Category Archives: Oceans/Rivers/Seas

In Denial: Australia, Human Rights and Climate Change

When the complaint was lodged in May 2019, there was a sense of the audacious about it.  Eight Torres Strait Islanders had taken the trouble to petition the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Committee, citing climate change and Australian violations as their main concern.  Australia, they claimed, had violated their fundamental rights under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Representing a group of islands between the tip of the Australian mainland at Cape York and Papua New Guinea, the complainants allege that Australia’s inadequate steps on combating climate change had violated Article 27 (the right to culture); Article 17 (the right to be free from arbitrary interference with privacy, family and home) and Article 6 (the right to life).  Australia had also failed to boost the islands’ coastal defences and implement “resilience measures”.  But most troubling of all, Canberra had failed to adopt a sufficient greenhouse gas mitigation strategy.

As a summary from Client Earth documents, legal representatives for the islanders “allege that the catastrophic nature of the predicted future impacts of climate change on the Torres Strait Islands, including the total submergence of ancestral homelands, is a sufficiently severe impact as to constitute a violation of the rights to culture, family and life.”

Sixth-generation Warraber man Kabay Tamu, one of the authors behind the complaint, saw a disturbing aspect of colonialism redux, a nightmare in the making.  “If climate change means we’re forced away and become climate change refugees in our country, I fear this will be colonisation all over again.  Because when you are colonised, you’re taken away from your land and you’re forced to stop using your language and stop practising your culture and traditions.”  Such reasoning is hard to fault.

Various calls are directed against Canberra, including greater funding for coastal defences against rising sea levels after consultation while also addressing Australia’s share of greenhouse gas emissions.  A reduction of at least 65% below 2005 levels by 2030 is demanded; and a promise to achieve net zero levels by 2050.  Thermal coal for both domestic and export markets is also to be phased out.

To date, the Australian government remains distinctly blasé about its commitments to reduce emissions in what is already a modest target: 26-28% by 2030.  Indeed, Australia has proven itself to be an enthusiastic saboteur of international efforts to decarbonise the global economy.  When the Islanders extended a personal invitation to Prime Minister Scott Morrison last September to visit the islands and see the relevant claims of damage, it was not taken up. A promise of $25 million was made instead, ostensibly to beef up emergency coastal defences.

The petitioners have ample evidence to draw upon.  A 2014 report from the Climate Council, self-advertised as “an independent crowd-funded organisation providing quality information on climate change to the Australian public” does not mince its words.  Australia, a continent marked by coastal cities, had the sort of infrastructure that had been designed in a vacuum of harmonious stability, “designed and built for a stable climate and known ranges of variability.”  Rising sea levels had dashed that vision.  The report makes specific reference to the vulnerability of the Torres Strait Island communities, located “on extremely low-lying areas” that “already experience flooding during high tides.”  Sea level data gathered by satellite from a location in Torres Strait between 1993-2010 notes a rise of 6 mm per annum – “more than twice the global average”. (The authors are careful to qualify this “single, relatively short dataset” and possible influences.)

The response from the Australian government is much in keeping with the earth digging vigilantes that make up the fossil-fuel lobby.  Do not speculate about what will happen; worry about the pressing immediacy of the now.  To that end, the Morrison government argues that the complaint should be dismissed.  As it concerns “future risks”, human rights impacts supposedly felt now cannot be proved.  They remain in the realm of the hypothetical.

The second ground for rejection, argue Australia’s lawyers, centres on the issue of greenhouse gas contributions.  As Australia is neither the main or only contributor to global warming, it cannot be held responsible for the effects of climate change on its citizens.

There is, to be sure, much on the climate change litigation plate, piling up with various actions seeking to compel a change in policy.  But no Australian case has yet made the link between human rights violations and climate change policies in the way done in the Dutch case of Urgenda Foundation v. Netherlands.  The Dutch Supreme Court accepted the argument that inadequate action in addressing climate change by the government posed a “risk of irreversible changes to the worldwide ecosystems and liveability our planet”; with that also came a “serious risk that the current generation of citizens will be confronted with loss of life and/or a disruption to family life… that the State has a duty to protect against.”  The European Convention of Human Rights proved to be the lynch pin in the case in stressing that the State’s obligation “to protect the life and the right to private and family life of its residents”.

The Federal Court lawsuit launched by university student Katta O’Donnell last July on sovereign bonds has less to do with human rights than a green commercial sensibility: when investors lend money to the government, they are entitled to be appraised of climate change risks.  A failure to disclose such risks, her lawyers argue, amount to misrepresentation and deception.

The arguments of the Torres Strait Islanders is far more on the theme of Urgenda Foundation.  “States like Australia,” claims Sophie Marjanac, lawyer acting for the complainants, “have legal duties to protect the human rights of their citizens.”  To date, these duties remain spectral, at least to the Canberra set mired in denial and complicity.

Fish Do Grow on Trees

You’ve got to start thinking about this as an ecosystem. All these plantations might as well be growing corn. But if you want clean water, salmon, wildlife, and high-quality lumber, you’ve got to have a forest.
— Mike Fay, a Wildlife Conservation Society biologist and National Geographic Society explorer-in-residence

Seeing a pair of bald eagles, a possum and a black bear just minutes into my trip to an interview is, to say the least, icing on the “Eco Cake.”

Especially now, with so many people in various stages of isolation and paranoia — restricting time outdoors has a double-whammy effect on our mental health, but also on the health of a community who expects in-person participation and face-to-face debate.

Virtual bird watching and online hikes just don’t cut it.

My assignment is to catch a 30-something scientist — coordinator of a non-profit — doing what he loves best: hands-on, in-the-field work, coordinating with landowners on projects to restore river refugia.

I met Evan Hayduk, 35, with Mid-Coast Watershed Council when I first moved to the coast from Portland. That was Jan 2019 at Oregon Coast Community College for a dual presentation as part of the Williams Lecture series.

“Shedding a Scientific and Humanitarian Light on Climate Change” was a one-two punch featuring Hayduk alongside Bill Kucha, well-known artist and founder the 350 Oregon Central Coast.

That night unfolded as a contrast in personalities, age and emphases. Kucha is a 70-plus-year-old two-and three-dimensional artist who also composes and performs his music, guitar in hand. Hayduk opened up the talk with a detailed PowerPoint that emphasized the power of natural tidelands/wetlands to not only purify water for species like salmon, but also as natural mitigation for carbon dioxide absorption from fossil fuel burning.

Tidal wetlands are important habitats for salmon and a diversity of other fish and wildlife species. They also trap sediment, buffer coastal communities from flooding and erosion and perform other valued ecosystem services. — Hayduk

This is a story about a man, about his passion, about his vision to see a better world through several lenses, not exclusively through biology.

The first personality to greet me on the private land near Lobster Creek was Hayduk’s loyal two-year-old Australian shepherd, appropriately named, “Tahoma.”

“The original name for Mount Rainer,” Hayduk emphasizes. In fact, “Tahoma” is the Puyallup word for “Supreme Mountain,” and according to others, Tahoma translates to “the breast of the milk-white waters.” Or as Hayduk has heard, Mother Mountain.

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Before his gig here with Mid-Coast Watershed Council (MCWC) starting 2016, Hayduk worked on Tahoma (Mount Rainier National Park) running the restoration crew at its native plant nursery.

Today, we are on one of four adjoining 40-acre chunks whose landowners have granted Hayduk and MCWC access to flood plain habitat and Little Lobster creek to “help restore once was a healthy complex riparian ecosystem.”

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All water flows downstream

When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe. — John Muir

While the Alsea River is the mainstem of salmon runs, tributaries like Lobster Creek play a crucial role in salmon health. We are in an area known as Five Rivers, 25 miles east of Waldport. Alder, Cougar, Buck, Crab and Cherry creeks make up those five tributaries.

Within the Alsea Basin, the Lobster/Five Rivers watershed provides an important contribution to the populations of native fish. However, water quality problems, relating to stream temperature, have been documented in several sub-watersheds and along the main stems of both Lobster Creak and Five Rivers. The level of disturbance in the watershed has contributed to the degradation of quality habitat. [So states a 227-page scientific paper, from the Bureau of Land Management, “Lobster/Five Rivers Watershed Analysis.]

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Hayduk is “eyes, ears and feet/hands on the ground” coordinator of this project. The day I show up, he has 164 home-propagated lupines and a couple of dozen Camus bulb starts. Zach and Casey from Lincoln Soil and Water Conservation District (LSWCD) soon arrive as part of their regular brush-clearing duties to fight back the canary grass and Himalayan blackberry bushes, both pernicious invasive species in our ecosystem.

