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Happy Birthday, LBJ!

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Lyndon and Lady Bird.jpgTo sustain an environment suitable for man, we must fight on a thousand battlegrounds. Despite all of our wealth and knowledge, we cannot create a redwood forest, a wild river, or a gleaming seashore. But we can keep those we have.                                                                                                               -- Lyndon Baines Johnson


Lyndon.jpgLauded for his contributions to civil rights and maligned for his role in the Vietnam War, Lyndon Johnson is seldom hailed as a great environmentalist. His sweeping domestic program, the Great Society, is usually thought of as an economic agenda. Of course, he was deeply committed to putting "an end to poverty and racial injustice," as he explained in May 1964 to the graduating class of the University of Michigan. "But," he continued, "that is just the beginning." Listing his goals, he declared that it was vitally important to ensure that everyone had access to "a place where man can renew contact with nature."

LBJ also understood that many people, especially the poor, were isolated from natural beauty. Places like Yellowstone and Yosemite were great, but they were also very remote. Lyndon's job was fusing the traditional conservation movement with the changing realities of America's increasingly urban society. "We must not only protect the countryside and save it from destruction, we must restore what has been destroyed and salvage the beauty and charm of our cities," he explained. Urging local governments to beautify towns and create city parks and greenways, Lyndon pledged to create new parks and recreation areas within driving distance of major cities.

In February 1965, he spoke to Congress about conservation: "Association with beauty can enlarge man's imagination and revive his spirit. Ugliness can demean the people who live among it. What a citizen sees every day is his America. If it is attractive it adds to the quality of his life. If it is ugly it can degrade his existence."

Lyndon Johnson passed more National Park Service-related legislation than any other president, creating a staggering 52 parks, recreation areas, national historic sites, wildernesses, monuments, seashores, lakeshores and memorials! He even set aside working farms and created a national park dedicated to the performing arts (Wolf Trap National Park, in Virginia). Moreover, he created the National Parks Foundation, the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System, the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Trails System. Among the diverse group of historic sites and national landmarks set aside during the Johnson Administration are:

Lady Bird wildflower.jpg•    Biscayne National Park, Florida
•    North Cascades National Park and San Juan Island National Historic Park, Washington
•    Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site and Cape Lookout National Seashore, North Carolina
•    Arches National Monument and Canyonlands National Park, Utah
•    Redwoods National Park and John Muir National Historic Site, California
•    Eisenhower National Historic Site, Pennsylvania
•    Agate Fossil Beds National Park, Nebraska
•    Assateague Island National Seashore, Maryland-Virginia
•    Herbert Hoover National Park, Iowa
•    Roger Williams National Historic Park, Rhode Island
•    Roosevelt Campobello International Park, Maine-Canada
•    Ellis Island National Monument and Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site, New York
•    Padre Island National Seashore and Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas
•    John F. Kennedy National Historic Site, Massachusetts

(Fittingly, LBJ's ranch is now a national park in its own right.)

At the urging of his wife, Lady Bird, he championed the Highway Beautification Act. This law tore down billboards and removed "beauty-destroying junkyards and auto graveyards," planting flowers and trees in their place. As Lyndon said, "The roads themselves must reflect, in location and design, increased respect for the natural and social integrity and unity of the landscape and communities through which they pass."

With the help of the Democratic Congress, he passed dozens of bills designed to limit pollution, preserve rare habitats and protect endangered species, like the Air and Water Quality Acts, the Pesticides Control Act, the Wetlands Preservation Act, and the Endangered Species Act.

And now... Test your environmental knowledge with this word search! When you're done, copy the unused letters into the blanks to discover a little-known fact about LBJ...

Lyndon wordsearch.jpg

Here are the answers (no peeking!)


Lyndon wordsearch answers.jpg
LBJ house.jpg

Richard Martin, "Humanity Dick"

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Renowned in his day as a daring duelist and an outspoken advocate of Irish tenant farmers' rights, Richard Martin is now remembered for his tireless efforts to end animal cruelty. One of the SPCA's charter members, Martin pushed the first successful bill forbidding cruelty to animals through the House of Commons. Although he was an Independent MP, his diverse group of friends included the royal family, Prime Minister William Pitt and many other prominent figures. His tireless efforts to abolish poverty and suffering caused George IV to nickname him "Humanity Dick."

In 1822, Martin brought forth his "Ill Treatment of Cattle Bill." While other figures, such as Lord Erskine and William Johnstone Pulteney, had previously introduced similar bills, their attempts had been unsuccessful. The new law, quickly dubbed "Martin's Act," subjected those who abused livestock -- especially horses -- to two months' imprisonment or fines of up to ₤5. To attract attention to the law, Martin delivered speeches in crowded London streets. The comedians and political cartoonists had a field day, making up ditties and depicting Martin with a pair of donkey's ears.

Soon after the act's passage, Martin gave the comedians even more material. The MP spotted Bill Burns, a man who sold fruits and vegetables in the streets, beating his donkey. When Martin brought charges against Burns, however, the magistrate was bored by the testimony and tried to look the other way. The prosecution came up with a new tactic: why not let the donkey's injuries speak for themselves? When the donkey was led into the courtroom, everyone, including the magistrate, noticed its obvious wounds. Burns was immediately found guilty.

