Helen of Marlowe's Blog

Losing the Earth

Posted in "North Carolina", Ecology, Environment, Planet Care, Winston-Salem by helenofmarlowe on August 16, 2018

Have you read the NYTimes Sunday magazine, “Losing Earth” by Nathaniel Rich, Sunday, August 1?
It is very long but worth reading. It begins, “Thirty years ago, we had a chance to save the planet.” But, he says,to save life on this earth now will take a revolution, “But in order to become a revolutionary, you need first to suffer.”
The glaciers, he says, are gone. “We are now looking at the tipping of the first domino piece — glaciers — in a complex system of domino pieces, natural systems on earth. And we are losing options for action. It is too late to save the glaciers.”

Rich’s criticism of us, all of us, is distressing. He says, “We know that if we don’t act to reduce emissions, we risk the collapse of civilization. We also know that, without a gargantuan intervention, whatever happens will be worse for our children, worse yet for their children and even worse still for their children’s children, whose lives, our actions have demonstrated, mean nothing to us. Could it have been any other way?”

That’s harsh, and distressing, but what can we say in the face of the evidence.
A harsh indictment of us, and we as a species will be found guilty.

Perhaps there would still be time if nations stopped carbon emissions, stopped cutting forests, required canopy trees in all large parking lots, required green roofs on new construction, banned factory farming of cows, chickens, and hogs, and banned single-use plastics, but they won’t, and there’s not much of that that we as individuals can control. Not much, but some.

Some of these things we can do without our indifferent government leaders. We can encourage our local councils to support
green roofs and to require trees in parking lots, and to provide city property for community gardens. We can stop eating
factory farmed animals and fish and stop using single-use plastic bags and drinking straws. Take your one carry-out containers
to restaurants for bringing leftovers home.

Friends, this is important. Turning out your lights and taking shorter showers is not going to do it.

Living in the Anthropocene

Posted in Ecology, Environment by helenofmarlowe on July 5, 2017

We’ve all heard the oft-quoted aphorism that if you don’t vote, you don’t have the right to complain.

I’ve never subscribed to that stance.

But there is a parallel philosophy that is harder to dismiss.

If we decry the hunger of 1 million people on this planet, and the trashing of the oceans and the destruction of the rain forests, the extinction of species and the wasting of water – and yet we choose to participate in the causes, do we have the right to decry? Or must we say, Well, I sort of care, a little bit, but not much – not enough to give up some of the pleasures I’m accustomed to.

I have this on my mind because a friend sent me a link to a November 10 New York Times article,

Learning How to Die in the Anthropocene, by Roy Scranton.
A brief excerpt:

The biggest problem climate change poses isn’t how the Department of Defense should plan for resource wars, or how we should put up sea walls to protect Alphabet City, or when we should evacuate Hoboken. It won’t be addressed by buying a Prius, signing a treaty, or turning off the air-conditioning. The biggest problem we face is a philosophical one: understanding that this civilization is  already dead.

Our leaders ignored the warnings while there was still time.

And still, most of us are choosing, not from necessity but because we like the taste of other animals, to continue unraveling the web of life on this planet that we will leave to our children and grandchildren.

We know that greenhouse gasses accumulate in the atmosphere and remain there for centuries as they are slowly absorbed by plants and oceans, and yet we continue the destruction of the rain forest, the lungs of the planet.

There is much information about the connections between eating meat and climate change, some of it published by the Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office. Here is a 4-minute video that the UU UNO makes available on its website.


It’s  taken from this  slightly longer (12 minute) video.

Some of the points made in this video (video number 5 in the list of resources):

While we are being encouraged to change our lightbulbs and drive hybrid cars, the united nations found that raising animals for human food contributes more to global warming than all the planes, cars, and trucks on the planet combined. Forty % more.

You can leave your shower running for 24 hours a day every day of the year and you would still not waste as much water as when you include meat in your diet.

