31 December 2015

Nothing to Next

Every journey might start with a single step, but many steps must follow to ensure the destination is reached.

On December 12, the world took a big first step with the Paris Agreement to address global warming. The agreement represented an important moment, but we have a lot of work ahead to make the most of the accord and expand on its success.

First, the agreement can become a turning point for our planet. After all, the collective decision is historic, bringing together the entire world to address our biggest issue. It's much better than the nothing we had before. Additionally, if the agreement is followed up with meaningful action, it can mark the end of fossil fuels and the full adoption of renewable energy.

On the other hand, the Paris Agreement doesn't contain any binding standards. Also, each country will have to lay out plans to make the agreement reality. Put another way, we have a lot of work to do. The Paris Agreement is big, but it is what we do next that will determine our success.

A first step has been taken on global warming, and we have a long journey ahead before we get where we're going, so let's keep walking.

08 November 2015

Big Win for Wildlife

Endangered wildlife scored a historic election victory in Washington state last Tuesday.

In October, I blogged about how I-1401, an initiative meant to combat the trafficking of endangered species, was set to appear on the state's 2015 ballot. It increased penalties for those caught with products from 10 endangered species, and it seemed like a no-brainer yes vote, but in elections, you never count your protected species until the results are in.

As it turns out, I-1401 made history in two very good ways. First, it passed, making Washington the first state to institute such strong punishment for illegal wildlife trafficking. Second, by passing with more than 70 percent of the vote, it became the most popular initiative in Washington's history.

The victory sent a resounding message about the importance of protecting endangered wildlife. It also cleared the way for other states to follow in Washington's footsteps.

The passage of I-1401 reminds us that protecting the environment is a winning effort.

11 October 2015

Making the Merchants of Extinction Pay

Let's put it to a vote: Who's in favor of extinction? Nobody? That's great, and the even better news is that Washingtonians get to vote on that for real this fall.

In Washington state, this November's ballot features Initiative 1401, which takes on the illegal wildlife trade that's currently driving species toward extinction. The initiative is important and deserves a yes vote.

I-1401 seeks to make the penalties for trafficking in animal parts so costly that poachers and smugglers will not want to risk being caught. It prohibits the sale, purchase, and distribution of products made from elephants, rhinos, lions, tigers, leopards, cheetahs, marine turtles, pangolins, sharks, and rays. The penalties would include up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. For more information, click here.

Because Washington has important shipping ports, the initiative can go a long way in combating the transportation of illegal wildlife products in the United States and the world. It's a smart move by the initiative backers to focus on Washington, and it's great that my home state can play such an important role in addressing extinction rates.

I hope Washingtonians will help stop extinction by voting for I-1401, and I hope that other states will pass similar laws soon.

30 September 2015

Danger-Prone Daphne, Where Are You?

In the face of a warming planet, we should all embrace our inner Daphne Blake from Scooby-Doo.

I'll explain later, but first, watch this video from Cracked:



To sum up the video, it argues that quartets from popular culture represent four enduring personality types. For example, Fred from Scooby Doo, like Leonardo from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, is a duty-bound leader. Scooby and Shaggy, representing two pieces of one personality, echo the recklessness and playfulness of the turtle Michelangelo. Meanwhile, Velma parallels her studious and practical reptilian counterpart, Donatello. Daphne, on the other hand, resembles the sensitive and rebellious Raphael.

Although the Cracked video sticks to connections in pop culture, I extend the discussion to the seasons. The clothing worn by the Scooby-Doo characters supports this contention. Velma, wearing a heavy sweater, represents winter. Shaggy is clearly dressed for summer. Both Fred and Daphne choose clothes for various types of weather. Their clothing is lighter than Velma's, but both have scarves, suggesting they are ready for the chance of cooler temperatures. That means, they are spring and fall. Fred, with his light hair and brighter-colored clothes is spring, and Daphne's rich, red hair and purple dress speak of fall.

The fact that Fred and Daphne represent spring and fall gains added support when examining the roles of the individual seasons. Summer and winter are about high-pressure weather systems with more stable patterns of heat and cold and stagnant air. Fall and spring are the forces that move the action in the weather game. In the universe of ninja turtles, Leonardo (Fred's counterpart) and Raphael (Daphne's) are also the ones who produce action. Leonardo does it through leadership, and Raphael makes it happen by questioning the direction of the group. Additionally, Leonardo's mask is blue and Raphael's is red, both primary colors--the strongest chromatic forces, and of course, Fred wears blue and Daphne is a redhead.

Daphne's role as fall supplies the connection to global warming. A warming planet is an environment more in line with the forces of summer and winter with their intractable systems, particularly summer because of the heat. What is more, a reckless approach to life similar to that connected with the goofy Scooby and Shaggy and the carelessness of summer has led us to produce global warming. Fall, meanwhile, is in danger because of global warming. As summer expands, the transition to winter shortens. According to her Wikipedia profile, the nickname "Danger-Prone Daphne" came about because in early Scooby-Doo episodes, Daphne was the damsel in distress. As the strength of global warming grows, we, like Daphne and fall, are in distress.

Still, we should look to Daphne for guidance in this scary time. Daphne's Wikipedia page also notes that as Scooby-Doo progressed and over its numerous incarnations, Daphne changed. These changes culminated in a karate-kicking portrayal by Sarah Michelle Gellar in the live-action films. While retaining her sensitivity and even vulnerability, Daphne became capable of taking care of herself. Consequently, we learned that she was danger prone not because she was a damsel in distress but because she ventured out and exhibited bravery when faced with scary situations (and as I wrote in my last post, when it comes to global warming, we should "walk unafraid"). Scooby and Shaggy, who supposedly represent a carefree lifestyle, are the ones who are constantly afraid.

We can't be Scooby or Shaggy or the summer they represent now. That's what got us here. The truth of the matter is that we, like Daphne, are fall, and we must own that and the precarious position it currently occupies. We must have the bravery to look directly at our situation, step outside of the path we know, and take the actions necessary to address global warming.

Daphne and the other pop culture figures who share her personality have already shown us the way.

25 September 2015

Walking Unafraid in a Frightening Time

The saying holds that people who keep their heads while everyone else loses theirs don't understand the situation. My experiences this summer taught me that the people who don't lose their heads might just understand the situation as fully as possible.

I spent the summer amid the sound of First Aid Kit, a Swedish folk band with a flair for Americana, and the fury of a Pacific Northwest burning in the face of global warming. We typically overcome the kind of sadness and fear associated with watching a beloved place shrivel up and incinerate by turning away from the most terrifying details. As much as I might have liked to do that at the beginning of the summer, by the end, I realized that this time (and from now on), I would, as First Aid Kit's song says, "Walk unafraid."



I bought the song, which comes from the soundtrack of Wild, along with the band's Stay Gold album in early May before I returned home for summer vacation. The music became the soundtrack of a summer that contained equal parts devastation and empowerment. I listened to very little else, but the songs never faded. They played in my head through adventures that filled my heart and events that broke it.

I saw Mount Rainier, Mount St. Helens, and Olympic National Park with lyrics like those from My Silver Lining echoing in the vastness of the extraordinary scenery. I watched the overwhelming heat of July bring a usually vibrant ecosystem to its knees and August's wildfires and their accompanying smoke finish the job with merciless suffocation. By that time, Fleeting One, the eighth track on Stay Gold seemed all too appropriate.

Still, I never turned away or tuned out. I took it all in. I reached a point where I knew and could feel everything that was happening. I could tell how close the land and plants were to breaking. Several times, I just had to cry. Then, a strange thing happened: Out of the chaos came the confidence of clarity. I'd played Walk Unafraid so many times in those three months, but suddenly, I was doing what the song said. I understood the situation fully, and I met it head on.

Trees had already started dying on my parents' property by August 2 when I turned on the sprinkler for the first time. We haven't watered our yard for years, but we still have a good sprinkler and some long hoses. During the next two weeks, I used them to get water to the native trees and plants on the property. At first, I wasn't sure if I was having any positive effect or merely tilting at windmills. I didn't even know how to feel when I read that Olympic National Park was also using sprinklers on its forests. Suddenly and unexpectedly though, the weather shifted in the slightest of ways. A bit of rain fell, and the temperatures cooled a little. Combined with my efforts, these changes helped the local plants revive. I felt the satisfaction of knowing a situation, responding to it, and making a contribution.

Although the last images I saw of the Pacific Northwest as I drove east for the school year were shrouded in smoke, I looked upon them without flinching. Those scenes would have torn me apart before. This time, they hurt, but I also knew nothing could break my connection to that place or my commitment to helping it as we face global warming together.

It's the same effect that occurs when music puts people in sync, and it's only possible when everything (joy, sadness, fear) is fully experienced.

07 September 2015

Cat's Cradle

The cat has my tongue, but it also has a safe place to live.

Eight years ago, my family adopted a rescue cat. It had gone through some traumatic experiences, so it didn't really like people. We tried everything to help it feel safe and allow it to adjust. Nothing worked. In fact, the more we tried to help, the more negatively the cat responded, and introducing anything new was an instant and total disaster.

Meanwhile, I had been talking with my parents about building a catio, which is an enclosed, outside area (often connected to the house) for cats. We'd had some issues with coyotes, and the cats were killing birds, lizards, snakes, and other wild animals. The rescue cat was one of the main concerns about having a catio though. He hated being inside, and about the only thing he seemed to enjoy was roaming around. Finally, my mom decided to build a catio (it wasn't actually connected to the house, so it was more like a kennel for cats).

When the catio reached completion, we all cringed to think about the rescue cat's reaction. We figured it would be a daily fight to keep him there, but he stunned us all. He loves it and feels safe there. For the first time, he doesn't run for cover when people are around. He's so comfortable there that even when the door of the catio is left open, he doesn't think about leaving. It's his special place.

The catio provides everything our cats need. It is sheltered, they get food and water, and it has wire runs for them to explore and use for exercise. Above all, they are safe, and having them there keeps the wildlife safe as well. We have seen so many more animals around the house, and it has been nice just to appreciate the beautiful birds instead of worrying about the cats killing them.

I can't say enough about the benefits of the catio, but when it comes to how it has helped our rescue cat, I am almost speechless.

01 August 2015

Cause and Possibility

We're told to think big. We have a lot of practice thinking about now. However, we need to work on thinking long--as in long-term. DamNation, a documentary about dams, shows us how and gives us a sense of what is possible when we do. Check out the trailer for the film below:



Many people who study communication or engage in communication as a profession are interested in effects. They want to know what effect a piece of communication has caused or will cause. Such an approach to communication yields a lot of great information, particularly about the now and the short-term. The problem is that it tends to miss some of the bigger, long-term picture. Environmental advocates often despair over a campaign not generating immediate results, yet failing to produce an immediate effect does not mean an act of communication cannot have an impact. That's because not all reactions are produced right away. Sometimes, communication is about opening up possibilities for the future.

Rhetoric provides an opportunity to probe beyond direct and immediate effects. As DamNation, which is presented by clothing manufacturer Patagonia, beautifully demonstrates, the apparent initial failure of some communication isn't the end of the story. Rhetorical symbols like cracks painted on dams were seen as radical, fringe ideas in the 1990s. However, that symbolic act created a foothold for an idea (removing dams) that is becoming more mainstream--to the point that people are embracing and putting their own stamp on the activist art. Now, it's the dams and their environmental impacts that are questioned.

DamNation also reminds us that environmental issues are big and require long-term thinking as well. We created dams to address immediate needs but failed to consider the larger repercussions. That failure led to major problems. Clearly, we can't address the environment only in the short-term, and we shouldn't look at communication that way either.

Thinking big got us dams. Thinking now makes us miss so much. And thinking long has major possibilities.

17 July 2015

Farewell Tour

Recession of the Nisqually Glacier at Mount Rainier
When I came home to Washington state this summer, I said goodbye.

