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Nature of Writing Fall 2015 Poster

The Nature of Writing Speaker Series * Spring 2015 in Bellingham

March 27th, 2015 | Posted by in Odds & Ends

A SERIES OF FREE NATURAL HISTORY AUTHOR READINGS AT VILLAGE BOOKS / 1200 11 STREET, BELLINGHAM

Join Village Books and North Cascades Institute in welcoming our region’s most gifted writers on the natural world to Bellingham. From wildlife in the city to botany, local marine ecology to poetry inspired by our Wild Nearby, you’ll learn more about our wondrous planet when these gifted writers share their latest literary works.

Friday, April 3, 7 pm
John Marzloff’s Welcome to Subirdia: Sharing Our Neighborhoods with Wrens, Robins, Woodpeckers, and Other Wildlife

We all know that human development is threatening our environment. Runoff pollutes our streams. Homes and businesses encroach on wilderness habitat. Energy use warms the planet. Too many species are in decline. And yet, for some of our most charismatic wild creatures, suburban and urban habitats offer surprising opportunities to thrive. Our suburbs and city parks are often remarkably rich in bird diversity—holding more species than either wilderness areas or urban centers. In fact, suburbs may play a key role in preventing loss of species in the face of the dramatic disruptions of climate change and other human impacts. Welcome to Subirdia shows us how. This event is part of our Nature of Writing series, in partnership with North Cascades Institute. John Marzluff is James W. Ridgeway Professor of Wildlife Science at the University of Washington, where he teaches classes in ornithology, urban ecology, conservation and field research. His previous books include In the Company of Crows and Ravens (with Tony Angell), Dog Days, Raven Nights (with his wife Colleen) and Gifts of the Crow (with Tony Angell). He is teaching the class In the Company of Corvids at the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center June 26-28.

Friday, April 11, 7 pm
Thor Hanson’s The Triumph of Seeds: How Grains, Nuts, Kernels, Pulses, and Pips Conquered the Plant Kingdom and Shaped Human History

Seeds are everywhere. From our morning coffee to the cotton in our clothes, they give us food and fuels, intoxicants and poisons, oils, dyes, fibers, and spices. Without seeds there would be no bread, rice, beans, corn or nuts. They support diets, economies, lifestyles, and civilizations around the globe. And yet, despite their importance in nature and their role in human survival, their awesome story has never fully been told.

In The Triumph of Seeds: How Grains, Nuts, Kernels, Pulses, and Pips Conquered the Plant Kingdom and Shaped Human History, award-winning conservation biologist Thor Hanson explores the story of seeds by asking a simple question: why are they so successful? Seed plants have become so abundant that it’s hard to believe that for much of evolutionary history, they did not even exist. Hundreds of millions of years passed where other plant life dominated the earth – first algae, and then spore plants like quillworts, horsetails, mosses, and ferns. Once they evolved, though, seeds became an incredibly efficient mechanism for plants to reproduce, protect themselves, and travel long distances. The evolutionary history of seeds shows not only why they have been able to thrive in nature, but also why they are so vital to human survival.

Blending expert, yet understandable, explanations of science with humorous first-person reportage and fascinating historical anecdotes, The Triumph of Seeds deftly traces the history and science of seeds. From a mountaintop overlooking the Dead Sea to 300 feet below an Illinois coal mine, from an encounter with vipers to a misguided attempt to crack and ironclad nut, Hanson takes readers on a fascinating scientific adventure through the wild and beautiful world of seeds.

Thor Hanson is a conservation biologist, Guggenheim Fellow, Switzer Environmental Fellow, and member of the Human Ecosystems Study Group. The author of Feathers and The Impenetrable Forest, Hanson lives with his wife and son on an island in Washington State.

Thursday, April 16, 7 pm
Audrey DeLella Benedict & Jospeh K Gaydos’s The Salish Sea: Jewel of the Pacific Northwest

The Salish Sea: Jewel of the Pacific Northwest combines a scientist’s inquiring mind, breathtaking nature photography, and wondrous stories. Straddling the western border between Canada and the United States, this unique ecosystem is brought to life on the page with a lively narrative that looks at the region’s geology, fauna, and history.

Audrey DeLella Benedict is a biologist, a writer, and a passionate advocate for the conservation of the global ocean and Arctic and alpine environments the world over. She is founder and director of Cloud Ridge Naturalists and is currently a member of the board of the SeaDoc Society.

Joseph K. Gaydos is Chief Scientist for the SeaDoc Society, a marine science and conservation program focused on the Salish Sea. He is a licensed wildlife veterinarian and has a PhD in wildlife health. For over a decade he has been studying the fish and wildlife of the Salish Sea.

