Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Respecting Our World Results In Greater Self Respect

When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.—Aldo Leopold

What is true to live in America today? We are a nation of $18 trillion dollars of personal debt. In the last few years we have accumulated an additional $260 billion dollars of foreign deficit to the $1.5 trillion dollars already owed. We continue to sink further into this black hole. We live in a land where our government has subcontracted (outsourced) energy, environmental, labor, health and even our voting machines to private interests. Inequality, injustice, and inhumanity seem to be the by-products of a nation that generates 18 billion tons of materials each, but we are unable to measure how regrettable our nation's greed impacts on those less fortunate—especially the land and its creatures. We are facing an inner form of poverty by the denial implicit in our actions.

Our very democracy is in question since our quality of life reflects are country's inability to be fully honest with itself. Our addiction to material things has created a culture of denial. As an alcoholic who bottoms out, we must undergo some form of intervention and rehabilitation. We must get past our "affluence and effluence." We need to undergo a moral balance sheet to undergo a national inventory, and also acknowledge there must be a bottom line to our consumer driven insanity.

Recovery = Discovery: All I have control over are my own self-choices. Creating sacred relationship gives me both greater purpose and a richer life. When I remember my interconnection with the earth, I feel a profound sense of joy. All indigenous beliefs do not separate themselves from their surroundings. Understanding my link with all things provides me with a sense of harmony and well being. When I expand my consciousness and am aware of my interdependency with everyone and everything in this world, I am liberated from my ego self. Can we deny our dependency upon this world to survive? Simply, the world is a greater extension of ourselves. Can we possibly deny this link? If we separate ourselves from our world, then we disconnect our soul from our own very nature.

We come from the land; we must breathe, eat, drink, and eventually return to this earth. Modern life has created many illusions that contradict our true relationship by placing us indoors most of the time. We are hardly ever in nature. Any interaction with our natural environment represents our coming back to our first home.

Shakespeare said, action is eloquence. Our decision-making process allows us the possibility for new freedom. Any action that defends our environment is similar to a mother protecting her child. Harmony in this world is not about sacrifice but demonstrating appreciation for our Gaia who encompasses us. As we make the shift from being consumers to becoming true citizens, we can excel to a higher level of democracy, particularly by motivating others to take action. As each one of us develops greater compassion, wonder, sensitivity, respectfulness, courage, love, appreciation, tenacity, and gratitude, we can fully engage in the kind of stewardship that is calling to us now.

A new dimension of our environmental mindset sees that trees have equal standing with people. Without the one there can not be the other. Deforestation, stripping mountaintops, land filling wetlands, and numerous other forms of reckless environmental exploitation may satisfy human needs in the short run, but will rob future generations of life. An emerging spirit intent on improving our environment will stimulate life-affirming and life enhancing choices.

Our surroundings provide us with both our physical needs (drinking water, garden soil and air to breath) as well as aesthetic and recreational benefits. It benefits us, therefore, to preserve these benefits; it so obviously makes moral sense. Such a natural relationship is so meaningful that, for many individuals, it borders on worship and divinity.

Conserving, preserving and protecting our environment is tied to the very notion of human excellence. Humans can demonstrate their virtue and cause the human experience to flourish by promoting a healthier relationship with our planet. Just a simple act like riding a bicycle instead of driving a car serves to better our world. Any action that directly promotes the well being of the larger ecological community serves to show our gratitude for the earth. Any choices we make that will lessen, for example, the threat of further habitation fragmentation and biodiversity loss, represent investments in resources for the future. Any way we can better this planet directly betters ourselves.

We all act as environmental role models when we choose to become sustainable in our everyday lives. By engaging in a greater environmental ethic, we can feel certain we are doing the right thing, and for the right reasons. Moreover, environmental virtue provides the sensitivity and wisdom necessary for incorporating action-guiding rules and principles to concrete situations. Developing sensitivity is a requirement in determining which rules or principles are applicable to a specific situation. And out of this sensitivity, we will know which course of action is recommended given the nature of any crisis that will arise. Juggling between conflicting moral dilemmas, we must value a more wholesome lifestyle if we are going to prosper in these very stressful times. The more we show respect for our surroundings, the greater self-respect we will behold!

Freedom Is a Green Diet

What life choices we make is linked to our very freedom. We Americans must become lean and green. A green liberation movement will show us how we can become more responsible, and how we can grow our ability to be ecologically responsive. Simply, if we engage in wholesome action that is beneficial to all, we become less imprisoned by our harmful habits. We must shift from being consumers to becoming conservers. We must embrace a green diet, lessening both our waste and waists.

Yes, we must eat more GREENS! This is rabbit food not rabid food to lessen our country's chances of HEART ATTACK. An ethic of obesity must now change to a more wholesome diet for the sake of the planet. When we take care of the world, we help ourselves. Since what goes around, comes around, our individual actions directly have consequences that reflect back on us. Over-consuming on our planet creates lots of personal and global suffering besides breaking the collective heart.

The results of human overindulgence are clear. Excessive overeating can lead not only to obesity, but also to all other health dangers that result from obesity—a fact well documented. Four of our leading causes of death in America are related to overweight, poor diet and lack of exercise. These include the three leading closely related causes of death—heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes. Nature deficit syndrome is another health issue. As we become more disconnected from our ecosystems we participate less often in various enjoyable physical activities. Less physical activity results in less energy, and a vicious cycle of declining physical activity and health occurs.

As a responsible society, we must prevent a double-standard where we say one thing but act differently. To proclaim that we support a reduction of global warming, and then to purchase a car that is energy inefficient, is hypocritical. We waste our good drinking water to make our lawns greener. We buy bottle water, thereby creating billions of plastic bottles. To be truly free, our deeds must be consistent with our words. If we give our best to the world, we will enjoy many happy returns!

Today's culture provides us many opportunities to reduce waste by simply reducing our consumption. Less can become best! Using less food, water, paper, plastic, oil and any other natural resource just requires an awakening that all things are valuable. Walking, using public transportation, or riding a bicycle can result in a greater sense of belonging to our community. We must not reinforce consumerism, but realize the psychic benefits of sustainable citizenship. Can we develop new environmental behavior based on supporting biological needs, instead of reinforcing greed and apathy?

The fundament human challenge is how we perceive our environment. Are we are separate from or a part of our planet? A tangle of pathology happens because we keep thinking we need more material things to feed our anxiety, and because we feel threatened by our natural world. Many environmentally minded individuals are raising America's consciousness to address climate change and other ecological concerns. We can become reconnected with life, and less anxious.

America's very pursuit of happiness is in question. We the people are the precious agents; only we can preserve our land and our spirit. The United States cannot afford to create more CO2, as well as all the other pollutants impacting not only our well being but life itself. We can lead others by example, so that India, China and others may collectively prosper by a reduced carbon path. Such preservation is vital to our sanity, our peace, and the possibility of a promising future.

In our collective pursuit of happiness, we must understand how we create global suffering. There are very serious human consequences when we engage in destructive habits whose roots are greed, arrogance and indifference. We need to see beyond the price of things, we need to value of nature's intrinsic worth—a worth that may be expressed more in aesthetic or spiritual terms.

Our consciousness must evolve to the point where we see ecological persuasions that make sense to our human self-interest. Then a connection can be made wherein we know that human health is a part of our ecosphere. We can see our world as a greater extension of ourselves when we become deeply in touch with nature and life. Our human survival depends on a healthy environment that preserves the native flora and fauna. To flourish in our physical environment humans must create healthy boundaries. This need is a moral concern since any self-interest that does not take into account the larger world, has serious ethical questions.

As we lessen our desire to consume, we find a new liberation. As we curb our obsessive hunger, a new form of prosperity will unfold. Our waste of oil, coal, water, metals, and other resources threatens America's democracy. It is both self destructive and globally reckless to over-consume.

There is a strong connection between increased well being, happiness and our national security. Thrift, generosity, sharing and other wholesome measures promote freedom. Wasteful consumption violates the very values this nation was founded on. We have a choice to become free. Our spiritual survival is dependent on our understanding of our connection with the earth and our appropriate responses. Such action is an act of kindness that benefits all things. Courage becomes evident only when we quiet our minds and listen to our hearts. Once we show a reverence for conserving can we then begin to celebrate. Let's take the H from the end of eartH and place in front spelling Heart, since they are one and the same!

