Audobon’s obsession with Swifts

Latest in a series of posts on the Swifts

The Swifts are coming in April!
Won’t you join with us and contribute?
Click here for the GoFundMe page.

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“When about to descend into a hollow tree or a chimney, its flight, always rapid, is suddenly interrupted as if by magic, for down it goes in an instant, whirling in a peculiar manner, and whirring with its wings, so as to produce a sound in the chimney like the rumbling of very distant thunder.”
John James Audobon, c. 1830s

John James Audobon had an obsession about Swifts.

In the delightful chapter on the “American Swift” in his classic The Birds of America, Audobon takes us back to the Swift’s pre-chimney days in the “ancient tenements” in the almost illimitable forests of America, especially in the “Sycamores of gigantic growth. . . . those patriarchs of the forest rendered habitable by decay.”

Audobon is captivated by the Swifts abiding in a two feet in diameter hollowed branch forty feet up on a huge Louisville sycamore sixty or seventy feet high and seven or eight feet in diameter at the base.

Audobon not only watches the Swifts, he meticulously counts them.

He not only watches the Swifts, but, ear against tree trunk, he listens to them.

He not only watches the Swifts from a distance, but he scrambles forty feet up the tree to view then, voyeur-like, through a window he bores.

He not only watches the Swifts from the outside, but, if Gadfly reads him right, he goes inside the hollow tree.

He not only watches the Swifts when they are awake, he anticipates the dawn to experience their dramatic awakening:

Next morning I rose early enough to reach the place long before the least appearance of daylight, and placed my head against the tree. All was silent within. I remained in that posture probably twenty minutes, when suddenly I thought the great tree was giving way, and coming down upon me. Instinctively I sprung from it, but when I looked up to it again, what was my astonishment to see it standing as firm as ever. The Swallows were now pouring out in a black continued stream. I ran back to my post, and listened in amazement to the noise within, which I could compare to nothing else than the sound of a large wheel revolving under a powerful stream. It was yet dusky, so that I could hardly see the hour on my watch, but I estimated the time which they took in getting out at more than thirty minutes. After their departure, no noise was heard within, and they dispersed in every direction with the quickness of thought.

Yes, John James Audobon had an obsession about Swifts.

But he has nothing on Jennie Gilrain.

Any day now Gadfly expects to find Jennie rappeling up (hmm, can you rappel “up”?) the Masonic Temple chimney.

He has Bethlehem native Jim Friedman, NBC10 photo-journalist, on speed dial.

So, yes, Jennie Gilrain also has an obsession about Swifts. That’s a good thing. Without it, we wouldn’t have a campaign to save them.

Gadfly invites you to take a few minutes to read Audobon’s short charming pioneer study of the Swifts.

———-

Gadfly is distressed to receive anxious notes from eager potential contributors to the Save Our Swifts campaign who can’t locate the GoFundMe page. O my. Here it is! Right here .

Surgical demolition required!

Latest in a series of posts on the Swifts

The Swifts are coming in April!
Won’t you join with us and contribute?
Click here for the GoFundMe page.

———-

photo by Jennie Gilrain

One of the many fascinations of the “Saving Our Swifts” project has to do with the demolition of the Masonic Temple.

No slam-bang, no, sir.

The delicate touch of a surgeon is needed to leave Hotel Chimney Swift intact.

The migratory Swifts are creatures of habit. They’ve been visiting the Masonic chimney for years. Like the Gadflys to Ocean City.

Developer Noble is trying not to disturb their routine. (This guy is something else, isn’t he?)

Take a good look at the territory.

Whattaya think?

What odds do you give for a successful surgery?

Well, not to worry too much.

If the chimney can’t be saved, Developer Noble will build a new one a short distance away (yes, this guy is something else, isn’t he?), and the smart money says the Swifts will find the new digs.

This photo was taken a week ago. The surgery might be done. Gadfly is not mobile. Can anybody put eyes on the scene and report back?

———–

In case you are disoriented, you can click here for the GoFundMe page.

Replacing a roof in the age of sustainability

Latest in a series of posts on the environment

Alison Steele is a Liberty High School alum who traveled the world looking for adventure and purpose before finding it in Pittsburgh.  She has made it her mission to help others make more informed decisions around how they interact with people and the planet.

Gadfly has often called your attention to Steel Town native Steele’s blog. He is particularly struck here by the kind of and amount of research and thinking relative to a decision that in the “old days” of his less-than-admirable energy unconsciousness he would have made with the snap of his fingers.

———–

“My Cabin Doesn’t Leak When It Doesn’t Rain, Part 1

Cost analysis

In spring 2018 some shingles blew off of our roof in a bad storm, and we got a leak that made its way through our attic and down to our living room. This was not too surprising, given that our asphalt roof (generally considered to have a 20-year life) was at least 20 years old when Christian bought the house 10 years prior. He had a stack of extra shingles that came from the last roof replacement and had been using them to patch and perform roof maintenance as needed, but that supply finally ran out. Long story short, it was time to shop for a new roof, and I began exploring options.

