Post Climate Strike – What Next?


Climate Strike Austin © Heather Valey 2019

written & photographed by Heather Valey

Just as South East Texas was reeling from the giant tropical storm Imelda, young people and folks from all walks rallied at the Texas Capitol (and around the world) demanding action on Climate Change.  Speakers on the steps of the Capitol led chants and gave passionate speeches about the inaction of our government to even acknowledge, let alone act on Climate Change in recent years.

The strike may be over, but we can’t rest.  We must continue to insist on action.  We also must be insistent on the right action.  I’m tired of being overwhelmed with distracting lists of things I can do to fight climate change: stop eating meat, stop showering, don’t eat organic food, eat more organic food… etc.  I do try to watch my carbon footprint, I drive a hybrid car, we have installed energy saving light bulbs in our house, we try not to fly very much…etc  But these “to-do” lists for the common folk is all a distraction to move blame away from where it belongs.  For example, take the “stop eating meat” mandate,  livestock only contributes to the overall US greenhouse gas emissions by 4.2%, and globally up to 18%.  We need to focus on the biggest cause of the issue and that is our use of fossil fuels.   The biggest offender in the U.S. is the burning of fossil fuels (oil & coal) which accounts for 62.9%  of our Greenhouse Gas emissions in this country. Globally, fossil fuel consumption contributes to 76 % of our Green House Gas emissions.  So if you just can’t give up meat, don’t feel like you are a terrible environmentalist.  

**  The recent fires in the Amazon, Indonesia now and Canada in 2018 aren’t helping either.  

Climate Strike Austin – © Heather Valey 2019

Our government needs to be participating in the solution, not becoming a bigger part of the problem.  The US is the 2nd largest contributor of Greenhouse Gases in the world.  The UN Climate summit this past week was focused on creating plans and strategies to act now on Climate Change, but sadly produced little but talk.


© Heather Valey 2019

We must continue pushing until our government starts taking this seriously.   There are things you can do aside from putting down that burger.

  1. Make sure you are registered to vote. If you are not, you can go HERE .  If you think you are already registered, double check.  Your vote matters so make sure you are able to cast it.
  2. Do your homework before voting, look for candidates that support action for climate change.  Look into what their plans are.  Use resources like Vote411 or  League of Women Voters  . has some good tips on how to decide who to vote for in any election.
  3. Look for groups in your area working on climate change activism.
  4. Stay in the loop.  Keep up to date on what is happening.
    • By signing up with any of the agencies that are working on fighting climate change they will send you updates
    • Search out information beyond the headlines, the mainstream media doesn’t always show what is happening with a certain issue
    • The Austin Eco-Network is a great source for the Austin area for eco-issues

If you can add to these lists please do in the comments!



Gardening For Wildlife

28225581807_431293b5c4_oI’ve been spending a good portion of my time this spring working on my wildlife garden in my backyard.  We started out 3 years ago with just a backyard full of St. Augustine grass, now I have over 25 types of native plants in the backyard and about half the grass.  Do I have more wildlife? Yes and no… When I wasn’t out fiddling in the yard all the time I did notice that we had more lizards. When I wasn’t taking such good care of the compost bin, we had raccoon visitors nightly.  Now, not as many lizards, although that might change now that there are more shrubs growing in the yard and rock piles that I won’t be mucking about with anymore.  The compost bin has been switched out from an open frame style to a closed drum, so no more raccoon salad bar, but perhaps that’s ok. I didn’t mind the raccoons, but I never got any compost because they ate all the green bits!

42843548601_7c85524141_oI have noticed more birds, as I have more native bugs in the yard with the native plants.  I’ve noticed more wrens gleaning bugs off of our dwarf Yaupon bushes, which  is quite entertaining to watch.  Plants with berries, such as the Beauty Berry bush and Pigeon Berry bring in Mocking Birds and Doves, not that I needed more Doves, but still 🙂 We also had a Painted Bunting in the yard this year, and a Red-Breasted Grossbeak last year which is a little unusual in a suburban neighborhood.

We have more hummingbird visitors now that  I have more Salvias & Batface Cuphea planted. My milkweed is doing really well this year so I’m hoping to get some more Monarch visitors at some point as well. We definitely have more spiders… jumping spiders and wolf spiders. They are quite fun to watch.  We have more ants too, which I’m not that excited about though.


I’ve had a lot of fun picking out the plants and planning the garden, although its taking more iteration than I ever imagined.  I really enjoy just sitting and watching the animals in the yard.  I’ll be adding a butterfly garden addition soon.  We just pulled out more grass in a sunny spot, so this fall I’ll plant some pollinator annuals. I also have some plans for a new water feature for next year to replace the utilitarian bird bath.

We don’t have a big yard.  I envy the folks with an acre or more to work with, but I’ll do the best with what I have. Now that it’s summer and over 100 degrees everyday, I’ll just wait until the fall to do some more work in the yard.  Its worth it to me to have a place to escape to, to forget all of the craziness in the world.


Plant Resources for Texas Wildlife Gardeners:

What kind of plants and critters do you have in your backyard?

This Snake Freaked Me Out…


Texas Rat Snake – photo by H. Valey

…until I realized it was a Texas Rat Snake, also known in some parts as the Chicken Snake. The scientific name is aphe obsoleta lindheimeri.

The Texas Rat Snake looks a little scary at first sight, mainly because they can grow to be very long (3 to 6 feet) and their defense mechanism is to freeze when they see you.  They also are known to shake their tails similarly to a Rattle Snake. This can be misinterpreted as the confidence of a venomous snake, but these snakes are constrictors and non-venomous. They do have a reputation for biting when cornered, but the bites are reported to be on the mild side and as mentioned non-venomous.

They are found primarily in Texas, but their range extends to Louisiana, Arkansas & Oklahoma.  No matter in what state you find them, their preferred habitat is one with Oak trees present.  Although I have seen them in parking lots before, and I saw one slither in through a mail slot on a mailbox once, most likely giving the mailbox owner a bit of a shock!

Their diet consists of rodents, and undoubtedly bird eggs and nestlings.  They are fantastic climbers and can find their way into birds nests pretty easily. An adult can take rodents as large as a fox squirrel. They are also good swimmers.

They are not considered threatened, but they are often the target of humans who come across them and kill them because they don’t know what kind of snake they are.

The picture up top was taken at a nature preserve.  The snake was in a pile of limestone rocks near many full grown oak trees.  The snake below, I spotted in the parking lot of an office complex.  Again, many full grown oak trees around, as well as leaf litter and limestone.  You can get a feel for how long these snakes can get in the video below!

For more information on Rat Snakes, visit these sites.


“Bye Bye Ligustrum” at Blair Woods


The Pond at Blair Woods

Blair Woods is this cool little wooded preserve in Austin proper. It’s about 10 acres and was left to the Travis Audubon Society in the 80s by Dr. Frank Blair, who was a UT professor and a zoologist. It has a pond and a trail that winds through different habitat types including a woodland and savanah.  The pond is pretty interesting in that it was made by damming up a creek with homework papers that Dr. Blair had collected from his students.  He reportedly called it the “Dam of Words”. Continue reading