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iNaturalist: Preparing for the Bioblitz

May 16th, 2016 | Posted by in Naturalist Notes

Are your candles ready? Because this summer the National Park Service turns 100! Instead of getting America’s best idea a birthday cake or a gift card, they want only one thing for this special occasion: to get all citizens involved with America’s outdoors. One of the easiest ways to get involved is through their BioBlitz:

A BioBlitz is a 24-hour event in which teams of volunteer scientists, families, students, teachers, and other community members work together to find and identify as many species of plants, animals, microbes, fungi, and other organisms as possible. In 2016, BioBlitz goes national. The cornerstone National Parks BioBlitz: Washington, D.C. will take place May 20-21, with more than a hundred concurrent BioBlitzes happening at national parks across the county. -National Park Service

One of those concurrent BioBlitzes is happening in the North Cascades National Park. We at the North Cascades Institute can’t wait to participate this weekend in the events happening all over the region. On the checklist of preparation are just two things:

  • Sign up to join a BioBlitz species inventory (including but not limited to lichens, fungi, mosses, beetles and squirrels)
  • Download the free iNaturalist app and join the North Cascades National Park 2016 BioBlitz project

When I downloaded the app and explored my own backyard, I was not only preparing for the BioBlitz but also learning something about the place that I have been living at since December.

» Continue reading iNaturalist: Preparing for the Bioblitz

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Cascadian Farm: It all started in the Skagit!

May 10th, 2016 | Posted by in Field Excursions

While shopping around your local grocery store, you might have seen projects in the organic section with the brand title “Cascaidan Farm Organic: Founded in the Skagit Valley, WA since 1972.” The products can be found in stores nation wide. Last week, however, I took a bicycling adventure to the Roadside Stand of the farm. It serves not only as a great place to get snacks on a long road trip, but also serves as an environmental education tool in the valley.

I’ll let them tell their founding story:

The story of Cascadian Farm begins with the story of our founder, Gene Kahn. 40 years ago, Gene was an idealistic 24-year old grad-school dropout from Chicago, who just wanted to make a difference in the world. He recognized the delicate balance between nature and humans. Inspired by reading “Silent Spring” and “Diet For A Small Planet”, Gene wanted to go back to the land and farm in a way that would not harm the natural beauty of the earth or her inhabitants. So he set out to farm organically on a little stretch of land next to the Skagit River in the Cascade Mountains of Washington. –Cascadian Farm

That farm grew and grew over the years into the powerhouse it is today. You can take a virtual tour of their whole farm to see how they work in and with the landscape.

My little excursion started last Saturday in the bright, sunny afternoon. Biking about eight miles from the Blue House Farm, I reminisced on my first experience with stand; last summer within the first few weeks of my graduate residency. Since it is closed during the winter months, I peddled with great anticipation to experience Cascadian Farm again.

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Blue Berries not quite ready to be picked.

» Continue reading Cascadian Farm: It all started in the Skagit!

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Prince…the green philanthropist?

April 30th, 2016 | Posted by in Odds & Ends

As music lovers the world over mourn the passing of Prince ~ the legendary singer, songwriter, musician (he played every single instrument on several of his albums and was a guitarist extraorindaire), movie star and fashion icon who impacted American culture for close to four decades ~ another side of the Minneapolis son is emerging after his untimely death: philanthropist.

Van Jones — the activist, author, former Obama administration official, and current CNN commentator — revealed that Prince had secretly funded causes from public radio to Black Lives Matter to the Harlem Children’s Zone. He also conceived of #YesWeCode, an initiative to train black kids for work in tech. And he supported Green For All, a group working to fight climate change and bring green jobs to underprivileged populations.

 

“I was an Oakland activist giving speeches about the need for green jobs,” Jones told me over the phone, recalling how he first came into contact with the musician 10 years ago. “Prince heard me in the media and sent a $50,000 check to support the work I was doing. But he did all his giving completely anonymously, so I sent the check back. You never know when someone is trying to set you up — it could have been from Chevron or from a drug dealer or whatever. So then he sent the check back and I sent it back again, and then he sent it back and then I sent it back, until finally a representative called and said, ‘Will you please accept this check? I won’t tell you who it is from, but the guy’s favorite color is purple.’ I said, ‘Well, now you have a different problem: I’m not gonna cash this check, I’m gonna frame it.’”

 

Soon after, Prince reached out to Jones, and the two became friends — a friendship that would last until his death. Jones’ role in Prince’s life was, he says, as “his lead guitarist for social impact, for lack of a better term.” Jones helped distribute Prince’s resources when he didn’t want the attention, including providing solar panels for families in Oakland. The families never knew who their benefactor was.

