Post-BP Gulf Disaster: Grand Bayou, Louisiana

I feel in some way that I contributed to objectifying the Houma, Native American people during a visit to Grand Bayou, Louisiana on January 8, 2011. That made me sad during my visit. With pride mixed with humility and graciousness, they continue to accept help and support;  BP destroyed the Houma’s ecosystem when oil spewed from the ruptured Event Horizon and in turn the latter’s livelihood of fishing, crabbing, and shrimping. The Houma have been reduced to giving tours of the Grand Bayou and inviting strangers like myself into their lovely homes. I thought, what would it be like if I had constant streams of people in my front yard and in my house? I am sad about by the dark grim times faced by these beautiful self-sufficient people.

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So I honor the Houma with a few photos in hopes of keeping the Gulf of Mexico on people’s minds. Can I counter BP’s inhumanity in this small way? Can I reverse the lousy under-handed treatment of the Houma fishermen, oyster-men, shrimpers, and their families by BP? That’s a tough one since money promised for lost wages like the presence of the global company in the region has long evaporated.

The disaster is a tragic study in how a global corporation–a story that keeps repeating itself–has exploited and continues to exploit people who only want to live off the land and ocean.

Photos by Dianne Glave

2010 Keeping it Wild Gala

Sometimes it better, sometimes easier, to start with endings than beginnings . . .

 

With Shelton Johnson

 

I sat in the amphitheater at Zoo Atlanta listening to Shelton Johnson. He was the keynote speaker for the 6th Annual Keeping it Wild (KIW) Gala, and is a national park ranger and author of Gloryland. As I listened to Shelton, one row back from me I heard the rhythmic breathing of a six year old girl. Shelton’s passionate story-telling and cadence of that small child’s breathing mentally and spiritually took me outdoors.

I imagined being at Yosemite National Park, the source of many of Shelton’s stories. The adults–I was there too–were up late quietly looking up at the sky filled with distant stars and a crescent moon. We had tucked the children away in the tents and we could hear the distinctive breathing of each child, like different signatures on many pages.

So to beginnings. KIW hosted a wonderful gala. It began with a reception filled with people from so many cultures eating from their bamboo plates. Later, more guests filled their plates from a buffet with cornbread, black-eyed peas, and more.

In the amphitheater, the latter part of the evening, I felt love and joy seeing so many people of color listening to Shelton tell his stories. The Buffalo soldiers also drew me in. I cried when one of the soldiers stepped forward and affirmed Shelton in honoring the ancestors. Towards the end, a young woman strummed her guitar singing. We sang along with her about fighting pollution.

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I hope that KIW continues to grow and expands their good work. I may not always express my feelings in the moment but my heart was bursting and full last night, full of Yosemite National Park.

Photos by Dianne Glave

Sampling of Diversity and Environment Blogs and Websites

This is an exciting time with many blogs and websites focusing on diversity and the environment.

Here is a sampling of the ones I visit the most with some amazing people behind the sites:

Brown Girl Going Green

Chocolate & Arugula

Eco Soul Wisdom

Jarid Manos (Ghetto Plainsman)

Legacy on the Land

Outdoor Afro

What are some of your favorites? Which blogs and websites do you visit regularly? I’d love to learn more.

Mother and Me: Alzheimer’s, Play, and Nature

My mother, she has Alzheimer’s, you know. Well, maybe you don’t know. As the disease has progressed, I have learned to live in the present with her, glad that we are still able to communicate with one another.

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Mother's Day Rose

This time has been bittersweet. The disease continues to alter her memory, which slips away with time. Yet we find so many ways to connect. One of those ways is now play, including painting together. 

Happy Mother’s Day and many more mother, wife, farmer’s daughter, lumberjack, and sod-layer. 

Many thanks to all of my friends who treated my mother with so much love this weekend. 

