Nature and Environment
News about the health and beauty of the natural world that sustains us.

How Natural Disasters Make Entire Counties Poorer


It’s no secret that areas affected by natural disasters such as hurricanes deal with damages that can total billions of dollars. However, recent long-term research indicates that natural disasters have a much greater impact than the initial financial ones caused by the damage.

As a team of scientists discovered when they looked at a database of information from 1920 to 2010, natural disasters adversely affect the wealth of entire counties.

The Risk Level Varies by Geographic Location

Because the United States is so large compared to some other countries, certain parts of it are more prone to experiencing natural disasters. For example, low-lying and coastal areas are at a greater risk than places at higher elevations. Also, some disasters strike regions more often than others. Hurricanes batter coastal areas, and the Midwest has frequent tornadoes. Regions such as New England endure harsh winter storms. In comparison, the West has fewer disasters, but California is an exception because it often experiences drought periods, earthquakes and wildfires.

Natural Disasters Increase Migration and Poverty

The way some parts of the country are less likely to get hit with certain kinds of natural disasters is linked to increased migration levels. Research showed that after a county had dealt with two natural disasters, those events triggered wealthier people to move out of the vicinity and go to places that were calmer regarding natural disasters.

Migration increased by one percentage point, or approximately 600 people per county, following those two disastrous occasions. Furthermore, when a disaster killed 100 individuals or more, it made migration go up twice as much. The research team also pinpointed a more disturbing trend related to poverty. Their data showed that in areas that went through extremely severe disasters, the amount of poverty went up by one percent.

They suggest that either means the people who can afford to do so are moving out, or people who are already poor are moving in, potentially because a recently devastated area would be a less attractive place to live and may have cheaper real estate as a result.

People Need Additional Resources to Recover

Hurricane Matthew, a disaster that rocked several states in October 2016, had wind speeds up to 160 mph and caused billions of dollars in property damage. Many homeowners and businesses lost power and had to rely on emergency generators during the immediate recovery period. Those resources are essential, but in very poor areas, local officials may not have the funds required to deal with large-scale power outages or other massive needs.

Undocumented immigrants can be especially susceptible to the poverty-related effects of natural disasters. They are eligible for FEMA aid despite their lack of citizenship or papers, but that short-term assistance frequently isn’t enough for them to fully recover because they lack insurance and fear deportation while trying to put their lives back on track.

There is also a phenomenon where undocumented immigrants move to areas damaged by natural disasters. This could explain the statistic above that indicates poverty goes up after natural disasters because poor people move into given counties. 

Following Hurricane Katrina, many undocumented immigrants went to areas most affected by the disaster and helped with the rebuilding efforts. Lured by promises of lucrative wages, they thought those jobs would help them achieve more financial stability. However, years after they started working, many were still waiting for payment.

A Problem Perpetuated by Climate

There are also concerns because scientists say the worsening effects of climate change will make the likelihood of natural disasters go up. A report from the World Bank and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery states that each year, natural disasters cause a $520 billion loss in consumption and make 26 million people impoverished.

Additionally, the analysis confirmed that natural disasters disproportionally affect poor people and make it harder for them to bounce back after crises. A World Bank Group representative warned that issues related to climate change-caused natural disasters could even reverse the progress made to help people in poverty.

Fortunately, there has been a push to establish programs that protect these vulnerable members of society. In many cases, they lose greater percentages of wealth than richer people and can’t rely on familial support. If we fail to address the connection between poverty and natural disasters, it could cause problems not just for counties, but entire countries beyond the United States. That’s particularly true about climate change-related catastrophes.

Credit: Image by Pixabay

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‘Busy as a Bee’ Has New Meaning with Colony Collapse Disorder


Bees are incredibly important to building sustainable ecosystems around the world. There’s a reason the term “busy as a bee” exists – these industrious insects are wholly responsible for pollinating crops nearly everywhere humans reside. While it may seem that they are just buzzing around, minding their own business, honey bees actually pollinate one out of every three bites of food we eat with their seemingly magical abilities.

However, the humble honey bee is in danger.

The world has been seeing a dramatic decline of honey bees and their hives for a while now. The data is quite stark: between 2005 and 2013, beekeepers saw an average 30% loss of honey bee populations every single year, the Washington Post reports. But when this number is broken down, it is clear that the 30% is simply just an average. Between 2012 and 2013, the U.S. lost a staggering 45% of its honey bee colonies.

And while this number has decreased since then, it is important to note that beekeepers are still experiencing a dramatic loss of honey bees year after year. According to Bee Informed, 2014 saw a loss of 34%, 2015 and 2016 brought a 41% decrease, and even though 2017 isn’t over, the U.S. has already seen a total colony loss of 33%.