Early in the spring semester while working at the University of South Dakota, I started making plans for my summer in Washington. I wanted to go back to Olympic National Park and Mount St. Helens. Also, I wanted to visit Mount Rainier for the first time. That mountain had watched over so much of my life, but I had never been up to it.

Accompanied by my family, I was able to keep all my plans, and I had a great time doing it. Still, I couldn't shake the feeling that I was losing old friends and the state where I grew up.

Global warming is tearing apart my home state this summer with drought and heat. Two weeks after I visited Olympic National Park, one of the wettest places in the world, a massive fire started there. Days before I visited Mount St. Helens, the state Department of Ecology declared that Washington's snowpack was at zero percent of normal levels. Sure enough, the only snow I saw on that trip was at the top of St. Helens and in the volcano's shaded crater. Then, days before I went to Mount Rainier, a news story ran about the mountain's disappearing Nisqually Glacier. I was sure to take pictures of the glacier and its recession on my trip because I wasn't sure how many more chances I'll get to see it.

I was glad about my choice to visit these icons of Washington this summer. Global warming is changing them, and I needed something of the way they were to keep as a last memory. That's what we must do when we say goodbye.

Rain, moderate temperatures, snow: The band has broken up in Washington, and in the words of singer Michelle Branch, "Goodbye to you. Goodbye to everything that I knew. You were the one I loved, the one thing I tried to hold onto."

01 July 2015

The Party's Over

Global warming has turned out the lights on a family tradition, another sign the place I love more than any other has changed drastically.

For as long as I can remember, my family has hosted an Independence Day party, and for just as long, the party has ended with a fireworks display. Each year, the children in the family bring their fireworks and light them off after dark, a practice I once lived for and which I now supervise. We always save the biggest firework for last so that the family can howl at it in memory of my dog, a rare animal who loved the colorful explosions.

This year, the family will get together as usual, but we won't have any fireworks. With the entire state of Washington in drought and a record heat wave strangling the area for more than two weeks, we made the sad decision to eliminate fireworks from our party.

Losing the fireworks themselves isn't what makes me saddest--it's what the loss symbolizes: the break in a shared family experience and a major shift in Washington's climate. The lack of snowpack, which triggered the drought and which I blogged about last month, and the record temperatures relate to a Pacific Ocean that is two degrees warmer than normal, and the result is an early-July Washington I don't recognize. Everything is brown and withered--a sight more typical of August than this time of year.

When everyone leaves our party on Saturday without a climactic fireworks display, I won't recognize that either. The event brought people together just before they went their separate ways for the nearly six months until the holidays. Now, a simple goodbye will have to suffice.

Above all, to me, the canceled fireworks suggest that until we address global warming, we'll lose more than we celebrate.

16 June 2015

Make No Mistake

I didn't have to see it to believe it, but seeing it was profound.

Yesterday, on my flight back to Washington state from a conference on environmental communication, I saw a much different home state than I am used to seeing.

Global warming has already made huge impacts around the world. Washington has certainly seen some changes as well. For example, larch trees in the mountains have expanded their range up the slopes, last year's wildfire season was one of the worst yet, and oyster farmers have had to face ocean acidification. However, for the most part, the impacts of global warming in Washington have been gradual.

All that changed last winter when the state's snowpack failed to develop as usual. In January, unseasonably warm weather wiped out much of the early snowfall, and those same temperatures prevented more snow from accumulating. For much of the winter, the snowpack was less than 25 percent of normal. It is now at zero percent (that's not a misprint) of the usual level. As the state's Department of Ecology says, "It's gone." And that's what I saw yesterday.

As the snowpack failed throughout the winter, I knew something major was happening. This wasn't one of those gradual changes. It was quick, big, and monumental. I sensed the loss of the Washington I grew up in. Yesterday's flight merely provided the disheartening visual confirmation of my intuition. At the same time, what I saw yesterday reinforced the need to address global warming immediately and fully.

