Monday, July 1, 2019

Meraki


A reflection, because sometimes it's just time.

The word of the day is Meraki: to do something with soul, creativity, or love; to put "yourself" into what your doing, whatever it may be. 

There is no other feeling that can replace full investment of your heart, your soul, your creative spirit, your love, into whatever it is you may be doing. To paint is not just painting. Infuse the paper with little pieces of self, like soul origami that melts into the page. Paint with colors that invigorate the mind and brushstrokes swayed by the mood which dances within. Perhaps fiery. Perhaps quiescent. Maybe, in moments like this particular, perhaps salty. The color of today is sea-spray, with a hue of empty heather, like the dirty feathers of a sad seagull. 

To write is not just writing. Words: not just letters, but combinations of the familiar which, when stitched together, craft any tale you can dream. A careless seamstress sews these words from patterns, as if one size fits all. But she misses her moment to notice her words: the way they sound together, the way the sit next to one another on the desert page, white for miles, waiting to be adorned like a temple. 

Were the words selected thoughtfully? Were the details a choice? Do they flow together? Are they fighting? Are they empowered? 
Do they have agency? Can they move and shine? 

To give an outlet this attentiveness is not a simple task. It does not come in every moment. The modern clock spirals fast, like a vacuum vortex that takes every ounce of energy to not fall into. And ironically, only in the hardest of times when your life, like the clock, begins to spiral, and your feelings are the very most felt, can you channel an inner superpower to slow things down to notice.      


Thursday, May 2, 2019

Lisboa in Haiku

Da Vinci once said, "Every now and then go away, have a little relaxation, for when you come back to your work your judgment will be surer. Go some distance away because then the work appears smaller and more of it can be taken in at a glance and a lack of harmony and proportion is more readily seen."

We did what we were told ;)


A few notes on traveling to Lisbon:

Traveling & Commuting
  • Flight time London --> Lisbon: just shy of 3 hours.
  • No visa was required (though this may change in 2021, so stay tuned)
  • There are plenty of options for transit:
    • buses
    • metro
    • trolley
    • tuktuks
    • bikes
    • electric scooters (most fun)
    • and best of all, if you are able: your two lovely feet
We "urban hiked" Lisbon's hilly labyrinth and got lost in the magic of the city. I can't name a favorite place, because I loved them all, so I wrote some Haikus:

Bairro Alto
Our home for the week
bold graffiti paradise
hills for sexy calves;)

Highlights from Bairro Alto:
  • the air bnb (it is important to have a "home" wherever you go).
  • the graffiti~ it's everywhere and it's COOL <3
  • the old yellow trolley (which is made by the same company as SF trolleys, fun fact).
  • a shared bottle of green wine
  • fresh pineapple juice in old-timey glassware and transported to your face via METAL STRAWS:) <3 These juices, and the accompanying delightful breakfasts are served up at a place called Break. Loved it and would visit again in a heartbeat. They won me with their straws alone.



Alfama
romance, history
cobblestone, stained glass, castle
ponto de vista

Highlights from the Alfama:
  • Postcards and playing cards
  • Sao Jorge castle
  • Ponto de vistas (the views are incredible)
  • Lisbon Cathedral 
  • Little urban gardens
  • Stopping to do some painting :)
We spotted an awesome mustard yellow house with a beautiful urban garden and plaque for the best neighborhood garden. I stopped to snap some photos and noticed some pretty cool reuse ideas!I love urban gardens, and I love that the owners of this one took such good care of it. 








Sintra
trails, trees, hike, castle,
palace, greenhouse, valley lakes
flora, rain, amore

Highlights from Sintra:
  • Moorish castle
  • Palace de Pena & the grounds
  • Hiking on real trails!!
  • Roughing it through a rainstorm
I was pleased to see recycling at palace de pena:)The castle and grounds were exceptionally clean~ I didn't spot a piece of litter the entire time I was there. 


















Santos Neighborhood

americanos
brunch so we don't get hangry
getting our goof on

Highlights from Santos
         
  • Cherie Paloma!
  • Fresh flowers
Cherie Paloma is the world's cutest cafe, and I highly recommend a visit, especially for brunch. The smoothies are a dream!

