, World Health Day is celebrated on 7 April to mark the anniversary of the founding of WHO in 1948. Each year a theme is selected for World Health Day that highlights a priority area of concern for WHO. The topic of World Health Day in 2012 is Ageing and health with the theme “Good health adds life to years”. The focus is how good health throughout life can help older men and women lead full and productive lives and be a resource for their families and communities. Ageing concerns each and every one of us – whether young or old, male or female, rich or poor – no matter where we live.” (from the official website)
  • April 12Yuri’s Night
    “Yuri’s Night is an international celebration held on April 12 every year to commemorate space exploration milestones. The event is named for the first human to launch into space, Yuri Gagarin, who flew the Vostok 1 spaceship on April 12, 1961. In 2004, people celebrated Yuri’s Night in 34 countries in over 75 individual events. Locations have included Los Angeles, Stockholm, Antarctica, the San Francisco Bay Area, Tel Aviv, Tokyo, and the International Space Station. The goal of Yuri’s Night is to increase public interest in space exploration and to inspire a new generation of explorers. Driven by space-inspired artistic expression and culminating in a worldwide network of annual celebrations and educational events, Yuri’s Night creates a global community of young people committed to shaping the future of space exploration while developing responsible leaders and innovators with a global perspective. These global events are a showcase for elements of culture that embrace space including music, dance, fashion, and art.” (from Wikipedia)
  • April 15 – 21World Creativity and Innovation Week
    “World Creativity and Innovation Week April 15 – 21 is a celebration of our ability to get new ideas, use imagination and make new decisions to make the world a better place and to make your place in the world better too. Do what you can, do what you like. There’s only one rule: do no harm.” (from the official website)
  • April 15 – 21International Dark Sky Week
    “International Dark-Sky Week (IDSW), held during the week of the new moon in April, is a week during which people worldwide turn out their lights in order to observe the beauty of the night sky without light pollution. This event was founded in 2003 by Jennifer Barlow of Midlothian, Virginia, and its popularity and participation increases every year.” (from Wikipedia)
  • April 18World Heritage Day
    “World Heritage is the shared wealth of humankind. Protecting and preserving this valuable asset demands the collective efforts of the international community. This special day offers an opportunity to raise the public’s awareness about the diversity of cultural heritage and the efforts that are required to protect and conserve it, as well as draw attention to its vulnerability.” (from the official website)
  • April 22Mother Earth Day

    “The proclamation of 22 April as International Mother Earth Day is an acknowledgement that the Earth and its ecosystems provide its inhabitants with life and sustenance. It also recognizes a collective responsibility, as called for in the 1992 Rio Declaration, to promote harmony with nature and the Earth to achieve a just balance among the economic, social and environmental needs of present and future generations of humanity. International Mother Earth Day provides an opportunity to raise public awareness around the world to the challenges regarding the well-being of the planet and all the life it supports.” (from the official website)

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National Holidays Around the World

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Did I miss one? Leave a note (and a link, if you have one!) in the comments letting us know what “green” holidays you’re celebrating this month!

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Effective Communication for Tree-Hugging Dirt-Worshippers

March 19, 2012 by Categorized: Earth Matters.

Environmentalists spend a lot of time telling everyone how close we are to destroying the planet, or at least disrupting the delicate balance that allows the human species to survive on it. But they spend almost as much time complaining about how it seems like all that their fellow environmentalists ever do is run around frantically preaching doom and gloom, trying to harass and frighten people into action.

It’s only natural. When you see a loved one in danger — whether they’re suffering abuse or neglect because of someone else’s ignorance, selfishness or greed, or because there’s an on-coming mac truck speeding down the street with the breaks out — your first response is to cry out in alarm, to yell for help! You don’t stop and wax philosophic about the numerous existential and ethical reasons why your curmudgeony old aunt deserves not to be hit by a truck. You don’t think twice about why your son deserves to go to school without being bullied for his weight, his sexual orientation, his clothes or hobbies. Your first priority is to act now to protect them, to make the bad shit stop. The reasons for it are so obvious, it doesn’t even occur to you to explain why. Justifications can come later, when the disaster has been averted and everyone’s safely out of harm’s way.

Many of us feel the same way about the planet and her diverse ecosystems and wild places. It’s hard to take the long, calm view when the mountain you love — this mountain, right here, right now — is being stripped and raped for coal and natural gas, or when the river you love is being polluted and all its diverse lifeforms strangled and suffocated by toxic waste. It doesn’t even occur to us that we need to explain why it’s important to protect these habitats and landscapes from destruction and abuse. The reason is obvious: because we love them. Because they have an inherent value and beauty in and of themselves.

In fact, it can even feel a little bit wrong to focus too much on human-centric justifications. It seems overly simplistic to say that it’s better to have cleaner air and water because of the public health and human rights benefits, or that flourishing, self-sustaining ecosystems are valuable because of the natural resources they provide to humans, or that states with greater environmental protections are more likely to also have greater long-term economic growth than states that waive such protections for the sake of short-term profits.

All of those things are true. But they don’t tell the whole story. Maybe your curmudgeony old aunt sends you a birthday card every year with a twenty dollar bill in it, but if that’s the only reason you pulled her out of the way of that speeding truck, you probably want to rethink your priorities.

Besides, all of the logical arguments and abstract self-interest in the world might not be enough to inspire the kind of wide-scale, fundamental lifestyle changes that will pull us back into balance with the natural integrity of the earth’s ecosystems. After a long day at work, on a chilly Friday afternoon when you’re looking forward to a weekend of relaxation, how easy is it to let the immediate comfort and convenience of driving your SUV home overrule all of your abstract reasons for taking the bus or riding your bike instead? Even the best of us sometimes have to fight the urge to give in to those easy temptations; and sometimes the guilt of knowing better just makes the choice feel like even more of a burden. The visceral immediacy of physical and emotional comfort often trumps philosophical ideals and lofty goals — that’s Maslow’s hierarchy of needs for you.

Environmentalists who cry out vehemently about the terrible destruction of the wilds and wildernesses of the world are speaking from a place of deep love and reverence for those landscapes and ecosystems. Their anger and fear come from a place of connection and concern at the deepest levels of physical, emotional and psychological relationship — not just from abstract ideologies of logical self-interest. But their audiences often consist of folks who might not share those personal experiences of wilderness, beauty and wonder. Folks who might not have had the same opportunities to cultivate relationships of appreciation and love for the natural world and its non-human beings that make it so obvious to many of us why the earth deserves our respect, reverence and protection.

For these folks, their primary experience of environmentalism and ecological awareness might be an angry person yelling frantically at them about a danger that they can’t see coming and don’t really understand.

Anyone who says they're great at communicating but 'people are bad at listening' is confused about how communication works.

Communication, by xkcd

“Anyone who says they’re great at communicating but ‘people are bad at listening’
is confused about how communication works.”

So what can environmentalists and other ecologically-minded people do to communicate more effectively?

For a start, we can begin by extending a hand and inviting others to join us in our curiosity, wonder and appreciation for the natural world around us. Instead of telling people why they should care, we can help them to experience firsthand what it feels like to care and to allow that care to inspire them to meaningful action. Pagans who put the natural world at the center of their spiritual work can host public, community rituals that help others foster healthy, gratifying relationships with their immediate environments and landscapes. Maybe not everyone who attends will walk away an animist or polytheist — but they might just have a few new memories of what it’s like to sit in reverent silence listening to the sound of wind through the trees or to breathe deeply the mingling scents of incense, pine and muddy earth as they watch the sun set and the stars come out. Those memories can become a foundation for further exploration and connection.

We can also be more creative in the ways we talk about positive, everyday actions that help the environment. Instead of focusing on the hard work and sacrifice involved with riding a bike to work instead of driving (as noble as those aspects may be), we can speak enthusiastically about all the ways that biking is itself a pleasurable and spiritually meaningful experience, one that we would miss if we were forced to give it up. Living a life of greater ecological awareness often means renewing our appreciation and gratitude for a simpler, more hands-on approach to life. Many modern Pagan traditions already embrace the value of simple tasks of mindfulness and attention: weaving, spinning, woodcrafting, cooking, sharing meals, bathing. These and other activities are already part of our mythology, imbued with a spiritual significance.

Finally, we can be honest about our own struggles to live lives of ecological awareness and balance. When we extend an invitation to others to join us in engaging more openly and sensitively with the world around us, we’re also inviting them to share the challenges and frustrations. We can respond to those challenges with empathy and understanding, acknowledging our own failures and drawing on our past experiences. Instead of giving people the impression that we blame them or see them as part of the problem, we can leave them with the memory of someone offering a relationship of mutual help and support, someone who knows what it’s like to feel frustrated or impotent. Cultivating authentic relationships with our fellow humans means that we all feel a little less alone in the hard work of changing the way we live.

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Disturbing the Bones of the Beloved Dead

March 12, 2012 by Categorized: Nature in the News.

Now don’t forget me, little darling, while I’m growing old and gray.
Just a little thought before I’m going far away.
I’ll be waiting on the hillside on the day that you will call,
On the sunny side of the mountain, where the rippling waters fall.

- “Sunny Side of the Mountain,” old folk song

 

This month’s issue of Sierra features “Move Not Those Bones,” a heart-wrenching story about a consequence of mountaintop removal coal mining that is often overlooked: the destruction of centuries-old family cemeteries nestled among the wooded hollows of the Appalachian Mountains.

Making the land uninhabitable is only one consequence of destroying it to pick it clean of coal. Burying drainages with rubble causes flooding, just as releasing particulates into the air and poisons into the water leads to a variety of illnesses. A 2011 West Virginia University study shows that communities near mountaintop-removal sites have a cancer rate double that of more distant towns. On top of all that, mountaintop-removal mining is destroying the people of Appalachia’s connection to their history. Most of the cemeteries here predate the arrival of the coal companies; some were established before the founding of the country.

Many of the small communities scattered throughout Appalachia, where mountaintop-removal mining has done so much damage already, face the destruction of cemeteries that have been part of the wooded wilderness for centuries, left to become overgrown and sometimes forgotten as younger generations leave the area. These grave sites might not be officially registered or marked on any map, leaving them vulnerable to destruction from mining companies that buy up property and indiscriminately strip the landscape bare in an effort to reach the valuable coal deposits underneath. What minimal laws there are protecting cemeteries only apply to registered sites marked off by a fence and regularly maintained by a caretaker, and the historical value of family cemeteries can be difficult to prove, especially in cases where graves are unmarked or headstones have fallen into disrepair.

People like Dustin White and Larry Gibson, whose anti-mining environmental activism in West Virginia centers around the protection of family cemeteries and grave sites, have been marginally successful in protecting some hallowed ground. These cemeteries remain like small islands, grave-studded copses of trees surrounded by acres of bare rock and debris. They are often inaccessible to family members who want to visit the graves of their deceased loved ones. The proposal suggested by coal companies to consolidate family graveyards in a single public cemetery, freeing up mountains for demolition, would likely mean only moving a few remaining headstones and maybe a dirt sample, as some of the older graves would be almost impossible to exhume.

Mountaintop Mining: Aerial View 5
Image courtesy of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)

It is a painful irony that so many of these small cemeteries were originally planted on high ground because such places were considered especially safe and sacred.

It’s no accident that many Appalachian family cemeteries are on the tops of mountains or other high ground. People wanted to be buried high so that floodwaters couldn’t reach them, ideally in graves facing east to catch the morning sun. In the past, mountaintops represented safety. Today they represent easy access to coal.

