Picture This: Earth Day, Any Day
Happy Earth Daaaay!
Hi! SolarBear here.
Today’s post is going to be different then most posts. Because this is not a normal day. It’s…(drumroll, please)…EARTH DAY!
*Cue worldwide activist parties!*
Since it’s Earth Day (my website’s first birthday! Sniff…they grow up so fast… remember that very first post on Earth Day last year?), and since we have so many wonderful people working on posts now, including Tigress and Callisto (here’s a link to Callisto’s Earthrise post about the beautiful photo below), this is going to be a little longer than usual. But we worked really hard on it, so you’ll really want to read this one!
Happy, happy Earth Day, my eco-friends!
Callisto wrote a wonderful post about this famous photo, known as Earthrise (link above).
Picture a world where everything…and everyone…is safe.
Picture a world where freedom––and a vote that counts––is considered a fundamental human right.
Picture a world where everyone––children and adults of all races, cultures, faiths, and gender identities––are treated respectfully, fairly, and equitably, with free access to education, to honest information, and to health support. (Including a vaccine, if they need one.)
Picture a world where beautiful trees grow thick, lush, unharmed by humans.
Picture a world where the rivers, seas, and oceans are crystal clear, except for the plankton and important algae that feed the creatures living in it.
Picture a world where you can go outside and breathe fresh, clean air without worry––even those living in cities.
Picture a world where islands, and the populations and cultures living on them, are not threatened by climate-driven sea rise.
Picture a world where rainforests stretch on and on...to the very edge of the horizon…unharmed by humans.
Picture a world where your favorite––and the Earth’s most iconic––creatures are in no danger, but are safe in their natural habitats, which supply their needs.
Picture a world where our human footprints do not harm the rest of it.
We CAN have this world––picture it!––in which any day is an Earth Day.
If only we try.
The Power of Words
Have you ever wanted to do something about the climate crisis but have been too scared? Or maybe it’s just that you don’t exactly know how?
Well, I can help with that…a little, at least.
First, are you too scared or anxious to say what you think?
This is nothing to be ashamed of. Even while I’m writing this, I’m wondering if it’s a good idea to write it: Am I making mistakes? What if someone thinks this is weird or stupid? What if no one sees this at all?
But I have to ignore these nagging feelings because…the Earth is worth it.
Imagine if every voice––smart or stupid, cool or weird––spoke out for what they believed in: stopping human-driven climate change. That would be so many voices that the world leaders and people who are preventing us from moving forward would have to listen.
Every drop in the bucket counts
But my voice is too small, you might think. What’s one less voice in a million?
As an answer to this question, one voice is everything.
Perhaps there are nine hundred thousand, nine hundred and ninety-nine voices? Then that one extra voice would be the difference between several thousand and a million. And one more? From a million to more than a million. Whether it seems like it or not, it’s a measurable difference: it COUNTS.
Or, perhaps, and much more importantly, what if everyone thinks what you think–that their voice doesn’t count, either? That would make the difference between one million…and nothing. No one would ever give the climate crisis a second thought, since no one ever asked them to think about it twice.
Okay, so maybe you understand this now. But perhaps you’re still too scared. What do you do?
You push those feelings aside, and speak anyhow. You can still be cautious, but just realize there is a very fine line between caution and fear. No matter what everything seems to tell you, it’s more important to get your voice out there, to take the risk to help and hope, than to overanalyze what you say, attempting to make sure it’s what your friends, your relatives, your teachers, or even some YouTube celebrities want to hear. All that matters is that you speak up and you tell the truth. Someone, somewhere, will listen.
Perhaps your voice will be the turning point for someone; that one extra nudge that puts them on the right track. Or perhaps your voice can be more than a turning point: perhaps it will be someone’s inspiration. For me, I never know when a sentence, a stanza, or a single word, will make impact. Most of the time it’s the inspiring ones out there who make a difference, but, sometimes…it’s the little, quiet, less-heard voices who make that difference.