They have an auguring machine to dig holes for all these pollinating plants Hayduk and his wife, Jen, grew in their Waldport home garden. Jen is the interim director of LSWCD.

Team players

The husband-wife team met in 2008 when they both worked for a backcountry conservation crew near Port Angeles. She’s from Pennsylvania, and Hayduk grew up in Woodinville (near Seattle) with his two older sisters and parents.

My dad was a general contractor in Seattle. My family had 1.5 acres and turned it into a formal English garden, so I spent a lot of time with plants.

He tells me he always knew he’d be working with plants as he got older. He did an undergraduate degree at Santa Clara University. He graduated from the Evergreen State College in 2012 with a master’s in Environmental Studies. One of his more unique programming experiences as a student was contributing to the Sustainability in Prisons Project (SPP) in school in Olympia.

I gravitate toward the prison work he did more than eight years ago. On SPP’s website, the goal is clear: “SPP brings together incarcerated individuals, scientists, corrections staff, students, and program partners to promote education, conserve biodiversity, practice sustainability, and help build healthy communities. Together, we reduce the environmental, economic, and human costs of prisons.”

Hayduk’s work now is all about conservation, restoration and replicating the natural systems that contribute to streambeds and streambanks gaining structures that make them prime refuge for young salmon and other species to blend into a natural ecological community, or web.

Stream Fish, Flora

Now there are some things in the world we can’t change — gravity, entropy, the speed of light, the first and second Laws of Thermodynamics, and our biological nature that requires clean air, clean water, clean soil, clean energy and biodiversity for our health and wellbeing. Protecting the biosphere should be our highest priority or else we sicken and die. Other things, like capitalism, free enterprise, the economy, currency, the market, are not forces of nature, we invented them. They are not immutable and we can change them. It makes no sense to elevate economics above the biosphere, for example.

–– Canadian scientist and TV series producer David Suzuki

It goes without saying rehabilitating an ecosystem like a Coastal Range temperate forest is much more complicated (and complex) than sending a projectile into space.

Evan Hayduk is one of these “forest triage experts” — he sees what 150 years of headstrong resource exploitation, unchecked razing of ecosystems and overharvesting have done and how difficult it is to put it all back together.

I met up with him on the land where he is rehabilitating riparian and river systems. This article was precipitated by my interest in Hayduk’s association with Mid-Coast Watersheds Council, most notably the monthly guest speaker series, “From Ridgetop to Reef.”

He also has just received an impressive laurel: American Fisheries Society’s 2020 Rising Star Award. This is a recognition of Hayduk’s work as someone early in his career through a partnership with NOAA and the National Fish Habitat Partnership:

“Hayduk was recognized for the quantity and quality of his restoration projects and his cooperative work with agencies and landowners.”

He sent me the entire package — the award, the letters of recommendation, projects he has worked on, his college transcripts. As I’ve learned in the Deep Dive column reporting/writing, we have some real gems on the coast. Hayduk could be a superstar in a larger non-profit and in a bigger demographic.

His job with MCWC — promoting freshwater and coastal fish conservation — is one-part grant writer, one-part field expert, one-part people manager, one-part public engagement/relationships impresario. He told me that he goes to landowners with those streams, creeks and rivers run through their properties in order to find ways to encourage stream health and restoration mitigation.

My time with him in early June focused on the process of dropping 60-foot trees into streams, crisscross fashion. This might seem counterintuitive as a best practice for stream health, but in fact, it’s a dynamic natural way to rebuild stream beds and create a functioning healthy floodplain and wetlands cohesion.

He tells me this replication of an ecosystem’s natural hydrodynamic process creates these weirs and in-stream structures that “spread the creek out,” keeping gravel beds intact all the while connecting cold water refugia to the floodplain.

The most challenging aspect of these projects comes down to humans.

“We need to work with land owners,” he tells me. “I sort of see myself as the glue between everybody.”

He shows me this riparian floodplain near the Upper Little Lobster Creek where he and his crew of volunteers have planted conifers, including cedars, and other plants to help revitalize the power of those trees to hold in soil. When the deciduous alders age out (around 60 years), they have a tendency to fall. Conifers live longer and they too will fall and act as natural “damming structures” to replicate what a natural stream should be: a haven for salmon and other aquatic species.

I study all these saplings growing inside “cages” that protect their early growth from deer.

Wood Wide Web

“The wood wide web has been mapped, traced, monitored, and coaxed to reveal the beautiful structures and finely adapted languages of the forest network. We have learned that mother trees recognize and talk with their kin, shaping future generations. In addition, injured trespass their legacies on to their neighbors, affecting gene regulation, defense chemistry, and resilience in the forest community. These discoveries have transformed our understanding of trees from competitive crusaders of the self to members of a connected, relating, communicating system. Ours is not the only lab making these discoveries-there is a burst of careful scientific research occurring worldwide that is uncovering all manner of ways that trees communicate with each other above and below ground.” ― Peter Wohlleben, “The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate — Discoveries from a Secret World”

The connection between healthy rivers, functioning floodplains, and healthy fish, Evan emphasizes while putting planting riverbank lupine (Lupinus rivularis) in clusters of four, is trees. I learned much of these interlinked processes while teaching and living in Spokane, working on issues around the Spokane River, a highly urbanized and suburbanized river. Those forested watersheds have much higher water quality. Trees also provide a wide variety of ecological services.

Hayduk sources logs from many places, including Georgia Pacific other for-profit outfits, land owners and from projects on BLM, State and National Forest lands.

While the tree canopy lessens the erosive impact of rain and slows the velocity of stormwater flowing towards the river, trees trap sediments that build the floodplain while the roots stabilize the riverbanks.

I jump into some “ponding” water just below one of the crisscross tree structures Evan and his volunteers had dropped into this moving water refugia, Little Lobster Creek. I was presented with nice stretches of fine sand and cul-de-sacs of great pebble beds, perfect habitat for salmon redds. Hayduk showed me fresh water mussels. Crayfish were scrambling in the shallows piercing the shadows underwater.

Hayduk emphasized that there are some healthy stream systems in our area where past disruptive logging practices and snag clearing have not been so impactful and permanent. However, the cost for this sort of project Hayduk is heading up tallies to $28,000 per acre, with invasive species, brush clearing and salvage log/wood placement as the large chunk of the bill.

The tree species that best work for the log weirs and dams are conifers, like Doug firs and cedar, that latter species having the added benefit of not rotting for decades while submerged.

It’s a no-brainer trees also provide shade for maintaining water temperature. To carry the analogy to the end point, we see fallen leaves, limbs and branches support food webs by providing food and habitat for insects that are food for fish, Hayduk states. Clean, cool water with more food equals bigger fish.

Nuances like growing alders on the flood plain or marsh plain encourages other species of trees to grow on the decaying fallen alder.

Looking at the ecosystem from a centuries-versus-a-few-decades perspective is important in understanding what Evan and others of his ilk are attempting. “Big conifers that fall help with grade control. Water tables rise. Conifers in the riparian areas can grow from 100 to 200 years before they fall into the creek.”

This concept of a “messy” stream refugia as being the most healthful for all species is anathema to the way most humans have thought about rivers. Scientists like Hayduk know fish get through any of the hurdles a natural stream environment presents them — even with huge logs and entire trees with root balls integrated into the water flow.

Big enough wood simulating log jams buy time to get refugia back to an interconnected vibrancy. Thus far, in this area, 28 structures have been laid on 2.4 miles of stream, Hayduk stated.

Fragility in a huge forest

He shows me areas where logging trucks came in and now the stream is bare of trees and also where channel incision had “down cut” incisions into the bedrock, not a healthy Coho or chinook refuge.

Again, this is a fragile complex system Hayduk and his cohorts work on. The flood plain is many yards beyond the actual stream channel. So, a 30-foot creek flood flow necessitates a 60-foot log or fallen tree.

The connection between fish, trees and rivers is now poised emerging in our urban areas as sound ecology and ecosystem management. Many cities, large and small, are recognizing the benefits of reestablishing the physical and emotional linkage between river, trees and the human community. For instance, San Antonio has its iconic River Walk, Chicago has just completed its riverfront, Washington DC has its Southwest Waterfront neighborhood, and Pittsburgh has reconnected neighborhoods to its three rivers via a network of urban trails.

We talk about the high turnover rate for positions like his own, as well as his wife’s at the Lincoln Soil & Water Conservation District.

His wife Jen knows the connection of little things put back into an ecosystem having global ramifications. She obtained her master’s degree at OSU in marine resource management.

