Northwest Reverence, Frustration, and Vision: The Good Rain"The Good Rain: Across Time and Terrain in the Pacific Northwest," by Timothy Egan was selected by the Whatcom Community College faculty as "Book of the Year."
by Adam Borries
From the introductory pages of "The Good Rain," (1990, Knopf) Timothy Egan (chief of the Seattle bureau for The New York Times) establishes his appreciation for this beautiful country, a theme which he echoes throughout the book. The story begins when Egan climbs through Mount Rainier National Park in search of an appropriate resting place for his grandfather's ashes, someplace that would return him to the streams he loved to fish. At last he comes to a glacier on the north side of the mountainÑperfect. His mission completed, he becomes intrigued by the glacier named Winthrop. Curious as to how such a white, Puritan name found its place among the native Indian names around it, he discovers the glacier bears the name of a nineteenth century traveler, Theodore Winthrop.
Fascinated by Winthrop's record of his journeys through the Pacific Northwest, Egan resolves to follow his footsteps, and thus begins his adventure. Along his journey, Egan expresses his high regard for the region and its history, but not without a deep frustration over the fact that so much of it has been lost and cannot be recovered. Even so, he does not despair that the land will be lost completely, but rather hopes that man will finally be reconciled with nature.
Wherever he goes, Egan shows appreciation, even awe, of the mixture of beauty and power in the northwest territory. In the very first chapter, he visits the mouth of the Columbia River, the symbol of Northwestern power. Egan marvels at the incredible weight of the current as he describes the coldness of the waves splashing over the edge of the boat from the throat of this monster as it "collides head-on with the Pacific breakers" (p.17).
Later, Egan visits Crater Lake, the great pool of the Cascade Mountains which lay hidden from white men for so long. Visitors, gazing on the spectacular lake from the platform of the national park's viewing center, nearly have the fresh, clean air taken from their breath by the hypnotic sight of the deep blue lake. Every chapter of the book, be it on the cities of the Northwest coast, the wildlife, or the ice-capped mountains, reflects Egan's reverence.
Searching for Columbia River Mouth
Egan's appreciation becomes even more apparent as he gives the history of the places he visits. In the case of the Columbia River mouth, Egan tells of how long explorers searched in vain for the passage which would open up the Northwest. Guarded by a bar of camouflage, the Columbia was sought by and kept from such famous explorers as Francis Drake and Juan de Fuca; even Captain James Cook tried and failed three times. A former midshipman of Cook's, George Vancouver, returned on his own some fourteen years following, but sailed straight past the Columbia's elusive opening. He was outdone a few weeks later, when an American named Robert Gray finally opened the Northwest Passage to the civilized world.
Throughout "The Good Rain," Egan never misses a chance to share the past of the Northwest. He tells how Vancouver Island became "the toe of the [British] Empire" (p. 64), set apart from the rest of North America as a gentleman's residence. He recounts the more recent story of Fred Beckey, a truck-driver-turned-mountain-climber legend in his own time. And Egan often uses the words of past figures to describe the amazing sights of the Pacific Northwest, such as when, in the chapter on salmon, he quotes the explorer Charles Wilkes: "The salmon leap the falls; and it would be inconceivable, if not actually witnessed, how they can force themselves up, and after a leap of ten to twelve feet retain strength enough to stem the force of the water above...." (p.181).
Theodore Winthrop's Travels
Most often, of course, Egan shares the observations of Theodore Winthrop, the young traveler and novelist whose steps he traces. When Winthrop traveled the Pacific Northwest in 1853, he left behind a record, a book titled "The Canoe and the Saddle," one of the first and, even now, best books ever written about the region. (p. 9). At every turn, Winthrop gives grandiose descriptions of the wild country. With a dramatic flare, he portrays the waves of the Columbia River, the peaks of the Olympics, the towering trees of the Oregon country. Describing Mt. St. Helens, the "Queen of the Cascades," Winthrop said:
Exquisite mantling snows sweep along her shoulder toward the bristling pines. Sometimes she showers her realms with a boon of light ashes, to notify them that her peace is repose, and sometimes she lifts a beacon of tremulous flame by night from her summit (p. 150).
Winthrop left not only a descriptive account of the area, but also his vision for the future of it. To Winthrop, this "strong, savage, and majestic" landscape was unalterable by the hand of man; instead, he predicted that in the Northwest, the land would benevolently dictate the lives of men, giving rise to a new sort of man and "elaborate new systems of thought and life." To Winthrop, the Northwest would be the harmonious culmination of all that was good in man and nature.
The Prophecy of a New Avalon
But for all of Winthrop's glorious vision and all of Egan's vast appreciation, there is still an overwhelming frustration permeating "The Good Rain," for Winthrop's prophecy of a new Avalon is far from realized; instead of nature directing civilization, man has beaten the land into submission to his demands. Gazing on the virtually untouched hills of the Puget Sound, Winthrop reflected that the "shape of the world has controlled or guided men's growth..." (p. 94), but today, men's growth manifests itself on that same place in the leveled-out city of Seattle. Once, the region was busy with the work of beavers, the hunt of wolves, and the play of otters, but one way or another these all gave in to the march of the Europeans.
Even the salmon, the icon of the region, by whose reaches Egan defines the Pacific Northwest itself, have been subdued by the advance of man. "The Pacific Northwest is simply this," Egan says: "wherever the salmon can get to" (p. 22). But if this definition is accurate, then the Northwest has long been shrinking. Though once they filled every far-reaching corner the water would allow, the salmon are now sparse, casualties of mass commercial fishing, the turbines of hydroelectric dams, and clearcutting of forests.
Most heartbreaking of all is the story of natives, prosperous peoples undone by strange outsiders coming to their land. Before the Europeans, according to Egan, the tribes of the Northwest lived in bountiful bliss, living off the produce of the land. They took salmon from their waters almost effortlessly, ate from all kinds of wild berry bushes, hunted elk for meat and cut cedars for homes. To show their abundance, the tribes would even compete to give each other the best gift. When white men arrived, however, they taught the Indians how to farm, presumably with good intentions, but by disregarding what they knew, the natives quickly lost what they had. Then came the smallpox, which sometimes wiped out entire tribes, and the rush by eastern settlers for land, which forced the remaining Indians into a fraction of their territory. Today, only a small, sad remnant is left of the content tribes of the Northwest. With their land covered with modern structures, they are only now making a comeback to regain their prosperity.
Adapting to the Land
In spite of all this, Egan still finds hope for the Pacific Northwest, for he sees the people, ever so slowly, adapting to the land, instead of forcing the opposite. Victoria, he says, is a prime example of how a city can flourish without eradicating its surroundings. The Puyallup Indians, once declared extinct, recently signed a deal for $162 million dollars for their land. Many towns built around the sawmill are now changing their focus to more renewable sources; Egan describes one town near the Columbia Gorge which has regained its pride and economy through the industry of windsurfing (p. 234). Apple farms and vineyards are thriving in Eastern Washington. Finally, after a long struggle against the land, Egan sees Northwesterners as coming into partnership with it.
Could this be the fulfillment of Winthrop's dream? Yes, says Egan. Winthrop saw the beginning of a cultural shift from the East to the West; now the age of the Pacific, long foretold by Winthrop and others, is coming upon us.
The Pacific Northwest has much to be admired, but it also leaves much to be desired. Its history has much cause for respect, but also for regret. Winthrop left a description of an unspoiled land, and with it a glorious vision for the future. Since then, the land has been invaded and subdued, but not entirely tamed. Winthrop's dream still lives. According to Egan, we have entered an age in which accordance with nature is recognized as a virtue. Egan closes the book with these words:
[E]verything Winthrop reveled in, the glaciers, the virgin forests, the green islands, the plump rivers, the fir-mantled volcanoes, the empty ridge of the high desert, Grandpa's trout streams, and the alpenglow, are hereÑa land that has yet to give up all its secrets (p. 254).
Persistence and Mobility of Garden and Lawn Pesticides
by Philip Dickey
Philip Dickey is the editor of Alternatives and is household toxics specialist with the Washington Toxics Coalition. This article is reprinted from Alternatives, Winter 1997, with permission of the author.
If you were hiring someone for a job, persistence and mobility might be considered pluses in a candidate.
For a pesticide, however, the opposite is true because these are the very characteristics that can lead to water pollution. If a chemical is slow to break down and does not bind well to soil, it can leach into groundwater or run off into surface water. The result is toxic chemicals where you don't want them.
I have been especially interested in this subject recently because of a report released by the U.S. Geological Survey and the Washington State Department of Ecology. The report, entitled "Pesticides in Selected Small Streams in the Puget Sound Basin, 1987-1995," shows that a total of 23 pesticides have been detected in streams around Puget Sound. The report is available on the Internet at: http://wwwdwatch.sr.usgs.gov/ps.nawqu.html. Interestingly, more pesticides were found in urban streams than in those near agricultural areas. This finding seems to support the idea that urban pesticide use, including that by "weekend warriors" or "amateur pesticide applicators," may be a significant problem. The largest number of pesticides (18) was found in upwardly mobile Bellevue, across Lake Washington from Seattle.
