September 20, 2019

I started my day a lot earlier than I like,  but I knew I owed it to Swedish teen Greta Thunberg’s lead for world-wide climate change marches today.

News of the “greenhouse effect” first appeared in 1824.  The first mention of global warming in 1975 was still long before Greta was born.  It was 1995, still before Greta was born, that there was a definitive statement that humans are definitely responsible for climate change.  Three years after Greta was born, Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” came out in 2006.

But the humans of the world were mostly too busy thinking about money — how to get it, how to get more, how to pillage and plunder to take what was thought to be rightfully ours as the masters of the universe and the most intelligent of all living things.  Yes, there were a few endearing characteristics of humans, but not enough to deflect disaster.

Much of nature, and many animal species continued to quietly disappear while the human population grew.  It was 1 billion in 1800, two billion in 1930, 3 billion in 1960, 4 billion in 1975, 5 billion in 1987, 6 billion in 1999, 7 billion in 2011.  8 billion is projected for 2024.

I won’t be here to verify it, but I strongly doubt humans will outlive climate change no matter how smart we get with technology and out of the box clever ideas.

Greta’s generation may make it into middle age or beyond, but I don’t see a happy ending for humans.  But the ending of humans will be a happy ending for nature because I firmly believe in the ability of nature to reboot and thrive again minus humans.

I ended the evening by watching a science fiction movie by chance called “Knowing” with Nicholas Cage.   In it, the entire earth is destroyed by a massive sun flare.  However, aliens have taken a selection of chosen children into spaceships and transported them by twos with two rabbits to a fresh, pure land with a beautiful large tree.  As I watched the children playfully running toward the tree, I felt a tiny flicker of hope that these children would be better guardians of nature, but a dread that they would once again contaminate mother nature with human arrogance and superiority.

August 11, 2019

Picture this — a piece of cardboard on the ground and a person sleeping on it.  The caption reads, “This bed costs $100,759 a year.”  No, this is not in a far away third world country.  This is the county of southern California I live in.

The happy hobo image of homelessness doesn’t exist.  In Orange County, California, where I live, the face of homelessness is wrinkled, old, and weak.  At the last count made one night in 2019, there were 455 homeless seniors found and interviewed.  Yes, there were also other categories of homeless people found and interviewed.  But there were more homeless seniors interviewed that night compared to every other category.

I learned at a United Way Homelessness 101 lecture on homelessness in Orange County  that the cure for homelessness is putting people in homes.  And, by every comparison,  the cost is by far cheaper than the $100, 759 spent on each homeless person for the many services they use when they are homeless.

While non-homeless people have the wrong notion that the homeless in Orange County are recent arrivals because of the warm climate, the average person found in the one night survey had been a resident of Orange County for about 10 years.

There is a tornado of circumstances swirling in Orange County.   Even a large percentage of working people can no longer afford to live here because the prices of buying and renting are way beyond normal, or even good salaries.  Along with rising life expectancy into the 80’s, 90s, and 100s that can affect income, there is a scarcity of housing in the county in general, and especially for low incomes.   Plus, other expenses are rising beyond an older person’s capacity to increase income.

After my mother died, my father and I moved to a retirement community then called Leisure World in southern California.  Neither my dad nor I had enough money to buy our home, so we pooled our resources and bought a two bedroom home for $73,500.  At that time, the range of prices for homes here was perhaps $60,000 to $600,000.  But the shared cost concept with a monthly fee allowed all who lived here to share in the clubhouses, a tempting variety of amenities,  classes, and over 200 resident-run clubs.

During the 20 years since that time, my dad died, house prices went up and up, and then drastically down and down in 2008, and modestly up again.  And the required monthly fee also increased regularly.  Now, you can still buy a one bedroom home in the Village for perhaps $155,000, but there are many more homes now above a million dollars.

If you can’t continue to pay the mortgage or the monthly fee, you are eventually forced to leave the Village.  And go where?  Certainly not anywhere else in all of Orange County, and most of California.  You can become a statistic of homelessness, and some do.  And, as I’m finding out, more and more of my aging neighbors are running out of money and fear homelessness.  It’s a heavy burden of worry.

I know.  I’m one of them.

 

 

I held onto two events rather desperately last week to counter-balance  a world going wildly wonky.

