Go Play Outside; It’s Free. 

By Neva Knott

When the recession hit in 2010, earlier even, for some, I thought to myself, this economic upheaval will bring people around. I thought our culture might come back to some core American values–neighborliness, thrift, value, home-made, waste-not-want-not. Can you tell I was raised by a father and grandparents who lived through the Great Depression?

I honestly thought the recession might bring America back to valuing people and places and interactive experiences over things.

Richard Telford wrote in his post, Lessons from My Father, earlier this week:

While my father’s early childhood years were lean ones—one meat meal per week, an adult border sleeping on a second bed jammed into his bedroom to supplement the family’s meager income, abrupt departures from one rented space to another in the worst times—my father often spoke of them as carefree days.

As I read Rich’s words, I was thought of using nature as an alternative to money-stuff. With the recession came money problems anew for many Americans, yet overspending is a cultural norm. I realize I rant often about rampant consumerism as an act of environmental degradation, but what I thought about in response to Rich is deeper, expansive, even.

I began to think of my own carefree days. My family lived on the shore of a lake when I was very young. In the evenings, we would climb into a small wooden row boat and my dad would row us around the lake at sunset. I learned of lily pads and lake weed and bull frog song. I felt the air cool and the lake water droplets on my skin. I was content and I imagine were my parents. I learned to fish off our little dock there. Every weekend, we’d camp, making our way around Washington state.

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The author with her first catch.

When I was 12 and 13, I often babysat my cousin. There was a swamp in a small wood near our house. I’d take him there to “hunt alligators.” This was also the time of growing up when my sister and our neighborhood friends would stay out until just past dusk, playing badminton in the cul-de-sac. When we were bored, we were told to go find something to do. Translation: ride your bike, pull weeds, go outside and quit bothering your mother.

How much did my bike and a few badminton birdies cost in comparison to the digital pastimes children have today?

These memories are easy to find if you grew up in the 60s or 70s, and the Facebook memes float around to remind us. These were, as Rich quotes his father, “carefree days.”

Another blogger I admire, one who has made guest appearances here on The EE, Aleah Sato, wrote today on her blog, Jane Crow Journal:

When I was a girl, my family was too poor to own anything, but the countryside itself was ours, a place of unbridled adventure—

Experiencing nature feeds the soul and clears the mind. It makes us healthy. And, it can ease some of the economic burden of today’s prescribed lifestyle. None of us has to buy in… each of us can choose to step outside the economic frenzy of the mainstream American lifestyle by literally stepping outside.

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Hope for Mitigation of Ocean Acidification

By Neva Knott

I teach at a small college in Washington, Centralia College. Even though we only have 2,600 students, the college has a strong STEM focus. As an extension of the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math programs, the college hosts speakers for the Rising Tide Seminar Series. The speaker for the January 2015 seminar was Dr. Christopher Sabine, Oceanographer and the Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory of NOAA. He opened his presentation at Centralia College with the message that climate change is undeniable and serious, but it’s not too late.

Dr. Sabine gave the following five take-home points:

1. The profound impact of humans on the earth’s climate is “unmistakable at this point”

2. Carbon dioxide released into the climate has fundamentally changed the chemistry of oceans

3. The current amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will impact climate for thousands, if not 10’s of thousands, of years

4. Even though the rate of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has been higher in the past, the rate of increase is 10-100 times faster than ever before in the geological past; this rapid rate of increase has a real, negative impact on adaptation–the ability of species, including humans, to change enough to exist in the changed biotic system

5. That there is a way out

Dr. Sabine’s presentation was largely based on the International Panel of Climate Change Fifth Assessment Report (2013), on which he consulted. The latest findings are that the evidence substantiates a better than 95 percent likelihood of human influence as the driver of climate change. In referencing the work of IPCC, Sabine explained that there are “multiple lines of evidence” to support the unequivocal warming of the earth’s climate system, evidence that he suggested climate deniers can no longer avoid. These lines of evidence are: increasing air temperature; increasing atmospheric water vapor; increasing temperature over oceans; increasing sea temperature; increasing sea level; increasing ocean heat; decreasing sea ice.

