Leave No Trace

Leave nothing but footprints.
Take nothing but pictures.
Kill nothing but time.

Love Locks in Bryce-300

As I crested the hill to Inspiration Point at Bryce Canyon NP, no small feat at 8,000 ft. elevation, a red trinket attached to the safety fence drew my attention away from the beauty below. It was a love lock, a small token of affection of a couple who came and left, but who were not content with the Instagram snapshot and the Facebook post. Instead, they wanted all those who came after to know they existed, that they mattered, that they found each other, and that they had made their way with a cheap, etched, made-in-China lock to this spot on earth that looks down on the million-years process of destruction, erosion, and weathering that is Bryce Canyon.

Another visitor watched me take this photo.

“They must think it’s Paris,” he said with the wry disdain of one who treasures our natural spaces. A kindred spirit. I nodded in agreement.

In the two days my husband and I spent exploring the park, we noted people climbing over barriers, sidling up to fragile canyon edges, and losing hats to the wind. (Thankfully retrieved, due to the ingenious use of two trekking poles.) We saw plastic water bottles down ravines, and even a disposable diaper that was wound tight and had somehow found its way over the edge and down a hill, yet not out of view of passing visitors. I was left to wonder how the park rangers deal with the detritus of a population who relishes the easy access to once remote places and who can’t seem to stay attached to their belongings. Keeping the place clean can’t be an easy job.

Visits to our national parks are up. It’s a great feeling to share in a common wonder and appreciation of earth’s processes or marvel at the way the sunlight glows between the spires and hoodoos of the canyon, yet it’s been said that our national parks are being loved to death. We can slow the impact of being one of thousands of visitors each year if we each start by having a little respect and by committing to leave no trace. Hold onto your hats, stash water bottles in a backpack or leave them in the car, and for goodness sake, save your love locks for Paris. Our children and grandchildren will thank you.

Bryce Canyon-300

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Being Green


Photo credit: NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center via Foter.com / CC BY-NC

To quote Kermit the Frog, it’s not easy being green. Environmentalist is a label that seems to get a bad rap nowadays. When I was born, I entered a world of 3.2 billion people, a number that has more than doubled in my lifetime to a current 7.4 billion. It seems sometimes that that world is closing in, that our natural resources are in great demand, that we are constantly seeking ways to increase our carrying capacity, and that the rich, in their quest for even more riches, seek to influence the world to their benefit at the expense of the rest of us.

I grew up in the 60s and 70s. The growing environmental movement had begun influencing culture and politics. Just before I was born, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin had stepped foot on the moon, and the crew of this Apollo 11 mission snapped an iconic shot that has come to be known as Earthrise. Our travels into space allowed us the opportunity to look back upon ourselves from outside, and the world became a smaller, more connected space, swirling clouds visibly crossing man-made boundaries and ocean waves lapping at diverse shores. We were all inhabitants of this big, blue marble, and we were beginning to realize that the damage we inflicted on our planet had repercussions.

During much of the burgeoning environmental movement, I was too young to know of the stories making the news, such as the Cuyahoga River Fire, where pollutants regularly discharged from the steel mills of Cleveland set the river ablaze, or the Santa Barbara oil well blowout of 1969 that spilled three million gallons of oil onto the California coastline. Reaction to those incidents, however, spurred political change. I was fortunate to grow up in a part of the world where regulation of industry prevents, or at least attempts to prevent, polluted rivers and wide-scale environmental damage.

Of course things still happen. Human error contributed to one of the worst oil spills in the U.S. when in 1989 the Exxon Valdez veered off course, struck a reef, and spilled 10.8 million gallons of crude oil into the Prince William Sound of Alaska, devastating wildlife populations and fisheries.

“Industry’s insistence on regulating the Valdez tanker trade its own way, and government’s incremental accession to industry pressure, had produced a disastrous failure of the system.” Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council

Though it was only the twenty-sixth worst spill in the world at the time, it was the worst in U.S. history. Then came the more recent Deepwater Horizon event, where a BP oil rig explosion dumped 130 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. These events should be at the forefront in our minds when the subject of drilling in the Arctic or the Keystone pipeline come up. When it comes to human caused disasters, it’s not a matter of if, but when. The need to balance our needs for energy and a clean environment has to be be a revolving topic of policy discussion.

These policy changes don’t come easy. The boy pointing out that the emperor has no clothes is often shouted down by the masses who wish to continue the status quo. Such is the case with the scientists in the 40s and 50s who decried the widespread use of DDT due to its widespread deleterious effects on unintended creatures. Beneficial insects were wiped out along with their more damaging counterparts. Large populations of birds were dying, and even our iconic national symbol, the bald eagle, was threatened with extinction due to DDT poisoning. The scientists’ cries were dismissed until 1962, when Rachel Carson released a scientifically researched book, Silent Spring, which threw the chemical companies into a frenzied state of denial and defense of their product. Monsanto even released a parody to her book entitled “The Desolate Year.” Carson got the attention of officials in Washington, however, who looked into her well-documented claims and changed policy to reflect a need for protection from widespread chemical pollutants.

