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Posts Tagged ‘environment’

Recently, alongside all my scholarly reading, I’ve been indulging in a bit of what I’ll call “brain candy” reading. Fun, fast fiction reads that I can sit back, eat some popcorn, and just devour for the sheer pleasure and entertainment of reading. Some of that has been at the behest of friends who are authors (being a beta reader is a LOT of fun, you get to watch good stories turn into published novels), but the rest of the time I’ve been making my way through Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid Chronicles – so far I’ve read Hounded and most of Hexed.

They’re especially fun, as Urban Fantasy goes, since Druids don’t usually feature much in those stories, and this one is focused on one Druid (Atticus O’Sullivan, but that’s not his real name). Specifically, he’s the last Druid still remaining, and the books chronicle his many adventures and misadventures with creatures, witches, demons, faeries, Gods and Goddesses, a talking dog who wants to be Ghengis Khan, and his team of lawyers (who happen to be a vampire and a werewolf). It’s silly, snort-with-laughter fun, but at the same time there have been a few poignant moments that really resonated with me as a “modern day” Druid.

First, his connection with the Earth is amazingly powerful. It’s where he gets all his magic and power, and he clearly returns that favor with love and care. I am inspired by him to be a better herbalist, and spend more time with my connection to the Earth Mother.

Second, his relationship with his Gods and Goddesses is based on the same rules of hospitality and worship. He keeps the old ways, and they keep him. Hearne’s portrayals of the Tuatha de Dannan are really something else, and especially the Goddesses are powerful forces of action and change and movement in the novels. They’re also clearly acting out of their own interests, and are not above pulling a fast one on their favorite Druid if they think they can get something out of him.

But third, I was reading last night, and he said something offhand while trying to get away with yet another one of his shenanigans that really stuck with me. I don’t have the full quote, but when his lawyer was arguing about his ability to climb up into his neighbor’s tree, he turned to him to reassure him with the words “That tree loves me.” He then went on to talk about how he spends time tending and talking to it, and making sure it’s well cared for and loved back, and how it would keep him safe.

And I thought to myself… do the trees in my yard love me? Have I really taken the time to get to know those trees on the level that they’d say they cared for me, as much as I profess to care for them?

Of course, I hold no illusions that I’ll ever be an Iron Druid out of a fantasy novel, weilding powerful Irish magic and living for thousands of years, battling witches and evil fae and demons and all that. (Though, admittedly, I’d sign up for the 12 years of memorization and the ritual tattoos for the privelege, but that’s what wish fulfillment fantasy novels are all about, right?)

But I have trees I can care for, and a garden full of vegetables and herbs, and a piece of land to tend.

And maybe, just maybe, my trees will love me back.

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I’ve talked about my concerns about the future of honey bee populations here before, but the bees are in the news again this week, with reports of 31% of colonies not surviving this past winter.

This is bad. Really bad.

If you’re not familiar with what’s happening with honey bees, I highly recommend the links above. They’ll get you the basic idea of this problem, which is widespread (worldwide) and not getting better.

What can we do? Well, there’s not a lot of concrete knowledge, but there are a few tips floating around.

  • Support organic produce – one of the big red flags for a lot of these studies is the presence of neonicotinoids, a type of pesticide that is neuroactive. It’s probably not the ONLY thing affecting the bees, but purchasing produce that doesn’t use these chemicals helps, in a small way, to reduce their heavy and widespread use.
  • Keep your yard weedy – bees thrive on wild grasses and “weeds”, and a lot of farmland and yard land has done away with the native grasslands that bees need to get the nutrition they need to survive. Reducing pesticide and herbicide use in your yard not only directly helps keep bees from getting sick, it increases the variety of plants they can eat for survival. Cultural diversity in your yard may not look like a golf course, but it’s better for the environment for a ton of reasons.
  • Stop using commercial pesticides – just like commercial herbicides are bad for bees, pesticides directly affect them. Move in the direction of organic garden and yard care. It might be a bit more work, but it’s better for you, for the environment, for your local waterways, AND for the bees.
  • Plant a bee garden – it won’t look as manicured as a rose garden, but many varieties of plants are bee-friendly. Plant them in an area not near your walkways and home entrances (especially if someone in your house is allergic).  This is a good list to start from (there are lots to choose!) if you’re not sure what kinds of plants are bee attractors. Even if you can’t devote a whole garden to your honey bee friends, planting bee-friendly plants, especially native ones, is helpful!
  • Buy Local Honey – this helps keep local beekeepers in business. With so many hives dying out, apiarists are in high demand, and the more we support them, the better their chances of staying in business to help keep our food crops pollinated. If you’re not sure where to get local honey, or your grocer tends to only stock Big Name Brands that aren’t even guaranteed to be from the US, try asking at a farmer’s market or your local hardware store. I buy my honey by the quart at the hardware store, and it comes from about 20 miles from my house.
  • Support Groups that Support Bees – Not everyone on that list gets a true thumbs up from an environmental perspective, but there are several research groups there that accept donations and are actively working to further honey bee research.

