Saturday, November 29, 2008

breathtaking silence

Mount Rainier National Park, Washington.
Copyright (c) 2005 Wendee Holtcamp

There are few places in the world that have truly taken my breath away. One of them was Mt. Rainier National Park, when my dad and I drove through the park on the way back from our drive to Glacier National Park (in Montana) last year. We had taken a wrong turn, so tried to go through Mt. Rainier National Park to get to our destination but the darned road was closed when we got to the top of the pass. But where we turned around was absolutely breathtaking! It had wildflowers and glaciers and snow in autumn - just amazing. I had snow-shoed on a different part of Mt. Rainier a few years before that, which is where the picture above was taken.

Another place that took my breath away was when Matt and I drove to Alaska. We'd driven 7 long days and had passed up and through the Canadian Rockies which are just jaw-droppingly beautiful. But once we got to Alaska itself, we rounded this bend, and words just involuntarily spilled from my mouth: Oh My God. Alaska is just one of those places you have to see to believe. It was just this massive stretch of glaciated peaks that you could not believe! The third place that took my breath away - oh, wait, besides the Grove of the Patriarchs which is also in Mt Rainier National Park, is the Olympic National Park Hoh Rainforest (so I guess that makes it the 4th). It's so lush and mossy and ferny and well it reminds me of a simpler time. It reminds me of Hobbiton, the Shire of Lord of the Rings, maybe. I wonder why are all these places in the Pacific NW? I don't know, I guess even after traveling to Peru, Ecuador, Australia, Nepal my soul is in love with the Pacific NW!

At any rate, in one of the classes I teach online, a student passed along a link to an amazing article on protecting silence in our national parks - and the most silent place in all the US? The Hoh Rainforest in Olympic National Park (where I'm going in a couple weeks)! One of the exercises I have students in my Advanced Writing Workshop complete is to find an article that you think is truly outstanding, and then analyze why. This student chose, Silence Like Scouring Sand: One of America's quietest places, and the valiant effort to keep it that way by Kathleen Dean Moore, in Orion Magazine.

The topic, the lack of silence in our nation, also interests me because when I give feedback to students on their "Outdoor Observation Journals" which I have them do is how often the journals observe human sounds - whether cars, planes, barking dogs, or the like. I have students go out in nature, and record the sights, sounds, smells, etc but inevitably - every single journal I read - there's always some sound of humanity, even when students go on a hike in a state park or preserve. So I found this particular article really cool. And it's great writing.

My own favorite is Rick Bass' article in OnEarth Magazine, Return of the Black Rhino. It has poetry, drama, and beauty. It's got great character development, something often lacking in nonfiction conservation articles. I usually get bored by most feature articles, but this is just absolutely fantastic. There's even death, but I won't spoil the ending and say what happens... you'll have to read it yourself.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Conversations with God

Tasmania's Mount Field National Park. I chose this photo today because it reminds me of Olympic National Park where I'm headed in a couple weeks- very similar habitat!
Copyright (c) 2006 Wendee Holtcamp

A pearl is a beautiful thing that is produced by an injured life. It is the tear [that results] from the injury of the oyster. The treasure of our being in this world is also produced by an injured life. If we had not been wounded, if we had not been injured, then we will not produce the pearl."
- Stephan Hoeller

As I was sitting and waiting for Sam to work on his science fair project I got out my Atlas and started looking at Oregon and Washington and figuring out some of the places I want to visit while I'm there. I am renting a car and will be driving up from Portland to my dad's log cabin which is NW of Portland, and also up to Washington state to visit my cousin and her family. I am craving the gorgeous temperate coastal rainforests of this place, and the overall culture of the Pacific NW. When I was growing up, my dad's place had old growth temperate coastal rainforest - or very similar with maybe slightly less rainfall- though much of it is now gone, but I have many fond memories of this lush overgrown wet misty forest with old rotting logs, which I'd push over and climb over. Ah, paradise.

I watched Twilight with my kids the other day and it's filmed in Washington and it made me long for home!! It's soooo amazingly gorgeous there (if you go to the link the trailer shows some of the footage). The last time I was at Olympic National Park was about 20 years ago, when my dad and I camped and hiked there. Every time I visit I want to go back but never have. This time I'm going!! I may go alone, I'm not sure. All I know is that when I looked at those two states' maps, I wanted to just run away and spend about 6 months exploring... I miss "home" so much. The place I think I want to visit is the Quinault Rainforest. Look at how amazing this place looks!
I started exploring online where to go, and talked to my dad and apparently the place I remember is actually in Mt. Rainier National Park... Grove of the Patriarchs (the pic there doesn't do it justice). I just remember these trees SO huge that you can hardly believe that such amazing living giants actually exist.

Yesterday, thanksgiving, I spent the afternoon with my friend Georgia, her husband Brendon and their family. After eating an awesome very delicious meal, we watched the movie Conversations with God. It is a movie about the author Neale Donald Walsch and how he came to write the books by the same title. Essentially he became a homeless man and had lost everything, and then finally got a job as a radio DJ, but then lost that when the company went bankrupt, and he had just rented an apartment. So he started scribbling questions to God in a notebook, and then started hearing answers. Volumes poured out of him, as he describes it coming from somewhere outside of him. I haven’t read the books, but plan to see what they say. One thing that was in the movie that stood out to me was him giving a lecture from his book, and someone asked him if he could summarize what the books said in one paragraph, what would he say? He said, I could say it in 5 words: You have me all wrong (God).

So anyway I went to Walsch's blog today, where he asked in the Blame Game entry, “Is it unloving to observe and comment upon the unloving behaviors of others? Does love for the despot allow the despot's behavior to continue unnoticed?” Given that I’m very frustrated with my mother’s behavior towards me, which is all mixed in there with my general anger and frustration and unforgiveness (despite attempts to) for the childhood issues I dealt with and still deal with… I found the topic very relevant. He also asked:

“Are the words that follow an equally wonderful example of love...? ‘You hypocrites! You viper's brood...’”

Which are, of course, words of Jesus when he was angry at the money-changers at the Temple. Jesus even chased them out of there with a knotted rope. Walsch continues:

“I surmise from these incidents that Jesus felt there was a rightful place in human discourse for calling someone to task.”

I agree. In fact, I’ve once heard the work of ministry is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable (or something to that effect). So the last thing I’ll post is that one of Walsch’s readers, Adam, commented this, which I agree with:

“Being enlightened doesn't mean you can't get angry. It doesn't mean you can't call a spade a spade. And it is hardly critical or insulting to tell the truth.”

So the whole blog topic was also interesting to me because just the other night I read in Toxic Parents by Dr. Susan Forward that she recommends confronting the parent(s) with the specific issues, even if you think it will never make a difference in the relationship. She says you either do it in person or by letter. I have often tried to communicate my concerns to my mom (don’t worry she doesn’t read my blog – but I wouldn’t care if she did…as Walsch says, sometimes a little chagrin never hurt anyone if it illumines the truth, or as author Anne LaMott says if you didn't want to be written about you should have behaved yourself better in the first place!). However, my attempts to communicate my feelings at how she treats me are always met with denial and blame. However I haven’t followed the specific guidelines given in the book, and I may do that. The thought completely stresses me out, though. It’s far easier to avoid, isn’t it?

