Nature, Global Warming, and the Future

img_3184Driving the Kancamagus in New Hampshire, in late September, you expect the orange, red, and yellow hues to be vibrant, even neon-like. And there were places where the bright colors showed their faces. The birches stood naked while the plumage of greens and golds and orange flocked around them. The Great White and Green Mountains refused to give into global warming droughts. Their colors might not be as brilliant, but they are not ready to abandon all hope. They cling to the mountainside as if to defy a season plagued with no rain. These mountains have played host to tourists for a millennium, yet that industry was threatened by one single element: the rain and snow or rather the lack of either.

The bubbling brooks and flowing river beds look more like dry gulches after a rain. Puddles and rocks are mostly visible. The waters don’t flow where waterfalls used to cascade, instead they trickle into mud puddles. Gaia (Mother Earth) has not left the planet, although humankind has not treated her well. The emissions of gasoline-powered vehicles still far-exceed those powered from sustainable fuels. We still have more pollution from many other sources. Some people cast doubt on global warming. Our scientific communities have no doubt and proven that it’s real.

But there will be more threats to our world with global warming, strange weather patterns, droughts, and floods. While the environment saw fit to withhold it’s healing waters in New England, it also saw fit to drown some towns in the south. The Polar Caps are melting, especially the Artic. Polar Bears are at stake, and the experts are predicting the oceans will rise, which puts all coastal cities at stake.

I returned to my own parched garden and to see signs that the leaves may actually turn to something other than brown before they drop to the ground. And the cool temperatures were a breath of fresh air, as well as an entire day of moisture — rain was a bit of a stretch, but it was a day of misting. The sidewalks were wet all day, and there were signs that my garden was drinking it all down.

Another Road Less Traveled trip took us to Sudbury, Massachusetts, and to a hidden jewel: the Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge. While the trees in the Refuge had not begun to turn, it was nice to know this area existed. A bus full of children were somewhere on the property exploring the ponds and forest. It was nice to see that these ponds were not dried up. Maybe there was hope for nature after all!

In Search of Manatees

It is Wednesday, March 4, 2015, and we are in Florida where Manatees are almost as common as Alligators. The Manatees are far less plentiful as Alligators, but signage would lead you to believe they are common.

While we’ve looked in most of the swamps we’ve come across, we haven’t seen any alligators, but that doesn’t bother me. I’m actually feeling pretty good with not seeing an alligator. On the other hand, I’ve been looking in every body of water that we’ve come to, and I have yet to see a manatee.

Do you know the Manatee? They are very large mammals that some folks think sailors saw as mermaids. The Manatee are beautiful creatures. They are often called sea cows, but they are more closely aligned with elephants. Somehow, I feel connected to them, yet I’ve only seen one Manatee ever! Unfortunately, it wasn’t as close as I would have liked.

The Manatee are more plentiful in April, so I understand. They like warm water and need the water to be above 60 degrees Fahrenheit to survive. They like to hang out near water that is dispersed from factories and power plants, because the water is nice and warm. While the Manatee like the warmth from these sources, in the long run, it is bad for them. They no longer migrate to the Caribbean, where the water is naturally warm. I am optimistic.

There is one more full day to seek out the beautiful Manatee.

The Real Black Friday

Black Friday has passed, but for some, the memories are eerily hanging around. Black Friday has traditionally been a day when everyone goes shopping for holiday presents. It is the retailer’s biggest sales day. It is also the worst day to shop for most people, who: don’t like crowds; don’t support the commercialization of all the Holidays from Hanukkah to Kwanzaa; don’t have the money to shop; and so many other reasons. Nevertheless, there is another Black Friday…

