Under the Sea Wind – Rachel Carson

Carson 3Under the Sea Wind was Rachel Carson’s first book. It was released in 1941 and quickly became eclipsed by Pearl Harbor and the nation’s declaration of war. Sales were slow. Carson was disappointed. However, she contributed one of the finest examples of American nature writing. The little book of stories later became popular in its genre. I have a thumb worn, beloved copy printed in that year which I fortuitously uncovered at Bookman’s in Tucson, Arizona many years ago. In my Carson collection I also have a first edition copy of The Sea Around Us, the cover frayed and the binding in need of repair.

Why do I treasure these books so much? I believe it is the uniqueness of Carson’s perspective on wildlife and the intricate webs of life to which each is inextricably connected.

Carson did something in Under the Sea Wind that was unprecedented: she wrote adult stories about the life of a particular individual species giving them a first name derived from their scientific name. For example, she begins the book with the story of Rynchops, a black skimmer (Rynchops niger). It is the flood tide when she describes a strange black bird and its mate swooping low over the marshlands. The sun is setting and we learn that Rynchops and its kind migrated up from the coast of Yucatan and are summering on the Outer banks in marshes and barrier islands there. Rynchops drops his huge lower beak as he glides lower over the water, scooping up small fish. Rynchops has remembered this island from previous migrations as a good place to mate and raise the next generation.

Readers are gently inducted into a story – a drama – as real as any account of man or woman, and along the way they are learning about the ecology of the land and growing appreciation for the struggles and triumphs of just one natural character in Nature’s pageant.

While I am aware of many children- and youth-book authors who have written accounts about the life history of animals, I am not aware of any who have repeated what Carson so beautifully crafted when she was still working for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. There is also something more about her writing: it is superb by itself, an example of clear, forceful language. She will remain my primary mentor for writing. See her wonderful book about the shore: Edge of the Sea. Also, go to Rachel Carson Council to learn about the amazing women who are carrying forth Carson’s legacy.


The Buddhist way-Principles to live by

This is such an important list to read often. It is a way to keep your personal compass heading true…thank you!

Tom's News and Views

The Buddhist way


Spend time with nice people who are smart, driven and likeminded.  Relationships should help you, not hurt you.  Surround yourself with people who reflect the person you want to be.  Choose friends who you are proud to know, people you admire, who love and respect you – people who make your day a little brighter simply by being in it.  Life is too short to spend time with people who suck the happiness out of you.  When you free yourself from negative people, you free yourself to be YOU – and being YOU is the only way to truly live.


The sad truth is that there are some people who will only be there for you as long as you have something they need.  When you no longer serve a purpose to…

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On some far shore…

Its hard to know just what to say to our country’s veterans when we are in the midst of uncovering our neglect of their needs. As some have reported, its not new…even more shameful…but with this last revelation that some may even have died waiting for medical services perhaps we will finally put our house in order.

I grew up in a military family. My father was a career bomber pilot and flew 35 missions in the WWII Pacific theater with his wonderful crew of very very young men. (His WWII B-29 is in the header on this page. Mt. Fuji is in the background.)

My children will be at the 27th Rolling Thunder with their father –a combat helicopter pilot during the Vietnam war in the Army’s Americal Division. Rolling Thunder was established in 1987 to litigate for the continued search and rescue of Prisoners of War and Missing in Action. This is necessary because we just moved on after the end of that war, even shaming veterans by our silence and lack of praise for their service in a terrible, terrible war. Each year my children and their dad go, and each year they come back more inspired and closer than ever. See my daughter’s video journal of Rolling Thunder.

Dad on BeachMy dad passed away in 2012 and we sorely miss him. In the last years of his long life he was still having nightmares in which he smelled flesh burning from low-level bombing raids. 50 year later!

I believe that we are observing a new time during which our country is coming to face the full consequences of war on the best among us. The particular type of prolonged assignments, never knowing when it might be over, and observing your countrymen unaware of what you are experiencing on their behalf…must be enough to drive the strongest man or woman to despair. We Americans are losing our moral grip on important values and practices because we are distracted…distracted by money concerns, overwork, and entertainment.