The other relevant thing is that my best friend Daline recommended Byron Katie’s The Work regarding the issues with my mom. She is coming to Texas in February I think, and she couldn’t say enough positive stuff about her, and said she absolutely transforms lives and relationships. I know Alanis also has linked to Byron Katie’s work. I will definitely check it out.

Anyway I'm going to hopefully have some nice conversations with God in the coastal temperate rainforests of my youth in a couple weeks :)

Georgia's son L with a toad that I showed him yesterday when I was over there for Thanksgiving, and he then became obsessed with it for the next hour! :) He's such a cutie. See the toad is on the rock to the right, obscured slightly by grass.

Georgia in her Chicago hat!

Savie giving a piggyback ride to Georgia's daughter M.

The kids playing basketball. They also played flag football!

Brendon's dad carving the turkey.

Lots of yummy food! :)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

feeling the pain

Me when I was 2.

Today was not so good. I was just reading a friend's blog about how last summer she left her kids home with her husband for a summer while she found herself, and later wrote a memoir about it, but hasn't been able to sell it so far, and one agent said she felt readers would not be able to get past the fact that she left her kids.

This is what I think: I can't tell you how much I wish my mom would have taken time away from me to find herself.

My own dad left my mom when I was 1, and moved to Oregon to buy his own land and log cabin, because as he tells me, he knew he had to have something left in his soul to give to us kids. He feared if he stayed in L.A. and married, he would die inside and would have nothing to give. And to this day, the land he lives on and the life he taught us - voluntary simplicity and living from the land - is the ONLY part of my childhood (besides my friends) that has nourished me and 'saved my life.'

When I left my husband, it was a similar sort of thing I think. I thought I would lose my mind if I stayed. I didn't like who I was becoming. I needed to break free. And I did, and I've grown in so many positive ways. In the end, I wish I had been able to grow in this way within the marriage, and maybe time away would have done the trick but that's not the road I chose. Now, I travel a lot away from my kids and think some people may think negatively about that. But my kids see I have my own life, and love my career, and their friends think it's cool what I do, and they are starting to also. :) I believe if we're attuned to our inner wisdom and to God's voice within, He always steers us toward what we need to heal. And by healing ourselves, we can give greater love to our children and nurture them to become the people God intended them to be.

I'm deeply grateful this Thanksgiving Eve that it is with the grace and the power of God that I can rise above the darkness that clouded my past, that I can see the lies, bitterness, jealousy, small-mindedness, manipulation and cruelty for what it was and is. I do not have to live in denial. Horrible things take place in this world, without doubt, in the most tender of places - of mothers to children. Mothers should not slap their little children's faces. Mothers should not wash their children's mouths out with soap. Mothers should not tell their children "Why are you tearing your family apart" because as an 8-year old they want to live with their dad. Mothers should apologize when they make mistakes. A family home should not be filled daily with yelling and screaming. A childhood home should not be a war zone. And mothers should not call their children "bitches."

And so here I sit, not numb anymore to the pain but feeling it. I can't live in her rubber and glue black kettle war zone anymore. I dissent from that kind of life. People have a right, even a responsibility, to tell one another when something they do bothers them. But there's never an ok time to name-call. I have talked to people who had normal families, and there are some people who just do not get it, the amount of pain that it gives a child to grow up in a home where the people who are supposed to love and protect you ignore you, insult you, and make you feel bad about yourself and then deny that they're doing it. It's confusing and maddening. I've also known many amazing people to rise above such soul-crushing circumstances to become amazing, brave, generous and compassionate human beings.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

writing a book

"Our job as a teacher of God, should we choose to accept it, is to constantly seek a greater capacity for love and forgiveness within ourselves. We do this through a 'selective remembering,' a conscious decision to remember only loving thoughts and let go of any fearful ones. This is the meaning of forgiveness."

- Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love.

Me, Trish, Georgia & Tammy at Georgia's birthday soiree yesterday. More people were there but this was the later evening crowd!
The birthday cake - organic even! Courtesy of Amy :)
Amanda, Georgia, Amy & Sam playing Cranium.
Me and Trish with Cranium cubes on our heads!

So, I can't write much because I've got way too much on my plate at the moment. I spent 5 hours at Matt's house with Sam, where he did his science fair experiment. Only it didn't work... so we have to go back tomorrow and start over with a slightly modified - and hopefully less time consuming - plan. I hope it works because we have to leave for Dallas for the Thanksgiving holiday after we're done there!

I tried to get some work done on my book, but didn't actually do any writing. I have written a lot of stuff that I later edited out of the 2 chapters I've penned so far, but I want to include in later chapters. So I just read through all that and sorted it into categories so I know where it will fit in. I've got to transcribe some recorded interviews of Carl Baugh, the guy I talked with at the Creation Evidence Museum. I have to figure out what order my chpaters are going to go, because that has changes slightly from my proposal (which outlined everything very clearly - but things change as you write). I plan to write, very soon, both the chapter surrounding my visit to the museum, and the chapter about my experience last week at the Texas State Board of Education. That one will also include the debacle at the 2003 SBOE hearings, which were even crazier. So... that is how a book gets written :)

I'm mostly packed up, but have some work to do before I leave. I had a lot to say, but it's all eluding me, because I have too much to do and too much on my mind! I took the kids to see Twilight this evening which I liked and Sam seemed to like but Savannah said she thought it was boring, because it was too much a love story. LOL.

So I also have an article due in a couple weeks, a Powerpoint and talk that I'm giving at Sam's school (on the Galapagos Islands and evolution), my book writing, and I'm teaching two online classes at the moment. And I need to drum up some new assignments. So... it's just a wee bit hectic around here! But, life is good. Very good. But I still can not believe it is almost December!! Holy cow! What is up with THAT?!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

fair, or "balanced"?

Check out this absolutely excellent analysis of the media coverage of the Nov 19, 2008 Texas State Board of Education hearing, fair, or "balanced"? by Tony Whitson on his Curricublog. What he says is absolutely right on the money. They give equal coverage to the sides even though that's not an accurate portrayal of the situation.

Only a few newspapers - including the Ft Worth Star Telegram reporter that quoted me in an article - mention the overwhelming number of scientists and pro-science advocates versus the few creationists. The reporters also quote people like someone from the Texas Free Market Foundation, without mentioning that he was a registered lobbyist for Focus on the Family. Sometimes journalism is very discouraging - and the daily and local newspapers tend to be the worst. I'm in the media, but I do believe magazine reporting is often much higher caliber. For one thing, we have longer turnaround times, allowing for more fact-checking. The writers tend to (but not always) have more science background, or know how to research a little better. Anyway check out the curricublog. Very astute observations that should get wider play.

I'm on candid camera

Sam & Savannah acting crazeeee... :)

The truth will set you free. But first it will make you damn mad.
- Scott Peck.

I just came across this Fox News video "Evolution Debate Could Decide Children's Future" - which covered the State Board of Education hearing last Wednesday, and I'm in the video at two places: first coming into the hearing room after Clare Wuellner, Director of Center for Inquiry Austin, who they interviewed (she was dressed in the 1860-era getup, and is in the photos posted in my previous blog post). And then later you can see me standing in the audience at the Texas Freedom Network press conference. I would embed the video but I don't think I can... check it out!

