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

Friday, August 15, 2014

Wholistic Approaches

Too frequently, our scientific approach leads us to compartmentalize our thinking. This piecemeal approach to our lives neglects the most important parts of any system, the synergies brought about by interaction. When we developed the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act, it was clear that we were missing the point. Air cannot be separated from water, nor can water be isolated from air. In fact the three major phases or states of matter, solid, liquid and gas are just temporary states, allowing many transformations of each to occur. Rather than creating Venn diagrams that seek to isolate different parts of the environment from one another, what we need is a regulatory framework that is based on items being regulated, not the realms into which they can be released. Imagine how our ecological thinking would have been different if we had cut to the chase right from the start, attacking the sources of pollution rather than developing strategies based on an undesirable current state. Had we made a few lists for guidance, based on science rather than what had been contaminated, things may have progressed more quickly. Regulators could have made one category for all known carcinogens, these would have been eliminated from any discharge as a vital first step.

Over the years, there have been more and more chemical compounds that are added to that category and as science progressed, we could have expanded the scope of our protections. Instead, we let most carcinogens continue to be put into the environment, just at a marginally lower rate. Most sophisticated people understand that dilution is not a solution to pollution, because natural processes concentrate materials that may well be at infinitesimally small concentrations approximately tenfold per trophic level. Let us take a slow walk through the biological world and investigate how many of those there are. In water, phytoplankton, zooplankton, tiny fishes, smaller fishes, larger fishes, top predators (this could yield a million times the concentration in the water which supports this system.) On land, we have the soil microbes which are basically the same as in water, some converting sunlight directly to food, other microbes feeding upon them, as well as fungus, then insects and critters that feed upon them, or other tissues (left over from living creatures). Moving up the food chain, we have tiny creatures, their predators and perhaps luckily, just a couple steps between the prey and the top predators. Stemming the flow of toxic compounds into the environment is easiest at the source, but we didn't even consider that when we decided to regulate chemicals out of the environment. We focused so myopically on how they were being released that we forgot to ask "Why?". Frequently, clamping down on one sort of release, say to keep it out of our water, just increased amounts going somewhere else, often to our air because we frequently burn our dried sewage sludge, either that or it was land filled creating a different sort of problem.

One hard and fast rule in nature is that there is no away.

Similarly, we must find ways to become whole in spite of our cultural impetus to cleave and dissect our realities just as aggressively as science dissects us. I am not separate from my mental life, my spiritual life or my physical body. all of these "realms" exist in a complex interplay, just as the winds lift solids into the sky and as surely as the deluge can transport tons of dirt or soil (solids) elsewhere via a (liquid) phase change, my own states of being can morph into something much more profound. Who I am, who you are, we all are, in fact, ecosystems, microcosmic niches for complex biological and chemical interactions. In our gut and on our skin; up our noses and inside our ears, bacteria, fungus, molds and viruses make their living, or try to. Luckily, 85% of the bacteria are good, or at least do no harm. Even under our fingernails there is a delicate balance of life.

Many of us wear our psychic scars as a badge, as if the pain validates our existence. Like picking a scab, it only reinforces the power of the past. Healing is multidimensional and exactly the same as nature cannot be surgically approached. All things are connected and the infections that can manifest from abuse, disuse or misuse of natural abundance has distinct repercussions. One reason that I have frequently mentioned the Environmental Working Group is that their "skin deep" program allows people to understand the toxic mix of treatments that are sold in endless combinations and preparations for slathering on your skin. This is just one route that toxic compounds have into our lives and true to form, ECO-Tours of Wisconsin Inc. must stand in league with others who combat brutality to humanity by those who seek to capitalize on "just business" (which is wholly and utterly unjust!) The reason I mention it again here is that the topic of individuals being microcosmic ecological systems recognizes that true beauty comes from the soul level and radiates outward, nearly like having a sun inside you. Our very metabolism is a solar furnace running on complex molecules that act as storage batteries. When we begin to honor the food (fuel) that we put into our bodies, sanctify the water we wash it down with and clean the air which we breathe, the rest will take care of itself.