Back to the glossary: Jen Hayduk could explain the power of blue carbon, which is elegantly illustrated by this marine plant species she was studying — seagrass (Zostera marina). These seagrass habitats provide important “ecosystem services,” including their ability to take up and store substantial amounts of organic carbon, known as “blue carbon.”

Again, the couple not only understands the fragility of homo sapiens as an individual species in a time of COVID-19, but how the cultural and economic activities can so easily be disrupted.

No more volunteers out in the field, Hayduk tells me, and many projects are on hold and grants stalled/delayed because of the lockdown.

The lack of human traffic might be temporarily beneficial to such threatened species as the Northern spotted owl (Strix occidentalis caurina), marbled murrelet (Brachyramphus marmoratus) and Oregon spotted frog (Rana pretiosa), but Evan Hayduk would rather spend time in the field with people throwing in to help him with his work with river and wetlands restoration.

His background in human rehabilitation through ecological health started with people locked out of society, in tiny prison cells.

“The effects of nature on incarcerated individuals is powerful,” Hayduk tells me. His mentor was Nalini Nadkarni, Ph.D., Founder of the Sustainability in Prisons Project. “Prisoners spend limited time outside. But the program demonstrated they are good with plant stuff. It’s a powerful therapeutic tool, working with the Oregon spotted frog raising them from tadpoles all the way to adult frogs and releasing them into the wild.”

For individuals like Hayduk, “the cure” is being outside, working with/within nature, and with people (Homo sapiens), who are also part of the ecosystems, whether we recognize it or not.

Right now, Jen and Evan are tending a huge Waldport home garden, pickled goodies like carrots, tomatoes and cucumbers. Jen has even gotten into exotic plant growing, selling one of her “children” on etsy.com for a pretty penny.

They are self-sufficient, well-traveled, share visions and know how to grow food. Traits we all might need when the you know what tied to global warming hits the fan.

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Q&A: Evan Hayduk Style

Hayduk is a busy fellow, having put in 63-hour work weeks and rushing to harvest tons of garden produce and preserving them, an undertaking he and his wife Jen have been doing for several weeks. Still, though, Hayduk put down some compelling responses to my intrusive queries.

Paul: What are the three things you suggest citizens can do to help folks like you and nonprofits like MCWC do what you have to do to protect salmon habitat/refugia?

Evan: A. Help and protect beaver on the landscape. This is #1. Beavers do a better job to create and maintain salmon habitat than we could ever hope to. Tolerate beavers if you live on a property that has a stream. There are beaver solutions that make it easier to “live with beaver.” Inform your neighbors about the importance of beaver and join efforts to stop trapping and killing of this ecosystem engineer.

B. Get involved! Volunteer your time helping at a MCWC event (when we bring them back after COVID-19). If you live on a river or stream clear invasive species and plant natives. Or give us a call and we can help.

C. Donate! Donations to the MCWC are tax deductible! They go directly to helping us get projects on the ground that protect and improve salmon habitat. For a non-profit like ours, just a little goes a long way.

Paul: Who are two of your biggest influences in this work, in your life?

Evan: I think I’ll separate that out into two categories life/work.

Life: My parents. I grew up observing an absolute model of love, hard work and kindness. My dad worked his way from a carpenter to owning his own construction company. This instilled a work ethic that I couldn’t shake even if I tried. I spent weekends growing up working in our 1.5-acre garden, working with my dad to turn bare land into formal English gardens. If I don’t put in a good amount of time in any given weekend now, I feel like my weekend was wasted.

Work: I’ve been lucky along the way to have some great mentors. I mentioned to you Nalini Nadkarni, who I worked with at Evergreen with the Sustainability in Prisons Project. Nalini is the most amazing person I have ever been around. Her energy is contagious, and when she is in a room there is an electricity that is undeniable.

During my time at MCWC, I also have had amazing support from some Oregon Coast legends. Before retiring in November 2018, Wayne Hoffman was an absolute encyclopedia of information. I could walk into his office, ask about any given creek on the midcoast, and Wayne could ramble on forever about the stream, current conditions, past projects, habitat potential, etc. Fran Recht and Paul Engelmeyer, who started the MCWC back in the late 1990s, are both dedicated stewards of the environment and have devoted their lives to the midcoast. My success at MCWC is due in large part to Wayne, Fran and Paul, and the rest of the active MCWC board and community.

Paul: If you were to present to a high school class, what would your elevator speech introduction be to them.

Evan: Salmon and people aren’t that different. We all need cool, clean water to survive. The actions we take to restore salmon habitat — replacing bad culverts, placing large wood in streams, planting native trees and shrubs — all do more than just restore salmon habitat. These actions restore the natural systems and processes that give us idyllic images of cold-water streams rushing through lush, green mountain terrain. We are focused on salmon, but the work we do touches everything that lives on the landscape — from birds, to bees, to you and to me!

Paul: Ocean forest range here and Olympics are some of the best places on earth to capture carbon. What makes your work out here so vital to that part of the picture?

Evan: Carbon storage is story of our lifetime. We have pumped so much carbon into the atmosphere that we have offset the balance of the system. Protecting and restoring old growth forests, sinks for carbon, is vital. Restoring salt and freshwater marshes and wetlands is also crucial. We can keep carbon locked up in estuary mud or in a 10-foot diameter cedar tree, but if these systems that support these processes are not protected and restored, we are headed down a bad path.

Paul: What are two of your most observable successes thus far in your work here?

Evan: In the last couple years we have tackled some very big projects, though any large wood placed in a stream, any tree planted, or invasive species removed is a success. By far the most observable success was the North Creek culvert project. This project was completed in 2019, restoring full aquatic organism passage to 13 stream miles of pristine habitat on US Forest Service managed lands in the Drift Creek (Siletz) basin. The undersized culvert, installed in 1958, not only blocked adult and juvenile salmon from accessing habitat upstream, but also ceased river processes and degraded habitat above and below the culvert site. The complex project in a remote location was difficult, and 60 years of “Band-Aid” solutions failed because they didn’t address the real problem: the culvert itself.

Paul: A “land ethic” by Aldo Leopold says a lot — riff with it, as in these two quotes:

“When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.”

“A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.”

Evan: We as people often see ourselves as other, as separate from nature, but this couldn’t be more incorrect. We not only breathe the same air as all other beings on this earth, we have by every measure had a greater impact than any.

Paul: Again, if you as director got a $5 million check from nonprofit for your work, no strings attached, what would you use that for?

Evan: Well, a boy can dream, can’t he? I think acquisition of important habitat areas would be high on the list (other than just hiring other staff to help!). Though, giving a better wage and benefits package to our staff and work crew would be a no-brainer.

Paul: Give the young reader some spiel on why they might want to pursue a degree or degrees in the general field of environmental sciences tied to ecology during a time of COVID-19, dwindling budgets for these sorts of jobs and more and more tuition expenses.

Evan: I had a professor at Evergreen (Gerardo Chin-Leo) who liked to say one of my favorite expressions: “Science is the painful expression of the obvious”. He also liked to say “Ecology isn’t rocket science; it is way more complicated than that.” Everything in this world in inextricably connected, the clues are in the interactions of flora and fauna on the landscape. Uncovering these connections and understanding how the work we see today has evolved through millennia of interactions is incredibly enthralling (to me!). These times are hard (COVID), budgets are being slashed in this field, salaries in this line of work have never been great. However, the folks that choose this line of work have a greater calling. Understanding this complex world which we are a part of and working to restore ecosystems is more rewarding that any paycheck could ever be.

Paul: Wood wide web — In your own words, explain this concept, if you have any input around how this concept ties to what you are doing in the “preservation” field.

Evan: This gets at the complexity (it isn’t rocket science!) of the natural world. Above ground we see large trees, growing individually across the landscape. What we don’t see, is the complex system of roots, fungi and microbes below the soil that supports this vast forest. Tree talk to each other, conspire when drought is near, and share resources/nutrients through the fungal networks that have co-evolved with them over millennia. This is the original “community”, and our communities could get a lot of good out of better understanding how to work together towards a shared goal.

Paul: You are working in restorative ecology. Explain that.

Evan: We are working with a degraded landscape. We are also dealing with shifting baselines. Bad enough is the direct impact on habitat over the last 200 or so years, this has gone further to disrupt ecosystem processes that maintain what we think of as a functioning system. Restoring these processes is difficult, but if successful, process-based restoration can reset these systems to be self-sustaining. Though the impact can be quick, the restoration can take centuries. When we plant a tree for long-term recruitment of wood to a stream, it’s full impact won’t be felt for 100 or 200 years.