LX factory
art, art, art, art, art
food, murals, lights, coffee, art
sustainable shoes


Highlights from LX factory
  • well, the art
  • new sustainable shoes I spent probably too much on but I love them. We noticed a lot of cork products sold in Lisbon, yet cork is an endangered tree. When I saw cork shoes in the window of a store called rutz, I was skeptical. We asked the woman in the store how the cork was sourced, and her answer was pleasantly surprising. The cork trees are grown sustainably and only the outside of the tree is harvested, allowing it to replenish for nine years before the next harvest.
  • On the way to LX factory, I got a nice shot of one more way the locals save energy and live simply: Laundry is dried on clotheslines from the balcony. The typical household in the US spends over $100 a year in utility bills for an electric dryer. A good drier may last 15 years, and then require replacement, so those costs must be considered too. On top of that, even if you try to "do the right thing" and start purchasing energy efficient appliances, your old dryer (which may still have some life in it) could consume more energy than an energy efficient fridge, washing machine, and dishwasher combined (NRDC, 2014). On top of that, add in the financial costs of the one time use dryer sheets (which contain loud fragrances and VOCs) and your drying routine really starts to feel "above and beyond". The locals in Lisbon not only save money and energy by drying their clothes on lines, they get the benefit of a free "fresh air scent" :) 

Belém

Monastery walks
Explorers & the ocean
Tired feet, Lime scooters


Highlights from Belém:
  • Jerónimos Monastery
  • Padrão dos Descobrimentos (Monument of the discoveries)
  • Belém tower
We got to (and around) Belém using our new non-tourist maps given to us at a surf shop in LX factory :) Belém is beautiful; the monastery architecture takes your breath away, and the Padrão dos Descobrimentos is a work of art. It really puts you at the center of Portugal's history, and highlights ideas of cultural importance. 

 



Last Day in Lisbon
Botanical garden sun
Scooters, bon voyage

Our trip to Lisbon was amazing, and I didn't want to ever leave, but in order to "come back to our work with surer judgment" we had to actually come back to our work ;) 

The last day in Lisbon included time at the botanical garden (I LOVE GARDENS) and a spin on the lime scooters we'd been eyeing all week! 
Travel tip: if you want to rent a lime scooter instead of taking a car, ensure that your phone is charged enough to snap a photo of your parking place ;) Otherwise wait for another day. We had a blast riding them. I felt like a kid and it was an awesome way to finish our trip. 
 

I don't often have the opportunity or funds to travel much these days as a student, so this trip meant a lot. While I am aware that travel (especially plane travel) adds to global emissions, I try to make daily sustainable choices both in London and away to offset my footprint (vegetarianism, minimal plastic consumption, no car, walking places). I have opted for train transportation from London to Paris and Barcelona when my family comes to see me later this year. Train transportation limits your impact on GHGs, and although the commute will be longer this time, I think it will be a great experience through some beautiful countryside. I'll report back :)Thanks for reading, and I hope that if you've been thinking about a trip, you'll consider Lisbon!

Monday, March 4, 2019

Unplanned and Unplugged: A Tale of Misadventure & Connection

I use my blog to express views on timely global issues, but I also use it as a space for personal reflection on what makes me feel connected to nature and overall ALIVE. The entry below is a story I've submitted for a second blogging competition and details a massive misadventure that has become one of the most memorable to-date:

The first time I met Sandrena was for a morning coffee, and the second time I met Sandrena was for a road trip. I think that everyone should try road tripping with a stranger at least once, pending the stranger is not a creep, which Sandrena was not. With hours of tunes, rose-colored glasses, and a serious lack of planning, Sandrena, my sister Dana, and I hit the highway to for a chick-trip to Big Sur. Big Sur is off-the-grid, and camping there requires a booking months in advance (something we had not arranged). Instead, we bought iron-on sea otter patches at the ranger station and sweet-talked the ranger into giving us the inside scoop on secret campsites. "Go down the road. Keep going. And then turn, and go up the hill. And just keeeeeeep going... you'll see a plot of land on the right. If you leave now, you should make it there by sunset," he said. We lost cell service 20 minutes later, and the hood of our car went up in smoke an hour after that. Stranded on the side of the road with no way to communicate, we stress-ate our last bag of chips, which seemed logical at the time but in hindsight could have been our last supper. But as the sun began to set, we were met with unexpected good fortune: a Tarzan look-alike in a sports-car. After flagging down our new roadside assistant, Tarzan (Tristan) diagnosed blown coolant hoses and macgyvered a set of clamps from zip-ties to nurse our car down the hill. Tristan, Matt 1 (a drone videographer) and Matt 2 (a body painter) proceeded to invite us to camp with them. They, too, were strangers on a road-trip and had met online only a few hours prior. They claimed to be recreating a scene from Avatar by painting Tristan blue and filming him rock climbing using a drone. On so many levels, the story was suspicious, so the girls pow-wowed in the car to consider our options. We came to the cautious decision that a serial killer would have spun a more enticing story than body painting himself blue, plus he fixed our car and it was dark, so what other choice did we have? Three became six. Thirty minutes later and safely down the hill, we found out that the geniuses that invited us to their campsite had also not reserved a campsite. We tried to mooch spots from paying campers in one campground, only to be chased off the site, and in a final act of desperation, we sent Tristan into the woods. Somehow, it worked. Christine and Matt 3, a lovely couple in their 50s, offered us a plot next to their airstream. They were on a weekend getaway for their anniversary, and somehow found it in their hearts to take us in like six stray dogs. We gathered around their roaring campfire and made friends quickly. Matt 3 poured us campfire cocktails, and we connected-- truly connected. I can still hear Fleetwood Mac's 'Sara' through the portable speakers, still taste the aperitif, still make out the shadows of Matt and Christine slow dancing in the darkness. I can still feel the warmth of the fire, a celebration of strangers and our serendipitous rendezvous. Our eight paths had tangled into a hairball adventure, and here we were with no cell connection: a motley crew of misfits. I went against my grain at every turn of this adventure. I road tripped with a stranger, accepted help from Tarzan, believed in Tarzan and the Matts, drank my first aperitif, and trusted in the universe. Most of all, I felt more alive than ever.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Shrinking your Plastic Print