— Grist.org

Prince was immensely charitable — giving away lots of money anonymously. As a Jehovah’s Witness, he was not allowed to boast about his donations. But he helped causes as diverse as public radio, Green For All, the Harlem’s Children’s Zone and Black Lives Matter. More importantly, he made lots of calls behind the scenes to get people to act on causes that needed attention. He would see something in the news, and start calling people — “We need to do something about this.” He was kind of like the 911 of the celebrity class.

 

Jones says that what Prince really cared about was humanity. “He cared about life and love and freedom,” Jones says. “He had a mind that let him see answers — musically, spiritually, even politically. Rather than argue about global warming, he said, ‘Let’s help kids put up solar panels.’”

— CNN

The artist had become interested in Van Jones’ Green Jobs initiative when he saw news reports about young people of color putting up solar panels in Oakland and wanted to help. “He liked the fact that I was bringing it to the hood. He just thought it was an amazing way to create jobs. He was always about economic independence.”

 

It wasn’t easy to define Prince’s politics. He was very concerned about poor people and black people, but he also believed in economic empowerment and uplift. “He wasn’t red, and he wasn’t blue,” Jones says. “He was purple. With one sentence, you would think he was Republican, because he’d be talking about the economy, and with the next, you’d think he’s a liberal Democrat, because he was talking about the need to fight racism. It was a flow of insights and inspiration. At the end of the day, it was purple politically.

 

“His cause is humanity,” Van Jones says. “He cares a lot about people. Nobody went to a Prince concert and said, ‘I don’t belong here. I’m not black. I’m not white. I’m not cool. I’m not straight. I’m not whatever.’ His cause was empowering and uplifting people. That didn’t stop when he walked off the stage or out of the studio. It was a current of genius trying to move the human heart.”

 

“He’s trying to create something that everybody can dance to,” he continues. “Politically, poor kids putting up solar panels? Everybody can dance to that…”

 

 

“I think people misinterpreted him as being cool for cool’s sake, or mysterious for mystery’s sake, or aloof for its own sake,” Jones says. “But that aspect of his personality was him trying to understand the world, the universe, God, people, everything. He was trying to understand the world so he could change it. He wasn’t trying to change it so he could be famous or rich, he’d already achieved that by the time he was 20. So what do you do for the next 30-plus years?

 

“Just like he had a whole roster of musicians, he had a whole roster of intellectuals, a whole roster of political activists, a whole roster of change-makers,” Jones continues. “Just like he was a bandleader on the musical side, he was a bandleader on the social side.”

Rolling Stone

So, amongst all the other gifts Prince gave the world, it turns out he was a very generous donor to many causes, including conservation and green jobs. Gone much, much too soon. Like he sang in one of his songs, “There Will Never B Another Like Me”….

Our communications coordinator Christian Martin is a life-long fan of Prince as well as a DJ and podcaster, and he has mixed up a musical tribute series to Minneapolis’ favorite son available for listening at www.mixcloud.com.

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Great Tide Rising: Toward Moral Courage in a Time of Planetary Change

April 28th, 2016 | Posted by in Odds & Ends

Join North Cascades Institute at Village Books in Bellingham on May 3 at 7 pm for a free reading by Kathleen Dean Moore from her new book Great Tide Rising: Toward Moral Courage in a Time of Planetary Change.

Oregon writer Kathleen Dean Moore founded her reputation as a top-notch writer through several books that gracefully combined natural history, philosophy and meditations on being human, as in Riverwalking, Pine Island Paradox and Wild Comfort. Her focus took an urgent turn in 2011 with Moral Ground: Ethical Action for a Planet in Peril, a collection of essays she co-edited featuring essays from thought leaders like E.O. Wilson, Thomas Friedman, bell hooks and the Dalai Lama on the moral responsibilities we have for safeguarding Planet Earth.

Moral Ground made the case that the threatened climate catastrophe was a moral catastrophe, and it called for a strong moral response based on our love for the children, commitment to social justice and a reverence for life,” she explained to me recently in an email. “After the book was published, I hit the road [including a reading at the Whatcom Museum during their 2013 “Vanishing Ice” exhibit]. For three years, I spoke in every place that would have me – church basements to town plazas – listening to the people who so deeply cared, wrestling with the questions they asked, watching the world change.”

