Hello Friends. Happy belated Earth Day! Yeah, I know, every day is Earth Day, and it seems silly to have a designated day. But, I’m increasingly of the belief that special days are good to have for celebrations and to mark occasions or call attention to something. And since in our current world flavor, Earth Day is decidedly not every day, at least one day a year gets some attention, and who knows whether on that one day a person, or people, might have an awakening that leads to something amazing. So yay Earth Day!

There are two things that annoy me about Earth Day though. One, I have been getting lots and lots of emails from various environmental groups asking for money. No big deal, they do that all the time. But, in addition to the ask, they offer gifts of t-shirts, stickers, pins, water bottles (plastic!), and all sorts of other cheap consumerist crap. The depth of the disconnect is astonishing.

The other thing that bothers me is the greenwashing. You know, companies that tell you all the good they are doing for the environment but in reality are working hard to destroy it. Like Exxon, a company that boasts about its LEED gold certified green headquarters as though that makes up for its years of fossil fueled evil that continues unabated even now. Or banks like Bank of America and JP Morgan Chase that want us to know all about money they have invested in green projects but neglect to mention the billions of dollars they have invested in fossil fuels. Gizmodo has kindly put together a little slideshow of a few of the worst Earth Day Greenwashing campaigns.

While corporations continue to try and work their “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain Wizard of Oz trickery”, and Joe “the climate president” Biden’s solution to high gas prices and the war in Ukraine is drill baby drill, it really can’t get any more obvious that making change happen is up to us as individuals working together to subvert the Earth murdering systems that run the world. Systems don’t run by themselves. We can each find ways large and small to opt out, throw a wrench in the works, do our best at imitating Bartleby and “prefer not to.”

So here are my free gifts to you for Earth Day, and I’m not even going to ask you for money.

A couple weeks ago a report from Stanford University came out in which researchers compared energy use and quality of life across 140 countries. They found the magic number for best quality of life was 75 gigajoules (a gigajoule is equivalent to about 8 gallons of gasoline). Americans use 284 gigajoules a year per capita. The study used nine benchmarks based on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals: access to electricity, air quality, food supply, Gini coefficient, happiness, infant mortality, life expectancy, prosperity, and sanitation. Everything but air quality peaked at or below 75 gigajoules.

What countries did they identify with the highest metrics of wellbeing? Albania, Bangladesh, Cuba, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Malta, Morocco, Norway, and Sri Lanka. Unfortunately, there is no way to actually redistribute energy around the world, but clearly, Americans need to take huge steps to reduce our energy consumption. It needs to be policy, but it also needs to be individual.

You already know what you need to do. Buy less—a lot less—make your house more energy efficient, turn your thermostat down in winter and up in summer, turn off lights in rooms where you are not, walk and bike more, use more public transit, make fewer and shorter trips, eat your veggies and save the cows, pigs, chickens and fish for now and then. If you think you will be less healthy and happy making such big changes, remember that 75 gigajoule number is peak energy happiness.

So you have the individual stuff down, or are far along in implementing personal changes. Now it’s time to start changing the system. Vox offers some great suggestions for working for change in your neighborhood, workplace, your child’s school, and your city. 

For all you book lovers out there, LitHub has some awesome reading lists for your climate change library: The Classics, The Science, Fiction and Poetry, The Ideas. No, I have not read or even heard of all of them. Yes, I added a bunch to my library wishlist. 

Have you been waiting for me to mention gardening? It’s about time I get there. You can do so much in your yard or allotment like grow your own food or turn your yard into an ecological oasis. Spring is moving slowly in my garden this year. Not until this last week did I see the tulips begin to poke up from the soil. The garlic I planted in the fall is emerging too and the walking and bunch onions and chives are all well up. I spotted a wee dandelion leaf under the apple tree. Sorrel is poking up some little leaves too. And the rhubarb—it is the strangest sprouting plant because the wrinkly leaves unfurl from the ground and then grow unlike other plants that first send up a stalk and then unfurl the leaves. 

