Blanchard Mountain: An Unrealistic Proposal for a Working Forest
by Randy Walcott
Randy Walcott is chairman of the Mt. Baker Group of the Sierra Club.
A few miles south of Bellingham, just over the county line, is a place called Blanchard Mountain. A lot of people from the Bellingham area are familiar with Blanchard. The area contains nearly twenty miles of trails, campsites, a couple of small lakes (Lily and Lizard), maturing second growth trees, fish bearing streams, an incredible escarpment called Oyster Dome and below it a large talus field known as the Bat Caves. All in all, it is a great home for a variety of wildlife and a good place for human recreation.
In reality, this area is a working forest managed by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources. Over time various parcels within this working forest will be harvested. This particular block of timberland is primarily Forest Board Trust. The revenues collected from the sale of timber (a large percentage of it anyway) will go toward the fulfillment of various county requirements. Such requirements include: fire, roads, transit, sewer, hospitals, etc. I´ve been told that the reason we residents of Washington do not pay a state income tax is due, in part, to the sale of timber harvested from the State´s trust lands. Fair enough, I suppose.
Let´s step back and take another look at the area I described above. Now think. Given this area´s uniqueness, its wildlife habitat, its mystique, its recreational popularity, why don´t we remove it from the land trust and preserve it as it is? There is a state program in place that could accomplish this proposal. It is called the Land Transfer Program. This program would compensate the county with money that would otherwise be produced through logging. But, as suggestions go this one doesn´t seem particularly interesting or feasible according to Department of Natural Resources way of thinking. No, forget it. Not a realistic option.
Want options? Here are your options. The area either remains in trust status for timber production or it´s turned over to the beneficiary (the county) and is commercially developed. Removing the area from trust status and redesignating it for preservation is not practical or workable; it´s quixotic and unrealistic.
And it´s all bull
Yeah, I call it bull. I know I´m hardly the first to do so and hopefully not the last. But I´m calling it anyway because of my frustration. You know what I´m talking aboutthe mind set (the forest-as-vending machine ethic that the State uses to validate, to vindicate the long-standing tradition of terror our culture heaps upon the planet) that rationalizes current approaches to state-managed timber lands as realistic, vis-a-vis the ever-growing and increasingly consumptive populations of human beings that ultimately place unrealistic (huh?) demands on the environment.
Meeting at Blanchard Mountain
Last June 29th a fairly large group of people attended a meeting at Blanchard Mt., in northwest Skagit County. The issue, as you might have already guessed, concerned the management of the Blanchard Block of Forest Board Lands. In attendance were: Jennifer Belcher, Commissioner of Public Lands, Bill Wallace and Dick Olsen from the Sedro Woolley Department of Natural Resources office, local officials from Washington State Parks, Senator Harriet Spanel, members of the Chuckanut Trails steering committee, members of Habitat Watch, members of the Backcountry Horsemen, representatives of Trillium, local residents, concerned individuals from hereabouts and last, and possibly least, members of the Mt. Baker Group-Sierra Club. Conspicuously absent were the Skagit County Commissioners. By and large it was a sedate affair, polite and at times ingratiating. The Department of Natural Resources discussed its plans for the area, two issues as it were, rolled into one.
Quarrying Rock on Blanchard Mountain.
The first issue concerned a rock pit, in the southeast corner of the Blanchard Block, that the Department of Natural Resources wants to quarry. The rock will be dynamited and crushed on site. The riprap will be used for road building and maintenance for timber harvest projects in Whatcom County (Austin Flats) and Blanchard. The rock extracted from the quarry, according to the Department of Natural Resources, is of such quality that it will produce little in the way of sedimentary runoff and thereby reduce the hazard to streams that could be affected by road construction (a substantial gotcha given the current uproar in Whatcom County over the Lake Whatcom Watershed).
Most of the comments pertaining to the rock pit were from local residents who expressed concern about flying rock from the quarrying operation, big-rig traffic, road safety, noise, recreational and wildlife disruption. Jennifer Belcher responded to such concerns as being valid and duly noted, but the area is a working forest, and with it comes certain inconveniences. Paraphrasing of course, Belcher said, We either work the forest or turn it over to the county for development. What would you rather have here, a housing development or a working forest?
