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

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Theft Robs ECO-Tours Of The Ability to Share Photos

On a recent tour, the camera that we had used for the last ten years, to capture images of our ECO-Tours, was stolen. We are seeking funds to replace it. If one of our supporters has a decent quality digital camera to donate, that would be even better, but for now we are camera-less and are seeking help to remedy this situation. Luckily, there were no photos on the memory card, but the card was a high volume one and the pictures that we were able to take with it over the years are invaluable, so the sooner we can afford to replace it the better.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Toward Encouraging Healthy Leadership

Parenting has the power to shape the future. Having been raised as and trained to be a teacher, I have had a unique opportunity to be exposed to reams of data about raising children to be all that they can be, as well as what poses the greatest threat to their intellectual capacity and emotional health. Having raised three exemplary individuals who are making positive contributions to their environment and community, I feel especially qualified to guide others on their own parenting experience. Please feel free to question me further on any of these issues, I am always open to integrating new ideas and information, honing my own parenting style and my own teaching techniques. Parenting is the most important job on the planet and has the ability to shape future generations across the ages.

 We must teach the next generation, for their good as well as our own. The future of our entire culture rests on the foundational knowledge passed on to the next generations. Negative risk taking should be discouraged, such as violence and thrill seeking, smoking, alcohol abuse, addictive and dangerous drugs, etc. There will be times that young people will need our help, affirmation or protection. However, all children are going to want to spread their wings. They have to try things on their own. Adults must let them. Let these few tips guide you when developing your unique parenting style.
Help them learn to take calculated risks. Talk ideas over with them, point out possible outcomes and help prepare them for what they may find. Then, let them do it. Your primary job is to prepare your child for how the world really works, making sure that they are still alive when they finally fly to coop.
Discuss choices. Prepare them for possibilities and teach them how to both, win and lose, gracefully. Remind them that they may not get all they want and encourage them to face the consequences of their decisions.
Share stories of your own “risky” experiences. Help interpret them. This is one of the hardest pieces of parenting advice for most people. Sheltering our young from our own learning experience assures that they will suffer through making many of the same mistakes we had to. Because we’re not the only influence on our children, we must be the best influence.
Instead of tangible rewards, just spend time together.  Be careful not to teach them that emotions can be covered up by a trip to the mall or burying yourself in work. Children are often smart enough to realize that they don’t want to grow up to participate in their parent’s world, but if they learn from us that there is no other choice, it can lead to very dangerous consequences, depression, mal-adaptive and self-abusive behaviors.
Encourage positive risk taking. It may require encouragement, but get them used to trying new things in safe ways and pursuing as many opportunities as they can. Help them understand that they will never know if they like something unless they try it.
Don’t let guilt get in the way. Your number one job is not to placate your own feelings of guilt or inadequacy by giving your children everything. Never use guilt as a tool to exact compliance either. The surest way to raise a damaged child is to let them see you trying to overcome your own guilty conscience through them, or by instilling these toxic emotions in them.
Do not praise or reward the basics. If any relationship is based on constant praise or material rewards, we experience neither intrinsic motivation nor unconditional love. Certain activities are necessary for health, survival and living with others. Basic levels of functioning are not to be celebrated or praised excessively; it is just what we all must do. Taking on additional responsibilities or going over and above what is expected can be noteworthy, but some things in life are just that. The reward is that others do those same things.
Acknowledge intelligent risk-taking and hard work. Help children to see the advantage of both. Be a living example, showing them that stepping out of our comfort zone usually pays off. Communicating our own process and encouraging them to take on both freedoms and the responsibility that comes with it allows them to flourish.
Your child does not have to love you every minute. In fact, if you are doing your job well, occasionally they won’t. We all must learn to get over disappointment and failure but we don’t being spoiled. Let your children fail, let them fall, and let them fight for what they really value.  Treating our kids as if they are fragile creates fragile adults. We only have a short time to prepare them for the world that awaits them. Our world needs resilient adults not fragile ones.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

How Do You See The World?

