Here's to a NEW YEAR filled with PEACE and LOVE for ALL!

Pine Forest, Sacramento Mountains, New Mexico
Photograph by William Stark, March 2000

"Softly the breeze whispers among the pines, asking us not only to stop and smell the flowers but also to stretch our souls to touch the essence of our existence." ~ author unknown

The Four Immeasurables:

Immeasurable Loving Kindness,
Joy, and

Wishing all of you a Wonderful Holiday Season in all of The Immeasurables!

With much Love and Peace

photo by Craig Smith
"Tenderness and kindness are not signs of weakness and despair, but manifestations of strength and resolution." ~ Kahlil Gibran

Guest Writer ~ Bill Johns ~ US Air Force Veteran

Bill Johns entered the United States Air Force in 1986 and got out in 2007. He was in Aircraft maintenance and retired as a Master Sergeant. He served in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates during the first Gulf war (1990-1991). He was deployed to Italy several times in 1994 and 1995 in support of the Bosnian war. For Iraq/Afghanistan, he was in Qatar 2004-2005 and 2006-2007, close to 5 months each time....By the way, Bill also writes songs about the important issues he thinks about, and you can hear his songs at MySpace


In 1981 I was going to college in eastern New Mexico, not far from the Texas border. At that time, the oil bomb was in full swing. I knew people who were high school drop outs that were making as much as $1000 per week doing the unskilled jobs on the oil rigs. Soon, most of the oil wells were capped, and that industry dried up in the US. The common explanation for this was that the US was running out of oil and the "50 year reserve" story.
In 1990, I went to Saudi Arabia for the first of several trips. While there, I got to know many people that they called Third Country Nationals (TCN). They are what make the oil rich countries run in the Middle East. They are brought in from places like the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Nepal and other developing countries. I met a couple of guys who were working as rough necks on oil rigs and they were making $350 a month for doing a job that paid $800 to $1000 a week in the States 10 years before.
What’s worse is that every US military installation in the Middle East is operating from the sweat of these people. On my last couple trips to Qatar, I got to be friends with a couple people from Nepal that worked in our dinning halls. The first thing that disturbed me was the hours they worked. I would eat breakfast at 5:30 am before work and supper at 7:30 pm after I got off work, worked out and showered. Many times, the same crew was working at the dining facility. I asked my friend what their hours were, and he said 12 hours a day. I looked at a clock and informed him that I saw him 14 hours ago. So then he explained that they had two crews: one 5am to 5pm and the other 5pm to 5am (and that they were bused in from 45 minutes away). When their bus arrived at the base, they had to clear security, which takes anywhere from 20 minutes to two hours. So their day was about 16 to 18 hours long. As far as time off; they got one day a month to take care of personal needs such as laundry. Their compensation was the equivalent of $380 US dollars a month. While these people are happy to have a way to survive, it does not make it right. They are not fairly treated or paid by any kind of reasonable standard. When I brought this up with some base leadership, they said they pay contractors so they have nothing to do with how the TCN’s are paid or treated. That is, of course, a cop out.
Now back to the US oil industry and their reasons for the shift from producing domestic oil to producing foreign oil. In my opinion, it boils down to profit margin. Why cut into your profit with labor cost when you can go somewhere else and use slave labor. However, it has cost us as tax payers a sinful percentage of our tax dollars to secure the oil in the Middle East. Right now it seems it is costing around $2,000,000 a minute to secure the American oil billionaire’s investments in the Middle East. So the next time you are terrified about the price of gas at the pump, think of the real cost. We are paying for it, not only with our tax dollars, but, also, with young American lives.
I don’t believe the old adage that oil is a resource we need so, therefore, we have to secure it. I think we are only protecting our richest citizen’s investments in the commodity. Carbon emissions are destroying our planet, and we have been and still are fighting for the right to destroy it.... (continue reading more below)

continue reading Bill Johns entire article (click here)

"Protecting nature. Preserving Life."

The Nature Conservancy in Africa

Partners in Africa: The Green Belt Movement (Nurturing people by planting trees.)

Nature Conservancy Magazine: Spring 2007

The life of Kenyan environmental activist Wangari Maathai evokes the fable of Jack and the beanstalk: She planted some trees, and they magically grew into a social revolution. The Green Belt Movement—the Kenyan group she started in 1977—has planted more than 30 million trees. Maathai was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 for her reforestation work and its role in reshaping the political future of Kenya.
In the 1960s, a scholarship program took her to America for college and graduate school. She returned home to earn her Ph.D. and become a professor at the University of Nairobi. Slowly she became aware of the side effects of prolonged deforestation: massive erosion, rivers running brown with silt, firewood shortages, too much farmland given over to logging and cash crops like tea.
A simple solution occurred to her: Organize small groups of people to plant seedlings and rejuvenate stripped forests. The Green Belt Movement was born.
For each seedling each person planted and nurtured, Maathai offered a token payment of a few cents. The army of Green Belt volunteers has now swollen to 100,000—most of them women.
Beyond planting millions of trees, the movement morphed into a pro-democracy, pro-environment alliance that rattled Kenya’s de facto dictator, President Daniel arap Moi. Maathai was harassed, beaten and eventually jailed. But democracy took root. In 2002, Moi relinquished power to a popularly elected president. Wangari Maathai was elected to parliament and later made assistant environment minister. Then came the Nobel prize.
Julius Githaiga celebrated that news by planting trees. "That’s our happiness," he says. Githaiga is 43, built tall and thin. He works a multigeneration family farm in Kenya’s Aberdare highlands and has become an avid Green Belt Movement disciple. "It has uplifted our lives so much," he says. "I never knew that conservation was my right."
A section of his farm serves as a Green Belt nursery. He, his brothers and some neighbors tend several thousand seedlings germinating in neat rows. Githaiga estimates he himself has planted 5,000 trees in nearby Tumutumu Forest.
Before we came and planted, it was bare," he says proudly, standing atop a hill in Tumutumu. "My kids will come here when the forest is back. This is food for their future."
The Green Belt Movement has around 70 employees and aspires to become a larger, more mainstream organization. To that end, The Nature Conservancy has provided information system software that makes possible sophisticated project tracking. The data might be used to determine what tree species grow best in certain soil conditions or to generate before-and-after maps of reforested plots.
"The Nature Conservancy has developed skills to work in a big way. We will benefit a lot from their experience," says Maathai. "The Conservancy can increase our capacity, especially in areas of monitoring, evaluating and reporting. People want to know: ‘What have you done?’" Through the Conservancy’s Adopt-an-Acre partnership, Green Belt plans to expand its operations to plant more trees and promote sustainable-livelihood projects like beekeeping.
In the meantime, Maathai wants to export her green-democracy "campaign" to other countries. "What we need to do is involve the African people to help themselves," she says, "not do things for them." —T.D.
Nature picture credits : Photo © Martin Rowe (Wangari Maathai); Henner Frankenfeld/Redux (Green Belt Movement)