Logging Blanchard Mountain
The second issue involved the Department of Natural Resources' future plans for the Blanchard block. The Department of Natural Resources' spiel once again reiterated the working forest concept and their legal responsibility, as the trustees of the forest, to provide revenue to the county. In fact, as it was revealed, they were preparing a forty-acre area for bid (the Pistachio Sale) this January.
The meeting allowed for a fair amount of response from the non-Department of Natural Resources attendees. Much of the commentary ranged from the sycophantic to the mildly hostile, but included as well an erudite presentation from Ann Eissinger of Nahkeeta Northwest. Eissinger emphasized the need for a wildlife survey within the Chuckanuts in general and suggested to the Department of Natural Resources they include such a survey within their long range plans for Blanchard.
Mike McKinney, of the Mt. Baker Group Sierra Club, expressed the need for a comprehensive environmental evaluation of the Blanchard area. His concern derives from the Department of Natural Resources´ practice of isolating timber parcels from the larger area within which they are contained. The problem with this, according to McKinney, is that by way of the State Environmental Protection Act process determinations of significant adverse impacts to a projected environment should be evaluated on the basis of the total´ projected land use rather than on segmented phases of use. McKinney´s point is that segmenting an area could disrupt wildlife activity to such an extent that contiguous parcels would in turn be devoid of species that would otherwise have to be accommodated for in future timber harvesting proposals.
Extending Larabee State Park
Toward the end of the meeting, Belcher addressed the proposition to set aside 3,000 acres within the Blanchard Block. This proposal, as offered by the Mt. Baker Group at the meeting, advocates the protection of the Blanchard area by transferring it out of trust status, designating it a Natural Resource Conservation Area and making it an extension of neighboring Larrabee State Park. The Department of Natural Resources´ response was anything but encouraging. According to them, the area is not unique enough to warrant a Natural Resource Conservation Area designation. There were other areas more unique and of a higher priority for protection, already nominated and on the Land Transfer List (as of this writing, the area is not yet nominated, but I´m working on it). The proposal was deemed- what?-that´s right, unrealistic.
(Here on in, and for my own peace of mind, I think I´ll opt for the unrealistic-point of fact. You can toss me into a vat of unrealistic naked and I´ll wallow in it. I´ll eat it, spawn in it, die in it and with drunken dementia, stumble through the streets slathered up in the pulp and juice of it and live it).
Fertilizer for Thought
It dawns on me, I´ve little use for this term realistic. At least the J. Belcher/Department of Natural Resources cultural status quo definition. Its application, in their context, is the semantic sibling of the term pragmatic, i.e., needs and results. The social application of pragmatism is obvious enough; human beings in cooperative groups extract vital resources from their environment in order to sustain and perpetuate themselves. They organize and work for those results that satisfy their needs. All organisms do this; not all do so within a social framework, but all have evolved various functional adaptations to produce and reproduce within their environment.
Hence, we, along with all living things, are inherently pragmatic. And I have no problem with this. In fact, I find it comforting, in some atavistic sense, to know that I´m part of (or could be part of) that greater ecological loop. My existence is contingent on what existed in the past, what presently exists and what will exist. And if I ever find myself confronted with some wild animal that flatters me as palatable, my absence will be short-lived for that animal has to defecate also. If my life has been a dismal failure I know post-life I have a real potential of succeeding as an excellent fertilizer. Realistically speaking of course.
History Shapes Harvest
So what´s my gripe? It´s with the 20th century and the 16th, 17th, 18th and 19th centuries leading up to it as well. Our whole Aryan history of rape and ruin and imperialism and John Calvin and Adam Smith and Milton Friedman. And a legion of soulless ditto heads and free markets and industrialism and technology. And pavement that leads to malls that contain a whole slew of useless, senseless things we just gotta have.
My gripe is with tradition. It´s an ideological hand-me-down I´m confronting. The historically determined and culturally embedded orientation that abstracted nature from humanity. Our needs and results no longer have a spiritual connection to the material sourcethe source first lost our respect and then its equality. So when Jennifer Belcher uses the word realistic, she means human requirements are first and foremost. Could be our environment is a distant second or third or fourth for consideration. I don´t know. Maybe dogs and cats come next. To heck with it. Say hello to the Working Forest.