Saving American Oil: Beknighted States of Hysteria

On December 10th, former Vice President, Al Gore said in his acceptance speech for his Nobel Peace Prize, “So today, we dumped another 70 million tons of global-warming pollution into the thin shell of atmosphere surrounding our planet, as if it were an open sewer.” In The United States, we can certainly better use and conserve our oil. Each year we use hundreds of billion gallons of the world’s petroleum supplies. Yearly, Americans use over 7 billion barrels of oil products. Since the USA constitutes 4% of the world’s population, uses over 25 % of the world’s oil, and produces 22% of climate-altering CO2, surely we must assume responsibility for the use and conservation of this precious, and finite, resource.

Just five days earlier, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee passed a bill (S.2191) to address climate change establishing a national cap-and-trade system to limit the amount of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to 70 percent of 2005 levels by 2050, thanks to the leadership of one lone Republican, Senator, JohnWarner who is retiring from my home state. He commented, “The United States simply has to lead on this issue. We are the superpower in the world, and we've got to use our status.”

Now in this same week, you would hope the Democrats, who have a majority in Congress, would pass better fuel efficiency standards: knowing Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards (called CAFÉ) is a no-brainer. There are many reasons why CAFÉ standards have failed in the past. Both auto manufacturers and unions have opposed attempts to impose higher fuel-efficiency standards because they insist that this conservation measure would cut manufacturing jobs. Do we know today how many American jobs serve to conserve oil instead of wasting it?

The powerful Washington lobby currently offset their low mileage trucks and SUVs with cars that sell for far less but get better mileage. So automakers do not want a provision to separate cars and trucks from this 35-mpg requirement and changing their present fleet-wide average, a practice that the Senate bill would stop. Carmakers also have an advocate, Chairman John Dingell of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. His district is home to Ford Motors. Dingell advocates that trucks and cars must continue to be treated differently when considering fuel efficiency for economic reasons.

We can do better. A recent report released by Citi's Equity & Debt Research group1 explored the five-year earnings impacts of changes to the CAFE program. This report found that stricter fuel efficiency standards would result in most automakers' earnings largely unaffected by the CAFE standards in the 2012 time horizon. Also some companies, like GM, could gain as much as $0.25 per share. Finally such CAFÉ standards can be implemented "with modest additions of existing technologies" and will likely be "most beneficial to GM and least beneficial to Chrysler."

I am ashamed at how we in the USA continue wasting our black gold. Remember the oil crisis in the late 70’s? Back, in 1981 I helped build a used oil recycling plant that now has recycled over a hundred million gallons of old crankcase oil into new oil. Back then I bought my first new car--a Toyota Starlet that got 42 miles per gallon on the highway. It seemed the right thing to do.

Yes I am upset! On average, every man, woman and child in the United States uses three gallons of oil every day. As a nation, we daily consume 20 million barrels of oil or 840 million gallons. One trillion gallons of oilfield waste we inject into deep wells, in addition to the 3 billion tons of oil and gas wastes we generate yearly by our oil and gas exploration and production in the USA. One-sixth of the world's oil production is used for transportation purposes in the United States. Transportation accounts for two out of three of those gallons. Almost 300 million barrels of oil could be saved each year by raising U.S. auto-efficiency standards by 2.75 miles per gallon. If the tires of all cars on U.S. roads were properly inflated, it would save an estimated 2 billion gallons of gas each year. [2]

Just look at a simple thing like traffic congestion that wastes over 2 billion gallons of fuel each year. Just in Northern Virginia, we collectively drive 42 million miles each day. In 1980, 64.4 percent of us drove to work alone; in 2000 it was 75.7 percent. Carpooling dipped from 19.7 percent to 12.2 percent in the same years. Transit use went from 6.2 percent to 4.6 percent, while walking dropped from 5.6 percent to 2.9 percent. Today over 60 percent our oil is imported from OPEC, while in 1980, it was 37 percent showing another alarming trend [3].

We may face another 100 million American residents in the next 35 years. Such growth is frightening. Now let’s see what becomes of Senate and House CAFE legislation. Can we boost vehicle mileage standards by 40 percent to 35 miles per gallon by 2020 or maybe earlier? CAFÉ also calls for the standards to be progressively implemented starting with the 2011 model year. How much oil Americans can conserve depends only on when enough citizens become outraged and demand action, or we run dry. If India and China follow our example then watch out.

Senator Dirksen, whom one of the senate buildings is named after, once said, “The oil can is mightier than the sword.” Now we Americans face a deadly world neighborhood. We have to play a game of kick the can, but now with an oil drum. Yes, we are red, white and blue petro-addicts. We need serious treatment with “Oil Anonymous” meetings everywhere to work on our denial, inventory and salvation. We certainly need help from a higher power. I pray we recover and do better than we did since our first oil crisis 30 years ago. It took 125 years to consume the first trillion barrels of oil. It's estimated that the next trillion will be used up in just 30 years. Isn’t it healthy if we became honest with ourselves and discover what economy truly means?

Monday, November 26, 2007

Benefit of the Doubt

Since 9/11 the United States has spent half a trillion dollars combating terrorism to safeguard our nation. Now a greater crisis presents itself: the destruction of our planet. The recent United Nation's International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Report released on November 17th urges immediate action. "The Synthesis Report" is the final IPCC report after five years of study concluding that global warming is "unequivocal," temperatures have risen 1.3 F in the last 100 years, and that human activity is largely responsible for warming.

More alarming is that we must act immediately. "If there's no action before 2012, that's too late," said Rajendra Pachauri, head IPCC scientist and economist. "What we do in the next two to three years will determine our future. This is the defining moment."

Why should we quickly respond? This report documents the following: about 20 percent to 30 percent of all plant and animal species face the risk of extinction if temperatures increase 2.7 °F; by 2020. Seventy-five (75) million to 250 million people in Africa will suffer water shortages. Residents of Asia's large cities will be at great risk of river and coastal flooding. Europeans can expect extensive species loss. And North Americans will experience longer and hotter heat waves and greater competition for water. More GHG emissions could bring "abrupt and irreversible" changes, such as the loss of ice sheets in the poles, and a corresponding rise in sea levels by several yards.

Most Americans do not understand what is happening. A tipping point is occurring regarding climate change. This means conditions are getting worse then first reported. Some scientists have stated that even this IPCC report could be out of date as new data continues to come in. There is an alarming amount of new evidence coming from science. For example, there has been a faster than expected increase in industrial development in China and India. Economic growth has stimulated more coal burning than was assumed when this study was first done. Global emissions, largely human based, have grown 70 percent from 1970 to 2004. Eleven of the last 12 years have been the warmest since 1850.

The IPCC chairman, Rajendra Pachauri, said that since the IPCC began work on its current report five years ago, scientists have recorded "much stronger trends in climate change," like a recent melting of polar ice that had not been predicted. "That means you better start with intervention much earlier."

Given this information can we give the benefit of the doubt to this issue of climate change? Is this crisis the most pressing one facing us? It is safe to assume that we determine the fate of our very future. Let's not err!



Saturday, November 24, 2007

Food- Thoughtless or For Thought

Today there is a cost for our rich harvest of food. We enjoy foods from the four quarters of the world, yet we have little understanding of the impact from this daily Thanksgiving. When things are out of season, we can go to the other half of the globe to supply us. Also for this abundance of fruits, vegetables, diary products, grains, fish and meats we expand enormous amount of energy and waste. Because of this bounty we are robbing Peter to pay Paul.

A revolution in social consciousness is happening among tens of millions of Americans. Buying organic food is just one of the signs. The average American spends several thousands of dollars on food consumption, which is roughly 9 percent of our gross national product amounting to almost $900 billion dollars. With this astronomical cost in mind, it is important that the United States become more efficient with its processing, packaging, and transporting of food.

And, there are other forms of enormous waste in how we handle our food consumption. One third of all solid waste consists of food packaging. A typical family discards 10 to 15 percent of their food purchases in the form of packaging. Food travels on the average of 1,400 miles before reaching those eating it. Just think of the carbon price we pay to send our food this far?

Meat is a perfect case in point. Not only the amount of water to raise grains in order to feed animals, but an additional millions and millions of gallons of water are polluted by these farm animals that are raised to be dinner. Added to these problems in producing meat products for human consumption are the antibiotics and hormones used to protect the animals from disease (thereby protecting humans as well) and to quicken the process of animal growth.

Another problem caused by the way we make our food production comes from the use of chemicals, additives, preservatives, pesticides, and herbicides intended to kill weeds, insects and other pests. All these measures have dire impact on human health and the health of our environment. The cumulative affect is difficult to calculate. One example alone: Pesticides cost US farmers $4 billion annually to use, are estimated to cause $2-4 billion in health and environmental damages, including an estimated 20,000 cases annually of cancer caused by pesticides.