Paul: Then, you were working in a sort of restorative justice program at Evergreen tied to sustainability in prisons. Expand.

Evan: This is where I lean on the words of Nalini: the power of nature. Everyone who works with SPP sees the power of fresh air and getting your hands dirty. Working in a prison can be a dismal setting — windowless cells, limited outside time, fluorescent lights. This is not a restorative situation. There are major problems with the criminal justice system in this country, I don’t claim to be an expert on this. But I have seen the impact that building a greenhouse in a prison yard can bring. What the nurturing of a tiny plant from seed to flower can do for a person. We worked with prisoners to captive rear Taylor’s Checkerspot butterflies and Oregon spotted frogs in Washington. Watching these “hardened” criminals hand feed and raise these tiny creatures in a prison setting was restorative, for me, and for those individuals. The guys that raised the frogs made hats with “Cedar Creek (Prison) Frog Crew” printed on them, they wore them around the prison like badges of honor.

Paul: Where do you see yourself in 15 years? Location-wise, intellectually speaking, emotionally, and politically?

Evan: Oof. I’ve been so busy lately I’ve just been able to take it day by day. In 15 years, I’ll be 50. I have no idea where this world will be at that point, so I really can’t say where I’ll be either. Long term dreams are important, but right now I’m just thinking about how to get my projects on the ground for this summer…

Note: First appeared in Paul’s column, Deep Dive, in Oregon Coast Today.

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Depth of Experience

While in her office overlooking the entrance to Lincoln County’s most popular attraction, she’s like a child in a candy store — she watches trees and shrubbery get yanked out to make way for a new admissions and ticketing station. “Wow, what a change.”

Then a nuthatch alights on the feeder suction cupped to her office window. “Spring’s coming early.”

Keiko put us on the map': Oregon Coast Aquarium turns 25 | KVAL

Now the show really gets going — Carrie E. Lewis lugs into her second-floor office 10 large architectural design images for the aquarium’s five new capital improvement projects and one program improvement.

In the brochure, “Our Ocean, Our Coast, Your Aquarium” she states: “Since opening in 1992, the Oregon Coast Aquarium has immersed over 15 million visitors in the mysteries of the Pacific Ocean.”

Sleepover - Oregon Coast Aquarium

Lewis is showing me the remodeling and new construction phases:

  •  new ticketing area-offices
  •  remodeling the entrance, great hall and café
  •  creating a children’s nature play area
  •  improving three indoor galleries
  •  building a marine rehabilitation center

We are talking about $18 million and some change for these huge improvement and enhancement projects for the aquarium. They’ve raised almost $14 million toward this adventure in expansion.

“As we grow toward our vision of serving as a trusted resource for ocean education and conservation in the Pacific Northwest, it is more important than ever that our facility reflects that,” Lewis said.

That’s entertainment — and science

This proposed state-of-the-art, behind-the-scenes veterinary facility for marine wildlife rehabilitation and resident animal medical care is only one of three in the Pacific Northwest. Providing care for injured and sick marine animals is vital to a coast where ship, boat and beach traffic is increasing exponentially as people realize coming to the Central Oregon Coast is both affordable and adventurous.

Lewis and I talk about how education is the cornerstone to conservation and getting youth to understand the threats not just to our area of the Pacific Ocean, but to all oceans due to warming, acidification and loss of habitat and species.

One recent presentation of the American Cetacean Society-Oregon Chapter echoes Lewis’s belief how the aquarium incubates an interest in science and conservation among young visitors.

“My belief is that every person getting out of high school and the community college be able to stand before any city council or board of commissioners and communicate why preserving these forests and rivers are vital goals to protect wetlands, and our oceans,” said Paul Engelmeyer, The Wetlands Conservancy Coastal Land Steward and Conservationist at Audubon Society of Portland.

For Lewis, more is better. She wants outreach to be expanded, as the aquarium currently has a van with an inflatable, true-to-scale whale and a staff member traveling to outlying communities to present marine facts and science.

Sleepover with the sharks | Georgia aquarium, Sleepover, Aquarium

CEO with a history

Lewis has worked in several capacities at the aquarium, beginning in 1998. As the backhoe is digging up earth, she is transfixed momentarily. “It’s like updating your house,” she says while observing stumps being ripped up. “It’s like remodeling your old home where all the marks the kids have made get covered up.”

She has worn a number of hats: planning events, marketing, crisis communications, business development, director of marketing and then, in 2010, she became the CEO. That’s significant institutional memory of 28 years of the aquarium’s existence. “I am pretty blessed to be in this industry … one where I get to give back. We really make a difference in people’s lives.”

She’s 52 and talks about how she is asked by many groups to talk about her “amazing life” and “profession representing women.”

She’s quick to poo-poo the “unique” biography, but she realizes the aquarium/zoo field is quickly being dominated by female professionals, volunteers and staff.

She also honors coworkers and board members associated with this landmark. Did I say volunteers? That’s more than 400 aquarium volunteers ranging in age from 15 to 90.

All volunteers have been in limbo from doing their magic at the aquarium since COVID-19 lockdown. More than 80 percent of staff has been furloughed, though still paid through a Paycheck Protection Program loan.

She’s jazzed about even the smallest details — like a new backlit glass design for the front entrance — showing me a rendition of the aquamarine glass sculpture from Bullseye Glass Company out of Portland. “It represents beach glass.”

Total person, total experience

Her emphasis is on “enhanced total experience” for the more than 500,000 annual visitors.

It’s a simple formula — a family drives in from the Valley with the kids; they have this amazing view of Yaquina Bay and the bridge; then they come upon this inviting and lush entrance way and path; and they leave all their worries in the car.

More ADA-accessible walkways and paths are also part of the design improvements.

All those details add up to a 39-acre wonderland, with a coastal forest landscape design, a new and improved great hall with a jellyfish exhibit and articulated whale skeleton; a modernized café through new furnishings and facelift; and a playground that includes more climbing structures, an eagle’s nest and better interpretative signage.

“In our zoo and aquarium industry, we are all about getting kids outside and off their phones,” she emphasizes.

For the two or three hours a family might spend at the aquarium, proverbial lightbulbs go off in young people’s minds. Families share knowledge in an unstructured but intentional space. Newport and surrounding locations realize a huge economic boost — an annual economic impact of over $100 million.

The woman at the helm, Carrie Lewis, who was raised in Maui and came on board to help with crisis communication when Keiko was at the aquarium has been CEO for a decade.

“If I inspire one youth to think about going into the zoo or aquarium industry, I would be happy.”

Keiko Orca, Oregon Coast Aquarium Pat Hathaway© | Keiko, Ore… | Flickr

Killer Whale Problems

A simple answer to a tough question: What is one big negative lesson you have learned during your tenure? “The decision to house a large cetacean at the aquarium.”

Those were the “Free Willy days,” and while there was a movie, and lots of press, Lewis said it was “not a positive move.” She rolled her eyes and moved onto the next questions.

It doesn’t take a marine biologist to understand capturing and then moving a huge apex carnivore like a killer whale is highly stressful on the individual orca and those in the pod from which it was removed. Add to that the international protests against aquariums like Sea World for putting an intelligent and social mammal like a killer whale into the equivalent of a bathtub does not make for a positive marketing model.

The aquarium built the tank for Keiko; the orca was housed in Newport from January 7, 1996 until September 9, 1998, when he was eventually shipped to Vestmannaeyjar, Iceland.

The largest exhibit is “Passages of the Deep,” in Keiko’s former tank, and features a walk-through acrylic tube surrounded by deep water marine animals such as sharks, rays and rockfish.

Orford Reef displays rockfish and other smaller Pacific-Northwest fish. Halibut Flats is all about halibut, ling cod, small rays and other large fish. The Open Sea exhibit is the last section in the tunnel, holding sharks including seven-gills, as well as rays, mackerel, anchovy and salmon.

The aquarium hosts sleepover events in the tube.

Oregon Coast Aquarium asks for support during closure | KVAL

Growing up on a Pacific island

Lewis and I talk about her upbringing in Hawaii: her father who was a conservationist who went to developing countries to assist with setting up garbage/waste-to-energy renewable projects. Her stepfather was a lawyer.

Hawaii’s Saint Anthony was her high school alma mater. She attended and graduated from St. Mary’s College of California in Moraga. She liked the small campus, as she majored in communications. She thought she might go into conservation writing. One year back in Hawaii, then four years in Palm Springs, one year living in Seattle.

“I fell in love with the beauty and bounty of the Pacific Northwest. The mountains, the water, and the mentality of the people — I just loved it all.”

