While writing “Bats are Beautiful”, I developed a new found respect for bats and all they contribute to the environment. I have never had an aversion to them mind you, but I just never knew how very important they are until I delved into the research for the article “Bats are Beautiful”. Oddly, enough I suppose they are one of my personal champions because I am one of those individuals who mosquitoes will fly from miles away, attack and suck my blood until they are plump and drunk on it. It has always amazed me that if I am with a group of people outdoors, having a good time, I will be the first one bitten and also the one bitten most often. So, in actuality I owe bats so much because if they weren’t around, I would never be able to leave my home and enjoy the great outdoors, because I am a mosquito magnet.
As one of nature’s smallest and most peculiar looking mammals, bats are much maligned and misunderstood. They are so often, and rather unfairly some would say, associated with fear, loathing, Dracula, Nosferatu and the eve of Hallowmas. But consider this: these small but mighty creatures in one night can consume their body weight in insects, including the real blood suckers that haunt humans, namely mosquitoes; bats also hunt and kill a variety of other insects that people don’t embrace, quite frankly because they are pests, like flies, moths and beetles.
“Basically, bats are exceedingly valuable because of their food habits,” said bat expert and biologist John Whitaker, the director of the Center for North American Bat Research and Conservation. “They are the major predators of nocturnal flying insects.” In fact, scientists consider the thousand or so bat species that inhabit this earth to be environmental champions whose positive impact is immeasurable.
There are Gray Bats, Brown Bats, Dawn Bats, Furry-tailed Bats, Spotted Bats, Hawaiian Hoary Bats and the lists goes on and on and on. Yes, there are even Vampire Bats, but only three species enjoy blood and never that of people; they feed primarily on livestock or birds.
“Twenty percent of the world’s mammals are bats! And there are more than 5000 mammals on this earth and about a 1000 of those mammals are bats,” added Whitaker.
The Entomological Society of America estimates that there are 10 quintillion insects in the world. Imagine how busy that makes bats as nature’s chief insect pest controllers. Don’t bother with the calculator a quintillion is 1000 multiplied by a billion; now do the math.
Along with controlling the insect population, they are effective seed disseminators and efficient pollinators that pick up the slack where bees leave off. “Several fruit eating bats are pollinators,” said Whitaker. “Herbivorous bats also do pollinate and along the same line, fly about, defecate and replant the seeds.” Now that is flowering and fruitful work!
Farmers worldwide consider bats friends because they control agricultural pest that threaten crops. Some farmers even collect nutrient rich bat dung to fertilize crops.
One of the most troubling and pervasive myths about bats that make scientists like John Whitaker, well in a word, batty, is that they are mice with wings. Now the problem may be rooted in the fact that the German name for bats is fledermaus, which translated into English means flying mouse. Whitaker scoffed at this and so many other bat myths. “They are not related to rodents and they are actually closer to moles because they are insectivores,” he said. In fact, some scientists believe they are closer cousins to primates on the evolutionary scale, but bat evolution is hard to pin down because their delicate structures haven’t left sufficient fossil evidence to study. Whitaker also takes exception to the belief that most bats are rabid. “Some people think most carry rabies or even that a large number do and that just isn’t true,” he said. “Only about five percent of the bats turned into our lab have rabies the rate is very very low.”
Bats have longevity but their numbers are dwindling. “They have low reproductive rates,” said Whitaker. “Most species have just one a year. And they can live a long time. The record for the Little Brown Bat is 34 years with the average about 15 years.”
Bats’ contributions to the world we live in are so significant that many experts say losing them would be an ecological disaster. “Another consideration is that bats, like the canary in the mine, and like the decline of birds and frogs, should serve as a warning to us that our environment is in jeopardy and we should be doing something about,” Whitaker added.
Charity Beck and Jen Hellmann have been lifelong friends. Charity called me with an idea 2 years ago. “I’m so tired of hearing nothing but negative news broadcasts everyday, that I’m thinking of starting a magazine to promote the positive news, the good news of the world.” I of course loved the idea. “Let’s do it,” I said. About a week later Charity called to me again, “I woke up in the middle of the night with a name for our magazine – Positive Impact Magazine!” Without hesitation, I replied again, “Yes! Let’s do it”. We knew it was the right thing to do.
From the “middle of the night” name inception to the first national online and print issue, we have had many hurdles to overcome, met incredible people and had one of the most soul nurturing experiences one could have. The insightful people we have met on this journey have truly inspired us to keep moving forward. There have been many obstacles to overcome, but we have found that these challenges only make you stronger and wiser. Learning comes from challenges and has given us the confidence and ability to keep going.
