Earth Day Looks A Little Different This Year!

Unknown-1

One of the things I have found the most comforting during this uncertain time is seeing the effects that this new reality is having on our planet and its wildlife. It seems while we humans have been sent to our rooms to think about what we’ve done the earth and its other occupants have been left out to play. Here are five hopeful stories because even though I get no joy out of this terrible situation, these do bring a smile to my face. Please feel free to share some others with me if you have them. I think it’s the perfect way to celebrate 5o years of earth day.

Number 1: There has been a huge decline in air pollution across China, Europe and the US, with carbon emissions from the burning of fossil fuels heading for a record breaking 5% annual drop. Due to less planes in the air and cars on the road the air is exponentially cleaner. In China alone the initial lockdown drove pollution levels down by 25%.

Number 2: Wildlife is returning to places where it hasn’t been seen for a long time. Many people have noticed a lot more birds visiting their gardens and providing a much needed soundtrack to such a strange and challenging time. Many towns and villages have delayed cutting grass on roadside verges in order to encourage the growth of wildflowers. This will provide a lot more pollen for bees during the summer. Coyotes, who would normally be nowhere to be seen at this time of year have been spotted on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco due to the fact that cars have now grinded to a halt. Deer have been seen grazing just a few miles from the White House. Thailand has also had the largest number of nests of rare leatherback sea turtles in two decades on beaches left empty of tourists and lions are lazily relaxing in the middle of the road in safari parks in South Africa totally undisturbed by passing cars.

Number 3: Penguins at the Two Oceans Aquarium in Chicago are experiencing a new found freedom. For the first time they are allowed to roam around the facility because there are no daily visitors. Due to the lack of tourists it is the penguins who are now getting the daily tour around admiring the beluga whales and dolphins on the other side of the glass. If you need a pick me up please look up these videos, they are heart warming to say the least.

Number 4: Venice canals are clearer than ever, the normally polluted waters are now crystal clear due to the lack of visitors and boat traffic.

Number 5: Yosemite National Park has seen a rise in black bears frequenting the park. They are now coming out of hibernation and have been seen rambling around looking far more comfortable in their surroundings. Mountain coyotes, who are also native to the area have also made an appearance in the last few weeks. They have been seen out in the daytime and appear happier and less afraid.

Of course these changes won’t and can’t last forever. We have to restart our flailing economies again soon. There is also an argument to be made that without the debris left behind by humans some animals are struggling to find food and some are suffering due to the closure of conservation areas. I like the rest of you, am looking forward to returning to my normal life free from this confinement. However it would be a real shame if we didn’t learn something from this terrible time. What a waste it will have been if we don’t take at least some of the lessons we’ve learned into the future with us. As Greta Thunberg quoted lately every day is earth day.

We can no longer say that these changes in behaviour won’t make any difference because we have seen in just a few short weeks that they do. We have seen how willing Mother Nature is to heal herself with just a little help from us. We don’t have to take such drastic measures as this pandemic has imposed on us of course, that’s not at all realistic but some habits can change. If this virus has thought us anything it’s that it’s a team effort. We are all in this together. Happy Earth Day!

The Butterfly

Unknown

A few years ago I read a story by a woman named Christina Decker called “Finding Bravery In A Butterfly“. With all this talk of cocooning lately and all the inevitable butterfly metaphors flying around I have been thinking a lot about it. Basically it goes like this. One day this woman was sitting at the traffic lights of a very busy intersection waiting to get on with her day, when she noticed a butterfly out among the cars. She remembers thinking how very out of place it looked out there amidst the traffic and smog. She wished it would turn around and go back to the safe place from which it came. She wanted to yell at it, tell it that this concrete jungle was no place for a beautiful butterfly. It needed to be near flowers and nature in order to survive and thrive. In spite of her attempt to will the creature to return to a more familiar place the butterfly proceeded determinately across the busy thoroughfare. It was at this point that the woman began to think that perhaps this butterfly was not lost or confused. Maybe she was purposefully venturing out of her comfort zone in search of greener pastures, taking a risk in the hopes of finding something even better on the other side. Fortunately before the light turned green the butterfly arrived safely at her destination on the other side of the road.

And yes you guessed it, the obvious comparison is coming. Don’t worry i’m not about to suggest for even a moment that any of us went looking for the current situation we are in or to try to minimise it in any way. This pandemic is very frightening, we are all feeling lost, confused and very anxious. None of us know what to do and the days are difficult to get through. All I’m saying is that we are here! We’re out of our comfort zone and in uncharted territory. We have gotten blown off course and I’m afraid turning around is no longer an option, no matter how much we would like to. So we must go forward and hope that the garden that lies on the other side will be more beautiful then the one we’ve left behind. And perhaps we too will emerge a bit bruised, battered but braver than when we started. Stay safe, stay healthy and if at all possible stay sane! x

Notes on Surviving the 21st Century

matt-haig-notes-on-a-nervous-planet-01.jpg

If you are suffering from 21st century over load don’t worry. It would seem you’re not the only one. Not according to Matt Haig’s new book Notes On A Nervous Planet anyway, which is currently enjoying a stint on the best seller list. It appears that Haig, like many of us is also struggling with occupying a primitive body in a digital, super charged world. The book is in some ways a how to guide in surviving the modern world. How do we deal with so much change when as human beings we don’t really like change all that much? This is one of the many topics he attempts to tackle. Haig asks, “How can we live in a mad world, without ourselves going mad?”

