Who Killed Judi Bari?

In the spring of 1990 the car transporting Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney, vocal and influential activists for the preservation of the California Redwoods, exploded. Bari was an organizer for Earth First! a well-known environmental group formed in 1979 that specializes in non-violent direction action. Bari was a major organizer for their Redwood Summer, a series of anti-logging protests aimed at protection of the Redwood forests and the changing of logging practices.

Bari had received a series of death threats in the months leading up to the bombing. The FBI arrived at the scene in minutes. Injured, both Bari and Cherney were taken into custody in Oakland after the bombing and charged with transportation of an incendiary device; they were being held for bombing themselves. Bari never recovered, remaining severely disabled for the rest of her life. Though the charges were dropped amid clear evidence of a third party being responsible for the crime, the most compelling of which being the placement of the device directly beneath the drivers seat, the FBI and national press painted Bari and Cherney as environmental terrorists and used the incident to marginalize the entire environmental movement of the early 90’s.

No other suspects have ever been taken into custody.

The image of environmental activists as crazy, dirty hippies with no jobs and nothing better to do than drugs and violent petty crimes stems from incidences such as these. Far from the successes of other non-violent movements, civil right, and labor for instance, the environmental movement of the late 20th century was unable to garner mainstream support or respect, instead becoming increasingly caricatured and ignored. This allowed policy makers to largely ignore the environmental movement in its totality.

Perhaps the government and big business had learned a few things before the environmental movement was realized, perhaps the social climate was not ready for another cultural revolution, maybe it was a movement ahead of it’s time, lacking the rigorous research and obvious signs of climate change and species loss we now see daily on the news. Whatever the cause, Judi Bari, what she fought for, and almost the entirety of the movement have faded from public consciousness. Climate change, and the fact of dwindling resources have not.

Most distressing about this is the early, pre-911 association of non-violent activism, especially environmental activism, with terrorism. There is good reason to know about Judi Bari, and not just for the protection of the Redwoods, but for the protection of our civil rights and the freedom of speech. The fight to save the Redwoods continues. (original post February 26, 2015)

References/Resources:

John Muir in 1920 on saving the Redwoods:
http://www.yosemite.ca.us/john_muir_writings/save_the_redwoods.html

The Who Bombed Judi Bari Movie Official website:
http://www.whobombedjudibari.com/

Persistence

Summer this year stretched on seemingly forever- the rain only coming to this temperate corner of the world a day after we passed the mark for the longest dry spell on record. For weeks we watched through smoky skies as first perennials and then even the trees began to suffer and brown from thirst. Fall though, now presses fully upon us, and the entire world seems to be relieved, save for my tomatoes, which cling to the hope of ripening in the sun’s waning moments.
This year, more than most, I have found solace in their persistence.
Gardening is our most tangible reminder that we will always reap what we sow, good and bad. More than that, it is proof that nothing, not even the most diligent care, can protect us from the unexpected, from the actions of outside forces and things beyond our control. We are not so far ourselves from the sunflower bowing in late rains, the blighted tomato, or the early pumpkin, slowly being eaten on the vine.
But in the end, the garden still yields its fruits, the birds still feast and sing, and I marvel at my sunflowers, still standing and my tomatoes, intent on ripening.

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The Alsea Papers

Alsea, an unincorporated community of less than 200 people in the Siuslaw Forest of Benton County, Oregon is home to one of the most important private libraries of environmental information with respect to chemicals, herbicides and pesticides in particular, in the United States. What started in the 1970’s as a community lawsuit against the National Forest Service for spraying residents with herbicides containing chemical found in Agent Orange has become over the years the final resting place for documents obtained in the course of scores of similar lawsuits across the country. Last year, the information was made widely available to the public for the first time on a searchable database through a collaboration of the Bioscience Resource Project and the Center for Media and Democracy.

The contents are shocking.

Want to know about the EPA turning a blind eye to corporate America’s pervasive misuse of chemicals- many of which were applied directly to communities or included without warning in common household product? Or about entire communities plagued with cancers and miscarriages? Or the use of hazardous wastes as ‘inert components’ in other products? Probably not. But like most important things, you should anyway. The people of Alsea, who worked for decades to amass this information on behalf of impacted humans, animals, plants, and ecosystems are aging, their work needs to be retained, and not just on a website.