John Hope Bryant, who is the Best Selling Author of How the Poor Can Save Capitalism: Rebuilding the Path to the Middle Class (book available at http://publishwithconnie.com/johnhopebryant) posted an article on LinkedIn entitled: The Second Victim of Ferguson. The Death of Business and Jobs (https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/article/20141125191809-23074630-the-second-victim-of-ferguson-the-death-of-business-and-jobs?trk=prof-post). This article grabbed me hard like someone ripping out my heart. The things done in Ferguson and around our country disturbs me. I don’t know what actually went down on that fateful night where a policeman shot and killed an unarmed teen named Michael Brown. I don’t know how the Grand Jury came to its conclusion of not indicting the police officer who killed that unarmed teen. I don’t know Michael Brown or his family. I don’t know how Michael Brown lived his short life, or what his parents are like. I don’t know what Ferguson looks like or what people do in that town. I was not there, so I cannot imagine how this all happened. What I do know is that our country is out of control!

I understand how people can be angry over the verdict of the Grand Jury’s decision, but this is not the first of similar issues. Trayvon Martin and Rodney King also sparked our communities into passionate outcries. Angry riots from peaceful protests rang out in each of these cases.

What squeezes my heart about this particular incident is how destructive the people of Ferguson became, and how they destroyed property of people who had nothing to do with this case, the incident, or its outcome. It was part of their own community. Setting ma-and-pa stores on fire, simply made some of the jobs in the community go up in smoke. So, when I read what John Hope Bryant wrote in his blog post about how the death of Ferguson’s community, the small businesses, and the jobs, there was a huge tug on my heart. In fact, there have been protests all across the country, which play a huge part in how I feel.

Most of the professional people that I know are small business owners or work for small businesses. Most of the authors that I know are also small business owners or will be when their books get published. Writers, who work at home, are not as at-risk as the brick-and-mortar businesses, as far as getting our businesses destroyed by angry mobs. However, when businesses die in any geographical area, the monetary sources of that same area deteriorate. It means jobs disappear. This is not just a Ferguson, MO, problem. It’s an Everywhere, USA, problem, because these protests have been done all across the country. These protests have continued to sprout up making the Real Black Friday much, more scary than the crowds of people going shopping. Just as the Black Friday sales have extended beyond the Friday after Thanksgiving, so has the protests!

The Real Black Friday is about our communities imploding. The shooting death of Michael Brown and the aftermath is like a neon sign the size of Texas, stating that race issues in America are still rampant and volatile. Is that a surprise?

Not to me. I have experienced shopping with a friend who is a Person of Color. The clerk wanted to wait on me, but when I said I was with her, a person of color…the clerk went the other direction. He actually waited on everyone else that had come in after us, before he reluctantly waited on my friend. This annoys me.

It means that some White People (I am White.), still live with some ancient beliefs that some races of people are inferior. As for Black Americans, in particular the African Americans, my heart aches for the barbarianism that they experienced generations ago and to the present.

I have a hard time comprehending how people can be so cruel! Perhaps, back in the 1800s when some White Dudes found the African tribes less sophisticated than themselves (this is a misnomer, of course, because all our indigenous people were more in sync with the natural world, which is absent in the majority of White people). It was likely that their self-empowered sophistication gave them authority to capture members of the various tribes in Africa and bring them to America to serve and work without pay. They were slaves. Unfortunately, for the Africans, the slave trade became a profitable industry. So there were many more abductions made for selling the people into slavery.

Now that we are in the 21st Century, going on more than 200 years later, we are still dealing with the same myth that more pigment in one’s skin means that obviously, you are:

  1. Not as intelligent;
  2. Incapable of learning (which is sort of ironic when you think that these slaves all came from different tribes, speaking different languages and learned English without being taught);
  3. Are mostly criminal in behaviors;
  4. Cannot be trusted; and
  5. Other ridiculous beliefs that darker skin tones make people inferior in some way.

One has to ponder why the extra pigments create such a negative stream, when it appears that White folks try to emulate those with darker skin tones by tanning.

It is puzzling to me that racial issues still abound. We still have lots of growing as a country and the communities within. Racial issues drive a lot of negativity, but I believe the real issues surround education and job opportunities more than purely racial inequities, although inequities still exist.