Scientists, entomologists, beekeepers, and farmers the world over are grappling with the same question: Why are the bees dying?

Colony Collapse Disorder

Entomologists say Colony Collapse Disorder, a mysterious phenomenon that first came to light about 11 years ago, is partly to blame for the loss of honey bees. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency explains Colony Collapse Disorder as “the phenomenon that occurs when the majority of worker bees in a colony disappear and leave behind a queen, plenty of food and a few nurse bees to care for the remaining immature bees and the queen.”

When this happens, the worker bees simply disappear. As a result, the queen and the young brood are left behind to slowly die. Beekeepers first thought the worker bees left because of a virus, but when they noticed that very few dead bees were found in and around the affected colony, it was clear something else was to blame.

Eleven years after it was first described, CCD is still quite mysterious to many entomologists.

New Concerns

Colony Collapse Disorder isn’t the only explanation as to why beehives are dying off. Bee experts originally thought that hive losses only happened in the wintertime because of the temperature, but some bee researchers have found that this isn’t the case. It turns out that the demise of honeybee hives signals a larger problem with our nationwide agro-ecosystems – honey bees aren’t thriving in any temperature.

Dennis vanEngelsdorp, an entomologist professor at the University of Maryland who has studied the health of bee populations for the past decade explains: “We traditionally thought of winter losses as a more important indicator of health, because surviving the cold winter months is a crucial test for any bee colony. But we now know that summer loss rates are significant too. This is especially so for commercial beekeepers, who are now losing more colonies in the summertime compared to the winter.”

According to a recent Washington Post report, not only can common pesticides harm bee colonies, but also, “Endless rows of wind-pollinated corn leave bees of all types scrambling for food. Likewise, urban sprawl and grassy lawns make for homeless, hungry pollinators.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that honey bees add a whopping $15 billion worth of crops to American farmers every single year. Hive losses have a staggering effect on our health, wallets, and grocery stores. The USDA explains that if honey bee hive losses continue to hold at around 33%, the cost of honeybee pollination would rise. Consumers would then have to pay more at their grocery stores for the same crops; there just wouldn’t be enough to ensure the low prices we see today.

What Can We Do To Help?

Despite these dramatic decreases, there are plenty of things Americans can do to help save the honey bee. National Geographic has published a list of action items we can do to save these mighty pollinators. They include:

Plant species that are native to your geographical area in your garden as a way to lure wild honey bees to your yard.
Keep your garden blooming all year round as there are different species of bees that thrive in different temperatures.
Don’t lay mulch everywhere — leaving some dirt visible will give bees a place to burrow and nest their young.
If you are growing a fruit or vegetable garden, border the crops with native flowers to improve the pollination of your crops.
Avoid using unnecessary pesticides on your lawn.


Being a busy bee is a hard job, and the honey bee needs our help. Staying informed about the plight of the honey bee is a great first step but above all, it is crucial to learn about organizations that support honey bee health and get involved!

Greg Long has nearly completed his three-year journey to becoming a Master Beekeeper. He’s currently enrolled in Master Beekeeping apprentice classes through the Oregon State Master Beekeepers’ Program. With the help of his mentor, Greg has honed his beekeeping skills and raised a hive of healthy, happy bees.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Kееріng Rасcооnѕ Awау from your Property


If you have a family of rассооnѕ іn уоur уаrd or they have gotten іntо уоur attic оr under уоur hоmе, thеrе are ѕоmе mеthоdѕ tо drive оff thеѕе bаndіtѕ. Rассооnѕ mау арреаr cute оr еvеn friendly. Indeed, thеу саn bе quіtе bоld аrоund humаnѕ and реtѕ. Hоwеvеr, they аrе wіld аnіmаlѕ and wіll bеhаvе lіkе wіld animals. Thеy hаvе ѕhаrр tееth, ѕtrоng claws, аrе known tо саrrу rаbіеѕ аnd раrаѕіtеѕ. Nеvеr trу tо саtсh a rассооn bу hand. Cоrnеrіng a rасооn, оr any аnіmаl, mау lеаvе thе аnіmаl wіth nо choice but to аttасk you. Thіѕ article dеѕсrіbеѕ nоn-соnfrоntаtіоnаl, nоn-lеthаl mеthоdѕ to get rid of pests/ humanely kеер raccoons аwау frоm уоur hоmе. Raccoons deserve the opportunity to live and there is no reason to poison or harm the animal even if they are a nuisance on your property. 