The Legal Mandate
Again, what´s my gripe? It´s with a constitutional mandate that authorizes the state (Department of Natural Resources) to slaughter chunks of ecosystems in order to provide revenues for the counties. Aye, there´s the rubthe law. The Department of Natural Resources has a legal obligation to produce income for the counties on a yearly basis through a sustainable, even-flow timber harvest policy. This, of course, is not a unique revelation I´m imparting to the public. Anyone who has ever confronted the Department of Natural Resources is well aware of their management mandate. But, as a neophyte, pip-squeek environmentalist I cannot comprehend why the environmental community as a whole continues to attack Department of Natural Resources policy, through the courts and other forms of public action, without some concerted attempt to level the political playing field. With this being said, I don´t lay any claim to being particularly well informed or bright and stand corrected if the above is an inaccurate and/or stupid statement.
Management Reform Required
I´ve observed an expensive war being fought according to a set of rules overwhelmingly in favor of the Department of Natural Resources' agenda. It´s hard for me to rationalize a series of costly skirmishes with the Department of Natural Resources without some larger political agenda in the background to restructure public policy as it pertains to State managed lands. To the point, what we need is a voter initiative by the year 2000 to amend the State Constitution and reform, to some degree, the State´s management policy for public lands. How? Hell if I know. I´m long on complaint, but short on suggestion. I know there are people out there with the required knowledge and legal expertise to produce such a proposal for the next state ballot. Overwhelmed with ignorance as I am, I am willing to grub for funds and harass the public, our legislators and assist in any capacity I can. I don´t expect our collective, cultural worldview of nature to change anytime in the near future, but I do believe we have the political potential to redirect public policy.
September 30, Baker District Manager, Dick Olsen of the Department of Natural Resources hosted a public meeting in Sedro Woolley to reopen the discussion concerning the future of the Blanchard Mt. The Department of Natural Resources sent out about 80 invitations to the public. In attendance were approximately 24 people, half of them from the Department of Natural Resources. (Since then I´ve been fighting off a psychotic funk because the attendance was so lousy. Some no-shows probably had valid excuses, but I suspect most sat home or elsewhere wallowing in their own putrid apathy. And if I´ve just managed to alienate a substantial group of people, that´s just too d bad). Overall, it was an informative affair. The Department of Natural Resources presented its plans for the Macadamia rock pit, supplied additional information pertaining to the Pistachio sale above Lizard Lake as well as future sales in the Blanchard block.
In a nutshell, the Department of Natural Resources reemphasized their desire to quarry rock from Macadamia because of its high quality, i.e., the rock is of such quality to minimize sediment runoff when used in road construction. The Pistachio sale will conform to strict guidelines as outlined in the State´s Habitat Conservation Plan. In fact, I think the Department of Natural Resources will most likely adhere to the book as closely as possible and I wouldn´t be surprised at all if the foresters themselves will think twice before stepping out of their truck to take a roadside leak lest that action violate some aspect of the state Environmental Protection Act process.
New Timber Harvests Planned
Also, they elaborated upon their additional harvest plans up in Blanchard. Currently they´re using a five year action plan (what McKinney and I have been referring to as the underplan in lieu of any long-range comprehensive plan) and have identified additional timber harvests after the Pistachio cut. The first of these sales won´t take place until 2001 and will continue through the year 2003 including a smallwood thinning in the far west side in 2004. The sale in 2001 is located on the east side of the B-1000 adjacent to the Incline Trail trailhead. The sale in 2002 will occur just north of the handglider launch and the sale scheduled for 2003 is composed of two parcels and these are located north and west of Lizard Lake respectively (see map). Lastly, Dick Olsen stated that the department intends, budget permitting, to create a 60 year plan for the Blanchard block in 1999.This planning process will include, according to Olsen, a citizen advisory.
