Wednesday, October 31, 2012

What's your definition of "Pro-Life?"

New York Times columnist, Thomas Friedman, wrote a thought provoking article, Why I am Pro-Life, that I think is worth sharing a snippet from...

Canada geese in flight
In my world, you don’t get to call yourself “pro-life” and be against common-sense gun control — like banning public access to the kind of semiautomatic assault rifle, designed for warfare, that was used recently in a Colorado theater. You don’t get to call yourself “pro-life” and want to shut down the Environmental Protection Agency, which ensures clean air and clean water, prevents childhood asthma, preserves biodiversity and combats climate change that could disrupt every life on the planet. You don’t get to call yourself “pro-life” and oppose programs like Head Start that provide basic education, health and nutrition for the most disadvantaged children. You can call yourself a “pro-conception-to-birth, indifferent-to-life conservative.” I will never refer to someone who pickets Planned Parenthood but lobbies against common-sense gun laws as “pro-life.”  - Thomas Friedman

Perhaps as someone concerned about public welfare and the environment you too might want to claim your "pro-life" identity.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

An inconvenient truth about hurricane Sandy

"Sandy though is an overgrown progenitor of Mother Nature, who no one messes with; not even a superpower. As if to remind US Presidential candidates that it is not a good idea to put global warming -- or human aggravated climate change-- on the backburner (as both President Obama and his Republican challenger Mitt Romney have done in this election campaign), Mother Nature appears to have let "loose Sandy to deliver a kick in the American gut." (Hurricane Sandy expected to stun US and be a climate change reminder, The Times of India)

This past week I heard on a radio station that a survey of 50 major stories in American media outlets covering Hurricane Sandy it was discovered that none were discussing the link between this highly unusual and destructive hurricane to climate change.  My search for a story took me to the other side of the world, with an article in The Times of India.

An article in National Geographic, Extreme weather, notes how insured losses are up an average of 50 percent this last year when compared to the previous decade.  A senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research caution that the addition of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere is like a baseball player on steroids.  It doesn't mean that he will hit home runs every time he's at bat, but the odds are greatly increased.

Climate models predict an increase in the number and severity of cyclones (which included hurricanes, typhoons and other extreme storms) according to an article, Can we link hurricane Sandy to climate change, in the Smithsonian blog. 

Monday, October 29, 2012

Frosty fall morning

Sun topped trees

Reflection of the pedestrian bridge over Hwy. 100
Stylish leaf 
Branch reflections

Swamp milkweed with morning reflection

It was a cool start yesterday morning.  I'm always impressed with Jack Frost's artistry.  Mr. Frost was also assisted by a beautiful sunrise that topped the barren trees along the pond with an orange crown.

Frozen cabbage leaves from the garden

Saturday, October 27, 2012

No presidential debate about global climate change

Have you noticed how silent both the president of the United States, Barack Obama, and his challenger, Mitt Romney, are on the topic of global climate change?  Seems they're eager to promote big oil, gas and coal, but are talking very little about conservation.

An article in the Bloomberg News, "Romney, Obama avoid climate change stigma, waste air" discusses this omission. It would appear that their big political contributors are making their individual and corporate profits through maintaining the status quo.  This is at odds with the interest of the earth and hence, the health and vitality of future generations.

Besides solar and wind power, some of the environmental matters that should be discussed include increased construction of green buildings (more efficient architecture), mass transit and increased urban and suburban housing density.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Nicholas Kristof speaks up for women

Nicholas Kristof, a reporter with the New York Times, and author of Half the Sky, presented yesterday at The Distinguished Carlson Lecture Series held at the University of Minnesota.  He contended that during the 19th century the world's greatest moral challenge was slavery.  For the 20th century we were confronted with dealing with totalitarianism.  This century Mr. Kristof believes our most significant challenge is to eradicate the oppression of women and girls.

Despite their being a slight tendency for more girls to be born than boys, he observed that their are actually more boys in the world.  This is in large part due to the estimated 60-120 million missing girls around the world.  Sadly in some countries when their isn't food enough to go around, it is the girls that are the first to go hungry.  Many couples also abort girls, with hopes that they might have a son to support them in their later years.

Hubert Humphrey
Sex trafficking was also discussed; both globally and locally.  He noted that for progress to occur on this front we should no longer treat the girls as criminals, but rather the pimps and johns.  Minnesota has promoted this effort in Safe Harbor legislation.

