Tag Archives: people’s climate march

Pizzlies and Grolars–Climate-Mediated Combinations?

Pizzlies and Grolars—Climate-Mediated Combinations?   –by Jinny Batterson

During the summer of 2017, I vacationed for two weeks in parts of Alaska. One of the naturalists who guided a bus tour I took in Denali National Park in central Alaska mentioned some new “hybrid” bears that are starting to show up in the far north of Alaska and Canada. As Arctic polar sea ice shrinks, the traditional ice floe habitat of polar bears is shrinking along with it. As temperatures in interior Alaska warm, some grizzlies are moving further north. One result is that the two sub-species of bears, who rarely encountered each other in the past, now have more overlap in their ranges. Sometimes they fight; at other times they interact in different ways. Offspring of polar-grizzly matings are called pizzly or grolar bears. Pizzlies and grolars typically have the coloring of polar bears, with the large head that is more characteristic of a grizzly. A picture of a pizzly that had been killed by a hunter was posted on a National Geographic site (https://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2010/12/photogalleries/101215-pizzly-grolar-bear-polar-grizzly-hybrids-nature-arctic-global-warming-pictures/) in 2010.  Only a few of the hybrid bears have been encountered so far, but biologists expect that more matings will likely occur as climate change accelerates. Perhaps, as our planet continues to warm, there may someday be pizzlies and grolars as far south as Denali park. 

My direct knowledge of Alaska’s longer-term weather is nil. However, a friend in Fairbanks who has spent most of his adult life in the now-less-frozen north, told me that the previous year’s winter was exceptionally mild—with overall temperatures about 6 degrees Fahrenheit about average. His back yard developed a lawn-chair sized sinkhole when part of its permafrost melted. Statistics from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), a U.S. governmental weather agency, bear out that the entire year 2016 was of record-breaking warmth in all reporting stations of our northernmost state (https://www.climate.gov/news-features/features/2016-shatters-record-alaskas-warmest-year). Climate change in Alaska has been more rapid than in the lower forty-eight states. 

About three years ago, I participated in the People’s Climate March in New York City. For me, part of the event’s inspiration came from seeing so many people of so many different backgrounds engaged in demonstrating for the good of our planet. Even more inspiring to me was the interfaith service held the evening after the march at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine. Many of the speakers at the service came from areas already experiencing disruptions due to climate change— more intense downpours, longer droughts, stronger typhoons and hurricanes, sea level rise.

The indigenous elders who participated in the service were alarmed and dismayed at the damage we are doing to our planet (the environment that sustains the lives of all species, including humans), but they were not without hope. At the conclusion of an interfaith conference that ran concurrently with the march and its preparations, they issued a call to action:     

“Know that you yourself are essential to this World. Each of us is put here in this time and this place to personally decide the future of humankind. We must sacrifice and move beyond our own comforts and pleasures. We must stop the damaging activities and begin working on restoring the natural environment for the future of All Life.”

The year 2017 has had its share of weather extremes in U.S. states and territories: inhabitants of Houston, Florida, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and northern California have now experienced firsthand some of the effects of human-induced climate change. We will all need to adapt. The interbreeding option available to polar bears and grizzlies is not in our future—we have become too differentiated from other animals for that. What can be in our future, if we choose, is increasing cooperation across cultures and religions to reduce our damage to our Earth, and to start to help heal her and ourselves.

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Voting with Our Feet (and other essential body parts)

Voting with Our Feet (and other essential body parts)   —by Jinny Batterson

Recent retirees like me get a lot of health-related information—mailers, email reminders, targeted Internet advertising.  Fairly often, these messages tout the benefits of regular exercise. Walking gets mentioned a lot—helps our circulation, requires little special equipment, can be done anywhere, anytime. So, even in the heat of summer, I try to keep up a regular walking routine. Over the past several seasons, I’ve been doing a good bit of more targeted walking, too, participating in protest marches and fundraisers for causes I think are important.  One of those is global climate change; another is voting.