My family’s roots are firmly planted in the rural, working-class coal country of central Pennsylvania where for generations small communities have thrived, or floundered, because of the mining industry. There is an uneasy relationship with the influence that coal companies have had in the region over the decades. Traveling east to west along the turnpike over beautiful forested mountains, it isn’t uncommon to see billboards celebrating coal as a source of energy and jobs for a region that has often struggled with poverty, but with little acknowledgement that mining operations can often make these landscapes dangerous or even uninhabitable for workers and their families. This cognitive dissonance has led to an abiding sense of bitterness for many people in the area that once led Obama to make his now infamous comment about folks in coal country clinging to their bibles and their guns. As flippant as that comment was, it’s not entirely untrue. Central Pennsylvania, like much of rural Appalachia, tends to have very conservative, very Christian small-town communities.

Yet reverence for the land where our ancestors are buried is something common to almost all spiritual traditions, transcending the dogma of any one religion. I never knew my great-grandparents or even my grandparents all that well, but there are certainly ancestors of mine somewhere among the unmarked graves of Pennsylvania coal country. Those graves were dug reverently by conservative Christians who, though they would probably be pretty uncomfortable that their great-granddaughter has turned out to be a tree-hugging dirt-worshipper, nonetheless wanted their final resting places to face the rising sun. Though it might seem impossible for the modern Pagan to find common cause with conservative Christians, stories like this show us how poignant the grief is for all of us, regardless of our religion, when faced with the loss of history and our connection to the past as the lands of our beloved dead are desecrated by callous self-interest and exploitation.

In the image of those lingering islands of trees protecting old, half-forgotten cemeteries in the midst of miles of desert-like strip-mined mountains, we can also discover a poignant metaphor for the spiritual work of reconnection and restoration:

Dustin White looks back at the clump of trees that rings the small island of Cook cemetery. “The good thing about having a cemetery up here is, that’s where things will start over,” he says, already looking forward to the day when Cook Mountain is mined out and the reclamation work starts. “The seeds from these trees will replant the forests here.”

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Earth and Nature Holidays – March 2012

March 2, 2012 by Categorized: Nature in the News.

All over the world, people are celebrating and honoring earth, nature and environmental awareness and education in their communities. Here are just a few national and international “green holidays” to liven up your month.

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International Year of Sustainable Energy (2012)

  • The United Nations General Assembly declared 2012 the International Year of Sustainable Energy in order to “increase awareness of the importance of addressing energy issues, including modern energy services for all, access to affordable energy, energy efficiency and the sustainability of energy sources and use, for the achievement of the internationally agreed development goals, sustainable development and the protection of the global climate, and to promote action at the local, national, regional and international level” to work towards ensuring energy access for all and to protect the environment through the sustainable use of traditional energy resources, cleaner technologies and newer energy sources. You can learn more about this project and related events on their website.

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International Holidays

  • March 14International Day of Action for Rivers
    “March 14 is the International Day of Action For Rivers and Against Dams. Every year hundreds of people around the world lift their voices to celebrate the world’s rivers and the thousands of people who struggle to protect them. The International Day of Action For Rivers is a day to celebrate victories such as dam removal and river restoration. It is a day to take to the streets, demonstrate and demand improvements in the policies and practices of decision makers. It is a day to educate one another about the threats facing our rivers, and learn about better water and energy solutions. Above all, it is a day to unite – by acting together, we demonstrate that these issues are not merely local, but global in scope.” (from the official website)
  • March 20Vernal / Autumnal Equinox
    Religious and spiritual traditions all over the world celebrate the autumnal/vernal equinox as a holy day in the cycles of the seasons.
  • March 22World Water Day
    “International World Water Day is held annually on 22 March as a means of focusing attention on the importance of freshwater and advocating for the sustainable management of freshwater resources. An international day to celebrate freshwater was recommended at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED). The United Nations General Assembly responded by designating 22 March 1993 as the first World Water Day. Each year, World Water Day highlights a specific aspect of freshwater. On this page, we present a brief overview of the different themes that have been the focus of World Water Day celebrations.” (from the official website)
  • Mrch 23World Meteorological Day
    “The United Nations’ (UN) World Meteorological Day is annually held on or around March 23 to remember the World Meteorological Organization’s establishment on that date in 1950. World Meteorological Day often features various events such as conferences, symposia and exhibitions for meteorological professionals, community leaders and the general public. Some events aim to attract media attention to raise meteorology’s profile. Many countries issue postage stamps or special postage stamp cancellation marks to celebrate World Meteorological Day. These stamps often reflect the event’s theme or mark a country’s meteorology achievements.” (learn more here)
  • March 31, 8:30 – 9:30 PMEarth Hour
    “Hundreds of millions of people, businesses and governments around the world unite each year to support the largest environmental event in history – Earth Hour.

    More than 5,200 cities and towns in 135 countries worldwide switched off their lights for Earth Hour 2011 alone, sending a powerful message for action on climate change. It also ushered in a new era with members going Beyond the Hour to commit to lasting action for the planet. Without a doubt, it’s shown how great things can be achieved when people come together for a common cause.” (from the official website)

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National Holidays Around the World

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Did I miss one? Leave a note (and a link, if you have one!) in the comments letting us know what “green” holidays you’re celebrating this month!

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The Squirrel and the Story

January 29, 2012 by Categorized: Restorying the Sacred.

Five crows have gathered in our backyard labyrinth on a dazzling winter morning. Our neighborhood is pretty hoppin’, corvid-wise, but our yard has never been the murder capital. I wonder what brings them here.

Then I see the sixth crow—and the squirrel. Frozen and decapitated, the squirrel is providing a sumptuous feast for our black-winged visitors.

One of my personal credos is “We are not the Story.” The Cosmos began to spin its tale aeons before any of us arrived, and it will continue to do so long after even our beloved planet is just a memory. When telling our stories of place, perspective—in time as well as space—matters immensely. Seen from the crows’ point of view, this is a story of feast and triumph. Seen from the squirrel’s, it is a one of tragedy and loss.

Or is it? The essence of what that squirrel was when alive has passed; yet, in the sustenance it provides the crows, it continues to participate in the Story. Its last chapter is, in a way, also its first (or, to stretch the metaphor, the first of a sequel): its first chapter in the guts of a crow; its first as nutrient-rich fertilizer on the ground; its first as, perhaps, a Douglas fir or a phlox plant. Altruism plays no part in the gift—the squirrel, given its druthers, would surely have chosen to continue the starring role it was playing in its own life and withhold this particular generosity as long as possible. But that does not minimize the rich story of its gift, of the future tales its death makes possible.

a crow and a squirrel

Crow Attack by Carrie Sloan. Some rights reserved.

We might all, I think, do well to consider how our physical selves will continue participating in the Story after we die. I often feel saddened by the way in which humans have unbalanced the equation. We have grown so adept at taking, yet two of our greatest opportunities for giving back to Earth’s natural cycles—excreta and remains—many cultures have sealed off almost completely. Our wastes (unless we have composting toilets…dang, I love composting toilets) rush down pipes away from us and away from any fertilizing benefit it might hold. And although there are cultures, and individuals in our own culture, who reverently place the bodies of our beloved dead in the open, to feed the other lives of their place, most of us lock them away the bodies in urns or nearly indestructible coffins that will “protect” us from the natural processes of decay and transformation.

I hope I’ll live long enough to receive burial in a natural or “green” cemetery here in Minnesota, like the one in Wisconsin overseen by Circle Sanctuary (and support the efforts of organizations like the Full Circle Project to make that happen). If I don’t, I hope that my loved ones could find something like Martín Azúa’s Bios Urn. It is my small way of trying to rebalance the equation, of making a real offering back to the Earth in exchange for all I have taken.

We are not the Story, but we participate in its telling every moment of every day, even after this particular chapter of ourselves ends. We all offer one final gift to this planet we love. May we, like the squirrel, make it a generous one.

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Earth and Nature Holidays – January 2012

January 1, 2012 by Categorized: Nature in the News.

All over the world, people are celebrating and honoring earth, nature and environmental awareness and education in their communities. Here are just a few national and international “green holidays” to liven up your month.

~

International Year of Sustainable Energy (2012)

  • The United Nations General Assembly declared 2012 the International Year of Sustainable Energy in order to “increase awareness of the importance of addressing energy issues, including modern energy services for all, access to affordable energy, energy efficiency and the sustainability of energy sources and use, for the achievement of the internationally agreed development goals, sustainable development and the protection of the global climate, and to promote action at the local, national, regional and international level” to work towards ensuring energy access for all and to protect the environment through the sustainable use of traditional energy resources, cleaner technologies and newer energy sources. You can learn more about this project and related events on their website.

~

International Holidays

  • January 1New Year’s Day
    Many cultures celebrate the end of the old year and the beginning of the new around the time of the winter solstice, with festivities around the world focusing especially on the final day of the internationally accepted civil calendar.

    New Year’s Eve also corresponds to the annual date of the zenith of Sirius, the brightest visible star that can be seen from earth. Sirius reaches its highest point in the sky around mid-night (half way between sunrise and sunset) on the eve of the new year.

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National Holidays Around the World

  • January 1National Tree Planting Day (Tanzania)
  • January 2Ancestry Day/Forefather’s Day (Haiti)
  • January 2 – 4Cassé Gâteau (“Breaking the Cakes”) (Vodou)
  • January 10Save the Eagles Day (US)
  • January 14Makar Sankranti (Hinduism)
  • January 25Pusiaužiemis / Kirmeline (“Day of the Serpents”) (Lithuania)

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Did I miss one? Leave a note (and a link, if you have one!) in the comments letting us know what “green” holidays you’re celebrating this month!

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Earth and Nature Holidays – December 2011

December 1, 2011 by Categorized: Nature in the News.

All over the world, people are celebrating and honoring earth, nature and environmental awareness and education in their communities. Here are just a few national and international “green holidays” to liven up your month.

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International Year of Forests (2011)

  • The United Nations General Assembly declared 2011 the International Year of Forests to raise awareness around issues of conservation, protection and sustainable management and development of forests all over the world. You can learn more about this project and related events on their website.
  • Highlighted as part of 2011 International Year of Forests, the UNEP also organizes the “Plant for the Planet” Billion Tree Campaign.

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International Holidays

  • December 5International Volunteer Day
    The United Nations celebrates the thousands of volunteers working across the globe to help foster sustainable human development, many of whom are involved in environmentalism and conservation.

    “IVD [International Volunteer Day] offers an opportunity for volunteer organizations and individual volunteers to make visible their contributions – at local, national and international levels – to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Over the years, rallies, parades, community volunteering projects, environmental awareness, free medical care and advocacy campaigns have all featured prominently on IVD. Apart from mobilising thousands of volunteers every year, the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme works closely with partners and governments to establish national volunteer programmes to create structures that foster and sustain local volunteerism in countries. Through the Online Volunteering service volunteers can take action for sustainable human development by supporting the activities of development organizations over the Internet. Every day thousands of people are volunteering, online or on-site, contributing to peace and development and working to achieve the MDGs.” (from the official website)

  • December 10Human Rights Day
    As the #Occupy movement has spread world-wide, environmentalists and protesters alike see the relationship between protecting the environment and upholding basic human rights. Celebrate 63 years since the creation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

    “This year, millions of people decided the time had come to claim their rights. They took to the streets and demanded change. Many found their voices using the internet and instant messaging to inform, inspire and mobilize supporters to seek their basic human rights. Social media helped activists organize peaceful protest movements in cities across the globe – from Tunis to Madrid, from Cairo to New York – at times in the face of violent repression. Human rights belong equally to each of us and bind us together as a global community with the same ideals and values. As a global community we all share a day in common: Human Rights Day on 10 December, when we remember the creation 63 years ago of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” (from the official website)

  • December 11International Mountain Day
    “International Mountain Day is an opportunity to create awareness about the importance of mountains to life, to highlight the opportunities and constraints in mountain development and to build partnerships that will bring positive change to the world’s mountains and highlands. This year’s International Mountain Day theme will focus on Mountains and Forests. It aims to raise awareness about the relevance of mountain forests and the role they play within a Green Economy as well as in climate change adaptation measures. Healthy mountain forests are crucial to the ecological health of the world. They protect watersheds that supply freshwater to more than half the world’s people. They also are the home of untold wildlife, provide food and fodder for mountain people and are important sources of timber and non-wood products. Yet in many parts of the world mountain forests are under threat as never before and deforestation in tropical mountain forests continues at an astounding rate. Protecting these forests and making sure they are carefully managed is an important step towards sustainable mountain development.” (from the official website)
  • December 20 – 25Winter Solstice / Summer Solstice
    Religious and spiritual traditions all over the world celebrate the winter/summer solstice as a holy day in the cycles of the seasons. Many holidays, such as Christmas and Hanukkah, are heavily influenced by the seasonal tides and have given rise to local customs such as Las Posadas and the Night of the Radishes in Mexico and Guatemala, and Junkanoo in the Bahamas.
  • December 31New Year’s Eve
    Many cultures celebrate the end of the old year and the beginning of the new around the time of the winter solstice, with festivities around the world focusing especially on the final day of the internationally accepted civil calendar.

