All posts by neese01

You Had Me at “No Chocolate or Coffee”!

Pollinators are My Passion (in case you haven’t noticed)

If you’ve read my previous blog posts or have spent more than five minutes speaking with me you know that I am obsessed with native prairies, pollinators, and preaching the gospel of having a pollinator friendly lawn. I began adding native plants to my yard around six to seven years ago and took my first step at restoring a portion of my backyard to a native prairie three years ago.

        Starting with the day I planted my first native plants, I’ve noticed more pollinators in my yard – last year their population had progressed to a point where I became a certified butterfly counter. This spring things have ramped up even more: with barely anything blooming yet I’ve counted five butterfly species and seven different bee species so far. Did I mention birds? They’re pollinators as well (as are bats, moths, flies, ants, wasps, and even some smaller mammals) and over the past two weeks there has been far more bird activity in my yard then any year in the past (you mean that if plant a habitat that attracts food for them, the birds come to eat it?). One thing I’m very excited about is that while I’ve had Monarch caterpillars in the past, this is the first year I’ve actually found Monarch chrysalides.

“But What Do They Do”?

The previous two paragraphs aren’t what this post is about. When someone asks me why I’m so into these things I can go on about the decline of our pollinator populations, the eradication of their natural habitats, and how all of it circles back to climate change. But just yesterday I had a small epiphany when I was showing my neighbor’s granddaughter the new chrysalides (hey – I looked it up and it is the plural form) on the side of my house. She looked up at me, said they were pretty and asked me why it was important. I launched into one of my patented lectures. When I was done she stared at me and asked, “but what do they do”?

It was then I realized the important step I’ve been leaving out of my discussions: just how much do we depend on pollinators? Two great resources for this type of information are pollinator.org and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Feel free to explore their sites when you have time. Meanwhile, here are a few basics to know about pollinators and what they do for our world:

  • Approximately 75-80% of all flowering plants require pollinators to assist them in the pollination process. No pollinators = none of these plants.
  • 75% of our crops are dependent on pollinators as well.
  • To put it a bit more dramatically, one out of three bites of ALL food you consume exists due to pollinators.
  • People ask, isn’t there an alternative for pollinators in the pollinator process? No, in the majority of all examples the crop in question requires manual pollination and it is often from a very specific type of pollinator.
  • Pollinators are responsible for $217 billion dollars of the world’s economy.
  • Without them, there would be NO CHOCOLATE or COFFEE!!

It took a five-year-old to make me realize that I was missing one of the core parts of my argument with people on why pollinator habitats and pollinator friendly lawns are import. You know, the “why they matter” part. To test my theory on how presenting this information may help my cause, I just called my uber smart twelve-year-old and her two friends up to the office and asked if we could talk about pollinators. My daughter was quick to go into how important it is to plant places for them to live and give them food because there aren’t that many left in the world (their decline in population is a whole other blog post). When asked if any of them knew why pollinators are so important it was all blank faces. We did a quick review of the bullet points above and I could really see the light bulbs going off in their minds when they heard “no more chocolate”.

Lesson learned – and it’s a very basic one – we all need a personal reason why we should care about something before we are told how to do care about something.

(Oh yeah…I almost forgot my previous vow to be more random, so please enjoy this lovely photo of part of my tiki-themed bathroom…)

#5: People Who Take Life too Seriously are No Fun to Be Around

[Before we get started, enjoy this lovely photo of a gnome holding a tiny frog while standing guard over a mushroom:]

One thing I’ve always prided my self on is that I’M the fun one – the one that brings life to the party and lightens the mood. Almost to a fault. While I’ve never viewed myself as the class clown, I do believe that everyone else is far to serious and it’s up to me to bring them down to a base level of life’s little pleasures.

Or so I thought until this past Saturday. [But before we get to that, enjoy this photo of a cute cat sleeping:]

View this post on Instagram

This is my kitten, Cookie. She likes to nap.