The statistics behind these factors are staggering and somewhat unfathomable. Dr. Sabine explained that, as the climate has warmed in the last 40 years, 275 zeda jewels of additional solar energy have accumulated in the earth’s system. To illustrate–one zeda jewel is enough energy for the needs of the entire human population for two years. About seven percent of this accumulated energy is stored terrestrially, on land, in plants and soils. The rest is going into the oceans.

Carbon emissions into the atmosphere are measured in parts per million (ppm). Pre-industrial revolution the atmosphere measured 228 ppm of carbon dioxide, whereas today the measurement is 400 ppm or more.

Dr. Sabine illustrated the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide with another measurement, the petagram. The current rate of release is right around 10 petagrams per year. The image Sabine offered in order for the audience to wrap our minds around this huge number was this: a 156,500 mile-long hopper car of coal would release one petagram. Thus, the current 10 petagrams would equal that hopper car of coal circling 70 times around the earth at the equator. To further illustrate, Sabine explained that the annual rate of 28,000 square miles of deforestation equals one petagram of carbon dioxide emission.

The culminating effect of the increase in carbon dioxide in the oceans is that the oceanic carbon cycle has been reversed. Pre-industrial revolution and climate change, oceans were a carbon source. Through their natural processes, they released carbon into the atmosphere that was, in turn, taken up by leaves, which then degraded into the soil system, where the carbon was stored. Now, oceans are a carbon sink. This increase is the cause of ocean acidification–because carbon dioxide is an acid gas. Dr. Sabine stated that pH balance is “very important for ocean ecosystems.”

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Corals of The Great Barrier Reef. Courtesy of wiki commons.

Acidification makes it difficult for organisms to form shells, using reefs to weaken and bleach. In the arctic, shells are dissolving off snails. The Great Barrier Reef has lost 50 percent of its coral over the last three decades. Not only is ocean acidification problematic to marine species, one billion people globally rely on the oceans as a food source, some for 100 percent of their dietary protein.

NOAA has several programs to help coastal communities mitigate the effects of climate change. One of the organization’s goals is to create a “climate literate” public. In addition to these public support programs, NOAA offers a Climate Stewards Education Project. NOAA’s efforts are also linked with President Obama’s Climate Action Plan. The solution to ocean acidification is at once simple and enormous–humans must decrease carbon emissions. The time is now.

Let’s Use the 12th Man Mania for the Greater Good

By Neva Knott

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Seattle Seahawks logo, courtesy of Wiki commons.

I live in Olympia, Washington, just a hour south of Seahawk central. Every Friday across this region is some sort of fan celebration day–bank tellers, coworkers, grocery checkers, people on the street are regaled in blue and green–jerseys, cupcakes, gee-haws. In my research for this piece, I’ve been unable to find exact statistics on fan expenditure, but I did find that Forbes magazine tallied the annual expenditure of tailgating at $10 to $20 billion per year across the nation. Fan spending is big business, so much so that KING 5 News ran a clip the day before the Superbowl entitled, “Fans Pack Apparel Stores to Buy New Seahawks Shirts.” Another piece by Forbes gives the average of $33 per fan spending at a Seahawks home game. In addition to these team-rah-rah related expenditures, each fan–each 12th man–spends, in my observation, a day or more per week supporting the team.

This year was the Seahawks’ second in a row as a Superbowl contender. The money that flows because of this event is astounding. US News reports an estimate of $14.31 billion in consumer spending for the Superbowl. Let’s say half of that was by Seahawks fans–$7.15 billion. Forbes reports that $360 million comes from TV revenue, tickets cost $500- $1900 for a total of $6.3 million in sales, and the top player, Russell Okung, makes $8,760,000 a year, while Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll pulls in $8 million. If these ticket prices seem extreme, get this–US News reported that, three days before the game the last few tickets available from the NFL sold for $10,000 plus.

