Thursday, July 23, 2015

We Need Green Alternatives!

With every grain of sand, screw, and particle of silica enabling cities and communities continue to expand their concrete, metal, and glass reach - a proportionate ratio of rich soil, green leaves, and oxygen yielding trees are lost, lost forever.   Although buildings are remodeled and streets redesigned - rarely, if ever, are they replaced by the lush green grass, trees, and naturally flowing water once occupying the same unique place on earth.  The disturbing thing is that in many circles and for many people this expansion is considered progress, and in reality it is.  Take for example the new hospital complex in your community that replaced 100 acres of natural green space – the same hospital that, if not for its existence, could not have given life to your twin boys because of serious complications.  

Few can argue as our population continues to grows, so too does the need for critical services and the exploitation of all possible technology to make our lives healthier, longer, and easier.  However, all too often our unifocal approach to improving our lives lacks acute bifocal perspective.  In other words we are so busy being part of the picture we aren’t seeing the picture.  While ensuring we are talking care of humanity, we are unintentionally failing see the need to care for our planet and atmosphere; and I’m here to say, it is sick and it needs your help.

There are countless initiatives one can embrace; some as simple as tossing a plastic pop bottle into the recycling container instead of the trash – others as complex initiating a worldwide campaign on reversing global warming.  But one thing is certain - if we all stand-by doing nothing - all the medical advancements, technological improvements, and extended life expectancy will mean nothing because earth will ultimately be uninhabitable.  Our society is rich with power irrespective of which socioeconomic class to which one belongs.   This means everyone can help; everyone can make a difference.  All one must do is work to direct and leverage their energy towards realistically achievable goals within their sphere of influence – whether it be in their neighborhood, their entire city, or the entire world.

Below are a three initiatives, the concepts of which can be implemented on any scale; each has multiple facets and components.  I urge you to check them out, and the many other aspects of each which are available via a google search.

Snap a Photo! #Urbantrees_pdx

@urbantrees_pdx | #urbantrees_pdx 

A growing Instagram page is bringing together a community of photographers, businesses, tree & plant lovers, and much more! @urbantrees_pdx is local to Oregon and in collaboration with Portland State University’s Ecomerge Project. Although they have a focus on urban naturalization in Oregon, they hope to inspire participation and to inform their viewing publics about the many benefits of trees and plants. The Instagram platform allows @urbantrees_pdx to reach persons, groups, and communities all over the world. It also allows those very publics to find them, especially as the page continues to grow.

@urbantrees_pdx has created the hash tag #urbantrees_pdx to allow their viewing publics to tag their favorite photos of trees & plants in the urban landscape for a chance to be featured on the page. With so many phones having cameras and instant access to Instagram, it makes it easy for potential followers as well as current followers to snap photos of their surrounding landscapes and to tag their photos with #urbantrees_pdx.

The first step in urban naturalization is becoming informed. @urbantrees_pdx strives to make urban naturalization a fun and interactive process. Tag your photos!

While you are Instagram be sure to check out: @rsa_nature, @Oregonexplored, @pdxavsquad, and @pnwonderland for some awesome nature and adventure full photos. Let us know if you would like more recommendations.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

More About Trees & Cities!


As you have seen in an earlier post, trees are an important part of the urban environment. In fact, trees are one reason why the air we breathe is clear, especially in some cities. Imagine yourself going down city streets wondering why the air is so smoggy and bad. Then imagine yourself going down a city street that is mostly crisp and clear air (Now, that could have been because of a nice rain – but rain? In Oregon or better yet the Northwest? Please… when does that happen). You can guess which one likely has more trees.

 One group that is trying to create this change in cities to create better conditions is the American Forests group. This group not only works with forests, but also works in the urban environment to create a better environmentally naturalized city. This nonprofit organization is trying to increase trees in many cities in the United States. Oh, and Oregon lovers, we are on their site! They mentioned that Portland is trying to increase its tree canopy by planting 83,000 trees! Check them out, donate, help out, there are many ways you can get involved to make the cities you live in a better place. 

Environmental Reggae?

Can music and the environment be related in any way? I think so and heres why. Music has a unique ability. It can reach thousands if not millions of people all over the world. SOJA is taking that privilege and running with it.  SOJA is an eight-piece reggae band from Arlington, Virginia. Lead singer Jacob Hemphill was inspired as a young teen by Bob Marley, amazed at his ability to unite people of different races across different continents striving for peace. Hemphill tries to accomplish this with modern issues. One of the biggest growing concerns over the last fifty years is the issue of global warming or climate change. So like Bob did before him, Jacob wrote songs about the issues of the times.
In just the past few years, SOJA has sold over 150,000 albums. This is quite the accomplishment for an independent reggae band in an age of illegal downloaded music. SOJA has one of the most loyal, persistently growing fan bases in modern reggae music. Today SOJA is one of the worlds most successful reggae bands and has been Grammy nominated. SOJA is famous for writing conceptual albums such as their fifth studio album, Strength to Survive. Strength to Survive was SOJA’s first major album to have success outside of the reggae world. What made their success of this album interesting was its content. Strength to Survive is about the current problems of the environment and address what we can do to fix it. Songs like Strength to Survive, Everything Changes, It’s Not Too Late, Gone Today, Not Done Yet, and Don’t Worry have lyrics that strongly urge us to think about what we are doing to the environment. In an interview with Jacob Hemphill, he stated that the earth is in trouble. He goes on to state that we as humans have been progressing backwards, and that we were a lot smarter a couple hundred years ago when we were living in a way that was sustainable.  Now it is all about consumption and not preservation. It is not about longevity; it’s about how much can I get and how quickly can I get it. 
Hemphill has stated on many occasions that he was blessed with a unique gift. “I have the ability to reach thousands, if not millions of people. I want my lyrics to change the world. The only way I know how to do that is through my music.” SOJA’s lyrics on this album are quite powerful. The track with the most powerful lyrics is the title track, Strength to Survive.  Some of these lyrics include:

Does the dollar really matter when our whole world is gone?
Worry about yourself, while the world stills turns
Waiting until we watch it burn” (Hemphill, 2012, Lines. 6-8)

Just consume less, 
and giving back more, 
And I'll wait, if we don't 
We can kiss it goodbye
Our sun, our moon, our earth and our sky
Our world we will recover in a billion years
But if we're not living here (Hemphill, 2012, Lines 17-25)
SOJA has embarked on a mission to raise climate change awareness through their music. Every time you go to a concert or you listen to their songs anywhere you are, you are being reminded that the Earth is in trouble and if everyone can work together we have a chance. Jacob uses his stage presence during shows to take a moment and gives a speech on climate change and how we need to do more to fix it. Even if he only convinces a few people at each show to get involved, it’s a few more than there were at the start.  The environment cannot save itself.  It needs help, and a reggae band from Arlington Virginia is doing their best to help out.