A post shared by Neeseclass (@neeseclass) on

Back to this past Saturday – I was at my daughter’s latest swim meet. As vice president of the club, whenever I am at an event there’s a non-stop flow of parents asking questions about everything (most of which are on our team website). I was sitting next to another dad who is a close friend of mine. When the meet was almost over he turned and asked if I was okay. I asked why, and he said that he had noticed over recent months that I was cheering for the kids less and being crabby and complaining more. Me? No way. Then, on the way out, one of the swimblings (as the younger siblings of the swimmers have come to be known) asked if I had any candy and I about snapped her head off (I’m known as the “candy guy” because I always bring it to meets to share with everyone). Well, I made her cry…not on purpose, but it made me stop and think a little. Not too much though; until the next day – Father’s Day by the way – when my daughter mentioned we don’t do cool stuff as much and she just wanted to go and kick the ball in the street with me. Hold on, was I becoming the no-fun way too serious guy??

[How about a random picture of flowers?]

Even though I’m not currently working, I am very busy. I am taking a full load of classes in school. I am working 30+ hours per week as vice president of the swim club (self-imposed, but I do have time available to do it). I have a two story, five-bedroom house with a HUGE yard to maintain (trust me, as a single father it’s a ton of work to keep up on). After my weekend I began looking at the things I have going on and how I’ve been processing them. Like many of us I turned to the internet and ended up spending a large amount of time on Chris Combs’ website. He’s a little extreme and I’ve always enjoyed his stuff. One article I read really struck home for me: 17 Reasons Not to Take Life Too Seriously. You should check it out – he has some very sound advice. Some of it is humorous, some of it is harder hitting, some of it comes with a language warning if swearing offends you, and some is even wrong (Seinfeld does not belong on this list. Worst show ever. It’s my blog so I can say that).

#7: Life is more fun when you don’t take it so seriously. After a few days of self-reflection and talking to those with opinions I value, my conclusion is that I am taking EVERYTHING far too seriously and it’s showing. It’s not where I want to be. Yes, life isn’t a big joke festival, but I shouldn’t be causing those I know to not enjoy my company. My temper shouldn’t be making little girls cry (that one hurts. A lot). My daughter shouldn’t be commenting on my behavior either. Going forward, I’m going to step back a bit and really review what’s important and how I react to it. I’m going to force myself to do irrelevant, quirky things like I did in the past (such as adding random photos to my blog post) and refocus on smaller, happier things. We’ll see how it goes…the point is that I’m really going to try.

What do I want you, my reader, to take from all of this? It’s very simple: take a step back and really look at yourself, your behaviors, and attitudes. Hopefully I’ve convinced you to try and take things a little less seriously. We will all benefit from it!

Fetal Tissue Research Must Continue

microscopic view of fetal tissue sample (Gettyimages)

First and Foremost: This post is not an open invitation to debate the legality or ethics of abortion rights in America. The right for a woman to obtain an abortion has been part of United States (U.S.) law since January, 22nd, 1973 when Roe v. Wade was ruled on by the Supreme Court. As of this writing it stands as the law of the land. When a pregnancy is terminated, the fetal tissue may be voluntarily donated for scientific research or not. Doctors and clinics may not profit from the sale of fetal tissue.

Fetal Cell Tissue is the Best Option for Research: Going back to the 1930’s, researchers were aware of certain benefits of using fetal cell tissue in their research on vaccines and other treatments. The most basic of which is that it is just that – a living human cell, not an animal cell or a theory. One of the major benefits of fetal cells is that they are undifferentiated (they haven’t developed into specialized cells yet, like blood cells or muscle cells). They are a blank slate and can be used in many ways. Some individuals believe that animal cells can be used in the place of fetal tissue, but “if we want to study a process, it’s best to use the real thing”, says Akhilesh Pandey from Johns Hopkins. Being undifferentiated, fetal cell tissue is easy to grow into long existing cell lines that easily adapt to their use.

measles vaccine (gettyimages)

Fetal Cell Tissue Research Breakthroughs: The list of vaccines that have been created and other research that has been done using fetal cell tissue is immense. A partial listing of vaccines created using these tissue lines includes polio, rubella, mumps, measles, chicken pox, hepatitis A, and rabies. Recent breakthrough research using fetal cell tissue includes advances in the treatment of macular degeneration, HIV, Alzheimer’s, and Zika virus.

