Living with Wildlife at the Forest’s Edge

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Thump! That single bang of something smacking my window sat me straight up in bed. Four in the morning, I’d been sound asleep. Now my brain muzzily ran through the possibilities.

I don’t know why it latched onto “owl,” because my next thought was: “if an owl’s flown into the window in the middle of the night, there must be something wrong with it.” Or there’s something wrong with it now, after hitting the window so hard.

The bottom ledge of that window is over seven feet off the ground, so a deer was unlikely. Somewhat more awake, I fumbled for the light.

Bam! A second strike.

My fuzzy head was thinking it unlikely that the owl had knocked itself out, got up and flown into the same window twice. I wondered, with the force of it, that the glass hadn’t shattered.

I found the light switch, and reached for the window at the same time. Sliding the pane open, I saw the bird feeder mounted by the window swaying without a breeze. I looked down.

One big, black paw was clinging to the bottom windowsill by heavy claw tips. The sleek, furred face of a black bear looked up at me and our eyes met. Something wild stirred in my heart. My fingers were mere inches from her paw. I could nearly touch her ears. I had the strongest urge to reach out and stroke her fur.

A Disney upbringing is going to get me killed. My body had better sense than my brain, and slammed the window shut.

In the same breath, she dropped to all fours. Three loping strides, and she melted into the forest. Dark beast into black shadow. If it wasn’t for the swaying birdfeeder, you might not have believed she’d been there.

If the window was slightly lower, things could have turned out differently. Trying to give the newly arrived birds a break, I’d left the feeder out too late in the spring. With the weather warming, I should have known that the bears would be waking up soon.

Living on the edge of a national forest, the rules are a bit different than living in town. Pay attention to your surroundings – because of animals, not people. People are rare here. Animals are not. Watch where you put your feet. Give up going barefoot. There are often snakes or spiders hanging around the paths and their edges. Every summer someone makes the news stepping on a Copperhead in the middle of some campground at night. This ruins the evening for both the you and the snake.

You can have a compost bin, but don’t put food scraps in it. Doing that here will draw anything from the smallest deermouse to the largest bear. Don’t expect to use outdoor garbage cans. Don’t leave food in your car, even that fast food bag you meant to throw out.

Later that same year, in the heat of summer, I encountered the bear again. This time, on my way to the shed, I switched on the outside light. Movement caught my eye just before I opened the door.

Gorgeous as ever, there she stood about ten feet from my side door, right in the middle of the path. If I hadn’t looked, my dog would have been out the door in a flash. She’s small, so you can guess who probably would have won that encounter.

It’s quite possible to enjoy wildlife around your property and be safe. Just use your senses, and your common sense.…

Crime and Environment

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Crime, and deviance from the norms of society may be as old as human society itself, but criminology, or the study of crime, remains relatively young. Among the groundbreaking work in criminology from the sociological perspective that was done in the early twentieth century is the social disorganization theory, which was propagated by sociologists such as W.I. Thomas, Florian Znaiecki, Robert Park and Ernest Burgess, among others (Schmalleger, p. 208).

Social disorganization theory credits a lack of, or diminishment of “the influence of existing social rules of behavior upon the individual member of the group” as a primary cause of criminal behavior and deviance (Keel, 2008). The early proponents of social disorganization theory, specifically Florian Znaiecki and W.I. Thomas, examined the effects of social upheaval and conflict upon crime, by studying the high crimes rates in communities of Polish immigrants in Chicago (Schmalleger, p. 208).

The main idea of the initial work in social disorganization theory was that these new immigrants, who found themselves displaced and occupying a new role in the social structure of their community, were unable to maintain their grasp on social norms (Schmalleger, p. 207). The effects of displacement into the new community, where most certainly immigrants who had perhaps been prominent or successful in their mother country, now found themselves at the bottom of the socio-economic structure, led them in some cases to commit crimes.

While the actual physical displacement of immigrants and the subsequent loss of norms that occurred featured prominently into the earliest forays into social disorganization theory, later work focused on criminal activity in relation to the environment, or community, which became known as social ecology (Schmalleger, p. 208). As this was being studied primarily out of the University of Chicago, the sociologists who studied crime in the rapidly changing city of Chicago became known as the Chicago School of Criminology (Schmalleger, p. 209).

