Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Evening of Champions



Photo: We Day Seattle - beautiful, amazing and so inspiring
We Day Seattle
Last Wednesday, We Day came to the U.S. for the very first time in Seattle, Washington. We Day is a celebration for youth who have performed one local and one global act of service. You can't buy a ticket to We Day; you earn it. I was lucky enough to be one of the 15,000 kids who attended last week and have to say it was one of the most amazing events I have ever been to. By the end of the day after listening to speakers such as Martin Sheen and Magic Johnson the energy in the room was so high you could imagine the walls bursting from all the excitement. Everyone left inspired and ready to make a difference.

The night before We Day was the evening of champions and Dinner of champions. The former was a smaller celebration for youth who have put forth a special effort and the latter was a more formal event for adults who made We Day Seattle possible. I was given the opportunity to speak at both events; below is the speech I gave.

Ever since I can remember, I lived by the code that I was going to save the world. I didn’t know how or when; all I knew was that I had to help somehow. When I was little, I tried a few tactics; forming clubs, putting up posters, writing stories.  None of which were very successful. I didn’t really know how to organize things at the time, and when obstacles presented themselves I had no idea how to move around them. One day while counting rests in a dull 8th grade honors band rehearsal, I began to contemplate all the problems in our world; how ignorant and unwilling to change people could be. It was during that two hour rehearsal that everything seemed to come crashing down upon me. I could no longer bear it. I felt like if I just sat by and watched any longer I was going to explode. As soon as I got home that night I sat down at a computer, created a blog entitled environmental awareness, and wrote my first article about the BP oil spill. It wasn’t very good; just a short paragraph and a bunch of pictures, but it was a start. I wrote more interesting articles, some poems, and even a short story. It was so cool to look on the audiences tab of my blog and find out that hundreds of people were reading my posts; not just from the States, but from Russia, China, and all over the world.

That summer, my mom told me that I would be going away to take action camp.  I had never really been away from my family for very long before and I wasn’t entirely sure what Me to We was all about or what Take Action even meant. The first day at camp was a little intimidating; I didn’t know anyone and had no idea what the week would bring. My screechy voice at our first gathering when we were required to sing didn't help much either. However, on the second day I felt like I knew the other kids at camp better than people I’d known for year.  Over the course of the week, my confidence grew.  In school, I had always preferred to work alone, since the people around me rarely were as willing to put in as much effort as I. Being surrounded by people who were just as passionate as I was gave me hope there were others who cared and were willing to work to make this world a better place. There, I discovered the power I held as a youth and that I didn’t have to wait until I grew up to make a difference. By the end of the week, I was feeling more confident and excited than ever before. On the last night of camp everyone had the opportunity to give speeches about our plans for when we returned home. Originally, I hadn’t planned on giving one; I was terrified of public speaking, even among people I knew well, especially after hearing how spectacular the other speeches were. After a few kids had gone, the room was silent. We were about to move on when, almost against my will, my hand shot up. I walked up to the speaking area trembling. I had absolutely no idea what I was going to say and had already started berating myself as to how stupid of an idea this was. Outside of school presentations I had never given a speech before.

 I took a deep breath, attempted without much success to calm my quivering, and began with, “I didn’t really plan for this, so I’m just going to wing it.”  And then I took off. It was like everything I had to say was already written, like the words were waiting for this moment to escape out my mouth and present themselves to the world -I hardly had to think about what I was saying. Before I knew it, I'd finished, and the entire room erupted into an explosion of applause.  My actions seemed to inspire those younger than me to give speeches and eventually practically everyone in the room had taken their turn.

When I got home, I was filled with excitement. I invited my friends over to help me make lavender wands to raise money for the American River Association.  The unexpected benefit from doing this was not the money, it was the kids. Kids ranging from around three to nine years old, intrigued by the artful poster emphasizing how pollution affects our daily lives, would gather around my stand. I was surprised and amazed at their enthusiasm and willingness to learn.  In one day, I felt like I was able to make a lasting impression on children and their parents as well as others who stopped to listen.  It was an amazing feeling.