Now for the next step…how to start
Just don’t know how to start…? I get this feeling, too. For a long time I was thinking a lot but not saying anything. I just wasn’t quite sure how. Those little uncertainties bothered me–and stopped me from even trying.
But then I began to look, to learn, to listen, and I created a website–and now my voice is being heard! By you, if by no one else.
Now I know that I should have done something, whether I knew how to or not––our world is simply worth it.
My advice is just DO.
Do something meaningful, even if it feels awkward. As long as you’re doing something, saying something, it counts! You don’t even have to really “know how.”
But if you do want to know how, just ask! There’s no shame in being a beginner, in asking what to do or how to start. Chances are, you know or have heard of someone who can help you. The world is full of kind, clever people who are just waiting for the question, “Can you help me?” “How can I help?” “What can I DO?”
I asked my parents when it came to this. They were happy to help, and even helped me set up this website — and since I asked for this website as a gift, they even helped pay for it! Now my dad takes care of all the complicated tech stuff and my mom edits every post! And my sister started making On Thin Ice— which has really brought the site to life visually. And our good friend Tigress is now adding her voice to the mix, speaking out for endangered animals who have no voices of their own. Thanks, guys! I’m so grateful.
So, in summary:
Start where you are. DO what you can.
Don’t worry what other people might think.
If you want to know how to start, how to make a change, or what it all means, ASK.
Use your voice. Because every voice counts, no matter how small.
This Earth Day, I’ve gathered a collection of quotes here that I hope will leave you inspired and enlightened as you do your little bit to help the Earth.
We should consider nature our home, not a place to visit.Roxana Jones
What we see mainly depends on what we look for.John Lubbock
Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but rising every time we fall.Confucius
Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.Albert Einstein
Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly.Proverb
The most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart.Helen Keller
Nothing is ever impossible. The word itself says, “I’m possible!”Audrey Hepburn
Teaser for my new graphic story, “Leopard’s Tree”~!
Books for Kids Who Love the Planet
Seekers by Erin Hunter
Book Series Review by SolarBear
The fantastical Seekers series by Erin Hunter––the author of the much-loved Warriors saga––is about three bears and their shape-shifting guide journeying to a place of legends, a peaceful home for all bears where the spirits dance in the sky: The Last Great Wilderness. I’ve done my best to offer a no-spoiler review of this magical series.
Toklo, a brown bear cub, is driven away by his mother when his sick brother dies and is left to find his own path in life. Lusa, a lively black bear, has lived her life in the Bear-Bowl where she is taken care of by humans until she comes across a reason (and a chance) to escape her confined life and live in the wild like a true black-bear. Kallik, a white bear cub, is separated from her brother and mother during an orca attack out on the unforgiving Melting Sea. Soon, the dispirited Toklo, bewildered Lusa, and lost Kallik manage to find each other. Meanwhile, Ujurak, a shape shifting brown bear that though younger than the others seems wiser than them all, joins them, and together, with a relentless determination and unwavering hope, they battle through nature’s obstacles and obstacles far worse, such as the unnatural cities, dangerous roads, human-hunters with guns or “firesticks,” and horribly deadly oil rigs. So the bears begin to seek, in a quest for the rare peace and wilderness which humans have almost destroyed.
The Seekers series consists of: book one, The Quest Begins; book two, Great Bear Lake; book three, Smoke Mountain; book four, The Last Wilderness; book five, Fire in the Sky; and concludes with the sixth volume, Spirits in the Stars.
And if you want more, there’s also Seekers: Return to the Wild, a sequel series.
Recommended for ages 9 and up
The World’s Biggest Cats
And why they’re so important to save!
Just one reason why tigers are so beneficial: Healthy tiger habitats help mitigate (reduce) climate change
Healthy habitats for tigers provide fresh water to animals and even people who live around tiger populations, which can reduce the impact of natural disasters and improve the health of local people! A new World Wildlife Fund (WWF) report details these often unseen benefits that come from helping tigers and improving their homes.
