For more than 15 years I’ve been writing these Future Hope columns. I’ve tried, as best as I can, to write about topics or in a way which helps readers have hope that yes, transformational change for the better is possible in this often-hard-to-be-hopeful world. In that time I’ve never once written about the coming of spring.
Spring brings the varied and often-beautiful songs of birds. New species of on-the-move birds can be seen as the sun moves higher in the southern sky (in the northern hemisphere) and the air, land and ocean warm. Photo credit: Shutterstock
In retrospect, that surprises me. In the natural world it’s hard to think of anything more hopeful, more life-giving, more inspiring than the arrival of spring.
Spring melts the snow, for the final time, ‘til next winter. That was a big deal this year in northern New Jersey where, for a month and a half, half-a-foot to a foot-and-half of snow, hard snow, frozen hard by colder-than-usual temperatures, stayed on the ground. It is a welcome relief to walk with much surer steps on snow- and ice-gone surfaces.
Spring brings the varied and often-beautiful songs of birds. New species of on-the-move birds can be seen as the sun moves higher in the southern sky (in the northern hemisphere) and the air, land and ocean warm. Where I live, spring brings mating couples of geese from the city pond behind my house onto our back and front lawns, as certain a spring occurrence as the daily rising of the sun.
In the several small gardens at the eastern front and southern side of our house, new shoots of green break through the Earth and buds begin to appear heralding the arrival of daffodils, hyacinths, honeysuckle, fennel, milkweed (for the monarchs which we pray we will see later in the summer) and much more. I begin to think about getting ready to plant our vegetable garden.
The grass is still pretty brown, but some green is beginning to show and I look forward to it filling out as the rain and the sun do what they have done for millennia.
Spring, of course, brings warmer temperatures, which means I can now do my early-morning bike rides without the experience of returning home with cold and hurting fingers and toes. It makes the rides more joyful. I see the skeleton-like trees, devoid of leaves or flowers, but with new spring eyes I see the limbs and branches reaching upward toward the sun, which with the rain will provide new growth and beauty in coming days, weeks and months.
As spring evolves, it will mean seeing more walkers, bikers and runners out sharing the early-morning quiet and expectation-of-dawn with me. Over time I will see them less weighed down with garments to protect from the cold. I will see more animals—deer, wild turkeys, raccoons, groundhogs, possums and an occasional fox.
Spring makes me feel much more often that I am lucky to be alive and relatively well for 65.
But spring sometimes brings other reasons to have hope and love life. Often over the 46 years that I have been an activist and organizer, a revolutionary, spring has brought with it major mobilizations of people into the streets for mass demonstrations around war and peace, justice, climate or other issues.
I am involved with one such initiative, Beyond Extreme Energy, which has had a productive winter building an escalating campaign against FERC, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Two months from now we will be nonviolently blockading the FERC entrances for a week-plus, following up on our successful week-long blockades in November. We will keep demanding that they stop serving the fossil fuel industry and instead protect the American people and the world’s destabilizing climate. We expect many hundreds of people to take part from May 21-29.
Students active in the fossil fuel divestment movement are taking action. Just last week two divestment office occupations were initiated at Swarthmore College and the University of Mary Washington, and I will be very surprised if the spring doesn’t bring more, hopefully a swelling flood of them.
And in the political realm, an email arrived in my inbox as I was in the middle of writing this from Sen. Bernie Sanders, laying out the truth of what is happening in this country and with our climate. Once again, as he always does, Bernie makes very clear and effective connections between the climate crisis and the crisis of economic injustice and inequality. I hope we keep hearing more and more from Bernie as a declared Presidential candidate in the coming weeks and months.
So many reasons to have hope this spring!
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
By Gwen Ranniger
Fertility issues are on the rise, and new literature points to ways that your environment may be part of the problem. We've rounded up some changes you can make in your life to promote a healthy reproductive system.