Now I’m going to be totally honest, some of the facts in this book are frightening. Some might even bring on a panic attack, which is exactly the opposite of what Haig is trying to achieve. He is brutally honest about the effects of over exposure to social media, lack of sleep, a 24 hour news cycle and an ever increasing addiction to smart phones. So much so that on the second night of reading this book I went to bed, too late of course and began feeling very anxious. I thought about all the terrible habits I’ve picked up that are slowly killing me and worse still I really enjoy most of them. Needless to say I didn’t sleep very well. As a self confessed over thinker just like Haig, I began to over analyse these facts. Haig uses the Shakespeare quote very effectively here saying, “There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so”  Some of the scary facts that I obsessed over were about technology and the way in which we are using it to frighten the life out of ourselves. He cites one very successful marketing book that says the best way to sell products to consumers is by using fear, doubt and uncertainty. The more unfulfilled we feel the more we buy and so the world keeps turning. Or so they would have us believe anyway.

Perhaps the most depressing fact I discovered was that the CEO of Netflix believes his biggest competitor, is not other companies like Amazon or HBO but in fact sleep. Yes sleep is the thing they are trying to fight against. Comforting isn’t it?  Makes you begin to understand why so many are struggling with mental health problems and why as Haig points out, the whole world is having a collective panic attack. Basically it’s that good old fashioned never enough feeling we’re all trying to fight. Never enough time, never enough things, never enough money. Surely the next click, the next purchase or box set will fix it but strangely enough it doesn’t. Panic breeds more panic so perhaps its time to slow down, breath and reboot. Or as Haig would say just “add a comma to your day”

Continue reading

Thanks “Rosie”

IMG_7172.jpg

In 1940 a wartime industrial poster was displayed in Westinghouse Electric Corporation plant. The poster by Pittsburgh artist J. Howard Miller, shows a young woman, dressed in a blue work shirt and polka-dot bandanna. The woman is flexing her muscles and the caption reads “We Can Do It!”  The poster was originally created in order to deter absenteeism and strikes among employees during wartime. It was never really meant for public viewing.

Many men had gone off to fight in the war so woman were being called upon to step in and do their duty for their country.  They were suddenly expected to do work that had, up until that point been reserved entirely for men. Women were not generally thought to be strong enough for these types of jobs but in the absence of young men to do them the government had no choice but to recruit women to fill the roles instead. This propaganda campaign was very successful and woman applied in record numbers. More than 300,000 women worked in the U.S. aircraft industry for the first time. In addition to factory and industrial work some 350,000 women also joined the Armed Services.

IMG_7173

A photograph of Naomi Parker Fraley in 1942

The poster faded into obscurity until the 1980’s. The woman’s movement was making waves at the time and the poster, which had been rediscovered quickly became a powerful symbol for feminism. The woman in the poster was given the name Rosie the Riveter. The image became hugely popular and was printed on T-shirts, mugs etc. Even though the image was widely familiar the identity of the woman in the poster continued to be something of a mystery. Over the years many different woman claimed to be the iconic “Rosie”. There was even a wartime song of the same name by Redd Evans and John Jacob Loeb. For years a woman called Geraldine Hoff Doyle was believed to be the real Rosie the Riveter. However Dr. Kimble, who is an associate professor of communication and the arts at Seton Hall University in New Jersey wasn’t convinced. So he embarked on a six-year quest to find out her true identity. After many years he discovered that the lathe worker was in fact a woman called Naomi Parker Fraley.

Continue reading

20 Years of Magic

 

 

 

fullprebrith.png

I couldn’t let the day pass without acknowledging this anniversary. I woke up this morning and discovered that 20 years ago today the first Harry Potter book Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone was published, on the 26th of June 1997. Apart from making me feel quite old this also made me feel very nostalgic. These books hold a lot of significance for me. They were the first book series, other than say Enid Blyton’s creations that I was really immersed in as a child. I remember distinctly when I first discovered the books. I was about 14 years old. We had been told to go to the library to do our homework because one of the teachers was out sick. So we trooped off to the library as instructed but instead of doing my homework I decided to peruse the shelves instead. I figured there must be something more interesting for me to do than homework and I was right! I remember looking at the cover and thinking I had heard one of the other students talking about this Harry Potter character, so I decided to give it a go. I started reading and that was it. From that day on I wanted to go to Hogwarts. Frankly it seemed much more interesting than my school ever did.

I’m not sure if it was that the films were following very close behind or the fact that technology was starting to gain ground at that point but the Harry Potter series seemed to take on a life of its own in terms of popularity and fandom. I think it was two books that were out before the movies began but after that it was a scramble to read the books before the movies came out and somebody spoiled it for you. Thank God the internet wasn’t as big of a deal or we would never have reached the end of each novel without finding out who JK Rowling had bumped off this time. (Lets face it in the end it became a bit of a blood bath) I think this race ended up being good for both the books and the movies. One seemed to feed off the other in a way. When you finished the book you had the movie to look forward to. Harry Potter seemed to encourage readers and movie goers a like. A generation of readers and movie buffs were born. Continue reading