- Being in the Cast of Listen To Your Mother
- Helping your Child Walk or Bike to School
- Cycling Success Stories Mainly About Women
- Introducing the Durable Human Manifesto
- Meet the DC Cast of Listen To Your Mother
- Replant Native Trees that Turbocharge Nature
- A Prospective Author’s Perspective 2013
- How Free Content Can Boost Book Sales
- Tips for Effective Email Marketing
- Give Some Guidance with that Gadget
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You can print one out for free courtesy of the Family Online Safety Institute’s Platform for Good. PfG calls it an “online safety card,” but there’s more to it than that. You can spell out how much time your child can be online, which sites are okay to visit, and how much money (if any) your child can spend on apps, but you also promise to be supportive of your child’s use of the new item and not over-react if he or she stumbles on something you deem offensive. more »
For their children to be durable, it isn’t enough anymore for parents to merely teach them crucial stuff like manners and how to hammer a nail. Add to the list everything to do with Technology. Yet, many view the vast Internet Ocean with fear and trepidation–especially if their kids have already jumped in. This concerns digital instigators such as Facebook, Google and Microsoft who want everyone to feel comfortable and safe in the water. And that’s why they’ve teamed up with the Family Online Safety Institute to teach swimming lessons on a new website called A Platform for Good. more »
Last time, we saw that being able to bicycle has historically given women a special sense of freedom. Well, kids like freedom, too. Not so long ago, lots of them biked or walked to school and very few were driven. Today those numbers have flipped. Now, in part because they’re getting less regular exercise, kids are prone to put on weight and develop health problems previously limited to adults.
But a scrappy federal program called Safe Routes to School is bucking the trend. SRTS offers elementary schools no-strings-attached grants for things like adding sidewalks or educating communities about the lost art of active transportation. Last fall, SRTS gave out “mini-grants” for taking small steps to make big changes in kids’ health and happiness. more »
Because he likes to cook, 16 year old Daniel Martinez has been appointed “executive chef” at the Farm at Walker Jones. Whenever he volunteers, he whips up dishes in the farm stand with whatever is picked that day. “It’s really neat to see plants and herbs I’d never heard of before like swiss chard – in the middle of D.C.” Daniel walks to the farm from a nearby private high school where he is a sophomore.
The half-acre plot primarily serves students, families and neighbors of a D.C. Public School called the Walker Jones Education Campus. Last year, even though groundbreaking wasn’t until early summer, the farm managed to raise 3,000 pounds of food which went to residents, a retirement community and a kitchen which serves the homeless.
Young hearts and minds are tended just as carefully. As the website says, “It is an outdoor classroom where experiential learning integrated into the school curriculum happens side by side with the social and emotional education required to train the leaders of tomorrow.”
Just like other kids who visit, Daniel has learned a lot. Before he became a volunteer, he “wasn’t big into picking fresh ingredients.” But now he says he appreciates “when one second they’re in the ground and the next second they’re a delicious appetizer.”
Daniel was delighted when a woman from the neighborhood tried one of his signature recipes and gushed, “I don’t usually like zucchini, but I sure like this!”
Anyone is welcome to volunteer at the farm on Tuesday, Thursday or Sunday afternoons. You will receive a selection of the day’s produce, so don’t forget to bring a bag.
This post is brought to you by Blog Action Day 2011. The subject this year is FOOD.
Could it be that it’s easier to forget your child in the car than realize your cellphone is missing? A tragic number is telling.
At last count, 513 American kids have died inside hot, closed cars since record-keeping began in 1998. About half were forgotten by a parent or caregiver.
Because the death toll continues to climb, authorities met in Washington, D.C. this week to propose immediate action. “It’s so urgent that we find effective sets of countermeasures that we all can take right now,” said David Strickland of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, as quoted in the Washington Post.
And what do experts suggest as a top countermeasure? Put your cellphone in the back seat with your child.
The advocacy group Kids and Cars.org has a there-but-for-the-grace-of-God perspective. Says founder Janette Fennel: “People think these people must be terrible parents, they must be monsters, because if we think that, we can’t relate to them. Nothing could be further from the truth.”