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Green Holidays Around the World

  • December 3World Conservation Day (Autralia)
  • December 4Kamolo Day (Thanksgiving) (Marshall Islands)
  • December 6Farmers’ Day (Ghana)
  • December 8Blessing of the Waters Day (or, Beaches Day) (Uruguay)
  • December 10Ganga-Bois (Haiti)
  • December 12 – 14Agou-Arroyo (“Feeding the Sea”) (Haiti)
  • December 31Hogmanay (Scotland)
  • December 31Ōmisoka (Japan/Shinto)

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Did I miss one? Leave a note (and a link, if you have one!) in the comments letting us know what “green” holidays you’re celebrating this month!

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Web of Green: Ecology, Economics and the U.S. Political Climate

October 15, 2011 by Categorized: Nature in the News.

Environmentalism has been making headlines recently in the United States as the political climate in the run-up to the Republican primaries continues to heat up like, well, the actual climate. From government censorship of climate scientists, to House Republicans voting to disempower the EPA, to environmentalist protest in solidarity with the #OccupyWallSt movement in New York and across the country, the common theme is the clash between two vastly different stories about the role that protections and regulations play in helping or hurting Americans. While Republicans continue to promote a story of deregulation and reliance on fossil fuels as the best way to put Americans back to work and kick-start the economy, concerned scientists and environmentalists tell a story of government complicity with environmental exploitation that jeopardizes public health and safety for the sake of corporate profits.

At the heart of this clash of worldviews is the question of how local communities can effectively manage their natural resources and immediate environments in ways that help rather than harm others. For many Pagans who cultivate a spiritual relationship with the Earth, this question is one of the basic Mysteries of the natural world: the tension that arises when individuals seek to thrive within complex and interconnected ecological systems of competing needs and limited resources, and the desire to seek a balance which privileges neither the community nor the individual at the expense of the other, but enriches the quality of life for all.

Rick Perry Comes to Pittsburgh

Texas gov. Rick Perry visited Pittsburgh yesterday to put in an appearance at several important steel plants in the city as part of the first policy event of his presidential campaign.

Republicans have long argued that unfettered energy production is needed to solve the nation’s economic problems, and Mr. Perry took that about as far as it can go, advocating more drilling from Alaska to the Gulf of Mexico to federal lands out west, crippling the Environmental Protection Agency and blocking air pollution standards.

Standing in an enormous steel coil dock at the U.S. Steel Irvin plant Friday, he said his efforts would kick-start the entire United States economy and especially help industries like those around Western Pennsylvania. That includes coal and natural gas extraction and related manufacturing, such as the transmission pipeline U.S. Steel makes to service Marcellus Shale gas drillers.

While United Steelworkers Union leaders and many members refused to attend the speech, Democrats and environmentalists alike criticized Perry’s energy policy proposals, saying that his policies benefit special interests and the super wealthy while putting the health and livelihoods of the middle-class at risk. Ben LaBolt, Obama 2012 press secretary, mocked Perry’s over-emphasis on fossil fuels during a time when international competitors like China are investing in green technologies, saying “Gov. Perry’s energy policy isn’t the way to win the future, it’s straight out of the past — doubling down on finite resources with no plan to promote innovation or to transition the nation to a clean energy economy.”

Touting his support for the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline in the midwest and his promise to increase drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska, Perry “seemed to grow less specific” when addressing energy issues closer to home, such as development of the Marcellus Shale natural gas deposits that has transformed the economic and environmental landscape of Western Pennsylvania in recent years and resulted in a spill of toxic waste-water and chemicals in Bradford County last April.

Perry’s retreat into vague promises of unfettered industry and economic success is hardly surprising considering Pittsburgh’s recent success with green initiatives which Perry’s policy proposals would undermine. In November 2010, the City of Pittsburgh made history by becoming the first in the nation to pass an ordinance banning hydrofracking, a controversial and potentially-toxic drilling technique first practiced widely in Perry’s home state of Texas. The same ordinance recognized legally binding rights of nature similar to those being adopted by countries all over the world, but such rights are difficult to uphold in any practical way on the local level without state and federal support.

Republicans Seek to Weaken the EPA

As a Republican, Perry vocally supports a philosophy of state’s rights and local government oversight, saying that “state and local officials should regulate air and water quality, since those officials have to live with the consequences of their decisions.” This approach to state rights is in keeping with the general philosophy of the Republican party, as demonstrated this week when House Republicans pushed through their latest bill aimed at weakening the role of the EPA in regulating hazardous waste and other pollutants, placing that responsibility in the hands of individual states.

House Republicans pushed through legislation Friday that gives the states the power to regulate coal ash from power plants as if it were municipal garbage, pre-empting pending federal regulations that could be much tougher.

The vote on coal ash disposal was the latest of several passed by the GOP-controlled House that would shift authority away from the Environmental Protection Agency and reduce federal regulations that Republicans say are burdensome, hamper economic growth and cost jobs. Other bills have dealt with toxic emissions from power plants, cement plants and incinerators.

The White House came out strongly opposed to the bill, which is unlikely to pass the Democratically-controlled Senate, saying that it “undermined the federal government’s ability to ensure requirements that adequately protect human health and the environment.”

Without a minimum federal health standard, “the result will inevitably be uneven and inconsistent rules by the states; some states will do a good job, others will do a poor job,” said Rep. Henry Waxman of California, top Democrat on the Energy and Commerce Committee. “And when they do a poor job, the public will pay the price.”

Republicans like Perry might insist that decisions about environmental policy should lie with the local officials most affected by such policies, but they do so with the confident assurance that state governments will inevitably adopt policies much less stringent than those likely to be passed at the federal level. Their confidence is justified, as individual states often find themselves under pressure from national and international corporations whose interests are far from local. Perry’s own campaign promises to the steel plant workers of Pittsburgh belie his claims to support local interests, as he promotes non-local fossil fuel initiatives in the midwest where gas and oil drilling infrastructure utilizes Pittsburgh-made steel.

Native Americans Suffer from a Crippled EPA

In fact, weakening the ability to regulate industry and protect the environment at the federal level can actually hinder smaller communities that cannot muster the political or financial resources to protect their interests against policies enforced at the state level. Such is the case for tribal governments like those of the Native American Indian reservations in the midwest. As Duane Champagne explained in a recent article on the Indian Country Today website:

[In the 1970s, t]he EPA decided that tribal governments could regulate environmental programs and create environmental codes. At times, state governments wanted their own environmental standards to prevail in Indian country, but the EPA supported tribal governments. The EPA wanted the tribal governments to have the opportunity to manage their reservation environments in ways and with standards that were informed by tribal cultural traditions.

With legal, bureaucratic, and legislative support of the EPA, tribal governments won a series of significant cases and challenges. In the 1980s, the EPA introduced the view that tribal governments could be treated as having powers similar to state-governments for purposes of environmental programming, legal codification, and setting environmental standards.

Unfortunately, with an EPA crippled by legislation that shifts more and more responsibility to state governments, Native American tribal governments are losing the political clout they need to ensure policies for clean air and water and other environmental protections on their own lands. Champagne reports that without EPA support, no tribal government has ever managed to win a court case in which they had to prove that state policies threatened the well-being of tribal life.

Government Officials Censor Scientists in Texas

The belief that the consequences of economic and environmental policies are limited to their immediate communities flies in the face of basic economic theory in which consumers and businesses alike participate in a complex web of social and economic pressures stretching from the local to the global in scope and influence. But it also rejects the findings of modern environmental science which suggests that the interwoven relationship of organisms, bioregions and ecosystems across the planet is infinitely more complex.

So it’s hardly surprising, though no less shocking, that government officials in Texas have been exposed for doctoring an environmental report by removing all references to climate change, sea-level rise and wetlands destruction.

Officials in Rick Perry’s home state of Texas have set off a scientists’ revolt after purging mentions of climate change and sea-level rise from what was supposed to be a landmark environmental report. The scientists said they were disowning the report on the state of Galveston Bay because of political interference and censorship from Perry appointees at the state’s environmental agency.

By academic standards, the protest amounts to the beginnings of a rebellion: every single scientist associated with the 200-page report has demanded their names be struck from the document. “None of us can be party to scientific censorship so we would all have our names removed,” said Jim Lester, a co-author of the report and vice-president of the Houston Advanced Research Centre.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the agency responsible for the censorship and whose Perry-appointed leadership includes known climate change deniers, defended its actions in an emailed statement from spokesperson Andrea Morrow, who said that “information was included in a report that we disagree with” and that it would have been irresponsible for the agency to publish scientifically peer-reviewed research that was “inconsistent with current agency policy.”

The actions of Texas government officials is just the latest in the growing politicization of climate science in the United States, where censorship, threats of dismissal and even attempts at legal prosecution have been directed at scientists who openly criticize climate change deniers. Physicist Robert Davies, a scientist who experienced such intimidation techniques firsthand, worries that censorship and bullying are having a “chilling effect” on the state of climate science. “We do have very accomplished scientists,” he said, “who are quite fearful of retribution from lawmakers, and who consequently refuse to speak up on this very important topic. [...] By employing these intimidation tactics, these policymakers are, in fact, successful in censoring the message coming from the very institutions whose expertise we need.”

Environmental Activists Occupy Earth

Climate scientists are not the only ones feeling uncomfortable in the grip of corporate interests and government corruption. This Saturday, October 15, marks the four week anniversary since the beginning of the #OccupyWallSt movement which took root in a New York City park last month, inspired by public outrage over sky-rocketing corporate profits in the face of continuing unemployment and record low wages for the vast majority of American workers. Despite lack of media coverage, protests in solidarity with the movement have continued to grow all over the country, from Boston to Denver to Seattle, and this weekend more than 950 cities in 82 countries will host protests of their own in support of #OccupyWallSt’s message (including Pittsburgh).

Environmentalists concerned about the complicity of government agencies in corporate exploitation of the environment for the sake of record high profits see the #OccupyWallSt movement as an opportunity to speak out and gain the attention of an angry public who shares some common goals.

[Activist and environmentalist Bill] McKibben (who is also an OnEarth contributing editor) had come to drum up awareness among the occupiers about the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which would ferry dirty crude from the Canadian tar sands to refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast, creating a serious danger to communities and drinking supplies along the way, as well as the global climate. That very day, The New York Times had reported that the State Department had outsourced an environmental impact study of the pipeline to a firm that had long been cozy with the oil industry. (Or, as McKibben bluntly summarized in his teach-in, “The whole thing was rigged.”) The timing of the disclosure could not have been more auspicious: Here was documented proof of how the one percent bend the political system to the detriment of the other 99.

