May is National Wetlands Month!

frogging in plain view

May is National Wetlands month.  Why does that matter?  Because wetlands are tremendously important and among the most productive ecosystems in the universe — okay, maybe not the universe, but the planet — holding the space for a wide variety species to make their debut — birds, fish, reptiles, mammals, flora, fauna, and more.  Without this womb-like place, a veritable biological superstore for species to gain traction in the world, the planet would be much less diverse.  Wetlands benefit people by removing contaminants and improving water quality, producing products for the economy, providing a residence for threatened and endangered habitat, and acting as a natural sponge for flood waters, thereby providing flood protection.

In honor of National Wetlands Month, I’m focusing once again on the East Kolkata wetlands in West Bengal, India, a diverse ecosystem that not only manages the waste stream of a city of approximately five million naturally, but provides fresh food, aquaculture, and jobs for the local economy.  Please enjoy this movie from the Society for Creative Opportunities and Participatory Ecosystems to learn more about this magnificent enterprise.

If you feel that wetlands are as important to society as say, air, then donate to an organization that believes the same because the maintenance an ongoing care of all wetlands, even ones halfway across the world, benefit everyone.

pam lazos 5.21.22

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Not Now, Not Ever Again

From the Laurie Anderson exhibit at the Hirshhorn Museum in D.C.

Every year when I get my mammogram I have the same thought:  if a pale, stale, male had to subject his body to this level of intense squishing and extreme uncomfortableness in their most private parts, wouldn’t they have developed a better system by now?  While ultrasounds are comparable and less painful than mammograms, operator experience is important since you can miss something on an ultrasound if you’re not paying close attention, so mammograms are still the preferred method, but the reality as pale, male and stale see it is, if women aren’t protesting the current medical techniques, why do them any favors?

But I don’t want to talk about mammograms, I want to talk about the legal right to an abortion.  There’s no question that legalizing abortion is a polarizing issue, but the conservative movement’s roots were grown in the soils of segregation, not abortion. It wasn’t until six years after Roe v. Wade was handed down in 1973, that the evangelical right in the form of Jerry Falwell placed women’s reproductive rights in their sights as way to motivate their base. 

cheeky, but true

Enter Ronald Regan in the 1980s who openly courted Christian evangelicals, seeing them as a path to cement his own power and the marriage of politics and evangelicalism had begun, a marriage made in hell, IMO, since it has not only derailed 200+ years of American Democracy but is ultimately going to take the country down with it, and given the current demographics of the United States, it’s a losing proposition.

While I respect the kind of tenacity and determination it took the GOP and Christian right to get the country to this place — we are on the precipice of overturning the most pivotal women’s rights law of the 20th century — the abortion issue was a pivot from segregation, an issue that couldn’t get enough traction, a fallback whose day in the limelight had come because its political persuasiveness proved sticky with base and got its ire up in a way that segregation had heretofore been incapable of doing.

But just as slavery was wrong despite many prominent Americans in history owning slaves — “if your friend jumped off a bridge, would you jump, too?” — so is taking away a woman’s right to choose what to do with her own body.  Should this leak from a now “disturbingly ordinary” Supreme Court that by all outside appearances is politically driven become a real and final SCOTUS decision, the effect will be to enslave women of all stripes and religious beliefs and to put them in the backseat — possibly even the trunk — economically, socially, and politically — “where they belong,” the male, pale and stale may say.  And that, my friends, is exactly the result for which the male, pale and stale have strategized for years to bring about with McConnell the Elder formulating “a near-insurmountable roadblock before any decent policy.” (The cited article proposes a fictional “future” of America, akin to the fall of the Roman Empire, which obviously hasn’t happened — yet — and also makes for some very compelling reading.)

Sign at the Hirshhorn Museum, Washington D.C.

Let’s begin again, starting with the premise that we all have free will?  Isn’t that a tenet of the Christian religion, even if you are a militant fundamentalist, that God gave us free will, sent us down to earth, and then told us to have at it and see what we could make of ourselves?  At least that’s what I was taught growing up Catholic — and while Catholicism is not a fundamentalist religion, pro-life has been center stage as a zealously Catholic position for 5-ever.  Before I became an adult, I adhered to it wholeheartedly.  For me, the change of mind came when I took a comparative religion class in my sophomore year of college and I learned of reincarnation, of atheism, of the Koran, of the Kabbalah, because there’s a little something for everyone in a world with over 4,000 religions.  

Reincarnation is where the Soul comes back again and again to the earth, perfecting its shtick until it reaches nirvana. I’ve reconciled my upbringing with my new understanding this way:  the earth refreshes herself every year, winter, spring, summer, fall, so why can’t humans?  The approach makes sense to me, otherwise the unfairness of it all from a God that professes to be fair just doesn’t sit well.  Whether reincarnation is true, or like the Catholics believe, you get one life and after, based upon your performance, you go to heaven, hell, or purgatory; or as the Jews believe you enter the great nothingness afterwards; or any other of the possible permutations and scenarios that over 4,000 religions might believe, I have no way of knowing the answers to such esoteric questions which are candy to the curious soul because none of us will know until we’re dead.  So perhaps I’m hedging my bet when I choose to live my life by the most important lesson to ever come out of any religion, widely attributable to Jesus, but a notion every other great religious leader has referenced in some form or other:  “love your neighbor as yourself,” and as Kabbalah likes to add, “everything else is commentary.”

So, pale, male, and stale, and Amy Coney Barrett — who apparently has her own handmaid’s tale — why do you need to keep hating on women? Isn’t that against your religion’s missive to love others as yourself?  And how did we get here?  Because, those pale, male, and stale members of Congress who call themselves statesmen — plus Amy Coney Barrett and her ultra-conservative, ultra-vires court justice companions who appear ready to overturn 50 years of Supreme Court precedent for political reasons — and who are really no better than schoolyard bullies, making sure they get the results they want regardless of whether over 60% of Americans disagree with them, are afraid.  They may have different reasons for their fear — losing the superior position they’ve enjoyed for hundreds of years to women and minorities could be one reason for the fear —  but regardless, fear it is, and it has consumed them.  If God doesn’t feel the need to control women’s bodies, why should they? Oh — probably because God is not afraid.

To whoever made this graphic — you’re awesome.