Having lived in Taiwan, I like to hear good news from that relatively small, remote place we usually don’t hear about.  The news showed gay people there happily celebrating their right to marry.  The second beacon of light came from children following the lead of eloquent Greta Thunberg of Sweden in passionately, unrelentingly, continuing to demonstrate one day a week to demand the world recognize the present and future dangers of climate change.

Fifty-five years have passed since the grown-up heroine Rachel Carson’s book, “Silent Spring,” warned us of the many ways we humans are killing our planet, and ultimately, ourselves.  Why weren’t we listening?

Last week, I remembered a necklace  I once had, but could never quite put around my neck.  It was a miniature coat hanger — the symbol of what was used to abort babies in a time when abortion was not legal.  But it seems I threw away that necklace too soon as more and more states are making abortion illegal again.

And last week I heard a compelling plea from the President of Columbia University that we must become ever more vigilant about the attacks on what Americans hold dear about our government.

And then there was another mass shooting spread across the news in Virginia Beach where it’s legal to bring guns into buildings.

I was born while the Holocaust was raging on the other side of the sea, and my father was being sent there to fight a war.  I lived through the turbulent, tumultuous 1960’s.  But now, more dangerous even than guns, is a mean-spiritedness that is taking over the world.  Sometimes it maims; sometimes it kills; sometimes it wounds slowly, but deeply.

Last week, I saw it as the insidious Ebola virus so seriously, dangerously, and cleverly depicted in “The Hot Zone” as it calmly mutates into the best way to kill humans.

In last week’s comics, Dennis the Menace talks with Mr. Wilson about the news.  Mr. Wilson explains that he likes to stay informed of what’s happening every day in the world.  But he adds, “Even though most of the news these days isn’t great news.  Boy!  I sure miss the good ol’ days!”  And Dennis remarks, “You think there’ll be some good ol’ days left for ME?”

And I think, “Maybe not, Dennis.  So sorry.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 21, 2019

It was an emotional evening for me watching the movie, “I Am Somebody’s Child:  The Regina Louise Story” about one black girl who suffered through 30 foster homes and years in a psych ward before the age of 18.  By the power vested in authorities, she was denied the right to be adopted by a social worker who loved her.  Why?  Because the social worker was white, and Regina Louise was black.

How could I not be brought back emotionally to my early 20s as a social worker for foster children in the care of the state of Massachusetts?  I had also loved a mixed racial toddler who I was determined to adopt if I could not find a permanent family for him.  In those days when babies were preferred, 3 years old was “over the hill” for adoption, especially when there were so few black or mixed families adopting children.

I did in fact manage to place him in a foster family with a white mother and a black father who, after 4 years, would be allowed to adopt him.  Although I moved away before that time, I kept in touch with the mother until she confirmed that the 4 years had passed and he would be legally adopted.  Whew!  He would not have to suffer through the all too often string of foster homes that foster children, like Regina, had to endure.  I finally was able to say goodbye, and wished the family well.

But I never forgot that beautiful toddler who captured my heart.  So, a few years later, when it came time to become parents,  my husband and I applied to adopt what was then called a “hard to place” child.  We did not specifically request a mixed black child, but these were the majority of the children who were lingering long waiting for an adoptive home.

The quirk of timing put us into a very small window of opportunity when California began transracial adoptions — mostly white families adopting black and mixed black children.  We quickly became parents of a beautiful honey colored 16 month old toddler of our own.

Not too long afterward, the black social workers of California fought transracial black/white adoptions and brought them to an abrupt end.  Why?  The black social workers said that white people were not capable of properly giving black children a black identity.   They compared  it to “genocide.”

Many years later, in yet another quirk of circumstance, I was living in a retirement community in California where I met a black social worker who had been one of the movers of bringing transracial adoptions to an end.  To this day, she insists that it was the right decision because white people are not capable of giving their black adopted children a sense of black identity.

For better or worse, the times and law did change so that transracial adoptions once again became possible.  And, already more than 40 when they found one another again, black Regina Louise was finally legally adopted by the white woman who had never stopped loving her.

 

April 6, 2019

Remember the best job you ever had?  You adored playing on the internet until you could break it.  It was your job, your fun, and the best salary you ever made.

Well, tonight I chanced upon the movie “Ralph Breaks the Internet.”  So, of course I immediately thought of “Bennett Breaks the Internet.”  I watched it remembering your fascination with the internet in its early days.  You tried explaining to me how the techniques of animation were developing rapidly.  You made me at least aware and appreciative of what I didn’t understand about animation.  Disney characters came alive in more modern ways.