What you should to know about tigers
Tigers once ranged widely––from the Eastern Anatolia Region in the west, to the Amur River basin, and in the south from the foothills of the Himalayas to Bali in the Sunda islands.
But since the early 20th century, tiger populations have lost at least 93% of their historic range. They have been extirpated (wiped out) in Western and Central Asia, from the islands of Java and Bali, and in large areas of southeast and south Asia and China. Today’s tiger range is fragmented, stretching from Siberian temperate forests to subtropical and tropical forests on the Indian subcontinent and Sumatra.
The tiger is listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List. As of 2015, the global wild tiger population was estimated to number between only 3,062 to 3,948 mature individuals (grown tigers), with most tiger populations living in small pockets isolated from each other. While these numbers may seem large to us, they are not––consider that only a century ago, tigers numbered in the 100,000s.
Major reasons for population decline are: habitat destruction, habitat fragmentation, and poaching. Tigers are also victims of human–wildlife conflict, in particular, in countries with a higher human population density. India currently hosts the largest tiger population.
What makes tigers so amazing!
- Tigers are amazing for many reasons: they can hunt in the day or at night, in water or on land!
- The tiger mother has amazing endurance in caring for her cubs, and in protecting them from male tigers, considering that a male will eat cubs if needed for his own survival.
- They are also the biggest cats on the planet!
- But the most amazing thing of all is the tiger breed whose fur became white, and even rarer, black. Even orange tigers can sometimes have white cubs!
Here is a list of cool facts you probably didn’t know about tigers…
- Tigers are nocturnal animals, as in they prefer to do their most important activities at night.
- Tigers do not normally view humans as prey.
- Tiger cubs are born blind and only half of the cubs usually survive. (This is just one of the many reasons we need to help them.)
- Tigers love the water and like to spend a lot of their time in it, unlike most cats, who despise water.
- Tigers can only live to an age of 20-25 years; this shorter life span adds to the problem of their survival.
- A group of tigers is called an ambush or streak. Seeing tigers in such groups is rare, though, since tigers are very solitary.
- Tigers can also mate with other big cats. Example: A male tiger could mate with a female lion and have a hybrid baby, an animal of two types. This is very rare because usually tigers mate with their same species.
- Tigers have antiseptic saliva. This is very helpful to tigers, because the saliva can help prevent infection of a wound, so tigers will lick themselves to help prevent their wounds from getting infected.
- Tigers rarely roar, and if they live in a group, behave humbly toward the other tigers in their group.
- Unlike domestic cats, tigers cannot purr.
- Tigers can imitate the calls of other animals.
How parts of a tiger’s body help the tiger
- Padded paws make the tiger almost completely silent, which helps with their hunting.
- Retractable claws: tigers keep them retracted for walking and swimming, but extend them to climb and hunt. This helps them keep their claws sharp when they need them.
- A tiger’s eyes have large lenses and pupils that increase the amount of light let into the eye! This helps the tiger with night vision and when light levels are low, such as in shadowy areas.
- Stripes help tigers camouflage perfectly into their natural habitat, which is very beneficial when they hunt. And even if their fur rubs or falls off for any reason, the stripes are on their skin, so this effect is not lost.
What threatens tigers
Across their range, tigers face unrelenting pressures from poaching, retaliatory killings, and habitat loss. They are forced to compete for space with dense and often growing human populations.
Besides poaching, the WWF is fighting tigers being kept as pets, which is illegal in most places, but is still happening everywhere. It is not good for tigers; they are not meant to be kept as someone’s pets. Currently there are 3,900 tigers being kept as pets in the world, and that is a problem.
Another problem facing tigers is that people raise the tigers on illegal tiger farms, then kill them and sell their skins and body parts on the black market (an illegal market) for a considerable amount of money. The people who do this are tiger traffickers, and they are criminals. They use a criminal network to do this, one which needs to be traced so that the criminals can be identified and brought to justice.