Go read. www.poisonpapers.org

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Terrorism and Heirloom Tomatoes

There are a lot of great, albeit traditionally left-winged reasons to eat locally. Eating locally supports small family owned farms and food producers, decreases the carbon footprint of your meals, discourages industrialization of farming practices and therefore the prevalence of pesticides and herbicides, supports your local economy, increases community sustainability, decreases dependence on the migrant workforce and foreign energy sources, and generally results in healthier meals and fresher/tastier food on your table. And we wonder why more conservatives haven’t hopped onto this bandwagon.

But there are a couple of reasons for eating locally that the conservative right can get behind. Eating locally is the best protection against food-related outbreaks of illness and disease and eating locally is the best way to combat agroterrorism. That’s right, agroterrorism, the malicious use of plant or animal pathogens to cause devastating disease in the food supply.

In 2006 Michael Pollan wrote an article for the New York Times discussing the role of industrialization in the prevalence of food-related outbreaks. While his article was written in the context of a spinach-related E coli outbreak, the recent problems with the peanut industry and the worldwide outbreak of swine flu have brought the issue back into focus. In his article, Pollan argues that the centralization of food processing and distribution centers leads to more frequent and widespread issues of infection and contamination, whereas food grown, processed, and distributed locally decreases the reach of food-related outbreaks and allows for faster and more efficient identification of sources and solutions to food-based illnesses. Pollan further goes on to note that when Tommy Thompson retired from the Department of Health and Human Services in 2004, he said “For the life of me, I cannot understand why the terrorists have not attacked our food supply, because it is so easy to do.” This sentiment was reiterated by the G.AO. in its 2003 Bioterrorism report to Congress, “The high concentration of our livestock industry and the centralized nature of our food-processing industry make them vulnerable to attack.” And they’re right, in 2006 eighty percent of beef in the United States was slaughtered by four companies and seventy-five percent of all precut salads were processed by only two companies. The implications of these numbers when viewed in the context of the spread of disease and our current healthcare crisis is terrifying. And the proof, at least lately, is in the peanut butter.

What this means is that food consciousness is no longer the proprietary holding of the liberal left, but a necessary and immediate change that must be made in the daily lives of ordinary citizens for the protection of public health and safety. Take back your health from the hands of industry, eat locally, and with compassion. (original post February 19, 2015)

To read Michael Pollans article:

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/10/15/magazine/15wwln_lede.html

For more information on farmers markets, eating locally, and CSA food shares:

http://www.localharvest.org/

http://100milediet.org/

http://www.animalvegetablemiracle.com/

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Physical Space

One of the primary goals of my writing is to advocate for people to spend more time outside, for their good and the good of the environment. As a result, I’ve had the opportunity to talk to hundreds of people from all over the world about barriers and challenges they face in doing just that. What is becoming clear to me from these discussions is the existence of a deep divide between people’s desire to be outside and the capacity of their modern lifestyle to allow them to do so. Moreover, what is increasingly described is a fundamental difficulty in trying to exit virtual space and step into physical space, regardless of whether that physical space is outdoors. Modern lives, it seems, are being led from the shoulders up, making the first natural spaces we need to step back into, then, our own bodies. To that end, a brief list for entering physical space:

– Silence or turn off your phone
– Look out a window
– Stretch
– Play a card or board game
– Cook a meal
– Stand
– Do one extra household task
– Close your eyes and breathe deeply
– Write a postcard
– Hug someone

The Sound of Silence

It’s been years since I’ve heard my own, or any other neighborhood for that matter, alive with the sounds of children. It’s not a subject much discussed, perhaps in large part due to the lack of adults outside to notice. The streets of the small city I live in are barren. On any given day I step outside to find a world more similar to the beginning of an apocalyptic movie than any of us might have imagined possible. But it is, and it’s the world we live in now, as evidenced by study after study documenting American life in the 21st Century. Suffice it to say, studies of ourselves indicate that we are overweight, lonely, inside, staring at screens, drowning in piles of our own possessions, and pumped full of drugs, pharmaceutical or otherwise. Our children, it seems, have become captives to our poor choices, and they are suffering for it. They face starting life obese, with less curiosity, attention span and motor skills than any previous generation, a predicament that is showing its impact in high rates of depression and suicide in teens and shorter life expectancies overall. A predicament, that research shows can to some large part be addressed with one simple action- send them outside. Send them out, allow them to move around and interact in real space, fill the air with the sound of them, the sound of hope.