On this memorial day, let’s renew our commitment to support peaceful solutions rather than armed conflict or drone warfare (a scourge on humanity) and to international actions as a global community when we do have to defend ourselves. Help any veteran whatever age they may be to know that their sacrifice was not in vain. Live up to it by voting and actively working to make this democratic nation more just and compassionate. It will only be as strong and as good as we are. But mostly, on this Memorial Day, take time to honor, thank, or help veterans in your family, neighborhood and communities. I am forever grateful for the men and women who have sacrificed so much of their own personal freedom and happiness to keep me safe.




Sweet Leilani – Our Mother

Sweet Lailani, Our Mother Performing Hula She Learned at the Bishop School in O’ahu in 1949Mom Performing Hula in Michigan[Also see links on blog about Hawaiian history and culture.]

Our mother was known as Mickey Jones when she was a teenager and “20-something”. Born in a small town in Tennessee she longed for places far and away. She loved beautiful things and wanted adventure in her life. Mom loved to sing and to dance. She was an excellent cook. As a military wife of a career Air Force pilot, Mom set up homes all across the U.S. and in Hawai’i.  I have very lovely remembrances of Mom and Dad in Hawai’i. They were very much in love. These are kid memories so fuzzy and sensory. A sweet scent of plumeria wafted from my Mother. She was happy in Hawai’i. Dad was a pilot on Hickam Air Force Base established in 1941 to protect Pearl Harbor and near by Honolulu.

Hawai’i was still recovering from the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Yet the natural beauty of the islands was already transforming the tragedy to the pervasive love and ease natural to the island kingdom. Mom hummed Hawaiian songs, Dad played a lot of slack key guitar music on a phonograph. He wore colorful silk shirts; Mom wore sarongs filled with flowers. She wove flowers in our hair and we often wore leis. I remember making leis from aromatic blossoms at a picnic table under a towering banana tree with leaves like green rafts hovering above.

Mom learned traditional hula from a teacher who told stories about her ancestors who came from Polynesia. Later Mom performed more modern forms of hula for military families at bases where we were stationed around the U.S. The photo above is in Michigan at Selfridge AFB. Through our mother we carried the heart and soul of Hawai’i in our hearts. This day the stories told through the dance and chanting of traditional Hawaiian music remain with me as some vestige of a true connection with the Earth Mother. See link to the Merrie Monarch Festival and the Prince Lot Hula Festival.

[I recently found this new story and art animation about the original Hawaiians, and authentic experience in the form of old time storytelling: Voyagers – The First Hawaiians. **Highly recommended.] “The discovery of Hawaii told through the art of Herb Kawainui Kane in stunning 2.5 animation.”

I often think about my mom. She would have many struggles later in her life but in her youth and early days of rearing kids and being a wife she was a joyful person, filled with hope and love of nature. She was high-spirited. This is the mother I remember, honor and love with all my heart. She brought elegance to simple spaces, traditions to an otherwise mobile lifestyle, and always a sense of wonder about the world at large. On this Mother’s Day I honor her for what she gave me and my sisters and all who come after us….

Climate Realities for NW Florida: What We Can Do Now

Scenic HighwayMy good friend Larry Chamblin, active member of 350-Pensacola, has summarized the Third National Climate Assessment which outlines impacts on our region now and in the future. See his notes below. Especially review the “What We Can Do” notes which give us solid direction for community planning and action.

General statements

The NAC affirms that climate change is already affecting every region of the US–including Northwest Florida.

Global warming over the past 50 years is primarily cause by human activities (burning fossil fuels and deforestation). Global average temperature has increased by more than 1.5 degrees since record keeping began in late 1800s, and most of this increase has occurred since 1970. US temperature has increased by 1.3 degrees F to 1.9 degrees F. (NW FL, Alabama and some other areas of the SE US have avoided this warming and have even seen a slight decrease in average temperatures; but projections show the region will not avoid future warming.)

The rise in global average temperature parallels the rise in the concentration of carbon dioxide.

The decade of 2000-2010 was the nation’s warmest on record. Human-induced warming adds to natural climate cycles. (A baseball slugger who take steroids becomes a super-slugger.)

Over the past five decades, natural factors alone (solar forcing and volcanoes) would have resulted in a slight cooling.

Scientists today are more confident of the warming trend of the past and projected warming because they have a greater understanding of the dynamics of climate change and of the US temperature records. (Of course uncertainties remain about some specifics of future impacts.)

Computer models have generally been accurate in projecting melting ice, rising temperatures, rising seas, and extreme weather events. In some cases the models underestimated the changes, including the melting of sea ice. A record low of Arctic sea ice was set in 2012.