Without a woman to carry a child to term, there can be no term, no new life.  SCOTUS, acting like a bunch of dumb 3rd-graders (actually, that’s an affront to 3rd graders) pretends this is all a simple exercise and that a woman carrying a baby to term does not have a psychological effect on the mental health of the child, or that an unwanted pregnancy will not damage the psychological health of the mother as if the mother is simply a vessel through which a baby pops out — especially Barrett who obvi didn’t do the late-night feedings or go to work on 2-hours of sleep because she was up all night with a colicky child. Or maybe that’s what they teach in handmaid’s school.

From the Laurie Anderson exhibit, Hirshhorn Museum, Washington D.C.

Women aren’t chattel; they’re human beings entitled to the same rights as their male counterparts.  A woman’s life is just as sacred as that of her unborn child, more, in fact, since she’s already been walking around as a human in the world before she became pregnant.  A fetus is a great unknown.  Whether it comes to term or leaves of its own accord before then, whether it is stillborn, dies a couple years after birth because of medical complications related to a genetic ailment, or it grows into a fully functioning human, it is not going to get anywhere without the mom who is hosting it.  And if the mom is not up for the hosting, where does that leave the fetus?  

Unlike most of the rest of nature, human beings take an incredibly long time to grow to maturity and the mother is one of the main reasons they are able to do so.  If the mother herself is not capable of caring for her child, she shouldn’t have to, nor should she be obligated to birth a child she will be forced to give up, or one that may put her life in danger, or that she simply had no plan for.  Melissa Gates maintains in her book, The Moment of Lift, that a woman giving family planning options is a women in control of her destiny. Mother’s that are too young, too old, too unhinged, or who already have too many children and no way to feed them all should not have to have a baby they don’t want.  That decision is between the mother, her doctor, and whatever deity that woman worships.  You may ask where the child’s decision is in all this, but remember, the child is a clump of cells for a really long time and then, without Herculean medical investments, can’t live outside the womb much earlier than about 20 weeks and even then, not without a whole host of help because of the medical issues surrounding premature birth. 

Sure, there are many stories where women find a way to make things work.  After centuries of being the underdog in a world that favors sons over daughters, men over women, our resilience is amazing.  Stories like the 11-year old mother of Kathy Barnette a pro-lifer running for PA Senate who has declared she is “not a lump of cells,” but a human who would not be here had her mother not made the choice to keep her child.  True, but what about the 11-year old mother?  Does anyone feel that child should have been tasked with the unimaginable burden of raising a child?  Or that she needed to trade her life for her unborn child’s?  At 11, a woman’s body is no where near developed fully which poses complications in child birth.  Her brain was still 14 years away from being fully formed as a functioning adult.  Can an 11-year old even make the best decisions for herself and her baby?  Heck, Brett Kavanaugh made some terrible choices in high school when he groped Christine Blasey Ford, but you all — pale, male and stale — not only forgave him, but put him on the Supreme Court.  Talk about a double standard.  Nothing screams, “bitch, get behind me where you belong,” like taking away a woman’s right to choose her own path.  Thanks, McConnell.  Thanks, Manchin.  Thanks, all y’all.  Remember Karma?  I hope you all come back as women under the Taliban.

In the real world — not the made up world where most white male Republican members of Congress live — a woman subjected to an unwanted pregnancy who pulls through and successfully raises the child to maturity without ruining her own life in the process is not the standard-bearer, but the unicorn.  It’s like saying all black people have the same opportunities as all white people.  I mean, ostensibly you can find some truth in there, but for the most part, it’s B.S.  There are many more examples where things don’t work out for you if you’re black, and also for women who are too old, too young, too immature, at medical risk to her own life or the child’s, were survivors or incest or rape, too (fill in the blank) to have a baby. 

Yet, it has come to my attention and the attention of anyone with XX chromosomes that Republicans and some DINOs — Democrats in name only — don’t care about these babies once they are born, or the mothers forced to birth them.  The minute that baby hits the rarefied air of the Mother Earth, they are forgotten, especially if they are of color — just look at the failure to pass child care provisions in the failed Build Back Better bill and the crushing of so many supporting programs — or Reagan’s famous “welfare queen” line.  What kind of monsters eat their young like that?  First they torture the women into enduring a pregnancy they do not want and then they provide no support for the children they so adamantly wanted to bring into the world.  You can’t have it both ways, GOP.  Pick one, or perhaps we should bus all the unwanted kids to Texas and let Governor Abbott raise them.  

I just hope these lawmakers get their stories straight because when they get to the pearly gates and God be like,

“So, did you love your neighbor as yourself?”

Lawmaker:  “Well, we sure saved a lot of babies.”

God:  “What about the children?  Did you provide for them, too?”

Lawmaker:  paws the ground, looks up at God, flinches, “You mean, like with affordable health care and stuff?”

Oh wait, my bad.  That was something else the Republicans tried to gut.  I just hope the righteous indignation that these lawmakers claim to feel when they hear about women wanting to make their own choices keeps them cool in hell.

You can’t force your will on other people without sending a ripple effect across all of humanity.  We all know the decision to choose what each of us should do with our own bodies belongs to each of us alone.  Why do Barrett, Kavanaugh and Co. get to choose for other people?  Are they omniscient?  Do they have deity-like powers?  They have their own bodies to make choices for.  Speaking of, are there any laws that take away a man’s right to choose what to do with his body?  None come to mind. If a few nut jobs in black robes can undo 50 years of privacy-driven, 14th amendment freedom, then it’s not too long before the white robes with hoods start showing up and who knows what else, Maybe soon thereafter, we women will be wearing burkas like our Arab sisters.

When I was in my 20’s, I participated in a pro-choice rally, marching on Washington for women’s rights.  At one point I was walking behind Senator Arlen Specter.  Remember him?  He was a Democrat, then a Republican, then a Democrat, back and forth, yes, but a moderate in most things who voted with both his mind and his heart, wasn’t afraid to cross party lines when it was good for the country, and would revisit old votes based on where the country was heading such as calling for a repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act in 2009, a law he originally supported in 1996.  

We need that spirit back in Washington, not this consolidate at-all-costs outright power grab, twisting yourself into pretzel to get the results you want — not a good statesmen look BTDubs.  If 61% of the country thinks some form of abortion should be legal, why on God’s green earth are we still talking about it?  You all act like you know the mind of God when you don’t even know your own mind.  There is no God so reprehensible that s/he would discount the needs and desires of 72 million women of child-bearing age, or presuppose you know each of those women’s destinies the way these five supreme court justices believe they have been divinely chosen to do.  Lordy!  The repercussions of what you have wrought will come for all of us, but mostly for the 14th Amendment, and then it will truly be hell on earth.

