Tag Archives: environmental threats

Changing Landscapes

Carol A. Hand

On my way home after running errands
I looked toward my house while waiting
at the  s  l  o  w  e  s  t  traffic light in town
and decided to pull out my phone
(something I never do while driving)
to see if I could capture the winter scene below

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What is  now (looking north toward my house a block away) –

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My little hobbit house is hidden from view
by the weathered willow tree beyond the parking lot
and sheltered by pine, ash, crabapple, and white birch trees
Even here one can see evidence of nature’s beauty 
although what is now markedly contrasts with what used to be

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What used to be (looking north toward my cabin in late afternoon) –

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My cabin in the norhtwoods during another winter
Was a sanctuary surrounded by forest and wetlands
providing respite  for a while before life led me onward
to urban settings in prairies and mountains 
with just enough space to create gardens
both with plants, and metaphorically, with caring people

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Retirement meant a chance to start anew, again
with time for grandchildren and deep reflection
to live simply and heal a weary wounded spirit
grateful that teaching, writing, and gardening
help me re-engage and contribute in constructive ways
knowing that beauty can blossom in unexpected places

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September 30, 2017

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Garbage

Carol A. Hand

A few days ago, I checked the news on Huffington Post and read a story about garbage, something I have been thinking about lately. On Mondays and Tuesdays, overflowing garbage containers line the alley behind my house. I’m embarrassed to admit that I don’t know where it goes.

Zero Waste – Four Hills Landfill, Nashua New Hampshire -(Wikipedia)

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I still haven’t made it a priority to investigate exactly how the city where I now live handles trash, but I do remember “garbage mountain” in the last city where I lived. The mountain rose high above the flat landscape, placed close to the state prison. I often wondered how the prisoners were able to breathe because I could smell the heavy stench miles away.

The Huffington Post article I read was disturbing on a number of levels. Here’s a brief excerpt:

China No Longer Wants Your Trash. Here’s Why That’s Potentially Disastrous.
The country has been the “world’s wastebasket” for decades. But starting Jan. 1, China has said “no more.” (by Dominique Mosbergen)

On Jan. 1, China made good on its promise to close its borders to several types of imported waste. By the next day, panic had already taken hold in countries across Europe and North America as trash began piling up by the ton, with no one having a clue where to now dispose of it all.

For more than 20 years, China has been the world’s recycling bin, accepting an enormous quantity of recyclable waste from nations worldwide. In 2016, China processed at least half of the world’s exports of waste plastic, paper and metals — some 7.3 million tons of trash in all. The U.S. exported 16 million tons of waste to China that year, worth about $5.2 billion. Britain sent China enough garbage to fill up 10,000 Olympic-size swimming pools.

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The ramifications of China’s recent ban has been described with language suggestive of a natural disaster. It has sent “shockwaves” worldwide, said Greenpeace East Asia plastics campaigner Liu Hua. Arnaud Brunet, head of the Bureau of International Recycling, compared the ban to an “earthquake.”

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As recyclers and governments now rush to figure out what to do with their mounting garbage, environmental activists warn that the initial effects of China’s ban could prove detrimental to the environment and human health.

China’s decision seems reasonable to me. It’s not the job of Chinese citizens to continue to be buried in the world’s toxic garbage. I also wondered why the author of the article failed to use this as a golden opportunity to mention inventions that could potentially address a crucial part of the issue, plastic. I remembered reading about a Japanese inventor who had developed a process for converting plastic back into oil and did a quick internet search.

The inventor was Akinori Ito. He “created a household appliance which converts plastic bags into fuel. The fuel can be used for various applications such as the generation of heat” (interestingengineering.com).

I also found a fascinating video that features Ito describing the motivation behind his invention and demonstrating how it works. (This Japanese Invention Can Recycle Plastic into Oil).

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My discoveries didn’t end with Ito. John Bordynuik describes his invention for converting plastic to highly refined oil on TEDxBuffalo.