Football fever clearly opens the wallets of many. I wonder, how can the time and money spent on Seahawks fandom be put to use in the off-season? What if, just imagine what if, the seven billion dollars Seahawks fans spent last Sunday, or on a smaller scale the $33 per person per stadium attended game, were spent on community service? Stewardship of the environment?

I did imagine, and I researched some numbers. Here’s what I found:

Washington State Parks will operate on $107 million dollars during the 2013-2015 biennium, a decrease from the pre-recession budget of $134.4 million for the 2007-2009 budget cycle

According to the Office of Financial Management:

  • The total budget for the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission for the 2013-2015 biennium is $132,415
  • The total budget for the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Funding Board for the same budget cycle is $10,174
  • …for the Puget Sound Partnership, $19,005
  • …for the Department of Natural Resources, $432,780

According to the National Park Service, the Olympic National Park’s budget for 2014 was set at $12.9 million, but was cut by $640,000 due to “five percent sequestration.”

Looking at a broader context:

The Nature Conservancy’s total annual budget (including programs outside of Washington state) for cost of programs for 2014 was $401,429

Surfrider Foundation ran all of its programs in 2013 on $5,731,720

While reading about Surfrider’s programs, I learned that President Obama has proposed, for the 2015 fiscal year, zero funding for the EPA BEACH Act grant program.

These statistics elucidate the sharp contrast between sports money and environmental funding and philanthropy. For example, the Olympic National Park budget is $4 million less that the combined salaries of the Seahawks’ top-paid player, Okung, and his coach, Pete Carroll. Money follows values; what I am proposing is a shift in off-season values and expenditures, from entertainment and participation in the collective consciousness of the fan base to civic duty and participation in promoting sustainability, whether it be environmental or social. Don’t care about plastics in the ocean? Never use state or national parks here in Washington? Fine; shift your jersey dollars and time to a soup kitchen, to a reading program at your local library, to volunteering at the zoo.

Budget deficits at the government level are part of the post-recession economy. Just as Seahawks fans pay for their own blue and green cupcakes, game tickets, woot-woot noise-makers and team shirts, we as citizens and park visitors, beach goers, need to pick up the tab, both in terms of money and time, to keep our common spaces functioning and to sustain social safety-net programs.

Next Sunday, what will you do, with no game on the screen?

Cloudscapes

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If you’ve never stared off into the distance then your life is a shame…                                                Counting Crows, Mrs. Potter’s Lullaby

By Neva Knott

Redmond. This Central Oregon town hasn’t changed much since its founding a hundred years ago. It is a typical Oregon small town in the organizational sense; there is a one-way leading in, through, and out of town to the south and there is a one-way leading in, through, and out of town to the north. There is an intersection with a highway to the west and one with a highway to the east.

I came to Redmond from Oregon’s big city, Portland, from the north. I came over snow-capped Mt. Hood, then across the dusty, sand-orange colored Warm Springs Indian reservation, dropping down into the Deschutes river canyon with the shimmering black-blue of the water, and ascending back up to the sage-covered plateau. After driving a long stretch across the res, I dropped back down and into the green agricultural town of Madras, a place that holds the scent of the garlic grown there. Continuing on, I passed the Smith Rock formation to the left, cross the Crooked River canyon, passed a red cinder rock butte on the right, and will then was welcomed to Redmond by a bronzed statue of a cowboy riding a horse.

The High Cascade Range of volcanoes creates a boundary between Central and Western Oregon. The Redmond side of the Cascades sits in a rain shadow which causes this drastic and immediate change from the Portland side thick and dense Douglas fir forest with its rhododendron, salal, Oregon grape, huckleberry, maple understory to a less dense mix of Ponderosa pine forest, Juniper trees, sage, and rabbit brush. Redmond sits upon an expansive landscape, the High Lava Plains, across which one can see for miles, taking in buttes and mountains.

