Monday, March 31, 2008

Getting Out in the Upper Midwest

Good piece from Chicago on Louv, nature deficit prescriptions, and Oliver Pergams' favorite place.
In Michigan, the Pergams enjoyed Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park in Ontonagon in the Upper Peninsula. "The Porkies," as they are known, have cabins for rent for those who want to speed-date nature but aren't quite ready to go steady.

Time to start planning those spring and summer trips.

Sunday, March 30, 2008


World Changing has an interesting post on the efforts of the Toy industry to stop laws that keep toxic materials out of toys. They also talk about fair trade, non toxic alternative toys.

Now consider a different toy, with a different kind of story to tell. ImagiPlay's AniMates Giraffe Pair game, made only from "Preservative-Free Rubberwood, Non-Toxic Water-Based Paint and/or Lacquer" and crafted in Sri Lanka under fair-trade conditions. All the savannah fun, with a fraction of the apocalypse and childhood illness.
Worth a read.

And make sure to click on the link to the descriptions of how some have perverted the birthday party. Little relevance to nature, but sure to give you a taste of how bad things have gotten in our culture.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Turn Them Off

Tonight at 8:00 pm, turn the lights off.

More at Earth Hour.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Earth Day News

My parents took us to NYC on Earth Day in 1970.

Here's an update on what's planned for 2008.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Subliminal Disney?

Interesting article in the Times Online from London on the role Walt Disney and his films played in shaping our 20th century attitudes on nature.

The stories of animated Disney characters, from Snow White in 1937 to the clownfish Nemo in 2003, have built “a critical awareness of contested environmental issues”, according to David Whitley, a lecturer in English.

While Disney movies are often regarded as little more than escapism, and have even been criticised as bland populism, many feature messages about conservation and the relationship between people and the natural world that have proved to be highly influential, Dr Whitley said.

Treehugger has the link and explains further.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Best Hikes

The Best Hike lists hikes all over the world. Here's one from Hawaii, with kids.

Buy a Tree

and watch it grow on Google Earth. More here.

March at the Knob

March always brings back fond memories of our times in the eighties (and 1990) at Gray Knob. Few hikes can match a run up Lowe's on a bluebird day with three feet of snow on the ground. Each section, the flats, the first hill, upper flats, the stairs, the lower and upper chutes all bring a different set of challenges tempered with the solace and beauty of the changing forest. The snow softens the sounds, with only the crunching of your boots (we never, ever, needed any stinkin' snowshoes on Lowe's), crisp air, and the songs of a pair of chickadees in your ears. This is paradise.

While I was only a spring and summer caretaker, three of my closest friends were in that ultimate vocation, winter caretaker at Gray Knob. This job provides the incumbent with cold temps, rough weather, stunning silence, and the best sunsets, coupled with an unsurpassed outdoor playground. There were visitors too. Living at the Knob provides far more powerful influences than any television or xbox could ever kindle.

Because Pete and John and Phil were up there, I was a regular visitor, sometimes staying for two weeks at a time. Weekend trips always brought the three am arrival, which they always looked forward too, or at least tolerated.

As the years have passed, the ability for a caretaker to communicate exactly what they are experiencing to you and I has become easier. We had the logbooks, some of which have been transcribed, and some which have been locked up to protect the guilty.

Now the Randolph Mountain Club website has a running journal going from the 07/08 winter caretaker, Sally Manikian. There are also other caretaker journals available. Read her stories and get an understanding of why this place has such a powerful influence on the folks who have lived there.

Here's one of her pictures, of the Davis Woodruff Memorial Rocking Chair, at the Quay.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Lost Connections

I don't hunt. But I do respect those that do, and see the act of hunting as an icon of how powerful our connections to the land used to be. Because of that I am a West Virginia Hunting Safety Instructor. What I can't stand are slob hunters, who give all hunters a bad name and who are red meat (excuse the pun) to every animal rights person out there.

So as I read the first few paragraphs of this essay from the February Mountain Gazette, I stated thinking, "here we go" another anti hunting piece. It was far from that. Check it out.
We have lost so much connection to the natural world that it’s almost silly to even pen those words. Because industrial agriculture has killed the family farm, just in my lifetime, 100 generation’s worth of food-growing knowledge has evaporated. Globalization has all but killed our domestic timber industry/knowledge. Few folks now know how to weave or mill or make pottery from dirt or metal from ore. And, now, with the demise of hunting we are witnessing the death knell of yet another activity that connects us to our self-sufficient past.