Some Americans are responding to this crisis by buying food locally and in season. Also, people are buying food in bulk. Citizens are demanding more organic food. Organic farming has become an $8 billion dollar a year industry with sales growing 20-25 percent per year.

We are seeing here in the Shenandoah Valley an emergence of this kind of change. Growing local, more organic food is greatly expanding. The future of how Americans become more conscious of their connection to food means the quicker we are going to help our earth. Americans spend roughly 15 percent of their disposable income on food while compared with Europeans who spend 24 percent of their money.

One web site cites the following

"In terms of global emissions, agriculture is believed to be responsible for 25% of CO2, 65% of methane and 90% of nitrous oxide emitted. Modern processes such as use of machinery over man and animal power, global trading and increased use of fertilizers and other so called "agro-chemicals" has already made agriculture an energy intensive process in the developed world and is still in the process of doing the same thing in the developing world."

Thousands of scientists say we have to reduce our carbon emissions in the next several decades up to 80 percent. If the U.S. can accomplish this level of reduction, we may well become an example of such frugality to China and India, two countries that are quickly becoming leading users of carbon and food. Our agricultural systems are tied closely to our energy and transportation systems and integrated with the overall food-processing industry. We have to quickly make ingenious plans on how we can best do more with less.

We as a nation can make a difference in changing our agricultural production if we explore our agrarian roots and then find the right context to plant for our future. Time, resources, oil prices and climate change will all play their part.

Another key factor will be how well we can work together, and not separately — a critical issue for our future agricultural prosperity. Success can only happen if we create the proper vision. We have to omit certain luxuries we had in the past. We have to get real and be truthful if we are to pass on an agricultural legacy that will sustain an otherwise growing population of hungry people. Skillful choices will have to made, and much effort will be required so that we can face up to what we will have collectively identified as right choices for the good of all.

We have a crisis on our hands, and we have to generate new ideas about food intake and healthy diet patterns. We have to eat less, plan more, and be ingenious. This kind of awareness is not just food for thought; it is as much about being aware of how thoughtless we may be about our future food.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Hope with Less vs. Hopeless

To sustain ourselves each day we may plant seeds of hope. Doing so, offers us the power to refresh ourselves from the mental despair we daily have to endure. There are many threats to our world. There are many ways we can be destroyed. Whether it is widespread avian virus killing billions, or an asteroid destroying us, there are numerous possibilities threatening our demise. Whatever the future brings, we have one profound choice regarding ourselves. Either we can be self destructive, or we can be constructive. We are at a crossroads of fostering either hope or despair. If we are to perish as a species, we can face our demise with either grace or cowardice. Believing that we are here for a limited time can be fundamental to how we can lead a happier life. I believe if we can decide to use less, make less, and be more harmless, then, even when we do exit this earth we can leave as guests who gave this place more love then what was here when we came.

2500 United Nation scientists warn that carbon emissions must end in seven years to avoid killing as many as a quarter of the planet's species as a result global warming. This Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that won the 2007 Nobel Prize along with Al Gore, cites that a 3 to 4 degree increase in temperature on our planet represents a matter of life and death to humans and as well as most other living things. These scientific findings are terrifying. They are real possibilities pointing to vast and significant devastation of a wide variety of communities on Earth. Now the question is, can we humans rework our industrial, agricultural, transportation and human processes to cool things down?

We are now in our second planetary climate change era. We know the earth is unstable, and we may experience again what happened 55 million years ago when the planet had its first climatic crisis. Our planet has experienced mass extinction before and it is happening again. We are now realizing that we have met the enemy, and it is us. We need to make concerted global actions, and change the way we as individuals live. The most powerful thing each of us can do is to change our lifestyle and become more graceful.

There is no question that our planet is warming, and as our population explodes, so will our problems. If we can learn to do more with less,we will begin to adapt. Less is the mantra. Less stuff, less worries, less hurry. We are just at the tip of a melting iceberg impacting human souls for a long time. Billions of us are attempting to survive on a few dollars a day. Over a billion people do not have potable water. Yes our past history has been filled with tremendous adversity and unstable weather patterns and events.

Technological solutions will only work if they are complemented by human action in slowing down carbon emissions. We lose the war on waste when we grow out of control. We have to grow up and learn that we can only win the battle by conserving.

What is involved is a shift in perspective that some people find very difficult to do. You can argue that our exploding human population might be considered a positive thing, that with more minds we have a greater possibility of solving our problems. But this is a fallacious argument. A mind set of fighting fire with fire is only rarely successful. It usually just produces more flames. We need to understand there are no simple solutions. More with less is about addressing the issues of population planning. Promoting worldwide birth control addresses a fundamental question, "when is enough too much?"

Creating hope with less is about focusing into the cause of our problems. Developing a solution is complex and difficult because we have to change our culture and our personal habits in many different ways.

Why are these solutions so difficult and complex? First our culture is based on more, not less. Also, we have created an almost invisible addiction to consumption. The way we live is has become ingrained in our brains. We have become habitual in the way we consume. Changing ourselves will inevitably cause us to feel uneasy and uncomfortable. Resistance will be formidable.

Cultural change is something that does not occur easily. Why? Altering personal beliefs and behaviors just does not happen overnight. We are hard wired animals, and to adopt new behaviors requires practice that does not quickly happen. So to change our way of living in accordance with new understandings requires many alterations to be inplace and aligned. Deep change is what is required before such a shift can happen. Individuals with radical ideas are the instruments that revolutionize civilizations.

What is also frightening is the reality that most people tend to rely on others to do what is needed doing in crisis. Relying on the government, elected officials, corporations, and the rich to rescue us, is a perspective beginning to be questioned. And there is a prevailing naïve view that anything man made can also be easily undone. Just as believing that technology will solve our problems so too is this perspective that our salvation will come from our leaders, without much individual struggle and effort on our part a naïve idea.

Some Christian's view the "rapture" as a prospect for saving the "good people," thus removing our troubles is also a notion that must be questioned as perhaps a too simple and easy response. Also, the New Age movement suffers a similar fallacy, believing that some Future Being will show up and give us the answer. One thing is if for sure, if we do not each attempt to save ourselves by using less no one else will.

Hope Comes from Asking the Right Questions and Becoming a Change Agent

The challenge for changing our culture comes most exacerbated by the American Dream mentality, the "American Way of Life." Strong societal pressure defines a way of life. Our democracy has become a"deadocracy" because "we" the people have become "they" the people. Freedom is lacking because Americans have fallen asleep to the concept of responsibility.

We must begin to live with less in order to practice a more sustainable way of life. This is not an especially new idea. People have been doing it since ancient times. Such earth-based wisdom is what we need to return to. And we are better equipped today in understanding how we are all interconnected, a part of a greater web of life in which all things as sacred.

Can we awaken to ways that are nurturing and healing, rather than controlling and punishing? Are not humans and the natural systems inter-penetrated and interdependent, and not separate? Can we develop a synergistic lifestyle combining cultural, religious, and economic systems into a sustaining of abundance in our natural environment?Failing to protect this world for future generations and all of life,we will go insane, falling into a state of permanent hopelessness that will destroy us as if we were infected by a psychological virus. But if we can grow the new thinking to the point of a critical mass of people filled with hope and determination, we can achieve the new way of viewing the world, and thereby maintain a future for human populations well into the future.

Hope is powerful idea. Without our new world-view, everything deteriorates. Each one of us acting in concert can alter our culture. Our governments or our corporations cannot accomplish this. A grass roots prescription is our only real hope. Less is more. Ingenuity and creativity are seeds for our future. We have to get out of this book of "status quo" and experiment with many solutions in innovative ways beyond what we know.

We must shift from a culture of "information" to one of "wisdom." The wisdom we apply to the issues of practice and sustainability will come about when we act out of the inspired idea of the sacredness of all things.

We have a choice. We can give up, and believe our situation is hopeless, or we can exercise hope and practice living with less. No matter the outcome the only thing that matters is what each one of us does with our life. We have the ability to create our own heaven or hell depending on how we relate to all things. We use them either in a sacrilegious or sacred way.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Uniting Heart and Mind

Let us celebrate a new stage in our journey Oneness. We are at the point of merging our creative and rational aspects. Our very spiritual survival is at stake. As we become more intimate with our surroundings and ourselves we can experience a richer level of wisdom. Integrating the intuitive with the logical self is a life-long challenge.

There are many times when how I feel and what I think are in conflict within me. Sometimes I get far too deeply into my head, and forget to have my feet touching the ground. Bridging the right brain with the left brain is a balancing act.

