Friday, May 30, 2008

Regional Blogging

We once camped on Traverse Bay, it was a beautiful place. Here's a blog entry from the Traverse City Record Eagle that gives some good tips to getting outside in that neck of the woods.

Explore the boardwalks through the sedge meadows at the Grass River Natural Area. I know, I know - everybody knows about GRNA. However, I suspect there are those among you who have not yet been there. Go. Just do it. Your children will thank you. (OK, kids being kids, they may not thank you this week, but just wait - when they have kids of their own they will THANK YOU.)
Here's a statement from the Island Angler Blog in Florida, telling us what to do and why. It's our responsibility--Right on.

Children who spend time in nature are more likely to have pro-environmental attitudes as adults. Time spent in nature with an important adult often shapes a child’s long-term environmental ethic. If this nature deficit continues unabated, we may face a dearth of environmental leaders, professionals, and advocates as we try to conquer future environmental challenges like climate change. Mentoring is but our highest goal and must continue through volunteers and all who are of interest to our future and that of our children’s, children’s future!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Summer Camp

I'm told that the cable channels have been blitzing the film Meatballs recently.  I always liked that film, it reminded me of my camp experiences, at least a little.  

Here's an article about choosing a summer camp for your kids.  While it's probably a little late to be choosing a camp for this summer, it's still worth a look.  

By the way, I support the camps that ban personal electronic devices (although a group cd player might not be a bad thing in the cabin...).

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Up in the North Woods

On Webster Brook in Maine's Baxter State Park

The northern forest of New England is a grand and mostly wild place. Nearly 30 years ago, I worked at a program in northern Maine run by the Boy Scouts National Council. Called Maine National High Adventure, it gave scouts the opportunity to paddle many of the wonderful rivers in northwest Maine. I started at MNHA as a camper, and after three years of trips, became a staff member. Those experiences had a huge impact on my love of wild places--like the Allagash Wilderness Waterway, West Branch of the Penobscot, East Branch of the Penobscot, Webster Brook, Loon Lake, Chesuncook Lake, and many others.

Unfortunately, the National Council of the Boy Scouts closed down MNHA several years back. In my opinion a HUGE blunder.

But, the local scout Council decided to keep the program running, and it still exists today.

Check it out here.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Childhood Obesity News

From the NY Times, childhood obesity rates seem to have reached a plateau. Reasons yet to be determined.

But the finding, based on survey data gathered from 1999 to 2006 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and published in Wednesday’s issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association, was greeted with guarded optimism.

It is not yet clear if the lull in childhood weight gain is permanent or even if it is the result of public anti-obesity efforts to limit junk food and increase physical activity in schools. And doctors note that even if the trend holds up, 32 percent of American school children still are overweight or obese, representing an entire generation that will be saddled with weight-related health problems as it ages.

Time For Recess Again

The end of the school year is rapidly approaching, so this post would be more relevant for the Fall. But, it is still worth reminding all that recess continues to be a casualty of the mandates, "school accountability", and time limits many schools face today. the Buffalo News looks at this issue today.
“We don’t have recess on our schedule where students will go outside and experience activities,” Principal Silvia Baines said.
Fortunately, those who speak out on the value of recess for kids are getting the word out. And some states are listening. New Jersey is considering making recess mandatory.
Schools feeling a budget crunch or pressure due to mandated tests have whittled down time for kids to relax and take a break, said bill sponsor Sen. Robert Singer, R-Ocean. Singer, who has two elementary school-age children, said, "In a structured world, we don't allow children to be children enough."
Here's what some researchers think.

Monday, May 26, 2008

News Round-Up

Lot's of news on this Memorial Day.

From the San Jose Mercury News:

"You can walk up stairs and count them or collect leaves," said Stipek. "There's no excuse for not spending a lot of time outside in California, and some kids are over-structured. But a lot of kids have too little structure, and they don't have anything to do after school."

Bird's Tender Tracks preschool is totally outdoors: Parents drop off their children at a Palo Alto park with lunch and a change of clothes. The kids then pile into Bird's rumbling white van for adventures. The parents who sign up tend to be outdoorsy types themselves.

