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

Tuesday, December 24, 2013


A memorable paving expert once said, "Blacktop lasts about twenty to thirty years, concrete is forever." Last weekend I was involved in a project in which the truth of this statement was brought home to me immediately and exquisitely. My brother has been working to restore an old Victorian home, adding modern amenities and fixing a series of stupid changes wrought by former owners. For his birthday, I volunteered a weekend to come down and help remove an old concrete stoop. First off, it was poured in place, right up against the wood of the house. At about half the size of a car, it created a dead space behind that had rotted away part of the building. It also made for a cold inaccessible area that could not be insulated, creating a very cold and drafty entrance area inside the back door.

What has this to do with ECO-Tours? Well, if we are to survive, we must finally turn the corner on old-way thinking. Old ways no longer work. The changing of the seasons brings us an annual chance to reassess, prioritize and reflect on what is working and what is not. Concrete seems a good place to start. Centuries have passed since we discovered that the baking of limestone would make it chemically reactive, capable of changing phase from liquid to solid. I'm not sure if it is still true today, but two decades ago, there were some developing countries who were spending over half of their energy budget annually on simply baking limestone.Making cement for concrete.

In the case of my brother's stoop, there was, or seemed to be no good use for the rubble. To remove this liability from along side his home, we spent more than three days, blasting it with both sledge and jack hammers, making chunks small enough to cart away. Their ultimate destination was a landfill and by my closest estimate, we produced several tons of waste destroying the edifice. Concrete may be forever, but only if it is in a place that makes sense and only if it is properly prepped, mixed and finished. (which the stoop was not) There are techniques that could have crushed the rubble to the size of useful aggregate that would reduce the need for hauling it away and reducing the materials that would need to be brought in if we were to pour new concrete, but alas, only large projects benefit from that sort of expensive equipment.

now, there will be a small pocket or layer of stone in the landfill, perhaps forever. The massive amount of energy burned half a century ago, perhaps even longer ago than that, will have been squandered for naught, and the three days of labor required to make things a step closer to right will be left out of history books. The joy that will blossom from the new deck and entryway that will be created in place of the giant concrete stairway will of course be enjoyed, but for generations hence, the effort that brought about that possibility will remain invisible. Rather than feeling ambivalent about this and instead of feeling sad about the waste of time that throwing our bodies and several kilowatts of energy at the monolithic stoop, I feel liberated. Almost like a force of nature, free to express myself through ages.

The ripples and waves that we sent, back into the history of his home, the community and that spot on the Earth will only be eclipsed by the ripples we sent forward into the future. The work we did will stop the back entry to his house from rotting away, perhaps saving tens of thousands of dollars for future residents. The benefit of having a warm entryway, rather than a cold one although subtle has nearly infinite value for those who have to put their shoes on out there in winter, perhaps for hundreds of years into the future. The love we expressed for one another in our cooperative effort has bound us together in ways that are hard to quantify and the joy of releasing the building from the ugly albatross around the back door is priceless.

The costs of expediency are often paid over the course of generations. Developing a time signature of life that honors both past and future may be the only way to preserve the human race from self-destruction. Please take time to think about this before making your New Year's Resolutions.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

PH ***ing the Man

I do not abide being called names, so there are few that I put on others. A comment or two have come about because I do not like to give up when faced with a ruling class of exploiters and oppressors, willing to extract all that is good from whatever "resource" they feel like exploiting that day. We must each attempt to delineate in our own way, how much we will be constrained by "the man". When I was a child, my Grandpa, who was a baker for a large corporate concern, was a staunch union man and worked hard to assure that workers there could make a respectable wage in relatively good/safe conditions. I found out that the workers had absolutely no say in the process that was used to make the bread. (bean counters did all of that.) I knew that we would never buy or eat that 'poor person's bread', as my family called it. According to Grandma, "The ingredients list alone proved that you shouldn't be eating it." Grandpa felt that getting as much as possible from those bastards was as good as you could "get". He probably didn't hear about the man until he was so indebted to corporate welfare whores to even know how or why.
This is what zero emission vehicles look like. When grid tied, they sport tiny emission footprints from faraway generating stations. Their massive efficiency coefficient reduces even faraway emissions massively relative to traditional fossil fuel powered vehicles.

This is the amount of solar panels required to fuel just one of the vehicles pictured above. Note that the hot water panels, not used for the car, are the four that are propped up and facing true South. Photovoltaic cells only need light.

Even as a child, I could see that there was a sense of resignation that the highest status he could achieve, would be to allow his labors to be capitalized upon by others, people so wealthy, to not have ever known want. Later in life, I began to understand that he was on the same rung of the economic ladder as the people George Bailey, from It's a Wonderful Life, was fighting for. Grandpa had fought hard and managed to get to the top side of his rung, perhaps, but certainly not one higher. I asked about his product one day, "Why are they allowed to call it Holsum, if it is actually bad for you?" His response has come back to me repeatedly over the years. He said, "Kid, watch you mouth, someday you're gonna' be trouble." He had drawn a line across his experience and underlined it, the worker's job was, is and will forever be, servitude. I'm sure that somewhere in his formative years he heard that the grass that stands the tallest gets cut down most, or something to that effect. blending in always made the best sense. In his time, it was admirable that he helped fight for reasonable subsistence wages. He waged another fight against the man in the marketplace.

