Read With The Gringa “White Dragons”


Please join the gringa in continuing the book “A Practical Guide To Dragons”, inscribed by Sindri Suncatcher, the Greatest Kender Wizard Who Ever Lived. In this chapter we find out that the white dragon is not so smart!

Read with the gringa here on WordPress or on Facebook! https://www.facebook.com/gringaofthebarrio/

 

Image Source:  www.sandara.deviantart.com

How Climate Change Affects Vacation Priorities


So, when the climate change poop hits the fan, who is going to be in for the worst ride? What parts of the world should I vacation at now because they will be uninhabitable in the future? Exactly where will be the safest place for the gringa and the caveman to diddle away their golden years?

Well, we better get busy and visit all the beach hotspots that are alive and kicking right now. With sea levels rising, the coastal cabanas of today will be reef material tomorrow. And, considering that climate change creates erratic and extreme weather patterns such as: heavy rain here, drought there, devastating tornadoes everywhere; well, there is no uniform model of what’s going to change where or when. The only concrete expectation right now is what models predict about low elevation islands and coastal beachlands. They are pretty much going to be history, some maybe within my lifetime.

Other areas scientists expect to change dramatically are regions that have a delicate ecosystem balance and are already experiencing hyper-sensitivity to environmental stressors. These areas include:

  • Arctic, specifically the tundra region
  • Boreal forest belt – This is the conifer forest that stretches across North America, particularly dense in the Pacific Northwest
  • Tropical Rainforest
  • Alpine regions
  • Steppes of Asia and the Americas
  • Prairies of Asia and the Americas
  • Deciduous forests of South America and Australia

The Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the Earth. The permafrost layer is melting. Glaciers are getting smaller and sea ice is disintegrating. The wildlife of the Arctic will probably be a loss to the world. They depend on a habitat that is going to grow too warm to support their needs. The indigenous people of this region will experience a loss of their culture that is strongly dependent on the wildlife and natural geography. The humans will have the adaptation advantage that the wildlife and fauna do not have. But the loss of their culture is still something to mourn over.

The boreal forests of North America are important carbon sponges for the earth. What will a degree or two warmer mean? As temperatures warm the center of the United States, the boreal forest will shift northward. Predictive models sees the United States losing its boreal forest as it relocates to Canada and Alaska. So, we won’t lose them, they will relocate. That’s good news in the aspect that at least the Earth will retain a critical carbon filter.

Researchers in tropical rainforests mark trees and track them for years, measuring them to see how they are responding to climate change. A group in the Bolivian Andes are studying a swath of diverse trees and plants that thrive in a limited temperature range. As temperatures rise, so do the trees. New, baby trees are growing uphill. Just as the North American model predicted a forest migration, the same is expected of the tropical rainforests. They will abandon the lowland jungle regions and migrate up the mountainsides, seeking cooler temperatures.

Alpine regions are going to experience the same forest creeping phenomena. As glaciers continue to recede, alpine plants will continue to move upwards looking for cooler temperatures and water. However, eventually, when all the glacier water has melted and run off or evaporated, this critical component of the annual water budget will be gone forever. Plants and trees dependent upon it will eventually be extinct. So Alpine ecosystems will not only migrate, they will migrate to a slow death.

The upside of forest migration is that the Earth is trying to compensate and save herself. The downside is that the migration process is slower than the warming process. This means there will still be catastrophic loss of tropical rainforest and alpine habitat. This will affect the wildlife dependent on these ecosystems as well as their indigenous people.

Experts predict the possibility of losing over half of the steppe habitats due to the effects of climate change. They are not modeling a migration of fauna, but a loss. Steppes are critical grazing areas. As the steppes experience habitat loss, growing smaller, overgrazing occurs on the remaining areas. The effects then are coupled: climate change related drought and overgrazing. Things look dire for the future of the steppes and the animals and shepherds and ranchers who depend on them. The steppes could become the Earth’s future Sahara’s.

Unlike a conifer boreal forest or tropical rainforest that are green year round, a deciduous forest becomes barren in the winter season as the trees lose their leaves. Deciduous forests exist in tropical and temperate climates. Climate change models predict warmer winters affecting deciduous forests. This could lead to tree loss from pests and disease. In regions where devastating drought occurs, there will be higher tree loss. When a tree dies in the forest it also becomes fuel. In regions experiencing drought related tree loss, the dry conditions and increased fuel of more dead trees makes conditions ripe for voracious wildfires. So, if the drought or the bugs don’t wipe out the deciduous forests, the wildfires probably will.