"When I was a kid, we ran in a pack. There were about 16 of us, and we played games like hide-and-seek and found turtles and frogs in the creek," said Natalie Simison, who grew up in Palo Alto.

the Toledo Blade:
But we need to find a way to transfer that same youthful passion to the great outdoors. It's depressing to think that our national and state parks are increasingly becoming places for old people to go, while many of those same folks of a certain age are intimidated by the crush of young humanity at the shopping malls.
and Blue Ridge Now, from North Carolina.
Such lessons are central to Muddy Sneakers, which takes local students out of the classroom and into the great outdoors. The program's goal: Helping children combat "nature deficit disorder."

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Schools Can Make A Difference

The NY Times had a column a couple of weeks ago that looked at the state of school environments in the US and in other countries. The problem is what the author calls cubicle culture.
School design, particularly public school design, is often lumped in with the design of other institutional structures like jails, civic centers and hospitals, to detrimental effect. My high school, for example, had the dubious distinction of having been designed by the architect responsible for San Quentin. (The convicts got the better building.) Schools fulfill a practical function, to be sure, but shouldn’t they be designed to inspire?
This problem is also described in a couple of documentary films that have come out recently, including Radiant City: A Documentary About Suburban Sprawl, and Where Do the Children Play (we're considering both films for this year's American Conservation Film Festival).

But there are some good examples of schools out there that get kids connected with the outdoors, to their great benefit. We met with a group of fourth graders on Friday from one such school in Virginia. We asked them a series of questions about what they do after school and what they though nature did for them, and the answers were surprisingly hopeful. These kids talked to us about roaming the fields and woods around their homes, and only 10% of the group even mentioned video games. Many saw nature as an important place in their lives.

This movement really can make a difference.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Bamboozlers Ramp It Up

Vanity Fair has a good roll-up of the latest from George Will, who is still afraid that the "Dirty Hippies" are gonna take over the world with their eco-fascism, or is that eco-commies?.

George Will is far from the only middle-aged Boomer pundit who spends his time shadowboxing Dirty Hippies on the Washington Post editorial page, but his Thursday column is a doozy even by that genre’s dubious standards. Seems the Communist Greens, with their “hostility to markets” and contempt for individual freedom, have teamed up with Activist Judges yet again. They’re after America’s vital fluids!

Got new for ya George, 1968 was 40 years ago, grow up. The commie stuff is a little tired.

NDD News

First, the BBC reports on the benefits to your health when you get outside. Read it here.
There's nothing new about doctors recommending their patients take more exercise. But what kind?

You could pay a fortune for gym membership, or you could trudge down to your local swimming pool and spend the rest of the day smelling faintly of chlorine.

But the best exercise of all might be the easiest and the cheapest: a stroll in the park, or a country ramble.

The secret ingredient? Greenery. Those of us who live in towns and cities, and even some who live in the countryside, don't get enough of it.

Here's more from the Charlotte Observer.

Why should we be concerned about these trends?

First, how can we expect children to help protect nature when they don't appreciate it? Conservation efforts will be even more daunting when future generations have not had experiences in nature.

What is more important, research shows that being close to nature may increase people's ability to concentrate, improve the behavior of children with attention disorders and boost science test scores. Taking a walk in the woods, stopping to smell the roses and digging in dirt are good for mental health, learning and brain development.

A Year in Two Minutes

I used to go to Jackson Hole three times a year. There's no place else like it.

Here's a link to a great video showing a year in Jackson Hole, in two minutes time.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Let's Be Careful Out There

Could the changes in society caused by higher gasoline, a less than optimal reputation in the world, and a budding realization that the mass media controls us in irrational ways actually be having an impact on our behavior, this time for the good?

Check out this blog, Free Range Kids, that actually asks:
Do you ever.....let your kid ride a bike to the library? Walk alone to school? Take a bus, solo? Or are you thinking about it? If so, you are raising a Free Range Kid! At Free Range, we believe in safe kids. We believe in helmets, car seats and safety belts. We do NOT believe that every time school age children go outside, they need a security detail.
More on this from the Christian Science Monitor.