Oh, and even though the coverage is decent, the title is kind of stupid, like how exactly is evolution going to decide children's future? The actual video shows that the decision of the Texas SBOE could determine how other states act on textbooks - but that was actually the issue at debate in 2003 and is not up for debate, currently. The issue currently is about the TEKS or standards. Yes, other states sometimes follow Texas' lead in some things, but... do they really? Actually come to think of it this reporter did not do his background research at all.

The other thing he missed is that although this coverage was better than most in terms of repesenting accurately that the science advocates came out in force and the creationisst were few in number, he did allow Mark Ramsey to wave about the "academic freedom" argument, but the reporter never counterpoints to explain that the reality is that nobody is trying to stop academic freedom. That is absurd! The point is that you don't teach *high school* students every brand new hypothesis and idea in science and/or allow them to debate the merits or come up with their own hypotheses. They are simply not equipped for it. Textbooks have always taught the current state of science (or whatever subject), and the process of science. And, if that were heeded, then intelligent design would not be in the textbooks. Nor would there be any "weaknesses" of evolution taught because evolution is one of the most robust theories in science - and if taught thoroughly (as I did when teaching at Kingwood College) it should be quite clear to students that the theory has genetic, genomic, physiological, anatomical, paleontological, and geological evidence - as well as predictive power.

The debate of evolution is a cultural and religious one and NOT a scientific one. So if creationists want it to be taught, they need to have a different class set up, or to teach it in social studies or current events. Dumbing down science is not going to help our children's future.

So maybe the Fox News report got the title right after all. If we remove or weaken evolution education in schools, our children's future IS at stake. As is our nation's future, really. And general concern over America's science lead was clearly shown in the National Academy of Sciences report (that I quoted in my testimony) Rising Above the Gathering Storm.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Renaissance Festival

Savannah riding a camel! One of her dad's gifts for her 14th birthday was to take a couple friends to the Renaissance Festival. This was our first time. One of the caveats was that she had to ride a camel :)
Savannah on the jumping trapeze thingie.
The sign reads, "Rack O Lamb = 75 pounds, OR Rack a Man = Priceless." Ha ha!
L gets executed. The girls lounge in these totally awesome chairs!
Savie and me today at Ren Fest!

I'm watching the movie Ice Age with Savie and her friend, I LOVE this movie!! It is so freaking hilarious. Sid the Sloth is so my alter ego!! We just got back from Ren Fest. What a blast. These were my Facebook updates during the day (yes, I did turn on my blackberry while I was there, and no I am not doing that frequently just occasionally now).

Wendee is at the Ded Bob show

Wendee is eating fried yam fries yum

Wendee is thinking 1 turkey leg can feed a small country

Wendee is watching 3 girls ride a camel!

Wendee is thinking the giant swing is the best 4 dollars I ever spent! it rocked!!

Wendee is about to ride a different kind of swing now

Wendee ... one hurling kid, a speeding ticket and a long drive home, but that can't ruin a day w/chocolate covered strawberries, awesome rides, great company

OK so on the way home one of the girls got sick, and then I got a dang speeding ticket! I was almost home too, and trying to go fast because poor E was so sick! The cop had no mercy. He pulls up to me and says, "Did you know you were going nearly triple the speed limit?" I said, "What is the speed limit?" He said "35" and I'd been going about 70 apparently. I don't even believe that, I'm sure I was going 60. As he walked back to his car, Savannah said, "Apparently cops don't have to learn math." Snarky little one, she is!

So we started cracking up while he was back at his car writing my ticket. I said, E you should barf on his shoe when he comes back over here. But alas, she didn't barf on his shoe. He deserved it though!

Last thing I wanted to mention was this cool Monkey Trials blog post by Scott Hatfield about my SBOE testimony. He explained some things that I'd left unsaid.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Daily Kos and Texas Kaos

I have never made but one prayer to God, a very short one: "O Lord make my enemies ridiculous." And God granted it.
- Voltaire

I have posted blog posts about my testimony at Daily Kos as Messin' with Texas Education, and at Texas Kaos - where it's currently on the recommended diary list.

Please go and add a comment at Daily Kos, or recommend me in the Tip Jar (the first comment) so that it gets on the Recommended List!

Wendee testifying at the State Board of Education
Clare Wuellner, Director of Center for Inquiry-Austin, dressed in a 1860-era getup to make the point that the only scientific controversy over evolution ended around 1860 after Darwin's theory was first introduced on the scene.

Wendee testifying at the State Board of Education
Dinosaur Barney and Clare Wuellner (as 1860-era woman) were some of the characters who showed up at the Texas State Board of Education hearing.

Wendee testifying at the State Board of Education
At the Texas Freedom Network press conference prior to the hearing, someone holds a sign of the earth, asking "How old am I?"

Wendee testifying at the State Board of Education
Gail Lowe, one of the creationist board members.

Wendee testifying at the State Board of Education
The audience looks riveted. ;)

Wendee testifying at the State Board of Education
Notice all the "Stand Up for Science" stickers on everyone?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

lies and the lying liars who tell them

Copyright (c) 2006 Wendee Holtcamp
Marianne van Vlaardingen, owner of Pantiacolla EcoTours, and naturalist guide Tina Baker on river rocks on the Rio Madre de Dios, which runs into the Amazon River - overlooking the misty Amazon rainforest. This was taken at the same time as the photo in my header. We stopped on the river rocks to watch for birds.

There were so many fewer questions when stars were still just the holes to heaven.
- Jack Johnson

On the way to Austin I started listening to the audio-CD of Lies (and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them): A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right by Al Franken. As you may know, Franken is all over the news since he's locked in a close Senate Race in Minnesota, which has gone into recount. He used to write for Saturday Night Live. The book, so far, is hilarious! I'm not that far into it yet, but so far, he's gone after Ann Coulter about whom, he says that God says to him, "There's something seriously wrong with her." I'd have to agree with that assessment! She's so full of such vitriol and hatred. Anyway, I digress. Franken also talks about what he calls the fallacy of liberal bias in the media which is interesting given my recent blog posts about that very issue. But if you want a good laugh this book (especially listening to it) will do the trick!

Am taking Savannah and two of her friends to the Renaissance Festival this weekend as part of her birthday celebration. We have never been to Ren Fest so it should be fun. That's about it for now. Just trying to get caught up on things! It seems like I am always trying to get caught up on things. Is that the same for everyone or what?!

slam dunk

A man of sincerity is less interested in defending the truth than in stating it clearly, for he thinks that if the truth can be clearly seen it can very well take care of itself.

-Thomas Merton, No Man is an Island.

I just got home from Austin after a very long day at the State Board of Education hearing. Testimony on science TEKS didn't even start until about 3:45pm, and I spoke about 6pm, about halfway through the speakers. Something like 92 people signed up to testify - overwhelmingly scientists and science advocates. I think in the first 4 hours only 3 creationists spoke. This was a very different situation from in 2003 when I think it was about 60-40 (60% science advocates, 40% creationists). However that hearing was about textbooks, was more widely publicized, and intelligent design proponents flew in from Seattle, and evolution advocates from California. It was a bit more of a media circus.