Many people thought Martin's Act and its enforcers targeted only working class violators, while the wealthy were permitted to abuse animals scot-free. Eager to counteract this image, Martin credited Burns' apology. He asked the judge to fine Burns the minimum of ten shillings -- and ended up paying half. This trial gave Martin all the publicity he wanted. Not only was he in the news, but an artist named Matthews painted a picture of the trial and the comedians made up a new song:

Richard Martin.jpgIf I had a donkey wot wouldn't go,
D'ye think I'd wallop him? no, no, no!
But gentle means I'd try, d'ye see,
Because I hate all cruelty;
If all had been like me, in fact,
There'd have been no occasion for Martin's Act
Dumb animals to prevent being crack'd,
On the head.

He attained fame as an orator due to his storehouse of anecdotes and his habit of switching arbitrarily between an elite English accent and his Irish burr. Nettled by a Morning Post article poking fun at his brogue, Martin waited outside the newspaper offices until the editor came out. Gesturing to the objectionable passage, Martin cried, "Sir! Did I ever spake in italics?" Actually, he took a lot of raillery from the press. The Dublin Star dubbed him "Brahmin," The Chronicle called him "Don Quixote," and Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine referred to him as "that blustering and blundering blockhead."

His flaring temper prompted his political opponents -- who burst out laughing whenever Martin stood up to deliver an oration -- to dub him "Hair-trigger Martin." Flaunting this reputation, Martin engaged in over 100 duels. George IV visited Ireland during one of Martin's parliamentary campaigns. When the king wondered who would win the election, Martin bowed and replied, "The survivor, sire!"

Martin encouraged animal rights supporters to resort to unconventional (to say the least) means of enforcing their statutes. He personally fought a duel to avenge the shooting death of a friend's wolfhound. Unbeknownst to Martin, the dog's killer was wearing bulletproof clothes. Consequently, he went unscathed although Martin hit him twice before receiving an injury in the chest -- after his recovery, Martin enjoyed showing off the scars. Years later, sixty-seven year old Martin noticed a London man whipping his horse in Ludlow Hill. A few minutes later, two men showed up, jerked the man away from the horse and showered blows on him. They had been paid five shillings each -- compliments of Richard Martin, who proudly told the story in Parliament.

Richard Martin house.jpgRichard Martin remained in Parliament for twenty-five years. Always vociferous, Martin brought forth hundreds of bills. He continually sought to add amendments to the Ill Treatment of Cattle Bill requiring regulations on slaughterhouses and banning dogfights, bull- and bear-baiting. Although animal rights were his primary focus, he was also dedicated to representing his constituents' best interests. For instance, he was a chief proponent of Catholic Emancipation. (At that time, only Church of England members were granted basic civil rights.) Born into an ancient Irish family, Martin inherited a beautiful seaside estate that encompassed over a hundred miles. Known as the "King of Connemara" for his seemingly limitless fortune, Martin was a benevolent landowner who supplied his tenants with adequate food and shelter. The only rule he adamantly enforced decreed that farmers could not hitch plows to horses' tails.

Eighty years old and deeply in debt, Martin lost his estate in the Irish Potato Famine and his seat in 1826, due to charges of voter intimidation. Previously, his creditors had been powerless to act because MPs couldn't be prosecuted. Denied this protection, Martin fled to France to avoid going to debtor's prison. In 1829 -- three years after Martin had escaped to Boulogne -- Parliament finally passed the Catholic Emancipation bill. Soon afterwards, they also approved Martin's amendments to the Ill Treatment of Cattle Bill. Even though his career was over, the Irish statesman's influence lived on.

Easy Vegetarian Stir-Fry Wraps

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Ingredients:
1 small zucchini
3 stalks celery
5 oz. black beans
2 tortillas
4 oz. frozen corn
Shredded cheddar cheese
Butter
Pinch salt
Dash seasoned salt

1. Wash and slice the zucchini, cut off both ends, and (if necessary) cut horizontally in half. Vertically cut both halves into quarters. Cut lengthwise parallel to the skin, leaving a strip about ⅓ of an inch wide and eliminating all of the seed pulp.
2. Cut each strip vertically in half.
3. Rinse the celery and slice it horizontally, each cut about a centimeter apart.
4. Pour the corn (approx. 1/3 of a 12-oz. package and 1/4 of a 1-lb. package) into a microwaveable bowl. Cover and microwave for 3 minutes on high.
5. Wash and open a can of black beans. Rinse until water is clear. Strain.
6. Turn the stove dial between 4 and 5, or on moderate flame. Heat frying pan and spread small amount of butter in the base.
7. Place tortillas in the pan, warm them, and remove them onto plates.
8. Pour all the vegetables into the pan, and fry until hot.
9. Spread shredded cheese on the tortillas.
10. Place vegetables in the tortillas and wrap them. If necessary, hold with a toothpick.

