Weather down under

Typical street greenery in the Redfern area.

Typical street greenery in the Redfern area.

These photos represent a spectrum of the open, green, urban spaces I found in Australia during our first week or so of the recent trip Down Under by UW-Stevens Point’s COMM 373 (Communicating Social Change) class.

I was fortunate to be able to chronicle the trip through my Portage County Gazette column. The first of four weekly posts from Sydney and the surrounding environs is linked here.

Read on to see the photo gallery. Continue reading

Land and water fund, others still in danger


Last week was all about thankfulness.  Now, a week into the holiday season and with winter apparently ready to hit us full on, it’s time for a little crankfulness.

Being cranky is easy when we look outside to see a cold, dreary, dank, dark world. But doing something about a bad mood doesn’t have to be difficult.  In this case, I’m talking about counteracting our continued destruction of American outdoor values.

My son sam and brother-in-law Fernando enjoying a sunset on the Cape Final Trail on the Grand Canyon's North Rim in 2007. The Grand Canyon is one of many national parks that have received LWCF funding.

My son Sam and brother-in-law Fernando enjoying a sunset on the Cape Final Trail, Grand Canyon’s North Rim, 2007. The park is one of many funded by the LWCF.

Before we get there, a little scene-setting is in order.  I’ve been hoping recently for at least a bit of warmer, drier weather to finish up the fall yard and garden cleanup – getting rid of the decay and dead remains of that which once brought beauty and hope, the growth from warmer seasons when it’s easier to focus on good things in life.

In winter, we may be prone to looking around and detecting rot and putrescence that eventually freezes into a lump of useless, ugly blight.  You know what I mean:  Congress.

Not all of Congress. It’s primarily one guy, who also happens to be the chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources –Rob Bishop of Utah.

Never was there a congressman whose first name more aptly described his relationship to the American people.

He’s the guy holding up reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a program which for 50 years provided the country with many of its spectacular and well known outdoor recreation opportunities, along with immeasurable benefits to communities, regions and states that used the fund for park and recreation projects.

Continue reading

A little more Friday good news from foreign lands

What a great end to the week it’s been for folks who see beyond their own personal leanings or pocketbooks.  The Supreme Court’s landmark decisions on health care and gay rights were absolutely the right things to do; for many people, they were also quite unexpected, and I count myself in that group.

Maybe it’s just being a resident of a state that has gone bass-ackwards in the last five years.  In education, natural resources and parks, health care, and social services, it seems we’ve done all the wrong things.

I’ve lowered my expectations to the point that seeing a public institution genuinely act in the public interest is a jaw-dropping experience. Mine hit the floor so hard and often this week that I’m fortunate to have teeth left.

Lost in the really big news this week is a smaller story out of New York City, a place as urbane and symbolically far removed from Wis-Gone-Sin as you can get and still stay on the same continent. Central Park has been closed to cars, starting this evening.

The New York Times quoted Mayor Bill de Blasio’s written statement on the closure.  “Like all public space, our parks have a lot of demands put on them,” the mayor said. “But traffic shouldn’t be one of them. Our city needs places where kids can run around safely, where people can jog or go for a walk after a long day of work and not have cars racing by five feet away.”

If you love parks and the outdors, this is great news. If you care about the health of people and cities, this is great news.

Ultimately, the vast majority of people probably fit into at least one of those two groups, although some people in them may forget about those values when short-term or profit-oriented factors come into play.

That’s why it’s so delightful to see this change made for the good of all.  Like social stability and good health care, our parks and public spaces, even if not all of us use them, bring untold value to our shared communities.

Let’s hope more of our so-called leaders in Wisconsin start getting the message.

Good news is a reminder to all of us that we can help these things happen. Speak up. Keep up the pressure.

Maybe we can make our state part of the nation again.