I’ve always had a slight obsession with the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident. I remember in middle school singing my own version of Little Bunny Foo Foo that involved the sudden nuclear accident and a mutated bunny. Of course mutated animals have never been found in the disaster zone, either because such mutations just don’t happen or because such horribly compromised animals didn’t last long and their evidence was never found.
Chernobyl fictions (and nuclear ones in general) persist. Back in 2004 stories of a motorcycle riding girl speeding through the radioactive zones spread across the net (myself included). Chernobyl tour guides accuse the author, Elena Filatova, of fabricating the motorcycle rides. Apparently she went on a regular tour with a motorcycle helmet in hand and posed for pictures. It’s also highly questionable that anyone would risk racing a motorcycle across the broken and poorly maintained asphalt in the exclusion zone.
Anyway, much of my new found interest comes from reading the book Wormwood Forest: A Natural History of Chernobyl by Mary Mycio. It’s an in-depth account of the aftermath of Chernobyl, focusing on the natural impact on plants, animals, waterways and more. Sometimes the scientific details were a little too in-depth.
But I did learn one major thing from the book: Life goes on after a disaster. We find ways to carry on, reasons to continue, in spite of incredible odds.
The primary example is the wildlife that’s now exploding in the 30-mile exclusion zone around Chernobyl. Endangered species are thriving. A nearly extinct species of wild horse now has several herds in the zone. It’s a migratory stopover for birds and creating viable habitat for all kinds of animals: elk, moose, roe deer, wolves, boar, foxes, beaver, horses and more.
Many of them are highly radioactive. Which means hunting and fishing are prohibited. And that’s giving some of these animals a better chance than they’ve had before. Nobody knows the extend of radiation damage on these animals, but in the big picture radiation is far less of a threat than humanity. In the exclusion zone where people are limited and vast stretches of open reserve land are available to the animals, nature is thriving. Despite the risk of radiation.
Perhaps a less encouraging example of life carrying on after a disaster is the fact that the Chernobyl power plant itself didn’t just shut down after the 1986 accident when the fourth reactor exploded. I never knew this, but apparently reactors 1-3 remained in use until they were decommissioned in 2000. Chernobyl was generating a huge chunk of energy for the Soviet Union and they couldn’t (or wouldn’t) afford to shut it down. When faced with getting their energy from fossil fuel sources, the Ukraine government balked and allowed the three remaining reactors to keep on running.
Sometimes our reasons for carrying on in the face of disaster are a little less inspiring.
But life finds a way.
(Photo by VOA Photo / D. Markosian)
Next year Minnesota will be voting on a constitutional amendment to define marriage as only between one man and one woman (and if you can’t guess, we’re deeply divided).
That means in addition to the typical presidential year politics, Minnesota will be having a knock down, drag out fight over gay marriage. I’m not looking forward to this one.
It means we’ll be hearing all sorts of arguments that seem to have nothing to do with one another. Gay marriage advocates will argue for civil rights. Traditional marriage proponents will argue to preserve marriage and the family. And you’re left scratching your head, wondering what civil rights has to do with the sanctity of marriage. Both sides will the think the other is crazy and our already polarized society will get even further apart.
Which brings us to Kim Kardashian and her 72-day marriage (Sidebar: I love it when Kardashian appears on How I Met Your Mother and Marshall makes a comment about how his wife keeps telling him why Kardashian is famous, but he can’t remember). Perhaps part of why the gay marriage debate depresses me is because we sit around and argue about whether or not gay people who love each other and are committed can get married, how that act is somehow going to ruin other peoples’ marriage, how marriage is supposedly all about children—and in the midst of all that half of marriages end in divorce and the celebrity spectacle machine celebrates a sham of a marriage that couldn’t even last three months.
Marriage is certainly under fire. But it has little to do with homosexuality.
Whatever side of this debate you’re on you probably value the idea of marriage. Maybe instead of clubbing each other for the next year, we should support that idea of marriage. Maybe we should help couples figure out if they’re really ready for marriage. Maybe we should help married couples in trouble navigate the relational rocks that lead to divorce. I have no delusions that divorce isn’t necessary, but I think most people would agree that fewer divorces would be better.
On Sunday the Mudula Mamas competed in a triathlon in Dallas and raised more than $50,000 for clean water in Mudula, Ethiopia. All three of the Mudula Mamas are mothers of children born in Mudula and the money will provide one-third of the total funding needed for the Mudula Water project.
You can see pictures and learn more about the Mudula Mamas on the Facebook page, which thanks to this effort went from something like a few dozen fans to more than 800 (it sure helps when some kind souls offer to donate $1 per ‘like’).
Thanks to everybody who donated and helped spread the word. I’ve been a little too busy to really get behind some charity efforts in the past year or so, and while I didn’t even do that much for this effort, it’s encouraging to see people give in support of clean water in Ethiopia.
When Milo gets older and starts asking questions about Ethiopia I want him to know that we still care about his homeland. That’s why I get involved in projects like this.
Today is Meskel. What’s Meskel? It’s an Ethiopian religious festival celebrating the discovery of the “true cross” in the fourth century. They celebrate by dancing, feasting and lighting huge bonfires.
The legends associated with the true cross are kind of bizarre, but this is my favorite snippet:
According to the Ethiopian legend, when people get close to the piece of the True Cross it made them naked by its powerful light. Because of this, a decision was made to bury it at the mountain of Gishen Mariam monastery in Wollo region.
It’s a big event in Ethiopia and if you search Twitter for “Meskel” you’ll get a taste for how people celebrate. There are indeed massive bonfires, good food and not all the celebrations are in Ethiopia.