Recently a friend posed a challenging question to me: "How do you market clean water to the public in some tangible way?" This inquiry raised many insights for me. How do you take something that appears to be no more than an idea and reframe it into a physical act? People may not be inclined to save water until they run out of it. Waiting to the last second to do something, is being reactive. To be proactive we must constantly reexamine our relationship to our world. The mysterious puzzle we call life, is about seeing all the intricate connections and the ways we all can re-connect.

It is remarkable to observe the emotional issues of what water means to different people. How do we reconcile our feelings about clean water with our rational side? For example, the situation of four consistent years of fish-kills here on the Shenandoah River where I live, upsets me at deep level.

At such times, simply for the sake of self-protection, I am apt to divorce my emotions from affecting my rational mind. But when I bury my feelings, it hurts later. Our minds are tricky. Think about how we rationalize and intellectualize out of a very complicated defense system. We have spent years protecting and fortifying our egos.

Making our dreams become reality is difficult when our heart is in one place and our mind is in another. In Eastern cultures, heart and mind are one. The very root definition of courage comes from this union. A true awakening into the nature of our mind is the only way for us to become liberated from our manipulating ego-response mechanism. This is a huge challenge, which sooner or later, before we die, we must confront. The thought of death, with its matching emotions, can do much to get us to the bottom-line of what is truly important. Facing the issue of death is such a humbling and purifying experience. Attempting a deeper examination in regard to our mortality, helps to transform personal attitudes.

We are a society filled with information; but this does not necessarily translate into much of a vision. Yes, we have also sorts of knowledge; but this does not mean we are wiser, just better educated. For me, nothing substitutes life experience. At the present I believe the people of this country are awakening to how they feel, and are attempting to integrate their feelings with their minds.

Venturing into our psyche requires an extraordinary effort. It takes courage to explore below the surface of things and go deeper into areas were the average person might not feel comfortable. A shift in this journey comes when we can awaken from our fears and allow a sense of compassion to come forward that will lead us to greater self-actualization. Once we feel whole instead of feeling separate, we know then that our brain and our heart have aligned.

Today, it seems our society is moving faster and faster. Increased population and more technological development; has caused overwhelming pressures. Many things from economic pressures to simple daily challenges are overwhelming people. Also, we have become a heady society, spending most of our time in our minds and less time feeling what is going on in our bodies. This shift is a source of much of our suffering and self-destructive tendencies. When we lose sight of out true self, not only do we become blind but we delude our very soul. Such delusion can cause serious mental breakdown and disease.

Where or when does the surf meet the turf when it comes to balancing our intuition with our rational mind? We have become a society addicted to facts and science in one sense, but in another how we feel truly rules us. If we begin to foster great insight we will find a treasure chest of new ways to view our world and how we can relate to it. Such exploration—better observing what is going on—can lead us to a harmonious understanding of how everything is interconnected, not disconnected.

We are at the threshold of new possibilities when we can find new approaches to merging our hearts with our minds. This holistic process brings us unity allowing us more balance and greater peace of mind/body. Keeping our creative and rational selves separated from each other causes much suffering. See for yourself whether this is true. Check within and sense if things are disconnected and have no relationship with each other. This is the ultimate inquiry.

Why unite our hearts with our minds? All of us want to belong and we long for ways to become more intimate. Does not everyone want to feel alive? Merging together our creative and our rational sides makes us whole, not fragmented or compartmented. Everything in life is interdependent and connected in some way, shape or form. Simply, this venture comes down to loving oneself and knowing that all things are one and the same. Finding the One in all things instead of the sum of the parts takes practice. We live in a culture that promotes individuality, independence, and many concepts that divide instead of join.

It takes boundless heart to make this journey of integration. And it requires one to be vulnerable, allowing one to tamper with one's defense shield. However, if we can find the inspiration and intention of our passion, we can shed light on the darkness that haunts us. As Shakespeare said, "Cowards die many times." I say, "It is time to remove ourselves from fear of death. It is time to fully live life!" Some would say two brains are better then one. This notion brings to mind a phrase from E.E. Cummings, which I choose to paraphrase – "benighted states of hysteria."

May you become more intimate discovering your integrated self and celebrate the joy of this journey. Courage becomes evident only when we quiet our mind and listen to our heart. Let us connect the "h" from the end of the word earth with the "h" in front of the word heart—"eartheart"—since they are one and the same!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Peace Now

The most important thing I struggle with in my life is to become peaceful with myself. War in our world begins at home. For me, I must welcome unconditional surrender, and lessen how I create my own suffering. When I embrace my shadows, and cultivate inner kindness, inner peace becomes more possible. I find that I must accept, not resist, what is true. Showing up and dealing with my issues works much better for me then avoiding them. However, knowing when it is a good time to address my inner demons is something that takes skill. Being kind with myself is a work in constant progress. Just because I feel uncomfortable does not mean I must run from things. Sometimes my cowardice comes back to haunt me. Nurturing a deeper soulful relation with myself, I will be able to become whole and happy. I can find more pleasure with my life when I find how to perform a careful examination of what truly causes me discomfort and how to best address it. This critical development is all about healing, praying, spending time in nature and finding friends to support me.

Such an inner transformation has profound implications for the outer physical work we must constantly be reminded to do. Violence and war in our outer work is so prevalent. Even though we may be in a serene setting such things as the way we drive our cars, talk to one another or even run around conveys bellicose acts.

After much searching and exploring the source of my despair I have realized one thing. All I can do is cultivate my own peace and lead by example . Without some understanding of myself my problems and the world's problems will not go away. I write this struggling with my own life and future. My self education is not just about becoming better at what I do but to address my most fundamental challenge, what I fear most in myself. I cannot find peace if I do not go into myself and see or become more intimate with my soul. What truly is intimacy? Intimacy means to me that I must trust myself and come closer to what is true. Such familiarity calls for many forms of spiritual practice.

The more I can embrace my stress and anxiety as well as the world's, the more harmonious I live. Without my individual awakening to the separation between myself and the world, only suffering occurs, and I sense that our own fears will haunt us until we address them. Only then can the possibility of peace begin.

To find my peace in the world, I must remember to constantly practice inner peace. Developing this mental calm comes through accumulating both understanding and knowledge to keep myself strong in the face of dissatisfaction, stress, or anxiety. Being "at peace" keeps me in better health, and without being "at peace" the opposite happens, and I experience unhealthy stress and anxiety.

There are many forms of violence from which to learn. One of the greatest terrors is how we disconnect ourselves from our world. We humans are part of, not separate from, the other 30 million diverse species on this planet. Can we acknowledge that ultimately the land owns us; we do not own it? The more we all can search our souls to live in harmony the greater we counter the hysteria of terror. We now are at the crossroads to either respect or disregard our delicate world. Just the simple act of caring or showing kindness has a tremendous ripple effect. Each one of us must cultivate more compassionate relationships because we all share the same future. Can we as a people have the courage to find deeper truths and explore what is calling for attention?

We must invest in non-violence and more sustainable ways so to support the cultivation not the devastation of land, cultures, indigenous people, species, and ecosystems. Can we shift our culture that depletes to one that replenishes? Finally, non-violence must be also promoted in our media since the press must be careful not to reinforce further violence.

Our prosperity on this tiny planet will only continue when we develop a renewed respect for what we have here and now. Certainly we must show tough love and protect ourselves from those wishing to harm us. Non-violent action will happen when together we pray, meditate and work towards future life. If we can shift from a society that supports violence to one that fosters peace then we may develop a new sense of hope over the despair and alienation many of us feel.

We will continue to be tormented until we come together with kinder acts that benefit all things on this fragile Earth. We are no longer separate individuals but a part of a greater whole. We must now act with grace to behold what we have been blessed with. Our freedom will only flourish when we evolve from our own personal interests to a global effort to insure our survival. This earth and we are both one and the same. Suffering is no fun. I must remember ways to listen, have faith, relax, show grace and celebrate my boundless heart. By accepting what is, and changing what I can, I liberate myself and enter a peaceful place.

"Each one has to find his peace from within. And peace to be real must be unaffected by outside circumstances." - Mahatma Gandhi

There are countless ways for us to discover how to be at peace. The following are several examples:

1. Cultivate thoughts and actions that respect's life with reverent reflection and mindful action.

2. Learn new ways to cherish, not destroy things. Explore the self-concept of less "me" and act as more of a holistic "we".