It all seems like a drop in the bucket – and it is. There’s not much one individual can do in the face of a worldwide bee collapse that is likely being worsened by our commercial agriculture methods. But as with so many other things, every little bit helps. It is daunting, but I feel like it’s important to try anyway.

So have some honey in your tea, and enjoy your almonds, blueberries, melons, and fresh vegetables. But don’t forget the bees that make those things possible. The bees need our help.

If I find more information on how to help fund honeybee research, I will post it as well.

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Today is Earth Day – a holiday I have serious mixed feelings about.

On one hand, hooray Earth Day! Let’s all be responsible to the planet! Let’s recycle! Go Druidry! Go Earth Mother! Yay!

On the other? Is this kind of popular activism actually changing anything? Somehow I don’t think so.

Earth Day really strikes me as a big fat cop out a lot of the time. Like Earth Hour (where you use no electricity for one hour on one evening in March), it’s a day where people can pretend to do things that are good for the Earth and feel good about themselves, and then go right back to doing whatever they were doing before. It’s about the warm fuzzy feelings, and not about meaningful change.

For example, today in celebration of Earth Day my office “environmental team” is handing out “Earth-colored” cupcakes and cookies. That’s how we’re celebrating. Who knows what kind of dyes are in the coloring for the cookies and cupcakes, or where they were purchased, or if they come wrapped in plastic.  It’s Earth Day! Any excuse for baked goods is a good excuse! Oh and there’s a contest for the best Earth Day poster, created by the child of an employee.

Still, the sentiment is a good one, and so I’m torn about it. It’s good to do even little things to help the Earth. But I don’t want to overstate the importance of things like Earth Day in the face of very real activism and the very real changes that need to happen to reduce our impact on the planet.

If we keep going how we’re going, we’re going to quickly run out of planet to take advantage of. We’re already pushing close to (or past) peak oil – the point after which the amount of oil we can get out of the ground can no longer continue to expand, but after which our desires for oil and electricity aren’t going to go down. It’s a scary thought, but one that is bolstered by alternative and nontraditional energy sources (of which I think there won’t be “one star savior”, but it will take a combination of energies and conservation attempts and changes in our lifestyle to make work).

In the face of things like that, or the rash of oil related disasters, or the floating trash “islands” or the constant degradation of our wetlands (like the swamp near which I live), it’s hard to be really positive about Earth Day, because I don’t feel like it provokes meaningful change. It’s a great thing to teach kids, but as adults, it loses some of it’s oomph for being just another social excuse and day of pointless social-media-activism.

Of course, I have no better ideas about how to provoke meaningful change from people who aren’t interested in changing. In fact, I think that exercise is pretty fruitless, so maybe it’s through campaigns like Earth Day that we find little handholds and footholds for bigger environmental projects.

And I’m always drawn back to the words of the great Dr. Seuss, from The Lorax:

UNLESS someone like you
cares a whole awful lot,
nothing is going to get better.
It’s not.

The whole point of the Lorax is individual change, and the impact that one person can have – good or bad – on the world around them. And maybe that’s the whole point of Earth Day – maybe it’s fruitless and silly and superficial, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t personally take it as a challenge to myself as a Child of the Earth.

In short, I want my own Druidry to be a recognition of Unless. I’m going to take up the mantle of Unless, and use today as a reconfirmation of the things that I CAN do to protect the Earth and reduce my footprint, even as a cubicle-working, long-commute-driving, suburb-living Druid.

I CAN compost, and plant trees, and garden organically, and turn lights off, and use LED bulbs, and recycle as much as I can (and try to buy less plastic too). I CAN re-use produce bags and bring my own grocery sacks. I CAN combine errands so that I’m not doing unnecessary driving, and make sure my car is in good working order for my long (70 mile round trip) commute, so that I pollute as little as possible. I CAN work from home when I’m allowed, to save gas. I CAN work on hobbies and crafts that promote reusing things, repurposing things, and valuing the hard work that goes into them. I CAN donate my clothes to goodwill when they no longer fit, instead of throwing them away. I CAN work to value people, time, and experiences over things, money, and stuff. I CAN spend time with my landbase, and support organizations that take care of it and the wildlife who live here.

I can’t change how other people react (or don’t) to Earth Day or Earth Hour or whatever other pop-culture, warm-fuzzy environmentalism that gets tossed around on Facebook but doesn’t create any progress. In the face of the overwhelming mess that we’ve made of the planet, something like Earth Day can seem silly – and maybe it is.

The changes made for one day are only useful if they truly become changes made for every day. A tree planted on Earth Day, but left untended, will die of lack of water in the Texas heat.

I can’t change what Earth Day has become, and I can’t make other people change their habits or live up to the cute graphics they post on social media.

But I can take up the mantle of Unless for myself.

Will you?

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