We've made a lot of mistakes on our way to this warming planet we currently live on, and the effects of those mistakes are unmistakeable. The margin of error is gone, and it's time to do it right.

24 May 2015

Still ARFing

Two of the things I remember from my childhood are loving animals and rooting for the Oakland Athletics baseball team. The two might not appear related, but they are.

At the time, the manager of the A's was Tony La Russa, an animal advocate I previously blogged about when he retired from managing in 2011. Two weeks ago, La Russa and his Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF) celebrated the 25th anniversary of the event that sparked this baseball man to action on behalf of animals.

During a game on May 7, 1990, a stray cat found its way onto the field at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. La Russa helped secure it, and after the game, he worked to find it a home. In searching out a home for the cat, which was named Evie, he discovered the lack of no-kill shelters in the Oakland area. As a result, he and his wife went to work starting ARF.

La Russa left Oakland to manage the St. Louis Cardinals following the 1995 season, but his organization and his work for animals continue today. Since 1991, ARF has found homes for more than 30,000 dogs and cats. For more information about ARF, click here.

La Russa managed a lot of successful teams, but rooting for them was even more fun because I knew he loved animals.

22 May 2015

Taking the Initiative on Carbon

Sometimes, you just have to take the planet into your own hands.

With conservatives in the state legislature repaying their energy-industry supporters by blocking Governor Jay Inslee's bold cap-and-trade plan, residents of Washington have launched an initiative to institute a state carbon tax. Carbon Washington, the group that created the initiative, is currently collecting signatures to put their plan on the ballot.

The proposed carbon initiative, which would place a $25-per-ton tax on carbon pollution while lowering existing state taxes (including a one-percent drop in the sales tax), isn't as elaborate as Inslee's cap-and-trade system. However, the results from British Columbia, which has a nearly identical carbon tax, show that carbon taxes are still very effective at reducing carbon pollution and help maintain a strong economy.

Washingtonians know it's time to put a price on carbon. Carbon Washington's plan does this and places pressure on legislators currently obstructing the proposed cap-and-trade system. When the initiative has enough signatures, it asks the legislature to pass the carbon tax. If the legislature fails to do that by the end of the 2016 legislative session, the initiative goes to the ballot for a public vote in November 2016. For more information about the carbon tax, click here.

Be on the lookout for Carbon Washington's signature gatherers, and let's put the planet in good hands.

10 April 2015

Our Worst Idea

In documenting how our national parks represent America's best idea, filmmaker Ken Burns also gave us a glimpse of what our thinking looks like at its worst, and another example of this poor thinking has arisen at Olympic National Park in Washington state.

The United States Navy seeks to turn the park into a venue for its war games. This plan threatens the park's ecosystem, wildlife, and human visitors with noise and electromagnetic weapons (click here for a more detailed news story about it). It also puts at risk the cherished idea that our national parks represent.

Six years ago, in The National Parks: America's Best Idea, Burns demonstrated how the creation of the parks brought to the world a new combination of democracy, environmental protection, and civic duty. The parks came from public land, helped protect species and ecosystems, and gave generations of Americans something to pass down to those that followed them.

Burns' documentary also captured the constant threat facing the parks. From the start, people have looked for ways to exploit the national parks for personal gain. This self-centered approach to a social institution and an environmental cornerstone has placed several of the parks, including the Grand Canyon, on the verge of destruction at various times in the past. Through a simple application of logic, it is our worst idea, and the Navy's war-games plan is the latest incarnation of it.

One of the biggest lessons from the Burns documentary is that the idea of the national parks as well as the parks themselves must constantly be defended. In this spirit, a petition has been created to challenge the Navy's proposal for using Olympic National Park. To sign it, click here.

When it comes to our national parks, we deserve the best.

14 March 2015

This Bear is Just Right

Something's been missing from the North Cascades in Washington state, and here it is: the grizzly bear.

Although grizzlies aren't associated with the Pacific Northwest the way species like the orca and salmon are, the North Cascades represent an important habitat for the bears, a native species that hasn't been recorded in the area for several years. Because of this, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the United States National Park Service are working together on a plan to recover the population in the North Cascades. A public comment period for the plan runs through March 26.