The disappearance of the middle class and the blurring of poverty due to unemployment, layoffs, and exportation of jobs overseas extends beyond the races. We have more of a rich and poor society these days. The rich seem to get richer and the poor get poorer.

Is there more Black people who are poor? According to David Horsey’s Political Commentary in the Los Angeles Times, “Plenty of examples can be found to show that the country has changed, enabling thousands of individual Black Americans to achieve great success. As a result, many -- maybe most -- Whites believe racism is a problem that has been solved. When it is pointed out that a high percentage of Blacks still lag far behind in household income and net worth, as well as in educational achievement, the not-always-unspoken assumption among many White people is that blacks just need to work harder, get off welfare and stop committing crimes.”

Few people actually aspire to grow up and live in poverty! Several factors lead to destroying people’s ambitions, which curtails all goals to live, the “good life:”

  • The lack of education;
  • Fewer jobs;
  • Fewer jobs with sustainable wages;
  • Corporate downsizing;
  • Business outsourcing; and
  • Exporting of jobs to other countries where labor is cheaper.

The economics of our country are out-of-balance. Some populations have been hit harder by job loss, and become disenfranchised due to the lack of replacement jobs. When people lose hope, they may feel that their only options are to turn to crime or commit suicide. There is and has been a growing gap between those who have and those who have not, which goes back to our disappearing middle class. People who work in minimum-wage jobs cannot support themselves.

The highest minimum wage is $9.82 in Washington State, which equals $19,385.60 annual gross pay for full-time (40 hours/week). The lowest minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, which gives those workers a total of $15,080 annual gross pay for full time (40 hours/week). At these rates, it is difficult to afford children. When couples do have children with such limited funds, they often both have to work. However, even with both spouses working at the highest minimum wage, their combined gross annual wages would only be $38,771.20, which will still make it monetarily challenging to afford children. There are even professional people in jobs making in the low to mid $40,000s that still struggle with paying bills, rent, food, etc. Geographics make a lot of difference, so here in New England, you wouldn’t be able to afford rent and food without one or more roommates.

Health care is another necessity, which has not always been offered for low-paying jobs. While Obama Care has gotten bad press, the truth is that many people now have health care who could not have afforded it before. A friend in a minimum wage job was able to get health care, because of Obama Care. Otherwise, she was just going into the ER (Emergency Room) when she got sick, which runs up hospital costs. Unfortunately, Obama Care is not available throughout the country; we still have states who have not signed onto Obama Care, which often means their Medicaid System is so far behind that in some cases, unless you are a teenager, single, and pregnant, there is no way to get on the program.

Our politicians are not stepping up to the plate in solving problems for John Q. Public. Republicans have stated over and over that they want to do away with Obama Care. Republicans also want to revise Welfare, because they believe there are too many people abusing the system. I think that is exaggerated. People on assistance of any type do not truly want to be there. They are where they are, because they had no other choice. Most people prefer to work, but when work is not possible, welfare is their only option.

Homelessness continues to grow. Being homeless is often the only way people can get services for which they qualify. Housing is a huge issue across the country. Waiting lists are years long. An increase in people who need services, plus fewer new public housing offerings make the housing shortage a huge problem.

So what does any of this have to do with “The Real Black Friday?” John Hope Bryant talked about many of the issues surrounding poor people in America. He says, “The inability of understanding the system, and how to create a sustainable life for oneself is not only driving unemployment up, and crime with it in places like Ferguson, it also explains why a young man with an otherwise bright future like Michael Brown, took a few cigars from a store, instead of finding a way to pay for them.’”

I’m sure if we could rewind this incident, we could find some solutions. On the economics side, the exporting of American jobs to other countries and major industrial downsizing has affected the available jobs in America. There are more minimum wage jobs available. The problem, of course, is that you cannot support yourself and don’t even think about supporting anyone else like a spouse and children on minimum wage.