3. Remember to observe my relationships instead of judging them.

4. Learning to apply an attitude of being "with" instead of "against" in the appropriate settings. Learn that in death we embrace life's new possibility.

5. Enjoying each moment with wonder and care.

6. Appreciating life's harmony and interrelationships.

7. Accepting blessings curses, loss, adversity and success as the same.

8. To love all things including oneself with divine reverence.

9. "Praying together" instead of "preying on others" by learning to build bridges instead of walls and speak to what can be of mutual benefit.

10. Awaken in my meditation by breathing in compassion and exhaling pain, frustration, exhaustion, anger, or disappointment.

11. Focus and accept the "right now" with what is right, not what is wrong.

12. Practice showing my love for all things, sharing my joy and seeing that life is balanced by the positive and the negative.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Why Conservation Matters

Why does conserving make a difference? If our nation is to become greener we also most become leaner. Simply put, if we wish to prosper we need to become ingenious and waste less. Every time we become thrifty we celebrate a new American Revolution. Not only are we emulating Paul Revere, the silver recycler, and George Washington, the composter, we are showing respect for all our relations as do our Native Americans. Conservation matters because new Natives now wish to renew this value, namely, that saving our land is paramount to everything we believe in.

It is time we defined what tough love is, and start to insure that we take care of ourselves by being tough with ourselves. The question is, can we change our destructive consumerist patterns? Can Americans awaken to the idea that economics is about saving, not wasting things? Is it possible for conservatives and liberals to work together to lessen, not increase our waste? I believe the answer is yes. However we must go through a form of emotional recovery to discover why we indulge in this present insane culture of consumption.

It is all about ecology and economy. "Eco" comes from the Greek meaning house and it is time to do some serious cleaning both inside and out. A new prosperous frontier awaits America if we can revolt and become thrifty, and not just be consumers.

I have been fortunate to be a participant in several conservation tipping points, and I have observed that Americans can change self-destructive habits. Ironically, we have the hardware and the physical ability to change our habits, but somehow our mental software is impaired. Our conditioned habits rule us without regard for our larger body, the earth.

It is evident that both government and capitalism are addicted to consuming. In order for us to begin the process of recovery, we must develop some market-based controls for wasteful greed. We must provide incentive to save. The Federal government must be the first to change this "use it or lose it" way of going about its fiscal business, before we go out of business. For example, Congressman Waxman cited on February 7, 2007, " Who in their right mind would send 363 tons of cash into a war zone." Another instance of mismanagement is the case in which our $1 billion contract to train Iraqi police has little or no oversight in the form of receipts for work done. We must champion best management practices and create cost controls and good asset accounting.

Maybe we should label ourselves anxious consumers, and start an Anxiety Anonymous program modeled after other successful treatment programs of addiction. I am a 50-year old white American male committed to recovery. I have spent most of my life in the Washington DC area, and have observed that this region is the universal champion of waste. Our nation's capitol shows a regional carbon footprint that uses more materials than the whole nation of Sweden whose population is 23% larger. We have a "design to waste" governmental policy of spending wastefully known by insiders as "use it or lose it."

No other society has ever wasted more, and has affected our environment so much by rapacious acts of consumption. Our challenge now is how do we become better accountable, how do we manage our dwindling supplies of resources. We have created impending disaster by not becoming natural capitalists.

For more than fifty years, we have been mindless consumers, but now we are offered the choice to be more mindful conservers. In the last half century our population has doubled. The harmful use and disposal of our resources needs to be called into question, especially by our federal government. Why is this so important? Our consumerist driven society has created serious consequences affecting future generations, and the fate of other living creatures and plant life. We must awaken to the curse human impact has wrought upon the earth. We must come to see life and the earth that nourishes life as a blessing and not an object to exploit. Recognizing these blessings, we are able to experience the great harmony that exists in the intricate web of life.

One perfect example of how we must become more accountable is how we can best manage the by-products of energy. For example, America must improve all aspects of how we use and dispose of oil. Americans use 20,730,000 barrels per day¹ One trillion gallons of oilfield waste are injected into deep wells each year in the U.S. As auto consumers, we yearly throw away 400 million gallons of used oil and 300 million oil filters in the United States. We comprise less than 5 percent of the world's population, but consume 25 percent of all oil produced. Our present usage of fossil fuels makes us appear more like fossil fools.

America has become the prime example throughout the globe of wasteful behavior. Our excessive consumption has created a tidal wave of environmental destruction, transcending our borders and directly impacting the health and prosperity of people of all over this planet. Only when we can address the issues of human needs and environmental needs by integrating them into a natural symbiosis can we achieve political and economic stability. Once we walk our talk, we can once again win the diplomatic respect of the global community, at last showing that American democracy works.

I estimate Americans use, discard and recycle more than 17 billion tons of waste, not including nuclear and hazardous waste. There is an "out of sight, out of mind" violence happening in our "waste mentality" culture. This "out of sight" attitude threatens our very well being, a form of waste that hides itself in many ways. We must detect the consequences by tracking waste more completely and responsibly. Yes, more people recycle than vote in the U.S., but we still tend to value "ending" over "mending." I am not just talking about appliances, but people, places and things. Our very freedom is in question until we awaken from the nightmarish myth that we have a limitless supply of goods, and the right to do whatever we wish, which ultimately brings harm to others—for the most part outside of our awareness.

Yankee ingenuity must be reborn. There are millions of kind acts we can do that show we care for this land. We can bike or walk instead of drive. We can fill up the empty spaces in our refrigerators with bottles of water thereby reducing our electricity requirements—and our electricity bill as well. Water from our roofs can be captured in rain barrels for watering our plants. Promoting sustainable economic growth by transforming waste is an investment in our happiness. What we do affects our planet, and also impacts our very spirit.

Can we see that our natural resources are not separate from us but interconnected with human life? Without one we will not have the other. Yes conservation matters, and so does the America spirit. We are innovators who can improve our environment thus stimulate life-affirming and life- enhancing choices.

Conserving, preserving and protecting our environment is tied to the very notion of human excellence. Americans can demonstrate their virtue and make our human experience flourish by promoting a healthier relationship with our planet. Just the simple act of riding a bicycle instead of driving a car serves to better our world. Any choice that can lessen the threat of further habitation fragmentation and biodiversity loss is an investment in the future of our resources. Therefore, any way we can better this planet directly betters ourselves.

In this exciting time we can both give by conserving and receive by consuming. However, we must show respect for what we use, and if we pollute we must directly pay. Bury now pay latter is wrong. Our actions must show a new eloquence in our use resources for the sake of our future. We must connect and create wholesome feedback loops not to just change our behavior but to plant seeds rather than casting despair.

Our very freedom is in question until we awaken from the myth that we have a limitless supply of goods. Presently, the total wealth of the United States amounts to $70 trillion dollars. Congressman Ron Paul cites the impossibility of funding Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and prescription drug insurance, in total amounting to $71 trillion dollars. We must awaken from the error of spending what we do not have. This mismanagement takes many forms.

Let's show we respect our community and manage our resources more safely and thereby give hope to our world. In return we find such leadership gives us greater freedom and a peace of mind. Responsible action equates to greater possibilities. Creating sustainable business is a critical democratic challenge demonstrating that conservation matters.

Please question our culture of "effluent affluence" and take responsibility for your actions. We, the people, will only prosper if we become truly conservative and economical. A rich life does not necessarily translate into a richer life if we spoil future opportunities without better and more frugal management. Let's enjoy our life and profit from conserving so as to pass on a wonderful legacy for future generations.

Notes from Natural Capitalism
Hawken, Lovins, & Lovins 1999 Little,Brown

Natural capitalism as if living systems mattered (p 9)
* Environment is not minor factor of production.
* Economic development depends on natural capital to continue life-supporting services.
* Badly designed business systems, population growth and wasteful patterns of consumption are primary causes of loss of natural capital.
* Economic progress and sustainable economy relies on all forms of capital fully valued.
* Key to benefit people, money and environment is radical increases in resource productivity.
* Human welfare is best served by improving the quality and flow of desired services delivered.
* Economic and environmental sustainability depends on redressing global inequities of income and material well being.
* The best long-term environment for commerce is provided by true democratic systems of governance that are based on the needs of people rather than business.
Four central strategies of natural capitalism: 1) radical resource productivity; 2) biomimicry; 3) service and flow economy; and 4) investing in natural capital (pg 10)

¹CIA World Factbook, June 14, 2007

Monday, October 22, 2007

Why I Cultivate Gratitude

Appreciation allows me to walk a path of tremendous love and respect. Counting my blessings becomes a gift that keeps on sustaining me. Nothing can be more rejuvenating for me than expressing gratefulness for all the ways this life has been kind to me. Just maintaining a state of gratefulness re-energizes me, and moves me to shift my attitude so that I look for the silver lining in every cloud. Instead of looking at things as a curse, I can see them as the blessing they truly are.