Over the past several months I have been investigating the characteristics of home-use lawn and garden pesticides. The findings on persistence and mobility are especially interesting in light of the new water quality data.
|Ingredient||Typical Product(s)||Soil Half
|2,4-D||Weed & feed||10+10||2.70||mod||Y|
|dicamba||Weed & feed||14||4.24||very high||Y|
|MCPP||Weed & feed||21||3.57||high||Y|
|prometon||Noxall® (liquid), Triox®||500||4.29||very high||Y|
|chlorpyrifos||Ortho® Dursban® granules||30||0.32||very low||N|
|diazinon||Ortho® Diazinon granules||40||1.60||low||Y|
|disulfoton||Ortho® Syst. Rose Care||30||1.80||low||--|
|malathion||Malathion 50 Plus||1+7||0.00||very low||Y|
|pyrethrins||Schultz® Insecticides||12||-1.08||very low||--|
|insecticidal soap||Safer®, Concern®||2||???||?||--|
|horticultural oil||Sun Spray||10||1.00||low||--|
|sulfur||Safer® Garden Fungicide||NA||???||?||--|
*Indicates whether pesticide detected by USGS/DOE in Puget Sound Basin
Y = yes, N = no, -- = not analyzed
Persistence refers to the extent to which a chemical remains in the environment without being broken down. When a pesticide is applied to a lawn, for example, it can evaporate, be broken down by the action of sunlight and bacteria, or it can run off in rainwater or irrigation water. Measurements made at later times will find ever-decreasing amounts in the soil and on plants. From an environmental standpoint, the more quickly a pesticide breaks down, the better. This assumes, of course, that the breakdown products are more benign than the original chemical, a situation that is usually, but not always the case.
Persistence is usually indicated by the half-life, defined as the time for the amount of the applied material to decrease by half. For pesticides, half-lives are usually measured in days, sometimes many days. For example, if a pesticide has a half-life of 30 days, then 30 days after application the levels would fall to half their initial values. At 60 days the levels would be at one quarter, and so on. In reality, the decay will not follow this formula exactly, but the half-life is still a good measure of persistence for purposes of comparison. It does not, however, tell you how long measurable residues will remain in soil or on garden plants.
In comparing pesticide products on the market, I used the half-life in average soil. Half-lives on plant surfaces and in water are also available but are less relevant to the issue of pesticide movement through soil. Soil half-lives for a single product can vary considerably, depending upon soil characteristics and the amount of organic matter present.
The half-lives of some widely used pesticides are shown in column 3 of Table 1. The soil half-lives were taken mostly from the Oregon State University Extension Pesticide Properties Database. In several cases, two numbers are listed. The second number represents the half-life of an important toxic breakdown intermediate. In those cases, one could consider the sum of the two numbers a reasonable time for half of the toxicity to go away. Generally, half-lives of a week or less are considered very short, while those greater than 100 days are very long.
The first two bar graphs are of the half-lives for the herbicides and insecticides, respectively. The graphs allow you to see immediately which ingredients are most persistent. Prometon is by far the most persistent, with a half-life of well over a year. The shortest half-lives belong to glufosinate and the insecticides pyrethrin, rotenone, and soap.
The ability of pesticides to move through soil is dependent upon many factors and is a complex subject. Factors reducing movement include good soil with lots of organic matter and dense plantings. Pesticide movement is greatest in poor soils. Pesticides most likely to move are those with high solubility in water, long half-lives, and poor soil binding.
To get an idea of the relative mobility of different pesticide active ingredients, I used the Groundwater Ubiquity Score, or GUS, an index developed at Oregon State University. GUS is computed from the pesticide half-life and soil sorption coefficient (Koc) by using the following formula:
GUS = log10(half-life) x [4 - log10(Koc)]
In case you don't do logarithms, this formula will give values between about zero to five for most pesticides. The larger values will occur when the half-life is long or the soil binding is poor (or both). If soil binding is poor enough, GUS can actually be negative. There is no particular meaning for negative values; they just indicate extremely low mobility.
Strictly speaking, the GUS index is intended to predict downward movement of pesticides through soils rather than the movement across the soil surface, which can be much more complicated. However, it is still a reasonable way to get a sense of the tendency of pesticides to move from the site of application.
The values of GUS for the pesticides considered here are listed in Table 1. These values were taken from the OSU Extension Pesticide Properties Database. In a few cases where the database did not list the pesticide of interest, values of the half-life and Koc were found elsewhere and substituted into the formula to calculate GUS. To put these values into some perspective, OSU Extension suggests the following interpretation of the GUS values in terms of pesticide mobility:
GUS Mobility less than 0.1 very low 0.1 to 1 extremely low 1 to 2 low 2 to 3 moderate 3 to 4 high greater than 4 very high
In other words, high numbers are bad, low numbers are good.
The next two graphs are of the GUS values for the herbicides and insecticides.
Among the herbicides, prometon is most mobile, followed closely by all three components of weed and feed: dicamba, MCPP, and 2,4-D. Least mobile is glyphosate. The insecticides are generally less mobile than the herbicides (though they are more toxic to aquatic life). Notably non-mobile are the pyrethrins, which have short half-lives and bind firmly to soil.
These results are theoretical, of course. Your results, as they say, may vary. Pesticides applied to dense turfgrass stands growing in well-amended soil will be less likely to leach or move than those applied to sandy soil with little plant life. Many other factors come into play, too, such as soil slope, proximity to water, amount of pesticide applied, temperature, moisture levels, and so on.
Comparisons to Monitoring Data
Let's now look at how the mobility data correlates with the water quality monitoring data. The last column in Table 1 indicates which pesticides were detected in Puget Sound region streams. Of the eight consumer-use herbicides considered here, six were detected in Puget Sound streams. The other two (glufosinate and trifluralin) were not looked for, so we don't know if they are there or not. The herbicide 2,4-D was found in an astounding 12 of 13 streams. It is the most widely used herbicide. Dicamba and MCPP, the other two components in weed and feed, were found in five or more streams. Dichlobenil was also found in five or more streams. Glyphosate was found, but rarely. These results make sense in view of the high mobility of these herbicides. If anything is surprising, it is that glyphosate was found at all, given its strong soil binding. However, we must remember that during periods of heavy rainfall or over-irrigation, the soil itself can be eroded and flushed into storm sewers, carrying the herbicide with it.
Of the four insecticides analyzed, only diazinon and malathion were detected, but five other chemicals were not looked for. Diazinon is the most mobile and persistent of the insecticides analyzed, as well as one of the most widely used. Levels of diazinon in water were moderately high at three different times of the year in Bellevue's Mercer Creek, raising concerns about long-term adverse impacts to some aquatic organisms. Malathion was detected despite its relatively lower mobility compared to diazinon.
To really understand what is happening here, you would need to know how much of each pesticide was being used, not only by consumers, but also by professional landscapers. However, it seems clear that most high-use products are finding their way into our waters.
Reducing Pesticide Use
The characteristics and widespread use of many modern pesticides make them a serious threat to water quality. Particularly in the case of herbicides, where broadcast use is common, and widely used lawn insecticides such as diazinon, some portion of applied products do end up as water pollutants. Although the concentrations detected are frequently low, the large number of pollutants detected, combined with the lack of adequate understanding of long-term effects of combinations of chemicals, argues against a complacent attitude to the situation. These studies are an early warning signal of bigger problems ahead.
How can you avoid contributing to the problem? If everyone eliminated unnecessary pesticide use, we could probably reduce the use of pesticides by 90%. That would go a long way towards protecting our water resources. In the Pacific Northwest, there are three pesticide uses that should be a high priority for reduction: use of diazinon for cranefly control, use of weed and feed products, and use of pre-emergent herbicides.
In the fall, you probably see those things that look like giant mosquitos flying around inside your house. Those are adult craneflies. No, they don't eat mosquitos, and no, they don't eat your lawn. The damage, if any, is done by the larval stage of the insect. Unfortunately, in the fall the pesticide makers try to convince you to buy an insecticide to treat your lawn for craneflies. Don't listen to them. The pesticides they want you to buy are very toxic to the birds that help to control cranefly populations.
Wait until spring, then go out and monitor the larva population. Dig up a couple of squares of sod, one foot by one foot square. Flip over the sod and count the number of grayish brown worm-like larvae hiding around the roots. You will need to break apart the soil a bit to see them. If you count less than 25 grubs per square foot, you don't need to do anything. Just keep the lawn well-maintainted and let the birds do their job.
If there are more than 25 larvae, you may be headed for damage that is unacceptable. If you don't care, then ignore it, but if you want to maintain an attractive lawn, you will need to do some kind of treatment. Rather than resorting to chemical insecticides, however, you can use a biological control called beneficial nematodes. They can reduce cranefly populations enough to keep damage minimal. For more information on nematodes, call your favorite plant nursery to find out about brands and availability this year. Nematodes are a bit tricky to use, but we have heard quite a bit of good feedback on their effectiveness.
