Environmental Accomplishments

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Any environmentalist is quite concerned about the election results. I am no exception. To lift my spirits, I reviewed the environmental accomplishments over the last eight years.  Given the environment is our life-line, I had wished for more progress, but in retrospect, these accomplishments now appear quite impressive.

— In response to one of our worst financial emergencies in 2008, Congress implemented an economic package that laid the foundation for a clean energy future. Ninety billion dollars were invested in renewable energy, energy efficiency, green jobs and technology. Consequently, solar electricity generation has increased thirty-fold and wind electricity more than three-fold. Research funds granted growth in smart grids, energy efficiency, electric cars, renewable electricity generation, cleaner coal, and biofuels technology.

— The government bailed out the auto industry and required higher efficiencies – 36.6 miles per gallon by 2017 for cars and 54.4 miles per gallon by 2025. Those new standards will reduce tons of carbon pollution and has accelerated transition to electric vehicles; all the while creating a more marketable product and saving us money.

— The Environmental Protection Agency declared carbon dioxide as a pollutant in 2009. The Clean Power Plan is on track to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and other toxic pollutants from power plants 32 percent by 2030. We are closing down our oldest and dirtiest coal-fired power plants. Estimated costs to utilities upgrades is projected at $11 billion, while estimated health benefits are $59 to 140 billion. Tackling pollution makes us healthier!

— The Energy Department creation of new standards for energy efficient appliances and products ranging from refrigerators to light bulbs, impacting all structures from homes to enormous buildings. These new regulations won’t only cut significant greenhouse gas emissions; they will also save Americans billions of dollars.

— Last fall the world came together to tackle the dangers of Climate Change. Leaders from 196 countries developed and signed the ambitious Paris Agreement committed to keep global temperature rise this century well below two degrees.

—Per executive order, twenty-three national monuments were designated protecting 265 million acres of land and 100 miles of waterways. It’s always a victory when pristine public land is set aside for us to enjoy along with future generations.

— Per executive order, all federal agencies are making plans to soften their environmental impacts by 2020. Goals include 30 percent reduction in fleet gasoline use, increase water efficiency by 26%, and considering sustainable practices on all federal contracts. These actions will save our tax dollars!

— Efforts were made to keep fossil fuels in the ground to minimize carbon damage. President Obama stopped the Keystone pipeline. The Department of Interior discontinued extracting coal from public land.

On the flip side, a 40-year ban on US crude oil exports was lifted in exchange for extending clean energy tax credits. And, offshore and Arctic drilling leases were granted. Shell stepped away from Alaskan Arctic drilling efforts, ironically oil now more accessible due to glacier melt from carbon-induced global warming. Fortunately just this week, per executive order, President Obama deemed US owned waters in the Arctic Ocean and parts of the Atlantic Ocean as off limits to future oil and gas leasing and halted the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Now we have a new president elect who has been spouting anti-environmental rhetoric for months. He calls Climate Change “a hoax”. He pledges to approve the Keystone XL pipeline and pursue “clean” coal reserves, the dirtiest fuel on the planet. He promises to disband the Environmental Protection Agency since those regulations “get in the way of business”. And he says he is going to break our pact with the World by withdrawing from the Paris Accord.

There is much to be gained by continuing and expanding our efficiency and clean energy trajectory:

*Efficient energy practices and products save us money.

*Reducing toxins and pollutions makes us healthier.

*Decreased climate change dangers reduce environmental and world instability.

*Pursuing renewables is a huge economic opportunity.

To live is to progress; frankly I’m flummoxed the public wouldn’t always want to build on what we have learned.  We now know this clean energy trajectory not only protects our environment, it saves us money, creates jobs, enhances our health, it’s a huge economic opportunity and it honors world-wide needs and opinions.

To protect our environment, it’ll now be more important than ever to join marches, support environmental organizations and speak up. I remain vigilant fulfilling my moral obligation to be a good steward of our earth, assuring future generations too will revel in this beautiful gift. This year I became a grandmother – this just got real personal!