Lewis Gompertz: Animal's Friend

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I admit it as an axiom, that every animal has more right to the use of its own body than
others have to use it.
                                                   
Lewis Gompertz, 1822

It was June 16th, 1824. Dusk was falling on the London streets as Lewis Gompertz pushed open the door of Old Slaughter's Coffee House. The shop was already crowded with reformers of all stripes: Arthur Broome, the incompetent clergyman who had organized the meeting; Richard Martin, the dashing Irish M.P. whom the Prince of Wales nicknamed "Humanity Dick;" and William Wilberforce, the benevolent abolitionist who spent most of his time juggling the forty charities dependent on him.

Forty-year-old Lewis Gompertz was a retired diamond merchant with a mission. The youngest child born into a Jewish family, he had been unable to go to college, enter politics, or even take a large part in society. Animal rights had always been his primary interest; now, he had plenty of time to dedicate to the cause.

Two years before, Richard Martin's bill forbidding cruelty to domestic animals had passed in the House of Commons. Unfortunately, the law was often disobeyed. Soon after the act's passage, Arthur Broome had tried to form a society to enforce the statute. This failed miserably, as did a Liverpool-based "Society for the Suppression and Prevention of Wanton Cruelty to Animals."

Tonight, however, these philanthropists who gathered around the table had the prominence -- and the money -- needed to make their venture a success. Soon, the activists had worked out a charter appointing committees to distribute tracts and influence public opinion and for "Inspecting the Markets and Streets of the Metropolis, the Slaughter Houses, the conduct of Coachmen, etc.- etc." The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was born.

Before long, Arthur Broome had spent all the Society's money chasing impractical schemes. Gompertz and Richard Martin came to his rescue. Broome promised not to repeat his mistakes, so Gompertz and Martin went over the account books and straightened things out, paying the remaining expenses out of pocket. Once Broome was out of trouble, however, he resumed borrowing money to throw away on his plans -- landing himself in debtor's prison. Needless to say, these actions reflected poorly on the minister and his entire group. Gompertz stepped in once again to save the Society, bailing Broome out and taking his place as the organization's head.

The Society flourished during Gompertz's six years of leadership. He attended police courts, arranged meetings with magistrates to discuss the importance of upholding the anti-cruelty statutes, coordinated fundraisers, wrote letters, participated in public debates, broke up dogfights, helped in the parliamentary struggle to ban bull-baiting, and endeavored to set a legal limit on the loads horses could pull. A vegan, Gompertz refused to ride in a carriage. He famously wrote, "How can man do without the aid of horses?... That is his business to find out."

Despite Gompertz's competent command, jealousy and strife were rife among the members. Some of them -- the hunters and meat eaters -- were concerned by his veganism. Others resented his Judaism. A man named Greenwood denounced Gompertz for following "Pythagorean" principles and passed a bill saying that the Society would be governed in accordance with "Christian" doctrines and that "certain sects" would be denied entrance. Several members, including William Wilberforce, Countess Selina Hastings (a humanitarian socialite) and many Quakers, were deeply offended by this resolution. Rallying around Gompertz, they encouraged him to break with the SPCA.

Disgusted, Gompertz did resign. With the help of his friends, he started a new group called the Animal's Friend Society. Rather than simply stopping inhumane practices, Gompertz' new association was intended to actively benefit animals. Before long, the Animal's Friend Society was outdoing the SPCA in terms of membership and contributions.

Under the auspices of his organization, Gompertz organized a periodical: The Animal's Friend, or, The Progress of Humanity. In his role as editor, Gompertz kept busy writing articles showcasing his innovative theories. He republished his book, Moral Inquiries: on the Situation of Man and of Brutes, which described how humans ought to interact with animals. In it, Gompertz deplored the practices of hunting, slaughtering animals for food, and vivisection (the dissection of living creatures in the supposed interest of science). A long, rambling text, it also included his observations on the injustice of the property laws and the oppression of women.

Then, suddenly, Gompertz's wife, Ann Hollaman Gompertz, fell terminally ill. To spend as much time with her as possible, Gompertz gave up his activities. Lacking a leader, the Animal's Friend Society disbanded. Following Ann's eventual death, the reformer dedicated his energies to writing.

Gompertz Bike.jpgAn avid inventor, he collected many of his ideas into another book with a whopper of a title: Mechanical Inventions and suggestions on land and water locomotion, tooth machinery and various other branches of theoretical and practical mechanics. Spurred by a desire to lessen animal labor, Gompertz also made improvements on the then-developing bicycle. The existing model had no chain: the rider's feet pushed it along the ground. Gompertz added a pole -- sawed off a hobbyhorse -- and a gear to the front wheel of the bicycle, maximizing the distance one could travel with every step. He even devised methods to keep horses from falling while pulling carriages! Some of his inventions are still used, including the expanding chuck on modern drills.

Although Gompertz's writing style looks stilted today, his dialogues between Messrs. Y and Z are typical of Victorian essayists. This excerpt is from Moral Inquiries:

Y: In the first place, you dispute the right invested in mankind of slaughtering other animals for food, and of compelling them to labour for his benefit, for which purpose they have been created, their flesh and their services have been made palatable and necessary to man, without the nourishment of which he would soon grow sickly and unfit for his station - his life would be painful - his death premature.