Only in a lifetime have I come to know my own limits...where I am ready to accept complicity. I rationalize that by putting myself in servitude intermittently, thoughtfully and by choice, makes me less of a wage slave, less of a corporate tool, but to this day, if I look critically at the situation, I'm just a skilled caterer of sorts, serving up hollow distractions. The man is well served by providing bread and circuses. I am part of the machine that makes entertainment. To put book ends on what I learned from my grandpa, the last time I saw him alive, he said, "Always pay your dues to the stagehand union, I got paid better there than any other job. I do participate in the economy (have a vocation) to support my non-profit activities (avocation). It is a powerfully humbling experience to be the Director of an organization that has planted millions of tree seeds and many tens of thousands of actual tree seedlings. The few times that I get to be a stagehand with a powerful and culturally important show are few, yet more than 100 nights each year I am pumping out my own labor for others to achieve their dreams.

The reason I used the PH to start the dirty word, in the title is because it takes a certain amount of savvy, to begin to deconstruct "the man" of lore. I been down wit' all 'dat for decades...I'm not shittin' anyone when I say that we are all victims of a world-wide crime. Not just against humanity, but each and every critter on the face of Gaia, (Mother Earth, Starship Earth, or whatever you want to call this planet.) every resource is being squandered for the survival of corporate welfare whores who are considered too big to fail. Pay no attention that over 90 % of all bacteria, fungi and viruses found in healthy soil have been exterminated through the use of petro-chemically derived, toxic compounds. Ignore for a moment that water, worldwide has become undrinkable, vast aquifers and massive oil and gas fields have been depleted yet we sink wells deeper every day.And leave blank the image in your mind of the largest ocean on the planet,  radio-logically (illogically, if you ask me) contaminated.

There is a way to turn back the carbon clock. Sequestration. I live near the 45th paralell. Around here, wood is considered a renewable resource. There is an abundant supply and transport costs are relatively low. Through gassification, about half of the fuel value of the wood is driven off as carbon-less energy. This process, called gassification, yields what has been come to be known as "syn-gas". (synthetic, carbon neutral natural gas.) Burning the wood without air also yields char, a powerful source of pure carbon in the micro-structural shape of literally billions of tubules, perfect for biological activity. In our own gardens, we have increased yields using char by over 60%. Side by side tests that we have been doing for the last few years are so amazing that I see no reason to deprive any soil this kickstarter for life! In addition to helping to rebuild living soil, the char helps with water holding capacity as well. Carbon sequestration and biological rehabilitation combined? Yes! The most mind boggling fact about char is that in one handful, there are over fourteen acres of surface area. Most of us will never own that much territory, but we can enrich many times that much land by adding char to our magic bags of tricks. We need every oar in the water, get busy transforming the planet people.

Pass this information far and wide. If you would like more information on char, please request an ECO-Tour on just that subject. We would be happy to introduce you to a better understanding of how to make, inoculate and integrate this priceless black gold into your gardens, lawn or fields. This is all part of the change that is going to have to happen, nearly overnight, if we are to leave a liveable planet for future generations. The writing is on the wall. Understanding the man is easier today than at any time in human history. Whom do you serve takes on meaning when you see that the military industrial complex has subsumed healthcare, insurance and banking to such a large extent that we are often serving multiple heads of the same great beast. Feeding the beast, even the tiniest morsel requires some soul sacrifice. Had I understood this fully, I'm sure that I would have never signed my first mortgage papers. My ecology is deep, some call it deep green, but it is vibrant as all colors under the Sun. The deep and abiding love that I have for the planet is reflected in all of my activities. The man has placed himself at odds with the health of the planet and it is my right to depose him from power. My choices make the fight possible and envisioning a victory makes hope possible.

It may sound strange, but at least in my country today, we all seem to be delusional enough to think that we can fight the man into parity, while still shackled to the great behemoth. In fact, the great and powerful beast that has sterilized the soils, tainted the air and turned rivers to sewers seeks to put a good face on it. We have seen in recent history several billion dollar ad campaigns telling us that BP is "Beyond Petroleum" and how they have made the Gulf of Mexico better than it had been before their disaster. Having had one bite too many of contaminated Gulf shrimp, I'm thinking not. We keep seeing amazing things about how technology can be brought to bear in reducing storm damage from super hurricanes. It is not said aloud, but the implication is that there is little we can do to stop hurling past any reasonable limits. Technology and science are not the same thing, they bounce back and forth as if they are two spastic inmates shackled by long tethers. They always have and will always dance this chaotic way. We learn, often too late that what we were able to do should not have been done, what seemed reasonable at the time was for the worst. Often the greatest new technologies are proven later by science to be the worst possible thing we could have pursued. Thinking that new technology could hope to save us from the current dominion of the oligarchy, or the effects of climate change is naive.