Toward the end of the meeting, Mike McKinney restated his dismay with the segmenting tactic utilized by the Department of Natural Resources that avoids an intensive wildlife survey of the entire area. The department claimed they possessed enough knowledge about the local ecosystem to proceed without a comprehensive harvest plan for the Blanchard area. Also at issue was the fact that the Pistachio and 2003 harvest plans were located in the sweet spot of Blanchard. At this point Olsen reviewed the department´s mandate and their fiduciary responsibility to the county. The county depends upon a steady flow of income from trust properties and Blanchard has to be harvested in order to maintain county programs. Olsen then concluded his review with an interesting piece of advice. If we don´t like the policy administered by the Department of Natural Resources, then change it. Well, d it, Dick, that´s one heck of a good idea. I like it!
A couple of months back, in a letter to Jennifer Belcher, McKinney remarked that the Sierra Club greatly supports the unrealistic. And in one of our recent newsletters, McKinney asked our local membership to write an unrealistic letter to Belcher in support of the group´s proposal to redesignate Blanchard from Forest Board Trust to conservation status. I´m asking you to do the same. Write a letter to Commissioner Belcher in support of our efforts to redesignate Blanchard Mt. as a Natural Resource Conservation Area.
Proposed School Threatens Protected Property in Lake Padden Watershed
by Rob Galbraith
Rob Galbraith is a homeowner, Huxley graduate, and Interim Director of Academic Technology at WWU.
The Bellingham School District is considering building a new elementary school on 40 acres of protected watershed property, owned by the City of Bellingham, adjacent to Lake Padden Park. It seems very likely that the primary motivation of the district´s interest in the parcel is the fact that Mayor Mark Asmundson has offered them a 50 year lease of the property for $1 a year. This lease offer attempts to maneuver around the fact that this property is very strongly protected as watershed by the Bellingham City Charter. In section 12.06 the charter states:
Nothing in this Charter shall be construed to permit the City of Bellingham to sell all or any portion of the real property it now owns or may hereafter acquire for water supply purposes in Township 37 N. Range 3 E. of Willamette Meridian and more generally known as Lake Padden, Ruby Creek and Silver Creek watersheds, whether or not used for water supply purposes, unless a question of such proposed sale shall have been first submitted to the qualified electors of the city at a general or special election called for that purpose and assented to by two-thirds of said electors voting on such question.
The freeholders had very good reasons for protecting watershed property so carefully. They knew the importance of undeveloped natural forest in protecting the quality of our water. They may have also foreseen the temptation for future officials, with differing agendas, to attempt to dispose of or develop such property. Another attempt to maneuver around this protection occurred in 1994 when developer Steve Brisbane proposed a trade to obtain this property as part of his Levins warehouse/arts center proposal to the City Council.
Geography of the Site
The parcel does not give the first appearance of an ideal school site. It is composed almost entirely of hillside including some very steep slopes, and it has two watercourses running through it. It contains significant wetland areas and has sandstone bedrock very near the surface throughout. Finding the ten contiguous acres needed for a school amid these geographic features could, in fact, be very challenging, but the district has had the site surveyed by a school consultant and is still very interested in it.
Coincident with the survey, every marketable evergreen tree on the property was marked with bright pink paint, but neither the city nor the school district has taken responsibility for the tree markings or stated their purpose. Brown paint was later sprayed over the pink in some areas in an attempt to cover it up.
The 40-acre parcel is contiguous to Lake Padden Park and is already visually and aesthetically part of the park. It has beautiful, mature forest with huge evergreen trees well over 100 years old, a stream and trails, and as such, has high current and future recreational value as part of the park. The Bellingham City Council Real Estate Appraisal & Review Committee describes it as follows: It has been considered a parcel that would allow for the future expansion of Lake Padden Park.
Greenways Use Planned
The parcel is also the centerpiece of the Samish Hill Greenway plan which includes plans for the corridor, which originates near Whatcom Falls Park, to run down Samish Hill into the parcel, to include loop trails around the parcel, and to terminate with a parking area at the base of the property across from Lake Padden. The city has committed moneys for the acquisition and expansion of park lands as well as the development of greenways. This certainly begs the question, Should a piece of property that we already own be traded away when it is a prime candidate for both uses? Once it is developed for school use, it is irreplaceable as park land.
