Archive for the ‘Climate change’ Category

It is March and already it is crystal clear that something is very much out-of-order.  Last week brought hundreds of tornadoes racing through the heart of the United States, leaving devastation in their wake and entire towns whipped from the face of the mid-west.  All the while I see Sandhill cranes winging their way up the Mississippi and Blue birds already in the orchard – all of them early in their migration north – early by almost a month.

But why should that matter to us? Why worry about such things, when there are daily matters to be concerned about?  Paul Gilding tells us why we should pay attention to the changes at hand.

And James Hansen explains how our elected officials have kept a lid on climate truth.  Jim has tried to get our ear about the truth of climate change for over 30 years, however, without much success.  But now, that his predictions are knocking down our doors we may finally stop and listen.

So, the next time you hear a politician talk about the need to open up oil reserves, about strip mining, and about the need for a Tar Sands pipeline, think about how this puts all of us into harm’s way.

Don’t be mislead by slick commercials about the “save” extraction of oil and  gas and learn about the true cost of fossil fuels made from fraking, from tar sands and shale.

Garth Lenz: The true cost of oil | Video

Think about yourself, your kids and grand kids.  And better yet, think about calling your elected officials and demand that they do what is right for us and our planet.  Solutions are already here, what is missing is not the technical know how, but rather the political will to put them into action.

Hold your elected officials accountable and force them to change course now, while we still have a change to make a difference.

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It’s February and winter is still on the lam.  Well yes, January brought some snow, but it’s hard to believe this is Wisconsin in winter.   Here at Sontheim temperatures hover in the balmy mid 40’s and occasionally tumble below 20 degrees.  The migratory birds are confused and the Canadian Geese can’t make up their minds if they should be coming or going.  On any given day you can watch great flocks fly South, only to see them return on the next day to head North again.  It is astonishing to watch such confusion and it makes me uneasy when I think of our Hummingbirds.

Other than experiencing the strange effects of climate change all else seems fine at Sontheim.  Our Sophia had a rough encounter with epilepsy last year while Sam and Lilly experienced good health and unfettered romps in the woods.  All we know is that the seizures started after Sophia had received her lyme disease booster and Dr. Sander, our trusted family vet, and I suspect that the vaccination may have been the trigger.

Sammy loves eye contact.

All together Sophia had four seizures, the first of which took place in the early morning hours on 8-24-11.  We tried medication which unfortunately she was not able to tolerate.  So I decided to treat her with food.   Sophia’s fourth and hopefully final seizure was on 11-01-11 and thankfully there has been no recurrence since.

Recently our Sam also gave us a scare when I heard him give a sharp yelp while he was out of sight.  All I know is that something must have happened to his rear end, because for several days thereafter he was not able to take the stairs.  In consultation with our vet I gave Sam some Rimadyl to ease his discomfort, and sure enough, it did not take him long to be his usual rambunctious self again.

While all things seem right on our beautiful patch of land high on the bluffs, nothing seems right in Wisconsin.  For a year now, our beautiful state has being torn apart by the divisive politics of Governor Walker and his cohorts in the State Legislature.

The Assembly just passed a mining bill which  will roll back long-established environmental safeguards.  All 183 pages of the bill were written behind closed doors by the republican majority and their mining company lobbyist.  As with the bill that stripped collective bargaining from workers’ rights last year, this bill is being rammed through the legislature without public input.  As it stands, bill AB 426 will give mining companies the right to rape our land by looking the other way when they divert water from our rivers, when they deplete our groundwater through high capacity wells, when they pollute the air and dump mining slag into our pristine wetlands.  And all of this for the mere promise of a few hundred jobs.  Or should we also mention the millions of mining dollars that are flowing into the coffers of the six republican incumbents who are being recalled by the people of Wisconsin!!!

All across our nation, the fight is on to preserve citizens’ rights and quality of life.  2012 has barely begun, but it is already clear that it needs a lot more than a just little bit of love.   Oh Charlie Brown, how I envy you Your Christmas Tree.

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It’s a tropical day in Wisconsin.  Too hot and humid to venture outside.  And there are swarms of ferocious insects ready to strike.

So the prudent plan of action is to spend another day inside.

Just yesterday when I watched our hummingbirds play at the feeders I noticed unusually large mosquitos at the window.  Hard to believe, but they were more than double the usual size.

The arctic too is melting and some day mosquitoes will make their way to the place where there used to be eternal ice.

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We woke to a forty degree rise in temperature at sunrise this morning and there will be no outing for the dogs today.  The hummingbird feeders are replenished and the Orioles have found equilibrium in their ravenous consumption of grape jelly and sugar-water.

A sad thing happened yesterday when we found a dead Hummer girl whose entire beak was wedged through the screening under the porch.   We where shocked to find her there, because the spot she hit is a very secluded part of the screened in area under the porch.  As you know, Sontheim is a place “where hummingbirds play” and every effort is made to provide a safe environment for our beloved visitors.  However, sometimes unexpectedly, things go wrong.

