For us desert dwellers, it's that time of year again--snake season. Does that scare you? To a degree, it should! But snakes are an integral part of our environment, and they have as much of a right to be here as we do. What's important is to be informed.
And that's exactly what you'll be after you attend Tohono Chul Park's "Saturday of Snakes," an event featuring two lectures chock full of information about our slithery neighbors. The first talk, to be given by UA professor Erec Toso, will be more of a personal narrative than a lecture, detailing Toso's recovery following a near-fatal rattlesnake bite. After sharing snake-venom facts and rattlesnake lore, he'll sign his new book, Zero at the Bone: Rewriting Life After a Snakebite, a memoir about his snake-bite experience.
In the second talk, Tohono Chul docent coordinator Tom McDonald will share his own brand of "snakeology," teaching audience members how they can overcome a fear of snakes and, in fact, learn to embrace them--although not literally.
"Many people are fearful of snakes, but fail to realize how harmless and useful many of them are," says Tohono Chul communications coordinator Glenn Nowak. "They're natural predators of pests that can get into gardens and homes and do some damage, such as mice and pack rats. Because of that, nonvenomous snakes should be considered an asset to have on your property. ... After attending these classes, you'll know what to do, and what not to do, when you do come face to face with a gopher snake. It's certainly valuable knowledge for anyone living in Arizona, because the snakes call the desert home, too."
The event is free to Tohono Chul members and is covered by park admission ($5 adults, $4 seniors, $3 students with ID, $2 children 5-12) for nonmembers. Toso's lecture will take place at 10 a.m.; McDonald's will be at 2 p.m. --A.M.
Almost any time of year, we can get almost any kind of food--from swordfish to pineapple--just by going to the grocery store. But do we really know where any of this stuff comes from? Usually not. Should we care?
According to best-selling novelist and former Tucsonan Barbara Kingsolver, the answer is yes. Eating locally saves energy, helps the local economy and is a healthier and more sustainable way to get sustenance. Besides, nonlocal food just isn't as good! Eating locally means eating seasonally, and that means freshness.
If you need more convincing, read Kingsolver's first nonfiction narrative, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life. The book, written with Kingsolver's husband and her 19-year-old daughter, follows Kingsolver's family as they commit to eating only local foods for one year. They grow their own vegetables, pick their own fruit and even raise their own farm animals. It's hard at first, but they find out that the lifestyle is totally worthwhile.
And if you read the book, you'll learn that you don't have to go to extremes to eat locally.
"The book is very inspiring in terms of supporting farmers' markets and finding places where you live to buy local foods," says Kate Randall, co-owner of Antigone Books, which will be sponsoring Friday's talk and book-signing by Kingsolver and Steven Hopp, which benefits Native Seeds/SEARCH. "It also has some things about the politics of eating locally. ... This is a fabulous author who believes that supporting local farmers can change the world."
To learn more, hear Kingsolver and Hopp speak, and start your new eating habits before the event at a local-foods fair, which will feature information as well as free food samples from five Tucson groups. The event costs $20 in advance and $25 at the door--or $15 if you buy the book in advance at Antigone Books. --A.M.
Since 2003, government-backed Janjaweed militia groups in Darfur, Sudan, have been killing and displacing whole communities of farming tribes throughout the region. By now, the United Nations estimates, 450,000 people have died; 2.5 million have become refugees, and 3.5 million are completely dependent on international aid. But what can we do here in Tucson? First of all, we can write to the politicians to tell them that a peacekeeping force must be deployed, and that more humanitarian aid is needed.
But this weekend, you'll get the chance to help the people of Darfur and hear some great, action-inspiring music at the same time. At the Save Darfur Benefit Concert, 12 of Tucson's most popular musical acts will band together to raise money for the Save Darfur Coalition, a group devoted to educating the public about the conflict--and stopping it. At the concert, a diverse array of bands will play all day long, with MCs Mike Landwehr and Shorty Stubbs of KXCI FM 91.3 presiding. As an added bonus, the Dambé Drum Ensemble and fire troupe Flam Chen will host a "Got Fire? Spin for Darfur's Freedom" jam session, during which concert attendees will be able to spin fire themselves. (Don't worry--Flam Chen is very safety conscious.) "Innocent people in Darfur are dying every day," says Michael Tanzillo, co-organizer of the event, "and the only way anything is going to happen is if more people know about it and speak out about it. (This event) is just a small way to hopefully have an impact on a very dire situation."
Admission is $8, and 100 percent of the money will go to the Save Darfur Coalition. You really can't find a better cause.
"There are a lot of horrible things going on in the world," says Tanzillo, "But I don't know if there are too many things that are worse than genocide." --A.M.
If you've ever experienced a cat purring or a dog wagging its tail, you just know that creature is feeling good. Surprisingly, while animals' pain is widely acknowledged, their pleasure isn't much talked about.
Now that's changing, thanks largely to Pleasurable Kingdom: Animals and the Nature of Feeling Good, a just-released book by animal behavior research scientist Jonathan Balcombe. In the book, Balcombe presents brand-new scientific evidence that all kinds of animals, from insects to elephants, feel a wide range of emotions just like people do--and in fact, Balcombe's studies suggest, even more intensely. Animals can be sad, angry, jealous and, most importantly, happy, which has major implications regarding the way our society currently treats them. Namely, we should not only make sure that they aren't abused--we should also do our best to help them live a full, pleasurable existence.
"Given how important pleasure is in our own lives," Balcombe says, "I think people need to know that animals have a quality of life--they aren't just pain avoiders, but pleasure seekers. It's my hope that in writing about pleasure, I'll enrich our appreciation for animals and help people realize that we can no longer take them for granted. ... If an animal can feel pleasure, then its life has intrinsic value. We need to consider that."
Balcombe will give a talk about his writings, his research and his views at a book-signing event this Wednesday, which will include an extensive question-and-answer session and light refreshments. All $10 of each admission fee will fittingly benefit two local animal rescue organizations--Arizona Greyhound Rescue and the Ironwood Pig Sanctuary. --A.M.