Starship Earth Dymaxion equal area projection. The idea for this image was from the intellectual apparatus of Buckminster Fulller and the image itself was created from hundreds of thousands of images of the surface of our planet and millions of sonar readings. The data contained herin is extremely limited yet the inspiration and development of the map was intended to be the most accurate representation possible in two dimensions. In an effort to keep as many land masses intact as possible, the oceans look distorted. They are not however, to perceive the oceans properly, we must make an intellectual "jump" from one facet to another, ignoring the white triangular spaces that cut through them. The twenty-sided icosahedronis the most accurate description of the globe that we can create on a flat surface. However, even the most accurate representation is not, nor can it actually be, the thing represented.

We all have "maps" in our heads. The lies that we tell ourselves with maps involve lines, regional differences, perceptual limitations, judgements, assumptions and they are often based on what we have been told, how we feel and what we understand about the world around us. No one is immune to the lies that maps tell. In an attempt to represent a sphere in two dimensions, map makers take liberties with the images that we often see representing the planet Earth. For many centuries, humans have gotten around the planet with schematic diagrams. It could be argued that none of has ever had a clear picture of the world we inhabit. Even the photograph or the blue marble that astronauts sent back from space, floating in a black void, even though it has changed the way we see our home planet, is a generalization.

By drawing maps, even of tiny parts of our planet, we are digesting a nearly infinite number of data points and including a miniscule fraction of ones that help us make sense of the whole. I have seen maps that have helped me on my travels that show tiny lines representing fifty foot wide roads as a line, but if you drew that line to scale on the planet, it would be miles across.I have seen representations of the shoreline of a multitude of lakes that eliminate many of my favorite peninsulas and points as well as flooding many of my favorite places to camp along the shore. Even the weather maps that I see nearly daily tell me things that I know not to be true, even the most accurate doppler radar shows shadows and echoes that are not really weather, but the illusion of weather. discreet data points cannot show patterns, qualities of energy that our devices are not calibrated to, smells or the hospitality index of certain places. I have seen maps of energy centers. In fact, I have drawn them, but the crystal clear vision of the world that we think maps can give us are a vague representation of the places we live our lives.

Like the stick figures that children draw, our maps can only be schematic and without putting ourselves into the environment around us, we may never know where we actually are in relation to Mother Earth. I have met kayakers who told me that they had to leave Wisconsin because they knew all the rivers too well. It was no longer interesting for them to shoot the rapids that they had come to know. I still contend that they had not actually "seen" a single one. From their point of view, moving with the current, their intimate map of each river only had the good put ins, deep water, quiet water, drop offs, the giant boulders, dangerous rocks, the haystacks and the long tongues of flow in them. Had they only dipped a few worms or a few flies into the stream, their map may have contained musky, trout or salmon, pike, gar and carp.

I am always interested to learn about the planet we call home. I am open to the ways in which each of us sees the world, but the more I learn about the places that we inhabit, as well as the ones we have left wild, I understand evermore exquisitely that the maps we carry in our minds are uniquely our own. ECO-Tours are designed to help us realize our limited perception and develop our ability to imagine what our planet could become if we just paid it a little more attention.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Real Life Versus Digi Life

In the digital realm, I have been pulling back. The many hundreds of people that I have guided through the twists and turns of recycling, plastics manufacture, how to live better on less, the corporate welfare subsidies and the inner workings of our not-for-profit organization have had to take a back seat to real life events, pressing needs and the planting of another season of trees. Since July first, our tree planting has been shut down because of the "normally" hot dry weather that is typical for our part of the world. In our first few years, when we were still learning the basics and had stronger backs, we would hand carry thousands of gallons of water up hill, along trails and into the woods to water young seedlings. Now, we rest during the hottest, driest part of the year and focus more on spring and fall planting. We do carry an occasional drink to newer seedlings, but not nearly as much as we did in the old days. One of the things I like best about living in ways that honor and respect the cycles of the seasons is that when it is time to work hard at specific tasks, not only are conditions "right" for human comfort but the results of our activities seem to be more efficient.

