Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Mommy Wars

I feel like the "mommy wars" are in my universe a lot these days. Perhaps it is because I have a swath of friends who are pregnant or who have young children. I watch them facing the decisions that fuel the mommy wars: stay at home or work? Because I see it in my network, I notice it in the media.

I have recently read two articles on regarding this issue.

First there are The Invisible Mommies. In this article, we see how the entire concept of the "mommy wars" focuses on the elite women of our country, the women who have the choice of staying home or working. For the elite, it is a moral issue and an issue of personal happiness. For many many others, there simply aren't that many options, and most of them are bad. If you can't afford to stay home, you probably can't afford daycare. What do these mothers do? The government doesn't help them. Society doesn't help them. They have only a lot of bad options imprisoning them.

Then there is A Truce in the Mommy Wars. This article explores the idea of the mommy wars being based on individual personal wars. It reviews a book that is a collection of essays from mothers on all ends of the spectrum. The prevailing idea is that the mommy wars are hyped by the media that essentially creates them by making mothers feel insecure, no matter what their choices are, and it proposes the idea that the media simulataneously creates and predates on this insecurity. "You aren't a good mom, but buy this product and your life will be happy."

And then there is Heather's take on The Price of Motherhood in her blog. Here we have again, the dilemmas that challenge mothers. She writes: "Motherhood is a big factor in poverty, as is divorce; alimony is increasingly less common, and all the stay-home care you provide (or want to provide) your kids doesn't count in its calculation. People tell you you're doing "the most important job" but they don't want to pay you for it, and if you're poor, to get public assistance, you can't stay home with your kids, but must put them in daycare and take a job that pays less than the daycare costs." Why can't our society realize that we truly need to integrate motherhood and children into how we value our culture? And while we're at it, lets add in teachers and education, among other things.

So, here I am contemplating issues that I see around me. I have been interested in the work of Moms Rising for a long time (well, ever since I heard of them, which was just shortly after they got started). The thing about it, for me, is that environmentalism is "my cause." At first I didn't really see how the issue of family and mother discrimination really fit into that. But I think now that they are truly integrated. I don't know very much about deep ecology, but I think I practice it. Taking the ideas of ecology, of interconnectedness, and applying it as a moral guide really works for most of my dilemmas. You can't jsut ask "How does this affect me?" Or even "How doe sthis affect my country?" But "Hoe does this affect the world?" We are truly interconnected, and facing the issue of motherhood comes as part of living in a world with mothers. And without mothers, where would we be? Exactly.

Books relevant to this article:

Unfulfilled Potential

What a beautiful and saddening thought, the children of imaginary conception.

Sciencebird wrote: Rumi, the sufi mystic poet, wrote a poem saying whenever a man and woman become lovers, a child is born, even if actual conception doesn't take place. The union of a man and woman is still an act of creation, whether in a one night stand or a marriage.

Abortion is an action that makes clear the idea of unfulfilled potential. There is conception: the egg and sperm unite. The gametes (the egg and sperm) fuse; the chromosones combine, and meiosis results in a random separation of the genes of each parent. At this point, there exists a unique genetic combination that will never be repeated. That is something tangible that one might be able to mourn at the goodbye of an embryo.

Yet every sexual encounter between penis and vagina has such potential. In a parallel to the abortion debate of when life begins, why can't one mourn the lost possibilities of pre-meiosis? Why must one only mourn the post-meiotic possibilities? Perhaps this is why the church and other entities and individuals argue against all forms of birth control.

However, there is also beauty in that potential. For every lost potential, we gain the possibilties of dreams.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Colony Collapse

The bees of the United States are suffering from abnormaly high death rates, and experts are calling the disorder Colony Collapse.

Honey bee is the common name for the species Apis mellifera. There are many sub-species of honey bees found world-wide, though the name was originally given the the European honey bee, which is the most commonly domesticated honey bee.

The worker bees make up the majority of a hive. These are female bees, usually sterile, and include the bees that leave the hive to harvest the pollen on which the entire colony depends, as well as some of the workers inside the hive that create the comb and tend the eggs and pupae. Drones are male bees that typically exist for the sole purpose of fertilizing the queen and die shortly after.

