Action steps: Energy Sources, Air Quality and Climate Change


Friday, April 27, 2018

I wrote this for member education within Mormon Women for Ethical Government, might as well share it here!

“Living without fossil fuels is not only possible, it is better.” - Peter Kalmus, a climate scientist and author of Being the Change: Live Well and Spark a Climate Revolution, is deeply optimistic about the changes that need to be made to secure a livable planet for our children (his book is linked in the comments). He reduced his personal carbon emission from 40 tons per year to 1 ton per year! He says, “Obviously, reducing my own emissions won’t save the world: I’m one out of more than seven billion people. But it does do something critically important. It shows what is possible. It’s time for a new vision to emerge, a new way of living aligned with the biosphere.” Linked in the comments below are personal and policy level changes that you can make TODAY to create a better home for our future.

Personal changes

  • Contact your local housing authority or power company about an energy audit for your home. 
  • Commit to no car idling (parking lots, carpools, drive-thrus) 
  • Pick 1-2 days a week that are no car days for your family and use public transit instead. 

Policy & community changes
  • We see a lot of information about reducing our own personal carbon footprint, but just 100 companies are responsible for 71% of the world’s carbon emissions. We must support and vote for candidates that support carbon-reducing and clean energy efforts, via The Guardian.

The problem: Energy Sources, Air Quality and Climate Change


With help from my friend Amber Jones, I wrote this for member education within Mormon Women for Ethical Government, might as well share it here!

Photo of mountaintop removal in West Virginia by Antrium Caskey, the entire photo series is worth looking at.

Just like water resources, our traditional energy sources are also limited. Since the Industrial Revolution and even more so since WWII, American energy use has exploded. For decades, we have extracted and burned fossil fuels-- natural resources that are limited. As a society, we reasoned that “American coal” was better than imported energy sources and became a symbol of American pride. Coal was cheap, both for consumers and the corporations that benefited from their extraction. Among coal and oil and gas workers, the high rates of black lung disease and preterm births (in surface mining communities), as well as the dangerous daily nature of extraction, have been a high price for this “cheap” energy. These workers should have been the canary in the coal mine. If those working daily with these energy sources were getting sicker, how would it affect our environment and broader public health? Every year, we gain more insight into this question. And the results are clear: we need to end our relationship with fossil fuels. There may never be the political will to completely cut off fossil fuels, but we know enough to do more than we are currently. The following are some general concerns with regard to fossil fuels.

The burning of fossil fuels is, of course, our greatest concern. Coal, for example, is mostly carbon. When it is burned, it reacts with oxygen in the air to create carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide released into our atmosphere is directly related to sea level rise, extreme weather, drought, species loss, and flooding. Natural gas is often hailed as a cleaner alternative to coal. However, the heat-trapping emissions would not noticeably change if we switched to a primarily natural gas. Furthermore, fuels burned in the combustion engines of our cars, trucks, and planes is responsible for 30% of all the carbon emissions in the U.S.

Other concerns with fossil fuel extraction include:
  • The extraction, processing and waster components of fossil fuels are energy-intensive before we even burn them. 
  • Both mining and oil and gas drilling is related to many negative public health outcomes.
  • Surface mining, such as mountaintop removal, permanently changes ecosystems and the flow of streams. 
  • Natural gas fracking can have negative effects on water quality. 
  • Boom and bust oil and gas drilling communities are hotspots for sexual abuse. 
  • Risks surrounding the transport of fossil fuels include oil spills, pipeline leaks and coal dusts. 

Air pollution from the burning of fossil fuels is also a huge concern. Sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and particulate matter (soot) are released into the air when fossil fuels are burned. Each of these is related to significant health concerns such as chronic bronchitis, aggravated asthma, premature death, premature birth and increase in heart attacks.

Despite all of these egregious concerns, this administration has vowed to remove the United States of America from the Paris Climate Agreement and become the ONLY nation in the world to not sign on. The Paris Climate Agreement is a historic coming together of world powers to mutually agree on a path to a lower carbon-emitting future. While our president continues to court the failing and dirty coal industry, states and cities across the nation have signed onto the agreement and are making strides to lower carbon emissions in their areas. With French President Macron’s state visit this week, we have hope that he can convince President Trump to remain on the Paris Climate Agreement to ensure our children and grandchildren have a livable planet. References and more information in the comments. Stay tuned tomorrow for an action post with many ideas for personal and policy changes.