At the time, I wrote a blog post based on some cursory research of roofing materials and investment value of asphalt, metal, and the new Tesla solar shingles.[1] Unfortunately, much in the tradition “The Arkansas Traveler,” [2] a song that was sung to me as a child (and clearly had an impact), “my cabin doesn’t leak when it doesn’t rain,” meaning Christian’s patch let us put that decision on the back burner while I did some more research. Nearly two years later, that research still hadn’t happened, and it was time for the house to remind us of our responsibility… on Christmas Eve.

We spent the holiday emptying pans of water in the attic and calling roofing contractors for quotes. I spent the week between Christmas and New Year’s diving into materials research, product warranties, and recycling options to build on my original blog post, which was only focused on financial investment, not product lifecycle. . . .

continue on Alison’s blog

“My Cabin Doesn’t Leak When it Doesn’t Rain,” Part 1

Our walking trails, a least recognized aspect of our quality of life

Latest in a series of posts on the pedestrian bridge

Followers will remember the skirmish over the feasibility study for a pedestrian/biking bridge across the Lehigh River back during budget approval time.

Councilman Callahan vigorously objected to funding the study, though he said he was pro-bridge and just against spending the money on a “luxury” while we were cutting staff positions in an austere budget mode that was likely to continue.

Gadfly is happy to call attention to this appreciative witty essay about our local trail system by Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation President & CEO (and former Bethlehem mayor) Don Cunningham.

selections from Don Cunningham, “The Groundhog Day Quality of Pandemic Life.” Morning Call, January 7, 2020.

The Groundhog Day quality of pandemic life that makes one day familiar to another returned to the Lehigh Valley with the cold weather.

It came just in time to create a new set of holiday challenges.

Gone, and quickly forgotten, was the exhausting schedule of holiday parties, work dinners and family gatherings. That was replaced with a new set of challenges, such as telling grandpa there’s no family gathering this year because we don’t want to be responsible for killing him, and what to do with a week off between Christmas and New Year’s Day.

Humans adapt our complaints quickly. We are quite nimble this way.

Last year’s “the holidays are exhausting” became this year’s “what are we supposed to do?”

My challenge is I can’t sit still for more than about an hour.

Fortunately, I live in the Lehigh Valley, have the ability to walk and love history, cities and nature.

One of the least recognized aspects of the Lehigh Valley’s quality of life is the system of walking trails that weaves through the region and showcases its authentic mix of cities and towns, natural environments, rivers, streams and canals and three centuries of history.

It’s all free and pandemic safe.

Many of the trails were built to replace former railroads so they pass through industrial areas, natural environments, alongside bodies of waters and connect boroughs and cities. Most of them are part of the larger Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Corridor, which preserves and interprets the 165-mile transportation corridor that fueled America’s industrial revolution with the Lehigh Valley as its centerpiece.

Both Lehigh and Northampton counties and the 62 distinct municipalities of the Lehigh Valley have shown great vision in working with state and federal leaders to develop these trails.

The attractiveness of the Lehigh Valley today, which is vital to our economic renaissance and continued success, is built on the foundation of past economic success and the recognition that quality of life keeps people and companies living and coming here.

While struggling through the temporary closure of the region’s wonderful restaurants, performing arts venues and tourism destinations, these trails remain open and important.

This holiday season I strapped on gloves, a knit hat and jackets and revisited my favorites and discovered some new ones.

I walked for the first time the Karl Stirner Arts Trail in Easton that runs for about two miles along the Bushkill Creek from the magnificently renovated Simone Silk Mill on 13th St. to the Delaware River. The trail is extraordinary, lined throughout with public art tastefully placed in a natural setting.

Long on my bucket list, I finally got to Hellertown to walk the Saucon Rail Trail, a 7.5-mile converted railroad track in Lower and Upper Saucon Townships and Hellertown Borough.

My 24-year-old son Brendan, forced out of Brooklyn and back into his old man’s house in Bethlehem by the pandemic, joined me on many of the walks. In Hellertown, we were fortunate enough to walk into a low-lying fog as we approached the 18th Century Heller-Wagner Grist Mill on Walnut St. The fog over the adjoining pond was as spectacular of sight as I’ve seen.

Once again, I hit my old favorite the Ironton Rail Trail in Whitehall and Coplay and marveled as always at the Coplay Cement Kilns, which helped launch the nation’s Portland cement industry here in the 18th century. The kilns are as striking of an industrial relic as Bethlehem’s preserved blast furnaces, whose best viewing point is from walking the Lehigh Canal Towpath through the Christmas City.