Raccoons are ѕurрrіѕіnglу clever, brave and bоld. They wіll challenge pets, еntеr buіldіngѕ, ореn соntаіnеrѕ, tір thіngѕ оvеr and push lаrgе objects аrоund. Thеу аrе nоt еаѕіlу іntіmіdаtеd. Whіlе thеу will аvоіd humans mоѕt оf the time, ѕоmеtіmеѕ уоu hаvе tо асt аggrеѕѕіvеlу bеfоrе thеу will bе chased оff. We dо nоt recommend challenging rассооnѕ, even though they appear so cute!  Yоu саn nеvеr bе сеrtаіn of hоw thеу wіll rеасt аnd a rаbіеѕ infected rассооn mау асtuаllу attack уоu.

Rассооnѕ аrе асtіvе in twilight аnd еvеnіng. Thеу prefer relative dаrknеѕѕ. Inѕtаllіng mоtіоn асtіvаtеd lіghtіng mау bе hеlрful іn dіѕсоurаgіng rассооnѕ. Hоwеvеr, simple роrсh lіghtѕ may nоt bе аdequаtе. Yоu mіght nееd tо gо to еxtrеmе mеаѕurеѕ in terms оf lіghtіng. Brіght flood lights, lіkе thе quartz hаlоgеn fіxturеѕ uѕеd fоr drіvеwау іllumіnаtіоn and security purposes may bе nесеѕѕаrу. Pluѕ, оnе lіght, аt a distance mау nоt hаvе the desired еffесt. Trу multiple lіghtѕ, еіthеr оn the same сіrсuіt or independently trіggеrеd, to ѕаturаtе thе аrеа.

Raccoons dоn't lіkе bеіng аrоund humаnѕ, so рlасіng a wаtеrрrооf rаdіо near trаѕh саnѕ mау be hеlрful. Sеt the radio tо a "tаlk" ѕtаtіоn. It dоеѕn't hаvе tо bе lоud. Thе voices wіll dіѕсоurаgе rассооnѕ frоm thе аrеа.

Buу mеtаl trаѕh саnѕ wіth ѕеаlіng lіdѕ. Yоu can іmрrоvе thе tіghtnеѕѕ оf thе ѕеаl with a length of plastic tubing. Slісе a cut аlоng thе lеngth оf thе tube аnd slip іt over thе rіm оf the trаѕh саn. Whеn уоu рut the lid іn рlасе, thе tubing соmрrеѕѕеѕ tо form a tighter ѕеаl. Also, рlасе a heavy object, ѕuсh as a сіndеr block, on tор оf trаѕh саn lіdѕ. 

Rассооnѕ lіkе their fооd сlеаn аnd wіll sometimes wаѕh it іn аvаіlаblе wаtеr. They аlѕо find thе ѕmеll of ammonia оbjесtіоnаblе. Bу adding a ѕmаll splash оf аmmоnіа tо your gаrbаgе, the rассооnѕ will bе lеѕѕ likely tо ѕсаvеngе уоur trash.

Yоur реtѕ nееd wаtеr аvаіlаblе аt аll tіmеѕ, but as much аѕ possible, eliminate ѕоurсеѕ оf wаtеr for rассооnѕ. If роѕѕіblе, lосk уоur реtѕ’ food ѕесurеlу аwау аt nіght, wіth their wаtеr. Dоn't lеаvе wаtеr оut thаt thе rассооnѕ саn get tо. Alѕо, don't leave pet fооd оut аt nіght, rассооnѕ lоvе thе ѕtuff.

Elizabeth Gatto is a lover of wildlife and promoter of wildlife conservation. She promotes humane nuisance wildlife removal so people know it is possible to respect nature as well as maintain safety in your home. Find her online.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

How to Humanely Trap Squirrels for Removal From an Attic

Humanely Trapped Squirrel

Squіrrеlѕ lоvе tо lіvе іn аttісѕ! Thіѕ іѕ one оf thе mоѕt соmmоn human-wildlife conflicts. Squіrrеlѕ are usually аrbоrеаl, mеаnіng that they рrеfеr to lіvе іn trееѕ. In thе wild, squirrels wіll buіld a nеѕt mаdе оf lеаvеѕ аnd twigs high uр іn a trее. However, squіrrеlѕ аrе very аdарtаblе аnіmаlѕ, and thrіvе іn suburban and urbаn еnvіrоnmеntѕ. They are орроrtunіѕtіс, аnd mаnу hаvе fоund that thе attics of homes mаkе a great рlасе to lіvе.

 An attic is lіkе a big old hollow trее tо a squirrel, and іt hаѕ a lоt оf аdvаntаgеѕ - іt'ѕ drу, warm, аnd ѕаfе frоm рrеdаtоrѕ. Squіrrеlѕ can сlіmb аlmоѕt anything, and thеу аrе ѕресtасulаr сhеwеrѕ, ѕо thеу hаvе no рrоblеm сlіmbіng to a vulnеrаblе аrеа оf уоur rооf, аnd сhеwіng thеіr wау іn.