The power of gratitude leads me to a greater sense of purpose, and a richer life. Invoking appreciation gives me a profound sense of joy, and links me with all things, filling me with a sense of harmony and well being.

This harmonious connection with life awakens in me the understanding that everything in my world is only alive in the present moment. As I empty myself of ego preoccupations with the past, and concerns over the future, I am truly awake to the moment, and in such times, I find in myself a feeling of greater compassion for my fellows. The act of compassionate gratitude is a form of stewardship that allows me to be more sensitive and respectful of people and nature. I become mindful and deal with all things in a sacred way. Cultivating this kind of relationship with life fosters a sense of devotion and divinity.

Appreciation creates for me a more wholesome mindset that reconnects me to the things I value most. Living this way creates a greater sense of possibility and freedom. My feeling of gratitude expands when I reflect on how all things must be respected. And I feel more humble as I observe the mysterious spirit of this world.

Exercising my gratitude is a wake-up call for me to remember what matters most. We live in a critical time, and how we can best deal with it comes into question. Awakening to how we can see each moment with a clear mind, as a new event, is an action I would define as "the attitude of gratitude." This approach not only liberates us from suffering, we become more mindful of the possibility of being truly open to all possibilities.

What do I appreciate right now? Can I hear the birds singing outside? Can I simply enjoy hearing my own heartbeat? How grateful am I to all those things life on this planet has given me? Do I cherish the food, shelter and other gifts? Let's say I have just moments to live, would I count my blessings? What would I wish to do to give my thanks? The very nature of my entire life and my liberation comes down to embracing these questions.

It seems much of my life has been enslaved by my unconscious acts. When I am only partially aware of my actions, I am truly as if asleep, and thus in some way imprisoned. My mind does one thing while my emotions feel conflicted because my decisions come from fear rather than from love. Where can I find the courage to change and allow my soul to become liberated? How can I learn to keep in mind that all things will pass, and to let go of my material world? To remember such a simple thing like coming home to the appreciation of life here and now, is the art I wish to cultivate. Today's world makes it so easy to fall into darkness. Why is that I am unconsciously afraid of allowing the greater light in? Am I paying attention to my senses? Or I am held captive by a self-destructive story of shame and loathing? Can I remember to listen not just to my own body but that greater one that connects all things? Reverence for this earth opens the door to my happiness and freedom.

To be free, I must change my various behaviors and attitudes that imprison me with negative and unwholesome consequences. Sticken thinken and paralysis analysis are the various ways I have recycled my past to curse my future. Only in the present moment I can pause and take a new course down a road toward light instead of journey off a cliff.

Next by relaxing and enjoying this changing process of becoming, seeing it as a labor of love, I can open myself to boundless potentials. Trusting in this PRO (Pause, Relax and Open) process, there is the emerging belief I will give birth to many magical possibilities, and not fall back to the same old I-am-the-victim, or the poor-me mindset. Just becoming enlightened enough to stop "should-ing" myself can be a wonderful first step.

I have the freedom to fully appreciate my life when I practice loving friendliness. This comes about only if I am mindful and exercise right intention to transform an abiding gratitude into action. How I train my mind to greet all beings and events with loving kindness, provides me with the opportunity of changing a curse into a blessing. First by identifying the various ways I create ill will, anger and judgment, and doing something positive about making a change in my attitude—only then do I have the chance to liberate myself. This is a form of action I call radical acceptance, and it can only happen when I constantly observe what is of benefit to all. By awakening to wholesome mind states, I can best go forth. And more, I will require patience to mindfully change some old habits and patterns. Finally, I have to show more tender loving care and forgiveness to my self as I engage in this transformational process.

So I return again to appreciation, and I count my blessings and take note of what I have in my life to be grateful for. When I awaken and show reverence through these actions, I prosper. Gratitude for me is about cultivating four skillful things:

*Showing up in the present moment.
*Paying attention to what has heart and meaning!
*Giving a positive voice to what I see!
*Remaining open to all possibilities while being unattached to outcome!

Appreciation is both a loving and a kind method of being with profound affects and effects. Developing my appreciation purifies me and offers me a sense of greater peace, and freedom. It's amazing how gratitude spreads when you're just grateful.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Coming Home to Nature

We live in a time in which we must find greater ways to mend our souls. Healing occurs for me when I become more intimate with nature. Feeling the soft earth beneath my feet renews my soul. When I venture outside and discover the wonder of the universe, I feel more whole. Such visits into the wild both refreshes and rejuvenates my spirit. A journey into a forest under a canopy of trees or to a local watershed provides me with a growing sense of well being.

Insights come to me from many non-ordinary experiences when I am in nature. I transcend ordinary perceptual boundaries. Being in nature connects me to the spirit of being. Otherwise, I am lost in a culture of affluence and effluence. In nature, I find comfort from sensing how my ancestors lived long ago. Just the simple act of digging into the ground and doing yard work while surrounded by the woods around my home does much to lessen my anxiety.

Another way I find refuge in the mystery of the wild is to listen to the subtle sounds of the woods. Whether it is the wind going through the trees, or the birds chirping—these and many other reminders awaken me to magical moments of being here on the earth. Nature is my ultimate teacher. I am a part of nature; it is truly who I am. I am not separate, but rather a part of this world in which all things are tied together by air, water, soil and flesh.

My pilgrimage is to seek silence and stillness. I know it is hard work to quiet my mind. However, aligning myself to the invisible world does much to allow me some quiet sanity. Civilization can burden my soul, but I can remedy this by forgiving, and purifying.

My mind grows quiet in tranquil woods. I am comforted by its mystery. Yes, I am constantly challenged seeing the earth's destruction and despair. Yet, when I embrace the maladies of the world as being just a part of my own impermanent life, I gain a sense of inner renewal. And how I face the prospect of death allows me a sense of greater life because of how nature teaches me. Balance comes to me when I go beyond my thinking mind, and venture into the universe of my heart. For whatever happens in the future, I can make the best out of the present by appreciating all that this life shares with me now.

Meaning in my life comes from nature. If I wish to have a meaningful life I must observe everything that is connected with nature. Time spent outside is like an electric plug that recharges my spiritual battery. Consciousness arises all around me and within me, allowing me to experience the web of life, and to see how all that I relate to is so closely interconnected. As I breathe in and out, I know that this Universal Life Force, which ties all things together just as a spider weaves its web, interconnects all things.

This expanded awareness awakens in me the question of how I can skillfully respect the sacredness of nature and its "wilderness." Sacred observing provides me with grace, and a feeling of harmony. Simply put, the woods provide me with a portal to boundless healing.

At any moment I am susceptible to inattentiveness—and then at such time, something great is lost from my world. But if I listen deeply, I can hear my soul calling. It invites me to visit a forest, or walk along a sandy shore—find a place of calm in the wild. When I remember that I am not a separate being, that indeed I am part of the interconnectedness of life, then my feverishness subsides.

John Muir once said, "By going outward, I am going in." All beings have a sacred link to our green world. Going outside begins the most sacred ritual. As I become more intimate with my earth, I return to my beloved home.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Saving Not Wasting Our Nation's Capital

It is safe to assume Washington D.C. region now creates greater waste then anywhere in the history of our planet. Last Sunday’s Washington Post article in the Metro section, “D.C Area Outpaces Nations in Pollution,” was more than coincidental. The federal budget cycle for 2006 that day just ended and Americans have no idea to all the different ways we stimulate discarding.

The Washington area not only produces more carbon dioxide than Sweden, Denmark and Finland but our government stimulates the most significant global loss of resources. For example, the District of Columbia and other government’s budgets are based on the principle of “use it or loose it.” Government must shift from this behavior of consuming more to understanding performance is measured by output over input.

The fed’s are the largest consumer of goods and services in the world producing a buying power yearly exceeding 25 European Union nations. Just look at one department protecting us. The Congressional Budget office cited that funding in homeland security have more than doubled in the first two years after the attacks from $20-$40 billion dollars. Contrast this with the fact we invest a fraction of one percent money on how we conserve resources. Wise economy and world security is all about the path of discovery around recovery.