Photos courtesy of and by Dianne Glave

A Scratch-n-Sniff “All Shades of Green” Blog Carnival

Welcome to the April 2010 Diversity of Science Carnival (DiS) #9  titled “All Shades of Green” Diversity in Outdoor and Environmental Awareness. Details are already available for submissions for the next DiS Blog Carnival #10. Many thanks to Danielle N. Lee who was kind enough to invite me to guest blog at her DiS Carnival this month.   

I am Dianne Glave, your host at the center of the carnival ring of bloggers. Our theme is all things April: celebration of earth day, arbor day, environmental awareness and all  earthy-eco-related things through the written word and images of the blog. There’s some scratch-n-sniff in here too. I am excited about this month’s submissions.   

Each blog highlights the April theme of “All Shades of Green” Diversity in Outdoor and Environmental Awareness. In addition, I asked contributors to describe the smell of April and what they are up to.

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Take a look at the blogs and their responses to my questions:   

Hatched from the Same Egg Interview with Jared Manos. “Sun warming the waxy green out of live oak tree leaves.” The second edition of Jared’s Ghetto Plainsman is available at your local Barnes and Nobles Bookstore.    

   

Anne Jefferson’s More Tributes to Reds Wolman From all Those Who Miss Him. “April smells like mud. And I mean that in a most complimentary way (I study mud).” She is in the midst of the end-of-semester hamster-wheel, trying to stay on top of courses and grading while keeping up with her own research sputtering along.   

∞     

Rue Mapp’s Easter Egg Hunt. “The smell of April is FRESH!” Rue Mapp, the goddess of all things outdoor and afro, just returned from the White House Summit in DC on Outdoor Recreation and the Environment. She will be running a program to connect kids and their parents to the great outdoors this summer.   

   

Danielle N. Lee’s Travelog San Francisco: Protecting the Coastal Bay. “April smells like flowers.” Danielle is graduating with her Ph.D. Learn more at her blog Urban Science Adventures!.    

Boys Scouts Planting a Tree, Cascade United Methodist Church

Rona Fernandez’s Turning Garbage into Black Gold. “The smell of April is green like moist grass after a rain, yellow like daffodils and blue like the sky after a storm. Rona is headed to the Macondo Writers Worship, hopefully to do more nature writing for Brown Girl Going Green blog!   

   

Suzanne E. Frank’s Weeding in the Forest. “April generally smells like freshly turned wet earth, and then, of course, the smell of new mulch that everyone is laying down all over.” Suzanne is busy with aa spate of plant sales and a flurry of planting, as she ends up buying more than  she can possibly fit into her garden beds, but will manage to pack in somewhere. 

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Diana R. Williams’ Sharing Our Stories: After Natural Disaster. April smells like sweet rain, cool and refreshing.” As the president of Candler Women, she just accepted Emory University’s Campus Life Outstanding Student Organization Event Award for the 100 Women at Candler Luncheon.   

   

Kristina Necovska’s A Conversation wth Nalini Nadkarni, “Queen of Canopy Research.”   

Vegetables Just Pushing Up, Organic Garden, Emory University

 Susan Horton’s Everyday is Earth Day for These Women in Science.  

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Sam Lemonick’s A Conversation with Seismologist Kate Hutton.   

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At the Texaco

I smelled something too: April is the sweet smell of the honeysuckle that crept along the fence of the parking lot that was the playground at my Lutheran grade school. I snapped the base of the flower and drainied the sweet honey-taste into my mouth. I blogged April too in Bees and Boys at the Texaco and Sacred Moments: A Baby Owl and Two Strangers in a Parking Lot.   

Cherish the last smells, sights, tastes, and sounds of April.   

PHOTOS BY DIANNE GLAVE   

 

Hatched from the Same Egg: A Jarid Manos Interview

I’m excited because the second edition of Jarid Mano’s book Ghetto Plainsman is out and available at amazon.com and your local bookstore. Jarid is also busy with Restoration Not Incarceration, a program for teens that is part of the Great Plains Restoration Council.  

