Book

Silent Seasons the E-Book is Here!

Silent Seasons

Chasing Sustainability through the Law

by: Laura Evans

e-book available for purchase on Amazon HERE for 99¢ until September 28th (then $4.99)!

e-book also available for purchase on Kobo HERE for $4.99!

Paperback arrives the first week of October 2022.

Publisher: New Degree Press

 

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Silent Seasons: Chasing Sustainability through the Law is a thought leadership book about sustainability and US environmental law based on what author Laura Evans has experienced and learned as an environmental lawyer, consultant, and nonprofit staffer living in both Western New York and Austin, Texas.

Silent Seasons combines personal stories and legal information to teach the reader:

  • How specific environmental laws like the Endangered Species Act, National Environmental Policy Act, and New York’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act work.
  • How the current U.S. environmental law system is organized and failing us all.
  • How you can benefit from personal sustainability lessons I learned along the way.
  • How to create a broader framework for addressing current problems like climate change, water pollution, air pollution, species extinction, and more.
  • How to make chicken noodle soup.

The stories and lessons in this book will give the reader broader perspectives and new ways of thinking about sustainability, which will empower us all to move toward a more healthy and sustainable future together.

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Accessory Navicular Surgery

Life has shifted for me once again, and this time I find myself living and sleeping in the “my-parents’-dining-room-turned-my-bedroom” while I recover from my first of four foot surgeries (two on each foot). I’ll get the cheesy puns out of the way now: I have a long road ahead of me, which I must travel one step at a time.

I think it’s worth explaining what type of surgery I had (removal of my accessory navicular with the Kidner procedure), because it’s possible that someone else is staring down this type of procedure and would like to hear from someone else who has gone through it.

So I’m 32, I’ve been rolling my ankles every couple of months since I was about 16, I’ve always hated to run, and I’ve always had a strong preference for supportive, non-heeled shoes. I would tell myself that I roll my ankles because I have bad balance and am clumsier than most other people. I would tell myself that I hate to run because I’m not a well-rounded athlete (swimming is my sport!). And I would tell myself that I prefer ugly, orthopedic shoes because I’m kind to my body and not willing to suffer physically to look a certain way.

But there was another factor at play that I was completely unaware of this entire time – I have (had) an extra bone in my foot! This extra bone, called an accessory navicular, was going about its unstable business completely under my radar, until I sprained my foot at that exact location last July and it never healed. I iced it, rested it, ignored it, went through six weeks of physical therapy, and ignored it some more, but the pain never went away, and so I decided to go see a foot specialist and take additional steps to stablize my feet.

The first surgery happened four days ago, and all is going well so far. I’m in a super heavy bandage/splint for the first week, and then I get a cast for the three weeks after that. I took prescription pain meds the first couple of days (which are a blur), but now I’m just taking Motrin.

The most painful and unexpected thing that happened to me is that my throat got really irritated and sore from the tube that they put down my throat during the procedure. I could not eat anything remotely spicy or acidic for the first two days (including bananas and yogurt), and it took a full four days for my throat to really get back to normal.

I’ve never gone through a “real” surgery before (wisdom teeth only) and it feels strange and scary to be so vulnerable and wounded (I can’t run away, my go-to defense!). I’m so grateful for my family and friends, who are keeping me company and taking care of me. If I did not have them in my life, I would have to pay someone to help me because there is no way I could do this by myself.

Staring down the barrel of these surgeries is really hard, but I can’t help appreciating the timing of it all. I have a job where I work remotely, I want to put more time into this website and my podcast, I am not in school, and my parents are available to help me. I catch myself saying “why didn’t you investigate your unstable ankles when you were in high school/college/law school/two years ago?” But the truth is, it would not have been a good time. I’m right where I’m supposed to be.

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April Reflections

I didn’t write any new posts this month, although I did update my “Keeping Things Alive Podcast” post a number of times because I finally shared the first six episodes that I have been dreaming up and putting together for a long time now.  It’s amazing to me that I thought of the phrase “keeping things alive” and knew it was the website for me all the way back in Fall 2013.  So much has happened in my life since then, and yet “keeping things alive” continues to be the best way to describe my greatest passion and what I want to do with my life’s work.