The marketing of sex trafficking is also occurring through the BackPage publication. Pressure needs to be placed on this publication, which is linked to Village Voice media.

Mr. Kristof concluded that helping people is often harder than we think.  However, though we may not be successful in making effective change in others, we are certain to help ourselves by engaging in a cause that is larger than ourselves.

This event was sponsored by the Humphrey School of Public Affairs.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

United States military budget

Prometheus Strangling the Vulture II,
Jacques Lipchitz
Walker Art Center Sculpture Garden
Our nation's budget is an ethical statement. What does it say when we budget as much on military spending as the next 15 countries COMBINED? Our "big stick" has become a gigantic military industrial complex, which some still seem to think isn't big enough!

The photo at right was taken yesterday at the Walker Art Center.  I'm planning to post more from that outing in the days ahead.  The fall colors were a stunning complement to the outdoor sculpture.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


This maple tree by the pond had many of
its leaves captured on the way down to earth


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Shoreline restoration project

Putting in a stone path
Our local newspaper, the SunPost, had a nice article, Memory Lane Pond gets a beauty treatment, on a shoreline restoration project being done in the city of Crystal.  

I'm pleased to be assisting with this project as a board member with the Crystal Fund for Community Progress.  One of the photos I submitted, a group of workers from the Tree Trust putting in a stone path (above) made the front cover of this newspaper. 

Some of the benefits of a natural shoreline include less long-term maintenance, enhanced habitat for water foul and animals, reduction of erosion, slowing rain runoff, diversification of plants and shrubs and last, but not least, beautification.  

Monday, October 22, 2012

Thoughts on presidential debates

Mitt Romney and President Obama were keen on asserting their alpha male position in the presidential debates. After two rounds I'm thinking we can call it a tie. 

Rather than them going at each other again in tonight's third and final round, I'm suggesting it might be just as entertaining to let First Lady Obama and Mrs. Romney challenge each other in an arm wrestling contest. My bet is on the First Lady.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Fall colors

Maple leaves

Maple leaves

Maple leaves

Red twig dogwood

Red twig dogwood, tamarack, weeping willow


I began with taking a picture of some beautiful fall leaves on the ground and decided to add some motion to the photos.  Some motion is up and down, while other shots I moved the camera in a circular direction.  What do you think?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

What was missing in the presidential debates

Sojourners, a Christian social justice organization, noted the following important issues have been missing from the presidential debates:
  • Poverty: To spark conversation about poverty during election season, Sojourners just released a documentary called The Line, which highlights stories from 4 people living under the poverty line.

  • Stewardship of God’s creation: Scientists are now starting to connect the dots between severe weather events and global climate change. This should be a top issue for our next president. We believe that as Christians we’re called to protect clean air and water and work toward a renewable energy future. 

  • Elimination of nuclear weapons: The staggering counts of nuclear warheads in our world aren’t in line with Christian values of peace and restraint of violence. The candidates ought to support peace – in Afghanistan by ending drone attacks and globally by using international law to counter terrorism. 

  • Get money out of politics: One person equals one vote – buying elections is immoral. 
Throughout the debates it seems that painting the other candidate as weak, and blaming them for there past record has more important than looking toward the future and sharing a vision that will benefit the earth and all of its citizens. While I'm wishing for things, wouldn't it be nice if they could be civil too?
"Speak out.  Judge righteously. Defend the poor."   (Proverbs 31:9)

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Agricultural giant Cargill adapts to climate change

The Cargill company, a huge agricultural business is investing in northern U.S. facilities as they become more suitable to additional crops.  In regions of North Dakota, where once only wheat could be grown, now soybeans, canola, corn and field peas grow, thanks to longer, frost-free summers (Corn Belt edges northward as weather patterns shift).

In another StarTribune article, Cargill goes green at sea, it was noted that Cargill is working to reduce its carbon footprint, as it pledges to no longer use ocean-going ships with the poorest fuel efficiency.  They are working with the Carbon War Room to reduce their pollution.  The Carbon War Room harnesses the power of entrepreneurs to unlock market-driven solutions to climate change.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Pedestrian safety

Cyclist at Nature Valley Bike Race 6/15/12
While walking to a Crystal Fund for Community Progress board meeting last evening I almost got ran over. A little white Honda Fit driver didn't notice me walking across a crosswalk on the green light, and made a right hand turn, apparently not seeing that I was right in front of her car.  Thankfully I was a few feet out and quickly ran to avoid being hit. There was faint street lighting at the intersection, but unfortunately I didn't have on reflective clothing or light colors, other than a white hat.

