a boots-on-the-ground view of the change that's a-foot

Archive for October, 2008

You know it’s right when…

Thursday, October 30th, 2008

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

Well, I’m going to mention that poem again because something rather astounding showed up. My twin sister, who lives across the country, phoned after she read my post online, to tell me that one of her friends had sent the same poem to her almost a year ago. The friend also used the phrase, “This poem made me think of you.”

My sister and I have lived apart for a long while and know few of the same people. Beth, whose first career was in tennis, now works as an animal communicator, a waitress and a singer.

We didn’t bother trying to explain the phenomenon (twins rarely need to), but we did both pause and sigh into the phone. Like everyone else, we’ve struggled on our separate paths but it appears that somehow we have found a common voice – one that says, though the world is full of “bad advice” and the wind blows, we know what we have to do to go deeper into the world.

Listen closely and you’ll hear a voice that you recognize as your own. Find meaning and inspiration in and outside yourself, because, in the end, it is the same thing.

Rescue Ink gets the job done

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

by Tracey Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

You know that poem from my friend? Well, it’s made me think a lot about “what [we] have to do”. Wow. Makes things more simple, doesn’t it? Many people, when asking me about my green habits in my lifestyle, shake their heads in a way that presumes some sort of sacrifice or at least, terrible inconvenience. I wish I could reveal fully the ways my life, my well-being and my happiness has grown within these changes. And once you get perspective and get started, it’s simply about “knowing what I have to do”.

If you doubt these words in any way, here’s another example of people in the “know” when it comes to what is needed out there, not just in the world, but on the streets.

Rescue Ink loves and rescues animals from all kinds of abuse – much of it in the cruelest form of dog-fighting. “Rescue Ink was formed to aid in battling animal abuse and neglect, and to assist existing animal welfare agencies and animal shelters.” The heroes have a message – “ABUSERS ARE LOSERS”.

Well, the story only begins here. There are 11 members of Rescue Ink, most living in the NYC area, where they volunteer their time, effort and “presence” to help in cases – often those unaddressed (or inaccessible to) other animal groups. They specialize in getting the abuser away from the animals but will often “work with” neglect cases by building dog houses or providing cost-free vet care and neutering for owners.

The team are an unlikely crew of such dedicated animal lovers – all big, strong, and practiced in urban life, including a body-building champion, Kung Fu Master, former police detective, hot rod mechanic, firefighter and other street-friendly occupations, lifestyles and experience. Their presence is appropriately menacing when needed – they “won’t tolerate animal abuse” – but they are not vigilantes. They don’t break the law, handing over the criminal cases to the authorities when necessary.

I’m happier today, just knowing they are out there, “doing what they have to do”, as reported in this NY Times article loved looking at the photos on their site and reading all 11 bios. Take a look.

Parents Speak Up and Out

Monday, October 27th, 2008

The question of pro-creation – kids – can we live with ’em or without ’em? It’s one of the basic life conditions (and human desires) made sticky by both environmental social issues. Cultural norms determine that being a parent is an essential ingredient to happiness, yet the society in which we are being asked to parent is a rocky road at best, one which can and does lead to different results.

Utne Magazine recently cited an article in Contexts by Robin W. Simon, titled, “Bundle of Trouble”, exposing a new set of conclusions regarding the parenting life. “Although studies indicate parents derive more purpose and meaning from life than nonparents, as a group, moms and dads in the United States also experience depression, emotional distress, and negative emotions (such as fear, anxiety, worry, and anger) far more than their child-free peers. What’s more, parents of grown children report no greater well-being than adults who never had children.”

