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Monthly Archives: April 2011

IT IS TIME TO GET DOWN TO EARTH

I was a first year teacher for the first Earth Day in 1970 when I received a notice that a new national observance would be held on April 22. We were encouraged to plan classroom discussions about nature and environmental problems. Always looking for new ideas for class debates and writing assignments, I was happy to run with the topic.

Naturally, I don’t remember what was said that day but I do remember that we had lively discussions. Who knew that forty-one years later I would continue the discussions on a blog? At that time computers were new and huge. Who could have foreseen that I would continue the observance discussing it in a blog written on a laptop computer and read by many around the world on similar laptops or even smaller phones. Then we were still wondering whether Dick Tracey’s watch/phone would ever become a reality. It was in the days before cell phones, before I-pods or I-pads, before microwaves, before 8 Track tapes and CDs, and before HDTVs.

The world has made many advances in the last 41 years but, sadly, the environmental concerns still remain. Earth Day founder, Gaylord Nelson, then U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, conceived the idea after witnessing the ravages of a massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California. Outraged by the devastation and Washington’s political inertia, Nelson proposed a national teach-in on the environment. Today we are observing the one year anniversary of the massive BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The first Earth Day was observed by two thousand colleges and universities, roughly ten thousand primary and secondary schools, and hundreds of communities across the country. It also brought 20 million Americans out for peaceful demonstrations in favor of environmental reform. Approximately 20 million Americans across the country demonstrated in streets, parks, and auditoriums demanding a healthy, sustainable environment. Various groups that had been fighting against oil spills, polluting factories and power plants, raw sewage, toxic dumps, pesticides, freeways, the loss of wilderness, and the extinction of wildlife suddenly realized they shared common values.

The countless observances over these last 40 years have not been in vain. The first Earth Day led to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts.

 Earth Day is now observed in 175 countries, and coordinated by the nonprofit Earth Day Network. It is now the largest secular holiday in the world, celebrated by more than a half billion people every year according to Earth Day statistics.

The name “Earth Day” seemed to naturally evolve. Nelson called it the National Teach-In but the press almost unanimously began calling it Earth Day. Earth Day, rhyming with birthday, suggests a yearly renewal which also coincides with the arrival of spring.

It has not always been smooth sailing for the Earth Day movement. In 2009 the Washington Times contrasted Arbor Day with Earth Day claiming Arbor Day was a happy, non-political celebration of trees, whereas Earth Day was a pessimistic, political ideology that portrayed humans in a negative light. In addition, many have questioned the commercialization of the day saying it has led to greenwashing.

Here in Columbus, Ohio, Green Columbus claims to coordinate the most Earth Day service projects in the U.S. Below are some suggestions from their site on how to live a greener life.

I will leave you with a thought for the day taken from the side of a barn only a few miles from my home. It pictures two large hands cradling a tender seedling with its roots in a ball of soil. The message reads—EVERY DAY IS EARTH DAY TO A FARMER.

Suggestions for a Greener lifestyle:

Lifestyle/Misc.

  • Eating a vegetarian diet has a positive influence on the environment but not everyone wants to give up meat completely. Try eating meat one less day a week or for a bigger challenge try being a “weekday vegetarian”
  • Back to school means back to after-school activities too. Minimize your pollution by arranging carpools. It’s a great way to use less gas and meet more friends and neighbors.
  • Make back to school green this year by reusing supplies that are still usable such as partially filled notebooks, or by choosing products made from recycled material.
  • Summer and outdoor parties go hand in hand. Throw a green summer party with these simple tips. http://earth911.com/news/2010/05/24/green-tips-for-a-summer-party/
  • Next time you go out to eat bring your own take home container for leftovers. This is a simple way to reduce and reuse!
  • Reduce, reuse, and recycle this Valentine’s Day by giving your loved one jewelry or other gifts from “vintage” shops.
  • Green your gift wrapping this holiday season with these earth friendly ideas.
  • Unwrap gifts with care this holiday season so you can reuse the paper and boxes for next year. If you can’t help but tear into your presents then don’t forget to recycle the gift wrap and boxes!