This year, they are revising the TEKS, which occurs every 10 years. They had a panel of scientists and science teachers who came up with a new version of the TEKS, and it was posted online Sept 15 here. These were pretty good. Then Monday, 2 days before the hearing, they posted a "new" version which had stealthily snuck back in the "strengths and limitations" (formerly "strengths and weaknesses") language which has been in the TEKS for 20 years but it has increasingly been seen and used as a possible place for those opposed to evolution to insert a wedge to criticize the theory - so was removed by the panel in the first (Sep 15) version.

This is the problem with that language. Despite hysterical claims that science advocates and "evolutionists" are trying to prevent academic freedom, the reality is that analysis and criticism of scientific theories belongs in the halls of academia, in the laboratory, and among those scientists with enough know-how and expertise to know what they're critiquing and analyzing. It is not something that middle or high school students are educated enough or equipped to be able to adequately discuss the merits of a theory. I think it would be useful for students to debate or discuss the evolution-creation controversy but NOT in the science classroom, but in a cultural studies, religion, or social studies course, and because of the controversy this would need to be developed in a textbook or textbooks that could present the information in a non-biased manner.

I wrote my testimony a couple days ago. However, during the hearing I got so absolutely disgusted at the behavior of the creationist board members that I added a paragraph to my testimony and called them out on their lies. In a repeat of the antics in 2003, which will be covered in my book, these Board members questioned people just for the sake of making their own points, putting people on the spot to answer questions outside of the testimony-givers realms of expertise and then fail to ask questions of actual scientific experts. They often asked questions of the young people, and those few creationists who agreed with them. Also, three creationist board members in particular, Terri Leo, Gail Lowe, Ken Mercer, and Barbara Cargill - repeatedly denied that the strengths and limitations language and their various changes on the November TEKS update had anything to do with religion. Sure. Whatever.

This is how it went when I gave my testimony.

I open with the same paragraph I wrote and posted previously, giving my background as a Christian and evolutionary biologist, mom, and former college biology instructor. Then I added something like this (it was written down but I spoke extemporaneously so it may have veered a bit):

Despite what the creationist members of the Board say - Ms Lowe, Ms Leo, Ms Cargill, Ms Dunbar, Mr Mercer, Dr McLeroy and others - everybody in the nation knows that this is absolutely a religious battle, that your dislike of evolution and naturalism and any changes to the TEKs that are supported by the Discovery Institute are religiously motivated. Kitzmiller vs Dover clearly showed that ID and these issues are religious in nature. For you to sit there and tell everyone it is not smacks of arrogance and deliberate willful deception. In other words, lying.

At which point Chairman McLeroy interrupts me to say, flustered, "We don't say that word here. You can't say that word."

I look at him, confused.

"Lying. You can't say that. You can say you disagree with something but you can't say lying."

"I can't say the words lies?" I ask, incredulous.

So I continue, not finishing the sentence that I was going to say, which was "I know who the Father of Lies is, and it's not Jesus and it's not God." I then continue on with my asking them why they are willing to play dice with our taxpayer money to risk a lawsuit, and why they're willing to play dice with our children's future, and kept to the rest of the testimony I'd written - but because of the time McLeroy took away from me by interrupting me I was not able to read my closing few sentences.

A reporter from the Fort Worth Star Telegram came over to get my testimony and hey, look at this, he quoted me in the article, Evolution proponents descend on State Board of Education.

Last I will say that McLeroy made a demand that nobody clap, hoot, holler, or talk during people's testimony because he and the Board members wanted to be able to listen to those who spoke and it was a show of respect for those who took the time to come and testify. And for the most part this was respected by the audience. However I was not shown the same courtesy by the Board! During my testimony, Terri Leo repeatedly laughed and talked over her shoulder to someone (I think he was a creationist/ID person giving her questions and comments about the testimonies). The laughter and talking by the Board was loud enough to be picked up on the live feed that was streamed from the TEA website because someone emailed me commenting on it.

I felt very good about my testimony afterwards! Got a lot of positive comments and nods from the audience as I finished. I had prayed right before I got up to speak, and had been a bit nervous but I found a calm before going up there and I spoke my truth firmly and clearly. I think it is simply essential to truth to call a spade a spade. These people have their right to their opinions, for sure, but lying to the public about the religious nature of their opposition to evolution is simply ridiculous! EVERYONE knows that the battle against evolution is all about religion! ID proponents may do their best to disguise that and lie about it, but anybody who does even a minute bit of research knows the truth. It's really not that hard to figure out. There was some fantastic testimony given and I was super gratified to hear at least 3 or 4 pastors get up and speak in favor of evolution and the science-advocate position that supports the Sep 15 version, and says get rid of the "strengths and limitations" language. Hallelujah!

I even got my photo on the Houston Chronicle Evosphere live blog from the event (the one I have above). Check it out. And check out this great quiz in the Texas Monthly, "How Well Do You Know Your State Board of Education" - truly frightening.

The Texas Freedom Network blogged live from the event also.

Here's an MP3 of my testimony, where you can hear them laughing when I say their names, and McLeroy interrupting me.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

In Austin

The view from on top of Enchanted Rock, a giant batholith. Enchanted Rock State Park, Texas. I visited this for my Top of Texas cover story for Texas Parks & Wildlife Magazine. It was dusk and the light was gorgeous!
Copyright (c) 2006 Wendee Holtcamp

I'm sitting in the Texas State Board of Education hearings for their Board meeting, which will today allow for public testimony over the TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills). Just wanted to mention a Houston Chronicle Evosphere blog that is updating the situation in real time. At 11am there was a press conference in which Texas Freedom Network Director Kathy Miller first spoke followed by a couple UT professors including Dr Andy Ellington whose talk was great. I'm going to get it and put it online when I get a copy. The weather today is gorgeous!

Last night I stayed with Debbie Pagell, documentary producer from the Cultural Film Fund, which is producing It's Your World, the ecotravel series which was being filmed on my trek through Nepal with Tim Gorski, Jon Kane and Mei-Ling McNamara. We went to eat at this awesome restaurant Vivo, which has margaritas infused with hibiscus... yum! And at the end of the meal, they delivered to each of us a wonderfully fragrant long-stemmed pink rose! Apparently they do that for every single person who eats there. How cool is that? Check out this Youtube video created from footage filmed on the trek I was on!! I have photos of these exact same shots they video'd (at the above link back in history on my blog...)

Monday, November 17, 2008

I Support Strong Evolution Education!

An adorable little girl in a car in eastern Nepal.
Copyright (c) 2007 Wendee Holtcamp

I've been working on my testimony which I am giving Wednesday in Austin at the State Board of Education hearings over the revised TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge & Skills), specifically about the science TEKs, and even more specifically about TEKS C3A which is the one that could be used by creationists to weaken evolution education. I attended the 2003 hearings about the adoption of textbooks, which will be covered in my book (on making peace between evolution and Christianity), and so I figured I really must attend the 2008 hearings as well. On TEKS C3A controversy exists over the phrase teaching the "strengths and limitations" of scientific theories. While this sounds harmless or even beneficial, the reality is this phrase is used by religiously motivated individuals who oppose evolution - despite the Constitutional demand for the separation of church and state. This kind of tinkering led to the 2005 Kitzmiller vs Dover School Board court case which cost Dover over $1 million for a lawsuit which sided very strongly on the side of opposing the teaching of intelligent design in science classrooms - because it is not science, but religion. I'll include my draft testimony below.