The truth is that any of us can fall prey to a single act of absent-mindedness which could have horrific results. To avoid that, parents and caregivers must be mindful and informed.
Some life-saving advice from KidsandCars:
- Your child gets hot faster than you do – up to five times faster.
- A closed car can reach a broiling 125 degrees in only minutes.
- Cracking the windows does not slow the heating.
Practice safe habits:
- Don’t leave your child alone in a car, even for a minute.
- Look before you lock. Open the back door and check inside before you walk away.
- Instruct your babysitter or childcare center to call you if your child doesn’t show up when he or she is expected.
And, yes – lest you forget: when you buckle up your child, put your go-to things in the back seat, too – which will surely include a cellphone.
Larry Knighten is dean of students at Joyce Kilmer Middle School, which is located within walking distance of traffic-choked Tysons Corner, Virginia. Recently, Larry noticed a problem. Every day, the single bike rack outside the school was filled to overflowing. Bikes were locked haphazardly to fences and trees.
It all started when the county transportation department built a little bridge over a nearby creek to create a direct connection to the many neighborhoods on the other side. What resulted is that many kids who had never been able to walk and bike to school before decided to give it a go.
But, rather than getting mad at the bicycle mishmash, Larry got creative with a few school system dollars. Not only did he buy more bike racks, he built a beautiful concrete pad to go underneath so the kids and the ground wouldn’t get muddy.
The school is so excited, they held a ribbon-cutting – and even a U.S. congressman dropped in to celebrate.
A couple of student onlookers commented on how they roll.
“I ride to school because it’s faster than walking and, you know, it’s just fun because you get a little bit of exercise in the morning,” said one young man.
Another sees the practical advantages: “The bus is a lot earlier than I’d like to leave and if I leave on my bike I can leave later and it’s not that far. It’s really nice and I just think it’s a good experience to ride your bike to school.”
Sleep. Exercise. Autonomy. Just what pre-teens (and the rest of us) need to be healthy and happy.
Below, Larry talks about the benefits of biking to school, and Virginia Representative Gerry Connolly explains how strategic, small government investments like the Kilmer bridge can lead to less car traffic and a more livable community. .
In pre-digital times, parents were the ones who craved time off to recharge their batteries. But in today’s switched-on world, entire families are in need of unplugged rest and relaxation. A spot within easy driving distance from Washington helps everyone get back on a healthier beat.
“Non-ado” is a sweet term I learned from Martin Ogle, longtime Chief Naturalist at Potomac Overlook Regional Park in Arlington, Virginia. He was invited recently to speak to the outdoor education advocacy group, NoVA Outside. Martin says nature proceeds at its own unrushed, regular rhythm. Non-ado, and the Taoist concept of Wu-wei, refer to one’s ability to exist in harmony with that age-old cadence.
Martin joins spiritualist Thomas Merton and author Walter Kerr, who contend that our hyper-busy, high-tech society is out of sync with the rhythm of nature, causing us maladies ranging from anxiety to depression. In other words, we are suffering because we no longer go with Nature’s flow. Spending time outside helps rectify new-age angst. Or, in Martin’s words, “there are a lot of questions that being outdoors helps answer.”
Recently, our family went in search of spring break tranquility. It might have been the rustle of spanish moss on the massive live oaks – or the hammocks beckoning beneath - but it was easy to slip into a state of non-ado at Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort.
Comfy porch rockers invite you to chill out at this warm South Carolina hideaway only six hours from the Nation’s Capital.
But Walt Disney would never be content with only DIY amusement. Helpful employees called “cast members” assist with all kinds of activities which have an emphasis on nature.
Working with paintbrush and paper at large wooden tables, kids have plenty of elbow room for gyotaku, the ancient Japanese art of fish rubbing. Teens head out with the cast to play mini-golf or games on the beach. When they want to be together, families can don rubber boots for outings such as exploring the marsh at low tide with a naturalist.
The resort’s flat, white sand beach is located about a mile across the island, but there’s no reason to get in the car. Take the free shuttle or ride the flat, protected bike trails instead. Try to BYOB (bring your own bikes) because rentals are pricey.
Each unit has at least a cook top and fridge, if not a full kitchen. Remember to pick up provisions on the way because the gift shop carries only the basics. If you want to splurge for dinner, many restaurants are just a short stroll past the gleaming yachts docked in Shelter Cove.
