First You Don’t See It, Now You Do

These two images have not been photo-shopped, but are side-by-side shots of the same landscape.

This change is the result of 15 years of careful and consistent vegetation restoration.

For centuries, the Loess Plateau in northern China has been denuded of vegetation by over farming and grazing and was known as one of the most eroded and poverty stricken areas of the world.

In 1995, John Liu began documenting a massive natural vegetation restoration program on 2.23 million acres of the Loess Plateau.

After the first 15 years, 2.5 million chinese have risen above the poverty level and farmer incomes have tripled.

Liu then documented this same kind of
transformation in Ethiopia and Rwanda.

Our intent at Monticello College is to affect a similar transformation on our 82-acre campus. We are currently in the planning stages and will begin implementation in 2019. For more information contact Mr. Joshua Choate – Director of Living Campus Operations at:

Click here to watch John Liu’s fascinating 29-minute video.


Read These Comments

If you follow my posts at all or are interested in the “Gun Freedom” debate, you have to go back to this post Gun Control Revisited, and read the comments.

There are some really well thought out comments on both sides of the debate.

People are scared of guns because they “believe”  firearms have only two outcomes: death or freedom. And freedom (responsibility) scares them more than death.

Feel free to weigh in and add comments on this topic, it impacts all of us.

Gun Control Revisited


Gun Control Revisited

A friend of mine commented on my recent blog post entitled Surprising Results From Obama Mandated Gun Violence Study By CDC.

Though we disagree on a number of topics, I very much appreciate her candor and willingness to discuss hard issues. I have included her comments and my reply.

Hi Shanon,
Long time! Thanks for posting this. I have something to add as regards the mass shooting issue.

The statistics don’t take into account the real cost of having assault style weapons easily available to the civilian population, which is psychological and emotional. Children today have never experienced what it is to leave the safety of their home each morning and not feel the specter of being systematically hunted down in their school.

That nightmare is always there, in the background, for our children and for their parents. This is a kind of domestic terrorism, in its effects if not its intent. The argument that these types of weapons are a bulwark against governmental tyranny is specious at best, considering the types of technologies the U.S. government has at its disposal.

The best way to ensure freedom from tyranny is to see to the health of our democratic institutions. And to privilege the rights of those who wish to possess these weapons of large scale destruction over the citizens who are held hostage to the reality of mass shootings is to abuse the notion of second amendment rights, which are ostensibly to secure freedom from tyranny.

That these types of weapons are still flooding our country is a financial victory for vested interests, and a source of national shame for Americans of all political stripes.



I honestly feel for our school children and the fear they feel. It should not be this way.

However let the facts stand – The report cited in the above blog, ordered by President Obama in 2013 and carried out under the direction of the CDC simple does not support your conclusions:

Fact – there are 300 million guns in America 200 million rifles and 100 million hand guns

Fact – from 1983 to 2018, a period of 35 years – 78 mass shooting events occurred -defined by the CDC as 4 or more deaths caused by one shooter in one day – as a result of these 78 events, 547 were killed and 476 injured – 1,023 in total. 1,023 too many deaths I agree, but hardly enough to change our constitution.

Fact – From 2000-2010 there were 335,000 deaths by gunshot, 61% were from suicide. During this same time 87% of all violent crime involved a hand gun not a rifle. Why are we focusing on rifles when in a 35 year period less than 700 have died in a mass shooting from the abuse of firearms, often a rifle. That is 16 deaths a year on average. To put this in perspective, 5,000 people die each year from food poisoning.

Fact – a semi automatic weapon is not an assault firearm. One trigger pull, one round fired.

Fact – 2008 – 300,000 violent crimes involving a firearm. During the same time, there were 1 million occurrences where a civilian thwarted a crime by possessing a firearm, that’s 3 crimes averted for every crime committed.

Other research shows that annually 88,000 people die in America from alcohol, 480,000 die from tobacco, 40,000 die in auto accidents and 33,500 die from gunshot.

In my opinion, all of these numbers are horrific. So why are we spending so much national attention on the lesser of these statistics?

I believe it is mostly because of media induced fear, lack of exposure to firearms, and a historic agenda to disarm the public. History is replete with accounts of an unarmed populace–regardless how they arrived at being disarmed–being tyrannized by an armed government.

It is not necessary for the public to have the sophisticated weaponry of the military to pose a significant deterrent to government abuse. Anyone who has spent anytime around firearms knows that even a single shot .22 poses the threat of serious bodily harm. An untrained civilian with a firearm scares me as much as you. So let’s remedy this by getting America trained and respecting firearms.

No act of Congress could ever stop people from owning firearms. We tried that “prohibition” approach with the 18th amendment and it failed miserably. And that was just over an intoxicant.

The better approach would be much more firearm education and training, better security in schools, much more Run-Hide-Fight training in the schools etc. We need to become more Anti-fragile.



