Christmas gifts for the environmentalist in your life

Christmas gifts for the environmentalist in your life

Certainly, this Christmas season will be far different from what we are used to seeing. We might be doing more of our shopping online to avoid contracting COVID-19. Large family get-togethers are becoming out of the question, and traveling is now problematic as each state has different COVID-19 quarantine requirements.

Since many people are sheltering in place, restaurants and small shops are seeing declines in their profits. Traditionally, gift cards for these venues have been good gifts. Their purchase will help these struggling companies, even though their use may have to be postponed until the pandemic is past. Because it’s often hard to know what other gifts to purchase for family and friends, I will make a few suggestions for outdoor and eco gifts for your loved ones.

I love to hike and I walk every day, but I find as I get older, my knees are not as resilient as they used to be, especially when going down steep declines. A friend of mine uses trekking poles or hiking staffs.

These resemble cross-country ski poles and are made of high-strength carbon. Many are collapsible for ease of transportation. Their prices range from $50-$200, and they can be ordered from several different companies. I asked Santa for a pair for me.

Another gift for outdoor lovers is a good pair of binoculars. I am an avid bird watcher and star gazer. As my vision gets worse with age, my binoculars have become a constant companion when I hike or star gaze.

Some binoculars can be augmented with cameras that allow you to take close-up photographs. I have read several reviews in bird-watching groups that say these combo devices are not great at producing clear photos. So as another option, buy a digital camera for your bird-watching friend to take along with his/her binoculars.

Many people now wear a watch/fitness tracker on their wrists. These have become extremely popular with exercise enthusiasts. I have one that also alerts me to email and Facebook messages. In addition to tracking your steps, measuring your sleep and timing your work-outs, these trackers also provide valuable health information that has in some cases saved lives.

One wearer noticed he had an irregular heartbeat from his fitness data. Tests revealed an 85% blockage in his heart. Five serious conditions a tracker could help detect are heart disease, atrial fibrillation, kidney disease, diabetes and cancer.

If you know a camper who wants another way to cook meals besides a fire pit, you might try purchasing a Solar Oven. These ovens also can be used for preparing foods at home. I recently received one as a birthday gift.

It took three months to get mine because they were on back-order. I have cooked chili, soups, scalloped potatoes and a few other casseroles in mine. It has a temperature gauge and also will bake breads and cookies and dehydrate foods.

My oven is the “All American Sun Oven.” It can be folded to resemble a suitcase, and it only takes a few minutes to set up and position to optimize the sun’s rays for cooking. On sunny fall days, my oven has reached 300 F in less than 10 minutes. On sunny summer days, the oven can reach temperatures up to 400 F. It’s made in the USA and weighs 22 pounds.

If you need a less pricey gift for your eco or outdoor friends, including children, a book is a good option. My all-time favorite children’s book is “The Lorax” by Dr. Seuss. The main characters include an “industrialist” named the Once-ler, who is only concerned with profits and the stock market, and the Lorax, who is a short, mustached environmentalist who “speaks for the trees.” The message is simple: Needless over-consumption destroys ecosystems and causes pollution.

Another great series of children’s books is about bats, written and illustrated by Brian Lies. He takes us along as his bat families explore the beach at night, visit a library, attend a baseball game and play in a band.

The pictures are priceless, and the stories appeal to both young and old alike. My granddaughters loved these books as they learned facts about bats through the wonderful illustrations and text.

If there is a deer hunter in your family, he or she might enjoy the well-researched examination of deer issues across the USA in Richard Nelson’s “Heart and Blood; Living with Deer in America.”

The author takes us across the country from New England to the western states. He explains how humans have contributed to the enormous increases in deer populations. He blames our killing off of their natural predators like wolves and our urbanization of rural areas as the main causes for the population increases.

If there is a poetry lover on your list, a recently published book titled “OYO, The Beautiful River: An environmental narrative in two parts” by Mark B. Hamilton might be a great choice. I was recently gifted a copy by the author. He includes poetry based on his travels along the Ohio River. The poems are both heartwarming and sad, telling both a cultural and environmental history of the good, bad and ugly of the Ohio River.

If there is a go-to book for budding birdwatchers, it is “The Sibley Guide to Birds.” My copy never makes it back into the book case. The book covers most major species in America including waterfowl. It is easy to use and is invaluable when trying to identify a new bird.

If you want to understand the complex issues around climate change, Peter Kalmus does an excellent job of explaining the science in his book, “Being the Change: Live well and spark a climate revolution.”

The book also includes ways to make changes in your lifestyle to address the problems and covers topics like food, mass transit and reconnecting to nature. He makes the argument for changing our lives from constant consumption to lives lived more purposefully. It is a journey we must take to sustain our planet.

Finally, the best-selling environmental book of the century, Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring,” is a must-read for everyone regardless of your mindset on environmentalism. Long after her death from breast cancer, she continues to inspire people to re-examine their impact on the natural world.

There is no “better living through chemistry” as DuPont once wanted us all to believe. Instead, our blind reliance on chemicals to solve every problem has negatively affected us and millions of other species on the planet.

Last but not least, the gift of time spent with a loved one is invaluable. While we might have to wait to be with our friends, a simple card with a promise of a picnic or a trip to the woods in better times is priceless.

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