Also attending the protests was Phil Aroneanu, co-founder of the climate change advocacy group 350.org, who explained to occupiers why he was there: “The reason that we haven’t had any change on climate change is because coal companies, gas companies, oil companies, and their Wall Street financiers have rigged the system and bought out our politicians.”

These environmental activists agree enthusiastically with other political advocacy groups and protesters participating in #OccupyWallSt that at the heart of the environmental and economic crisis in this country is the marriage of money and politics.

Phil Aroneanu pointed out [that] when environmental nonprofits lobby against the interests of polluters and industry, the playing field is never level. “On the climate bill, the environmental groups spent more money than they’ve ever spent before, and they still got outspent eight-to-one by corporate interests,” he said. “The cards are stacked way against groups that are trying to bring progressive change in this country. So I don’t think you’d hear a lot of complaints [from environmentalists] if you decided to remove money from politics. Activist groups are way better at organizing people than they are at raising money.”

Another environmental activist Julien Harrison also laid the blame for environmental destruction at Wall Street’s doorstep, while speaking in favor of solidarity on a variety of social justice issues. “If you’re an environmentalist, you should also be concerned about these issues of democracy, of equality, of political corruption. All of our struggles ultimately are connected. Our success lies in us coming together.”

Pagans Speak Out for Interconnection

It is this struggle to disentangle money and politics at the highest levels of government while also recognizing the interconnection of ecology, economy and government in American society that lies at the heart of this weeks’ headlines. The interconnection between individual and community is a social reality that echoes an ecological reality in which organisms and ecosystems participate together in an ever-cycling dance of survival, scarcity and fecundity. For many Pagans living in the United States, known for its cultural values of rugged independence and economic and political freedoms, reconciling individual rights with the unique needs of local, national and global communities is not only a political challenge, but a spiritual one.

In a post earlier this week, T Thorn Coyle shared her reflections on the #OccupyWallSt movement and her youth as an anarcho-feminist working on the Pacific Stock Options Exchange.

I recall one man who treated me well, recognized my intelligence and was amused by my blue, flattop mohawk and motorcycle boots, who’s face grew purple with frustration when I refused to buy South African Krugerrands in that mid-1980s Apartheid time. Word spread like wildfire around the trading floor and the one African American trader came up to shake my hand and thank me. On another day one trader quite proudly stated to me, “Commerce should be free of politics” when I, at nineteen, knew that was impossible and argued so. Commerce and politics were inextricably linked, but we humans, in our quest for clean compartmentalization, tried to pretend it was not so.

That commerce and politics, ecology and economy, are interwoven threads of our shared community is undeniable. As Republican presidential candidates campaign across the country, the message they seem to promote most enthusiastically is that economic success and environmental regulation are inherently at odds with one another. Theirs is a story of isolated and irreconcilable competing interests. Pagan Democratic candidate Aldous Tyler shares a different message, describing himself as a “spiritual interconnectivist” and calling for a political philosophy based on basic respect and equality for all people, not corporations:

The Dems are playing good cop to the GOP’s bad cop, [Tyler said]. President Obama halted EPA regulations that were ready to go and Congress had no say. He halted them supposedly because keeping the regulations would harm the ability to create jobs. This is a move straight from Eric Cantor’s playbook – that environment conflicts with ability to create jobs even though that’s been proven untrue.

Founded under a Republican president and inspired by the political strategy of cooperative Federalism (which stresses “cooperation among federal and state agencies, and more access to local communities for voice and participation in planning and decision making”), the Environmental Protection Agency flourished for a time with bipartisan support from both Republicans and Democrats. Today both parties, backed by powerful corporate constituents, distance themselves from practical environmental action at the federal level. Duane Champagne remembers a time when “the EPA worked toward its own national goals, but saw that partnerships with and recognition of tribal self-government powers complemented and implemented plans for cleaner and healthier national and tribal environments.”

Small communities worked to take effective action to ensure healthy local ecosystems and clean, safe natural resources, supported by the efforts of the federal government on a national scale. Those were the days. The question remains if we can return to a political climate in which cooperation rather than competition, and interconnection instead of isolation, guide policy-makers and voters alike as they seek to grapple with the complex issues of living in balance with the planet and each other.

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Earth and Nature Holidays – October 2011

October 4, 2011 by Categorized: Nature in the News.

All over the world, people are celebrating and honoring earth, nature and environmental awareness and education in their communities. Here are just a few national and international “green holidays” to liven up your month.

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International Year of Forests (2011)

  • The United Nations General Assembly declared 2011 the International Year of Forests to raise awareness around issues of conservation, protection and sustainable management and development of forests all over the world. You can learn more about this project and related events on their website.
  • Highlighted as part of 2011 International Year of Forests, the UNEP also organizes the “Plant for the Planet” Billion Tree Campaign.

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Energy Awareness Month

  • “The 2011 Energy Awareness Month theme is Turn Words into Action; Turn Action into Results. Wise energy attitudes, behaviors, and organizational decisions ensure results. Take time to review your daily routine to conserve energy, empower others to take action, and join together to save energy and money. Participate in site-specific energy action programs, expand existing activities, and align efforts with your agency’s Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan (SSPP). Now is the time to act with urgency to achieve a clean and secure energy economy and save taxpayer dollars. Turn awareness into action. Turn intent into investment. Turn opportunities into outcomes.” (from the official website)

World Vegetarian Awareness Month

  • “Make a difference this October by informing others about the benefits of vegetarianism. You will be helping to create a better world because vegetarian diets have proven health benefits, save animals’ lives and help to preserve the Earth. It’s easy to get involved. Display our free, colorful, informative poster in your community. You can post it at a local store, office, coffee shop, library, school or other suitable location. Use it as a great way to start a discussion about the benefits of vegetarianism with the people in your life.” (from the official website)

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International Holidays

  • October 1World Vegetarian Day
    “World Vegetarian Day was established as an annual celebration to promote the joy, compassion and life-enhancing possibilities of vegetarianism. The day was originated by the North American Vegetarian Society in 1977 and endorsed by the International Vegetarian Union in 1978. October 1st is the official date, however if necessary, individuals may schedule their event on a nearby date instead.” (from the official website)
  • October 2World Farm Animals Day
    “World Farm Animals Day takes place on October 2nd, which honors the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi, an outspoken advocate of non-violence towards animals. WFAD observances are hosted by volunteers in communities in all 50 U.S. states and 2 dozen other countries. Participants include animal advocacy groups and individual activists- anyone and everyone who cares about animals is encouraged to join us in this global outcry. In addition to promoting a vegan lifestyle, the 2010 observance will reveal the ways that animal agribusiness manipulates the government, institutions, and a well-meaning public in order to sell more cruel products.” (from the official website)
  • October 3World Habitat Day
    “The United Nations has designated the first Monday of October every year as World Habitat Day. This year, World Habitat Day will be celebrated on 3 October 2011 and the Global Celebration will be hosted by the Government of Mexico. The idea is to reflect on the state of our towns and cities and the basic right of all, to adequate shelter. It is also intended to remind the world of its collective responsibility for the future of the human habitat. The United Nations chose the theme Cities and Climate Change was chosen because climate change is fast becoming the preeminent development challenge of the 21st century. Indeed, no-one today can really foresee the predicament in which a town or city will find itself in 10, 20 or 30 years time. In this new urban era with most of humanity now living in towns and cities, we must bear in mind that the greatest impacts of disasters resulting from climate change begin and end in cities. Cities too have a great influence on climate change.” (from the official website)
  • October 4World Animal Day
    “World Animal Day was started in 1931 at a convention of ecologists in Florence as a way of highlighting the plight of endangered species. Since then it has grown to encompass all kinds of animal life and is widely celebrated in countries throughout the world. October 4 was chosen as World Animal Day as it is the Feast Day of St Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals. It is intended as a day of celebration for anyone in the world who cares about animals. It is not restricted to any one nationality, creed, religion, political belief or ideology.” (from the official website)
  • October 15International Day of Rural Women
    “The first International Day of Rural Women was observed on 15 October 2008. This new international day, established by the General Assembly in its resolution 62/136 of 18 December 2007, recognizes ‘the critical role and contribution of rural women, including indigenous women, in enhancing agricultural and rural development, improving food security and eradicating rural poverty.’ At the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995 it was suggested that 15 October be celebrated as ‘World Rural Women’s Day,’ on the the eve of World Food Day, in order to highlight the role played by rural women in food production and food security. ‘World Rural Women’s Day’ has been celebrated, primarily by civil society, across the world for over a decade.” (from the official website)
  • October 16Blog Action Day
    “Blog Action Day is an annual event that unites the world’s bloggers in posting about the same issue on the same day. Our aim is to raise awareness and trigger a global discussion around an important issue that impacts us all. For 2011, our Blog Action Day coincides with World Food Day, so our topic of discussion for this year will be food. We use food to mark times of celebration and sorrow. Lack of access to food causes devastating famines, whilst too much is causing a generation of new health problems. It can cost the world, or be too cheap for farmers to make a living. Food is important to our culture, identity and daily sustenance and the team at Blog Action invite you to join us to talk about food.” (from the official website)
  • October 16World Food Day
    “Price swings, upswings in particular, represent a major threat to food security in developing countries. Hardest-hit are the poor. According to the World Bank, in 2010-2011 rising food costs pushed nearly 70 million people into extreme poverty. FOOD PRICES – FROM CRISIS TO STABILITY has been chosen as this year’s World Food Day theme to shed some light on this trend and what can be done to mitigate its impact on the most vulnerable. On World Food Day 2011, let us look seriously at what causes swings in food prices, and do what needs to be done to reduce their impact on the weakest members of global society.” (from the official website)
  • October 17International Day for the Eradication of Poverty
    “The International Day for the Eradication of Poverty has been observed every year since 1993, when the General Assembly, by resolution 47/196, designated this day to promote awareness of the need to eradicate poverty and destitution in all countries, particularly in developing countries – a need that has become a development priority. 17 October presents an opportunity to acknowledge the effort and struggle of people living in poverty, a chance for them to make their concerns heard, and a moment to recognize that poor people are the first ones to fight against poverty. Participation of the poor themselves has been at the center of the Day’s celebration since its very beginning. The commemoration of 17 October also reflects the willingness of people living in poverty to use their expertise to contribute to the eradication of poverty. The theme of the observance this year is ‘From Poverty to Decent Work: Bridging the Gap’.” (from the official website)
  • October 27World Paper Free Day
    “Paper is a costly crutch and one that may be handicapping your office more than helping. Research shows that we will have close to 10x more information in 2011 compared to 2006, which means that organizations with paper based processes and archiving will drown in paper. Going paperless will therefore not only help the environment, but make an organization more efficient with easier and simultaneous access to valuable information from across the organization. Last year over 57,000 people participated in the first World Paper Free Day. Grow this group and bring your office into the 21st century without the paper trail.” (from the official website)

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National Holidays Around the World

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Did I miss one? Leave a note (and a link, if you have one!) in the comments letting us know what “green” holidays you’re celebrating this month!

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“Ethical Oil” is Not an Oxymoron

September 8, 2011 by Categorized: Nature in the News.

As a follow up to John’s recent coverage of the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline, below is a video of a speech given at the Tar Sands Action protests in Washington D.C. this past weekend by Naomi Klein, an activist and author of books such as The Shock Doctrine and No Logo:

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I have never seen anything quite as audacious as the campaign to rebrand the Tar Sands “Ethical Oil.” Do you know that Bill McKibben was on a debate with one of these guys on BBC, and he compared the Tar Sands oil to fair trade coffee and free range chickens? Do you know that they’re running ads on Oprah’s Network saying that by buying Tar Sands oil, you’re helping to free women in Saudi Arabia?

