Earth Day 2023

"Earth Day" banner over the Earth which is in the shape of a heart.
Image by Laxman Deep from Pixabay.

Happy Earth Day! This is a day of recognition and a day to celebrate our beautiful home and habitat.

But as I always say, Earth Day should be every day.

This year, 2023, feels heavier, though. There’s so much going on and so much division that climate change and environmental issues often feel like back-burner issues.

It’s hard to think about buying plastic-free items and aiming for zero-waste when the price of groceries is so high.

While the average price of groceries rose 11.4% in the last year, it is expected to rise another 8.6% this year. But for some items, staples such as bread, eggs, milk, butter, and flour – the inflation rates are even higher. “The average price of white bread was about 22 percent higher in January than it was two years ago, and flour is up almost 21 percent. Butter cost 31 percent more.”1 Milk went up about 15% between 2021 and 2022.2 “The average price for all types of eggs ballooned 60% in 2022” because of an outbreak of bird flu.3

But some of the other costs have been simply to increase the wealth of corporations, CEOs, and shareholders. They are seeing record profits and receiving record dividends and bonuses. All at our expense. According to Oxfam, a global organization that fights inequality to end poverty and injustice, 62 new billionaires were created during the pandemic. They have exacerbated problems like labor shortages and supply chain disruptions to justify inflation. But the majority of food companies still managed to see record profits.4

Maroon-colored bag of Lundberg Family Farms organic basmati rice on a shelf.
Photo by me, April 8, 2023.

In the last 5 years, costs have increased overall by about twenty percent. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statics Consumer Price Index inflation calculator indicates that $100.00 in February 2018 has the same buying power of just over $120.00 in February 2023.5 Inflation has increased an average of 20% over the last 5 years. Most of us have not seen an increase in wages or benefits.

It’s difficult to see the value in cleaning up trash in one community when you see environmental racism and injustice in another.

My family participated in a Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful trash clean-up event in April 2023. It felt really good to go out and do something good. But all around our own city and in countries across the globe, there are people living amongst massive amounts of trash, toxic waste sites, and pollution. Why aren’t we doing more to help?

I remind myself that many of us are trying. Unfortunately, the people with the most wealth are often the same people exploiting those that have the least. And climate change affects some of the poorest communities in the world even though they have the smallest carbon footprint.

We just have to keep getting out there and doing what we can. Keep trying, learning, and especially voting!

It’s easy to shift your focus away from climate change when you are worried about the safety of your child at school.

I really don’t like to write about political issues on my website (other than things related to the environment and climate change, but those really shouldn’t be political issues, anyway). But this is a real fear for many parents, myself included. Firearms are the leading cause of death for children in the U.S.

The March 2023 Nashville school shooting, tragic and sad, should never have happened. The same week as that shooting, my son’s school in Chattanooga was put on a “secure hold” because of an intruder. The school seemed to have handled it swiftly and correctly, but they didn’t notify the parents until after the whole incident was over. The intruder was unarmed, but I nevertheless cried out of fear. I remain fearful every day I bring him to school. This daily anxiety is taking its toll.

How am I supposed to worry about climate change right now, when I’m worried about my child surviving the day?

A pair of gloved hands holding a globe with a sprouted plant on top, black background.
Photo by Fateme Alaie on Unsplash.

The answer is that I have to at least try.

“The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second best time to plant a tree is now.” -Proverb

We all have to try.

Together.

We can do better.

“I don’t think we want to just scrape by as a species, surviving with a degraded natural world, suffering ecosystem and societal collapse, and mass human suffering on a scale that dwarfs anything we’ve experienced as a species. I think we all want to see what we’re capable of, and make this world of ours the best it can be.” -Rob Stewart6

Graphic of colorful stick people holding hands across the arc of the top of Earth.
Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay.

We must keep learning.

“When you know better, you do better.” -Maya Angelou

We have to do the right things, even when our leaders don’t.

“Choose what is right, not what is easy.” -Yoda

We have to give what we can, whether that’s time, energy, or money.