Home/Garden

  • Light up your house this holiday season with LED lights. They use 90% less energy and are more durable than conventional lights
  • Pesky summer bugs got you down? Here are some natural ways to get rid of ants in your home.
  • On your next jaunt to the farmer’s market or produce section of the grocery store, take a reusable produce bag. Did you know that by reusing your produce bag once a week you reduce as many as 150 plastic bags per year?
  • Here is a simple way to reduce your paper usage. How about getting an inexpensive white board to put up in the kitchen or mudroom instead of leaving notes on paper. It might not seem like much but every little bit counts!
  • Junk mail is very eco-unfriendly. Here is a place to put an end to junk mail at your home.
  • A dirty oven consumes more energy, and causes food to cook unevenly. Clean your oven before cooking this Thanksgiving. Try using a green cleaning solution of just baking soda and water.
  • Cut down your CO2 emissions by 440lbs (gas heater) or 600lbs (electric heater) per year. Just turn down your H2O heater thermostat to 120F.
  • Don’t bag it! Turn your fallen leaves into mulch this fall instead of kicking them to the curb.
  • Use all of your pumpkin this Halloween! Make roasted pumpkin seeds, pumpkin bread, etc. & compost your pumpkin when done w/ it

Electronics

  • What to do with old techie gadgets you’ve upgraded? Declutter by reusing or recycling old computers, TVs, and cell phones. Learn how in this EPA videohttp://www.epa.gov/reg3wcmd/eCycling/eCyclingvideo.htm
  • Light up your house this holiday season with LED lights. They use 90% less energy and are more durable than conventional lights
  • Energy Vampires. Check out the discussions tab on Facebook to see how to stake out these suckers.
  • Courtesy of the EPA, About 40 percent of all battery sales occur during the holiday season. Buy rechargeable batteries to accompany your electronic gifts, and consider giving a battery charger as well. Rechargeable batteries reduce the amount of potentially harmful materials thrown away, and can save money in the long run.

Pets

  • Bag the plastic for biodegradable dog waste bags & 100% recycled paper scoops. There’s even a doggy loo too!
  • Turn kitty’s litter green w/ biodegradable liners & litter instead of strip mined bentonite & harmful silica found in clumping clay litter.

 

http://www.earthday.org/earth-day-history-movement

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earth_Day

http://greencbus.org/site/

MOVIE REVIEW: Arthur Not Ready for Crown but Top Hat Suits Him Well

Arthur

Image by WorthingTheatres via Flickr

Arthur, played by Russell Brand, is funny, sweet, and sad. Brand, who admittedly has had a notorious past with drugs and alcohol, is the perfect person to play the perpetual child/playboy who resists growing up. Helen Mirren, as always the consummate British professional, is the perfect foil against Brand’s zany character.

I have not seen the original Arthur with Dudley Moore and, therefore, cannot compare the two but what I saw in this remake I loved. Brand is able to accurately portray a crazy drunk (after all he has had plenty of practice) who works hard to cover his vulnerability hidden just beneath the surface.

Jennifer Garner is cast as a power-hungry shrew. It was fun to watch her sink her teeth into a different type of role. She seemed to enjoy this part. It was also good to see Nick Nolte on the screen again as Garner’s gruff, macho contractor father. He is, literally, tough as nails.

This Arthur probably won’t be headed for any awards as in King Arthur movies; but Brand proves himself worthy of wearing Abe Lincoln’s top hat. It is a fun ride through New York City in some of Arthur’s collection of famous movie cars. For a fun night out you can’t miss with Arthur. I grade it a B.

LET US NEVER FORGET: The Civil War Was NOT Civil

U.S. Declaration of Independence ratified by t...