Z: First, how do you prove that mankind is invested with the right of killing them, and that brutes have been created for the purpose you assert them to be? Secondly, is it to be observed that the flesh of man himself possesses the same nourishing and palatable qualities? And are we then to become cannibals for that reason? ...


Mr. Y goes on to say that animal populations, if left unchecked, will destroy each other, starve, or overrun the world. Thus, he contends, it is better to "cause them to have a short and happy life, than a long and miserable one."

Z: Then it is right for one to kill another, if he fear not the laws of his country, and if he fancy that it is to the benefit of the other... But even allowing it to be so, the two are unconnected with each other, and I do not see what right one animal has to deprive another of its small importance to prevent himself from losing more: if this theory be generally admitted, a young man might kill an old man, to save his own longer expectant life. And are we authorized to kill one animal for the benefit of another of its species?


Other parts of the same book read as essays:

Who can dispute the inhumanity of the sport of hunting, of pursuing a poor defenceless creature for mere amusement, till it becomes exhausted by terror and fatigue, and of then causing it to be torn to pieces by a pack of dogs? From what kind of instruction can men, and even women, imbibe such principles as these? How is it possible they can justify it? And what can their pleasure in it consist of? Is it not solely in the agony they produce to the animal? They will pretend that it is not, and try to make us believe so too, that it is merely in the pursuit. But what is the object of their pursuit? Is there any other than to torment and destroy?

In Gompertz's day, the British economy was entirely dependent on animal labor for food, construction, transportation, clothing and glue. Gompertz was consequently labeled a radical and a revolutionary -- a man determined to undermine the foundations of civilization. Yet his persistence paid off: many of his inventions were displayed in public, and Prince Albert awarded him a medal. Though Lewis Gompertz is largely overlooked by today's animal rights activists, he gave an impetus to the movement that can never be forgotten.



Carmine Cochineal: A Large Scale Issue

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cochineal beetles.jpgThe red dye carmine, derived from female cochineal beetles, is one of many "secret ingredients" that make being vegetarian difficult.

For years, carmine was listed on ingredient lists as "artificial coloring." Finally, the Center for Science In the Public Interest (CSPI) asked the US Food and Drug Association (FDA) to require that all products containing cochineal state on the label that it is insect-based and may cause allergic reactions or anaphylactic shock. Of course, the food industries were opposed to printing that on their products. Eventually, the FDA decided to oblige the companies to include the word "carmine" on the label -- but didn't mention the health or vegetarian aspects of the pigment. Restaurants are not required to admit to using the dye unless a customer asks.

Recently, a lady from South Carolina began a petition on Change.org asking Starbucks Coffee to quit using carmine in their products. After the appeal amassed over 6,000 names, Starbucks agreed to switch to the vegan dye lycopene, derived from tomatoes.

To produce carmine, thousands of cochineal beetles are taken to factories, where they are dried by boiling, baking, or exposure to steam or sunlight. 70,000 beetles are killed to make one pound of carmine. The fertilized eggs and female abdomens are then ground up and cooked, to produce more color.

cochineal nat am.jpgSeveral species of scale beetle yield carmine. Historically, the dye was harvested in both the Old World and the New. Aztecs and Incas harvested cochineal beetles, which are found on cacti in Central and South America. To survive in the deserts, the insects secrete a white wax which serves as a sunblock. The Native Americans sometimes used the creatures as currency, and the Aztec emperor Montezuma II levied a tax to be paid in barrels of beetles.

Mediterranean ancients used similar kermes beetles, which lived on red oaks. In fact, the word "crimson" derives from the kermes insects. Jars of them have been found in Neolithic burial sites. In the Middle Ages, silk dyed with kermes was extremely popular among the upper classes. As the dried eggs looked like particles of wheat or sand, they were known as grain, hence the expressions "dyed in the grain" and "full grain."

However, after the Spanish conquest of Mexico, carmine cochineal replaced carmine kermes, which was weaker and more expensive. Throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, carmine remained in use. According to an article, Beneficial Scale?, in the South Florida Cactus and Succulent Society's magazine, the American colonists were angered by the steep prices of cochineal as well as tea.

The most common artificial crimson dye is Red #40, also called FD & C Red 40 or Allura Red AC, which is derived from petroleum. After the scarlet dye Amaranth, a carcinogen, was banned 1970s, Red #40 replaced it. More currently, Red #3 was proven to cause cancer in rats. Although the FDA has not banned it, its use is decreasing. However, as an unnatural colorant, Red 40 also has potential negative effects, including cancer, allergies, asthma, migraines and other health problems.

Some vegetarians who argue against carmine are deemed advocates of chemical colorants. However, many natural ruby dyes, found in beets, annattos, tomatoes, or paprika, are vegan. Hopefully, many companies will follow Starbucks in switching from cochineal to a healthy alternative.

Edward I: Environmentalist by Accident

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Edward I.jpgEdward the First, the fifth Plantagenet king of England, is famous for clobbering the Scottish and Welsh armies, getting clobbered by the French, banishing the Jews, going Crusading, taxing everybody he could get his hands on, and performing other violent acts.