“The surest path to contentment is generosity. Giving forces us to recognize all we possess and all we have to offer. It allows us to find fulfillment and purpose in helping others.” -Joshua Becker, becomingminimalist.com

We must teach our children to do better than we have.

“I’m still convinced it’s a good old world, really, but I do think we have screwed it up. It’s highly obvious with the ocean filling with plastic; it didn’t get there by itself. Thinking that climate change is a hoax is another screw-up, one that I hope we can still fix for our children and our children’s children.” -Paul McCartney

We need to value the people and the environment around us. Let’s help each other.

“Fighting for something other than your own wealth, working for someone else’s happiness, saving species, pulling people out of poverty, conserving instead of wasting – this is what really matters.” -Rob Stewart8

Photo of a watercolor painting of the Earth with a purple background.
Photo by Elena Mozhvilo on Unsplash.

I leave you with a heavy heart this Earth Day. But I think the best thing we can do to celebrate today is to get outdoors and be in nature. Spend time taking in the elements and the beauty of nature. Hug a tree. Hug the person next to you. Spread kindness and love.

“Our task must be to free ourselves… by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty.” -Albert Einstein

Thanks for reading, please share and subscribe.

Footnotes:

What do you do with all that beautiful child art? A minimalist approach.

Last updated on March 26, 2024.

Is your child a budding artist? Does he or she create more pieces than you can keep up with?

My son, who is now almost 6, is a budding little artist and makes A LOT of art! He has been creating art since he was under 2, and I am guilty of saving almost all of it. I did not realize how quickly it would all accumulate. And if you’re a mom, you’ll understand when I say I think that all my child’s art is beautiful!

Painting by my son at age 2 and a half, abstract colors on paper.
Scan of a painting by my son at age two and a half.

Do you have tons of art that you think is lovely and you can’t let go of? That’s perfectly normal, so don’t feel bad about it. But what do you do with all of that art – especially if you’re trying to reduce clutter or even striving for minimalism?

If you search Google or Pinterest you will find many great ideas! I was inspired by other bloggers and people searching for a solution to the same problem. Marie Kondo would say I should keep only the pieces that spark joy. I was also inspired by The Minimalists, who recommend scanning your photos and documents and letting go of the hard copies – so why not child art as well? I opted to scan and photograph the majority of my son’s art and make a Shutterfly photo book – and it came out beautiful!

So how did I do it? I managed to do it while working full-time, after bedtime. I’ll explain my process next.

White clay Thanksgiving turkey sculpture made by my son at age 3, with beads, googly eyes, and colorful feathers stuck in it.
Photo of a Thanksgiving turkey sculpture made by my son at age three.

“Nothing a child ever does is trash. It is practice.” -Naomi Shihab Nye, Cast Away: Poems For Our Time

Organizing

First I had to organize everything. The art pieces accumulated quickly over just a few years and I had stored it all in three bins. Over the years, I had managed to write information on the backs of most art pieces, such as the date and what my son said about the piece or titled it. I did this because a colleague advised me to document those things. That was great advice!

So for several nights, I sorted the art by year. Next, I sorted the stacks into the months of each year, in order. As I sorted, I selected my very favorite pieces – the ones that spark joy! – and set those aside, as I plan to put those together in a scrapbook later this summer.

Stack of sorted art pieces.
Stack of sorted art pieces.

Digitizing

Once I had everything organized, I started photographing and scanning the art, working on just a month’s worth at a time. I have an Epson scanner and I scanned all of the art pieces I could. Some of the art was larger than the scanning bed, and other pieces were three-dimensional. For those, I set up a basic background using a folded black poster board on a table next to a lamp with two light sources. I simply set up each piece in the best light I could and photographed those pieces using my iPhone on the HDR setting.

"Foil fish" art piece that my son and I made together.
“Foil fish” that my son and I made together.