I returned to the great short loop walking trails of Trexler Park in Allentown and Northampton County’s Louise Moore Park in Palmer Township, both wonderfully maintained. For a natural experience that required boots in the snow, I got back on my favorite, Bethlehem’s Monocacy Way, which runs along the Monocacy Creek and connects Illick’s Mill (built in 1856) to the Moravian Colonial Industrial Quarters of the 1700s where America’s first municipal water system was developed.

As long as my legs carry me, despite pandemics and quarantine, I’ll always have something to do and explore in the Lehigh Valley.

Saving the swifts: “The miracle on Wyandotte Street”

Latest in a series of posts on the Swifts

The initial campaign surge has slowed!
Won’t you join with us and contribute?
Click here for the GoFundMe page.

———-

Jennie Gilrain, who spearheads the Save Our Swifts campaign, made this impressive presentation to City Council last night (4 mins.):

First:

I want to share an uplifting story in the midst of difficult times! A group of citizens from all walks of life is joining forces to save tens of thousands of Chimney Swifts, a bird in sharp decline, by saving their Urban Habitat, the Masonic Temple chimney at 202 Wyandotte Street in South Bethlehem. Developer and property owner, John Noble, has agreed to save the chimney, while demolishing the building around it, in order to save the birds. I visited the demolition site this afternoon to see the chimney still standing. The Western wall has been ripped away and the steel beams have been cut flush to the chimney’s edge. So far, so good. However, in the end, if the existing chimney cannot be saved, Noble has agreed to build a duplicate roosting tower on the property, 60 feet to the North of the original.

The Lehigh Valley Audubon Society is raising money to support this effort through a Save Our Swifts GoFundMe Charity. According to Peter Saenger, local Audubon President, this level of cooperation between developers and conservationists is extremely unusual and highly commendable. I call it, “Miracle on Wyandotte Street.”

Second:

The Lehigh Valley Audubon Society and Bethlehem Area Public Library have applied for a Lehigh Valley Engaged Humanities Consortium grant to support a series of Public Forums to facilitate discussion about the relationship between development and conservation. I invite members of Bethlehem City Government–the Department of Community and Economic Development and the Environmental Action Committee to join the panels, and I invite the public to participate in the forums. More on this when we find out if we got the grant.

Finally:

In light of the tremendous community effort to Save Our Swifts, I would like to make a formal request to you, the Members of Council and to you, Mayor Donchez:

Just as many cities around the world and throughout the United States have named particular bird species as their own; and just as so many years ago the State of Pennsylvania named the Ruffed Grouse the Bird of Pennsylvania, I propose we name the Chimney Swift, “the Bird of Bethlehem.”

The chimney swift is not only a beautiful aerial acrobat, but a welcome insectivore, consuming twice its body weight in bugs each day.

Thank you for hearing me and for considering embracing this bird as Bethlehem’s own.

I look forward to your reply.

Sincerely,

Jennie Gilrain

“Let us be free, be air!” The poetic origin of Swifts

Latest in a series of posts on the Swifts

“How could we throw them away”
Matilda Snyder

The campaign to save our Bethlehem Swifts has begun.
Won’t you join with us and contribute?
Click here for the GoFundMe page.

———-

Swifts

Spring comes little, a little. All April it rains.
The new leaves stick in their fists; new ferns still fiddleheads.
But one day the swifts are back. Face to the sun like a child
You shout, ‘The swifts are back!’

Sure enough, bolt nocks bow to carry one sky-scyther
Two hundred miles an hour across fullblown windfields.
Swereee swereee. Another. And another.
It’s the cut air falling in shrieks on our chimneys and roofs.

The next day, a fleet of high crosses cruises in ether.
These are the air pilgrims, pilots of air rivers.
But a shift of wing, and they’re earth-skimmers, daggers
Skilful in guiding the throw of themselves away from themselves.

Quick flutter, a scimitar upsweep, out of danger of touch, for
Earth is forbidden to them, water’s forbidden to them,
All air and fire, little owlish ascetics, they outfly storms,
They rush to the pillars of altitude, the thermal fountains.

Here is a legend of swifts, a parable —
When the Great Raven bent over earth to create the birds,
The swifts were ungrateful. They were small muddy things
Like shoes, with long legs and short wings,

So they took themselves off to the mountains to sulk.
And they stayed there. ‘Well,’ said the Raven, after years of this,
I will give you the sky. You can have the whole sky
On condition that you give up rest.’

‘Yes, yes,’ screamed the swifts, ‘We abhor rest.
We detest the filth of growth, the sweat of sleep,
Soft nests in the wet fields, slimehold of worms.
Let us be free, be air!’