The property provides habitat to a host of wildlife including mammals, birds, amphibians and other organisms and a travel corridor to and from the lake. The mature forest on the parcel contains many trees 3-4 feet in diameter and some over 200 feet tall and probably well over 100 years old. The high, multilayered canopy formed by these trees provides important summer and winter thermal cover for local deer herds. Birds such as the pileated woodpecker and barred owl, which require large diameter nest trees, are commonly seen or heard in this forest.
Area´s Residential Growth Surges
The recent surge of residential development in the watershed has greatly increased the importance of this property for water quality and habitat. When the charter was written, almost all of Samish Hill above the property consisted of undeveloped forest land. Now, residential developments of 126 homes on 35 acres, 45 homes on 15 acres and 101 homes on 40 acres are well under way around the parcel and larger developments of similar density are expected all the way to the top of the hill as soon as water supply improvements already underway are complete. Clear cutting the forest has routinely been the first step in preparing these properties for development.
These developments leave the watershed parcel as the sole filter on the hillside for ground water and runoff before it enters Lake Padden. The lake is no longer our city water supply, but still must be protected for recreational uses including swimming and fishing, for wildlife habitat and as a potential secondary or emergency water supply for the City. Preserving forested land in our watersheds is still the best way to maintain water quality, as we are learning in the Lake Whatcom watershed. (See Tim Paxton´s article in Whatcom Watch, September 1998, page 1.)
Environmental Education Site Proposed
My daughter´s biology class at Sehome High School visited Lake Padden to study watershed concepts and issues and discussed the threat of encroaching development on water quality. In a letter to the school board on September 19, I invited the district to have their environmental educators consider using the parcel as a conservation site to teach about watersheds, mature forest, habitat and other environmental issues rather than as a school site. The maturity of the ecosystem on the parcel is hard to match so conveniently close to town. Educational use would also be very compatible with the greenway plans for the property.
Protecting the Watershed
Many people, including the Samish Neighborhood Association and the city Greenways Advisory Committee, have worked over time to preserve and protect this property as watershed, open space and park land. As threats to the integrity of the parcel continue to arise there is increasing interest in bringing a citizen´s initiative to the City Council asking that this property be given permanently protected status as part of Lake Padden Park or the city Greenway system.
The development of a school on 10 acres of this property will profoundly affect the woodland nature of the Lake Padden Park and the current and future value of the property for watershed, recreational, park and greenway uses. While the school district might save money by leasing the property, the value of this property preserved as park land is worth much more to the public.
I encourage anyone concerned to come and look at the property. The easiest access to trails is found at the northeast corner of the parcel on Governor Road near the city water pump station.
You can address letters of concern about the proposed development of the property to the Bellingham School Board, the Mayor or the City Council. If the district´s interest in the property continues, the City Council has promised to host a public hearing on the proposal.
County Residents Question the Governor and Cabinet Membersby Tina Stallings
Tina Stallings is a photographer and a student at Whatcom Community College.
On October 6th, 1998 the city of Bellingham became Capital for a day. The Governor, Gary Locke, who is the first government official to bring the state capitol of Washington to a town, was present for a town hall meeting that was held on this evening at Whatcom Community College. This day had marked the Governor´s sixth visit to Bellingham since his taking office. Among the estimated 500 people in attendance at the college campus who had come to participate in the forum were students, city officials, including the mayor of Bellingham Mark Asmundson, Georgia Gardner, State Representative, and concerned citizens. These persons were entertained with music by the Hot Ticket, a jazz band,and the Ferndale High School Marching band that had played earlier.
Also occurring on this afternoon at the community college was the dedication by Governor Locke of a new sculpture on the campus. There was also a no cost barbecue sponsored by Cost Cutter Foods held on the college campus. This seemed to be a success as there was an announcement made of a shortage in food occurring, and which would soon be resupplied. An opening ceremony consisted of the presentation of the colors by the Girl Scouts of America, the Boy Scouts of America, and the Police Cadets. Also, Malcolm Oliver sung a moving rendition of the National Anthem in a most fitting setting for the air was heavy with smoke lofting in from the barbecue outside.
Question and Answer Session
Following statements and the ground rules for the discussion, which were basically to please keep the questions brief because of the desire to have as many people as possible be able to speak in the limited time frame, the floor was then opened to persons wishing to ask the Governor questions. This line quickly swelled. Surrounding the podium where the Governor stood, were several dozen tables seating the diners, a wall of bleachers full of spectators,with one who held up a sign reading Waste makes us Sick, and beyond these were small areas of standing room for the overflow. All of this took place inside the college´s Pavilion.