Making the Photo Book

I put the images into folders divided by year and as I went through each month, I uploaded them into Shutterfly and designed my photo book. You can use any online photo service, I just already had an account with Shutterfly. I do recommend a larger-sized photo book. I chose 12 x 12 which is the same size as a standard scrapbook, and I’m super happy with it.

Cover of the photo book with rainbow heart background.
Cover of the photo book, featuring a photo of my son painting. I removed his name and pixelated his face for privacy. The backside is a similar background with additional photos of my son working on various art projects.
Interior page of the photo book.
Interior pages of the photo book.

Most online photo services offer a large variety of backgrounds, colorful embellishments, fonts, layouts, and many other design options included in the price. This book ended up being about 90 pages. I also opted for the hardcover version with the lay-flat option, both of which cost slightly more. After applying a few coupon codes at the end, this book still cost quite a bit, almost $75. Without the coupons, the retail price would have been over $200.

However, it probably would have cost me almost as much to buy a scrapbook, scrapbook paper, stickers, and other embellishments to go along with it. And for me, it was just as fun as scrapbooking and completely worth the money. I will cherish this book forever.

What will I do with the art pieces now?

Since I’m going to let them go, I’m of course going to separate all of the recyclables (mostly paper) and recycle them. Some of the non-recyclables (beads, buttons, pipe cleaners) can be put back into our art supplies. I’ve now made my son’s art organized and accessible. The art book is so easy to pull out and look through, whereas the art in storage bins was not.

Strict minimalism would probably suggest just tossing everything, keeping the memory of the art, and saving the money. But if you’re like me and feel that your child’s art is just too dear to part with, you might find this a good compromise.

I am currently working on a second book because this book only went up through 2017. I’m enjoying putting it together.

UPDATE February 11, 2024: Since writing this, I’ve put together several photo books of my son’s art (he’s made a lot of art over the years). I physically kept only the most special pieces. I hung some on the walls and the rest I put into a scrapbook. Everything else I scanned or photographed and put in the photo books. For me, this is still the best way to preserve my child’s art. I enjoy getting the books out and paging through them.

I hope this post inspires you to do something fun and creative with your child’s art! Please subscribe and leave me a comment below about your project!

 

All photos in this post were taken by Marie Cullis. This post contains no affiliate links, nor was I paid to review Shutterfly’s product.

Book review: “100 Heartbeats: The Race to Save Earth’s Most Endangered Species” by Jeff Corwin

Last updated on February 11, 2024.

“Every year, more than 20,000 species tragically disappear from our planet.”-Jeff CorwinBook cover of "100 Heartbeats" by Jeff Corwin, with Corwin's profile facing a rhinoceros nose.

Jeff Corwin has hosted many television shows about animals. But he’s so much more than a  popular television show host. He’s a biologist, wildlife conservationist, educator, advocate, and voice for endangered species across the planet.

This book caught my eye at the local used bookstore and I had to buy it. This is a very intelligible book meant for all audiences. Corwin did not write it academically but he does cite an immense amount of research and scientific studies. I honestly had a hard time putting it down even though it deals with a depressing subject matter. But Corwin countered much of the sorrowful information with stories of progressive movements and hope. And all of it is so important for us to know.

The Title

The title comes from the most critically endangered species we are about to lose which has fewer than 100 individual living members left. All are direct consequences of the actions and behaviors of humans. Here, Jeff Corwin talks about the film and book:

I have not been able to find the companion documentary they referred to yet, but if I do I will update this post.

The Contents

Corwin explained the story of each species delicately yet methodically. I read one review where Corwin was criticized for jumping around from one species to the next in different regions of the world. But one glance at the table of contents reveals that he was clearly dividing his book into thematic sections about the major human causes of endangered species. The sections were:

    • Global warming and habitat loss
    • The introduction of non-native species, pollution, and disease
    • The exploitation of animals for products and economy

I will say that that same review applauded Corwin for his genuineness and for highlighting how we can motivate people around the world to change.