So the Raven took their legs and bound them into their bodies.
He bent their wings like boomerangs, honed them like knives.
He streamlined their feathers and stripped them of velvet.
Then he released them, Never to Return

Inscribed on their feet and wings. And so
We have swifts, though in reality, not parables but
Bolts in the world’s need: swift
Swifts, not in punishment, not in ecstasy, simply

Sleepers over oceans in the mill of the world’s breathing.
The grace to say they live in another firmament.
A way to say the miracle will not occur,
And watch the miracle.

Anne Stevenson
Poet Laureate for the Swifts

Listen to Jennie Gilrain
introduce
commentary by Matilda Snyder.

———–

Save our Bethlehem Swifts on Gadfly:

ref: Bethlehem’s dolphins of the sky
ref: Gilrain gets scared
ref: The Noble family: “We will do everything we can to make sure that these birds are protected”
ref: Saving the Bethlehem Swifts: this is a worthy cause”
ref: Gilrain on the nest . . . hatching a plan
ref: When renovation turns to conservation
ref: S.O.S. GoFundMe page now available

Featured

Save Our Swifts GoFundMe page now available!

Latest in a series of posts on the Swifts

Click here for video and to donate

Your donation is tax deductible

Click here for video and to donate

Save our Bethlehem Swifts posts on Gadfly:

ref: Bethlehem’s dolphins of the sky
ref: Gilrain gets scared
ref: The Noble family: “We will do everything we can to make sure that these birds are protected”
ref: Saving the Bethlehem Swifts: this is a worthy cause”
ref: Gilrain on the nest . . . hatching a plan
ref: When renovation turns to conservation
ref: S.O.S GoFundMe page now available
ref: “Let us be free, be air!” The poetic origin of Swifts”
ref: “Saving the swifts: “The Miracle on Wyandotte St.”
ref: Developer John Noble commits to preserving our spectacular aerial acrobats
ref: Surgical demolition needed!
ref: Audobon’s obsession with Swifts

Save Our Swifts GoFundMe page now available!

Latest in a series of posts on the Swifts

Click here for video and to donate

Your donation is tax deductible

Click here for video and to donate

Save our Bethlehem Swifts on Gadfly:

ref: Bethlehem’s dolphins of the sky
ref: Gilrain gets scared
ref: The Noble family: “We will do everything we can to make sure that these birds are protected”
ref: Saving the Bethlehem Swifts: this is a worthy cause”
ref: Gilrain on the nest . . . hatching a plan
ref: When renovation turns to conservation

When renovation turns to conservation, a building plan takes flight

Latest in a series of posts on the Swifts

Save Our Swifts GoFundMe page

“Something cool’s going to happen here.”
John Noble

“These birds are amazing.”
Jennie Gilrain

“What Mr. Noble is doing is so incredibly unusual and
incredibly good for the environment.”
Peter Saenger

“When renovation turns to conservation. A building plan that’s taking flight.”
Bo Koltnow

The Masonic Temple is coming down.

But plans to save the Swifts are rising.

The cause got a big boost last night with coverage by local and Philadelphia news media.

Take a look. Treat yourself.

Jim Friedman,  “Thousands of Chimney Swifts Alter Plans of Lehigh Valley Development Project.” NBC10 Philadelphia, December 29, 2020. (2 mins.)

Bo Koltnow. “Local developer says construction project delays worth the cost to save special type of bird.”  WFMZ Channel 69, December 29, 2020. (2 mins.)

Meet the principals again:

John Noble, developer, beaming like St Francis of Assisi

Jennie Gilrain, teacher by day, theatrical director by night,
already choreographing a Swift production

There’s a gofundme in our future, my followers!

to be continued . . .

———-

Save our Bethlehem Swifts:

ref: Bethlehem’s dolphins of the sky
ref: Gilrain gets scared
ref: The Noble family: “We will do everything we can to make sure that these birds are protected”
ref: Saving the Bethlehem Swifts: this is a worthy cause”
ref: Gilrain on the nest . . . hatching a plan

Gilrain on the nest . . . hatching a plan

Latest in a series of posts on the Swifts

Save Our Swifts GoFundMe page

This is Portland not Bethlehem. This is the Chapman Chimney Project not a Masonic Temple one. But you get the idea.

Listen to Jennie Gilrain float her multi-layered vision regarding the Swifts (2 mins.).

Gadfly finds it hard to curb his enthusiasm.

How about you?