Rise up, ladies, especially in red states where y’all are going to have it the hardest.  Time to fight, not with sticks and stones, but with words and actions, with organization and grassroots movements, with our incredible skills of collaboration — men make fun of us for that, but boy can we band together when we need to —  with our inherent mothering skills because, yes, we are on the cusp of birthing a new nation where all children are loved and all people are respected equally, but in order to do so, we need to take back our power now.  

Mobilize for the candidates that believe in the sanctity of life, yes, but moreover, the sanctity of choice born of the recognition that such sanctity begins via the grace of a woman and her body, and that without her acquiescing, nothing will work out as planned.  Vote for representatives that are going to respect you like the magnificent woman you are.  Time to lower the volume on our emotions (no one is more guilty of that than I am), to be strategic, and to take back our ability to make our own choices, especially as it applies to our bodies because that’s ground zero.  Let’s start with voting those who will represent us into office.  And if there is no one, think about running yourself.  There are plenty of women’s groups out there to help.

Ready to kick 2,000+ years of patriarchy to the curb, ladies?  Time to rise up, protest, make our voices heard.  This may be our only shot for a generation or more.  Let’s not blow it.

pam lazos 5.15.22

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Happy Mother’s Day, y’all!

If mom’s are only as happy as their unhappiest kid, then I’m doing pretty good right now. So proud of my kids, how they’ve chosen to live their lives, and their expressions of creativity out in the world.

From Morgan. In addition to her day job, she’s an aspiring chef (which is awesome because I love to eat).

yummy soup
asian fusion

From Ian. A man of many internships and opportunities geared toward saving the earth (thank you for your service).

trail restoration project — that’s Ian on the sign!
mountain man
big cat!

From Arianna. Her end of semester film project (hilarious).

College is hard.

Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers and if you aren’t a mother, don’t forget to call her. She will adore you even more than she does now.

pam lazos 5.8.22

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The State of the Earth 2022

Not your typical Earth Day post

There are only two roads in life, growing and dying. Tolbert McCarroll, Notes from the Song of Life

Earth Day 2022.  If you want to know how it all started, you can read last year’s post on the first Earth Day.  If you want to know how we’re doing (così così — so so in Italian), you can read Jeff Goodell’s article in Rolling Stone this week entitled, The Climate Fight Isn’t Lost. Here are 10 Ways to Win.  And if you want to know where to hide until it’s all over, read Paul Greenberg’s Is Anywhere Safe From Climate Change which is a solution for maybe less than one half of one percent of us, but I totally get the sentiment.  The real truth is,  Environmental Justice is critical as Adele Costa tells us in her article Hog Waste Plastic Petals, and Cancer in the Air:  The Intersection Between Environmental Justice and Women’s Health, and if we don’t take care of the most vulnerable among us, it will be lights out for all of us.

When Al Gore wrote An Inconvenient Truth in 2006, the world yawned.  Honestly, I don’t understand why no one takes that guy seriously, but I guess it’s a testament to how fractured society has become thanks to many things, but mostly, just how much money there is to be made in politics and how politicians will do anything to stay in power, including disgracing, dishonoring and discrediting even the most noble the truth tellers.  If we would have taken most or all of the steps Gore recommended 16 years ago we probably wouldn’t be staring into the abyss right now, but many in Washington, including some that are supposed to be on the side of We the People come at climate change as if it’s all a game and we aren’t really at the 11th hour Before the Flood.

Is it time for despair?  Well, yes and no.  Despair has been on the menu for years now.  The whole climate change issue has become a fait accompli, and that is Goodell’s point, but you know what?  If you live in Tonga, or New Orleans, or any other coastal or island paradise where sea level rise is chipping away at your security a little bit each day, perhaps you don’t see it that way. 

In The Social Dilemma, a 2020 Netflix documentary, the filmmakers discuss how everything we do online is being tracked, how tech giants like Facebook are able to influence social behavior through their algorithms, and worst of all, how  disinformation travels six times faster than real news, making it difficult for Truth to find a voice in the face of such adversity.

Maybe some don’t think this is so bad, especially if you are a fan of authoritarian regimes.  And yes, reasonable minds can differ; problematically, many people today are not reasonable.

So what to do?  Well, maybe it’s too little too late, but I think we could start with bringing back the  the fairness doctrine.  The FCC fairness doctrine of 1949 required broadcast licensees to provide both sides of controversial public issues.  Ronald Regan abolished it earning him the moniker The Father of Fake News and while it only applied to broadcast licenses, it did require a level of truth telling that is not apparent in the world today. Just look at Sydney Powell’s no reasonable person legal defense when called before the court to explain her rhetoric regarding Trump’s allegations of a stolen election.  Why were her admitted lies given such a large platform? This is what Fox News does everyday; they don’t report the news, rather, give their slanted opinion.  Well, I have to tell you, folks, there is no space for a slanted opinion when it comes to the State of the Earth in 2022.  There is only space for the truth, and the truth is some scary s#i+.

Bring back the Fair and Balanced Act.  Make news newsworthy again. Tell We the People the truth and let The People make their own decisions about what we value.  Because I’m pretty sure the most of us would choose to keep living on this planet rather than watch it all blow up so some small percentage of the world can survive. 

Tell the truth about climate change, that is, if we don’t reign it in now, there very well might be 1.2 billion climate refugees on the borders of those lands that are still viable and livable.  We have time.  It’s barely minutes in the earth’s rotation, but they are precious minutes.  Tell the world the truth and let’s all work together and DO SOMETHING STAT.  It’s now or never.  The planet’s people can’t wait.  

Although, spoiler alert, if we do nothing, the Earth will be just fine; it’s just We the People that will become extinct.

pam lazos 4.22.22

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Fight Climate Anxiety with Eco-Friendly Initiatives

by Joe Rees

spring © pam lazos

Please enjoy this timely article by Joe Rees, founder of, providing lots of detailed information on being prepared for most any kind of climate disaster. Joe’s website is jammed pack with tons of handy information necessary should catastrophe hit. So check it out now and be prepared. Don’t wait until the storm is upon you. Thanks, Joe. You are a true public servant.