“If you’ve ever doubted that a small group of people can make a big difference in the face of a tide that seems inexorable, organizations like the WWF and the IRF are proof that such a change is possible.” -Jeff Corwin

The Endangered Species list is vast

At the time this book was written, there were 16,928 endangered species in the world. I was hoping that that number had decreased since 2009, but I figured it probably increased at least slightly.
But I was devastated to discover that as of 2024, there are 44,000 endangered species, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). They are the global authority on endangered species. Corwin cited the IUCN heavily in this book. If you’re not familiar with the IUCN, please check out this 3-minute video that will help you learn about them:

Corwin explained that there were 3,246 critically endangered species (the highest risk category for endangerment of extinction by the IUCN) in 2009. He wrote: “Whether we realize it or not, we need them…We’re inextricably bound with nature. When we put the survival of the natural world in jeopardy, we simultaneously put our survival in jeopardy.” We’ve harmed landscapes and habitats and entire ecosystems, and it’s going to hurt every species, ourselves included.

“We can’t fall back on letting nature take its course when we’ve changed the land and its inhabitants in ways that nature never intended.” -Jeff Corwin

Habitat Destruction

Habitat destruction is the number one cause of species extinction worldwide. It makes sense – as the human population increases, human activities spread and drive the land to a state in which the land can no longer support the indigenous species. Urban sprawl, logging, mining, and commercial fishing are all culprits, but agriculture is the main source of habitat destruction.
An orange digger clearing a forested area.
Deforestation and habitat destruction is the number one cause of species endangerment. Image by Robert Jones from Pixabay.

Oil & Drilling

We all know oil spills are bad. When animals try to lick off oil from their fur or feathers, “the effect is toxic and can induce kidney failure.” They also rely on their fur or feathers for warmth, but when they’re coated in oil, the animal can freeze to death. “Unless they’re rescued – a monumental feat in remote regions – animals affected by oil spills typically die of hypothermia.” This makes me want to stop driving immediately. How do we stop supporting this global need and greed for oil?

Close up of Gas pumps. Image by David ROUMANET from Pixabay.
Image by David ROUMANET from Pixabay.

Poaching, Slaughter & the Exotic Pet trade

Poaching is another major cause of species endangerment and extinction, although it is not always defined as just the slaughter of wild animals. It often includes animals captured for the exotic pets trade, for which there is a huge demand on the black market. Humans remove those animals from their habitats, affecting the ecosystem. This reduces the populations in more ways than one – since they do not reproduce in that ecosystem, their numbers obviously decline further.

Slaughter for commercial profit is most visible from the slaughter of elephants and rhinoceroses. Humans kill these large animals for only one body part, the tusks or the horns. They leave the rest of the animal to rot. My family and I recently visited the Nashville Zoo and I was impressed with their exhibits about critically endangered species. I took a photo of one about the rhinos because the image so shocked me that it moved me to tears:

Exhibit of a slaughtered rhino from the Nashville Zoo. Photo by me.
Exhibit from the Nashville Zoo. Photo by me.

We must do better.

“While the dinosaurs disappeared as the result of a natural but catastrophic event, the current causes of extinction are largely the result of human behavior.” -Jeff Corwin

Sepia toned photograph African elephant walking with the sky in the background. Image by Christine Sponchia from Pixabay.
African elephant. Image by Christine Sponchia from Pixabay.

Inspiration

Even though the book made me quite depressed about the state of species across the Earth, the book was very inspiring. It inspired me to feature this review of the book, to read more on the topics, and to write future posts on the subject. Corwin offered hope at every turn.

“We’re not powerless, though. As demonstrated by the success story of the American bald eagle, great strides can be made through compassion and dedication.” -Jeff Corwin

Bald eagle feeding a baby eagle in a large nest. Image by skeeze from Pixabay.
Image by skeeze from Pixabay.

I found the dedication Corwin wrote to his daughters particularly inspiring. Here’s part of it:

“To my daughters…you are both so very precious to your mother and me; your optimism and trust, reflected through a lovely lens of innocence, inspires us…While at present the creatures who share Earth with us are in jeopardy, I have faith that my generation will make things right so you and your children will have the opportunity to thrive upon a rich, healthy, and diverse planet. We will not fail you.

