December 2, 2016

Protect the Sacred

Protect the Sacred

Stand up for your beliefs,
Stand for the downtrodden, the forgotten
Stand for those without a voice, those we cannot hear
Stand for the animals and plants, for the soil and water, rocks and air
Stand strong and purposeful
Root your feet and do not give way, with the elegance and courage of the bison

Soar in the skies with your dreams
Fly above the small-minded
Fly above fear and violence, with your hopes and dreams to guide you
Alight where you can see across the wide wonderful Earth
Where you can see the love that flows through it all
Soar so high that justice and your mind are clear, where your heart is pure
Where you are one with the great spirit
Fly through the air with the power and keen eye of the eagle

Flow like water through life
Never to be defeated
Possibly held up, but never destroyed
Flow with your goal in mind and never forget
Nourish life with your very essence
Course over that which is filthy and cleanse it with your clarity
Strengthen the weak like ripples, and break down hate like a tidal wave
Be as water is, both creator and destroyer
Give birth to life, and help those that have passed to begin again

Bloom as a flower does
Let your petals unfurl towards the sun
Grow as tall as you can
Open yourself to the world with brilliance and clarity of purpose
Bring bright beauty, grace, and joy wherever you go
Be as the flowers are, and remember that life is ephemeral
One day, let yourself fall away, sweet and peacefully

Knowing that you are leaving this place richer than how you found it for your being

Protect the sacred in all that you do 
In all that you are
For you are it as well
And it, you

April 10, 2016

April 5, 2016

Call it as it is.

Something I have been thinking about and has come up with more frequency recently is the importance or shunning of negative emotions such as anger, pain, and sadness in the context of our environmental situation. 

There is a notion proposed and supported by many that as a society, and even individually,  we should not linger on the unpleasant aspects of environmental destruction. I have been told that I shouldn't make my work sad or "depressing" because people already feel helpless about the plight of the natural world. 

"People don't want to feel sad and helpless." 

"There is so much negativity in the world already."

This opinion has come up in the context of art for adult audiences and children of all ages. Although I think there are certain situations where you may not want your audience to feel  negative emotions around the state of the world, they are few. 

Excluding the very young and projects with a fundamental focus of celebration and hope, I do not see the benefit of excluding sadness from the discussion about environmental issues and our situation. We, as a species, as certain cultures, have caused incredible harm on our planet and the other living beings we share it with, let alone what we have done to each other. One might argue that through technological advances, our society has improved the lives of humanity over our species' existence however, the overall impact we have had on the stability and strength of Earth's ecosystems has been disruptive and degrading. 

Our human population has shot up at an astounding rate and within our current framework, improvements in our standard of living requires more and more resources. We have polluted our lands and waters, stripped land of forests and mountains, spilled toxic waste into sensitive ecosystems, systematically killed species for "our safety" and trophies, and other's by mistake,  we have altered the very make-up of our atmosphere, and have initiated the sixth mass extinction. 

We live in the Anthropocene, which really says it all. We are as powerful as a geologic force.

For humanity, we have done amazing things. We have created beautiful art, loved each other, mastered incredibly complicated intellectual subjects, and discovered so much it boggles the mind, but for the rest of life, we have, and continue to through human-caused climate change, decimate our one and only home. And this, is incredibly sad. 

If one allows themselves to really let the fullness of this sink in and meditate on its implication for a while, t is painful and difficult, and can easily leave them with a feeling of helplessness.

When we do stop to think about all this, and feel the heavy truth, it can be very hard. If you let it, it can bring you to tears. I think it should, and I think we should let it.

Far too often people are afraid of feeling the pain and sadness to actually let themselves feel it, or even anything at all. They numb themselves with distractions and apathy, throwing their hands up renouncing their ability to improve our situation. 

This numbing and refusal to allow ourselves to really, fully sit in the depth of sadness that is our situation, is just as dangerous as continuing to burn fossil fuels at present-day rates. If we do not allow ourselves to feel fully, how could we, why would we, ever make the difficult changes to our society to solve our problems?

In The Greatest Danger -- The Deadening of the Heart and Mind chapter from Coming Back to Life a book by Joanna Macy and Molly Brown, the authors speak about refusing to feel the sadness and anger about our world's situation and the repercussions from that numbing. Below are a few passages I particularly appreciate:

"We may try to protect ourselves from feeling pain for the world, but that very effort costs us a great deal. We pay a high price in diminished awareness, understanding and authenticity. 

"Repression takes a mammoth toll on our energy and dulls our perceptions of the world around us. It is not a local anesthetic. If we won't feel pain, we won't feel much else either -- loves and losses are less intense, the sky less vivid, pleasures muted. 

"The instinct for self-preservation, recognized as the most powerful drive in the biological realm, is essential to the preservation of our species and the ongoingness of life. In the ancient Hindu chakra system, this drive is identified with the base chakra or muladhara. It represents and feeds our instinctual nature, source of our claim on life itself. 

