Thursday, March 29, 2012

Stripping for the Planet

No, I don’t mean strip-mining the planet, or strip-malling the planet . Those have been done. And I don’t mean stripping the planet either, that’s been done too. I mean going out on a limb and doing something courageous: stripping for the planet.

Why? To get people to sign up for Earth Hour, which is this Saturday.

That’s what University of Illinois at Chicago student, Anna Swatson did and you can see the results here. A little inspiration – and a lot of courage – can go a long way. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Ecofest 2012 Events

The Call of Life
We are gearing up for this year's Ecofest (formerly the Ecolympics!), with the main events running from April 15 to April 22. We have a whole bunch of events that will help tune us in to our own ecological footprint on the environment and the consequent species loss. Sign up for our individual events (take a shorter shower, eat
less meat, bring your cup around to coffee, recycle, and more!) beginning on April 1.

April 8: A screening of the Call of Life, a documentary film about the present mass extinction. This screening will be at 7pm in the Rich Hall cinema room (not Danielsen, as previously advertised). All are welcome. Eco-Pizza provided.

April 16: 7pm @BU Central. Eco-Slam -- an environmental poetry slam and open mic. Come cheer on our eco-poets as they vie for eco-sustainability in our first-ever Eco-Slam. Featuring former National Slam Champion Regie Gibson in a special performance. Bring a poem for the open mic. Win a door prize. Become eco-inspired. All are welcome.

April 18: 12pm. Fred Wasserman from BU's Biology department presents a lunch-time seminar on "What is ethology?" Come and find out! Lunch will be provided. RSVP to Location: STH 406 (Classics Library, 745 Commonwealth Avenue). All are welcome.

April 19: 6pm. Musician and artist Miranda Loud from Naturestage presents her acclaimed multi-media lecture, Saving the Elephants, Saving Ourselves: The Role of the Arts in Social Change, that demonstrates how artists are using their art to draw attention to the plight of elephants, and shows how art can awaken empathy and kinship with other species.
Location: Kenmore Classroom Building 101 (KCB 101, 565 Commonwealth Avenue). All are welcome.

April 24: 6pm. Darra Goldstein, founding editor of Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture, and Russian professor from Williams College presents a seminar on What we Talk About When We Talk About Food. All are welcome. Location: Barrister's Hall, BU Law School (765 Commonwealth Avenue).

We are also working on some eco-excursions. Stay tuned for those.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Writing About Extinction

common loon, biodiversity, extinction, endangered species
I stumbled on Paul Aird's work when I was looking for recent extinctions in North America. He is Professor Emeritus of forest conservation policy at the University of Toronto's Faculty of Forestry. Among his research interests are forest history and the ongoing efforts to conserve biodiversity.

He is also a big fan of loons, so much so that he has named his website Loons Forever, after them. There you can find links to his ecologically themed writings, songs, plays and philosophy. You can also find this terrific audio clip, which  makes you want to go to where the loons are and be a part of that landscape . I don't know about you, but I definitely have not heard enough loons in my life.

Paul Ehrlich described the present mass extinction as popping out rivets from an airplane. We don't know which rivet is going to bring the entire plane down. Check out Paul Aird's animated poem, The ABC Book of Extinctions, to see how many letters you can delete before you get absolute gibberish.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Paddling into the Apocalypse

Gessner Big
Start reading a few environmental essays or books and it’s not hard to get caught up in the doom and gloom. We’re killing the planet. We’re ruining the atmosphere. We’re all going to die. If the apocalypse doesn’t arrive tomorrow, wait till the day after. Soon every consumptive act, driving in our cars, eating a steak, is easily seen as a nail in the coffin of a sustainable future, and soon we drive ourselves crazy. How to live with ourselves

Start by reading David Gessner. I found him when I was looking for environmental essays when somebody starts off  I am sick of nature. Sick of trees, sick of birds, sick of the ocean, you know you have to keep reading.
Here he paddles down our beloved Charles River with the Apocalypse on his mind. In 1955, the Charles was described by Bernard DeVoto in Harper’s Magazine as “foul and noisome, polluted by offal and industrious wastes, scummy with oil, unlikely to be mistaken for water,” hardly the place you want to paddle or sail today.

            Paddling, he finds, is a way to take a break from the onslaught of bad environmental news, shut our mind up and listen to what’s around us. And he uses it to wrestle with living with the problems of the world. While you’re checking out his fine essay (he strikes me as a writer who shows up to the cafe still in his bathrobe and slippers), check out this great promo for his Green manifesto.

Rumi once wrote Start a big foolish project. Gessner's manifesto is easily summarized (though better heard in his words above): 1. fall in love with a place. 2. fight for that place. 3. launch a larger project about the self in the world.

The Charles River didn't recover by itself. People had to love it enough to restore it. The wild is in our backyard. We just have to look for it.  

Friday, March 16, 2012

Poetry Against the Pipeline

EARTH: We need to talk.

IRRESPONSIBLE EXTRACTION: Would love to, babe (checks time), but I have a meeting.

EARTH: Not again.


EARTH: Enough it enough! I can’t put this off for another minute (removes coat).

IRRESPONSIBLE EXTRACTION: (makes point of not looking at Earth’s gashes.) I know what you’re going to say. (mockingly) Take, take, take, that’s all you ever do. But look, I can’t have this conversation right now. I’m already late for a meeting—

This excerpt of Irresponsible Extraction, We’re Through With You (1,366.08 km), by the Ad Hoc Theatre Company, appears in “The Enpipe Line, 70,000+ kilometers of poetry written in resistance to the Enbridge Northern Pipeline Gateway Proposal” (thanks to Dorothee Lang, who edits the BluePrint Review, and also has a fine piece in the poetry-pipeline, for bringing this to my attention).