Many of us recycle paper because we want to save trees. But the number one reason for cutting down trees, including the destruction of the rain forest, is to clear land for grazing meat animals and growing corn to feed to animals that we will slaughter and eat.

40,000 people on this planet starve to death every day! This does not happen because there is not enough food for everyone – this happens because, while people are starving, we are wasting enormous amounts of food to feed cows, pigs, chickens and other animals so that we can satisfy our desire (not need) for meat.

Today, we look back on behaviors of humans in previous centuries and wonder how they could participate in some of the cruel practices common to the culture in early American history.

Now, we persistently put our frivolous desires above the indisputable needs and rights of many who go hungry while we support a meat industry that metes out to us vastly more of the world’s resources than is our just portion.

As we continue to eat animals even knowing that a vegetarian diet is healthier, and knowing that factory farming is the greatest contributor to water pollution and climate change, and knowing the pain and suffering inflicted on other sentient beings who want to live, I believe history will judge us harshly.



Think it doesn’t matter who is president?

Posted in "North Carolina", Ecology, Environment, Politics by helenofmarlowe on October 7, 2016

I have heard intelligent people in recent weeks say that it doesn’t matter who the president is. It troubles me. I want to say to them, imagine if Al Gore had actually taken the White House when he won at least the popular vote and maybe the electoral vote. Do you think the US would have gone to war in Iraq? Think about all the repercussions of that misguided decision to take our country to war.

And climate change: If Gore had taken his place in the White House, we would be much further down the path to dealing with climate change, which is surely the most urgent issue confronting our world.

One of our candidates has said that climate change is a Chinese hoax. He has said that he will get rid of the EPA. EPA doesn’t just invent regulations, it enforces laws passed by congress. (He has also said he’d tear up the Paris climate agreement. Perhaps he doesn’t understand that he can’t do that, but he can take our country out of it.)

As The Guardian says, “Scrapping the EPA … would cause an unravelling of basic protections of air and water. …Trump is demagoguing. It plays to the far-right base but it would have enormous consequences for people’s health.”

And, from The Washington Post,

But more prosaic powers also present grave dangers. U.S. prosecutors have enormous discretion to investigate, or not investigate, and Mr. Trump would appoint his attorney general and a raft of new U.S. attorneys. These have to be confirmed by the Senate; but if you take comfort in that, simply imagine a Gov. Chris “Bridgegate” Christie at the Justice Department, or a Newt Gingrich — who, in Mr. Trump’s thrall, has advocated expelling any American who believes in sharia law — as homeland security secretary.

If Mr. Trump wanted to wield the IRS against that Chicago family; if he tried to use U.S. diplomats to help his hotel business in Russia or Azerbaijan; if he barred disfavored reporters from the White House; if he ignored a judge who told him, say, that immigrants had to be given hearings before being deported — what recourse would Americans have?

We should take comfort in the polls which show Trump unlikely to win. But then,look at the surprising Brexit vote, and the surprising Colombian vote against the peace agreement. Polls can make very very wrong predictions.

Think it doesn’t matter who is president? I go back to Al Gore, and the reminder that we would not have had the war with Iraq, and we would be working seriously on climate change, if the candidate who won the people’s vote had taken his place in the White House.

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Major Moral Issue

Posted in "North Carolina", Environment, NC, Planet Care by helenofmarlowe on July 2, 2015

Wrong on many levels

Our local newspaper has recently published articles about industrial chicken farms around Pilot Mountain. These chicken farms are wrong on so many levels that it’s hard to focus on just one.

The Journal stories focus mainly on the financial cost to the nearby homeowners. Families who have lived there for decades, putting their life savings into their property, now have their homes made almost unlivable by “the unbearable stench of death,” putting them into the bind of being unable to enjoy their land and unable to sell it. Surely our legislators can protect taxpaying citizens from what amounts to a take-over of their property by industrial
chicken farms that pollute the land, air and water and destroy the value of area properties.