Conservation Northwest, a region environmental organization, supports the proposed plan and encourages the public to comment in favor of it. The organization provides information that can help individuals put together and submit their comments. That information can be accessed here. Conservation Northwest also has a video about the recovery plan. View it below:



As the video demonstrates, despite not receiving a lot of attention as a species of the Pacific Northwest, the grizzly occupies a key part in the North Cascades ecosystem and in the identity of the region. Allowing this PNW native to disappear forever from Washington certainly wouldn't be right.

Use the link on Conservation Northwest's Web site to make a comment in support of grizzly recovery and let them again sleep in their beds in the North Cascades.

25 February 2015

National Geographic's Misapplication of GMOs

In the rhetoric of science, one of the following is not like the others: evolution, global warming, and genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

The misfit is GMOs. That is unless the scientific rhetoric in question comes from National Geographic.

I recently took part in a panel discussion about the intersection of scientific rhetoric and environmental communication, and one of the topics that came up was National Geographic's most recent issue, which contains the cover story about why people have a distrust of science. (Check out the article here.) The article features an okay discussion about why so many people have doubts about things like evolution and global warming. However, in contrast to the principles of science, which seek to gain an ever-larger understanding of our situation, the article impedes and constrains itself substantially, particularly in regard to GMOs.

The article identifies the conflict between people's common sense and the scientific method as a key source of misunderstanding. That's certainly a valid point, but it's only part of the discussion. An important issue the article fails to address is that science itself created some of the distrust. As one of my colleagues on the panel pointed out, science enjoyed a "golden age," in which it aligned with industrial and political forces to create dangerous products (for example, atomic bombs and industrial chemicals) that harmed humans and the environment. Along the way, these scientific creations also harmed the reputation of science.

National Geographic says that the majority of scientific research holds that GMOs are safe for human consumption, and therefore, the case of GMOs is a defining example of people's irrational common sense trumping scientific consensus. With regard to the safety of eating GMOs, National Geographic may very well be right, but consumption is not the whole story, and the magazine does a disservice to science by leaving out key considerations.

It is in the history of science's malpractice that we find the difference between evolution, global warming, and GMOs. GMOs are scientific creations, not established theories about the planet's health and development. As scientific creations, GMOs are more like industrial chemicals and pesticides. In fact, they work in tandem with pesticides to create environmental problems. For example, the combination of GMOs and pesticides imperils monarch butterfly populations by eliminating milkweed, an important source of food for the insects. Pesticides like DDT were once said to be "safe" until we became aware of their larger environmental impacts (like the near extinction of bird species, including the bald eagle). And that is where the aspect of public doubt that National Geographic ignores comes into play. We have been misinformed about scientific creations before, and that led to the crash of science's golden age. Given that history, the control that GMO developers have placed on information regarding their products makes people even more wary.

By disregarding an important contributor to public doubt over science, National Geographic simplifies a complex issue, neglects important environmental considerations (like the possible extinction of species), and contributes to the cloud of mistrust people have for even firmly supported and comprehensive scientific facts like global warming and evolution.

I guess crop fields aren't the only places GMOs are misapplied.

19 February 2015

Love in the Time of Treatment Plants

We've long known that the struggle between fear and love is about relationships: Fear fights for isolation, and love fights for connection. 

The stakes may remain the same, but the venues of this battle have changed. Today's sites of contention can have a uniquely ugly and foul character, and they make the struggle that much more important. Most recently, that struggle played out at a water treatment plant in California. The following video shows how:


Seeing the dog at the treatment plant, I couldn't miss the presence of the neglect, suffering, and marginalization that accompany fear. Those factors enable each other, making connection rare and fragile. In such a situation, it is easy to discount love.

By contrast, the second part of the video provides a reminder of just how powerful and effective love can be. The people at Hope for Paws, the organization that rescued the dog, cleaned him up, and helped make him available for adoption, prove the fight for love is worth it. Sometimes, it takes just a little offering, and other times, it requires extra effort, but when a connection is made, the bond can overcome even the most apparently hopeless situations.