Now scientists are again raising concerns, this time about man-made climate change. It’s not a theory thrown out there to be bandied around. It’s a consensus of 97% of the experts who study this stuff. Yet once again industry officials, with lobbyists and loads of money on their side, seek to shut them down, to silence their voices, to grab the megaphone of conservative talk radio and “debunk” the data, which is clear to anyone with a scientific mind.

This political kickback is a cycle. We should know by now that the scientists are the ones with the clout, the ones with the data, and the ones who don’t have a monetary stake in the outcome. Industry does. It has a huge financial stake in keeping the status quo, to the detriment of all of us. Just look at the pattern.

We are living in an age of corporate greed and worship of the almighty dollar, in an age where lobbyists run roughshod over our democracy. Scientists and stewards of the land have worked hard, often at risk to their personal safety, to advocate for a clean environment. As both Earth Day and election day approach, my hope is that our nation would reflect a different set of values, not of the green of U.S. currency, but of a more natural, oxygenating, life-giving green.

“We are the first generation to feel the effect of climate change and the last generation who can do something about it.” —President Barack Obama


Inspired by The Daily Post’s prompt: Green

Disappointment is the New Drive

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “______ is the new ______.”

Click over to your favorite blog, and pick out the 4th and 14th words (that aren’t “the” or “an”). Drop them into this phrase: “_____ is the new _____.” There’s your post title. Now write!

As I write this post, I am watching a live feed of the Shell icebreaker Fennica trying to get past Greenpeace activists who are hanging like trapeze artists off the St. John’s Bridge in Portland. Kayakers are scrambling to the river to block the ship. They are willing to risk life and limb for a cause they believe in. They feel the risk of drilling in the arctic warrants this action. While many of us wouldn’t be willing to put our lives on the line, we agree in spirit.

And just yesterday the internet blew up in outrage over the killing of Cecil, a favorite lion of a park in Zimbabwe. From reports I read, it seems he was lured out of the park where a dentist, who paid $55,000 for the opportunity, shot him. (People, you are paying too much for your dental work.) People are crying foul. Tens of thousands of people are showing solidarity in response to this action.

But it took an event to provoke a reaction.

Whatever your opinion on either issue, or any other issue for that matter, it seems to me that blocking the stone before it starts rolling downhill is an easier option. It just requires knowing what stones are primed to roll.

It is with a heavy heart that I watch the arctic drilling scenario occur. People who don’t live in the Pacific Northwest may not understand how much we treasure our natural areas and our fisheries. The potential for ecological disaster here is high. Many of us are not willing to sell out to big oil money, yet somehow this has been thrust upon us.

Don’t wait for things to happen. Get involved. Contact your representatives. There are people in our government who are making decisions that not only affect us, but will affect the lives of our children and grandchildren. Hold them accountable for their decisions. They work for us.

My reference is from my daughter’s blog, Growing Monteverde. She is currently traveling in Costa Rica, a country, by the way, which has rigorous environmental standards and has banned hunting. 

Hello world!

This is my second blog. My first blog documented my journey from couch potato to becoming an older runner. I’ve never been much of a talker. I am usually found sitting quietly on the sidelines, taking it all in (thus the blog name). Writing is my form of self-expression, of becoming a part of the world and part of the greater discussion.

My dreams of becoming a writer began in middle school, when my English teacher asked me if she could display one of my poems. Being the incredibly self-conscious person I was, I declined the offer. But the seed was planted. This drive to write had created a positive reaction in my reader. Many years have passed and the drive is still there. Am I still nervous about opening up? Absolutely! But my new favorite mantra is: What would you do if you were not afraid? Well, this is high on the list, so I’m doing it.

20150102_083412Over the years, I have written mostly for myself. I have chronicled my quiet, normal life through journals. I have written letters to the editor that never got sent. (I tend to be a procrastinator more than anything else.) I have written long, drawn out letters to my friends, and wordy, reflections on my teaching practices. But I’ve never really put myself out there for the general public… until now.

I hope to use this blog to make a difference, Phone Pics 2363to spark discussion about topics that are pertinent to our time, including raising teens, environmental issues, societal changes, and civics (as opposed to politics, which is quite the dirty word). I also want to sharpen and hone my writing skills in order to hopefully fulfill my someday dream of being published. I love hiking, exploring, and cooking, so those will probably come up in my blog from time to time. I am also an avid photographer, so I started a second blog for photos only. My wish is that there is something here you find compelling, and I hope to hear from you!

Continue reading “Hello world!”