Friday, July 27, 2007

Live Earth, Three Weeks & Counting

During the lead up to Live Earth, I got on even more environmental e-lists, and one associated with the event, .... , has asked the question, "When was your 'green light' moment?"

I added this reply to their comments section:

My "green light" moment occurred back when I was a teenager in the 1970s. I joined "The Wilderness Society" when I was about 15 years old. No one else in my family was into wilderness, but I saw that it was, as Thoreau said, "the preservation of the world." And I still feel that we can measure how well we are doing by how wilderness and natural ecosystems are doing. So far, not so good.

When I was 17, in 1975, I wrote a big paper for my American literature class on Thoreau and "Walden," and I was hooked. My first year in college, I latched onto an American Studies course called "Wilderness and the American Mind" after the book of that title by Roderick Nash. So my road has always been one of treading lightly, in some ways reasonably (always recycled for myself and sometimes neighbors, strangers, along the roadside, always composted, only bought cars that got 30+ mpg), in other ways radically (no TV, no children, no investing, no supporting the military, much less war).

For me, this has not been an easy road. Deep convictions cut like a knife -- both ways. There have been pain and anguish and deprivation (by American standards) down this road, but I am proud of my stances and sacrifices, even as I am humbled and devasted, at times to the brink of dysfunction, by what I see around me -- the juggernaut of human nature and of American culture.

My lighter, kinder road is my life's work and its greatest accomplishment.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Top SIX National Priorities

If you had to come up with, say, a half dozen TOP PRIORITIES for this country to become -- as we like to say around here -- A Better Nation, here are a few (um, six, actually) to consider:

1. Provide universal health care to all citizens, including free birth control and the encouragement to use it.

2. Cut the consumption of fossil fuels per capita and overall, 24/7/365.

3. Get the lobbyists and pork out of government. Junket whores, pack your bags!

4. Foster peace and civility as well as judicial and gender equality to help reduce crime. Egalitarian is a fancy word for FAIR.

5. Raise the level of American education to the highest standards. Japan, Sweden, here we come!

6. Protect all remaining open spaces, wild lands and wet lands especially. Love the land? Don't build on it!

Over the next few weeks, I'll take up one of these topics for review.

Tomorrow, one of my pet favorites: protecting open spaces.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Bush & McCain Beginning to Fall on Their Own Swords

Before there was democracy -- and loooong before there was American Democracy -- there was the rabble. Rabble: defined as a "tumultuous crowd," a "mob," especially as associated with a course or downtrodden or lower class of people.

Well, it's not like we're throwing desks out of university offices these days, and it's not like the courser among us are beating the streets to demand an end to the Iraq War. There really is very little tumult in American society today, so taken are we with the American Dream.

Indeed, war protests are fewer and more polite than they used to be just a few years ago. You would think the war-mongers would be feeling they'd dodged the bullet, so to speak. But instead, they are, against their stubborn will, starting to fall on their own swords. There is justice in this, though it seems to me years late in coming.

If the public doesn't seem exactly 'rabblerous,' then at least many are restless, and this "many" seems to be reaching some sort of critical mass. An indicator of that: it seems the media need a turning of the tide, as part of the big build up to Election Year '08. (I actually heard 2007 mistakenly called an "election year" the other day, so rapid is the media rabble eager to get the horses in the shoots.)

The ancient power of the people and the need for news is starting to really chew at the fate of Bush, Cheney, McCain and their war. Ousted from the fray, perhaps Rumsfeld is sleeping better. These days, there would be festering sores shown in prime time of his press conferences.

The people are not happy, and besides the handwriting on the wall, they're starting to see the BILL. Gas is $3 bucks, and a lot of folks can't sell their over-priced houses or keep up with their ballooning mortgages or medical needs, and they're starting to see that a close cadre of capitalists at the top are making a lot of money off their misfortunes -- and their compliance with footing that bill, $12 billion every month. $12 billion for June. $12 billion for July. $12 billion for August.

Perhaps John McCain is a brave man, a man of principle. Maybe, even, George W. Bush is being brave and principled, but their pro-war principles aren't sitting right with most of us. No one has ever really defined "success" much less "winning" in Iraq, but the ancient power of the people is afoot, and what they sense is that every which way is losing and that it is time to take the boys and the toys home and lick our wounds, even if it means we have to later brace for battle closer to home.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Dear John (McCain, that is)

The people now vote American style, with their dollars, and the winner, as of July 2007, fifteen or so months before the general election, is a man from the Land of Lincoln, a Mr. Barack Obama. That's how it is. From Straight Talk to Money Talks. From '99 Front Runner to Back of the Bus. Like I say, this is voting American style.