Free Range Kids is a great resource for those who are tired of the daily drumbeat from both local TV news and cable news that will jump on a stranger danger story every time there's an opportunity. As the blog points out, your kid is 40 times more likely to be killed in a car accident than be abducted...

We recently let our 15 year old fly to a friends home down the east coast alone. It was tough, but the right thing to do, and everything was fine.

Three cheers for Free Range Kids.


Bill McKibben pens an important new essay. Worth reading. Our kids future is at risk.
We're the ones who kicked the warming off; now, the planet is starting to take over the job. Melt all that Arctic ice, for instance, and suddenly the nice white shield that reflected 80% of incoming solar radiation back into space has turned to blue water that absorbs 80% of the sun's heat. Such feedbacks are beyond history, though not in the sense that Francis Fukuyama had in mind.
Find it here.

Bob Pyle's Butterfly Year

Here's an update from Bob, via Orion Magazine.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

More on Technology in the Wild

National Parks Traveler has a great post on the use of cell phones and personal locater devices in the woods. We wrote on this topic recently, but wanted to jump back to it after reading this latest post. Here's an important comment from a NPS search and rescue guy on a story of a hiker who, after feeling lost in the fog, called for help:
"I know there may be things left out of the letter-to-the-editor, but this guy sets off his PLB and then sets up shelter? Whatever happened to setting up a shelter, getting in a sleeping bag, making something to drink, sleep the night away and see what the next morning would bring in regard to clear weather, finding the trail, seeing the highways below, etc.?" wonders Mr. Farabee. "This guy, it seems to me, has very quickly and all too readily called for the cavalry to come to his rescue. At the seemingly 'blink of an eye' he has put a great many people at risk and to a great deal of trouble. Whatever happened to a little personal responsibility, sucking in his gut and waiting a day or two?"
Absolutely right.

Several years back I was on the south slope of the Brooks Range in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, playing with friends. Half our group decided to do a long hike (a 30 mile circumnavigation of Double Mountain), starting rather late in the day. They stumbled into camp about 1:00 AM, in good shape, but tired. One of our party asked why I hadn't gotten worried and tried to do something after they failed to return after dark (very late August above the Arctic Circle--"dark" was about 10:30 PM). One of my friends responded for me:
"Steve might have been concerned, but wouldn't have done anything until at least noon the next day. These guys were experienced, and relatively well equipped, and sometimes you just get delayed..."
That response was right on. As we ate breakfast with our tired hikers the next day, The same person asked John, "were you worried that we might think something had happened to you?" John replied, "We knew Steve would not have acted until noon today..."

We all need to take some responsibility when out in the woods, on the river, our in the mountains. Take the cell phone if you need to, but let's not use it unless we really have to...


Leave No Child INSIDE Central Ohio Collaborative posts a new article by Rich Louv.
Got dirt? “In South Carolina, a truckload of dirt is the same price as a video game!” reports Norman McGee, a father in that state who bought a small pickup-load of dirt for his daughter and friends.
Check it out.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Rock Jargon

Every group has its vocabulary. This includes those who climb boulders--the sport's called bouldering.

We used to boulder all of the time to hone our skills for the bigger cliffs, and because it was just plain fun. I suppose folks who listened to our stories of the "problems" we tackled sometimes needed translation.

So, Here's a link to an article that describes the lingo of boulderers.
"If you have friends who engage in animated conversations about “crimps” and “slopers,” spend their time swapping “beta,” or whine about their “shredded tips,” there’s only one rational explanation: You’re hanging out with boulderers. Devotees of bouldering — a form of rope-free rock climbing that requires little gear..." 

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Obesity is the Hot Topic

The recent articles on obesity in the Post have sparked some interest and good analysis.

Andrew Sullivan jumps into the issue here by linking to Ezra Kline's piece in the American Prospect. As Kline notes, lots goes into this problem.