Mоst реорlе оbjесt tо squіrrеlѕ lаrgеlу bесаuѕе thеу dоn't lіkе tо hеаr аll of the noise аnd runnіng around up іn thе attic. Hоwеvеr, squіrrеlѕ can саuѕе ѕеrіоuѕ рrоblеmѕ. Squirrels, like аll rodents, сhеw аnd gnаw іn оrdеr to wеаr down their teeth. Thеу оftеn сhеw on your hоuѕе, еіthеr thе іnѕіdе оr outside. They like to сhеw оn аll ѕоrtѕ оf ѕurfасеѕ, such аѕ the lеаd piping аrоund plumbing ѕtасkѕ, vents, wіrеѕ, and оf соurѕе wood.

Many gіmmісkѕ аnd old wіvе'ѕ tales are out thеrе, but thе оnlу real wау tо gеt squіrrеlѕ оut оf thе attic іѕ tо рhуѕісаllу remove thеm. You can use lіvе trарѕ yourself or you can hire a professional wildlife removal expert to come remove them for you.

Trар аnd rеmоvе the squіrrеlѕ. Thе bеѕt way to ensure that you'll permanently tаkе care of уоur squіrrеl рrоblеm is tо trар аnd rеmоvе thе squіrrеlѕ. Yоu саn ѕеt squіrrеl-ѕіzеd cage trарѕ оn thе rооf nеаr the еntrу hоlеѕ, but thеrе'ѕ a сhаnсе that уоu'll саtсh a nоn-tаrgеt squіrrеl. Thе bеѕt bet іѕ tо mоunt a trар right against thе hole that thе squirrels аrе gоіng іn аnd оut оf. Squіrrеlѕ are active primarily durіng thе morning and еvеnіng, but thеу go іn аnd out оf thе house several times еасh day, as thеу exit to fоrаgе for fооd аnd wаtеr, and thеу ѕоmеtіmеѕ return wіth food tо store. If you mount a trap rіght оn thеіr hоlе, уоu'll саtсh thеm аѕ they соmе out.

One-way dооrѕ. Anоthеr еffесtіvе аnd humane wау to gеt the squіrrеlѕ оut іѕ tо mоunt a ѕресіаl оnе-wау dооr on the squіrrеl'ѕ hоlе. Thе оnе-wау exclusion dооr hаѕ a tension flap thаt allows thе squirrel tо еxіt, but nоt re-enter. It'ѕ juѕt lіkе the rереаtіng trар, but wіth аn ореn еnd. A оnе-wау dооr іѕ great at gеttіng thеm оut ѕо long аѕ they hаvе no оthеr wауѕ of gеttіng bасk іn.

Exclusion repairs. Squirrels аrе реrѕіѕtеnt. They аlѕо lеаvе bеhіnd a ѕtrоng squirrel pheromone scent. If you've hаd sqssuіrrеlѕ іn уоur аttіс, еvеn if уоu gеt rіd of thеm, nеw squіrrеlѕ wіll smell thаt squirrel smell аnd try to live in уоur hоuѕе іn the futurе. In order tо permanently solve аnу squirrel problem, you've got to mаkе sure that your hоuѕе іѕ 100% squіrrеl-рrооfеd. This means making sure that аll rооf vеntѕ hаvе a hеаvу ѕtееl screen intact, аll оf thе рlumbіng ѕtасkѕ аrе ѕсrееnеd оff (ѕоmеtіmеѕ the pipes аrе ореn inside thе attic), аll оf thе rіdgе сар plugs аrе іntасt, thе gаblе vents аrе ѕсrееnеd, thе soffits are intact, etc etc. All rераіrѕ ѕhоuld be реrfоrmеd wіth ѕtееl аnd bоltѕ, so thаt thе squіrrеlѕ саn't сhеw thrоugh thе repairs.

Cleanup. As mеntіоnеd, whеn squіrrеlѕ live іn аn аttіс, thеу роор and рее a lоt. Thеу can leave lаrgе аmоuntѕ оf drорріngѕ аnd urіnе in an аttіс. It'ѕ nоt juѕt unsightly оr bаd-ѕmеllіng - іt could роtеntіаllу роѕе a hеаlth risk. Mоѕt drорріngѕ grоw mоld over tіmе, and mоѕt droppings соntаіn ѕаlmоnеllа. Squirrels mау urіnаtе оr defecate оn the іtеmѕ уоu ѕtоrе іn thе attic, оr thеу mіght even сhеw rіght thrоugh the drуwаll. The urіnе and thе fur grеаѕе that thе squirrels leave bеhіnd is a роtеnt lurе tо оthеr animals, bоth predators аnd оthеr squіrrеlѕ. Sоmеtіmеѕ a raccoon wіll brеаk іntо аn аttіс thаt hаѕ a squirrel ѕсеnt. Or оthеr squirrels wіll еntеr, lооkіng for a рrоvеn place tо live, оr a mаtе. It'ѕ a gооd іdеа tо сlеаn uр, remove, decontaminate and deodorize the аttіс.