The gringa thinks the list of vacation priorities should go something like this:

  • Arctic expedition
  • Steppe pack-mule trip
  • Deciduous and Alpine forest camp outs
  • Beach parties around the world
  • Tropical rainforest excursion
  • Bigfoot safari in the boreal forests of the Pacific Northwest

I don’t think climate change is going to sound the death knell for planet Earth and mankind. The gringa does believe it will be the end of many species of animals and plants that are with us today. It is also highly likely that entire cultures will be wiped out when they lose the habitats they rely upon. And usually species loss does not mean a gaping hole is left behind. Usually, another species fills the gap or a species evolves and adapts. So, the key word to focus on is “change”. It’s climate “change” not climate “loss”. But the change is as significant as the past disappearances of entire civilizations such as the Maya or entire animal classes like the dinosaurs.

At this point, I believe the consensus among scientists is that we have passed the tipping point. There is no going back and “fixing” things. We simply have to ride the lightning and deal with it. So, if a person is able and so inclined, they need to enjoy the world as we know it today and document it for the children of the future.

 

Source:  www.nasa.gov

Image Credit: http://www.notenoughgood.com

 

Read With The Gringa Chapter 2 of “Squirrels in the School”


Let’s continue together this fun book written by Ben M. Baglio. Join the gringa in a read along of chapter 2 and find out what Mandy and her friend, James, discover!

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Image credit:  www.flickr.com

3D Expandables Student Challenge for NASA’s BEAM Project


If you are the parent of a creative child or if you are a teacher with a classroom of clever, aspiring young scientists, listen up! NASA is looking for future engineers and participation in any of their challenges is one way for aspiring engineers, scientists and designers to get their attention. Coming up in July is the opening date of a great opportunity for anyone who can “think outside the box”, because that is EXACTLY what NASA is asking everyone who participates to do.

So, dear reader, now that the gringa has sufficiently gotten hold of your interest, I’m sure you want to know what the heck this is all about. Well, the challenge centers around BEAM (Bigelow Expandable Activity Module). This new space program is developing and testing the next phase of the International Space Station. Space agencies will begin integrating habitat technology that is expandable as they test the technology for possible use in deeper space missions. This will enable crews to have an immediate habitat available for use when they arrive somewhere in the galaxy after a long duration flight, somewhere like Mars. After a space flight that has lasted months, crews will not have the strength or time to build a traditional life supporting structure. They need a “pop-up” version.

BEAM arrived on ISS April 10 of this year and was installed successfully on its Tranquility node. In another few weeks it will be inflated and the real tests will begin. Astronauts will determine if the technology meets the demand of the needed readiness level, if it will provide sufficient protection for the crew against radiation in space, evaluate the performance of an inflatable structure and see if it can be safely deployed and utilized by a crew in space.

So what is NASA challenging students from Kindergarten to Seniors to do? NASA needs some 3D printing designs. They need designs of objects that will be useful to astronauts in outer space. We’re not talking about backscratchers and toothbrushes. No, NASA wants kids to think BIG, like expandable BIG, stuff that GROWS! Astronauts need all kinds of expandable stuff like:

  • Hinges
  • Accordion connectors
  • Telescopes

And what does a prize winning student or class have to look forward to?

  • Grand Prize – VIP visit to Bigelow Aerospace, the manufacturers of BEAM
  • Finalist – An inflatable tent by Heimplanet
  • Semifinalist – Gift Code to Shapeways valued at $50

So, get ready to sign up July 16. For more information or to sign-up, log on to www.futureengineers.org/thinkoutsidethebox. And, GOOD LUCK! Drop the gringa a note and let me know all about your experience!

 

Source & Image Credit:  www.nasa.gov

 

 

 

 

 

Read With The Gringa “The Island”, Chapter 1, Part 2


Let’s finish chapter 1 together of “Prince Caspian”, Book 4 of “The Chronicles of Narnia” by C.S. Lewis. Will the children find fresh water and survive their adventure?

Read with the gringa here on WordPress or on Facebook! https://www.facebook.com/gringaofthebarrio/

Image Credit:  www.alephbet.com

 

Can Post Consumerism Solve The Climate Change Problem?


If gross consumerism is feeding the beast of climate change and post-consumerism is the solution, what the heck is post-consumerism exactly? Post-consumerism is a complete paradigm shift of thinking for capitalist consumer cultures. Its approach is to put the well-being of others and the environment before material success. The core value is to be satisfied with what is enough to sustain a life for today rather than mass accumulation of goods that are unnecessary and solely for the purpose of vanity.