Elinor Mrs. Dashwood & Lucy

Temperatures here have been mostly in the 40s with forays into the 50s F. Yesterday we made it to 72F. It would have been truly glorious if the wind wasn’t blowing at over 20 mph. We got thunderstorms and now it’s back into the 40s again. But I can’t keep waiting for perfect days. So I was out yesterday for a little while in the wind getting the beds for snap peas, spring greens and potatoes ready to plant. The chickens were, of course, helping. Elinor and Mrs. Dashwood were right in there as I was pulling out the cornstalks from last year, slurping up worms and whatever else they spied. The Nuggets didn’t dare get in close for fear of Mrs. Dashwood’s ire, so they waited to investigate after we moved further down the bed.

I am pleased to report that I will not have to figure out how to shampoo Sia’s bouffant. Since she has been able to be out and about, her top feathers have gotten clean. I am not sure how, but I am grateful. And for your listening pleasure, you can hear Sia complaining about something and a few of the other chickens chiming in.

Chicken songs

Today James and I were out putting up hardware cloth along our side of my neighbor’s chain link fence. We have old wooden fence posts along the bottom of the fence to keep Rabbit from pushing under the fence and the hardware cloth. We got about half of the length of the fence done. We’ll keep working on it this week, and plan to be done by next weekend.

Then I will plant the peas and greens. Fat Rabbit will (hopefully) be banished and unable to invade the garden, and all the chickens will be banished from the garden as well, confined to their own smaller garden until October. They will not be happy about this and will stand at the gate between the two gardens looking sad—what did we do wrong???—and hopeful—you’re going to let us in, right? Or at least you have treats?

Now go, make a gift of yourself to our Mother Earth.

  • Ancient Green by Robin Wall Kimmerer. A lovely essay about moss.
  • The Books of Jacob by Olga Tokarczuk. Very much enjoying this book. I love that the pages are numbered in reverse starting at 964, and that I was well into the 800s before any mention of anyone named Jacob was made. 
  • The Nutmeg’s Curse by Amitav Ghosh. This is so good but was temporarily sidelined so I could finish reading another book before I had to return it to the library. Now I am back at it.
  • Sparrow Envy by J. Drew Lanham A wonderful book of poetry by an author I have been intending to read for awhile. 

Were I the sparrow
brown-backed skittish and small–
I would find haven
in thorniest thickets–
search far and wide for fields lain fallow
treasure the unkempt
worship the unknown
covet the weed-strewn row

From “Sparrow Envy”
  • Termination Shock by Neal Stephenson. Yup still. I think when it’s finally over that I might have termination shock!
  • Dickinson. We have only watched a couple episodes of this 3-season long, completely irreverent but delightful portrayal of Emily Dickinson. The last episode we watched had Mr. and Mrs. Dickinson out of town for the night so Emily and her brother threw a party during which Emily got herself and everyone else wasted on opium.

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17 thoughts on “Earth Day

  1. I have always been so careful of electricity use. The company sent out a man to check that we weren’t doing something dodgy to the electicity meter as our bills were so much less than our neighbours! I made a rhubarb crumble yesterday, the first of the year from my own rhubarb.

    1. What an excellent story Katrina! And also very sad that the electric company thought you were somehow scamming them because you don’t use as much electricity as other people. I love rhubarb and I hope your crumble was delicious!

  2. Thanks for marking Earth Day! Like you, I was stunned by the response to high gas prices. I mean, given that the IPCC said we have basically three years to reverse course, wouldn’t this be a great time for a huge push to renewables? I get that gas prices hurt ordinary people, especially when other costs of living are so high, but still, I feel like with the situation we’re in, gas prices SHOULD be high. If we “price in” the destruction of the planet, gasoline should be unaffordable. Then subsidise people to switch, and boom – you’ve got a chance of avoiding climate disaster. And you can do it all under the cover of sticking it to Russia, so that you bring the anti-climate, pro-war crowd along with you!

