Back to School, Packing Lunches – Let’s Nix the Plastic Baggies for Dear Mother Earth

Back to school means packing lunches, or at least snacks. The first thing that comes to my mind is the environment.  I have long ago stopped using Ziplocs or similar products on a daily basis.  For me they have very specific and limited uses in my home.  Why?  Because I believe that climate change is anthropogenic and progressing quickly.  Why?  Because I am trying to do my part.  Every little bit helps.

baggieThe plastic baggie is one of those things that is so indoctrinated into our routines that many of us likely don’t give it much thought.  But if you think about it just a little, it falls into one of those unnecessary things that are disposable.  Too much in our society is disposable.  That is one factor that contributes to pollution and climate change.  Let’s face it, we are wasteful.  But it is also one factor with which we, us average Joes and Janes, can alter our use easily enough to contribute to being green which in turn gives Mother Earth a leg up on slowing the global warming process and all that goes with it.

I don’t want to debate climate change here.  If you are uninformed or a denier, so be it.  But these are things that we can all do that certainly won’t hurt.  When I pack my kids’ lunches, EVERYTHING goes into a reusable container.  I have purchased some, but what I primarily use are those containers that deli meat comes in.  Now before you criticize me for buying deli meat in plastic… I don’t claim to be the perfect Green Machine.  I do what I can.  I usually buy deli items from the deli in butcher paper only – no styrofoam, no plastic paper liner, etc.  On very few occasions I will buy stuff in those containers for whatever reason.  But I reuse those containers.  Over the last 2-3 years I’ve accumulated about 15 of those containers and we use and reuse them until they fall apart.  And they last quite a while even when washed in the dishwasher.  We have also reused containers that take-out food has come in.  I can’t remember the last time I purchased plastic containers for the purpose of storing and transporting food items.

Now let’s discuss recycling.  If you must use plastic baggies, then recycle them.  It is not the optimal solution because a great deal of plastic that we “recycle” ends up in landfills anyway.  But it is better than sending them to the landfill directly.  Give it a chance to be recycled and reused.  One example of how plastic is reused is in composite lumber which is manufactured from sawdust and plastic that is often derived from bags.   The fact of the matter is that baggies are tossed out either at school or at home.    So if you must use baggies, then at least recycle them properly.  Ask your children to bring them home instead of tossing them at school because schools often times don’t recycle at all or they don’t do it properly.  And keep in mind that many manufacturers are coming up with “greener” alternatives.  Whether it is marketing, ziploctrending or the bottom line that motivates these pushes for green alternatives within these corporations, take advantage of them.

 

Something else to consider is that single use items or disposable items contribute to climate change before they ever reach the consumer.  Manufacturing them and shipping them takes a lot of energy, uses natural resources, and creates a lot of pollution.   And, after only one use; they become more garbage – and don’t get me going on the hazards it produces for wildlife and the toxins it releases into our environment.  If we all do a little, it adds up to a lot.

http://dpw.lacounty.gov/epd/PlasticBags/Articles/Googobits_07-21-05.pdf

http://ecowatch.com/2014/04/07/22-facts-plastic-pollution-10-things-can-do-about-it/

http://shoptobegreen.wordpress.com/2011/12/09/plastic-bags-petro-chemical-are-killing-us-and-destroying-our-environment/

http://wednesdaypost.wordpress.com/2012/02/08/the-ziplock-controversy/


Rhythm

You can hear it
You can see it
You can feel it

It is inherent and organic
But also human induced
It is omnipresent
And inescapable

It is:

The beating of our hearts
The pulse of our blood
The heave of our chests as we breathe
Breathing
The intonation of our speech
The gait of our walk
Chewing, laughing, crying
Hiccups, blinking, flying
Gusts of wind, the crackle of fire
A cricket’s song and a cicada’s whine
A train on rails
With its intermittent clank
Waves lapping at the shore
Reaching and grabbing at the sand
The tick of a clock
The toll of a bell
Rain on your windowsill
The song of a bird
The bark of a dog

There is rhythm in it all
A cadence that soothes
Or perhaps one that rattles the nerves
It may or may not be steady
At times it may falter
But within it there is rhythm
To which we can add a melody
And that becomes a song
A song that moves you


It’s not an investment if it’s destroying our planet.