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In doing a little more research, I discovered that Borynuik was later found guilty of misrepresenting his company’s performance to stockholders. Initially, I decided not to post this piece and trashed my draft post. Yet I couldn’t stop thinking about this issue. After further reflection, the corporate agenda to discredit an innovator by any means made me seriously question why any one has to make money on a process that helps us resolve a pressing human and environmental issue. Isn’t it enough of a benefit to deal with mountains and oceans of plastic pollution in more responsible ways?

It’s true. I was looking for an easy way out. I wanted someone else to rescue me from the responsibility of doing more myself to reduce what I contribute to the problem. It is also true that I believe science can help provide answers, although more than five decades have passed since my early college days when I was majoring in biology and chemistry. Setting our scientists to work on solutions to pollution would be a far wiser investment than building yet more bombers, nuclear weapons, and continuing our unsustainable environmental exploitation.

What concerns me most about Huffington Post’s article is the fact that Ito’s video was posted in 2010, and Bordynuik’s was posted in 2011. The science is known and both Ito and Bordynuik have demonstrated that it works, albeit on a small scale that requires time and money to carry out at this point. Their work suggests, however, a wiser way to invest in the future without fracking and drilling new oil wells on the shores of Alaska and Florida.

Just think what we could do if we stopped manufacturing new reasons for international conflict and agreed to work together to solve this challenge in ways that make sense! Figuring out how to deal with our own garbage responsibly is a daunting enough challenge to keep us all busy for the foreseeable future.

 

Mountains of waste pile up on the garbage island of Thilafushi – April 2005 (Wikipedia)

I wish that Huffington Post had taken a little more time to do research and frame their story in a more constructive manner.  It makes me wonder whose interests are being served by presenting information in a tone that may well foment yet another excuse for international conflict. Our garbage.

Reflections – January 2, 2018

Carol A. Hand

Radiance

 

New Year’s Day Moon – 2018

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Super Moon on new year’s night

heralding times of growing light

As grievous fear and despair take flight

hopes for a brighter future reignite

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New Year’s Day Moon – 2018

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Wonder

 

Snowflakes – January 2, 2018

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The wonder of water

alive with transformative power

always in motion hour after hour

One moment a moist breath as trees transpire

the next a cloud, a snowflake, rain quelling fire,

frozen as an icicle and flowing in streams

giving form to ocean waves and resting in bays

endangered now in so many ways

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Cross River, MN – June 17, 2017

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Miraculous water, a life-giving force

but dangerous, too, sometimes raging

indiscriminately sweeping away all in its course

Perhaps we all deserve that final fate

unless we awake and act responsibly before it’s too late

 

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A November Morning 2017

Carol A. Hand

 

bright reflecting sunshine

a dusting of snow

bracing cold air

the heavy odor

of diesel fuel

outside

everywhere

remind me

winter life in the city

comes with circi

convenience 

and costs

requiring

care

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Pensive Pinto – November 9, 2017

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Note:

Circi, also spelled as sirsee, circe, surcy, and surcee, is a word used mostly in the southern U.S. that means “an unexpected, usually small, gift” (English Language & Usage Stack Exchange).

Connecting the Dots

Carol A. Hand

Does it matter whether or not
we view changing global weather
as natural or human caused?
Perhaps.

While some cheer on Armageddon
others live with the illusion
that perhaps our homes
will soon be safe if human behaviors
change.

Whether or not changing our behavior helps
stabilize weather in the future,
don’t we owe it to the earth and our children
to act wisely and responsibly
anyway?

Global floods and worldwide wildfires rage
while more oil and gas pipelines are being built

Who’s to blame?
All of us who take it for granted
that the ease of having
gas, water, and electricity simply
delivered to our homes is our right
without considering the real costs
and environmentally safe, sustainable, viable, non-exploitive
alternatives.

We need to see how connected our well-being is
to the way we care for our earth
and the way we care for all those who also live here
because our earth’s health and continuing bounty
depend on wise and loving stewardship as well as
worldwide peace.