April 18, 2015
Saul Weisberg’s Headwaters: Poems & Field Notes

North Cascades Institute is excited to announce the forthcoming publication of selected poems of Institute Founder and Executive Director Saul Weisberg!

» Continue reading The Nature of Writing Speaker Series * Spring 2015 in Bellingham

Mount Rainier Milky Way

Starstruck: One Grad’s Perspective on the Night Sky

March 19th, 2015 | Posted by in Naturalist Notes

by Lauren Ridder, M.Ed. Graduate Student

There are only a couple of things that can stop me in my tracks. When clouds part to reveal a night sky full of stars, my gaze is irresistibly drawn upwards, and I feel my perspective shift. My breathing slows and my awareness sharpens, as my mind races far away from the Earth’s surface to find those familiar patterns in the sky.

What I love about constellations is that I could be anywhere in the world, feeling lost and overwhelmed by the chaos of everyday life, but as soon as I spot those sparkling forms high above my head, I feel re-oriented. It feels like an ancient connection to not only centuries of human folklore, but also to pages in stars’ life stories that are long gone as their light travels through all the layers of time and space to reach Earth.

I have several favorite constellations to search for including: Orion, Delphinus, Cygnus, and Andromeda. Orion is the first constellation that I can remember identifying on my own, and I’ve loved tracing its path across many night skies throughout my life. As a winter constellation, Orion appears in the Northern Hemisphere in late November. Orion is usually portrayed as the Great Hunter charging across the sky with shield in one hand and sword in the other. Another more seasonally linked version of the story comes from the Ojibwe people who name this star group, Biboonkeonini the Wintermaker. The prominence of the three stars that make up Orion’s Belt leads to this constellation’s familiarity across cultures. Alnitak, the leftmost star in the Belt, means “the girdle” in Arabic; Alnilam in the middle, translates as “string of pearls”; and Mintaka, on the right, means “the belt”. On March 6 of this year, Orion was due south, standing upright at his highest.

The two most recent additions to my constellation library, Cygnus and Delphinus, are located near each other in the northern early summer and mid-autumn skies. Cygnus swims along the Milky Way with Delphinus leaping out near the swan’s left wing. Cygnus is easy to spot on a clear night with the bright star, Deneb, marking the swan’s tail, and four other prominent stars within its body that form a grouping also known as the Northern Cross. Delphinus is harder to pick out and requires a softening of the gaze and a little patience. Once the little Dolphin makes itself known though, it’s hard to forget.

» Continue reading Starstruck: One Grad’s Perspective on the Night Sky

GrizzlyBear

Open Houses on Options for Grizzly Bear Restoration

February 19th, 2015 | Posted by in Institute News

**Editor’s Note: sharing this information from our friends at North Cascades National Park.

Public Invited to Open Houses on Options for Grizzly Bear Restoration in North Cascades Ecosystem

 Public comment period open through March 26, 2015


SEDRO WOOLLEY, Wash. – The public is invited to participate in a series of informational open houses regarding restoration of grizzly bears in the North Cascades ecosystem. The meetings are being held by the National Park Service (NPS) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) as part of the Grizzly Bear Restoration Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process for the North Cascades ecosystem. This is the first opportunity for public involvement in the EIS.  The purpose of the EIS is to determine whether or not the agencies will take an active role in restoring the grizzly bear to the North Cascades Ecosystem.

The public open houses will be held at these locations and times:

Winthrop:      March 3, 5-7:30 pm
Red Barn Upper Meeting Room
51 N. Hwy 20
Winthrop, WA 98862

 

Okanogan:      March 4, 5-7:30 pm
Okanogan PUD Meeting Room
1331 2nd Ave N
Okanogan, WA 98840

 

Wenatchee:   March 5, 6-8:30 pm
Chelan County PUD Auditorium
327 N. Wenatchee Ave.
Wenatchee, WA 98801

 

Cle Elum:       March 9, 5-7:30 pm
Putnam Centennial Center Meeting Room
719 East 3rd Street
Cle Elum, WA 98922

 

Seattle:            March 10, 5-7:30 pm
Seattle Pacific University Bertona Classroom 1
103 West Bertona
Seattle, WA 98119

 

Bellingham:    March 11, 5-7:30 pm
Bellingham Central Library Lecture Room
210 Central Avenue
Bellingham, WA 98227

In addition to these open houses, the public is invited to submit written comments at this link. Comments may also be submitted through March 26, 2015, via regular mail or hand delivery at: Superintendent’s Office, North Cascades National Park Service Complex, 810 State Route 20, Sedro Woolley, WA 98284.