Also of interest, the Texas Freedom Network just released a survey of Texas university scientists that finds overwhelming opposition to watering down evolution in schools.

The report highlights five key findings from the survey:

1. Texas scientists (97.7 percent) overwhelmingly reject “intelligent design” as valid science.

2. Texas science faculty (95 percent) want only evolution taught in science classrooms.

3. Scientists reject teaching the so-called “weaknesses” of evolution, with 94 percent saying that those arguments are not valid scientific objections to evolution.

4. Science faculty believe that emphasizing “weaknesses” of evolution would substantially harm students’ college readiness (79.6 percent) and ability to compete for 21st-century jobs (72 percent).

5. Scientists (91 percent) strongly believe that support for evolution is compatible with religious faith.

Here is my testimony (draft form):

I’m here to testify as a Christian who is educated as a biologist, and a mom of 2 middle school aged kids – one of whom goes to public school and one who goes to a private Episcopal school, which by the way teaches evolution alongside the Christian faith. I have taught biology at the college level, and I currently work as a freelance science writer. In fact, I am working on a book on making peace between evolution and Christianity which will be published in 2010 and will include some details from this very hearing.

I have 2 quick points I want to make, followed by some more general comments. 1st, I think it’s highly unethical that you did not even put the final version of the revised TEKs online until Monday afternoon – knowing that most people would not even have a chance to look at them, 2 days before the hearing. 2nd, on TEKS C3A. I support the Sep 15th version of TEKS C. 3. (A) which says, “analyze and evaluate scientific explanations using empirical evidence, logical reasoning, and experimental and observational testing;”

The Nov revision introduces the phrase “strengths and limitations” which is no different from the flawed “strengths and weaknesses” argument that has been roundly rejected by scientists. Although I understand the TEKS do not anywhere explicitly discuss Intelligent Design, this “strengths & limitations” language is pushed exclusively by religiously-motivated opposition to evolution, and is used as a wedge to allow teachers to cast aspersions on evolution in classrooms.

My first question to you - members of the State Board of Education – Are you willing to play dice with our taxpayer money on the possibility of costly court battle by introducing religiously motivated language in Texas science standards? The 2005 Kitzmiller vs Dover School Board case cost Dover over $1million.

My 2nd question to you – are you willing to play dice with our children’s education as our nation’s science lead deteriorates? In 2005 the National Academy of Sciences report “Rising Above the Gathering Storm” decried our nation’s deteriorating science education and critical thinking skills. It stated, “Having reviewed trends in the United States and abroad, the committee is deeply concerned that the scientific and technical building blocks of our economic leadership are eroding at a time when many other nations are gathering strength.”

Evolution does not threaten religious belief – including Christianity - except if you read Genesis absolutely literally, which most Christian denominations do not. The Presbyterian, Episcopal, Methodist and Catholic Churches - among others - formally accept an evolving Creation. Nearly 70% of our nation’s founding fathers were either Presbyterian, Episcopal or Congregationalist – (a denomination which later became part of the Presbyterian Church and was associated with founding Harvard Yale and Dartmouth). Our Founding Fathers very much appreciated both logical, scientific reason and religious faith as compatible but also demanded – as Thomas Jefferson said – a wall of separation between church and state. The majority of our nation’s 43 Presidents also have hailed from Episcopal, Presbyterian, and Methodist denominations (over 62%), all of which believe that Genesis is not a divinely dictated textbook. America’s Founding Fathers deeply respected religion and its values, but they equally valued science and reason.

So to summarize, I urge you as elected members of this Board who are accountable to the public: Do not harm the bedrock of science and reason upon which our nation was founded by weakening Texas science standards with the “limitations” language. It’s inclusion will only weaken science education, our state, our children’s future and the ability to create brilliant and critically thinking minds in our state and our nation.

Sunday, November 16, 2008


Copyright (c) 2008 Wendee Holtcamp

It's here in all the pieces of my shame
that now I find myself again.
I yearn to belong to something, to be contained
in an all-embracing mind that sees me
as a single thing.
I yearn to be held
in the great hands of your heart--
oh let them take me now.

Into them I place these fragments, my life,
and you, God--spend them however you want.

- Rainer Maria Rilke, Love Poems to God

I'm feeling a bit unsettled in my heart today. I've been feeling good, and am still doing good, but just continuing the soul-searching. Trying to figure out what's right. It's so very hard sometimes to know the right path, especially when it requires maybe hurting someone's feelings to speak your own truth. Goodbyes are never easy for me. But sometimes doors need to be closed to allow in new light. I bought the sunflowers for myself today. When I first got divorced I bought myself flowers every week. I haven't in a while, but I know I don't need someone else to offer me that gift of life, spring, sunshine, rain, color, spirit that flowers represent.

I had a sort of breakthrough the other week about this Bible passage that is often quoted, "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'" (Jeremiah 29:11). I never believed it applied to me. For one thing, when you read the whole book of Jeremiah, the Lord is very specifically talking to the prophet Jeremiah not to all the people. But it's commonly quoted like it applies to everyone. So I always thought how do we know it applies to everyone?

One lesson I've learned from Debbie Ford is to try to always ask whenever there's something that appears to require another person or another "thing" (if only I have this, or that, I'll be happy), you ask yourself, What is it really that I think is being provided in that feeling? One of the things that I always desire and seek after is that feeling of "falling in love" (blame Hollywood and all those romantic comedies!) and I got to asking myself, in that Debbie Ford manner, what is it about the "falling in love" feeling that I really like or want?

Immediately, I answered to myself that when falling in love, I feel like I have a future to look forward to (with someone) and I feel hope. As soon as I said that to myself it was like a huge aha moment, and that Jeremiah passage came to mind - because I hadn't even been thinking about it. I was like, Wow. Maybe that passage does apply to me. Maybe that is what He means. God wants us to feel that same feeling - that we have hope and a future - because that's what God wants for me, for us, for everyone. Imagine if we could feel that confident, secure, in love feeling always because we know that God loves us, and we are totally secure in His love. It's something I need to meditate on and contemplate, because I don't feel it yet. In fact one of the breakthroughs I had in my grace group was that I really don't trust God with my "inner child" and I feel like I have to take care of myself.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Secret Life of Bees

Highline Trail in Glacier National Park, Montana
Copyright (c) 2007 Wendee Holtcamp

"Everything we do is infused with the energy with which we do it. If we're frantic, life will be frantic. If we're peaceful, life will be peaceful. And so our goal in any situation becomes inner peace. Our internal state determines our experience of our lives; our experiences do not determine our internal state."
—Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love

That quote by Marianne Williamson appeared in my email inbox the other day and it really spoke to me. I just emerged from a month and a half of insane frenetic activity, deadline after deadline and taking the kids all over creation since their dad was out of town a couple different times, and I realized how true that quote is. If I calm my mind and my moment by moment interactions and thoughts, I still have the same stuff on my plate, but can tackle it in a more calm and gentle manner. It also is so true in how I respond to my kids. When I am calm and gentle they are too. When I get riled at their inevitable mistakes and misbehavior, they get angry and defensive. So I'm going to try to take this message to heart.

