Celebrate National Bat Week

B&W batIt’s lovely synchronistic timing that National Bat Week is the seven days including Halloween (Bat Week=October 26-November 1).

Here’s why bats are NOT scary, but the prospect of losing them is terrifying:

> Bats maintain the health of our environment–eating insects and controlling those populations is hugely important, to which any scratchy mosquito bite you’ve ever had attests. A single bat can eat up to 5,000 insects per night.

>With a healthy bat population, farmers need fewer pesticides, which means safer food sources for us. Bats save the agricultural industry in America about $23 billion per year.

>Bats pollinate plants and disperse seeds, invigorating the health of forests, jungles, and many other ecosystems. Bats are the ONLY pollinators of agave–so your forward-thinking sweetener AND your tequila go out the window with no bats!

BUT… a fungus called “white nose syndrome” is decimating many bat populations–up to six million bats have died from it to date–add that to the destruction of habitat and difficult climate issues affecting their health, and we’ve got a potentially buggy problem on our hands.

Be a friend to bats. Advocate for them. Protect their habitats. Create new habitat (bat houses on the side of your home or trees are a great addition to landscaping). I’m sure someone can teach me why I should love mosquitoes and wish more of them would feed on me…but until then…I’m all for the bats.

Some Behaviors are Inexcusable–Push Back and Stand With Jetta

Jetta photo from Facebook page Stand-With-Jetta

Jetta photo from Facebook page Stand-With-Jetta

Jetta Fosburg is a hero of mine. The ten-year-old girl decided on her own to cut off her long hair to donate it to a charity that creates wigs for children battling cancer. Wigs for Kids got 14 inches of Jetta’s hair for its great work, and do you know what this young Dayton, Ohio girl got?

Bullied at school. Made fun of. Teased and mocked and called “ugly” for her newly-short hair.

That doesn’t work for me. It doesn’t work for me that people torture Renee Zelweger or Bruce Jenner or anyone for the way they look.

I admit I might be extra-sensitive to this issue from my work with burn survivors, but shouldn’t every single one of us be extra-sensitive to this issue?

Show Jetta your support. Hashtag a bunch of social media posts: #StandWithJetta

Like the Facebook page to show your support.

Don’t stand for the attitude of Jetta’s school principal, who, according to Jetta’s mom,  “told me that he didn’t know of any child that had ever died from words. And that we needed to toughen up and deal with it…”

It’s good to know you are the right one, Jetta, and that they are wrong–but I suspect it still hurts. I hope it helps to know–we’ve got your back on this!

Seriously? We Still Call This Columbus Day?!

child's drawing Nina Pinta Santa Maria Columbus DayI have moved across the country a couple of times, and it still surprises me, this particular day of the year, how, in the West, Columbus Day is not a thing, but in several places on the East Coast, it is still celebrated as a holiday (of sorts).

When I was a kid, this was a day off from school–which was ALWAYS a good thing–and leading up to it we learned about the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria, maybe memorized a few lines about 1492, and that was about it. Alternatively, a New York Italian friend of mine is angered that we have ruined what, for him and so many, had become a heritage pride day. DOn’t get me wrong–I’m all for Italian or any other heritage pride–but not so much when it is labeled for one of the most ANTI of anti-heroes.

Many U.S. communities, and even states, have done away with mention of the explorer/marauder/genocide-in-the-name-of-kingdom perpetrator, and substituted Indigenous Peoples Day, or Native American Awareness Day–good choices, especially within the embarrassing context of professional sports teams that steadfastly remain so clueless and hurtful with their inability to grow up and evolve…

We’ve gotten some new holidays since my youth–Martin Luther King, Jr now has a day–a few have morphed–Washington and Lincoln are now lumped together to share one February “President’s Day”–and some seem to have gone away–not so many elementary school kids are making May Day baskets out of supermarket strawberry containers and leaving them on the doorsteps of elderly neighbors…and I don’t hear about Arbor Day recognition and activities on the playgrounds anymore (though I wish I did hear of it–any day is a good day to plant a tree)

If you’ve got the day off today, or have kids home from school, spend a little time discussing the evolution of who and what we choose to celebrate. There’s a reason we stopped celebrating the use of the atomic bomb on Japan with VJ Day (Victory Over Japan Day–ended in 1975)…now that we know Columbus was such a lousy S.O.B….isn’t it about time we caught up to what we already know is right?

I’m all for a day off, and fine if the banks and post office want to stay dark on a particular Monday, but really, shouldn’t it be because we are all proud of a thing–and not ashamed of a thing, like Columbus?

Earth Overshoot Day – We’re Way Ahead of Schedule

burned charred fallen tree with wooded backdropMost often, in life, it is beneficial to be ahead of schedule for things–better than the alternative, being late. Well, when it comes to annually using up our world’s resources, the earlybird doesn’t get the worm…the earlybird probably only gets hungry, and thirsty, and hot, very hot.

Earth Overshoot Day should be sometime in early October, for many years, while not great, it happened right around now, but this year, 2014, it happened on August 19. Yikes!

Earth Overshoot Day marks the date when humanity has exhausted nature’s budget for the year. The Global Footprint Network measures humanity’s demand for, and supply of, natural resources and ecological services, and at some point on the calendar, we get to the point where we are in a deficit compared to what can be provided, so we are technically drawing down resources and accumulating carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. We owe the world, and that tipping point date gets earlier every year. In banking terms, we are drawing down the earth’s principal rather than responsibly living off the interest.