Monday, March 24, 2008


Listen to the annual Risky Biscuit Hayseed Hoot Edward Abbey Special Podcast here.

When is Enough?

I love Volvos. I had a 77 Volvo 240 DL that I drove 300K miles. It as the ultimate winter car--could cruise at 60 mph over snowpacked roads and would start after being left out at 30 below for a week. No AWD, rear wheel drive, and good Vredestein snow tires. It was a sad day when I finally sold her.

I rented a XC 70 (see pic above) on a fall trip to Jackson Hole and I was not impressed with it's performance, although it sure looked cool. Now I'm seeing these cars all over town as they seem to have become a car of choice, even though Ford owns Volvo now.

So, what do folks think of this car? To answer that, we have this several month old car review for the new XC 70, with some great commentary on why we need this overweight AWD car, or that Arc Teryx jacket. It's a good read, and tends to favor the V-70, the stripped down version of the XC. Thanks to Those Responsible for the link.

When I was climbing and in the outdoor business, we always had the best clothes and gear. But when climbers started climbing with lycra, it was the last straw for some. My friend John, an extremely talented climber, tossed his expensive technical jacket and wore a $5 golf windbreaker, the kind with the two stands of cotton cord piping along both sides of the cheap metal zipper, that he bought at a second hand store in Berlin NH, just to piss off the fashion climbers.

High tech clothes, overcompensating cars. I'm not saying that you shouldn't buy them, but ask, when is enough enough?

There more on this theme over at Fragments From Floyd.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Sunday Night Video

This video is making the net rounds. It's great. Find more at The Range Life.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Weekend Post

We live in a national historic district in a rural area of the Virginia Piedmont. There are wonderful vistas, dirt roads, large horse farms, neighbors driving carriages, low light pollution. This is the country that John Mosby rode and fought the Yankees, and we fought off a major development before the housing bubble made developments much more difficult. Being in the country there are few decent public utilities, such as water and sewer and good telephone lines. There is no cable television, nor will there ever be.

Which leads to our internet access. There are three choices: dial up, satellite and "wireless broadband" We use the later, and generally it works well. But the last week it has basically not worked well, and simple tasks such as blogging has been painful to accomplish. As I sat watching the load icon spin and spin and spin and spin, I realized that this week the kids are out of school, and that every time these problems seem to occur is when school is out. Hardly scientific, but it looks to me that all of the kids in this area whose parent use this wireless broadband are playing online games with their xboxes or pcs.

So, if I can upload this post, the blogging will get back on a regul;ar basis once the kids are back in school, or we get them outside playing again.

Friday, March 21, 2008

What Should We Do?

Check out this video, link courtesy of the Thought Kitchen.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Enough Already

There's a new blog in the county I live in called Greener Loudoun. They have a section on Children and Nature issues, and include a post that Rich Louv will be in Reston Virginia next week.
I had to laugh as the first comment on the post is the ever-appearing Michael Vendeman essay that responds to Rich's book.

Enough already.

I have posted on Mike Vandeman and his arguments in the past. I do not know him, and have never met him. I'm not going to get into the merits or weaknesses of his essay, but will instead say if he continues to spray them all over the internet, as comments to others' posts on or about Rich Louv, it only cheapens his arguments and really seems no different than spam. A quick Google of "Mike Vandeman" and Louv to see how widespread this is.

You made you point, now chill.

Another OpED

from the Brunswick News.

The Staats children took over the playground at Neptune Park on St. Simons Island Monday afternoon. Sisters Anna, 8, and Emme, 5, took turns swinging from a long stretch of monkey bars, as their cousin, Jess, 4, dug in the sand nearby. "Digging, that's my favorite part," Jess said. This type of outdoor romping isn't an uncommon occurrence for the Brunswick family. They revel in spending time together outside, away from television and video games, said Jess' mother, Marilyn Staats. "They specifically ask to go outside, and I am just fine with that," she said. "Playtime outside is a good thing for kids. (We) turn off SpongeBob and they have a ball just running around outside."

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

More on Hooked In

We wrote about Hooked-in a week or two ago. Here's another report on the program, with a hook to the issue of nature deficit.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Responses to Scared Indoors

Wildebeat has a great summary of responses to their two part podcast we mentioned last week.

Check it out here.