Last September, I joined hundreds of thousands in New York City to draw global attention both to the problems we’re creating with our profligate use of fossil fuels and to possible alternatives, including the low-tech, available-to-nearly-everyone switch to walking more and using our vehicles less. I got a walker’s high moving along with the varied and huge crowd around me, most in comfortable shoes, some with banners, others with slogans on their clothing, some coasting beside us on skates or bicycles, a few in wheelchairs.

This past week, I joined a smaller, more localized crowd in Winston-Salem, North Carolina to draw attention to the start of a federal court case considering the constitutionality of several restrictive 2013 changes in my home state’s voting laws. The weather was sultry—July in North Carolina can wilt even the most stalwart. However, organizers had ordered thousands of bottles of cool water, and we guzzled it down as we listened to speeches and songs before taking to the streets. We wanted to help reinforce the message that the U.S. Constitution has been repeatedly amended to expand, rather than constrict, the franchise. The 15th amendment gave the vote to male former slaves; the 19th enfranchised women; the 26th, ratified in 1971, reduced the voting age from 21 to 18, giving the ballot to 18 to 20 year olds, including young men subject to military conscription.

I’m most grateful that my tramps have so far been voluntary. Nowadays, a huge number of people are walking for more distressing reasons—the number of international refugees and internally displaced persons has reached a level not seen since World War II. In 2014, nearly 60 million people, about 1 in every 125, were in refugee camps or temporary shelters due to wars and ethnic conflicts around the globe. When armed conflict breaks out, many vote with their feet just to survive.

In Isabel Wilkerson’s 2011 award-winning saga, The Warmth of Other Suns, I read that nearly 6 million African-Americans voted with their feet during the period between 1915 and 1970. These participants in the “great migration” left the Jim Crow south for points north and west, pushed out by fear and discrimination, and/or pulled away by the lure of better opportunities and less blatant oppression.

During my lifetime so far, I have not been forced to vote with my feet because of wars or oppression. However, voting with a ballot is a right I no longer take for granted. Recent quantum leaps in the sophistication and prevalence of gerrymandering make it more difficult for me to cast a meaningful vote, as do both subtle and more blatant attempts at voter suppression. Recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions have made “voting with money” more prevalent, an emphasis I find distressing. The problem has gotten too big for any single citizen, candidate or political party to solve on its own.

At the New York City march, some carried placards proclaiming: “There is no Planet B.”  On a less global level, I wonder, if we destroy our country’s democracy, what “plan B’s” await us? Our union has become considerably less perfect over the past decade or so. Perhaps we can reverse the trend—some of us may have to vote repeatedly with our feet in protest marches. We’ll also need to engage our heads, our hearts, our hands, having serious debates about vital issues, registering and voting, resisting demagoguery and pat answers, listening to each other, working together. Let’s keep walking…

 

 

 

Postcard Poems

The two short entries below were originally inspired by travels during early autumn, 2014–the first by a bicycle trip with my husband along the “Great Allegheny Passage,” a rail trail that runs from Pittsburgh, PA to Cumberland, MD; the second by participation in the People’s Climate March in New York City, along with hundreds of thousands of others.  Each strained the limits of what I could put on a scenic postcard.  Next year I’ll try for more brevity…

Rights of Passage  –by Jinny Batterson

Our two-wheeled GAP journeys,
Past the railway stations and coal tailings
That testify to an industrial-era interlude,
Sometimes still startle grazing deer or turkeys.
Along the higher ridges, wind turbines hum.

Trees’ golden leaves glide under our tires.
The Casselman, then Youghiogheny
Tumble and drift toward further junctions,
Admonishing all following this Appalachian
Autumn rite: they need no one’s permission

To rejoin the sea.

 

Changing Seasons  –by Jinny Batterson

After summer’s blaze, the leaves finally turn.
Along New York City’s Avenue of the Americas
Children cavort under a cloth sun replica.
Parents, grandparents hoist banners:
“We have SOL-u-tions.”

The pattern of seasons changes.
Our oily, edgy arrogance
None too soon succeeded by
Humus, humility, happiness.