“This is an important phase in the process of assessing environmental impacts,” said NPS Pacific West Regional Director Chris Lehnertz. “Public comment at this stage is critical to ensure that all issues are considered.”

The FWS listed the grizzly bear as a threatened species in the lower 48 United States in 1975. The species was listed as endangered by the state of Washington in 1980.

“The Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan calls on us to fully consider the restoration of the grizzly bear in the North Cascades, and this process will ensure we solicit the public for their input before putting any plan into action,” said FWS Pacific Regional Director Robyn Thorson. “We will continue to work with our partners to make this an open and transparent process.”

The North Cascades ecosystem encompasses 9,800 square miles in the United States and another 3,800 square miles in British Columbia, Canada.  The United States portion of the ecosystem includes North Cascades National Park, Ross Lake National Recreation Area, Lake Chelan National Recreation Area, Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, and Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.

A few grizzly bears have recently been sighted in the Canadian part of the ecosystem, but no grizzly bears have been sighted in the United States portion for several years.

Portraits of Naomi Klein

This Changes Everything: Naomi Klein’s manifesto on “capitalism vs. the climate”

February 9th, 2015 | Posted by in Odds & Ends

By Christian Martin

(Originally published in the Cascadia Weekly, Jan 2015)

In the same week that the Republicans put all of their political muscle in to pushing the Keystone XL Pipeline, the New York Times reported the alarming news that 2014 was the “warmest year ever recorded on Earth.” Another story the next day noted “humans are on the verge of causing unprecedented damage to the oceans and the animals living in them.” The lead author of the new research warned, “We may be sitting on a precipice of a major extinction event.”

Amidst the unwelcome news, Vancouver-based author and activist Naomi Klein has published the most important book of her career, not to mention “the most momentous and contentious environmental book since Silent Spring,” according to the Times. But be warned: much like reading Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac, Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States of America or Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, once you read it, you can never go back to seeing the world the same way as you did before.

THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING

This Changes Everything is a progressive manifesto, as well as the definitive manual for our warming planet: how we got here, what we’re doing (or not doing) now, and what we need to do next. Klein weaves together climate science, economics, international relations, sociology, geopolitics, psychology, history and more in this fascinating, often dizzying journalistic investigation.

“Our economic system and our planetary system are now at war,” Klein states plainly in the introduction. “Or, more accurately, our economy is at war with many forms of life on earth, including human life. What the climate needs to avoid collapse is a contraction in humanity’s use of resources; what our economic model demands to avoid collapse is unfettered expansion. Only one of these sets of rules can be changed, and it’s not the laws of nature.”

Klein builds her case for the need to reign in and transform neoliberal free-market capitalism chapter by chapter, page by page, line by line. She zeroes in on three elements of the modern economy that need radical realignment — privatization of the public sphere, deregulation of the corporate sector and lower corporate taxation paid for with cuts to public spending –- and excoriates the legacy of free trade and globalization as promoted by the WTO.

Her approach is methodical, and the evidence that she marshals in support of her arguments becomes overwhelming: peer-reviewed scientific studies, public opinion polls, academic research, economic accounting, interviews with experts and activists from around the world. Eventually the reader feels piled on, so overwhelming and frightening are Klein’s findings and prescribed remedies.

But, surprisingly, her main mission with this tome seems to be to deliver hope.

Rather than leave readers with an apocalyptic doomsday vision, Klein writes that global climate change offers us “a catalyzing forces for positive change”:

“It could be the best argument progressives have ever had to demand the rebuilding and reviving of local economies; to reclaim our democracies from corrosive corporate influence; to block harmful new free trade deals and rewrite old ones; to invest in starving public infrastructure like mass transit and affordable housing; to take back ownership of essential services like energy and water; to remake our sick agricultural system into something much healthier; to open borders to migrants whose displacement is linked to climate impacts; to finally respect Indigenous land rights – all of which would help to end grotesque levels of inequality without our nations and between them.”

The last third of Klein’s book is devoted to explicating hopeful signs that positive changes are not only possible, but already underway. She cites the growing fossil fuel divestment movement, reinvigoration of Indigenous sovereignty, growth of renewable and community-owned energy projects and on-the-ground resistance she dubs “Blockadia.”

“Can we pull it off?” Klein, like her readers, wonders. “All I know is that nothing is inevitable. Nothing except that climate change changes everything. And for a very brief time, the nature of that change is still up to us.”