This is a farm town. The Deschutes County Fair is here, ranching is the industry, and Big R is the place to shop. People here love the land, the hunting life, and outdoor sportsmanship.

I didn’t intend to relocate to Redmond. Nor did I intend to leave.

In Portland, I worked at the high-pressure college prep Lincoln High School. Due to constant budget cuts, lack of a district superintendent, and weak leadership from our principal, the general vibe of the school was increasingly dysfunctional. Professionalism was eroded. My colleagues were a group of stressed, strident, self-serving skitterers. The stress was eroding my love of teaching. I also had a personal reason for escaping both Lincoln and Portland. My partner, Adam, had died in a car crash two years prior.

After the accident, the Lincoln community and the structure of work provided me much support. But after a couple of years, I was tired of people looking at me with the unasked question, “Are you all right yet?” I gave my notice, intending to return to Maui to bartend for a year and sit on the beach, work on my photography and write, sort out myself.

I gave my notice on June 1, 2007. As I sat at graduation a few days later, I looked down the row of teachers, their slumped postures, wound tight faces, and bad hair dye jobs and thought, thank god I’m getting out of here.

I let go my Portland apartment, spent a week couch-surfing and saying my goodbyes, and then—I panicked. I’d fucked up my life. As much as I’m a traveller, adventurer, and espouse big dreams, I also value professional security. I grew up in a hard-working, work-a-day blue-collar family in which the job is a prime directive. I wasn’t trying to quit teaching with my leave-taking from Lincoln. I was burnt out, traumatized, and grieving, and I knew I needed a break to regain sense of self after my loss. Now what?

In desperation, I began applying for teaching jobs.

Redmond School District had an opening for an English teacher at the new International School of the Cascades. The description read as if it were tailored to my resume. Though I left Lincoln seeking a break, this was the type of position I hoped to find when I reinvigorated my career. At the ISC I encountered a friendly, smart, fit and worldly group of professionals and really nice, motivated students. I bought a sweet little ranch style house on the edge of town, near a llama field and the Baptist church.

On the High Desert, I encountered an expansive landscape. Open. Clean. Qualities I was seeking in my life and in myself. As I struggled to re-establish the outward aspects of my life, my internal landscape became closed, obscured, and small. I felt lonely in a way I don’t think I’ve ever been before. I photographed nothing. I wrote not a word. I didn’t make friends. That type of inertia is not me. As much as there is a line between the Portland side and Central Oregon, there seemed to be an imaginary boundary to what I set out to accomplish.

Some sort of tenacity kept me there.

Redmond is the type of place where, on a cold winter’s morning, before first light, a group of tough construction workers sits in Starbucks, conducting a Bible study. It’s a place where the coffee stand man knows your name and greets you every morning when you drive through on your way to work. Where people stop, smile, and wave as they let you cross the street. Where it’s effortless to buy local because every business is owned by someone born and raised here. The grocery checkers are always the same and chit-chat with you in a way that makes you feel you’ve participated in community.

The culture of Central Oregon is built around playing outside. Mt. Bachelor is a ski destination, the Chain Breaker is an annual cyclo-cross race that draws the state’s best riders, the Metolius and the Deschutes rivers provide some of the best fishing in Oregon, and Smith Rock is a world-famous climbing spot. I’m not an extreme athlete as are many I met there, but I hike with my dog. After work I’d choose a trail along one of the rivers or drive to the Ponderosa forest just outside of town. Within twenty minutes, I could be in wilderness, which is where I spent my weekends and school breaks. On one summer trip, out to the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, I drove home after sunset with all the windows down. It took four hours to traverse the various ecosystems. I discerned changes in the landscape by scent and temperature; it was a tactile connection made between me and the Oregon I was travelling across in the night air.