Overall the people were positive in their response to the Governor´s visit,and polite. Gary Locke praised the community of Bellingham for it has created a special spirit in Whatcom county, adding that this city is a combination of part higher education, part pioneer, and part down to earth. The Governor´s reference to fishing, forestry, and education as being Bellingham city´s heritage was also favorably received by the evening´s attendees. The governor said that he is dedicated in his number one priority,education. This appeared to be a well-received comment being that the town hall meeting was conducted in an educational setting. And he said that he is committed to all children learning and reaching their dreams.
Local Concerns Presented
There was variety in the concerns presented to the Governor by the local citizens. While many of the topics focused on the environment, with emphasis on Georgia Pacific and pollution within the Bellingham Bay,there were also questions about the impact on those who would be affected by the proposed budget cuts. The response given by the Governor was a restatement that there have been no decisions made yet. The salmon crisis, as well as the city and county storm drains and gutters which allow flow raw sewage into the bay were also among the topics discussed.
The Governor expressed his strong commitment to a cleaner environment as being due to a deep involvement with his Boy Scout upbringing. Mentioned was Department of Ecology not having an ability to fine those entities polluting (on their first offenses). The law´s focus is on identifying, and then working with the offenders to correct problems. This would not seem to discourage, but rather empower individuals to become more active with environmental issues. Due to the lineup of persons waiting to ask the Governor a question I was not able to present my concern to Governor Locke.
Voluntary Simplicity Drives New Movementby John Freeburg
John Freeburg lives in Bremerton.
Once a fisherman and a preacher went fishing. Along a forest path they were confronted suddenly by a bear. The fisherman exclaimed, Quick, make that bear a Christian.
The bear stood on its hind legs, raised its front paws skyward and said, God, thank you for this meal.
Bicycles in Chicago
While a graduate school student in the early seventies, I received literature from Bob Keller about the voluntary simplicity movement. The movement was then based at Stanford University where years later my son would earn a Master´s degree. Years after I received the literature from Keller I landed a professional job in Wilmette, Illinois. I purchased a ten speed bicycle, instead of a car, to get around during daylight. In a Chicago winter, (I purchased a Peugot bike in the fall) I found out that voluntary simplicity could be a bear. The streets turned to snow and ice. Cars skated through the 1978-79 winter when I only infrequently rode my bike. Cutting back might be fine in California or in Bellingham, but in Chicago for warmth and admiration I needed a 3-or 4-speed manual or automatic foreign-made auto. The next fall my wife and I purchased a second cara Datsun hatchback that had been front-ended.
Obviously, I am not going to give you a bear that becomes an overwhelming guilty conscience. You, the readers of Whatcom Watch don´t need eruptions from a super-ego, your conscience, everytime you spend dollars on even damaged second-hand cars. You don´t need to become such an environmentalist that as you commute on a bike, the weather and cars cripple your good outlook upon others. If I had the bucks, I would regularly fly out of Seattle to wherever the sun is warming a beach. I know a physician who does this. Presumably, readers know professionals who regularly head south.
UnconsumerismA Growing Movement
We can take note, though, that according to the Trends Research Institute in Rhinebeck, New York, by the year 2000, about 15 percent of the baby boom population will be attracted to voluntary simplicity.... (U.S. News and World Report, Dec. 11, 1995, Vol 119, #23, p. 96 (2) Searchbank) My earlier decision to purchase a Peugot bike because I wanted to exhibit voluntary simplicity is a decision similar to what a minority of baby-boomers are now making.
Myra Stark of Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising says the voluntary simplicity movement may establish marketing trends. For example, people are being advised to cut down on the number of your cards and accounts or give up buying on credit altogether (Brandweek, May 26, 1997, Vol 38, #21, P. 19). She says of voluntary simplicity: It can all lead to a real questioning of the consumption ethic, that urge to express the self through possessions and acquisitions. The new values are frugality and thrift. Do you really need the new home, new furniture, new clothes? Why buy a new car if you can prolong the life of your old one? Is it really necessary to buy branded food items? Can you do without the expensive restaurants and vacations? (Ibid.)
