Archives for category: See Green

The weather in Paris has been depressing this spring. But it was the perfect backdrop for the depressing French presidential campaign, which was harsh and ugly, with the extreme right gaining ground and the Greens written off completely (less than 3% of the vote). Sigh.

So I have a suggestion for you. To lift your spirits, celebrate Mother’s Day, and give your kids the priceless, lasting gift of eco-consciousness and civic responsibility…

Why not take a trip to the Zoo La Boissière du Doré for a special event to raise awareness about orphaned orangutans? The zoo is right outside of Nantes. (OK, so it’s a four-hour drive from Paris, but I’m from California, so… road trip! It’s only about two hours to Nantes by train.)

Need a moment to think about it?

How about this moment? This is one of the orphans at the Nyaru Menteng reintroduction center. He didn’t want to go back to the center for his nap after “forest school.”

(Image copyright Orangutan Outreach! Click the picture to go to their Pinterest page and see a bigger version.)

Orangutan Outreach helps support the Nyaru Menteng center (managed by the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation), where our little buddy above lives, and the Ketapang Rescue Center (managed by International Animal Rescue). If you’re still not convinced, watch the Orangutan Outreach mom and baby orangutan video that melted our hearts.

Missing Orangutan Mothers (MOM)

This year, on Mother’s Day (May 13th), the Zoo La Boissière du Doré is hosting the annual Orangutan Outreach MOM (Missing Orangutan Mothers) event, which raises awareness about the plight of orphaned orangutans:

Every year on Mothers Day, Orangutan Outreach celebrates orangutan mothers in zoos around the world. We take this special day to bring attention to the hundreds of orphaned orangutans being cared for in rescue centers in Borneo and Sumatra.

The orangutan keeper at the zoo, Dr. Marylise Pompignac Poisson, is a child psychiatrist, psychology educator, and specialist in early psychosocial development of primates — both human and non-human.

The program she has put together for the MOM event includes:

  • a talk about orangutans during which she will also discuss findings of her research on the importance of early interaction in the cognitive and emotional development of infant orangutans,
  • a fact sheet/quiz for visitors,
  • coloring pages for the little ones.

She will be available to chat with visitors and answer questions, her book Les Orangs-outangs de la Boissière nous livrent leurs secrets will be available to buy, and you’ll be able to make donations on the spot. All proceeds will go to the EAZA Southeast Asia campaign (see below).

By now you should be highly motivated to go to the MOM event at the zoo! (But if you can’t, scroll past the details for other ways to help.)

Event details

Date: May 13
Time: 13:00
Location: the orangutan enclosure, of course.
Hotels near the zoo

Map of the zoo (click for a downloadable PDF):

The orangutans desperately need our help

The MOM event is being co-sponsored by the nonprofit org Le Jardin d’Athéna, founded and run by Dr. Pompignac Poisson, and EAZA (European Association of Zoos and Aquaria).

This year, EAZA is running a campaign to support endangered animals in Southeast Asia. Large animals in this region are in serious danger of being completely wiped out in the near future (the Sumatran orangutan is critically endangered, the Bornean orangutan is endangered). This is largely because their rainforest habitat is being razed to make room for palm oil plantations. It’s all about greed.

For professionals

If you or anyone you know are a pediatric, veterinary, or other professional interested in early primate development, Dr. Pompignac Poisson is offering a training program on the topic: Stage d’observation en primatologie.

Dr. Pompignac Poisson is also a member of the Société Française pour l’Etude du Comportement Animal, and will be presenting her research at their meeting May 9-11.

I grew up in San Diego with the beautiful San Diego Zoo. My favorite parts were the reptile house and the monkeys and apes. And the elephants. At the San Diego Zoo in the 70’s, you could buy bags of peanuts and the elephants would take them from your palm with their tickly trunks. But I don’t want to think about that right now. And they let kids ride on the giant tortoises, and reach into a kid-level incubator to hold newly hatched chicks. That was all over by the 80’s. Bad for the animals. I respect that. But I suspect it changed mostly because of liability issues.

I have a special place in my heart for orangutans. One day I was at the zoo with my son when he was in his early teens, standing on the observation platform above the orangutan exhibit. Looked kind of like the one below (click for bigger), but with a wooden wall instead of a net wall. You could watch them from the platform, or you could go under the platform and look at them at eye level through very thick glass. They are notorious escape artists. Can’t blame them. They’re too smart to be enclosed. But I guess it’s better than being butchered and having your babies sold as pets, or being burned out of your home for palm oil plantations

That day, there was an adult orangutan chilling out on a rock below the platform, just staring up at the few people up there, about like this. I waved at her and said some stuff.