These concerns facing tigers are what the WWF is primarily focused on. I implore you to subscribe to the WWF and/or donate to the cause.
What we can do to help tigers
Join forces with, and/or donate to, reputable organizations like the WWF who help tigers. Tx2 (Tigers x 2) is a WWF operation that started in 2010, and their goal is to double the amount of tigers in the wild by 2022, the next Year of the Tiger on the Asian Lunar Calendar.
Here is a list of active ways YOU can engage in NOW to help tigers!
- You can start a blog––like this one––in which you can make people aware of, and protest, the threats facing this amazing cat
- You could create a petition to send to the local government to ask for their support in donating to, and supporting, tigers
- You could make signs with facts about tigers and the threats they face, and ask local businesses you support to allow you to post these signs in their stores or give out printed information to their customers
- You can fundraise for organizations like WWF, who help protect big cats, by making and selling crafts at a local or online store
Movies for kids who love the planet
The film Wall-E is not typical, in that the main character is not human, not animal––not even a living creature! “Wall-E” is a strangely imaginative and caring robot living on a future life-deserted earth, and his only job is to smash small piles of trash into squares and stack them away to “clean up the earth.” This job is necessary so humans can eventually come back from their giant spaceship where they wait (and gain weight). But he has somehow developed consciousness and even compassion, dreaming of a friend or a love of his own, and is lonely… Meanwhile, the humans seem to have forgotten all about the trashed earth they’ve left behind.
But one day a probe comes to the dystopian earth, and Wall-E wonders if he’s found love…but the robot on the probe wonders if she’s found the earth’s last bit of remaining life. A misadventure takes Wall-E and EVE, the probe’s robot, to the massive commercial spaceship where ignorant — or maybe just clueless?— humans live, obese and unimaginative, while their servant-robots tend to their every want and need. But if the humans find out that they can return to their world, will they? After all, they left their planet in quite a sorry state…
This heartwarming movie is for all ages and offers a thoughtful reminder of the way things might go if we’re not a little more careful with our living planet.
All ages: PG
Happy Lunar New Year!
A Future Outsider’s Perspective
On Thin Ice: Part 9
The Power of Perspective — By Callisto
Over 50 years ago, the United States and the Soviet Union were locked in battle.
It was a battle of power, each side trying to out-do the other with nuclear power…and rockets.
The USSR launched the first satellite (Sputnik I) into space on October 4th, 1957. Then the Soviets launched the first living animal into orbit on November 3rd, 1957, a former stray dog named Laika (who tragically died, partially due to the fact that they had no way to recover the dog’s capsule from space), yet again outdoing the United States who hadn’t launched anything into orbit yet.
Then the USSR launched the first person into space, Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, on the 12th of April, 1961, yet again (as you may have guessed) leaving the USA behind in the space race.
But not for long. In the States, a space program had begun: NACA (soon to be NASA) which grew, and from it came the Mercury Program, which sent the first American person, astronaut Alan Shepard, into space; then the Gemini Program; and next, the Apollo Program.
You may have heard of some of these programs, but I’m almost certain that you’ve heard of Apollo. You’ve heard of Apollo 11, most likely… Because, hey, that’s the program that sent us to the moon for the first time!
But there were many very important lesser-known Apollo missions previous to––and following––Apollo 11. Like Apollo 1, which, though it never sent its crew to space and ended tragically with the deaths of three astronauts, may have saved NASA before it had barely started due to the hard lessons learned from the tragedy. Or Apollo 7, when NASA was first able to test out a manned Saturn V rocket in orbit.
But most important to this post––and to the entire environmental movement––was Apollo 8. Apollo 8 was the first mission to reach lunar orbit. And astronauts James Lovell Jr., William Anders, and Frank Borman were along for the ride, which launched on December 21st, 1968, for a six-day mission. Apollo 8 was the first human spaceflight to orbit an astronomical object: the Moon. Still, they never touched down on the Moon at all.