It has occurred to me that maybe having the media scare people away from wild places is a good thing, and that will ensure that my friends and I are able to head out and not see a lot of folks on our trips. But there are other factors at work.

Last May we did a wonderful trip on the St. John River in northwest Maine. This trip is called by some the "Mt. Everest" of wilderness canoeing in the east. The river is free flowing, with no dams, so paddlers have to rely on winter runoff to provide the water to make the trip. This makes trips possible only in May and June, or after long rainy spells later in the summer. We arrived at our drop point at Baker Lake, and there were thirty other people in four groups staging along with our six people. I guess if trips like this were more popular, there may have been a hundred people, and the North Maine Woods, who manage the river's recreational traffic would have to mandate sites and manage the crowds more. We did the five day trip leap frogging with other groups from camp to camp, and while we had a great time, but we did see these other people each day and at night some of the campsites were packed.

The same goes for the trail head known as Appalachia in Randolph, NH (which was named not for the great peaks above it but for the sick hikers who imbibed in green apples that this former orchard presented them decades earlier). Twenty five years ago, the parking lot would be full a couple days a week during the summer. Now, it is full far more often.

As our population grows, even a declining pool of outdoors people can be in larger in gross numbers than a decade or two in the past.

We want more people to get outdoors, but we need to understand what that means for some of our treasured wild places.

What's that saying--"loving something to death?"

More on Let's Go Outside!

An oped on Let's Go Outside!

The service’s slogan is “Let’s Go Outside!”, and the goal is to get urbanites and “non-traditional conservation audiences” to check out some of the 97-million-acres in the National Wildlife Refuge System.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Will the Real Biofuel Please Stand Up has a post up on the efficiencies of walking and cycling and driving. Interesting data. You can buy stickers there to taunt your neighbors on the efficiency of their H2s.

Ecogeek has analysis:
A little bit of research tells us that riding a light-weight bicycle consumes about 35 calories per mile. Walking consumes about 100 calories per mile and is, of course, considerably slower.

Driving a car ends up consuming 1,800 calories per mile. This sure makes one think twice about biofuel, doesn't it?

Park the car, take a walk.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Let's Go Outside

The Fish and Wildlife Service launches its new People and Nature initiative.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Fear 2

Someone sent me this link, a couple year old post on the fine blog The Left Coaster.

This is a progressive blog, and the post reflects those politics, but even when you put the politics aside, it shows the state of our media driven society and its emphasis on things that scare us.

And it hasn't gotten any better.

Fear, fear, terror alerts, fear of nature, fear of different colored people, fear of god's vengence, we seem to be a nation of frightened children. When you think about it, it goes back to the day the USSR exploded their own "Bomb."

As the years passed, we grew accustomed to the fear, welcomed it, nurtured it, reveled in it. We became addicted to fear as a familiar place, predictable, safe even, like a Stephen King wordfest.

Well, it's time to get off the drug America. As Louv notes, Researchers ... have discovered that children as young as five showed a significant reduction in the symptoms of attention-deficit disorder when they engaged with nature.

First Eaglet

hatches over at the NCTC eaglecam. Check it out.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Eat, and eat, and...

The LA Times looks at why we eat too much.

What We're Up Against

Came across this list recently. it's from last Fall, but well worth looking at to understand one man's thoughts (he's an advocate of technology) on how technology is swallowing up more and more of our daily lives.
2. Immersive experience
We have moved to 24” screens and 5 speaker sound as standard for gaming. This is just the beginning of what will become completely pervasive environments for media, entertainment, and participation. Video glasses will become commonplace ways of accessing immersive video wherever you roam. 3D TV without glasses is a reality and not far from commercialization. While 3D efforts using colored or polarizing glasses will continue for some time, the real future is in providing different images to each eye, as in Philips’ 3D TV initiatives. It will also be possible to generate realistic 3D images from 2D video. While Second Life already provides a quasi-3D environment, a couple of steps beyond is where we will use video glasses, gloves, and other immersive interfaces so that we will experience actually being there, rather than seeing ourselves in a virtual world. This is inevitable, the only question is when we will get there.

I'm not a Luddite, I wouldn't be blogging if I was. But I consider the ultimate immersive experience being out in nature with out technology.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


Want to check out some great books but don't have time to keep track of what's new? Check out Orion's list of nominees for their 2008 Orion Book Award. You can also vote for your favorite.
The Orion Book Award is conferred annually to an outstanding, literary, book-length work that is ecological in context and has as its foundation the human relationship with the natural world. This year Orion readers are invited to vote for their favorites in the first annual Orion Readers' Choice Award.