Robert Park and Edward Burgess studied crime in the community by dividing the city into areas, divided up into concentric zones (Schmalleger, p. 208). These included residential zones, working class neighborhoods, business districts, and what they referred to as transition zones, which were often areas of low income, dilapidated housing, that often contained abandoned buildings, and where in a state of transition from residential to business uses (Schmalleger, p. 208). It was in these transition zones that crime rates were the highest. The ecological approach was further articulated by Henry McKay and Clifford Shaw, who developed the idea that crime becomes attached to specific geographic areas in a community (Schmalleger, p. 209).

When immigrants who populated the transition zones became economically successful they moved outwards towards residential districts or suburbs, and the vacancies they created were filled by immigrants who had just arrived (Schmalleger, p. 209). This new group experienced the same social displacement issues that served to create a continuation of criminal activity, and was referred to by Shaw and McKay as cultural transmission (Schmalleger, p. 209). This effectively demonstrated a relationship between criminal activity and geographical location in a community, regardless of the ethnicity of the groups resided there.

While much of the social disorganization theorists dealt in terms that seem ethnocentric, it is important to note that they were working in Chicago in the 1920’s and 1930’s, which was a city with a large immigrant population during a period of elevated immigration into the United States. These concepts, to my mind, can be applied to any city, and any ethnicity, as well. The social pressures that are prominent in social disorganization concepts, such as “Social change, social conflict, and the lack of social consensus,” can …

Climate Change

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How many times have you been told you need to help stop climate change (supposedly single handedly)? I’m willing to bet it’ll be in the dozens. It appears that whenever you need to carry out a task, be it a simple, every-day task or a complicated scheme, the impacts of this task on climate change need to be considered, because we all need to ‘save the planet’ from our oh so disgusting and piteous selves.

The people that are telling you that you need to ‘save the planet’ and ‘think of the polar bears’ are usually single, middle aged women who have no job and nothing better to do than protest about something that they clearly haven’t thought through.

All it takes is a few minutes skim reading a brief summary of the earth’s history, and even an idiot can tell that the process the earth is going through at the moment – or about to enter fully – is entirely natural. We haven’t broken the planet, we haven’t messed it up as a species, all we’ve done is sped up an entirely natural process which we should easily be able to cope with and adapt to.

The protesters will tell you that when we enter the next ice age, we’re all going to be doomed, so we must start recycling paper and farting less. Firstly, we are still technically in an ice age, so already you’re hearing a falsehood. Secondly, if humanity has survived countless other ‘ice ages’ before now, and emerged intact, I seriously doubt that with our technology and infrastructure that we possess at the moment, we won’t be able to survive a bit of ice. Having said that, my doubts about humanity’s future increase every day. All it takes is anything Hannah Montana themed (amongst many other things) to crush any optimism before it has even germinated.

At the full extent of the ‘last ice age’, not all of the planet was covered with ice as you may have been led to believe. There were still plenty of areas of land with no ice covering them. In fact, the ice didn’t even extend to the very south of England. Indeed, it will become much colder all over the world, but we can easily adapt. Unfortunately for supposed lesser species, they lack the brainpower to adapt nearly as quickly as us humans and many species will die, which is extremely undesirable. Animals are cute. They keep us company. But it’s a natural process, and more should evolve to replace them – as went the entire history of life on earth before now. It’s not as if humans are wiping our every shred of life on the planet other than our own. Evolution will occur, more animals will appear (albeit in a long time), it’s that simple.

Everyone has become so caught up with ‘saving the planet’ that the measures they take interfere with basic practicality. You can’t print anything any more, because that one piece of paper you use from a pack of several hundred will definitely result in an impossibly high amount of trees being cut down. All your fault, Mr. Smith from London. The Amazonian villagers and polar bears will commit their lives to tracking you down and destroying you. There’s no escape.…

Laissez-Faire Capitalists & Environmentalists: an Unholy Alliance

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Environmentalists and laissez-faire capitalists have formed an unholy alliance in order to deindustrialize the economy. Laissez-faire capitalists do not like the amount of money that has to be spent paying employees for work that machines can do. If there are fewer people working at the machines, this means more profits and you certainly don’t have to worry about that stupid OSHA if you take workers out of the equation.