We do not exist in isolation. Together we can thrive, but only if we can stop the madness of exploitation, carbon fueled "development" and the abuse and neglect of both the planet and her people that passes for "economic imperative" around the globe. The reasons that people flock to relatively untouched places is to know that such places still exist somewhere, but it is crucial to "green" every inch of the planet as well as putting an end to the oppression and extractive methods of the failed system. The crucial thing to realize is that when we do visit other places, that the best way to protect them is to practice Leave No Trace Ethics. Recognizing that peak oil has come and gone will be the first step to healing our addiction to oil and coal. Funny how the Leave No Trace folks have a car on their homepage. Until we stop denying that our carbon addiction has destabilized climate and create reasonable rewards for carbon sequestration as well as penalties for blasting it into the atmosphere, there will be those who will not reign in their assault. We need to understand that our invisible footprint, generated when our actions in nature are mediated by petro-carbon fueled energy, rather than human energy, it is still an assault on pristine, no, sacred beauty.  I plant trees as part of my healing as much as to heal the planet. I urge others to join me. Together we can create a desired future state capable sustaining human life, a planet worth living in.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Great Lakes

This is...
These freshwater seas have always felt like home to me.
In the foreground, the Finger Lakes can be seen. When I was bicycling around the Great Lakes, I came into the top right of the picture on my way back from rounding the North Shore of Lake Superior. My route, contained within this photo, which took about two weeks at fifty miles (80 km) per day on average, came down The East shore of Georgian Bay, roughly followed the Severn-Trent Canal and rounded the nearest point in this picture crossing at the Thousand Islands Crossing, coming back from Canada. I took a few days off  (as well as being off the photo)to recuperate at the Canton Canoe Weekend. A special shout out to all my friends from Outing Club!

After that, I headed West again, pretty much hugging the shore the rest of the way home to Green Bay.

As I ponder this image, it is basically a look back from the downwind part of our airshed. Just as the water follows gravity, through clefts in the rock and dunes, the air wafts from our tailpipes and smokestacks, our fossil fuel powered electric generating stations and the wires that transmit that power, our heat islands are clearly evident way back, poking through the clouds. You can see a few black smudges and holes poked through the cloud bank that obscures Lake Michigan. I'm sure that each person who looks deeply into the image, at least those who know the area will see all sorts of different things in it, but for me who has pedaled his way through the image, it still has the power to amaze and mesmerize me. When I was a child, and had the dream to ride my bicycle around the Great Lakes, to see how large they had to be, to be able to dilute the poisons and terrific amounts of waste that we clogged them with when I was growing up. What I found is that they are actually pretty small jewels relative to our planet. The fact that they contain 20% of all the liquid fresh water on the planet is all one needs to know about why I dedicate my life to saving them.

Millions of tree seeds have been planted by our organization, tens of thousands of seedlings and saplings have been planted as well. This is to say nothing of the forbes, the composting and the aeration of long depleted areas that frequently start the whole process of regeneration. We are currently working to transform ever more acreage faster because forest cover, (especially on high ground, susceptible to wind erosion, marginal or steep slopes and along watercourses where runoff can carry massive sediment and nutrient loads) is essential if we are to reverse the flow of carbon from fossil fuel to the atmosphere.

We can only do as much as we can afford to do. We give as much time as possible. All the work is done as a labor of love, but all of our trees are either purchased with donations, or grown from seed which requires even more hours of our time. To give a bit of perspective, it costs about ten dollars per tree to get it, plant it and protect it. We do get some benefits from scale and the larger your donation, the lower the cost per tree. The nurseries that we deal with often give us steep discounts because of our commitment to maintaining an all-volunteer staff. Just because our trees are planted, the airshed is already being scrubbed of some carbon, with your help, we can do more.