Weaning from Weed and Feed
The problem I have with weed and feed is that because the herbicide and fertilizer are combined, you are encouraged to use weed killer every time you fertilize and everywhere you fertilize. Your approach should be to focus on growing healthy turf. Once weeds are under control, a thick, vigorous stand of turf is not a very hospitable environment for weeds to get established.
Begin by rethinking your lawn. How much grass do you need and what purpose is it serving? Could you reduce the lawn area and substitute less labor-intensive and resource-intensive landscaping in some areas? Consider native plants, drought tolerant plants, and edible landscaping.
Where you want to have lawn, try to understand why the weeds are there. Get a soil test to see if you need to add lime or other amendments. See if the soil needs aeration or thatching. Look at your fertilizing and watering practices to see if they are appropriate. (Our fact sheet on lawn care has all of this information.)
What about the weeds? Well, mechanical removal is the preferred solution, but its practicality depends on the size of the lawn--that's why reducing the lawn size makes sense. If you must use a chemical, spot treat rather than blanket spray.
You may have heard about the new weed and feed products based on corn-gluten. They sound like manna (or at least cornmeal) from heaven. My view is that it's a little too soon to tell because we don't have much experience with them yet in the Pacific Northwest. They don't work like conventional weed and feed products that kill all broadleafed weeds in the lawn. Corn-gluten doesn't kill existing weeds at all, it only prevents new weed seeds from sprouting. Using it can be a little tricky in the Pacific Northwest, too, because you need a rain-free period shortly after the product is applied. As you may know, there are certain periods of the year where we can't guarantee that.
Parting with Pre-emergents
My advice is not to use them at all. They are fairly persistent, and some are very prone to leaching. In planting beds, I have a deep-seated feeling that using pre-emergents is cheating. Better to get out there and till the soil, cultivate the beds. It's good for the plants and it's good for you.
More difficult are those situations like gravel driveways or other areas that need to be kept weed-free but cannot be cultivated. These situations are best dealt with in the design stage, before the problem occurs, so that preventative installations of barriers or alternative materials can head off future headaches. I don't have space to cover these topics here, but there are ways to deal with them. Remember, though, that nature abhors a vacuum. In other words, bare ground isn't very natural.
For more information on specific strategies for particular pest problems, contact us here at the Washington Toxics Coalition, either by phone or through our new Internet site at http://www.accessone.com/~watoxics.
Cleaner Water From New Approaches to Septic Systems
by Amy Kenna
Amy Kenna is a student at Whatcom Community College
Have you ever wondered whether your septic system is running as efficiently and as cleanly as it should be? Are you considering replacing your present system with a new one, but are unsure about your options? Are you concerned about local sewage control in this county as a whole? On Monday, March 30, the WSU Cooperative Extension and the Whatcom Watershed Information Network held a satellite conference (sponsored by the Unversity of Minnesota) to answer some of these questions about the sewage treatment. The conference took place at the Cooperative Extension building on 1000 North Forest, and began by giving a brief account of proper septic management and then presented alternative sewage treatment options.
A typical on-site (non-municipal) sewer system consists of pipeline running from the house to a septic tank buried in the yard. In the tank, sewage settles into three layers: solids, which settle on the bottom, then a liquid layer, and finally a film layer on top. Solids remain in the tank and the film layer is treated with filters called baffles. The liquid layer is released into a layer of crushed rock which absorbs its nutrients.
Sewage contains harmful pathogens called microbes, as well as heavy metals from household products such as cleansers, paint, and makeup. A failed system can be a major threat to one's health as well as to the environment. The number one cause of a failed system is a heavy water flow to the tank, thereby upsetting the settling process. Because of this, on-site septic system owners must watch their water use, especially in mornings and evenings, when water flow peaks. Cutting down on shower time or installing flow restrictants to faucets can decrease the chance of a flooded system, and can also cut down on one's water bill. One must also watch the household chemicals which are poured down the drain; disinfectants and paints kill bacteria beneficial to the treating process, and should be restricted. Liquid chemicals clog less than powdered ones. Cigarettes and other solid wastes will clog a system; don't use your toilet as a trashcan.
Poor maintenance can also lead to a failed system. Systems should be inspected regularly, and the manholes, not the inspection pipes, should be used for treating. Inspection pipes should be capped. Solids must be periodically cleaned (every 18-30 months) or they will build up and clog the system.
Septic Tank Alternatives
Alternatives to the typical septic tank are growing in popularity, and can be added to the basic tank to increase effectiveness. Three main alternative systems include: aerobic tanks, sand or peat filters, and constructed wetlands. Aerobic tank units center on delivering air into the tank to make the bacteria more effective and also to mix the sewage before allowing it to settle. Usually a controller turns the air on and off in sequences. Treatment filters, usually made of sand or peat, can be used in addition to the tank baffles and usually lend more potential to nutrient removal. In this type of setup, a waste stream is distributed over a bed or column of sand, peat, or some porous material. Sand filters have been used since the 1900's to treat microbial film, and peat, a more organic material, works just as well. Filters should be periodically raked.
A constructed wetland is the third alternative system and perhaps the most elaborate. Implementing a wetland involves building a new lagoon-like area, and installling spray/drip irrigation. The wetland area must be large enough to break down pathogens, and can include cattails and other plant life. Wetlands can function in all weather, and are most common in rural areas.
Water Quality Cooperatives
The conference also discussed subordinate service districts (also called Water Quality Cooperatives), that is, formal sewage treatment districts created by private sectors to insure proper management.
Districts provide responsible maintenance and also enforce individual responsibilities of homeowners. (Many districts have alarms which trip when a district member's water flow is too heavy.) Districts can cover up to 60 square miles and usually include about fifty people. Annual meetings are held, and each member is provided with information on conservation. Funding and grants are available for citizens who are concerned about the local septic systems and would like to begin a cooperative maintenance district.
An example of a successful water cooperative is the University of Minnesota sanitary district, near the city of Alexandria, which covers sixty square miles (including Alexandria). The cooperative began over concern about out-dated septic systems, and functions through a fund collected by users, who pay 30 cents for every 1000 gallons of water they use in return for free maintenance by the sanitary district.
Septic Treatment in Whatcom County
Currently in Whatcom County, fifty sand filters, twenty aerobic tanks and several hundred pressure mound systems of septic treatment are functioning. An approval from the Washington State Department of Health has allowed three constructed wetlands to begin running as well. The climate and native plants of Whatcom County are especially good for wetland systems. Sensitive areas in Whatcom County due to failed sewage systems include Drayton Harbor, Lake Whatcom, and a Chuckanut Drive area (which is currently receiving a wetland proposal).
Loan Program Available
Chris Chessen, of the Whatcom County Department of Health, discussed the state's revolving loan program which assists citizens in the county who would like to begin a water quality cooperative. The turnaround for obtaining permits to become a district is very short, only a few days, as opposed to 180 days in Minnesota. By the year 2000, each local health official will be required to have an operation and maintenance system for sewage.
Those citizens interested in the details of beginning a water quality cooperative should contact the Whatcom County Department of Health at 676-6720 (Whatcom County 384-1828).
Reconnecting with Nature, Explorations in Ecopsychology
by Emily Farrell
Emily Farrell, M.A. is a Certified Mental Health Counselor in private practice in Bellingham.
We are intimately involved in relationship with the natural world with every breath we take and everything that we feel. Our bodies are continually being created by interaction with the air we breathe, the water we drink and wash with, the fire with which we heat our homes and cook our food, and the minerals and organic matter in the soil which grows our food. Our sense of beauty has evolved with the natural world as its first reference point. There is nothing that we do, even in this technological era, that is not rooted in the rhythms and relationships of the natural world.
Modern psychology, for the most part, is divorced from the physical, emotional and symbolic power of our relationship with the natural world. Ecopsychology, a newly emerging field of study and practice, reflects an understanding of the need to rectify this. Ecopsychology seeks to bring us home to the greater whole in which we live, providing a living context for healing ourselves, our families and our world.
This is the first in a series of articles exploring the natural world's power to nourish the mind, heart, and spirit.
Meditations on Water
It is a cold day in January, many years ago now. Clouds are low over the foothills in this river valley. I walk a trail in the forest, through mud, past partially frozen ponds, past footprints of rabbit and birds in the thin snow that has melted and frozen again. My mind is soothed by the silence of the forest and the sound of the wind in the trees; but my heart is a troubled, hot turmoil of discouragement and frustration, the cause of which is long forgotten now. Coming to the creek itself, running free and full between its banks, clear and cold, I am drawn forward with yearning.