A letter from a BC mom showed up in the following issue of Utne this month:

“”Bundle of Trouble” was a breath of fresh air. The reality of raising children seems to be a secret that is kept to ensure the survival of the species. Parenting is a relentless life of service, sacrifice, and worry; takes a tremendous, often fatal toll on marriages and relationships; tests the resources and patience of parents beyond humane expectations; can be mind-numbingly boring; and is often exectued so poorly it bequeaths generations of damaged souls. And yes — it allows us to experience a depth of love like nothing else on earth. I’m an optimistic person, with an exceptional 18-year-old musician daughter just starting university, whom I cherish beyond words. I don’t regret my choice and for the most part enjoyed the process immensely and have found parenthood tremendously rewarding. But let’s be honest about the personal and societal cost. Parenthood should be a conscious and well-educated choice for one’s path in life and should not be considered in our culture as the only path to true fulfillment.”

Thank you for your honesty and perspective, Shari Ulrich. Namaste.

A Poem – from a Friend

Friday, October 24th, 2008

by Tao Oliveto

There’s nothing like a poem from someone who is thinking about you. I received this from a friend:

One day you finally knew what you had to, and began, though the voices around you kept shouting their bad advice — and though the whole house began to tremble and you felt the old tug at your ankles. “Mend my life!” each voice cried.

But you didn’t stop. You knew what you had to do, though the wind pried with its stiff fingers at the very foundations.

It was already late enough, and a wild night, and the road full of fallen branches and stones. But little by little, as you left their voices behind, the stars began to burn through the sheets of clouds, and there was a new voice which you slowly recognized as your own, that kept you company as you strode deeper and deeper into the world, determined to do the only thing you could do–

(Do you know what you have to do?)

Shades of Green – Catalystic Living

Thursday, October 23rd, 2008

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

We all know the green-speak of the times. It’s a user-friendly way of denoting our different lifestyles and commitments to the environment. It starts in one way or another – recycling, reusing, turning off the lights, turning down the heat, rethinking travel and commuting habits – but what keeps many of us strolling, washing or even dashing down the path towards more intensive methods of conservation?

It depends on your personality, making every path worthwhile and illuminating. For the analytical minds, it comes down to simple logic. Others are watching the savings of pennies and dollars add up. For parents, it’s a futuristic approach. Yuppies boil it down to “style” and attitude, the x-ers may find their greeness in a natural instinct to revolutionize while we pagans keep coming back to mama earth – the most literal treehuggers.

Then there’s the fun and happiness which seeps and creeps stealthily into your life when you start becoming more conscious, more aware, more deliberate in your life and relationships. That’s the one that keeps me going and growing, keeps me excited and hopeful for the future. And, most all of the changes I’ve made have brought more health to my body and mind – I feel strong, capable and “awake” and there’s not much else like that for helping you move through all parts of life – even the difficult ones.

So, don’t keep your deep dark green life to yourself – share the bliss! While at risk of being called, extreme or “carborexic”, most likely, you will inspire and motivate those around you. David Gershon, the author of “Low Carbon Diet” and founder of the Empowerment Institute says what we are doing “is fantastic, needed and catalytic.” We can show help others dwell in possibilities.

Don’t Be A Turkey This Season

Tuesday, October 21st, 2008

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

Maybe you only purchase turkey once/year. If you live in the U.S., it’s usually in November and/or December. So, if I only buy turkey this one time, how important is it that I buy organic and local? From a turkey’s point of view? Plenty!

Factory-style turkey farms do a huge business this time of year and to meet the “consumer” demand, they have been allowed and encouraged to raise and slaughter these animals in outrageous conditions. Turkeys have long been genetically modified with hormones for better eating (not theirs), causing them to grow flesh twice as big, twice as fast. Most unfortunately, their skeletons are unable to support the excessive weight, leaving them unable to walk and in pain. More messing with their genetics for the preferred breast meat leaves them with absurdly-sized chests, further limiting their mobility. This diabolical science also causes many painful respiratory, heart and skeletal diseases, despite heavy doses of antibiotics.

Turkeys raised in factory farms live in crowded warehouses – government standards require only 2.5 feet square of space for each hen and 3.5 feet square of space for each tom turkey – as many as 17,000 turkeys crowded together. For months, they are left to stand in the bacteria and amonia from their own waste. These unnatural conditions force them to literally fight for their lives, so they are debeaked and detoed without anesthesia. (FYI – You can apply these facts in various forms to all factory-raised animals. For more information (and happy rescue stories), visit Farm Sanctuary.)