Being able to share the Keeping Things Alive Podcast with the world (that has an Internet connection) is exciting and scary.  I’m proud of the interviews and hope that they inspire others to take personal responsibility for making their corner of the world a better place.  Although the interviews showcase incredibly different backgrounds and perspectives, everyone wants to move in the same direction — towards a healthier and better future for all.  I want people to keep listening to the podcast, but even if they don’t, the entire project has been worth it because I learned how to create a podcast, how to be a better interviewer, how to correct a few odd speech habits, and most important, I deepened relationships with people who are doing work that I care about.

I’ve been in a boot and on crutches this entire month because I found out I have an extra bone in my foot (an “accessory navicular” — sounds so fashionable), which has prevented an old ankle sprain from healing.  Being immobile has been incredibly challenging because I walk for exercise and sanity, I live alone with my dog in a second floor apartment, and I’ve discovered that it’s really difficult for me to ask for help.  This month of immobility has been a lesson in asking for help.  I’m grateful that I read Amanda Palmer’s book, The Art of Asking, a few months ago because it helped me value the connection that comes from asking and receiving help from others.  I’m still struggling with asking my neighbor to walk my dog, my friend to buy me groceries, and my mom to do my laundry, but it’s getting easier and my relationships are stronger and better for it.

April is my favorite month because it’s Earth Day, my birthday, and the start of real spring weather (Buffalonians coming out of hibernation is real!).  April 2017 was particularly full of “environmental energy” because of the Trump Administration’s dangerous disregard for our global reality and the resulting protest marches.  The March for Science happened on Earth Day, while the Peoples’ Climate March happened yesterday.  I had been planning on going to the Climate March for months, but my ankle kept me from making the bus trip to DC.  Missing this march was definitely disappointing, but probably for the best.  After all, I completed so much more website and podcast work than I would have otherwise.

I have a suspicion that my ankle injury is a blessing in disguise.

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Plant Love: Snake Plant

Although as I child I vowed to my mother that I would never own a single plant because I did not enjoy taking care of hers, I now have approximately 15 house plants in my one-bedroom apartment, plus a small outdoor vegetable and herb garden. My perspective on plants changed when I got my own place because I realized that not only are they beautiful, but they are functional. My aloe plant is great for my skin, my thyme plant tastes great, and all of my plants improve the indoor air quality.

Today I am going to showcase my first and in many ways favorite indoor house plant: the snake plant (also known as mother-in-law’s tongue).

Snake Plant
One of my snake plants…

Anytime someone asks me about my plants and is interested in getting one for themselves, I recommend a snake plant to start. Snake plants are great because they are easy – they don’t like a lot of water or direct sunlight. It seems like the more I neglect them, the more they thrive. The only time I had trouble with a snake plant was when I gave one too much water and the leaves got soggy and fell over. I had a snake plant in my cubicle at a former job where there was only fluorescent light and absolutely no natural light – the beast just kept growing and growing, and it still lives in that maze of cubicles with a friend today.

If you’re interested in getting a snake plant, I’ve purchased them at Home Depot, Ikea, and the indoor plant section of a local nursery.

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Reframing the News

I’ve written here before about my interest in a “low information diet,” which is a strategy to stay focused on what you actually have control over. Although this is a good idea sometimes, I now know that I took it too far. Years leading up to the 2016 election, I had no commitment to understanding the news, and instead got information from Facebook, comedy news shows, documentaries, and a few random websites that align with my interests. I believe that tuning out quality journalism was a big mistake on my part, and I’ve committed to spend some time each day paying attention to what is going on in the world around me and beyond.

Two days after the election results, I deactivated my Facebook account. I’ll be back on soon to stay digitally connected with family and friends, but I’m done using it to read articles and catch the latest news story. I’m horrified at the fake news stories that proliferated through social networks during the election cycle, and how my personal echo chamber was completely different from those who supported other candidates and see the world differently from me. This article and this article sum up my concerns nicely.

So in recognition of this error and my commitment to do better from here on out, I’ve started paying for digital access to the New York Times, the Buffalo News, and I’m about to sign up for a subscription to The Economist. No newspaper is perfect and every journalist comes with their personal biases, but I want to pay for and read journalism that has standards and seeks to uncover what is (closer to being) real.