"Only in December did the U.S. Department of Agriculture modify the Women, Infants and Children nutrition program to assist low-income families in buying fresh fruits and produce," reports The Washington Post in their feature on obesity. "The addition was blocked for a decade by politics and by industry sectors worried that WIC's food packages would contain less milk, eggs and cheese."

The WIC is a federal program that "provides Federal grants to States for supplemental foods, health care referrals, and nutrition education for low-income pregnant, breastfeeding, and non-breastfeeding postpartum women, and to infants and children up to age five who are found to be at nutritional risk." In other words, it's a health program for expectant mothers and young families. And for decades, the program was blocked from encouraging families to buy fruits and produce and instead used to push saturated fat, cholesterol, and more cholesterol milk, eggs, and cheese. Charming.

Time to get our priorities in line, where outdoor activity is mixed with healthy diets, no?

I Am the Walrus

I've had the privilege of watching walrus in their natural habitat. it was a spectacular site, with hundreds of male walrus beached on a small strip of sand and gravel at the bottom of a cliff on Bristol Bay in Alaska. This place is located in Togiak National Wildlife Refuge, a place few have heard of.

Since then, I've been a walrus fan. But because of the geography of walrus, few people will ever get to see them, and climate change will make them even more elusive.

So, check this article from today's New York Times and meet the walrus.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Bass Pro Gets Active

I've been hearing a Bass Pro Shop advertisement on the radio the past few days where folks are encouraged to get their kids outdoors. They spice up this request by giving a 15% discount on outdoor gear if you bring in a video game to trade in for the discount.

Kudos to Bass Pro for this program. Here's more from a Bass Pro press release from a couple of weeks back:
One incentive to get more kids to turn off computers and go outdoors is the Video Game Trade-In. For each video game kids and adults bring in Wednesday through Monday, May 21st through 26th, they will receive a 15% discount off the regular price of Bass Pro Shops branded items in fishing, water sports, tents, sleeping bags and footwear.
Update: You really need to hear these ads, they are a direct attack against the temporary nature of video games, suggesting that going fishing is indeed a lifelong sport. Great job.

Preaching to the Choir?

New book review from the AAI Climbing Blog. Is Last Child in the Woods simply preaching to the choir?
Ultimately, Last Child in the Woods is not all gloom and doom. Louv passionately argues that a return to the “way it was when we were kids” when parents just let their kids run around the neighborhood to climb trees and dig holes and ride bikes and play will at least partially heal a number of these social ills. He argues that it’s time for our culture to reacquaint our children with the outdoors. There is no doubt that those who read this book will be convinced. The only problem with his argument is that he is likely to be making it to the very people who already encourage their children to spend time outside.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Childhood Obesity Focus

Was away a few day, come back home in Loudoun to a front page, above the fold piece in the Sunday Post on childhood obesity.
Patterns of eating and activity, often set during early childhood, are influenced by government and education policies, cultural factors and environmental changes. Income and ethnicity are implicated, though these days virtually every community has a problem.

In affluent Loudoun County, more than a third of 2- to 5-year-olds are overweight. In some lower-income wards in the District, almost half of all schoolchildren and pre-adolescents fit that label. In middle-class Prince George's County, nearly a quarter of all children through age 17 are overweight.

Would like to have read more on the causes, but it's a start. Let's hear something about the disconnect with nature.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Oil and an Adaptation

I've always enjoyed Vanity Fair. Here are two article links from this great magazine.

First, a piece from 2004 about two kids who make their own version of Raiders of the Lost Ark.

When 10-year-old Chris Strompolos and 11-year-old Eric Zala decided to remake Raiders of the Lost Ark, shot for shot, in the summer of 1982, they never imagined it would take 7 years—and emerge, two decades later, as a minor cult phenomenon. A tale of love, obsession, and pissed-off moms.

Then Robert Kennedy's latest on the future of oil and his vision for the future.

