30 May 2011

Summer Cinema

Starting June 3, a new documentary will begin popping up in theaters across the country. The Last Mountain looks at the issue of mountaintop removal mining in Appalachia.

Mountaintop removal is being used to extract coal, and in doing so, it destroys mountains and threatens human and environmental health. Check out the movie trailer below.

Besides the fact that it reveals the growing impact people can have on the planet, the film interests me because the issue it takes on challenges us to look at the interconnectedness between our behaviors and the environment. It lets us see where much of our energy comes from, how we get it, and the consequences of our need for it.

What is more, this film comes on the heels of last year's Academy Award-nominated Gasland, which explored the dangerous ramifications of using fracking to access natural gas. Together, the films indicate a larger problem with a need for resources.

It looks like The Last Mountain will appear first in major cities. Hopefully, it secures a wider release. For a list of theaters where the movie is scheduled to show, click here.

27 May 2011

Catching Eyes, Spreading Words

Today's entry is about something I just heard about. I have no great insight into it (I can't even guarantee that it's worthwhile), only a great curiosity for it, and I relay it to you only as a thought that passed through me and seemed to deserve dissemination.

The topic is a book called No Impact Man by Colin Beavan. It chronicles a year in which the author and his family tried to minimize their impact on the planet. From the sound of it, they made some drastic changes and reached some profound conclusions.

I don't know if I'd ever be brave enough (or have the ability) to make all the changes the Beavans made, and I am not suggesting anyone else has to make such attempts. However, even if the book leaves a reader with one single thing she or he can do, that's something significant; so I'm going to look into it further as soon as I get a chance, and if you're interested, check it out too.

It has been my experience that getting started on minimizing one's impact is the hardest part. Once the mindset is in place, it gets easier. Perhaps this book can provide a nudge in the right direction.

No Impact Man is available at Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com. Also, it has been turned into a documentary, and I have added Beavan's blog to my bloglist.

23 May 2011

That's the Chap

I've used considerably less lip balm this year.

As you might recall, last summer, I posted about buying Badger Balm sunscreen and unscented lip balm. In that post, I reviewed my experience with the sunscreen and promised to talk about the lip balm later.

After almost a year with the lip balm, I am quite happy with my purchase. It has been part of a systematic decrease in lip balm usage. First, I stopped using my other brand and decided to wait a while before applying the Badger Balm (theoretically giving a clean break between products). That was during the summer, so I didn't need it as much anyway. In the meantime, I realized I'd become accustomed to using lip balm at the slightest hint of dryness. I also realized this habit was unnecessary. Sometimes, my lips would feel dry one day but return to better shape on their own the next.

Second, when I finally used the Badger Balm, I only applied a small amount. That was all I needed to give my lips the moisture they required.

Third, even during the winter (and this winter was windy and cold and had long dry spells), I would go weeks without using the lip balm. I had a tube of medicated Blistex on hand just in case things got bad. (I've had to use medicated lip balm during the winter for at least 13 years.) To my surprise, I only had to use the medicated lip balm once this year. I virtually made it through the entire winter with just periodic applications of my organic, non-medicated Badger Balm.

It feels nice to rely less on lip balm, and I know that when I do need it, I've got an organic option with fewer chemicals.

As bonuses, Badger Balm does not test on animals, and the tube is recyclable.

You can buy the lip balm directly from Badger Balm or at Amazon.com.

22 May 2011

Garden Native

If you're a gardener or have some yard space you'd like to fill with plants, consider choosing native species.

Using native plants helps maintain or restore a bit of the natural ecosystem, and it actually makes gardening easier because the native species are more suited to living in your area and can usually get the water and nutrients they need through the natural conditions. This means less work for you, and it also cuts down on the resources and money needed to sustain these plants. Plus, there is beauty in the natural fit between the plants and the environment.

For lists of native plants in your region and directories of nurseries that sell plants from your area, visit PlantNative. Washington state residents can find a wide variety of information resources by going to the Web site of the Washington Native Plant Society. Information at this site includes a list of plants native to Washington specifically and descriptions of invasive species. You can also check in to see when and where the latest workshops on native plants will occur. Finally, American Beauties: Native Plants provides additional information and resources. Those in the Northeast of the US will find this site particularly tailored for their needs, but the information and plant search can benefit most American gardeners.

21 May 2011

Collision Prevention

The last entry provided information on birdhouses. This one deals with birds and houses (our houses), particularly the windows on our houses.

Birds often hit windows because they can't tell the difference between the glass surface and open air. If they're lucky, they fly off; some are severely dazed; and others don't survive. Any way you look at it though, this is an encounter with nature that you'd rather not have, and every time you hear that familiar bonk on the glass, you cringe a bit.

It's been tough to find ways of preventing these collisions, but today, I came across some interesting tips from the American Bird Conservancy. Check out the PDF of the info here. Along with the tips, the guide includes information on where to get the things you'll need to put the strategies to work. I haven't tried any of these yet, but the use of decorative Tempora paint definitely looks interesting.

15 May 2011

Cozy Quarters

We're right in the middle of the season in which birds are looking for nests.

If you've always wanted to put up a birdhouse but were unsure about how to get started, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology can help. Click here and here for information. You'll learn what houses work for which birds, how to place the house, how to make your own, and many other useful ideas.

Birdhouses are a great way to make friends in the animal kingdom, and they can bring you entertainment and fun.

01 May 2011

Not-So-Lonesome Prairie

As spring takes hold, the opportunities for connecting with nature increase. Hopefully, some of you had the chance to visit the Grays Harbor Shorebird Festival this weekend. In two weeks, on May 14, you can take part in the Glacial Heritage Prairie Appreciation Day.

The Glacial Heritage Preserve is 1000+ acres of land south of Olympia, Washington, where people have worked to remove invasive plants such as Scotch broom and plant native species like the Indian paintbrush. (The camas you see in the picture doesn't need much help as far as planting goes, but it appreciates the cleared ground.) Although it is usually closed to visitors, once a year, the preserve opens to the public to celebrate the work being done there.

Plenty of activities are planned. If you want, you can walk one of the two paths that cut through the preserve. This will give you a chance to take in the native flowers that are beginning to open. You can also spend some time pulling Scotch broom, learning to garden with native plants, and getting information about the plants, animals, and history of the Puget Sound prairies, which are dwindling away because of development. Plenty of other activities will take place as well.

The event goes from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and a similar event will happen just up the road at the Washington State Department of Natural Resources Mima Mounds Natural Area.

For more information, click here and here.