In those years, people didn’t take formal courses in computers.  People like you with technical brains just worked it out informally.  The computer and you were natural friends.

And, suddenly, at 46, living right there in what became known as Silicon Valley, you died.  And I was left an only child against my will.   It wasn’t fair.  It wasn’t right.   But I couldn’t change it no matter how much I cried for you to come back.

That was in 1996.  For many years, I purposely went to at least one movie a year for “you” to see and appreciate the latest computer technology in movies.  I cried because you weren’t there with me when the credits rolled on and on and on with hundreds of names that easily showed  a diversity of names from other countries of origin, and job titles that only made me question what their jobs actually were.

I was 6 years old when you were born, but your generation had an obvious advantage when it came to understanding computers.  And I can only imagine that your innate sense of both intelligence and humor would have shown up if you had lived long enough to contribute to the rapid progress of the internet.

Once again, tears flowed as I both laughed and cried watching “Ralph Breaks the Internet” while learning  more than I ever knew about video games and social media and thinking of my dead-too-soon brother Ben breaking the internet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

March 10, 2019

I wonder who dug the hole under the fence so I could climb under and through into my favorite place to be — here, surrounded by wilderness.

I know that this is forbidden land because there’s an Air Force airport somewhere.  But I’ve never gone close enough to see anything but birds, bushes, trees, flowers, and stuff.

But now it’s winter, and I’ve brought my new ice skates.  There’s lots of icy places to skate here.

The air was crisp.  I put my skates on and tingled with delight — and apprehension.  I really didn’t know how to skate!

Ah, a fleeting moment of joy gliding on a short patch of ice — and then suddenly one leg sunk down and down and down.

Is this what they mean by the word, “marsh?”  Yep, I pulled out a leg encrusted in mud.

Messy, but no damage done that couldn’t be washed off.  It only made me more ready to try again.

The next time, I brought my baby skis and slid and slipped and fell down what surely was a mountain to me.

Years later, showing this wonderland for the first time to my granddaughter, I paid homage to this still remarkable untouched piece of wildness on the other side of the hole under that fence where I first fell in love with nature.

January 26, 2019

I heard the seagulls calling to me and I followed them to Laguna Beach.  They led me to little children giddily running across the sand to splash their toes in the sea.  How can it be both cloudy and sunny at the same time?  It was an aesthetic combination.  I shared some pizza with a seagull.

The sea both beckoned, and said “Stay away.  This is my territory.”

As the seagulls swirled about, a group of kayakers paddled out to make a circle in the sea.  It looked more like a class than a paddle out to honor the death of a surfer.  But, just in case, on a large rock in the sea close by, the many birds stood quietly in respect.  Then, one by one in a very straight line, each kayak paddled to another spot where they stopped once again.

Was it the sun, the grass, some blossoming plants?  They all became my enemy on this otherwise perfect warm and sunshiny day.  A massive allergy attack made me miserable.  A handkerchief held against my nose that had turned into a faucet blocked the expansive view where a pseudo traffic sign on the cliff read rightly, “Infinity Clearance.”

The sun shimmered in a path on the sea top.  That always makes me think of trying to walk across the sea to … where?  The horizon?  Another country?  Outer space?

In the company of seagulls, hummingbirds quenched their thirst in the flowers that beckon to them.  I read recently that flowers know when the birds are near.  Nature is much more clever than humans can imagine.

Sneeze, sneeze, sneeze, sneeze.  Damn, damn, damn, damn — the double edged sword of so many things that can both thrill us and make us miserable.

Gotta move.

After drenching 2 handkerchiefs, I suspected that my allergy wouldn’t follow me into a building.

I went to the Laguna Art Museum.  I knew they were planning a talk that evening and I thought I could hang out there while looking at the new exhibits.

Turns out that there was only one small exhibit available for viewing because they are gearing up for their annual auction to raise money for the museum.

The small exhibit had a  corner where I could sit on the floor and listen to the video while waiting to see if my nose would stop torturing me.

I had time before the evening lecture to walk out again to the beach to watch the sunset – I have grown old, but watching a sunset never grows old.  I knew the perfect place to watch the sun dip behind Catalina Island down to the sea.

The clouds that had been there during the day had dispersed except for one area around the ball of the sun.  They lent an artistic touch of dark sweeping lines that I imagined as Chinese calligraphy.