Lake Superior Sunset, photographer Jnana Hand

 

Sending love and blessings to all those who are on the frontlines of floods and fire.

Sources:

http://www.cnn.com/2017/09/01/world/deadly-world-floods/index.html
https://www.theguardian.com/world/wildfires
https://www.nasa.gov/image-feature/nasa-sees-intense-fires-around-the-world
http://www.hydrocarbons-technology.com/features/featureworlds-longest-oil-gas-pipelines-imports/
https://theodora.com/pipelines/

Sometimes I Just Don’t Understand

Carol A. Hand

Sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever understand

why people in power seem to care so little

about the suffering and destruction

they leave in their (una)wake(ning)

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Microsoft WORD Clip Art – Sometimes I just can’t take a photo

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Robin wings and bloodied backbone lying in the grass

A gift from my neighbors’ roaming cat?

It breaks my heart although they don’t seem to care

Sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever understand

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Neighborhood – May 10, 2017

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Garbage strewn across from

the neighborhood school

cluttering the little wooded stream

an elder’s shopping cart now inaccessible

Sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever understand

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Neighborhood – May 10, 2017

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Still, I will tend gardens, teach, and write about possibilities

even as I mourn while picking up the wings and sending love

I will clean up the little wooded area although others may laugh

because caring about the earth and others matters

Maybe it will inspire some to care

even though I may never understand

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Blooming Bleeding Hearts – May 10, 2017

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February Impressions

Carol A. Hand

Even though surreal psychopathy rules, gentle moments of beauty still fill my heart with joy. It’s the poignant passing moments I prefer to celebrate and share today.

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Green grass revealed by this week’s untimely thaw

February Thaw - 2017
February Thaw – 2017

now frozen, crunching beneath my slippered feet

the viola that was bravely blooming yesterday

 frosted, resting peacefully on the frozen ground

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Blooming Viola – February 22, 2017 (my attempt to turn a blurry photo into edited art when there’s no chance of ever taking another picture after the moment passes…)
Blooming Viola – February 22, 2017
(My amateurish attempt to turn a blurry photo into edited art when there was no chance to ever capture this moment again…)

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Acknowledgment:

This post was inspired by my lovely, creative granddaughter who’s been spending the week with me. She’s been busy helping me build new memories rather than editing old ones.

Ava, Busy Creating - February 2017
Ava, Busy Creating – February 2017

“More or Better?” – Revisited and Updated

Carol A. Hand

For the past month, my friend, Cynthia Donner, and I have been working on revising a class focused on social justice. It’s been a daunting process to frame and describe the purpose and create new assignments. And we’re facing our first class in less than a week, so please wish us luck.

We’ve decided to use trees as a metaphor, focusing on the importance of roots, landscapes, branching out, and nurturing supportive inclusive communities. With Cynthia’s permission, the draft purpose we developed is posted below. I’ve included both a text and photo version. Although I like the look of the photo, I’ve learned that it’s difficult to translate words on WordPress photo images into other languages, at least with my level of computer skills. As an educator, I believe innovations, even those in process, should be accessible as a foundation for dialogue.

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Spring 2017 Course Overview
Spring 2017 Course Overview

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The health of trees is also dependent on their environment, as is ours. This has changed over time for trees, as it has for people. Environments have become less and less healthy and nurturing in the name of progress. Policies have not always been developed with community well-being in mind, either for trees or people, with increasingly alarming consequences. It’s crucial to understand how things have changed from a broader historical perspective.

Social work has sometimes focused on helping individuals adapt to an unhealthy environment, rather than remembering their mission to serve as effective and visible advocates for equality and social justice. We can fertilize and trim individual trees, but their ultimate strength comes from standing together against the storms, supporting each other in times of drought and scarcity. This is a crucial lesson for social workers of the future.

It should be clear that we can’t expect governments to provide the types of social services that build on people’s strengths and reweave inclusive, supportive communities. The challenge before us now is to think critically about how we can support and help create informal mutual support systems that provide a sense of roots in a healthy landscape.