While it’s true that price can put a Disney resort out of reach, there’s no harm in borrowing Walt’s ideas. Creating Wu-wei in your own back yard or nearby park doesn’t take much - just some creativity and the will to put the gadgets aside and let Nature set the tempo.
Terrifying nuclear crises, ominous cyber-wars, oil and food prices in a race to the top – if there is a Plan A for saving us from simultaneous global catastrophies, it’s not working. But there is another option.
Enter Lester Brown, esteemed Big Thinker and founder of the Earth Policy Institute. In his new book, World on the Edge, Brown unveils “Plan B” – a sweeping vision to retool the world economy and re-balance earth’s ecosystems so its people can survive. For Plan B to come to the rescue in time, he proposes an immediate about-face in U.S. security policy. Struggles in the Middle East are what could catapult America into action.
Brown calls his plan ”the new defense budget, the one that addresses the most serious threats to both national and global security.” It costs $187 billion, or about one-fourth of the current U.S. Defense budget.
These are the basic building blocks of Plan B:
Keep water flowing and farmland fertile. Right now, many countries are draining the last precious drops from their water supplies. Water tables are dangerously low for half the world’s population. To prevent widespread deaths and mass migrations due to thirst and starvation, Brown’s plan would assist dry countries by helping them conserve water and grow food through efficient irrigation systems and water-efficient crops.
Because so many forests have been cut down and grasslands are being heavily overgrazed, precious topsoil is gone or disappearing in many areas. To prevent future wars over dwindling food supplies, Plan B ends deforestation worldwide and calls for restoring grasslands and the planting of billions of trees. It would also create marine reserves in oceans around the world to provide sustainable and vast supplies of edible fish. In the meantime, an international food reserve would help stabilize prices so everyone has at least something to eat.
Within 8 years, reduce carbon emissions by 80%. This would be achieved by speeding the shift from worldwide dependence on fossil fuels to the use of the renewable, safe, and limitless energy sources of wind, waves, solar and geothermal. The plan would lower taxes on incomes but raise them on carbon-producing fuels like gasoline. This would push the world toward transportation and manufacturing practices which use less oil and coal. That way, world output of carbon dioxide will drop, slowing the rise of sea and air temperature. Less melting of arctic ice means fewer people and livelihoods would be inundated by rising water.
Stabilize the world population at 8 billion people. Slowing runaway population growth will make it easier to conserve earth’s remaining resources and stretch food supplies. Recent history shows that educated women have fewer children. So, in countries where birth rates are highest, Brown’s plan calls for the education of all young people, especially girls. Providing access to decent healthcare and reproductive services would also shrink family size.
Re-tool U.S. defense and security. When states are in turmoil, they can’t perform basic functions like collecting taxes, paying their bills or providing jobs. Such instability also threatens global security. As Brown points out, “Efforts to control international terrorism also depend on cooperation among functioning nation states. As more and more states fail, this cooperation becomes less and less effective.”
Brown envisions a new cabinet-level U.S. agency called the “Department of Global Security” which would help shaky countries get back on their feet by providing sustainable security, economic and environmental solutions. In Yemen, for instance, the U.S. and other nation partners could help set up methods for sustainable farming, generating renewable energy and conserving water.
At this time, a large part of the U.S. defense budget is spent on costly conventional weapons. Brown questions the continuing success of this strategy, asking: “What if the next war is fought in cyberspace or with terrorist insurgents? Vast investments in conventional weapons systems will be of limited use.” Indeed, those days are already upon us. As Michael Joseph Gross writes in April’s Vanity Fair, unprecedented, ultra-sophisticated cyber-attacks waged in 2009 on nuclear facilities in Iran were “the Hiroshima of cyber-war.” That’s why Brown says now’s the time to re-think defense priorities.
To find out more about Plan B, you can read World on the Edge or watch the film special streaming on PBS. If you think the idea has merit, share this post with your Congress members and Senators. It might save billions in the Defense budget, and maybe the planet, too.
If you live near the Nation’s Capital and don’t care whether the Potomac River runs dry, prepare to get very thirsty. That’s because the water for every person, business and industry in the area comes from that single source.