Environmentalists are the kind of people who truly think that the world would be a better place if we did not use energy and thus did not try to make things. A true environmentalist would not be happy if we did everything we could to end the Industrial Revolution; they claim that they would be happy with the end of the Industrial Revolution and the creation of machine. I personally think they are lying. I feel that they would not be happy with any society–certainly not an agrarian society. The people who are environmental radicals want to kill the jerk who invented work. I can understand what the motives are of the laissez-faire folks are, but I can’t always say what the motives of the radical environmentalists are. I suspect some of them are motivated by an expansion of the public sector and feigned compassion via the welfare state and dependency.

Laissez-faire believers are beholden to either a stupid or naïve few that the world would be better off if we just ignore each other’s problems and whether or not anyone had employment/a sense of dignity.

This is an unholy alliance that has effectively destroyed the middle class in America and any nation that has a decent living standard for their citizens. People say, “Well, this can’t be an alliance if they don’t know about it.” This may be true, but there is an end result that is going to occur. Both groups seem comfortable with promoting the service sector as an alternative, but you have to plug in computers and still pay employees to do this, so I think both groups are again lying when they promote this as an alternative.

I am an agnostic. I make no apology for that. I do believe in freedom of worship, no matter how incorrect I may find you to be. I think many followers of laissez-faire economics adopt a certain level of moral relativity in order to justify their views. These people replace God and faith with the almighty dollar. I tend to believe that many of the radical environmental replace God and faith with Earth. I think replacing God and faith with the almighty dollar is wrong. I think replacing God and faith with Earth is wrong. I replace God and faith with the joy that I get from being able to work and trying to solve the problems of others. I guess I believe in my country as well and I hope the best for it. I would hope other people would adopt some sort of opinion that is similar. They do not have to however; who am I to tell people what to believe in? No one. Moral relativism kind of creates an opportunity for a person not to believe in anything. I guess the debate will continue.…

The Dumbing of the Environment

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Behind every progressive movement for change offered by the present administration, one has to look deep and see what is this all about.You look at the outward message and then you ask the people who do the work, “How is this going to effect the health and safety of the American People?” Afterall, is that not the purpose of government to look after the public good?

Well, this latest piece of “newspeak” comes on the eve of the Labor Day Weekend 2006. The latest budget is going to cut the EPA library budget by 2 million dollars. The figure is not significant when you consider the costs of our numerous war efforts runs about that 2 million every 10 minutes of every day, but it is significant when this little drop in the bucket is an 80% cut. This leaves the EPA with about $800,000 to run all of its data collection, preservation, retrieval , administrative costs for an entire year.

The “newspeak” is that this cut is because the public is not using the libraries due to heightened security. The documents and reports are being digitalized and it is just more efficient. In fact the cuts will mean no public access. The cuts do not allow for the cost of dizitalizing all of these documents which is the size of the Rocky Mountains. The cuts also mean the preemptive closing of EPA library facilities in anticipation of these cuts.

The Public Employees for the Environment have tried within their of control to stop the closures. The scientist have sent pleading letters to the Congress begging for the funds and to stop the closures. See the letter to Conrad Burns the Committee Chairman http://www.peer.org/docs/epa/06_29_6_union_library_ltr.pdf

Across this great nation there are superfund sites dependent on the latest and historical data to keep the American people safe in their drinking water, air, and habitat. It would seem that even if you disagree with the concept of Global Warming or the possibility of harmful chemicals creating a toxic unliveable planet. burning the book is a harsh measure. As a member of the public while I may not travel today or tomorrow to a public library of the EPA, I would certainly like to know it is there.…

Creating for a Cause: Environmental Floating Cube Exhibit

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Since being home, I have had the pleasure of going to art events around town. Out of all the exhibits I saw in Coral Gables, Florida there was one that really stood out among the rest of them: the PIAG Museum’s exhibit entitled “Earth & Water, our planet, our life.”