A small crowd of people had gathered there, including a special touch at sunset — a guitar player quietly accompanying the dipping of the sun.  The addition of music enhanced the spirit of the setting sun as a lone seagull turned a gentle gold color as it flew past the sun.

 

December 10, 2018

I wait every year for my favorite show of the year — CNN Heroes.  I stand and clap as each one is featured and honored.  This year, filled as it is with more conflict than comfort in our world societies, I was somewhat desperate to feel awe and inspiration once again for these “ordinary people,”  who give of themselves  wholeheartedly to bring comfort, caring, and respect to so many.

Their causes are spread across an impressive array of countries and needs.  Their drive and dedication is not limited by money, age, or education.  But at the core of their motivation is something that seems to be endangered in our present human race — empathy.  It’s a small word really, but yet so complex to feel in depth.  It’s not easy to be truly empathetic.  And it takes more than creativity to turn empathy into action.  It takes courage that doesn’t quit.

The breadth and depth of the heroes was wide and deep — tiny home communities for homeless veterans, a shelter in Peru for children and their families who required long term medical treatment far from home,  access to expensive bionic equipment for those who had lost their mobility, a peaceful place to heal for women who had been through the hell of sex trafficking.  I felt a special connection to the 88 year old woman who had set up an online ESL program that enabled immigrants to earn U.S. citizenship.  One continuing thread was how the heroes were quick to  turn the attention away from their own hard work to that of the people they were helping.

One of my favorite parts is always the Young Wonders who have set up incredible programs at amazingly young ages.  There was a young boy who started making lunches for homeless people, brought together a group of kids to help make the sandwiches, and then carried them out to the streets and handed a bag of healthy food to anyone who looked needy.  Not only was there food and a friendly smiling face handing them out, but the bags were hand-decorated with happy sayings and cute pictures to add that something extra that showed caring.  Another child started a program that gives birthday parties with all the trimmings for children with disabilities.

There was a follow-up on what some of the previous Young Wonders are doing years after they received their awards.  They did not stray from their early desire to help and are now serving ever larger needy populations with a wider range of services.

I fell in love with Bali for the first time in 1989.  A local resident I got to know  foresaw that plastic bags were a potential danger to that beautiful, fragile place.  Many years later, two sisters in Bali saw the same danger  strewn in front of their eyes everywhere.  These Young Wonders started Bye Bye Plastic Bags and have found ways to encourage the local people not to use plastic bags.  They do constant clean up  wherever they find discarded plastic bags.  They also have devised a simple system to block mostly plastic refuse that clogs up the small rivers.  And, they have established a small community of women in one village to get paid for making bags from recycled materials.  They didn’t stop to worry “What’s the use of doing something on such a small scale?”

As someone who spent time as a social worker in difficult life situations, and lived in third world poverty, I feel a particularly strong admiration for the CNN heroes.

So, I say again with deep gratitude, Hooray for Do-Gooders.  May they forever find ways to sustain their kindness to others.

 

December 4, 2018
Ah, yes, why is California burning up?  It makes sense because the majority of today’s humans have no natural sense of nature.  The Indians knew that periodic partial burning of brush, debris, and over crowded areas was healthy to nature and humans alike.  And they practiced it.  But, then came the white humans who have no sense of nature and its needs.  And they came in larger and larger numbers to California because they love warm weather and beautiful sights.
And so the human population of California expanded even after the gold ran out.  California’s gold became its beauty and gentle weather.  With no sense of mother nature’s needs, or their own inextricable connection to nature, they came, and came, and came.  They built houses where houses should never have been built.  They made sure for many years that every little spark or small fire was suppressed immediately because they needed to protect “their” property.
Grass and garden lovers that they were, they planted water hungry plants and trees in areas of very low rainfall.  To feed those thirsty plants, they captured water that should have run all the way into the waiting oceans.  Green lawns and huge trees grew where nature hadn’t intended as it wrung dry the rivers that were valiantly attempting to meet the ocean.  The rivers and ground water dried up as the trees and green grass grew.
While that was happening in southern California, the greedy humans of the world busily squeezed all of earth’s natural energy resources like there was no tomorrow.  And now, with global warming, that legacy may become all too true for our planet.
Five straight years of drought in southern California tried to bring attention to what humans were doing to the earth.  With no rain from the skies, and uncomfortably rising summer and fall temperatures, southern California half-heartedly and grudgingly made a few concessions to adding some wind power and solar power and grey water, and waited for the rain to return.  There was one brief year of celebration when snow returned in large amounts, (see, global warning is a hoax) once again filling reservoirs.  People delighted in the abundance of water again and returned to their wasteful water wasting ways.  Too bad about all the flooding that followed the rains and washed down huge areas of mud no longer held in by root systems of the trees that had burned.
And now we have arrived at a point in the world that the short-lived human species has not had to deal with during its existence.  Yes, there have been other times when our planet became too hot or too cold for human comfort, but that was before humans populated our planet.
I used to worry a lot about nature.  But, one day, it somehow became clear to me that nature would eventually survive.  It was humans that would have to adapt, or go extinct.
True, we have learned how to send people to the moon, how to kill cancer, how to design foods and babies more to our liking.  The hubris with which humans believe they can conquer all things is endless, and sometimes even endearing.
Are human nature and mother nature compatible?  Nature is running out of patience to show humans the error of their ways.  There’s a good reason why we call her Mother Nature.
November 12, 2018