Thru Hikin'

When I was living at Gray Knob in 1982, I sent word with the few southbound Appalachian Trail hikers to tell the north bounders to come by and I would feed them some good food. A few of them did come by for some Knob hospitality, but most didn't want to drop off the Gulfside, preferring to motor on past the crowds to the Mahoosuks and beyond.

I remember a guy called The Turtle, who showed up asking if it cost anything to stay. When I said yes he said he would go and crash down the hill aways. He looked like a thru hiker, probably smelled like one too. I was cooking a ham that night and told him I would pick up his fee for the night and invited him in for a big dinner. He seemed most interested in the fat that I had discarded, saying almost on cue "want your fat?"

That was many years ago and I don't know if the turtle even finished his trek.

This is the time that many northbounders begin their AT hikes, stepping onto the trail at Springer Mountain in Georgia. Here's a site where many of these 2008 hikers are posting trail diaries.

Monday, March 10, 2008


Start thinking summer camps. Begin here.

“The outdoor setting of a summer camp is magical for the children,” Bass said. “It gives them a feeling of freedom that they don’t have in this day and age with iPods, computers, the Wii and school. The mountain air, tall pine trees and lush fields draw the campers back to the basics of being free. All outdoor camps give children an appreciation for nature that they do not get from anything else they do.”


Let's face it, the media tends to portray things the way they think things should be, regardless of the facts. Whether it's an outdoor reality show rife with macho attitudes, or a climbing film that portrays climbers as super competitive bastards, there's usually a tiny shred of truth surrounded by a mess of hyperbole, written by someone with no real experience in outdoor activities.

The film Vertical Limit comes to mind, it's one of the worst films about mountaineering I've ever seen, where climbers are portrayed as macho jocks with little judgment, fueled only by their own arrogance. It is that type of thing that has likely encouraged some of the winter fatalities on Mt. Washington, where the occasional lads with little brain and zero judgment head up to climb the mountain, in the worst conditions (we call them Guinness Conditions, where you should be in the valley drinking your Guinness), because they saw that movie star do it. The typical trip to the woods or the river simply is not that big of a deal for someone with reasonable competence and judgment, but they won't be making many movies about that kind of experience.

Of course the dollar likely rules some of the media's story extreme selections, as nightly news stories on crazy, dangerous outdoor activities sell more ads than a portrait of a quiet guy or gal who merely walked the Long Trail.

I've also written that over the last twenty years, the motivation of folks who go into the wilds are different from why I started going outdoors. We went for the wild locations, the critters, the sunsets, and the camaraderie. They go to the woods today for that outdoor gymnasium or merely because they thinks it's cool. Unfortunately for our cocky Gen X outdoorsman, today people a just aren't that impressed. More often, the average citizen is merely shocked if they hear you're headed to the wilds. My friend Mark was greeted with horrified stares of disbelief when he discussed the trip that we planned and took to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge several years back.

There have been a number of blog posts, here, here, and here, that comment on the recent Wildebeat podcast that looks at the notion of the media scaring us out of going to wild places or even encountering wild critters.

On the podcast, long distance hiker Andrew Skurka comments:
The thing that probably bothers me most is the media's portrayal of the outdoors and extreme outdoor adventures is the epic component, that danger factor... And the media constantly reinforcing the image of the outdoors being this wild scary place that's full of grizzly bears and rattlesnakes, I think ...that's really where I get concerned. And even some of the television programs that are on this week will present the outdoors to you in a way that's very dramatic, and dangerous, and in order to be out here need all these survival skills, and that's just not the case. For most people, their outdoor experience is very calm, and safe and fun and that sort of thing.
It occurs to me that maybe this is just one vicious circle--as people become more detached from the natural world, the media just gives them what they want to hear. And the more the media reports that normal outdoor activities in wild places are more attuned to an extreme expedition to the remotest places on earth, the more alien the natural world becomes to the average Joe.

The cure? Get your butt outside in the woods, to the wild. We're planning a two trips to the wilds of Maine this spring and summer to do just that. Of course, that's the individual approach. Changing the attitude of society will take a long effort, and the media will be pulled along kicking and screaming.

A lot more could be said on this topic, and we'll continue to explore it. And thanks to Trout Underground for getting me rolling with these thoughts.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Wild Weasels

So Gen Y wants do extreme things.