When I opened up Ghetto Plainsman I was struck that he was often asked, “What are you?” I get that too. I remember being in an elevator in Century City in Los Angeles. Some guy blurted out, “What are you?” I don’t remember what I said but was disturbed by that intrusive moment with a stranger. Jarid also looks like people in my family. Genetically we could be hatched from the same egg. Culturally too.  

Read more . . .  

Emdangered Fort Worth Prairie Park

DIANNE: Hello, my brother. Jarid, how about we interview one another? You first.  

JARID:  That sounds good. I love that mutual.  Hope it’s all going down good out there in the ATL! You know I can’t wait to come back there.
D: When you come to Atlanta, you can be the tour guide so I can see the city through your eyes! Ok, how come you can’t keep your shirt on? I don’t see what that has to do with the plains.
J: Hahahaha…   You know, we crazie like that.
D:  We . . .  ha?! I keep my shirt on. Based on the “What are you?” question, what does being and feeling different define how you have related to the environment, nature?
J:  It seems that a lot of the time, people really want to put things (and others) into boxes, but that is so constraining and diminishing.  I’m not even sure this is done intentionally, it’s just become custom. For example, even the words “environment” and “species” sounds so objectifying, so separating, to me. Like they’re objects. I understand their usage, but on a personal, spiritual tip, it’s Earth and animals to me.    

Evita Tezeno, GPRC Board Member

My organization Great Plains Restoration Council does its ecological work through its social work, and when our Plains Youth InterACTION team is out  working to save the Fort Worth Prairie Park, we know this is a place of refuge, and the wildlife that thrives and flies and migrates and breeds and rests though this place is fam — family. We are proud to produce serious, high value conservation work, with the help of some of your best master naturalists and restoration ecologists, but our personal approach is different.  

Protecting the Earth and our children’s health and future is a civil right and responsibility. And ecology is a cultural and social movement. And animals are now objects and quotas, they are lives and cultures with stories and histories and yearnings that course like a creek through the prairie and our own lives.   

We belong, instead of being separate. Being different, opening new ways of looking at things that may have, beneath them, significant suffering,  sadness, and/or loss, yet immense opportunities for new millennial exhilaration, takes us to a new day where we can begin a deeper healing. In my opinion, without that, we are not moving forward.
D: You currently live in Houston, Texas. What’s it like for you in the city during the spring?  

J: I love Texas. I actually live in both Fort Worth and Houston, though I’m spending more time in Houston now as we develop new programming.  Houston is located in the original coastal prairie of Texas. It’s where the prairie meets the sea, two halves of a whole, the place of original fertility, and where it all began in 1528 when the Moorish slave Esteban the Moor washed ashore on Galveston Island with the ragged conquistadors Cabeza de Vaca, Dorantes, etc. 

Houston has changed dramatically over the last ten years — I think people elsewhere think of Houston as this big, polluted city, but while it still has work to do, I’m finding myself amazed at how livable and beautiful the city is. There are a lot of parks in the city, not least of which is Buffalo Bayou, the river that runs to and and through Downtown. They’ve kept it wild, and it’s like a linear little wilderness right through the city. Texas can get seriously cold during the winter when those frigid winds blow down across the plains from Canada, but winter doesn’t last too long, and we’ll warm up for days here and there even in the middle of the winter when the north winds don’t blow.  In spring, Texas all over bursts with wildflowers backed by lush green grasses, and you can watch them start to ripple northward from Houston to Fort Worth delayed by a few weeks. Also, since we’re less than an hour from the beach, you know we’re back out there in the water in  March, (though the ocean temps might still be a little uhhh cool.). :)  

Wild Flowers in the Foreground and Houston in the Background

D: Your book titled Ghetto Plainsman is in its second edition which was just released. Congratulations. Speaking of your book, hat is it like in April, in the spring on the plains?  