Even more important, I think, than the injustice done to these individuals is the damage to our children and grandchildren who will have to deal with the environmental devastation caused by CAFOs (Confined Animal Feeding Operations). Since animal farms are the leading cause of deforestation, water consumption and pollution, this is an issue we should all care about. Pollution from chicken farms kills fish and other wildlife and makes people sick.

And this does not even take into account the suffering of these sentient creatures who live their entire lives locked in cages so small they cannot spread their wings.

I believe history will show that the way humans treat other animals is the major moral issue of our times.

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Florida Freeways

Posted in Ecology by helenofmarlowe on February 11, 2013


They stand, patient sentinels, dressed to pass muster

Never stepping out of line (unless forced by some disaster)

Miles and miles of unbroken lines unnaturally arranged in rows

Tall they stand, never leaning over to scratch an ankle or rest a foot

Surely bored by the unceasing sight of cars all day and all night,

All going in the same direction, year after year.

Proud they stand, but they’re never heard to say, We were here first.

In Florida storms, they lean into one another over I-95 and whisper

Perhaps repeating the tales of their ancestors, cut by the Spaniards to make bayonets.

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Tears in Palm Beach

Posted in Ecology by helenofmarlowe on February 9, 2013

In  West Palm Beach, the morning is warm.

Too warm, some say.

I walk around the lake and fall painfully in love with the Muscovy ducks.

Four Muscovies  rest  under a bottle brush tree.

In the shallows of the shore, a red-faced Muscovy swims with seven black chicks trimmed in yellow

and one yellow chick trimmed in black.

An egret stands apparently on the water.

But with my cynical nature I suspect there is a rock just under the surface.

Or a stump.  A stump would do.

The chicks scamper around their mother on the shore

while someone’s grandchild tosses pinches of white bread into the water.

There are tears.  There are tears.


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“Our Marketplace is Rigged by Polluters”

Posted in "North Carolina", Ecology, Government, Winston-Salem by helenofmarlowe on November 10, 2011

We went to see Robert F. Kennedy Jr. last week.

The Yadkin Riverkeeper sponsored Mr. Kennedy’s visit to WFU, and he was the best, most enthusiastic, knowledgeable, and entertaining speaker I’ve heard in a long time.

I had pen but not paper, so I took notes in the tiny white spaces around a tri-fold Honda ad.

Kennedy, an environmental lawyer and activist, called for a major government investment in a smart grid to deliver wind-turbine and solar energy to homes nationwide and free the U.S. economy from its dependence on Middle East oil. The United States is rich with clean energy resources, from geothermal heat in the Midwest to wind farms in Montana, Texas and North Dakota to solar energy in the Southwest, he said.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Wait Chapel, WFU

Kennedy advocated a transition from a carbon-based economy to one powered by solar and wind, saying clean energy is key to our economic and national security. He spoke of the wind farms in the Great Plains and Midwest states, and solar power fields in the sunny Southwest, such as the Nevada desert, saying they could provide all the electricity needed for every building and vehicle in the U.S., and said there is enough wind in just North Dakota, Kansas, and Texas to meet all of the country’s electricity needs. In a true free market, solar would out-compete coal, oil, and nuclear, but our marketplace is rigged by polluters. When coal claims to produce electricity at 11 cents per kilowatt hour, it’s not counting the $345 billion/year tax subsidies and it’s not counting the tremendous environmental pollution that taxpayers pay to clean up. It’s always been illegal to pollute, he said, citing the 1888 Rivers and Harbors Act. In the 17th c people were executed for polluting the commons.

Kennedy was erudite, but his message was sobering.  We can’t count on our representatives in Raleigh, or in Washington.  Currently, he said, “we have a marketplace with rules written by polluters.” He cited several specific examples, including political interference in 2007 by J. Stephen Griles, then deputy secretary of the Department of the Interior and a former lobbyist for the National Mining Association, who managed to change the definition of the word “fill” instead of preventing the coal companies from contaminating rivers with their mountain-top removal fill.

