Why I like Obama’s Portrait

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Photo: ABCNews

The official portraits of Barack Obama by Kehinde Wiley and Michelle Obama by Amy Sherald have been revealed.

At first, I liked them but thought, “Those are the official portraits, to be in the gallery? I don’t know how I feel about that – they’re so….modern!”  Then I remembered we are in the 21st century and I should not be expecting more of the same…in fact, I should be embracing something new.

So, here are my thoughts on the Barack Obama portrait.

It is fresh.

He is in a flower garden, which is fresh and fragrant and alive.  He is not inside by a stack of books, which would showcase the past.  He is in the present moment.

It is vibrant.

Look at the diversity and colors of flowers.  America is diverse and colorful, and this portrait seems to be saying that is beautiful.  And if you plant seeds and care for them, beautiful flowers will grow and blossom.

Also, when you visit the gallery, guess which Presidential portrait will appeal to children?  The colorful, vibrant one – the future generation will be choosing this version of America.

He is an outsider.

The President is not inside the White House like past Presidents.  He is an outsider.  But, he’s sitting in contemplation.  (And, he’s been there a while, as the flowers are not crumpled from his footsteps.) There’s a feeling that even though he doesn’t have history physically surrounding him, we as viewers can see him thinking about everything that has happened in the office, and what his role will be in history.

There’s a wall.

A wall of flowers.  No bricks, no stones, no glass.

Here’s the image, to be displayed in the great hall: a man looking strong but kind in front of a wall of flowers.  It’s pretty great.

I then listened to the artist talk about the work, and discovered the meaning of each flower in the painting.  I highly recommend going to YouTube and watching the video of the unveiling.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Influential Conservationist Killed

Sad news featured on BBC today:

Esmond Bradley Martin, 75, was found with a stab wound to his neck at home in the capital Nairobi on Sunday.
The former UN special envoy for rhino conservation was known for his undercover work establishing black-market prices.

An influential conservationist, Martin was fearless in his pursuit for truth and justice.  He traveled to a China, Laos, Vietnam, and other locations posing as a black market dealer, taking secret photographs of ivory whilst in the presence of gang members.  He was instrumental in providing accurate reports of the illegal ivory and rhino horn trade to the UN and conservation groups, and gets a lot of credit for pushing China to ban ivory.

A US citizen, he first went to Kenya in the 1970s to begin his reports to combat the rise of ivory trading.  He died there in his home, likely the unfortunate victim of robbery rather than a premeditated revenge killing.

Tributes from groups like Save the Elephants have been released in the press and on social media.

 

 

 

 

Arctic Drilling

IMG_5453Photo: sea lion at my zoo

With the earthquake this morning (a 7.9 magnitude), I was reminded of yet another reason I oppose drilling in the Arctic.  The Trump administration is determined to open up this vast area for oil exploration and extraction.

Here are some reasons to oppose it:

1. Oil Spills

The US government itself estimates that there is a 75% chance of an oil spill in the Chukchi Sea if it is opened to offshore drilling.  Unlike the Gulf of Mexico spill, the remote location and ice will greatly complicate the clean up.  In fact, there is no proven method for cleaning an oil spill off an icy landscape.

2. Animals

An oil spill would be disasterous for wildlife.  But, development will hurt animals too.  197,000 caribou migrate to their calving grounds.  Migratory birds, sea lions, seals, wolves, polar bears, and more call this area home.  Building rigs requires building transport routes and human settlements, undoubtedly causing disruption.

3. Environmental impact everywhere

World scientists are trying to limit average global warming to 2 degrees C.  Drilling in the Arctic will make it  nearly impossible to meet the goal.  Rising sea levels will affect all areas, so if you’re living in Miami you should still care about the great white north.

4. Technology

I was shocked to see a few minutes of CNBC – the stock channel – and hearing them saying they were opposed to drilling in the Arctic and on US coastlines.  If anyone was for it, I would think it would be those looking to make a quick buck.  But, the commentator explained that new technology used by companies like Halliburton have made drilling in current locations very profitable and efficient.   It is possible to have a surplus of production without drilling in new areas.  He believed the long term costs of opening vulnerable areas to drilling would far outweigh any benefit, and hurt our economy in the future.