Elizabeth Gatto is a lover of wildlife and promoter of wildlife conservation. She promotes humane nuisance wildlife removal so people know it is possible to respect nature as well as maintain safety in your home. Find her online at Animals in your Attic. Read all of Elizabeth’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Identify Lyme Disease and Find Resources


We have been clearing and hauling brush to our community burn site as a result of the brutally hard winter we had earlier this year. Hurricane-strength wind gusts and very heavy snow broke or blew over about 100 trees on our land, so we wanted to get the debris hauled to the burn site to be disposed of. We mulched about 5-7 cubic yards of mulch, and hauled off four utility trailers full of branches so far. We have another two loads to remove. We live at 9,800 feet of elevation in our small cabin with our four German shepherd dogs. Life at this elevation can be pretty rough sometimes.

Bull's Eye Bite Mark. We started clearing brush in mid June and have been clearing branches off and on since then. These debris piles harbor various insects and even though I wear long sleeve shirts and gloves I still get bitten. About a week ago I noticed a strange bite on my arm that I thought I should recognize but I was unable to remember why that particular bite was so important. (see photo). Then a couple days ago I had one of those ‘light bulb’ moments that told me it was a tick bite with a distinctive bull's eye appearance.

Not All Web Sites are Accurate. I did an online search to see if we had Lyme disease in Colorado. When we lived in Pennsylvania, it was more prevalent. Often in my case, it is knowing the proper words to put into my search engine, and "do we have lyme disease in Colorado" is probably not the best question. The answer was "there is no lyme disease in Colorado". Still, that strange bite mark had me concerned. I went to Google images and entered ‘Lyme tick bite’ and up came endless photos of bites identical to the one I had.

Head in the Sand Approach. Why would any web site say we didn’t have Lyme disease in Colorado when it appeared we did have same — or was I just a random victim to a nasty rogue tick? Then I remembered when we first moved here and we looked out the back storm door and right there within a couple feet was a grey wolf. Yellow eyes, long legs, huge feet and every bit as big as any wolf I had seen before. It seemed curious as to who we were and in the blink of an eye it disappeared. I thought I should call local animal authorities to see if they could confirm the species. I was told no, Colorado did not have any wolves. But wait, I had just seen one clearly!

Early Treatment for Lyme Disease. I thought that was a strange response but I let it pass. Later, I found out if it was admitted we had any wolves the Department of Wildlife would have to develop programs for their protection and accounting which they have now subsequently done. Maybe it is the same tactic with Lyme disease. When I went to the clinic to have that bite checked, I was told they had two cases last year and my bite had all the earmarks of a Lyme disease tick bite but fortunately I had come in early and with appropriate treatment 80% of those bitten make full recovery with little or no effects from the disease.

Lyme Disease is Serious. I ask myself why would a web site deny the existence of a disease that is easily discernable especially if treated early where recovery is exceptionally successful. I am on a prescribed antibiotic and hope I’m in the 80% recovery group as Lyme disease can be a very serious disease. I can’t even remember when I was prescribed antibiotics for anything, so I doubt I have any built up immunity to them. Having conflict between web pages on Lyme disease only serves to confuse readers and could hurt individuals by thinking there is no risk when in fact there is a risk.

Government Sites are More Accurate. Those who spend time outside should check themselves after being outdoors plus wear anti-insect spray to keep the little blood suckers at bay. I checked numerous sites and the only one that appeared specifically factual was the Center of Disease Control site. It appears that our government agencies go to great lengths to publish informed and factual information.

I realized that the reason I did not see a tick attached was because it probably was pulled loose under the sleeve of my shirt when I likely scratched the area. As I searched the various web sites for Lyme disease I discovered all 50 states have had reports of this disease. To qualify as a statistic the lesion (bull's eye) must be 5 cm in size or confirmed with laboratory testing. My case would be a suspected Lyme disease bite because the size is smaller than required and it doesn’t show up in the bloodstream until four weeks. I’m glad I went in early and didn’t have a recordable statistic and I’m doubly glad I did further research and didn’t rely on that first site.

Blood-Sucking Parasites. The more I read about the symptoms it helped me realize that they are all serious and potentially debilitating and nothing to shrug off or delay getting on antibiotics for. The bull's eye bite that the photo shows on my arm is pretty characteristic and if you see a similar bite. I would urge the person bitten to get to a doctor soon so treatment can be initiated. From here on, we will be paying much closer attention to insect bites and use preventative methods to hopefully avoid them.

