The beauty of Mother Earth

By Luisa Cristini, PhD. University of Hawaii at Manoa.

My connection to the Earth is simple: I recognize her beauty. Her beauty lies in her complexity and equilibrium. Everything in Nature is beautiful, symmetric, balanced, and perfect. Nature is complex and understanding Nature is difficult. To study her one needs to be interested, dedicated, patient, and curious.

I am a curious person and always have been. Since I was little, I have been interested in knowing how Nature works, how everything makes sense, how can everything be so extremely beautiful.

In high school I learned some natural sciences – biology, chemistry, and physics. But that wasn’t enough for me, I was still curious. So I decided to graduate in physics, because physics is the science that explores the natural phenomena and the laws that govern them.

I learned how Nature works on different scales, from the atomic to the cosmic. I learned mathematics, the language of physics. I learned how infinite universes are possible and that you need to develop different languages and laws to describe each of them. I learned that time and space are relative to us, i.e., to the world as we describe it based on our daily experience. I learned that some things have two natures, for example, light is a particle and a wave at same time.

Most importantly I learned that all processes have causes and effects, and that all actions have re-actions. This is a concept that has a deep meaning not only in physics, but also for human actions.

I learned that in Nature every process can be explained in terms of laws, laws that are written as mathematical equations. Some are simple, others are very complicated, but everything can be explained.

I love the complexity of the Earth system. Everything matters in the complex Earth system, from the smallest microorganisms in the deep ocean, to the planetary waves in the atmosphere, to the other planets and bodies in the universe. To us.

But how did the Earth become so complex and beautiful? To answer this question I started my doctorate in paleoclimate, the study of the Earth’s history and her climatic evolution.

I learned how climate and the environment have changed since Earth’s formation, 4.6 billion years ago. I learned what regulates climate on time scales of a few to millions of years. I learned when humans first evolved and how unique are the circumstances that allowed human life to develop on Earth. The Earth is our mother. We are here because she grew us. My connection to the Earth is pure love. I love the Earth as I love my mother.

But I also learned what we did to our Mother Earth in just few years.

Would you intoxicate your mother? Would you make her eat your garbage? Would you clog her veins up? Would you burn her lungs? Would you make your mother work for you until she is totally exhausted and has no more resources? Would you let her give you everything she has and give her nothing back?

I wouldn’t.

But this is what we are doing to our beautiful Mother Earth. She is sick now: we made her so sick that she has a fever and, because of her high temperature, the components of her body (ocean, atmosphere, ice sheets, forests, …) are changing and we don’t really know how. Or what will happen. And although she is strong enough and will eventually survive, we are weak because we depend on her and we might succumb and die.

Nature anywhere, everywhere

Guest Post By: Dhruba Barman., dhruv12j@gmail.com

Most people say that nature shows its beautiful scenes in remote areas/hilly areas. But from my viewpoint, I can see the different beauty of nature wherever I am. Someone rightly said, “Beauty lies in the eye of beholder ”

Being brought up in a crowded city, I could only see crowds, pollution, noises, etc. But amidst all of these I found my love for nature when I was just around 9 years old. It all started one rainy season when I was looking into the dark clouds looming over the tall buildings along with a thunderstorm. What I noticed suddenly proved to be turning point in my life with regards to my love for nature.

Amidst the dark cloud, 4-5 white pelicans were flying, with their wings stretched, giving me a feeling of independence, independence from the daily hectic routines of life, I had no stress, I felt tension-free.

The sight attracted me so much that I kept looking at the sky for around 20 minutes without knowing that it was already raining and my mother was shouting to close the window. I was so impressed that I tried to sketch the view on a plain paper, though it didn’t turn out that good (as I am not that great an artist) .

From that day onwards till today, (around 17 years have passed), I wait for rainy/monsoon seasons to catch a glimpse of that soul touching scene — “white Pelicans amidst dark rain clouds!!”

I  have even collected so many wallpapers of the scenes. Unfortunately, It is very rare to see such a scene but whenever/wherever I see it, the camera on my mobile phone comes in handy.

So what I feel is that Nature is beautiful in all its senses. We just have to find the beauty.

Vegan diet – six month update

By Kirk Lilwall

“My refusing to eat meat occasioned inconveniency, and I have been frequently chided for my singularity. But my light repast allows for greater progress, for greater clearness of head and quicker comprehension.”
Sir Thomas More

Six months.  When I set out to try this diet, I never thought I would make it six months.  Since I have made it I thought I’d re-visit this blog after six months and talk about some of the things I have noticed over that time:

  •  I feel good.  I have more energy, am better able to focus, and am simply feeling less achy/more able in both body and mind.
  • Some of my friends are struggling with my diet change.  While I have come to a point where I don’t even think about it, I have some friends who can’t see how it is possible to eat vegan. There is a tendency to point out things that are not vegan, complain that meat substitutes are not good (see below for my take on that), make jokes about not getting enough protein (a myth that continues to pervade our society), and apologise for eating meat or even talking about it in front of me (as if I have some kind of medical condition that means I can’t eat meat and so I must miss it, right?)
  • Substitute meats (burgers, chicken, sandwich meats, bacon, etc.) are not that important in a vegan diet.  I’ve found these foods to be good transition foods but I don’t rely on them on a daily basis.  Unlike when I ate meat, my meal is not built around the protein.  This isn’t to say I don’t eat veggie burgers; they are just something I eat occasionally or at a barbeque.
  • My health has absolutely improved.  I have fewer headaches than I used to.  I sleep better than I did.  I now have empirical evidence of my improved health; I have lost 33 pounds since I switched diets!  This despite still eating vegan pizza, potato chips, vegan chocolates and deserts, veggie burgers and fries, etc.  Were I to cut out the unhealthy parts of my diet (I’m working on cutting back, I swear!) I’m sure I would lose even more weight moving forward.
  •  I can find something at most restaurants that I can eat.  Folks at restaurants seem to want a challenge.  You can ask them to change their meals to suit your needs (pizza with no cheese, fajitas that are more than just onions and peppers – they will add any of the veggies they have if you just ask, and any number of foods that don’t have to be made with the cheese sauce or dressing)