Climate change poses a real threat with shrinking ice caps and frequent natural disasters. It’s no wonder that according to studies, 45% of people between 16 and 25 experience adverse mental health effects because of it. However, it’s not all bad news. By changing your lifestyle and taking a stand, you can fight against climate change. Here are some ideas:

Set a Corporate Example

Business owners can take the lead with environmentally friendly products. A premade marketing strategy template can help visualize your go-to-market strategy. This way, your small companies can successfully market its wares, streamlining launching. The process can be more complicated than many business owners anticipate, but a template ensures you don’t miss any steps.

Vote With Your Wallet

When you support green businesses, you signal that corporate waste is unacceptable. However, identifying eco-friendly companies is easier said than done, as some enterprises “green-wash.” Research a brand to determine if it’s actually sustainable before spending money.

Dublin transport © pam lazos

Rethink Transportation

Emissions from transportation contribute to global warming, but some forms are more wasteful than others. For example, flying consumes a great deal of fuel. To limit your carbon footprint, consider the following alternative transportation options:

  • Carpool
  • City bus
  • Trolley
  • Train
  • Subway
  • Bike

Make Changes at Home

You don’t have to live off the grid to make a difference — small, cumulative changes can also fight climate change:

  • Avoid one-use items
  • Don’t buy petroleum-based products
  • Don’t litter
  • Use LED light bulbs

Upgrading major appliances to Energy Star-approved models is another get step. You can also reduce your energy usage with the following good habits:

  • Use cold water to wash clothes
  • Take five-minute showers
  • Turn off the AC when you leave the house

Alter Your Diet

Beef production generates a significant portion of emissions, so cutting down on consumption can make a big difference. Limiting your dairy and other meat purchases also helps.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Recycling reduces the need for fresh materials, preserving natural resources. Of course, not everything can be recycled, so you need to check which items your local processing center accepts.

You can also reduce your waste by only buying what you need. Look for products made from recycled materials and designed for repeated use.

Support Tree-Planting Initiatives

Trees absorb carbon dioxide and produce oxygen, so reforestation efforts are essential in fighting climate change. However, not all tree-planting initiatives are created equal. Before volunteering or donating, make sure the organization also cares for saplings as they grow.

Image via Pexels

Skip Fast Fashion

The fashion industry consumes a huge amount of water, and fast fashion is notorious for its waste. Avoid this pitfall by wearing clothes for as long as possible and shopping second-hand when you can.

Get Educated

Staying updated with the latest scientific data is just as essential as recycling. Sustainability research constantly uncovers new ways to fight climate change and identifies problematic practices. Reading the news and tracking sustainable initiatives can help you avoid potential pitfalls.

Make Your Voice Heard

National and local governments have the power to crack down on emissions and promote green energy. To encourage these moves, vote in every election and support candidates who protect the environment.

Take Care of Yourself

While working to save the planet, don’t forget to take care of yourself. When you start feeling overwhelmed by stress and anxiety, care for yourself with these simple activities:

  • Connect with loved ones
  • Exercise
  • Meditate
  • Stretch

Battling climate change is a daily struggle, but individuals can make a real difference by changing their behavior. If the effects of global warming make you anxious, join in the fight to safeguard the future.

“Developed by Joe Rees, seeks to be your shelter in the coming storms. It is a go-to resource on how to protect you and your family as natural disasters grow in intensity and level of destruction.”

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Kentanji Brown Jackson’s nomination hearings are over, but much like the merchant priests of old, Ms. Jackson’s resonance remains.

If you follow my blog, you know that I’ve been working through the twelve qualities of the merchant priests, as discussed in the book, Sacred Commerce, for some years now. Sacred Commerce discusses the skill of the ancient priests who could lift the mood of an entire marketplace simply by elevating their own vibrations. The skill took years to perfect through meditation and conscious creation and was based upon three elements of the Soul: beauty, truth and goodness.

The merchant priests drew sustenance from these concepts, meditating on them and incorporating them into their activities of daily living.  By doing so, they were not only themselves elevated, but were able to elevate the entire place of business, expanding their own energy and sending that positivity out into the world much like a tuning fork resonates with another when struck.  In ancient times, life was base and chaotic, marked by fear and a whole range of lower emotions that lived side-by-side with people’s survival instincts — actually, kind of like today if the legislature is any indication

Imagine having someone who could elevate the thoughts of everyone around them simply by holding a higher vibration?  As the merchant priests focused upon the concept of beauty, perhaps sitting off to the side in an open air market, their entire aura shifted and they were able to spread a supercharged energy to everyone around them.  This in turn brought out the principles of democracy, emotional intelligence, fairness and conscious commercialism as a means not just to sell items, but to bring out the best qualities in everyone at market, making every transaction a brush with the Divine Feminine.

In thinking about humility, the final virtue after honor, loyalty, nobility, virtue, grace, trust, courage, courtesy, gallantry, authority, and service, and after listening to the base and baseless questioning of Ketanji Brown Jackson by certain Senators who are responsible for writing the laws of this country — something, apparently, they sometimes forget — I was struck by the analogy to ancient times and how KBJ is much like the merchant priests of the ancient marketplace.

This, then, is the final sacred quality of the merchant priests:


Humility sits with folded hands and steady eyes, a thoughtful half-smile on her lips. Her husband, daughters, and a lifetime of achievement sit behind, providing her a pillar of undeniable strength like the pillars of the Parthenon in Ancient Greece where democracy got its start, and the center section of the Supreme Court building where inscribed upon the architrave are the words “Equal Justice Under Law”. Humility knows all of those pillars are essential to her own structure, and that the sacrifices she’s made in simultaneously raising a family and pursuing her legal career required compromises that she’s still trying to square.

No one said life would be easy.

Humility is not loud and boisterous, but studious and thoughtful. Humility knows her own mind and keeps her own counsel. She knows when not to take the bait, yet doesn’t retreat from a challenge. Humility smiles a lot as if she knows something the rest of us do not. Humility knows the pride and joy she brings to Black women — to all women, actually — not just by being the first Black woman to be nominated to the Supreme Court, but because of the tools within which she cloaks herself: intellect, diplomacy, mastery of the issues; thoughtfulness, compassion, and so much grace.