A simple message to big oil and big agriculture.


Polenta Medallions with Portabella and Cheese

shroomI made a little appetizer the other night for my wonderful sister-in-law and brother-in-law. Love them to death. Anyway, it was something that I just threw together because I know they are willing guinea pigs when it comes to food. It was a hit! It is really simple. It was very tasty, And, best of all, I was able to prepare the topping ahead of time so party time prep was minimal.

 

         What you need:

  • one polenta log
  • 8 oz baby Portabella mushrooms (chopped)
  • 1 Tbs garlic (chopped, pressed or minced)
  • butter
  • olive oil
  • 2 tbs soy sauce
  • 1 tbs Worcestershire sauce
  • Asiago cheese (shredded)

What you do:

topping can be prepared ahead of time

  • melt butter in pan and saute garlic and mushrooms until frangrant
  • add soy sauce and Worcestershire and let it simmer for about 2-3 minutes
  • slice polenta log
  • sear polenta medallions in olive oil until golden brown
  • top medallions with mushroom mixture
  • top with cheese
  • broil until cheese is melted to desired consistency
  • serve with a fresh basil leaf atop each medallion

 

I suspect that this recipe would be very good using goat cheese instead of Asiago.  I will give that a go next time.

I hope you enjoy it if you dare to try it.  I am a novice after all.

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Respect

Respect is earned. It is earned through simple kindness. GENERAL respect is not about abilities, talents, salaries. Nor is it lost on someone when mistakes are made, but good intentions are clear. GENERAL respect is given to those who are kind; to those who give respect, even in times of trouble. Especially in times of trouble. To be able to find the strength to be angry yet in control is paramount to being a respectable human being. Words can hurt, sometimes far more than a fist. They linger. A bruise will fade, but the meaning behind the bruise, like words, will stick. One must be careful with what they say as words can not be taken back, even with an apology. Over time the weight of such repeated insults is a heavy burden to bear. Respect will be lost on the one with a sharp tongue and the other is likely to emotionally and mentally “check out” or detach themselves from the source of such pain. It is NOT weakness to show kindness when involved in a conflict. In fact it is an impressive show of strength. We all have been angry. But a grand show of rage that is terribly disproportionate to whatever the perceived infraction may be proves nothing and accomplishes nothing, except to show a lack of control, common decency, judgement and an inept ability to nurture, care for and place value on a person and/or relationship. It is a profound weakness to allow a knee jerk tirade to take over a situation. Instead of slinging insults, instead of delivering hateful blows, have a rational conversation. Use words to diffuse a situation instead of accelerating it. Seek resolution or at least agree to disagree. Such efforts are contagious most times. It is the person who refrains from being mean and nasty that warrants respect on a daily basis.  It is so much easier to be kind to one another.  It takes less energy and less time if you factor in the healing.


Catharsis

self3I was inspired this morning.  This inspiration came from within; from the heart.  I presume that we all have some sort of inner struggle or struggles that we deal with throughout our lives.  Whether they stem from insecurity, a crisis in identity, relationships, fears etc; they can sometimes get the best of us.  Most days they are likely tucked neatly away behind the vast collection of preoccupations that keep us in step with our daily routines.  Some of us may not even know that they are there.  But sometimes an idle mind will suddenly be upon us and the gears begin to turn.  The things you may or may not dwell on daily will find their way to the forefront of your mind and haunt you.  They tend to make me feel fragmented, conflicted and broken.  I’ve talked with my girlfriends about some of these things and they have shared their struggles with me as well.  It is comforting to know that we all have weaknesses and it helps to have a sounding board.  I tend to write about these things as well.  It is cathartic for me.  I don’t claim to harbor any talent with regard to the written word, but it is a necessary tool for me to thoughtfully express myself on my own terms.  It allows me to reflect, to analyze, to attempt to find resolution or to simply come to terms with whatever I happen to be wrestling with at the time.  Some of it I may share and some of it I keep to myself.  I’ve always found it interesting how differently people may interpret the written word,  especially when it is deliberately delivered with subtle vagueness, or more profoundly, with acute ambiguity.  I’ve read many poems from many poets and I’ve found that I’ve interpreted the same poem differently at different times.  It can be very subjective in both the writing and the comprehension.  Depending on the topic, I will often write with a great deal of ambiguity.  It is my way of expressing myself AND maintaining a certain level of privacy.