Snowflakes, wet and large, begin to fall - you can hardly call it floating as they sink to the earth. I look at the water, then at the sky. Still I am drawn forward...to swim in that cold, clear water. Calling myself foolish, I strip and stand shivering on the bank, my toes testing the water. Cold, they say, achingly cold. Still I am drawn forward. Before I can think any more about it I walk forward into the water. The cold is stunning. Waist deep, I dunk myself, coming up with a yell of pure adrenalin. I swim in the cold, blue water, with snow falling around me, for a few seconds that might be forever, until my aching bones call me out.
Leaving that water I stand with life pulsing through me. I feel warm. I dry myself with my sweater and pull my clothes on quickly before I begin to be chilled. As I turn to walk away, unbidden, my heart says thank you to this water that feels like a living thing. I realize that my heart has been cleared and I know what action I need to take in my life. I wonder, is this why we baptize with water?
Water is used for spiritual and emotional (as well as physical) cleansing in many cultures. In Arab countries, where water is scarce, a touch of water to eyes, ears, mouth , hands and head, is used to cleanse the seeing, hearing, speaking and touching of the heart, before prayer. In Coast Salish tribes, rising at dawn and cleansing oneself by greeting the directions and dipping in a pure running river is a traditional way to begin the day.
Think about the wonderful effects of the morning hot shower. Hot water pours over us, washing away the night's dreams or sleeplessness, clearing mind and heart for the activities of the day. Or the evening bath, which relaxes tight muscles and rinses away tension, nurturing our emotional as well as our physical selves. In our culture we don't deliberately acknowledge these benefits of clean water as a sacred gift, but we use them and benefit from them everyday.
Water. We often dream of drowning when our emotional lives seem overwhelming. When we cry we wash our sorrows out of our bodies, literally, with water. We return to the ocean for a sense of the vastness of the world, to be nurtured by a rhythm that is reminiscent of the sound of our mother's heartbeat, and we find there some peace and perspective.
Water. The sound of rain falling on the roof, the feel of it in our hair; rain bringing life and greenery to this wet land. Rain encourages us to be inside, inside our homes and inside our beings. Rain encourages us to bring forth quiet creativity, to dream and rest, nurtured like the green plants by water.
Our bodies are made of water. Our emotions live in our bodies by a sea of chemicals. Drinking clear water helps to wash toxins out of our system. We can use our imagination to wash away emotional toxins with clear water as well.
Water has been called the circulatory system of the earth. Rivers and streams bring nutrients and life down to the valleys. Clouds rise off the sea and lakes to fall over land as rain and snow, keeping things moving.
Water. Consider the power of the river to clean the riverbed of silt and gravel, bringing them down to the valley to nourish the land. Consider the power of expression to clear the heart and mind and nourish new ways of thinking and being. Like the rhythm of the tides, sometimes we are full and deep, sometimes shallow and muddy. Water has much to teach us.
So what does it mean when we close our eyes to the poisoning of the Nooksack River and Lake Whatcom watersheds, to the contamination of Bellingham Bay? How is the world different that we cannot safely drink fresh, cooling drinks from local, or even wilderness, streams without purifying it first? Where does our inner cleansing and opening come from if we pollute the world?
What does it mean when we choose to pollute our personal waters, with alcohol, smoke, drugs or the pesticides we use to "protect" our food? What about our emotional waters, contaminated by feelings we try to ignoreÑanger, envy, grief, fear?
When we go to the river seeking cleansing and healing, looking for a rebirth from the waters into better choices, what will we do when we find the river polluted and cloudy? Grieving, we find that our inner healing is dependent on the land. Grieving, we find that healing our relationship with the land requires personal, inner healing.
Exploring Courage, Morality and Culture
Heart of Home
People, Wildlife, Place
by Ted Kerasote
Villard Books, 1997
250 pp., $23.00
Reviewed by Bob Keller
Bob Keller is a director of the Whatcom Land Trust and the editor of their 1997 book, "Whatcom Places."Love the questions themselves. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answers. --Rainer Maria Rilke
"Heart of the Hunter" by Laurens van der Post (published in 1961 by Morrow), was a book distinguished not only for its ethnology but for graceful prose. Recently we have been treated to a rash of high quality hunting literature in the same tradition: David Peterson's anthology "Hunter's Heart" (1997, H. Holt & Co.), Richard K. Nelson's "Heart and Blood" (1997, Random House), and now Ted Kerasote's "Heart of Home."
The heart motif in this tradition has nothing to do with blood and gore and everything to do with heart as feelings, courage, character, morality, and culture.
Hunting and meat-eating, for Nelson, Peterson and Kerasote, represent a rural human activity running back at least 50,000 years. As loss of habitat, decline of species, and exploding human populations combine with new technologies of agribusiness and industrial meat production hunting may, despite its long tenure, become obsolete in our brave new urban world. For some, an absolute "Thou Shalt Not Kill" reverence for animal life will translate into veganism and vegetarianism.
If so, will hunting and fishing survive in the 21st century? Should they? What can we learn from hunting cultures and from a genuine fishing/hunting ethic? What is lost if they disappear, not just to fishers and hunters, but to everyone? Complex human traditions are at stake, as readers of Norman MacLean's "A River Runs Through It" (1976, University of Chicago Press) know. "Those of us who need clear-cut, legally enforced responses to these issues," Kerasote writes in his prologue, "as do the far left of the animal welfare movement and the far right of the hunting community, may not find much value in the questions my stories pose, full as they are of paradox and ambiguity" (p. xviii).
Holden Village Debates Hunting
Several years ago a place called Holden could have gained valuable insights from Kerasote's exploration.
Holden Village is a Lutheran retreat center and intentional, voluntary Christian community snuggled in a Glacier Peak Wilderness valley above Lake Chelan. During 1996 it carried on a protracted debate about hunting by its staff. Eating low on the food chain, serving meat only three times a week, and proclaiming respect for all of Creation, at Holden the issue was not hunting per se, but legally killing tame animals inside the village limits. Amid all the pros and cons about animal rights, safety, firearms, children, the impact on guests, and reaching consensus, the question of how to distinguish "hunting" from shooting and killing failed to be made. Lacking a Ted KerasoteÑa hunter/fisher who thinks long and carefully about definitions, ethics and responsibilityÑthe Holden debate sputtered on for months, fed by accusation and emotion until coolness and mutual respect finally prevailed.
Kerasote lives in a place as spectacular as Holden, owning a private tract within Grand Teton National Park, one of a few people on earth so blessed. (When Kerasote visited Bellingham, I gave him a copy of "Whatcom Places" to slightly dampen his pride.) He fishes the streams and hunts the nearby Gros Ventre mountains. Following an eastern childhood and world travels, northwestern Wyoming provides the inspiration for this collection of environmental essays. The stories always contain descriptions of the natural and inner landscape, but they also dissect moral behavior. I like the ethical questions this book poses, yet for personal reasons having to do with mountain peaks and war protests, the highly introspective "A Lake District Letter" drove homeÑto the heartÑeven deeper than the outdoor philosophy.
Ted Kerasote is an "ex." For true believers, it's always difficult to encounter an "ex," or apostate, because they often see through rejected loyalties, sometimes better than a believer can: expatriate, ex-spouse, ex-communist, ex-Christian. Kerasote is an ex-extremist whose new gospel is not "Beware" but "Be Aware," not "stop!" but "stop and think." If you like to catch and release trout, stop and think about the fish's experience. If you oppose hunting, stop and think about those pork slices in your Thai dish; stop and think about the chicken slivers in your taco salad.
Kerasote likes to describe the outdoors and his inner musing while fishing and hunting or hiking, but the meat in "Heart of Home" comes with his reflections on morality. Ted's full name is Theodore John Kerasote. His two namesakes, Teddy Roosevelt and John Muir, in the first chapter called "Fathers," engage in a dialogue that sets a major theme for Heart of Home: "Had [Roosevelt] been as visionary as Muir, who perceived animals, even plants and rocks, as possessing spirit and soul, the course of recreational hunting in America might have veered from the competitive and utilitarian course upon which he steered it and to which it has been committed to this day" (p. 19).
The Muir/Roosevelt dichotomy between spirit and object leads into Kerasote's other viewsÑconclusions startling to find in a columnist for Sports Afield:
- Industry and commercialization of equipment drive modern hunting, not vice versa.
- Technology (cell phones, ATVs [all-terrain vehicles], snowmobiles, sonar, RVs, outboard motors) have transformed fishing and hunting to their detriment.
- Hunters as a class are their own worst enemies when greedy and slothful conduct betrays the positive hunting mythology that extols courage, risk-taking, strenuous effort, sharp awareness, and self-discipline, values that justify the sport.
- "Sport" is a misnomer that should be dropped.
- Competition, trophies and records for their own sake likewise violate the chase: instead, "hunters might initiate a completely new form of record keeping, one that honored the greatest amount of wildlife habitat conserved" (p. 187).
- If hunting is to survive, women must become deeply involved (again).
- Lazy and thoughtless hunting only to satisfy oneself, without self-discipline or respect for animals and fish, mirrors the degeneration of secular society as a whole: "This impoverished state exists in part because we have lost our teachers and our holy people. Hunters ought to be in the ranks of both, but unless they find impeccable ways to restore what was a sacred activity, hunting will be rightfully disparaged and lost. Going out to have fun, I'm afraid, will no longer cut it" (p. 190).