Zimbabwe bans elephant trade

Zimbabwe has been featured in this blog for bad news in the past, such as for selling elephants into captivity.

I’m happy to start 2018 with great news.  The new president Emmerson Mnangagwa is concerned about endangered species.  He is banning the trade of elephants and other endangered animals.

He also wants to devote more government funds and focus to protecting the environment.  Also very encouraging: he hopes to have women be leaders in conservation.  So far, he seems to be walking the walk, and not just giving nice speeches.  His daughter is currently participating in the Akashinga project, a woman-run part of the International Anti-Poaching Foundation.

(My photo below)

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99% female

You may have seen Australia’s high temperatures in the news, reaching 117 degrees F this past week.  Obviously, this is harmful for agriculture long term, and will worsen drought and the fire season.  It also spells trouble for wildlife.  Bats have basically boiled to death, falling from trees.  Bats help control insect populations.

The Great Barrier Reef is also suffering, with coral bleaching.  Sea turtles are showing evidence of the climate change strain…scientists were surprised to discover 99% of this year’s hatchlings were female.   This gender bias is due to the high temperatures.

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(Photo of a turtle in my hometown)

Clearly, if this is a long term trend, and it looks like it will be, populations of sea turtles will become endangered.  Other animals like crocodiles and certain lizards also have gender determined based on temperature.

According to NBC News:

There are also some “practical” intervention methods scientists can take to help relieve the gender bias, such as putting up shade tents around breeding sites or spraying artificial rain to cool sand temperatures, O’Gorman said.

Holleley said that while short-term intervention could help populations, it could also have unintended outcomes and potentially make the population more vulnerable if those intervention methods were suddenly taken away because of funding or changes in administrations.

“You’re kind of in a Catch-22, do you intervene and potentially have an adverse outcome as an unintended consequence,” she said, “or do you let the population be and see what happens — it’s very difficult.”

A sobering read

The New York Magazine article by David Wallace-Wells begins with this statement:

“It is, I promise, worse than you think.”

He goes on describing climate change and how it will affect us this century.  Some points:

-Heat temperatures and humidity, especially in the tropics, will rise above levels that our body systems can handle, expect death rates of animals and humans to rise, especially among children and the elderly.

-Oceans will not only rise, they will become more acidic, further damaging coral reefs which we depend on for biodiversity.   Expect a fishing crisis this century.

-Fish will not be the only food shortage.  Drought will make once arable land useless for crops and unfrozen lands won’t have rich soil to help us out.

– Disease will spread quicker with mutations we cannot expect.  One example: There is bacterium in the Siberian ice, which can unfreeze and be ingested by animals and spread to humans.  It’s not science fiction.

-Conflict will occur as people compete for dwindling resources. Look for more war and strife this century.

-If you think the recession was tough, get ready for more economic hardship.  Remember reading about the Dust Bowl?  Now imagine that situation becoming standard in many populated areas.

Needless to say, it is a massively discouraging article, especially as we read this week that the US wants to open more coastal water for oil exploration.

The takeaway: It is not too late to care.  Support scientific R&D, live a ‘greener’ life, support organizations and businesses that care for our planet, educate yourself on the issues, and vote for candidates who are concerned about the environment.

 

 

 

Charlie and Stacy

Youtube: America’s VetDogs

A few months ago, I profiled the work America’s VetDogs does to help veterans.  Charlie, a dog showcased on the Today Show from puppyhood, has graduated and found his match.

Stacy Pearsell, a Air Force war photographer, was serving in Iraq when a roadside bomb severely injured her.  She ended up returning to work, serving in Africa, but her headaches, neck pain, and PTSD were getting worse.

She found a new purpose when she met a WWII vet and realized it would be wonderful to profile veterans.  She began the Veteran Portrait Project.

Charlie and Stacy will make a great team.