Hello again. I took a hiatus to focus on exams-- they're done!  

To cut to the chase, I want to talk about sustainability, especially related to plastic. I grew up surrounded by plastic:
  • plastic grocery bags 
  • plastic water bottles at team soccer practice
  • ziplock bags
  • saran wrap
  • plastic milk jugs
  • plastic shoes (remember jellies?)
  • plastic jars
  • plastic wrappers
  • plastic plates
  • plastic utensils
  • plastic garbage bags
  • plastic cups
  • plastic CD cases
  • plastic VCRs
  • plastic DVD cases
  • plastic toys... 
The plastic list is endless. My town had a recycling program, but the size of the "blue bin" was disproportionately small to the "black bin" and anyone who composted was a "hippie." I never really thought twice about the garbage, except that we had to close the lid so our Labrador wouldn't turn into a blimp. 

I never thought about where the garbage went after it left the curb until I visited the landfill and the beach...

Every kid should go to the landfill and the beach. 

At the landfill, you get exposed to the enormous amounts of waste even small communities generate. Some of this will rot (hence the landfill aroma) but much of it will sit there forever, bound by plastic bag. 

At the beach, you see trash in a place it does not belong. I'll never forget the feeling of salty waves licking my toes, and then a slimy grocery sack wrapping its plastic tentacles around my ankles. The thought of it makes me shiver. 

Imagine four-year-old me, standing on the shore, becoming entangled in plastic bag leg warmers. I was a measly speck along the coastline, and the water wasn't even a foot deep, yet plastic found my ankles. Now imagine what it's like to LIVE IN THE OCEAN, as a turtle, or a whale, or sea lion, seal, dolphin, or otter. Their home is infested with the trash they didn't even create! Worse, many of them become entangled and perish a death by plastic. At 26, I visited a beached whale carcass in Marin, California to find plastic remnants spilling out of this majestic creature. It was one of the most tragic things I've ever seen and it broke my heart.


I am bleeding heart nature lover and have always tried to respect the earth and its inhabitants. I am angry at fishing vessels (especially long line vessels) that leave lines and nets in the ocean to entangle and drown bycatch. I could go on a rant about this for days, but I also know that my daily choices contribute to the problem too, and that I can always do better. I knew that I could take small steps in my daily life to clean up my act and reduce my impact on the ocean. 




Here's a list of steps I have taken to work toward improvement:




-Not buying items with plastic rings. I don't buy items with plastic rings (ie soda cans, 6 pack beer cans etc). Often times, marine animals gets curious about these floating circles and explore. The next thing you know, they are bound by a plastic choker that imbeds into their skin as they grow. Ultimately, this can lead to suffocation and death. Photo credit DW, 2018.


-Using metal straws or no straws. You can get these on Amazon for really cheap, though I could have done better by finding somewhere in London that sold them in a store, so that my purchase didn't create unnecessary emissions. Plastic straws are entirely unnecessary and can get stuck in the nostrils of marine life, or ingested, creating bloat and intestinal blockages. Another alternative to plastic straws is not using a straw at all ;)

-Switching to bar soap. There is no reason to purchase plastic soap dispensers or body wash dispensers when you can use bar soap. You can store your bar soap in a soap tin or recycled food container. Companies like Lush also make bar shampoo and conditioner.