Her new book Great Tide Rising: Toward Moral Courage in a Time of Planetary Change is a result of her climate change “listening tour,” a deeply-felt manifesto that ponders, as Moore explained, “How can I bring some clarity to the hard questions? How can we all find the courage and the communities of caring that make it possible to keep trying? How is it possible to open peoples’ hearts without breaking them?”

With sections along the lines of “A Call to Care,” “A Call to Witness” and “A Call to Act,” Moore has written a guidebook for modern day environmentalists and climate activists that is both grave and restorative.

“Writing Great Tide Rising lifted my spirits,” the writer told me, “because when you look for them, there are logical and creative answers to the hardest questions. When you look for them, there are people all around the globe who are standing up to the forces that would wreck the world. And when you look around, you see that there is so much worth saving. These are the stories I wanted to tell.”

Here’s an excerpt from Moore’s new book:

» Continue reading Great Tide Rising: Toward Moral Courage in a Time of Planetary Change

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Naturally Wonderful Naturalists: New staff of 2016

March 7th, 2016 | Posted by in Institute News

As the snow is melting and the trees are budding, our Naturalist Team is getting ready for teaching in the mountains. At the North Cascades Institute‘s Environmental Learning Center the Senior Naturalist and Lead Program Assist will help guide the five new Naturalist Field Instructors over nine months of teaching in the mountains.

During the spring and fall of 2016 these naturalists will educate elementary through high school students in our Mountain School program about the numerous interactions in the surrounding ecosystem. During the summer they will be leading high school students on back country trips through our Youth Leadership Adventure program. Throughout their time here they will also have opportunities to lead Skagit Tours; a tour of Seattle City Light’s Skagit River Hydroelectric Project.

We look forward to their energy and enthusiasm in the variety of ways they will teach about the North Cascades!

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Max Thomas

Max isn’t new to North Cascades Institute, but is taking on a new role with us. After 2 previous years as a seasonal naturalist, Max has moved into the Senior Naturalist position. This position supervises the naturalists and provides leadership and mentorship in our education programs, with a focus on Mountain School, Family Getaways and Basecamp. Max was raised in Minneapolis and went to college at the University of Minnesota Duluth where he received a degree in Outdoor Education.  During college he found a variety of passions in the forms of canoeing, hiking, backpacking, snowboarding and cross-country skiing.  After college Max worked as an interpretation ranger in Glacier National Park.  The beauty rocked his socks off.  After 4 years in Montana, the Cascade Mountains called his name and has found a new home in the Evergreen State.  The beauty is still rocking his socks off.  When he isn’t playing nature games with fifth graders or camping in the mountains, Max can be found fiercely rooting on Minnesota sports teams.

» Continue reading Naturally Wonderful Naturalists: New staff of 2016

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Snapshots of Paddling on the Skagit

February 11th, 2016 | Posted by in Graduate M.Ed. Program

While the Broncos and the Panthers were playing the biggest football game of the year, almost two dozen of us living in the upper Skagit valley traveled down the Skagit River. In our “paddling crew” included members from the Institute’s 14th and 15th graduate cohorts, North Cascades Institute Staff and students in the Remote Medical International class living at the Environmental Learning Center for a month or so. Here are a few of the best “snapshots” of our adventure down the Skagit from Marblemount to Rockport.

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Making sure everything we wear is waterproof before hitting the water.

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Our canoes ready for launch!

» Continue reading Snapshots of Paddling on the Skagit

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Echoes from the Dam

January 25th, 2016 | Posted by in Life at the Learning Center

Imagine yourself standing atop of Diablo Dam in the early morning of a crisp, winter day. Behind you five ravens are circling near a patch of trees lining Diablo Lake. One of the Seattle City Light boats speeds on in the distance quickly becoming quieter and softer. As you open your mouth to let the cool mountain air fill your lungs time seems to slow. When you finally expel the air out you hear this:

Mountain Call

Earlier last week Hannah Newell and I, both students at the North Cascades Institute’s Graduate Program, went atop of Diablo Dam to study how sounds move throughout our mountain corridor. The valley that the Skagit river made over thousands of years is very drastic in our neck of the woods. Toward the mouth of the river the Skagit is met by mostly flat land. As you venture towards the headwaters the surrounding slopes become more and more drastic with hundreds of feet of elevation difference over a very short distance.

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Skagit River Valley at Diablo Dam. Photo courtesy of Google Earth.

This topography makes for extreme echoes when done in the correct spots. Diablo Dam provides the perfect height and distance from each side so that when the sound moves down valley it has the most room to exist. After experimenting at different spots on and around Diablo Lake, I found the middle outcrop of the dam was the perfect spot for echo calling.

» Continue reading Echoes from the Dam