Social media is not addictive for me, thank goodness because I think social media has become the scourge of the earth.

What little redeeming value it has (a means of free enterprise) is completely overshadowed and swallowed up by all the damage people cause by using it.

I have come loath Facebook, I don’t understand Twitter, Instagram, or Snapchat and for me the jury’s still out on “live” broadcasts.

For every serious and valuable “serial Youtuber,” there are 100 ridiculous ones that are filling our time with absolute nonsense. Least you say that it is all “harmless,” I see the damage it has done to students as they first come to our institution.

And the statistics are overwhelming:

Today there are 207 million active Facebook users in America[i] (that’s 60% of our entire population and that number is projected to rise to 220 million by 2022) spending more than an hour a day on Facebook[ii].

But if you factor in all online activities (Instagram – 106 million[iii], Snapchat – 77 million,[iv] all gaming, all Youtube and Netflix viewing and other online videos, etc) the percentage sky rockets to almost 25% of our awake time.

This does not include texting, and playing games on our smart phones. For the average American over the age of 16, that can be as much as five hours a day, every day–for some people that is essentially as much as 35 hours of entertainment every single week.

Are we really spending 5 hours of a 16-hour conscious period every 24 hours being entertained? This is all time wherein we are distracted from our loved ones, our community, and our social and civic responsibilities.

Time that could be spend improving ourselves or improving our financial situation by starting a business or increasing our skill sets to qualify for more responsibility and a higher income.

How do we not see that this is a monumental waste of our national resource of labor, not to mention a decline of our national character?

We are so far removed from reality that we even believe that we can get a sense of the plight of the third world farmer through playing a video game!

No–I don’t suffer from the very common addiction of social media, I am controlled by the cell phone as a mere communication device.

I have been carrying that damned little box around 24/7 for 15 years and I am sick of it controlling my life.

I don’t play video games or use apps for anything, but I am constantly expecting or hoping for a text, call, email, or messenger message and I am declaring here and now that my life of communication slavery is over.

I spent the first 40 years of my life surviving just fine without a communication device strapped to my belt, affixed to my ear, or ear buds dangling from my head.

Aside from all of the new research surfacing about cell phone radiation, I just want to feel in charge of my life again. I think my wife is a little troubled that she won’t be able to reach me.

But she couldn’t reached by cell phone during the 18 months we were dating–true 1/2 of that time I was submerged in the Atlantic Ocean in a submarine– but that just makes my point, our relationship survived.

We did not have cell phones for the first 20 years of our marriage and some how we have stayed together. Growing up, telephonic communication was a privilege, especially long distance, and as it happened so infrequently, we weren’t even sure what to say when we had the chance.

In the old days you more than half expected to leave a message and then get the response by a left message in return. Now if you don’t answer a call or a text immediately, you are the epitome of rudeness . . . or have been in an accident, or some terrible calamity has overtaken you . . . all because you have not respond in the 5 seconds since the message or call was sent.

I am beginning to wonder if all this instant communication isn’t causing our cerebral decision making centers to atrophy. Before cell phones, we had to rely a lot more on our own powers of discernment to get things done, now we call or even facetime someone non-stop because we are not confident enough to make a decision.

At one time I had some 20 or 30 phone numbers in my head, now I don’t even know my own wife’s number. And don’t get me started about using maps; I pull out a paper road map and everyone under 40 reacts like it is written in Hebrew.

So I have decided to leave the phone at home. If I do take it as a security measure, I turn it off. I have been unplugged from the phone for about 2 weeks and for the first week, I really felt naked.

Now I am beginning to feel free and at peace. I still check for calls, texts, and emails twice a day (down from 100 times a day) so if you call, message or send an email, I will get it, but it might be 12 to 24 hours before I get back to you.

I am not being rude, I am just living.








Surprising Results From Obama Mandated Gun Violence Study By CDC


I believe that this may be the most current and comprehensive report on gun-related violence available to date.

In 2013 Slate Magazine a “left of center” online publication, provided this summary of the 120-page report fully entitled “Priorities for Research to Reduce the Threat of Firearm-Related Violence.”

It took me a while to find the full report, the link in the article was deactivated and the first 5 google sites that had links to the report turned up dead as well,…umm I wonder why these links would be deactivated?

Here is a link to the report that you can trust, it is sitting on our website. CDC Report On Gun Control June 2013 – “Priorities for Research to Reduce the Threat of Firearm-Related Violence.”

Summary of the Slate article:

In 2013 President Obama ordered the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to assess the existing research on gun violence and recommend future studies.

That report, prepared by the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council was completed in June 2013.

Its findings won’t entirely please the Obama administration or the NRA, but all of us should consider them. Here’s a list of the 10 most salient or surprising takeaways:

The United States has an indisputable gun violence problem. 