Kennedy talked about electric cars, which he said cost about 6 cents mile and are becoming more affordable, and he spoke with some optimism of Vantage Point Switch bulbs.  These were not new ideas (I already have some of the expensive Philips LED bulbs in lamps), but his enthusiasm made it all seem new, and he added fine details that were new to me.  He talked about Liquid Robotics – robots that move across the ocean at about 1 1/2 knots, powered by underwater wings. Looking something like window blinds, the wings tilt up when the craft is lifted by a wave, rising through the water and pulling it forward. On a down wave, the wings sink and tilt downward, pulling the craft forward.

Leaving the auditorium, I had the fleeting thought that it would be good for Kennedy to follow the footsteps of his uncles into public office, into the White House, but on second thought, he is probably doing more good where he is,  defending the environment against industrial polluters.

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We have a pigeon on our roof

Posted in "North Carolina", Ecology, NC, Winston-Salem by helenofmarlowe on May 23, 2011

Black Rock DoveWe have a pigeon on our roof.

A black pigeon wearing ID tags.

Bucky was the first to notice. It was walking back an forth along the edge, looking down on us as we sat on the porch reading and talking. We were all intrigued that it did not appear to be afraid of us. Not that we’re a scary bunch, but birds in the wild are supposed to think we are.

We all thought this was a fleeting moment and that the bird would be gone before I could get my camera, but this bird likes to pose.

We decided it’s a black dove.  Sounds better than pigeon.

Bucky held out a handful of safflower seeds, and the dove  came right down and settled on the porch rail.  We all went out to dinner, and were somewhat surprised when we returned and  Black Dove was still there.  We sprinkled some cracked corn on the rail, where we feed the songbirds.

We have a flower pot attached to the wall, and the black dove has decided that’s a good place to settle in for the night.

Tucked in for the night

Since the dove is wearing bands on its legs, we thought we should try to get Black Dove back to his/her caretakers.  Might this be a scientific research pigeon, or does it belong to a local pigeon club?

I called the local Audubon society, and learned that this pigeon is not working for science.  It  is a carrier pigeon.   I wish I had asked what carrier pigeons carry these days, but I didn’t think to ask.

I also learned that its likely the owner may not want it back.  Because it will now be seen as unreliable.  If it does get back to its home, I was told, the owner would likely just “put it to sleep”.

That settles it.   I won’t try to trace the numbers on the tags.

I guess we have a pigeon on our roof.



. . . not a feather then he fluttered –
Till I scarcely more than muttered, “other friends have flown before –
On the morrow he will leave me, as my hopes have flown before.”
Then the bird said, “Nevermore.”

e.a.poe, The Raven

Vegetarian Eating in Winston-Salem

Posted in Ecology, Planet Care by helenofmarlowe on October 30, 2010

Winston-Salem doesn’t have a strictly vegetarian or vegan restaurant, as far a I know, since the closing of The Grilled Asparagus (and not for lack of business!). But there are many good restaurants that offer good vegetarian entres. Here are some that I happen to be familiar with. My favorite places are marked with *. This will mean nothing to you unless you know what sorts of places I prefer. Let me know of places I’ve missed.

(Note:  I’m making no great effort to keep up with changes to menus, but if a change/error comes to my attention, I’ll fix it.)


*Vincinzo’s, 3449 Robinhood Road— my favorite at this family-owned Italian restaurant is the spinach ravioli. My husband loves the eggplant parmigiana. The pasta primavera is also good. Music is quiet, for easy conversation.  Booths are comfortable, staff is attentive.

Providence Restaurant, 5790 University Pkwy, 27105.  A few vegetarian entres on menu, and daily specials.  Very good food, good service. All proceeds, as well as additional donations made in lieu of tips, provide support for the program Second Harvest Food Bank.

Ichiban, in Thruway Shopping Center, has very good vegetables tempura.