How she ended up in Newport is attributed to her mother who had a house here. She took Lewis to this “little aquarium.” And, viola, there was an opening in the marketing department.

Keiko: The Untold Story - Wikipedia

Stories from old connect to the future

In her book, The Kid from Valsetz, about Don Davis, first city manager of Newport, Deborah Trusty credits Davis with a large legacy in our area — arts and sciences.

“When Don and I talked about the aquarium, I noticed that even he was a bit astonished that the plan had actually come to fruition,” Trusty writes. “As the city worked through this project, Don said he experienced some of the most extensive and far-flung collaborations in his career.”

Carrie Lewis ramifies the collaborative process by pointing out the facility’s large number of benefactors and the diverse membership base — more than 7,000 household members. There’s the Rockfish Society. And the foundation support, including the Siletz Tribe, Oregon Foundation, Meyer Trust. “Every museum, aquarium and zoo is struggling in this financial climate.“

Collaboration and a vision toward the future through deep research on many aspects of the aquarium are what Carrie Lewis emphasizes. “Our aquarium has been voted in the Top 10 consistently by USA Today.”

It’s all in the details

Little things count like how signage might be improved — deciding upon static designs in some parts of the facility versus digital signs in other areas.

Lewis is proud of including new features such as “sensory inclusion” areas where the aquarium addresses the sensory needs of children and adults with autism and other developmental disabilities. Weighted blankets, quiet spaces and sound-reducing headphones are just a few of the new accommodations.

She’s aware expanding exhibits and activity areas — not increasing the site’s footprint — can require more staffing. Currently, there are 80 full-time staff as well as a cadre of part-time workers, interns, practicum students at OCCC and volunteers.

She explains the aquarium is contracting with a Canadian firm to redesign the playground. The original (1990) Portland landscape designer — Walker/Macy Landscape Architects — is on board for the Five Phase upgrades.

Right now, Lewis thinks long and hard about updating the three-year strategic plan which was undertaken in 2015. They were operating under a basic business plan whose impetus was “to get out of debt.” A Pennsylvania firm that advises zoos helped identify strategic and financial goals, as well as messaging, conservation and communication goals.

Soon afterward, Lewis spearheaded a feasibility study to increase visitor experience and more educational programming. Again, an expert company — this time out of Houston — helped with the feasibility study.

Lewis is proud that “even when we were in financial straits, we did not go to the state for help.”

Carrie Lewis is a case study of a woman in a significant leadership role demonstrating sustainability and success. She talked to groups about the obstacles they could face and how to overcome them. There are 27 accredited aquariums in the US, and Lewis points out that her time in the industry has seen more young women and men getting into the profession. This was before the COVID-19 lockdown, which has realized thus far $3 million loss in revenues.

Her confidence in the aquarium weathering the lockdown and huge loss of visitors and revenue bespeaks her years in the trenches.

“We’re trying to get through this together because when we re-open, and I believe that we will, it’s going to look very different. The landscape in our community, in our state, in our country is going to be very different,” Lewis said. “But the aquarium will get through this. We’ve had an incredible amount of support from people all over the world that believe in what we do and want to see our animals healthy and happy and taken care of.”

One of the more recent statements by Aquarium Communications Director Julie Woodward speaks to both the dire results of the pandemic closure and the work that has had to continue:

“We are struggling as are many non-profits. We have no revenue coming in as the majority of our revenue comes from ticket sales,” Woodward said in a May 18 news release. “Unlike most other non-profits, we still have to care and feed our 15,000+ animals each and every day. We are still looking for support.”

Lewis took over as president and CEO from Gary Gamer September 2010. The outgoing CEO’s statements reflect the confidence he had in her abilities.

“Working at the aquarium has been an incredible experience,” Gamer said. “Leading the staff has been an honor. They and the legion of volunteers working alongside them are very committed to the well-being of our ocean and the life within it. I’m confident the Oregon Coast Aquarium will remain a great place to visit in Pacific Northwest.”

Oregon Coast Aquarium unveils $18m expansion plans | blooloop

Note: From Paul’s column, Deep Dive, Oregon Coast Today, with permission.

Zooming Newport’s Climate Awareness Earth Day 2020

Fifty years ago, the first Earth Day brought out 20 million Americans across the land –  to parks, schools, college campuses, stadiums, the Mall in DC,  and for hundreds of river/beach/trail clean-ups.

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“Our Space Ship is Burning” From the series XR #7
( XR – Greta Thunberg’s movement Extension Rebellion)
20”x30” Oil, college and gold leaf on canvas. See more art at : www.AnjaAlbosta.com

In 1970, I was 13, still living in Europe with my military family. But from age 17 on, however, I have been a North American environmental activist. Fighting for whales, entire ecosystems, human and animal communities.

In addition, I’ve organized several Earth Day celebrations with thousands showing up in Spokane. I have been the Earth Club faculty advisor at two colleges where I taught.

River clean-ups, outdoor guerrilla banner drops on buildings, and young and old creating bird houses and bat boxes while listening to live bands and eating sustainable food from a pop-up farmer’s market.

This should never ever be the new normal – on-line education, on-line activism, on-line earth awareness.

“We’re trying to make this one an upper rather than downer,” says Otter Rock artist Bill Kucha. “We want to invigorate folks.” Kucha directs 350.org Central Oregon Coast.

It is more than surreal that we are exiled from one another and nature. This year’s Newport Earth Day (last year’s was held at the Newport library, inside) is virtual, on Zoom. There will be 100 slots for people to sign up and listen to/watch musicians, speakers and youth.

I asked Lincoln County Community Rights activist, Debra Fant, about her first Earth day:

I was in high school for the first Earth Day and joined my peers in picking up roadside trash (a whole winter’s worth of it as the snow had just melted leaving behind all sorts of mushy cardboard, bottles and stuff) for miles out of town.  We were freezing cold and wet by afternoon, and I headed home for a hot shower instead of picking up the tenor drum to join the marching band in a parade through our down town area!  I’m not sure we knew what Earth Day meant or who we blamed for harming nature . . .  surely that ‘someone else.’   We’d likely grown up believing that like us, nature was invincible and would be there forever to satisfy our needs.

For the one of the main organizers of this April 22 Earth Day, Martin Desmond, he is blunt about the lack of youth activism in local environmental and climate change planning and discourse: “The truth of the matter is that people over the age of 60 come to our Lincoln County climate change presentations.”

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www.AnjaAlbosta.com
Anja Albosta
Waldport, OR 97394

He posits there are maybe six or seven climate change organizers in our county.

The first Earth Day actually precipitated legislative action — the Clean Air, Clean Water and Endangered Species Acts were created in response to the first Earth Day in 1970, as well as the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Other countries soon adopted similar laws.

Last year’s Earth Day in Newport and this one on Zoom are what we call “aspirational events.” Celebratory, self-congratulatory.

I asked Jane Siebert, who is with Our Just Peace Action Team from the Congregational Church of Lincoln City, her reaction to the virtual day. The Church was planning to sponsor an Earth Day April 18, but too many conflicting community events quashed that, she said.

For me, this time of quarantine brings me out in the garden to appreciate spring and its slow unfurling of new life once again. This slow time of closely noticing the miracle of the earth can deepen our commitment to its future. I hold to the idea that Earth Day is every day and we must stand up to assaults on the natural order.

I’ve lived on the Coast/Lincoln County for a year and four months. I definitely feel this place is more chill than chutzpah when it comes to activism.

I am used to in-your-face rallying, even as a college instructor. Massive environmental-themed teach-ins and huge turn outs to city and county councils to demand better urban planning tied to real sustainability. I’ve interviewed heavyweights – Al Gore, David Suzuki, Winona LaDuke, Howard Kunstler, Richard Heinberg, and Bill McKibben – for both my print gigs and radio broadcasts.

If you miss it, Martin says it will be recorded for posterity.

Presentations are 5 to 8 minutes. It’s a pretty one-way communication event: sit back and listen and watch.

Ironically, I have had students research the energy use for each Google search, and I’ve led youth to do ecological footprints and check out the water foot print of some of the major items in our consumer society.

Life cycle analysis, embedded energy, cradle to cradle manufacturing, negative carbon architecture, tragedy of the commons, and more get my juices going.

Just following the energy used/consumed of the coffee bean plant grown in Costa Rica as it gets picked, shipped, roasted, reshipped, repackaged, and then brewed, is telling of every step we make in planet earth. Students are jazzed about exactly how much oil (plastic, transportation, fertilizer, packaging, production) is used to produce the various products they have come to rely on.