According to the report, “the U.S. rate of firearm-related homicide is higher than that of any other industrialized country: 19.5 times higher than the rates in other high-income countries.”

Most indices of crime and gun violence are getting better, not worse.

Overall crime rates have declined in the past decade, and violent crimes, including homicides specifically, have declined in the past 5 years,” the report notes.

“Between 2005 and 2010, the percentage of firearm-related violent victimizations remained generally stable.” Meanwhile, “firearm-related death rates for youth ages 15 to 19 declined from 1994 to 2009.”

Accidents are down, too: “Unintentional firearm-related deaths have steadily declined during the past century. The number of unintentional deaths due to firearm-related incidents accounted for less than 1 percent of all unintentional fatalities in 2010.”

We have 300 million firearms, but only 100 million are handguns.

According to the report, “In 2007, one estimate placed the total number of firearms in the country at 294 million: ‘106 million handguns, 105 million rifles, and 83 million shotguns.’ ”

This translates to nearly nine guns for every 10 people, a per capita ownership rate nearly 50 percent higher than the next most armed country. But American gun ownership is concentrated, not universal: In a December 2012 Gallup poll, “43 percent of those surveyed reported having a gun in the home.”

Handguns are the problem.

Despite being outnumbered by long guns, “Handguns are used in more than 87 percent of violent crimes,” the report notes.

In 2011, “handguns comprised 72.5 percent of the firearms used in murder and non-negligent manslaughter incidents.” Why do criminals prefer handguns? One reason, according to surveys of felons, is that they’re “easily concealable.”

Mass shootings aren’t the problem.

“The number of public mass shootings of the type that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School accounted for a very small fraction of all firearm-related deaths,” says the report.

“Since 1983 there have been 78 events in which 4 or more individuals were killed by a single perpetrator in 1 day in the United States, resulting in 547 victims and 476 injured persons.”

Compare that with the 335,000 gun deaths between 2000 and 2010 alone.

Gun suicide is a bigger killer than gun homicide.

From 2000 to 2010, “firearm-related suicides significantly outnumbered homicides for all age groups, annually accounting for 61 percent of the more than 335,600 people who died from firearm-related violence in the United States,” says the report.

Firearm sales are often a warning: Two studies found that “a small but significant fraction of gun suicides are committed within days to weeks after the purchase of a handgun, and both also indicate that gun purchasers have an elevated risk of suicide for many years after the purchase of the gun.”

Guns are used for self-defense often and effectively.

“Almost all national survey estimates indicate that defensive gun uses by victims are at least as common as offensive uses by criminals, with estimates of annual uses ranging from about 500,000 to more than 3 million per year … in the context of about 300,000 violent crimes involving firearms in 2008,” says the report.

The three million figure is probably high, “based on an extrapolation from a small number of responses taken from more than 19 national surveys.” But a much lower estimate of 108,000 also seems fishy, “because respondents were not asked specifically about defensive gun use.”

Furthermore, “Studies that directly assessed the effect of actual defensive uses of guns (i.e., incidents in which a gun was ‘used’ by the crime victim in the sense of attacking or threatening an offender) have found consistently lower injury rates among gun-using crime victims compared with victims who used other self-protective strategies.”

Carrying guns for self-defense is an arms race. 

The prevalence of firearm violence near “drug markets … could be a consequence of drug dealers carrying guns for self-defense against thieves or other adversaries who are likely to be armed,” says the report.

In these communities, “individuals not involved in the drug markets have similar incentives for possessing guns.”

According to a Pew Foundation report, “the vast majority of gun owners say that having a gun makes them feel safer. And far more today than in 1999 cite protection—rather than hunting or other activities—as the major reason for why they own guns.”

Denying guns to people under restraining orders saves lives.

“Two-thirds of homicides of ex- and current spouses were committed [with] firearms,” the report observes. “In locations where individuals under restraining orders to stay away from current or ex-partners are prohibited from access to firearms, female partner homicide is reduced by 7 percent.”

It isn’t true that most gun acquisitions by criminals can be blamed on a few bad dealers. 

The report concedes that in 1998, “1,020 of 83,272 federally licensed retailers (1.2 percent) accounted for 57.4 percent of all guns traced by the ATF.”

However, “Gun sales are also relatively concentrated; approximately 15 percent of retailers request 80 percent of background checks on gun buyers conducted by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.”

Researchers have found that “the share of crime gun traces attributed to these few dealers only slightly exceeded their share of handgun sales, which are almost equally concentrated among a few dealers.” Volume, not laxity, drives the number of ill-fated sales.

These conclusions don’t line up perfectly with either side’s agenda. That’s a good reason to take them seriously.

With stats being thrown around by both sides of this debate, please take the time to read this report so that we can have a more intelligent discussion.