Does this mean we would all live in crappy looking homes, wear crappy looking clothes and not bathe regularly? Will we be tilling our backyard gardens and lugging firewood and reading by candlelight with no more Internet? Will we be trading our home-grown tomatoes for a bar of soap from our crafty neighbor? The gringa wants to know the details. It’s all well and good to spout humanitarian “isms” that are noble and high-minded, but, the reality is, if it is too uncomfortable and crappy, spoiled people are just not going to be interested.

Well, first of all post-consumerism is not interested in ridding the world of commercial businesses. It does expect businesses to be held accountable to the highest standards of social, economic, and environmental responsibility. A post-consumer will only engage in trade for goods and services with businesses that operate this way. A post-consumer uses their dollars to hold businesses accountable. The gringa’s on board with that one, however, I would like more options. I would prefer if more businesses operated ethically in the world. Right now it’s kind of expensive for me to live true to a post-consumer standard where shopping is concerned. A $3 Starbucks coffee is a little steep compared to McDonald’s coffee on the 99cent menu.

For post-consumerism to become more affordable, more businesses have to operate ethically creating more competition that will drive down prices. But how can this happen? The same way it always happens in a capitalist system. The market responds to consumer demand.

Consumers underestimate the power of the dollar in bringing about change. We don’t have to miss a few days of work to attend a mass protest demanding corporate accountability. We don’t have to end up losing our jobs after getting arrested and thrown in the slammer for a couple of days at said protest. We simply need to recognize that in a capitalist consumer culture, the dollar is God. It has the Almighty power to make or break a business. And little ol’ you and me wield the power of God in a consumer society. Wield that power wisely and a society can redirect a business culture toward social, economic and environmental responsibility. That is how post-consumerism works. If enough people signal to a market what it is they demand in goods and services, the market will respond because they want your money. A concerted effort of consumers collectively rejecting unethical business goods and services, while at the same time supporting ethical businesses, can change the world.

How to live the powerful life of a post-consumer:

  • Minimize and use less “stuff”
  • Repurpose and re-use as much as possible
  • Shop ethically as much as possible and when you can’t, if possible, shop second hand
  • Embrace and practice any level of self-sufficiency or off-grid lifestyle that you are capable of where you are right now
  • Consider “first-world” luxuries you enjoy and the possibility of living without them or at least opting for energy-efficient models, alternative energy models, etc.
  • Minimize exposure to marketing campaigns
  • Expect to feel uncomfortable and perhaps a bit like a crazy radical when transitioning, embrace it and accept it
  • Reach out and begin to build community around you with your neighbors through projects such as swap meets (surely you have a few neighbors who are crafting away in the seclusion of their homes) or establishing a community garden that can supply everyone’s kitchen and maybe earn the community a bit of change at the local farmer’s market, and don’t forget to bond over some fun with a block party every now and then
  • Begin with the youth by starting up a local children’s book club and help children grow up with a sense of community responsibility fostered by the literature they read

So, how does the gringa measure up? Am I practicing what I preach? I am trying and it is not easy. There are just not as many options available for the goods and services I need. But, I try. A few examples based on the above listed recommendations:

  • Minimizing & Repurposing – We have the furniture that we need for our household (2 beds, 1 sofa, 2 chair dinette, 2 dressers, 2 file cabinets that serve as bedside tables, 2 desks, 1 bookcase). Our luxury furniture is rather minimal (2 TVs with TV tables, decorative entry table, 3 decorative side tables, 1 recliner). We also have furniture that is not necessary but either functional, can be argued to be “emotionally” nurturing, or sentimental (craft table, grandmother’s cedar chest, patio furniture). And then there are the wall decorations which are either family photos, my own art, or things we have picked up on our travels
  • Shop Ethically or Second Hand – We do this faithfully although there are still goods and services that we need and have no viable options, such as getting the oil changed in our car, certain grocery items, etc. I buy almost all of my clothes and furniture second hand.
  • Self-Sufficient/Off-Grid Lifestyle – I have a patio herb and tea garden and a few vegetables. We have no cable TV/Wifi service. We have an antenna to get local news channels on the television and I use a mobile hotspot with my cellphone for Internet on my laptop when I work. I have to budget my online time. We do not use a clothes dryer. I have a laundry line on my back patio. We live where I can walk to my necessities (post office, bank, small grocery) so I only drive one day weekly when I go to the big market and I do all of my other “away” errands on that day. And I make some “stuff” we need like fabric softener. I save all of our vegetable clippings and waste and brew “compost” tea every week for plant fertilizer.
  • “First World” Luxuries – We have an energy efficient washing machine but I really want one that operates when you pedal a stationary bike (one day it shall be mine!). Living in a rental apartment, we have no control over whether or not our refrigerator, stove or dishwasher is energy efficient.
  • Minimize Exposure – This is probably the key to converting to post-consumerism. We simply must accept that marketers and advertisers know their craft and regular folk are no match for their techniques. We quickly become brainwashed into believing we cannot have a happy life unless we have this, that or the other. I do not look at magazines, watch television or go to the mall just to walk around and “look”.
  • Reach Out – I reach out beyond my community in an attempt to build literacy. I participate locally with local reading programs and occasionally stick my big nose into a political demonstration if it’s local and an issue I agree with. I KNOW my neighbors, engage with them regularly and we share over-abundances we have with one another whether it is food, patio plants, or a bulk bag of socks for kids.