Words

 The ink runs from my pen

as tears of inspiration

trace the contours of my face

until they fall,

leaving stains of emotion

upon my words

in small, blurred, imperfect circles.

.

My words and their abstract character

are but a vague confession that is lost in interpretation,

and therefore, it is without consequence.

They are my solace, my refuge,

my heart and soul open and exposed.

An honesty that I presume will be lost

to anyone who attempts their deciphering.

.

It is most often a matter of the heart

that moves my pen.

Love given to an echo.

Or the fear of loving fearlessly.

The want of love that leaves me hallow

and with an aching emptiness

that lingers within me.

.

The remedy is in the doing,

but the doing is costly.

I try to remind myself that, like a flower,

we are most beautiful when we open up.

But I’ve never been brave enough

to bloom and show off my colors.

Instead I’ve sacrificed my heart’s content for yours.


The Beauty of the Ordinary

DSC_0839-1We pass by so many beautiful things as we go about our days.  Often we don’t take notice.  They are seemingly ordinary and omnipresent.  We often ignore those things that are ubiquitous.  We take them for granted.  Nature offers so much that we can appreciate on a very fundamental and organic level.  We should all set aside just a few moments each day to take notice of the inherent beauty that, in passing, may seem dull and ordinary.  But when considered with a determined eye and an open mind, the intricacies become apparent,  colors pop, sounds are not so muted and fragrances abound.   I love to take early morning walks and seek these things out and breath it all in – engorge my senses.  As much as I love to commune with nature, it is communion with God as well.  We often lose track of the simple pleasures and the intrinsic artistry of nature as we navigate through our busy schedules and daily routines.  It is all so intricate and precise and symbiotic.  None of it is happenstance.  There is a plan in the weave of it all.  I took my camera out with me on a recent morning walk and captured, as best I could being a novice photographer, the beauty of the ordinary.

DSC_0902-1 DSC_0898-1 DSC_0897-2 DSC_0919-1 DSC_0924-1 DSC_0950-1 DSC_0929-1 DSC_0913-2 DSC_0907-1 DSC_0910-1 DSC_0874-2 DSC_0872-2 DSC_0869-2 DSC_0840-1

 

 


A Few Meatless Meals Might Give Mother Earth a Leg Up

Climate change and global warming are hot topics… pardon the pun.  In order to make a drastic, immediately measurable difference we would ALL have to make some really radical lifestyle changes.  That is not realistic.  We can’t completely avoid fossil fuels, plastics, etc. unless there are drastic changes in environmental policies worldwide.  And let’s face it, our world leaders are addressing these issues at a snail’s pace as if we had all of the time in the world.  But if we all, or at least MOST of us, would make some adjustments here and there, it would help.  When a lot do a little, it adds up to a lot.  So I figured that I would occasionally write on various ways to be greener; on things that many of us may not realize are linked to global warming and climate change.  All such articles can be found in my Going Greener category.

 

This article will provide information, stats and facts about how meat consumption is harmful to the environment.  What prompted me to look into this was a comment that my best friend made when discussing global warming.  She has been a vegetarian for decades now.  Now we all can admit that being a vegetarian is a healthy way to go.  I’m not talking about the vegetarians who claim to get their protein from Snickers bars and call potato chips and french fries vegetables.  I’ve known a couple of vegetarians who didn’t like vegetables at all.  That is counter intuitive.  But, apparently they had convictions and principles but no palate for the purpose.  Anyway, if done properly, it is a healthy way to go.  But what my friend mentioned was that there are statistics out there that show that being a vegetarian will reduce your carbon footprint.  It will reduce your impact on global warming, ecosystem destruction and pollution all while saving other precious resources such as water.  Sign me up!

 

Who am I kidding actually.  I tried going vegetarian once and I lasted six months.  I craved a burger so bad at that point and I gave in.  Pathetic, I know.   That was when I was single too.  I feel like I might be able to give it a go again, but I have a family to consider now and I don’t think that they would be on board.  So what I came up with is a compromise.  We will have two or three meatless meals a week and at least one of our meat meals will consist of chicken because they impact the environment far less than livestock that produces “red meat.”