“One thought I had . . . and this is particularly for the ears of the City . . . but we’re all citizens . . . all of us . . . I think this particular chimney . . . is extremely important . . . and has a place in my heart in particular because it’s two blocks away from me and I’ve actually seen the birds go in it . . . But I feel . . . well I not only feel, but I think . . . that this is an opportunity . . . that John [Noble] and his family and all of us . . . can set a precedent for a city . . . cooperating together . . . a developer . . . environmentalists . . . ecologists . . . civic-minded people . . . cooperating to save a threatened or vulnerable species . . . that hasn’t adapted to an urban environment . . . so even beyond saving the species we can model embracing the wild in an urban environment . . . and . . . this is for the ears of city government . . . I don’t know if there’s such a thing as . . . a city adopting a bird . . . You know, I know they have state birds . . . but do they have city birds . . . could we claim that the Swift is Bethlehem’s bird . . . and then really care for that bird . . . and enjoy it . . . and make it an attraction . . . and make it a tourist attraction . . . just like the Bethlehem Star [delightful Jennie-giggle] . . . So I really feel that this particular chimney is important . . . crucial . . . but it could be the beginning of a citywide . . . and then a countrywide . . . a national, even . . . precedent . . . example.”

to be continued . . .

————

Save the Bethlehem Swifts:

ref: Bethlehem’s dolphins of the sky
ref: Gilrain gets scared
ref: The Noble family: “We will do everything we can to make sure that these birds are protected”
ref: Saving the Bethlehem Swifts: this is a worthy cause”

Saving the Bethlehem Swifts: “This is a worthy cause”

Latest in a series of posts on the Swifts

Save Our Swifts GoFundMe page

Peter Saenger, President, Lehigh Valley Audubon Society (2 mins.)

“Like many of our North American bird species, they’re under pressure . . . They’re in severe decline . . . Originally, they nested in hollow trees . . . and then we cut the forests down . . . and they adapted to nesting in chimneys . . . and now we’re capping them . . . and modern construction doesn’t have chimneys . . . So they’re habitat is going away . . . So every single spot is critical for them . . . especially migratory spots . . . for populations that still have nesting sites up in the north in the mature forests . . . I don’t know a lot about the Masonic Temple chimney . . . but during migratory seasons, spring and fall these birds gather in huge numbers . . . apparently this chimney houses 2000 birds at a time . . . and it’s critical that they have these roosting sites during migration . . . So these places are going away very quickly . . . So every one that we can replace or maintain is critical for their continued existence . . . These birds migrate from North America, Canada, all the way down to the Brazilian rain forest for the winter . . . and they come back . . . and they are very site-specific . . . so if they lose a tower, they have no place to go . . . and I would gather a good percentage would perish if they don’t have the same place to go back to . . . This is a worthy cause.”

to be continued . . .

———–

Save the Bethlehem Swifts:

ref: Bethlehem’s dolphins of the sky
ref: Gilrain gets scared
ref: The Noble family: “We will do everything we can to make sure that these birds are protected”

The Noble family: “We will do everything we can to make sure that these birds are protected”

Latest in a series of posts on the Swifts

Save Our Swifts GoFundMe page

“Feeling is first,” says the poet cummings.

And the feeling that lover of birds Jennie Gilrain felt when the appearance of construction fences made demolition of the Masonic Temple a stark reality was fear.

Fear for the Swifts that nest in the Temple chimney.

But “good things started to happen,” Jennie exults, when she made contact with the developer family — John, Lynn, and daughter Casey Noble (a second daughter Bailey is now living in Los Angeles but will also be involved in the project).

Jennie “made me aware of the Swifts,” admitted John.

“We really had no idea!” says Lynn.

The Noble family became ready co-conspirators with Jennie in a project to save the Swifts.

John, a self-employed business man, and Lynn, a fine art photographer and writer, met while John was at Lehigh, Lynn at DeSales. Casey is Project Manager for Elevate Construction, and Bailey is an actress who also owns her own business.

John bought the Wilbur Mansion/Masonic Temple property in 2016, “without a plan, but knowing that with the right preservation we could create a gateway focal point for Bethlehem.” Gadfly, like you probably, has eagerly followed the changing plans for the site since then through stories in the local media. John last appeared here in the blog last February, just before the pandemic slowed things down. He is now breaking ground for a development that combines apartment living with hotel, restaurant, and event space.

“My first big commitment to preservation came in 2008,” John recalls, “when I was able to work with my neighbors to acquire 45 acres stretching along a mile of the Saucon Creek. We worked with the Wildlands Conservancy and Lower Saucon, raising some of the funding to prevent its development and blanket the land with a conservation easement.”

“The wildlife along this land is absolutely amazing,” John exclaims.

“Nature is what inspires almost everything we do,” Lynn explains. “We have always been concerned with protecting the land and the wildlife around us. I can tell you many, many stories about how our family has saved countless animals . . . deer, fox, possums, rabbits, geese, ducks, and many different varieties of birds! We even caused an uproar with the Bethlehem Board of Health the time we rescued a fox!”

“We will do everything we can to make sure that these birds are protected,” Lynn promises.

“I’m big into birds,” assures John.

Gadfly hears the Swifts sigh with relief.

Along with Jennie.

The Nobles’ new building

to be continued . . .