Although what the caveman and I do is very little, it is changing our way of thinking. Each time we change a little something, we awaken more. We realize there is much more we can do and are willing to do but transition is slow and gradual. Sometimes something is staring us in the face and it just takes a while to realize because we are so conditioned to accept things the way they are.

For example, I have a netted enclosure on my back patio for my parakeet, finch and dove. Most of the year the gulf coast is the perfect weather for them to enjoy being out of doors in a flight cage. My dove usually lays an egg every now and then. We just realized that we have room for a few more dove and could be enjoying fresh eggs, albeit tiny ones, practically every day. So, change is gradual but in the end, it is still change. And if all people living a gross consumer lifestyle begin the process, the overall impact can be world changing.

The reality is that, although faithful recycling is great, waste is really not the heart of the problem. Accumulation of more and more “stuff” is. Higher demands of certain types of services is another part of the equation. Urban living makes post-consumerism more of a challenge but not impossible.  The gringa is open to radical change and the caveman is resigned to enjoy the ride because his little gringa’s crazy ideas often save him a nickel or two.

Source:  www.postconsumers.com

Image credit: http://www.prrepublika.wordpress.com

Read With The Gringa Chapter 1 of “Squirrels in the School”


Let’s begin a new book together. Join the gringa for the first chapter of a book written by Ben M. Baglio and meet Dr. Adam, Dr. Emily and their daughter Mandy.

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Image credit: http://www.betterworldbooks.com

Read With The Gringa “The Red Dragon”


Join the gringa as we continue to read “A Practical Guide To Dragons” inscribed by Sindri Suncatcher, the Greatest Kender Wizard Who Ever Lived. Let’s learn together about the nastiest tempered dragon on the planet!

Read with the gringa here on WordPress or on Facebook! https://www.facebook.com/gringaofthebarrio/

Image credit:  www.flickr.com

 

Today’s America, Just a Civilization Rerun


If man is really an intelligent animal it would stand to reason that he would learn from his own mistakes. If he is an extremely intelligent animal he would also learn from the mistakes of others and the mistakes demonstrated in the annals of history. So, how smart are we, really? The gringa’s thinkin’, um, maybe not so smart.

As NASA and other space agencies throughout the world use their technologies to create models of what to expect from climate change, they have continued to share their knowledge with the world. Some folks are listening, others are not. Some folks are taking action, others are not. Of those taking action, it just doesn’t seem like their efforts are enough on their own. And considering what the world’s top scientists are warning everyone about, the gringa’s only conclusion is that, as a whole, man’s just not the sharpest pencil in the box.

Climate change scientists are concerned that the world’s current usage level of raw materials and natural resources is unsustainable, period. There are no ifs, ands or buts about it. We have just got to stop using up all of this stuff! Just stop it, I tell ya! If we don’t, eventually the industries that depend on these resources will simply collapse because there will not be enough materials to support their production. But what exactly are we talking about? We are talking about the basic raw materials that end up being a necessary component in just about everything we use in everyday life:

  • Trees (lumber, paper, building materials, shipping containers, etc.)
  • Petroleum
  • Fresh water
  • Raw ores and metals (not vital for jewelry but vital for technology)

And that’s just a few, not to mention basic food crops like grains that the entire world is dependent on and requires vast amounts of fresh water for cultivation.

So what happens when vital industries collapse? How can the effect upon society be known? Won’t some very clever entrepreneur simply come up with a suitable alternative to replace what collapsed, using a completely novel material? Well, that’s not what history teaches us.