This is no time for the faint of heart, but it is most definitely a time for the heart.

08 February 2015

That's the Style

When it comes to the fashions of environmental messages, Greenpeace is a trendsetter.

Last summer, I blogged about the organization's powerful use of critical rhetoric against Royal Dutch Shell and Lego. That campaign ended in success when Lego announced it would cut ties with the oil company. Greenpeace has also taken on Shell in other fun, strategic ways, including this video recorded at a racing event sponsored by Shell:

The video Shell doesn't want you to see from Greenpeace on Vimeo.

Greenpeace's attacks on Shell represent part of the environmental group's Save the Arctic campaign. The campaign has been successful at helping delay Shell's plans to drill for oil in the Arctic Ocean, demonstrating the power of Greenpeace's unique messaging strategies.

Like all good trendsetters though, Greenpeace continues to push forward with its ideas. It has decided to make the style guide for the Save the Arctic campaign open-source. The campaign's fonts, colors, images, and videos are available here to the public, which Greenpeace encourages to create content that expands the reach of the message. For example, I was able to download this logo:


Giving people access to these resources allows Greenpeace to promote its message in a cool, new way. Now, many more voices can add to the campaign, opening up creative potential and taking on Shell through a strength-in-numbers approach.

With its latest strategy, Greenpeace shows us an exciting future for environmental communication.

26 January 2015

Up in Smoke

I've found that being an environmentalist can be addictive.

This addiction stems from a desire to help protect something I see as immeasurably special. I felt that protective urge very early in life, and it grew until I wanted to protect every single mechanism of nature.

The story of the West Coast fisher provides a great example of my addiction. As I blogged about here, after being virtually wiped out from much of its original range, the fisher has started to make a comeback with the help of reintroduction projects. I first got excited about their return when a population was reestablished in the Olympic National Park. That success led to reintroduction programs in Washington's Cascade Mountains.

Success stories certainly add to the addictive nature of environmentalism, but nothing feeds the addiction more than success that is threatened. And now, all the work that has gone into bringing the fisher back is at risk because of the illegal use of rodenticide (much of which is used to protect illegal marijuana planting) and other factors. As a result, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing listing the West Coast fisher as threatened. Check out a video explaining the proposal below:



This proposal to protect fishers and support the previous work to keep them around further triggered my protective instincts. I submitted my comments in support of the proposed listing and would like to share the opportunity with others. For more information about the proposal and how to comment on it, click here. The deadline is February 4.

Yes, I'm addicted, and I see no end to my desire to protect nature from thoughtless destruction.

22 January 2015

At Play in the Mud

Going back rarely takes us forward except at the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge in Washington state.

I first went to the refuge in 1994. A lot has happened there since then, but one thing that hadn't happened until recently was my return. Seeing the product of the recent restoration work at the refuge made the wait worth it though.

In 2009, work began to remove a dike that had kept Puget Sound away from the land for more than 100 years. When the restoration was announced, I became excited. The dike had turned the area from an estuary to farmland. Its removal invited the sound back to continue the natural processes that had been blocked for so long.

Because the refuge is visible from Interstate 5, the sound's progress over the last five years continued to interest me. Whenever I drove by, I would sneak a look at the expanding mud flats. The sight of them (or the high tide over them) always made me smile. All that estuary mud represented a return to a time before human intervention and a return of nature.

Two weeks ago, I decided it was time I returned as well. My mom and I visited the refuge and spent several hours walking the trails. We saw bald eagles, great blue herons, a seal, and, because of the low tide, lots and lots of mud. It was awesome. Through the teamwork of people and nature, the refuge had seen an amazing transformation from what it had been on my first trip there. This was no stick-in-the-mud story; it was progress toward a better relationship between the human managers of the land and the refuge itself.

One of the signs along the walking path talked about all that was going on in the estuary's mud, including the lives of creatures that call it home. I'd say that's just the beginning of the story.