“Most of my life I have lived sequestered as an artist,” Kucha states. “I am more politically active now. I think this (coronavirus) could be a tipping point.” Living slower, more intentionality, and, for Bill Kucha, the pandemic in his mind is making us more egocentric. “In one fell swoop, we are all left with each other.”

For at-home insights, reading and films:

  • Go to “Story of Stuff
  • Ecological Footprint
  • Water Foot Print
  • See Tim DeChristopher’s amazing activism in the flick about his life, Bidder 70
  •  Read Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (1962), mother of the environmental movement
  • And a  plethora of green websites, from Grist, RealClimate, Yale360; and the usual suspects: Greenpeace and National Geographic.

Here’s the Zoom Earth Day Newport line-up:

Musicians

Bill Kucha
Chris Baron
Dave Orleans
Robert Reuben

­Elected Officials

Arnie Roblan
Dave Gomberg
Mark Gamba
Kaety Jacobson
Claire Hall

Non-profits/other speakers

Mike Broil
Mitch Gould
Robert Kenta
Ari Blatt & Paul Engelmeyer
Martin’s two grandkids
Paul Haeder

BIG end NOTE: It has to be made clear that the new normal should not and will not be Zoom. It will not be this bullshit world of throwing trillions at high tech companies. It will not be this world of staying compliant in our homes and gardens and tents.

Earth Day 50 years later should be a celebration of the heroes who have fought against the killers of culture and jungle and rain forest and species. Instead, after 50 years, in this shit-hole quarantine mentality, we have people who want to celebrate the Great First Extermination event, what some have called the Sixth Mass Extinction, which is really the Seventh Extinction.

Every year, more than 100 environmental activists are murdered throughout the world. 116 environmental activists were assassinated in 2014. More than two environmentalists were assassinated every week in 2014 and three every week in 2015. 185 environmental activists were assassinated in 2015.

A new report from Global Witness found that three environmental defenders were murdered every week in 2018 and many more were criminalized for working to protect the land, water and other vital resources.

chart on killings per country

chart on killings per country

“People are being killed because they are demanding their basic rights, in particular, the rights to access to land and to be free in their territories,” Luis Gilberto Murillo, the former governor of the predominantly Afro-Colombian state of Choco and former minister of environment and sustainable development, said on “Democracy Now!” “The way to avoid these killings is the full implementation of the peace process. There is a national commission to guarantee the protection of social leaders in the country [which] has not been convened regularly by the current government.” Source — “Disturbing Report Shows How Many Environmental Activists Are Killed Each Week”.

Joel Raymundo Domingo, 55, photographed in April, holds smoke bombs, tear gas canisters and other projectiles used by Guatema

Joel Raymundo Domingo, 55, photographed in April, holds smoke bombs, tear gas canisters and other projectiles used by Guatemalan state forces to disperse a peaceful blockade against the San Mateo Hydroelectric Project, in October 2018.

So, I have to say that celebratory events like Earth Day are long in the tooth. We need action. We need tools. We need fire in the belly. We need role models. We need recruitment. We need the new tools of the modern post industrial Anarchist Cookbook. We need to celebrate our own eco-warriors, and the fact that Green is the New Red. We have to fight the industries that most Americans support by stuffing their faces with cheese, swine, chicken, beef, lamb who are on a witch hunt, getting more and more Gestapo laws against peaceful protest. We have to tell young people how to fight the systems of oppression. We don’t need no stinking Earth Day kumbayah.

We need Tim DeChristopher pre-incarceration for protesting illegal land lease sales in Utah. Nine years ago, here he is speaking to youth:

Tim DeChristopher | Power Shift 2011 Keynote

Remember, if you toss a can of paint or pool acid on an SUV or Hummer, you could face 25 or more years in federal prison. Remember, if you get on the radio and attack McDonald’s burgers or attack the swine industry, or if you take photos from a public road of a High Fructose Corn Syrup plant, or if you protest with signs outside a slaughter house, or if you go to the state capital of your choice and do a little street theater about timber industry killing babies with their Agent Orange spraying, or if you put your body and life in the way of a bunch of construction machines for a telescope siting in Hawaii, well, you get the picture. This is, of course, not the Earth Liberation Front or Animal Liberation Front, but we all should be those people, like all people on Turtle Island who can’t trace their lineage back to Native Tribes should ALL be illegal aliens.

Earth Day is about celebrating the warriors, those that exposed Love Canal, or people like Rachel Carson who was spied on and wire tapped and tailed by feds and industry pigs. Or Ralph Nader, Dangerous at Any Speed, who was the target of mafia hit men hired by GM, Ford, you name it, just for demanding safer death trap vehicles.

Celebrate the fighters in fence-line communities:

Environmental racism is real. As documented in Richard Rothstein’s 2017 book, ‘The Color of Law,’ extensive federal, state and local government practices designed to create and maintain housing segregation also assured that polluting facilities like industrial plants, refineries, and more were located near Black, Latino and Asian American neighborhoods,” said Bruce Mirken, a spokesman for The Greenlining Institute, a public policy advocacy group in Oakland. “Extensive data show that low-income communities of color still breathe the worst air and have excessive rates of pollution-related illnesses like asthma and other respiratory problems. These problems won’t fix themselves. As we move away from oil, coal and gas to fight climate change, we must consciously bring clean energy resources and investment into communities that were for too long used as toxic dumping grounds.

In the end, if we do not push back hard and shut down the country — The Industrial Continuing Criminal Enterprises of Wall Street, Banking, Real Estate, Military, Prison, Chemical, Pesticide, Fossil Fuel, Logging, Surveillance, Hi-Tech, Medicine, Pharma — then we are just Nero Fiddling While the Entire Ranch is Razed, Logged, Polluted and Immolated by the system that most “earth days” hate to bring up — CAPITALISM.

There ain’t no new green deal if the billionaires and corporations are leading the charge, creating the conduits for profit, paying the bills of the so-called environmental movement. Green is the New Black is a book like Green is the New Red.

Environmental Racism in America: An Overview of the Environmental Justice Movement and the Role of Race in Environmental Policies

Black Lives Matter: Environmental Racism Is Killing African-Americans

In the end, we are all expendable, so why not think the earth is expendable.? We are all — the 80 percent — in sacrifice zones: food deserts, box store hell, road and highway infernos, clear cut landscape, smokestack gulags, chemical spray prisons.

Sacrifice zones: This leads to sacrifice zones, places where people, mostly of color and low wealth, live beside hyperpolluters and in harm’s way. In Houston, for example, an oil refinery, chemical plant and Interstate 610 surround the Manchester neighborhood, home to roughly 3,000 people. Not surprisingly, the cancer risk for people living in Manchester and neighboring Harrisburg is 22 percent higher than for the overall Houston urban area, according to a recent report by the Union of Concerned Scientists and Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services. Robert D. Bullard is a distinguished professor of urban planning and environmental policy at Texas Southern University and is often called the “father of environmental justice.

Environmental Activists Have Higher Death Rates Than Some Soldiers

164 Activists Were Killed Defending Land and Water Last Year

My “earth day” is about taking it to the streets. It’s not about John Denver and Melissa Etheridge or Darrel Hannah or Al Gore or Bill McKibben. It’s about getting younger and younger people to the table, to the trenches. It’s about the old giving it up to the not-so-old. It’s about inviting families of loggers, miners, ranchers, aerospace trucking to the table and showing them the value of deep ecology, food systems that are localized and regionalized, showing them the value of nutrition versus consumption. Radical means root, and we need radical change, radical activism, and monkey-wrenching and celebrating those who already “got this” earth and cultural justice years ago.

Ten years ago, man, taking it to the streets, in Spokane!

Spokane’s Earth Day ‘takes to the streets’ to reach people

Spokane’s 40th anniversary Earth Day celebration will be on Main St. downtown rather than on grass at Riverfront Park.

This was about getting people who normally do not do these self-congratulatory and aggrandizement to the table — the poorer folks, who came to this event because we had 2nd Harvest there giving out food boxes AND because of all the family activities. We had school kids making bat boxes, bird houses, and bird feeders with an army of volunteers, even from Kohl’s donating some community service time. We shut the street down (like a huge thing with Police and Fire department honchos), put up a main stage, and we had the even go into the night with local musicians playing. We had the even live on the radio KYRS-FM. We had in your face people like me, and others (though greenie weenies unfortunately predominate the so-called “nice earth day” gigs); and then the mayor of Spokane, and other politicos spoke while the main stage was powered with solar panels. We had that friction between those who believe in hope and those who fight for change and not for hope. We also made sure that Earth Day would continue in Spokane at the colleges and at public events the entire year afterwards. that was a whole other series of events a few years before that I organized, many, a year of sustainability for ALL of the city. We made sure that this one day was just the tip of the iceberg. Action, action, action. Grow, grow, grow the leadership and the army of young people.