          Thinking back to my Me to We camp experiences,  I remembered the crazy, seemingly irrelevant things we were able to accomplish together; silly things like building shoe towers and transporting people across imaginary rivers of lava. I remember Take Action day, when we went to Grouse Mountain and built a hummingbird garden. Facing the latter task alone would have been time consuming and the results minimal.  But with a group, we had a great time doing it; the enthusiasm we possessed while completing the task showed in our results. A thought entered my mind: what if I didn’t have to save the world alone? What if I could get others who had a passion to help me accomplish what I knew needed to be accomplished. If one person could get people all over the world to care, imagine what several could do?  So, now in the year 2013, I find myself giving yet another speech.  The lessons and skills I’ve learned from Take Action Camp are still very much a part of me.  I continue to try and inspire others; I’ve formed an environmental club within my school which has planned to create a youth summer camp to teach kids how they too can better help their community and the world around them.  From the Take Action camp I learned that through leadership, persistence, and friendship, I could be a better steward and bring my friends and community along with me to make great changes.  Thank you for helping create a movement towards a better world. 
 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Forgotten Souls


Forgotten Souls
Written by Caeli MacLennan
Goode, Ben. Global warming timeline. Dreamstime. Web. 12 Sept. 2012. <Dreamstime.com>.
“Help! Help! HELP!” I scream at the top of my lungs, clawing uselessly at the pile of boulders covering the small tunnel that was my only way of escape, praying that someone might be able to hear me; the only response is the echo of my own voice, ricocheting off the damp cave walls. Help, help, help the walls whisper back, mocking my efforts. I continue to scream and claw and kick and pound at the stones, until my voice is hoarse and my body bruised, battered, and bleeding. With a sob of despair, I slide down against the cave wall, resting my stinging fists on my knees. Struggling is pointless; I’m an idiot for wasting my last moments on it. Once trapped inside, no one escapes the caves. Ever.

Burying my face in my knees, my wails echo off the cave walls, rising in a crescendo sounding not like the cries of one girl, sitting alone waiting for death, but like that of a village during a terrible plague, when the old and young die; those remaining not yet grown left alone to fend for themselves. This disturbing sonata continues to grow and thrive, only increasing my fear and adding fuel to the growing music. It is not until my voice is hoarse and raw that the wails finally die down to whimpers, barely audible through my trembling knees.

When my eyes have been cried dry, I raise my head and look for a source of light that I know isn’t there. I’d heard of people being trapped before, but never had I dreamt it would happen to me. I begin to wonder what it is said all caught ones wonder about in their last moments; how will I die? Will the air run out? Will I suffocate? Will the tide come in and I drown? Perhaps the sun will come out and I’ll bake in here, or maybe time will pass and I’ll just starve to death.

As I ponder the possibilities of my imminent demise, I wonder what the village will think back home when I don’t return. Will they assume that I perished while scavenging for food, or will they even notice my absence at all? I know my grandmother and younger twin siblings would never forget me, though without the supplies I bring in, I’m not sure how long they’d last. The thought of being completely forgotten, washed away from the fabric of time, frightens me almost as much as dying in here. Grandmother would tell me nobody really dies, that they live on in the hearts of others. But what happens if there’s nobody left to remember you?

Then it hits me: what if I won’t be forgotten? What if I live on, not in the hearts of those who knew me, but in the minds of some distant people in the future who happen to stumble across my ancient skeleton? Quickly, not daring to waste another moment, I dig into my backpack and whip out a notepad and pen, hand poised to strike the empty page at any given moment. I pause; this is it, my impact on the world, my gift to the human race. And so I begin to write.
July 26th, 2456

Dear Journal,

            Hello. My name is Catherine Angelee Lockhart; I have been lucky enough to reach the age of fourteen and have lived in the nearby village of Portum with my grandmother and twin younger siblings. Well, I used to live there. My life is nearing an end, and my last remaining family members are sure to follow. Trapped in this cave, I have decided to spend my last moments, whether they be hours or days, recording my memories in hopes that I will not be forgotten; so that I may live on in the hearts and minds of others. And so, without further delay, I shall begin.

            Portum was the name bestowed upon my village when the first survivors from the dark ages built it in the year 2209. It means haven in Latin, and perhaps those who have experienced life outside its borders view it as such. However, in my eyes, Portum is one of the least hospitable places a poor, tired old sap could stumble across. Our shacks are squished together so that one home can hardly be differentiated from the other; the only distance between them are tiny walkways separating each row, wide enough for a mere three people to walk side by side. Each shack has a low ceiling with scarcely enough room for two traditional beds; each housed at least four, while some as many as ten. Walking through the streets, you see the small grimy forms of children peeking out from behind cloth doorways, their sunken eyes staring mournfully from skull-like faces. This is their way of begging; for scraps, clothes, anything really. Their eerie gaze follows you as you pass by, almost hungrily. No one ever helps, though. In Portum, everyone fends for themselves; only the strongest survive.