J: Thanks. That book took me over 8 years to write. What’s interesting about the plains is that we’re defined by sun, wind, grass and blue sky — and weather. In the winter, it’s a constant battle of the northerly or southerly winds. When a cold front comes down across the plains from Canada, you can track it as it causes a serious blizzard in South Dakota or Colorado and, while it modifies as it passes toward the lower latitude landscapes, you know you’ll be getting at least some very cold temps. In March, the winds pick up, as the increasing solar energy warms things, and by April, while we’ll still have some swings, we’re pretty much into the beginning of the long warm season by then. Neotropical migrant birds are nesting, in late April the Monarchs have come back up from Mexico, buffalo (where they exist, though there are still no truly “wild” buffalo except in Yellowstone and even there they are shot or hazed the minute they cross the Park boundary) will be calving, and out on the western High Plains we’re all looking forward to pronghorn antelope having their babies in May.

Kaiden, Jarid's Son on a Remnant of Coastal Plain on Galveston Island

D: I know there’s a focus on the plains in your non-profit Restoration not Incarceration? Tell us more.
J: Great Plains Restoration Council is the non-profit, Restoration Not Incarceration is our new program in planning and design now. RNI is emerging out of the successful practices and principles of our signature program Plains Youth InterACTION which basically has damaged young people healing themselves through healing our damaged native prairies and plains.  In Fort Worth, with the Fort Worth Prairie Park, our work is largely a preservation issue, since these 2,000 acres on the backdoor of 5 million people are part of the most endangered major ecosystem in North America.  

Restoration Not Incarceration. based in Houston, and addressing the coastal prairie, entirely a restoration issue, as averse to preservation, because there is less than 1% of the original native coastal prairie left and it’s on the verge of extinction. This work is being accomplished in partnership with the Harris County Attorney’s Office, Fifth Ward Enrichment Program, and Katy Prairie Conservancy. We are setting up a program where temporarily incarcerated individuals and probationers can enter a Three Tier program that will a.) provide skills-training, b.) social work in a trust and motivational environment, properly implemented, and c.) work in nature as a therapeutic modality.  We hope to have the first pilot effort up and running, with boots on the ground, by the end of December.  

Part of this initiative is also stimulating new green jobs in wildlands restoration– a whole new sector in the emerging Green Collar Economy.  Carbon pricing alone will be one of the economic drivers, because native prairies soak carbon from the atmosphere and their deep roots can sequester that carbon for 8,000 years or more in the soil.
D: April 22nd was Earth Day. What does the celebrations surrounds this day mean to you?
J: Sigh. I’m like that cartoon I saw once of a seagull looking over a pile of trash on the beach and saying, “What about the 364 other days?” 
D: Let’s shift a little. What does April smell like?  
Sun warming the waxy green out of live oak tree leaves.
D: From an environmental perspective, what’s next for you?  J: I’ve been involved in environmental and social justice work for a long time. GPRC passed its ten year anniversary this past October. It’s taken a long time to grow this non-profit from nothing, and now with my team in place, I am looking to grow exponentially and wield some real health for prairies and people on a scale that was only a dream when I first started.
J: Now it’s your turn.
D: Ah Jarid, we are out of time. Your turn will come. Let’s do this again over the summer. By that time we will be little brother and sister chicks with more to say about the great outdoors . . .  

Photos by Jarid Manos

A Little Bit of This, A Little Bit of That

Think of the following as pages torn from my journal . . .

It was a busy week. It ran from sharing about Rooted in the Earth: Reclaiming the African American Environmental Heritage to watching a grasshopper to seeing the Braves and the Rockies play at Turner Field.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010: For the first time, I shared at the Candler School of Theology, Emory University about Rooted in the Earth out in August 2010. I focused on African Americans, religion, and the environment, reading the introduction to my religion chapter as part of a Creation Care panel. I shared my “Owl” and “Boy Scouts” blogs on a screen in a smart room. Oh technology! And I closed out by sharing about Outdoor Afro and Keeping it Wild, a blog and organization, respectively, that have been sources of emotional and spiritual support through their work and service. I was grateful three friends–Norman, Jennifer, and Melissa–came out to support me.