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Apples Become Cider

 

 

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1816 Cider Press

The 1816 cider press hailed from Springfield, Ohio leapt into action this fall, propelled by muscle strength.  It’s quite fascinating imagining how this press landed so close by, in a small community along the Missouri River. The press was likely loaded into a wagon making its way to a boat on the Ohio River, once afloat it traveled up to Cairo and caught the Mississippi River up to St. Louis, then headed west up the Missouri River, finally received by one of the community elders. Fortunately, many years ago, the press was given to my friend who breathes life back into the relic. How did that press recently come alive?

Last winter, a friend told me he had acquired an apple orchard, the very orchard I frequented as a child. He lamented very few apples were picked last year, such a waste. Fortunately, this fall I pursued those apples. I was extremely excited since his dormant orchard hadn’t been sprayed with pesticides for years. After confirming the splotches on the apples weren’t a problem, we leapt into action, and invited some friends. With many tubs, buckets, and ladders in hand, we hit the orchard. Once the easy apples were picked, we carefully repositioned our ladders and stretched and stretched, determined to reach the elusive ones, many just barely within our grasp. This is better than yoga! Once our capacity was filled with early Fuji and Jonathan apples, we scrounged for empty jugs and hauled everything to the press.

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Getting organized; soon to fill 3-tub wash station

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Group Effort!

 

After we washed our assorted apparatus, our group of seven got organized. The huge pile of apples was daunting! We were glad to share our bounty with this particular group of friends, as they have a long-standing cider-pressing tradition and hadn’t found apples this year. Their labor force is three generations deep! We sorted, cut out bad spots, triple washed, then filled the hopper; those were the easier jobs. Next we pulverized the apples with sheer muscle strength, cranking the press handle around and around until our bodies said no more! Then our strength was again challenged as we pressed out the juice, turning a wheel around and around. Once exhausted, we called in supports, handing the task over to a new set of muscles and energy.

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Crushing apples
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Pressing juice out of crushed apples.

 

 

 

 

To re-energize, we shared a communal cup sampling various apple combinations along the way, such sweet and delightful nectar!  Free flowing juice was captured, strained thru a sieve, then poured into our welcoming jugs – 41 gallons!

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Cider!

All along the way camaraderie abounded making for a wonderful day. With kindred spirits we shared stories and laughter while bringing in the harvest. We stashed our cider in the freezer and in a brave attempt to make vinegar, set aside one gallon in the closet. Now we pull from our freezer from time to time, such sweetness, rationing ourselves in anticipation of hot spiced cider this winter. As for the vinegar, it was a success!

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Apple Scraps!

 

 

 

Over-Extended Family Christmas

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Days past, kids were happy with a gift or two for Christmas and basked in the joys of creating gifts for their loved ones. In most households, those days are long gone. Now most houses are filled with Stuff; neglected toys spill into all rooms of the house. According to the American Psychological Association, children see at least 40,000 advertisements a year. Kids haven’t developed filters, leaving them highly susceptible to advertising.  Easily convinced they need the “hottest” toy on the market, they do whatever it takes to eventually wear down their parents so they buy it. And, they not only want Stuff, they are also convinced they need to gather money to buy Stuff for their loved ones as well – a well rounded Consumer.

All this shopping has taken a toll on our families. 2015 Federal Reserve reports show Americans have 918.5 billion credit card debt averaging $7529 per household. No doubt, debt causes stress. Although it may be hard to stop or circumvent the tidal wave of consumerism, there are other options – lots of them.

For starters, thinking about those less fortunate fosters the true meaning of Christmas.  In the spirit of giving back, the family might want to volunteer at a food bank or other organizations serving those in need.  As an annual tradition, the family could join forces, sort through their belongings, and make a donation. Outgrown or unused items find new life through organizations serving those in need.  Maybe enjoy a beautiful day together outside on a family pick-up litter outing. Through giving, the spirit of gratitude and compassion grow.

As for family gifts, with a simple Google search, one can find a myriad of presents kids will enjoy making for their loved ones. To add to the fun, they might need your help! As for gifts for the kids, it won’t be the “hottest” toy, but second hand stores are filled with fun, interesting and stimulating gifts. Expand their world and vision with nature related gifts. Or consider a gift of experience, perhaps a class to boost a natural ability, or a family outing.  Above all, remember Time is the most precious gift of all. Stuff inevitably loses it’s luster, while quality time with a loved one keeps on giving.

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