News from the Center - June/July 2014
It takes little more than a glance at the news or a step outside to understand we are facing a time of serious change, both locally and globally—some for the better, some for the worse. In line with the hope that spring brings, we’ll start with some of the positive changes and good news within our bioregion.
Welcome New Staff and Board Members!
We are celebrating the expansion of our NEC family. We’d like to wish a hearty welcome to our two new Coastal Education program staffers: Justin Zakoren, who will be bringing hands-on learning opportunities to schools throughout the region, and to Jasmin Segura, who will be working with NEC and Humboldt Baykeeper to increase opportunities for community members to get out and explore Humboldt Bay. Many thanks to the California Coastal Commission and Coastal Conservancy for helping to support this work!
We are also excited to welcome two new NEC board members: Gary Falxa, who has stepped up to represent the North Coast Chapter of the California Native Plant Society, and Keytra Meyer, who is joining the board after serving on our Development Committee for almost two years. This infusion of energy along with the ongoing commitment of so many supporters means even more opportunities to educate, advocate, and celebrate on behalf of our treasured North Coast.
In this issue of EcoNews we commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the federal Wilderness Act and the 30th Anniversary of the California Wilderness Act. The 1964 Wilderness Act created the framework of our National Wilderness Preservation System which now comprises 110 million acres from coast to coast. This includes lands designated under California’s Wilderness Act such as the Trinity Alps and Siskiyou Wilderness Areas for which the NEC and many other organizations and individuals helped to fight for. (Read more on page 4).
Many thanks to the many elders who carried the torch as advocates for a living, thriving planet. Of those, I’d like to mention naturalist and wilderness writer Peter Matthiessen—who passed away last month—and share one of his musings on the value of preserving what is wild and free:
“The concept of conservation
is a far truer sign of civilization
than that spoilation of a continent
which we once confused with
-Peter Matthiessen, Wildlife in America
Breaking News for Trails!
As we were finalizing the pages for print on May 19, the Board of Supervisors voted to re-insert support for a regional trails system into the County’s General Plan Update! This grand reversal of the HumCPR-dominated Planning Commission’s decision is most welcome news and it would not have happened without the countless members of the public who rallied in support of a trail network throughout the North Coast! Many thanks to everyone supporting local trails!
Earth Day and Klamath Call-to-Action
This April the NEC celebrated Earth Day (and the NEC’s 43rd birthday) by hitting the beaches and Bay to help clean up marine debris. Afterwards, we joined several other local organizations and friends for a fun Earth Day Hoedown at the Humboldt Coastal Nature Center. Thanks to all who made it out to enjoy a beautiful day with us!
The Klamath River also got some springtime love. On May 1, a standing room only crowd descended on the Arcata Theatre Lounge for an Ocean Night showing of DamNation (www.damnationfilm.com) and other short films exploring the human connections with waterways and the journey towards river restoration. Over 40 attendees took to the stage to stand in solidarity with the move to Un-Dam the Klamath. Less than two weeks later the Yurok Tribe and Americorps rallied community members for the 13th annual Klamath River Cleanup. Over 150 participants removed trash as sea lions, pelicans, terns, and whales feasted on Creation’s bounty at the river mouth—hopefully, at least in the short-term, their meals will be trash-free. There is much work ahead to restore the glorious Klamath and we are fortunate to have many stewards working towards this grand objective!
Bad News: Snow Survey Results and Record-breaking Heat
This spring has brought blossoms, bees, nesting birds, spring-run Chinook and many gorgeous days, including some that feel like mid-summer. Unfortunately this season did not bring the rain needed to alleviate extreme drought throughout the West. Not surprisingly (and quite frighteningly), the final snow surveys of the year show a dismal seven percent of average water content in the Northern Sierra—a big deal considering snowpack provides about a third of the freshwater for California’s farms and cities. Closer to home, results from the Scott River snow survey came back a big fat zero percent of average. Yes, zero. So, for those who have not yet made the switch to be more water-wise through practices such as low-flow fixtures, greywater, reuse, rainwater catchment, and compost toilets, it is high time to get serious about putting conservation theory into practice!
Sea Level Rise Wake-up Call
The results are in: from here on, inhabitants of planet Earth will be dealing with the unpleasant and almost unfathomable realities resulting from anthropogenic climate change. Despite hopes to keep CO2 levels in the atmosphere below 350ppm, our planet’s human inhabitants have already caused atmospheric carbon to climb past 400ppm—and it doesn’t look like that climb is slowing down anytime soon. The month of April was, ironically enough, the 350th consecutive month of above average global temperatures. Two reports by NASA scientists released in early May say we have passed the tipping point with regard to the collapse of Western Antarctica’s ice sheet. The massive glacier meltdown will result in a 10-foot rise in sea level within the next two centuries; slowly overtopping what is currently dry land and whatever else happens to be on it. Probably not a bad time to start planning for adaptation, eh?
Built to Spill
As the realities of fossil-fuel-driven climate change become ever more grim, the fossil fuel industry continues to suck dry every last deposit while demonstrating a deplorable transportation track record. Since the beginning of the year, the U.S. has seen some pretty bad spills—including most recently a burst pipeline in Los Angeles County that sent 10,000 gallons of crude oil flowing down city streets. This came on the heels of the double disaster day of April 30 when a train derailment in Virginia dumped around 20,000 gallons of crude oil into the James River, and a BP pipeline was punctured—spewing toxics across 27 acres of the Alaskan tundra. Earlier this year, we saw the large oil spills in both Lake Michigan and Galveston Bay. Coal transport is also chalking up the disasters with the release of 82,000 tons of toxic coal ash into the Dan River of North Carolina and the crude chemical spill impacting over 300,000 West Virginia residents in January. All this list doesn’t even touch the damage done by fracking.
A wrecked or resilient future?
Much of what we face comes down to how we choose to adapt, how we re-design our human habitat, how we re-imagine ourselves as a part of—rather than apart from—the world around us. So, yes, our city and county General Plan documents really do matter. A lot. What gets built (or not) on an abandoned waterfront property really is a community issue. We need to keep fighting for conservation programs that preserve agricultural and forest lands, and fight plans to further subdivide our wild and working lands. Wilderness still needs stewards to safeguard it from abuses—from those in power, or in the shadows, seeking fortune.
In the end, we do have a choice. It is up to each and every one of us to fight for a resilient future. The alternative is to stand by and let the world-wreckers win.
As I have already included words of wisdom from another elder, it seems appropriate to end with this ever-so pertinent quote from Wendell Berry:
“If we are to have a culture as resilient and competent
in the face of necessity as it needs to be,
then it must somehow involve within itself a ceremonious generosity
toward the wilderness of natural force and instinct.
The farm must yield a place to the forest,
not as a wood lot,
or even as a necessary agricultural principle
but as a sacred grove - a place where the Creation is let alone,
to serve as instruction, example, refuge;
a place for people to go, free of work and presumption,
to let themselves alone.”
- Wendell Berry,
The Art of the Commonplace:
The Agrarian Essays