Table of Contents
Going Wild: Nature All Around Us
(c) 2002 by Skipping Stones. Opinions expressed in these pages reflect views of the contributors, and not necessarily those of Skipping Stones, Inc.
From the Editor
Can you name a system that works on the sun's energy? It's perfectly designed, and, for all practical purposes, made to last forever. Your answer? The Earth, of course. Our planet works beautifully with just the incoming solar energy. The biosphere; the great oceans; the incredible diversity of the plant and animal kingdoms; and the various ecosystems, such as rainforests, tundras and deserts, all work in perfect harmony.
Truly, it can't be dismissed as an accident. It appears to be the work of a superb scientist, architect or designer—of a creator worthy of our praise for a perfect system design.
It is so perfect that there is no such thing as waste in the natural world. Everything is a resource; all products and by-products are useful. Invisible agents are always at work as producers, decomposers, pollinators, cleansers, etc. There are no wages, bills, taxes, "cash pay offs" or other monetary stimuli in nature. Each species does what it needs to, and what's good for it is also good for the system as a whole.
When a species overuses the resources or cannot live within the means available, it must adapt or become extinct. This applies to humans as well, for we are an integral part of the system. As a species, we're not above natural laws.
True, we have learned a lot from nature. Many of our human systems try to imitate or excel natural processes. The problem is that we learn just bits and pieces and think we know it all. We then try to apply these bits to our advantage without considering what's good for others, the community, the country, nature or the planet.
For example, our transportation networks are not energy efficient. Many cities are difficult to get around without a car. People feel that owning cars makes them independent, rich or "cool." We tend to justify the "need" to own personal cars rather than reducing our need for them by riding bikes or the bus.
Homes, agriculture and industry also have tons of wasteful practices.
Energy analysts like Amory Lovins and Brian O'Leary have shown beyond any doubt that there is a tremendous waste of resources. Wise resource use means not only efficiency but also investigating to see if the desired goals could have been met better some other way. A good design looks at all the aspects and long-term costs—economic, social, cultural and environmental.
In the last century, we have used up most of the fossil fuels that took nature over a million years to create. It is amazing to see that a gallon of gasoline, which comes from thousands of miles away and goes through much refining, is sold in the U.S. for less than a gallon of milk produced locally. Surely, we're missing big parts of the equation, like the costs of creating fossil fuels and of pollution-related losses.
We won't be able to extract the natural resources forever. Even though there will always be some coal, oil and gas left uderground, after a while, it will take much more energy to find, extract and refine them. Furthermore, as we "use up" natural resources, we are degrading our ecosystems, and bringing them closer to a breakdown point.
Greed and fear actually reduce the chances of survival for all species. For example, the U.S. Navy's proposed high-powered "Low-Frequency Active Sonar System" to detect enemy submarines in the oceans. Whales and dolphins depend on their sensitive hearing. A deaf whale is a dead whale. Noise from the LFA system will interfere with vital biological activities of marine mammals, like migration and communication. Natural Resources Defense Council scientists fear that long-term exposure to LFA could push entire populations into extinction.
Wasting wealth and resources on military and weapons of mass destruction will not make any nation more secure! Paths to lasting peace and sustainable lifestyles are not paved with greed, material possesions and powerful weapons but with virtues like generosity, understanding, compassion and love. We do need some basic things to live on, and there is plenty on the planet for all of our true needs!
-- Arun Toke, Editor of Skipping Stones
Growing Up in Belize
After the 11th of September, I realized I've been sitting on top of perfect examples of poverty, ignorance, greed and hopelessness—the food of terrorism. Television didn't exist in Belize until 1983. Since then, an entire generation of young men has grown up with images of life in America while surrounded by the exact opposite. Here, there are few books, magazines or matching bed sheets. The only people with fancy cars are drug dealers. Unemployment isn't temporary; it's a way of life. Roads aren't paved. Houses are not neat and tidy. Used diapers litter yards — food for the dogs and chickens.