I know I probably ruined your appetite, but before you stop reading, understand two things. One – we, as consumers, have allowed these practices to continue (we keep buying) and two, we, as consumers, can put an end to the horror, both for the animals and the environment that is also being abused in factory farming.

I used to believe the entire world could be vegetarians. Then I woke up. I understand now that it is important to change the hows and the whys of our food sources rather than perpetuate a “them and us” standoff. We used to know how to do this right and we can once again bring compassion and common sense back to all farming practices. But to do this, we need to make it impossible for factory farms to sell their products and- make it economically feasible for small (and sane) farming to survive. I support veganism and vegetarianism, but I’ve come to believe that my being vegan was less an “activist” model of change than my now unfailing support of local farms. And I’m not alone.

Humane Farm Animal Care is a non-profit organization whose mission is to improve the lives and welfare of farm animals by providing viable, credible, duly-monitored standards for humane food production and ensuring consumers that certified products meet these standards.

The impressive and extensive staff brings in knowledge and experience, including animal science, philosophy, systematic ecology, and government and international relations. Executive Director, Adele Douglass, launched the Free Farmed Program and was awarded the ASPCA’s Lifetime Achievement award in 2006. Their site can tell you more about this process and give you information about where to buy “Certified Humane Raised and Handled” animal products.

Keep in mind that very small family farms, possibly not yet certified, have almost always practiced compassionate treatment of animals and environmental stewardship – it’s tradition. Get to know your local farmers or read about them online at Local Harvest.


Monday, October 20th, 2008

MAN MEETS DOG. FINDS BLISS.      Pete Williams and Molly in Bozeman, Montana

Patagonia Catalog, Winter 2008, photographed by Pascal Beauvaire

Winter Cycling. It’s not the cold, it’s the Gear

Friday, October 17th, 2008

by Tao Oliveto, Carroboro, NC

The first of our cool, windy, sometimes damp Winter weather has descended upon us. My commitment to ‘ride or stay home’ is normally in danger. Not this year! I’ve pulled out the right gear from storage and made a small investment in some additions.

Arm warmers are my latest discovery – they are great for changing temperatures in the Fall, when you ride into town in 50 degrees, but return when it’s a balmy 73. Easy to pack and you can keep the chill out of your arms and shoulders without overheating your core. They are also inexplicably stylish, in a weird, gothic way.

Under helmet hat – something snug to hug the ears but fit comfortably under a helmet and doesn’t itch – ahhh!

Scarf – okay, this isn’t a traditional cycling accessory, but I love lightweight, colorful scarves wrapped around my neck in cool temps, on or off my bike. Again – easily chilled areas stay cozy, but you don’t have too much sweat in your middle.

Did I mention gloves? Well, it’s a must have investment that can make or break your daily cold-weather ride. Even high-end sport gloves won’t keep my fingers completely comfortable so I opted for mitten-style. Yes, they do make them for cycling and I found they leave me warmer but nimble enough to shift and brake safely.

I wear big ‘ol hiking boots most of the year, so my feet are happy, even while pedaling. But if you prefer cycling shoes or sneakers, consider shoe covers – warm toes will keep you in the saddle like nothing else.

Wind is the biggest issue for me, so I have a good jacket that can be worn on average days or over warmer gear. Long johns help when temps drop more – you can peel them off when you arrive to your destination.

I don’t like looking through dark lenses during dim Winter days, so I finally splurged on those lightweight sensor specs that block the wind (and bugs) nicely, but get dark only when the sun comes out.

There’s a lot of gear out there – my collection is a mish-mash from years of riding, all from different local bike shops, depending on where I’ve lived. There’s not much available yet that meets sustainable standards, so I make local buying my priority and make sure I go for quality stuff that will last all of my riding days.

Ride with me this Winter! Tao

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