*Elizabeth’s, Hanes Mall Blvd. — spaghetti with marinara is wonderful. Egglant parmesan pretty good, and pasta primavera. Music is not too loud.  Comfortable if you can get a booth.

*Golden India — lots of vegetarian entres. My favorites are malai kofta, navratan curry. Quiet Indian background music makes for easy conversation. Attentive staff.

Senor Bravo,  corner of Marshall and Brookstown.     —   Chile rellenos,  chile poblanos,  cheese enchiladas.  Good service.

*Amazing Thai – Reynolda Manor.  Almost all the dishes are offered with either fish or tofu.  I especially like the panan curry.

Bayberry Bistro, 420 High St. (at Hawthorne Inn) – 777-3000   Signature Dish: Fish & Chips

Christopher’s, 712 Brookstown Ave. – 724-1395
Signature Dish: 3 Course Dinner for $45
Main course options include Honey Lavender Glazed Salmon with a Dijon peppercorn sauce

Downtown Thai, 202 W. Fourth St. – 777-1422
Pad Woonsen: Stir fried glass (clear) noodle with mushrooms, carrots, baby corn and scallions in a delicious sauce with tofu.

Foothills Brewing, 638 W. Fourth St. – 777-3348   Signature Dish: Fish & Chips

*West End Cafe, 4th Street —  veggie burgers, portobello sandwich, veggie pita.  Really really good vegetarian reuben sandwich.

Fourth St. Filling Station, 871 W. Fourth St.- 724-7600 —  Asiago & Pesto fettuccini,  Absolut tomato pasta, Portobello sandwich

Hutch & Harris: 424 W. Fourth St. – 721-1336
Salmon filet in a spicy pecan crust w/ horseradish sauce- w/ pasta & veggies;  White bean cake w/ tomato sauce.  Menu changes, but I’ve always found something good without meat.

Honey Pot –  Fourth St.  —  not entirely vegetarian, but lots of delicious — really! — vegetarian dishes to choose from.   I’ve had the falafel  over couscous, and the  Farmer’s Plate, which on the day I was there was bok choy, cooked not too much,  several other vegetables, served with a warm and delicious carrot sauce (mostly pureed carrots).

Mooney’s Mediterranean Cafe: 101 W. Fourth St. – 722-4222
Lots of vegetarian dishes including  Hummus, Baba Ghanouj, Falafel, Jeweled Coucous, Tabouli, more

Diamond Back Grill, 751 N. Avalon Road  –Vegetarian black bean burrito, tomato pie, enough sides to put together a vegetable plate.

Mozelle’s Bistro: 878 W. Fourth St. – 703-5400  ’til 10 pm    Pan Seared Scallops, tomato pie, vegetables

Lighthouse Restaurant, Burke Street– Soups, salads, or put together a vegetable plate.  Great crabcakes,  bleu cheese dressing.

*Trido’s, North Point  –Japanese, lots of fish, also rice with vegetables. Or just get the very good salad and miso soup. Nice quiet music, attentive staff

Alex’s Cafe 750 Summit Street. Salads, falafel, hummus, spinach and vegetable pies, veggie pitas

Jason’s Deli, 1005 Hanes Mall Blvd    Vegetarian sandwiches, salads

Breakfast of Course, 723 Trade St. 336-725-5764 — omelets with tofu, tempeh; vegetarian sausage, a vegan burger, or choose items for a sandwich from a fairly long list.

Sweet Potatoes, 529 N. Trade St. – 727-4844  Lunch : 11- 3 Mon – Sat. Dinner: 5:00 – 10:00 Tue – Sat   Pan-fried catfish fillet topped with spicy Creole sauce served over rice

Willows Bistro, 300 S. Liberty Street (336) 293–4601    — Black bean burger, seafood, vegs, pimento cheese, salads

Mellow Mushroom: 314 W. Fourth St. – 245-2820   Offers vegan and vegetarian pizzas and sandwiches.  Pizza dough, which is also used for pretzels, is vegan.