Humility wishes that some of the issues that tear men and women down — issues like voter suppression, the crushing reversal of women’s rights, and the existential threat of climate change — were in the rearview mirror, but 19th century values are alive and thriving in a flailing 21st century, overshadowed by patriarchy and greatly divided by ego, power and greed.

Humility has trod these streets before, but she doesn’t worry. She knows where she’s going and what to say to those who would reduce her to the color of her skin. Humility knows how to self-soothe even when the unjust criticisms fall like acid rain. She answers the same questions again and again, each time refusing to react negatively — even temper tantrums don’t rile her — because that would risk throwing it all away.

Humility’s super power is knowing that what she puts her attention on is what she will get more of so she puts her attention on the light and turns her back on the darkness that wants so desperately to swallow her whole. Even the darkness recognizes Humility’s brilliance.

Humility is a tremendous listener and a wonderful coalition builder; she knows listening will move us forward. Humility seeks peace. Humility knows how not to let the message get lost in the chaos. Her focus is surreal, her patience stunning. Humility may bend, but she will never break. Inside Humility’s heart of gold is a core of steel.

Humility — may she rise higher and higher in service to us all.

pam lazos 3.27.22

Posted in Supreme Court, Uncategorized, women in power | Tagged , , | 30 Comments

Fast Fashion

What could possibly go wrong? How do we make it right?

An interview with fashion designer, Resa McConaghy

Resa McConaghy © Resa McConaghy

Three plus decades ago, my Aunt Marylou gave me two black dresses, both sheaths, both high-quality knit — if I had to guess, a blend of linen and cotton — one long sleeve and one sleeveless, the perfect little black dresses every woman needs in her closet.  While not part of my daily wardrobe, I’ve worn them dozens of times over the years when I have a fancy party or a somber occasion.  I’ve purchased many little black dresses in the interim and you know what?  I don’t have a single one of them, but I still have, and wear, Aunt Marylou’s dresses. 

Aunt Marylou was herself an amazing seamstress, but she worked as a sewing machinist in a factory making batch items for larger pieces — way before Zara, arguably the creator of fast fashion, pushed the business to multi-billion dollar levels — and because Aunt Marylou knew quality clothing and was also a style icon, she only bought the best.  The two little black dresses she gifted me are handmade, easily over 60 years old, and still look marvelous. 

There’s a rumor going around that, after the fossil fuel industry that feeds our energy needs and results in 25% of all greenhouse gases emissions, the fashion industry was the second largest polluter in the world. This is a fact repeated in several documentaries about the fashion industry, and while, at least according to an EPA pie chart, it does not appear to be true, I believe I know what environmental category fast fashion hits the hardest:  water.

pie chart courtesy EPA website

In fact, according to the Florida State University Sustainable Campus, “[t]he fashion industry is the second most water-intensive industry in the world, consuming around 79 billion cubic metres of water per year.”  These numbers can seem unreal when there’s no metric against which to compare them so how about this one:  to make one cotton t-shirt requires about 2,700 liters of water.  And that’s just the water.  There’s also the carbon footprint on the transportation costs, the pesticides used to grow the cotton (which ultimately runoff into streams and rivers), the dyes, the laundry detergent and disposal wastes, and the dangerous working conditions, to name a few others.

So what’s a fashion-forward consumer who also cares about the environment to do?  A few things for starters, the three R’s — reduce, reuse and recycle.  Buy good quality, sustainable brands that will last, and when you can’t wear that pink sweater one more time, donate it to charity.  Buy second-hand when you can.  Because of technology, there’s been a surge in purchasing reusable upscale clothing from the comfort of your couch.  And don’t support fast fashion brands whose true tagline should be, here today, out of fashion tomorrow.

Luckily, not every fashion designer is of the fast sort.  Today I’m talking with Resa McConaghy, quite possibly a poster child for slow fashion, a name that’s been given to the opposite of fast fashion, but is really a misnomer.  A better name for Resa’s designs would be timeless fashion, just like my Aunt Marylou’s little black dresses.  

Resa, a fashion designer extraordinaire, possesses a flair for the dramatic as evidenced by the many costumes she’s created for movies and television, and to reiterate, she does not create fast fashion. Quite the opposite actually, Resa has an almost visceral need to reuse, repurpose, and upcycle, not only fabrics, but amazing items that, at first blush, would not be considered in the something to wear category.  Resa’s environmentally-friendly approach is both fantastic for the environment and experimental, allowing her to create highly sought after one-of-a-kind designs which are near impossible to duplicate (take that, Zara!).  Who says saving the planet can’t be a win-win?  

I’ve been following Resa’s blog for some years now and am always amazed by her stunning work product, each design more extravagant and intriguing than the last.  It’s not just her fabulous designs that set her apart from her peers, it’s her environmental ethic as well, something rarely spotted in the fashion world.  

Like Carlo Petrini started the slow food movement to combat the fast food take over of the world, I hope Resa’s work starts a slow fashion movement to clothe the world in beautiful sustainable cloth and other reusable sundries.

So have a seat, read on, and tell me when you get to the end that you don’t want a one-of-a-kind Art Gown, by Resa McConaghy.

the artist at work © Resa McConaghy

Your work goes back to 1988 and I counted 50 movies/TV series that have benefitted from your beautiful art gowns and that is not including those series with multiple episodes. That’s quite a resume and it seems to still be picking up steam. How did you get started in the business and what did you do to get to where you are today? 

Thank you! Not all my film projects have gowns in them. There are all types of characters wearing all modes of clothing. I went to college and got an honours degree in Fashion Design and Technology. I then opened my own boutique, where I designed all the clothes. I had a small manufacturing set up in my basement. I had two employees. I made the patterns, and they helped me cut and sew the garments. I also did knitwear, as I had gotten another degree in Knit Design and Technology. I also worked in my boutique, doing sales. One day a producer for commercials came into my shop and looked around. She said they were having trouble getting men’s Arrow Shirts to fit Roman Style torso statues of men. Could I make the shirts fit these busts? I did great, and made more money in two days than I ever believed I could make. One job led to another. My boutique was a hand to mouth business. It was easy to give up my business, for the money I made styling for this area of the film industry. In my early years, I worked doing wardrobe for commercials, rock videos, shorts and anything I could get my hands on; whether I got paid or not. My career was a dream come true, even if I hadn’t dreamt it. 