Statements based on work created by the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Further reading:

“[A] report says loose standards for ozone and fine-particles lead to more than 200 people in the Mountain West dying prematurely each year. And the pollution would make 500 fewer people sick each year if EPA adopted the stricter air-quality standards recommended by the society.

In Salt Lake and Utah Valleys for example, pregnant women have been encouraged to leave the valleys entirely during bad air days.

Schools with large numbers of students of colour are routinely located near major roads and other sources of pollution, with many also grappling with other hazards such as lead-laced drinking water and toxins buried beneath school buildings Grineski said there were a range of consequences. “We’re only now realizing how toxins don’t just affect the lungs but influence things like emotional development, autism, ADHD and mental health,” she said. “Socially marginalized populations are getting the worst exposure. When you look at the pattern, it’s so pervasive that you have to call it an injustice and racism.” Source: The Guardian

More about how cars influence climate change and air pollution from the Union of Concerned Scientists.

The fossil fuel industry has another dirty side: a connection to an increase in sexual assault and murder, via Sierra Club.

Good news about Apple and renewable energy!

Climate change according to a kid:

Love for libraries


Friday, April 13, 2018

I wrote this in my journal recently and when I realized it was National Library Week this week, I wanted to share it.

I remember the old brick library in downtown Chipley.
I remember its musty book smell.

I remember the old KMS library. The top shelves covered in diaramas of Indian homes and solar systems. I remember the faded carpet we sat on. The stern librarian might have turned many kids away from books, but not me. I remember the large mural of book spines.
But mostly I remember the tall stacks on the far edges. I remember a story of a young girl in the Depression. She learned to make bread and sell it. She became the literal family breadwinner.

I remember the book fairs. So many shiny new books. Mostly I remember the 4th grade book fair with my stack of new books. Waiting in line. I waited until I should not have waited anymore. Afraid to lose my spot in line or my pretty stack of wonderful works and new places; I don't know. I waited til my body said "run!" Still I waited. My warm wet jeans told everyone that I waited too long! (I'll venmo you $5 if you have a more embarrassing story from 4th grade.)

Better memories came in fifth grade. I spent the night in the library with my nerdy peers. I slept in my sleeping bag, under a table next to my favorite stack.

Summers brought trips to the new county library. Its icy coolness welcomed us.

In middle school, my AR points quickly acheived...I wandered to the tall stacks again. These new stacks taught me new wonders and horrors. Here I first grasped an understanding of social justice as I read about Auschwitz. I read all the books in those tall stacks about the Holocaust and WWII. My friends read the Babysitters Club. I did too and then I read Anne Frank.

In high school, the library was for AV club and the computer lab.
But those earlier libraries had done what they needed to.
I was a voracious reader and spent my own money on books.
Mom let us loose in Books-a-Million and I read Pride and Prejudice. I read about heartbreak and loss. I read and read and read.

The Chipola library was for studying and avoiding old boyfriends.
The BYU library was for digital research but I still enjoyed its musty smell.

As a new mother, libraries came to aid again. I learned to breastfeed because of a library. The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding was my angel, rescuer, lactation consultant.
Later, at a loss for how to spend our days, we clapped and sang with a cheerful storyteller.
And I brought home stacks and stacks of colorful picture books. A deeper love for children's literature was re-born.

Again, I wandered to those tall stacks. This time I dipped my toes in environmental justice. In new parenting methods. In going back to local foods. Pregnant again, I pushed a stroller through the tall stacks. I found the books about natural birth. About midwifery. And in the woods, a new path opened up and I took it.

Library visits brought substance to our days. My two and then 3 small children cut their teeth on library board books. On Patricia Pollaco, on Cynthia Rylant.

Now in a new state, the library was our first outing. As home educators, it is our social scene, our playroom and it is our curriculum.

God bless libraries.

If you really care about life...