I was born a conservationist without knowing why.  Among other groups, I joined Sierra Club and Zero Population Growth because I worried that we humans would destroy nature.    At some point in my life, and for reasons more instinctive than knowledge based, I shifted to understanding that nature would somehow manage to survive, and that we humans could not become smart enough to save our species.  So be it.

I loved the word “Earthroots” from the first time I heard it at a Kelp Festival in Laguna Beach.  It just sounded so right.  I slurped the delicious soup that people from Earthroots had brought to the Festival, and I learned about the variety of programs and places that Earthroots teaches.

Envisioned and founded by Jodi Levine-Wright, Earthroots Field School offers “classes, workshops and lectures year round for toddlers, homeschoolers, teens, adults, private and public schools, scout groups and summer camps. Outdoor classrooms include local organic farms, gardens, wilderness parks, green kitchens, beaches, and creeks. These programs are an exploration of our natural world and extends into our connection with all things.”

The actual home of Earthroots is picturesquely nestled in 39 acres of Big Oak Canyon.  It is not only surrounded by Cleveland National Forest, but has a natural creek whose pure water runs through it the whole year.  I was able to see this incredible piece of nature for myself when I joined a group of volunteers for an afternoon.   I have seen other parts of the Field School’s land through various videos on their website at earthrootsfieldschool.org.

I felt such a strong connection to Earthroots Field School and the type of knowledge it is passing on to younger generations that I decided to support Earthroots through including it in my trust.  While there are many worthwhile conservation organizations, Earthroots appealed to me because it is local, relatively small, and teaches a connection to nature that is far wider and deeper than others.  Optimistically, it has a 200 year plan.

I had fallen in love with Bali from the first time I visited it in 1989.  There was something about both the nature and the culture of the island that made me love it.  When I returned to Bali the last time in 2010, I arranged to visit a new school called the Green School, then only one year old.  I knew I was seeing something I would have loved to attend as a student.

The Green School is an international school with buildings made of bamboo that let in more light and air than you would believe possible.   The students, gathered internationally, learn in a totally different way than any other school I ever saw.  Best of all, they learn to respect nature.  That was such a welcome departure to me from the age-old reliance on conquering nature, bending it to the needs of humans who feel somehow superior to nature.  In these days of climate change caused by the overpopulation and wastefulness of humans, there is either denial, or a vague belief that humans will find technologies to neutralize the damage to our earth.

Raised by parents who only went outdoors when indoors was not continuous,  I found my own love of nature, and connection to it perhaps through Girl Scout camps, and undoubtedly to what  was to a child a huge amount of land in back of where I grew up and played.  It was actually a buffer zone between our houses and an airport, but to me, it was a vast untouched wilderness where I could wander and wonder to my heart’s content.  And it did indeed forever capture my heart.

At the age when I think of what legacy I am leaving behind, I first of all think of the high hill in Santa Barbara where I walked and talked to the hills and promised them I would fight as best I could to keep them from being destroyed in a planned housing development.  The Planning Commission listened to me and turned down the development in about 1980.  My name appears nowhere after all these years, but now, 38 years later, that hill still stands unmolested and even remarkably unchanged as Elings Park after other conservationists were able to finish what I had begun.

 

 

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