111. Splish Splash, I Was Takin’ a Bath

Earth Suds is an eco-friendly startup whose goal is to eliminate all single-use plastic amenity bottles (containing shampoo, conditioner and bodywash) and replace them with sustainable tablets that dissolve and lather like traditional soaps.

Although EarthSuds tablets started as a solution for hotels, the tablets are now being offered to the general public.

I first tried their Starter Pack, containing 5 tablets each of their shampoo, conditioner and body soap. More than satisfied, I went back for more of their shampoo and conditioner. I also ordered their larger (and reusable) travel case.

The tablets are not inexpensive, which stops me from using them on a regular basis. Still, they will be a forever item while traveling.

It’s a simple product with huge ramifications.
The simple part: Crush the tablet, then along with a small bit of water, work up a nice lather in your hands, then wash like any other liquid soap.
The huge ramifications: Earth Suds have the potential to eliminate the 5.7 billion amenity bottles sent to landfills every year in North America alone.


Earth Suds was named a top 10 global finalist in the National Geographic Ocean Plastic Innovation Challenge.

The product achieves all three dimensions of sustainability:
economically it generates and re-invests profits,
socially it employs adults with developmental disabilitie,
and environmentally it eliminates single-use plastics.

RUNNING LIST OF ITEMS
purchased in preparation for the Kenya/Uganda trip
(some I may use again, some probably not)

96. Is It Really a Happy Anniversary?

Today marks the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day.

For the occasion, National Geographic created its first-ever “flip” issue – essentially two magazines in one.
With an eye on the today’s world environment, National Geographic examines the trajectory of The Earth’s health 50 years into the future. Half of the magazine’s pages present a hopeful scenario, while half lay out a truly dark destiny.

The editors refer to this issue as “magazines of divergent realities.”

National Geographic magazine cover (back and front), April 2020

One side celebrates the optimistic view of Planet Earth’s future health in which the peoples of the world have harnessed technologies to feed a larger population, provide energy for all, prevent the extinction of plants and animals and start reversing climate change.

Spirit-lifting articles and stunning images tell of the ingenuity and persistence used to find innovative solutions to the planet’s biggest problems.

There are several pages devoted to introducing a generation of conservationists who are set to take up the environmental torch.

Progress seems inevitable.


When the reader turns the magazine over, a Dooms Day view is presented. There are stories of the flooding of Venice and low-lying U.S. coastal cities, massive fires that wipe out entire towns, longer droughts, deadlier heat waves, disappearing species, and scared, strip-mined landscapes.

Source: National Geographic
One of several “super pit cluster” coal mines in Australia. It operates 365 days a year. The owner is considering expansion.
The Golden Crowned Crane is one of the animals we are destine to lose forever.




Humans are changing the planet – and not always for the good.

Questions remain.
How far have we come to date?
How far can we go?
Is it already too late?

So, is it really a happy anniversary?

92. My Land is Kenya

According to a not too recent Weekend Edition on NPR, Kenyans are crazy about country music.
They enjoy songs from the 70s and 80s best, and are particularly fond of Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers.
As much as you’re apt to hear Patsy Cline, Crystal Gayle and Vince Gill playing in the local bars,
Kenyans don’t follow U.S. country singers exclusively.

Source: pangesprogressedux, Roger Whittaker – My Land is Kenya, YouTube (Time: 3:55)

“My Land is Kenya,” by Nairobi-born folk artist Roger Whittaker, makes even the young hip-hop crowd stand a little bit taller. (If you take time to watch and listen to the video, you’ll note that his signature whistling skills come through loud and clear.)

The song isn’t in danger of becoming a hit in my house anytime soon,
but it does have some nice lines:

“My land is Kenya, so warm and wild and green.
You’ll always stay with me here in my heart.
My land is Kenya, right from your highlands to the sea.
You’ll always stay with me here in my heart, here in my heart.”
(Whittaker. Roger Whittaker in Kenya: A Musical Safari, 1982)

Try not to compare it to Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land,” and just think of it as a musical warmup to today’s rather boring topic.


My Land is Kenya
and it’s covered with more than savanna grasslands.

Source: Quartz Africa

FORESTLANDS

Kenya Forest



While providing habitats for animals and livelihoods for humans, forests also offer watershed protection, prevent soil erosion and mitigate climate change.

Sadly, Kenya is still allowing its forests to disappear.
From 1990 to 2015, forest cover declined by 25%.