Monday, March 12, 2018

Here are some things (other than posting pro-life memes on social media) that you can do to help support new mothers. Let’s start off with the quick reminder that the number 1 reason women list as why they are choosing to abort a pregnancy is NOT “I don’t believe in the sanctity of life.” It’s actually about money. It’s about not having the resources or support to support a(nother) baby. If you want fewer abortions happening, we have to address the systemic issues that contribute to abortion. In my opinion, it comes down to supporting women and mothers. So please keep preaching about the importance of life. But UNLESS you are willing to do any or all of the following, just shut up and sit down:

  • Offer to adopt the pregnant mother's baby (if willing to do this, you must agree to the following as well):
  • Pay for all of the mother and baby's medical bills
  • Drive her to all her prenatal appointments
  • Pick up her prescriptions
  • Help her obtain public assistance in the form of WIC and food stamps (or more if needed)
  • Offer to cover the cost of her groceries and any other needs related to her pregnancy like a new maternity wardrobe.
  • Help her get a restraining order from her abusive boyfriend
  • Offer her a safe place to live
  • Convince her employer to NOT discriminate against her because she is pregnant
    • If that doesn't work, offer her a job
  • Convince her employer to give her *at least* 6 weeks of paid leave after childbirth in order to heal from PUSHING A HUMAN BEING OUT OF HER BODY. IT HURTS LIKE HELL AND YOU BLEED OUT OF YOUR VAGINA FOR *WEEKS* BECAUSE YOU HAVE AN INTERNAL WOUND THE SIZE OF A FOOTBALL. Plus she might want to get to know her baby and learn how to breastfeed.
  • Pay for a doula of her choice to attend to her emotional needs during and after labor. 
  • Get qualified lactation support for her if that is her choice.
  • If you are in a position of power, ensure that your company has paid leave for new mothers and fathers. (Dads need to be home supporting mom and baby too!)
If you aren't willing to do any of those things, I've got another list for you, pick any:
  • Shut up and sit down.
  • Lobby for paid sick and family leave at your local city council.
  • Call your state and Congressional representatives and tell them you demand paid family leave or you will find a candidate for the upcoming midterms that does support it.
  • Call your state and Congressional representatives and tell them you demand maternal mortality quality review boards or you will find a candidate for the upcoming midterms that does support it.
  • Call your Congressional representatives and tell them you demand universal healthcare or you will find a candidate for the upcoming midterms that does support it.
Feminists and others who actually care about women and babies, what have I left out?

Motherhood is all I can do


Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Disclaimer/reminder: My choices are not a judgment of your choices.

On a quick sailing trip last summer, I learned a lot about motherhood in a single moment. We launched the boat, all 3 kids and both adults in life jackets, into a small lake. Our boat is small but roomy enough (it has a small cabin) for our family. This was our third time out, first time at this lake. I was getting excited to learn more about sailing and help Nate with raising the sails and maybe even steering. We have a small motor to get us going if needed. We motored out a ways to raise the sails. We gave the boys some food to keep them occupied in the cabin and I set the baby down at my feet so she could toddle over to Nate who was steering while I started raising the sails. Everything quickly fell apart. The baby was screaming to nurse because she was scared in these new surroundings, the boys were fighting and climbing out of the cabin. The wind was blowing the sail all over the place, the boom fell and almost hit Riah and Nate in the face. Nate and I are both screaming at the boys. I'm yelling, "I can figure this out!" It was all very stressful. I wanted to show Nate that I did care about this, that I wanted to learn.

Well, I did not figure it out. We pulled the sails down and all took a breather.

I suddenly felt like a mother trying to go back to work after having a baby. You want to prove to yourself (and perhaps the world) that you can handle this. What's different about my little experience and mothers going back to work postpartum is that going back to work is a necessity. When really, it shouldn't be. You should be allowed to "just" be a mom. To "just" hold that baby a little longer. To "just" engage with your older children and reduce conflict. Being fully present as a mom takes all you have. Your whole heart, your whole mind and certainly both your arms. It seems absurd to make a mother go to work when she is clearly so needed by her children. As absurd as I was trying to raise a sail while everyone was screaming and the wind was blowing. At least while they are little, our children do not want or need anything but their loving parents. We are their world, their guiding North Star. And so we should make them ours. We can "have it all" when we realize they are the "all" that we need.

