Precisely ten minutes later, at 12:47 P.M. in San Antonio, Texas, that arc of sunlight illuminates the altar of Mission Concepcion, where there was once a representation of Christ's heart.
Every nineteen years, the full moon appears in the Milky Way, just as it is shown in a fresco on the ceiling of Mission Concepcion.
And on November 26th, 2019 a 4,295-year-old calendar created by the Hokan speaking peoples of South Texas will end. After which it will reset for the next 4,295 years.
"You're talking about specific moments in time where land and sky connect," says Gary Perez.
Gary is a Centro San Antonio ambassador and researcher who first deciphered the geographical, astronomical and mathematical elements of the White Shaman Mural rock art near Del Rio that portrays the ceremonies of native peoples.
"When I was invited to look at the rock art and it was explained to me in a narrative, I thought wow, they’re talking about our ceremony," he explains, "but I also think you're looking at a map of Texas, probably the oldest one in, maybe even the world."
Gary is descended from the Hokan speaking peoples of South Texas, and was educated in his heritage largely by his grandmother. She was instrumental in the founding of the Native American Church, which happens to turn 100 years old in 2018. Because of this, Gary had unique insight when approaching the 4,000 year old art. He realized that four dots in the piece joined together to map the springs along the Balcones escarpment, including the Blue Hole at the University of the Incarnate Word, the headwaters of the San Antonio River.
"It's not just a terrestrial river, it's a celestial river," he says, referencing the alignment of the constellation Eridanus with the San Antonio River at midnight every Winter Solstice. The resemblance between the river and constellation is uncanny, giving context to the spiritual connection indigenous peoples had for this area.
Major events seem to coincide with the 4,295 year calendar created by the indigenous people of South Texas, down to the construction of the San Antonio Missions now 300 years past. Gary says the missions are a mixture of the Spanish and Native worldviews. As he sees it, they serve as a promise from his ancestors: "When the calendar comes to an end, it will end with everything we left embedded in the Missions."
"Thank God we caught it in time. Our culture did not die. We’re still here," he says, "There's a story behind all this. A story of humanity."
The Witte Museum recruited Gary to help them tell this story through their Lower Pecos exhibit, which features his research on the rock art near Del Rio. At one point in the immersive exhibit, Gary's voice comes in, adding color to the story of the native peoples who lived in South Texas thousands of years ago.
His presence in the exhibit helps him connect with people when he's on duty as an ambassador. Locals and visitors can speak with Gary in the streets Downtown one moment, and in the next listen to his insight on the Hokan speaking peoples of South Texas at the Witte Museum.
Part of the reason Gary became an ambassador was for these unique, interpersonal experiences. "I really wanted a ground view of what is being done Downtown." He had an interest in what people were saying about the Missions, the river, the city, and its history. With time, he gained an additional perspective: "It didn't take long before I realized there is a tremendous necessity for what Centro does Downtown."
It's important to Gary that his work takes on a life of its own and that people are aware of these often overlooked pieces of history. "I wouldn't have been able to do it without the opportunity that Centro offers."
The discoveries he's made shed light not only on San Antonio's past, but on its future. "They offer us a peek into the future, not just next year or 20 years from now, but 300 years from now." Gary explains that the Missions and rock art will always function as timepieces, and represent a promise from his ancestors.
"When our ancestors created that painting on the wall, they were thinking about us. And they were hoping that we would pick it up just in time to pass it on into the next 4,295 years."
Green to help keep Texas Green Conservationists: Prop 5 will help protect Guadalupe River State Park & others
Sunday, December 22, 2019
By Lindsey Carnett
Thanks to the passage of Proposition 5, Guadalupe River State Park will soon start receiving much-needed funding.
Just weeks after the passing of nine Texas constitutional amendments, state conservationists are applauding state voters on their 88% approval rating for Proposition 5 — which will send the sales tax on sporting goods to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Texas Historical Commission.
This funding source will help replace decades-old infrastructure — such as outdoor plumbing installed in the 1930s and 1940s — as well as upkeep nature trails, protect Texas’ natural areas and give the department the ability to open new sites.