Worker bees live different lengths of time during different seasons. During the spring and summer they typically have shorter lifespans and spend their time foraging for pollen and nectar. When winter approaches, the bees are expected to live longer and work less; this is how they survive the colder winter months. One factor in Colony Collapse is that the bees are not living longer during the winter. Some experts think this could be related to global warming, and extended warm months.

Some of the many other theories include:

The bees may have become disoriented by cell phone radiation or other man-made technologicla radiation. This theory is being spread on-line, but is widely discalimed by bee experts and other authories.

Mites may be affecting the hives. Mites are a subclass or arachnids, and live inside the bees bodies. These microscopic creatures infect a hive or colony and can kill them off by killing individual bees. Mites are common in bees, but when the mite population beccomes too alrge the bees will die off in greater numbers.

Insecticides have been implicated as a factor in Colony Collapse. Because bees forage for food, they are easily exposed to pesticides, especially when they are transported for pollination work to fruit or nut farms that use pesticides. Pesticides can kill enough worker bees that the colony can not support itself, or pesticides can contaminate the pollen and nectar and disrupt the brood or queen of the hive, disabling the hives ability to produce new bees.

Genetically modified crops have also been blamed. Some proteins from genetically modified plants can be traced in the pollen and nectar that the bees collect. While studies have not shown direct death of bees that forage on genetically engineered plants, some studies have shown weakened immune that, when coupled with a disease, parasite, or insecticide, could cause massive deaths in a hive.

Global warming and changing wather patterns, as mentioned above, may also be a factor. The stress of shorter cold months, or fiercer competition by invasive plants or bees that thrive in an altering climate, could be debilitating native bees and domesitcated honey bees.

Poor nutrition is a possible cause that is linked with global warming, as well as invasive species. Plants that are struggling to survive in a warmer climate, or competing with invasive species, may produce less pollen, or simply less nutritious pollen, than native plants in healthy habitats. If bees rely on pollen that is deficient in certain minerals or nutrients, they will suffer from this.

Urbanization and moncrops are two modern phenomemon that may be contributing to Colony Collapse. Fragmented habitats, and lack of native and wild flowering plants due to urbanization may further stress the bess. Because bees recall mental images to find their way back to their nest, long strands of monocrops may distort their memory.

Though this has been in the news for months, it has been receiving increasing coverage as the mystery deepens. A recent article in Salon publishes an interview with four experts on this issue. Even between the four of them, they don't have a definite answer as to what is causing Colony Collapse.

The final answer is that no one really knows what is causing this decline in bee populations, The best answer is that it is a combination of many of the issues described above, perhaps not even the same issues across the board. However, most experts agree that humans are a factor, and our massive suburban expansion, contributions to global warming by burning fossil fuels, decimation of wild lands and support of monocrops are all contributing to the Colony Collapse. The issue at hand is that we are not living sustainably, in every sense of the word. The death of the bees is just one sign of the stress we are putting on the planet. They are the canaries in the mine, and we must take care of them, in order to take care of ourselves.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Talking is addictive.

I found that I have become much more of a talker than I used to be. I have a lot of friends in other places, and I talk with them to keep in touch. That is a good thing. But sometimes I find talking so incredibly draining. I want to stop, but I want to catch up. Someone asks a question. I remember something I want to relate. Life is so exciting and I want to share it all. By the end of it all, my throat is tired and my head hurts.

Talking is addictive. I used to be a good listener, but I find myself talking more these days. I talk so much that I exhaust myself. I want to stop talking, but I can’t.

And here’s another piece of the pie: My writing is a version of my talking. The more I talk, the less I am able to write. My talking is not only detrimental to my mental health, it is a warped form of procrastination. I channel energy into talking instead of into writing.

It's not that I am totally out of control. I definitely make an effort to have balanced converstions, where both people talk in roughly similar proportions. But that's just it. I find that at some point I realize I have been talking more than my fair share, and I have to make an effort to stop. I once read an article on about compulsive talking; Leslie sent it to me. Chatty Cathy can't stop talking, and Cary's advice is to think of all talking as "stories" and to only talk about what relates to the story, and omit everythign else.