But, alas, that was a decade ago, and alas I have gone on some really bumpy miles (thousands upon thousands of miles) away from that outpost — from English faculty, radio show host, columnist, urban planning graduate student; to union organizer in Seattle, DC, Mexico City, Bend, Oregon, to Occupy Seattle teacher; to social worker for adults with developmental disabilities, to memory care facility engagement counselor, to social worker for homeless in downtown Portland, to social worker for homeless veterans and their families, to counselor for foster teens; now a decade later — to the Oregon Coast as author, columnist, substitute teacher, and site director for an anti-poverty project in Lincoln and Jefferson counties. And more. Ten Years, a marriage, a divorce, another marriage, to Lisa, here in Waldport scratching out a living. New book out, quashed public readings, and now, five minute April 22 on the Zoom Earth Day. Crazy ass changes, and yet, at age 63, I have always predicted that if lazy ass consumer USA Murder Inc. continued to do what it always had since end of WWII, then, we would end up here — complacent, fearful, colonized, co-opted, in the belly of the beast, collectively enmeshed in Stockholm Syndrome, and more.

Support my recent work, now that the hysteria and complete lack of mental, intellectual, and spiritual acumen has occurred in the United States of Amnesia. Wide Open Eyes — Surfacing from Vietnam, short story collection.

April 22, Newport, Oregon, Zoom Day, Earth Day. Not the new normal. This is a one-time deal for me. Newport celebrates Earth Day via Zoom on April 22.

Give me Chris Hatten any day, over the self-important people who think Earth day is only about feel-good, celebrating a few more birds out on the shore because we are all sheep in this collective lock-down!

In the eye of the eagle

One-Minute Q & A with Chris Hatten

Paul Haeder:  What is your life philosophy?

Chris Hatten:  Make the best use of your time. Time is short.

PH:  How do we fix this extractive “resources” system that is so rapacious?

CH:  We need to value forests for the many multitude of services they provide, not just quick rotations. Forests are not the same as fields of crops.

PH:  Give any young person currently in high school, say, in Lincoln County, advice on what they might get out of life if they took your advice? What’s that advice?

CH:  Get off your phone, lift up your head, see the world for yourself as it really is, then make necessary changes to it and yourself.

PH: What’s one of the most interesting things you’ve experienced — what, where, when, why, how?

CH:  I have had very poor people offer to give me all they had in several different countries. Strangers have come to my aid with no thought of reward.

PH:  In a nutshell, define the Timber Unity movement to say someone new to Oregon.

CH: They are people who mostly work in rural Oregon in resource extraction industries and believe they are forgotten.

PH:  If you were to have a tombstone, what would be on it once you kick the bucket?

CH: “Lived.”

200410_oct_fern 008 - Copy.jpg

Lincoln County, Oregon celebrates 50 years of Earth Days

Category: General Earth Day Event4/22/2020 19:00 Oregon

Public  — Go to Earth Day

Length: 2 hours  About:

Our two-hour live presentation on the Zoom platform will include local and statewide musicians, five elected officials, Siletz tribal members, young kids under 10 years of age, non-profit organizations, and other speakers talking about the positive accomplishments of our environmental activities on the Oregon Coast and the challenges ahead with climate change.

Organizer: Martin Desmond

Online: moc.liamgnull@tropwenlcc

RSVP link: https://zoom.us/j/3505677534

Forever-Chemicals Tap Water  

Throughout the history of Western Civilization there are times, but only on rare occasions, when people en masse feel compelled to run into the streets, similar to the storming of the Bastille 1789, screaming at the top of their lungs: “Stop the Madness!”

Now is one of those times, as only recently Feb 2020 the Trump administration signed a regulation to remove America’s water resources from federal protection. This is the largest rollback of the Clean Water Act since passage into law in 1972. No other administration over the past 50 years has removed federal control over certain key aspects of the all-important landmark legislation known as the Clean Water Act.

“This will be the biggest loss of clean water protection the country has ever seen,” according to the Southern Environmental Law Center.

This is not just undoing the Obama rule. This is stripping away protections that were put in place in the ’70s and ’80s that Americans have relied on for their health.1

Trump’s disgusting and kinda creepy reversal of one of America’s longest-standing policies protecting the public from environmental muck, crud, slime, sludge, oozing glop and most significantly “manmade chemicals” affects every citizen all across the land. It goes right to the heart of the morality of the country.

Still, many Americans are already drinking chemically laced water, aka: Forever-Chemicals, straight out of the tap, yet they don’t know.

According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG) Washington, DC, for the first time: Toxic fluorinated chemicals, known as PFAS (a family of manmade Forever Chemicals – lasting forever in the environment) have been discovered in drinking water in dozens of cities, including the major metropolitan areas of America. These studies have not previously been reported to the public at large.

Accordingly, the number of Americans exposed to toxic chemicals has been drastically underestimated in prior studies by both the EPA and by EWG’s own research. This is not good news.

Making matters more challenging, recent tests exposed multiples of festering problems that include newly discovered toxic chemicals

… that are not commonly tested for presence in drinking water.2

In other words, testing for drinking water toxicity has been deficient for years. By all appearances, governmental rules and regulations should be greatly enhanced and expanded, not diminished or abolished, as has been the case over the past couple of years.

America’s president (Trump) comically boasts: “America is the cleanest. Our air is the cleanest. Our water is the cleanest in the world.” Trump’s misinformed, deeply disturbing blatant lying proves that he is the most dangerous uninformed ill-equipped president of all time.

Not only that, across the board, Trump has reversed decades of solid, established policies designed to safeguard U.S. citizens. Yes, he actually abolishes policies that protect the health of the very same voters who belly up, squeezing into tiny voting booths, to blindly vote for him. It’s horrific on the scale of Greek tragedies where the main character is eventually brought to ruin as a consequence of: (1) tragic character flaws, (2) moral weakness and (3) inability to cope. Trump scores on all counts.

Only recently, the self-congratulatory tragi-comic Trump pounded his chest for being the first president to successfully open up drilling to America’s most pristine wildlife refuge, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). For decades, Congress steadfastly forbade drilling on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Anybody with the slightest sensibility and moral courage would fight tooth and nail to prevent despoiling ANWR, which Trump flailed while admitting he’d never heard of ANWR, but he had no compunction whatsoever about removing restrictions for drilling and mining and/or private development, even though he’d never heard of ANWR. Presidential?

Trump’s lack of sensitivity, awareness, consciousness borders on the absurd and exposes a deep level of stupidity or maybe just plain ole ignorance that is seldom, if ever, exposed in the highest echelons of political office.

And, even worse, much-much worse, without giving a second thought, “congressional Trumpers” voted to reverse the long-standing policy of protecting America’s most pristine wilderness. Members of Congress achieved it via attachment to an “unrelated” 2017 tax bill, which is the weasel-out methodology for underhandedly killing policies that Americans are sensitive about. Hands down, ANWR is one of those.

Meanwhile, as for toxic water, EWG’s testing found 44 locations in 31 states; all but one had detectable PFAS in public drinking water with some of the highest levels found in Miami, Philadelphia, New Orleans, northern NJ, and suburbs of NYC.

Not only that, it gets worse, as 34 locations that tested positive for PFAS toxic contamination had not been previously reported to the public by the EPA or by state environmental agencies.

Coincidentally, but not at all surprising since toxic chemicals disrupt, alter, and destroy healthy human cells, the number of Americans (150,000,000) diagnosed with chronic illness in America is off the charts.3

Along those same lines, it’s instructive to consider that the top three causes of death in 1900 were the infectious diseases pneumonia and flu, tuberculosis, and gastrointestinal infections. Chronic diseases were not prevalent. Antibiotics led to dramatic declines in those infectious diseases. Whereas today, it’s no longer infectious disease that kills, it’s chronic disease like heart disease and cancer as the leading causes of death which are not caused or spread person-to-person, not infectious, and not fixed with antibiotics.

By all appearances, humanity’s modern-day surge in chronic diseases is due to alteration/destruction of bodily cell structure, which brings to mind somber troublesome questions about life environments.

According to Earthjustice, a San Francisco-based nonprofit environmental law org:

Toxic chemicals known as PFAS are found in everyday products… They’re linked to cancer, and they’ve contaminated drinking water sources across the country.4

PFASs are chemical substances that don’t easily break down and persist in the human body, similar to ionizing radiation, where accumulation occurs over the years and leads to a series of chronic conditions in people, for example, cancer and Alzheimer’s.