Every day, a small number of intake dams near northern Virginia’s Great Falls National Park suck 400 million cubic gallons of water from the river. But, if we aren’t careful, the thundering falls could go silent.
According to Dr. E-an Zen, world authority on Potomac River geology, if the local population continues to grow and water usage is not managed wisely, demand will exceed supply and the Potomac could become “a series of semi-stagnant pools connected by trickles of water.”
There have been ominous signs of that trajectory. During the drought of 1999, for instance, water flow dropped dramatically, the river temperature increased and a large number of fish and other wildlife died. If local governments had asked people to use a little less water, the fish kill might have been averted. But, only Maryland issued an appeal for water conservation, while the state of Virginia refused.
At least three fairly severe droughts have occured locally in the past five years. According to Dr. Zen, “A couple of times we had droughts, the governors refused to declare emergencies because it’s not politically wise.” He contends that states should at least “show some concern. Don’t say ‘We have plenty. Don’t worry’.”
The typical Washingtonian uses about 150 gallons of water every day. Dr. Zen tracked his own usage and found he consumes one-third of that amount and could easily cut back more. Measuring water usage is a good way for everyone to become more water-aware, especially kids, Dr. Zen told The Durable Human in this video.
Keith Tomlinson, a fellow of the National Academy of Sciences and manager of northern Virginia’s Meadowlark Botanical Gardens, recently organized a walk and talk with Dr. Zen through Great Falls Park. Keith pointed out that the April 2010 issue of National Geographic Magazine is entirely devoted to worldwide water issues. Blog Action Day focused on the topic this year and has many useful links.
At the end of the sojourn, Dr. Zen was asked how long it will take for Washington to be in a full-blown water crisis. He answered with only this question: “How fast do you think humans will change behavior?”
Take it from Wolftrap Elementary in Vienna, Virginia, which issued a “BikeWalk Challenge” to see how many families would give their kids a chance to walk and roll.
Jeff Anderson, bike aficionado and Wolftrap parent, turned pied piper on wheels by leading a “bike bus” through the neighborhoods.
Besides being fun, walking and biking boost mental and physical fitness, self-esteem and self-reliance, as Jeff explains in a YouTube video.
Jeff’s efforts paid off. “We had over 230 kids walk and over 50 bike today….which we figured out was more than 50% of the school enrollment,” he is happy to report. Car drop-offs over the week were cut nearly in half.
Of course, kids need to be safe when they bike and walk. A federal program called “Safe Routes to School” has funding for schools which need sidewalks, crosswalks and other infrastructure improvements. As long as someone is willing to do the paperwork (and often that’s a parent), the money is free for the asking.
For cash-strapped schools, providing safe routes has another advantage. Sometimes, simply adding some stripes of paint and a few yards of concrete can clear the way for significant numbers of walkers and completely eliminate the need for costly bus service.
There were lessons to be learned from Wolftrap’s BikeWalk Challenge. Many families in outlying areas of the school district were unable to take part because there are no sidewalks and it is far too dangerous to dodge cars in the road. But, on the bright side, a Safe Routes project has been discovered.
Adults who once walked or biked to school remember the freedom of getting around on their own. Despite today’s fear-laden society, kids need to spread their wings and get outside whenever they can.
Storied environmental steward Rachel Carson’s words serve as a reminder:
“If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the christening of all children, I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life.
Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.”
If you’re looking for something to do for the Earth Day season, it’s amazing what can be captured at a neighborhood creek cleanup. Maybe a weight bench, a bucket of concrete, or—if you’re lucky—the hearts and minds of a rowdy troop of girl scouts.
With so much hand-wringing about how to connect kids with nature, this way was easy and free. Asking the kids why they were there on a chilly Saturday morning for this year’s Annual Potomac River Watershed Cleanup, helping the planet was secondary. Their first words were always, “It’s fun!”
The Northern Virginia scouts were part of an army of 7,000 rivershed dwellers who trolled the tributaries on April 10. All told, they hauled out 19,000 bags of junk and 994 tires, eight of which from our location.
Nina and her husband, Bob, organized the site – one of 214 across Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia.