———

ref: Bethlehem’s dolphins of the sky
ref: Gilrain gets scared

Gilrain gets scared

Latest in a series of posts on the Swifts

Save Our Swifts GoFundMe page

One day I was walking by the site and noticed a chain link fence . . .
and then I got really scared.

Jennie Gilrain

ref: Bethlehem’s dolphins of the sky

Meet Jennie Gilrain.

And listen to her “little story” (3 mins.):

“A little story . . . I’ve lived on the south side of Bethlehem . . . since the 1980s . . . I love animals, and I love birds, and I love to sit on my back porch . . . I love birds, and so I watch them . . . and I had been noticing at some point these birds really high in the sky . . . and I couldn’t figure out what they were . . . sort of looked like barn swallows . . . maybe bats . . . They flew in such an amazing pattern . . . almost like they were playing with each other in the air . . . in pairs, in trios . . . I figured out finally that they were chimney swifts . . . My husband Mark and I went on a walk every night one summer to figure out where they were roosting . . . and one day we were walking across the bridge to go to the north side, and we noticed this swarm of birds going into the Masonic Temple chimney . . . and then we started to visit the chimney frequently to watch them go in . . . and this summer I started inviting . . . groups of people to the parking lot at the Masonic

Temple to witness this amazing phenomenon . . . such a beautiful sight . . . and even one morning convinced a friend of mine to go at dawn to watch them come out of the chimney, which is

a whole other thing, very different dynamics . . . I knew the Masonic Temple was slated for demolition but didn’t know how soon . . . One day I was walking by the site and noticed a chain link fence . . . and signs of construction . . . and then I got really scared . . . and put it in high gear . . . and then good things started to happen . . . which have a lot to do with John and Lynn and Casey Noble.”

to be continued . . .

Bethlehem’s dolphins of the sky

Latest in a series of posts on the Swifts

Save Our Swifts GoFundMe page

You’ve seen them.

Just like the Gadfly.

Perhaps at summer dusk on manic 378 cruising south while trying to navigate the tight thru lane with one eye.

Perhaps on the 3rd St. Perkins hill, waiting at the stop light (does anybody ever get through that light?), where you can roll down your windows and hear as well as see them.

And you’ve wondered.

Just like the Gadfly.

And maybe you stopped one time for a closer look.

Just like the Gadfly.

 

And felt your questions succumb to a sense of awe at the magic unfolding before you.

Just like the Gadfly.

———-

film by Jennie Gilrain, August 2020

“Consider re-considering your diet”

Latest in a series of posts on the environment

ref: “the type of food you eat is the most critical factor in reducing your food footprint” 

Gadfly:

The Best Gift you Could Give, Ever?

Water Crisis? Yes.
This is a major global concern as water for drinking and agriculture is in dangerously short supply in many parts of the world, including our own west. (4,5)

Eat “Lower on the Food Chain”
This is part of the reason “eating lower on the food chain” — a more plant based diet — is much better for preserving our natural habitats — and ourselves: in addition, much less land is needed to be converted from biodiverse native habitats to monocultures — single-species crop land for the purpose of feeding animals. (Science gives us the “10% rule”: that 90% of the energy and mass consumed at any level of a food chain is lost as heat and only 10% becomes incorporated in the consuming organism!)

The HUMAN Brain — and Meat?
And we are the only species to have discovered that most of the protein and other nutrients necessary for good health can be harvested exclusively from plants. (With supplements, it can be argued that nutrients can be obtained this way.)

“But we are made to eat meat!” Yes, and we have the physical adaptations to eat plant matter as well. But we are the only species with a pre-frontal cortex (brain region) that allows us to understand that we DON’T HAVE TO eat so much meat, and so more than others nations; that, rather, we COULD HELP ourselves by reducing greenhouse gases (GHGs) instead of the opposite, ie advancing climate change.

One Burger
Further specifics that have been cited in the recent past include 660 GALLONS of water required to produce one,1/3 pound burger. (1)

Animal Agriculture & Climate Change
Lamb (yearling sheep) is close behind beef in use of water and GHG emissions. In fact, animal agriculture — largely due to methane, a more powerful GHG — contributes more overall to Climate Change than all burning of fossil fuels for global transportation. (2)

Chocolate????
Yes, of all foods, it requires the most water to produce: 488 gallons/ounce or 7,816 gallons for a whole pound. (3)

Consider re-considering your diet . . . and gifts. That might be the best gift you could give.

Greg Zahm

———–

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.latimes.com/food/dailydish/la-dd-gallons-of-water-to-make-a-burger-20140124-story.html%3f_amp=true

2
https://www.cowspiracy.com/facts

3
https://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2013/jan/10/how-much-water-food-production-waste

https://www.worldwildlife.org/threats/water-scarcity

https://www.worldvision.org/clean-water-news-stories/global-water-crisis-facts#facts

Zoom invitation: Protecting the Chimney Swifts of Bethlehem (Monday, 12/14, 7PM)

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Let’s boom the Zoom!