The United States has far greater domestic energy resources than Iceland or Sweden does. We sit atop the second-largest geothermal resources in the world. The American Midwest is the Saudi Arabia of wind; indeed, North Dakota, Kansas, and Texas alone produce enough harnessable wind to meet all of the nation’s electricity demand. As for solar, according to a study in Scientific American, photovoltaic and solar-thermal installations across just 19 percent of the most barren desert land in the Southwest could supply nearly all of our nation’s electricity needs without any rooftop installation, even assuming every American owned a plug-in hybrid.

Climate Demographics

I saw this Pew study results a few days ago. Wired looks at them and asks some obvious questions. Unfortunately, the whole issue of climate change has become a political football, the goal of some of the parties involved, I'm sure..

That strikes me as deeply weird. I don't even have a snarky quip, much less an explanation. What do you think, Wired Science readers? Why are less-educated Republicans more likely to agree with the global scientific community than their more-educated political counterparts, and vice versa among Democrats?

from the Pew Research Study

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

It's a Bear, Run

Now for something completely different.

Here's a person getting a little closer to nature than he wanted. I'm figuring these shots were taken on Barter Island at the Kaktovik landfill. Can't really link to the whole gallery direct, but here's a general link.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Day Care Centers Fail

Here's a great wrap up of press on the issue we mentioned the other day--that of day care centers that do not like their kids going outside.

Parents are getting into the act as well.
Researchers from the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center found that children are kept indoors if they are wearing flip flops instead of sneakers, or are not wearing the appropriate clothing or coat for outdoor play.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Friday News Story

This one from the Denver Post.
Cameron Renteria, 9, is buzzing with excitement over a patch of sandy earth. It's shaded by a twisting juniper and ringed by rocks. It has just enough room for him and two friends to cram onto, unpack their peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches, and chatter with bravado about what they'll do if they encounter mountain lions and rattlesnakes.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Volcano Art

TPM tipped us off to these amazing shots of the Chaiten volcano in Chile.


I'm on the selection Committee of the American Conservation Film Festival. Each year we view lots of films, some great, some not so great. We're always looking for new films that look at our relationship with nature. Last festival, that film was Summercamp! This year, we haven't found it yet, although I read about this in production film, Play Again, with interest.

Do your children play outside? Do they know where to watch ants on the march or find a good climbing tree? Or are they inside, parked in front of a screen? Most important, what's in store for kids -- and society -- when children are cut off from nature?

These are urgent questions for two Portland moms, Tonje Hessen Schei of Sunnyside and Meg Merrill of Multnomah Village, who are making a documentary, "Play Again," that explores a culture in which the average child recognizes more than 100 corporate logos but can't name 10 plants.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Judgement, Technology, and Wild Places

The Thought Kitchen has an interesting post on the Oregon Legislature considering a bill that would require parties on Mt. Hood to carry electronic signaling devices during parts of the year.

Bad idea. Having worked in the Presidential Range of NH and the North Woods of Maine for several years, I have lugged injured hikers off the mountain, patch up injured canoeists and had friends that almost paid, or did pay, the ultimate price while in the wild. Forcing a load of people to carry electronic communication devices (yes, I know a lot probably use them now) makes it more likely that someone without the necessary judgment or experience will rely on that phone or GPS transmitter rather than their own wits. That ends up with a lot more rescue trips, many unnecessary, and that puts everyone at a greater risk.

So, do we need to compel folks to use technology to be safe in wild places?

Not unless you want to use it.

Good judgment, experience, a compatible group, and a willingness to turn back will always trump carrying an electronic device. In this age of 24 hour news cycles, where shrill stories of stranger danger, lyme disease, and hour by hour coverage of lost mountaineers, it's easy for dumb, reactive responses like compulsory carrying of GPS tracking units, to come into focus. These news stories are usually written by folks who haven't stepped foot out of their backyards in years.

All the more reason for people to reconnect with nature.

Those who wish to rely on this type of technology should be able to carry them (but not use them as a crutch for real judgment). But for the government to compel folks to bring a transmitter into the woods or up on the mountain simply negates the reasons that many of us go to wild places.