Research using fetal cell tissue is irreplaceable and invaluable.

Trump Administration Greatly Curtails Fetal Tissue Medical Research: Just yesterday (Wednesday, June 5th), the Trump administration, via an announcement from the department of Health and Human Services (DHS), stated they were sharply cutting federal spending on medical research using fetal tissue because, “Promoting the dignity of human life from conception to natural death is one of the very top priorities of President Trump’s administration”. Much of this research occurs in conjunction with the National Institute of Health (N.I.H) and the announcement is an end to relationship that resulted in many medical breakthroughs since the 1950’s. The public outcry has been immediate and loud, from the medical research community to human rights groups. Sam Hogwood, the chancellor of the University of California, San Francisco said, “today’s action ends a 30-year partnership with the N.I.H. to use specially designed models that could be developed only through the use of fetal tissue to find a cure for H.I.V…We believe this decision to be politically motivated, shortsighted and not based on sound science.”

To Wrap Things Up: In their announcement, the administration stated that the main reason behind their decision was “promoting the dignity of human life”. Or, looking at the administration’s past behaviors, they really aren’t basing anything on true scientific reasoning or for the benefit of U.S. citizen’s lives, they are bowing to pressure from far-right anti-abortion groups and conservative members of congress – all in their true shallow spirit of pandering to their base for reelection support. If the administration is interested in the dignity of human life and how it is viewed by the most conservative entity in the world, they need only look to the Catholic Church, which in 2017 came out in support of vaccines created using fetal cell tissues saying that the potential public health risks of not using these treatments far outweighs the concern about the vaccine’s origins.

This research is vital to the continued development of breakthroughs in medical research for the betterment of all our lives. This decision by the U.S. government shows how little they regard what is in the best interest of the U.S. population, in favor of pleasing the extreme right for self-serving reelection purposes.


I’ve said it before and I will continue to repeat myself – CONTACT YOUR GOVERNMENT REPRESENTATIVES AND LET THEM KNOW YOUR THOUGHTS. One of the easiest ways to do so is to text the word “resist” to 50409. Resistbot will reply and ask you a few basic questions to get started. It’s very simple – won’t you join me?

Links, Resource, and Further Reading:

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/05/us/politics/fetal-tissue-research.html

https://lozierinstitute.org/history-of-fetal-tissue-research-and-transplants/

https://www.historyofvaccines.org/content/articles/human-cell-strains-vaccine-development

https://www.ajog.org/article/S0002-9378(15)01193-X/pdf

https://chancellor.ucsf.edu/blog/response-administrations-actions-fetal-tissue-research

https://www.health.com/mind-body/fetal-tissue-research-facts

https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2019/06/06/trump-administration-restricts-fetal-tissue-research-win-anti-abortion-groups

https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2018/12/11/science-advocates-weigh-hhs-conducts-review-fetal-tissue-research

http://www.isscr.org/professional-resources/news-publicationsss/isscr-news-articles/article-detail/2019/06/05/isscr-opposes-health-and-human-services-policy-restricting-fetal-tissue-research

Tonight’s Clean Grilling Brought to You by Molecules of U.S. Freedom!

To really know me is to know my main three passions: 1) My 12-year-old daughter, she’s my amazing and caring sidekick through life’s adventures – be they picking rocks, working in the yard, or even holding heated political debates with friends and family. 2) Pollinators and fighting everything that is pro-green grass lawn related (including many heated political debates with friends and family. 3) POLITICS! No secret here – I’m as liberal as they come, with an ACLU sticker on my front door (surprise, this also includes many heated political debates with friends and family. And people online. And strangers in line at the store. And on and on and on).

