Sunday, November 9, 2008

my carbon footprint

I recently took a moment to calculate my carbon footprint:
(1) I emit about 13.6 tons of CO2 into the atmosphere. 
(2) If I implement some basic conservation habits, I can reduce my emissions by 13% a year- a total of about 11,200 pounds!

I also learned that because I am a broke law student who lives far from her family, my individual emissions, compared to the average American, are very extreme.  For example,  I emit an extremely low amount of CO2 in regards to home and auto emissions. This is because I live in a tiny little apartment in central D.C. and don't use much heat or electricity.  And because I only use the metro/subway system in D.C., I don't need to drive a car here.  However, because my dear family lives in California, I fly home at least three times a year and emit about 14,520 pounds of CO2 into the atmosphere!

National individual ave. of HOME emissions is about 11.16%; I emit about 5.06% --> =)
National individual ave. of AUTO emissions is about 5.02%; I emit about 1% ---> =) 
National individual ave. of AIR travel emissions is about 0.46%; I emit about 8.61% ---> =(

Some reduction strategies:
-By maintaining a strict recycling regiment, I can offset about 11,000 pounds of my carbon emissions.
- By planting one tree, I can offset about 1 ton of my carbon emissions!

Yesterday, the D.C. Green Muslims had another service day where we went to Marvin Gaye park in N.E. DC and planted a total of 6 trees. I personally helped plan two of those trees, thereby reducing my carbon footprint by almost 2 tons.  In conclusion, my CO2 emission total for 2008 will be about 11.6 tons. Comparatively, the ave. American will have emitted about 19 tons of CO2 this year.

How cool am I? You do the math. 


Devan. The hardest working kid I ever met.

Yes. It took 6 of us to uproot the stump.

The pick-axe is my tool of choice.  And yes, it is heavy.

Scooter McGee says: if you're not part of the solution, I will bite you.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

La Revolucion

I crossed the border on foot from Costa Rica to Nicaragua.

The view from the cargo boat. We were waiting to begin our journey across Lake Nicaragua.

Ometepe, the island of the twin volcanoes

A memorial in Granada.

The FSLN flag. Many homes displayed their Sandinista pride.

One of the many buses leaving for the celebrations in Managua.

Senor Gato, a friend.

Sunset in San Juan Del Sur.

A little History
(Disclaimer: My understanding of Nicaraguan history is superficial; some of these statements may be inaccurate. I am not trying to glorify the Sandinistas nor am I claiming to support them in any way.)

In 1979, the Sandinistas overthrew the Somoza government and took control of Nicaragua. After the revolution, the FSLN party (the political party of the Sandinistas), lead by Daniel Ortega, competed in national elections and won by a landslide. Although the FSLN won in what many international observers believed was a “free and fair” election, the U.S. felt otherwise.

Washington D.C. never liked the Sandinistas. Carter had backed Somoza’s violent attempts to crush the Sandinistas. When this didn’t work out, the U.S. tried again to topple the Sandinistas. Reagan began supplying the Contras (a group of exiled anti-Sandinistas) with arms and training to help topple the FSLN party. After much protest from the International Court of Justice, the UN, and other human rights activists against U.S. involvement in Nicaragua, the U.S. Congress finally passed legislation prohibiting the president from supplying any further aid to the Contras.

But Reagan (the maverick that he was) didn’t listen. He and his buddies continued to assist the Contras by illegally and covertly funneling to them third party donations and proceeds from arms sales to Iran (and began the Iran Contra fiasco). This aid, in addition to other regional political factors, eventually exhausted the Sandinistas. In 1990, the Sandinista government was officially defeated and replaced.

But now, 16 years later, Daniel Ortega has reemerged. In 2006, Ortega won back the presidential throne for the FSLN party through a “free and fair” democratic election.

My time in Nicaragua:
Understanding this history really helped me appreciate the passion and emotion I witnessed in Nicaragua during the anniversary weekend of the Sandinista Revolution.

There was a current in the air that made me realize that the chants being yelled and the flags being waved were heavy with historical memory. The older folks had a glow of reflection around them. Many spoke softly as they talked of Sandino and told stories of power and blood shed. The young boys were on fire as they took to the streets, all wrapped up in red and black. They were aching to celebrate a revolution they had grown to love through stories and memories. It was their time. As they made their pilgrimage to Managua with their family and friends, they began to take ownership of the revolution. And soon they would see Daniel Ortega, Hugo Chavez, and many others take to the stage and sing the songs of bravery, martyrdom, and revolution.

This year was different. After a very long time, the father of the FSLN had returned as the father of Nicaragua. This year, President Ortega welcomed his comrades to Managua to celebrate the 29th anniversary of their revolution.

Sunday, July 27, 2008


Torteguero is a small town that has developed over the past 30 years around the tourist industry.  The reason this little village has seen such a boom of development recently is because this area is the nesting cite for four endangered sea turtle species. The Leatherback, Loggerhead, Greenturtle, and Hawksbill, make a pilgrimage from hundreds of miles every year to come nest on the beaches of Torteguero.  They are drawn by some mysterious internal magnetism towards these beautiful shores.  For this reason, researchers started conservation efforts in the 1970’s to protect these creatures. 

The Caribbean Conservation Corporation, the organization we worked with, has conducted extensive tagging and has successfully tracked hundreds of migratory turtles for over 40 years.  The town is concerned about these conservation efforts because what happens to the turtles directly impacts their economic subsistence.  To protect these interests the town enforces various laws regulating tourist traffic on the beaches during nesting and hatching seasons.  For example, there are no electronics allowed onto the beach past sunset, and beachfront properties are not allowed to use bright lighting at night (so as not to distract the baby hatchlings’ from their assent to the ocean). 