Here's a vocation for your high school senior--Wolverine Biologist. It combines science, technology, wilderness, and a critter that would "rip your face off" if it could.

Read this Patagonia essay as support for my statements. Of course, we'll need to protect the remaining wolverines for any of this to work.

Not Getting Out There

Some additional analysis on the Pergams/Zaradic report.
And not just experiences at Yellowstone. Even the small realm of bugs and earthworms and fallen leaves in the American backyard has import, Zaradic said. It's something "you just can't get from a flat screen, no matter how high-D it is."

Saturday, March 8, 2008


Is this a good thing?

Friday, March 7, 2008

About that recent gathering in NYC

The bamboozlements continue. The denialism blog has some good thoughts on the recent denial gathering in New York.
Know what I mean? Global warming isn't being rejected because the science isn't sound. It's critics don't tend to be scientists, and the ones that are, well, let's just say they could have fooled me. The issue is the effective framing of the scientists and supporters of global warming as snooty liberals who want to tell you what to do and the media who want to scare you (they do have a point there). What is surprising is that how ineffective environmental groups have been at fighting this impression.
This winter in Virginia, the robins never left, the red-winged blackbirds came back six weeks early, and the peepers were out on the third of March. The daffodils were up last week and I've burned less than half the wood I used two and three winters ago. But now they're telling us the globe is cooling, and that a large number of capable scientists are hysterical quacks.

I think I'll trust the Nobel winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change instead of some so-called free market bamboozlers.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Let's Go Outside!

Here's a link to a report on a recent Fish and Wildlife Service sponsored meeting for health care and Conservation professionals that focused on People and Nature.

And more on the FWS "Let's Go Outside!" program.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Eaglecam Live Feed

The live streaming video is up at the NCTC eaglecam. Click on the live video link.

Name Change

I've decided that the title People and Nature Journal more accurately reflects the direction this blog has been taking. So I've changed the name of the blog. I'll not neglect the kids, but I will take a wider view of the whole issue of nature deficit, and ways of reconnecting all of us, age not withstanding to the natural world.

ps: I will leave the original url for now.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

More Fishing News

Check out Hooked-In.

This site allows folks to report what they've been catching, how big and where. Very Cool.

More here.
"Everyone knows that fishermen love to tell fish stories -- it's in our blood," said Joe Pych the website's creator. "Surprisingly, nobody offered a website that makes it easy to share fish stories in a fun and organized way. So, I rolled up my sleeves and built Hooked-in from the ground up to give every fisherman their own personal brag board."
Hooked-in makes it simple for fishermen to showcase their catches along with photos, maps, stories, strategies, and more.

Monday, March 3, 2008


Check out The Encyclopedia of Life.

The Concord Monitor discusses its merits.

We have another hope for the encyclopedia. Most of today's children and youth, even those living in the country or where woods separate suburbs, suffer from what journalist Richard Louv dubbed "nature deficit disorder." Parental fear of the outdoors, and lives lived in front of computer screens or on playing fields, have robbed children of a wonder at and love of nature that has been part of the human psyche from the beginning.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Virtual Pause

A very good piece in the NY Times today by Mark Bittman.

I TOOK a real day off this weekend: computers shut down, cellphone left in my work bag, land-line ringer off. I was fully disconnected for 24 hours.

THIS movement to unplug appears to be gaining traction everywhere, from the blogosphere, where wired types like Ariel Meadow Stallings ( brag about turning off the screen one day a week (and how many books they’ve read so far this year), to the corporate world.

For example, Nathan Zeldes, a principal engineer at Intel (employees there read or send three million e-mail messages daily), is running a couple of experiments, one in which people spend a morning a week at work but offline, another in which people consciously reduce their e-mail output. Though he’s not reporting results, he’s encouraged and he says people are participating.

As a blogger, I am seriously considering this.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Aldo Leopold

We've worked hard over the years at NCTC to get the word out about Aldo Leopold's legacy. The Aldo Leopold Foundation does this work every day. Leopold is a hero to all conservationists, and he holds a special place in the history of the University of Wisconsin at Madison. They're planning a big Leopold celebration today in Madison.
(Leopold's) musings on that work and the relationships between people and nature are the basis of his 1949 book, “A Sand County Almanac.” With science, history, humor and prose, Leopold articulates the bond between people and the natural world; with the hope that readers would treat the land with love and respect.

More here.