12/27/2012 15:00


While you are watching TV or reading in the early evening and the lights go out, you pay attention and go about solving the problem of the moment. When you get your electric bill, the payment line gets your attention. When you get the report from the electric company about the emissions related to your use of electricity, you very likely only give it a casual glance.

            We are bombarded continuously with observations, news, data, and facts – sights and sounds, happenings, advertising, financial data, science information, and our physical condition. We quickly sort through information and pay close attention to what affects our lives at the moment. It takes more time to reflect on all the data we are receiving to determine how accurate it is, how it impacts us personally, and how it fits into the world around us.

            Each year brings more information to our attention. One hundred top stories of 2012 are covered in Discover (, January/February 2012. The following are a few that perhaps got your attention as they happened.

·         The successful landing of Curiosity on Mars that is sending us live picture as it explores the surface of the planet.

·         Genomic analysis identifying bacteria, , viruses, fungi, protozoa,  and archaea (other single-celled organisms) inside healthy human bodies and finding that each individual has its own distinctive ensemble of microbes.

·         Extremes of weather around the world with record heat waves, droughts, floods, and melting.

·         Innovative investment and ventures into privatizing spaceflight.

·         A brain implant that successfully allows the mind of a person to control the movement of a robotic arm.

·         Extensive studies that show that sleep loss is implicated in health conditions.

·         3-D printers that create physical objects directly from digital renderings.

·         Arctic sea ice that shrank to its lowest extent in recorded history this past summer – 18% smaller than the previous record low set in 2007.

            Reflection on these examples reveals implications for the future. These developments are not debatable. How we use the information is yet to be determined.  What they mean for each of us and the future remains to be seen. We are tempted to cut our reflections short, to not verify facts, and to look for simple answers to complex problems. Gaining knowledge from others can be helpful if we keep our minds open to new information and new circumstances.

            All of your daily activities have an effect on your life and environment, not just today but into the future. Pay attention to what you do at work or at home, at rest or at play. Take time to reflect on those activities, their impact on the environment and your future, and how you can make a difference.


Della Moen, Earth Team Volunteer, NRCS/Stephenson Soil and Water Conservation District, an equal opportunity provider and employer, 12/26/12 (for publication on 12/31/12 in the Journal Standard, Freeport, Illinois) Della can be reached at