Working at the center over the weekend and assisting in turtle tagging and tracking was an incredibly surreal experience.  I volunteered to work the 12am-4am shift.  We ate dinner and took a nap from 9pm-11pm. Then we got dressed in all black (so we wouldn’t be visible in the darkness) and headed out. The only light available to us was the moon and the infrared flashlight that our guide carried with him. After our eyes adjusted to the darkness we began stumbling across the beach in search for the turtle.  Our first encounter was with enormous markings in the sand that looked like four-feeler tire tracks.  These, as we quickly learned, were actually turtle tracks leading to the area where the turtle had begun to make her nest.

We stopped and looked for her as our guide walked towards her nest. My eyes scanned the dark for any sign of an animal. I couldn’t see what had struck my guide’s attention.  I began to grow frustrated because I couldn’t see anything moving, anything alive, anything resembling a turtle.  And then, suddenly, there she was. I looked down at my feet and saw her lying right in front of me. She was a large panting creature who was speedily scooping up sand with her fins.  And before we could catch our breath, she had begun to lay eggs.  My friend was given the job of counting the turtle’s eggs and the rest of us measured her and recorded the location of the nest. 

Her large eyes seemed glazed over by millions of years of genetic instructions that commanded her every move. She was thorough and precise. After she finished laying her 101 eggs, she covered up the nest with sand, camelflouged it so it was even with the rest of the ground, and then she turned around and left. There was no stopping her once she was done. She was fast. And then, just as she had emerged, she disappeared into the water. I was entranced by her- by her mission, by her exactness. As she disappeared into the ocean, I tried to imagine her swimming back to her home... but I really couldn’t imagine her being more graceful than what I had already witnessed.

Now that her job was done, she would only return to lay more eggs. Her future babies will have to fend for themselves when they hatch in two months. It will take those baby turtles around 20 years to reach sexual maturity, until they too can perform this marathon.  That is IF they make it past the poachers, the roaming dogs looking for a meal, the pollution, and the many creatures in the water that are also looking for a snack. 

But for now, they are safe in the ground. 
Waiting for life.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Montezuma's Revenge

Ticos (slang for Costa Rican residents) are very proud of their beaches. And why shouldn’t they be? These beaches bring people to Costa Rica from all around the world. Costa Rica has some of the world’s best beaches for surfing, snorkeling, and kayaking. The tourism in this country is booming because us foreigners just can’t get enough of the beauty here.

So why would Costa Rica let one of its most popular beaches look like this?

The Playa Grande is located in the town of Montezuma. Every taxi driver, every student, every stranger on the street had told me that if I was going to visit one beach in Costa Rica, make it a beach in Montezuma. So when I got there and discovered a beach filled with garbage and rubble, I was shocked. I first wondered if the Ticos had conspired together to play a mean trick on me. But the more I asked around, the more I discovered that it was the Ticos who are receiving the preverbal short end of the stick.

This year has brought an extraordinary amount of rainfall to Costa Rica, and this has caused flooding along the Pacific Coast. But what does flooding have to do with garbage ending up on the seashore, you ask? Good question. Turns out that Costa Rica dumps a lot of its garbage out in the ocean (like many other nations). Much of it is dumped in areas where the ocean current spins in a circular motion. This is prime real estate for dumping because the trash will just stay in that area, eternally orbiting. Until there is a storm… A hurricane, or just heavy rains will cause the garbage to be pushed towards the shore. And then, what we thought we wouldn’t see again, washes up on the doorstep of our favorite resort.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Butterfly Garden

Is it a stick? Is it a bug? It's a stick bug!

Sairah and I came across this little butterfly garden in San Pedro. A very nice lady took care of this sanctuary. She mentioned that on rainy days, such as ours, it is rare to see the wildlife. But we did manage to see a few little creatures.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

San Luis Waterfall

Some where deep inside that mountain range is the San Luis Waterfall!

A house at the base of the mountain. This is my dream. Rocking chair and all.

Walking through the banana plantation.


You know what they say about big trees... Big mushrooms=)

A pretty gnarly bug.

Sairah Kazmi and I. We are finally catching our breath after the long hike.

The magnificent San Luis Waterfall.

Me and the mountain. I made it pretty far.

On day 4, I went hiking in search for a waterfall. It is a beautiful little spot set deep into the rain forest covered mountains of Santa Elena, Costa Rica. My friends and I arrived at the base of the mountain around 10 am. We walked through a banana plantation to get to the entrance point. As we began our two-hour uphill hike, it had already started to rain. That of course is a regular part of our day. Rain is like another friend here. We don’t know when she’s coming, but we know that she will in fact be joining us in whatever activity we have planned. Surprisingly, rain makes hiking quite beautiful. Since the temperature is generally in the high 80’s, some cool drops of water feel really refreshing as you’re panting up a mountain.

I am, as many of you already know, a bit of a shutterbug. Because of this, I had the fortunate opportunity to be left behind most of the time, while the others trekked on. Climbing up a mountain and hearing only my own breath against the background of the rainforest’s music, was truly surreal. Every once in while I would stop to catch my breath and think about how inconsequential I am in this forest. There were a million things happening around me and i was but only an intrusion. In the moments that I paused, there were creatures being born, and dying; there was hunting and feasting; there was resting and labor; there was guarding and loving. The smell of wet, hot, soil mingled with the breathing leaves and the perfumed flowers. The sounds of the rustling leaves and the raindrops met the chirping, and the croaking to form a beautiful rhythm. The forest was alive and it was inhaling and exhaling. And in every one of its breaths were millions of happenings and un-happenings.

And then there was me. A small figure in the belly of giant, making her way to a waterfall. It was truly beautiful. But more importantly, it was humbling.