I mean, I’m from Canada, and let me tell you something. We don’t have ‘ethical oil’ in Canada. We have Tar Sands oil, which is like regular oil, but a whole lot dirtier. It ravages the earth as it is extracted. Ravaging bodies, ravaging the land as you just heard from our brothers and sisters from the Indigenous Environmental Network. And it ravages the earth at the point of combustion. When all of that carbon, three times as much carbon, three times as much greenhouse gas is emitted as it takes to produce a regular barrel of crude. And all of that carbon enters the atmosphere, and destroys and threatens the lives and livelihoods of millions of people around the world. And it also threatens the earth when it is transported in pipelines like the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline. It threatens waterways, drinking supplies, ranches, the land that people and animals depend on.

“Ethical Oil” is not an oxymoron. It is an outrage. It is an insult.

Meanwhile, today over on Spirituality and Ecological Hope, Margaret Swedish asks if we can still talk about “hope” in a culture that seems so hell-bent on denial, self-destruction and environmental devastation:

But, seriously, how is it possible to approach the challenging concept of hope in a nation of this much cultural denial, media manipulation, and irrational religious extremism (you know, the kind where God gave us brains and then demands that we not use them), in a nation in which we have allowed a few very wealthy billionaires and mega-corporations involved in fossil fuel production to make off with the truth about our situation? [...] I long ago gave up equating ‘hope’ with a belief that we can still keep very bad stuff from happening. Bad stuff is already happening and more bad stuff is going to happen, and we still can’t address our reality like adults fully cognizant of the danger we are in.

So what are we hoping for? What does it mean to hold on to hope in the face of on-going environmental disasters, heat waves, droughts, floods, raging fires and ever-larger storms. For Klein, hope is a stubborn commitment to keep fighting and working towards a better way of life:

As we gather today, new tropical storms are gathering, and people are in that familiar state of huddling by their television sets, wondering, wondering if they will be safe. We don’t really have summers anymore, we have disaster season. And disaster season just seems to be longer and longer. [...] We are here because we don’t want to live this way, careening from disaster to disaster. [...] We are here because we know that we can do better. That we do not have to attack our earth with ever greater violence in order to live happily and fulfilled. We know that there are energy sources based on renewing and amplifying life, not sucking it dry. And that on this path there are tens of millions of safe and dignified jobs, jobs that workers can be proud to go to every day.

For Swedish, hope rests on the evolving ecological concept of conviviality — living in “good company” with the earth and with each other, accepting and embracing a lifestyle of responsibility and limits as a first step towards greater abundance for everyone.

After a long summer of disasters and bad news for the environment — how do you hold on to hope? And what do you do to pass it on to others?

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Earth and Nature Holidays – September 2011

September 1, 2011 by Categorized: Nature in the News.

All over the world, people are celebrating and honoring earth, nature and environmental awareness and education in their communities. Here are just a few national and international “green holidays” to liven up your month.

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International Year of Forests (2011)

  • The United Nations General Assembly declared 2011 the International Year of Forests to raise awareness around issues of conservation, protection and sustainable management and development of forests all over the world. You can learn more about this project and related events on their website.
  • Highlighted as part of 2011 International Year of Forests, the UNEP also organizes the “Plant for the Planet” Billion Tree Campaign.

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National Honey Month

  • “Americans consume nearly 1.5 pounds of honey per person annually – mixing it into sweet and savory recipes, adding spoonfuls to tea and other beverages, and drizzling it over biscuits, toast and muffins. Consumers can choose from hundreds of honey varieties, each with a special flavor characteristic. These varietal or “mono-floral” honeys result from the bees gathering nectar from flowers of only one type of plant. Honeys may range from clover and eucalyptus to orange blossom, buckwheat and sage. Generally, lighter colored honeys are milder in flavor, while darker honeys are usually more robust. Local beekeepers are a great source for single varietal honeys, selling their products at farmer’s markets and specialty stores. Visit the honey locator at www.honeylocator.com to find a floral source specific to your area. Explore honey’s versatility, benefits and deliciousness, and have a sweet National Honey Month!” (from the National Honey Board website)

Organic Harvest Month

  • “In 1992, the Organic Trade Association implemented ‘Organic Harvest Month’, a widespread promotion of organic food and agriculture through regional and local events. The objective of Organic Harvest Month is to highlight organic agriculture and the growing organic products industry. September is also an ideal time for consumers and retailers to celebrate the bounty of the organic harvest. Events and celebrations of all shapes and sizes take place across North America, in parks, schools, stores, farmers’ markets and at restaurants. Events in the past have included Gastronomic Walking Tours, Organic Country Fairs, organic-themed barn dances, special displays and tastings at supermarkets and special pull-out sections in local newspapers.” (from the Organic Trade Association website)

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International Holidays

  • September 16 – 18Clean Up the World Weekend
    “The campaign’s flagship event is Clean Up the World Weekend, held on the 3rd weekend in September each year. In addition to uniting millions in global environmental action, Clean Up the World Weekend serves as a celebration of participants’ year round activities. By promoting their achievements internationally, Clean Up the World focuses public attention on global community concerns for the environment and how each individual can make a positive contribution to a cleaner and healthier world.” (from the official website)
  • September 16International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer
    “In 1994, the UN General Assembly proclaimed 16 September the International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer, commemorating the date of the signing, in 1987, of the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer (resolution 49/114). States were invited to devote the Day to promote activities in accordance with the objectives of the Protocol and its amendments. The ozone layer, a fragile shield of gas, protects the Earth from the harmful portion of the rays of the sun, thus helping preserve life on the planet.” (from the official website)
  • September 17International Coastal Cleanup Day
    “Over the past twenty-five years, Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup has become the world’s largest volunteer effort for ocean health. Nearly nine million volunteers from 152 countries and locations have cleaned 145 million pounds of trash from the shores of lakes, streams, rivers, and the ocean on just one day each year. They have recorded every item found, giving us a clear picture of the manufactured items impacting the health of humans, wildlife, and economies. As our 2011 report demonstrates, the body of data from the International Coastal Cleanup has inspired action to rid the ocean of harmful trash. During the amazing signature event each September, hundreds of thousands of volunteers from countries all over the world spend a day picking up everything from cigarette butts and food wrappers to lost fishing nets and major appliances. Because trash travels to the ocean by way of storm drains and waterways, they don’t just work along ocean beaches; these dedicated folks slog through mud and sand along lakes, streams, and rivers, too, often working far inland.” (from the official website)
  • September 18World Water Monitoring Day
    “World Water Monitoring Day is an international education and outreach program that builds public awareness and involvement in protecting water resources around the world by engaging citizens to conduct basic monitoring of their local water bodies. In 2010, over 200,000 people in 85 countries monitored their local waterways. Celebrate with us on September 18, or host your World Water Monitoring Day anytime from March 22 until December 31!” (from the official website)
  • September 21International Day of Peace/Peace One Day
    “In September 1999 I [Jeremy Gilley] founded the film project Peace One Day to document my efforts to create an annual day of global ceasefire and non-violence with a fixed calendar date. In 2001, Peace One Day achieved its primary objective. United Nations General Assembly resolution (A/Res/55/282) was unanimously adopted by UN member states, formally establishing an annual day of global ceasefire and non-violence on the UN International Day of Peace, fixed in the global calendar on 21st September. With the day in place, Peace One Day’s aim now is to institutionalise Peace Day across the world so it becomes self-sustaining. Not only has Peace Day been proved as a catalyst for broad-ranging civil society action by individuals and groups in every country of the world, but also for life-saving activities. As a key driver towards the institutionalisation of Peace Day, Peace One Day is calling for and working towards a day of ceasefire and non-violence on Peace Day 21 September 2012 – a Global Truce. We hope this will be the largest reduction in global violence in recorded history, both domestically and internationally.” (from a letter from Jeremy Gilley, on the official website)
  • September 22 – 23Autumnal / Vernal Equinox
    Religious and spiritual traditions all over the world celebrate the autumnal/vernal equinox as a holy day in the cycles of the seasons.
  • September 22World Car-Free Day
    “Every September 22, people from around the world get together in the streets, intersections, and neighbourhood blocks to remind the world that we don’t have to accept our car-dominated society. But we do not want just one day of celebration and then a return to “normal” life. When people get out of their cars, they should stay out of their cars. It is up to us, it is up to our cities, and our governments to help create permanent change to benefit pedestrians, cyclists, and other people who do not drive cars. Let World Carfree Day be a showcase for just how our cities might look like, feel like, and sound like without cars…365 days a year.” (from the official website)
  • September 24Moving Planet: A Day to Move Beyond Fossil Fuels
    “The goal is to get moving beyond fossil fuels—both symbolically by pouring into the streets in the thousands on foot, bicycle and other means of sustainable movement, and politically by bringing powerful demands to our leaders that day to move beyond fossil fuels to a 350ppm world. Mobilizing for individual and community solutions will continue to be important—but one of the main goals for Moving Planet is to demand government action, especially in places where governments are stalling on climate action despite the overwhelming urgency of the science.” (from the official website)

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National Holidays Around the World

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Did I miss one? Leave a note (and a link, if you have one!) in the comments letting us know what “green” holidays you’re celebrating this month!

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Earth and Nature Holidays – August 2011

August 5, 2011 by Categorized: Nature in the News.

All over the world, people are celebrating and honoring earth, nature and environmental awareness and education in their communities. Here are just a few national and international “green holidays” to liven up your month.

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International Year of Forests (2011)

  • The United Nations General Assembly declared 2011 the International Year of Forests to raise awareness around issues of conservation, protection and sustainable management and development of forests all over the world. You can learn more about this project and related events on their website.
  • Highlighted as part of 2011 International Year of Forests, the UNEP also organizes the “Plant for the Planet” Billion Tree Campaign.

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International Holidays

  • August 1Lammas/Lughnasadh
    During the month of August and the late summer season, religious and spiritual traditions the world over celebrate sacred festivals of ripening and harvest. In modern Pagan traditions, the most widely known in the northern hemisphere are the Wiccan festival of Lammas, the Celtic/Druidic festival of Lughnasadh, and the Norse holiday of Freyfaxi, all of which fall on August 1. Among the indigenous peoples of North America, the Green Corn Ceremony marks the ripening of the corn harvest with dancing, feasting, fasting and other religious observances. (In the southern hemisphere, many modern Pagans celebrate Imbolc on the same date.)
  • August 9International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples
    “The focus of this year’s International Day will be Indigenous designs: celebrating stories and cultures, crafting our own future. This theme highlights the need for preservation and revitalization of indigenous cultures, including their art and intellectual property. It can also be used to showcase indigenous artists and cooperatives or businesses who are taking inspiration from indigenous peoples’ customs and the indigenous communities who may have participated or benefited from this.” (from the official website)
  • August 20International Homeless Animals’ Day
    “Organizations around the world come together on the third Saturday of August to raise awareness about the pet overpopulation epidemic. International Homeless Animals’ Day activities often include candlelight vigils, adopt-a-thons, microchip clinics, blessings of the animals, and heartfelt speeches given by council members, local veterinarians, humane officers and shelter personnel. Other activities include slideshows, rallies, dog walks, open houses, award ceremonies, live music, raffles, and games. To read about previous International Homeless Animals’ Day events, please visit our Newsletters page on our website.” (from the official website)
  • August 20 – 27World Water Week
    “From 20 to 27 of August, 2011, the World Water Week will take place in Stockholm, Sweden under the overarching theme “Water in an Urbanising World”. The World Water Week in Stockholm, organized by the Stockholm International Water Institute, is the leading annual global meeting place for capacity-building, partnership-building and follow-up on the implementation of international processes and programmes in water and development.” (from the official website)

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National Holidays Around the World

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Did I miss one? Leave a note (and a link, if you have one!) in the comments letting us know what “green” holidays you’re celebrating this month!