Protecting Threatened Chimney Swift Populations
video

“These are the dolphins of the sky. They are magical and happy. And they are just out there cleaning up our skies, removing all these insects that bug the heck out of us.”

———–

Dear Friends of the Swifts,
Below, please find the link to a meeting on Monday, 12/14/20 at 7 pm to discuss the Chimney Swifts of Bethlehem.
Update: The Masonic Lodge is scheduled for demolition in the next 3 months.The developer has agreed to build a chimney swift tower on the property to replace the Masonic Lodge chimney with the help of the community. Scott Burnet, Chairperson of the Habitat Committee of the LV Audubon Society and chimney swift expert, has been in conversation with the developer about the dimensions, construction and location of the chimney swift tower. The developer has consulted with his structural engineer. The plan is to build a 30′ high 5′ square tower out of masonry. Scott Burnet concurs that a tower built out of masonry is better and longer lasting than one built out of wood. The cost is estimated at $20,000.
Goals of our meeting:

Educate all of us about this threatened species–Scott Burnet

Share possible fundraising strategies for the construction of a Chimney Swift Tower at the Masonic Lodge redevelopment site

  1. Individuals
  2. Foundations
  3. Grants

Discuss visions, goals, and strategies for a Bethlehem city-wide effort to Save the Swifts

Jennie Gilrain

———-

Topic: Save the Swifts
Time: Dec 14, 2020 07:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)Join Zoom Meeting
https://lehigh.zoom.us/j/93797804256?pwd=Sms1RU5iUWRvYmVMbVR2NWc2Sk0yQT09
Meeting ID: 937 9780 4256
Passcode: 308441
One tap mobile
+13017158592,,93797804256# US (Washington D.C)
+13126266799,,93797804256# US (Chicago)

“the type of food you eat is the most critical factor in reducing your food footprint”

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Alison Steele is a Liberty High School alum who traveled the world looking for adventure and purpose before finding it in Pittsburgh.  She has made it her mission to help others make more informed decisions around how they interact with people and the planet.

Community Supported Agriculture, Part 3

Processing Food

Several weeks ago when I began researching this topic, I posted a comment on Facebook about how shocked I was to learn about the heavy greenhouse gas footprint of cheese. Judging by the nearly 100 shocked comments from friends in the following days, I was not alone in my ignorance. I have known for years that reducing meat intake is a great way to lower one’s carbon footprint, and that going vegan is even better for the planet. However, I had always seen meat as the biggest factor, with dairy an incremental step.

In addition to learning that cheese was far worse for the environment than chicken or pork, I also learned that local sourcing of food and packaging – some of my biggest factors in ethical food shopping for years – play a relatively tiny role in lowering your carbon footprint. Last year in my meatless meat blog series, I even went so far as to wonder if locally-grown grass-fed beef would have a smaller impact on the environment than soybeans imported from South America. While I noted that additional research would be necessary, my hypothesis could not have been more wrong.

There are definitely benefits to buying local and in-season, and we will look at those in the coming weeks, but it is important to reiterate that the type of food you eat is the most critical factor in reducing your food footprint: cutting out red meat and cheese one day a week will create more of a benefit on that front than buying only local food.

continue on Alison’s blog

Community Supported Agriculture, Part 3

Good reading on the climate emergency on the day our CAP draft comes out!

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Gadfly:
If you are worried about the growing climate emergency (which will kill far more people than the coronavirus), you might want to read these two items:
Peace,
Peter Crownfield

“The suffering of the abused is honored if the abusers and those who follow create something better”

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ref: Recognizing the original inhabitants of this area

Bob Davenport is PA born and raised for 25 years. Now a retired railroad (but not the man at the throttle) Engineer, a CE graduate of Lehigh U,  a Catholic attending daily mass and praying for a better world without apparent success. An optimist.

Gadfly:

Colonialism should be noted; it’s cause is greed; it is the greed that results in abuse.

The basic orientation of humanity needs to be modified in order to find something in remotely resembling a solution to greed.  The selfishness of “me” needs to be converted into a selfishness for “us” where “us” transforms into a larger and larger group to ultimately include all.  Christianity address this as do other religions and possibly some atheistic styles.

Education, beginning in the family, needs to create this beneficial transformation for each individual.  If families are undervalued and moral education is rejected changes only make things worse.  Programs and initiatives result in division rather than points of emphasis for discussion and improvement.

Righteous indignation is appropriate but basic individual change is required not specific reparative programs.  One of these actions is easy, one takes some work and the other is impossible but needs to be undertaken to make real progress.

The suffering of the abused is honored if the abusers and those who follow create something better, something that is required by justice.  Making America Great is an ongoing demand of our checkered history; it’s not a political pitch but a moral imperative.