We hope to inspire others who want to get out there and make something happen for themselves or for another. A dream you have, an education to continue, a chance to volunteer, or simply to live a good life. These things are all attainable.
We are so honored to be a part of the movement that is happening with the magazine, people from all over the world have subscribed, offered us incredible feedback, submitted story ideas and much more. We have found that Positive Impact Magazine is inspiring people to take action. Take a look at some of our current reader feedback.
We hope you enjoy our first online issue. We’d love to hear what additions you would like to see or learn on our new website and would welcome your ideas about making improvements so that your experience with PIM is a positive one!
Thank you to all our incredible contributors for this issue!
Founder/Editor In Chief/Publisher
In 2008, LPGA superstar Annika Sorenstam stunned the sports world by retiring at the pinnacle of success. In reality, however, she was merely catapulting into a season of new and exciting ventures. The old adage “Women can’t have it all” is lost on this mom, wife, entrepreneur, philanthropist, golf course designer, author, vintner, spokeswoman, Olympic ambassador, chef, and perfumer.
Annika Sorenstam & Daughter Ava
How does this busy mom balance raising her baby daughter Ava (born September 1, 2009) with running a small empire? With great teamwork, of course. Her husband, Mike McGee, whom she married in January 2009, also happens to be the president of the ANNIKA brand—and it’s not just in the boardroom that they work together.
Annika Sorenstam With Husband Mike & Daughter Ava
“Mike is a great guy and a good dad,” she explains. “We don’t have a nanny, so we alternate. If we have a meeting, sometimes we’ll bring her with us. And if he has a meeting one day, I won’t schedule anything, and likewise. I spend a lot of time with her, and truly love being a mom.”
The 39-year-old retired as the greatest female golfer of all time (72 LPGA victories) and is the first female to ever surpass the $20 million in winnings mark. But leaving the game at the top, with many more years of championships on the horizon, left many wondering, “Why”?
“I stepped away because I felt like I had achieved what I wanted to achieve. I had climbed my Everest,” Sorenstam explains in her elegant Swedish accent. “I enjoyed the journey up there and realize that now there are other mountains to climb.”
One of Annika’s proudest ventures is her foundation, which focuses heavily on teaching children the importance of living a healthy, active lifestyle through fitness and nutrition programs.
“As a mom, it gives me even more passion about the foundation because it’s all about children living healthy, active lifestyles,” she explains. “A lot comes from my own childhood experience [growing up in Sweden] and being active outside and eating right. It’s a whole wheel where, in order to turn properly, all of the pieces need to be working right. So my foundation tries to touch on each of those aspects.”
The foundation partners with health programs like the award-winning physical education program SPARK, as well as with Florida Hospital for Children. “We have to stop the child obesity epidemic,” she reasons. In June, Annika partnered with the hospital for their new health initiative “Healthy 100 Kids” and led children through a fun obstacle course on the hospital lawn. She hopes to one day build a wellness center, where thousands of kids can visit every year to learn how to be active, take cooking classes that teach nutrition, and help prevent future health problems.
The ANNIKA Foundation awarded five $7,500 grants to Orange County elementary schools to fund the implementation of School Specialty’s SPARK Physical Education (PE) program during the 2010-11 school year. Annika visited Hungerford Elementary School to present the awards and lead the children in a fitness lesson with a SPARK representative.
All of Annika’s post-career ventures have made such a positive impact on the world around her, but her proudest role these days continues to be “mom,” which is why we couldn’t help but ask what she loves most about motherhood. “I love my daughter’s smile when she discovers new things and just having her with me and doing stuff,” she says with a smile. “I like exploring with her on the beach, in the kitchen, or wherever we are. When it comes to motherhood, people can tell you what it’s like and you can read about it, but when you [actually become a mother] you realize there’s nothing like it.”
Annika Sorenstam & Daughter Ava
And while it’s clear that Annika has climbed her Everest in golf, something tells me that when it comes to achieving dreams and making a difference in this world, she’s just getting started.
With white-sand beaches, cool gulf breezes and stretches of shady parks, the Tampa Bay area is a great place to go for a stroll (or a 60-mile walk). Exotic foliage flourishes in this semi-tropical climate, producing a lush and aromatic backdrop for this incredible Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure experience.
More than 50 years ago, Wangari Maathai remembers visiting the stream next to her house in Kenya to fetch water for her mother. Maathai remembers the stream being full of life with tadpoles and clean enough to drink. Although much has changed since then, Maathai said in her 2004 Nobel Peace Prize lecture that her challenge is to restore the environment and give back to the children a world of beauty and wonder.