- Fishing and hunting are ultimately religious.
- Without human population controlÑactually, reductionÑit's all over anyhow.
Such are Kerasote's strictures and admonitions for typical readers of Sports Afield. He has barbs for the Audubon audience as well. We need to participate directly in the harvesting of our food, including meats. Death, the taking of life, is inescapable. The question becomes not if we must kill in order to live, but how and who. Regardless of how we live, we depend upon death. Be mindfulÑbe awareÑof the cost to other creatures and to life: "Rice and beans grown in California includes the energy costs of irrigation, farm equipment, and transportationÉ[it] includes the cost to wildlifeÑsongbirds, reptiles and small mammals killed as the result of agribusinessÉ. Every day, consciously or not, we close down one life over another, a constant, often unwitting choice of who will suffer so that we may continue livingÉ. I believe to the bottom of my soul that taking responsibility for some of the deaths we cause by our eating is one of the key elements of right living" (pp. 189-90,121).
For Ted Kerasote living right and writing well are probably more important than fishing or hunting, though he would insist that for him they cannot be separated. As a writer, Kerasote has not yet attained the level of Barry Lopez, John McPhee or Wendell Berry, but his English is far better than Ed Abbey and on a par with John Krakauer. He's equal to Chris Madsen, editor of Wyoming Wildlife, high praise indeed because that magazine is simply the best Fish & Game publication in the nation. Its special editions addressing over-population, natural limits, wilderness, and Aldo Leopold surpass Sierra and most other environmental publications in quality of writing and thinking.
Perhaps groups who find Ted Kerasote's views distasteful produce comparable journals with equally good prose, but I have yet to come across them. Very few environmental publications, including the Whatcom Watch, flirt with, much less excel in, self-criticism. Good at dishing out blame, we avoid the anomalies, paradoxes and dilemmas that confront us daily, dilemmas inherent in our own existence and in our very beliefs:
"As recently as the late 1970s I walked through valleys in southern Yellowstone that had waist-high flowers and no evidence of other humans having been there within a hundred years, not even a trail. Then came environmental awareness followed by environmental appetite. The cost of having extolled the enjoyment of wild places has been that the mountains are now full of hikers, boaters, climbers, mountain bikers, skiers, paragliders, wildlife photographers, anglers, and hunters" (p. 100).
This Wyoming hunter's heart and spirit have much to teach us.
A Conversation with "Heart of Home" Author Ted Kerasote
Ted Kerasote has written about nature, wildlife, and wilderness conservation for a variety of publications. The author of "The Right to Hunt" (1980) and "Bloodties: Nature, Culture and the Hunt" (1993), he lives in northwestern Wyoming.
Bob Keller interviewed Mr. Kerasote at Village Books on March 7, 1998.
My gratitude to Connie Clement for transcribing this interview--BK
Bob Keller: Could you outline your career for me?
Ted Kerasote: As far back as I can remember my grandparents, great-grandparents were all Greek. They came to the U.S. in the 20th century. I consider myself of Greek descent and I grew up speaking Greek as my first language. I managed to speak Greek until I was a teenager. I lived in and around New York City and on Oyster Bay across from Teddy Roosevelt's home. I started fishing at four, hunting when I was ten. We lived in a rural place only 40 miles from the city. We hunted and fished, for us as kids it was a great passion.
Keller: Other education?
Kerasote: College in upstate New York, then London, England. After that, 18 months to the tip of South America fishing, climbing. Worked in Canada six months, moved to Colorado to work for Outward Bound through the 70s. A graduate degree in English, 1983.
Keller: What kicked off your professional writing?
Kerasote: I started with Sports Afield in 1975 as their camping editor. After the degree, I did a lot of wildlife conservation research around the world, Africa, the Arctic, continuing to write for Sports Afield, Audubon, Outside, Sierra, The New York Times.
Keller: You must have a split personality? Aren't different voices necessary when writing for Audubon and Sports Afield?
Kerasote: Our culture is split on how humans ought to treat non-human creatures. That split with anglers on one side and animal rights people on the other runs through basic issues of wildlife management and land use policy. Yet there is a huge segment of the non-hunting and non-angling public who sit in the middle and don't really care. Most of them are carnivores who don't think introspectively about where food comes from. I hope to reach them in "Heart of Home." Even though it's about hunting, some essays speak to anyone, rural, urban, a hiker, an angler.
Keller: The woman who asked me to review your book said it looked interesting until she saw the word "hunting," then she dropped it like a rock: "I can't look at that book." Why does hunting make some environmentalist minds clang shut?
Kerasote: A deep-seated denial about our place within the natural cycles of life and death on the planet. People who slam a book shut on the word "hunter" have a deep wish that the world hadn't evolved the way it has, in which certain life forms die or are killed by other life forms to sustain life. Many of these folks do everything they can to ignore how other lives support their life, from being vegans to wearing polyester and petrochemical cloth, to saying "There's no blood on my hands. I'm not causing harm." Frankly, a lot of folks look at nature and say, "God, this is a tragedy, those predators out there killing the 'innocent' herbivores. Geez, why did the world turn out this way?" Or some people look and say "It's good for whales or bears or orcas or lions to do it, but it's not right for humans."
But if animals kill for food, why can't humans? If we are part of nature and have a similar makeup to other mammals, perhaps killing for food is natural and even ethical? Can the word "ethics" even be used? Is it "ethical" for a wolf to kill a caribou? It's just what they do. It's what they must do. If one thoroughly examines where one's food, fuel and shelter come from, we must conclude that in feeding and clothing ourselves, taking life is inevitable. One can try to reduce it. One can try to not make other creatures suffer. But trying to escape our deadly impact seems akin to trying to live on a planet without gravity.
Keller: What has informed your ethics? Some of your writing reminds me of "A Sand County Almanac" (1968, Oxford University Press).
Kerasote: Leopold, of course. "Nature's Economy: The Roots of Ecology" by Donald Worster (1977, Sierra Club Books), "Wilderness and the American Mind" by Roderick Nash (1967, Yale University Press). For sure, "Walden," John Muir, Gary Snyder's "The Practice of the Wild: Essays" (1990, North Point Press). Certainly the animal rights peopleÑ"Animal Liberation" (1975, Random House) and Tom Regen, and also "Diet for a New America" (1987, Stillpoint)Ñgood thinkers. I may not agree with all they say, but they are scholarly, well-intentioned, and their work is very important for us who angle and hunt. And very important for people who eat domestic meat.
A lot of domestic meat people operate in a huge bubble of denial about how their meat is raised: "Well, it tastes good and please don't tell me about that because I'll have to stop eating meatÉ. I can't eat this chicken if you bring up food processing." To them I say there are products out there that don't treat animals as if they're concentration camp victims. Maybe you ought to spend a little more money and buy animals that had a reasonable life before they were slaughtered.
Keller: How do you define "ethics?"
Kerasote: Acting responsibly and trying to cause the least pain, suffering and sorrow to other creatures, whether human or non-human; then to universalize one's behavior.
Keller: I might add a condition, "when nobody's watching."
Kerasote: Very good.
Keller: So apply that to hunting, which obviously causes pain and sorrow to other creatures.
Kerasote: Ethics involves going beyond the letter of the regulations, even ignoring the law when it says things are legal but one feels they are irresponsibleÑfor example, hunting from vehicles. I look at hunting and say: "Does nature work this way?" Do other creatures kill animals and leave them to rot. Yes, sometimes. But, by and large, no. I eliminate shooting crows and letting them lie, shooting live animals for target practice.
Keller: Prairie dogs and ground squirrels?
Kerasote: Exactly. Do you know the Orion Hunting Institute in Helena, Montana? Founded by Jim Posewitz who wrote "Beyond Fair Chase" (1994, Falcon Publishing) now used as hunter education in all 50 states. People kept calling us up and asking, "What about hunting prairie dogs?" We'd respond: "Well, we have no comment because that's not hunting, that's shooting." Orion needed a definition and we came up with this: Hunting is the fair chase pursuit of free-ranging wildlife in a non-competitive setting with full utilization of the animal for food. This definition asks the hunter to examine his or her motives. Is the motive to get a big horn sheep, experience the mountains, put something in the freezerÑor is it to improve the last score in the William Crockett record book?
Keller: Or complete a kill cycle.
Kerasote: Yeah, complete the grand slam or the super slam. Under our definition, that fails the ethical test. Needless to say, this causes consternation and anger among the hunting community and the outdoor equipment industry.
Keller: It must irritate animal rights people, too, and not sit too well with Sports Afield advertisers.