For this particular season of my life, I have chosen to end my career and educational pursuits to focus on my family. Being fully present and preparing to be the primary educator for them are big goals. I feel such peace in simplifying my goals to focus on them.

We did not sail that day. We set down our anchor and swam in the beautiful deep water. Just holding my baby and fully engaging with her in the simplest ways was the peace we needed.

Many women feel true fulfillment when working out of the home. I also find fulfillment in paid work that I am passionate about. Rising inflation, rising home prices, and our modern lifestyles require most households have two working partners. And too many women are forced to work low paying and unfulfilling jobs when they would rather be with their children. As I stated before, it is no secret that our children need us. It is time we acknowledge that from a policy standpoint. Having the choice to stay home with your children shouldn't only be an option for the rich and privileged.

So how can we help mothers who want to stay home with their young children? Here are some ideas that have been discussed and some that are used in other countries:

-Paid (even partially paid) family leave for a year or more after the birth of a child or adoption (more info)
-Universal basic income. More info on this from the BBC podcast, People Fixing the World
-Mothers at home receive pay for childcare the same as government subsidized childcare.
-Onsite daycare. Patagonia has been a champ at this for 30 years. (It makes sense financially too.)
-Increase the minimum wage and wages across the board (wages have been stagnant in the US for decades)  so couples feel less economic pressure to have both partners work away from home.
-Reduce housing costs for the same reasons as above
-Make college more affordable and eliminate predatory student loans.
-Normalize career breaks
-Improve job training and career entry support after a break in job history so mothers feel they will be able to successfully re-enter the workforce after a time at home.

I don't think any one of these is a silver bullet. And much of what is listed requires a cultural change. But if any generation can do it, our's can. I think a multi-faceted approach will have the best results. But any one of them would be a good start for the U.S.

"Mothers belong at home" is something I would never tell anyone because it reeks of sexism. But saying women belong with their children is something different. I've written about this some before in my post, "How to Really Help Families." Erica Komisar, a social worker and pyschoanalyst has been outspoken about this. I'm excited to read her book, "Being There: Why Prioritizing Motherhood in the Frist Three Years Matters."

I think this is actually an issue that conservatives and liberals can come together on. We all want to do what is best for our children. And giving women an actual choice on being home with her children is something liberals might agree with. I do worry about the way we sometimes are martyrs for motherhood. Because we want to be with them as much as possible, we forget our own needs. Since adding our third child to our family, I've realized just how mentally difficult it is to be a mother. I've had to take more breaks for alone time and self-care. Evolutionarily speaking, it is 100% normal and natural to keep your children close to home. But the way we live--away from extended family, in disjointed neighborhoods and one parent working miles and miles away from home every day--is 100% unnatural and not at all normal, evolutionarily speaking. We don't live in close-knit villages anymore. As much I want to run away to a commune and live off the land, we can't. We have to find ways to re-create the village for all families so each child is given what they deserve: a strong attachment.

What are your thoughts on this? I know this can be a tender subject for many. I genuinely want to know what you think. I strongly believe that each mother knows what is best for her family and will fight like mad to do that thing. Like I said at the beginning of this post, my choices are not a judgment of your choices. As a feminist, I believe that women should be the primary decision-makers of their lives. And as a maternal feminist, I believe mothers should be supported in real tangible ways to stay home with their children (if that is their choice), especially in the first year postpartum. My point is, right now, too many women do not have a choice. Can't wait to hear your thoughts...

Edited 3/12/18 to share some more thoughts. I really appreciated this article from the Washington Post: We need to change the conversation about moms and work to consider other perspectives. I loved this, "My decision honored generations of women who went before me. The fact is, the role of stay-at-home moms is often undervalued, not because it isn’t valuable work but because it is not a role traditionally held by men. The idea that women have been freed from the chains of full-time motherhood to pursue more meaningful work is sexism disguised as enlightenment, and it’s an insult to generations of women who dedicated their lives to full-time mothering and homemaking. I never want my children to see SAHMs as less interesting, intelligent or hard-working than other moms. Rather, I want my sons and my daughters to realize that stay-at-home parenting is as valuable and worthwhile as any paying career to which they could aspire."