Tall for the times at 6'2", Edward had a terrible temper. When his son requested an earldom for his friend, the king tore out fistfuls of the boy's hair. When the Dean of St. Paul's entered the throne-room, mustering his nerve to discuss lowering taxes, he was supposedly killed on the spot by the mere sight of the king.

Is it feasible that this ferocious king, represented in medieval allegory not as the "noble" lion but as the "powerful" and "volatile" leopard, had a good side? It's possible. He maintained a good relationship with his parents, and loved his own wife and children. At fourteen, young Prince Edward married Eleanor of Castile, who was about the same age. Unusually, they were dedicated to each other; Edward didn't have affairs, and he didn't lock Eleanor up in a tower! When Eleanor died after thirty-six years of marriage, Edward was devastated, and built Eleanor Crosses wherever the funereal procession stopped. (His second marriage, to the young Margaret of France, also turned out well, despite their fifty-four-year age difference.)

Yet less well known is the fact that if Edward had had his way, coal pollution would never have been an issue.

Coal was so abundant on England's northeast coast that it was collected in wheelbarrows. People could even pick it up on the beach! It had been used since prehistoric times -- in the Bronze Ages, Welsh funeral pyres were fired by coal -- but when the Romans conquered "Britannia," they fell in love with the fuel.  At first, they thought it was very pretty, and fashioned it into ornaments for themselves. They called it gagate; this word would evolve into "jet," a dense variant of coal still used in making jewelry. (However, the Roman artisans often mixed up the higher quality jet with ordinary coal.) They also popularized burning it. After the Romans had cleared out, the Britons forgot about coal and resorted to wood. The early historian, St. Bede, describing the abundant "jet," didn't mention that it was used for heat, but observed that the smoke kept snakes away.

At any rate, until the 12th century, everybody in London burned wood. Soon, however, London began to grow, and the forests dwindled. Wood became expensive and rare. Instead, the Londoners decided to try the cheaper, easily-obtained coal. There was only one problem. Burning wood produced some smoke, but a lot of heat. Burning sea-coal produced a little heat, but a lot of sulfurous smoke. Nevertheless, instead of thinking of a better solution, everyone decided to burn more coal. The thick smoke combined with the natural fog and hung over the city for days.

In 1306, Edward, instigated by a group of prominent noblemen and clerics, passed legislation banning the burning of sea-coal. The king's mother, Eleanor of Provence, had gotten so sick from the smoke surrounding Nottingham Castle that she had had to flee the town. (Edward I's great-grandmother, Eleanor of Aquitaine, had had a similar experience with the burning wood around Tutbury Castle.)

Despite the king's commands, the law was disregarded. The poor didn't have the money to buy wood and there weren't any other alternatives. Edward altered his bill. Now, first-time offenders were subject to immense fines. If they were caught a second time, their furnaces were destroyed. Unfortunately, this didn't work either. The atmosphere was getting tense. Edward altered his bill again. This time, a death penalty was installed for burning coal. One person was seized and executed. But everybody kept on burning coal. Edward couldn't execute his whole kingdom. Besides, even if he could have, then he wouldn't have had anybody to tax or beat up, so what's the point of that? Consequently, the law was ignored, although Edward II, Edward I's successor, tortured a few people who were unable to meet its terms. Astoundingly, that didn't help.

princess elizabeth.jpgSubsequently, others tried to exterminate the burning of coal, including the kings Richard II and Henry V, whose palace at Westminster was permeated by the odor. By the time Queen Elizabeth acceded to the throne, the situation was worse than ever. Short beds, which forced sleepers to sit up, were popular, as people had difficulties breathing if they lay down. The queen was reported to be "greatly grieved and annoyed with the taste and smoke of sea- coales," and tried to get it banned, at least while Parliament was in session.

Later, in 1661, a prominent Cavalier named John Evelyn was asked by Charles II (whose palace at Whitehall was getting all the fumes from a nearby duke's residence) to write a book against coal. He complied, and the result was Fumifugium: or, The Inconvenience of the Aer and Smoake of London Dissipated, Together with some Remedies humbly proposed by J. E. Esq., to His Sacred Majestie, and to the Parliament now Assembled. The title "Fumifugium" was compounded of two Latin words, fumus, meaning "smoke," and fugit, "to escape or get  away from." (It's actually pretty terrible Latin, just for the record.)

John Evelyn.jpgEvelyn's book was one of the first comprehensive studies of the dangers of coal burning, and one of the earliest to discuss air pollution. (It also blamed the English Civil Wars on bad air caused by coal fires, not on any political issues!) Not only did it berate the smell of the smoke, it also attacked it as being unhealthy and aesthetically unpleasing. Evelyn wrote that the fumes were

"...so universally mixed with that otherwise wholesome and excellent Aer, that her Inhabitants breathe nothing but an impure and thick Mist, accompanied with a fuliginous and filthy vapour, which renders them obnoxious to a thousand inconveniences, corrupting the Lungs, and disordering the entire habit of their Bodies; so that Catharrs, Phthisicks, Coughs and Consumptions, rage more in this one City, than in the whole Earth besides."

