Category Archives: Environment

Go Solar Right Now

My family converted to solar this past fall and our only regret is that we didn’t do it sooner. As I discovered while writing this article for WhatcomTalk.com, we may have hit it at exactly the perfect time. Washington State is about to modify it’s incentives, which are not expected to be better than the existing ones,  that will take affect July 1, 2016. As the article also mentions, going solar now will benefit the Bellingham Food Bank too. If you’re at all curious, check it out. Its never too late to move toward sustainability, but now seems to be the right moment.IMG_3731

Thanks to Ecotech Solar and Itek Energy for getting my house squared away.

My Version of Shopping…er, Not Shopping

I don’t enjoy shopping so I love REI’s idea to skip Black Friday and #OptOutside instead. So much so that I wrote about it for WhatcomTalk.com.  But I still need to do a little holiday shopping, so I’m skipping Cyber Monday in favor of #ShopSmall Saturday (also known as Small Business Saturday). Check out what that might look like in Whatc
om County in this article.Shop Small Saturday ModSocks

These are the socks I’m going to buy at ModSock during their sale on ShopSmall Saturday.

Playing with Birds, Bears, and Musicians

I had the pleasure of interviewing a fascinating photographer, Kenneth Kearney, about his adventures as a wildlife photographer, or at least a version of wild. Kenneth will photograph any wildlife that interests him, and that lately has included birds and bears of the West, and local musicians. Check out Kenneth Kearney on flickr and read more about the man here in my WhatcomTalk.com article.

Brown bear cubs

Brown bear cubs watching their mother in Brooks River, Katmai National Park, AK 

 

Solar is Looking Bright

This month I had the pleasure of becoming the proud owner of a solar system. Not an infinite universe, the renewable energy kind. I’ve wanted an array of panels since high school, the way some kids dream about a fast, shiny car or a spring break trip to Fort Lauderdale.

My adorable house, a 1928 craftsman, has struggled with overheating in the warm weather since before we bought it in 1998. So I knew its perfectly-sloped, south-facing roof would be ideal for erasing my electric bill.

IMG_3731I have to admit that I’m feeling a bit smug now that the panels are up, the way some might feel with that shiny new car in their driveway. But unlike a fancy new car, I’m hoping everyone will get to have solar someday. I’m really excited about the incentives and developments in solar and wind that help lessen our dependence on fossil fuels and the wars that go with them.

My husband has also expanded his nerd repertoire. At least twice a day he lets me know how many kilowatt-hours we’ve generated, while still forgetting to turn off the dining room light when he heads to bed. Baby steps.

While I was working on getting my own solar panels, I stumbled across the subject of my latest article on WhatcomTalk.com. A Bellingham-based land trust, Kulshan Community Land Trust, with the help of a mysterious anonymous donor, is putting solar on many of its homes, while creating jobs and stimulating the local economy for two solar design companies, Ecotech Solar and Western Solar, as well as a panel manufacturing company, Itek Energy.

If you’ve thought about jumping on the bandwagon, this is the time. One big federal incentive is set to expire in 2016. Maybe we can convince President Obama to use an executive order to extend it to 2020? Can’t hurt to send him an e-mail, right?

Its Not Leprechaun Beer

I recently wrote an article about Bellingham Green Drinks??????????????????????????????? for WhatcomTalk.com. Its not about little Irish men and their gold coins, but instead about a monthly gathering whose only goal is to provide a platform for people to talk about the environment. Check out the article and find a Green Drinks near you!

The Crossing Guide

I’m delighted to be writing freelance for a recently launched tourism-based publication, The Crossing Guide. I was pleased to cover for this quarter’s issue my experience with Mountain School at North Cascades Institute and all their fantastic environmental education and recreation programs, as well as the Lynden Pioneer Museum. Earlier this year I wrote about the 12th Annual Northwest birding festival in Blaine, WA, Wings Over Water. This publication is free and distributed throughout lower mainland British Columbia, Whatcom, Skagit, Island, and Snohomish Counties. Check it out when you get the chance.cropped-TCG_banner_redbckgrnd_tagline_free

 

ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) was broadly introduced to the world in 1939 when the Iron Horse of Baseball Lou Gehrig was diagnosed with this progressive neurodegenerative disease. Motor neurons that reach from the brain to the spinal cord and from the spinal cord to the muscles throughout the body are affected, impairing the ability to use the hands and feet, speak, swallow, and breathe. The ALS Association website has more information.

I’ve been learning about this disease because two of my friends have been diagnosed with it recently. It feels extra shocking to me because the incidence in the general population is supposedly only 2 in 100,000, yet my town is smaller than that and there are many more in my area living with the disease.

I read the highly recommended memoir, Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Alborn, the true story of Morrie Schwartz and the weekly conversations they had together while Morrie managed his ALS diagnosis. Tuesdays is excellent because Alborn was able to capture Morrie’s hard-earned wisdom about life, death, and humanity and share it with the world.

As Alborn learned from his weekly chats, spending time with people who know they are dying brings great gifts. I am reminded to live each day more fully, to appreciate the people in my life, to be thankful for my health and circumstances, to cherish each moment in its own right, and to let go of the little things that don’t really matter. I also regret not spending more time with these friends before their diagnosis. I always thought there would be more time. All of these get thrown by the wayside while I’m rushing to and from the kid’s school and the grocery store, feeling exhausted and behind in every task.

Spending time with my friends who have ALS releases my petty disappointments and frustration with the day-to-day. The concerns melt away like sand through my fingers after only a few minutes with my friends. For their time and candor, and the clarity it brings me, I truly thank them.

What I’ve learned about ALS so far:

  • The disease is poorly understood and there is still no known cure.
  • ALS is not wholly inherited genetically. It may be affected by environmental factors and can strike anyone.
  • Most people diagnosed with ALS live from 2-10 years after diagnosis, with some exceptions.
  • A couple of drugs are in clinical trials that could slow the progression of the disease.
  • Donations can be made to support the search for a cure at The ALS Association.

If you know someone with ALS, spend time with them. Listen and learn. Cherish every person in your life and every moment. Then make a donation so that someday, ALS will just be an entry in the history books.