Throughout history many great nations and empires have collapsed due to some significant event that led to the decline of the population and their economy. The pattern reflects that such collapses of empires is usually preceded by a culture that becomes obsessed with accumulating wealth at the price of oppressing the poorer working classes. Once this becomes the societal norm the culture has become a predator vs. prey culture.

It seems pretty obvious to the gringa that, at least in her own country, the United States, this is the current state of things. So, if my nation has evolved into the cultural stage that precedes a collapse of the state system, is there anything that can be done to prevent the collapse or are we too far gone?

Experts say that the condition is possibly reversible if the culture will do one very important thing:  Reduce consumption to a sustainable level and distribute resources more equitably. This solution sounds pretty simple for a highly complex problem and civilization.

How in the heck do these experts expect Americans to change their consumer culture? Their consumer culture is EXACTLY what defines them. Americans are not proud of a heritage of literature or fine art or musical progenies who produce operas. Americans are proud inventors and innovators and entrepreneurs who sell lots of goods and services in order to make lots of money so they can turn around and buy lots of goods and services to serve as the evidence that they were successful to begin with by their own selling of goods and services. The gringa believes the United States is doomed because the very actions they believe has made the country great is the very behavior that is going to bring it down. Gross consumerism.

So, if America is doomed to collapse, then what will happen? Well, when the Roman Empire bit the dust centuries followed where the population declined. Sick folks couldn’t afford medical treatment so death rates were higher. Young people had uncertain futures so there were fewer pregnancies. What pregnancies there were experienced higher infant mortality because diets were poorer and medical treatment less accessible. The Romans also became dumber because education takes a back seat as a priority when a person is trying to eke out an existence in a collapsed empire. In fact, the population of Rome became widely illiterate.

Amazing how such an advanced civilization spoiled itself to the point that it collapsed and regressed and de-volved. But it happened. And it happened to more empires than just Rome. For example, these are other nations that made it to the pinnacle of existence and then fell to their deaths:

  • Minoa
  • Mycenaea
  • Mesopotamia
  • Sumera
  • Akkadia
  • Babylon
  • Abbasid Empire
  • Umayyad Empire
  • Sassanid Empire
  • Egypt
  • Hittite civilization
  • Mauryan Empire
  • Gupta Empire
  • Zhou Empire
  • Han Empire
  • Tang Empire
  • Song Empire
  • Maya civilization

Let’s stop there and note that the Mayans had reached a point in their society where they were ruled by kings. Their science and astronomy was highly advanced. Metallurgists and craftsmen created magnificent art and jewelry. And then this highly ordered civilization with their kings and calendars and sophisticated political system and complex culture lost well over 90% of their population.

This cycle of rise to power, period of indulgence then collapse into dissolution is worldwide. It has occurred in virtually every major civilization on every continent in the world. No people has been immune. And each civilization was arrogant enough to believe that they would be the exception to the historical rule. Much like my own nation.

So, the gringa watches and waits, considering the checklist of the many events that can trigger the collapse of a civilization:

  • Natural disasters
  • Environmental changes/catastrophes
  • War, civil war or foreign invasion
  • Technology development
  • Weapons development
  • Changes in trade
  • Depletion of natural resources
  • Cultural revolution and unrest

Well, pretty much everything on the list has either happened or seems rather imminent. So now what happens in the predator vs. prey model of America? Well, as the predator becomes more and more enriched, they begin to outgrow the available prey population. The population of the prey will continue to decline. The predator will then have to turn elsewhere to have their needs met. That can be done by creating wars for profit in other countries, assisting in regime changes to place in power a leader who is friendly and will allow exploitation of their people and natural resources, and trade agreements with friendly nations that openly exploit their natural resources and population. Yes, that is America.

But the bad news is that when a predator population begins to rage out of control and threatens the natural order of things, it also begins to decline with disease from growing fat with overfeeding. It then declines even more as it becomes malnourished due to a decline in available prey caused by its gross overfeeding. And then, finally, the predator weakens to the point that it can no longer regain its strength and former glory and a greater and stronger predator swoops in and takes out the competition. And this little rabbit is watching and seeing everything that the wolves are doing.

 

Sources:  www.nasa.gov

www.space.com

 

Image credit:  www.newsgrist.typepad.com

 

 

 

 

Read With The Gringa, “The Island” Part 1


Join the gringa in beginning a new Narnia adventure with book 4 of “The Chronicles of Narnia”, “Prince Caspian”, written by C.S. Lewis.

Read with the gringa here on WordPress or on Facebook! https://www.facebook.com/gringaofthebarrio/

Image credit:  www.saltmanz.com