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April 25, 2011

Original 1971 Commercial

One of the many observances celebrated in April is Keep America Beautiful month. 

Keep America Beautiful is an environmental organization that was founded in 1953.  It focuses on litter prevention, reduce/reuse/recycle, and community greening (planting trees and gardens). 

KAB was the first organization to bring littering to national attention and made "litterbug" a household word. 

On Earth Day 1971, this commercial was launched with the message: "People start pollution.  People can stop it," featuring the "Crying Indian."

Shortly afterwards, another commercial was aired...

April 22, 2011

Our Natural World - An Earth Day Celebration

"Every body needs beauty as well as bread,
Places to play in and pray in,
Where nature may heal and
Give strength to body and soul alike."
- John Muir

"If we can somehow retain places where we
can always sense the mystery of the unknown,
our lives will be richer."
- Sigurd F. Olson

"All good things are wild and free."
- Henry David Thoreau

"To love and be loved is to
feel the sun from both sides."
- David Viscott

"If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of
wonder, he needs the companionship of at
least one adult who can share it,
rediscovering the joy, excitement and mystery
of the world we live in."
- Rachel Carson

"I go to nature to be soothed and healed,
and to have my senses put in tune once more."- John Burroughs

"Where else can the limitless landscape
match the greatest reach of the human spirit?"
- T.A. Barron

"So we shall come and look at the world with new eyes."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

"This is our purpose: to make as meaningful as
possible this life that has been bestowed upon us;
to live in such a way, that we may be proud of ourselves;
to act in such a way that some part of us lives on."
- Oswald Spengler

"Come forth into the light of things.
Let nature be your wisdom."
- William Wordsworth

On this day I pray:

...that you will spend more time outdoors.
...that you will observe nature more closely.
...that you will be inspired by the beauty of our natural world.
...that you will use that inspiration to make a positive change in your own personal way.
...and that every night you will go to sleep knowing you left the world a better place than the day before.

April 8, 2011

The Beavers Had a Day

I love to nature watch.  And in the spring - when everything comes to life - I do more watching than I probably should.  So yesterday, aside from walking around aimlessly and gawking, I spent the morning comfortably perched on a cliff by a pine tree growing out of the cliff face at the edge of a bog.  I tucked myself comfortably up against the thick solid trunk, and leaned back in bliss behind a thin veil of branches that provided both concealment and a view. 

At dawn, an hour before the sun's glare bleeds the colors, the bog was a study in pastels.  There was no green vegetation at all.  The water surface shimmered in colors ranging through black, tan, blue, and dark greenish where the light reflected from the pines at the edge of the beaver pond. 

Light reflected from the wavelets as beavers swam at slow, steady, unvarying speed.  Their noses and ears peeked out of the water, etching V's in their wake.  One beaver hauled itself out onto an old dam overgrown with viburnum bushes.  Its shaggy coat glistened black as it bent over on its haunches and, with its front paws, brushed the fur on its head and behind its ears.  Then it waddled back into the water and slid out of sight. 

As I sat there I continued to watch muskrats, woodpeckers, geese, grackles, red-winged blackbirds, and wood ducks.  I silently thanked the beavers, because with their dams and their constant cutting of brush and trees, they have created this oasis of very varied life in what would otherwise be an almost uniform expanse. 

By the end of the day I had discovered that it had been, in fact, International Beaver Day.  I had inadvertently celebrated their "special" day by observing and appreciating them for what they mean to our natural world. 

This is obviously not a well known Day.  But hopefully that will change in the near future.  Check out this one minute video and spread the word. 

April 7, 2011

International Dark Sky Week

Once a source of wonder - and one half of the entire planet's natural environment - the star-filled nights of just a few years ago are vanishing in a yellow haze. 

Human produced light pollution not only inhibits our view of the stars; poor lighting threatens astronomy, disrupts ecosystems, affects human circadian rhythms, and wastes energy to the tune of $2.2 billion per year in the U.S. alone. 

One way astronomy is affected:

Unshielded lights send their light in all directions, including straight up.  This sets the sky aglow, in much the same way that the sun sets the sky aglow during the day.  Now, the sky does not glow as bright at night as it does during the day, but the increase in sky glow caused by cities is enough to make it difficult to see dim objects in the sky... and it's getting worse.

One way ecosystems are affected:

Newly hatched turtles need a dark night sky to orient themselves toward the sea, but artificial lights behind beaches lure them away.  Hatchlings are attracted to lights and crawl inland, or crawl aimlessly down the beach, sometimes until dawn, when terrestrial predators or birds get them. 

One way humans are affected:

Light tresspass has been implicated in disruption of the human (and animal) circadian rhythm, and strongly suspected as the cause of suppressed melatonin production, depressed immune systems, and increase in cancer rates such as breast cancer. 

Making a difference -

In 2003, Jennifer Barlow, a sophomore from Midlothian, VA, founded a grassroots effort called National Dark Sky Week "because I want people to be able to see the wonder of the night sky without the effects of light pollution.  The universe is our view into our past and our vision into the future.  With National Dark Sky Week, I want to help preserve its wonder."
It has been endorsed by the International Dark Sky Association, American Astronomical Society, Astronomical League, and Sky and Telescope, and now goes by the title of International Dark Sky Week.

The most important goal is that we once again may be able to see the wonder of the universe that has been a treasured part of history as long as humans have existed on this Earth, and that we do not allow such beauty to fade behind a blanket of light pollution.

The opportunity to experience the natural night sky should be available to everyone.  This natural resource, which inspires our attempts to understand the cosmos, should be protected through the use of well-designed lighting systems that put light where it is needed and not waste energy through unnecessary illumination of the sky.  Properly designed lighting systems provide safety and convenience without polluting one of our greatest natural assets. 

It is so important that International Dark Sky Week gains more and more support each year to ensure its success.  The only way to reduce light pollution is if everyone participates.

Ideas for participation:
  1. Evaluate your lighting needs and extinguish all unnecessary lighting in or around your property.  If lights are necessary (for safety or visibility) do not turn them off.
  2. Blog about it.  Or write a letter to your local news source to increase publicity.
  3. Encourage your friends and neighbors to permanently reduce the use of non-essential lighting.  Purchase and install a dark sky friendly lighting fixture for yourself or a neighbor.  Or talk to your local supplier about carrying a selection of these fixtures.
  4. If your an educator, teach students about the night sky and light pollution.  Kids can find ways to understand and improve the issue by participating in activities such as a star count or a home audit. 
  5. Host a observing event this weekend, such as a family/neighborhood backyard stargazing party, picnic, BBQ, or sidewalk astronomy.
  6. Spread the news to everyone you know and encourage them to turn off their unneccesary lights.
  7. Whatever you do, and however you participate, have fun and enjoy the night sky. 
How to see the Milky Way.

The night sky has been forgotten by many. I hope that International Dark Sky Week will encourage you to "look up" and appreciate its wondrous features... And not just nights this week, but on any night. 


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