-Investing in (and carrying) reusable shopping bags. I invested in a canvas bag and love using it for groceries. You can purchase 1 or more canvas or cloth (durable) shopping bags and make sure to take them with you wherever you go. If size is an issue, many roll into a pouch with a carabiner for your purse or backpack. Even if you are a trendy business executive, you can store these in your laptop case ;) These bags are available at tons of stores, but I prefer to get mine from my favorite bookstores. If I had a sewing machine, I'd love to make my own from recycled clothes... which brings me to...

-Recycling clothes. Fast fashion is one of the absolute worst contributors to pollution, and many dyes, chemicals, and clothing fibers end up in the ocean. If you outgrow your clothes or decide they are not for you anymore, donate them at a local thrift or charity shop, gift them to a friend, go to a clothes swap, or use the fabric to make a reusable shopping bag!

-Not buying clothes I won't ever wear. I like earth tones, and I like basics. I also like comfy clothes. I have no business buying trendy uncomfortable items that I wish I liked, but I will honestly never wear. By purchasing these, I contribute to the problem, so I am working toward having a versatile closet of basic solid colors that go with everything. I have started exercising the "less is more" concept. 

-Carrying a reusable mug/thermos: There is no reason to get a to-go cup with a plastic lid every time you grab a tea or coffee. Admittedly, I do this still sometimes, but I am working to reduce it. I have a thermos and like to use it as much as possible. 

-Buying glass jars and then reusing them. If you like nutella, or almond butter, or bolognese, or orange juice, or milk, or yogurt, or literally anything that comes in a jar, buy a glass jar and then reuse the jar. This not only limits the amount of plastic waste you produce, but also is really handy for packing your lunch in glass containers, or planting succulent friends in your room. 

-Using bees wax paper instead of ziplock bags. Beewax paper is awesome and you can wrap just about anything in it. As long as you wash it with cold water, you can reuse it many times!

-Bringing my own utensils in my lunch, or opting for metal utensils at restaurants. There is no reason we should be using plasticware. I can improve upon this at to-go lunches during the school year, but I now carry a camping spork with my in my backpack. Sporks are not only really useful; they make you seem really cool. 

This list is not exhaustive, and there's so so much you can do to minimize your plastic waste production and contribute to healthier environments (especially the ocean)! I would love to hear what other people do to minimize their plastic print.

If this topic is not something on your radar day to day, I recommend reading this article and looking at the photos: https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/plastic-trash-animals-photos_us_58ee9ec1e4b0b9e984891ddf?guccounter=1&guce_referrer_us=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZWNvc2lhLm9yZy8&guce_referrer_cs=bY8oZkuM8AS98xq8PbBSAg

I also recommend watching the documentary Plastic Ocean 💙🌊🐢🐬🐋

Stay tuned for a post about palm oil in the coming weeks... 

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Elephants, Farmers, and Harmonious Bees


Elephants, Farmers, and Harmonious Bees


An interesting new solution to a long-lived problem has made recent headlines. The scene: Nairobi Kenya; the scenario: trespassing elephants!

For ages, Kenyan farmers struggled to keep wild elephants off of their land. These hungry giants would easily knock over the farmers' fences, plow through their fields, and snack like it was sample day at Costco. The elephants already face the threat of illegal ivory poaching, and the farmers understand the grave situation that the elephants are in. However, the nonchalant pulverization of farmlands put a dent in the local economy– something had to be done.

Enter Save the Elephants, a conservation group based in Kenya. Research of elephant behavior taught scientists that elephants are afraid of bees. What better to change a behavior than a simple “scare tactic”? Save the Elephants used this knowledge to build “beehive fences” to deter the elephants from trespassing onto farmland. Three years following the placement of the beehives researchers have found that “only 20 percent of the 253 elephants that entered the Mwakoma farms during that time managed to break the fences” (Craig, 2017).

The fences were set up using strong wire and a mix of real and faux beehives. If an elephant attempted to bust through the fence for a morsel, the motion would shake the hive, releasing an angry bee swarm. The elephants typically got the hint and hightailed back to their own stomping grounds. This was a simple solution to a complex problem, and the benefits remain exceptional.

To begin with, this tactic does not result in harm to the elephants. With illegal poaching already decimating elephant populations, it was vital that Save the Elephants find a nonviolent solution to the snacking problem. By studying the gentle giants and learning their behaviors, desires, and fears, scientists found a natural solution. This goes to show that eliciting rash human dominance over wildlife is not the only course of action. Furthermore, the addition of bees to the farm perimeters boosted pollination and increased the health of the crops. The farmers were even able to sell the honey and use the profits to pay for their children to attend school (Craig, 2017). By introducing a third species to the equation, humans found a balanced solution that was nonviolent to elephants, healthy for bees, and beneficial to farmers in more ways than one.

