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

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Gritty Gal From Wisconsin

A fellow blogger from Wisconsin writes about her trips to the arctic.I found quite a lot to like about this young lady's writing. Thinking through the experiences of another often sparks growth in our selves and the succinct dispatches from near the top of the planet have helped me to see my own place in the abundant temperate zone a little more clearly. I give thanks daily for my many blessings, but these posts just add a more profound appreciation for my nearby garden, the variety of foods that I can grow outside my back door and the nearness of loved ones that I can share the abundance with.

As winter is clamping down on the Great Lakes Region, our friends further north have been experiencing this for many weeks or moons already. Getting back to the land means many different things to many different people, but in the end, it is something we all must do if we are to become agents of change for peace and goodwill around the planet. I share many of my beliefs and attitudes here as an emissary for wildlife, for the water and for the trees, but my friend Aiden Campbell speaks on her own terms about her growing awareness of life in the remote and wild place that is the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Blessings to her and may her path be beset with wondrous beauty, meaningful lessons and deep insight.

Saturday, November 16, 2013


There has been an interesting proliferation of the use of this word, especially in HR ("Human Resources") circles. The very nature of their use characteristic threatens to remove the soul from the word, but in truth, diversity is of primary importance to the understanding of our environment and how we might make peace with it rather than waging war against it. It is slowly becoming part of our collective consciousness, for example, that 85% of all bacteria are either completely innocuous to humans, or in fact beneficial. The billions of organisms who exist on the microscopic level in our air, on our food and on our very skin are part of an intact system we refer to as the environment. Even though most of us will never see them, they are as real and as integrated into our world as we are. The war that many fight routinely against them has had unintended consequences. In their attempt to eliminate all of these microbes, most of the beneficial and innocuous organisms in the kill zone have been attacked and eliminated as well.

This is tantamount to killing off the population of an entire country in a desperate attempt to eliminate a single family on each block.

Treating all "dirt" or any potential source of "contamination" as if it had the power to sicken us or kill us is leading to more and more resistant strains of bacteria. Keep in mind, the evolution that takes place in our species once per generation (about twenty years) is going on in bacteria in time spans so short as to boggle our limited minds. Perhaps as little as a few days. Tens of thousands of generations come and go in a relative blink of a human eye. In fact, there is a specialized bacteria that can only exist at the boundary between aluminum and jet fuel. This specific organism did not exist on planet Earth before the advent of air travel. Now, it has found a home in virtually every tank of aviation fuel on the planet.

The concept of diversity recognizes that we are interdependent on a very broad base of ecological fabric. Rather than strands in a vast tapestry, perhaps we humans are but a single fiber within a strand. When we are faced with only one of anything, the food web, or food pyramid gets turned upside down. I heard of folks who ate only grayling for an entire summer. It was the only fish that lived in the river that flowed past their encampment. They had no other food to eat and within just a few moons, they became depraved, seeking any other food as aggressively as a wild predator peruses a mouse, when big game has been eradicated. I love to eat pomegranate, but if that is all I had to consume I would tire of it quickly. Similarly, we must look to diversity as a cure for our desolation of spirit.

The biomass of bacteria, even though we humans are massive organisms, is many billions of times as great as that of our species. These organisms re the base of the food pyramid. They grow into colonies, fly on the wind, get carried by water and take up residence wherever the conditions are favorable. They help to break down waste, live in our bodies and upon them, assist in helping us to wrest nutrition from our food and yes, a few of them can kill. The diversity that helps to keep soils moist, allows tree roots to get their nutrient needs filled and provides for the higher levels of organisms to find their way in the world all rely on this world that lies hidden from our eyes. That certainly cannot mean that they are any less important.