Our goal in this course is to engage in imagining what the world be like if we learned the lessons of trees, nurturing all, knowing that by standing together, we’ll be better able to weather storms.

Cynthia and I are both excited to see how this will work for students in the real world. But there’s a story about how our friendship and collaborative teaching partnership began. This morning, I revisited one of my earliest blog posts. It describes our first meeting and represents one of our initial collaborative projects.

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Carol A. Hand & Cynthia Donner
(Originally posted on December 15, 2013)

The following essay is written in the spirit of collaboration and reflects two voices, Carol A. Hand and Cynthia Donner, to describe our efforts to develop social justice curricula for undergraduate social work students.

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Recently, I agreed to come out of retirement to teach for a private Catholic College with a satellite program offered on the campus of a tribal and community college. The decision came after a surprising lunch meeting. I reluctantly agreed to meet with Cynthia Donner, the coordinator of the satellite program, in order to explain face-to-face why I no longer wished to teach social work. Perhaps the easiest way to explain my reluctance is a graphic I use in my classes to illustrate the possible purposes of social work interventions and social welfare policy.

Carol A. Hand - PowerPoint Graphic
Carol A. Hand – PowerPoint Graphic

As a profession, social work has competing goals. It is rare for textbooks or professors to acknowledge which of the underlying goals influences their practice, research, and teaching. Sadly, the focus has often been on enhancing the status of the profession, and hence, the status of its practitioners as equals to those in the medical and legal realms. Increasingly, the focus of research and education has been on a narrow clinical focus that attempts to help individuals adapt to their circumstances more effectively. Just as family-based physicians have been replaced by a spectrum of medical specialists for every aspect of the human bio, case managers and specialized clinicians have replaced social workers who used to focus on creating change in systems and society.

Although the professional code of ethics espouses the importance of working toward social justice, I would argue that clinical practice is not the way to do this. Clinical work may reduce suffering, but it can better be described an effective means of social control. My critical stance toward contemporary clinical social work practice and education is grounded on my revulsion toward any practices that are reminiscent of the centuries of assimilation forced on Indigenous Peoples in the U.S. and world.

The western medical model is rooted in disease discourse and controlled by two industries of the neoliberal corporate elite, insurance and pharmaceutical. It drives most clinical social work practice today with diagnostic pathological criteria for treating and medicating a plethora of “disorders” and “disease” type conditions. Yet, how much anxiety and depression among people today can be attributed to histories of oppression associated with the colonization of nations, cultures, economies, and minds? Add the current daily struggles experienced by a growing majority associated with discrimination (from verbal attacks to outright violence in our schools, workplaces and communities), and with basic survival (as forces of neoliberal corporate control drive people and whole communities into desolate poverty and widen the gaps between the rich and poor, the politically powerful and powerless). Today more than ever, we need people trained for the goals and strategies that will lead to structural changes our world and humanity are depending on.

When I met with Cynthia, I shared my perspective honestly. I expected the typical response. “Thank you for your interest in our program. Unfortunately, we have chosen someone who is a better fit with our focus at this time.” Much to my surprise, she smiled broadly and animatedly began to share similar perspectives.

I sensed a common orientation as we shared our perspectives on social justice and our approach to education. Like Carol, I ask my students to consider historical truths about U.S. social welfare policy and pose the question, “are you satisfied with helping individual people manage their suffering within the context of oppressive forces, or do you want to work with people to help them find ways to liberate themselves from oppression and the suffering it imposes on their lives individually and collectively?”

Through a dialogue that spanned hours, we discovered that we shared experiences on the margins, Cynthia because of growing up in poverty, and me because of growing up culturally mixed. Rather than accept that we were inferior, both of us sought the education and positions that would allow us work with disadvantaged groups to challenge the structures of oppression. Cynthia, like me, had worked in “macro practice” settings focused on enhancing lives in addition to reducing suffering, confronting the forces causing oppression rather than helping people merely adapt and conform to those forces.