What happened to Michael Brown brings up something beyond the fact that he was unarmed and killed by a police officer. Because there is an assumed threatening behavior from Michael Brown to have made the police officer shoot him, we need to look beyond it and how to prevent this from happening with other unarmed teenagers.

On the economic side, it is difficult to live on minimum wage jobs. Teenagers have more difficulty in getting any jobs, because of the many layoffs, downsizing, and the disappearance of American jobs. More people are working at those minimum wage jobs, because some money is better than no money.

On the human side, parents need to parent more; and children need to learn respect and obey their parents. Families have the tougher job. I admit after raising three children, it’s hard to be a good parent. You cannot always control what your children do, but you can do your best to teach them good ethics and how to behave in public. Then, they will make their decisions…and you hope they will use what you have taught them, but there are no guarantees.

Parents have the trickier responsibility of making sure their children are good citizens. From experience, it is always better to teach children from a young age. Re-parenting is a harder job. Parenting is not about popularity. To parent means that your children do not always like you. In the end, however, your children usually figure out that you were doing your job as a parent. When they begin having their own children, they begin to understand what you went through.

In past generations, we shared the parenting role with our neighbors. When children were not exhibiting good behavior, another adult would remind them. “Are you doing what your Mom or Dad want you to do?” some adult would ask a child doing something they shouldn’t be doing. However, that time seems to have passed. We no longer trust our neighbors to parent our kids. We are more worried that another adult will harm our children, abduct them, molest them, or even worse, kill them.

Today, children grow up too fast. They are exposed to so much more than previous generations. Electronics can bring in all the best in society, as well as the worst. Because parents rarely have the luxury of being an at-home mom or dad, parents on the low-end of the economic structure usually have to rely on their oldest child to provide childcare duties to their younger siblings. This is not really new, but the environment for this has changed. In generations past, the oldest children would take care of their younger siblings, but there usually was an adult around.

Children have different pressures on them today than was experienced previously. In school and outside of school, the social pressures are far greater. Bullying and being in the “in” group or the “gang” or some other group has risen to higher levels. Being killed at school is a possibility for which most children in the past never had to encounter.

While times have changed, children and youth are bolder today. They use language that used to be so offensive that it was not fit for mixed (men and women) company. Now, our children use such words casually. There was a time not so long ago that speaking these words in public might get you thrown out of a place.

In Michael Brown’s world, do we know what his life was like? Most of us, do not. Do we know why he chose to steal cigars? Most of us, do not. Do we know what Michael Brown did to this police officer to make him shoot Michael? Most of us, do not.

So why has there been so many protests across the country? Why has this case disturbed so many both White and Black?

Perhaps, it is because this incident is not alone, it follows Trayvon Martin and Rodney King. It seems like we have a pattern of police behavior that is questionable. If we put it in perspective, out of millions of police calls, we have three incidents that are questionable, then it isn’t so significant. Of course, the Trayvon Martin case was not by police officers. In 1992, the riots ensued after Los Angeles’ courts acquitted police officers who were videotaped in what was as alleged police brutality by five officers. King had resisted arrest, was DUI, and led police on a high speed chase. There were 53 deaths and more than 2,000 people hurt during the riot. Wide-spread looting and arson caused the U.S. Army, Marines, and National Guard were brought in to restore peace.

As Americans, we do have the right to protest. However, there are restrictions that protestors must abide. As Americans, we do not have the right to riot, set fires, loot stores, or damage other property.

What I would hope is that lawmakers, regional, and local governments would examine the state, county, and local law enforcement agencies to check out their guidelines, so that we could avoid another incident like Michael Brown (the killing of an unarmed teenager). I think it is an opportunity to see how these agencies are protecting citizens. We all must be aware of how dangerous our law enforcement jobs can be. At the same time, I hope that our law enforcement agencies recognize that citizens want to feel safe not fear the people that are supposed to keep us safe.