            That’s the opposite of my family right now. Grandmother is ancient; she must be 56 by now. As for my younger siblings, Amber and Coal, they were both born weak and sickly. It’s almost unheard of for a mother to have twins nowadays, ever since the crops failed. Most of the old stories I’ve salvaged from the ruins of houses and libraries act like a single catastrophic event is what blotted out the sun and tore apart mankind. But the real way it happened was much slower, agonizing, humiliating even. Our ancestors were careless and na├»ve. Life was too easy for them; an escape could be easily provided by looking the other way. They had no idea the future their ignorance brought upon us. If they had only been less selfish and lazy, maybe Portum could live up to its name. Because of the extreme amount of carbon dioxide that was sent into our atmosphere, the earth is warmer than ever. Seas have risen to flood our lands and areas where it was warm before are now barren desert wastelands. Refugees flocked to places like Portum for a hundred years before the flow finally stopped.

            Overcrowding has been the end of many a village. A large population in small spaces makes cleanliness difficult and diseases remarkably easy to spread. Plagues are the leading cause for a community’s demise; a close runner up is starvation. Any attempts at agriculture are futile now that the sun is cloaked by gray cloud cover every day. Food has to be scavenged from the old ruins surrounding the village, which can be dangerous and, after two hundred years of searching, less than fruitful. It is the reason why Amber and Coal will never live to adulthood; their mother simply didn’t have enough strength to give, even if she relinquished her own life so they could have theirs.

            Ever since mom’s death four years ago, I’ve taken up life as a scavenger. Out of the few ways to make a living, scavenging is the most dangerous. A wrong move can get you killed faster than you can say shoot. But it was the only way for me to support my grandmother and two sickly children. That was how I ended up like this; stuck in a cave, waiting for the oxygen to run out. There’s this legend that some lady from the 21’st century was paranoid about a food shortage, so she stored a whole villages worth of canned goods deep inside a cave near Portum. Supposedly, the old woman died before she ever got a chance to use any of it, and no one’s found it since. I figured if I found her secret stash, I’d never have to scavenge again, and Amber and Coal would sleep soundly, not having to worry that the sister that cared for them so much as to risk her life wouldn’t be there come morning.

            Now that dream is gone. I’ll never again see the smiling faces of Amber and Coal, feel their tugging hands as they pester me to tell them a story before bed, watch them huddled together as one pair of sleepy eyelids begins to droop, then the other, and before you know it, they’re both asleep on the floor, snoring lightly. I’ll never be able to hear any more wisdom from my grandmother or feel her wrinkly old arms embrace me as she kisses my cheek goodbye each morning. There is only one fate left for us now; leave this world, never to return. No one is going to save us. My vision of two smiling children stuffing their faces with bits of pineapple while grandmother scolds them about manners, is impossible. And so, in order to grant myself some solace in my last moments, I have one last plea before I die, and that is to not be forgotten. Whoever you are, whether it be a hundred or a thousand years from now, remember the words I have written today. Do not forget the world I speak of or the mistakes of our ancestors, for though I may be long dead, I am real, and these problems are real. Refusing to acknowledge an issue does not solve it; it only provides a safe place for it to grow and thrive until it is no longer within man’s capabilities to control. Remember this, and I will rest in peace.

With hope,

 Catherine Angelee Lockhart

My fingers shake as the pen slides from their grasp, rolling down the notebook and hitting the floor with a soft clunk. Hurriedly, I stuff the journal into a plastic bag, drain the air, and seal it shut. This way it won’t be damaged when the tide comes in. Stuffing the journal back into my bag, I remove the blanket I found from a scavenge earlier that day and find the most comfortable position to spend my last moments. I know now that it’s suffocation that will take me; it’s an effort to perform even the smallest tasks, and my eyes feel droopy. It’s strange, but in a way I feel remarkably peaceful. I begin to wonder, what if it’s not so bad that grandmother, Amber, Coal, and I are dying? What if death would provide an escape from this rotten world, take us to another place where my twin siblings can run and play in vast meadows, and grandma can sit in a rocking chair, conversing with my mother about the afterlife like she always used to. “I told you so”, she’d say smugly. “There’s always a place for people who are remembered.”