I shaped my life there around the landscape. In the process, I found all of the attributes of the outdoors lifestyle I sought on Maui, and I found more—a sense of being grounded, rooted, part of a bigger place than just that which I inhabited. I felt bigger than work and chores and adult-life obligations. I felt bigger than what I’d lost.

Somehow, inexplicably, I needed the lack of familiarity I experienced in Redmond so that I could push myself forward into the shape I wanted for my life. Was I still the take-life-by-the-horns, make-it-what-you-want-it-to-be bad ass I fancied myself to be?

Then came the recession. In spring of 2009, twenty per cent of the teachers in the school district, myself included, were laid off. We were told not to expect to be called back to work in the fall. I’d gone to Redmond with just over ten years of experience; sadly, in Oregon one does not retain one’s seniority or years of service when one changes districts. I found myself at the bottom of the pile.

The bell rang and my students poured out of my classroom, on their ways to another. I took a quick break myself. In fact, I pulled myself up short with a life-changing realization while in the faculty bathroom, all in the few precious moments of passing time. As I washed my hands, I looked at myself in the mirror and realized I was going to work another 20 years. I was 47, and we’d all been given our lay-off notices that day. We knew they were coming—Central Oregon was reportedly the fourth hardest hit place in the nation in the “economic downturn” as this new devastating recession was being called. There had been talk of nothing else at lunch, for weeks. I think by the time the actual day came, some of us—I know I did—felt sorrow for our supervisor who had the horrible job of actually handing out the individual notices.

So that’s how I found myself washing my hands and talking into the mirror, making a big life decision in the four minutes of passing time. I told my reflection, “You’re going to work another 20 years, you know. And your whole career in teaching has been budget cuts, budget cuts, budget cuts. You have no seniority here—this will only get worse. Just try something different. You can do anything you want.”

So I did. I applied to a graduate program in Environmental Studies. I love the out-of-doors, nature. I had an idea of becoming a sustainability consultant, and of using writing and photography to help people understand how and why to live sustainably.

The following June, I returned to Redmond to participate in the graduation of the last class of the International School of the Cascades, the new school that held my dream job just three years earlier. The program had been cut in the budget shortfall. I wore the black robe and the mantle of my alma mater that signals my stature as an academic. I sat in the front row with my former colleagues, all of whom I respect and admire. I felt sadness and shame and failure about my professional experience there, and a longing for a life that I know I won’t have in this place of grandeur. I drove over Mt. Hood, across the reservation, through Madras. As I drove along the plateau, I looked at the sky. At once, across the High Desert, it was a dark and ominous grey, crossed by a swathe of blue-white. A mile off in the distance, a bright spot of sun shone through and illuminated the grey above me as it pulled the blue out from behind a pink-tinted puff of cloud. The sky’s colors and luminescence elucidated for me the meaning of my time in Redmond. As I looked into the distance, I knew that it was the landscape that allowed for my time of cleansing and expansion.

Of Yoga and Trees

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Rubber tree tapping. Photograph courtesy of wiki commons.

By Neva Knott

This weekend I started a yoga intensive program–not a teacher training, but a 100-hour series on deepening my personal practice. For the intensive, I bought a Jade yoga mat. It was a purchase that took very little consideration, because Jade mats are environmentally sustainable, made in America, and degradable. Also, for each mat purchased, Jade plants a tree through Trees for the Future. All of the things I care about in one purchase: yoga, environmental care and social justice in production, and global promotion of good work, also environmentally sustainable and focused on social justice, with the profits.

Jade mats are made from natural rubber that is, “tapped, like maple syrup, from a tree.” The tree continues to grow and produce, making it a renewable resource, and the tapping a sustainable extraction of a natural resource. Because Jade mats are made rubber, they will degrade when worn. This is a sharp contrast to regular yoga mats, most of which are made from plastics, which don’t degrade. And, in my research, I’ve found few recycling programs for used yoga mats. My Jade made will live out its existence in the cycle of life–it came from nature and will return there.