Saturday, April 17: Onto the grasshopper–at least I think it was a grasshopper. I was waiting in a parking lot for Toni and Arlinda to arrive to go premium outlet shopping. I saw a lady walk by and she stumbled. The grasshopper–I’ll call him Fred–was big enough for her to feel under her feet as she let out a yelp. As she walked away, I took a closer look at the insect–brown with some green stripes. I kept hoping Fred would hop off. I think he was injured. Or maybe the chilly morning slowed him down.

And then my macabre side came out. There were several small birds hopping about and I thought one would grasp Fred in its beak. I watched for about 20 minutes. Perhaps this didn’t happen because of the grasshopper was almost the length of one of the birds. Pretty big. When my friends came I had to drive away not knowing the fate of the grasshopper: Did he hop away? Was he snatched up by a bird? Did he simply die to become a husk in a few days?

Sunday, April 17: My second time out with the book at Cascade United Methodist Church.

I really enjoyed meeting people and talking to them at Meet the Authors. And Ruth who had her own book and table, pulled people over to my table. Thanks Ruth! I also made friends with Jahbaar, a little boy. His mom had a table too and he was there to help her.

I capped my Sunday off with an afternoon at Turner Field watching the Braves and Rockies. Can you beat weather in the 70’s, sunshine, and Astro Turf on Family Day at the ballpark? Look at that little guy surrounded by the umpires!

It’s been a great week . . . a busy week.

Percy: Father, Organic Gardener

My dad had a garden in Queens, New York. It was a wild place. There were no rows. There was no rhyme or reason. Mixed in together were tomatoes, cucumbers and peas. When the vines got long, he cobbled together pieces of wood to wrap the many vines.

My family–me, my mother, and my brother–made fun of his wild vegetable garden. He laughed at us. But still we ate what he produced. Big fat tomatoes. Long huge cucumbers. So much came out of his tiny garden that he shared with family and friends. Community!

Percy at 19 (?) in Jamaica

And when the planting season was over and all the vegetables plucked from the stems and vines, he would let what remained rot back into the earth. We thought what a mess. The earth thought: Hey, I’m getting back the nutrients I parted with everytime you people ate my peas and tomatoes.

It was not until I started reading about Africans and the environment, that I realized he was gardening the African way. My dad was being organic before we knew the word organic–basically composting and replenishing the soil for the next season naturally and without chemical fertilizers.

Did he learn this method in his youth? I know he worked in a banana business with Boss, his stepfather in Jamaica. When I call home the next time, I’ll ask!

2004: Mowing His Lawn

Mother, Lumberjack, and Turpentine!?

Daphne, my mother, all 120 lbs of her, laid down sod and chopped down trees when we lived in our second house in Queens, New York during the 1980s. She was very serious about getting the trees down because she was tired of raking and bagging the leaves in the fall.

Daphne is Second Over from the Right with Her Sister and Brothers.

Two stories . . .

My mother would start by killing the tree by hacking away at the trunk with an axe. She started on one of many tree projects and our next door neighbor came running. She’  had crossed the property line–there was no fence–and was attempting to bring down our neighbor’s tree.

Some months later, she worked on a tree in the backyard. Whack. Whack. Whack. The tree started falling towards our HOUSE. The same neighbor came running out. With ropes he leveraged the tree from falling on the house.

I know everyone is saying poor trees. Looking back, I’m thinking the same thing. But remember it was her yard and it was the 1980s.

Consider some context for my mother’s own suburban world and experience. African Americans worked in logging and turpentining in the South so there is a parallel concerning labor/work and perceptions of trees as natural resources. To learn more about African Americans and the turpentine industry during the first half of the twentieth century, go to: http://www.cfmemory.org/Learn/Stories/StoryView.php?s=19.

I have no idea what became of the wood from the trees my mother chopped and sawed but looking back I hope the wood was used in someone’s fireplace. Utility trumps waste?!