As a first step, we need to understand the importance of this rich and diverse form of life. As we need to attempt to cultivate an appreciation of all other organisms. Once we do that, we can begin to honor and respect other creatures as belonging to other important parts within the tapestry of life surrounding us. Instead of a buzz word of exploitative forces, diversity is a reality that we must make a new kind of peace with, one that honors and respects all beings, form the microscopic up through the food web to top level predators. Just because there are bacteria that can feed on oil certainly is no reason to flood our wetlands or backyards with oil, nor is it a reason to hold out hope that after the destructive process of fracking, or wresting the last few drops from oil sands that the land will heal itself. The destructive forces that we continually unleash upon our fellow creatures need to be seen as the war against diversity that they truly are. Healing only begins when the fundamental right to exist is honored and respected. The more we learn about others, the more we will ultimately come to understand ourselves.

when we embark on an ECO-Tour, we always start with a spiritual opening and at the close we respectfully close the door to this magical time, so that we can begin again along our own path, respecting the brief opening of a window into greater realms than we may ever be able to fathom. Our ECO-Tours always touch the planet in a way that will live on after our organism has gone back to the Earth. Honoring the diversity of life that we have the power to feed is an essential quality of our tours. Great power resides in making this an integral part of all of our lives.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013


Ah, what a wonderful, oft overlooked quality and yet one that holds so much [promise for the future of humankind. So many conditions can hem in this state of natural abundance, we forget that it is achievable, sustainable and that exponential growth and abundance are actually a rule in natural systems, rather than an exception. Imagine, if you will, a forest. To make it a bit easier to fathom, try imagining a single acre (.6ha). In my part of the world, the temperate region, a common estimate for trees per acre is between three hundred and three hundred and fifty mature trees in a climax forest. To the average casual observer, it would appear to be in a relatively steady state. However, if each tree is growing a ring of new tissue each year, the number of board feet of wood in that acre would be increasing perhaps only by what seems like a small percentage, but multiplied by several hundred trees, it is quite a large amount.
Healthy ecosystems always have a certain rate of death and destruction as well, but in each and every case, the death of one organism provides habitat for hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of other organisms. There is no trash in the woods, unless humans put it there. Each bit of living tissue becomes food or shelter for other living creatures upon death, sometimes in epiphytic relationships, the habitat that is provided by living organisms is mutually beneficial, or at least the death of the host organism is not necessary. There are thousands of mutually beneficial associations in nature and both creatures can flourish in the presence of one another. Forests are again a ready example of how this can work. billions of spores waft on the wind, in search of just the right moisture, temperature and conditions to make their life process possible. A single spore can ultimately become a non-plant, non-animal organism that stretches miles, if given optimal conditions. Fungi produce food for creatures, are primary decomposers and are often completely forgotten by casual observers because they spend the majority of their life cycle hidden amongst leaf litter and forest soils. the actual fruiting body is just a temporary phenomenon, peculiar in that it only lasts for time periods on the order of days, whilst the mycelium that the fruiting body (the part we see) grows from can live hundreds of years.
I know that many of us are anthropocentric, so finding ways to help our children flourish, as well as ourselves is perhaps slightly more important to most people than helping the creatures who also live in our environment to do well. One of my recent lessons came from an educational researcher who reminded me of the need to switch up a bit in child rearing. for decades, people have taught their children that they are smart, often repeating that mantra tens of thousands of times over the child's lifetime. This can actually handicap the child later in life because when they run up against challenges that do not fit into their skill set, they wonder why, if they are so smart, they are haviung a hard time solving the problem. Instead, we should take the time to use phrases like, "I like the way you approached the problem in a creative way." or "I think it was good to ask for help before you got frustrated.", phrases that instill a sense of curiosity in the face of adversity, adaptability over mastery. I used to tell my children frequently that they had good ideas, but that often the best ideas come from just taking a break, doing something different and coming back later so that they would have a fresh eyes to view the problem at hand.
Part of flourishing is to adapt, change and grow into new situations and that is something that natural systems excel at. Some things that we can all do to enhance the ability of one another to flourish is to stop consuming rampantly, step back from all that is sold to us, on every level. The only thing that flourishes under the current power and control structures are the wealth of the ruling class. We can see this at work in virtually every aspect of our "modern" life. NASCAR for instance encourages us to put the pedal to the metal when what is needed is a featherweight foot on the accelerator. millions are spent telling our daughters that they are overweight and unattractive when what they desperately need is self confidence. Politicians tell us that there is a one size fits all educational scheme that can be imposed on our children when individualized instruction has been proven to be superior on every level, save cost. There are even those (and you know who they are in your area) telling the fiction that government needs to be run like a business. Nothing could be further from the truth. Flourishing requires access to healthy food, water and shelter. Beyond these things, our species, as well as many others, require love and affection, the understanding and meaningful communication of other beings.
I have often said that I speak for the trees, but they are dependent on pure, clean water so I find myself speaking for the water as well. As we adapt and change in ways that help us in a single area, we find proficiencies in other areas as well, as long as we continue to pay attention and integrate new knowledge. Human beings are meaning making machines and we can do nothing else. If we accept what we are told, it will lead to the demise of not only our own selves, but the entire species. Well-funded interests are fighting to stay in charge, wrest the last of everything out of the Earth to make a profit for themselves. nothing will flourish under these conditions but the proliferation of lies that they will concoct to keep us out of their hair while the dirty work is done.
The Earth is in the balance and if we are to flourish as a species we must make peace with the natural systems upon which we depend.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Thirty Years Hence