There were several things that made this exhibit so unique. First, there was the message behind it all. The theme is the environment. The purpose is to create awareness. Secondly, the medium which the artists use is very original. Each artist that enters is required to paint on a cube (made of non toxic material of course) that is 12″x12″x12″. The cube is painted on 5 sides and will float in the water on the dates and locations that are chosen by the PIAG Museum.

The most amazing part about the exhibit is that it is meant to bring together artists from around the world united in their commitment to take action to save our planet. The PIAG Museum is requesting thousands of artists of all respects to participate in this event. Whether you are a writer, painter, singer, photographer, or a designer the PIAG Museum wants your talent for this exhibition.

This exhibition has been hosted at several locations across South Florida such as Fair Child Tropical Gardens and the Miami Dade Cultural Center. The exhibit was also hosted by Disney World in which floating cubes were spread out across the waters of Epcot Center. Eventually the PAIG Museum hopes to take this exhibit to Washington D.C.

If you are interested in participating in this one of a kind event, or if you just want to find an exhibit near you, you can find all of the information you need at the PIAG Museum website. This truly is an amazing opportunity to show your love for the arts as well as the planet.

Gun Control? is it Possible in Today’s Gun Loving Climate?

Framing is an art. When an idea or ideal is “framed” well, we believe it. We feel it. Think of framing as using a word or a series of words to frame a picture in your mind, one that is pleasurable, painful, or frightening. Politicians are masters of this art. Republicans used the words “death panels” to frighten voters just as Obama used the words “horses and bayonets” in a debate to reinforce his slogan of “move forward, not back”.

Gun advocates use words like patriotism and civil liberties as framing tools. It’s very powerful and effective. Just read the comments after articles such as “Obama to press for policy changes after shooting”. One user states, “Whenever Obama offers a solution, it is another newly instated law that will infringe on one’s liberties and individual rights.” Of course, gun advocacy isn’t as simple as just using framing language. The gun manufacturing industry alone is a multi-billion dollar powerhouse, fold in the millions the NRA spends for lobbying and that is one huge gun-proponent brick wall. That type of cash gets politicians elected and moves legislation.

Nevertheless, gun control — or even a ban on assault weapons — would seem a slam-dunk after the horrific mass murder of little children in Connecticut. Surprisingly, one of the biggest responses was from gun lovers. Sales of gun soared — as is typical after a mass shooting — in the days following the CT massacre. Supposedly, the rush to purchase was due to fear of gun control. However, this is just a continuation of an upsurge in gun ownership. According to an article in the Guardian there have been more …

Climate Lessons for U.S. From Down Under

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Australia has seen the light and is ripping up its economy-wrecking climate change policies.

Conservative Tony Abbott won last weekend’s election, having run on a platform that would scrap Australia’s carbon tax. His election brought in a new government that rejects the hype of manmade global warming. Australia will now climb out from under that economy-killing gorilla.

According to New Scientist, Abbott declared that “the climate change argument is absolute crap.” Accordingly, the new leadership has several actions planned. Among them is disbanding the country’s Climate Commission and redirecting funds away from “ridiculous research.” On this, Abbot was speaking of studies that inquired into “I,” better known as understanding one’s self. Such research sounds like so many of the self-obliging subjects that are studied when global warming research fails to yield some impending climate catastrophe.

Speaking of science, Australian scientists abjectly objected to the politicization of science. It’s representative body opined that government should not be in the business of picking and choosing research areas nor funding the favorites. Like America, Australia supported the studies that supported global warming.

But that is about to end. Australia regained its senses with the institution of conservative leadership. Unlike America, wasting unavailable funds and diving deeper into debt and recession will no longer be what Australia is about. The stranglehold of the greens has given way to the clear thinking of leaders interested more in prosperity than propensity for doom.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if American leaders thought so too?…

Environmentally Friendly Marketing Ideas for Green Businesses

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When running a green, eco-friendly business, working your environmental stance into your marketing is important for projecting your business’s image. Here are a few ideas for marketing your business in a greener way!