 I’m full of questions as I write this, but foremost is why do I seem to always find out these hazardous situations after the fact?

Bruce McElummary lives remotely with his wife, Carol, in an 880-square-foot cabin along with their three dogs. They implemented many of the things they learned from MOTHER since its inception as a magazine. For more on Bruce and Carol McElmurray and their lifestyle go to Read all of Bruce's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

 All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

5 Inches of Rain in 24 Hours: Blessing or Curse?


To be honest, we fell just short of five inches. Our grand total was 4.7 inches of rain. It began with a gentle .35 overnight and then came in doses longer in duration with larger drops and more vigor. By the time we reached evening, we logged one dousing of 2.7 inches in a relatively short period of time.

However, Tropical Storm Cindy left us with some very happy fruit trees. Her breezes had calmed by the time she reached Ohio so we thankfully didn’t have any wind damage. Earlier in the week as I was planting some perennials near our home orchard, I noticed the ground under the mulch was fairly dry. This concerned me since our apple trees dropped their abundant fruit on the ground ahead of harvest last year due to an extended dry spell.

While I haven’t checked since Cindy blew through, I’m guessing that a lot of that rain soaked into the ground as a treat for our trees. After a normal rain (when the ground is more saturated), we have seepage running off our banks and into the street. Even though we had rainfalls of at least an inch during previous weeks, we didn’t see a lot of the water leaving our yard this time.

Some of our plants actually seemed to double in size overnight — including the cabbage, cucumbers, and sweet potato vines (see middle photo, sweet potatoes not pictured). All of our plants looked happy and healthy just a few days later. The only pooling that I noticed was the two inches of standing water in our fire pit (see bottom photo), and even that soaked in overnight.


As you can see from the top photo, most of our garden inhabitants were still quite wet the next morning. There was water on everything. Not only were the plants showing off their bountiful caches but the fencing and siding on the house were also drop-laden. A few buckets of rocks waiting to be placed in a new garden vignette proved to me that I should have set out containers to catch all that glorious rain (see bottom photo). I don’t remember my water-resistant boots ever letting my socks get that soaked during a normal morning stint in the garden. I actually had wrinkled toes.

In our case, the five inches in 24 hours was a blessing. Other than our outdoor cats being a bit miffed, we had no negative effect. This was not the case for many of the outlying farms that we’ve seen driving around since the waters have receded.

The farmers with wheat still in the fields likely feel Cindy was more of a curse, as do those with poorly draining fields. During spring and summer rains some fields show their low spots rather obviously with ponding water. This isn’t a good thing for soybeans and corn trying to grow. After the water subsides, entire areas of beans can be plastered with mud making it hard for them to flourish (and corn hates standing in water). Though I’m not a professional farmer, I do feel for the losses that they withstand when Mother Nature decides to wield her power.

We had to take our son to the airport while Cindy was showing her prowess. Though we didn’t see a lot of problems in our travel, there was an abundance of water in the ditches, fields, and creeks along our route. A friend texted to be careful when returning home because she had to turn around due to a local creek flowing over the road. Thankfully, we were spared any detours or other trouble.

I look forward to our next rainfall due at week’s end. I’m sure by then Cindy will be but a distant memory in my garden’s mind. I’ll remain happy with an inch of rain a week, but I will take more when Mother Nature gifts it. When she doesn’t, I’ll simply pull out my rain-calling gourd and ask for more.


Photos by Blythe Pelham

Blythe Pelham is an artist that aims to enable others to find their grounding through energy work. She is in the midst of writing a cookbook and will occasionally share bits in her blogging here. She writes, gardens and cooks in Ohio. Find her online at Humings and Being Blythe, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

The Positive Power of Walking Showcased at National Summit

Woman Walking at Stilwater Shops 

Many things leap to mind when someone mentions walking: fitness, fun, fresh air, relaxation, friends and maybe your most comfortable pair of shoes. But a word that rarely arises is “power”.

That will begin to change after the 2017 National Walking Summit (held in St. Paul, Minnesota September 13-15), which is themed “Vital and Vibrant Communities — The Power of Walkability”.

Like earlier summits, this event brings together people of all backgrounds to strategize ways of making sure the advantages of walking can be shared by all, no matter what their income or where they live.

Walking advocates once focused primarily on physical health — spurred by mounting evidence that physical activity is key to preventing disease — but now are stepping up to promote social, economic and community health. Their ultimate goal is to transform towns and neighborhoods across America into better places for everyone to live.

 “The power of walking is becoming more clear all the time,” declares Kate Kraft, executive director of America Walks. “Community connections, social equity, a sense of well-being, business opportunities, affordable housing, more choices for kids and older people, a cleaner environment—these are some of the benefits of walkable places.”