            The more I think about it, the more it doesn’t seem so bad. Suddenly a grin spreads across my face and I begin to sing, a melody I sang to the twins when they had bad dreams. The music echoes throughout the cave, harmonizing beautifully with itself as the verses weave together to create melodies fit for angels.
Hushaby, my sweet little baby

Forget your fears and doubts

For somewhere, far over the rainbow

Lies the land of Sonisoe.


There the day sky’s blue as an iris,

The night sky’s pricked with light

There the fruit trees blossom with cherries

That bring a smile of delight


During daylight children play

During nighttime they dream sweet

So fall to sleep, so that one day dear,

There again we still may meet

My eyelids are hard to keep open now, and more than anything I want to succumb to the blackness, but for some reason, the song must finish.
So hushaby, my sweet little baby

Dream the good dreams now

And know, that if you ever may need me

I’ll be there in Sonisoe

The last verse is sung with my eyes closed, the music reverberating off the walls and singing to me the lullaby that will guide me to an eternal slumber.

When the time is right, my baby

Your dreams will take you there

I’ll miss you dear, but not to worry

We’ll meet again in Sonisoe

Monday, August 6, 2012

Faded Dreams


Faded Dreams

I once dreamt of a place
a sanctuary, a haven
where the Earth was cool and soft
a summer nights breeze blew gently through the meadow
making the grass ripple and shimmer
like the waves of the sea.
The clear indigo sky was scattered with thousands
of shining specks
glimmering in an eternal darkness.

A full moon cast a silver veil over the peaceful scenery
reflected in the mirror of a trickling pond
with flashing fireflies flickering over placid waters.
As I lay sprawled on the soft, moist bed
gazing upon twinkling stars
inhaling deeply the crisp night air
I spot a dark figure swoop across the midnight sky
and smile in anticipation of seeing again
my friend, guardian, and gateway to this sacred oasis
She is so beautiful, my guardian
moth dust silver eyes and pearlescent horns gleaming in the moonlight
bat-like wings folded delicately at her sides.
Trotting towards me on four furred paws,
marble claws digging into the soil,
her head held high in regal grace,
she lowers it to nuzzle my cheek
telling me it is time to go.
I rise from my resting place, climb upon her back
and nestle my head in her silky, indigo-violet fur
as she takes off, soaring up,
up into the wind, the heavens
the meadow shrinking to a minuscule dot
then vanishing into the forest that we glide above now.
The air flailing my short blond curls wildly behind my head
makes me throw up my arms and revel in my freedom,
the irreplaceable joy that fills you up, makes your face glow, eyes twinkle
causing your lids to shut, a silly grin plastered on your face
and, for just one moment in our troubling lives,
to be truly, purely, and unexplainably happy.
Looking back upon that moment,
that amazing, incredible, spectacular moment that occurred deep within my brain,
I realize now that I couldn’t have savored it enough
for, though innocence kept me from knowing then,
I would only reach my sanctuary a few more times,
until, like tar devouring a wailing infant,
it, along with the rest of my world,
melted into the abysmal void
that plagues me as I slumber.
~Caeli MacLennan
Picture by: Ordinary Day. 2010. private collection. Web. 6 Aug. 2012. <http://artandmusicappreciation.blogspot.com/2012_03_01_archive.html>.
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Sunday, July 8, 2012

Why Go Organic?


Imagine this: Helen, a mother with three children, is shopping at the grocery store to buy food for her family. Strolling through the produce section, her eyes scan the many crates, pondering over which brand of apple would suit her household best; they come to rest on a pink label that reads, “organic”. Scowling at the price tag, she wonders, why should I pay extra money for something that is organic? I mean, what’s the difference? In truth, there are actually great quantities of reasons why organic foods are preferable to non-organically grown foods: they are healthier, better for the environment, and are grown without pesticides.