He also complained that "Whilst these [the "Chimnies of London"] are belching it forth their sooty jaws, the City of London resembles the face rather of Mount Ætna, the Court of Vulcan, [or] Stromboli, ... than an Assembly of Rational Creatures, and the Imperial feat of our incomparable Monarch," adding that the black particles in the smoke ruined the facades of palaces, churches, and houses. Evelyn goes on to say that it killed birds and insects and blighted flowers and fruit trees. He adds that travelers could smell the city long before they could see it.

Evelyn did not advocate the prohibiting of coal-burning; he merely said that trades, such as brewing, dyeing, lime-burning, which put out a significant amount of smoke should be relocated to where the soot would not affect the city. He also proposed moving other noxious businesses, such as butchers and chandlers, out as well. To promote cleanliness, no burials should be permitted in churches or even within the city walls. Not even this approach, however, gained much support.

James Watt.jpgThe Industrial Revolution effectively destroyed any hopes of outlawing this pernicious fuel, as it was considered indispensable to development. Anyone who was opposed to coal was opposed to progress. Factories relied on it to fire their huge furnaces. It heated workers' homes. Worst of all, it provided the steam for James Watt's new steam engine. Getting rid of it was impossible. In fact, coal usage in Great Britain multiplied by 100 between 1800 and 1900.

The coal-produced smog, called "fog" by the Londoners, was familiar to people such as Charles Dickens, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Charles Darwin, James Russell Lowell (who was proud to have survived the smoke), Arthur Conan Doyle, Heinrich Heine, and Thomas Carlyle, who called it "fluid ink." Finally, in 1956, four years after a four-day "fog" killed approximately 4,000 people, Parliament passed the Clean Air Act, which reduced coal burning to a large extent.

To this day, coal continues to be one of the worst energy sources on the planet. It is the largest contributor to man-made carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, one of the greenhouse gases that cause global warming. The difference that the success of Edward I's 1306 law would have caused is unfathomable. Even though he was a terrifying warrior and sometimes a cruel king, ironically he deserves to be remembered as one of the earliest environmentalists.

Florida Backyard Birding

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pterydactyl.jpg    On vacation in Florida, we saw a surprising variety of wild birds. There were ospreys, great and little blue herons, roseate spoonbills, white ibises, limpkins, bald eagles, moorhens, coots, vultures abounding, sandhill cranes, and all varieties of egret -- great, snowy, and cattle.

venice-pier-anhinga.jpg
    Many of our opportunities occurred close to home, like the pier in Venice, which hosted several anhingas and pelicans. One pelican appeared to have a hurt wing, so we rang the local Save Our Seabirds. They took the pelican and we saw him again (looking better but still favoring his hurt wing) in the Sarasota branch.There was also a church very near to our house with a cross atop it which adornment was the favorite haunt of a bald eagle who evidently hadn't been acquainted with the separation of church and state yet. At the nearby Myakka State Park we saw a stray flamingo flying overhead, along with many roseate spoonbills and some black-crowned night herons as well. Magnificent frigatebirds are rare, but we saw them flying overhead twice (they can be easily identified by their throat pouches, while are still conspicuous when not inflated). The crested caracara is harder to identify, but it flew over occasionally.
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  But best of all was the lake back of our house. Almost every evening we would hear our resident pair of sandhill cranes "chortling" across the lake and then flying off to roost. But one day they began to build a nest in a clump of reeds opposite us -- tweaking the grasses with their bills and inquisitively sitting on it. Then, one morning, we found them incubating their eggs, and they never flew away at night again. One chick hatched about a month later, and was quickly nicknamed "Junior." He was at first inside the nest for the most part, but then he gradually began to walk about the lake with his two parents, as viewed with our binoculars. As he grew his appearance changed from that of a small downy chick to a small tawny bird the size of a chicken, with inordinately long legs. One day we decided to go across the lake for a close-up view of the cranes, and we walked across the subdivision to the nest site. They were calmly feeding there, and they showed no signs of being afraid of us. Junior kept running from one of his parents to the other to be fed on the grubs they were digging from the ground, and now and then one of the parents would rise for a moment to see if they detected any intruders, and then resume foraging. The chick gradually grew until his fledging stage arrived -- we would see the two parents walking along the lake and flapping their wings, and Junior following, anxious to keep up with Mom and Dad. By the end, Junior was larger than his mother, and only lacked a red cap to resemble his parents almost precisely.
   The little blue herons and the white ibis seemed to get along relatively well with each other -- we'd see them making rounds across the pond, filing one by one and digging in the Great Blue Heron.jpgpond bed and grass slopes on the bank. Their heads would bob comically up and down. The ibis typically walked much faster than the herons, however, so they would generally end up at least twenty yards away. Juvenile white little blue herons would also sometimes be seen. Little and Great Blue Herons (the latter could sometimes be seen feeding on the lake, occasionally the Wurdemann's or Great White varieties) both flew with their necks bunched up in a comical fashion. Limpkins are relatively rare; they only showed themselves a few times at our pond. They would generally stand near the bank with the herons and ibises.
    Wood storks would sometimes land on the other side of the pond in the late afternoon to feed, and occasionally roost in the tall pines (very seldom, on our side of the pond), but most of the time they would fly off. Also, sometimes we would see a mysterious phenomenon; a group of birds would be flying in the distance, and then they would disappear, often when they went in front of a cloud. We then discovered it was the wood storks flying, and tilting themselves midair until we could not see the black bottoms of their wings.
    Ospreys and eagles frequented a large tree just to the left of our house, and you would sometimes see the ospreys diving for fish, flapping, hovering -- then diving. A juvenile eagle and his parent would sometimes be seen in the tree, attempting to establish authority over a raven that persisted in irritating them. There were regular battles for supremacy (in the bird world, that's the higher branch).
    We also had a chance to view the lives of moorhens, coots, and ducks in detail. In the small-bird world, there was a mockingbird pair who built a nest in our shrub, but theirs was a fussy baby who emitted regular sounds almost like a timer beep when hungry (and sometimes just as irritating). We never got to see much of the chick, who was hidden away in the foliage, but we saw the two parents entering the shrub with food and singing their melodious songs.