Walking Boosts Health and Happiness

Streams of medical studies now document the central role physical activity plays in fending off disease and disability. Chances of depression, dementia, colon cancer, heart disease, anxiety, diabetes and other conditions drop by at least 40 percent among people engaging in moderate exercise such as walking.

A landmark study issued last year found that sedentary habits are a bigger health threat than high blood pressure or cholesterol — about the only thing more dangerous than inactivity is smoking reported the New York Times. This followed on the heels of a Cambridge University study showing that a lack of exercise increased your risk of death twice as much as obesity.

All the scientific data persuaded former Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy to issue a landmark Call to Action to Promote Walking and Walkable Communities in 2015, which has been compared to the 1964 Surgeon General’s report on the dangers of smoking.

Walking helps people stay both physically and mentally healthy,” Murthy wrote, calling on us “to increase walking by working together to increase access to safe and convenient places to walk.”

Walking stands out among all other exercise because: 1) It is free; 2) It requires no special training or equipment; 3) It can be done almost anywhere at any time; and 4) It is already Americans’ #1 favorite physical activity.  The US Department Transportation reports that Americans reported walking 14 percent more in 2012 than in 2002 (latest figures available).

Walking Advances Social Justice

“The health benefits of walking are so overwhelming that to deny access to that is a violation of fundamental human rights,” declared sociologist Robert A. Bullard, founder of the environmental justice movement, at the 2015 Walking Summit.

“All communities should have a right to a safe, sustainable, healthy, just, walkable community.”

Unfortunately, that’s not the case across America today. People walking in lower-income neighborhoods are twice as likely to be killed by traffic than those in more affluent areas. African-Americans on foot are 60 percent more likely to be killed by cars than whites, while Latinos are 43 percent more likely.

“If you have walkable communities, kids will do better in school…seniors will be healthier,” said Ron Simms — a neighborhood activist from the African-American community of Seattle who later became Deputy US Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, at the 2015 Summit.

Better walking conditions also help low-income families economically.  Surprising new research from the George Washington School of Business shows “the most walkable urban metros are also the most socially equitable. The reason for this is that low transportation costs and better access to employment offset the higher costs of housing.”

This is backed up with Federal Highway Administration data finding that families living in auto dependent communities spent 57 percent of their income on housing and transportation, compared to 41 percent in walkable communities.

This refutes widespread rumors that making a street safe for walking is a luxury important only to well-off people. Actually, low-income residents benefit the most because they travel by foot the most, especially kids.  “The fact is that we have twice as many low-income children [nationally] who are walking or biking to school than those in affluent neighborhoods, even lacking the infrastructure to protect the children,” reports Keith Benjamin, Transportation Director in Charleston, South Carolina.

“A big thing we could do to help low-income families is to make it easier to live without a car,” says community consultant Gil Peñalosa.  “And it would help middle-class families to switch from two cars to one.” The American Automobile Association calculates the annual pricetag of owning one car at $8,500 a year — which goes a long way toward easing household budgets.

Safe, convenient and comfortable places to walk are fundamental to the forgotten one-third of Americans who don’t drive — the young, the old, the disabled and those too poor to buy a car. These people live under a form of house arrest in many U.S. communities, unable to do much of anything—buy groceries, see friends, go the doctor, engage in favorite activities — without begging someone to chauffeur them.

Communities from San Francisco to Birmingham to rural Iowa are pulling together to eliminate the roadblocks that deter people of all ages, incomes and racial backgrounds from walking.

Seattle Walks SDOT

 Walking Expands Economic Opportunities

People on the street mean business — literally. Neighborhood and downtown business districts thrive on foot traffic.  West Palm Beach, Florida discovered this after making a major avenue more comfortable for pedestrians, and attracting $300 million in new business investment.  Albert Lea, Minnesota — a blue-collar rural town of 18,000 — found the same thing when a walk-friendly makeover of its Main Street drew 15 new businesses in two years, with $2-5 million more in investment planned.

Even companies not dependent on local customers are eager to locate in walkable districts —especially firms in the booming tech and creative fields, who realize the young talent they depend on to stay competitive want to work within walking distance of cafes, parks and cultural attractions.

“We moved from the suburbs to downtown Minneapolis to allow our employees to take advantage of the area’s many trails and to put the office in a more convenient location for commuting by pedal or foot,” explained Christine Fruechte, CEO of large advertising firm Colle + McVoy, in a newspaper op-ed. “Our employees are healthier, happier and more productive. We are attracting some of the best talents in the industry.”

Many other companies find that walkable locations pay off in lower health insurance premiums. Thomas Schmid of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention points to Volkswagen, which built a manufacturing plant in Chattanooga only after local officials agreed to extend a popular walking-biking trail to their door.