She was bored as hell, no doubt. She looked around her and grabbed a clod of dried dirt with dried grass sticking out of it. Then she looked up at me and gently, lackadaisically, tossed it up onto the platform, where it landed off to my right a little. I picked it up and tossed it back down to the ground beside her. She picked it up and threw it back to me. I was clapping and talking to her and laughing the whole time. We played catch for a few minutes. It was glorious. I don’t remember how or why it ended. She probably got tired of the game before I did, though.

That’s the whole story. Disappointed? You wouldn’t be if it had been you.

The other day I discovered Orangutan Outreach when Vincent saw a tweet about their Apps for Apes program. We watched one of their videos and pretty much decided on the spot we’d sell everything and go live in the jungle and hold baby orangutans for the rest of our lives. I’m crazy enough to do it. My body may not cooperate, though, unfortunately.

In any case, I’ve decided to devote most, if not all of my do-good energies to the plight of the orangutan. I think it will be good for my mental health if I focus.

You see, with social media, and all the information delivery platforms out there, I find myself overwhelmed. My bleeding heart is running out of blood. I’m losing hope and have compassion fatigue. Petition fatigue. War and disaster and hunger and racism and hate and corruption and cruelty and injustice fatigue. I constantly feel pulled in a million directions to do something. I know you know what I mean.

I’ve done only little things for Orangutan Outreach so far. Put a link to their site on my page, retweeted @redapes (their Twitter handle) tweets, read up on orangutans, connected with the OO founder on LinkedIn and gave some suggestions for promoting the organization, voted for their rescue boat. Working on figuring out some expenses we can cut in order to divert that money to OO. I even managed to get orangutans on Francophilia! I’ll do what I can with what I have.

I’m just getting started. But you have to start somewhere. You have to start. {:(|}

If I didn’t live a block from the Seine, I sometimes wonder if I’d still be in Paris. I’ve spent most of my life next to or in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, you see, and I can’t live long without a body of water nearby. Even the dirty brown streak of the Seine, a sad, sad substitute for the Pacific, an icky little skid mark in comparison, satisfies that criterion.

The fact that I’m a Pisces has nothing to do with anything at all, but it’s a pretty coincidence.

I’m not complaining about the murky strip of river that is standing in for my ocean, really I’m not. I walk my dog along it every day and it’s water and even though I can only look at it, not that I’d want to get in it, yuck, it gets me as close as I can get for the moment to Madison when she dumps the bottle of Morton’s in the tub and unfurls her tail.

This post is brought to you today by the letter W because it’s Blog Action Day, a day when bloggers all over the world publish posts on the same socially or environmentally conscious theme and this year’s theme is “water.” (Last year it was “poverty,” and I wrote about it here on frogblog.)

I put on my drama queen costume and say I would die without water but, every week, nearly 38,000 children under the age of 5 really do die from unsafe drinking water and unhygienic living conditions.

We don’t have problems like that in the West.

(Mini-mermaid maintenance in Indiana, while Dad was at Purdue.)

For a time, I lived “on the shores of Gitche Gumee,” a formidable body of water, not an ocean, but big enough that I couldn’t see to the opposite shore and badass enough to swallow the Edmund Fitzgerald. It served as a Pacific surrogate for a short time. Much later, the almost three years I lived an hour from Death Valley nearly killed me, though the thunderstorms were magnificent and flash floods made temporary baby-beaches of the dunes. By the time I escaped and moved back to the ocean I was like one of those fish in Africa that live in ephemeral ponds and dehydrate into crispy fishcakes in the dry season and then come back to life with the spring rains.

I don’t feel like getting on a soapbox today. Sorry. I feel like selfishly daydreaming. I don’t rant as much as I used to on this blog anyway. Maybe all the people in my building tossing cat litter into the recycling bin and plastic bottles into the trash bin and American morons voting for Tea Party morons and fucking Sarko rounding up and deporting a vulnerable and disadvantaged ethnic group to pander to the far right are slowly draining the fight out of me. At least today I don’t have much fight in me.

Sometimes I just want to say to the world what my mother said after a dozen years of watching my little brother and me knock each other around, from her spot on the couch where she was drinking white wine as was her wont in the years immediately following her divorce: “Go ahead and kill each other. Just don’t knock over the Christmas tree.”

Anyway. Do me a favor and go here and scroll down to “Suggested Post Ideas” to get some compelling factoids about the state and use of water on our poor abused and declining planet. And then please sign this petition. And then maybe donate some money to Blue Planet Network or a charity of your choice (preferably one that doesn’t shove religion down throats along with spoonfuls of mush) so I can keep on dreaming of warm salt water on this fall day in Paris without feeling guilty about not having done my duty. I’ll be grateful to you. Besides, I wouldn’t ask you to do anything I wouldn’t do; I donated to last month. (I guess I am still fighting after all.)