 

ReSources in Bellingham is offering a free six–part workshop series on “Energy & Climate: the defining issue of our time,” Thursdays 6:30-8 pm through February 26. Info at www.re-sources.org/events/workshops-events.

Other useful online resources for learning about solutions to Climate Change:

www.climatesolutions.org

www.powerpastcoal.org

www.thischangeseverything.org.

Wolf2

Howling to be Heard: An Introduction to Wolves

January 21st, 2015 | Posted by in Naturalist Notes

by Mike Rosekrans, M.Ed. Graduate Student

One winter afternoon in 2009 I was driving on a state highway through central Wisconsin on my way back to school in Southeastern Minnesota. Fresh snow blanketed the beautiful hardwood forests in the surrounding area as I cruised along at 60 mph. Suddenly, about a quarter mile ahead, a large animal slowly crossed the highway. I had lived in the Midwest for 23 years and until that moment I had never seen any animal like this cross a road. This was not a deer, bear, or a raccoon. It was too big to be a domestic dog. Having no idea what it was I slowed my Buick down to 10mph, scanning the forest alongside the highway. As I neared the point where the animal had crossed I saw, standing at the edge of the forest, methodically and majestically, a massive timber wolf.

I immediately stopped my car to admire the spectacular creature. There it stood about 50 feet from my vehicle. I had never seen an animal so beautiful, so majestic, and so wild. It was as if the spirit of the wild was summoning me to the forest. As I stared into its yellow eyes, and it back at me, I made a connection with a species that has captivated me ever since.

Wolf1

Wolves are a fascinating species that has simultaneously fascinated and unnerved the human imagination since the dawn of time. For thousands of years we lived side by side these intriguing animals. Throughout our history we formed myths, legends, symbols, and opinions around wolves. The wolf has been a symbol in mythology since the dawn of western civilization. Throughout its existence no species has undergone more study, persecution, and government regulation than the wolf.

Since that day in college my keen interest in wolves has only grown. I studied their history, I learned about their survival techniques and behaviors, and I was saddened when I first discovered that many people demonize the wolf. To some, wolves represent the spirit of the wilderness while to others they are bloodthirsty killers. In reality, wolves are wild animals that serve a vital role.  Through their behavior and adaptations they keep their ecosystem healthy and maintain a balance among native species.

In my exploration of the world of wolves and I found that wherever wolves travel, controversy travels with them. Whether you love them or hate them, support their recovery efforts or think they hold no place in the world, this series of weekly blogs will provide you with some fascinating information you may not have known about the relative of man’s best friend. In the upcoming weeks I will explore the history of wolves, their role in ecosystems as keystone species, and the wolf/human relationship. If you are a wolf supporter or if you would just like to know a little more about this enthralling animal, check my weekly blog post and I’m sure you will learn some valuable information. So join me each week and take a trip on this fascinating journey into the intriguing world of wolves.

All photos taken by Mike Rosekrans at the International Wolf Center in Ely, Minnesota
Jumping Mouse 2

The Story of Jumping Mouse

January 13th, 2015 | Posted by in Odds & Ends

At the start of 2015, the themes of change and transformation are on my mind. It seems impossible not to think of these with so much attention paid annually to commitment to goals and becoming better versions of ourselves. It seems appropriate that the new year comes right on the heels of so many other seasonal changes. The trees around the Environmental Learning Center seemed to lose their leaves in the span of a few hours on a random early December day, and winter has firmly embraced Diablo, blanketing us in snow. The yield of fall to winter happened, not quietly and slowly, but in the blink of an eye. Much of the Learning Center staff left town for vacations or family visits, and the grad students just returned from three weeks of vacation. During those three weeks, the Learning Center found itself in its quietest and most contemplative state. Again, how appropriate.

The graduate students scattered to our various corners of the country, stretching from Oregon to Maine. We too were deep in contemplation. We saw the families we said goodbye to in order to relocate ourselves to Washington, regaled others with stories of funny experiences, the occasional mishap, and knowledge acquired. That knowledge is the topic of one of my very favorite stories of all time. A story I used to share with my students in wilderness therapy, and one that seems to be endlessly relevant to every new environment in which I find myself.

The story is of Jumping Mouse. The origins of the legend remain a mystery to me. The only sourcing I am able to find calls it Plains Indians Sundance story. The particular text I used here comes from this version, which remains one of my favorites. Whatever the source, it remains an inspiration to me. May your new year be filled with curiosity, questions, and the strength to ask questions and seek your own answers.

Jumping Mouse

A beautiful drawing taken from John Steptoe’s beautiful 1989 book, The Story of Jumping Mouse.