There are no exact figures or comprehensive methods of determining of how much our region wastes. Each year Americans use, discard and recycle more than 17 billion tons of waste. This does not include how we create tens of thousands of incentives to waste. Improved feedback in how we can reutilize our discards may stimulate a frontier of economic development. Developing market mechanisms to conserve is just one avenue minimize our carbon footprint.

The good news is that more Washingtonians are recognizing that becoming more environmentally efficient improves our well-being. Now that the insurance industry predicts climate change is caused by people, citizens went to feel better about their impact by using less stuff. Also, as we prevent pollution, we also reward ourselves and profit our country. Saving our land, air and water has many implications besides just peace of mind for our future generations. Better managing and accounting for our nation’s eco-capital must become “tenor” not the “terror” of our time. Let's recover our nation's capital by saving things instead of ending them.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Green Tennis

Tennis and revolutions have a long history. Taken on a tennis court near the Palace of Versailles during the French Revolution, "The Tennis Court Oath"(serment du jeu de paume) was a solemn collective vow by French deputies to continue to meet despite a royal prohibition to do so until a constitution had been written. Today an even more violent revolution is happening-seemingly irreversible and dramatic climate change impacts due to the human footprint upon this planet. Perhaps a newer version of "Tennis Court Oath" needs to be taken-"We swear never to separate ourselves from our connection with nature, and to reassemble whenever circumstances require, until responsible environmental best practices are enacted in the realm of tennis and fixed upon solid foundations." Our many diversions and games offer us all a playful and entertaining manner in which to respond to these challenges those future generations and we must endure. Play is an essential component of our innate humaneness. Conservation is an essential component our collective survival. People who enjoy tennis can all lessen their impact through three key "R" actions:
  • "Reduction" of pollutants
  • "Reusing" resources
  • "Recycling" of waste
Environmental initiatives such as energy and water conservation and renewable energy sourcing can take numerous creative forms. Since environmental issues are becoming more apparent, the potential for the game of tennis to become greener is expanding. The "tennis industry" can only diminish its carbon footprint through a sustainable game plan that leads by example. What's more there are considerable public relations benefits to attract more people to the game if tennis can demonstrate that it champions conservation.

Some assume that tennis's environmental impact is not significant compared to other sports. Did you know that most tennis balls are made out of recycled rubber and that asphalt is the leading recycled product in the U.S. with an impressive 80% recycling rate? Golf, seemingly the greenest of sports, has been linked to pesticides issues, habitat destruction and water shortages on a large scale. The various golf associations and stakeholders have addressed these issues through several dedicated environmental organizations and technical developments. It's hard being green--every sport has some environmental implications. However, there are simple conservation measures and best management practices that enhance sustainability. There are ways to become more mindful and to lessen ecological impacts. There are many examples simply in new lighting products that both prevent pollution as well as diminishing the cost to the consumer.

So as global resources dwindle and government regulations increase, the tennis industry can certainly benefit by implementing measures that support more sustainable and renewable energy, minimize the use of raw materials, and reduce ecological damage. Tennis is played for many reasons, among them for better health: if the players benefit from improved health, they can also help to improve the health of our environment.

There are modest financial incentives to encourage more environmentally responsible behavior. Current environmental trends are pressuring the public to become more and more aware about the uses of energy and other resources. As in tennis there will be "winners" and "losers" depending on what current practices in the industry are adopted.

There are emerging sectors (e.g. green building) that provide rating systems of how they may become carbon neutral. It is not unimaginable that there may be some sort of ingenious 'green scoring' criteria developed in the future to provide useful feedback and to encourage responsible environmental management.


Tennis infrastructures such as clubs and stadiums can undertake simple energy audits to better protect and insulate these structures. Modest investments, with short- or long-term ROI, can be explored. Long-term investments that require more money, such as solar panels, wind turbines, or other renewable energy technologies may be also evaluated depending upon the needs and interests of facility managers and owners, as well as users. Let's simply focus on the area of lighting. Lighting consumes up to 20% of our home energy use and up to 30% of our workplace electricity expenditure. Nevertheless changing to more efficient lighting must be addressed in a comprehensive manner. For example, mercury is an essential ingredient in energy-efficient lighting and long-lasting light bulbs. Computer monitors and lamps, when thrown away, can discharge mercury and other toxins into the environment. Fluorescent and high-intensity discharge (HID) lamps also contain mercury. We know mercury is a potent nerve toxin that damages the brain, liver, and kidneys and causes developmental disorders in children. Lamp manufacturers have reduced the use of mercury over the years. One hundred fluorescent lamps contain approximately 4 grams of mercury. If improperly handled or disposed of, mercury lamps contribute significantly to mercury emissions.

Light-emitting diode (LED) is a 45-year-old technology that delivers no heat output and delivers an average of 32 lumens of light, and LED bulbs burn about 50 times as long as the average incandescent bulb. Recent university research and other technical advancements are expected to contribute to LEDs replacing incandescent light bulbs in the next five to seven years.

Reducing, Reusing and Recycling Waste

Innovative procurement of environmentally friendly products can lessen waste by bulk purchase of products made from recycled materials or reused and refurbished goods. While making recycling easier by collecting all recyclables in one receptacle can increase participation, it can also increase contamination. There are many types of successful recycling programs all over the US that have demonstrated they can be simple as well as cost-effective.

Many tennis facilities recycle beverage containers and paper. Expanding these enterprises to concentrate on greater tonnage materials and disposal of toxins (e.g. paints, cleaners, etc.) is a great next step. Event recycling initiatives have proven to be successful depending upon the size and location of a tournament. However, truly green events require support by both the staff and public. It is essential to put the horse before the cart-concentrate on reduction and then on reuse. Creating attractive opportunities to recycle in an uncomplicated manner can be also explored. Proper design, planning, and implementation require good materials and skilful communications in order to muster public support. Reuse is in action in all four major tennis tournaments since they have permanent restaurants that use china, glass and silverware-not paper and plastic.

A number of tour events have a waste collection system involving more than one bin, so recyclable items are separated by the user. Many of these are in western European countries where environmental awareness has been prevalent for a couple of decades, and where the city authorities have established the rules.

Lawn Care

Lawn management design makes a huge difference because collectively our lawns-home, business, or sporting venues--impact significantly on water bodies. If you rely on a lawn service to maintain your lawns or use a landscaper, please request them to become more mindful of good conservation practices and help them become better stewards. In proper lawn management, grass clippings do not need to be removed from the lawn (this is termed "grass cycling"). However if grass clippings are collected and composted, they should be mixed with other yard waste to provide bulk and a proper ratio of two important plant nutrients, carbon and nitrogen (C/N). Otherwise, the clippings may compact and restrict airflow in the compost pile and cause unpleasant odors as well as noxious bacteria. Improper lawn maintenance can result in excessive lawn fertilization and is a significant source of nutrient pollution to our water bodies. So developing and implementing home nutrient-reduction strategies is critical. Better-managed lawns would reduce the amount of excess nutrients entering our water bodies and improve water quality.

Landscape Design

Take steps to replace under-utilized lawn areas or areas where grass does not grow well with other vegetation, mulch or even rocks. Savvy tree planting with good environmental planning can help reduce runoff and save on cooling costs to your home or workplace. Xerescaping or designing gardens that minimize water use is another option.

Other Opportunities

Water conservation is becoming essential in more arid locations and facilities are exploring new low-water consumption technologies. Such emerging technologies include underground watering for soft courts, waterless urinals, and water flow restrictors on showerheads and taps. Also water reuse is becoming popular where recycled water is used for lawn irrigation or water barrels used to collect roof rainwater.

Going Forth

There are many other ways to conserve and be green tennis players. The above just gives you some ideas to begin with. Developing greater incentives to be green is critical just as keeping score in tennis is critical too.

As climate change takes hold and it gets warmer, it would be wise for the tennis community to become greener and less brown. There are a number of actions that can be taken now at club/facility level, regional level, and national level and globally. The more tennis players who awake to become lean and green the healthier our game will grow. May you enjoy the many "happy returns" of taking care of yourself and our planet both on and off the courts!

* The writer and broadcaster Chris Bowers is currently working on tennis's first formal research into the sport's environmental impact, and will be reporting his results at the International Tennis Federation's third Tennis Science and Technology congress in September.

A Cool Idea to Plant Trees

Our country is at its greatest when we see that people are in trouble and we respond by giving a hand making our world a better place. Today we Americans are in environmental trouble and need help ourselves The time is perfect to engage in Americans of all walks to plant trees. Whether citizens wish to lessen global warming or to beautify a neighborhood, people long to show they care. What better way to bring our community together then attract people from the city, suburbs and the countryside united in planting trees for our future. Also such a campaign (i.e. Be Cool, Plant Trees) can join groups, organizations, governments, businesses of all facets to come together celebrating that by planting trees. The results is we both enriched people an experience in saving our land and investing in our psychic well being.