So why was this mission important, you may wonder, if they weren’t even landing on the Moon, and just flew around it for a bit?
You see, when Apollo 8 was launched into trans-lunar orbit, the astronauts were traveling farther away from our planet than any others before had traveled. The mission was not only important to the space program, because of all of the maneuvers, calculations, and theories they got to try in real life, and in preparation for a moon landing, but it was important in helping us realize something big…and very beautiful.
During the first-ever lunar orbit, when the Apollo 8 spacecraft came around to face Earth again, astronaut William Anders took one of the most famous photos in history: Earthrise.
Astronauts had looked back at Earth before, and taken photos of it, but what happened when Apollo 8 first went to the Moon was very special.
This photo was seen all over our world almost as soon as the astronaut photographer returned to Earth.
Nowadays this may not look that impressive. In fact, you’ve probably seen this very picture before. But imagine you hadn’t. Imagine that you lived in a world where no one had ever looked at Earth like this; never seen what our planet looks like from the outside. That’s what it was like, when the world saw this photo. People weren’t just looking up at the Moon at night, and seeing another world that most can only ever dream of stepping upon, and at this point, no one had; now, they were looking at their world. Our world.
This was the world upon which their parents, and parents’ parents, and their ancestors, had lived…the world upon which they now lived. And they saw that the planet that they were looking at, rising above the lunar surface, was alive. They could tell it was alive. Even if they had not known what planet it was, they would have been able to tell that this planet harbored life. They could see that it was blue, and green, and that it was living and breathing. That was the first time we’d ever really laid eyes upon it, and had seen how small it really was, even just looking at it from our own Moon. Millions of people saw our planet, looking as small and insignificant as our Moon does from here.
But the truth is that it’s not insignificant, and neither is our Moon. Every person I’ve ever met, every mountain I’ve ever climbed, every building I’ve ever sheltered in, every idea I’ve ever come up with, every friend I’ve ever made… is from that planet. This is the only home we’ve ever known, was the thought of almost everyone who laid eyes on this simple photo. And now it looked as small as a marble, on the front page of almost every newspaper and magazine.
We realized how small and delicate our planet is, but also how powerful the life is that thrives on it is. And for a lot of people, the ones who paid attention, the ones who were smart enough to listen and learn, knew: that planet––our planet––is in danger.
For even then, we already had hints, serious hints, that our climate could collapse. We knew we were harming it, and in more ways than one. So, the few who were smart enough to listen and learn, but also care about our future, thought: I’ve got to do something to save it.
A lot of them did. And according to Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, that was when the environmental movement was born, really born. Environmentalists advocated for the stopping of littering and the drilling for oil, for saving almost extinct creatures, and many more wonderful things, sometimes for the first time. They even helped the world stop whaling!
But unfortunately many of the things that they were fighting for have not yet been accomplished. People still litter. People still pollute. People still drill into that very world whose picture had been taken on that winter day in 1968, turning the oil that they find into fuel which we pump into our cars and planes and boats and factories and houses. And that, in turn, goes into our delicate atmosphere that has protected us and which harbors life, the very life of which we are a part.
And still we choke our planet in toxic gases and deadly waste which we throw carelessly into the earth and cover it with the ground as if, when we can’t see it, it’s not there. But it is. We know it is. We know what we’re doing, how we’re destroying our planet. We know it’s suicide and mass murder in the making. And…most importantly of all…We know how to stop it.
But not enough of us reach out of our own egocentric worlds to do enough about it. Not enough of us seem to care about what lies beyond our own daily lives and daily comings and daily goings. Not enough of us seem to be able to open our minds to what we really are: a species committing that suicide and that mass murder, and realize that, if we don’t do anything more to stop it, our presence on our planet may be as brief as the blink of an eye.