When I looked at The Thought Kitchen post the other day, I noticed the May 23, but not the 2007 date...anyways, even though this is really an outdated issue, it still is worth considering. I don't know what happened with the Oregon bill. It should be noted to that the
Thought Kitchen is part of Nau, who have regretfully for all of us, announced that they are shutting down their business. Check out their website quick, and buy some of their remaining stock, it's great stuff. Hopefully their fine blog will remain viable.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Mulch is Very Bad

Interesting story today on a study that found reasons why some day care centers don't give their kids much time outdoors. Here's an example:
"Then there was the mulch factor. "The staff members who participated in the groups were really concerned about mulch in the play area,' said lead author Dr. Kristen Copeland. 'Many said that the kids eat the mulch, or use it as weapons, or it gets caught in their shoes. It also requires constant upkeep. It’s certainly not something that we had anticipated as an issue, but judging by the amount of and intensity of the discussions among child care teachers, it really is.'"
It should be noted that the day care center located on the campus I work at has the kids outdoors all the time, and yes, they get dirty.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Stuff and How it has Defined Us

Orion has a good piece out called The Gospel of Consumption.
FROM THE EARLIEST DAYS of the Age of Consumerism there were critics. One of the most influential was Arthur Dahlberg, whose 1932 book Jobs, Machines, and Capitalism was well known to policymakers and elected officials in Washington. Dahlberg declared that “failure to shorten the length of the working day . . . is the primary cause of our rationing of opportunity, our excess industrial plant, our enormous wastes of competition, our high pressure advertising, [and] our economic imperialism.” Since much of what industry produced was no longer aimed at satisfying human physical needs, a four-hour workday, he claimed, was necessary to prevent society from becoming disastrously materialistic. “By not shortening the working day when all the wood is in,” he suggested, the profit motive becomes “both the creator and satisfier of spiritual needs.” For when the profit motive can turn nowhere else, “it wraps our soap in pretty boxes and tries to convince us that that is solace to our souls.”
Read it here.

Certainly malls are icons of our consumer culture. For some alternative fun with mall culture, check out and the Malls of America blog , and if that weren't enough, the Mall Hall of Fame blog. Enough.

Friday, May 2, 2008

A Little Hike

Not really. Check out this Wildebeat podcast that tells the story of a hike Mary Chambers, a ten year old, took with her parents. Actually a big hike, walking the 2,650 mile length of the Pacific Crest Trail.
When you're out hiking in the wilderness, it's definitely necessary to know some things. I think the most important thing, is how to find and purify your water, with a water filter. And another thing is definitely how to set up a tent and pitch a tent so you're safe from the rain and snow and mosquitos. But really, food is a really big issue, you know, what kind of foods are good for backpacking. What kind of foods won't spoil or be far too heavy. I guess food, water, and shelter are definitely the most important things when you're backpacking in the wilderness.
Read more in Mary's Mom's book on their journey, info here.


The bluebells are blooming here on Terrapin Neck, as are wildflowers of every shape, color and form, in places all across the country.

Remember next week is National Wildflower Week. There are events being held across the country, so get out there and enjoy them.

The national forests, national parks, national wildlife refuges, grasslands, and millions of acres of public lands are truly America's wildflower gardens. Celebrating Wildflowers' National Wildflower Week in late spring is an annual event. It launches a year long campaign that promotes the many programs featuring the important role that the Nation's public lands, over 630 million acres, play in providing diverse habitats for much of America's flora.

Celebrating Wildflowers, a collaborative commemoration between the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Park Service, emphasizes the importance of conservation and management of native plants and plant habitats and highlights the aesthetic, recreational, biological, medicinal, and economic values of wildflowers.

Here's more info on wildflowers and their role in our lives from our land management agencies.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Tree Living

Ever want to live in the trees? Here's a way you can do it.

The Mountain Culture blog has more.
Lots cooking up on Mt. Everest the past few days, related in part to the Olympic torch. Not our usual fare, but check out these reports:

Jim Curtin's blog here.

Wired Magazine summary of who's blogging from the mountain.

More recent news and a bunch of links to climber blogs at

And even more at Peakfreaks.

It is amazing how much technology has permeated the world of high altitude mountaineering.