You’ve heard about the now shelved Keystone pipeline. The Northern Gateway Pipeline is its evil twin brother.

Here’s direct from the blurb (
The Enpipe Line goes dream vs. dream with Enbridge's proposed Northern Gateway Pipelines. If built, these 1,170 kilometre pipelines will carry tar sands oil and its poisonous by-products across more than 700 streams and rivers between Alberta and the B.C. port of Kitimat. In Kitimat, crude oil would be pumped into supertankers for export, threatening the fragile coastal ecosystem with a major spill. Originally conceived as a 1,170 kilometre-long collaborative line of poetry to match the length of the proposed pipelines, The Enpipe Line has grown to over 70,000 kilometres. Its community of poets comes from all ages and walks of life: woodworkers, painters, environmental campaigners, single parents, professors, children. This book, like the pipeline it opposes, outlines a dream. But, unlike Enbridge's proposal, The Enpipe Line represents the shared desire of living community: that the Northern Gateway Pipelines proposal never see the light of day.

Download a free copy until March 22. The volume goes live (in paper) from Creekstone Press on March 23. Kudos to them. See also my post about Wade Davis and the Sacred Headwaters. Vive la RĂ©sistance! 

You can see how EARTH stands up to IRRESPONSIBLE EXTRACTION on page 83. 

You can also see that environmental action takes many forms, including writing a poem. We at Eco-Fest are pleased to announce that one of the main features of our week, April 15-22, comes on April 16th, when we present Eco-Slam, a night of environmental poetry. Stay tuned for details. 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Quote of the Day

I'm reading Leslie Paul Thiele's "Environmentalism for a New Millennium" and he's got a great quote from John Nichols, author of The Milagro Beanfield War, about the interdependence of environmental issues:
The tragedy is "environmental action" is often seen only as an effort to save the spotted owl... without giving a hoot about the ghettos of Houston, Cleveland, North Philadelphia and the situation of the people on this globe, which is atrocious. Until environment is seen as the entire picture, both natural and human, we're going to have a real problem... If you're a member of the Sierra Club you should also be against death squads in El Salvador, if you're a member of the Audubon Society you should have also been out there trying to stop the Gulf War; if you're a member of the National Wildlife Federation you should also be worried about the total destruction of our inner cities and the fact that unemployment among black children between 15 and 24 is 80 to 90 percent. Otherwise, it becomes irrelevant to worry about sea turtles. The clue to any kind of survival of the planet is training people to the macroscopic overview, to understand how their lives are connected to everything else, to understand that if you kill one species you're endangering all others. 
It all sounds like a recipe for an engaged citizenry to me.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

50 Best Photos From the Natural World

seahorses, biodiversity, nature

We live in a beautiful world. The best way to save biodiversity is to get to know the species we have around us near and far. These are the species we share the planet with, the ones we are both imperiling and trying to save. They are spectacular products of 3.7 billion years of evolution on Earth like we are. They gather and mate, they eat, look curiously at the world, nuzzle and make eye contact just like we do. Check out the Big Picture from and see how these animals deserve our admiration and respect, as well as our protection.
(Hint: use the "j" and "k" keys to easily navigate down and up these terrific photos.)

Monday, March 12, 2012

Cool Biodiversity: The Mimic Octopus

We still know so little about the 1.8 million catalogued species that we share the planet with and our knowledge is especially incomplete when it comes to the oceans. The best way to halt the biodiversity crisis is to get to know these creatures better. The good people over at the 5 Gyres, whose mission is to end plastic pollution, no less, are starting a series about Cool Water Animals on their blog, kicking it off with the, ahem, inimitable, mimic octopus. Check out the video to see why they call this fantastic creature a magician. And, while you're at it, check in with the 5 Gyres:

Friday, March 9, 2012

Environmental Cartoons I: Crisis? What Crisis?

I was searching for environmental cartoons and found the work of Canadian Peter Ommundsen, who studied wildlife biology and worked for 32 years in environmental science at Selkirk College in British Columbia.
environment, nature, joke, what is global warming, extinction, cartoons

I'm going to feature some more in coming posts, but this first one reminds me of the 1975 album cover by Supertramp, Crisis? What Crisis?
album covers, crisis what crisis, supertramp,environment
I picture this guy as the one on the other end of the phone in the above cartoon...
If you find any good enviro-cartoons, send them to me or post a link in the comments.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Learning from Nature -- Alison Hawthorne Deming

nature, wildlife, endangered, elephants
What can we learn from our encounters from nature, particularly from the great animals like elephants? This is Alison Hawthorne Deming writing about being stuck in the mud on a safari in Africa: 

Being stuck is how any earth cel­ebrant might feel these days, con­fronted by the habitat-hogging reign of human culture over the planet.  But one of nature's little tricks is that our better intentions can be fueled by the simple contemplation of natural beauty.  Whether our empathy for other spe­cies is sufficient to motivate the level of care that the damaged world requires remains an open question.  But to feed one's wonder and love for the varieties of earth's self-expression is one of our better desires. You can read the entire essay from which this excerpt was extracted at the NRDC's 
OnEarth Magazine

As a bonus, listen to a podcast from OnEarth magazine in which Deming reads the essay 
and talks in more detail about what we can learn from nature. 
Poet Alison Hawthorne Deming on What Nature Teaches -- If We Listen | OnEarth Magazine

Also see an earlier post about the emotional life of elephants here