» Continue reading The Story of Jumping Mouse

Gary Snyder Nobody Home

Notable Environmental Books of 2014

January 1st, 2015 | Posted by in Odds & Ends

As a book reviewer for the Cascadia Weekly, I pay close attention to what’s being published, with a special focus on books on regional topics, releases from regional publishers and titles that explore natural history and environmental issues. I’m extremely fortunate to receive dozens of complimentary review copies through the year, and try to read as many of them as I can. Here at the end of 2014, I put together a list of what I consider to be noteworthy and important environmental books released over the last year. It isn’t a comprehensive list by any means, but hopefully will provide you some inspiration for future reading!

One more thing, I strongly encourage you to purchase any of these titles that interest you from your local independent bookseller. We need community hubs like Village Books, Elliott Bay Books, Trail’s End Bookstore and Watermark Book Company to continue to promote literary diversity, local flavor, community economics and opportunities for grassroots free-thinking and creativity.

Without futher ado…

ecopoetry anthology

The Ecopoetry Anthology
Edited by Ann Fisher-Wirth and Laura-Gray Street (Trinity University Press)
In this new anthology of poetry, the editors are quick to explain that poetry has involved itself with the natural world since the very first poems were written, and that their collection is focused on poetry that is influenced by contemporary developments: the birth of the environmental movement, the incredible discoveries made in the natural sciences and the growing awareness and magnitude of ecological crises enveloping us. So while the book opens a historical foundation provided by the likes of Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Robinson Jeffers and Kenneth Rexroth, it soon dives in to a great tangle of recent works — “praise songs, incantations, narratives, meditations, lists, elegies, rhapsodies, jeremiads” — which the editors hope contain power to “move the world — to break through our dulled disregard, our carelessness, our despair.” Poets like Wendell Berry, Gary Snyder, Mary Oliver, Ted Kooser, Robert Hass, Jane Hirschfield, Linda Hogan and W.S. Merwin — and better yet, poets you haven’t discovered yet — are called in to do the heavy lifting.

The Sixth Extinction Kolbert

The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History
Elizabeth Kolbert (Henry Holt)
When I received a copy of this book, I thought “why would I ever spend my precious time on such a grim topic?” I dabbled in the first few pages and, before I knew it, Kolbert’s well-built narrative and engaging prose swept me up and through to the end. The Sixth Extinction is engaging and informative and even kind of fun, like a good, long New Yorker article, which is where Kolbert holds her day job. Each chapter is based around investigation of a species that is either long-extinct or currently endangered, with Kolbert traveling around the world to explore jungles, zoos, ice regions, coasts, caves and islands, interviewing scientists, citizen activists, anthropologists, climatologists and other front-line experts along the way.

The author explores the history of our understanding of extinction — how the very concept of species disappearing from the planet challenged science at the time, and how discoveries of mammoth bones and ammonites, plate tectonics, natural selection, climate change and evolving concepts on the origin of homo sapiens have come together to illuminate life on Planet Earth over the past 3 billion years.

As the narrative reaches our modern times, what many geologists are starting to call the Anthropocene, the unfolding understanding of how many species Earth is going to lose is grim indeed. The Sixth Extinction is unfolding right now, primarily because of us, and it’s an open question what will survive our disastrous reign.

spanish-revival mining-towns exotic-plants

How to Read the American West: A Field Guide
William Wyckoff (University of Washington Press)
We are all familiar with field guides that interpret the natural world for us, like Sibley’s Guide to Birds and Pojar and MacKinnon’s Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast. But a field guide for dude ranches, strip malls, grain elevators, cloudscapes, ski towns, farmworker settlements and gay and lesbian neighborhoods? William Wyckoff, a professor of geography at Montana State University and talented photographer, has created a strange, fascinating and often humorous book that surveys our modern American landscape, both natural and human-built.

Nobody Home: Writing, Buddhism and Living in Places
Gary Snyder and Julia Martin (Trinity University Press)
This diminutive volume holds three lively, in-depth interviews and a trove of correspondence that transpired over three decades between a graduate student-turned-professor living in South Africa and the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet living in the mountains of California. A mutual interest in esoteric topics like bioregionalism, ecocriticism, Zen practice and poetics sparked their long relationship, and Martin’s sensitive but persistent proddings bring forth a wealth of insights from Snyder. In their letters, we eavesdrop on the development of a caring friendship, reading accounts of travels and academic conferences, all the while Snyder providing sage advice to the younger writer.

» Continue reading Notable Environmental Books of 2014