My darling husband knows the Seine is not a permanent solution, so he dangles this carrot in front of me on gloomy days. We’re toying with the idea of going there “next,” when and if next happens. Rents there are less than half what they are in Paris and you get an ocean too.

I have not lived on the Atlantic, but something tells me it will do just fine. I should be able to stick my toes in it at least a few times a year. And I’m sure it looks and smells right, and I’m sure it sounds right. Like an ocean.

I get e-mail spam from all kinds of sites I’ve given my address to. I don’t mind the stuff from orgs like Conservation International, Partners in Health, World Wildlife Fund (although they do send a lot more e-mails than the others, which is starting to get annoying). The e-mails keep these worthy organizations at the forefront of my mind so that when I do have an extra few bucks and a gift occasion (or a wild hair), I sometimes donate money.

I got a WWF spam mail yesterday featuring e-cards you can send people for Earth Day, including this series:


I have a green tip for WWF: Stop Sending Me Junk Mail. Not only do they bombard me with e-mails, they also send me shit in the mail. Tons of it. All the time. Air mail. All the way to Paris.

Here’s what I got this week (They did not send the shoe. Duh. It’s there for scale. Size 8.5 US.):


You get the idea. The trees, the transport of raw materials, the emissions from processing the inks and the paper and running the machines printing this crap I don’t even look at (that’s what the Internet’s for people!), the cost and jet fumes to get it here, the cost of personnel to stuff and mail envelopes… What do you think all of this costs? I want those dollars protecting orangutans, goddammit.

I seem to remember asking them through their site to take me off the real-mail list (could have been CI though). Never got a response, whoever it was. When I donated to WWF once there was a gifty thing, recycling bags that I wanted them to send to my son in California instead of to me all the way in fucking France. Not an option. Couldn’t opt not to receive the gifty things either.

I just went back to see if they had changed that. You do have the option to make a regular donation and pass on the gifty thing. But I went to adopt an animal (a gray wolf: Sarah Palin’s favorite for target practice from the air):


I tried to put “0″ in the quantity of “Adoption Kits” and got this:



They need to give donors an account where they can go in and set their preferences. I’d choose no real mail and only one e-mail a month. I want alternate shipping addresses (like Amazon, hello, not hard to do) for gifty things or to skip gifty things altogether. I do not need a stuffed wolf. Nobody needs a stuffed wolf. You listening WWF?

So my growing perception of WWF is that it’s wasteful, aggressive and it doesn’t respect its donor base. I’m about to unsubscribe from their e-mails and give my money exclusively to Conservation International for eco causes even though they don’t have a cute panda logo. They seem more austere and respectful of the environment and their users’ mental and real bandwidth.

So there.

Audible sigh.

When Vincent and I were discussing* getting a dog, we hit a major culture bump. Evidently dog owners here in France are overwhelmingly members of the conservative and well-to-do bourgeoisie, something that an ascetic bohemian political lefty like Vincent finds abhorrent. As I understand it, if you have a dog here, you’re basically perceived as flipping off everybody who’s not rich.

normanrockwelldog.jpgI had to explain to him that dog ownership didn’t have that kind of baggage where I come from, that it’s as American as apple pie, Norman Rockwell, and so on. I can’t help it, I’m the product of my culture. I never cried harder than when I finished Where the Red Fern Grows. I found out at one point (completely by accident) that 44% of Americans own dogs. See Vincent? It’s normal!

Now how did I miss that red flag? I should have listened to myself! Since when do I point to America as a model of proper behavior? I was not being logical. I was carried away by my save-the-little-doggy crusade. One of these days, like many other American habits, the pet habit is going to have to go…

But the deed is done. Wiley is alive and eating 150 grams of kibble a day (I have no idea what that is in dollars). I throw several plastic bags of poo in the trash every day. Wiley is destroying the planet and he doesn’t even know it, poor thing.


In this New Scientist article, you can read all about Fido’s carbon footprint and weep. It’s a good article; eye opening. I question some of the stats, however. My assumption has always been that pet food is mostly made of by-products of the meat produced for humans, which means there’s overlap. So if 50% of a cow goes to you and 50% goes to Fido, you can’t count that cow’s carbon footprint twice… At least not till it branches off into pet food production. Anyway, when humans get a clue, or – much more likely – are forced by global food shortages to stop eating meat and grow soybeans, I imagine the pet problem will take care of itself, like all the rest. (Added November 22: The article linked to above is bullshit. Thanks David Horton!! Wiley loves you! Me too. I immediately gave him a treat and told him it was from Uncle David.)

pinupgirl.jpgBut since I don’t own a car, clothes dryer, dishwasher, or even a garbage disposal… Since I haven’t eaten red meat in nearly 28 years, I’ll let Wiley walk in my footprint for the short time he’s here. And at least he’s a shelter mutt and I didn’t contribute to the purebred dog racket.

