In the NE corner of Oregon in Wallowa County lies a little visited wonder known as the Zumwalt Prairie. I recently returned from a five day writing workshop in this remote place and still memories swirl in my mind like the prairie wind.
This 330,000 acre bunchgrass prairie remains largely intact as the high elevation averaging 4,000 feet, poor soils, and harsh weather conditions made it unsuitable for the plow. This was a summering ground for the Nez Perce tribe before white settlers and broken treaties ultimately exiled them from their lands. This land is still home to a plethora of wildflowers, elk, deer, badgers, bird, and insect species, many of them threatened.
The Nature Conservancy owns and operates 36,000 acres of this land. It’s a nature preserve but part of its mission is to work with the local ranchers integrating them with their mission of conservation work which includes biological inventories, ecological monitoring and preserving biodiversity. It’s a partnership with conservation and private interests. Careful grazing management is part of the picture. The Nature Conservancy field station was a farmstead abandoned years ago as the harsh conditions of hot summers, frigid winters, poor soil, and remoteness made it too difficult to farm.
I watched an incredible movie last night- truly such a piece of art in so many ways I thought I would try to spread the word. The movie is called “My Octopus Teacher,” available for streaming on Netflix.
“My Octopus Teacher takes viewers into a world few humans have ever seen. In 2010, debilitated by adrenal fatigue, Craig began free diving in a freezing underwater forest at the tip of Africa. As the icy water re-energised him, he started to film his experiences and in time, a curious young octopus captured his attention. By visiting her den and tracking her movements everyday for months, he won the animal’s trust and they developed an unlikely relationship.
As the little octopus shared the secrets of her world, Craig became first witness to the beauty and drama of a wild creature’s life and in the process, underwent an incredible mental and physical transformation.”
Everything about this movie was stunning, the cinematography, the story, the narration, the octopus. It was like watching poetry. It made me ask the question, are we humans smarter than an octopus?
If you want a break from the ugliness of the world right now, this is a great movie to watch.
Here it comes – the biggest shopping day of the year in the USA – Black Friday. It’s the kick-off to the consumeristic feeding frenzy that Christmas has become, the holiday that fuels our economy. Humble Thanksgiving seems to have become almost an impediment to the shopping hounds. Some stores are even open on the day for bargain hunters to get a head start.
Few realize that the holiday shopping season contributes further to environmental degradation. Think about it…every gift and its wrapping is made up of materials extracted from the Earth. This would include plastic (oil), paper (trees), and metal (minerals). Then there are all the fossil fuels used to transport the raw materials to the appropriate factories, to their retail outlets, and then to their final destinations. Air and water quality are also affected by their production. For a 20 minute educational (& entertaining) video on the topic, watch The Story of Stuff. I used to show this film to my 6th-grade science students. It really gave them pause.
I’m not suggesting you trash all the Christmas fun but maybe its time to put a little more mindfulness in your holiday giving. Do people really need or even want all this stuff? Do we really need to upgrade to the latest device? Are their other ways to give without destroying the planet? Maybe a family discussion is due on the topic.
Here are a few tips for a more sustainable Christmas…
Challenge your family unit to find at least one awesome gift at a thrift shop (try to look for one that’s charitable) or an antique shop. You would be surprised at what you can find.
Think before you buy. Does this person really need/ want this?
Give photographs/memories in frames rather than purchasing uneeded stuff. Have your children write you a fond family memory rather than purchasing you a gift.
Handmake some gifts. My friends & I have a crafting party every holiday season. There are easy DIY gifts on Pinterest. Think you don’t have enough time? You’re too busy! Shut off your phone and turn off the TV and have some real fun.
Give the gift of experiences such as theater tickets.
Have your family unit sponsor a child through such organizations like World Vision or give the gift of livestock to a third world family through such organizations like Heifer Project.
Usually I don’t read the monthly National Resources Defense Council newsletter “The Voice.” You know..the too busy thing, don’t want to be depressed. This time I read it and was shocked by their feature-length article “From Trees to toilet Paper: Canada’s Great Boreal Forest is Being Wiped Out.” Pardon me, I never thought I’d be blogging about toilet paper but this information I felt should be shared.
The gist of the article is that to fuel all our wiping and sneezing needs, the major suppliers of toilet paper, paper towels, and facial tissue suppliers are purchasing ALL their content from virgin timber in the from the N. Boreal forests of Canada, the “lungs of N. America” Essentially they are wiping out a major ecosystem and contributing to climate change rather than investing in recycled content or alternatives such as bamboo and wheat straw. About a million acres are logged a year for tissue and other disposable products. Proctor & Gamble, Kimberly –Clark & Georgia Pacific thus far use ZERO recycled content. Costco gets their tissue from the main suppliers.
This is one thing we can do to help climate change and the planet- change your toilettissuebrand and make your voice be heard. Yes, it is more expensive to buy 7th Generation or equivalent tissue, but investing in Mother Earth is worth it. I think if all the products we used had labels listed their carbon footprints, we would all be more conscious consumers.
To read the full feature-length report online including a more detailed buying guide than the one below go here. Contact COSTCO at Costco.com.To make your voice heard to Procter and Gamble (1 minute of your time) go here.
Here’s a copy of my letter to Costco you can use:
Recently I became aware that your Kirkland brand toilet tissue and paper towels received an F grade in sustainability. Kirkland facial tissues received a D. The production of your tissue products as with all major manufacturers is having devastating effects on the Northern Boreal Forest. I am switching to brands that are made mostly of recycled content. As a major supplier of tissue, you have an obligation to be more environmentally conscious, set an example, and give consumers the option to buy sustainable products. I am sharing this information with friends, acquaintances. Please read more about the devastation that toilet paper production is having at nrdc.org/tissues.