When trees are left standing and used in a sustainable way, like having the rubber or maple syrup tapped out of them, they remain able to perform ecosystem services. Ecosystem services include provision of habitat, stormwater control, and carbon sequestration.

Not only are Jade mats made of such eco-friendly material that comes from a sustainable natural resource, the mats are made in America, which ensures that they are produced, “in compliance with all US environmental, labor, and consumer safety laws.” This is an encouraging contrast to yoga mats that are produced in China, a country without these same important protections.

The Jade Yoga company promotes several environmental and social causes. The cause specific to the purchase of a mat is tree-planting in Africa, Asia, or Latin America, global regions that have suffered such extreme resource extraction that ecosystem services provided by trees no longer function. In many of these places, there are no trees left.

Jade Yoga partners with Trees for the Future. Jade is a Leucaena-level Partner–this designation translates to donation of 500,000-999,999 trees, a value of $50,000-$99,999. Interestingly, actual Leucaena trees, according to the UN Food and Agricultural Organization, are the most widely used forage trees and “can provide firewood, timber, human food, green manure, shade and erosion control.”

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Leucaena tree. Photograph courtesy of wiki commons.

Trees for the Future offers this explanation of their organization:

In the early 1970s, Dave and Grace Deppner served as volunteers in the Philippines, where they witnessed the human tragedy brought on by illegal logging and unsustainable land management systems. Working with community leaders in nearby villages, the Deppners found a way to offer hope. They revitalized degraded lands by providing farmers with tree seed, technical training, and on-site planning assistance. People responded enthusiastically,  joining in to save their homes and way of life.

After returning from their overseas assignments they continued what they had started, communicating by mail with rural community leaders, providing information, seeds, and training materials. Over the years TREES has assisted thousands of communities in planting millions of trees in 19 countries including Ghana, which have restored life to land that was previously degraded or abandoned.

According to the organization’s website, Trees for the Future has developed the following programs:

  • Africa: We have helped plant trees in an incredible range of environments from coastal areas to mountains, restoring soil that had been unproductive for decades or even hundreds of years.
  • Asia: On the islands of the Pacific, the combination of high tides and heavy rains brings great danger to the people of the coastal plains. We are working with local groups in Indonesia and the Philippines to restore tree cover to upland areas, so the land can absorb more water during storms and reduce the likelihood of flooding and mudslides. Other projects in India aim to restore trees to both drought-stricken and flood-ridden sections.
  • Latin America: We are planting trees in Haiti, Brazil, Honduras, and Nicaragua. In 2011, Trees for the Future’s Haiti Program delivered three critical services – tree planting, agroforestry training, and technical assistance – to local farmers in three regions of the country: the Arcadine Coast, Chaine des Chaos, and Gonaives. In Honduras, Trees for the Future planted more than a million trees in conjunction with one of our local partners.

Beyond the immediate provision of ecosystem services and regeneration of renewable resources for human use, these programs are the type of efforts that will assuage global climate change.

Here’s a thought: what if every product you bought came with these types of benefits?

Here’s another thought: what if all the money spent on football fan-ship came with these types of benefits?

There are two ways of production of consumer goods–one that pillages, and one that sustains. My goal is to make more of my purchases the latter.

My yoga teacher asked, during the first class after the New Year, what can you let go of to be more whole? In that moment, I set an intention to let go of simple convenience in favor of finding more companies like Jade Yoga, and to let go of my general daily busy-ness so that I can participate in programs like Trees for the Future.

The Local Yolk–Beer, Backyard Chickens, and the Business of Building a Sustainable Food System

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By Neva Knott

When the environmental movement began in the 1970s, the focus was on protecting and honoring nature instead of depleting it for human consumption. While this same protection of nature is still at the core of environmental advocacy, a new environmental perspective has emerged recent years, a more personal movement–that of food sourcing.

