By Karen LeBeau

Solar Panels

"Solar panels as electric providers are rapidly gaining in popularity for both homes and businesses," said Mark Bond of SunPro. There has recently been a surge in homeowners moving to this energy source as electric rates rise, sometimes more than once a year. About three years ago, Mississippi utility companies began to buy back the excess energy that solar systems produce. Add to this the 30% of the system cost tax credit offered by the federal government, and the financial picture brightens.

The new monocrystalline panels are stronger and produce more energy, even in low light situations, than older models. Individual micro-inverters under the panels ensure that each panel operates to its optimum capacity even if another is shaded.

A homeowner can save money and the planet at the same time. Utilizing solar panels for one month, a homeowner could offset over 1,400 pounds of carbon which is like saving 16 trees. The energy produced in one day could easily run a refrigerator for over a month and a half. These figures are from an actual OLLI member's system.

Let the sun shine and go solar!

Make American Green Again

By Nanci Youngblood

Bill Curtis' seminar on Understanding Climate Change has the following motto: "The Climate is changing NOW! We should too." Dr. Curtis, a retired chemical engineer, explained the science behind climate change, the threat to the environment and grass roots steps being taken to influence the politics and create solutions. Major threats to the environment are increased air and water temperatures, rising sea levels, increased salinity of ground water, spread of some bacteria linked to warmer temps, increased storm surges and decreased agricultural productivity.

Carbon Fee and Dividend is a policy being considered by a bi-partisan group in Congress that would put a fee on carbon-based fuels with the proceeds distributed to the citizenry—not retained by the federal government. This policy is being promoted by a nation-wide organization, Citizens' Climate Lobby, which has three local chapters in Mississippi including one in Hattiesburg. CCL is helping to build friendly relationships with elected representatives by encouraging the public to become informed and to urge elected officials to sign on to the Carbon Fee and Dividend path toward a solution to the climate change crisis.

The Media: Is It Fake News?

By Joe Moia

Randy Swan

Facilitator Randy Swan has been a journalist all his adult life. His father owned a radio station in Hattiesburg. Randy worked at WDAM TV as anchor and news director until 2015 when he retired for health reasons. He is now back on FOX as a commentator with the "Swan Song." He said in the past he was restricted to only reporting news and now he enjoys expressing his opinion.

Swan thinks news started to go downhill when networks went to a 24-hour format. There was just too much time to fill and standards went down. He told us that 62% of Americans are now getting their news on social media. They check it when they get up, at lunch and again at bedtime via their phones.

In addition some Bloggers say anything because they are anonymous. They can be slanted and only concerned with how many hits they receive and the payment for them.

Fake News is described as propaganda or yellow journalism that is meant to mislead politically or financially for a profit. Fake News is not humor or satire—it is meant to come off as real. Swan said Fake News got more viewership than real news during the past national election.

A key to identifying Fake News is looking for one letter off in the domain name. Social media sites are beginning to combat Fake News, but in the end it is really our responsibility to determine what is fake and what is real.

A Wandering We Will Go

By Lola Norris

Susan and St. FrancisAs you wander around the OLLI garden these days, you may come upon St. Francis lovingly feeding his birds. Or, encounter a duo of dolphins rising joyfully from the fountain beneath them. Perhaps you'll be surprised by a squat, bug-eyed frog nestled under a mayhaw tree.

These new additions, as well as a multitude of planters, potted plants and other garden items are a gift from OLLI member, Susan Winters, who takes pleasure in sharing and visiting these much loved remembrances of an earlier time in her life.

After the death of her husband, Susan decided to downsize and to sell her home. It was difficult making decisions about what to keep. About three years ago, she discovered OLLI. She enjoys being here, she says, and it seemed natural to find a new setting for the garden sculpture, planters and other pieces. So, a collection, spanning twenty years has found a new home in the OLLI garden.

Placing and arranging all these outside decorative pieces is a work in progress. Some, such as the pots outside the office door at OLLI, contain cuttings from plants grown by Susan's mother-in-law and nurtured over time. Colorful lantana can be found in matching pots along the sidewalk near the lake. And, a variety of hibiscus named Althea, with variegated double pink flowers, from her grandfather's plantation near Heidelberg, Mississippi, will be a beautiful addition during the summer months.

Susan credits her late husband, Lane, for putting the collection together. He would simply show up with a container or a pot or a sculpture from time to time, and the number grew. They enjoyed the cultivating and the changing color of the plants, many of which are heirloom varieties. As she passed St. Francis in the OLLI garden, she paused and stroked his face. "He looks just like my husband," she said.

A native of Hattiesburg, Susan earned a master's degree in social work from Southern Miss and worked as a medical social worker for home health care agencies. OLLI, she says, has opened new areas for her to explore, and she has enjoyed art history classes, listening to music, and making new friends.

As you continue a'wandering through the garden, note the addition of two swings and numerous pedestal pots and elongated planters. As you make the turn at the end of the walk, pause and enjoy the delightful angel sculpture sitting serenely among the greenery. Thanks to Susan's gift, the OLLI garden continues to evolve and to be refreshed.

Elephants in Sanctuary

By Jane Hudson

Sukari Standing peacefully among the pine trees or throwing dirt as a sun screen on its back by a pond or loping through the wildflowers, this majestic animal waves its immense ears back and forth in an environment finally suitable to its needs.

Carol Durham, who has retired to her home in Columbia, Mississippi, shared her experiences as first a volunteer and then a graphic artist for the 2,700-acre Elephant Sanctuary in Brentwood, Tennessee, the largest facility of its kind in North America. While on safari in 2009, she said "an elephant spoke to me and when I returned to the states, I felt called to Tennessee from New York."

Both Asian and African elephants with names such as Sukari, Flora, Debbie, Ronnie, Minnie, Tarra, and Shirley formerly housed in zoos, barns or with circuses have been restored to the wild at the Sanctuary. She spoke of the elephants' past trauma, abuse and life in unnatural environments with a lack of choices or the ability to socialize.

While one cannot visit the elephants, the Sanctuary serves as a major educational center as well as home to these magnificent animals. Visit them at www.elephants.com to learn more.


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