Anyhow, I was going to blog today about steady state economics, and an effort by some ecologists to get a message to the Obama administration because it's timely and an issue I want to write about in the future, but.... nah. I don't feel like it. Today was a super lazy day! It is the first day in a long time that I have not woken to either a pressing deadline or having to take the kids around somewhere or another. I ended up getting out of bed at, get this, 1pm!! Holy moly! I had a cup of coffee and started getting caught up on the 500+ emails that have accumulated i nmy inbox (and this does not include spam, but ones that I need to reply to or sort and save). I always feel best when my inbox stays under 100 emails. Anyone else do that too?

I went to see The Secret Life of Bees with some girlfriends last night and loved it. It is based in 1964 just after the Civil Rights Act passed, and it is about a 14-year old girl who runs away from her abusive father with her black housekeeper, who had just been beaten by some white men when she was on her way to register to vote for the first time. They head to a city where the girl (played by Dakota Fanning) thought her long-since dead mom may have lived. They end up moving in with a black family (3 sisters) who run a bee farm, making honey. It stars Queen Latifah (who I love!), Alicia Keys and Jennifer Hudson. Though this is a fictional book, I feel it's so important for all of us to see and know this part of our history of our nation's past, the ignorance and hate that can so easily infect people and cause such horrible prejudice and crimes and violence. Love and truth are the only way to true inner and outer peace.

Oh and the movie brought back memories because my dad used to keep bees for a while during the time I livd with him. He had those same white hives, used an all-white bee suit with a hat and a mesh screen that covered his face, and used that same smoker to smoke out the bees, had that same spinner to get the honey out of the honeycomb. Boy I loved eating the honeycomb - yum!! Celeta are you reading this? Do you remember that? :)

Friday, November 14, 2008


Butterflies drinking pee in the sand along the Rio Madre de Dios, Peru.
Copyright (c) 2007 Wendee Holtcamp

I finally have finished all three articles that I had on my plate - whew! I normally feel a sense of relief, but I feel I'm still on the treadmill of work.... I'm going to go have some fun tonight, and then will start working on my book again this weekend. Right now, I'm heading to the gym to get some of this angst off my chest.

Have been doing some soul-searching lately. I'm just about finished with a 12-week "grace group" which is offered at my church and part of the Open Hearts Ministry. It's a program for survivors of abuse of various kinds (they define abuse broadly) and it's actually really amazing and intense. I think every week tears have been shed, sometimes body-wracking sobs. It's one of those "real" groups, where you can push one another's buttons, and yet instead of people walking away - as is my experience when you're not "perfect" (or someone's idea of how you should be), the leaders push you to see your own issues, and help you see them in a new light. As they put it, the point is to cover "shame" with "grace." To be real, but to work through the issues that arise rather than either pretending they don't exist and being polite, or walking away from the situation, you learn to work through them. Not necessarily to always agree, but to agree to love the best in the other person.

Too often, we either project our failures and issues onto others (other-based contempt) or we blame ourselves for everything (self-contempt). One goal of this program is to help people see the past, how it affected our behavior in the present, to see what is needed to move forward, and to reaffirm our worth and dignity, as a loved child of God. It's great because it's not preachy or churchy at all but very very real and down to earth. It's a Christian ministry but they even show how the hyper-churchiness of some people is itself a foil or a learned behavior to avoid the painfulness of facing reality. I'm definitely not of the hyper churchiness type but I use a different persona, a sort of ambivalence persona, where I can go back and forth between two extremes of feelings or thoughts. The program tries to help everyone "diffuse" some of the pain and so that when a certain situation pushes our buttons we don't over-react and revert back to our behaviors. Like everything, it's a process.

For me, I hate being ignored. I hate the space of not-knowing. It drives me bat-shit crazy (pardon the French). I do not like to make assumptions (good or bad) about people, and if anything I often assume the worst possible outcome for myself, while wishing for the best and wishing and not wanting to believe in the sometimes very clear signs in front of me. I like to offer up grace and hope and believe in the best in people (and if that's not confusing enough to read, try living in that space!) :) It is not (obviously) the best thing in the world for me, because I can cling onto hope when hope is a long-dead horse. But I also believe that is how God loves each and every person on earth. I believe there's hope for even the most wretched person to see the light of truth, the light of love, and to catch a glimpse of their own sinfulness in the mirror, even those in the greatest denial. I myself have in the past been in denial of some of my behaviors. And I'm probably in denial still, of something. I see the light in just about every person I meet, even when they later deeply disappoint me. I wish always for a way forward. I believe there always is one, though sometimes it requires time away.

A life of constant seeking and self-introspection I think is the best way to go in order to be honest about how we are, and how we affect others. I wish others would always give me a chance to show my best self, but that chance is not always offered. That's what breaks my heart. Because I do try to be a good friend, and I'm grateful that I have that opportunity to be a friend to so many people who have stayed in my life over the years. My friends are my family. And I truly do love everyone who has come into my life and touched it gently and with love. Even those who have hurt me, whether they meant to or not, I try to offer them prayers and love and hope that one day there will be reconciliation.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Obama's faith

A sleeping sea lion in the Galapagos Islands. What is that little starburst on his forehead?!
Copyright (c) 2007 Wendee Holtcamp

This is a fascinating interview with Barack Obama by Chicago Sun Times journalist (and author of Sin Boldly: A Field Guide to Grace) Cathleen Falsani, Interview with State Sen. Barack Obama about His Faith (I've just discovered her blog, The Dude Abides, which I"m going to link in my blogroll now and follow - she's great! And from the blog you can download the audio version of her book for an MP3 player from the blog via Zondervan publishing...coolio). Anyway the interview with Obama was in 2004 when he was running for the U.S. Senate. This is very similar to how I believe about my own Christian faith as well. If you haven't read his book Dreams from My Father I highly recommend it. The chapter on his altar call and fully embracing the Christian faith (partly due to realizing that you could accept reason and science and logic and still have a Christian faith) - it brought tears to my eyes.

Anyway some snippets from the Falsani interview:

I am a Christian. So, I have a deep faith. So I draw from the Christian faith.

Yeah, although I don't, I retain from my childhood and my experiences growing up a suspicion of dogma. And I'm not somebody who is always comfortable with language that implies I've got a monopoly on the truth, or that my faith is automatically transferable to others.

I'm a big believer in tolerance. I think that religion at it's best comes with a big dose of doubt. I'm suspicious of too much certainty in the pursuit of understanding just because I think people are limited in their understanding.

Alongside my own deep personal faith, I am a follower, as well, of our civic religion. I am a big believer in the separation of church and state. I am a big believer in our constitutional structure. I mean, I'm a law professor at the University of Chicago teaching constitutional law. I am a great admirer of our founding charter, and its resolve to prevent theocracies from forming, and its resolve to prevent disruptive strains of fundamentalism from taking root ion this country.

As I said before, in my own public policy, I'm very suspicious of religious certainty expressing itself in politics.

Now, that's different form a belief that values have to inform our public policy. I think it's perfectly consistent to say that I want my government to be operating for all faiths and all peoples, including atheists and agnostics, while also insisting that there are values that inform my politics that are appropriate to talk about.