CROPLANDS

Croplands in Kenya





Agricultural cropland refers to that share of land suited for crops where there is no need to replant after harvest (e.g. coffee, rubber, fruit trees, etc.). Cropland has increased exponentially in the last 25 years.

WETLANDS

The Kenyan wetlands are resources of great economic, cultural and scientific value.

Wetlands provide critical habitats for a wide range of flora and fauna, including a large number of aquatic plants, resident and migratory birds, fish, and herbivores. 

Wetlands are areas of great scenic beauty. They are a tourist attraction, form important recreation sites for game and birds watching, swimming, photography and sailing.




They’re important sources of water for human consumption, agriculture and the watering of livestock. They recharge wells and springs that are often the only source of water to some rural communities.

GRASSLANDS


Savanna grasslands are found where rainfall between 20-50 inches is concentrated into a few months.

Kenya’s rainy season is March-May and September–October, with long periods of drought in between.
Once it rains in March, the grasses grow very rapidly, sometimes as much as an inch a day. Lots of animals are born at this time. In a good rainy season, there’s plenty of food for animals like the antelope, and mothers will have plenty of milk for their young.

SETTLEMENTS

In Kenya there are only three incorporated cities but there are numerous municipalities and towns with significant urban populations.

NAIROBI, THE CAPITAL CITY

Source: Text and image provided by the Kenya Embassy in Belgium

Nairobi, the capital city of the Republic has grown from a simple Uganda Railway construction camp to a modern center of commercial, financial, manufacturing and tourist destination in eastern Africa.

It replaced Mombasa as Kenya’s capital in 1907 and became a city in 1950. Today, the city population stands at about 4 million. Both the Great North Road (Cairo to Cape Town) and the Trans-African Highway (Mombasa to Lagos) pass through the city.

MOMBASA

Source: Text and image provided by the Kenya Embassy in Belgium

Mombasa is the second largest city in the country, with a population of about 600,000. It is the official gateway to the country by sea. It has a history dating back to more than 2,000 years, when the Persians, Arabs, Greeks and Romans visited the East African Coast and carried out trade between the Coast and the Mediterranean Lands.

It is built on what was formerly an island, separated from the mainland by a narrow channel until a causeway was built at the beginning of this century, connecting the island with the mainland. Tourists come to Mombasa Island to enjoy its calm beauty, once described by Winston Churchill (1908) as “alluring and delicious”.

65. Wangari’s Story

“In Unbowed, A Memoir, 2004 Nobel Prize winner Wangari Maathai recounts her extraordinary journey from her childhood in rural Kenya to the world stage.” 
It was, by no means, an easy journey.

Maathai was an inspirational, hard working woman (driven, actually), who set out to correct the effects brought about by prejudice, inequality and ecological destruction in her native Kenya.

Much of the book covers the conflicts resulting from environmental devastation – how it started and why it continued. Maathai recounts her efforts to fight a corrupt government bent on scaring her country, both through ecological destruction and gender discrimination. She was punished for her actions. Yet, despite her many trials in life, she remained unbowed, believing that what she could not overcome, she could at least get past.


More books! Share one or two of these with a short person you know.
The illustrations alone will make it worth your while.


What does the following art project really have to do with anything I’ll be doing or seeing on safari?
Well, it sort of has to do with Kenya stuff. Sort of.

I stumbled upon this Teachers Pay Teachers art project while searching for material on Wangari Maathai and thought it might be of some use to someone during our Time of Social Distancing.
It’s a wonderful project with excellent instructions. The hardest part is gathering all the materials before you begin.

62. Wangari Maathai, Mother of Trees

Wangarĩ Muta Maathai (1940 – 2011) was a renowned Kenyan social, environmental and political activist. She became the first African woman, and the first environmentalist, to win the Nobel Peace Prize. It was awarded for her contribution in the field of sustainable development, democracy and peace.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee wrote, “Peace on earth depends on our ability to secure our living environment. Maathai stands at the front of the fight to promote ecologically viable social, economic and cultural development in Kenya and in Africa. She has taken a holistic approach to sustainable development that embraces democracy, human rights and women’s rights in particular. She thinks globally and acts locally.”

More than most others, Maathai recognized the connection between the health of the land and the health of the people.

In 1977, she founded the Green Belt Movement (GBM) in response to the needs of rural Kenyan women who reported the streams were drying up, food supplies were less secure, and firewood for fuel and fencing was becoming more scarce.