With a 89.4% voter approval rating in Comal County, 13,972 voters were in favor of Proposition 5 and only about 10.6%, or 1,657 were against.
"I think clearly what this says is Texans care about our open spaces and historical sites and we know that it’s a big part of our culture, and of our state pride," said John Sheppard, executive director of the Texas Foundation for Conservation.
With the exponential growth Texas is experiencing, the state’s population is set to double by 2050 — which makes now the vital time to protect the land and its assets, Sheppard said.
"The state parks are the gateway to the outdoors for millions of Texans," Sheppard said. "The challenge (for state parks) over the years has been woeful underfunding — to the tune of parks only received about 40% of funds we’d anticipated."
The passage of Proposition 5 will make it so there is a solid funding stream to state and local parks such as the Guadalupe River State Park, and others, Sheppard said.
Sheppard added this amendment protects local city parks as well, which can receive park grants through the state office and match funds.
"Some money also goes to the historical commission as well, which protects historical sites," Sheppard said.
While many people may ask what upkeep state parks need that costs funds, infrastructure is not a cheap expense, Sheppard said.
"Even if the state has land, it takes several years to make a state park," Sheppard said. "It takes building basic infrastructure, long-term planning — and every year, the parks department had to go into the next year not really knowing how much would truly be available."
Thanks to the lobbying of over 80 different nonprofits and pro-environmental groups focused on conservation, the proposition was put out for voters and it’s state-wide passage rate of 88% shows it was highly wanted, Sheppard said.
"Other states have done similar propositions but 88% is the highest passing rate of any," Sheppard said.
Guadalupe River State Park is slated to get new restrooms, and it’s fixes like this every state park needs, Sheppard said.
"I think we’re going to look back on this legislation, this amendment and in 10, 20, 30 years we’ll realize how important it was we made this decision when we did," Sheppard said.
A day pass at Guadalupe River State Park is $7 for adults and free for children under 12. An annual pass costs $70. Camping is available for a nightly rate ranging between $15 and $24.
Guadalupe River State Park is located at 3350 Park Road 31, Spring Branch, 78070, within parts both Comal and Kendall counties. For more information about the park, call 830- 438-2656
San Marcos River Foundation Land for Sale:
We're excited to share that after purchasing a crucial tract of land six years ago we're ready to complete this project and ensure its permanent protection. The Geiger Tract, which is riddled with sensitive recharge features and next to Sink Creek above Spring Lake, was first purchased with a loan from the Conservation Fund to prevent dense development on it and the adjoining property. We plan to sell the land with a conservation easement that will permanently restrict uses that impact its natural resources. In addition, we are preserving the ability to make crucial connections for the Loop and Check greenbelt trail corridor first envisioned by the San Marcos Greenbelt Alliance & SMRF, and adopted by the City of San Marcos.
SMRF as Land Trust:
The purchase of the Geiger Tract was the beginning of SMRF's role as a regional land trust and over these past six years we have focused significant energy to continue our work of protecting the springshed and riparian areas of the San Marcos River. We are officially members of the Land Trust Alliance and Texas Land Trust Council which both provide resources for adopting the best standards and practices of land trusts. We continue to own and protect the 31 acre preserve along the San Marcos River at IH-35. In 2020 we will begin pursuing more conservation easement opportunities with private landowners in the recharge zone and along the San Marcos River as part of our mission to protect and preserve a clean, flowing and accessible San Marcos River through water and land conservation, advocacy and community engagement.
There's a strong link between spending time outdoors, improved mental health, and quality of life.
22 Nov 2019
Researchers from Griffith University in Queensland, Australia, have put a value on it. By looking at how much people are likely to spend on their healthcare combined with statistics on national park visits, they were able to calculate a dollar value for a quality-adjusted life year, or QALY. One QALY equates to one year in good health.
The researchers concluded the economic impact of protected areas, like national parks, on people’s mental health is $6 trillion per year worldwide.
How improvement in quality of life (y-axis) compares to visits to protected outdoor areas per annum (x-axis). See chart below.
Their report is based on simple logic: "Nature exposure improves human mental health and well-being. Poor mental health imposes major costs on human economies. Therefore, parks have an additional economic value through the mental health of visitors."