I’ve heard that the easiest way to go green is to green your food source. It’s certainly the most immediate and possibly the most effective.

To eat within your foodshed, to eat the 100-mile-meal, to know your farmer are practices that benefit your health and promote a green triple bottom line–people, the planet, and profits. In graduate school at Green Mountain College, I learned that most food on the American table travels 2,000 miles before eaten, a shocking and disheartening statistic. John Emrich’s new book, The Local Yolk–Beer, Backyard Chickens and the Business of Building a Sustainable Food System, tells stories of the “good food movement,” the alternative to commercial, bland, environmentally exploitive, well-traveled food.

All writers here at The Ecotone Exchange hold Master’s of Science degrees in Environmental Studies from Green Mountain College. John is no exception–he was one of our cohort there. Previously an investment banker, he now runs Backyard Chicken Run, an urban chicken supply business in Chicago, and gathers stories of other entrepreneurs looking join the local food movement. Though I haven’t yet convinced John to join our team at the EE, I did get his permission to share a segment of his book here.

When I first read The Local Yolk, my heart was warmed by the case studies John had collected, putting faces to the ideal of greening your food source. What most impressed and enthused me, though, was John’s explanations of how to make growing and sourcing good food–sustainable agriculture–a profitable venture. Profitability is story not yet told in, and one that is often easily lost in the check-out line when buying organic, local food. With John’s permission, I give you an excerpt from Chapter 17, Tao Theory: Zen and the Art of Investing in Sustainable Food…

“In my prior life, I had owned shares in one of the publicly traded fertilizer companies, so I understood the “bullish case” for fertilizer from the perspective of the chemical companies: a billion or so people in Asia were moving to the middle class and would switch from a rice diet to a protein diet (i.e., a diet with more meat), generating rising demand for the grains to feed livestock and therefore the inputs of chemical agriculture that made monoculture grain-growing viable on a massive scale. At the time I met with the fertilizer manufacturer, the company was forecasting that the United States would become an exporter of corn to China the following year. The future was bright.

“As I tried to put a value on the organic farm, the light bulb went on. The chemical companies’ gain was the farmers’ pain. The chemical inputs of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium were all either directly or indirectly tied to natural resources that would become increasingly scarce and expensive over time, but farmers had to have them to succeed in conventional agriculture. Moreover, industrial farmers buy seed from a monopoly. The two things that an industrial farmer or farm investor could say for sure were that they had no control over their costs, and their costs were going higher. Farm subsidies are often criticized for being a gift to larger corporate farms. They would be more accurately described as a subsidy to the chemical companies and industrial buyers of grain (food processors). The conventional farmer, big or small, is getting little more than his costs reimbursed over a lifetime of work.

“The sustainable farmer doesn’t have the same exposure to cost pressure. After the sun itself, manure is the ultimate renewable resource, replacing the increasingly costly fertilizers. Yet, because I believed in the secular trend towards organic food, the sustainable farmer would continue to benefit from rising market prices for organic crops (for example, organic grains) over time. I was concluding that sustainable farming was a good business investment.”

John writes on to explain the mechanics of Impact Investing and Micro-Lending, and how these strategies can promote the good food movement while providing economic opportunity and promoting environmentally sound agriculture.

The Local Yolk is a smart blend of case stories, anecdotes, background knowledge, and research. You can follow The Local Yolk and Back Yard Chicken Run on Facebook and can learn more about the book at www.thelocalyolkbook.com.

Hope? or another version of Maggie’s Farm?