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Sustainable Living as Civil Disobedience

July 12, 2011 by Categorized: Earth Matters, Nature in the News.

The Rosa Parks of Sustainable Gardening?

Everyone knows the story of Rosa Parks, the African-American civil rights activist who on December 1, 1955, refused to give up her bus seat to accommodate a white passenger. That act of civil disobedience resulted in her arrest, and quickly became one of the defining and most memorable acts of resistance in the Civil Rights Movement.

It might be a stretch to describe Julie Bass as “the Rosa Parks of sustainable gardening”… but not by much. Bass is no activist. She’s just a homeowner living in Oak Park, Michigan, who planted a vegetable garden in her front yard — like the one Michelle Obama planted on the front lawn of the White House, she notes — and who now faces arrest and jail time if she refuses to tear it down.

Why? Because of a city ordinance which reads, “All unpaved portions of the [screening and landscaping] site shall be planted with grass ground cover, shrubbery, or other suitable live plant material.” And a complaint from a neighbor to a city councilman that the front-yard garden looked like a “New Orleans cemetery.”

Since when is a vegetable garden not considered “live plant material”? The debate turns around the meaning of the word “suitable,” with city officials arguing that, “If you look at the dictionary, suitable means common. You can look all throughout the city and you’ll never find another vegetable garden that consumes the entire front yard.” Of course, the word “suitable” does not mean “common” (no, not even according to the dictionary), and Bass’ attorney Solomon Radner argues that the term is intentionally vague, allowing the city to enforce arbitrary policies, and therefore unconstitutional. Even if city officials were correct about the meaning of the word “suitable,” however, Radner points out that the ordinance itself also lists several exceptions, including vegetable gardens: “Exempted from the provisions of this article, inclusive, are flower gardens, plots of shrubbery, vegetable gardens and small grain plots.”

This confrontation over property aesthetics might have remained a local matter if it hadn’t been for Facebook, where multiple fan pages in support of Julie Bass’ cause have sprung up, spurring broad international criticism of the Michigan suburb’s position. City officials complain they’re being misunderstood. “We’re not against people having gardens,” said City Manager Rick Fox. “Just not in their front yards.” Sure, and it’s fine for African-Americans to ride the bus… as long as they sit in the back, right Rick?

Of course, that comparison’s a bit of hyperbole — but again, not by much.

This summer, the U.S. continues to face devastating floods, droughts and fires that threaten large swathes of midwest farmland and bring the consequences of human-caused climate change into inescapable focus. Political and cultural leaders all over the world acknowledge that environmental destruction has become so dire and so wide-spread, it is perhaps the single most difficult, most vital challenge we will face in our lifetimes, on which the continued existence of the human species itself might depend. If the rights of our fellow human beings to live freely and equally continues to be an issue of immense importance, how much more so the rights of the earth and its ecosystems on which we depend to live free from pollution, exploitation and destruction?

Yet cases like Julie Bass’ illustrate how unsustainable, un-”green” practices and lifestyles are not only culturally ubiquitous, but sometimes even dictated by law. It has long been known that expansive lawns of perfectly-manicured grass are not only exceedingly expensive to maintain in many areas of the country, but that monocultures of non-native plants are unhealthy for the local environment, depleting nutrients in the soil and disrupting the careful balance of local insect and wildlife populations leading to problems with disease and pest control. Environmentally-minded individuals might wonder, in such cases, if maybe we should take a long, hard look at what else the word “suitable” might mean (which the dictionary actually defines as “right, appropriate or fitting for a particular person, purpose, situation or place”).

Loving the Earth is a Political Act

All across the U.S., as well as internationally, people are beginning to do just that, and discovering that seemingly common-sense steps to make their homes and properties more eco-friendly often run up against antiquated property laws meant to enforce aesthetic values often based on underlying, unacknowledged classism, racism and industry profits. The result? A growing movement of eco-activists taking matters into their own hands through sensible, everyday acts of civil disobedience. Far from the “eco-terrorists” who blow up buildings or destroy property in protest of exploitation and pollution, many eco-activists today are ordinary citizens working on a local level to overturn outdated laws that keep them from living gently and respectfully with the earth.

Though Julie Bass and her family might not consider themselves such activists, they’re part of that movement, too, in defending their right to grow their own vegetables on their property. The trend of growing sustainable, eco-friendly “Victory Gardens” has picked up steam among green-minded (and green-thumbed) Americans in recent years. Modeled after the wartime vegetable, fruit and herb gardens grown during the World Wars of the last century by private citizens trying reduce pressure on public food supplies, modern-day Victory Gardens combat climate change on several fronts. Using sustainable gardening techniques to grow local food means relying less on factory-farmed produce fertilized with petrochemicals and sprayed down with damaging pesticides that then must be shipped across country. Hands-on gardening helps to reconnect us with the local landscape, the local community and our own physical bodies. Michelle Obama sees her White House Victory Garden as a step in her campaign against childhood obesity, by encouraging healthier eating habits and a renewed enjoyment of fresh fruits and vegetables. As the interest in Victory Gardens increases, cities like Oak Park will face the task of re-evaluating ordinances which seek to protect property values by enforcing a specific value judgement about the aesthetic and practical concerns of landscaping and gardening.

Another way individuals are quietly embracing acts of civil disobedience is by line-drying their clothes. In many cities and towns all over the country, it is actually illegal to line-dry laundry, despite the obvious ecological and personal benefits of this age-old practice. Why? “Many homeowner associations seem to believe that the act of air drying clothing present their developments as being low-income,” saying that for some “clotheslines connote a landscape of poverty rather than flowering fields.” The advocacy group Project Laundry List works to overturn this classcist attitude by supporting a “Right to Dry” bill and helping to educate individuals about the benefits of line-drying.

Perhaps one of the neatest and most committed ways people are engaging in eco-civil disobedience is through the Small Living or Tiny House Movement. In the wake of the housing bubble and bust, people are turning their backs on the dream of a McMansion with private drive and in-ground pool, and are looking for homes with smaller ecological footprints — both figuratively, and literally! Tiny houses are small cottages or cabins built from sustainable, natural materials on trailer beds or permanent foundations ranging between 65 and 140 square feet. Not only does it take less energy to heat, cool, light and clean such a small residence, but folks who choose the tiny house lifestyle choose to live with fewer material possessions and a greater reliance on community spaces and public amenities. Some build tiny houses in gorgeous natural landscapes, trading spacious indoor rooms for amber fields, majestic mountains and spacious skies.

The problem is that the small size of tiny houses breaks many conventional building and zoning codes concerning the appropriate size of a single family permanent residence. Some cities have even gone so far as to make it illegal to camp in your own backyard, to prevent homeowners from setting up tiny houses as permanent “camps” for themselves or others. Such laws are in place for a variety of reasons — including concerns for safety, aesthetics, over-crowding and property value — though many of them were determined by the housing industry itself as a way of ensuring what Jay Shafer calls “mandatory consumption” of larger-than-necessary residences. Shafer, founder of the popular Tumbleweed Tiny House Company which designs and builds tiny houses, lists civil disobedience as one of his primary motivations for his and his company’s work, and is committed to proving that house size is not a requirement for safety, prosperity, or happiness.

The nonviolent, community-oriented principles of civil disobedience have been used effectively in some of the most profound cultural movements in the world, including the Women’s Suffrage and Civil Rights movements in the United States. And the idea of civil disobedience is not new. In 1849, the famed naturalist and philosopher Henry David Thoreau published his essay “Civil Disobedience” encouraging individual citizens to act in good conscience as “a counter friction” or resistance against the institutional “machine” of any government that produced injustice. As the writer of Walden, a book of reflections on simple living in harmony with nature and a deeply influential text for the modern environmentalist movement, I like to think Thoreau would be particularly pleased at the role of civil disobedience has played in recent years in expressing our love of the natural world and our willingness to work to protect and care for it.

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Earth and Nature Holidays – July 2011

July 2, 2011 by Categorized: Nature in the News.

All over the world, people are celebrating and honoring earth, nature and environmental awareness and education in their communities. Here are just a few national and international “green holidays” to liven up your month.

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International Year of Forests (2011)

  • The United Nations General Assembly declared 2011 the International Year of Forests to raise awareness around issues of conservation, protection and sustainable management and development of forests all over the world. You can learn more about this project and related events on their website.
  • Highlighted as part of 2011 International Year of Forests, the UNEP also organizes the “Plant for the Planet” Billion Tree Campaign.

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July Belongs to Berries Month

  • The month of July is a time to celebrate the exquisite, juicy flavors of berries of all kinds — blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, mulberries, you name it! Take some time this month to appreciate the nutritional and culinary benefits of berries. Add them to salad for a splash of color, eat them fresh (or frozen) for a sweet snack, or bake them into a pie for an amazing summer treat. Seek out local and organic sources of berries and get to know which berries grow in your bioregion.

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International Holidays

  • July 11World Population Day
    “World Population Day is an annual event, observed on July 11, which seeks to raise awareness of global population issues. The event was established by the Governing Council of the United Nations Development Programme in 1989. It was inspired by the public interest in Five Billion Day on July 11, 1987, approximately the date on which the world’s population reached five billion people.” (from the Wikipedia page)
  • July 18Mandela Day
    Though Nelson Mandela is best known for his social justice work, Mandela Day is celebrated around the world as a call to action embodying justice and kindness of all kinds, and has grown to include conservation and environmental efforts as well as education and community service. “Mandela Day on July 18 is an annual international day adopted by the United Nations. It is more than a celebration of Nelson Mandela’s life and legacy; it is a global movement to take his life’s work into a new century and change our world for the better. Mandela Day asks us all to embrace Madiba’s values and honour his legacy through an act of kindness. Who knows, it might leave you inspired enough to make every day a Mandela Day!” (from the official website)

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National Holidays Around the World

  • July 1David Bower Day (USA)
  • July 7Tanabata – Star Festival (Japan)
  • July 14National Tree Day (Mexico)
  • July 16World Snake Day (US)
  • July 19Marine Day (Japan)
  • July 22National Tree Planting Day (Central African Republic)
  • July 24 – 30Coral Reef Awareness Week (USA)
  • July 25Hurricane Supplication Day (Virgin Islands)
  • July 31National Tree Day (Australia)

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Did I miss one? Leave a note (and a link, if you have one!) in the comments letting us know what “green” holidays you’re celebrating this month!

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Earth and Nature Holidays – June 2011

June 5, 2011 by Categorized: Nature in the News.

All over the world, people are celebrating and honoring earth, nature and environmental awareness and education in their communities. Here are just a few national and international “green holidays” to liven up your month.

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International Year of Forests (2011)

  • The United Nations General Assembly declared 2011 the International Year of Forests to raise awareness around issues of conservation, protection and sustainable management and development of forests all over the world. You can learn more about this project and related events on their website.
  • Highlighted as part of 2011 International Year of Forests, the UNEP also organizes the “Plant for the Planet” Billion Tree Campaign.