What better way to make this dream become real then to plant a tree. If every citizen can be offered the privilege to help the land what possibility can America demonstrate their love for this country. There is no better time or need then to challenge America of all walks to get their shovel out and plant trees. Global warming, water pollution control, involving youth in civilian conservation and other benefit can be experience if we can create the opportunity to make this a reality.

Planting trees conserve energy, reduce stormwater run-off, beautify surroundings, and create additional community and socio-economic benefits. There are other invaluable resources developed ─ our youth and the link that preserving our land helps our collective well-being.

Let’s learn from history and activate American youth to preserve their outdoors and plant new life. Children planting trees directly invests them to importance of future conservation work and the importance of public service.

To celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the creation of the CCC, The Corps Network and the CCC Legacy Foundation will launch a campaign to raise awareness of the CCC, modern Corps and the benefits of planting trees to society and the environment. This campaign will include an event on CCC Day, March 31st, 2008, and will conclude on Public Lands Day in September of 2008. Throughout the campaign Service and Conservation Corps and other partners will complete a variety of tree planting projects and hold local media events that bring together CCC alumni with the Corps members of today. This campaign will also be linked to The Corps Network’s federal policy efforts to engage more young people, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds, on public lands.

In the process of our efforts we may also invite other organizations into a nation-wide tree planting campaign concentrating on children and others to pay tribute by a challenge, “two billion trees planting in the next five years to help reforest America of trees because of the formation of the CCC. Exploring additional efforts can further promote our mission is to get children involved in conservation activities so to benefit from this rich legacy of direct experience in showing respect for our natural resources.

The CCC served as a catalyst to develop the very tenants of modern conservation. By investigating dynamic partnerships with diverse organizations our efforts maybe can further promote this tree planting campaign. For example uniting all together tree planting activities in American today can be as simple as developing an umbrella interactive web site networking all the efforts into one national and promotional outreach program.

Similar to Johnny Appleseed, Franklin Delano Roosevelt when he first became elected established the CCC, the single greatest conservation movement in history. His love for trees and getting the young outdoors to save the land, FDR commented was getting them to become shareholders in our country’s future.

In closing, by developing this Be Cool, Plant Trees campaign we can tap inspirational leaders to champion this endeavor. History teaches us the power of once again motivating citizens results in an wildfire effect. However instead of destroying our forests we will be creating new ones. Finally, tree samplings, shovels, dirt and human hands can bond together an American celebration benefiting our collective hearts, minds and souls. Let’s pass the shovel now for this legacy only will continue if we may learn from

A Green Dream for Shenandoah Valley

Nearly 90 percent of the Washington DC metro region depends on the Potomac and its major tributary, the Shenandoah for clean drinking water. Also the Shenandoah valley supplies billions dollars in agriculture, timber, tourism and other environmental benefits. One hundred years ago we wisely established the George Washington National Forest to help preserve this watershed.

According to the Chesapeake Bay clean-up estimates, well over $2 billion is needed to restore the Shenandoah River to meet clean water goals. To do this we must develop new jobs and outreach programs to meet these needs. More than 1,300 miles of rivers and streams in the Shenandoah watershed fail to meet Federal clean water standard because of excess nutrients, sediment, and other pollutants. To meet this challenge we must change our very attitude on how we do business from short term to long term profits and also account for how much we are willing to invest in the value of this watershed.

We must look how we can grow in an organic not inorganic fashion. Rapid growth leads to more roads, parking lots and roofs. These hard surfaces prevent rain from soaking into the ground naturally and result in significant increases in runoff with such things as automobile oil, lawn fertilizer and other pollutants.

We need to act now since there have been many fish kills of small mouth bass and red breasted sunfish populations in the last few years on the Shenandoah River.

How we develop in the Shenandoah Valley will impact our water, air and land.

Promoting improved technologies and programs can result in increased economic benefits through emerging “green” infrastructure requirements (e.g reduced runoff volumes and nutrient export from a site).

New innovations must be explored as we see these as beginning economic development tools for our valley since how we allow our land to be developed can be a win/win situation if we exercise prudence. How we respect our valley raises fundamental questions about what new jobs we can provide for future generations. Now nearly 75 years ago 2 billion trees were planted by Civilian Conservation Corps. Since the first camp began right in the middle of the valley, training the youth in conservation has historic implications.

New Advancements = New Jobs

The valley can become an advocate for new eco-employment opportunities and stimulated new businesses to come to this region to support this demand for green industry.

Design “With” Nature

Similar to how water runs down our roof down spouts it can be cleaned when plants absorb and recycle this spoiled water. Everyone has an opportunity to design a rain type garden to prevent pollution and water our plants and lawns since waste lots of money on watering and flushing with valuable drinking water instead of water reuse.

Such improved site design can also reduce the need to clear and grade the area increasing erosion control practices and can result in significant cost savings to builders. Much of the reduction in capital costs can be attributed to a reduction in impervious cover.

Non Point Pollution Prevention Measures

The greatest challenge in the environmental protection today is getting individuals to not do such things as litter, conserve water and energy, improperly throw away their toxic household by-products, fertilize their lawn, reduce their waste, and other sustainable measures. These directly or indirectly impact the Shenandoah Valley watershed is and such behaviors must be targeted and changed since this is the largest source of pollution, our collective selves.

Wastewater and Water Reuse Pollution Prevention Measures

How our well, spring, cistern, septic, alternative or municipal water/wastewater system operates and is managed plays a critical role on keeping our water clean. Failing systems, source water pollution and other problems all impact the watershed. Measures to address this infra-structure and development management tools are critical. Water reuse is going to be another key technology to develop.

Improved Best Management Practices, Pollution Controls, Training and Social Marketing

American’s need to realize we face another form of serious terror, how we foul our environment. Just a simple act of throwing a can out of a car has an environmental impact. Collectively, how people change their car oil, or clean-up their animal waste or fertilize their lawn impact the Shenandoah River. People cause pollution and the source to control it. Without collective behavior change and improved good housekeeping measures the greatest source of our water impairment.

Air/Land/Water Impacts = More Pollution

The more we pollute or over regulate one medium without creating economic or incentives to change may result increasing environmental pollution to another area. This history of environmental regulation is good proof. Without integrated comprehensive planning numerous environmental conservations measures can be done in vain. If you improve conservation but allow for increased use it may be like bottle water situation of today. You have increased its package but not necessarily improved the product and created more plastic and cost. Expand Interstate 81 without alternative rail or greenway structures and it will be seen in 30 years as a major infrastructure blunder and it will cost future generations to rebuild.

Reduce First, Reuse Second and Recycle Last

More people recycle today then vote resulting in both a blessing and a curse. Reuse and reduction are far more favorable ways to better our environment then picking up grass and glass bottles at the curb. Maybe a better investment can be made in composting new top soil and creating reusable oil filters as best use of limited resources and dollars

Below is an entire summary of possible best management opportunities to promote future prosperity for Shenandoah Valley:

1) Integrated Watershed Green Technology into Agenda for Action – research and develop key employment training, technology, water quality improvement measures together into one economic development plan. Pull together income from fisheries, agriculture, industry, and recreation and tourism. Also show indirect drinking water treatment costs, health care costs, and other environmental economic benefits. Show prevention saving and document income from recreation and tourism and increased property values and show the natural capitalism from reduction in energy costs, health care costs, flood control and stormwater quality and pollution treatment costs.

a) Wastewater

b) Employment Opportunites – work with colleges and develop specific training

c) Better Site Design – cluster development, impervious cover limits

d) Erosion and Sediment Control – improve channel protection, clearing and grading,
and other pollution/sediment contols *

e) Stormwater regulations, floodplain protection

2) Wastewater and Water Reuse Pollution Prevention Measures

How our well, spring, cistern, septic, alternative or municipal water/wastewater system operates and is managed plays a critical role on keeping our water clean.

3) Improved Best Management Practices, Pollution Controls, Training and Social Marketing People cause pollution and the source to control it. Without collective behavior change and improved good housekeeping measures the greatest source

4) Reduce First, Reuse Second and Recycle Last

More people recycle today then vote resulting in both a blessing and a curse. Reuse and reduction are far more favorable ways to better our environment then picking up grass and glass bottles at the curb. Maybe a better investment can be made in composting new top soil and creating reusable oil filters as best use of limited resources and dollars.