This creative strategy serves as an example that humans and wildlife can coexist peacefully if we use our understanding of animal behavior to protect our livelihood, while equally respecting animals as living beings. It also shows the value of simplicity. The elephant problem was massive both physically and logistically, but the tiniest of solutions dissolved the problem. If we are willing to learn from nature, we may be able to solve more issues than we think!





Reference

https://www.voanews.com/a/save-elephants-beehive-fences-protect-small-kenya-farms-cropraids/3748461.html


Sharks vs. Humans; Who’s Really in Danger?



Sharks vs. Humans; Who’s Really in Danger?

In 1975, Universal Pictures produced the seventh highest grossing film in Canadian and American ranking; Jaws. Director Stephen Spielberg created a fictional tale about a man-eating Great White shark on a slaughtering spree. The daunting Jaws theme song lives on in the nightmares of all who watch. Following the release of the film, humans have lived in fear of what they believe to be an ocean dwelling terrorist. Unfortunately, the vilification of sharks in movies like Jaws has contributed to the demise of a vital keystone species.

In truth, sharks are nothing like the polyurethane Great White depicted in the movie Jaws. They are shy creatures who regulate the ocean Fauna and Flora by feeding on smaller mammals, fish, and plankton. Sharks are not man-eating by nature. Some will argue this truth, citing shark attacks on surfers and swimmers. Many believe that these attacks are malicious, when in truth, for “over 80% of people bitten, no flesh is removed” according to shark biologist Chris Lowe of California State University, Long Beach (Ward, 2016). Shark bites are the result of defense mechanism when a shark is provoked, or of curiosity. A shark that mistakes a human for a seal rarely breaks skin before recognizing that the human is not a food source, and swimming away to feed on fish. To put things into perspective, the average human has a 1 in 63 chance of dying from the flu, a 1 in 218 chance of dying from a fall, and a 1 in 3,700,000 chance of being killed by a shark (Human Shark Bait, 2013).

Sadly, this misunderstood species has fallen victim to human exploitation. Some cultures place value on shark fins, and harvest them as a status symbol. Fisherman cast long lines and nets into the oceans and lure sharks to the surface with bait. When the sharks are caught on hooks, they are unable to escape. After the sharks are brought on to the boats, the fisherman cut off their fins and throw them back into the ocean. The sharks cannot swim, and are left to sink to their death. The fins are taken to the shore, and sold for Shark Fin Soup, a “delicacy” in which the fins add no flavor or benefits. Shark Fin Soup is merely a status symbol. The fins are also used to create supplements, based on unsubstantiated ancient beliefs that sharks have cancer-fighting powers. The falsehood and corruption surrounding the finning industry has resulted in the demise of the shark population by 90%, and many people look the other way, because we were taught to believe that sharks are the enemy.

Ultimately, sharks are not the enemy; humans are. Sharks have inhabited the oceans for hundreds of millions of years, facing extinction only when humans intervened. By decimating the shark population in the ocean, we have disrupted the ocean ecosystem, which affects us more than we may realize. The ocean covers 2/3rds of earth’s surface. On its surface, microscopic marine algae called phytoplankton absorb sunlight for energy, and release oxygen as a byproduct, which we breathe in to survive. Fish feed on phytoplankton, and sharks feed on fish. Thus, as humans continue to destroy the shark population, fish populations outgrow the phytoplankton. We are forcing a system out of balance that we rely on to survive.

Efforts to end the perpetuation of shark stereotypes and combat the practice of shark finning have begun to gain footing. The Great Hammerhead Shark has been placed on the Endangered Species list; Whale Sharks and Great Whites are now listed as Vulnerable, and the Manta Ray is Near Threatened. Some governments are imposing bans on shark fin imports, and scientists are tracking and monitoring shark populations. Nonprofits such as World Wildlife Fund, WildAid, and Shark Savers, are leading awareness campaigns, and eco-conscious brands are donating profits to fund research and education. With the combined efforts of government agencies, researchers, nonprofits, businesses, and education, hopefully we can save this keystone species before it’s too late.


Photo: Shark Girl Conservationist Madison Stewart with a Great White. Check out an article about her work here: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-5037953/Shark-Girl-Madison-Stewart-swims-sharks-age-12.html


References

"Human Shark Bait." National Geographic - Videos, TV Shows & Photos - Canada. N.p., n.d.
Web. 04 July 2017.

Ward, L.K. "How Realistic Is the Shark Science in “The Shallows”?"
Smithsonian.com. Smithsonian Institution, 22 June 2016. Web. 04 July 2017.