Paper-based marketing, including flyers and posters, can be highly effective. Unfortunately, a large percentage of the paper used for these marketing tools will be destined for the landfill. Avoid excessive paper waste in your marketing by instead using practical items to promote your business. Things like ink pens and refrigerator magnets are useful things that are far less likely to be thrown away. Not only will this help reduce your environmental impact by saving natural resources, but it will give your advertising more longevity as well. A flyer will probably be thrown away and forgotten within a few days, whereas an item like a pen will be around for weeks, months, or even years. This means that your company logo and information will also be there, bringing your business to mind on a regular basis.

Be selective in your advertising. Look for places to advertise and market your business where green-minded folks will see your ads, such as alternative newspapers. Try to advertise only in print media that uses at least some recycled paper in their printing. If your favorite local publications do not use recycled paper, you should encourage them to do so!

Always look for ways to add value to what would otherwise be considered garbage. For instance, many stores have coupons printed on the reverse side of their cash register receipt paper. There is usually a number to call in order to inquire about purchasing ad space here. Look for businesses like health food stores or other places where environmentally conscious people shop and see if they use this kind of receipts.

Offering your customers special green services will help draw them to your business. For example, you could purchase a TechnoTrash can from GreenDisk to offer your patrons a way to recycled things like printer ink cartridges, old floppy disks, and other used-up or outdated technology. Advertise that you have these services available. Green-minded people will often use businesses that go the extra mile with services like this. Offering extra green services to your customers will help retain a loyal customer base, as well as draw in new customers who are excited to see your commitment to the environment.

Thinking “outside the box” and using a little creative ingenuity in your marketing will help to project your image as an environmentally friendly business!…

Environmental Activities

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I called to the mountains
but they didn’t reply.
Perhaps the distance truncates
the force of my lamentations.
Or perhaps they don’t care;
I belong to a race of terracidal maniacs
who’ve killed her kin.
Likewise the flowing waters
strain to avoid my legs, kicking at
lily pads,
perhaps marking it as insult to injury,
striking the earth when she is down.
We are porcelain and too dainty
for survival.
My hands coated in red dirt
is phony: I’m a closeted urbanite
with product
in my
hair.
I should bake myself
in the sun. I should bury myself
in hay and clippings.
I should….but I won’t.
There is work to be done.…

Living a Christian Life in the Current Political Climate

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I am a Christian. That simple statement sparks so much controversy among the masses. There was a time I too thought the face of Christianity had become marred by hatred and judgment. But I have seen a change.

The current debate in this country is centered on the return of Christianity to our government. Even as a Christian, I find this debate confusing. While I am committed to my beliefs, I do recognize that our country was founded with two basic principals in mind: religious freedom and the separation of church and state.

I recognize that those who came to this country were escaping a government that tried to force them to follow a religious doctrine they did not believe. I also recognize that our founding fathers saw fit to make sure that the government did not have that type of control over individual freedom.

I get confused by political platforms that suggest big government is too intrusive while at the same time suggest that government should follow a Christian belief and mandate very personal choices. I wonder how government can be too big in the realm of capitalist enterprise but not too big in the realm of personal choice, regarding belief and body.

We face real problems in our country right now that grow from personal fears. We are distracted by rhetoric that gains popularity through fear mongering. I have seen adolescents lash out at each other based on ideals that they have very little to no true knowledge about. I have seen people, groups of people, injured due to the spread of ignorance and hate. If we pretend that these differences are a reason to hurt others to protect ourselves from our own fears and insecurities, we are weakening our country, our society and ourselves. 

At the same time, I have seen changes among the Christians I know. There was a time when their choices and beliefs were dictated by fear rather than love. I have also seen the backlash from people of other beliefs that feel ostracized by Christians asking the same questions I felt compelled to ask. But as all people become less likely to just read headlines and listen to rhetoric, and instead start asking questions – understanding, acceptance and tolerance has begun to flourish.

The fact is, we are human beings, individual human beings, and the only way we will live peacefully with each other is if we educate ourselves and learn to accept differences in others. As a Christian, it is my goal to follow the life of Christ. I am human, so will I perfect this? Probably not. I am weak, but I will continue to try to live a life of acceptance, tolerance and love – even for things I don’t understand.…