Young men in Latin America live in an entirely different world from those in North America, yet most of them are not overcome by our differences. They don't become terrorists. They laugh. They love each other. They eat beans and fish, not french fries and hamburgers. They want to imitate their fathers. They love their country. Their parents expound values that are common to most cultures. Many of them have hope. Many of them want to stay as they are.
To a young man from the U.S., that's a concept difficult to imagine. How could a boy want to grow up to be a fisherman? What kind of skill is that for the 21st century? In North America, where slabs of fish come wrapped in cellophane on a plastic foam tray, few people know how to find, let alone catch, haul in, clean and filet a fish. Perhaps then, it's one of the greatest skills of all. We, in North America, have a way of belittling those who don't aspire to our same goals. Anyone can fish, we snort. Yes, anyone can fish, but, as they say here, not everyone can catch.
In this tiny Central American country, following Sept. 11th, people are still shaking. Children and parents are worried. Not because terrorists might attack Belize. Not because this is a nation of terrorists. Far from it. "No shirt, no shoes, no problem," is a national slogan. They worry because the attacks might change their way of life. Their's is not the American way. It's not life "as seen on tv." Clearly here, people understand that tv is entertainment, not life. Life here is understanding the dangers of the ocean, the currents, the tides, the wind. Gas is for fishing boats, not cars. Life here is raising chickens in your yard for a delicious, home-grown dinner. Life here is knowing how to fish to feed your family and others. It's an incredibly important skill. Belizians don't want to change. They don't want to be like North Americans.
To a person from North America, it may seem that many young men here are consumed with envy— destined to become terrorists. Many here are poor, but compared to what? Because they don't have a cars? They have no need for a car. Ignorant? Here, a person is considered stupid if s/he is unable to navigate using only the stars—without a compass. Many feel rich. Wise. Confident. Eager to share their fish and chickens. Hopeful that their lives won't change. How could a boy not want to grow up to be a fisherman?
-- Julie Duppstadt, originally from Vermont, mother of two boys,
lives in Belize, Central America.
-- Rebecca Lewis, 17
Susan Marlin, 15, Flint, Michigan.
"This poem came to me one day in a burst of anger, when
everything looked especially dark and gloomy. I decided to propose
another view on the age-old assumption that trees are a symbol of
-- Abigail Hutchins, 14, Tulsa, Oklahoma.
"In school I was studying about pollution. I was shocked by the
amount of pollution people pour into the air. Humans are killing off
the animals and plants on Earth. I was thinking about pollution, and
then I thought about the rainforest. So I wrote this poem about the
effects of pollution on the rainforest."
-- Jessica Liu, 9,
-- Darnisha Tannehill, 11,
A Moment Frozen in Time
Treading silently over the carpet of pine needles, I creep softly through the woods.
-- Alice Yu, 12,
-- Gazal Taparia, Indian American,
The Day I Woke Up!
Have you ever felt like something was just not right with you or that you were a little different? At times I used to feel that way. You see my family is very special. My mother is a beautiful woman with brown skin, dark hair and ebony eyes. My father has light skin, dark blond hair and gorgeous, green eyes.
As I started to get older, I would notice "the look." First they look at me and smile. Then they take a quick glance at my mother, then turn again to look at my father. Then they check his ring finger to see if he really is the father of that girl with the light green eyes. Those were the moments when I felt a little weird. What were they looking for? What did they see? Why were they always looking at me?
One day the answer came. They are looking, but they don't see. They could look for years and still not understand. They would never see how special I am. They will never know the joy of coming from two parents who love each other the way mine do.
That was the day I woke up and realized that I am not strange, not even a little weird, but special. I am a blend of wisdom, strength and love. It takes wisdom to look beyond our differences; it takes strength to bring those differences together, and it takes love to keep it that way.
-- Charmayne Rozenek, Erie, Penn.
"I have been married for 13 years. We are an inter-racial couple, with a
six-year-old son who is wonderful. We have overcome many
challenges, different views and opinions, and we have only grown
stronger for it."
Skipping Stones Magazine