So, let’s talk about that fantastic new clean fossil fuel – Freedom Gas! https://www.energy.gov/articles/department-energy-authorizes-additional-lng-exports-freeport-lng

If you aren’t familiar with the concept, on May 28th, 2019, the United States Department of Energy (DOE), approved a large expansion to the amount of natural gas that the United States (US) exports to the rest of the world. The official release from DOE includes the following (see link for complete statement), “Increasing export capacity…is critical to spreading freedom gas throughout the world by giving America’s allies a diverse and affordable source of clean energy…There’s no doubt today’s announcement furthers this Administration’s commitment to promoting energy security and diversity worldwide.”

My oh my…where to start? Freedom Gas is a methane-based fuel. Methane does have a shorter lifetime than CO2, BUT methane has over 80 times more affect as a greenhouse gas than CO2 – this makes methane a MUCH greater cause of the greenhouse gases which cause climate change.

Natural gas is a “cleaner” burning fuel than oil and coal. In 2004, natural gas emissions accounted for 5.3 billion tons of atmospheric CO2, coal and oil accounted for 10.6 and 10.2 billion tons each respectively. By 2030, at current rates natural gas will be 11 billion tons, while coal and oil will be 8.4 and 17.2 billion tons each (https://www.ipcc.ch/assessment-report/ar4/). Just how “clean” is “cleaner”??

The fact that a non-renewable fossil fuel is being referred to as a clean source of energy in an official US Government document continues to show the current administration’s blatant disregard of scientific facts and its desire to fill the pockets of some of their highest contributing donners – the fossil fuel industries. As an entity that serves to protect our country and its resources, the recent administration’s broad stance has been to roll back as many environmental protections as possible to benefit these large industries. On a side note, the New York Times has just published an updated recap on actions against environmental rules the administration is actively working against: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/climate/trump-environment-rollbacks.html

It is a proven scientific truth that greenhouse gas emissions are causing critical climate change. Having an administration in place that has a goal of making more money for big industry (no matter what the cost is to our world) and rolling it out under the guise of spreading “molecules of U.S. Freedom” is beyond shameful. If you aren’t now, you need to start acting against these politicians. Contacting your representatives is just one small step in the right direction. #resistbot

Honestly – Option A or Option B(ee)?

Seriously…honestly tell me which option sounds better: A) cranking up your smoke belching monster of a mower to keep up with the Jones’s next door to see which of you can create the most greenhouse gases possible, pollute our water supplies, and contribute BILLIONS of dollars to a lawn industry that results in only causing damage to the environment and your pocket book or B) spending the afternoon lounging in your green lawn, feeling the soft carpet of clover beneath your feet, maybe finding a four leaf clover or two, and knowing in the back of your mind that you are making the right decision to keep your property in a pollinator friendly matter that also happens to be a huge benefit in keeping green house gas emissions in check? I know my answer…

In my previous blog post https://mdst485class.wordpress.com/2019/05/21/yep-im-that-neighbor/ , I discussed the importance of switching lawns back to their native prairie status for a variety of reasons. Currently, I am part of a group project focusing on climate change, specifically what behaviors can individuals do to reduce their impact of greenhouse gases on the environment. While researching I came upon this article: https://healthylandethic.com/2012/10/03/the-unbearable-ubiquitousness-of-mowing/. It discusses many of the values of leaving your lawn in a native state. Did you know that Americans use 800 million gallons of gas annually on their lawns alone (the average lawnmower emits as much greenhouse gas as FORTY cars running for just one hour?), over $5.2 billion in fertilizers that come form fossil fuels, and over $700 million in pesticides? Also, two-thirds of the drinking water consumed in the U.S. is used on lawn watering. This doesn’t even go into the damage that lawns do to our critical pollinator populations. A lush “perfect” green lawn is one of the greatest acts of unsustainability that there is.