In Oslo, Norway, for the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize ceremonies, December 2004. Photo by Ricardo Medina (www.mifotografia.com)
In 2004, Maathai, who is an environmentalist and women’s rights activist, received the Nobel Peace Prize for her outstanding work to improve the quality of life for African Women and the world. Maathai is the first Kenyan African woman to receive the prize, paving the way for other Kenyan women. It is a great honor to receive the prize because it has only been awarded 90 times to 120 Nobel Laureates between 1901 and 2009. Maathai was recognized because she showed selfless acts to improve the life of the African community. Maathai was the first woman in East and Central Africa to earn a doctorate degree. She uses her knowledge to teach women about empowering themselves and that being a woman holds no boundaries.
Through an education program, Maathai teaches women how to find solutions to the problems they face on a daily basis. Since Kenyan women are the primary caretakers, Maathai empowers women by teaching them different ways to sustain their families. Maathai teaches women worldwide the benefits of growing, planting and sustaining their environment. Through her teachings, Maathai empowers women and gives them the opportunity to create a difference. Maathai teaches that preserving nature is part of a larger mission.
Wangari Maathai planting a tree at the Outspan Hotel, Nyeri, Kenya, to mark the launch of her autobiography, Unbowed. Photo by Wanjira Mathai
Maathai started the Green Belt Movement in 1977 under the patronage of the National Council of Women of Kenya. The Green Belt Movement teaches women ways to sustain their environment and pro-action for self-betterment. Since 1977 more than 30 million trees have been planted because it’s simple and addresses the basic needs of food and shelter.
The Green Belt Movement used trees as a way to reconcile ethnic conflicts in Kenya. The elder Kikuyu tribe members used staffs from the Thigi tree as a gesture to reconcile with disputing sides. Continuing with old traditions, the tree became a symbol of conflict resolution and peace.
“We are called to assist the Earth to heal her wounds and in the process heal our own – indeed, to embrace the whole creation in all its diversity, beauty and wonder,” Maathai said in her 2004 Nobel Peace Prize lecture.
Everyone around the world has the opportunity to take part in supporting the Green Belt Movement. The Global Work Party has designated October 10th as a day to celebrate climate solutions worldwide. People all over the world are signing up to plant a tree and join forces to work on climate change. Starting this year, a campaign launched by 1010global.org and 350.org is creating a proactive way to help cut carbon by 10 percent.
When times are difficult there is a tendency to focus on what is lacking. It is easy to forget that when you look for the good in a situation, you are likely to find it. Author, Taylor Grey, learned this lesson by volunteering with children diagnosed with cancer. Her experience became the source of inspiration for adventure stories that teach positive visualization. Read more>
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world: indeed it’s the only thing that ever has!”— Margaret Meade
Growing up in a time of economic recession, foreign wars, and global warming is bound to affect your psyche. Fortunately, these obstacles are no match for humanities richest resource – the youth of our society. Student philanthropy efforts across the country are thriving; proving that the today’s young people have a strong social conscious and the desire to enact positive change.
Jesse Byers is a high school junior who participated in “Relay for Life”- a 24-hour walk to raise money for the American Cancer Society. The event gives participants a chance to honor those who have battled cancer, remember lost loved ones, and raise funds for the cause. He explains the satisfaction he received from the experience
“I didn’t know anyone with cancer personally, but it was still very emotional for me. It felt good to see that just one person could make a difference.”
Over one million other students are getting a chance to learn that same lesson through participating in a program called Learn and Serve America. The organization provides grants to schools, community groups and colleges allowing them to give students an active role in the betterment of society. The University of South Florida St. Petersburg is in its second year on the program and has awarded ten grants so far, totaling over $50,000. Students research the immediate needs of the community, find out what issue they want to tackle, make an evaluation and decide who gets the grant.
Charlie Justice, Assistant Director for Leadership Programs at USFSP, is encouraged by what he sees in the students who have taken part in the program. “I’ve been so impressed with how genuine they are with regards to what’s going on in the community. They see a need and want to do whatever they can. I get inspired by that.”
Student philanthropy project at USFSP - group presenting a grant award
This new generation of activists holds the power to re-shape our world. Time, energy and enthusiasm are an effective combination. In the words of author H. Jackson Brown “In the confrontation between the stream and the rock, the stream always wins – not through strength but by perseverance.”
To find out more about service-learning grants that may be available in your area, visit www.learnandserve.gov.