According to Nina, the key to getting a good catch is to follow behind the first wave of volunteers who grab obvious things like radiators and roof shingles. She likens her technique to the way her kids scan the pages of ‘Eye Spy’ books for small objects hidden in cluttered background scenes. “If you just stop and look, things just emerge.”
As we did our bit for Mother Earth, she gifted us in return. I pulled out my phone to take a picture of astonishing, perfect footprints of a great blue heron. Another shallow creekbend swirled with tadpoles.
Stretching for some styrofoam shards, I finally stepped in over my boots. Turning tentatively to Nina—who happens to be a marine biologist—I asked about snakes. “That’s why it’s good to do this now. They’re not awake yet.”
At this point in the new century, many of us do things to save dwindling resources and make better use of others. But decisions can be tricky. Where do we set the thermostat and still be comfortable? Should we eat the organic imported orange or the conventional local apple? Do we print out the PDF or read it online? Technology helps, but can complicate matters.
Large institutions have a harder time because they must meet disparate needs and demands. Take the example of American University, a school in Washington, D.C., which recently introduced a Green Teaching Certificate. Courses are “Green Certified” if teachers communicate online, use electronic books and readings, and let students use laptops in class, among other measures considered sustainable.
But the system is causing hiccups for the age-old craft of writing. Writing instructors and their first-year students were surveyed for a Literature Department teaching seminar aptly named “Going Green in the Classroom: Balancing Ecological and Learning Environments.”
It turns out that faculty members all do some things green, even if not officially certified. There is general agreement that posting assignments on the document-sharing platform, Blackboard, helps everyone stay organized. But working online apparently has its drawbacks.
Not being able to get their hands on the material is a common complaint of students. “You can’t take notes on readings online so it makes reading harder, ” was one of several similar student comments.
Yet, 95 of the 130 students surveyed don’t print out the readings. Three out of four don’t even read them. “I absolutely hate reading things online,” acknowledged one student. “Having a hard copy of readings is much more beneficial to my learning experience.”
Teachers also like good old pen and paper. One didn’t mince words: “Students who do not print out and mark up readings for e-reserves are completely useless in class.”
Not having anything to write on also takes its toll on the writing process. As a teacher understated, “The revision process is much more productive, in my experience, when students have hard copy in front of them.”
When material is printed, faculty members don’t like the university’s suggestion to make single-spaced, two-sided copies because there’s no space for notes and revisions.
But printouts—or lack thereof—have a price. One student explained the predicament: “While green courses may intend to help the environment, it really puts more of the burden of cost on the student. I am currently in 3 “green” courses and have had to use ALL my printing bucks…and have gone through two ink cartridges in order to print out all the readings I am required to do.”
To protect students, some teachers bear the burden, but shift the cost. “It’s either them or me, and for what they pay in tuition, I’ve decided it should be the university’s paper and Xerox machine.”
One teacher has a partial workaround: printing handouts for in-class use only. “I number them (making no more than ten—and requiring them to look on with a classmate) and collect them at the end of a class period.”
Laptops present another quandary. “There’s no way they’re not gonna check Facebook!” despaired a faculty member. Many students readily admit checking email and doing other “personal research” in class. The distraction factor is so high, one out of three teachers ban laptops. That’s fine, says a student, because some people don’t have one. “I think there should be some degree of understanding if the course is ‘green.’ ”
Beyond the ethical dilemmas is the irony that classrooms assigned to most AU College Writing Professors aren’t equipped with computers (but do have projectors). The Literature Department recently received its first scanner. But if the scanner is used so materials can be copied, then paper-using has only been perpetuated.
In the end, for faculty and students alike, decisions about eco-rules are personal and pragmatic. “As much as I would like to help the environment and not print out all the readings,” one student lamented, “the most effective way of learning is to read the paper copy and highlight and take notes rather than attempt to read on a computer screen.”
A teacher questioned the very nature of going green. “Blackboard is a great resource, and I like the way it has allowed me to save paper, etc., but it does not appear to me intentionally or pointedly green. All of this is peanuts compared to the real carbon footprint of driving to and from school.”
It would be instructive to know whether Lit is the only AU department, or AU the only school, which struggles with green policies. If you have some experience—please share your thoughts.