Amen to that!! And also check out this interesting Huffington Post column by Bob Cesca, What Doesn't Kill the Far Right Only Makes them Crazier on the ridiculousness of some of the Right... Seriously people an "Impeach Obama" group on Facebook? He's not even President yet!! Holy cow, can some people get a life?!!!! According to some of the comments on the Facebook page, Dems stole the White House & and God didn't want him there and that's why it's called the White House (Besides the sickening racism in this statement the ludicrousness of the comment in an election that wasn't even close... defies logic). As Cesca wrote:

Shortly after discovering this, I was talking with a colleague and found myself instinctively trying to form a rational argument about why the Facebook members were wrong. It began with the obvious: "He's not even the president yet!" And then, after I segued into Article II and the constitutional grounds for impeachment, I stopped myself. What in name of Randall P. MacMurphy am I doing? Arguing against this crap is like explaining to a meth tweaker that the shadow people aren't real. That's when I decided that it'd be more fun to just infiltrate one of the groups and post comments like, "The moon landing was staged!" and, "Obama is a bionic -- just like his half-aunt! I have proof!"

It made me laugh!

Also check out this moving Open Letter to Barack Obama from Alice Walker, author of the Pulitzer Prize winning novel, The Color Purple.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


I love you gentlest of ways
who ripened us as we wrestled with you.

- Rainer Maria Rilke, Love Poems to God

Leatherback sea turtle nesting at dawn at Playa Grande, Costa Rica.
Copyright (c) 1999 Wendee Holtcamp

I love sea turtles. I just finished a piece on a controversial sea turtle project in India, and so thought I'd link to some of my past sea turtle pieces. The photo above is from when Discovery Channel sent me down to Costa Rica to report live for 2 weeks back in 1999. It was before the word "blog" was invented, but that's basically what it was.. It was an amazing experience. Though the whole thing is no longer on the Discovery Channel Online website, it's reprinted at the Wayback Machine website (minus images). Love & Death on Turtle Beach is a 2-week series so there are several entries. I linked to my favorite piece of the several I did, Turtles Troubles. It starts:

I am feeling restless in my skin tonight, out here under the stars, surf roaring furiously. I want to do cartwheels in the sand. I want to make sand angels. I want to talk about the meaning of life. I want to know why we as a society have gotten so far from the animals we love so deeply. But no one's talking in profundities tonight

The nesting ritual I just witnessed blew me away, so primeval yet so unifying. I feel at once distant from this massive beast with a quarter-ounce brain, yet so connected to her -- as a mother, as a child, as a fellow animal. My mind sings, "Where have all the turtles gone? ..."

J Nichols and a colleague take measurements on a sea turtle we caught in Magdalena Bay, Baja Mexico.
Copyright (c) 1998 Wendee Holtcamp

I also want to give a shout out to my friend J Nichols who wrote this incredibly moving OpEd for Good Times, Santa Cruz' Weekly newspaper, The Annhilation of Cynicism. It's reprinted at his blog (that's what I've linked to). I wrote an article about J's amazing work that he pioneered in Baja, Mexico working with fishermen and locals to get them to stop eating sea turtles and to help them conserve them instead. His non-judgmental and open-minded approach has made a minor miracle down there. I traveled down there and wrote this piece for Animals Magazine back in 1998, which is reprinted on my website. It Takes a Village. A couple snippets from J's OpEd:

The foundations of science, education, intellectual honesty, empathy, understanding, partnership, humility, service, reason, passion, conservation, cooperation, caring, equality, responsibility and community have regained their footing, which had slipped so far, so fast.

For this moment the cynicism—the angry hateful kind that has infested us in these times—has been annihilated. One notices its absence in the smiles, the tears and the hopeful songs that are pouring out all over the planet.

A couple years ago I also did a piece on Kemp's Ridley sea turtles, the world's rarest sea turtle species and one found in the Gulf of Mexico. I went to Corpus Christi with the kids and watched them release hatchlings which was really amazing. They're so tiny and adorable! I have a bunch of photos on the blog from the visit. And I wrote this article, Surf's Up for These Sea Turtles for Defenders Magazine. The sea turtle hatchling image on my website is from this trip!

So this morning I went to Zumba for the first time. Wow - I love it! My friend Trish (aka Trishalicious) teaches it and I've been meaning to go since I joined my gym about 4 months ago but had not made it until today. I used to do aerobics classes all the time but in the past several years have gotten away from them and more into running, yoga, pilates and just doing weights and the stepmill at the gym. So it kicked my butt! Zumba is almost a free form dance but you do follow the instructor's moves but anyway you just have to experience it! It's a blast. I love dance and body movement, it always makes me feel so alive. It reminds me of Nietzsche's Zarathustra in his final stage of his life where he decides that movement and body expression is one of the most important aspects of living and feeeling alive. I may have this wrong, I have not read all of Zarathustra but have studied some of it and it's on my book reading list! So forgive me if I got that wrong! Anyway there's a song in the Zumba class that says Zumbalicious and so now I know why Trish calls me Wendeelicious and herself Trishalicious! :)

Oh and how could I forget - I just booked a Christmas trip to visit my dad and other family and Jimmy, my high school sweetheart in Oregon and Washington. I am so excited!! Needless to say, I love Oregon and the Pacific Northwest. Though I've been away a long time it will always be my "home." I'm a blue state kinda gal!! (I was born in California... moved to Oregon... and then became a gypsy wandering soul after that).

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Elephant Butte Lake, New Mexico
Copyright (c) 2005 Wendee Holtcamp

I don't know about you but I've really been digging the music lately. I normally listen to the Christian radio station at home, and channel change in the car but there have been so many good songs on the regular radio that I love right now! I've always loved music, since I was a kid. My dad had a massive record collection, including some bootleg albums - but some of my fave rock and roll and funk music: The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Bootsy Collins, Rick James, Cream, New Riders of the Purple Sage (I love that name!), Fleetwood Mac, Doobie Brothers.

Anyway so now these are some of my favorite songs currently on the radio... it's so cool to always have a good upbeat song on the radio!

La Vida Loca, Coldplay
Gotta Be Somebody, Nickelback
Love Remains the Same, Gavin Rossdale
I'm Yours, Jason Mraz
So What, Pink
Better in Time, Leona Lewis
If I was a Boy, Beyonce
Hot N Cold, Katy Perry
Keeps Getting Better, Christina Aguilera

On another note, there were 2 interesting articles in the UK Telegraph. Barack Obama's vision of a scientific America By Sir Paul Nurse. After eight years of neglect, researchers are hoping the new president makes good on his promises, says Nobel laureate Sir Paul Nurse.

In modern times, America has led the world in scientific discovery. But since 2000, the country has seen what might be termed a scientific recession.

For five consecutive years, federal investment in science has fallen, stalling endeavour and leading to despondency among America's scientists.

Within the administration of George W Bush, scientific advice has been sidelined and subjected to sustained political manipulation Expert advisers on vital issues such as global warming, stem-cell research and the teaching of evolution have been marginalised, ignored and even removed from office..