Please forgive my rant – but these are issues of importance to me. People have often viewed my opinions as being on the outside of traditional lawn ideas. However, things are beginning to change, and individuals are showing an increased desire to preserve pollinators and their habitats (and at the same time make an impact on reducing greenhouse gas emissions). An encouraging sign of this has been the State of Minnesota recently passing a spending plan to assist homeowners in restoring their lawns to native habitats: http://www.startribune.com/program-pays-minnesota-homeowners-to-let-their-lawn-go-to-the-bees/510593382/?refresh=true . Full details of how the plan will be allocated are still to be determined, but grants should be available for the spring of 2020.

The Minnesota spending bill is a major step in pushing these issues out into the forefront of the public view. I am involved personally in many local and national pollinator/prairie groups and there is a great interest in the spending bill. There have been tens of thousands of hits, links, comments, and posts online since it passed earlier this week. On an interesting side note, I have received a couple dozen DMs from people I only know as an online ID asking if I have information on the program. Also, as of this morning, over 35 of my personal friends (many of who have accused me of being a bit militant on these subjects), have reached out to me as well about it.

There is still a long way to go, but it feels good on a personal level to see such a sudden burst of interest from the mainstream on a subject I’ve been involved with for a while now. And if you need my answer – option A is the way I go every time (when I’m not working on working on creating more prairie in my yard).

Yep – I’m THAT Neighbor…

The above picture may not be exciting to you, but to me it is – I’ve been working for a couple years to get Prairie Smoke plants to grow in a difficult space in my front yard and this spring they came back!! Yep – I’m THAT neighbor. While my yard doesn’t look like The Addams family lives here, you will immediately notice the front lawn has more than its fair share of dandelions and Creeping Charlie (excellent early pollen resources for the bees) and several spaces devoted to native prairie grasses and plants. If you were to look in the back yard, you would see even more native garden spaces (I’m excited to begin this year’s project – converting 50% of the remaining backyard green space back into its natural native prairie state).

If you speak to me one on one for almost any amount of time, my passion for pollinators (including bees and butterflies), the reestablishment of native prairie spaces in city spaces, and hatred of all things green lawn related will come up almost immediately. Things haven’t always been this way for me…it all started around seven years for purely selfish reasons. My divorce was complete, and I was stuck with a much too large house with an even larger yard. It was all too much for one person to maintain, so looking into ways to mow my lawn less was a priority. Almost immediately I found this article: https://healthylandethic.com/2013/11/17/why-prairies-matter-and-lawns-dont/

I bought into its message without hesitation: green grass lawns provide no long-term benefits to our, or the populations of wild animals, living experience. The article provides a great launching pad into this topic that everyone should be informed on. It states the obvious – the overuse of chemicals, combined with the overwatering of lawns is detrimental to our water supply (did you know that 99% of all open bodies of water tested in the United States contain common lawn pesticides?).

The article discusses how native prairies not only provide vital habitat to native birds and pollinators, but how their root systems extend up to 15 feet into the ground (as compared to the few inches that green grass lawns due). Why is that important? All green plants pull carbon gasses out of the air and store them in the ground. Native prairies are one of the most efficient ways we can reduce carbon gas from entering the atmosphere. Prairie root systems are also important for water filtration purposes (not to mention, once established they take little to no watering or maintenance). Be sure to check out the graphic showing different root systems compared to standard lawn grass.

As mentioned, I started looking for ways to cut back on lawn maintenance and it has quickly grown into a passion. As such, I can go on about a variety of topics related to lawns but will stop here for now and ask one thing from you: If you have a lawn, please consider returning some of it to a native state, or at least include native plants in your gardening and landscaping – our world needs it. The more you do, the more you will see your ecosystem change and I promise you that once the bees and butterflies begin showing up, the native birds will as well (it sounds geeky, but it is pretty cool). While you aren’t solving all the world’s problems, you will be contributing to the solution in a tangible way. Who knows, maybe it will become one of your passions that you can spread along to others as well.