I was barely twenty years old when the term "deep ecology" was being coined. Many of us had been on the same page about ecology and human interaction with the natural world, but some, in intellectual circles wanted a codified system of thinking about these issues that would fly in the face of the uberwealthy oligarchs who had run our planet under the wheels of "progress" for far too long. Although the reality that informed our perception exists worldwide, our thoughts about it seemed like isolated calls for change. What many felt would be needed is an over-arching platform on which to build social and political movements for change. The horrific dislocation of populations, the extinction of species and squandering of shared resources such as the food web, the air, fresh water, oceans and the soil  led many ecologists and environmentalists to seek a concise and precise way of elucidating basic principles for positive change. Out of this desire came, 
The Deep Ecology Platform.

1. The well-being and flourishing of human and nonhuman life on Earth have value in themselves (synonyms: inherent worth, intrinsic value, inherent value). These values are independent of the usefulness of the nonhuman world for human purposes.

2. Richness and diversity of life forms contribute to the realization of these values and are also values in themselves.

3. Humans have no right to reduce this richness and diversity except to satisfy vital needs.

4. Present human interference with the nonhuman world is excessive, and the situation is rapidly worsening.

5. The flourishing of human life and cultures is compatible with a substantial decrease of the human population. The flourishing of nonhuman life requires such a decrease.

6. Policies must therefore be changed. The changes in policies affect basic economic, technological, and ideological structures. The resulting state of affairs will be deeply different from the present.

7. The ideological change is mainly that of appreciating life quality (dwelling in situations of inherent worth) rather than adhering to an increasingly higher standard of living. There will be a profound awareness of the difference between big and great.

8. Those who subscribe to the foregoing points have an obligation directly or indirectly to participate in the attempt to implement the necessary changes.

—Arne Naess and George Sessions (1984)

The intervening years have seen more demonization, more vehement rhetoric, more finger pointing and more obfuscation of these ideas than we could have ever expected at the time. The monied interests found it easy to find examples of overzealous tree-huggers, eco-terrorists and anarchists who they used to paint the entire movement with. Dangerous as we were perceived to be for their bottom line, many of the ideas we brought to the table have yielded even more profit for their coffers. The scary, loose cannon, threatening hippies were few and far between, but the brush they used to paint us with was wide enough to gloss over any good ideas that sounded like they were in league with the "opposition". From the early days, there were those of us who came to the table saying, "We are not against anything!", "I refuse to take an 'anti'-anything status." or "Tell me what you are for." I am, and have always been, protesting for a desired future world that honors the planet Earth, her people, the creatures who attempt to survive here and the harmony that can be struck between the living creatures who reside upon or within the land, air and water as well as the inanimate objects that are often exploited for our (human) purposes. This distinction is often lost or obscured when powerful agents guide the discussion.

I would like to delve into each of these principles more deeply, but the mind-blowing fact is that once integrated into a coherent lifestyle, compartmentalizing becomes more difficult. It may take some time, but in the coming moons I will attempt to do just that, reflect and enhance the meanings that I have found from my association with the deep ecology movement. Millions of tree seeds have been planted with these hands. now, with the technology of keyboard and worldwide web, I will attempt to plant millions more ideas in the hearts and minds of humankind. Keeping in mind that humanity is rarely civil, frequently delusional and malleable, perhaps I can find the right words to resonate within the hearts of humankind. Lord and Lady know the future depends on finding a new way forward.