We all have intelligent minds, capable of doing what we did to get as far as we have gotten, and capable of saving us from our mistakes. Many of us have convinced ourselves that we’re not doing anything wrong, and that everyone who tells us that it is are the ones that are wrong. But they aren’t. Deep down, we all know that they aren’t. We know what we’re doing. But stopping doing it, and working out new solutions, isn’t convenient enough for many of us. It won’t make us any more money, will it? It won’t turn a profit. Many of us don’t seem to think that if you just have enough money, it will solve everything, and don’t realize that they can’t just buy a ticket out of here when our planet dies.
Maybe we all need to open our eyes again. Open them like so many people on this planet did all those years ago, when they blurred with tears as they gazed at the picture of their home world. Maybe, if those of us who never listened or believed, saw the world as everyone first saw it back in 1968…it would impact them just in the same way! Maybe it would help them to see the world as it really is. Because if none of us realize what a horrible end we’re creating for ourselves and the many other creatures of our planet, we never really have: we’ve never really seen our world.
Let’s glimpse our world again.
Happy New Year
New Year’s Resolutions for the Earth
What can YOU do for the earth this year?
Happy New Year!
In many cultures, the new year means making resolutions––that is, promising yourself that you will make some positive changes in the coming year. You might try to get rid of bad habits, throw yourself even more into your studies or special interests, or attempt something challenging. You might say, “I’m going to stop chewing my fingernails!” or “I’m going to train to run a marathon!” or “I’m going to read The Lord of the Rings trilogy!” (if you tackle that final one, be careful; I’m reading it now, and often find I get lost about midway into a paragraph when one of the characters begins recounting their history). Or––and this is my challenge: “I’m going to publish blog posts more often!”
Actually, it would be nurturing to you, too…but in a different way. Like flossing your teeth (even when you’re too tired), but your dentist compliments you at your next dental check-up to see how healthy your gums and teeth are. Or like studying (even when you’d rather be doing anything else), but then when you take a test, you realize you really do understand the subject and receive a better grade. Or like you make your bed (even though you don’t want to), but that night, as you climb into bed, you find it’s sooo much more comfortable to slide under smoothed-out sheets and flop your head onto a fluffed-up pillow…This year, make some resolutions to do something really nurturing for the earth. And while planting a tree or going on a trash-pickup are great, I challenge you to try something you can do year round, like using a recycling bin (see this post if you haven’t got one yet), composting, or growing a garden.
Here are some examples:
Learn! Start researching climate change online or at the library. Remember: knowledge is power! Can’t participate in Fridays for Future, in which kids strike for climate justice? Then use Friday to do something else healthy for the planet, and think up new Earth-friendly habits for you and your family to try. For example…
Stop! One of the best things to do for the planet, weirdly enough, is to stop. Stop littering…it may seems like a little bit, but if everyone does it, it really adds up to a big mess. Stop using single-use items like plastic cutlery, plastic water-bottles, plastic straws, plastic containers, plastic wraps and bags… basically, all that plastic stuff, whenever you can. Stop shopping for things you don’t actually need. Stop wasting…which leads me to the next one…
Save! Save water…don’t run it while you brush your teeth, make sure the dishwasher has all the dishes you can realistically fit in it, and don’t leave faucets dripping. Save electricity…don’t keep your lights on when you don’t need them, only use your heating and cooling systems when you have to, and don’t leave doors open when the heating or air conditioning is on. Save food…here in North America, especially in the United States, we have a real issue with food waste. A seemingly innocent habit of tossing out a little more food than we should leads to 40% of food being wasted in the United States––nearly half of our food! That huge amount of wasted food increases the sizes of landfills, emitting greenhouse gasses, and meanwhile, eleven million kids are wondering when or whether they will have their next meal.
Think about the things you can do.
Think about how wonderful this earth is.
Think about how easy––yet unimaginably useful!––one little good habit can be.
Think about ways you might stop, save, and/or learn.