My advice to Cathy is to start writing. I have observed a strong inverse correlation between how much I talk and how much I write. This was reinforced at the Mesa Refuge over lunch with Natalie. She noticed that the other gentleman there tlaked about his work a lot, and she commented to me taht the more you talk about yoru work as awriter, the more diluted your work itself becomes. I understand that. You write about things yo aure compelled to write about. You talk about things you are compelled to talk about. But if you talk about things you are compelled to write about, you lose the fire. Yo uare no longer compelled to write about them. Your writing becomesa struggle instead of an enjoyable process, and your writing suffers from it.

I don't know if Cathy would be a good writer, but I think the effect would be the same. If she wrote about the things she is compelled to talk about incessantly, then she may be less compelled to talk about them. I know I, for one, am excited to talk less and write more (though for different reasons). Silence will be good for my throat, and writing will be good for my, well, writing.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Even More On "The Power of Green"

I do agree with Friedman that the USA government needs to level the playing fields for clean energy, as compared to fossil fuels. Again, to reference my Sierra Magazine, there was recently an excerpt of a conference on the topic of global warming. The article is called “Climate Exchange,” and hosted 8 politicians, activists, and entrepreneurs. Their answer to the problem seemed to be a combination of carbon tax and cap-and-trade, pollution tax (replacing income tax), Kyoto protocol, biofuels, carbon sequestration (and sinks), lowered-risk investment in clean technology and leveled-energy subsidies, energy efficiency (and subsidies for low-income efficiency improvements). However, Friedman seems to be a big supporter of nuclear, and I have to disagree. While I believe it will be necessary to continue to have nuclear, I would support allowing only what already exists. Friedman admits nuclear will only succeed with massive government subsidies. I argue that the risks are too great. Any nuclear meltdown is disastrous and disposing of nuclear waste is an endeavor that requires vigilance to near infinity.

From the same Sierra article, one of the suggestions was to create “a variable subsidy that is countercyclical with oil. If the price of oil goes down, the biofuel subsidy goes up.” This is a really great idea, and shed light on the reason many investments fail is because if oil prices drop, interest in alternatives does too. Tax breaks and subsidies for green need staying power. The Saudis and other Middle Eastern oil producing countries understand that when the USA starts reducing its oil consumption, all they have to do is drop the price a bit and we will be back to our old habits. The USA needs to understand that as well, as this policy does.

More On "The Power of Green"

“The China Price” is also an interesting phenomenon. “The China Price” is the price that China pays for high-polluting energy today, because the people can not afford to pay for low-polluting energy and the environmental (and ultimately economic) costs of CO2 are far down the road and without immediate rewards. This is the Wal-Mart effect in the USA. Most people choose the cheapest product for the immediate savings, without considering the huge costs hidden in that bargain. “The China Price” is an easy way to see world-wide economics play out in parallel to a pattern I know.

Suntech Solar is an interesting business, and one I keep hearing about lately. I’d like to invest in that stock, and maybe when my job finds me I will have the chance. I love that the China’s low-cost production abilities are finally being used for something with a long-term viable future and a role in this new geo-green movement. I hope to see more entrepreneurial projects such as this in other developing nations. It is a way to circumvent the China Price really – China makes money on this product by selling to richer nations until the price has dropped enough and China’s economy increased enough that they can then begin to purchase them.

On "The Power of Green"

This is part of a response to Michael Friedman's op-ed piece in the New York Times, "The Power of Green."

I have always been interested in the environment, though in my younger days principally by way of nature. I liked trees and frogs and sunshine. I remember a few years ago being truly interested in (no-- compelled to pay attention to) United States and world politics for the first time. I assumed it was just that I had finally reached an age at which politics interested me, but a friend of mine (about double my age) said she had never been as interested in politics as she was now. The world was heating up in a number of ways, and the role of United States politics was an important player.

So, naturally, these two interests merged: environment and politics. Now I read a fair amount of literature exploring the merge in various ways: land use, food security, peak oil, etc. The emergence of green politics beyond the Green Party interests me greatly.