We’re celebrating with the Mudula Mamas—three moms of children born in Mudula, Ethiopia, who are running a triathlon this weekend—by raising money for clean water through Mudula Water. Today we’re doing a Meskel Match. If we can raise $1,500 today we’ll match it. Will you help us celebrate Meskel and donate?
Update: We’ve raised more than $1,800 today and scored the $1,500 match. That’s more than $3,000 for clean water in one day! And that puts us that much closer to scoring the extra $8,000 from Janus. Thanks for your support and continue to cheer the Mudula Mamas on. They race on Sunday and will keep raising support through Saturday at noon. Melkam Meskel!
Three moms of children born in Mudula, Ethiopia (also in Southern Ethiopia where Milo was born), are competing in a triathlon in Dallas on Sunday, Oct. 2 to raise money for Mudula Water, a clean water project. They’re also part of the Janus Charity Challenge where the top fundraisers earn extra cash for their charity (up to $8,000!).
You can read more about it and donate here.
These inspiring moms are racing for water and racing for life (one of the moms was profiled here). This area of Ethiopia is experiencing a drought and feeling the impacts of the current famine. It’s hard to ignore and this is an easy way to help.
That’s the basics of what’s happening, but there are also several efforts going to help these Mudula Mamas raise more money and score that extra $8,000 for clean water.
I’m getting personally involved as well. I helped edit the copy on the donate page, I’m advising on the social media aspects of the campaign, we’re pitching in (a tiny bit) on the matching fund below and I’m donating my book profits. Will you join me? Here are three simple ways you can help:
1. All You Have to Do is Click
The first effort is the easy one. All you have to do is click. A number of people have offered to donate $1 to the Mudula Mamas efforts for every ‘like’ on various Facebook pages:
All you have to do is visit the pages above and click ‘like’ at the top. Simple.
These are all small, grassroots groups that care about Ethiopia and fighting poverty. I’m sure there’s a practical limit to how much each challenge is willing to donate (I know for one of them it’s over $1,000!), but let’s make them sweat. ;-)
2. Meskel Match
Sept. 27 is the celebration of Meskel in Ethiopia, so we’re celebrating with the Meskel Match. If we can get $1,500 in donations on Tuesday, we’ll match it. Donate on Tuesday, Sept. 27 and help us bring in an extra $1,500 for clean water in Mudula.
Update: We raised well over $1,500 on Tuesday and scored the matching grant. Thank you! That’s a huge shot in the arm towards getting the extra $8,000 from Janus.
3. Buy My Book
Many of you have heard me talk about clean water before. It’s an important issue and it was the center of my book, Addition by Adoption. For the rest of this week I’ll donate all the profits from my book to the Mudula Mamas. I make $3.84 per copy sold on Amazon and usually donate $2 of that to charity: water, but for this week we’ll send it all to Mudula Water (I think Scott Harrison will understand). There are two ways to buy:
The Regular Approach:
Buy it from Amazon – Cost: $9.99 – $3.84 goes to Mudula.
The Save More, Give More Approach:
Buy it from CreateSpace – Cost: $8.99 (with coupon code “TARZGB88″ for $1 off) – $4.84 goes to Mudula.
(CreateSpace is run by Amazon, so it’s legit, you just don’t get the benefit of using your Amazon gift card, shipping deals, etc.)
Note: My book came out more than a year ago and sales have really fallen off. So don’t think this is some super generous effort on my part. I expect we’ll sell maybe one or two copies. Go ahead and prove me wrong.
Help the Mudula Mamas
Will you join me in helping these inspiring moms bring clean water to Mudula, Ethiopia? Donate now.
Everything I did today feels like folly when I look through that fence at Bashir, a little boy on the outside looking in, waiting for famine to claim him.
What are we to do in response to little Abdifatah?
Abdifatah is a victim of the famine in the Horn of Africa. They’re calling it the worst drought in 60 years.
My wife teaches in a school full of Somali children, many of them named Abdifatah (it’s a fairly common name, like John in the U.S.). Most, if not all, of her kids have family back in Somalia.
While famine has been officially declared in parts of Somalia, the crisis extends into Ethiopia and Kenya. Much of Southern Ethiopia, where my son Milo was born, is in a state of crisis or emergency. Families are starving.
But that feels so insignificant as I turn back to my own worries, which all seem insane after looking into Abdifatah’s vacant eyes.
I’ve talked about clean water a lot, so it should be no surprise that I’m loving Clean Water for Elirose. It’s a children’s book explaining to kids what it’s like to not have clean water that comes out of the tap. It’s written by a fellow Twin Citizen, Ariah Fine, and the book itself supports clean water.
Right now a Kickstarter campaign is wrapping up that has so far raised nearly $4,000 of a $3,500 goal to enable cheaper publishing of the book so it can help more folks. Ariah is not only raising money himself for clean water, but he’s enabling other people to raise money. If you want to support the project, $3 gets you a copy of the book. If that’s not a good enough deal, you can donate $100 and get 50 copies. Perfect for your own water-generating fundraiser.
It’s a great little project and you can even read the book online. Check it out and support it. They’ve already hit the goal, but more help is even better.
Lately I’ve been doing writing for the blog of HalogenTV, a cable channel focused on social good. Tonight they’re doing a special slate of programming on human trafficking called Slavery Sucks. In the run up to tonight we’ve been doing a lot of human trafficking stories on the blog. Here’s a quick list:
It’s an overwhelming issue, but it’s one that demands justice. I’ve also been reading David Batstone’s Not For Sale: The Return of the Global Slave Trade—and How We Can Fight It, which is empowering as it is eye-opening.