That’s beautiful, and it’s exactly how I feel about my own child. My son is precious to me and I do not want to leave a devastated planet behind for him to deal with. I want to be part of the change!

I will not fail him.

Happy Earth Day! But Every Day should be Earth Day…

Last updated on February 11, 2024.

Illustration of the Earth
Photo by Pixabay from Pexels.

Happy Earth Day!

Established in 1970, Earth Day celebrates 49 years this year. Next year will be a huge anniversary! The first Earth Day “led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of other first-of-their-kind environmental laws, including the National Environmental Education Act, the Occupational Safety and Health Act, and the Clean Air Act. Two years later congress passed the Clean Water Act.”1

April 22 marks Earth Day every year. It’s an important day to recognize our beautiful planet, but many of us believe Earth Day should be Every Day. We can make a difference every day. We can be the change. We can participate in daily practices that are small but add up when many of us do them! Follow my website to learn about changes you can make. I’ve provided some easy lists of simple things you can do to make an impact under Additional Resources below.

How do you celebrate Earth Day?

Earth Day is a day of education and support for protecting the environment, preventing pollution, preserving and protecting all species, and curbing climate change. The first thing you can do is commit to change. Pick one change and start there. Refuse plastic, start composting, and drive less. There are hundreds of things you can do! See Additional Resources below. I also have a recommended list of books.

The next thing you can do is educate yourself, and then others! Many people have no idea about plastic pollution in our oceans. I doubt everyone knows how many species are now classified as endangered. Many believe recycling is enough, but unfortunately, it isn’t. Some still believe climate change is a farce.

Once you’re aware of what’s going on, there’s no turning back. Your conscience will help guide you. Your knowledge will help you guide others.

Homeschool Lesson for Earth Day

There are so many ideas on the internet and Pinterest, especially for homeschool lessons on Earth Day, the environment and pollution, and endangered species. I wrote about a lesson on pollution and the environment that I did with my son a while back, but I also did special lessons with him about Earth Day. Children will understand why we want to protect our world by learning simple things that explain what the Earth is, what the Earth looks like, and all the animals, birds, ocean creatures, and humans that inhabit this great planet.

We did an easy puzzle of the Earth, coloring sheets of the planet, tracing activities, and counting games using the Earth as a theme. I found all of them as free printables on the internet.

We made a paper mache globe inspired by a blog post, when my son was just 3.2 Here’s what ours looked like:

My son painting our paper mache Earth.
My son painting our paper mache Earth. Photo by Marie Cullis.
The "completed" version of our paper mache Earth.
The “completed” version of our paper mache Earth. Photo by Marie Cullis.

We also read books about the environment and protecting our world, like the one below, which teaches that we need to take care of our Earth every day. You can find many other recommended books on my Children’s Book page.

Earth Day Every Day book cover

 

But even if you don’t have children, you can still help people understand when the topics come up in conversation. And those conversations will come up. Won’t you be excited to share your knowledge?

What else can you do?

So. Many. Things.

You can plant trees (maybe even hug them!), clean up litter (join the Litterati!), join an environmentally-conscience community organization, compost, refuse disposable products, grow a garden at home or in your community, take the bus or ride a bicycle to work, eat healthier foods that aren’t processed or sold in wasteful packaging, strive for zero waste, donate to back an educational project or school program, go minimalist, donate to help protect a species, etc. Just pick something that speaks to you and do it.

Love the Earth. Then help spread that love.

You can also subscribe to my blog to learn more with me as I continue my journey!

 

Additional Resources:

Article, “11 Ways To Go Plastic-Free With Food,” becauseturtleseatplasticbags.com.

List, “52 Ways to Invest in Our Planet,” earthday.org, accessed February 11, 2024.

Article, “100 Steps to a Plastic-Free Life,” myplasticfreelife.com, accessed February 11, 2024.

Footnotes: