ECO-Tours only purchases trees and dirt to plant them in...

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Idle No More

Worldwide, indigenous peoples are rising up, those who realize that the future of our species is at stake in the current economic system if we do not change course quickly are tired of waiting for governments and their representatives to compromise themselves into a corner. the stakes are so high because we have always had two competing factions seeking power, those who feel that individual rights are sacred and those that think that the good of the many outweighs the good of the individual. It is time to begin thinking about governing in a completely different manner. At ECO-Tours, we have been teaching leadership development and governing by consensus for over twenty years. These important elements in cultural change are coming to the fore across the planet at a time of extreme stress, financial instability and rapid ecological change.

We are facing exponential changes in several areas that threaten the fabric of our daily lives, but with relatively small changes being taken by millions, possibly billions of individuals, wholesale change that will help maintain cultural continuity can occur relatively rapidly. Divesting from industries that exploit individuals or the Earth is a great place to start. Artificially propping up antiquated industries that no longer serve the interests of people or the planet is how we got into the mess that we are in now. Demanding an end to corporate welfare and prosecution of white collar criminals will most certainly need to take place as well. Allowing wealthy, powerful and controlling interests to continue down the rat hole of environmental destabilization and corruption of the ecosystems that sustains all life on our planet must not stand.

As we enter the new age, over the next hundred and fifty years or so, it is the water bearers who will have to be revered and followed if we are to survive. ECO-Tours has existed in several forms, flowing through an organic progression, like all life demonstrates for us if we take the time to slow down and pay attention. The water bearers are not, as the name would seem to express, like vessels in the traditional sense of the word. they do not always carry water in a traditional sense either. They epitomize flow, understand the relationship between all that is and transformation into other forms, other states of consciousness. The water that is borne is perhaps best understood as a sacred dance, a flow within universal relationship with all that is. Instead of a linear progression from youth to old age, the water bearers realize that deep and abiding wisdom that resides in the innocence of a new born is the same wisdom that the most intuitive elder holds in their heart. there is no now and then, past, present and future, all time is now. the movements we make through space are as much an illusion as the time signature we invent to keep track of our days.

Those who exhibit the greatest stillness are often the most productive, why? because they have mastered the relationship between their own soul purpose, their values and moral fiber, and by attending to the moment, bring their full potential into each moment. These old souls inspire others and understand the great mystery in ways that are hard to put to words. The flowing river thinks not of the rocks upon which it flows, but over the course of the seasons, it has the power to wear away stone. Instead of working in opposition to an impediment, it has the temporal power of just be-ing, tenaciously clinging to itself and whatever it touches. Though a coherent state of being, it outlasts the river bed and the cliffs. by changing phase, it has the power to break stone, imbue all things with life and enliven life processes of every organism on the planet. The water bearers accept this truth, live it and will outlast the current slate of provincial, colonizers and those who seek to extract as much as possible without giving anything back to the rest of the sacred beings on Mother Earth.

We continue to plant trees, tree seeds, pioneer species of all types and to educate people in ways to live sustainably amongst all the creatures of our sacred planet. We will not wage war on the enemies of the Earth, but we will take pity on them in many and varied ways. It is from a supreme destitution of spirit that they make the false assumptions that they have made. we live in a world of infinite abundance. reclaiming the give away as a normal part of our lives will yield blessings and miracles beyond our understanding. We are honored by having the opportunity to serve and blessed with the ability to do so. Thank-you for your support!

Friday, December 14, 2012

New Beginnings

As many prepare to make New Years resolutions, it is our wish to pass on a bit of wisdom that we have gleaned from our many years of living as change agents. When we seek to make positive change, it is important to clear out old ways, old habits and in very real ways,clear the ground so something new can take root. It has been reported that over the years, very few of our resolutions stick. Like the wife in Slaughterhouse Five, we often run cover for our own bad habits by saying repeatedly, I'm going to change. I'm going to change for you, Honey. This time I'm really serious...

What we really need to do, to make positive and lasting change in our lives is to rip and tear at the foundation of bad habits, we must remove some significant part of our "selves" to make room for the new beginning. In very real ways, the closing of a chapter is upon us. Our attachment to the way things were is the only thing that is holding us back from achieving great things.

When we embark on a restoration project, we often have to clear out plant life that would out compete the trees that we plant. Changing our lives is much the same. If we have entanglements that absorb all the fresh ideas and good habits that we are trying to establish, the new seedlings that we plant will come to naught. If we refuse to clear out the unproductive activities that we currently distract ourselves with, there will be no time for that exercise program, or the weight loss program that we commit to.

The rites and rituals of the season have developed over long periods of time to help us give away things that are holding us back as surely as they are meant to re-establish relationships with the important parts of the world that surrounds us. In the process of growing, first we must break through the outer shell that we have developed to protect us. This time of the year, the Earth falls into a type of suspended animation. The life which thrives upon the surface takes a rest, and we need to take heed of that, resting ourselves. Over the first half of my adult life, I often found myself busier at this time of year than nearly any other. Running and rushing, trying to meet more than my fair share of obligations. Inevitably, this would lead to illness early in the new year.

One resolution that helped to avoid both the hectic pre-holiday rush and the aftermath of recovery that my body inevitably had to go through, was to look upon the dark days of winter as a gift rather than an obligation. Without a hearth, it can be a bit difficult to find a place to share stories and gather during the long winter nights, but we have had to make due. Stories can still be shared and gifts can still be exchanged, but rather than trying to make everything perfect, just taking time to appreciate one another has become a much more important part of the season.

Understanding the need to clear out things before amassing new ones has both prepared the ground for new growth and opened up possibility that I could not have fathomed if I had remained locked in to the belief that this is the season that requires perfection. One of my favorite personal ECO-Tours, taken time and time again is to journey in, to the heart of my ideas. finding out where they have come from and why I might feel the pressure to do things that I know to be either not helpful or downright harmful has led me to come to terms with many of my mal-adaptive behaviors. Like weeding the ground and tilling soil for new plantings, this mental cultivation has led to both startling discoveries about myself and the creation of a rich medium in which to plant the seeds of better behavior that can lead to growth.

Finding the right places to cultivate, the best seeds to plant in the fresh ground and caring for our new selves in ways that foster growth rather than hinder it is a lifelong process. Just because we put so much pressure on ourselves at this time of year does not mean that this is the only time that we need to consider these important parts of our lives, but perhaps we can start by establishing a new relationship with the person we hope to become. with a bit of luck, perhaps, we can come to terms with the fact that much of what we have become comfortable with is taking us down a very limiting path. Holding on to our old pain, the myriad abuses and neglect that can help define who we are limits our development as surely as night follows the day. Releasing both ourselves and those who have caused our pain from these limitations sounds difficult, but for those who have experienced true forgiveness, the feeling is like opening your heart. Just as we root up weeds and shoots from earth that we seek to plant in, loosening the entanglements of our heart is an essential part of becoming new people.

For some reason, humans seem prone to forgetting the eternal truths. Perhaps that is why so many religious teachings say the same things. I'm sure that is the reason for most folk tales. Even those of us on a good path can use a bit of cultivation from time to time. Take time to look long and deeply into the world that surrounds you. Both the external world of nature, or concrete jungle, whichever you live within and the internal world of emotions and ideas. find the place from which the limitations spring and root them out. only then will your seeds of change be able to take root.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Socialism - Capitalism

The "news" has just covered one of the most curiously mundane subjects imaginable. Miriam Webster, the dictionary people, have kept track of the most looked-up words since their online dictionary started. This year, they tracked two words, in combination, as the most looked up definitions. It seems that the two were most frequently looked up together. Oddly enough, the Rethuglicans made great strides toward redefining both during this election cycle. In our defense, we tried to get tot he bottom of what they were talking about rather than taking their word for it. Strangely enough, fascism didn't make the cut.

I have lived in communes, so I have first-hand knowledge of what shared ownership of the means of production looks and feels like. In fact, the highest standard of living I have ever experienced was living communally. I may not have had a lot of capital, but my needs were always met and the extra value of feeling part of something greater has not been available in any other economic system. What powerful elites do not want us to know is that having them in charge will always cost society more than they are willing to give back to it. Just look at the current "fiscal cliff" and you will realize that the poor are paying more to keep the ship of state afloat than the wealthy. Fairness would require the rich to pay at least as much of their income as the poor and middle class do, but they are fighting tooth and nail to continue benefiting from both the corporate welfare that they have become used to and the tax shelters that they have concocted to line their pockets at our expense.

What really upsets me is the large number of people who belong to cooperatives or buying clubs who claim that socialism is bad. Farmers, across our great land, cooperatively buy feed and seed, store their agricultural products or throw in together to market their products. This is just one example of the good of others and the good of individuals being wedded to one another. Socialism.The prize-winning stupidity that flowed from a Republican mouth recently was that, "We do not want to become Greece." This shows two different ignorant opinions wrapped up in one. Greece, no matter what you think of the country itself, is not an example of what we would become if we accepted more socialist policies. The problems that Greece is facing have come about because of capitalistic approaches to investment and money lending. A significant portion of the Greek's means of production, is based on debt. Owned by foreign interests, not society. Much of this debt has piled up because of the fast money, "loaned" to them by the GDR. The threat posed by this debt is owned by capitalists, not socialists. Capitalism, foisted upon the Greek people from outside their boundaries has resulted in instability and unsustainable cuts to the fabric of life for Greek people. The turmoil that is taking place in Greece right now is because those who believe in the "free market", mostly capitalists, saw a chance to extract more money from Greece than they were able to pay. again, the costs are socialized, but the benefits flowed only one way, out of the country. The World Bank and International Monetary Fund have operated the same way for decades, extracting wealth and leaving the burden of governing civil society on the backs of those who are struggling to pay off debt for things that they probably never wanted in the first place.

Private interests love to socialize the costs of their behaviors and allow us all to languish in the cesspool of pollution, exploitation and squalor that they think we deserve. This leaves them free to reap the benefits of our labors. In the case of Greece, their economic turmoil has come about by being hung out to dry by the international bankers that loaned them billions when times were good. Now that the tables have turned and times are tough, the money lenders are facing losses, but their feathered nests will always need more fluff and they have defined both the terms and re-payment plans to benefit themselves, not Greek people or society. In many ways, Germans are more socially inept than we are. They may call themselves a Democratic-socialist country, but capital is front and center, making choices for the entire EU that are bad for people, bad for society and I contend, bad for the planet.

The "resources" that capitalists base their decision-making upon are deemed to be there for the taking, regardless of the negative impacts on society that their exploitation will result in. when the "resources" are people and the exploitation of larger and larger groups of people are required to sate the capitalists thirst for profit, I believe that we have sold ourselves short. It is not bad enough that our land has been despoiled for the profits of the few, now we are extracting even more from those people who had made a social contract to help their fellow countrymen, allow their culture to flourish and by being classified as debtor nations, put themselves in the awkward position of trying to pay for the largess of their most wealthy and powerful elites by further stripping the population of whatever social security net they had. Ultimate power, it is said, corrupts absolutely and we are now seeing the mayhem that can be created when dollars (or euros) matter more than people.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Warm Weather Frustrates Deer Hunters

Local butchers that process deer are seeing far more carcasses than usual brought in while still warm. In addition to absence of tracking snow, the deer hunt this year is the warmest on record, making for hurried attempts to keep meat from spoiling. The fact that Thanksgiving weekend is the earliest possible date, and the deer hunt is based around people having off work, the climate change that we are seeing is trending to be warmer as well.

Here in Wisconsin, we have a long history of deer camps, hunting culture and a deep and abiding relationship with the deer. More and more sources for seed, intended for food plots for deer are popping up each year, as are advertizing for bait and sweet treats for your quarry, even though in many areas feeding of deer has been either discouraged or outright banned. Herd managers are finding that through increased association and contact, as often happens at feeding stations, diseases are passed from one to another. Funny, we have known this about the human population for years. The problem with much of the diseases that are now part of the deer's environment include prion diseases (relatives to mad cow disease), things that will not render the meat obviously bad to consume. However, in the scenario I will now describe, that could play out in my use methodology, while brain tanning the hide of a deer that I might "consume", part of that process includes scraping the hide and rubbing the brain into the skin to produce leather. for those of us who work with our hands, cuts and scrapes, scratches and punctures are inevitable. During this culturally necessary sacred rite, that I perform, I could potentially contact both brain matter and in a relatively intimate manner, unmediated by cooking or digestive acids and enzymes. The warmer than usual winters that we have been experiencing, combined with near total absence of snow has allowed the deer herd to blossom while simultaneously, many of the hunters themselves have been saying that there are less deer in the woods. My belief is that the desire to kill a buck is so great that many would rather lie about deer availability (based on arbitrary factors like roadkill) than actually hunt. The fact that car-deer collisions are at their lowest number since 1981 reflects our reduced driving trends more than the availability of deer for hitting. The deer population is actually climbing but as gasoline prices have more than doubled, we are curtailing non-essential trips.

As long as we have milder winters, less snow and fewer hunters willing to kill does, we will continue to create larger and larger herds of deer and their ability to get away from one another will continue to be reduced. If we do have a return to "normal" weather and a difficult winter, many deer will starve. Those watching the weather closely will say that it is unlikely, I would go further and say highly unlikely. The one thing that we must concede is that more deer closer together has spelled a burgeoning disease problem and that those are unlikely to stop, no matter how many individuals we remove from the population. In fact, the lowest deer population that we have recorded in the state of Wisconsin was 1972, before the rampant sub-urbanization of the landscape. We bring tender shrubs, flowers and bulbs that augment the paltry fare of a mature forest, open the canopy and let the sunshine in. Wildlife experts for generations have been enamored with edge as habitat that holds much greater biodiversity than monoculture. Around each tiny sub-division is an edge between what was there before and what is there now.  For those of you who hunt, I hope you are allowed as many doe permits as you want and I hope that many animals lay themselves in your hands. For those of you who feed the deer, please stop. For those of us who brain tan animals, we need to be wary of any animal that presents itself to us. Know the local deer as be4st you can and if they seem to be affected with any disease, perhaps salt the hide away until a more suitable brain can be found. For those of you who think "Global Warming" is a good thing, try to understand that this level of climate change may not have happened in fifteen or twenty thousand years, then ask yourself, "What organisms will have a chance at adapting to unprecedented changes the best?", then ask if we should keep rolling the dice, or walk away from the table with what we have left?

Another Year Coming To A Close

Many in the non-profit sector use this time to ask for money. As readers of this blog may have noted, we ask all year long, so for the next few posts, at least, we will try to give you a break from our asking for money. You may have noticed that we often take the road less traveled, encouraging you to learn about and support other organizations as well as ours. If you are reading between the lines you will have also noted that we are not supporting a bunch of staff or ancillary services that gobble money and contribute little to the reaching of our goals. In short, unlike most organizations, every dollar we receive buys either trees or dirt. Over the years, we have gotten several thousand plastic landscaping pots donated and from time to time we fill them with dirt and tree seedlings that provide us a moveable nursery. more importantly, it allows us to stretch out the crucial planting window of the bare root seedlings that we receive. Once potted, we can tend the tiny sprouts for up to several years if need be, to find the perfect spot for them. Often a few months or weeks are all that are needed, but this year, we had our best weather for planting before trees were shipped and then, two months of drought. In cases like this, it is always good to have an option for holding trees until conditions are best for planting. The fall rains came over a month early and we were ready for them with trees to plant and helping hands from folks who volunteered to come on plant-ins.

We are more concerned than ever with the veritable media black out on several ecologic issues. First and foremost is the occupy movement. Many refuse to believe that the occupy protesters are even still around, much less clamoring to expose deep seated power imbalances in our political culture and civic discourse. Here at ECO-Tours, it has been a long-standing realization that the very language that the oppressors use to enslave citizens has been engineered by the most wealthy and powerful interests, and is devoid of truth or fact. Some commonly used catch phrases include, "No Child Left Behind", which is the name given to not only a terrible law that could never have been passed on merits (because there are none), but with the focus on testing, any educator worth their salt knows that the entire law flies in the face of what we do know about education. Millions of students are being harmed by this new set of laws that displace trust in educators and give it instead to tests. Similarly, the healthcare laws that have recently been enacted probably should not have the word "care" included, because they more accurately are a bail out to insurance companies, giving them a vast new pool of people to exploit for profit. The powerful interests have continued to rape Mother Earth for private profit, virtually unimpeded by regulation, even though the people have spoken repeatedly their wish for water that is safe to drink, air that is safe to breathe and soil that supports life rather than inhibits it. Ignoring the occupy movement will not make it go away. Including discussion about issues in politics only threatens those who have held power for the last hundred years. In a country that claims to be about democracy, allowing the people to speak should be the first order of business. Instead, the debates continue to be framed by those who wish to paint the people who do have a handle on the truth as radicals, seething masses of dangerous counter-culture folks, pierced and screaming in the streets. I do agree that the truth is dangerous to the rich and powerful interests that are in charge today, but our land was not founded on principles of theft and disenfranchisement. The economy rests on the environment as surely as proper brain function rests on adequate oxygen absorption and transport. The heart of our nation is being crippled by fear and worry and the air is evermore toxic. The media black out cannot hide the fact that the protests continue, just as turning our heads away from mega-factory farms cannot dispel the harm that they create across the landscape and the risks that they pose to our health, safety and welfare.

Luckily, with more and more sources for information, especially those like we provide, the masks that demonic and despotic forces amongst us use to hide their true intent have slipped just a bit, revealing the dark side of the 'economic equation' that has been used to keep us in our place, slaves to the powers that be. We are loathe to accept that the emperor is wearing no clothes. After all, we have been told how beautifully the brocade fits, how exquisite their millions are, how benevolent their minions are and how sleek and efficient the wheels of capital are. It is time to step off the express train to destruction and stop worshiping the bull in a china shop approach to economics, politics and environmentalism. ECO-Tours is working to raise enough capital to purchase tools that will allow us to overcome decades of abuse perpetrated on the land. If you do want to help us take our recovery efforts to the next level, donate. If you want to throw in with those who will not give up or give in to the largest players, the lure of capital or the powerful interests that continue to go rogue on the environment in the name of profit, we will welcome your support.

Remember, the masks that have slipped from the faces of the demons who extract wealth and resources without concern for the welfare of the planet or their fellow humans, were intended to keep us thinking that they were just like us. We dress up like demons at Halloween and it is funny, because everyone knows that there is a good person hiding behind the mask. the demons are demonic all year long and continuously wear masks to keep us thinking that they are just like us. If you look a little more closely, you will find that it is not the 47% who claim to be victims. It is more often the social climbers and the ultra-wealthy who claim that they are being victimized by regulations that are strangling their ability to make a profit off the collective resources by over-regulation. If that were true, they might re-think what they are doing.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Donations For Positive Change

Last night, there was an excellent investigative program on Public Television. It related to the Citizens United case that the Supreme Court of the United States of America decided in favor of the idea that money equals speech. Today, I am broke, so I guess I can't "speak" much. The program showed evidence that at least one 501(c)4 organization has been coordinating with campaigns across the country to deny fair elections across the nation. I don't want to go on and on about the injustice of a system that allows the 1% to give unlimited amounts of money for political speech, that is not my goal for this post. Even though our democracy has been purchased out from under us, what I want to point out here is what can be done to create a better world for all of us.

As long as the 1% continues to purchase elections and as long as the government refuses to reign in the powerful interests that hide behind these 501(c)4 organizations, I will personally try to educate and inform folks about the travesty that we still naively call democracy. I will also continue to offer insight into environmental issues that come from the raping of the planet, poisoning the poor and denying rights to the disenfranchised. One of the things that I will continue to do is to teach my readers, our guests and the general public about the systems that allow our species to thrive as well as those that make us sick, contribute to Idiocracy and genetically predispose us to death and disease. The wealthy just want to keep their cash flow alive and will sacrifice the habitability of our planet every time it bumps up against their greedy vision of more.

Ironically, the largest number of donations that ECO-Tours receives are from people who are in the bottom 10% of the earnings scale, not because we tailor our message to them, not because they are swimming in cash and are looking for a tax break. No, they give because they realize that being efficient about spending those precious dollars is our way of getting the biggest bang for the buck. If we receive $1,000, we can turn that into a thousand trees and we will work hard to find enough willing and helpful hands to plant them as quickly as possible in appropriate areas where they can thrive. If those thousand trees are planted in places where they do well, there is the possibility of recreating about three acres of forest when they mature. We have planted thousands of trees again this year and are always happy to accept donations to help us continue our efforts.

The deceptive ads and outright lies that are told by political ad campaigns are expensive. The wealthiest among us feel the need to be allowed to fund these vitriolic falsehoods. They call it democracy, or defend the practice by saying that it is "legal". I, for one, challenge the idea that money is speech. I remember the phrase "put your money where your mouth is", but this state of affairs has become ridiculous. As the vast majority of citizens are squeezed ever more tightly in the pincers of corporate greed and the extractive methods that they bring to capitalism, taking away their voice through poverty is both inhumane and unjust.

What we offer through our ECO-Tours is the very real chance to change our nation from the ground up. We will not waste our dollars lying about anyone, we will not try to influence elections. We will not ask the billionaires to give us money so that we may push their political ideology or buy them politicians. We buy and plant trees. Hundreds of thousands of living creatures, including humans are benefiting from the trees that we have planted already. We ask for donations to keep this work going. Our Paypal account can be found by using the account number We look forward to continuing to plant trees and wish that there were a way to spread the word about the injustice of big money running the political process. As those who were paying attention this week may know, Green Party candidate Jill Stein and her vice presidential running mate were jailed on the night of the second to the last debate for just trying to go onto the campus where the debate was being held. Locked up and locked out of discussions, this third party voice had just as much right to share the stage as the well-heeled, corporately owned, figureheads.

Our efforts are made to build soils, protect water quality, fix carbon and make the planet a little more stable. If these goals are important to you, please donate to our cause.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Avoided Costs

In our rush to produce, we often forget the true cost of doing business. Especially in fields that we describe as competitive, the focus seems to get skewed to the speed at which we can produce, or bring products to market, keeping costs as low as possible or touting features that will give us the "edge" over the competition. Although there are things to be said about all of these demand-side parts of the equation, there are many more aspects of supply-side economics that need to be considered in the mix. As awareness rises about the impact of our decisions in the marketplace, consumers are expanding the list of qualities that they are looking for in the products and services that they use. Many folks who read these posts regularly might think that all commercial interests rub me the wrong way, but that certainly is not the case. I too consume products and services, but with an eye to efficient and sensitive business models that make sense to me.

If I see a building with high ceilings, massive north-facing windows, little or no insulation and co-mingled garbage overflowing from their dumpsters, no matter what they offer, I will be looking elsewhere to meet my needs. energy is a major cost of doing business and those facilities that are designed to scream throughput must certainly have to tack those costs on to whatever they sell. Similarly, if I can see that the owners and managers are serious about recycling, that they keep the thermostat down in the winter and allow their buildings to run a little warmer in the summer, it goes a long way to make me feel better about spending my dollars there. Likewise, if the employees seem happy and well-cared for, I assume that working conditions for their laborers are better than places where the workers seem beaten down, depressed and listless.

Especially in competitive markets, running a tight ship and treating employees well mean much more to a growing segment of the market than many larger businesses realize. Two of my pet peeves are Trader Joe's and Whole Foods Market. Just because you offer organic products, won't gain you street cred amongst those of us who detest the Wal-mart business model. Get big or get out has been the mantra for agriculture for decades and the same out-dated refrain is making inroads to every sort of business. In their attempts to grow into top spot amongst their competitors, businesses frequently overlook the simple fact that a penny saved is a penny earned. I work periodically for an exhibition company that used to compete with hundreds of other companies across the country to bring conventions to cities across America. In the old days, they had competition and worked hard to keep costs down. Now, they have bought nearly all of their competitors and without any real threat to their position they have become adept at cost cutting. Oddly, since they now buy virtually all of their materials and equipment from China, virtually everything they use for a show goes in the trash when they are done with it. The wooden tables with steel legs do get reused, the extension cords get re-used and the pipe and drape travels from show to show, but the skirting on the tables, the table covers and even the garbage cans get thrown in the trash. The costs of this behavior are felt most strongly in China, where workers are exposed to hazardous chemicals in production facilities, but here too, we pay the costs with absolutely no benefit in higher taxes and tipping fees, waste handling costs and ultimately having to create new landfills when our current ones fill up more quickly.

The reason that this mind set thrives is because we offer corporate welfare in the form of publicly owned landfills, built with tax dollars, but those who fill them up are not charged the full price according to their use characteristic. In this particular case, the people using the dumpsters are not the people paying to have the waste removed. Miraculously, someone else is forced to cover the costs of bad business decisions. By throwing away all of the table skirts, you can avoid the cost of washing them of handling them in ways that allow re-use to occur, driving down labor costs as well. this means that the company has more money and spends less as well. In their world-view these avoided costs are good for them, but for the workers, it shaves away their income and increases the stress on their personal budget. Sometimes, doing the right thing can benefit both sides of the balance sheet, but the trend seems to be that business only looks to their own pocketbook. I remember learning that even the garbage cans got thrown away. several weeks earlier I had to buy a small garbage can for a friend and it cost just a few dollars, but seeing hundreds stacked up and thrown away I got to thinking. This happen every day, across the country, perhaps hundreds of thousands of perfectly good plastic bins per year make their way to the local landfills across our great nation annually, after just one day's use. The most insidious evil is that on paper, it looks like a good idea. who wouldn't like to send workers home an hour or two earlier and pocket the cash that would be needed to pay them if they had more work?

Well, you see where I'm going with that. Avoided costs mean something completely different to the large corporate interests than they do to you or me. I do not begrudge the Chinese their "work" either, I just hate the idea of them supplying us trash. I did have to rent my own dumpster recently. we did a major home renovation and removed tons of  debris from our home. As much as possible, we saved what could be re-used, burned safely in our fire pit, or recycled. I understand that the time spent sorting our waste added time to the project and I understand that the money we saved by cutting waste removal costs by about half probably would not be "worth" the effort, but it was the right thing to do. Until we find a way to penalize corporations and small businesses for making the wrong decisions, or until all consumers get on the same page about our responsibilities to the marketplace, there will continue to be abuses of the resources of the planet, difficult times for workers and massive subsidies for the worst offenders. I realize that we are all under ever-increasing stress over how we make our living, but the sense of satisfaction that comes when we learn about the industries that we support is truly priceless.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Pipelines Leak

This is an unavoidable rule. At the very least, at some point the entire pipeline will "run dry" and the residue that will remain in the pipe will be lost to the environment. The equipment that pumps and pressurizes oil and gas, hell, even water, leak. Pipelines leak, that's what they do. When we tipple, or top up, there are fugitive emissions that are toxic and deadly, fluid leaks, that's what it does and the higher the octane, the more releases there are. The history of pipelines is rife with catastrophic releases as well as a burgeoning business in prostitution, alcohol and drugs during the construction phase. The boom in any economy based on raping the earth is at least as ugly as the bust. Currently there are those who advocate creating "jobs" through exploiting Mother Earth's greatest gifts. They call them "resources" and claim that they have no value if they are not exploited. I, as a humble citizen of the planet say, "No." to their claims. We do not yet understand the true value of these reserves. We cannot fathom the purpose of billions of years of evolution of life on our planet. Perhaps, in some way that we do not yet understand, the oil acted as a reservoir for the earth's inner warmth, protecting us not only from the heat generated in the core, but perhaps even ameliorating tectonic movement. Won't we have egg on our faces if the very fluids and gasses that we are tapping out contribute to making the planet habitable? Our collective myopia has stung us badly in the past, why do we expect that with respect to fossil fuel, we have all the answers?

The time has come to re-think the value of oil and gas left in the ground. In the not-too-distant future, if there is any left at all, the price promises to continue to climb. The only way to get beyond this is to trend toward bioregional tribes and local sustainable communities in which energy and food, as well as most commodities are produced locally, if not, regionally. Technologies exist for low cost solutions to such difficulties as short growing seasons, poor soil conditions or inadequate rainfall. What we lack is the will. That is the worst thing about losing so many old-timers so quickly. The true meaning of conservation was to conserve, above all else, spend as little as possible as much of the time as possible. It was my grandfather who told me about the three minute shower, he was a true conservative. In my quest to save water, I have done him one better, reducing both the flow of water in my shower significantly and reducing the time spent there even further.

The ugly flip side of  his beliefs was that, above all else, the company that he worked for had his best interest in mind. He expected that if his boss told him to dump toxic chemicals into the Menominee River as the preferred disposal method, that there was enough water and current in the river to dilute it enough so as not to be a danger. After all, he liked to fish in the river. His first child, a son, was disfigured and an invalid, who blessedly died in his teens. Luckily, his daughters all thrived, though one of their sons, my cousin has had various names for his "condition". Now, the least judgmental term you might use is to say he has autism. My grandmother used chemicals that led to her cancer in her independent dry cleaning business, Grandpa got esophageal cancer from the chemicals that his company exposed him to. The current trend to loosen regulations designed to protect the public from industrial chemicals has got to stop. We need to understand the basic fact that "job creators" care far more about the money than the ultimate effects of their actions on people living nearby, their employees or the environment. The bigger the interests and the further removed from the community they become, the less they care.

The pipeline of history itself has sprung a leak. I will continue to attempt to transfer down to future generations my grandfather's ethic of never spending a penny if you could find a way to make due with what you have. I will fix what I have, get creative with things that cannot be used for their original intended purpose and treat as much of my waste as possible as valueable resources for another process and learn to adapt in ways that minimize waste in all my activities. Distributed abundance is nearly inconceivable under our current economic system. For centuries we have been told that there is a dog eat dog world out there and we have to be tough to survive. We have been told that nature is just a fight for survival in a harsh and dangerous world. My experience has proved to me that these concepts are flat out wrong. In nature, abundance and diversity lead to critters being well supplied and cared for in ways that science can hardly understand. In the area I'm from, everyone had enough if they all shared what they had. Similarly, in nature, whatever is unused by on organism, even the bodies of the dead, are gifts to other organisms that use the "waste" as resources for their life cycles. There is mutual cooperation amongst the species, each one playing a vital part in the cycling of water, nutrients and energy.

 In my experience, we never owned the cabin, but someone close to us always owned a cabin that we could all use. The community was like an egg in flour, it held us together and turned it into more than the parts, we gelled as a community. In "those days", we made many sacrifices, invested our resources in one another and we will have to experience this way of life again if we are to survive as a species. Back then, you might have to sleep on the floor, but having people over to sleep on your floor was the cost of being able to travel at reasonable cost. There was always at least a friend of a friend with a boat or truck if one needed to borrow what they could not afford themselves and the multiple layers of relationship sustained more and more layers of "economic" symbiosis as well. Each one of us had a great deal of say in what we did and who we were friends with. There was an identity regionally and community-wide that seems not to exist today. The biggest and best rewarded wheeler dealers in today's economy are far removed from the places they affect through global financial racketeering. The dollars have a virtually unimpeded flow for the wealthiest, yet the real wages that the vast majority of the population have to make due with continue to shrink.

Each time we invest in sustainability, we stem the flow of wealth going into the pipeline that leads to the rich man's pocket. Each time we take a step in the right direction, we keep more dollars in our community, the local environment, simultaneously, we reduce the harm done to the planet and enrich our neighbors. I filled the fuel tank in my car about a month ago. It is still nearly half full. While many folks bemoan the fact that fuel has more than doubled in cost over the last four years, I wish it were not subsidized. I would pay triple the current cost happily if we could produce it without the environmental catastrophes that we have become numb to. Even as I teeter at the edge of poverty, I am wealthy in friends, cared for better than most folks in the world and give thanks for the abundance of the world around me. The culture of capitalism claims to run a tight ship and to thrive on efficiency but anyone who has participated in corporate culture will recognize that throughput, energy and materials that are wasted in the process of production are the rule rather than the exception. Even in the pipeline that brings goods and services to the market, objects and energy leak out. When we look more closely into the corporate culture of greed, we will find the seeds of our own destruction already sown and sprouted. These sprouts are well-rooted and fed a constant diet of nutrients derived from manure in the form of lies. The idea that we can basically roast the Earth, as they do when exploiting tar sands, and capture enough energy to offset the billions of kiloquads of energy required to extract the oil is a bit like the designs for perpetual motion machines.

We need to look to the past to orient ourselves to the future. in 1950, the cost of producing oil was two dollars per barrel. Gasoline was $0.18/gallon. (approx. 4 liters) It was basically free. The oil industry has always been the most profitable industry ever conceived by humans. By 2000, the cost of production had risen to 20-25 dollars per barrel. Gasoline was ten times as expensive as well. The costs of production continues to rise and the last two peaks in production costs were $60/barrel (in Aug. 2005) and eighty dollars per barrel (in Aug. 2008) This, as it happens, may have been the ultimate peak in peak oil. Human beings were extracting around 75 million barrels of oil each day. Unless we spend much larger amounts of money extracting the hard to get oil that is left, our world-wide production will continue to fall, prices will continue to rise and supply will dwindle. Peak oil used to be a concept, now it has become historical reality. Pipelines will not "solve" our problem. Only true conservation will change the rules of the game. Waking up to these important facts sooner, rather than later is the only way to save our communities and lessen the stress that we all face in the future. Organizing on the principle of lack, dissolution and fighting over "scarce" resources has to be supplanted with distributed abundance or we will continue to face mounting environmental damage, increased challenges to our health, threaten our own security, as well as the security of our planetary neighbors and continue to put the whole planet and her ecosystems in jeopardy.

ECO-Tours remains committed to teaching sustainability and sharing with our guests and readers the truth about our ecological impact as individuals, communities and cultures. We have an entire curriculum based on leaving the planet and her people better off and simultaneously producing abundance where Corporate America has created lack. To better understand these ideas, get out in nature, plant a tree, sit with the critters that inhabit the landscape, learn to understand their part in making the planet hospitable to humans. only then can you begin to see the stark contrast between sustainability and rape of the planet. Only then will you begin to know the value of leaving the planet a little better off by our passing. we used to teach orienteering, but as we are finding now, orienting ourselves to the whole of our planetary ecosystem is even more important than finding our way in the woods.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Driving With Sun Power

The Midwest Renewable Energy Association, of Custer, Wisconsin hosts an annual tour of solar homes. Today. I am going on an ECO-Tour of a home that uses the sun to charge their Nissan Leaf, allowing them to drive every mile with sun power! I will try to post some pictures once I see it. I only rode a few mile in a leaf so far, but the experience was sublime. The cost per mile is less than one fifth the cost of internal combustion vehicles and although the range is limited, it has more than enough range for most folks' commute.

We all use sun power, it is just that traditional cars and trucks require fossil fuel and electric vehicles allow direct conversion of sunshine to electricity, thus liberating us from the fossil fuel addiction.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Benefits For Guests

Over the years, ECO-Tours has taken hundreds of individuals out on plant-ins, stuck around our place to for potting up parties to put large numbers of trees into landscape pots to fill our nurseries, and invited people to join us on tours of zero-net-energy homes, walks in the natural areas across northeast Wisconsin and taken scouting and release parties as well. now, before you get the wrong idea, a release party is really just a better name for weeding parties. In essence, we are releasing the seedling trees from the encroaching weeds that often colonize disturbed ground. I have heard so many wonderful comments from our fellow travellers, our guests and those in search of their own path to sustainability to know that there are undeniable benefits for the people who come on ECO-Tours as there are to the planet, soils and the wildlife that abounds in the areas that we restore to a more natural state.

 The exercise that we get is always aerobic and refreshing, because we can work at a slow enough pace to not worry about overdoing it. There is no time constraint on how long it takes to plant a dingle tree and we encourage guests to have fun, not work like dogs. Many people comment on how good it feels to be part of our restoration efforts, if only for the opportunity to be out in nature and lend a hand in a solution to so many problems instead of being part of the great ignorance that allows the Earth to be mistreated. there is a stretching and bending that occurs while planting a tree that is healthy, invigorating and if there is any soreness after an hour or two of effort, it is just a reminder of how sedentary our lives have become.

The emotions that our guests have spoken of are complex and wonderful as well. Being part of a solution and learning techniques that benefit the planet empowers and relieves the guilt that many feel about not doing enough to heal the damaged planet. I recently talked to one ecotourist who felt that leaving such a positive mark on the planet helped him to make a commitment to the future that would not have been possible in any other way. Some folks like to attend plant-ins along their daily commute. This is especially exciting when they begin to see growth and changes that "their" trees make as they mature. We frequently hear stories about how our guests utilize the knowledge they gain while on tour to enhance their own property and that the skills that they gain during one of our events leads them to cultivate changes in their lives beyond planting more trees.

Being part of growing something bigger than ourselves also helps spur a trend toward growth in our lives as well. Just as true healers heal themselves as well as their patients through the process, our fellow travelers grow as well as the trees they plant. The seeds of knowledge that we put in place often grow to affect the lives of people we meet without even realizing it. there is a strong movement afoot worldwide to reassess both the costs and benefits of serving economic interests above human interests and exploiting both the Earth and her people for profit. that is why we have no set "fees"
. We do ask that people come with the goal of having fun, doing a little work (of course) but also trusting that those who do attend will give an appropriate amount for the insights and experiences that they receive. Yesterday, one of our board members explained that she is now calculating the cost of travel by how long it takes. $10/per hour is what she has calculated it to cost to drive her vehicle. I have always used a calculation of $1 per mile (including half the cost as damage to the environment) To put these numbers in perspective, it costs about $10 per tree for us to plant them, factoring in the cost of seedlings, dirt to pot them in, water for our nurseries, transport to the site and planting. We do not factor in the human elements of time, work or care because all the human effort that goes into our programs is donated. As far as I know, there are very few 100% volunteer labor organizations on the planet. The rewards that we receive from our participation in these efforts is, in many ways, more valuable than money and our philosophy is that we certainly need trees far more than we need money anyway, so it seems to "fit" our ideals to only ask for people to give what they can to further our efforts.

The spiritual aspects of our work are a bit harder to talk about, but if you listen closely to the stories that our travelers tell about their ECO-Tours experience confirm that their lives have often been qualitatively changed by the experience. The enlightenment that they reflect in their comments hint at the depth of their awareness changing and with it a greater sensitivity to issues surrounding sustainability as well. We often ask folks who have received trees to send us a donation when they see the first bird alight on the branches, when the fall colors begin to dazzle them, or when they are finally able to stretch out under the shade of their trees. When they have confirmation that the trees are, in fact, seen to be making their lives a little better is a great time to make a donation through Paypal or send us a check. For our guests, we often ask them to be aware of insights and changes in their lives that they have made because of their time with us and to send what they can to allow us to continue our important work. This past week, we were only able to plant another 2,000 trees, but if we had more funding coming in, we could plant many, many more.

It has been said that the most hopeful act we can engage in is the planting of a tree. I have seen seen perhaps billions of them and attest to the fact that, for me, and as a fellow traveler along the path to sustainability, the tree is a strong symbol of hope and abundance growth and shelter. In the turbulent and often hostile world that we find ourselves in, these are all qualities that we need more of. please give what you can to support our important work and if you would like us to develop an  ECO-Tour for you, that you can use in your area, let us know, we will work something up for you. Again, our doors are always open to guests and if you get near Northeast Wisconsin, or are planning a trip to the area, let us know in advance and we will work to craft an experience for you that is both fun and rewarding, sharing what we have learned helps make the world a little better than we found it.

Blessed Be and namaste'

Sunday, September 23, 2012

How Can One Say What A Tree Means To Us?

When I began to plant trees, I didn’t have any idea how much they would eventually change my life. I didn’t know that trees themselves can inform your understanding of the world around you or that eventually I would “speak” for them. The first that I remember planting was a blue spruce that transformed itself from a tiny sprig, like many of us got as students on Arbor Day, to eventually dwarf the house. Since that time, I have come to know thousands of tiny sprigs. More often than not they do the same as that first tree, changing vacant land into habitat, creating from dirt, sun, water and the very air itself, a structure that supports creatures big and small. Trees are essentially the high rise apartments of the natural world. The change in me, that the trees I have planted have wrought, are greater than words can express, but I will nonetheless try.
Learning the scents of so many trees and the changes that they go through around the wheel of the seasons has given my blood vitality that comes only from being in the presence of basswood flowers in early Spring, elder blossoms in Midsummer, birch must in the Fall and the antiseptic smells of cedar swamps in the dead of Winter. Without these sublime essences, my life would be much more cold and hostile. The richness of memory and understanding that comes from learning the stories, held in the very wind itself has enriched my knowing of not only where I am, but who I am as well. When my breath can be absorbed and put to use by these sentinels of hope, I am given heart to continue to do my best in the face of adversity. Each and every tree has a story to tell if we can only learn how to listen.
I have been amazed at the myriad shapes, sizes and structural elements, not only within a single species of tree, amongst individuals, each confronting their own environment, but amongst the many different species as well. I love my insight into biomes and my budding understanding of why certain species like to congregate together, depending on light, soils, terrain and moisture content in the soil.
Appealing as well are the creaks and moans that issue from a tree when it is buffeted by the winds of approaching storms or the ebullient rustle of the willow in the slightest breeze. The respite one gets from the first squalls of rain and the noise that the canopy makes while being pelted during a cloudburst on a hot summer day, even  the drops that fall at random moments after the rain is done and gone all have stories to tell us, if we listen.
Tony C. Saladino Director-ECO-Tours of Wisconsin Inc.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Benefits For Donors

We often are told that benefits accrue only in our accounts wallets or pocketbooks. The benefits that accrue because of ECO-Tours of Wisconsin Inc. eclipse those that can be measured in euros, dollars or yuan. Just knowing that you are part of a revolution that will not be televised has the power to shift our point of view. In the greater scheme of things, we may inhabit the only planet with life on it, we may be utterly alone in the universe but on a personal level, if this is all we will ever have, we must develop ways of interacting with it that leave the planet better than we found it. Being from the state of Wisconsin, I have had values that include what we call The Wisconsin Idea. The concept is that the state university system has no boundaries. The research done there and the knowledge that is available from within the ivory towers belong to the people of the state. The notion includes the need for institutions to reach out to the citizenry for ideas, inspiration and most importantly, the knowledge of not only what is truly needed, but how to go about getting it. From the ground up. A great misguided effort to "save" people from their ills is often engendered when well-meaning people with a bit of education begin the process of telling people what they need or how to get it. ECO-Tours has a philosophy that is diametrically opposed to the top down theory of management. This is true about people as well as the planet.

Donors to most environmental organizations have to foot the bill for staff and advertizing, because without these important elements, nothing could get done. At ECO-Tours of Wisconsin, we would do our work and positively transform the landscape  not for pay, but for the sake of doing it. We are not very well known because we refuse to play the game the way other not-for-profit organizations do. We rarely provide press releases to the media, we certainly do not waste valuable donations on printing documents or tooting our own horn in the media and we certainly do not want to hire staff that will suck up resources without planting a single tree. We have proven over the years that we are committed to reforesting denuded areas with native forest cover and because we have specialized in this simple act since the mid-eighties, we have learned to become leaner, more efficient and more effective with the donations that we receive. Our group began with just one person, using their tax returns to buy trees wholesale. Other than the ($15 annual fee, later, under a Republican administration, raised to $35) that was required to get a tax-ID number from the state, we spent all of our income on tree seedlings. In those early years, we often planted one to two thousand trees each Spring and gathered tree seeds and planted them, expanding our reach in the Fall. Each dollar that we had available has to do the most work possible, otherwise we would quickly see our effectiveness undermined.

Getting the biggest bang for your buck involves being lightening fast, efficient and graceful. In a world of dog eat dog commercialism it may be hard to understand, but we believe in abundance and the concept of enough. Trees require enough rain, enough soil and enough protection from harsh conditions to thrive. Over the years we have come to understand from the ground up, what kind of conditions support life and what sorts of decisions make it untenable. We have had donors who believe that we are a not-for-profit landscaping service, but that misses the mark for us. Most landscapers ask, "What kind of tree do you want in the middle of the front yard and do you want columnar or globe bushes around the foundation of your home?" We ask landowners, "Where will you allow forest to regenerate?"  We never guarantee trees will survive, as many landscapers do, but we only plant species that will have a reasonable chance of thriving where we plant them and since we never charge for our work, we can invest the time required to make sound plans for planting and work with the goal of improving environmental quality rather than establishing a series of exotic artifacts that do not belong in the native landscape. Making the most of what we have is a microcosmic reflection of what the trees we plant do each and every day. There are plenty of examples of how not to go about reforesting an area, but in our efforts we are finding ways to make the process work.

Through scientific investigation, we have learned that mature temperate forests, on average, are made up of around three hundred mature trees per acre (.4 hectare). This gives us a vague idea about what a forest is, but little direction on how to get there. We could say that if it costs about ten dollars per tree, reforesting an acre would cost about $3,000, but that has two negative effects. For one, most people cannot afford to think about spending three thousand dollars on trees, especially since most land for sale is three thousand dollars per acre or more just to purchase! Another dis-incentive is to think that a forest is merely an amalgamation of trees. Nothing could be further from the truth. Forests are a complex mix of individual trees, moisture, soils, microbes and the web of life that inhabits them. Mature forests may only have a few hundred individual trees living on them, but the soils are made up of countless thousands of dead trees that gave their lives so that others might live.

One may ask, "What are the benefits?" of donating to ECO-Tours of Wisconsin. This is the most amazing part. There are literally thousands of benefits that come from planting a single tree. When the weather is cold, trees act as giant wind reducing solar collectors. Friends who fly during the winter are always amazed that forests appear black from the sky but open fields turn white when the snow flies. When the weather is hot, trees temper the desiccating effects of the sun and wind, humidifying and cooling vast areas. Years ago, I heard the maxim, "We all live downstream". The tree planting that we participate in has transformed entire watersheds. The thousands of trees and millions of tree seeds reduce flooding, wind erosion, sterilization of the soil surface by ultraviolet light, and provide habitat for billions of soil organisms, whose entire life cycle helps to conserve soil, water and provide habitat for generations of life in the future. Donations to support our work are truly a gift that will keep on giving, long after we are gone. It is difficult to put a price, or a value on the feelings that come with improving the quality of the environment, but for those who enjoy the shade of the trees that we have planted, or for the ones who see a bird alight on the branch of a recently planted seedling, there can be no denying, the world has been made a bit better because of our passing this way. In our tiny corner of the planet and in this miniscule part of our universe, there will be the possibility of life, where it had not been possible before.

We may never understand the value of a flood averted or the creation of oxygen that the trees we plant provide. It may forever be incalculable, the priceless rewards that come from allowing nature to flourish. It is amazing that something as simple as planting a tree can have such a profound effect on future generations. Knowing that we are part of a solution to such a wide array of problems has rewards beyond those that can be put into words. Bringing hope to the hopeless, shelter to the exposed and life to the lifeless is pretty heady stuff and through our efforts, your dollars can be put to use in ways that leave the entire planet just a little better than we have received it from previous generations. We will continue to plant native trees and offer to plant trees in even greater numbers with the help of your donations. The tree that falls in the forest may not make a sound if we are not there to "hear" it, but when it goes down, it must sigh a little, knowing that it will feed the next generation of life. Just as the raspberry builds soils that future forests will grow upon, our efforts are meant to build a foundation for future generations to thrive upon. May your days be filled with grace, beauty, blessings and understanding. Namaste'.    A recent story of our activities

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Benefits For Landowners

ECO-Tours offers consulting for folks who own land. On average, we try to find about ten percent of the landscape, using a process that resembles triage, that would have the greatest impact long term, the greatest benefit to the surrounding landscape and the biggest bang for the time and effort we put in to reforestation. Converting even a single acre to appropriate forest cover can have positive influence over dozens of surrounding acres. We specialize in "seeing" into the future and making the most of the existing ecology and the management of the landscape for the benefit of humans, wildlife soils and water quality for generations. Intact forest provides protection from wind and rain, flying ice crystals in winter and the sterilizing effects of ultraviolet radiation by simply hovering above the soil, creating a column of habitable air between our closest star and the Earth. I find that the most simple reflection on natural areas and the phenomena that take place in each specific location, make them even more mystical, more worthy of protection and more sacred. Our efforts have always been not  only about reforestation and remediation of overly exploited soils, but about the people who live on them as well. We have seen countless examples of health improvements, not only for the people who live around areas that we have replanted, but for those who join us on ECO-Tours as well.

Landowners who choose to embark on the process of encouraging at least part of their property to be reforested need to understand this process as not only important, but crucial in finding paths to sustainability. If there is a massive out wash plain that has acted as a settling pond for agricultural chemical runoff for the last twenty years, we would most likely not want to put too much recovery effort there, until the agricultural practices improve. In active, organic soils, it takes about seven years to reach no-detect levels for most common agricultural chemicals, so rather than continue to attempt to battle these chemicals, we try to steer clear of them. Our physical location at this time lies near the stress line, (45 degrees North latitude) We can travel the countryside and find gravelly hills that are nearly soil-less. These areas would be considered for recovery just as often as stream banks, or steeper hills. Our main requirement is that the landowner agrees to put the land into a conservation easement in perpetuity.

Scientists have long known that crop production can be reliably increased in areas within six times the height of surrounding forest. Again, in our area, mature trees frequently reach 100 feet (33meters) or more. The largest benefit of hosting ECO-Tours on your land is starting down a path toward sustainability, learning how to encourage diversity, host positive environmental change and invest in an account that pays dividends that are far beyond flood control and climate stabilization, they have the power to transform the way we look at the world around us. Each tree we have planted over the years has had the potential to forever change the landscape in a multitude of positive ways.

We do not encourage enrollment in government programs. In our estimation, the enrollment of acreage in forest stewardship, or other similar programs strays too closely to welfare and we do not encourage that. It also has a finite length of time that it will be in effect, leading to the possibility of all of our hard work being nullified in a relative instant. Instead, deeded conservation reserve status forever protects land from development. The legacy we leave, especially those areas we commit to protect will either confirm or deny future generations of their birthright to have experiences in nature. We promise that when the trees that are growing around your house exist there because your hand has planted some of them, you will have a feel for the place that no amount of paying taxes on them could ever provide. What we do best is plant trees and we tend to do it in stages. Many areas have been so depleted and sterilized that remediation is required prior to planting trees. This again, requires patience. Once we can stabilize and inoculate an area like this with soil building organisms, we can often start with pioneer species like raspberries or willow, or any of dozens of native plants. We seek to encourage diversity and each site dictates to us, what will be chosen to "do it's best" in the conditions that we find there. As time goes by, the benefits multiply, for air and water quality, as a buffer for climate change and for the long term health of the communities that thrive when the earth is cared for.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

These terms lead one to believe that there are three different realities, past present and future. The deeper we look into the science of reality, the sub-atomic world and the nature of light itself, the more startling clues we find to the true nature of time. Even a lowly photon, we find, has the ability to defy our ability to understand. It actually seems charmed in some way that is currently incomprehensible to us. When we use certain techniques that allow us to grasp the infinite by "slowing down" time, wave fronts seem to move toward the photon source, standing our belief in cause and effect upside down. Mystics and yogis have, for generations, told us to just BE. This has a powerful effect on the world around us and the linearity of time seems to be one of the first casualties that fall under the practice. Sometimes, as we stumble and stagger punch drunk from the errors of past generations, or tie ourselves in knots striving to change what will take time to "heal", "create" or "sort out". Occasionally, the experience of abiding love and oneness with the Universe that accompanies "enlightenment", the timeless state in which all that has ever existed is in harmony requires living in love, infinitely abundant. One can not deny that it takes time to heal certain wounds, but there are ways to circumvent the space-time limitations that we have been presented. In essence, we can look backward into "civilization" and see the ruthless uncivilized actions that history records. Our conceptualization of "reality" is based on such terms as "Boys will be boys.", "To the winner go the spoils", "Nice guys finish last" and "Might makes right." This "perspective", needs to be perpetrated into our language and society to allow the abuse of women, children and the poor. Certain aspects of perception and reality will need to be understood. To see a path to enlightenment, a way to reach sustainability, and to live continuously in an ECO-Tour.

A shaman, Dr. Malidoma Patrice Some', in the documentary "With One Voice ", said..."Go hike in nature. Stand in front of a very tall tree and listen to the deep noisy silence held together in that entity and wonder, why can't I be like that? Stand still in the same place for, we don't know how long and find one self growing taller and taller and taller, both upward and downward. There is something about that which defines greatness as the most obvious depth of quiet inside of which the deepest song can be heard."
Later in the film, he asks,"Is it possible for one human race to open their eyes and look at each other and see gifts everywhere? Let's start with the gift of love. It has no market value right now...but what if it does? What will the world look like once we converge our frustration into compassion, converge our hatred into salvos of love, fired at one another, randomly? What if we invade or entertain the spirit of invading each other with peace? What would the world look like, changing our discourse, our language so that the very word that we use as explosive words to support reason why we should harm one another are subdued and turned into words of love? When you hate someone, send that someone a love poem and see how that person reacts. Is it possible for us to conceive of victory at national level, victory of one nation against another using the yardstick of love and compassion? If this is conceivable then we have reached the same spirit, the same religion and we are all heading toward the final stage of beautifying this globe we call our village.

ECO-Tours are events that honor this truth, this emergent vision of reality. The vision of relationship and of harmony with in one self and between our organism and those around us. These ideas, which to many seem new, are older than time itself and our organization honors and respects all beings, even those who are often ignored, where they are along their own path and what they might need to heal.

It has been my experience that there are states of being that lend themselves to "living in the past". These almost always stem from feelings of lack. By reminiscing, we convince ourselves that we had things much better "back then", or perhaps, like reviewing the mental recordings that we made proving us to be "victim", we can justify in our actions today. The feelings that go with memory are as seductive as our recollection of the events themselves. We must be vigilant though, because our memories are actually nothing but an electrical storm amongst our synapses, distracting us from now. Whether they bring pleasure or pain, they have no bearing on the present moment. Only writers or storytellers need the illusion of time. It allows for the weaving of threads, born of moments into as fabric that we recognize as time. This "cloth" can be used to tie us together, but more and more storytelling today is selling us a bolt of cloth that is fit to weave The Emperor's New Clothes, rife with dissolution, voids and estrangement. My past is no less seductive than yours, I just try to keep "it" in perspective by realizing that on some level, it is the ultimate fiction. Even what I believe to have taken place in the "past", the things I try to file away objectively, are completely made up. This is proven time and time again when different people see the same events, but come away with widely disparate ideas about what actually occurred.

This can take similar form if we dabble in the future, dreaming up ways that things should or could be. Some spend their entire lifetime vanquishing the present for the sake of the future. How many times have we all been told, "You just wait." Even our language has the peculiar proverb, "Revenge is a dish best served cold." It is creepy that we should plot and scheme, coldly choreographing "pay backs" against our perceived enemies. Lives are swallowed up in this process which ultimately destroys the present in favor of a dream. When you look at time in a different way, this is just the same electron storm inside our brains that memories create, but it is about a time that has "not yet come". I argue that this sort of activity is as real as memory and serves to cut our ties with the present as surely as does the "re-living" of our own fictional accounts of the past. Please understand that vanquishing fiction requires far more than one person can present in a few hundred words. Many thousands of people have tried to get us to live only in the moment for centuries and over that amount of time, they have been made out to be fools and fanatics. Even the term mystic "proves" that what they know remains a mystery to those who are bent on forcing reality into the mold that they have made for it.

 As as a shaman, I cannot abide this lie. My vision has proven to me that all things, throughout the Universe, are potential and abundance, relationship and harmony. Living in discord always fosters disease and pain. We are unraveling secrets that have eluded science for centuries. They are beginning to tell us unequivocally what the masters and mystics have told us since the beginning of "time". Living in the now is desire-less-ness, it is moksha, samahdi, liberation or enlightenment. I always tell people that when we are planting trees, or seedlings that we need to exist at the matrix of root and soil, put all of our love and attention into making the rootlets as comfortable and happy as possible. Imagine the power of doing that continually throughout the day, with every one, every organism you meet.

Analogy can often help understand complex ideas and this might be a good place to inject a thought picture. If we look at time from a distance, we might see it as a vast ocean, ebbing and flowing around and through obstacles. The memories that we hold on to are "contained" for better and worse inside our heads, as are the dreams for the future that we create as baubles to distract us from living in the now. When we understand the vastness of time, the universality of this great ocean and the power that lies in the swirling, cohesive domain, the tiny bits "contained" within our head lose their hold on us and our perspective changes. I imagine living in the now like this: Imagine a funnel. It can be pointed into the vast ocean, or into our head. We may be trying to capture the vast ocean, in which case the funnel would be pointed inward, swirling into the brain which many of us worship. Likewise, if we seek to make change in the world around us, we may try to inject our experiences into the vast ocean, making our broader ideas "come alive" in the world around us. Anyone who has used a funnel knows that within that tiny object, amazing interactions and transformations take place. This activation, condensation, momentary implosion and direction is like living in the now.

Whether we point the funnel in or out, it is the active now (staying aware of and committed to the eternal now) that holds the power to transform. We are born of nearly infinite possibility. We live our lives in this ocean and when we "pass on", we return to it. Our five senses, society, our culture, education, beliefs and experiences all conspire to take us away from this realm of infinite possibility.  The greatest things that occur around us are caused by a desperately small group of enlightened individuals who find ways of jumping time. They either tell us stories that bring us back to important realizations, or bring us tomorrow's technologies today. My contention is that these times are malleable and whether we mine our collective experience for things that we can all relate to or reach into the future to bring back artifacts that have not yet been created, we are playing with fire. Living in the now has far more power than either of those other endeavors. We are one. I have been hearing this sentiment from more and more widely disparate groups over the past several years. Perhaps, if we learn to accept this truth, we will find that the ancestors and our progeny are one with us as well. this is why the ancestors are alive within so many native and shamanic cultures. Our success always rests on the shoulders of giants and recognizing our ancestors as alive within our culture will be necessary if we are to overcome some of our "current" difficulties. When we learn to honor the next seven generations, many more difficulties will evaporate as well.

As Ram Dass told me, nearly two generations ago, "We just have to BE together, and it will all happen". Be-ing requires only now. This is the most important thing to remember about time. Yesterday is over and whatever view we take of it, we are perpetrating a fiction. The past exists nowhere, yet we valiantly try to re-create it. This frivolity can be quite distracting, but ultimately it only holds what is in us already. Telling ourselves that the past is real is one of the greatest disservices that we can do to ourselves. We only have hearsay about it and basing our lives on rumor and innuendo will only lead us to pain and continued suffering. Billions are spent and collected by those willing to calculate and define trends in the hope of capitalizing on them. Determining the future is as hard as ever for those who try to see "into" it. Patterns and ways of understanding are changing ever-faster. The only thing we can safely say about the future is that it has been made up by us to create a sense of security. If we had to integrate the fact that everything that has come to pass and everything that ever will has already come and gone, many would lose their tenacious hold on "reality" and some might never come back. I assure you, this may be scary, but the value of transcending time, speaking with our ancestors and committing our lives to improving the lives of the next seven generations has benefits beyond replication, time-travel and mastery of phase conjugate di-electric field capacitance. We all have the infinite capacity that we were born with, and we all have the power to transform the world around us. When we step out of the electron storms in our heads that many recognize as past and future, we can hear the infinite song of love and relationship that is timeless. The only question that remains is whether we will use our mental prowess to create a reality which holds future and past in their exalted place, realizing that through them we are given this moment to make the best of. Or if we will start noticing the deeper importance of changing our minds about these distractions. It is truly a present worthy of our full attention.

Sacred space allows us to more fully realize our potential. Spending our time in a sacred manner has power beyond the realms of space and time. Carrying with us tools to "see" the importance of the revolving moment rather than the illusory time signatures of past and future is what allows the most miraculous outcomes from mundane activities. It is our birthright to experience the miraculous now, free from our attachments to either of the other fictitious "times". We must cultivate the now if we are to have any chance of  survival in this age of change and growth. We are in desperate need of tools that allow us to be self aware and satisfied with what we find around us. Getting to the heart of the matter regarding time involves understanding that we can cloak ourselves in past and future, but they both serve, as did The Emperor's New Clothes, to teach us something important about our selves. Be-ing that authentic person in each moment requires an intimate and growing relationship between ourselves and both our internal and external environment.