Infertility and Environmental Health: The Facts<ul> <li>Sperm count is declining steeply, significantly, and continuously in Western countries, with no signs of tapering off. Erectile dysfunction is on the rise, and women are facing increasing rates of miscarriage and difficulty conceiving.</li><li>Why? A huge factor is our environmental health. Hormones (particularly testosterone and estrogen) are what make reproductive function possible, and our hormones are increasingly being negatively affected by harmful, endocrine-disrupting chemicals commonplace in the modern world—in our homes, foods, and lifestyles.</li></ul>
What You Can Do About It<p>It should be noted that infertility can be caused by any number of factors, including medical conditions that cannot be solved with a simple change at home.</p><p><em>If you or a loved one are struggling with infertility, our hearts and sympathies are with you. Your pain is validated and we hope you receive answers to your struggles.</em></p><p>Read on to discover our tips to restore or improve reproductive health by removing harmful habits and chemicals from your environment.</p>
Edit Your Health<ul><li>If you smoke, quit! Smoking is toxic, period. If someone in your household smokes, urge them to quit or institute a no-smoking ban in the house. It is just as important to avoid secondhand smoke.</li><li>Maintain a healthy weight. Make sure your caloric intake is right for your body and strive for moderate exercise.</li><li>Eat cleanly! Focus on whole foods and less processed meals and snacks. Studies have found that eating a Mediterranean-style diet is linked to increased fertility.</li><li>Minimize negative/constant stress—or find ways to manage it. Hobbies such as meditation or yoga that encourage practiced breathing are great options to reduce the physical toll of stress.</li></ul>
Edit Your Home<p>We spend a lot of time in our homes—and care that what we bring into them will not harm us. You may not be aware that many commonly found household items are sources of harmful, endocrine-disrupting compounds. Read on to find steps you can take—and replacements you should make—in your home.</p><p><strong>In the Kitchen</strong></p><ul> <li>Buy organic, fresh, unprocessed foods whenever possible. <a href="https://www.ehn.org/clean-grocery-shopping-guide-2648563801.html" target="_blank">Read our grocery shopping guide for more tips about food.</a></li><li>Switch to glass, ceramics, or stainless steel for food storage: plastics often contain endocrine-disrupting chemicals that affect fertility. <a href="https://www.ehn.org/bpa-pollution-2645493129.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Learn more about the dangers of plastic here.</a></li><li>Ban plastic from the microwave. If you have a plastic splatter cover, use paper towel, parchment paper, or an upside-down plate instead.</li><li>Upgrade your cookware: non-stick may make life easier, but it is made with unsafe chemical compounds that seep into your food. Cast-iron and stainless steel are great alternatives.</li><li>Filter tap water. Glass filter pitchers are an inexpensive solution; if you want to invest you may opt for an under-the-sink filter.</li><li>Check your cleaning products—many mainstream products are full of unsafe chemicals. <a href="https://www.ehn.org/how-to-shop-for-cleaning-products-while-avoiding-toxics-2648130273.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Check out our guide to safe cleaning products for more info</a>.</li></ul><p><strong>In the Bathroom </strong></p><ul> <li>Check the labels on your bathroom products: <em>fragrance-free, paraben-free, phthalate-free</em> and organic labels are all great signs. You can also scan the ingredients lists for red-flag chemicals such as: triclosan, parabens, and dibutyl phthalate. Use the <a href="https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/" target="_blank">EWG Skin Deep database</a> to vet your personal products.</li><li>Ditch the vinyl shower curtain—that new shower curtain smell is chemical-off gassing. Choose a cotton or linen based curtain instead.</li><li>Banish air fresheners—use natural fresheners (an open window, baking soda, essential oils) instead.</li></ul><p><strong>Everywhere Else</strong></p><ul><li>Remove wall-to-wall carpet. If you've been considering wood or tile, here's your sign: many synthetic carpets can emit harmful chemicals for years. If you want a rug, choose wool or plant materials such as jute or sisal.</li><li>Prevent dust build-up. Dust can absorb chemicals in the air and keep them lingering in your home. Vacuum rugs and wipe furniture, trim, windowsills, fans, TVs, etc. Make sure to have a window open while you're cleaning!</li><li>Leave shoes at the door! When you wear your shoes throughout the house, you're tracking in all kinds of chemicals. If you like wearing shoes inside, consider a dedicated pair of "indoor shoes" or slippers.</li><li>Clean out your closet—use cedar chips or lavender sachets instead of mothballs, and use "green" dry-cleaning services over traditional methods. If that isn't possible, let the clothes air out outside or in your garage for a day before putting them back in your closet.</li><li>Say no to plastic bags!</li><li>We asked 22 endocrinologists what products they use - and steer clear of—in their homes. <a href="https://www.ehn.org/nontoxic-products-2648564261.html" target="_blank">Check out their responses here</a>.</li></ul>
Learn More<ul><li>For more information and action steps, be sure to check out <em>Count Down: How Our Modern World Is Threatening Sperm Counts, Altering Male and Female Reproductive Development, and Imperiling the Future of the Human Race</em> by EHS adjunct scientist Shanna Swan, PhD: <a href="https://www.shannaswan.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">available for purchase here.</a></li><li><a href="https://www.ehn.org/st/Subscribe_to_Above_The_Fold" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Sign up for our Above the Fold Newsletter </a>to stay up to date about impacts on the environment and your health.</li></ul>
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
The irony hit Katherine Kehrli, the associate dean of Seattle Culinary Academy, when one of the COVID-19 pandemic's successive waves of closures flattened restaurants: Many of her culinary students were themselves food insecure. She saw cooks, bakers, and chefs-in-training lose the often-multiple jobs that they needed simply to eat.
By Tara Lohan
What does a biodiversity crisis sound like? You may need to strain your ears to hear it.
- Is Constant Human Noise Stressing Out Wildlife? - EcoWatch ›
- What We've Lost: The Species Declared Extinct in 2020 - EcoWatch ›
- Traffic Sounds Make It Harder for Birds to Think, Scientists Find ... ›
- Using Sound to Help Imperiled Species and Ecosystems - EcoWatch ›
The Biden administration announced it will use Obama-era calculations of the "social cost" of three greenhouse gas pollutants while an interagency working group calculates a more complete estimate, the White House announced Friday.
By Anne-Sophie Brändlin
Facebook has started tackling dangerous climate change myths and anti-environment propaganda that circulates among the platform's almost 3 billion monthly users.