Professor Ralf Buckley, International Chair in Ecotourism Research at Griffith University, explained. "Everyone spends money on their health, from Band-Aids to weeks in the hospital. Depending on the country, that money might be paid by the individual, a health insurer, or the government. But those costs still exist whether we pay them in cash, via health insurance premiums, or via taxes, and we can track the costs quite precisely."
Governments and health insurers use the $/QALY calculation all the time, according to Buckley. It’s a standard way to make decisions around healthcare spending priorities.
"Costs are easy to compare," he said. "But what about benefits? They need to know the value per person of the expected improvement in quality of life, multiplied by the number of people affected."
DO YOU COME HERE OFTEN?
The research team quizzed visitors to two Australian subtropical national parks, using the personal well-being index (PWI), which looks at seven criteria: standard of living, health, achieving in life, relationships, safety, community connectedness, and future security.
They compared visitors’ PWI scores with data on the general Australian population and estimates of how many people visit national parks each year.
From this, they determined that visiting a national park lifted people’s PWI by 2.2% on average. The conclusion is that there is a link between visits to areas such as national parks and improved mental health and well-being. When transposed onto the $/QALY sum, that translates to a "substantial but previously unrecognized economic value".
Just like healthcare costs, the value placed on a QALY varies from one country to another. But according to Buckley, it averages between $200,000 and $250,000.
"That might sound a lot," he says. "But imagine you were given a choice between dying right now or living another year in perfect health. How much would you pay? Looked at that way, it doesn’t seem such a big number at all."
There are, of course, limits to the amount of wealth and capital people have at their disposal, so the value of a QALY cannot rise non-stop; it's grounded in what people are actually able to pay for the healthcare services they need to improve their lives, rather than a notional value of what their time might be worth to them.
Efforts to put a monetary value on health and happiness are always likely to be challenging, due to the very personal nature of what makes any given individual feel rewarded, content and at their best.
Research from the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School recently highlighted a link between happy workers and higher productivity. A 13% increase in sales among BT staff was found to coincide with workers feeling happier, which may further demonstrate the economic impact of looking after employees’ well-being.
The Hill Country Land Trust wants to get the word out about its conservation easement program as development from the east encroaches on area counties.
The trust (HCLT) will marked its 20th anniversary with a “Conservation Celebration” on Saturday, Nov. 9 at the Gilbriar Gazebo. In those two decades, HCLT has worked in partnership with private landowners to protect agricultural land, waterways and wildlife habitat.
Those attending the event met Tiffany Osburn, an archeologist with the Texas Historical Commission who now steers the HCLT with its board, as well as bid on auction prizes and honor a longtime conservationist Bill Lindemann, former leader of the HCLT.
HCLT currently has 20 easements totaling 6,000 acres in their part of the Hill Country, but is working on a large easement that will increase its acreage by one third.
For landowner Nolan Sagebiel, the choice to put his land in a conservation easement was easy after witnessing the ranches along U.S. 281 become strip centers.
“We’ve seen everything get split up. I just wanted to make sure our land didn’t end up that way,” Sagebiel said.
He said while some family land was split up between he and his heirs, Nolan and brother Phillip wanted to keep their land near Enchanted Rock State Natural Area intact and free of rapid development, which can happen fast as witnessed by the U.S. 281 construction.
“There are five hotel companies that would love to put a resort in the view of Enchanted Rock or people who would build a subdivision there,” he said. “But my brother and I just decided it’s not going to happen on our land. None of us control everything forever, but you never know what your heirs are going to do.”
Sagebiel said the Hill Country Land Trust made the process easy.
“They answered all my questions, they weren’t pushy, we had several discussions — they didn’t try to pressure me to make a decision to go their way,” he said.
Sagebiel said while some families may need to make the financial decision to split up land, when entering the conservation easement program, the landowner makes the rules. “They decide what they want to see happen and what they don’t want to see done on their land,” he said.
Osburn said the process is gaining interest and HCLT has many easement projects in the discussion phases or in the process of becoming an easement.
Go to https://www.hillcountrylandtrust.org/ to learn more about what Hill Country Land Trust is doing.