As Friedman writes “But these problems are so large in scale that they can only be effectively addressed by an America with 50 green state – not an America divided between red and blue states,” I recall a recent Sierra Magazine. The article quotes Bob Marshall of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, “When the NRA starts talking like the Sierra Club, you know good times have arrived for fish, wildlife – and generations of sportsmen to come.” Finally we are seeing a red-green movement, similar to the blue-green movement started in the past few years where major environmental groups join with labor groups because protecting the environment also protects workers.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Point Reyes

Point Reyes Station and the Point Reyes National Seashore are part of the spectacular surroundings that make the Mesa Refuge so amazing. In Point Reyes, there are multiple restaurants with empahsis on organic, local foods (unfortunately this also seems to emphasize all the meats), but the good news is that also includes all the dairy products!

I never used to understand people's fasciantion with cheese, but as of late I have caught the cheese bug. I have had sheep ricotta and cow ricotta made at Bellweather Farms, about an hour north of here. I have also had the Cowgirl Creamery's own cottage cheese, panir cheese, fromage blanc, and brie-like "St Pat" wrapped in nettle leaves. I have also compared Point Reyes Farmstead Blue Cheese with Humboldt Fog Blue Cheese, and prefer the Point Reyes (it's saltier and crumblier, while the Humboldt Fog is creamier). I also tried a local organic ice cream, but it wasn't nearly as good as San Diego's Mariposa.

I have also been making an effort to go out into the national and state parks that surround this town at least once a day. I have only missed one day, but on two days I've been twice, so my average is still over one. Here are some of the amazing pictures that can barely capture the beauty.

The other part of the amazement of this place is the smells. Every hike I take has a completely different array of scents. There is spicey pine, fruity earth, perfumey flowers, salty ocean, even grassy manure smells good here!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Good Food

Good food means whole food. Whole grains, fresh fruits, and fresh vegetables should be the basis of a healthy diet. Processed and refined foods, foods that contain artificial flavors or additives, and foods full of sugar and fat should be eliminated or reduced in the diet. It is also important to eat your foods in their entirety. Instead of throwing away the top and bottom of a carrot, throw it into the casserole! If you must peel the carrot, boil the skins before you throw them away and use the broth in your next batch of soup! Carrot skins contain vitamins not found in the rest of the carrot. By using all part of your foods you obtain more of the nutrients and get a more balanced diet. The carrot tops contain minerals not found in the carrot itself. Throw some into your next batch of soup along with the rest of the carrot (but use in moderation, as it is also bitter in flavor).

Food should also be fresh. It is always better to choose a fresh peach over a canned peach and fresh green beans over canned green beans. Not only do they taste better, but they contain more nutrition and vital energy. You can find fresh food at a local farmer’s market. The selection at a farmer’s market is usually picked the same day, versus the week or older food often found at conventional grocery stores. If you have to ship a piece of fruit from halfway around the world, there’s just no way it can be as fresh as the fruit you find with the farmer who drove into town that day. For some people, the option of shopping at a farmer’s market is limited because of the limited growing season. In that case, it is reasonable to consume more dried or canned foods during the winter months, and to perhaps purchase imported foods at the grocery store. Keep in mind though, that the closer to home the food came from, the fresher it is. When you look around the produce section, try to find foods that came from your state, or at least your country, not the other side of the globe. An economical option for everyone is to buy lots of fresh food at the peak of its season, when it’s abundant and fresh, and then freeze, jar, and dry whatever you can’t eat.

All of this information applies to organic foods, too. Organic foods that are imported from other countries will always be more expensive than those that you find from the local farmers. Organic foods that are shipped long distances are also very often picked when they are quite green. Because organic standards ban the use of fungicides, this is the only way the food can be transported long distance without spoiling. Try to buy organic locally and in season, and then freeze, can, or dry the extras. This preserves the goodness of the food and also saves you money on quality ingredients.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Mesa Refuge

The Mesa Refuge is amazing! So beautiful...

Natalie Goldberg is here with me, author of Writing
Down the Bones. She is really interesting, Zen
Jew-Bu (short for Jewish Buddhist in publishing
speak). Lives in NM, originally from NYC. We get
along well. I feel like I have a lot to learn from

Also a man named Melvin Adams, from
Washington, a Christian sort-of who has been
ex-communicated from 2 christian churches. Worked in
nucleur waste clean-up and is writing abook about Eve,
re-telling her story.