But Wiley will be my last dog.

Then I’ll have to feed my fix by adding to my collection of vintage ceramic poodle tchotchkes (Wouldn’t that be a great name for a poodle?). I already have a planter, a pepper shaker, a knife rest, and an egg cup, all from the 40s and 50s. I bought the first one 23 years ago and the last one two weeks ago (I’m picky). And maybe I’ll put up vintage posters to remind me of the good old days, when I was a girl and girls could be girls and they could have dogs.

Wiley has a Twitter account. If your dogs (or cats; Wiley’s open minded) are the Internet types, send them over to join the conversation: ducks, peacocks, spaghetti, duels… He has two dog friends at this point, Lily (a Westie) and Dooley (a Corgi mutt). He also follows a famous cat who has not deigned to follow him back.

Yes, I know it’s absurd. But so is everything.

*P: I want a dog.
V: I don’t want a dog.
P: I want a dog.
V: I don’t want a dog.
P: I want a dog.
V: I don’t want a dog.
P: I want a dog.
V: I don’t want a dog.

I whined about wanting a dog on Web Worker Daily the other day, citing one of the lesser reasons why I wanted one (a reason that is relevant to the lifestyle of the teleworker). I kept on searching after Basile slipped through my fingers, kept checking the sites of all the shelters that were on an RER line (the Paris commuter rail system). I google mapped their locations so I’d be ready when the time came.

I went to see Fifi on Friday with Vincent’s daughter. She was a dainty little mutt described as “half angel, half demon” by her foster mother (some rescue organizations here put dogs in host families to socialize them till they find permanent people). She had been abused and couldn’t stand to be touched by strangers. Not the kind of dog I could take to cafés and barcamps with me… And that’s a requirement.

This is the one that didn’t get away. I found this little mutt online on Friday, went and met him Saturday with the kids, brought him home Sunday.


He looks a little dour here. Or suspicious. Or scary. But don’t be fooled. Turns out Wiley loves everybody — people and other dogs too — is house trained (two “accidents” the first day, but then he remembered the rules), sweet-tempered, affectionate, already devoted to us, chills out in between his walks, doesn’t sniff crotches, beg, bark, whine, chew, or jump on the furniture… He’s the most emotionally healthy and well-behaved shelter dog I’ve ever met. He’s not used to the big city; freaks out a little at all the cars and people. But he’ll get used to it I imagine.

wiley-2.jpgVincent took a pic of me holding him on the train on the way home. (You’d think I’d just given birth. Guess these instincts just don’t go away…) Vincent’s classic quote during the do-we-get-a-dog discussion: “I’m the voice of reason, you’re the voice of menopause.”

And your point is?

He’s 14″ (35.5 cm) high at the shoulders and weighs about 17 pounds (8 kilos). We named him Wiley cuz he has those disconcerting golden coyote eyes. And it suited his personality.

Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean frogblog will be turning into dogblog…

The backs of my hands are covered with freckles from the decades they spent at 10 o’ clock and 2 o’ clock on the steering wheels of cars in very sunny places. When I was in California last month visiting family and friends, they got even more fried, as I covered over 800 miles in my little red Kia rental. My carbon footprint was more like a carbon stomp all over the southern part of the state… I admit it.

One of the problems, as you know, is that Americans don’t have the luxurious, efficient and environmentally friendly public transport options the French do. They’ll never kick their driving habit till they do. I can get to the south of France (about 410 miles) in the TGV bullet train in half the time it would take me to drive from San Diego to San Francisco (about 460 miles), a drive I’ve made a lot in my day. And then you factor in the comfort and the fact that you can stay on the ground (which I’d much prefer to do). I say yes to trains.

You may have heard that Obama wants you to have nice fast trains in the States too. Here’s the map of the administration’s vision for high-speed rail. That San Diego-to-San Francisco leg is very appealing to me.


But they’re not built yet. Obama has some pretty ideas, but his performance is less than stellar in other areas. Not attending the racism conference, not prosecuting the torturers (although Holder is now considering prosecuting those in the Bush administration who OKd the torture, but like the trains, it hasn’t happened yet), leaving Bush’s domestic spying program in place, pouring money into the hands of the greedy bastards who got us into this economic mess, and refusing to entertain the notion that putting band-aids on the free market system might not be the answer. To name a few.

He’s looking like kind of a pussy, in fact. Let’s hope he finds the balls he’s apparently misplaced.