Kerasote: There's a huge industry that surrounds hunting and fishing. Bass tournaments, one-shot coyote and one-shot deer tournaments. All use animals to generate big money for people and for companies to sell tackle and gear through advertising. Animals become dollar signs. It's very hard to have a reverential, sacred relationship to wildlife when your paycheck depends on it. And when your next quarter's corporate earnings depend on how many products you sell to people who want to shoot more game or catch more fish. We spoke about Aldo Leopold, one of the first people to talk about how gadgetry had infiltrated the sport of hunting. It's only growing worse decade by decade.
Keller: How do you define "sport" as in Sports Afield?
Kerasote: Look at my writing and you'll never see the word "sport" attached to hunting in anything I've written.
Keller: Why not?
Kerasote: Because "sport" means a high level of amusement and diversion, and I don't think taking animals' lives fits. Sport is skiing or golf or racing cars or playing tennis, all of which don't have as the direct intent killing something. The intent of schussing down a hill is not to kill a deer. We should just call ourselves hunters, not sportsmen. It would serve hunters well to eliminate "sport" from our lexicon.
Keller: Back to ethics. Starting with spears, we've made enormous advances in technology compared to the adaptations by prey. At what point does technical advantage become unethical, the chase become too one-sided and easy? Or is that a consideration?
Kerasote: Absolutely. Absolutely! To me, using internal combustion engines to hunt is one of the huge abdications of responsibility, if you will. It gives great advantage to the hunter and also steals the very thing that one is searching for, namely peace and quiet.
Keller: And increased sensitivity. One benefit of hunting is being more aware than hikers or climbers of what's going on around you. An ATV [all-terrain vehicle] won't do that. You're mostly aware of the ATV.
Kerasote: My myocardium and the prey's myocardium. When you hike up a couple thousand feet in the morning to reach the animals, there's an equivalence. You're both on your own lung, heart and foot power. The ATV takes all that away. Infrared lights and range-finders do the same.
Keller: What about lighted lures, sonar, depth finders, fish finders?
Kerasote: Yes. You know, outboard motors are considered absolutely standard but they give the angler an enormous advantage. It's one reason why fly fishing on rivers has become so popular, an equal footing with landscape and fish.
Keller: Not just on, but physically in the landscape, in a natural element. Here's a pet peeve. In outdoor activities, not only hunting and fishing, we've produced the mechanization of recreation. Where once we used our bodies, we find jet skis, ATVs, helio-skiing, snowmobiles, 4x4s, dune buggies, dirt bikes. Even casino gambling can be reduced to machines.
Kerasote: There's an open, unprotected area on the river near my home. Over the past dozen years I've seen elk and deer hunting go right down the tubes. I don't hunt there anymore. I go to the Gros Ventre Wilderness with no motorized access. Where you used to see elk and deer, there are now scores of ATVs running all over tundra country above the tree line. What have they accomplished? They're not getting anything. They just like to run around in motorized vehicles and ruin the hunting for everyone else. ATVs are a dumb way to hunt. They don't help the hunter, in fact they hinder if the object is to get game. If ATVs proliferate, your chances are less. Let's not talk about solitude. Let's not talk about skill and being in touch, or being in condition. I have no use for them.
Keller: Let's shift to your writing. In describing nature and the outdoors, why do you choose to expose the intensely personal and private?
Kerasote: I don't quite understand your question.
Keller: Using first person. Your feelings. Your bereavement over your father's death, why share that with readers when describing the Wind Rivers?
Kerasote: Because it's important to me. If other people want to read it and pay for it, that's a bonus. My father died. He was one of the most important people in my life and his death was one of the great passages in my life and his, so I had to write about it. There's no difference at all between my life in the outdoors and what's going on in my head and my soul. When I go elk hunting, focused on elk, it's not as if my life has been totally left behind in the house. It's carried along with me. One of the problems with the standard outdoor press is compartmentalizing our lives. We don't go out hunting and fishing, and leave our marriages, our parents and children, our financial worries all behind in a box in the garage. That doesn't happen in reality.
The last story in my book has been important for lots and lots of people whose parents have died. But I didn't write it for them. I just wrote it because I had to write it. That's all.
Keller: Such writing moves onto risky ground when you start mixing animals and nature and the highly personal. You risk becoming maudlin.
Kerasote: Always. I'm willing to take that risk. Some reviewers say "this jerk ought to stop talking about himself" and a review in an American Airlines magazine said "All this stuff about Buddhist prayer flags and praying to animals, this is a bit much." Some people will find it maudlin and overdone, others will say it's a good risk to take.
Keller: Do you worry about it as you write?
Kerasote: Absolutely. It's always a concern for someone who writes in the first person as often as I do. By and large, the majority of readers don't find it maudlin, but would say it's sensitive.
Keller: To write well, and personally, about nature is a high accomplishment. It puts you in rare company. I thank you for your time this evening.
Kerasote: Thank you.
Wilderness or Extinction?
by John Brinda
John Brinda is a Whatcom County resident who attends Whatcom Community College.The only trouble with the movement to protect our forests is that it has not gone far enough and was not begun soon enough. --Teddy Roosevelt (1908)
Echoing the sentiments of President Roosevelt, who founded the U.S. Forest Service in 1905, one wonders if the effort to protect wilderness has gone far enough or was begun soon enough. According to section 2(a) of the Wilderness Act of 1964:In order to assure that an increasing population, accompanied by expanding settlement and growing mechanization, does not occupy and modify all areas within the United States and its possessions, leaving no lands designated for preservation and protection in their natural condition, it is hereby declared to be the policy of the Congress to secure for the American people of present and future generations the benefits of a enduring resource of wilderness.
Is Congress following its professed policy? Do we truly have an enduring resource of wilderness?
In order to answer that, we need to know what "wilderness" means. Again, according to the Wilderness Act, section 2(c):A wilderness, in contrast to those areas where man and his works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain. ...further...is of sufficient size as to make practicable its preservation and...may also contain ecological, geological, or other features of scientific, educational, scenic, or historical value. (italics mine)
Webster's defines untrammeled as having nothing done to "prevent or impede the free play of." Does this community of life include the grizzly bear, the wolf, the salmon, or the spotted owl? Can we truly say that we have secured enough wilderness that these creatures can freely playÑunimpeded by our increasing population, accompanied by expanding settlement and growing mechanization? I think the answer is an obvious no. All of these creatures, and many more, are officially Threatened and Endangered because their wilderness habitats are likewise threatened.
Of the 700 million acres of federally owned land, a mere one-seventh is designated wilderness. This is less than 5 percent of the total area of the United States. This number is deceiving though, since Alaska is 15.5 percent wilderness. If you just look at the 48 states only 2.5 percent of the land is wildernessÑeven Hawaii has more wilderness at 3.5 percent. Grizzly bears and wolves once roamed the United States, coast to coast. Salmon once filled the rivers of the Northwest and New England to overflowing. Spotted owls once had many millions of acres of old growth forest to play inÑnow less than one-quarter of it remains. Is 2.5 percent of the land all we are prepared to offer them? If so, I'm afraid that it will simply not be enough.
According to Harvard biologist E. O. Wilson the current rate of extinction is 10,000 times faster than "normal." One in five species will be gone in the next 25 yearsÑa rate not seen since the disappearance of the dinosaurs. The number one cause of this accelerating rate of extinction is habitat destruction, degradation, and fragmentation. These numbers are what is happening nowÑthings will only get worse if we continue to destroy our wilderness. Will we even be able to call what wilderness is left true "wilderness" when its community of life has become a shambles?
Separate But Not Equal Prejudice
The problem with a phrase like "community of life untrammeled by man" is that it sets man apart from that community. It subtly presents the common prejudice that man is somehow above and separate from other living beings. In order to defend this prejudice, we often cite our "superior mental capacity" or even divine providence; but the fact remains that with respect to the one thing all living beings have in commonÑlifeÑwe are all equal. At the level of DNA, which is the common denominator of all life, humans are fundamentally no different from any other living thing. However this is precisely the level at which the community of life is now being threatened by us. When we lose a species to extinction, we lose a distinct set of DNA sequences or genetic codes. These genetic codes are the pathways of evolutionÑextinction is a dead end. The importance of genetic diversity and evolution is summed up well by Elliot Norse:
By providing the raw material for evolution, genetic diversity allows populations to adapt to the changing conditions of our heterogeneous world. The ability to adapt becomes increasingly important as we alter the environment in unprecedented ways, with unprecedented speed.
What this ultimately means is, as humans increasingly alter their environment, adaptation will need to keep pace, but it will be unable to because of a shortage of genetic diversity. Those species that can't adapt will also go extinct and so on in a vicious circle. Perhaps humans will hold out longer because of our "superior mental capacity" or maybe through prayer; but eventually the same process will overtake our own ability to adapt. For many centuries we humans have believed Progress is crucial to our survival, but without some self-restraint it will likely contribute to our extinction instead.
National Wilderness Preservation System
While all this may seem incredible, what is hardest to believe is that this march of destruction could easily be halted (or at least slowed down) through the use of existing lawsÑand it is simply not being done. The Wilderness Act empowers Congress to preserve any federally owned wild area of sufficient size and valueÑbut when the chips are down, Congress balks. In order to protect Threatened and Endangered species and preserve genetic diversity we need to stop habitat destruction, degradation, and fragmentation. The easiest way to do this is through the National Wilderness Preservation System. What are we waiting for?