Ecological overshoot is a non-sustainable way of life and possible for only a limited period of time before we degrade the system so far that we end up with water shortages, desertification, soil erosion, reduced cropland activity, overgrazing, rapid species extinction, collapse of fisheries, and increased carbon concentration…sound familiar?

Our global overshoot has nearly doubled since 1961. According to Global Footprint Network, we are now living large, literally, as it would take 1.5 Earths to actually support our current consumption, and predictions state we would require two entire planets to support our usage trends by mid-century. Only 14% of our world lives in counties with more biocapacity than usage footprint, including Australia, Canada, Finland, Chile, and Brazil. The United States is squarely in the not-so-happy redzone, using more natural resources than we can possibly provide.

Check out this interactive FOOTPRINT CALCULATOR to discover how much land area it takes to support your own lifestyle, discover your biggest areas of resource consumption, and learn what you can do to tread more lightly on the earth.

Ken Burns and National Parks Volunteering

Statue of Liberty on Liberty Island looking to the harborEverybody is going gaga over the newest Ken Burns series, The Roosevelts, An Intimate History, on PBS. I’ve yet to see it but will carve out the 14 hours, perhaps in bits and pieces, to get caught up–I have never been sorry to get into a Burns piece of work.

One of my favorites of his in-depth studies is the 2009 film on our wild lands, The National Parks, America’s Best Idea.

I forget, in my hurried day-to-day life, that the wondrous wild places I so fondly remember visiting (and look forward to many more visits) on family vacations and cross-country driving trips, are more than just stunning vacation spots–they are smoothly run enterprises of commitment to community and culture and the environment…AND…they have extensive volunteer programs.

As a National Parks volunteer, you can pop in for a one-shot deal to help with a program, or if you’re lucky enough to live near such sacred spots, there are ongoing opportunities. Kids, families, individuals…all will find rewarding service work in the parks. If you’re super motivated, and volunteer 250 hours of service to the parks and/or other federal agencies that participate, you can be eligible for the Annual Volunteer Pass. This pass is your ticket to more than 2,000 federal recreation sites. Each pass covers entrance fees at national parks and national wildlife refuges as well as standard amenity fees at national forests and grasslands, and at lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management and Bureau of Reclamation.

To find your V.I.P. (Volunteers in Parks) opportunity, from Yellowstone to the Statue of Liberty, the Everglades to Mount Rainier, you can search by park, state, or zip code. Many of the needs are seasonal, but some are year-round, and while a certain level of fitness or endurance may be required for some gigs, there is plenty to volunteer for that requires less energy as well. Visit the Park Service website and look around a bit, get re-inspired for some next visit plans, and find a way to be the boots on the ground folks who keep the parks the treasures that they are.

Respond to Banned Books Week – READ

burned book, pages aflame, censorshipWe’re now into the second half of Banned Books Week, when attention is paid to censorship and celebrating the freedom to read. Banned Books Week (BBW) unites the community of librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers in shared support of the freedom to seek and express ideas.

In the United States, since 1982 when BBW began, there have been official challenges to more than 11,300 books! Some of the most challenged books are the most popular, like recognizable titles of the list toppers of 2013: Fifty Shades of GreyCaptain Underpants, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and The Hunger Games. I, of course, come down on the side of, “If it ain’t your cup of tea, don’t read it…”

In celebration, and some easy defiance of those that would curtail intellectual freedoms, honor banned books by volunteering with a program like READ Global, whose work in Bhutan, Nepal, and India is building and filling libraries for entire communities that were previously book-poor. Since their start in 1991, more than 2.1 million villagers have access to READ centers, and the mission has grown from supporting access to books and supporting literacy, to also taking on broader education issues, economic empowerment, technology, and women’s empowerment. Find out more, and support READ here.

Homeboy Industries, Food Truck, and Getting Involved

Homegirl Cafe worker, woman making espresso, tattoos

Photo: Homegirl Cafe

Are you familiar with Homeboy Industries? The organization is well known in Los Angeles but has developed a national profile for their innovative work serving high-risk, formerly gang-involved men and women, providing them services, programs, and job training at several very cool social enterprises. They’ve got products you can find in grocery stores (tortilla strips, salsas, and more), a restaurant and bakery (Homegirl Cafe), catering business that serves many film and TV studios, and now a food truck.

The model is great and the popularity makes their considerable reach grow more and more. A busy, bustling restaurant (which Homegirl Cafe DEFINITELY was last time I was there) is much better on-the-job training than a sleepy lunch counter. The gourmet food truck is new and already has fans following the social media feeds to discover where they will park and set up from day to day, inspiring buzzy word-of-mouth.

The job training at these great businesses is just the most forward facing element of the work the organization does. They also provide employment counseling and mentoring, tattoo removal (they remove about 745 tattoos every month, for free), case management to develop goal planning and accountability, legal services and referrals, educational services and classes, mental health/substance abuse/domestic violence services, and a solar panel installation and certification training program.

There are plenty of reasons young people step into gang life, but one of the most pernicious is the lack of alternatives. Homeboy Industries provides a rich array of opportunities to delve deeply into other options.

Volunteers keep much of this amazing work going…some of the most rewarding opportunities are GED course prep teachers and tutors, tattoo removal (30 volunteer doctors currently help out with this critical area), and Homeboy Heals program volunteer therapists, social workers, and counselors. Check it out, and jump in if you’ve got the skills needed.

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