I am really progressing on my essays. Will probably
move onto another project before my time is up. They
were actually further along than I remembered, and I
am having ideas on where to submit them, so will be
looking into that perhaps while I'm here or else
shortly after.

The program is funded by Peter Barnes, co-founder of
Working Assets, also part of a really interesting
thinktank from here, with a focus on "the commons."
It's inspiring to my work, and reading some of the thinktank's
work has really gelled several of my essays and given
me the answer on how to end them that was lacking

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Selfish Giving

"You're wonderful because giving others pleasure is in the first place a pleasure to you."
"Yes, it's a form of selfishness."
"The most enchanting form there is."

Simone de Beauvoir writes the above in "The Woman Destroyed," and I see myself again returning to the question of whether it is morally acceptable to metaphorically send oneself flowers. This scene from Simone's book isn't exactly the same, but it brings up complications. Monique, the giver in the story, has given up her whole life for the sake of her family. She quits her studies to raise her daughters and shortly after they both leave home, her husband has an affair.

She lets him continue, even while she knows about it, and tries to distract herself. She spends time at her daughter's house while she recovers from the flu, even though her duaghter doesn't really need her. This form of giving becomes a burden on the daughter. So if you're giving and the receiver doesn't want, but you keep giving for your own needs/pleasure/ego, well then there is a problem.

And so the story is like the lady in that Yoga Journal article that Slate so clearly points out as a case of sending oneself flowers, even at the expense of another.

And of course it brings the question of personal boundaries... if Monique had not given up her own pursuits for those shared with her husband, then it seems her fate would have come out differently. Maurice, her husband, is as bad as Thomas from "The Unbearable Lightness of Being." (well, okay, I haven't finished "A Woman Destroyed" yet, but I'm guessing he's going to be.)

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

You Can Do No Wrong

If you didn't notice, I have written the past few posts as responses to these funny cards that I have. They aren't exactly tarot cards, but more like hippie cards. I never had the full deck; I got them for free when I worked at BookPeople in Austin and they cleaned up their tarot and other cards display. I got a strange collection of cards that I have since used for collage making and thought provoking.

"You can do no wrong" makes me think of this article I recently read at Slate Magazine.
And in turn, this article makes me think about the people in yoga classes who seemingly show off. And it makes me wonder about my own abstination from metaphorically sending myself flowers.

I like to buy extra soups or snacks with a long shelf life and keep them in my car. When I see homeless people I give them food. I don't like to give them money becuase I think it often facilitates the things that drive their problems (in other words they use it to buy booze or cigarettes), but yet I am too saddened by their circumstances to simply ignore them and look away. Giving them food won't really help their problems (only social reform can do that, IMO), but it may make them a little more comfortable.

But by writing about that on here, amd I simply sending myself flowers? Maybe I should cancel my gym membership and donate that money to a charity that helps to create social change that will diminish homelessness. Is access to yoga classes self-flowering? Can I go to yoga simply for a work out? Or do I have to do it to find peace? And if I do it just to find peace, where is the line that differentiates true peace seeking and gratuitous peace seeking?

I have a number of narcissistic hobbies. I won't even admit to them in print. But is narcissism really that bad? I thought it was good to love yourself...? Maybe we need to define the difference between narcissism and egoism. Is that where the problem exists?

I feel like this invites the topic of spirituality being a priviledge, which I whole-heartedly disagree with. Although there is some idea that one must first deal with survival (food, shelter, etc) before one can embark on a spiritual path. So perhpas that implies an obligation of those on the spiritual path (or perhaps even simply those who have their basic needs taken care of) to help alleviate suffering at large.

Simone de Beavior addresses this in her short story "The Age of Discretion" when two aging academics deal with their own age and their son's departure from the parents values. The parents must deal with their depleting interest in the world around them, though they continue to desire to work towards reducing suffering in the world. This is the one thing with lasting inspiration in their world.

So, perhaps as we age and gain wisdom, we realize more and more the importance of alleviating suffering and the inconsequentialness of sending oneself flowers. I don't think the characters in Simone's story would be interested in buring scented candles or sending themselves bouquets of flowers.