I ain’t gonna work for Maggie’s pa no more
No, I ain’t gonna work for Maggie’s pa no more
Well, he puts his cigar
Out in your face just for kicks
His bedroom window
It is made out of bricks
The National Guard stands around his door
Ah, I ain’t gonna work for Maggie’s pa no more

I ain’t gonna work for Maggie’s ma no more
No, I ain’t gonna work for Maggie’s ma no more
Well, she talks to all the servants
About man and God and law
Everybody says
She’s the brains behind pa
She’s sixty-eight, but she says she’s twenty-four
I ain’t gonna work for Maggie’s ma no more

Read more: http://www.bobdylan.com/us/songs/maggies-farm#ixzz3LaxZnyrX

By Neva Knott

I founded this blog because I was frustrated by the the doom and gloom environmental messages. Doom and Gloom is even a thing in the environmental world…a thing I wanted to push against, contradict. I wanted to give voice to what is working to save the natural world from human destruction. I wanted to tell stories and publish stories of other writers that might help humans reconnect to nature and inspire them (us), all of us, not just those labeled environmentalists or tree-huggers, to live within the circle of life. I founded this blog to blow a hole in the stereotype of the aggressive and angry environmentalist.

Right now, and I don’t quite know how to define right now–is it the Christmas dash-and-grab? Is it the political fray over fracking and Keystone XL and Obama’s special climate deal with China? Anyway, right now, I am losing my positive mojo.

I have absolutely had it with America’s resource-depleting greed. I have absolutely had it with the climate deniers, whom we are now depicting as suited ostriches with their heads in the sand and asses high. I have absolutely had it with the irresponsibility and lack of common sense that drives the rhetoric, that insists we can continue the getting and the having and continue to exist. I am absolutely done with people like the woman at Target a few days ago.

The county I live in, Thurston County in Washington State, instituted a plastic bag ban in July. A huge positive, built on clear vision and common sense. It passed easily and quickly became habit for the masses (after the first month’s grumbling). This legislation is an example of how easily prudent change can happen, and stands in sharp contrast to the posturing and idiotic mumbo-jumbo going on about climate change and fracking and the need for “fast” consumer goods.

Anyway, this woman had a cart full of over-packaged plastic crap, what’s now called “fast” goods. Christmas gifts. She was demanding something-something because the store didn’t have the exact Frozen piece of crap she wanted. Then she began berating the cashier because Target “should bring back those big plastic bags, at least for the holidays.”

Her cart and her words are the symbol of all that is wrong. Until people stop holding onto that cart as reality, as an option, as a right, we are doomed.

That cart is filled through repetition of an unsustainable, poisoning circle. Each one of those plastic crap toys is made from toxic materials and by a process that pollutes the air and water and poisons the worker making it. Each piece is wrapped in petro-chemical based plastic that will not biodegrade for hundreds of years, if at all. Each pretty little Frozen doll was shipped from China. All of the energy it took to make plastic Elsa or plastic whomever is called embedded energy–the energy that goes into sourcing and manufacturing and transporting the finished good. Not only do products like these have a high embedded energy (which is bad), they very quickly go into the waste stream. So this circle is not the circle of life; it is the circle of needless resource depletion and waste, the circle that is poisoning our world. And for what?

Producing and consuming plastic crap is the modern-day job on Maggie’s Farm. The workers never get ahead, Maggie–or Elsa–is pretty and alluring, Pa is the fat-cat profiteer climate ostrich, and Ma, well, Ma is the voice of American consumerism, telling us all that our children deserve cheap plastic crap for Christmas.

So, where’s the positive story of the environment in all of this? There isn’t one on Maggie’s Farm.

But there is the beach on which I spent Black Friday, watching my two cousins marvel over whale bones we found buried in the sand.

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There is Eld Inlet full of Mallard ducks this past foggy Sunday morning. There is the eagle I watched fly over a tree farm last Saturday.

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One recent morning, while walking my dogs, I looked up and watched a gull fly.  The air was warm for December and a bit damp. It was quiet and peaceful, and I watched the gull, circling, within the patterns of the world around him, and I thought, that’s how we should be living. That is the circle of life.

Hope? Still not feeling it, but that gull is far from Maggie’s Farm.