Good luck birdwatching and always remember these tips:
-Never get too close to a bird that it might become nervous
-Never at any time litter: a bird might learn to feed in developed places and be run over.
-If you see a hurt bird, always call the nearest wildlife rescue center. Never touch the bird, however.
-Be extra respectful of a bird with a nest.

Easy Turnover Recipes

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pastry.jpgYou can find vegan pastry dough in many stores, and if you stock up when it's on sale it can even be inexpensive. By experimenting with the dough, we invented many kinds of turnovers.


To make the traditional triangle-shaped turnover, cut the dough into even squares about three inches long. To get rectangle-shaped pastries, you can cut the dough into four-inch by three-inch rectangles and fold it over. Then, you can slice the dough on top for ventilation -- or to make the pastries seem more professional. Note: Line the cookie sheet with foil, as filling often comes out during baking.

Desserts are one of the easiest things to make. For nine simple apple turnovers, peel an apple and dice it, then put a small mound of pieces in the middle of each square. Sprinkle cinnamon and sugar on top of the apple pieces, and fold each pastry into a turnover shape. Crimp the edges together and seal them with water. They are done when the pastry is golden-brown. (If you cut the dough into rectangles and fold those over, you could top the pastry with sugar so that it sparkles.)

To make nine baklava turnovers, pour about ¼ cup walnuts into a bowl and pour a little milk (soymilk works well) over them. Using a spoon, put some of the mixture on the pastry squares, and add sugar on top. A few cubes of butter in each pastry improve the taste, but than can also be omitted. Fold them over and crimp.

I experimented several times with bear claws, and although I never made the store-bought kind I found some other fillings. To make twelve "bear claws," mix 1 cup brown sugar, ½ cup white sugar, 2 teaspoons cinnamon, and ½ cup ground almonds and walnuts together. Fill the pastry squares with the mixture, then fold them over and crimp. Before baking them, press sliced almonds into the top of each pastry. When they are done, they can be sprinkled with sugar.

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Another time, I decided to try to make cinnamon rolls. They were not bad if you weren't expecting a... cinnamon roll? First, open the pastry sheet but do not cut it. Then, mix together some cinnamon and sugar (⅓ cup sugar and two tablespoons cinnamon is fine, but it doesn't have to be perfect) and spread it over the dough, pushing it in. (Leave about half an inch at one end of the pastry so that it will hold together. Then, carefully slice the dough into long, thin strips. (Where you would get three turnovers, you get four strips.) Next, scatter a few chopped walnuts on top. Roll up the strips and push the end in, to stick it to the pastry. Then, lightly dust them with cinnamon. After they've baked, they can be sprinkled with powdered sugar.

Jam turnovers are very easy. Simply put a spoonful of jam in each pastry and crimp. However, these always find a way to leak. Katrianna likes eating the crystallized jam that's been baked. Strawberry jam is our favorite, but any type will work.

Pastry is not exclusive to desserts. Salty or even healthy pastries can be made with equal success. Just filling the pastry with cheese (cheddar works best) makes a very popular snack. If you choose to make these in rectangles, you could put a little salt on top.

Trying to replicate samosas, we filled them with potatoes. Some also had peas in them and others included cheese. Additionally, we tried putting the yellow, mild turmeric, which fights cancer and other diseases, in the turnovers. They were surprisingly good. My sister often adds all sorts of other vegetables and herbs when she makes them (but her recipes are "top secret!").

Whatever you do with the pastry, it usually turns out well. It's also very easy to prepare and bake.

The Endangered Snow Leopard

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Snow-Leopard.jpgIn the deep dark chasm,
Upon the sides of the walls,
Motion with lightning's shape and speed,
And before it the swift deer falls. 

Its color blended ever light,
Gray white and shades of dun,
Streamlined shape and hunter's eye,
And incredible speed to run. 

Against a snowy background,
Imposing yet serene,
The fearsome leopard of the snow,
Can hardly yet be seen. 

