Posts Tagged ‘environment’

On Raccoons and Reality

IMG_6927As you know, I have chickens. I have them for eggs, meat, entertainment, learning, and just a little dependence taken away from The Man. This spring I got more layers, turkeys, and some meat birds to expand my flock. For the layers, I got ones that lay cool egg colors. The meat birds were to see if I could butcher them myself.


Then the verb for my chicken keeping became had.


Here’s the thing — I could blame the raccoons. I could get angry or weepy and then go out and trap and shoot every last one of ’em. Technically that’s not legal until October, but I doubt any of the neighbors would complain. Then I could go out and trap and shoot all of their relatives that wander onto our property. Then I could trap and shoot all of their relatives that expand into my territory. It’s mine, after all (more or less), so I get to decide what’s allowed!

Or — I could look at it through the lens of reality. Despite their reputations and super-villain masks, raccoons are not evil. In fact, I suspect that they are thoroughly amoral like the rest of the natural world. They didn’t go after my birds because they wanted to hurt me or push my healing back or so they could cackle with malicious glee when I came out to see the death and destruction. They killed my birds because I left delicious, easy food that couldn’t fight back in non-raccoon-proof containers. Er, coops. That’s all. That’s reality.


I’ve been wrestling with an idea for a while and this situation helped me to define it. See, there’s the reality we’re sold and then there’s real reality. They aren’t the same.

Sold reality: Getting chickens is great for your health, encouraging exercise, fresh air, and laughter (have you ever seen a chicken run?). I’m taking business away from those awful factory farms and I’m doing my part to bring food knowledge back to The People. Maybe I can even start my own business with it. It’s happy and shiny and so Martha Stewarty!

Real reality: I accepted responsibility for animals that would find it difficult at best to survive in Maine without human intervention for a lot of reasons. Food and shelter from the elements were handled well. The massive amount of wildlife was ignored despite several warning shots. Also, egg businesses? They rarely so much as break even.

Now, I had a lot of excuses for not taking the threats more seriously. I may even have one or two legitimate reasons.

Raccoons and reality really don’t care.

This also extends far beyond fresh eggs and masked murdering bandits. This extends into every aspect of our lives, every decision we make.

My butt is dragging so hard on the way to work and I forgot to bring my mug to put coffee in. One plastic to-go cup won’t actually do any harm, right?

Raccoons, reality, and the Pacific Gyre don’t care.

I have to have a job to pay my debts and maybe, eventually, I’ll even get to pay rent again. The only jobs I can do are a 40-mile car ride each way. I gotta pay my bills.

Raccoons, reality, and atmospheric CO2 levels don’t care.

I need clothes. Not only are natural fibers out of my budget range, they’re such a pain to take care of. A few cheap, polyester outfits isn’t the end of the world.

Raccoons, reality, and the plastic we’re drinking don’t care.

I am not going to end this post with how we all need to go vegan and minimalist and if we hold hands and sing Kumbaya loud enough it’ll all work out in the end. I don’t know how to fix this. What I do know is that if we don’t become aware of the clash between the realities and do something to bring them back in alignment, real reality will win. It will win with extreme prejudice. That’s how reality works.

I also know that the first time a raccoon tries to get through the fencing with my new electric charger attached, I’ll be thrilled to report what to do with BBQ coon.


I’m on a documentary kick right now. Everything from religion, to politics, to dance. At the moment, though, it’s peak oil and global warming. Of all the ones I’ve watched, what amazes me is that each one states that we have the solutions available to us now, we just have to apply them. Of all the points of views, agendas, and filmmakers, not one says “we need to wait for a future technology to fix this.” Many of them refer to technologies that are currently in development, but even without those, we could make great strides in fixing some very serious problems this world faces.

Perhaps the most fascinating part of these solutions is how very diverse they are. Some are all about the people. Some are all about the technology. Some are all about the cities. Some are all about the farms. Each one, however, offers a piece of the puzzle to put this world back together.

One of the people-centric solutions is a man in California that set up the equivalent of Habitat for Humanity for solar panels. He is giving low-income people, you know, the ones that really need the break, the ability to put in solar panels to reduce or eliminate their electricity bills. This is done through volunteer work and inexpensive loans from the city. More than that, though, is that the people installing the solar panels are disadvantaged in the job market. Many of them are on probation or have been in prison. Along with affordable electricity, he is also providing real job skills to keep the workers from going back to whatever got them in trouble in the first place.

Some other solutions include painting your roof white. A green roof is even better, but they can get complicated. I plan on talking about them some time in the future. However, simply painting your roof white helps reflect some of the sun’s rays that are no longer being reflected by our shrinking ice caps. This reduces both the solar heat absorbed by the earth and the solar heat absorbed by your house. Someone is working on fuel cells that hold energy by splitting hydrogen and oxygen. Not only could this hold solar energy for a rainy day, but you can feed it filthy water and it will give you clean water on the other end. This could be very helpful as our potable water supplies diminish. Did you know that biodiesel was originally a solution to used vegetable oil for cooking? I wasn’t so sure about the idea of growing crops strictly for fuel, but I really like the idea of growing crops to fry chips in and then using it for fuel.

Possibly the coolest idea I heard was about carbon sequestering. I’ve known for a while that trees are a great way to sequester carbon. The world has lost so very, very many trees that it is pretty popular to plant them if you are making some sort of an environmental statement. In fact, one of the reasons I want land is so that I can plant trees. However, a fair amount of Colorado isn’t really that tree-friendly. We are on the edge of the prairie, after all. Which is where grass comes in. Apparently, mycorrhizal fungi are really, really good at sequestering carbon. They attach to the roots of vascular plants in a symbiotic relationship. Therefore, growing grass, or having a garden, or other types of plants that are easier to grow than trees can be a huge boon to sucking carbon out of the air. The catch to this is that the fungi require healthy soil. In other words, you can, and people do, put in a lush lawn of Kentucky Blue Grass. However, the chemicals required to keep it alive in Colorado will kill the fungi. To start sequestering carbon, you need to build a healthy, organic little world in your back yard. Using a variety of local grasses and legumes that actually like growing here will help with that. Aside from pulling carbon out of the atmosphere and using the roots of the grasses to manage erosion, you will also be building up a healthy base to use if you choose to grow food in the future.

So many documentaries can be scary or depressing. Right now, though, I’m feeling hopeful. Yes, we are facing major issues. Yes, talking my roommate into painting the roof white won’t stop climate change in it’s tracks. However, having tangible things that I can do right now makes me feel empowered. Can I change legislation? No, but I probably should do more to influence those who can. Can I stop huge corporations from running rough-shod over people and places? No, but I should be doing more to stop giving my money to those that do. What I can do, right now (as soon as I publish the post, at least), is to start seeing if it’s too late in the season to get some seeds in the ground. In the morning I can go outside and decide how much of the yard I’m going to borrow from the dog to get some roots established before I give it back to her. These aren’t big things. It’s not Earth-shattering. What it is, is doable.