 

Now let me give you a concise summary of the ways that raising livestock can negatively impact the environment.  First let me give you an idea of how much meat is consumed annually worldwide – 250 million tons.  That is twice as much as we consumed just 30 years ago and the amount of meat people eat is growing by about 5 million tons per year.  And before I go any further, I must clarify that when I use the term meat, I am NOT including seafood of any sort.  This is strictly limited to livestock mammals and poultry.  So, given those numbers, let’ s take a look at a list of ways raising such livestock for human consumption can harm the environment:

  • The livestock industry is one of the top three sources of greenhouse gas emissions.  From livestock’s burps and farts to the fossil fuels burned to raise, slaughter, transport and store them, the industry contributes a great deal to warming the planet.
  • The livestock industry uses and abuses 30% of Earth’s ice-free land for grazing and growing food for the livestock.
  • Ecological degradation has been a drastic side effect of the livestock industry.  Deforestation, desertification, diminished soil fertility and soil erosion are but a few examples of this.  Nearly 80% of land deforested in the Amazon is slated for grazing and this is but one example of how extensive ecological degradation can be.
  • The livestock industry uses 70% of the water that is available to humans.  It would take 20,000 pounds of water to produce one  pound of beef.  Yikes!  Pigs are the thirstiest animals.  A large pig farm with about a million pigs could use as much water as a big city.
  • A single, industrial-scale livestock farm can generate as much waste as a city.  Cesspools of piss and shit havedraft_lens1896556module8652465photo_cartoonWasntMe.png1205273122 spilled over, leaked or the holding tanks/lagoons breached to pollute our underground water supplies and tens of thousands of miles of rivers with nitrogen, phosphorous and nitrates.  This waste also makes its way to the oceans and have created “dead zones” where the pollutants cause algae blooms which take up all of the oxygen in the water and therefore creates an environment that is not conducive to most other life.
  • The livestock industry is compromising our health.  Millions of pounds of antibiotics are added to livestock feed per year.  That paves the way for the rise of antibiotic resistant bacteria which, in turn, makes treating human illnesses more difficult.  What’s more is that meat products contain many pathogens including, but not limited to, Salmonella and E Coli.  And animal feed crops are responsible for about 37% of pesticide use – a toxin that will eventually get to us.110051_600
  • The amount of fossil fuels used to run the livestock industry is enormous.
  • The crops used to feed livestock could feed so many more people than the meat from the livestock could.  In the United States, for example, 70% of the grain grown is fed to animals.  Imagine how many people that grain could feed considering we are able to feed our population with the 30% of the grain we grow here in the United States that is not fed to livestock.

Meat consumption is costly at many levels.  Meat, particularly processed meats, are contributing factors to obesity, cancers and heart disease, not to mention the unintended affects that the use of antibiotics and pesticides have on us.  It is also expensive.  And then there are the concerns for the humane treatment of animals raised as livestock.  But what most  people may not consider is that it is harmful to the environment.  Now I am not suggesting that we all become vegetarians.   I can’t and I shan’t.  And let’s be honest, there is plenty of research that shows that limited meat consumption is essential  in providing certain nutrients that fruits and vegetables can’t provide as readily.  But make responsible choices (ie lean cuts for your health and chicken for the environment – or organic for best all-around) and have a few meatless meals a week.  Consider the big picture – not just the health perspective but the environmental perspective as well.  It is a small change that, if done in mass, could make a difference.  Think of it this way: it takes 12 times as much land, 13 times as much fossil fuel and 15 times as much water to produce a pound of meat protein as compared to producing a pound of soy protein.

 

 


A “Thank You” Would Have Been Nice

holding the doorAcknowledgment.  A thank you.  A smile.  That is all I would expect if I held the door open for four men… at least from one of them.  Here is the scenario: A man and a woman are walking into a deli for lunch.  The man holds the door open for his lady and behind her are four men.  The first man decides to hold the door open for all of them as they trail behind the lady. Not one of them looks at the first man.  Not one of them thanks the first man.  Not one of them offers a smile to the first man.  Once inside the deli, the lady steps aside to wait for her man to enter the deli himself.  What she didn’t realize was that she was involved in a game of “survival of the rudest.”  So after the small herd of oblivious, ignorant, impolite, opportunistic men of dishonor enter the deli, the first man walks in and and joins his lady.  The herd of oblivious, ignorant, impolite, opportunistic men of dishonor make a bee-line for the counter and make the first man and his lady wait while they place their orders.  What should have happened here?