When the same tragic hummingbird death occurred last summer on precisely the same spot, we thought it was just an awful fluke and would not likely repeat, but this second death questioned the wisdom of keeping the screens in place.  So, early this morning, we took the screens down.  Of course, that means that my office door will have to be kept shut to keep out the bugs and Felix, our inquisitive cat, will lose his favorite out-door play area where he enjoys an occasional romp with the dogs.  Poor Felix will have to be restricted to the indoors.

A few days ago Lilly and Sam enjoyed the yummy Spring grass on our morning walk through the meadows.While Sophia found the perfect spot for a roll after the walk.


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After a slow start, Orioles have returned to Sontheim in such large numbers that it feels like an invasion of hooligans at a soccer game.  There must be thirty of them, primarily males, who seem to enjoy making quite a racket as they compete at the feeding stations.  It is such a boisterous group that even the large woodpeckers are afraid of them.

On the other hand, our returning hummingbirds can be counted on one hand.  To date only three boys and two girls have been identified, and even though we are at the end of the migratory season, we are still hoping that more of them will find their way back to our little patch of paradise.

This year our orchard has been slow to bloom and I have watched with interest that the native pollinators are out in force.  There are many more of the mostly tiny insects buzzing from blossom to blossom then I have ever noticed before; but alas, not one honeybee has been spotted this spring. 

Such changes and more are happening all across our planet and it seems inevitable that human activity will continue to degrade our natural word.   It would be wise for every one of us to remember that mother nature can easily thrive without the presence of the human race, but that human beings cannot survive without a functioning natural world. 

With that in mind let me share the work of two extraordinary people whose love of our beautiful world inspires and informs.  Enjoy!!!

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The progressive side of human nature is inquisitive and bold.  With it we look at problems as ‘puzzles to be solved’, and it often leads us to taking the next step in our development toward a more constructive society.   

Here are three examples I’d like to bring to your attention.  The first is a TED talk that was given by Arthur Potts Dawson who “wants us to take responsibility not just for the food we eat, but how we shop for it and even dispose of it.”

The second is an article about harvesting carbon from the atmosphere to create living buildings that can house us and at the same time combat climate change.


And third, an article about how the power grid of the future saves energy and assures supply:


And if you are asking why these new methods are not being proposed in the USA you are on the right track to question an outdated way of life.  According to many of our politicians, we live in “the greatest country in the world” and yes, I have to say that we are Number One.  Number One in self-regard and if we continue on this path we will be Number One in losing the race toward a better and sustainable future.

And yes, we too can change, if only we try.

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For almost a week now, a low pressure system gave rise to the most uncanny storm that pummeled our area.    The dogs were going stir-crazy in the house.  They did not understand the hazards we would encounter on a walk through the meadows and along the woods edge.  But with wind gusts coming out of no-where at 65 miles per hour, it was simply too dangerous to venture out into the open for our daily outing.  

So here we were, coped up in the house!  And not much fun to be had, because of my chronic pain!  

A pain that, when it comes on strong, puts me flat onto my back and prevents me from moving even a single muscle.  I’ve come to think of this pain as “mine,” in the same way that Multiple Sclerosis has been “my MS” from the start.  It was easy to acknowledge the disease from its beginning eighteen years ago, but its devastating intimacy has been a surprise.

At a time like this I give myself leave to curse this vicious disease.  I ponder the nature of endurance and pain, but try as I might, I find no answer to the questions that arise from this kind of suffering.  No answer to the question


What is its purpose?

How long can I endure?

But the suffering is a surprise, for I had known the gentler side of Multiple Sclerosis very well.  My mother’s sister lived with it all her life.  I saw how she slowly succumbed to a spreading vacancy in her brain.  I had never known her as a highly functioning adult, for the disease invaded her at an early age – years before my birth. 

When I was in my teens, I watched her slowly moving through her home, singing softly to herself.  I remember her child-like face that seemed content.  There was no mention of pain, no sign of mental anguish.  There was only the ever-growing emptiness in her eyes.

So the question is this:  “Which suffering is worse? ”


To be struck down in mid-life, having tasted adventure, hard work, and love?

Or hers? 

To have been given a life that was never lived?  A mind to be wasted by this unrelenting scourge?

And what of the pain itself? 

Are the philosophers right when they say that pain is an intricate part of being alive?   And if so, can I trust a Sufi teaching that says:

Overcome any bitterness that may have come because you were not up to the magnitude of the pain that was entrusted to you. 

Like the Mother of the World, who carries the pain of the world in her heart, each one of us is part of her heart, and therefore endowed with a certain measure of cosmic pain.”

And if that is true, can I learn to own the pain?  Can I learn to lay in it and let its searing power transform me?   


After the Storm!




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