Image via Wikipedia

This is an anniversary we should remember but not celebrate. As you are now aware, it is the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War. I have always thought that was an odd name to give a war because there was nothing “civil” about it.

It was a horrible time. It was a time of father against son and brother against brother. It not only divided a nation but destroyed families and created deep wounds in our national fabric that haven’t healed yet. And it was all over slavery.

Slavery—1. System based on enslaved labor. The practice of, or a system based on, using the enforced labor of other people. 2. Condition of being enslaved laborer. The state or condition of being held in involuntary servitude as the property of somebody else. 3. Hard work. Very hard work, especially for low pay and under bad conditions. 4. State of being dominated. A state of being completely dominated by another.

The institution of slavery is nothing new. Everyone who reads the Bible (or has seen the movie The Ten Commandments) knows that it is an institution thousands of years old. Everyone remembers the story of when the Jews were slaves to the Egyptians. It was not a pleasant time for them. They sacrificed everything to gain their freedom. Fast forward a couple thousand years and we have Africans kidnapped and brought to this country to serve as slaves on plantations working in the fields and running their masters’ homes.

Today, many spin masters want you to believe the war was not over slavery but “state’s rights” or constitutional principles. They make it look like such a romantic time with southern Belles in hoop skirts sipping lemonade and mint juleps on large verandas shaded by stately old oak trees draped with Spanish moss. The idea of a southern gentleman continues with images of men neatly dressed and assisting women through doors or into chairs. We see in our mind’s eye richly dressed couples waltzing across a ball room to lilting music. What we don’t see in this picture are the many slaves preparing the meals; planting, tending, and harvesting the crops; and attending to the children and every need or whim of the masters. We also don’t see those southern gentlemen beating and selling their slaves—or worse.

As quoted in the Declaration of the Causes of Secession—“(Northerners) have denounced as sinful the institution of slavery….We, therefore, the people of South Carolina…have solemnly declared that the Union heretofore existing between this State and other States of North America dissolved.”

Also, just in case there is any doubt, Alexander Stephens, vice president of the Confederacy, said, “Our new government is founded upon…the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and moral condition.”

No one could have foreseen the horrors and the hundreds of thousands of deaths this war would bring. The war was even a form of entertainment to many as they gathered on hilltops and picnicked while watching the battles.

It worries me today that many seem to want to return to those days. But there is nothing glamorous or romantic about holding a group of people in contempt and viewing them as less than human. The slavery chapter brought pain, suffering, and disgrace to this nation. I fear if we look closely at our society’s fabric today we will see similar rips and tears.

A dirty little secret that many think or whisper but don’t dare speak out loud is that same feeling of contempt is still brewing underneath the surface of society today. There are some who still feel those of another race or religion are not welcome. The Declaration of Independence clearly states that all men (and women) are created equal. Furthermore, the Constitution says:

 “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

It says We the People of the United States…meaning all people not everyone except the Catholics, or Jews, or Methodists, or Mexicans, or Chinese, or Africans, etc.

When are we going to learn to live together and respect each other? We have so much to learn from people with different backgrounds. I am happy to say I have friends from many different countries and have proudly encouraged them to attain their American citizenship and have rejoiced with them after successfully completing their long journey to citizenship. The one fact that constantly amazes me is how much we are alike in spite of our differences. We feel pain, sorrow, joy, and laughter over the same things. And, we all bleed red when cut.

Hold that image of red blood in your mind. The fields and rivers ran red with blood during the Civil War on our own native land. Over the next four years there will be many reminders of significant battles of the War between the States. Communities will be planning various celebrations, festivals, and other observances of events from that time. The only event we should celebrate will be April 9, 2015 marking the end of the Civil War when Gen. Lee surrendered his troops at the Court House of Appomattox.

Don’t fall for the romantic notion of the times. Let us never forget how awful that war was and vow to resolve our differences now before the current conflicts escalate to a point of no return.