Obama has raised three times what you have, Mr. McCain, and that seems to be enough to afford the paint to put some big writing on the wall. In free fall, sir straight arrow, sir straight and narrow, you may return to your feisty tactics of 1999 and 2000, with a bit more grit and bile and laughs, too, if you can loosen what has got you so bound up, but eight years makes a difference. And an incumbent and a war gone wrong make a difference. As it turns out, a big difference.

Time is marching on (we would hope) without the old guard who got us into this mess. Tens of millions of us would like to march straight away from that old guard. And so we will. Meanwhile, many millions will let their dollars do their talking for them, long before a single hand is raised at a caucus, long before a single box is checked on a single ballot.

Welcome to the new epic mega-high dollar campaigns of the future, where both progressivism and year-out CASH count for more than they used to -- and a whole lot sooner than they used to.

We may lose a United States Senator to the White House in early 2009. The money, Mr. McCain, says you'll keep your seat.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Lady Bird Johnson

At least once, I saw Lady Bird Johnson in person.

I was having lunch at the Night Hawk restaurant on "the drag" in Austin, an institution long since replaced by a string of lesser cafes, and not just lesser, but considering the stature of the Night Hawk in the '50s, '60s and 70s, the more recent incarnations seem demeaning. The Night Hawk was the ultimate Austin diner, 24/7.

I was a green teenager, maybe 13 or 14. I was sitting with my mother at a window booth in the very late '60s, I believe it was. Lady Bird was, as I recall, no longer First Lady, but she was still First Wife. She was the Queen of Texas.

I looked over at a booth about four booths away, and I thought I recognized that woman. I said to my mom I thought it was Lady Bird, seated with one of her daughters, and the classic Night Hawk waitress, in her starched Shirley Booth outfit overheard my exclamation and went over to Lady Bird and bent toward her and said something to her and pointed to me, and Lady Bird tipped her head and smiled and gave me a little wave to assure me that I was right. It was like a blessing from the queen.

And so our Queen Mum has passed and with her, a huge dose of Southern charm and graciousness and grit. Strangely now, Lady Bird, in a 1990 photograph sitting in a field of flowers, looks like a cross between me own mum and the queen, Queen Elizabeth.

It should be said, and Lady Bird herself would want me to say this, it should be said that, as much as anything, she loved the views beside the roads of the Hill Country (where I now live just fortysomething miles from her grave). And she loved wildflowers.

And so she shall be among them.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Is Willpower Dead?

In an article on overweight Americans' frustrations as they desire or try to lose weight, the New York Times today asks, "Is Willpower Dead?"

To which, I offered, just a tad more briefly, this comment:

I am "only" about 15 pounds overweight. 5' 10" male weighing 169, and my target is <155. But as I approach 50 and the metabolism slows, those last 15 are hard to lose. What has flipped my switch? The feeling of my gut on my belt and the vigor with which I am zeroing in on exercise. The answer to weight loss, plain and simple, is:

Rev your metabolism.

I have found recently that attacking exercise really works. I am a cyclist and peripherally, a jogger, but even walking vigorously will do it. Just walk faster than you feel comfortable and keep going. Be sure you are walking fast enough to breathe deeply, and a little sweat works wonders. Now, your hunger pangs will go up, but with exercise, you are more AWARE of your hunger, and thus you can keep it in mind, instead of wandering around aimlessly through snacks and seconds.

So anything vigorous first, and awareness (which will come naturally) second. Keep at it!

If you need more food pointers, just think NOTHING FRIED (or if you must, a quota on fries, like how about once or twice a month, none of this every week thing), and keep anything with corn syrup to a minimum (or just say "no"). Also, as some say, cut out the white foods: white rice, white sugar, white (and beige) bread, too much dairy, big white (again, beige) "Idaho" potatoes (little red potatoes and sweet potatoes are okay, even good). And how about almost never more than TWO alcoholic drinks a day. (And if you want to partake, wine is best, red wine best of all.

This list is short and easy to keep in mind when you are at the store or in a restaurant, rummaging the pantry or raiding the fridge. Some snacking is okay, but what most Americans think of is kids' food, meaning junk to stuff the faces of spoiled kids, not the kids who know good health. Snacks and small meals can work for you.

You don't need charts and calorie counters and gold stars and rewards. Just keep it healthy, eat your greens, and rev that metabolism.

Keep MOVING. Keep AWARE. It's a physical world OUT THERE!