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Great Outdoors Month

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International Holidays

  • June 5World Environment Day
    “World Environment Day (WED) is an annual event that is aimed at being the biggest and most widely celebrated global day for positive environmental action. WED activities take place all year round but climax on 5 June every year, involving everyone from everywhere.” (from the official website)
  • June 8World Oceans Day
    On World Oceans Day people around the planet celebrate and honor the body of water which links us all, for what it provides humans and what it represents. “World Oceans Day provides an opportunity to get directly involved in protecting our future, through a new mindset and personal and community action and involvement – beach cleanups, educational programs, art contests, film festivals, sustainable seafood events, and other planned activities help to raise consciousness of how our lives depend on the oceans.” (from the Wikipedia page) This year’s theme is: Youth
  • June 15Global Wind Day
    “Global Wind Day is a worldwide event that occurs annually on 15 June. It is a day for discovering wind, its power and the possibilities it holds to change our world. It is also a day for discovery of the work that has already begun by pioneers around the world. In more than 75 countries around the world, wind farms are in operation, generating energy from a clean and renewable source.” (from the official website)
  • June 17World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought
    “There is a close relationship between livelihood, ecosystem wellbeing and soils that are rich in biodiversity. Healthy soils produce life, and yet soil health depends a lot on how individuals use their land. What we do to our soils determines the quality and quantity of the food we eat and how our ecosystems serve us. Our increasing ecological interdependence also means enhancing soils anywhere enhances life everywhere. Where well tended, soil biodiversity will be a resource for use by future generations, and for services that are yet to be discovered.” (from the official website)
  • June 20International Ride to Work Day
    A day when people all over the world are encouraged to ride their motorcycles or scooters to work to demonstrate the social and environmental value of small, low-fuel vehicles and to challenge cultural stereotypes about motorcyclists.
  • June 21Summer Solstice / Winter Solstice
    Religious and spiritual traditions all over the world celebrate the summer/winter solstice as a holy day in the cycles of the seasons.

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National Holidays Around the World

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Did I miss one? Leave a note (and a link, if you have one!) in the comments letting us know what “green” holidays you’re celebrating this month!

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The Death of an Elephant

May 12, 2011 by Categorized: Fur and Feather, Nature in the News.

Recently Bob Parsons, CEO of the web hosting company GoDaddy, released a video of himself hunting and killing an elephant in Zimbabwe. This has caused a great deal of controversy for both the CEO and his company. PETA was a client of GoDaddy and they have now put out a statement that they will not be using GoDaddy’s services any longer. A Number of other companies and organizations have also done such.

The Dogwood Local Council (DLC), a southern affiliate of Covenant of the Goddess (CoG), released a statement of their own; swearing to never use GoDaddy’s hosting services or for its domain registering services. (see bottom of this article for full press release)

In their press release, the DLC site an article from the New York Times about how elephant aggression is largely the fault of how humans interact with the elephants. This is not unlike how in North America we see mountain lion and bear attacks increase when we encroach on territory, remove food sources and do not treat animals with proper respect. (People have been known to try to bait bears with food to get a good photo of them, with disastrous results)

Some highlights from the article:

“Decades of poaching and culling and habitat loss, they claim, have so disrupted the intricate web of familial and societal relations by which young elephants have traditionally been raised in the wild, and by which established elephant herds are governed, that what we are now witnessing is nothing less than a precipitous collapse of elephant culture.”

Elephants are becoming increasingly destructive and dangerous, trampling huts, crops and even people seemingly out of spite.

“He confirmed that a small group of elephants charged out one morning two years earlier, trampled the fields and nearby gardens, knocked down a few huts and then left.”

It seems that the greatest cause of this change in elephant behaviour stems from the changing dynamics of how young elephants are raised. With less territory, less food sources and poaching, elephants are not being socialized by their elders as they ought to be. In a sense elephant society, is experiencing a dramatic break down. Elephants rely heavily on the herd: the family or clan system, with this deteriorating, we see the results in aggressive (usually young male) elephants that become dangerous. They are a danger not only to the humans who live near their migration routes or at the edges of their protected parklands, but they are also a danger to other elephants. Researchers have found that young male elephants are killing each other at alarming rates.

“This fabric of elephant society, Bradshaw and her colleagues concluded, had effectively been frayed by years of habitat loss and poaching, along with systematic culling by government agencies to control elephant numbers and translocations of herds to different habitats. The number of older matriarchs and female caregivers (or ‘‘allomothers’’) had drastically fallen, as had the number of elder bulls, who play a significant role in keeping younger males in line. In parts of Zambia and Tanzania, a number of the elephant groups studied contained no adult females whatsoever. In Uganda, herds were often found to be ‘‘semipermanent aggregations,’’ as a paper written by Bradshaw describes them, with many females between the ages of 15 and 25 having no familial associations.”

It seems that Mr. Parsons encountered such a young and aggressive male elephant on his trip to Africa. These elephants are referred to as “rouges”. The people of the village Mr. Parsons was visiting reported this dangerous elephant to the authorities and with their help; Mr. Parsons hunted and killed it. The people of the village rejoiced as they butchered his carcass and distributed the meat. There was not enough meat for everyone it the village and it quickly became something akin to vultures in a feeding frenzy, with much pushing and shoving. The video show Mr. Parsons proudly posing as he leans on the dead elephant.

Here is a link to the video (which has become harder and harder to find as Mr. Parsons tried to claim copyright and have it shut down) It may not be appropriate for the easily squeamish.

http://greenmi.net/godaddy-ceo-bob-parsons-kills-an-elephant-video/

Mr.Parsons is not a villain; let us not paint him with that brush. Thing are never that cut and dry. While his hunting practices may be unethical he also does a great of good work. GoDaddy does a great deal of charity work, including raising funds and awareness for the folks in Haiti. Mr. Parsons served as a rifleman in the Vietnam War, where he was wounded on duty. It is quite possible that he felt his actions in Zimbabwe were altruistic in some fashion. In response to the outrage Parsons explained,

“The tribal authorities requested that I and others like me patrol the fields before and during the harvest.”

 

There has been speculation that the release of the hunting video was part of some kind of publicity stunt, which I find myself doubting. GoDaddy is indeed known for it “extreme” advertising, having had commercials pulled from the Super Bowl and such. However, the initial release of the hunting video came from Mr. Parson’s blog and Twitter account, which he often posts videos of his activities to. The blog itself is certainly part of his promotional tool kit, but I find it unlikely that he posted the hunting video specifically to generate controversy and Internet drama. Generally the man uses sex to sell his product, which is much more effective, don’t you think?

Bob Parson’s hunting practices do not strike me as within the lighter side of the grey area that is ethical hunting. But to give ourselves some perspective, his big game hunting practices are not much worse than those done right at home. Behold, for example, the mirrored hunting hide:

Is this really necessary for hunting deer?

Honestly, if I was a former rifleman carting around a big gun in Africa and some local villagers asked me to remove an elephant who was making it dangerous for them to tend their crops and bring in the harvest … I’d kill the elephant. I’d do it after ascertaining whether or not all other possible avenues had been tried. Though I’m not sure if banging pots and pans or setting up a few bonfires will deter a pissed off pachyderm.

I’ve lived on farms, I’ve had to deal with my share of coyotes going after the flock and I lost a horse to a hungry bear last year. We always tried everything we could to encourage those animals to go elsewhere, from hanging motion sensor lights to wind chimes to shooting blanks. But I understand very well that if your own livelihood, and the ability to feed your family is being threatened, you take up you gun and you shoot that coyote. Or you ask the very nice rich man from America to kill that elephant. Sorry guys, but I’m not going hungry to feed a jack rabbit who is eating my food.

Obviously we should look to the root of the problem; we are encouraging elephants to attack people in Africa, just as we as the root cause of a mountain lion attacking a person right here at home. We move into their territory, we don’t respect them, we mess with the food chain, we change the dynamics of the herd, and this is the result. These things do need to change and we need to start making those changes now.

However, I am not so strong as to look a mother in the eyes and say “I’m terribly sorry about your elephant problem ma’am, but you see, it’s your fault for expanding your crops into elephant territory. So yeah, good luck with that, hopefully one of your kids doesn’t get trampled to death.”

Maybe Mr. Parsons is not that strong either. Or maybe he simply had a hard-on for killing something as large and impressive as an elephant. There has always been plenty of people like that around.

Some of them are considered heroes

Maybe Mr. Parsons saw himself as part of a line of men like Teddy Roosevelt there. It’s easy to convince yourself that you’re doing the right thing. Or maybe he’s just a spoiled millionaire who likes to shoot things. I can’t climb into his head to know for sure, nor can you.

There are some positive outcomes from the death of this elephant. The carcass of such a large herbivore can feed a dozen different species of predators and scavengers, and not just hyenas or flies, but humans as well. Certainly the villagers in the video seemed thrilled to butcher the carcass and distribute the meat.

It is certainly positive that the DLC and PETA (and others) are moving their services, since they have chosen to seek a provider that is more Earth conscious. It’s good to put your money where your mouth is. An organization which follows an Earth centric spirituality, or which promotes animal rights, ought to be making such choices and thus be an example for us all. I expect organizations to follow their principals.

Whether you boycott GoDaddy or not is your choice (or the choice of your organization). I do hope that any decision is made with careful consideration and not a knee jerk reaction, or jumping on the bandwagon.

For myself, I’m not a GoDaddy costumer to begin with (I buy my hosting from a Canadian company, since one of my principals is to buy as local as possible). If I was a GoDaddy client, well even after writing this article I am uncertain s to whether I’d take my money elsewhere. What would you do?

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Southern Witches and Wiccans join the protest against Go Daddy CEO’s slaughter of an African Elephant.

Atlanta – The Dogwood Local Council (DLC), a southern affiliate of Covenant of the Goddess (CoG), has formally decided to discontinue the use of GoDaddy’s hosting services after the release of CEO, Bob Parsons’ hunting video.  In March of 2011, Parsons released a video depicting himself and others shooting a “troublesome” elephant.  As he explained to reporters, these elephants, “trash fields and destroy crops” leaving villagers to starve.  According to Parsons, the hunting is a welcomed activity which brings both food and safety. (As reported by The Los Angeles Times)

“We understand that Parsons’ acts were within the legal limits of Zimbabwe’s laws.  And he may believe that he is doing good.  However, the ends do not always justify the means.  After careful consideration, we, as Witches and members of humanity, have decided to protest these killings,” states Hawk, First Officer of Dogwood Local Council and High Priestess of GryphonSong Clan.

In the hunting video, Parsons comments on the well-documented fact that there has been a noticeable increase in elephant attacks.  However, as noted by Dogwood’s members, Parsons fails to identify the reason for this elephant problem:   humanity’s own aggression toward the elephants.  In a 2006 New York Times Magazine article, entitled, “Elephant Crack-Up?” written by Charles Seibert, this proverbial Catch 22 is well illustrated. Seibert writes, “The great paradox about this particular moment in our history with elephants is that saving them will require finally getting past ourselves; it will demand the ultimate act of deep, interspecies empathy.” (As published by The New York Times Magazine, October 2006)

In their discussions over the GoDaddy Video, Dogwood Local Council’s members repeatedly expressed the need for a genuine and reciprocal balance between humanity and animal cultures as expressed by Seibert.  The teachings of Wicca and Witchcraft do not place humanity over the natural world but within it.  According to the Pagan world view, humanity is as much a part of nature as the elephants.

“While we do not want to see humans starving as a result of these roving elephants, we cannot condone the progressive annihilation of a species simply because they are in our way.  And the African Elephant is still on the WWF endangered species list,” adds Hawk.

Moreover, Dogwood members echoed the concerns of others that Parsons’ video was merely a publicity stunt for GoDaddy services.  Questions have been raised by various media outlets as to whether the hunting event was, in actuality, a selfless attempt to come to the aid of a starving village. After all, GoDaddy is known for its somewhat risqué advertising and marketing campaigns.

“Was this a true act of humanitarianism or was this an outrageous promotional stunt for GoDaddy?  If it was purely an act of goodwill, was it really necessary to release the video and, more poignantly, the photos of villagers wearing “GoDaddy” hats?  Does Bob Parsons always carry around a few hundred logo caps on those yearly trips to save people from marauding elephants?” questions Lady Miraselena, Public Information Officer of Dogwood Local Council.