Walking Connects People and Strengthens Communities

Eighty five percent of Americans express the desire to live somewhere walkable, making it the #1 quality they want in a home, according to  the National Association of Realtors’ Community & Transportation Preference Survey. This is even more true for Millennials, millions of whom will be looking to buy their first home over the next few years.

 “What makes people walk is [also] what makes great places to live,” emphasizes Harriet Tregoning, until recently a director in the Office of Community Planning at the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). “Walkability is the secret sauce that improves the performance of many other things” in our communities.

Former Surgeon General Regina Benjamin emphasizes that taking a stroll “is good for the social fabric of our communities” — creating new opportunities to connect with friends and neighbors, which is not only good for your soul but also your health. That’s why Benjamin added a walking path to the grounds of the health clinic she founded in rural Alabama.

Walking Protects Our Environment

Walking more is an important step you can take to avert climate disruption, air pollution, urban sprawl and other environmental threats. More than half the suggestions in 50 Steps Toward Carbon-Free Transportation, released last year by the Frontier Group research organization, involve walking.

Walking in the Heartland

Drawing a crowd ranging from block club organizers and grassroots advocates to elected officials and medical experts, the 2017 Walking Summit features two-and-half days of workshops, major addresses, trainings, break-out discussions, success stories and on-the-ground exploration of solutions in Minnesota communities.

Among the more than seventy sessions are:  How to Build Safe Walking Networks; Walking in Rural Communities; Creating Walkable Communities Without Displacement; You Are Where You Live and Creative Walkable Interventions.

Keynote speaker Tamika Butler—director of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition — will showcase how her organization broadened their mission from sustainable transportation to social justice.

We must talk about public health, gentrification, people of color, women who feel harassed on the streets, older people, black men who fear for their lives on the street, immigrants who fear deportation,” Butler says. “Walking for many people has everything to do with living full lives and being able to get around.”

St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman — who launched a first-of-its-kind $42 million Vitality Fund to promote walking and other community improvements — will also speak at the conference along with racial and social justice leader Glen Harris from the Center for Social Inclusion and George Halvorson of the Institute for InterGroup Understanding, who made strides in launching walking movement as CEO of the  Kaiser Permanente health care system.

6 Paths to Healthy Communities

Participants will find specific information and inspiration to take back home by following one or more of the Summit’s six “paths” of subject matter:

Healthy Communities. People’s zip codes are as accurate as their genetic code in predicting a healthy life. That’s why it’s essential to put in place policies, programs and resources to ensure everyone has an equal chance for a healthy life.

Safe, Well-Designed Communities. Too many communities are designed for the ease of motorists with little thought of people who get around other ways. The focus here is practical approaches to provide safe, convenient transportation and affordable housing for all.

Artistic and Innovative Communities. Creativity flourishes in places where people regularly connect face-to-face on sidewalks and in public spaces.  Discover ideas about fostering foot-friendly settings that spark community engagement, cultural diversity and imaginative energy.

Productive and Thriving Communities. Walkability is closely linked with socially and economically successful places. Here’s where to start in creating vibrant neighborhoods, equitable development, affordable housing and strong downtowns or Main Streets.

Open and Collaborative Communities. Wide-ranging collaboration explains the difference between towns, suburbs or cities that blossom and those that wither. What’s the key in getting people together for authentic conversations and effective partnerships?

Engaged and Informed Communities. Access to information and decisionmakers are two powerful tools for transforming a community. These sessions offer a detailed look at new methods to gather data, engage communities, mobilize citizens and influence local government and businesses to catalyze walking.

Two Girls Walking In Montreal

This is the first Walking Summit held outside Washington, DC. “We’re really excited to showcase some of the success we’re seeing, but also share the challenges we have in Minnesota,” says Jill Chamberlain, chair of the local host committee and a senior program manager in the Center for Prevention at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, a featured sponsor of the event.

The Twin Cities metropolitan area in many ways represents a microcosm of America when it comes to walking. Minneapolis and St. Paul both rank relatively high for the rate of pedestrian trips among US cities, but until recently autos were the centerpiece of all urban planning in the region.

Many suburbs lack sidewalks and other basic infrastructure for pedestrians. Concentrated populations of low-income households and/or people of color are found in both suburbs and cities. But there is a growing awareness that walking is important to future prosperity and quality-of-life — and growing numbers of projects to get people back on their feet.

Mobile workshops on the first day of the conference will fan out across the  area to investigate local initiatives that illustrate the power of walking — from  a police department campaign for pedestrian safety to a residential neighborhood with a small town feel to an inner city community torn apart by a freeway, which is exploring plans to reconnect itself by building a land bridge over the road.

Jay Walljasper is the author of the Great Neighborhood Book and America’s Walking Renaissance. He writes, speaks and consults widely about creating healthy communities. Connect with Jay on his website and read all of his MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.