Want to be a plant scientist? Look at a leaf…

FROM: Lab Girl (pp. 3-4) by Hope Jahren. Knopf Doubleday Publishing

“People are like plants… they grow toward the light”

PEOPLE LOVE THE OCEAN. People are always asking me why I don’t study the ocean, because, after all, I live in Hawaii. I tell them that it’s because the ocean is a lonely, empty place. There is six hundred times more life on land than there is in the ocean, and this fact mostly comes down to plants. The average ocean plant is one cell that lives for about twenty days. The average land plant is a two-ton tree that lives for more than one hundred years. The mass ratio of plants to animals in the ocean is close to four, while the ratio on land is closer to a thousand. Plant numbers are staggering: there are eighty billion trees just within the protected forests of the western United States. The ratio of trees to people in America is well over two hundred. As a rule, people live among plants but they don’t really see them. Since I’ve discovered these numbers, I can see little else.

So humor me for a minute, and look out your window. Continue reading Want to be a plant scientist? Look at a leaf…

Fight climate change in your own backyard

Posted in Yes Magazine  and written by Deonna Anderson

GARDENS30-- Volunteers work on getting the Victory Garden, in Fort Collins, ready for this summer.Fort Collins is one of several communities developing Depression and World War II-era "Victory Gardens," where people can grow their own food in these tough
By 1944, nearly 20 million victory gardens  produced about 8 million tons of food.
Photo by RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via Getty Images

During World War I, Americans were encouraged to do their part in the war effort by planting, fertilizing, harvesting and storing their own fruits and vegetables. The food would go to allies in Europe, where there was a food crisis. These so-called “victory gardens” declined when WWI ended but resurged during World War II. By 1944, nearly 20 million victory gardens produced about 8 million tons of food. Continue reading Fight climate change in your own backyard

Growing your own food undermines our corrupt political/economic system!

I live in a food prison.. It’s all by design just like prisons are by designed. I just got tired of being an inmate. So I figured, let me change this paradigm, let me grown my own food. This is one thing I can do to escape this predestined life that I have unwillingly subscribed to. – Ron Finley

The most effective change-makers in our society aren’t waiting around for a new president to make their lives better, they’re planting seeds, quite literally, and through the revolutionary act of gardening, they’re rebuilding their communities while growing their own independence.

Every four years when the big election comes around, millions of people put their passion for creating a better world into an increasingly corrupt and absurd political Continue reading Growing your own food undermines our corrupt political/economic system!

A Caregiver Perspective

caregiverContext:  my wife, Phyl Gerber, was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s Disease on March 15, 2017.  I am her primary caregiver.  The ALS community has shorthand for a person who is a caregiver for someone living with ALS.  We are called CALS (caregiver for ALS) and the person with the disease is a PALS (person with ALS).

I was moved by an essay written by someone who served as a CALS for more than 10 years until her PALS passed.  She wrote on our Facebook Group… “I found myself over the years of caring for my PALS thinking of the phrase, ‘the two shall become one’ and sadly smiling.”  Her essay inspired me to share my own experience as a CALS for Phyl over the past 3-4 years on the same Facebook group which is exclusively for caregivers for people with ALS.  It was written without naming Phyl because the group members don’t know her…  so she is referred to as “my PALS”.

John M. Gerber

August 2019

When first diagnosed, my PALS suffered anxiety, fear, a sense of loss, a feeling of being cheated out of a “normal” aging process, and deep, deep sadness.  As a CALS, my job was to be supportive, to listen, to love, and care for her to the best of my ability… and not to try to “fix her” – which of course was my first instinct.  Early symptoms were merely  annoying; dropped silverware, an occasional trip on a crack in the sidewalk, an inability to open a jar because of weakened hands. Our long hikes in the mountains (we climbed two 13,000 ft. peaks in Colorado) become shorter and on flatter terrain. Bike rides were no longer 30 miles in the hills but 8 miles on the bike path for a fruit smoothie.

Adjustments and adaptation became part of our daily routine, and as long as we didn’t project too far into the future, it was relatively easy to manage. We tried to live “one day at a time” and deal with whatever came up that day.  And while I read as much as I could about the disease…. I had no idea of the trials we were going to experience (and still are) but I began to understand what it is like to know that I don’t know what will come next.

As my PALS began to show more pronounced symptoms, I gradually assumed primary  responsibility for the laundry, dishes, house cleaning, gardening, shopping, cooking, making beds, paying bills, and all the routine things that were once shared by two. Over time and gradually (through trial and error …. lots of errors) I began to assist with more personal things like dressing and undressing, showering, stretching out muscles that were no longer being used, and transfers from a power wheelchair to bed or toilet.

Then there were the disease specific tasks of managing medications, feeding tube, setting up the respirator at night, doctors’ visits and home visits from various professionals, and the most frustrating of all…. dealing with insurance companies.  Fortunately, the changes were slow enough not to throw us into a permanent state of crisis. Each of these tasks was acquired (more or less) gracefully over time and generally with good cheer by both of us. Prayers and an “attitude of gratitude” helped reduce the momentary resentments and frustrations. Sadness was balanced with joy, and fear was pushed aside by faith in a power greater than myself. Gratitude for the things that we have today (family mostly) and have had since I met this 15-year old girl in the cafeteria of our high school more than 50 years ago continued to grow as the disease continued to progress.