AN OPEN LETTER TO THE WORDPRESS STAFF

279.365 happy april fools day,

Image by ashley rose, via Flickr

Re:    The joke is on me

April 2, 2011

Dear WordPress staff:

You got me—and you got me good!

I am still fairly new to blogging having been at this for less than a year. Daily I check my stats to see how I am doing. March 31st marked my highest readership to date and I was ecstatic. I decided to celebrate April Fool’s Day with a satire of a hotly debated political issue in our great state of Ohio. I was rather proud of the finished product (Breaking News: Governor, Legislators Agree to Teach in Public Schools) and cockily announced, “Genuis!” when I pressed the publish button.

Imagine my surprise when I checked my stats site shortly after posting to see the bar on the graph soar far above the previous day. I checked back frequently to see the bar continue to rise. Wow! I was excited to see that others must also think my post was a flash of brilliance. However, I was confused because the actual number read 10—12—16—and then 18. But dumb me still didn’t get the joke. I thought I must have passed a magical point where the prefix was no longer recorded—such as of 110 or 1,010.

I finally read the small print above the figures that said April Fools—but I still didn’t get it. Instead, I wondered how the administrators of the site knew my post was intended as an April Fool’s Day joke when I presented it as a straight news story. Did you have a special program that interpreted the categories of all your posts?

Then—finally—I got it! You pulled a good one on this older and wiser author (or so I thought). I was so busy designing my elaborate prank that I didn’t see yours.

Job well done!

Sdobbie46 (Sheila Dobbie)

Note to my readers—bloggers have a special back door portal we can enter to post blogs, edit, check readership stats, etc. The site lists what titles were posted on what days, which posts are being read and which are most popular. We do not know who is reading our blog but we do know how many came from Facebook, e-mail, search engines and so on. Thanks for your continued support.

BREAKING NEWS: GOVERNOR, LEGISLATORS AGREE TO TEACH IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS

The front crossview mirror of a school bus; it...

Image via Wikipedia

In light of the recent controversy regarding teachers and SB 5, governor Kasich and many legislators have agreed to teach in public schools for the next grading period.

They agreed to remain in the classrooms the entire grading period stating, “How hard can it be?” They continued that they look forward to the comfort of leaving work at three o’clock daily so they can catch up on much needed sleep and workout time. When reminded they would have to prepare lesson plans, grade papers, and arrange graphic presentations they said they would refer these duties to their able aides. When reminded they would have no aides or secretaries for paper work and classroom presentations, governor Kasich replied, “Then I will just talk to them all day as I have done on the campaign trail and at Fox News.”

In addition, governor Kasich agreed to take on the extra duty of driving a school bus. Referring to his recent comments that he is driving the bus and you are either on it or you will be run over, Kasich pointed to his excellent driving record. He stated that he drove SB 5 over bumpy roads to adoption and feels navigating a school bus will be no different. When asked about his confrontation with a state highway patrol officer regarding a traffic violation, Kasich stated he felt certain that incident did not disqualify him from driving a bus. As governor he would see to it there were no obstacles ahead.

Many legislators also felt confident and felt no special education or preparation would be necessary for the upcoming task. One lawmaker was overheard to say he spent 12 years in a public classroom and felt he knew all he needed to know about teaching.

A spokesman for the teachers stated, “We are looking forward to an extended spring break. Many of us will be seeking new employment or taking on a second job.” One student commented she was looking forward to the change. “The teachers are wise to our tricks so now we get to educate a whole bunch of newbies.”

An interested parent commented she was looking forward to the experiment. Referring to talk of parents taking over failing schools she said, “I feel certain my son’s school will be in the failing group and then I can take over the system myself. I look forward to seeing that my son has all the additional help he needs, regardless of the other students’ needs. My son is the one who counts,” she said.

When asked about the significance of announcing this plan on April first, Kasich said he saw no correlation between the timing of the announcement and April Fools Day.