The Witches of Dogwood Local Council will now join others in moving its website from GoDaddy’s hosting services and no longer use the company as its domain registrar.  Dogwood strongly urges all concerned individuals to follow suit.  Currently, the Council is in the final stages of deciding which new hosting service would best fit their needs.  They are hopeful to find one that derives some of its power from green energy sources; thereby, making two strong statements and taking two steps forward on behalf of the Planet, nature and their Goddess – Gaia.

 

For more information about Dogwood Local Council,please visit www.dogwoodlc.org or follow @dogwoodlc on Twitter.

For more information about Covenant of the Goddess, please visit www.cog.org or follow them on Facebook: /pages/Covenant-of-the-Goddess.

Dogwood Local Council (DLC)

Throughout the United States, the Covenant of the Goddess has Local Councils that serve CoG members on a state or regional level. Alabama and Georgia are served by the Dogwood Local Council. A Local Council is a smaller branch of the Covenant, consisting of at least three member covens of at least two different traditions, in reasonably close geographic proximity to each other. Dogwood Local Council (DLC) sponsors annual festivals, speakers and a variety of seasonal events.  They are based out of Atlanta.

 

Covenant of the Goddess (CoG)

The Covenant of the Goddess is one of the largest and oldest Witch and Wiccan associations and was incorporated as a nonprofit religious organization in 1975. The Covenant is an umbrella group of cooperating, autonomous Witchcraft congregations and individual practitioners with the power to confer credentials on its qualified clergy. CoG fosters cooperation and mutual support among Witches and Wiccans and secures for them the legal protections enjoyed by members of other religions.

 

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News & Link Round Up: April 2011

April 25, 2011 by Categorized: Nature in the News.

Welcome to our first round up of links for nature & earth centred news, interest stories, blog posts, podcast episodes and much more!

 

A tornado ripped through the Lambert-Saint Louis International Airport in Missouri Friday night. The airport was mostly back to business this Sunday morning. The tornado also damaged many homes but oddly (and thankfully) caused no deaths or major injuries.

 

A new study shows that many children in England know very little about where their food comes from. Including thinking at pumpkins grow on trees and that cucumbers grow in the ground. Some are encouraging gardening to be taught at more schools.

 

The Great Elephant Poo Poo Paper Co. sells a unique product: Paper made of elephant poop. The owner of the company tells AOL news how his products are safe, sanitary and environmentally friendly.

 

The hole in the ozone layer is getting some news coverage lately. Researches have found that the hole in the ozone at the southern pole is having adverse effects on weather patterns in the southern hemisphere. Australia seems to be the most affected.

 

Plant life growing on planets orbiting red dwarf (dim) stars might grow black and grey foliage to help absorb more light.

 

Matt Walker, editor of BBC Nature Online wrote a wonderful blog post celebrating the humble mushroom.

 

A Coast Guard report has pointed the finger at poor training and lacklustre emergency preparedness contributed to the Gulf oil spill.

 

Professional chefs are creating ways to make their kitchens greener. Going beyond your typical recycling box, they are trying to reduce waster of all kinds, included wasted foodstuff.

 

The good people here at No Unsacred Place as well as at news sources all over the world have been following the debate over Mother Earth’s Rights.

 

Earth Day has come and gone. Wonderful coverage can be found over at the Wild Hunt Blog, Star Foster reminds us to love our Momma, Cam Mather encourages us to celebrate the day at home, and National Geographic posted 20 truly beautiful photographs in honour of the day. Discovery news also honoured Earth Day with photographs and stunning video.

 

On Earth Day New York state officials announced the purchase of Long Island’s pine barrens to be protected. This land will be preserved for naturalists, researchers and hikers. It is also a source of pure drinking water.

 

Science Daily brings us a story about how incense might be good for us. A team of researchers suggest this might mean a whole new class of medicine for depression and anxiety.

 

A disease that attacks wheat, called Wheat Rust, is causing some some serious concern. Wheat Rust has decimated harvest in parts of north Africa, the middles East, the Caucasus and Central Asia.

 

The podcast The Pagan Homesteader posted a special episode on dealing with our waste safely and sustainably.

 

The CBC considers the pros and cons of green power projects in Canada and the hurdles they will face in the future.

 

Hundreds of small islands seem to appear … and then disappear. Scientists are now beginning to map this very phenomenon; some 657 new barrier islands have been counted.

 

Wildfires continue to rage in Texas. There is hope that the right weather might assist firefighters combat the flames.

 

Britain’s beaches have been found to be dirtier than last year’s survey. This is largely due to folks flushing small garbage items down the toilet.

 

Did we miss something? If you have found a noteworthy article, news item or blog post please post the link in the comments section of this article.

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Unleashed: Critter News Round-up

April 17, 2011 by Categorized: Fur and Feather, Nature in the News.

After hearing repeated complaints from breeders, law makers in Missouri are planning on repealing a voter approved Puppy Mill Law. The main reasons they site for this repeal are the cost of implementation of the bill and that it could be used to punish good breeders. It is estimated that dog breeding earns $1 billion a year in Missouri. Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States says:

“The effort in Jefferson City is a piece-by-piece dismantling of every core provision. It suggests to me that this is an industry that wants deregulation. They want to do things that they want and to heck with the people who care about dogs or consumers as long as there are enough dogs purchased.”

One of the stipulations of the law that outrages breeders most is one that disallows them from having more than 50 dogs in their kennels at any given time. Another requires that they give small dogs as much as 12 feet of space to live in and large dogs 60 feet of living space, previously dogs could be kept in cages no larger than 6 inches wider and longer than the dog itself.

Republican state Representative Mike Lair of Chillicothe is quoted saying that

“Dogs are property. Dogs don’t have rights.”

 

 

Humpback Whales love a good song, and will pass a catchy tune amongst themselves a new study reports. Researchers in Australia have been listening to Humpback whale song for some time now and have found that whale song will be passed along from one individual to another. This discovery will hopefully lead to a better understanding of whale communication and culture.

 

 

For the first time ever the USA Congress will be removing a species off the endangered species list. A budget bill singed by the President will strip protection from gray wolves in Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington and Utah. Wolf hunts in Idaho and Montana had to be cancelled last year as a judge ruled the animals were still in need of protection, but hunters will be free to hunt wolves come this autumn. Wolves in Wyoming may be taken off the list sometime in the future.

Animal rights groups are watching this turning of events with trepidation, concerned it may be setting a bad precedent.

 

 

The population of Antarctic Penguins has dropped as much as 50% over the last 30 years. A recent study finds that a shortage of krill maybe be the main cause of the population plummet. The warming of the air and waters in the Antarctic and the rebounding population of whales, who also eat krill, are the leading cause of the krill shortage. With less food available less and less penguin chicks have been surviving each year.

 

 

National Geographic recently posted images of a dig in Egypt. Archaeologists are evacuating what is known as the Dog Catacombs, a warren of tunnels and chambers dedicated to the god Anubis and filled with the bodies of dogs and puppies.

 

 

After a boon year with Vancouver/Whistler hosting the 2010 Winter Olympics, the tourism industry took a nose dive. The Whistler branch of Outdoor Adventures, which includes a sled dog touring facility, ordered the kennel manager to cull roughly 100 dogs. After making a few weak and vain attempts to have that many mush dogs re-homed he set about killing them himself, without the required assistance and supervision of a veterinarian. The culling quickly became a slaughter with animals running off into the woods after being shot and having to be tracked down. At least one animal has its throat slashed with a knife. All this was one within sight of the rest of the pack of dogs before the culled animals were placed in a grave in the woods.

The slaughter of these dogs came to light when the manager Bob Fawcett applied for workers compensation sighting he suffered from post traumatic stress from the incident. A task force was assembled by the Premier of British Columbia to investigate the incident. The investigation into the slaughter continues and now that the ground has thawed the grave will be exhumed so investigators can find more info on exactly what went on as well as give the dog a proper burial.

Memorial vigils, walks and mushes have occurred all over Canada and the United States since the news story broke and new regulations are being proposed to avoid such a tragedy from ever happening again. A Facebook group called Boycotting Outdoors Adventures has bee created which updates regularly on the investigation and memorials.

I will update when more information comes to light through the investigation.

 

 

Another reason to not flick your cigarette out the window while driving: A fire that broke out in a horse trailer killed six racehorses on Friday. The horses were travelling on the Interstate-95 were en route to begin training at the Long Island horse track. Officials blame a flicked burning cigarette butt for the fire. Once they spotted the flames the two drivers tried to smother the fire but to no avail, one of them received minor injuries.

 

 

A pod of Killer Whales have researchers scratching their heads this weekend, after spotting the orcas eating fish rather than their preferred diet of seafaring mammals. The pod was spotted of the coast of San Pedro, California and researchers are asking fisherman and boaters to photograph the pod, for identification purposes, if possible.

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Welcome to No Unsacred Place!

April 4, 2011 by Categorized: Nature in the News.

The Pagan Newswire Collective continues to grow and expand as new local bureaus take root all across the country and group blog projects bring together the experience and expertise of Pagans from a wide variety of traditions and communities to share their insights into subjects from politics to pop culture, and everything in between. The most recent addition to the PNC is No Unsacred Place: Earth and Nature in Pagan Traditions.

No Unsacred Place explores the relationships between religion and science, nature and civilization from a diversity of modern Pagan perspectives. With climate change ever-present in today’s cultural and political discourse, and the realities of ecological destruction increasingly impacting our local communities and daily lives, questions about how we live as members of this jeweled, blue-green planet are no longer merely abstract philosophical musings or theological exercises. While cultures throughout history offer us examples of human beings in relationships of worship, stewardship, domination and exploitation of the Earth, modern Paganism is unique in drawing together the wisdom and ecocentric focus of ancient religions with the insights into the physical world afforded by modern science and technology.

No Unsacred Place draws inspiration for its title from the contemporary American poet and environmentalist, Wendell Berry, who wrote: “There are no unsacred places. There are only sacred places and desecrated places.” Berry confronts the assumption that “the sacred” can be cordoned off and separated from the mundane, and challenges us to examine our relationship to those places we consider to be “unsacred” — whether they are untamed forests and barren deserts, or human-made landscapes of metal and concrete — to discover how our attitudes and actions lead to desecration and destruction. Pagans today face the challenge of reconciling the lessons and influence of “dark green religion” environmentalist and conservation movements in contemporary society, with an ambivalence towards the wildness and wilderness of the Earth that is as old as Western civilization itself.

This blog features coverage and analysis of environmentalism and ecology in the news from a Pagan perspective, as well as essays and personal reflections about the role of science, environmental ethics, eco-friendly lifestyles, and an awareness of the land and its seasons, both in religious community and in the personal spiritual lives of modern Pagans.

Monthly columns include “Fur and Feather,” in which Juniper Jeni draws on her extensive background in homesteading and animal rescue to explore issues of animal rights, and “The Sacred in Suburbia,” in which John Beckett confronts the challenges of living sustainably and cultivating sacred relationship with the earth in a land of manicured lawns and strip malls; in addition, Ruby Sara writes on earth-based liturgy and ritual in her column, “Earthly Rites.”

Other participants of note include Alison Leigh Lilly, a Druid essayist, poet and author of Meadowsweet & Myrrh who writes on issues of deep ecology, environmental justice and earth-centered peacemaking; Pagan geologist and environmental scientist Meical abAwen, who teaches with Blackberry Circle; and Cat Chapin-Bishop, who writes on the practice and purpose of her environmental witness at her blog, Quaker Pagan Reflections.

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