2520 Tavern    2520 L-Clemmons Rd, 27012    vegetables, portabello sandwich, seafood

Roselli  109 E Main St 5:30 to 8:30 pm     East Bend, NC 27018    Straight out Reynolda Road for 20 minutes.  699-4898 vegetables & veg. entrees, tiramisu  Very good reviews

La Botana 25 vegetarian entrees;  Kester Mill Village Shopping Center     1547 Hanes Mall Blvd., 11:a.m to 9:00 pm   336-768-6588

Mizu  Japanese restaurant–  3374 Robinhood Rd, Winston-Salem, NC 27106,  good food, nice quiet music.  The Mizu salad (greens, avocados, pecans, etc.) is delicious and filing enough to be the entire lunch.

Miami’s Cafe, Cuban, Caribbean Restaurant ·     2225 Old Salisbury rd, 27127      Thur- Sat. 11-8 and Sun 12- 6    (336) 788-9440

Sakura Japanese Restaurant  548 S Stratford Road,  Veg. tempura, vegs.,  (336) 777-8744    can’t find hours on web page

Village Tavern til 11 pm     221 Reynolda Village   vegs, veg pasta, veg sandwiches  336-748-0221

Bonefish Grill  300 S Stratford Road 4 pm – 10 pm   seafood, vegs, desserts  Phone: (336) 724-4518

For thoughts on the virtues of plant-based eating, see my post “Planet Care” and consider that we are destroying our planet as we turn our rain forests into grazing land for cattle.   And consider the unbearable fear and pain endured by the animals that are raised in misery and then slaughtered in terror so that human animals can eat them.


We cannot eliminate suffering from this world, but we should not contribute to it unnecessarily, and factory farming of animals for meat is an unnecessary cruelty.

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To Justify the Ways of God to Man (and to other animals as well)

Posted in Ecology, Planet Care by helenofmarlowe on September 24, 2010

Introduction:  Our grandson sent email to my husband and me with a link to a New York Times OpEd, and the message, “Your thoughts?”

Here is the link that he sent us,


and here is my reply:


Bob and I finally — finally! — got the last of our tax documents off to the accountant late last night,
and so we both printed a copy of this to read.

Bob was reading it when I fell asleep, so he will likely send you comments today too, comments more philosophically sophisticated than mine.  The article is interesting for sure,  and some of his comments about animal cruelty at the hands of humans seem, surprisingly, new to me.   Surprisingly because when I read them they seem obvious.

I do not believe the author is serious in his suggestion that we might try to eliminate carnivores from the planet.
So why does he explore the idea? I guess to explore the outer limits of the observation that

Our own form of predation is of course more refined than those of other meat-eaters,
who must capture their prey and tear it apart as it struggles to escape.  We instead employ
professionals to breed our prey in captivity and prepare their bodies for us behind a veil of
propriety, so that our sensibilities are spared the recognition that we too are predators…

I think he cannot be serious, not because it would be “playing God” (his second response to that
accusation is good enough for me) but because it simply makes no practical sense.  (I can speak more to
that upon request but my guess is that you agree.)

Or maybe he explores the idea of eliminating carnivorous species as a way of mocking the arguments that I do take seriously,
The main one (to me) being

The reality behind the veil is, however, far worse than that in the natural world.  Our factory
farms, which supply most of the meat and eggs consumed in developed societies, inflict a lifetime
of misery and torment on our prey, in contrast to the relatively brief agonies endured by the victims
of predators in the wild.  From the moral perspective, there is nothing that can plausibly be said in
defense of this practice.

And this, for me, is the crux of the matter.  We cannot eliminate suffering from the world, but we should not contribute to it unnecessarily.   And factory farming is unnecessary.  (I would go further and say eating animals is unnecessary, but that argument is not necessary for this particular point and might lead us toward than infamous tangent.)

Your thoughts?


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