Thursday, August 7, 2014


We have no word like this in English. Not "yes", not "no", but somewhere in-between. Even the word "maybe" resolves to get to the bottom of things before we are finished, often leading to pros and cons on either side. Mu is a state of being that is just as valid as either of the other two, but it exists in a blind spot within our culture. Our sense of duality is often too strong to admit a third possibility. Quixotically, our professed religion dictates a trinity, however, "we" seem to be unable to fathom this in our most primal, mental constructs which then get used to lead us through our lives. Like imperfect maps, we place items of experience in relation to other elements. From this relationship of arbitrary perspective, we build the landscape of our problem solving terrain.

I told a friend, There is a young woman who wants to learn about herbal healing...and I'm thinking of taking her on as an apprentice/student. His response was vile and crass. "Have you ____ed her yet?" The domain of his mental maps, the virtual topography of relationships between the sexes, told him that all women are quarry, to be bedded. The excuse for any behavior runs deep in the human mind runs deep.

In this case, my love for you, my compassion and humanity toward the suffering that you have experienced is the driving force behind each word, each concept and every intention that is put forward through ECO-Tours of Wisconsin Inc. When I plant a tree, or make it possible for a dozen folks to plant one-hundred trees, it is for you, your air, the water supply of the planet. I put my breath into the cells of that tiny spirit of hope. When it becomes grand, towers over homes, or gives shelter to other critters, you get a sense of how deeply I love you. When the tree finally falls, it will still nourish a collection of microbes and bugs that defy our imaginings. This third state is necessary, the mu, lets me say that the world is already different because of the love that I have for you. There is no "yes" or "no" about it.

An African word, Ubuntu says it best and I have had it translated to English, somewhat clumsily as "I am because you are." What it means to me is that the whole of my existence is bound up, reflected, perhaps even refracted through you and that is what gives meaning to my life. You are essential to me. Our essences reverberate with one another into something greater. Mu requires not, agreement with anything but timeless truth. Neither at odds, or in accord, we are part of a vast organism, the ecosphere.

I have always understood this third state, for instance, when Rush sang: "If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice." I got the message that doing the best, in all situations requires a suspension of decision, but not action. Too often we forget that the right thing to do is frequently never considered. It never even makes it on to the table. We are too often hurried into making bad decisions. When we honor the third choice, much of the wasteful, harmful, neglectful, abusive and erroneous activities can be avoided. Not yes, not no.

I am because you are. There is no yes or no about that. We all breathe the same noble gasses as the dinosaurs did, we are one, through time and space, the very molecules we share are but stardust. Not no, not yes, just be with that. We are one...often this answer is even more important than the question. I want to use this forum to call for a worldwide boycott, overt #occupation of the decision-making process. If you are about to say yes, to something you fell you should say no to, at least allow mu a chance to fill you. Is someone makes a baseless claim, do not let your blood pressure rise, become inflamed or moved to anger, turn the question around, find the flaw and state unequivocally mu. Then walk away. It is time for humanity to speak truth to power or perish. Participation under duress is a requirement  for a certain crime. We are all being victimized by "yes"/ "no" answers to questions that defy this narrow solution.

Crimes are being committed, heinous ones, involving the rape of the planet, poisoning of our shared resources, this is true. The distorted meteorologic maps, show how desperately out of balance our climate has become. "New Normal" has been the catch word of the new millennium. Often we exempt ourselves from our part in it, like when we pump fuel into our cars, or trucks, when we fly off to faraway lands to see beautiful nature, or when we import materials from halfway around the globe, but we are playing a part. We say, by our participation, "my life and limb depend on my complicity in the whole mess." I continue to stand as a living testament to the fact that we have other choices. Move closer to where you work, or work closer to home, make everywhere more habitable and you will never have to leave. Take back the means of production and create only things of true value and as a friend once told me, never discount the maxim, "Do the dishes, make bread, play with/teach the children, and you will never need to pay rent." Not yes, not no, only love.