Prioritizing the postpartum period and the early years of our children is linked to our we view breastfeeding as well. If we truly believe breastfeeding is what all children need and deserve, wouldn't we do more than toss a breast pump in the mother's general direction? This article from Slate by Zuzan Boehmova does a great job of explaining why our current system of providing breast pumps is not enough. She offers some suggestions as well.

Screen-free(ish) kids


Friday, February 2, 2018

This isn't meant to be advice, just an explanation of what's working for our family right now. I'm sure things will change and we will adjust as time goes on. Right now and for the past year, this has been working really well for us.

Screen-free(ish) kids 100% entertained by watching baked potatoes cook :D

Screens in our home:
My iPhone
Nate's iPhone
Desktop computer
Mini DVD player

Friday Night Movie Night
So about a year and a half ago, we changed our family rules on screens and it has been going really well. Up until then, we had a couple alphabet apps for them and allowed a show or two just about every day. But every time it was time to turn it off, we had a complete meltdown on our hands. Can't remember what or who inspired it, but we started a weekly movie night and deleted all the kid apps. No shows, movies, Netflix or apps for the kids all week. This has been marvelous for our family. They look forward to movie night and no longer beg to watch a show. Meltdowns and tantrums have decreased. Their imaginative play has increased. They don't reach for my phone when they are bored when we are out and about. Instead, they play together. They make up games. And the boys know to bring a book when we leave for errands. 

Full disclosure
We are not super strict about this. A couple times a week I might turn on Daniel Tiger or Octonauts for them while I shower. But because we have developed this great habit of limited screens over the past year, they are fine when it's time to turn it off. 

Last week in the airport and hotel room, they probably watched Empire Strikes Back like 5 times. Whatever. I don't have any guilt for that. The great thing was when we got home, they willingly put away the mini DVD player and were happy to be back to their Legos. 

Minnesota winters are long and cold. We have had movie night more than once a week lately and we still feel really good about that. Especially when its a nature documentary. The important thing is, we made limited screen time over the past several months very intentional.

And we definitely use my phone and the desktop to show them videos or other things that we are studying.

The TV
When we got married, we basically said we would never get a TV. We saw no need for it. Cable is a rip-off in our opinion. Streaming works great for us, no need for a giant screen. Well when we moved here, Nate's brother upgraded to a bigger TV and gave us this one. I kept it in the basement until recently. One day we will get a sectional or something for down there. But for now, it's comfier on the main floor to watch our weekly movie. And Planet Earth is so much better on a big screen :). But I'm a dumby and cannot figure out how to use the old xBox to stream things. So we are limited with the TV to when Nate is home, haha. Works for me!

Adult screen time
Seeing how well the kids do off screens reminds us how important it is for us to do the same. I think it's impossible to be completely screen free. It's how we communicate with family and other adults. But it's obvious to both of us how distracted we can be with our phones. I've been aware I've been using social media too much for a long time and finally started pulling back recently. I don't know if I'll go back to Instagram. I miss seeing updates from friends there, but I don't miss the endless scrolling and the fakery and coordinated/posed photos. (I'm guilty of that too!) Nate doesn't use social media but streams Netflix a lot on his phone when home. He's made efforts lately to slow down on that and he loves the results. Both of us are trying to be more intentional together about making personal changes. Next up is deleting FB off my phone and only using it 1-2x a day like the old days on the desktop. 

Looking back
This is more or less what my parents had us do growing up! We weren't allowed shows during the week. We did not have Gameboys or any gaming system. No computers or TVs in our rooms. We totally snuck cartoons, and later, MTV before mom got home from work but overall, I think mom and dad's guidelines for us had positive results.