    1. Heh Andrew, there was such a brief and shining moment where I allowed myself to hope, along with other folks pushing for decarbonization, that the war in Ukraine would be the push we need to get going on it. Apparently not. And I agree, gas prices should be high, and they aren’t high enough because I bike by cars parked and idling by the side of the road every day while their drivers talk on the phone, text, or wait for I don’t know what. So much waste.

      1. Yes! When we were in Barbados there was a huge outcry over gas prices, with people calling in to radio shows and saying the world was going to end, and yet we saw people all the time sitting in their cars with the exhaust fumes chugging out of their tailpipes for minutes on end, just to avoid the momentary inconvenience of turning a key.

        But ah, those brief and shining moments! They’re what give me hope.

        1. It’s a small comfort to know it isn’t only US drivers being dumb about gas.

          Here’s to more brief and shining moments!

  3. Happy Earth Day!

    I’m glad you’re starting to get out and get things ready to plant, Stefanie. I spent a lot of time outside in my yard this weekend, weeding and planting things. I planted lavender (got a plant!), borage (a cold spell killed most of mine earlier this year, unfortunately), and some shamrock. I also planted two of my newly acquired four dahlia tubers. I’ve never grown dahlias and I’m really excited to try. I got the collarette kind because I read that they are easier for pollinators to get the nectar. Still have to find spots for two more. I plan to get another lavender plant and maybe some other herbs (tarragon? sage?) the next Saturday I have off, at the local farmers market, which is where I got my plants this weekend. There’s a local herb farm that has a stand there. I’m trying to make my yard as pollinator-friendly as I can!

    1. I’m so glad you are having fun in your garden Laila! We had shamrocks in the yard when I was a kid in California and I loved being able to wear them in my hair or pinned to my shirt for St Patrick’s Day. Have fun with the dahlias. I’ve grown them before and they are really easy and reproduce like mad. But I have to dig them up every year and store them in my basement because it gets too cold to leave them in the ground and I got so tired of it I gave up on it. Too much work! That’s excellent you got the flower shape that’s easier for pollinators. A very thoughtful choice!

  4. There’s nothing that makes me mad quite like giving a donation and getting loads of tchotchkes in exchange. Lately, I’ve quit donating because I send something like $20 and then I get a fat letter in the mail asking for more money about every 3-4 days. They literally mailed my contribution back to me in crap I then threw away.

    Can I be frank? I played the chicken sound and almost shit my pants, it started me so hard!

    1. hahaha Melanie! Sorry about startling you! I am glad your pants are safe 😉 And yes, I hate that part of donating too. When someone I know died a few years ago the family asked for donations to a certain organization instead of flowers. So I donated in the decease’s honor and spent two years trying to get them to stop sending me crap in the mail every month. I think I finally got off their list. But yeah, like you I am hesitant to donate anywhere these days because of stuff like that.

      1. The problem for me is during the pandemic when we were getting stimulus checks we were also still being paid by our employers, not going out and spending money, and sitting at home. So, oddly, we made money during the pandemic. Thus, I tried to donate a bunch. And now I’m flush with trash.

        1. We did the same with a chunk of our pandemic money. We were very selective about who we sent it to and haven’t gotten any trash in the mail from them at all 🙂

  5. Happy Earth Day! I am def trying my best to be more eco-conscious in my old age — it feels discouraging that the major drivers of climate change, the big companies, aren’t doing the same, but that’s no reason for me to not do my little bit!

    1. Thanks Jenny! I figure even if the big companies never change and we end up on a sinking ship, at least I am living as best I can in alignment with my values, which, to me, means a lot.

  6. Weasel & Rascal enjoyed the Chicken Songs. Tell the chickens we said HI!
    The Books of Jacob sounds interesting. I’ll have to add it to my TBR list …… I’m currently reading a 500ish page book now & my friend just gave me Cloud Cuckoo Land which is 600 some pages ……

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