Wednesday, May 28, 2008

School's Out...Let the Insanity Begin!

Friday the 23rd was the last day of school for my children. (And me, as I'm a substitute aide/teacher). So yay! No getting up at 6:30 am and fumbling with the coffee pot. No slapping together PB&J sandwiches and finding something other than high fructose corn syrup-laden "fruit" snacks into lunch bags. No need to assure a child that wearing a pair of pants for the third time that week (because laundry was somehow neglected) will mark her as an outcast among her peers.

But complete laziness isn't in the cards, even for the likes of lazy me. While my children are old enough to entertain themselves, I still do mom things with them. Or at least make the effort. With that in mind, we've arranged a couple of things to keep busy this summer.

I have signed up DD#2 for T-ball and am active on the team. OK, reality is that I'm VERY competitive and want our team to win. Which isn't an easy accomplishment when more than half the team is playing in the dirt when we have the field and ignoring the ball unless it comes close to them. Maybe. There are a few kids who race across the field after the ball even when it's nowhere near them, leaving their positions untended. Love the desire to play, but the nuances of the game are lost on most 5-8 year olds. When it's our turn at bat, most of the kids waiting in the dugout are climbing on the fenced walls or standing on the bench. The batter is more than likely swinging for the umpteenth time at the ball on the tee because they can't get it to roll past the white "foul" semi-circle five feet in front of them. And that's fine. They're out in the fresh air, having fun and picking up a little clue about the game. Plus, they're a riot for us adults to watch.

Both my girls will be attending a week-long science day camp later in June. Like their parents, they are interested in the natural world and we're in a prime location for education and enjoyment. My husband told the coordinator (a coworker) I'd be happy to help out. He did this BEFORE asking me what MY plans for that week of kidlessness might be, but that's okay. I'll happily help. And exact my revenge at a later date. You'll see.

Along with in town activities, we're doing a little traveling this summer. First, we go back to our former home town to pick up a few work-related items DH left behind as well as to visit friends. It's a short trip, but it'll be fun. Later in June, the kids and I head to eastern Washington to visit the in-laws. As revenge on my spouse...ahem...I mean as a bonus, during that 3 week stint I'll be jetting out to the east to do a kid-free visit with my friend Sharron. Double yay!

My in-laws are graciously providing airport shuttling service at wonky hours both for our overall visit and for my little getaway. How sweet is that? Not to mention arranging entertaining activities for the girls. And where will DH be during this time? Working, the poor guy. Hey, SOMEONE has to pay for all those plane fares.

So what are your plans for the summer?


Thursday, May 15, 2008

Global Warming, the ESA and Polar Bears, Oh My!


The Department of the Interior has decided to list polar bears, those wacky denizens of the frozen north (or not so frozen north as the case seems to be), as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) due to global warming. The sea ice bears rely upon to access their hunting grounds is, undeniably, smaller than in previous years. However, from what little I've read, overall the population of polar bears is not considered dangerously low or even close to worrisome. (Bear--ha!--in mind that I haven't read all the scientific studies of polar bear population counts. Heck, I haven't read a single one. I'm just going by what I've gleaned from the news.) But be that as it may, the polar bear is now listed as threatened.

Okaaaay. Without going into allegations of speculative science and premature decisions being made, let's think about this for a moment. They're listed. Great. Now what?

Polar bears are already protected to a certain degree by the Marine Mammals Protection Act. Granted, that is more along the lines of direct interaction between bears and humans, ie: unless you are an Alaska Native, you can't hunt polar bears or sell their pelts, among other limitations. So on that level, nothing really changes for the bears. As for the ESA, it requires the federal government to plan for the protection of critical habitat, write a recovery plan and consult about protection before approving federal permits that could impact listed species.

Hmmm. Alaska's polar bears live smack in the middle of where petroleum exploration and development is being sought. They live near enough to the area where a natural gas pipeline is being proposed that there is the possibility of delays and lawsuits regarding the construction of the pipeline. Which would be ironic since the use of cleaner natural gas is a way to reduce our carbon emissions and lower greenhouse gases, the cause of global warming and the loss of the sea ice the bears require.

Resource development in Alaska is generally done with a huge eye toward keeping our environment as healthy as possible. Many people depend upon the land and its wildlife as their source of income and food. Not to mention the travel and tourism benefits. Do you really think it would be allowed for someone, no matter what they say they'll be putting into the state coffers, to waltz in and build oil platforms and pipelines willy-nilly if there were so great a potential for hurting the environment? Short answer: No. Sure, there are mishaps and folks who will cut corners, but we love our state as much as anyone in the Lower 48. We're not going to poo in our own nests.

So what does the listing mean to you and me? Well, expect higher prices at the pumps, folks. If there are going to be issues about developing more petroleum sources in the Arctic then we'll be importing more oil from overseas. (Um, anyone know what the impact THOSE wells are having on THOSE environments? Anyone care? No, because it's not OUR nests being fouled.)

But maybe, just maybe, the listing of the polar bear will spur investigation and development of renewable and affordable resources. Wouldn't that be nice.

In the meantime, maybe we need to spend a few tax dollars on helping the polar bears get to their hunting grounds this summer. I think there are some plans for a bridge laying around the state...perhaps we should use that?

5/16 ETA: Reading through this, you may think I'm pro-development and anti-polar bear. I'm not. I should have made clear that, IMO, the decision to list the polar bear as threatened, while probably a good idea, was made on more of a political level than anything else. So the bear is now considered threatened. What are we going to do about it? Anyone have an answer that will significanly reduce green house gases by 2050, the year that it's predicted the polar bear will be in dire straits? Please feel free to share. I'm not being snarky, I swear. What I do predict is that there will be lawsuits and counter suits up the wazoo, getting no one anywhere, particularly the polar bear. Again, my opinion. Your mileage may vary.

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