One little known fact about organic foods is that they contain more vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants than non-organically grown foods. Why? The reason is actually quite simple. Plants produce antioxidants when placed in stressful conditions, such as becoming prey to a predator. Because inorganic foods are grown with pesticides, they don’t have to deal with the nuisances and therefore do not produce the antioxidants needed to help them through such situations. Because organic foods are exposed to all of nature’s obstacles, they are put in greater distress and, in turn, produce more antioxidants, which are known to help fight cancer. When tested, organic foods also are shown to contain higher levels of vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, iron and chromium than non-organically grown foods.


Another reason to go organic is because organic farming is better for the environment than non-organic farming. Many non-organically grown foods are shipped all across the world, sometimes sitting in crates for multiple days in one trip. Sending the goods to all these different places uses an immense amount of fuel. Not only does the shipping of the produce require an enormous amount of energy, but the shipment of the fertilizer as well as its production requires so much fossil fuel that we are practically eating it. Also, because of the time needed to ship fruits and vegetables to their destination, most of the goods are harvested before they are ripe in order to ensure that they are not rotten when they arrive. Because they don’t have the opportunity to ripen on the vine, non-organically grown foods will often possess less flavor than organic foods, causing 53% of the U.S to dislike them.
Perhaps the most crucial reason that many people choose to buy organic foods despite expensive price is that non-organically grown foods, instead of using natural means to keep animals and pests away, spray pesticides on the produce, essentially covering them in a thin layer of poison. Animals, such as birds, that are unfortunate enough to make the mistake of nibbling on a non-organically grown fruit or vegetable suffer severe consequences, and if they don’t die soon after their error, their offspring will be born unable to survive in the harsh wilderness. In addition to the direct poisoning of animals that eat the unsafe foods, indirect poisoning occurs when pesticides are washed by rainwater into rivers, which affect fish and other wildlife. Not only are small animals affected, but many humans who eat the foods are also in harm’s way. As many as seven of the most toxic chemical compounds known to man are approved to be used as pesticides by the CAC (Codex Alimentarius Commission) and which the residues of are commonly found, as well as many other pesticide residues, in baby foods, spinach, dried fruit, bread, apples, celery, and chips. Although adults can experience symptoms as well, children are the most prone to the dangers of nonorganic farming. Birth defects, cancer, hormone disruption, neurological effects, and asthma are all common effects of these poisonous residues.
In conclusion, organic foods are healthier, safer, and better for the environment than non-organically grown alternatives. Although many people are fooled into buying the cheaper and often larger choices, those who have outsmarted the price tag find that they lead happier, healthier lives because of their decision. Don’t fall prey to the dangers that inorganic foods present; buy organic produce as often as possible, particularly when shopping for children.

Citations:

"Shocking Reasons to go Organic." Online Newspaper. CBS News, 16 Mar. 2010. Web. 7 July 2012. <http://www.cbsnews.com/2100-500398_162-6303444.html>.

 
"Health Effects of Pesticides." Kids for Saving the Earth. N.p., n.d. Web. 8 July 2012. <http://www.kidsforsavingearth.org/mnchec/articles/pesticides.htm>.

"Effects of Pesticides." Global healing Center. N.p., n.d. Web. 8 July 2012.         <http://www.globalhealingcenter.com/effects-of-pesticides/effects-of-pesticides>.

"Ten reasons why you should go organic." Organic Consumers Association. N.p., 3 Sept. 2006. Web. 8 July 2012. http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_1944.cfm.
The Dirty Dozen: When to go organic. Private Collection. Web. 8 July 2012. <http://yuru.com/blog/2010-07-the-dirty-dozen-when-to-go-organic>.
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Sunday, June 10, 2012

A Hundred Years from Now


A Hundred Years from Now

What will life be like, a hundred years from now?
What troubles my grandchildren shall face
what life they shall live
what joys they be blessed
what tiresome struggles shall put them to test
a hundred years from now?

What will life be like, a hundred years from now?
When I have passed away
will trees grow on rooftops
cars soar above seas
cities float atop clouds that blow in the breeze
a hundred years from now?

What will life be like, a hundred years from now?
If the blue and green Earth turn gray.
Will the swallows that twitter
the bluebirds that sing
disappear in a flash without taking a wing
a hundred years from now?

What will life be like, a hundred years from now?
I’m afraid I’ll be too old to tell.
But hopefully someone
who struggles and fights
for the very same reasons that bring the earth light
will still be there, out somewhere
a hundred years from now.
~Caeli MacLennan