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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.
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Climate Change is Everything

Happy Earth Day!

Last night I went to hear New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman speak about climate change and its ties to income inequality, and how there needs to be a united progressive movement to combat the selfish and devastating actions of the fossil fuel industry.  AG Schneiderman is leading the charge to investigate fossil fuel companies, most notably Exxon Mobil, to see what they knew about the effects of burning fossil fuels versus what they told the public and investors.

Now that he is getting attorney generals from other states involved, he has become the target of a smear campaign, which questions what he is doing and suggests that he is violating the First Amendment right to freedom of speech. His quote from the New York Times article, that he repeated last night:

“The First Amendment, ladies and gentlemen, does not give you the right to commit fraud.”

I am so grateful that I live in a state that is taking action against the fossil fuel industry, but I did feel removed from the Attorney General’s fight. I tried to be an environmental litigator for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, but I only lasted 10 months. Litigation just isn’t for me. Still, I support his actions and am so grateful for his courage.

The thing that really stuck out for me last night was Attorney General Schneiderman’s plea for the progressive movement to form a cohesive, united front against the selfish fossil fuel industry.

Climate change is not an environmental issue; it’s an issue that captures everything about our failing economic system, unsustainable lifestyle, and disconnected values. Climate change is connected to poverty and race because the poorest people and communities of color suffer the most. Climate change is connected to the economy because it destroys human structures and closes businesses (I just received an email from a dog boarding facility in Austin that is closing because they couldn’t recover from last year’s Memorial Day floods). Climate change is connected to mental health because it’s scary to live in a world where future safety is uncertain.

So happy Earth Day! Now get outside 🙂

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Climate Change in Fahrenheit

Climate change has been an important issue to me since I learned about it in college over a decade ago, but I have to admit that I didn’t give the average rise in global temperatures much thought until about a year ago.

There has been much talk about reaching the “2 degree” rise in average global temperature, when the world reaches a climate change tipping point of no return, and then the “4 degree” rise in average global temperature, when all hell breaks loose.

These numbers just didn’t feel big and scary to me. And then one random day I realized… they’re in Celsius!

So in case I am not the only one, here are some average global temperature conversions to help out my fellow Americans:

  • 1 degree Celsius = 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit
  • 2 degrees Celsius = 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit
  • 3 degrees Celsius = 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit
  • 4 degrees Celsius = 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit

When the numbers are translated into the temperatures I grew up with, I feel the climate change issue on a deeper level. And I am a little embarrassed that it took me so long to figure it out.

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The Gathering

I’ve been waiting to launch this website at the right moment, when I have it all organized and full of well-edited articles. But that’s just not happening, so I’ve decided that the moment to launch is now.

Tonight I went to the Rise Up for Climate Justice‘s gathering on the eve of the Paris Climate talks. There was ceremony, singing, and feasting. The evening was simple yet powerful, and each person I met was warm yet serious about climate action. Even though I didn’t know most of the people at the gathering, I felt like I belonged.

Rocks of grief & ribbons of gratitude.
Rocks of grief & ribbons of gratitude.

I feel small and powerless about climate change and environmental issues right now. I’m not going to Paris. I don’t have a powerful environmental policy job. I’m not living a perfectly sustainable lifestyle. I have a lot of student loans.

But I know that my smallness and powerlessness is changing into something else. I am finding my path and my voice, and for some reason, I believe that a part of my journey includes this website.

So here goes nothing. It’s time for Keeping Things Alive to come alive.