This year, we changed our focus from outside the fence to inside the fence around the first of July. Our gardens have never looked better and the trees we planted in spring seem to be happy and adjusting well to their new homes. This year on our tiny 20X50 foot (6X15.25 meter) garden, we will be harvesting hundreds of dollars worth of produce. As usual, we are experimenting with several new techniques and trying a few new plants, but the vast majority of what we are growing has become vital to our diet and as familiar as the smell of rich life-giving humus. The past month has allowed us to get things recycled, thrown out, burned or put away, the garage has never been as organized as it is right now and we have three compost bins, one for vegetables and two for trees.

Seed harvest time is nearly upon us and we watch expectantly as the black walnuts, acorns and other nuts ripen in the sun. This year we are asking our supporters to donate what they can so that we can purchase a few nut collectors.We rarely purchase equipment, but when we do, it is used to maximize our effectiveness and this is a huge time saver. Earlier this spring, we requested donations for a broadfork or two and because they are so important to rehabilitation of compacted and lifeless soils, we are still asking for help with their purchase. I have seen compacted, lifeless, hard clay turned to friable, rich living soil by just one pass with the broadfork and a liberal application of compost. It may have taken a few years to build up the ground again, but the primary mover in the process is the air and moisture that is allowed into the soil that makes life possible. Last season, we collected and distributed nearly a million seeds form just one species and this year we hope to do it again in far less time. Getting those tree seeds into the right places is the hardest part of our work and without the long handled dibbers that we use to plant them, our task would be virtually impossible. Unlike the squirrels, we are far too tall to effectively plant seeds without a tool.

I trust that our readers will accommodate our schedule as it is determined by the weather, the seasons and doing the right things at the right times. a favorite saying of mine is from the realm of sailing but it applies to ECO-Tours as well. Fair weather sailors miss 90% of the fun. similarly, if we wait for comfortably cool and beautifully sunny days, we would only get a few hundred trees planted at best, maybe only a few dozen if we wanted to buy and plant big trees. Our focus on building soil, growing seedlings in the best possible habitat and caring for them once they have been put in has allowed us to increase our effectiveness exponentially.

What we are working toward now is growing our digital effectiveness as well. Over twenty years of tree planting we have learned a great deal about the who what where and when regarding the process of growing forests. The hundreds of acres that have been transformed through our ECO-Tours are well on the way to what foresters recognize as mature woods. In our area, it can take hundreds of years from empty field to full forest, but our techniques can accelerate this process greatly. One measure of mature forests in our geographic location is that they are home to about 300 trees per acre (.4 hectare) Our tours frequently plant this many trees in a single day, but we usually spread them out over a much larger area, planting a large number of small clusters of trees, rather than long rows of one or two species. Getting specific plants in areas that have the best chance of success requires a nearly microscopic view of huge areas and in some ways this process is mimicked by the digi-realm. We want to develop the best ECO-Tour for each of our readers, each of our guests and ones that have the best chance of bearing fruit over the long haul.

If you have ideas about growing our effectiveness in this realm, or if you have money to donate to our reforestation, get in touch with us here or by e-mail at: Donate through Paypal by using our e-mail address as the account number. If you are coming to the Western Lake Michigan Watershed, or the Southern Lake Superior Watershed, let us know your itinerary and we will design an ECO-Tour specifically for you! There are forces at work that want to continue altering the landscape in terrible ways, making places that look like the top image look like the bottom image.

ECO-Tours of Wisconsin inc. is dedicated to finding landscapes that look like the bottom image and turning them back into something more akin to the top image. With a little help from a lot of people, we have been able to transform hundreds of acres, now we want to increase our reach and effectiveness further. please do what you can to help.