"To be afraid to look at and respond to that which threatens all life constitutes a blocking of the muladhara, cutting off primal intelligence and energies essential to survival. This chakra not only represents a last line of defense in the protection of life, but it also feeds the erotic currents of our days and years. Opening the base chakra __ and thereby our full will to live __ means opening ourselves to the repressed tears and rage of our pain for the world.

"Silencing our deepest responses to the condition of our world not only fosters a sense of futility, but also mires us in it. Each act of denial, conscious or unconscious, is an abdication of our power to respond. It relegates us to the role of victim, before we even see what we can and want to do.

"Our pain for the world, including the fear, anger, and sorrow we feel on behalf of life on Earth is not only pervasive. It is natural and healthy. It is dysfunctional only to the extent that it is misunderstood and repressed."

So yes, shedding the veils of illusion and looking at our very difficult situation with courage and honesty is incredibly hard. It is hard to be honest with ourselves sometimes. It is hard to open ourselves up to the the feeling of helplessness, guilt, and despair. Yes, that is hard, but no one said we lived in an easy time. No one said righting our wrongs and solving our complicated challenges would come smoothly and naturally, but that should not hold us back. 

Call it as it is, and lets get on with it.

"I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear." 
-- Nelson Mandela

"He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life" 

--Muhammad Ali

March 30, 2016

Climate Optimism

Al Gore, former U.S. Vice President and long time climate activist, made his first Ted Talk ten years ago. Also in 2006, Gore released his book, and the very influential documentary An Inconvenient Truth. Far from being his first work on the global climate crisis, An Inconvenient Truth served as a prominent punctuation in Gore's 40+ year career working to raise awareness about, and find solutions to anthropocentric climate change. You remember the terrifying movie, right?

I remember when I first saw An Inconvenient Truth. Already studying climate change in the middle of falling down the rabbit hole of discovery and finding my career path within the field, the documentary solidified my conviction. It also made me quite deeply sad. It is a scary movie, if you let the information sink in.The truth is all that needed to be said. 

A decade later, Al Gore returned to the Ted stage with a slightly different tone. In February, 2016 Gore gave a talk titled "The case for optimism on climate change." Similar to talks he has given in the past, Gore, who has moved from politics into the business field, covers the tragedies that climate change incites, bringing the viewer up to date with events over the past ten years and giving an overview of the lengthy list of things that climate change is and will affect in our natural environment and human society. In the second half of his most recent talk however, Gore takes a turn and talks about why we should be optimistic about our situation and our future. He talks about the changes to industry, and innovations in technology that will help us break our reliance on fossil fuels. With a stable hold of reality and our dire situation, Gore still has an optimistic view and reminds us that there is reason for hope and continued targeted climate action. 

There is a good message in this talk. Climate change is terrifying, dangerous, and sad. What human's have done to the planet and ourselves is justifiable cause for some deep soul searching, as well as financial investment towards finding a better way of living on Earth. We could allow climate change to be the end of us. We could stick our heads in the sand and wait it out. However, if we allow it, climate change can be our largest spark of inspiration and ingenuity. If we allow it, climate change can be the one issue that we all unite around, know that it affects us all indiscriminately. It is not a partisan or national issue, despite some's effort to frame it as such, it is a universal issue. It is also an issue that has rallied people around the world at formal events and small gatherings, in board rooms and science labs, in places of worship and at city hall. Climate change could be our end, but as Gore points out, there are many signs that humanity is not complacent enough to let it. 

March 24, 2016

Two Young Musicians for a Future in Balance

A beautiful, strong voice far beyond her years, Takiya Blaney speaks for a revolution to improve our relationship with Mother Earth. Ta'Kaiya is from the First Nation tribe of Tla A'min in British Colombia, Canada. She has been active over the past four years as an activist, speaker, and musician. She has won a number of awards for her leadership and inspiring message as an environmental advocate and for honoring her culture and upholding the traditions of the First Nation peoples. 

Here is an example of her message as well as one of her songs at the end. 

This video has better sound for her voice, which is magically haunting.

This young man has also been active for a number of years spreading a similar message. Xiuhtezcatl Martinez ask us all, especially the young people of his generation, to revolutionize our way of life to create a better future. He visions a future where humans are good stewards of the planet where we have clean healthy thriving ecosystems. He ask for climate action from individuals as well as decision makers like the United Nations General Assembly on Climate Change.

Here he is in 2015, at age 15 speaking at the 

Xiuhtezcatl is also a talented musician and along with his little brother, Itzcuauhtl, perform their original hip hop music for a better future and relationship with the Earth. 

Another of their songs, at Bioneers.

And here he is, as a younger boy, speaking about how climate change is already affecting his home in Colorado. 

The pine beetles have wreaked havoc on western North America. Climate change has been a significant part of encouraging this destruction. This is a little more about that, from my project We are all in this together.

Mountain pine beetles (Dendroctonus ponderosae) are native to western North America, covering a swath of land from Mexico to British Columbia. With a black exoskeleton, pine beetles only measure about half a centimeter long. Pine beetle’s first three life stages, egg, larva and pupa occur under the bark of a pine tree. During the last life stage, as an adult, they can be seen flying around in the air.