The Tacoma Narrows

Drive west out of the Seattle area towards the Olympic Peninsula, and you will cross what must be one of the loveliest and most precariously perched bridges in the Pacific Northwest. Standing 540 feet high and almost a mile long, the twin Tacoma Narrows suspension spans seem imposing, or even overbuilt, but if you ask a local, they’ll tell you they like it that way. That’s because before the Narrows, there was Galloping Gertie, what was hailed as the ‘most modern’ bridge of its day when construction was completed in July of 1940. By November, Gertie had collapsed, having succumbed to an aeroelastic flutter caused by a 42 mile an hour wind. There was no loss of life in the incident, save for a cocker spaniel named Tubby who belonged to one of the engineers.
Now, the Tacoma Narrows stand as both a statement of perseverance and will and a cautionary tale. It’s important to remember that our control of nature is tenuous at best, and susceptible to failures of experience and imagination. As climate changes we necessarily must evaluate the dexterity and longevity of infrastructure, and try to imagine more.

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Playing with Fire

Building a fire in the 21st Century is a political act. Camp fires, that is. For most of human history camp and cooking fires were symbols of home, safety, and security. Today, modernity has replaced hearths with screens and kitchen fires with microwaves to such an extent that the skill of fire building itself is becoming a lost art form. In A Woman’s Guide to the Wild I argue that fire building is not only an essential and life-saving skill, it serves a clear purpose in increasing feelings of self-reliance and competence. Further, I argue that a lack of fire building skill decreases female participation in outdoor activities in general, which has negative consequences for mental, emotional, and physical health and for the environment as a whole.
What I learned after writing the book, in conversation after conversation at events and readings, is that the gender dynamic around building fires is deeply ingrained, and poorly understood on both sides- men feel obligated to take charge of fire building both to demonstrate their abilities in ‘survival’ situations and in response to female expectations, while women lack adequate training and practice opportunities and fear the repercussions of failure.
Yesterday, I overheard a millennial-aged man say this about building fires heading into the summer outdoor season. “I don’t really have any experience or training with fires. I kind of don’t really know what I’m doing at all. So, you know, every time I go to a girl’s house for a barbecue or ask a girl to go camping or whatever- I just dread it.”
It’s time to start talking to each other. It’s time to reconnect with basic skills. It’s time to build a fire.

All Troubles Are Troubles

An old friend going through a life experience that pretty much makes the rest of us feel like whiners about whatever it is we are facing had this to share with us:

‘Some days its easier than others to recognize that all troubles, no matter how trifling comparatively, are troubles. Its okay to feel that way. Its okay to recognize a broken nail as a trouble, a forest fire, a difficult to cash check, a long light, a ship wreck…etc. All troubles. All important in their way. If we try to pretend all things are insignificant in comparison to something else, we miss part of this experience. Instead, I measure troubles in the moment and honor them all before moving on.’

Validating and true. Comparison and judgement do nothing to help us down our paths. Rather, they cast shadows and lead us into the tangled brambles of self judgement, doubt, and fear. There is no way round your challenges, only through. So face them, one by one. (original post circa 2014)

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Roadsigns

Washington State is a place of divergent cultures, a meeting ground for tech and timber, old and new. It is a region in flux, redefining itself on a generational scale so broad that it can’t help but run against itself. For example, the northwestern corner of the state houses Amazon, Boeing, Microsoft, and also the largest protected stand of old growth in the United States, the Olympic National Forest and adjoining Wilderness Areas.
One way of taking in this culture clash, and perhaps coming to understand the essential nature of a place, is via its road signs, which I did, on a recent trip to the Olympic Peninsula.
In no particular order:
‘Roddy O’s Square Dance Lessons’
‘We plant some more/for future bounty’
‘What supports habitat, houses and hospitals? State Trust Lands’
‘Poverty lane’
‘Ice and kindling/Knives and Ammo/Youth bows’
‘Blackberry Jam, 99% seedless’
Communities of ‘Beaver’ and ‘Sappho’
‘Logged 1930/1984/1986/…Next Harvest 2036 Jobs grow with trees, hand-hewn signs of timber rhetoric
‘USA’
‘Range area, watch out for livestock’
‘State Prison, do not pick up hitchhikers’
‘Loggers support Tim Fletcher, Our Future, Our Mayor’
‘Where the Mountains Greet the Sea’
‘Twilight town’
‘Edward Cullen Didn’t Sleep Here’