Downsizing One´s Life
People who take part in the movement have been known to give up lucrative careers. A lawyer, Jonathan Schacter, 35, and his wife used to live on $90,000 a year. Now the Schacters live on $15,000 a year. U.S. News and World Report also states that Jeanne Muir left a $65,000 a year job because she did not want to move to Chicago from Bellevue, WA. Another woman, Aleta Thompson, secured her company´s permission to transfer from their offices in Huntington Beach, CA, in order to telecommute from her new home in Seattle. Thompson says, Now I walk everywhere to the grocery store, dental appointments, restaurants. (U.S. News and World Report)
Reading Up on Voluntary Simplicity
Of course, exponents of voluntary simplicity are probably not subscribers to U.S. News and World Report where I am getting my most objective information. The main book used by members of the voluntary simplicity movement seems to be Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin and the late Joe Dominguez.
Henry David Thoreau´s Walden is a central inspiration. Interestingly, Mr. Keller and Mr. Rand Jack are planning another course where they will spend some time camping. Do they think Walden Pond will answer Thoreau´s question (Walden, are you out there?) while the class is eating meals peppered with embers?
Another popular voluntary simplicity cult book is How to Survive Without a Salary. Popular reading for this more highly educated group is also Simple Living or Living Cheap News. Cecile Andrews, whom I have heard speak, is a leader in Seattle of the voluntary simplicity movement. She has a doctorate from Stanford University.
Pitfalls of the Simple Life
Because the cult, group, or movement rejects consumerism, it seems ecological. Having been a college student during the first Earth Day, I worry about the confidence or ego strength of children brought up by the movement. The children may not grow up with the determination to succeed that they need to be good providers in a global economy. The movement, probably largely atheist or agnostic, resembles the devout Christian, John Calvins´ views, insofar as he advocated self-denial. He said you would only get into heaven by doing good works; but, good works alone were not sufficient to get into heaven. To make his followers even more delusional, he denied it was possible to know if you were among the elect (going to heaven)
In voluntary simplicity there is no end to what you can give up. At Fairhaven College, students will have the opportunity, and have in the past, to give up a dorm room for a plastic tube tent, not a hotel room where you will rub shoulders with movers and shakers.
Is There a Stopping Point?
So what are the standards, (a favorite word of Mr. Jack´s) of the voluntary simplicity movement? Do we or are we to cut back to the point of losing ego strength which inevitably occurs among those who have lived in poverty? Mr. Jack gave up a lucrative law career to teach at Fairhaven. Are Mr. Keller, Mr. Jack, and Ms. Andrews among the elect; can we know or are they setting students up for diminishment?
As a long footnote, Jerry Brown, the former governor of California, won the mayor´s job in Oakland recently. He, who had lived in an apartment instead of the mansion while governor, was asked if he was using the mayor´s job as a stepping stone toward a political comeback. He replied, That would be putting the horse before the cart. The New York Times report was uncertain whether Brown mis-spoke or was mischievous. Does the voluntary simplicity cult, group, or movement idealize cutting expenses or creating a more ecological, but industrial world? Do we have to go to back camping and horses?
When I Was Youngby Drew Kampion
Drew Kampion was publisher/editor of the Island Independent, a once popular now defunct Whidbey Island weekly newspaper.
My grandfather was born in 1889. He saw his first horseless carriage in Buffalo in 1896, when he was seven. It was steam- powered and panicked the traffic around it, which was horses.
My father was five when he heard a radio broadcast for the first time in 1926. I was the same age when I first saw a television screen light up in 1949a nine-inch-diagonal screen set into a massive piece of wooden console furniture. The image was a test pattern, and we watched it, transfixed, for ten or fifteen minutes before Kate Smith came on, singing her lovely When the Moon Comes Over the Mountain theme song.
Those days, summer evenings were different than they are now. After dinner people would go out and walk around their neighborhoods in the long, lingering evening light. They weren´t especially going anywhere, just strolling. People would greet each other as they passed on the busy sidewalks or along the lanes. Sometimes I rode my tricycle out ahead of my parents, adventuring forth into an open, friendly world.