The amount of land suitable for wilderness designation is growing smaller every day. As I write this, timber companies are destroying habitat by clearcutting old growth forests. Mining companies are degrading habitat by polluting clear mountain streams, and the Forest Service itself is fragmenting habitat by pushing roads further into pristine areas. The American people gain nothing by these destructive activities. The Forest Service road building and timber program loses literally tens of millions of dollars each year, and despite recent booms, timber and mining towns still have high unemployment due to increasing automation in these industries. Our current land management processes are woefully outdated, disregarding both science and economics. In a letter to President Clinton concerning the protection of roadless areas, 30 natural resource economists had this to say:
In addition to recreation and other non-extractive uses, pristine forestlands provide economic value that is independent of direct use. There is growing recognition that wilderness and biodiversity contribute to human well-being through their mere existence. Many Americans consider these to be important national treasures, the loss of which would diminish our well-being. This "existence value" is measurable in principle, and recent advances have improved its measurement in practice. (Northwest Conservation)
They were trying to influence the formation of a new Forest Service policy regarding roadless areas.
Roadless Areas Are Unprotected
The roadless areas in question are de facto wildernesses that are currently unprotected and sadly dwindling in both size and number. They are also one of the main sources of officially designated wilderness areas. If we don't protect them from development, our ability to add new wilderness to the system of preservation is seriously hampered. In another letter, 169 scientists "recommended a prohibition on the construction of new roads and logging within existing (1) roadless regions larger than 1,000 acres, and (2) roadless regions smaller than 1,000 acres that are biologically significant" (Northwest Conservation). There are already many designated wildernesses that are under 1,000 acres in size (mostly islands).
The Forest Service released their draft policy on January 22. The policy temporarily protects some roadless areas, but:
- Excludes the forests of western Washington, western Oregon, northern California, and the Tongass National Forest of southeast Alaska,
- Applies only to those roadless tracts over 5,000 acres in size,
- Allows helicopter logging,
- Allows the planning and selling of future timber sales in these areas,
- Does not require the Forest Service to consider permanent protection for these areas.
In short, it is a statement of the status quo. During the press release, Forest Service Chief Mike Dombeck stated, "Our objective is to make scientifically based, publicly supported decisions that best meet the changing needs of the American people while protecting our rich forest legacy." In my mind, I can think of no greater irony than these words.
Delfino, Kimberly. "Wildlife Need Wild Places: The State of Disappearing Species and Their Habitat." Online. Internet. 25 Feb. 1998. Available: http://www.pirg.org/enviro/esa/wildlife/index.htm
Kloepfer, Deanne, et al, eds. "The Wilderness Act Handbook." The Wilderness Society, 1994.
Norse, Elliot A. "Ancient Forests of the Pacific Northwest." Island Press, 1990.
Northwest Conservation. Feb. 1998.
Tilton, Buck. "America's Wilderness." Foghorn Press, 1996.
Serendipity Beneath Your Toes
by Christie Keith
Christie Keith is on staff at the Western Outdoor Learning Foundation (W.O.L.F.) and writes for WOLF newsletter where this article first appeared.
Come here, I'd like to introduce you to a new friend of mine. But before I do, let me tell you a little bit about him; then you'll understand why I have taken him into my home and into my heart. Once you get to know him I'm sure you'll love and appreciate him as much as I do.
First a little confession on my part. I have been less than kind to him in the past. Frankly, I've considered him a pest and a menace. I've called him ugly and intrusive right to his sunny yellow face. I have even gone as far as to try to rid him entirely from my life by poisoning his drinking water. Thank goodness he is forgiving, determined, and hearty. If only I knew then what I know now, we would have continued our love affair that began when I was very small.
When I was a child I enjoyed spending much time alone in our family's back yard. My friend was always there, green and lovely, except when he was playing hide and seek under the snow. Through spring, summer, and fall he bloomed marvelously during the day and folded his sepals tightly every night or on cloudy days. Proudly he stretched out a single glorious bloom on a single stalk that reached just above my ankles. His flowers were as yellow as the sun and just as round. He waited faithfully dotting my father's manicured lawn.
Sometimes I noticed his bountiful offering and picked until my hands could hold no more and often delivered my bouquet to my mom. But sometimes dad beheaded all of them with his hungry mower. Either way, without fail, and with no room for resentment, my friend faithfully sent up new shoots to once again create a sod quilt of green and yellow. His generosity was great even before I really knew what he was offering.
Recently, I was given the book "Healing Wise" by Susan Weed. I found her book rich in wisdom, facts and lore. She spoke of my friend so highly that I decided to take her up on her suggestion. "How long does it take to make a new friend? Start with a year," suggests Weed. "Choose the herb you want to be friends with. Not an exotic herb, but a local plant, a common plant, a simple weed," That is exactly what I did so now let me tell you more about my new companion.
My friend is diverse and multi-talented. He has much more to offer for our physical and spiritual health than I can describe in this brief article so I will just tell you of my experiences so far. Among many, many uses, this plant works lovingly and gently on the water ways and digestive systems of our bodies. His nutrients act as a natural filter and his juice is referred to as "the elixir of long life."
At his base, close to the ground are many green-toothed leaves in a variety of sizes. They are rich in vitaminsÑespecially A, C, and B complex. The leaves are smooth to the touch because they are completely hairless. He is often confused with his brother Chicory. However, once you get to know them both, you can easily tell them apart because Chicory has a hairy backside. Oh, the joys of knowing someone intimately! You can eat my friend's leaves right from the stalk or gather them for salads, sandwiches, or boiled greens. If you eat them right off the plant be sure the area is chemical, fertilizer, and doo-doo free.
I only need to eat one good helping of leaves to begin to feel their effects on my system. Not only does my friend act as a wonderful diuretic but he actually helps our organs filter out impurities in our systems keeping the insides of our bodies clean. The leaves also act as a digestive bitter helping to relieve tummy aches.
This plant has been miraculous to me in helping to relieve premenstrual water retention. A true friend to all women, he is natural, safe, gentle and effective. As a laxative he merely loosens things up and relaxes the entire digestive system. One of his nicknames is "Piss-in-bed," although I have not personally experienced this side effect (whew!).
Friends Gather Together
My favorite use for my friend is to make tea out of his dried roots. I begin the process by allowing a nice long time for harvesting. You see, this wonderful plant teaches patience and care during gathering. In loose soil, the single tap root is long and deep, gripping the ground with tiny rootlings as well. It's best to harvest the roots only in the fall or early spring just after the ground thaws but before the plant pushes flower buds because wintertime is when the gnomes retain his energy under ground.
I take my time digging, taking care not to sever the large central root. I don't want to loosen any of the rich milky juice. I pray, sing, and meditate while enjoying the challenge of easing the entire plant from the ground. After gathering I am very relaxed and happy.
After harvesting five or six plants, I am ready to begin cleaning them and preparing them for drying. I gently wash each plant. I soak them a bit first to loosen the mud that is still holding fast. Then I wiggle the roots back and forth under the running water to clean all the dirt from between the small side kick rootlings.
Since I heat my home with wood, my house is generally dry enough for me to set the plants in a basket on an open shelf and forgotten for a couple of weeks. When I pull them off the shelf I am always proud to see those dried black bark beauties. I test the roots by breaking one. Dried properly, they "snap like a twig after a drought." Sometimes I grind them in my herb grinder or I just break some root pieces into my boiling water and let it steep for two minutes and drink. I often throw a few root pieces into my tea pot regardless of what else I'm brewing. I just love getting that extra boost with each cup I drink.
My first choice of herbal intimacy was a good one. Meet Taraxacum officinale. Now I look into my yard, and to the field just beyond and see the richness and abundance that is available for me anytime. Thank you Dandelion for your lessons and gifts of love.
The Unmeasured Costs of Residential Sprawl
by Amy Kenna
Amy Kenna is a student at Whatcom Community College"Our real goal is peace of mind, isn't it? When Thomas Jefferson penned the phrase, 'Pursuit of happiness,' surely he didn't mean that we should chase after Ferrari's, four by four's, speedboats, ATV's and snowmobiles. I think he meant we should safeguard the right to make informed choices on our on behalfÑchoices that are based on something genuine, like biological and social well-being" --David Wann.
Imagine the typical suburbanite: He (or she) lives comfortably on a two-acre plot of land in a quiet, crime-free neighborhood. His split-level house and dual-car garage offer all the modern conveniences one could ask for. The typical surburbanite lives in pure bliss, with one exception: Every now and then, the suburbanite hears about the negative impacts his sprawling neighborhood, and others like it, have on the rest of the world, such as the inner city and the environment. However, though these issues are somewhat disturbing, the suburbanite, (like many people) will not re-think his residential location unless he believes it negatively impacts the quality of his own daily life.