My PALS presents a positive attitude to the world.  She is told how good she looks and how remarkable it is that she continues to be active.  She is told “she is an inspiration”… and she is.  And then from time to time, in the privacy of our home, she falls apart and can’t stop crying.  It happens rarely and is more likely to be triggered by “a broken shoe lace” (something minor) rather than something big that needs our attention (like a pill  she can’t swallow or a throat spasm that makes it hard to breath).  As I hold her while she sobs, my (unspoken) advice to her that she should “accept the things she cannot change” then turns back on me and I need to take my own advice.  I can’t “fix her” and I need to practice the acceptance that I preach.  So I just hold her and don’t say anything.  Acceptance is not so easy when its my turn.

Nevertheless, I’ve learned that acceptance of things we cannot change is critical to daily living. Acceptance is not resignation (giving up) nor is it approval (its NOT okay – it is a lousy deal she has been dealt).  Acceptance is a prayer and a practice that allows me to get through the day and often experience a sense of peace and serenity even when things get tough. And then it all falls apart again….

As the disease progressed, the simple daily tasks included repeating what she just told the guy at the supermarket fish counter who couldn’t hear her yell at the top of her voice “one pound of salmon please”, or setting up her amplifier so she could talk to a friend on her cellphone, wiping tears or nose or butt, and setting up a book tape or a TV show to try to ease the boredom.  One of the “dangers” of being a full time CALS seems to be that I tend to think of little other than ALS and “what does my PALS need now.”  I find myself sitting among friends while they discuss their latest trip, meal, purchase, or work challenge thinking “why are we not talking about my wife and ALS, or at least something important like living and dying?”   I don’t say anything.

The person who inspired me to write this post wrote in our Facebook Caregivers Group that we become “one with them.”  Sometimes I feel this way, yet I know this isn’t entirely true.  I can’t suffer the disease directly, although I (think I) would gladly do so if it gave my PALS relief.  She has her own journey and while I can walk alongside, I can’t do it for her.  I am “one with her”… and not.

But something else surely is true.  In very surprising ways, a feeling of oneness has made my love for her deeper in ways I cannot describe.  While I would not wish this experience on anybody, one of the unintended outcomes of the disease has been that we have become deeply connected to each other in ways that people living “normal” lives may not know (maybe they do, but it is not apparent).  I keep “falling in love” with this girl I met in the high school cafeteria…  over and over.  And strangely enough, I have learned much about myself.  I know who I am, and I know what I am capable of doing because I have been “stretched” beyond anything I ever thought possible.

I surely don’t like that the love of my life needs a caregiver…. but I’ve found this to be the most rewarding job I’ve ever had.  And my constant prayer is to be allowed to continue to be a caregiver for her…  for a long, long time…

For more on my experience as a caregiver, see:




Climate Change Report calls for a New Agricultural System


This week, the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a long-awaited report on land, climate change and agriculture.* The report’s findings confirm that the agriculture and food systems on which we now depend are no longer viable. 

Individual consumer choices in the global north, about what to eat, won’t be enough to get rid of a bad system, nor will they be enough to build a just transition to a better one.

While much of the media coverage of the new IPCC report on land and agriculture focus on diet, the report needs to be understood as saying this: we (in protein-rich countries, at the very least), must replace our current large-scale industrialized systems of agriculture and food production with those based on agroecological and regenerative practices. Food Continue reading Climate Change Report calls for a New Agricultural System

A Friend in Deed…


It occurred to Pooh and Piglet that they hadn’t heard from Eeyore for several days, so they put on their hats and coats and trotted across the Hundred Acre Wood to Eeyore’s house. Inside the house was Eeyore.

“Hello Eeyore,” said Pooh.

“Hello Pooh. Hello Piglet” said Eeyore, in a Glum sounding voice.

“We just thought we’d check on you,” said Piglet, “because we hadn’t heard from you, and so we wanted to know if you were okay.”

Eeyore was silent for a moment. “Am I okay?” he asked, eventually. “Well, I don’t know, to be honest. Are any of us really okay? That’s what I ask myself. All I can tell you, Pooh and Piglet, is that right now I feel really rather Sad, and Alone, and Not Much Fun To Be Around At All.

Which is why I haven’t bothered you. Because you wouldn’t want to waste your time hanging out with someone who is Sad, and Alone, and Not Much Fun To Be Around At All, would you now.”

Pooh looked and Piglet, and Piglet looked at Pooh, and they both sat down, one on either side of Eeyore in his stick house.

Eeyore looked at them in surprise. “What are you doing?”

“We’re sitting here with you,” said Pooh, “because we are your friends. And true friends don’t care if someone is feeling Sad, or Alone, or Not Much Fun To Be Around At All. True friends are there for you anyway. And so here we are.”

“Oh,” said Eeyore. “Oh.” And the three of them sat there in silence, and while Pooh and Piglet said nothing at all; somehow, almost imperceptibly, Eeyore started to feel a very tiny little bit better.

Because Pooh and Piglet were There.

No more; no less.

Author – AA Milne

Illustration – EH Shepard

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