A.  The first man should not have held the door for the herd of oblivious, ignorant, impolite, opportunistic men of dishonor.

B.  The lady should have made a bee-line to the counter to save a place in line for herself and her man in anticipation that the herd of oblivious, ignorant, impolite, opportunistic men of dishonor would be taking advantage of their good deed (no good deed goes unpunished you know).

C.  The lady should have scolded the herd of oblivious, ignorant, impolite, opportunistic men of dishonor for being so self-centered and rude.

D. The herd of oblivious, ignorant, impolite, opportunistic men of dishonor should have taken notice of the kind gesture from the first man, smiled or said “thank you”, saw the opportunity to exercise their manners and honorably allow the first man and his lady their rightful place in line.

The answer is D.  This action would have made them a group of observant, learned, polite, gracious men of honor.  A “thank you” would have been good enough as well.  I realize we are not always on our toes when it comes to making snap decisions.  But a “thank you” should be automatic.  I hope you all aced this test.   Please people, keep your eyes open, your ears tuned in and your heart in the right place.  Be kind to one another.  It is really pretty easy.


A Potential Cancer Treatment Stymied by Stigma, Politics and Big Money

cannabis_cures_cancer_google_itI am a skeptic about these things… or at least I used to be. I used to chalk it up to paranoia or attribute these things to conspiracy theorists trying to stir the pot. But the more I research things like climate change, big-agriculture, ALEC, etc. I become more and more skeptical, except now I am not skeptical of the assertions so much as I am skeptical of the industries and the government. A friend of mine posted this and my initial reaction was “Ok, there has got to be more to this.” So I looked into it and what I found was very interesting to say the least. It is true that cannabis and its constituent compounds such as THC and CBD have had very positive results with regard to treating tumors and pain in the very few small studies that have been done. But the problem is that politics, funding, the war on drugs (a lot of gray area there) and the interests of pharmaceutical companies have been a monkey wrench in the gears of the medical marijuana machine. Cannabis can’t be patented for one. It doesn’t belong to pharmaceutical companies. It belongs to God or Mother Nature depending on your outlook. Some pharmaceutical companies have and are attempting to create synthetic versions of cannabis and its various compounds. But they haven’t been able to replicate the natural version well enough. They don’t get the same results. I looked and looked assuming that all of the articles that supported cannabis as a potential weapon to be used against cancers would come from homeopathic sites or from sites supported by “hippie” marijuana advocates.  There is nothing wrong with either of those platforms, but they might tend to spin the idea in a manner that supports the foundation of their core beliefs on this topic.  We all might do this when pushing a cause.  I did find support from such sources, but I also found a number of credible, highly respected medical journals, universities and research hospitals that, at the very least, acknowledge the potential medical benefits (ie cures for cancers) of these oils derived from cannabis plants. What I did NOT find was much claiming that this was a hoax or inaccurate or grossly misrepresented.

As you may know, clinical trials must be approved by the FDA and the patients must be approved as well based on their individual circumstances. Sometimes those circumstances include a round of chemo and radiation before going through the trial treatment. Why? I don’t know. Perhaps they want an out if the trial is too successful? I am speculating of course. And I will say that the FDA will sometimes make “special exceptions” for dire situations. But it is all very closely governed and there is a lot of red tape to slow the process and most people who need the trial treatments often don’t have time.  Don’t get me wrong, these trials need to be overseen, but by an agency that has the people’s best interest at heart. Not by those who stand to lose profit margins or campaign funding to new discoveries. Anyway, I’ve blathered on long enough. If you are interested at all you can check out the links I included and check out you tube for some tear jerking, heartwarming, eye-opening accounts, news reports and documentaries on this.

http://www.collective-evolution.com/2013/08/23/20-medical-studies-that-prove-cannabis-can-cure-cancer/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/25/marijuana-cancer_n_4158865.html

http://www.cnn.com/2014/01/15/health/cannabis-landon-riddle/


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