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Gratitude

Yesterday I made a “plan for my weekend,” which included re-writing a legal article to post today. But I just got back from a walk with my dog, Sunny, and I realized that I’d much rather take a few paragraphs to recognize that I am so grateful for having one of the best weeks in recent memory. I was recognized for doing good work at my job, I had a number of great conversations with new and old friends, I got to see the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra play backup to a Beatles cover band with my family (their rendition of St. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was awesome), I ate well, and I started brainstorming a new creative project with one of my favorite environmental “colleagues.” It’s kind of blowing my mind that all of these wonderful experiences happened over the course of five days.

I’m also grateful for being in the midst of my favorite season in Western New York. Last fall I was distracted with my personal life and driving pretty much everywhere, but this year I am much more present and living in an a city apartment where I walk all the time. The leaves are gorgeous!

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On the Recent Male Birth Control Upset

This week, people got upset because a trial for male birth control was discontinued due to unbearable side effects – mood swings, acne, decrease in libido, etc. Some women were quick to point out that this is pure hypocrisy, because women have been putting up with the exact same side effects for forever, so men should have to put up with it, too.

But rather than bash men for being wimps, I see this as an opportunity to raise the issue that female hormonal birth control is much more dangerous than advertised, and should not be prescribed as cavalierly as it is now. I was on a low-estrogen form of birth control for about seven years throughout college and law school, and the side effects were terrible (both physical and mental). The worst part was that I never considered getting off of it for years (and my doctors kept encouraging me to try different brands). The more I read about hormonal birth control side effects, the more I learned that this is a common problem. Messing with hormones is no joke and it has real consequences.

About three years ago, I stumbled upon my non-hormonal solution of choice: the Lady Comp (plus condoms on “unsafe” days). Did you know that there is only a small window every month when a woman can get pregnant, and temperature fluctuations throughout the month indicate this window? No one told me! So now I take my temperature at the same time every morning, and the Lady Comp tells me when I can get pregnant and when I can’t. It’s over 99% effective, and I have a solid record for over three years. Maybe it’s more work than the hormonal choices, but I don’t have to deal with crazy side effects anymore, and I honestly feel more alive and present than I did all those years on the Pill.

So yes, male birth control is a great idea in theory. But changing male hormones to lower their sperm counts? Messing with hormones is messing with the entire body, which is not good for any gender.

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The Beauty of Just Letting Go

This week was emotionally challenging for me because I had to let go of something. Letting go is hard, but I can already feel new space in my life to write, think, exercise, spend time on relationships that build me up, and work towards my goals. Exhale.

So in light of that disruption, here are the things that have been on my mind this week:

  • I’ve been leaning on Tara Brach pretty hard this week. I’ve more than halfway through her second book, True Refuge, and it’s excellent. Going through the book and trying out the meditations and reflections is draining, though. It helps me come back to the present (instead of spinning around in my head) and get in touch with my body and heart, which brings up repressed emotions like fear and sadness. Working through this process is cathartic and I’m glad that I’m putting in the time.
  • The first Presidential debate is tonight, and I don’t plan on watching. I already know who I’m voting for, and I don’t want to spend any more time on this election. In general, I spend some time keeping up with the news and I try my best to stay informed on environmental issues because that matters for my work and writing, but I don’t spend much time learning about stuff that is out of my control, which has been coined a “Low Information Diet.” I’m also uncomfortable with the underlying fear-inducing tactics of mainstream news. Here are two articles by one of my favorite bloggers, Mr. Money Mustache, on what a low information diet is, and focusing on your circle of control.
  • I do my best to avoid chemicals in my household products because they mess with my body and they are not tested for safety in the way that I always assumed (this documentary was eye-opening for me). I’ve struggled to find a deodorant that works, so I bought a new one this week based on this article.  So far so good, but I haven’t sweat very much yet (it’s finally getting cooler – I love fall!). Note: I find that I have no body odor issues when I’m wearing merino wool or 100% cotton versus polyester blends.
  • In Dakota Access pipeline news, the United Nations Council on Human Rights issued this statement on the importance of consulting with tribes on the pipeline and ensuring safe drinking water. I’ve been working on researching this issue a bit more and have been getting more information from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Facebook page. I plan on publishing a more robust article within the week.
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if it is to be, it is up to me