In those days, even though the automobile was ubiquitous, there was still something novel about the machines. Going for a drive was a special, but not infrequent, event. We´d drive slowly through neighborhoods; my parents were great admirers of smooth, weedless lawns.
Television ate the heart out of all thatthe evening strolls, the lazy drives, the casual familiarity of the neighborhood. By the mid-fifties´ people stayed inside to watch their shows. If you were outside, you wandered the streets and sidewalks almost alone. A blue fire burned in the hearth of each occupied living room. Neighbors walked electronic sidewalks. Energy escaped the community field through a thousand rectangular glass portholes as society willingly sacrificed its hard-won relationships for an addiction to this new shadowbox drug of artificial light.
After that, automobiles became the steel masks that hid our addictions. They facilitated our separation from one another as we hurried here and there. You couldn´t just stop and chat anymore. When you ran into someone, it was an accident, and the police came.
Alienation is no mystery. This is not rocket science. We´re addicted to our isolation and the comfort that isolation brings. It´s no wonder our kids are out there wandering the streets, aimless and alone and bitter. Their parents and grandparents are a bunch of addictsto tv, cars, and all the other stuff of processed living. If they´re supposed to live by our example, the cultural situation is hopeless.
The solution is to go outside and join them.
Find Out More About Living Simply
Simple Living by Frank Levering and Wanda Urbanska, Penguin, 1993
Walden by Henry David Thoreau
Your Money or Your Life by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin, Viking, 1997
How to Survive Without a Salary by Charles Long, Harwick, 1996
The Circle of Simplicity by Cecile Andrews, Harper/Collins, 1997
The Simple Living Guide by Janet Luhrs, Broadway Books, 1997
The Overspent American by Juliet Schor, Basic Books, 1992
Getting a Life by David Heitmiller and Jacqueline Blix, Viking, 1997
Voluntary Simplicity by Duane Elgin, Morrow, 1993
Simplify Your Life by Elaine St. James, Hyperion, 1994
Magazine, Newsletters and Web Sites
Simple Living, 319 N. 45th St., Box 149, Seattle, WA 98103
Living Cheap News, 7232 Belleview, Kansas City, MO 64114
A Penny Saved, PO. Box 3471, Omaha, NB 68103
Money-Saving Matters, 46 Park Ave., Medford, MA 02155
Simply News, 335 E. 19Th Ave., Columbus, OH 43201
Yes! A Journal of Postive Futures, P.O. Box 10818, Brainbridge Island 98110
The Simple Living Network/ www.slnet.com
Northwest Earth Institute (503) 227-2807
The New Road Map Foundation, PO Box 15981, Seattle 98115
Global Action Plan for the Earth, PO Box 428, Woodstock, NY 12498
Center for a New American Dream (301) 891-3683
Co-Op America, 1612 K St. NW, Suite 600, Washington, D.C. 20006
Seeds of Simplicity (818) 247-4332
Seventy Years of Progress
circa 1930 circa 2000 Elevator Person asks what floor you want, small talk. Alone in metal box, push button. Newspaper Person at the newstand gives you the paper you asked for. You give him the money. Put correct change in the box. Open the door and remove the paper. Money Walk in the bank and talk to the teller. Gives you your money. Stand alone in front of the automatic teller and punch in numbers. Money ejects. Telephone Pick up the phone and the operator asks, What number please? Pick up the phone, push number button, talk to a prerecorded voice. Bus Get on, say Hello to the regular driver. Tell the driver which street to stop at so you can get off. Get in the car, lock the doors, listen to prerecorded music, drive alone to work. Shopping Tell the butcher which meat or fish you want, discuss the merits of the various cuts in the display case. Pick up plastic-wrapped styrofoam package and toss into the shoppng cart. Porch Sit on the porch in the evening and talk with neighbors and passersby. Remain indoors facing glass- covered cathode ray tube.
Whatcom Watch mailed questionnaires to local candidates running for state representative and senate positions. Candidate positions on three issues were solicited: salmon policy, the Growth Management Act, and water resources. Candidate responses are not published here, but can be obtained in the paper-based edition of the Whatcom Watch, which is available at local public libraries.