Toward the end of our conversation, I agreed to teach the course on social welfare policy. This was the beginning of a still-evolving experiment to find more effective, experientially-grounded ways to help students think critically about oppression and encourage them to consider careers that focus on policy and community practice. In the process of designing our latest lab focused on social justice, Cynthia discovered an amazing resource that we felt might help our undergraduate students envision how to create a “better” future. For me, it transforms “the change paradigm” by providing a clear goal to work toward rather than a problem to fight. We wrote this brief introduction as a way to share a resource that may be helpful to others. The video that focuses on solutions (posted below), created by author Annie Leonard, presents a feasible alternative to “fighting the system” and left me with a sense of hope that transformation is possible, even during these challenging times (and perhaps, even in social work education).

 

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Life sometimes opens up possibilities we had never envisioned and presents us with interesting choices. I remain truly grateful to Cynthia for inspiring me to take the risk of starting over yet again. Who knows what my retirement years would have been like had I not met her and been greeted by her sparkling eyes and enthusiasm to challenge the status quo. Chi miigwetch, Cynthia, for being an inspiration and supportive friend.

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A Powerful Message from Standing Rock

Carol A. Hand

On November 20, 2016, Kendrick Eagle posted a video appeal to President Obama.

“You gave me hope…. You said you had our back, and here we are. Help us stop this pipeline. Stick true to your words, ‘cause you said you had our back. I believed you then and I believe you now – that you can make this happen. Thank you.”

The response to Kendrick Eagle’s message reminds us all about the long history of broken federal promises to the Indigenous Peoples of what is now called the United States of America. On Friday, November 25, 2016, the day after Thanksgiving, the US federal government issued an evacuation order to the largest Water Protector encampment in Standing Rock, North Dakota, the Oceti Sakowin campground.

“The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said in a letter to a Native American tribe leading the opposition against the pipeline that it will close the area on Dec. 5, after a series of clashes between law enforcement and protesters…. Anyone staying in the area after the deadline may be subject to prosecution…” (Huffington Post, November 27, 2016)

Thank all of you for doing what you can to stand against tyranny.

Brief Reflections about Standing Rock – Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Carol A. Hand

Today a young woman is in critical condition due to escalating police violence, all so corporations can pollute and profit: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/standing-rock-arm-amputation_us_5834853ee4b09b6055ff01ec. Her only “crime” was standing in peaceful solidarity with Standing Rock Water Protectors to prevent corporations from creating yet more environmental devastation.

Photo: Huffington Post - Thanksgiving Message to Indigenous People from the Invading Forces
Photo: Huffington Post – Thanksgiving Message to Indigenous People from the Invading Forces

(Link to Huffington Post photo and article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/standing-rock-sioux-tear-gas-thanksgiving_us_583496a3e4b000af95ece35d?wjz1i201zkpf8t1emi)

The list of the militarized police forces arrayed against Standing Rock Water Protectors is daunting: http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2016/11/02/how-contact-people-who-sent-militarized-police-standing-rock-166326.

I’m not entirely sure why, but this situation reminds me of Wounded Knee and the Ghost Dance: http://www.pbs.org/weta/thewest/program/episodes/eight/likegrass.htm.

Wounded Knee Massacre - December 29, 1890
Wounded Knee Massacre – December 29, 1890

(Photo Source: Wikipedia)

The circumstances feel eerily similar. Two vastly different cultures collide, one with fear and lethal weapons, and one with hope, ceremony, and prayers. One to exploit the earth for short-term individual profits, and one to protect the earth for all our relations, now and in the future.

Despite all of the tragic lessons of past history, I still hope that love and peaceful solidarity will finally triumph over brutality, oppression and fear. I humbly ask all who read this to please do what you can to let governments, police, and corporations know that the world is watching. Please do all you can to let the Water Protectors know you support them and stand with them in spirit.

Chi Miigwetch. (Ojibwe for “thank you very much.”)

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