Prior to the pandemic, I had become fussy about the projects I would take on. Designing for film is wonderful, but I was always making someone else’s vision come true. As a creative person, I wanted to express a vision of my own. So, I started Art Gowns. I’d like to add that the film industry is a massive polluter! I was planning to do a show, with my Art Gowns on models, and with my art covering the walls, for sale. Then the virus walked into town. I began giving my all to my blog, drawing and making Art Gowns. My art skills have improved tremendously. I didn’t see the sense of risking getting Covid working on a film set. Also, Covid changed the industry, and the industry had already changed dramatically due to technology and corporate take overs. I still hope to do my show, one day. Will I do another film project? Yes, but it has to be a really great one. 

How long does it take you to make a gown from concept to a finished piece? Do you make a pattern or freestyle it? Do you do the sewing yourself? 

To make an Art Gown takes three to six months on average. Although I do some pattern drafting, the gowns are predominately done by draping on a Judy. Yes, I do the sewing myself. All of the Art Gowns are sewn by hand, my hands. No machines are involved, save the iron. 

Cleopatra Capriccio © Resa McConaghy

About the gown: CLEOPATRA CAPRICCIO is made from a piece of sequin material given to me by a friend. It was left over from a project he worked on. It sat for years in a box, waiting. I also used some silver curtain lining — 75 cents a yard at a liquidation sale — a piece of musty blue silk that had been in storage for 25 years and a 45-year old table runner that was on it’s last legs. You can read more about it here.

Cleopatra Capriccio © Resa McConaghy

I note that you do a lot of period work and imagine it gets quite busy when you have a contract for several costumes at once? Do you have a full time staff helping you? Do you contract work out? Is it some combination of the two? 

When I costume design a film, I design all of the characters, the look of the Extras… EVERYTHING! Yes, I have staff. Let’s use Our Fathers as an example. It starred: Christopher Plummer, Ted Danson, Daniel Baldwin, Brian Dennehy and Ellen Burstyn. I had two Assistant Designers (one for principals, one for Extras), a Floor Supervisor, a Truck person, a full sewing room with a cutter and about four stitchers, an Extras wrangler, and daily help as required for whatever department needed it. We farmed out some of the Priest’s and Bishop’s raiment. Christopher had a Personal Dresser. We had three semi trucks full of clothes. On the busiest of shooting days I would have a staff of 16 under me. 

Sounds logistically overwhelming.  No wonder it has to be a great project for you to consider jumping back into that beehive!  Let’s talk about your period gowns, which I adore, especially the floor length models that are not something women in the 21st century generally wear. Do you prefer one period in history over another and if so, what’s your favorite? 

I have no fave period. They are all interesting! Right now, I’m drawing 1920’s Art Gowns. 

Have you ever made the same gown twice or is it once and done for each piece? 

Once! The Art Gowns are all one-of-a-kind. 

Do you sign your gowns into a hidden seam or some other secret compart-ment? 

No, I don’t. Although I know Vionnet did. 

When we first spoke about doing an interview, you mentioned you hadn’t yet done a water gown — something I cannot wait to see, by the way. Where’s the inspiration come from for these gowns? Do you wait until someone hires you for a specific piece of work and then start thinking about it or is there something that inspires you? And when are you going to do that water gown? 

So, the inspiration comes from all over the place. Most of the bloggers I follow are artists, writers, poets, photographers, nature lovers, etc. I get some ideas there. I find old decorator pillow cases, save wine corks, plastic mesh bags that produce comes in, collect old clothes made out of exciting fabrics – then take them apart, find old fabrics at jobbers that have been on the shelf for 20 years —I won’t spend more than $2 -$4 a yard. Last year an old friend found my blog. She sent me 40 pounds of old fabrics that had been gathering must from being stored in a garden shed for 20 years. No one hires me to make the Art Gowns. They are 100% mine. No one gets any say. I do however, dedicate them to people. Most are bloggers, but not all. Okay, the Water Gown. I actually thought of it when you commented on the last Art Gown I made. I’ve been to your blog and know you are all about clean water and green earth. I thought, I have a lot of old acetate lining in aqua greens and blues. That was a start to think on. Then I saw a pic of a small bubbling water fall, that a blogger had posted. I thought – those bubbles look like bubble wrap. What if I overlaid bubble wrap over the acetates? Of course I will not go out and buy new bubble wrap. We have lots in the basement from old shipments. I’ll try it out. If it works, I’ll ask friends not to throw away any bubble wrap they can’t use. Save it for me! 

I have a similar creative process for writing.  Everything is a source of inspiration. Was costume designing a childhood dream or did it evolve from something else? What other things are you passionate about? 

No, I did not dream about being a costume designer, when I was young. I did however, make my own clothes. I am passionate about all the arts. Music means so much to me, I married a musician/composer/producer. I adore going for long walks and taking pics of street art. 

What do you think about fast fashion, the sustainability of the fashion industry, and recreating synthetic fabrics in the lab? 

Fast fashion sucks! It sucks at the earth and all of us. Used to be there was a mid-price range of clothing. It was decent quality and you didn’t throw it away after a month. Of course people had to do proper laundry (sweaters and certain things by hand wash), ironing and not give 2 hoots about a new trend every week. Fast fashion has robbed us of our own personal style. Now, there is just cheap garbage clothes, or clothing that is so expensive it’s heartbreaking. If I had $10,000.00 to spend on a dress, I wouldn’t. There’s a lot of need out there. Just think what a local food bank could do with ten grand! Marie Antionette may be dead, but the Marie Antionette spirit lives on. I did a bunch of research on synthetics. The pollution they create, on many levels, is sickening. They are virtually impossible to recycle. So far, whatever ideas have come up in this regard are of mostly of no value. They create more pollution than it’s worth. I had to stop doing the research. I was getting depressed. I believe I kept the re-search. That was just before the pandemic hit. 

I agree.  It’s mostly disheartening with very little cause for hope.  Although there are a few designers, like yourself, who are touting sustainability.  For example, Stella McCartney prides herself on not using leather, feathers or any other animal products. This year she launched Mylo, “the world!s first-ever garments made from vegan, lab-grown Mylo mushroom leather.” Basically, mycelium turned into clothing. First off, what do you think of the idea of using mushrooms to create clothing, and second, do you have any thoughts about how to address sustainability in the fashion business? 