When a female pine beetle burrows into a new tree to lay her eggs, she exposes the tree to blue stain fungus. This fungus inhibits the tree’s natural defense mechanism against more beetles, as well as its ability to transport water and nutrients within the tree. When a tree is infected, pine beetle larva and blue stain fungus spread throughout the tree, eventually inhibiting the tree’s ability to take up water. Eventually the pine tree will die of thirst. From the time the fungus is introduced, it may only take a few weeks for a tree to be incapable of taking up water.

A native to North America, pine beetles are not new to their ecosystems and when conditions are right they infest a new tree, killing it, but continuing its own life cycle. With climate change large areas of pine beetle’s native habitat are warming, experiencing milder winters and hotter summers. This shift in weather affects both pine trees and pine beetles. Unusually warm seasons can stress a tree and make it less robust at fighting off parasites. On the other hand, warmer weather is beneficial for pine beetles, allowing them to reproduce with a higher success rate and giving them more time and opportunity to inhabit more trees. Pine beetles have in fact doubled their reproductive rate. They used to go through one life cycle in a year and can now complete two full cycles each year. In recent years the absence of cold snaps has allowed beetle populations to explode, causing an epidemic in forests dominated by or wholly made up of pine trees.

This explosion of pine beetle populations has resulted in allowing the beetles to expand into more northern territory.  As the beetles moved north, they caused a mass dying off of forests throughout 19 US states, British Columbia and Alberta. Destruction to the forests is on the order of 10 times worse than previously recorded. Around 80 million acres of pines have been decimated and left dead. These tracks of dead trees have repercussions on all other species in the area, including humans. Stands of dead trees cater to raging forest fires. Dead trees are also not as good at holding soil to prevent erosion, slowing water flow and absorbing snow melt into the earth. These forests, which are usually a carbon sink when their trees are healthy, may easily, become a carbon source by releasing stored CO2 and furthering global warming.

Thank you Ta'Kaiya and Xiuhtezcatl,

March 17, 2016

The Sound of Climate Change

This is just a re-post from Check out the great video, like is on the bottom.

In 2013, the composition “A Song of Our Warming Planet” transformed 133 years of global temperature measurements into a haunting melody for the cello. Following its release, A Song of Our Warming Planet was featured by The New York Times, Slate, the Weather Channel, National Public Radio, io9, The Huffington Post and many others on its way to becoming a viral sensation and reaching audiences around the globe.
Now the co-creators, University of Minnesota undergraduate Daniel Crawford and geography professor Scott St. George, are back with a new composition that uses music to highlight the places where climate is changing most rapidly.
Based on surface temperature analysis from NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, the composition "Planetary Bands, Warming World" uses music to create a visceral encounter with more than a century’s worth of weather data collected across the northern half of the planet. (The specific dataset used as the foundation of the composition was the Combined Land-Surface Air and Sea-Surface Water Temperature Anomalies Zonal annual means.)
Crawford composed the piece featuring performance by students Julian Maddox, Jason Shu, Alastair Witherspoon and Nygel Witherspoon from the University of Minnesota’s School of Music.
As Crawford explains in the video, “Each instrument represents a specific part of the Northern Hemisphere. The cello matches the temperature of the equatorial zone. The viola tracks the mid latitudes. The two violins separately follow temperatures in the high latitudes and in the arctic.” The pitch of each note is tuned to the average annual temperature in each region, so low notes represent cold years and high notes represent warm years.
Crawford and St. George decided to focus on northern latitudes to highlight the exceptional rate of change in the Arctic. St. George says the duo plans to write music representing the southern half of the planet, too, but haven’t done so yet.
Through music, the composition bridges the divide between logic and emotion, St. George says. “We often think of the sciences and the arts as completely separate — almost like opposites, but using music to share these data is just as scientifically valid as plotting lines on a graph,” he says. “Listening to the violin climb almost the entire range of the instrument is incredibly effective at illustrating the magnitude of change — particularly in the Arctic which has warmed more than any other part of the planet.”

View The video!

March 15, 2016

My Baby

What if I never had a baby.

If I never had a baby, I would never be pregnant
Never feel that joining of me and another.
Never feel that kick from the inside.
I might never fall that deeply in love at first sight, or even before.

If I never had a baby, she would never have her first steps.
She would never make a twisted face when she first tastes a lemon.
She would never howl in the darkness of midnight
or fall bare-bottomed in the summer grass.

If I never had a baby, she would never buy a computer.
She wouldn’t work at her first job and save up to buy her first car.
My baby would never fly in a plane and travel to other countries.
She would never cut down a tree to build her home or buy oil to heat it.
She would never leave the lights on or step on an ant.

If I never had a baby, she would never be an annual birth statistic
or add to our population.
She would never consume resources or have a footprint.
She would never have to struggle and suffer in a future of climate change.
My baby would never endanger the wilderness and take the lives of others.

If I never have a baby, I would be a little sad, but try to be a little more proud.

If I never had a baby, it would benefit all living things,

even if I know she would be beautiful.