Indicators of global warming observed over many decades include the following: shrinking of sea ice; higher sea surface temperature; higher temperature over oceans and land; increased water vapor; higher sea level; reduced size of glaciers, ice sheets, and snow cover. Even if we stopped all emissions today, greenhouse gas emissions already in the atmosphere would continue to drive warming over the next few decades. But choices made today will determine how much future warming occurs.

Projected Impacts

Changing climate key impacts in SE US:
1. Sea level rise poses widespread and continuing threats to both natural and built environments and to the regional economy.
2. Increasing temperatures and the associated increase in frequency, intensity, and duration of extreme heat events will affect public health, natural and built environments, energy, agriculture, and forestry.
3. Decreased water availability, exacerbated by population growth and land-use change, will continue to increase competition for water and affect the region’s economy and unique ecosystems.

Sea Level Rise “Global sea level rise has been a persistent trend for decades. It is expected to continue beyond the end of this century, which will cause significant impacts in the United States. Scientists have very high confidence (greater than 90% chance) that global mean sea level will rise at least 8 inches (0.2 meter) and no more than 6.6 feet (2.0 meters) by 2100.”

NW FL is less vulnerable to the impacts of sea level rise than some other areas, including Miami, and New Orleans. But the impact of Ivan was worse because of higher seas and this region is vulnerable to the combined effects of higher seas and stronger storms.

Projected temperature change In Escambia/Santa Rosa and NW FL, warming to the end of the century is projected to range from a low of 3 degrees F to a high of 6 degrees F–depending on whether we make substantial reductions in emissions soon or continue with business as usual. The hottest days will be at least 10 degrees hotter.

“Extreme heat will affect health, energy, agriculture, and more. Decreased water availability will have economic and environmental impacts.”

Precipitation changes

Observed precipitation change to date reported by the NCA show that NW FL has seen a 0-5% increase (data do not include April 2014). Rapid and substantial reductions in emissions could keep total amount of annual rain in NW FL about where it has been in recent years. However, failure to reduce emissions–business as usual–will likely bring a 10% increase in total amount of annual rain in NW FL and a 20% increase in much of the NE US. NCA projections show that NW FL will experience an increase in heavy downpours of the kind we have recently experienced. Heavy rains have increased by 27% during the last century through 2012. If we reduce emissions substantially in the immediate future, heavy precipitation events (deluges, heavy downpours) will occur nearly twice as often as in the past; if we fail to make such reductions, we can expect to see three times more downpours in future decades.


The NCA projects a slight decrease in the annual number of Atlantic hurricanes but an increase in the number of the strongest hurricanes (Category 4 and 5). At the center of these hurricanes, models project a 20% increase in rainfall.

What we can do

The National Climate Assessment reminds us that “Americans face choices.” Future impacts of climate change “will still largely be determined by choices society makes about emissions.”

“Global climate is projected to continue to change over this century and beyond, but there is still time to act to limit the amount of change and the extent of damaging impacts.”

“It is important that these findings and response options be shared broadly to inform citizens and communities across our nation. Climate change presents a major challenge for society. This report advances our understanding of that challenge and the need for the American people to prepare for and respond to its far-reaching implications.”

From a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration report cited by the NCA says that the higher sea levels projected “increase the frequency, magnitude, and duration of coastal flooding associated with a given storm.”

Local planners need to take into account the combined effects of higher seas and stronger storms “in developing hazard profiles for emergency planning and vulnerability, impact, and adaptation assessments.”

“Mitigation [reducing emissions of heat-trapping gases] and adaptation actions are linked in multiple ways, including that effective mitigation reduces the need for adaptation in the future. Both are essential parts of a comprehensive climate change response strategy.”

Mitigation actions are being taken today but they are insufficient to meet the challenge of increasingly negative impacts. “Both ‘bottom up’ community planning and ‘top down’ national strategies may help regions deal with impacts such as increases in electrical brownouts, heat stress, floods, and wildfires.”

“Using scientific information to prepare for climate changes in advance can provide economic opportunities, and proactively managing the risks can reduce impacts and costs over time.”

“Cities providing transportation options including bike lanes, buildings designed with energy saving features such as green roofs, and houses elevated to allow storm surges to pass underneath are among the many response options being pursued around the country