Bob

Recognizing the Original Inhabitants of This Area

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Recognizing the Original Inhabitants of This Area

We are located in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley, a small part of what was Lenni-Lenape territory for over 10,000 years. We understand that the Lenape were friendly and accommodating—until the settlers gradually, and often violently, forced them out. We acknowledge the injustice and mistreatment indigenous people faced (and still face) as a result of colonialism.

Support

Museum of Indian Culture
2825 Fish Hatchery Road, Allentown, PA 18103
Email: info@museumofindianculture  Phone: 610-797-2121

Recognizing the Original Inhabitants of This Area

Latest in a series of posts on the environment

Recognizing the Original Inhabitants of This Area

We are located in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley, a small part of what was Lenni-Lenape territory for over 10,000 years. We understand that the Lenape were friendly and accommodating—until the settlers gradually, and often violently, forced them out. We acknowledge the injustice and mistreatment indigenous people faced (and still face) as a result of colonialism.

Recognizing the Original Inhabitants of This Area

Latest in a series of posts on the environment

Recognizing the Original Inhabitants of This Area

We are located in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley, a small part of what was Lenni-Lenape territory for over 10,000 years. We understand that the Lenape were friendly and accommodating—until the settlers gradually, and often violently, forced them out. We acknowledge the injustice and mistreatment indigenous people faced (and still face) as a result of colonialism.

“Examining the total impact of any product involves a deep look into all of the resources used in production, transportation, use, and disposal”

Latest in a series of posts on the environment

Alison Steele is a Liberty High School alum who traveled the world looking for adventure and purpose before finding it in Pittsburgh.  She has made it her mission to help others make more informed decisions around how they interact with people and the planet.

Community Supported Agriculture, Part 2

In last week’s post we talked about the idea that buying local is the best way to help the environment. The United Nations even recommends it as a way to lower your carbon footprint. There are definite benefits of buying local, and we will cover those in this series, but lowering the transportation footprint of your food is not the biggest-impact decision you can make.

Life Cycle Analysis

Examining the total impact of any product involves a deep look into all of the resources used in production, transportation, use, and disposal. It is a complex process that involves a lot of data and/or assumptions. When I was in grad school, we had access to an incredibly sophisticated (and I’m sure incredibly expensive) Life Cycle Analysis software that would really come in handy for this blog. (Santa, if you’re reading this post, you know what to bring me for Christmas!)

Organizations with access to vast quantities of data to analyze on this subject can look at several stages of food production and their individual impacts. The website Our World in Data specifically examines the following . . .

  • Land Use Change: aboveground changes in biomass from deforestation, and belowground changes in soil carbon
  • Farm: methane emissions from cows, rice, etc.; emissions from fertilizers, manure, and farm machinery
  • Animal Feed: on-farm emissions from crop production and its processing into feed for livestock
  • Processing: emissions from energy use in the process of converting raw agricultural products into final food items
  • Transport: emissions from energy use in the transport of food items in-country and internationally
  • Retail: emissions from energy use in refrigeration and other retail processes
  • Packaging: emissions from the production of packaging materials, material transport, and end-of-life disposal

continue on Alison’s blog

Community Supported Agriculture, Part 2

Just out: the fall “Sustainable Lehigh Valley”

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Sustainable Lehigh Valley

About the cover drawing – ‘Fragile Beauty’, by artist Tara Zrinski:

“The gentle entanglement of vines and grass form an image that is both beautiful and fragile. At any moment, a single strand could be pulled to unravel what has been crafted and crowned with and silenced by a single rose. Yet, if you look long enough and the features of the intense stare, a delicate nose and strong jaw line subtly reveal thevulnerability of beauty.” —Tara Zrinski

 

As we prepare this edition, the world continues to face several inter-related existential challenges. The Covid-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc throughout the world, and
has killed over 250,000 people in the United States alone, revealing many serious weaknesses and inequities in our country’s healthcare system. Throughout the spring and summer, we also saw examples of institutionalized racism and police brutality in one city after another, including the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Climate change and environmental degradation continue unchecked. While less dramatic than the pandemic, climate change will actually have a much higher death toll; unfortunately, too many powerful people continue to deny or disregard the disastrous outcomes on people and ecosystems. As is true in so many situations, these challenges are complicated by the fact that solutions to one problem also affect the others. In Tara Zrinski’s note on the cover drawing, she pointed out that ‘The gentle entanglement . . . is both beautiful and fragile’—and the same can be said for the naturally-interwoven and interdependent strands of sustainability! A key step in addressing these problems is to recognize the devastating impact on individuals and to take the time to learn about them and become inspired to take action. We hope the ideas and ideals expressed in this booklet provide some inspiration to at least partially offset the existential crises that threaten us and future generations. the Editors

Sustainable Lehigh Valley