What people don't realize who don't deal in the scientific arena daily, as I do as a science writer and as someone educated in science, the Bush administration and many Republican politicians have contributed to the decline of science and science education in our country. The fact that people actually think there's scientific controversy over evolution is a case in point. There is NO controversy among scientists! The controversy is not a scientific one, but a cultural and religious one. The state of our populace's ability to think independently, reason, and understand complex issues is at a very low level. And the Bush Admin has also taken a lot of money away from funding scientific research, conservation, and environmental concerns like global climate change. They've kept things secretive, and it does have an impact on the daily lives of scientists and conservationists around the country.

Now, finally, on the listservs I am on and have engaged on for a decade and a half there is a sense of renewed optimism. Maybe we will get some funding again! Maybe we will be able to protect our endangered species! Maybe they will stop sacrificing the legacy of our beautiful land - God's Creation - to appease corporate giants, development, mining... Sustainability IS possible! This is but one reason why so many people are experiencing Obamaphoria!! (Check out this funny dictionary of Barackisms, also in the Telegraph). Check out the video of the euphoria on the site too.

Just under half of our nation's people voted against him, too, but do not underestimate the fact that the decisive Electoral College win means that across our nation, in a decisive majority of states with more people decided that they wanted change, they believe that Hope is not just a word, and that Obama himself is a man we believe can lead us to a better tomorrow. (In a future blog I plan to address why a Christian can vote for someone who is supportive of gay rights and does not believe abortion should be illegal.)

Later in the article it also says:

What are Obama's specific pledges? First, to increase federal funding for science and engineering, which has halved as a share of GDP since 1970. He has promised to double the research budgets of the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation and the other key agencies over the next decade, supporting high-risk, high-reward research in computing, biotech, nanotechnology and other fields.

Second, Obama has promised to invest in education, guaranteeing students access to a strong science curriculum and increasing the importance of maths and physics in schools.

Third, there is his plan for a green economy: a promised investment of $150 billion over 10 years to create five million new jobs.

Obamalujah! I keep having to pinch myself. I am still in the shock and awe stage! Things are gonna change, for the better.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

on hate

You all have to read this post at the Okay Fine Dammit blog, "What are you contributing with all that hate?" Wow, wonderful message, beautifully written.

Amen to intellectualism!

The dawning of a new day.
Sunrise over the Coral Sea, Mission Beach Australia.
Copyright (c) 2008 Wendee Holtcamp

A great Op-Ed by Pulitzer prize winning journalist Nicholas Kristof in today's New York Times: Obama and the War on Brains. Amen for intellectualism's return to America!

An intellectual is a person interested in ideas and comfortable with complexity. Intellectuals read the classics, even when no one is looking, because they appreciate the lessons of Sophocles and Shakespeare that the world abounds in uncertainties and contradictions, and — President Bush, lend me your ears — that leaders self-destruct when they become too rigid and too intoxicated with the fumes of moral clarity.

(Intellectuals are for real. In contrast, a pedant is a supercilious show-off who drops references to Sophocles and masks his shallowness by using words like “fulgent” and “supercilious.”)

OK I've been known to drop ambivalent, but I have never said fulgent or supercilious! Ha ha! Earlier in the article it also says this which made me laugh!

At least since Adlai Stevenson’s campaigns for the presidency in the 1950s, it’s been a disadvantage in American politics to seem too learned. Thoughtfulness is portrayed as wimpishness, and careful deliberation is for sissies. The social critic William Burroughs once bluntly declared that “intellectuals are deviants in the U.S.”

(It doesn’t help that intellectuals are often as full of themselves as of ideas. After one of Stevenson’s high-brow speeches, an admirer yelled out something like, You’ll have the vote of every thinking American! Stevenson is said to have shouted back: That’s not enough. I need a majority!)

Saturday, November 08, 2008

you are a soul

I loved this. In fact I love C.S. Lewis in general! I'm still too busy to think straight, on deadline for a very interesting, complex, controversial and challenging article due Monday. I hope to have some time back to myself soon... but then I have a deadline the Monday after this, and then gotta get cracking on my book again. I need a vacation!! I was thinking of going to Oregon and Washington to visit family for the holidays since Matt has the kids but all the frequent flier mile tickets are sold for most of those dates. I don't think I want to just be hanging here alone for the holidays. I also want to go visit my high school boyfriend, Jimmy, who lives there now. He's a doll! We reconnected after many years about 5 years ago and have kept in touch since. OK all for now, back to work. Man I'm tired!!!

Friday, November 07, 2008

Fixing the Plumbing

Coastal marsh at the J.D. Murphree Wildlife Management Area on the upper Texas Coast
Copyright (c) 2004 Wendee Holtcamp

My latest article...

Fixing the Plumbing: Chevron restores life to withering wetlands on the upper Texas coast. Texas Parks & Wildlife Magazine

By Wendee Holtcamp

On the southeastern edge of Texas, near the Louisiana border, Chevron has partnered with TPWD, restoring coastal wetlands in the Lower Neches Wildlife Management Area, reworking "plumbing" once damaged by decades of landscape changes, including sinking land and intruding saltwater. The ducks have already started to arrive.

Chevron acquired a Port Arthur refinery that had operated from 1902 to 1995, and had damaged the marshes and emitted toxins including oil, volatile organic compounds, lead and chromium. A 2005 Natural Resources Damages settlement ordered Chevron to clean up the toxics at the refinery site, which it has done, and to restore some of the area's coastal wetlands.

"They had this big project, and we had this big need," says Mike Rezsutek, TPWD wetlands and waterfowl specialist. "We own a site just outside of Bridge City that at one time was a complete stand of emergent marsh vegetation. Through the years all of that marsh started to die off and it became a self-feeding cycle. The more that died, the more that eventually opened into a shallow water flat with little productivity."

Hurricanes Rita and Katrina brought the importance of coastal wetlands to national attention. Coastal marshes provide nursery grounds for shrimp, crab and some 90 percent of commercially harvested fish and shellfish. On the upper Texas coast, the combination of sea level rise and land subsidence due to oil and gas extraction results in intense erosion – a relative loss of 1.2 cm in elevation per year.

That may not sound like much, but on the upper Texas coast alone, it translates into 455 acres of brackish and saltwater coastal marsh lost every year. Combined with pollution and habitat conversion, coastal wetlands are in dire straits.

After consulting with TPWD, Chevron decided it would try to restore the Lower Neches WMA Old River Unit for its mitigation project. "If you look at old historical photos going back to the '40s, you can see there was wetland across this whole area," explains Jerry Hall, Chevron environmental scientist and project manager. "Through the 1950s, '60s and '70s, saltwater began to move into the area. What was an intact marsh in '43, in 2005 was open water."

Chevron engineers hauled in 200,000 cubic yards of dredge material, piling it into circular mounds and long terraces. Next, they hand-planted marsh vegetation on the mounds and terraces. When they finished in summer 2008, they had restored 85 acres of estuarine emergent marsh and 30 acres of upland wet prairie. They also plugged up a canal on the Old Bailey Canal Road (aka Lake Street) that brought excess saltwater into the marsh. These hydrological fixes benefit several thousand acres of surrounding wetlands.

Chevron will monitor the wetland for three years, and then TPWD will manage the site in perpetuity. The site will be open to the public for birdwatching, waterfowl hunting, fishing and other activities.