I’m loving the storms that have been passing through Western New York this weekend. It’s been great to fall asleep to the sound of rain, hear thunder, and not water my garden with tap water (the plants grow so much faster and bigger on rainwater!). I’ve been helping my sister take care of my parents’ house and pets while they are on a trip out west.  Unfortunately one of the cats, a 13-year-old tabby named Ben, has been rapidly losing weight, so I took him to the vet, and the diagnosis is diabetes. My parents lean towards the “let nature take its course” pet care approach, so I’m doing my best to spend time with him, keep him comfortable, and feel him food that he likes.

Here are the things that have been on my mind this week:

  • I am participating in MIT’s ULab “Leading from the Emerging Future” course for the second year in a row, and the first live session happened this past week. I was able to participate in the live session on the University at Buffalo campus, and meditate at the same time as over 20,000 people from around the world. I’ve never had that “global meditation” experience before (thanks, Internet!), but it was amazing and I felt infused with energy for the rest of the day. Here is the course website, here is the course book, and here is a sister website.
  • Cat nutrition is on my mind for obvious reasons… I learned that cats are supposed to eat wet food, not dry food. All of the cats I’ve known have eaten dry food, so this is a surprise to me. Here is a Quora thread on wet versus dry food. And here is a detailed chart that gives the nutrition information on many cat foods.
  • This weekend I went to my friend’s workshop on making your own herb-infused vinegar for cooking for medicinal purposes. I made mine with stinging nettle, burdock root, and holy basil (infused into apple-cider vinegar). It’s pretty easy to do (I think these instructions are good, although we didn’t warm up the vinegar and I’m sure it will be fine).
  • The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s protest of the Dakota Access pipeline continues, and there is a growing community of activists at Standing Rock in North Dakota. I’ve had trouble finding information about the protests on a consistent basis through normal news channels, so I’ve been looking at Twitter and searching for #DAPL or #NoDAPL to find the most current information. Below is a video of Van Jones speaking at a rally in DC, and his comments about “water is life, oil is death” are spot on (my favorite points begin at 2:40).
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“We are a Way for the Cosmos to Know Itself”

It’s starting to feel like fall (or less like summer at least), which I am excited about. This summer was interesting – it was my first full summer back in Western New York since 2009, and it seemed hotter than I ever remember. That’s probably accurate considering global temperatures have been setting records for the past few years.

I thought I would write a little bit about what has been on my mind this week:

  1. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s protest of the Dakota Access Pipeline is fascinating for a number of reasons. It’s exciting that a group is taking a serious stand against a pipeline that has been approved through the business-as-usual, plenty-of-red tape-but-will-probably-stand-up-in-court, administrative law process. It’s frustrating to think that this is one of many pipelines being proposed and approved across the country right now, with little media coverage (see Klamath, Northern Access, and google “gas pipeline” for others). It’s scary that a private company set out attack dogs and pepper sprayed protestors. It’s uplifting to see the federal government listen to the protests and step in, even if it’s temporary. It’s great to hear voices that I haven’t heard before.
  2. Last night I watched Episode 1 of the 2014 Cosmos (hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson) on Netflix. I watched the series episode-by-episode in 2014, but decided it would be a good idea to watch again because I am trial-by-fire tutoring a woman for her high school equivalency exam, and the chemistry questions are really hard for me. I didn’t plan on re-visiting atoms or the Periodic Table of Elements ever again, but here I am. Cosmos is an amazing series. It can be a little dense and challenging to understand at times, but it’s worth pushing through because it does a great job explaining science, and opens up your mind in the process.
  3. A Facebook friend posted a link to this amazing cartoon wombat video. “This is your home. It’s the only one you’ve got. Cherish and protect it.”
  4. I’ve been choosing to interrupt my sleep schedule lately, and I’m noticing that I don’t feel as sharp during the day compared to when I prioritize an uninterrupted 8 hours. Sleep has been really important to me since I learned about the benefits in college. So it’s time to get back on the sleep train and get some mental clarity back.