I am far too sick to my stomach over Fukushima to say "We told you so", but we did. It could have mattered twenty, nay, thirty years ago. Today, we are looking at our own, and very real, radioactive nightmare, as if it is still in black and white, or worse, just a news story about somewhere far away. Nothing on this planet is very far away when you are radioactive fallout, are we completely fooled? Trying to fight the man, without understanding that the current system can no longer support itself seems daunting. The corporate welfare state needs our blood, our treasure, our complicity, otherwise it is on the wrong end of the gangplank and we are in full mutiny. It is hard to prod the beast off that gangplank if we nail our tongue to the gunnels. Worse still, would be to shackle ourselves to the dying corpse of "the man" as he goes to the depths. We hear snippets about divestment, but some are all in with the man.

Don't think for a second that the billionaires playing the markets will ever share a penny of their wealth with you.That just isn't happening. Let me go back to that bit about Grandpa and the marketplace. He always was a chiseler. He worked hard for every dollar and was hard put to spend even a dime recklessly. He knew that once spent, dollars tended to flow away from his town and into the hands of ever bigger guys. Yesterday, I did Grandpa proud. I went to a local lumber yard, paid a little extra, but saved more than a gallon of gas, plus having to drive to two different places for the best price. We must slash at the belly of the great beast that has us in its maw. Only when the entrails flow free will we see the value of what the man has taken as his share all of these years. Abundance is available, but it begins from the grass roots, or the interactions of the soil organisms that make them possible, all the way, up.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

End O' Year Fundraising 2013

This past year, 2012, our budget constraints were greater than ever before. The few tools that we sought funding for last Spring have had to be forgone for another growing season. Just a few hundred dollars would allow us to procure these items. Our work continues in spite of these constraints. We planted more seeds than ever and a few large trees were moved to their final destinations with the help of several great volunteers. Major changes have come to pass on our properties that both reduced the time we were able to spend seeking out new planting sites, but the streamlining and re-organization of the land we do have available for our use will allow us to grow more seedlings right here, saving us money, time and allowing us to get efficiencies of scale in our seedling production once again. Doing more with less seems to be our watchword the last few years, but this only means that we will be that much more efficient with the donations we receive in the future.

We have a veritable maple grove coming up that will need to be dug and potted in the Spring, but other than that we are down to a couple dozen potted trees for early spring planting. A long-term donor has found a home for them, but we were much too busy this fall to get them in the ground.

We have created a development plan that includes both a large scale reforestation effort in highlands near Lake Superior and a resort along the shore. Funds we raise now will help us continue to plant trees and leverage our good works into more exciting ventures in the future. The program for our school of sustainability is under development as well and when we open the facility it will be a living laboratory and example of how to operate sustainably. Our learning by doing model has served us well and a co-operative school that exists within a sustainable system is the best way to teach the elements and principles of deep ecology, green renewal and train the next generations of water bearers.

Several great friends and supporters of ECO-Tours have passed the veil this year and we are both missing them and memorializing their lives by recommitting to our mission. Some of the most important changes that we have seen locally have come out of expressions of their love, honor and respect for the future generations that will follow us. The trees we plant today have the power to outlive us and the relationships we forge with those who help accomplish our mission will, in turn, nurture other relationships that have the power to transform not only the landscape, but the lives of others, for generations. Although they may not walk the fields with us any more, their hearts and spirits are alive in the trees they planted, the memories they left us and the direction that their loving hands pointed us toward.

We ask those who have heard about our tree planting efforts to get on board, helping to fund it. If travel to Northeast Wisconsin is out of the question, contribute what you can to help us in our work. Donations are never squandered. Over 90 % of every dollar we receive is spent on trees, tree seedlings or tools needed to get them safely in the ground and through their first few years. Fields, forests and glens have been transformed through our efforts as well as the lives of those who have come on our plant-ins. One of the most hopeful acts we can participate in is the planting of a tree and in these times of rampant dislocation, instability and seemingly pathological destruction of nature, touching the Earth in this special way has amazing healing powers for not only the landscape, folks planting trees, our donors and the trees themselves, but for whole communities that depend on the structure, shade, water holding capacity and climate stabilization that trees provide.

If you would like to book an  ECO-Tour, or donate, please contact us. We accept checks at our home office as well if you are interested in sending money through snail mail. Post it to: ECO-Tours of Wisconsin Inc. 1445 Porlier street Green Bay, Wisconsin. You can also donate through Paypal by clicking the link at the top left of our header.

To get an idea of how far your donations go, the average cost of planting a tree and getting it safely through the first three years is over ten dollars. Creating a copse of transforming a small glen could cost several hundred dollars and to recreate a full acre (.4ha) (about 150 by 300 feet) (46X92m) costs about three thousand dollars. Similarly, a single shovel might cost 10-20 dollars, but a subsoiler might cost from 200-300 dollars. Removing invasive species as a first step toward replanting native trees could cost thousands. For donors with deeper pockets, our dream facility is coming in at about six million dollars and if you are interested in funding at that level, we would like to send an executive summary of our business plan.

Blessed Be! In the coming year, may you find all the joys to which you are entitled and may the remainder of this one be good to you as well. Thank-you in advance for your support! Tony C. Saladino-Director