-Katrianna Sarkar

Snow leopards are endangered from causes such as the trade in its pelt and global warming. The fur is made into coats and hats, and their bones and other body parts are also used in traditional medicine. Tigers are supposed to be used in the practice of traditional medicine, but they are already so rare (their populations have lessened from this too) that the more common snow leopard is substituted. 

Their numbers are hard to estimate, due to the fact that snow leopards live in rugged, remote terrain. This makes conservation more difficult, so an interesting device was employed. With as few snow leopards as there are, you can tell the individual leopards by their spots.  As a result, pictures taken by a remote camera are compared to those in a photo library. In that way, they can estimate how many there are.

As elusive as snow leopards are, we still know quite a bit about them:

Wild sheep and goats are the snow leopard's main food, as well as an occasional buck or rabbit.

A snow leopard can leap thirty feet.

Snow leopards have enormous, furry tails. They use them for balance, but if they get cold they can wrap their tail around themselves.

Snow leopard cubs have blue eyes. When they get older, snow leopard eyes get grayer.

Let's hope we can save them. We should start conserving energy by using solar power and stop buying coats made from snow leopard, or, for that matter, any other kind of fur.

Christmas Tree Cutting in the National Forests

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Christmastreecutting.jpgThe day after Thanksgiving means the beginning of the Christmas season. The radios begin playing Christmas carols as people put up their lights and decorations. Bits of wrapping paper deck the floors as people hurry to hide their presents. Kids wonder what they'll get as they try to surprise their family with some useless -- but essential -- item. Nativity plays are written and then rehearsed at the top of the actors' lungs.

But the Christmas tree plays just as big a part of the festivities as any of those things. Traditionally, Dad carries it in, Mom puts the lights on it, and finally the kids get to help decorate it. But as we've learned, getting your tree from the wild adds much more to the whole tradition.

Many national forests across the country allow you to cut your own Christmas tree. When we heard about it for the first time, we thought it sounded suspiciously like logging. However, there are many reasons why it is better than getting one commercially.

By doing this, you are helping with the maintenance of forests. It may be viewed as a better alternative to prescribed burns or selective logging. When clumps of trees are too close to each other, they don't get enough light to grow properly. So, if you choose a tree that's standing next to at least one more, it will make the other trees in the stand healthier. Usually, forests not offering this program have to either use prescribed burns to remove stands of trees and dry wood that is a potential fire hazard or hire people to cut down some of the trees. They have to do something, or wildfires will start easily and quickly get out of control. So you're also helping to make forests safer.

Additionally, places with a large demand for trees set a limit on obtainable permits. In the desert states, where trees are not as common as in other places, available permits may total just above 6,000. However, where self-serve Christmas trees are not as popular, there may not be any limit at all. Besides this rule, there may also be restrictions regarding how many trees one family may take. The numbers can vary from one per family to five per person, so it's a good idea to clarify this if you plan to get more than one Christmas tree.

It is illegal to cut the top part off a tree. Accordingly, the highest you can cut is six inches off the ground. In some places, the circumference of the trunk also has to be six inches or less. Still, I would recommend following this rule whether it is enforced or not, because the trees with thicker trunks are older and will take longer to grow back. Chainsaws are also prohibited. Another general rule is that you're supposed to cut at least fifty feet from the road. In most places, however, there are specific plots indicated with ropes or ribbons for cutting trees and you don't have to worry about that.

chorusfrog.jpgGetting a Christmas tree that has already been cut can have its own problems. In 2009, Washington sent shipments of Christmas trees to Alaska. Unfortunately, live Pacific Chorus frogs had made their homes in the trees. This species of frog can carry fungi or viruses, including the chytrid fungus that has killed amphibians on many continents. The frogs were not native to Alaska, and residents were told to kill the frogs if they found them in their tree. In 2007, a load of Washington trees headed for Hawaii was redirected to Alaska when they found two yellow jacket queens and a kind of hornet riding on them. Hawaii is much stricter than Alaska about what it lets in (they probably learned from the mice, mongooses and mosquitoes introduced by early settlers), and requires trees to be shaken by a machine before entering the islands. No matter where you live, introducing non-native species is a problem.

If there is a national forest near where you live, you can find out if they allow Christmas tree harvesting. (Do not rule yourself out because you live in the Great Plains. Both Nebraska and South Dakota actually allow cutting Christmas trees in their national forests.) For most national forests, their websites list details under the "Passes and Permits" section.

It's a good idea to know what species of tree you're allowed to cut. In Florida, bushy sand pines are available. In one New Mexico forest, any species of conifer is available. In Arizona, it varies by forest. In two of them, you can take any species of tree; one is exclusively firs; another only pinon or juniper trees. In some Colorado forests, you are obliged to take the yellow-green lodgepole pine.

Directions are also important so that you make sure you end up going to the right forest. In California, both the Mendocino National Forest and the Lake Tahoe Basin do allow people to take trees, but the nearby (and easily confused) El Dorado National Forest penalizes those who do.

Finally, cutting your own Christmas tree in the forest is an experience that is entirely unmatched by going to most tree lots. Finding a tree yourself is unforgettable -- although it does help if you remember to bring a camera!

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