Reflective vest
Most drivers look only for other vehicles, and not pedestrians or bicyclists. A quick heads up out there for other walkers and bikers, BEWARE!  Use lights if you're riding your bike at night and if possible wear reflective clothing while walking and riding. Remember, you can see the cars far better than they can see you.

And for motorist, please slow down, pay attention, look both ways at intersections while watching for pedestrians, bikes and motorcycles.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Having it all?

I was visiting with my wife recently about the concern many teachers and administrators have about the high level of stress among many students at the school where she teaches.  This private school has high standards and expectations that match the sky high tuition costs. Most all of the students there are aiming for As in all of their classes, while also wanting to excel in extracurricular musical and athletic activities and possibly participate in service learning, so that they can successfully become enrolled in prestigious colleges and universities.  The catch is that they would like all of this while being stress free and being able to sleep eight or nine hours a night.  Sadly, I don't think that the days are long enough, or that their are enough students at the top 1 percent level of academic, social and athletic ability that that can achieve these lofty expectations.

Expecting great things without accurately weighing the costs is common in our society.  One of the ways we've overcome our many worldly desires is by putting our purchases on the credit card, both individually and collectively as a nation.  I just heard the story of a young man who managed to put $30,000 of college debt onto his credit cards.  One of the cards now carries an interest rate of 16 percent.  Ouch.

Another way some seek to "have it all" is by working feverishly, often at the cost of health and relationships. When it comes to fitness, for the many unwilling to eat properly and exercise regularly there are scores of fad diets and drugs that promise quick and easy results. The slow food movement is working to counter the popularity of the fast food industry. It focuses on healthy, affordable and sustainable food.

According to the World Watch Institute the United States, as a nation, has less than 5 percent of the world's population, yet annually consumes 25% of the world's coal, oil and natural gas.  It is time we curb our appetites and seek a more balanced lifestyle. That might just mean not getting into ivy league school, driving a new car or having a big house, and that's alright.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Frozen vegetables


Frosted cabbage leaves


Cool weather earlier in the week frosted some of the few remaining vegetables in the garden.  Thankfully, they're pretty cold resistant!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Recommendations for enhancing political debates

I’m always impressed with how politicians can so convincingly bend the truth during their debates.  I’ve got a recommendation to help us more quickly validate the content of their remarks. Rather than wait for the fact checkers afterwards to tell us just how blatantly false so many of their statements are, I would suggest that a small screen be provided showing a polygraph readout throughout the debate.

While the networks are at it, how about they change that beautiful constitutional backdrop that is being used during the presidential and vice presidential debates. I would prefer to see individual and or corporate logos of the major donors for each of the politicians boldly emblazoned behind them.  The size of the donor’s names could be proportionate to the amount of their donations. Alternatively, instead of simply wearing American flag lapel pins, candidates could debate dressed like race car drivers, with their donor names and logos patched  all over their sports coats.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Constitutional marriage amendment and religion

The state of Minnesota will be voting on an amendment this fall which would change the constitution in order to restrict the definition of marriage, so that it can only be between one man and one woman.  This is being done, even though this is already state law.  Much of the energy for this proposed amendment comes from people concerned about defending their religious beliefs.

It seems that with an obesity epidemic, this same group of folks should also be supportive of outlawing gluttony.  With a growing gap between the ultra rich and poor, I'm not hearing this same outcry about greed from this group of folks. Jesus preached a whole lot about caring for the poor, but spoke not one word against people being in committed loving relationships with people of the same sex.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Fall park scenes


Milkweed seed captured by plant

Canada Geese flying

Leaves in morning frost

Tamarack branch decked out with morning dew

River birch leaves in morning sun
I enjoyed taking photographs at Crystal's Bassett Creek Park yesterday morning.  It was a frosty start to the day, which made for some beautiful scenery.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Drought continues

Mallards feeding
Maple leaf
Despite a wet spring now nearly 45 percent of Minnesota is experiencing a severe drought.  Seems that extreme weather conditions continue to occur on a frighteningly regular basis around the nation and across the world.  Yet, many still seem to want to hide their  heads in the sand, and pretend global climate change isn't happening.

The dry weather has to be difficult on the trees, bushes, crops and all other vegetation.