GBM encourages women to work together (while receiving a small monetary token for their work) to grow seedlings and plant trees to bind the soil, store rainwater and provide food and firewood.

Maathai’s work in this area eventually earned her the nickname “Mama Mici” or Mother of Trees.

“If you destroy the forest,” Maathai said, “then the river will stop flowing, the rains will become irregular, the crops will fail and you will die of hunger and starvation …. Planting trees breaks the cycle. When we can give ourselves food, firewood, and help to nurture soil for planting and clean water, then we begin to roll poverty back” 

23. Sticking to the Buyback Plan

Despite the difficulties encountered by some well regarded offsetting groups, I am completing my carbon buyback commitment today by covering my flight from Amsterdam to Nairobi and the return from Entebbe back to Amsterdam.

The “Gold Standard,” a classification backed by the United Nations and dozens of environmental groups, sets necessarily rigorous regulatory standards for carbon offsetting projects. It follows, therefore, that meeting those standards is not easily accomplished. Many companies who sell offsets have been exposed for intentional fraud, while reputable organizations struggle with finding projects that can attain the strict Gold Standard of quality.
One study shows that a number of effective offset programs had no real impact because they were scheduled to have been implemented even without offset funding.

Only 58% of Kenyans have access to clean drinking water
On August 24, 2019, an offset program celebrated the opening of a solar desalination system in Burani, Kenya.



So, why continue with the buybacks?

Even with such discouraging reports, I will complete my earlier commitment to help fund potentially successful projects. If the legit projects go up in smoke (pardon the polluting expression), then I shall hold on to the fact that even failure may teach us something.

Tomorrow I may say, “Not one penny more,” but not today.

20. Tackling the Travel Trash

I heard or read this travel tip just lately, but can’t remember where.

It addressed how to deal with the candy wrappers you remove from snacks you brought onto a flight, the used tissues you accumulated when you had that sneezing fit over the Atlantic, and the coffee cup you didn’t hand back to the steward because you hadn’t quite finished your coffee yet.

I stuff all my flight trash in the elastic pocket on the seat in front of me. I try to be as neat about it as possible, but honestly, that pocket can get a little disgusting after hours on an international flight.


A tipster suggested bringing a plastic bag to use as a wastebasket, and when you depart, take the bag with you and dump it into the nearest trash bin as you make your way to the luggage carousel. I don’t know why I’d never thought of it before.

Plastic trash bags are no longer allowed in Kenya (Thank, God!), so I’ll be taking a few small recycled gift bags to use on each leg of my flight to and from Africa.

Nice for the Earth’s environment in general.
Nice for my immediate environment on the plane.
Nice for the custodial staff that services the plane’s cabin after touchdown.

17. Kenya and Locusts – Yikes!

Knowing that I’m planning a trip to Kenya, my friend Robin sent me a link to an article in The Guardian (Jan. 25, 2020):
Kenya suffers worst locust infestation in 70 years as millions of insects swarm farmland
The enormity of the infestation, the pitifully few solutions to end the problem quickly, and the damage already done to the lands are of biblical proportions.

Source: New York Post, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Telegraph

East African nations that are already experiencing a dangerous shortage of food are now witnessing large areas of their crops destroyed.
The United Nations has called for international aid to “avert any threats to food security, livelihoods, and malnutrition”.

If reading The Guardian’s description of the effects of the plague didn’t give you the willies, then try watching this video. It’s a segment from BBC’s Planet Earth, posted on YouTube two years ago. The stars of this video are the same nasty buggers that are plaguing Kenya right now.

Source: Associated Press

The Associated Press explains one of the reasons why this is happening
How climate change feeds Africa locust invasion.”

Is anyone surprised?

3. To Offset or Not to Offset

Funded projects: construction of small hydroelectric generators in Honduras, cleaner stoves in Rwanda, electricity generation from mustard crop residues in India

Carbon offsets offer a way to balance out your pollution by investing in projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere. They’re a form of trade. When you buy an offset, you fund projects that reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in direct proportion to the amount of GHG you’re creating while in flight. It doesn’t really matter where GHG reductions take place, just as long as fewer emissions enter the atmosphere.

Critics of carbon offsetting say that spending to offset emissions merely allows polluters to feel better about their emissions and discourages working to reduce them. I must admit, it does feel a bit like a papal dispensation. Still, I am going on safari, and I’m not going to swim to Africa to do it. I’m going to fly. Offsetting my carbon emissions by supporting the right projects is better than doing nothing.

I’ll be purchasing offsets.