Sounds interesting! Good for Stella. I’ve been a vegetarian since I was a teenager. Mushrooms/fungus etc. maybe tasty in food, but they have almost no nutritional value. So, okay! A while back, certain health food stores were all puffed up that they were using bags made from corn. I said, there’s not enough corn. People and animals eat corn. It’s a staple. People are starving in many parts of the planet. Give them the corn. We can carry reusable totes.  It’s all about balance.  Sustainability in the fashion industry is a tough nut to crack at this point. The corporate profits are sky high. It’s up to people, each one of us individually and as a whole, to make it not profitable. They won’t change until they see a way to make bigger profits. This topic needs a blog of its own, with many weighing in, discussing, exposing the industry, gathering famous people to join the cause, exchanging our old clothes ….. and whatever else we can think of. 

I agree.  It’s going to be a process of reorientation toward sustainability.  Speaking of, do you do any upcycling, recycling, or reusing of materials when you work? 

All of the above! 

If you in charge, how would you change the fashion industry? What is the most important thing, do you think? To regulate? To inspire? To lead? To shine a light? 

Again, all of the above! 

Do you think the fashion industry can do anything to combat climate change and if so, what? 

Of course it can, but it needs to find the will. Human beings need to find the will, and that will drive industry. It blows me away that I see new plastic bottled water products introduced into the market place. (Oh, this one is flavoured!) It’s unconscionable but profitable. I saw cheap t-shirts made out of old plastic. That must feel disgusting on the body, possibly unhealthy since we also breathe through our skin, and at what cost to the environment did that plastic get turned into t-shirts. Beware of things that seem too good to be true! 

Okay, after all that depressing talk, how about leave us with something inspiring, a bit of hope, perhaps?

Spring Rhapsody © Resa McConaghy

Here she is — SPRING RHAPSODY!

She is inspired from a large decorator pillow sham . . . probably 1980’s. I made the bodice out of it, and part of the tail. The skirt is out of a very odd fabric. It is almost like a shiny scuba material . . . possibly an upholstery fabric. The flowers are made from bits of colourful acetate lining scraps – overlaid with scraps of embroidered net left over from a wedding gown. The buttons have been sitting in their box for at least 10 years. The ties and sashes are from decent size leftovers, from projects from at least 20 years ago. You can read more about it here.

Spring Rhapsody © Resa McConaghy

Resa, it’s been a pleasure speaking with you.  Any last bits of advice to share?

I think we need to figure a way to move people back to natural fabrics. The challenge is washing and drying. Most people don’t know how to iron, and can’t afford to take them to the cleaners for pressing. Most cleaners do not offer JUST a pressing service anymore. Dry cleaning is a sin. My friends who did my dry cleaning on films for years shut it down and opened a wet cleaning service — no chemicals. It uses steam and natural cleansers. Unfortunately, it tripled the cost, but they have no competition. They went into great debt to buy the machines. 

Also, most people don’t know anything about clothes with stretch. You get an instant fit. Manufacturers love this. No darts, less sewing, more profits, but synthetic (so at least partially made from fossil fuels).  A designer needs to develop a line of clothes in natural fabrics that work conveniently for people.  Otherwise, fast fashion will make a fast death for us all.

Resa, I wish you great success and hope your work influences the slow fashion movement for years to come.

pam lazos 3.6.22

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Swamp Love Trifecta

Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area, Central PA a migratory bird route for Canadian snow geese

Show me the money!

If I told you one-eighth of the world’s inhabitants depend on wetlands for their livelihood you would probably say I’m crazy.  They’re just swamps, right?  Yes they are swamps, and yet, the Chesapeake Bay, the Louisiana Bayou, the Okefenokee Swamp, and the East Kolkata wetlands, to name a few, are not only some of the most hardworking environmental resources around with their fishing, crabbing, birding, aquaculture, ecotourism, and wastewater treatment abilities, but these ancient, massive primigenial havens of swampy, boggy, marshy, peaty, watery goodness are intrinsically cash cows. 

The Chesapeake Bay alone is estimated to bring in approximately $33 billion a year across the spectrums of fishing, tourism, real estate and recreation, among others things, across six states:  Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia and all of D.C. 

Louisiana’s commercial fisheries supply 25-35% of the United States’ total catch, while their wetlands protect the coastal zones along the Gulf where Louisiana’s oil and natural gas industries live, adding approximately $73 billion to Louisiana’s GDP in 2020 and responsible for one out of every nine jobs in the state.  However you feel about oil and gas drilling, fossil fuel energy is a resource America still needs while we make the conversion to renewables and yet another reason to maintain wetlands that would be lost to the winds and tides over time without targeted coastal restoration projects.  

In 2002, the East Kolkata Wetlands obtained wetlands of international importance status under the Ramsar convention where they had been managing wastewater treatment as well as providing a boost to the aquaculture and agriculture industries for a city of 4.5 million people -by providing, among other things, livelihoods along with cheap food and vegetables for the indigenous population – again, showing people the money.

But, and it’s a big but, these coastal and inland systems are under extreme pressure from both pollution and development, meaning 140,000 species of fish, about 55% of the fish population, are also at risk.  Consider the problem of a failure of maintenance by the government in East Kolkata with this comment from wetland researcher, Dhruba Das Gupta:

This year is the completion of two decades of Ramsar status for the East Kolkata Wetlands – and the story of these wetlands today is grim – with an acute capital crisis, a recalcitrant state and looming land sharks who are fooling the people regarding a liveable abode that just cannot materialise.

Watch Dhruba’s 13-minute podcast for a primer on the East Kolkata wetlands; you’ll be amazed at what they do.  The East Kolkata wetlands are a prime, and arguably best example of why wetland systems have tremendous importance on our planet, filtering 750 million liters of wastewater per day — what would cost $25 billion a year to do so mechanically — and also why we need to devote more time and money to the maintenance and preservation of these resources before they disappear.

The statistics as to why wetlands are important go on and on, but if we want wetlands to do the same, we need to act.  Get involved.  Let your local decision-makers know how you feel about protecting one of the world’s most precious natural resources.  Nudge your environmental regulators to send more money toward these natural systems.   Volunteer the next time your local conservancy organizes a river cleanup or announces a project.  Read books on wetlands and why they are important to humankind’s evolution.  Future generations will be grateful for your efforts. 

pam lazos 2.26.22

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Swamp Love, Redux

migratory bird route in cape may, nj © pam lazos

The Okefenokee National Wildlife Area — a giant peat boggy swamp listed on the Ramsar Site of wetlands of particular ecological importance — is a swath of swamp approximately 438,000 acres in size and one of the largest intact freshwater ecosystems in the world.   It is second only to the Atchafalaya Basin near Simmesport, Louisiana which, at almost one million acres, is the largest river swamp in the U.S.