Here's something the suburbanite doesn't know: Living in suburbia does decrease the quality of his lifestyle, and extensively so. Complete with social, physical, economic and psychological drawbacks, the modern suburban neighborhood poses a multitude of serious risks to anyone striving for the old-time goals of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Many suburban residential areas today sprawl far beyond the inner city limits, requiring a long daily commute for their residents. In addition, most of these areas don't offer public transportation. According to a survey done by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 47 percent of all metro house-holds are two-vehicular, and 75 percent of their residents drive everyday. Gould quotes Marti Sievert, a resident of a suburban area in Delafield, Wisconsin, who says, "Even if we had buses running, we probably wouldn't use them. We're into so many different routines- the doctor here, shopping there. Everything is so scattered, you really need a car."
Why is suburban automobile dependency a concern? Because daily commutes in city traffic pose serious risks to the suburbanite's health and life.
Cars produce nitrogen dioxide, which rises in the atmosphere and becomes smog. According to Lawrence Sombke, "The American Lung Association states that exposure to smog can cause eye, nose, and throat irritation, coughing, short breath, headaches, tight chest, impaired pulmonary function, altered red blood cells and asthma attacks." Cars also emit a poisonous gas, carbon monoxide, which "limits the body's ability to transport oxygen to the body tissues," and therefore strains the pregnant, the elderly, and people with heart conditions.
The suburbanite's daily commute is also threatening to his or her life. Echenbarer, in his article "America's Worst Drivers," mentions the growing aggression of American drivers, and its risks. "Statistically, you're more likely to be run down than gunned down by a stranger in New York City." Car-related fatalities are tragically frequent. The World Book Encyclopedia states, "Traffic accidents in the U.S. resulted in about 57,000 deaths and about 4,700,000 injuries each year in the early 1970's."
As well as the car-related risks of suburbia, studies have also proved that residential scatter areas (as opposed to the inner city) have slower urban response times for police, fire-fighters and emergency ambulances. A study by the American Farmland Trust found that in general, "residents in the scatter development areas faced dangerously long emergency response times for ambulance, police, and fire-fighters."
A study by the Center for Agriculture in the Environment shows the same. "The average response times for suburban areas, 11.47 minutes, was almost twice than of urban areas." "We suggest that both prospective home buyers and the government authorities responsible for siting new residential areas be aware of the safety risks."
Living on the outskirts of town can attack the suburbanite's pocketbook as well as his health. For the many urban fringe residents who still have inner-city jobs, commuting constitutes to a large monthly fee, which includes insurance, auto maintenance and a gas bill inflated by daily traffic congestion. David Wann also speaks of the hidden costs of the automobile, such as the expanding sticker price and insurance costs, highway maintenance and reconstruction, and police/paramedic services.
Another location-related cost to suburbanites is that of schools and sewer/water lines in scatter areas. The Center for Agriculture in the Environment states that sewer and water lines must be extended longer distances to urban areas, and therefore cost more. Also, "The average new home in unincorporated areas does not generate sufficient revenues for the school district to cover the cost of busing its childrenÉ. From a fiscal point of view, the suburban homes might not be a better bargain."
A study by the American Farmland Trust proves the same, citing a significant shortfall from the tax revenues of homes in scatter developments for covering the cost of schools due to running buses. "These costs would have been avoidable or reduced if the homes had been built within or closer to existing municipalities." Also, the AFT found that extending sewer and water lines can be risky and ultimately costly.
Lack of Architectural Appeal
One thing the suburbanite's neighborhood commonly lacks is aesthetic appeal in both the architecture and layout. Such a lack of design diversity and creativity will hinder the suburbanite's ability to experience a "sense of place" toward his home. Author John Berger, describing the austerity of suburbia, says "Despite all the affluence, a subdivision's standardized model homes, fifty-feet wide streets and predictable layout can lend it a dull, impersonal character."(in Wann's book)
Architect Peter Calthorpe describes modern suburbs as "truly pioneer urban ecologies where little thought or time is given to the subtleties of place, shared amenities, and a sense of community or permanence." This quote leads to another downside of suburban dwellings:
Loss of Community
Modern suburbs lack one basic component of "home:" a sense of community. Calthorpe notes that suburban areas generally have too low a density to support things people associate with community and sociability, such as corner shops and cafs.
Also, as various institutions spread away from inner-city downtown areas in an attempt to follow the middle class, suburban development tends to degrade long-standing communities within the city. The impact of such losses are felt by everyone, including suburbanites, who spend a good deal of their day within the city.
One example of a deteriorating community due to the onslaught of suburban development is Saratoga Springs, New York. In an editorial, author Kunstler describes the town's loss of character since World War II, including the razing of mammoth hotels for strip malls and parking lots, and the building of a new junior high school, three miles out of town, to which students are forbidden to ride bikes or walk. "Many of the functions of everyday life were taken out of downtown and scattered out in the countryside where they are only accessible by motor vehicles." He describes the town as "under assault by forces that want to turn it into another version of Paramus, New Jersey, with all the highway crud, chain store servitude and loss of community that pattern of development entails."
Loss of Nature
Suburbanites, like most people, feel distress when they witness their favorite natural areas being eaten up by city scattering. Whitney Gould, while measuring the costs of city sprawl, mentions quite seriously the intangible expenses: "Who can measure the loss of a wooded hillside? A glacial ridge? A cattail marsh?." Gould mentions that the upland woods in Wausheka county, Wisconsin, are "being carved up for development at a rapid pace, obliterating vistas that give definition and character to the rural landscape."
Another, more destitute example of land-gobbling sprawl is the chaotic urbanization of many places in California. "As the state moved from a rural to an urban culture, grape vineyards and orange groves gave way to urban sprawl, and much of the quiet grace and beauty of the past seemed to vanish."
Jerome Belanger, in "A Guide to Country Living," describes San Jose as it gained over 800,000 people in twenty years and lost 140,000 acres of land. "The valley, once one of the most beautiful and productive agricultural areas in the world, has become a sprawling network of cities and suburbsÉ. The valleys and orange groves are gone forever."
A Successful Alternative
But can a community that discourages sprawl, automobile dependency, and monotonous architecture survive, or even become successful? Sure it can. Take Davis, California, a community with "twice as many bicycles as cars, restricted growth and limited building permits." (Wann) Shopping center sizes in Davis are limited, and homes are clustered in close proximity with small private yards and access to public areas. Streets are narrow, and design diversity is rewarded.
Michael Corbett, designer of Village Homes in Davis, said he wanted to create "a place where residents could develop close relationships and integrate the process of earning a neighborhood with living, learning, and playing together." (Berger)
The result? "The community is wildly successful: less crime, higher selling price per square foot, and less residential turnover." (Wann)
An example of true success: a shrewdly planned, efficiently zoned neighborhood with houses clustered close enough to promote a sense of community and to support various local businesses. And people love it. Not only that, but residents know each other, talk to each other, are friends with their neighbors, and finally, they feel they belong. Residents of Davis, California, have found their "sense of place."
Perhaps, upon reading this essay, the suburbanite feels a twinge of envy toward the residents of Davis, California, as he thinks of them ambling to the corner grocery store on foot or on bike, chatting to their neighbors along the way. Perhaps he cocks his ear, listens for the heartbeat of his own neighborhood, and finds it strangely quiet: devoid, in fact, of any noise except the consistent whir of passing automobiles. Perhaps, upon reading this essay, the suburbanite begins to reconsider his current location, not only for the harm it causes others, but for the harm it causes the social, physical, economic, and psychological aspects of his own well-being.
American Farmland Trust. "Living on the Edge Ð Costs and Risks of Scatter Development." Planning Commissioners Journal Web (March 1998): 1-12. Online. Internet. 3 March 1998. Available WWW: http://www.plannersweb.com/
Belanger, Jerome. "Country Living." Award Books, 1973.
Berger, John J. "Restoring This Earth." Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1979.
Center for Agriculture in the Environment. "Focus and Purposes of Scatter Study." Planning Commissioners Journal Web (1998): 1-4. Online. Internet. 12 March 1998. Available WWW: http://www.plannersweb.com/
Echenbarger, William. "America's Worst Drivers." Reader's Digest. March 1998: 108-114.
Gould, Whitney. "Suburban Sprawl a Creature of the Car." Journal Sentinel Staff, 1996. p. 1-3. Online. Internet. 26 Feb. 1998
Kimes, Beverly Rae. "Automobile." World Book Encyclopedia. 1986 Ed. Vol. 1. World Book, Inc.
Kuntsler, J. "How to Mess Up a Town." (1997): 1-4. Online. Internet. 12 March 1998. Available WWW: http://www.plannersweb.com/
Roll, Andrew. "California." Microsoft Encarta 1997 Encyclopedia. Microsoft Corporation.
Sombke, Laurence. "The Solution to Pollution in the Workplace." Mastermedia Limited, 1991.
Wann, David. "Biologic: Designing With Nature to Protect the Environment." Johnson Books, 1990.