At this point, even though I never thought I would make it this far, I see no reason to re-introduce animal protein into my diet.  As the myths and fears around eating a vegan diet continue to fall away, more and more people will accept it as a possibility in their own lives (even for just one day a week.)  Many celebrities are trying and permanently switching to a vegan lifestyle (not that we should do whatever celebrities do, by any means) and, more impressively, more and more world class athletes are switching as well (if protein were really an issue in the vegan diet could you really be a vegan and an all-star baseball player or a champion mixed martial artist?)

It has been a fun ride so far and I will try to keep posting here as more things occur to me or folks ask me about my experience so far.

Thanks for reading and happy eating!

kirk

The Importance of Raising Earthy Children

Guest Post by Melissa S. McGaughey

I grew up on a dirt road. My family home, a little, blue, ranch style house, on a hill, surrounded on three sides by grape vineyards and flanked by a peach orchard. Ringing the vineyards and the orchards were the family woods. Nothing too wild, they are kind woods, with well-used paths created by my father and aunts and uncles as children. There are several make-shift tree houses created by said aunts and uncles in their time as children, and newer ones created by my cousins, my sister and I in our time as children. A small creek, excellent for catching minnows and frogs and crawfish, and even for swimming in some parts, winds through the woods to empty into a pond that my grandfather dug years ago. Over the years, the pond has been home not only to fish and frogs, but to snapping turtles, beavers, and geese. Overlooking the pond are two tall maple trees that stand as watchful sentinels seeming to guard the place and the children that have played, and grown up on it over the years. It is between these two trees that I have spent ridiculous amounts of time.

When I was small, my mother would take my sister and me for walks around this little family farm. As I grew a little older, with three of my cousins and my younger sister, the farm became our playground. The woods, the pastures full of Grandpa’s horses, the vineyards, the orchards, the pond, the creek, it all served as our stomping grounds. We played tag, hide and seek, we invented our own games where we were woodland creatures or elves living in the woods, or orphans run away from the home and living together, taking care of one another in the woods (similar to the boxcar children, we were very well read and very imaginative children). We climbed. We swam. We ran. We skinned our knees. We got dirty. We tore our clothes.

As I reached adolescence, I would sneak out of the house during chore time with a book to my two maples by the pond and read for hours. When I began playing guitar, I’d hike across the farm to my trees and sit and play by the pond, watching the geese. One year, the pond froze over so solidly that the entire family skated across it in their sneakers. My father would bring home all sorts of creatures that he rescued from the road on his daily commute to or from work, usually turtles that we would take and release by the pond.

My father bought my sister and me a horse when I was twelve and she was nine and the farm became an extension of the pasture, a place to ride, to practice trotting, cantering, galloping, jumping.

When I became a teenager, I took long walks to escape the house. I’d sit in a tree with my sketch book on a Saturday afternoon and live there until dusk. My friends and I would take the four-wheeler for rides through the woods, or we would just sit between my two trees and talk. I received my first kiss beneath my maples, by the pond, at age sixteen.

The family farm, the golden glow of it at dusk, the smell of the peach orchard, running through the woods with my cousins, and sister, holding their hands and laughing, this is what connected me to the earth at an early age. This connection is precious and it is rare and unfortunately it is not a reality for all children. I know though, that someday when I have children, and when my sister has children, our children will play together on the family farm as we did. They will read and imagine and run wild. There will be no excessive video games, just the outdoors. Our job, our generation’s job, in the mean time, is to keep the outdoors, and safe havens such as these, passed down from generation to generation, lovingly alive and well. So that our children will come to love the outdoors, and the earth as we have, and so that they will pass that love onto their own children and their children’s children and in this way, there will always be the children of the earth to guard our precious planet and the creatures and life she harbors.

Eyes Opened

Guest post by Drea Zabalo , 18. Manila, Philippines.

Born and raised in the city all my life, I never really got to fully experience the rich environment my country has in its more rural areas. Fortunately, as a young child, I was taught to care about the environment in my own little way. Ways like throwing my trash in the right place and conserving paper. At first, I never really got to fully understand why I had to do this. I mean, there were street sweepers and garbage men for that, right? But when I went on a car trip to Baguio City up north, I had to pass by a long mountain road called Kennon which was one of the main access roads to the city.

What I saw broke my heart. The mountains were all but rocks and there were signs of diminishing life everywhere. Waterfalls slowly drying up, garbage was on the streams, the mountain blasted open by quarrying projects and the rivers had that unnatural gray and white color from the chemicals used in the mining. I was told that during the 70’s and 80’s, one would already be able to smell the pine trees once in that area. The air is cold, fresh and chilly from the high altitude of the location. All those are just a thing of the past now; just stories of what used to be. After seeing that dying mountain range, I knew that I had to act in my own little way. If I want to help the environment, I have to start with myself. After that experience, I started taking environmental issues seriously. I sign petitions to stop mining in protected areas and throw my trash in the trash bins to help minimize the land and water pollution.

I’m happy to say that despite deteriorating natural resources due to urbanization, there are still several protected areas here in the Philippines. Places with lush forests and jungles, marine sanctuaries, and green mountains that show how these places should be.  Alive with nature.

Despite age, sex, race, religion and cultural differences, we should all work together and contribute to preserving the nature around us. We only have one planet after all.