Bald cypress, swamp tupelo, longleaf pine, bobcats, wild turkey and white-tailed deer and alligators galore inhabit this enormous drainage basin that straddles the divide between the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico draining from headwaters of the Suwannee (Gulf of Mexico) and the St. Marys (Atlantic Ocean) Rivers.  Threatened and endangered species include the red cockaded woodpecker, wood storks and indigo snakes.

The Okefenokee was added to the Ramsar list on December 18, 1986.

Back in 1997, the Okefenokee has been under threat from Dupont’s proposal to begin a 50-year titanium mining operation.  The proposal caved under public pressure and Dupont gave in and donated the 16,000 acres it would have mined

Yet the lure of lucrative minerals remained strong.  In 2018, Twin Pines Minerals, LLC tried again but the company didn’t comprehend the size and strength of public opposition to its proposition in the form of 60,000 written comments.

turtles resting in sunlight © pam lazos

Sadly, during the Trump administration, the Clean Water Act came under fire with the Navigable Waters Protection Rule which rolled back protections for wetlands generally outside of some stringent conditions like adjacency to waterways which meant the Army Corps of Engineers, the arm of the federal government tasked with issuing permits for wetlands development, would no longer make the decision, punting any permitting questions for the Okefenokee to Georgia regulators.

Enter the Georgia General Assembly and H.B. 1289.

Last week, this impossibly fertile and infinitely important landmark got a boost from state lawmakers in the form of H.B.  1289 —  a bill introduced by five Republicans and one Democrat for those of us who think there is no bipartisanship left in the world — to protect the Okefenokee from mining.

A BILL to be entitled an Act to amend Part 3 of Article 2 of Chapter 4 of Title 12 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, relating to surface mining, so as to prohibit the director of the Environmental Protection Division of the Natural Resources Department from issuing, modifying, or renewing any permit or accepting any bond to conduct surface mining operations on the geological feature known as Trail Ridge between the St. Marys and Satilla Rivers for future permit applications and amendments; to provide for legislative findings; to provide for related matters; to repeal conflicting laws; and for other purposes.

The Okefenokee also makes bank. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife service estimates that for every dollar the state appropriates, the Okefenokee brings in $1.38 and that doesn’t count the myriad ways the swamp improves society and the environment. 

Fingers crossed the bill becomes law and the Okefenokee is protected in perpetuity. 

resting frog waiting for a decision © pam lazos

Just when I was starting to lose faith in humanity, something like this happens — politicians from opposite sides of the aisle coming together to save a world-class ecological site.

Game not over yet.  Just wow.

2.21.22 pam lazos

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Swamp Love

swamp love © pam lazos

Today, February 14th, is Valentine’s Day, a universal day of love. But is there something more to Valentine’s Day than overpriced roses and chocolates? Let’s discuss.

The Greeks had seven different words for love which you can read more about here if you are interested. The cliff notes version goes like this:
eros — romantic passionate love;
philia — intimate, authentic friendship;
ludus — playful, flirtatious love;
storge — unconditional, familial love;
philtautia — self-love;
pragma — committed, companionate love; and
agápe — empathetic, universal love.

I’d like to focus on the last one, agápe, something in very short supply at this time in our collective history. Agápe is the love of everything: God, nature, our dogs and cats, the people who drive us batshit crazy, the glorious sunrise, a beautiful snowfall, anything in the world and beyond. If we’re ever going to get back to balance on this planet, we all need a little more agápe in our lives, and perhaps a little less individualism, but that’s a topic for another blog post.

This post is about swamp love. So what if the Greeks didn’t have a word for swamp love? A lot of them lived on islands; it may have been a given.

reflections © pam lazos

There are four types of wetlands in the U.S. and one of them is a swamp. The other three are marshes, bogs and fens.  All are critical to clean water since wetlands serve as nature’s own little wastewater treatment plant.

While the regulatory definition of a wetland is complicated, the average person recognizes wetlands as wet and mucky places that hold standing water, i.e., not a housing developer’s favorite track of land. Therein lies the tension.

Wetlands are important for a variety of reasons: they control flooding, acting as a safe harbor for flood waters to recede slowly rather than rushing off downstream via stormwater drain conduits; they filter out toxins — such as heavy metals, oily contaminants and excess fertilizers and pesticides that would otherwise reach the rivers, streams and groundwater — by capturing them in their soils; and they provide a home to a variety of flora and fauna that thrive in watery places. Among other things, they’re beautiful.

Coastal wetlands act as a barrier between the mainland and the ocean, giving that vast body of water the space to expand and contract as storms and winds dictate, providing a much needed buffer in times of severe weather, while freshwater wetlands often act like the primordial soup of our humble beginnings for varieties of critters that need a sloshy place to get started. If you take anything away from the last paragraph it should be this: a healthy wetland ecosystem is great for the planet and all the humans, critters and vegetation that live on it.

February 2nd marked the 51st anniversary of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance,  signed in 1971 in Ramsar, Iran. This inter-governmental treaty sought to assure that the world would conserve and protect its wetlands and the attendant resources.  The U.S. joined the Ramsar Convention on April 18, 1987.

Perhaps it is coincidence, perhaps not, but located in Southern Iraq and Iran lie the Mesopotamian Marshes, also known as the Iraqi Marshes, once the largest wetland ecosystem in the world — before they were systematically drained by Saddam Hussein — now reduced to 10% of their former glory.  None of us knows what species of plants or animals were lost in the draining, but something tells me the world is a little poorer for it.

Of the 2,430 wetland sites designated worldwide, 41 of them are located in the U.S.  February 2nd, the day the Ramsar treaty was signed, is globally recognized as World Wetlands Day.

Maybe it’s not time to drain the swamp at all, but to ensure it continues to thrive and grow.

Happy Swamp Love Day!

If you want to learn more about the Mesopotamian Marshes and the Marsh Arabs who live there, read her debut novel, Oil and Water, about oils spills and green technology, and yes, wetlands.

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