Great advice on screens: "Enjoy screens. Not too much. Mostly together."via NPR
50 Ways to Unplug
Screentime recommendations for children

Baby Carrier Review Pt. 2


Monday, January 1, 2018

In 2015 I did a baby carrier review of every carrier I had used up until that point. Well, I'm still obsessed and have tried a few more since then so it's time for an update!

nursing in the wrap!
Solly Baby Wrap
I mentioned this one in my last post, but since I used it so much with Riah, it merits its own section. After getting dressed, I would just wrap it to have it ready. And just wore it like that for basically 3 months straight. It was perfect for us. My mom got me this pretty orange one too! These photos were made for Lactation Link. It was great for nursing too. By 3 or 4 months, she wasn't loving being in the wrap anymore. We switched to the Ergobaby 360 with her facing out and she was so happy about that! She had a phase where she really only wanted to face out. When she was old enough to ride on my back, she liked that too.

Ergobaby Performance Ventus
This is probably my favorite carrier. We have had it for about 2 years and I don't see me passing it along at any point. I love the tall panel, it allows it to be used well into toddlerhood. The mesh is of course great for summer and really anytime because let's face it, two bodies being pressed together and it gets hot any time of year! I highly recommend this one. But it's probably best once baby is a bit taller since the panel is so tall. You can, of course, use it from birth with an insert. I reach for this one the most.

Ergobaby Adapt
I borrowed this one from my local Babywearing International Group when Riah was a few months old. I really, really like this one. If you are going to get an Ergo, get this one. You can use it from birth without an insert. That makes such a difference! One less thing to carry around and much less hot. I was sad to have to give that one back when my month was up. It's very similar to the Original Ergo in all other ways and I definitely recommend it. These photos were made for Lactation Link too.

Fidella Ring Sling
I really wanted to like this! With 3 kids, all the buckles and straps of a SSC (soft structured carrier) was getting to be a bit much, I wanted something I could put Riah in really quickly. So I borrowed a super nice one from my BWI group again and I just didn't love it. Even though she was only a few weeks old and super light, it was still achey on that one shoulder. Sad. Some people really love ring slings though. That's why it's so nice to be able to try them out before you buy! Everyone is so different.

This is a great wrap for little babies and for moms who are overwhelmed with all the wrapping needed for a Solly or Moby. My sister passed her's down to me and I use it as a back-up and love recommending it. Wish I had a photo to share!

Fidella Fly Tai
After Riah grew out of my Solly Baby, I really wanted a pretty wrap again! I have been drooling over the Fly Tai for awhile and when they came out with this print, I snatched it up fast! Tying the ends in pretty ways was fun for a time but it's just not me. It really only made sense for me to tie it at home because I didn't want the long tails getting dirty out and about. And what's a pretty wrap if no one can see it? ;) Aaaaand I don't find it particularly comfy. I find myself unwrapping it and grabbing the Ventus. I could use some more practice with it. I think I will give it another chance. Also, the hood is really short. Bridger has to help me with it when Riah is on my back. I keep this one in hopes of another and final Parr baby :) And we have used it as a hammock under the kitchen table:)

Tula (Standard size)
I saw this one on a local classified listing and I just bought it kind of on a whim! Everyone says if you love Ergo and try a Tula, you will never go back to Ergo. I haven't been convinced of that yet. The straps are a bit wider and puffier but I really haven't noticed a huge difference. I still switch between this one and my Ventus the most. Also, the hood is really short. Bridger has to help me with it when Riah is on my back. I'm noticing a pattern here! I think Tula's new Free to Grow has a better hood. But Ergo has the best hoods! Nate pictured here with the Tula too but he prefers the Ergobaby Performance too.

Wish List:
The good news is I got everything I listed on my wish list last maybe that will happen again ;) Riah is old enough now that I really don't need anymore but...

It would be great to have a soft-structured carrier that is really floppy and a wrap conversion! Not sure which one yet though...

And I still think they are beautiful, but my experience with the Fly Tai has taught me that I'm not one for a woven...yet! ;) But really, I need quick ups and the wovens just seem like too much work for me! However, I am really drooling over these traditional African wraps that Ms. Wright is selling.

Okay, last one. I have no use for them since I don't like wovens or ring slings, but Kantha Bae wraps just have me drooling all the time. Maybe I'll save up for one of her quilts!

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