Studies are just now starting to show links, connecting the dots for the first time, to chemical substances like PFAS to testicular cancer (every male’s biggest nightmare), kidney cancer, and endocrine disruption. Clearly, somebody somewhere should take responsibility for diligently cleaning up America’s water systems with more restrictive rules, not less enforcement.

Good news, bad news: The good news: PFASs have proven so toxic that manufacturers phased them out entirely by 2015, but (bad news) the contamination of water supplies is already a fait accompli, no turning back after decades of toxic exposure.

More bad news: Against the protests of 200 scientists, chemical companies have replaced older PFAS with new chemicals in the PFAS family called GenX, which unfortunately, act a lot like the old PFAS and may be equally dangerous. 5

Industrial release of PFAS is one major source of water contamination. For example, in 2016, researchers discovered “troubling levels of GenX in North Carolina’s Cape Fear River. The source was a PFAS manufacturing plant owned by The Chemours Company, a spin-off of DuPont.”5

PFASs also accumulate in the human body via food and food packaging, as discovered in a 2017 study when PFASs were found in 1/3rd of all fast food wrappers.

As for America’s Trump-crippled-EPA, more bad news: There are no PFAS listed on the EPA’s important “Toxics Release Inventory,” which is the primary tool for alerting communities across the country to toxic problems.

Not only that, and possibly making matters much worse (other than having Trump as president) on Feburary 14th, 2019 the EPA unveiled a long delayed Nationwide Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances Action Plan.

However, the plan is too little, too late, and falls short of what is needed to protect communities from a class of chemicals that are polluting drinking water and air, while exposing families, particularly children, to a myriad of heath risks, including cancer.5

All of which highlights gross incompetence, carelessness and/or heartlessness via governmental regulatory agencies under leadership of the White House.

EPA was first alerted to the toxic drinking water problem 20 years ago but ever since has failed to set an enforceable nationwide legal limit. In 2016 (pre-Trump) the EPA issued a drinking water advisory of 70 ppt, whereas, in sharp controversial contrast, independent studies and labs say the recommended safe level for PFAS in drinking water should be 1 ppt, and certainly, absolutely not 70 ppt!

EWG has already mapped PFAS toxic contamination of drinking water or ground water in 1.400 sites in 49 states. Older EWG studies concluded that 110 million Americans were drinking toxic water, an estimate that is probably way too low based on the more recent findings.

All of which, not alarmingly, coincides with the aforementioned Rand Corp study indicating that 150,000,000 Americans have chronic illnesses, like Alzheimer’s, arthritis, asthma, cancer, COPD, Crohn disease, diabetes, epilepsy, heart disease, bipolar mood disorder, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson’s disease.

Henceforth, by slashing environmental rules and regulations (ninety-five [95] so far according to the New York Times, as of December 21, 2019) the Trump administration is stimulating/enhancing the likelihood of a veritable outbreak of chronic illnesses, well beyond the current massive numbers; expect multiple (2-3) chronic illnesses per person to mushroom, creating a drug-infested nation full of Mad Hatters.

Postscript: The EPA’s outside scientific advisory board issued a negative draft report (December 2019) stating the Trump water rule proposals were “…in conflict with established science… and the objectives of the Clean Water Act.” The majority of those members of the advisory board are handpicked Trump appointees. Will they be fired?

Post-Postscript: “This will be the biggest loss of clean water protection the country has ever seen,” Southern Environmental Law Center lawyer Blan Holman told The New York Times. “This puts drinking water for millions of Americans at risk of contamination from unregulated pollution. This is not just undoing the Obama rule. This is stripping away protections that were put in place in the ’70s and ’80s that Americans have relied on for their health.”1

  1. EcoWatch, January 23, 2020.
  2. Environmental Working Group (EWG) Washington, DC.
  3. Rand Corporation 2017 Study – Chronic Conditions in America: Price and Prevalence.
  4. “Breaking Down Toxic PFAS”, Earthjustice, February 12, 2020.
  5. Earthjustice.

Plastic Meets the Road and Capitalism’s Role in Climate Change

Earth Day & Capitalism Like Vinegar and Oil?

Continuously, discussions focusing on degraded ecosystems and tipping points forcing climate change to ramp up to chaos many times center around the “C” word.

Not “c” as in “cancer.”

“Capitalism is destroying the planet,” said Pat DeLaquil, an energy policy expert working with various governments, NGO’s and the private sector to “help achieve economic development and combating climate change.”

He was one speaker in a two-guest gig at the Newport Library on January 27 as part of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby and 350 Oregon Central Coast.

The other person presenting is director of a plastics to road recycling non-profit headquartered in Toledo.

Twenty people listened to DeLaquil as he zoomed through his data-filled Power Point. His SOP is working with the Oregon League of Conservation Voters and other groups to lobby for passage of a new version of climate change policy during this state’s short legislative session.

No matter how many details behind the framework of HB 2020 are aired, convincing Oregonians of all stripes to get behind this cap on statewide carbon emissions is a technical, legal, intellectual, PR, and emotional challenge.

Two Newport City Council members attended Monday, as gale force winds buffeted the library. Interestingly, kicking off the double header was a video clip from a January 13 Senate National Resources and Environment Committee.

Arnold L. “Arnie” Roblan, in a droll voice, stated how he’s visited all parts of Oregon listening to youth. He emphasized it’s been 16 years since he was a school principal, but now he’s seeing like never before a huge shift in how PK12 students are viewing the world.

“There’s been a big change,” Roblan stated in the video. “Kids are extremely anxious about the climate.”

Kicking off the 2-hour event was Bill Kucha, Otter Rock artist and head of 350 Oregon Central Coast. He strummed guitar and sang his song, “There’s Music All Around Me.” The message is one of hope in a world with thousands of ecosystems collapsing.

While Sen. Roblan stated the counties along the coast are at the “epicenter of ocean acidification and beach erosion caused by climate change,” one audience member, Michael Gaskill, asked Pat DeLaquil if he gets frustrated with each year increasingly watered-down of environmental bills get passed.

Gaskill was in attendance to listen to the speakers and to sign up attendees interested in the Congressional campaign of Hillsboro Democrat Mark Gamba, who’s vying for the 5th district position in November.

Another audience member wanted immediate response to her comment that “capitalism is the problem hurting the poor” was exasperated by the lack of social justice apparent in the discussions.

The C word was bandied about much in DeLaquil’s opening remarks:

What drives capitalism to extremes? Two things: this hyper-individualism of the Ayn Rand economic school which purports everyone is unique and must fight for himself or herself to acquire as much as possible. And, two, patriarchy which indoctrinates young children into believing this hierarchy of male control. This belief that males are not caring about social issues, the environment, and females are not supposed to speak their minds when confronted with this apparent destructive system.

The dichotomy is common in discussions about male domination in business, industry, militarism, and monetizing seemingly every single human transaction. Women, on the other hand, are seen “only “as mothers, nurturers put on earth to support the family and keep the peace by not speaking out against environmental, cultural and community degradation and destruction.

DeLaquil carried that allusion further saying capitalism and socialism can be reformed to support a clean, safe, market-centered society with social safety nets like education, health care, other entitlement programs that are part and parcel of Social Democratic countries like Norway or Denmark.

Don Quixote Fighting the Plastics Monster

“The window is closing faster on plastics than climate change, I really believe,” Scott Rosin of Plastic Up-Cycling told the gathering.

Knowing Rosin from Surfrider beach clean ups, and for an upcoming Deep Dive column, I don’t see him as Chicken Little “the sky is falling” fellow.

He’s fought forest fires in the 1970s and ‘80s. He’s been high up in the trees as a forester, and he knows the value of hard work – taking down entire stands of forest in for many years as an area logger.

He and his co-lead, Katharine Valentino, are looking for partnerships and financial backing for their project to get most of Lincoln county’s plastic waste stream into our roads in the form of new thoroughfares, repaved ones, potholes, driveways and parking lots.

The stats on the ground and in the water are staggering: “Think about it. Predictions of a billion tons of plastic produced each year by 2025. Compare that to 1.5 million pounds produced in 1950.”

He went on to punctuate this staggering stat: “Predictions about current rates of plastic waste state by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish.”

As a surfer and lover of the ocean, Scott reminded the audience every time they read about a whale beached and dead, guts filled with plastic, that mammal represents less than 10 percent of the actual death rate of whales since most die offshore and sink to the benthic zone.

Rosin and Valentino see innovators in Scotland and in California, as well as other places, coming to the rescue. TechniSoil out of Redding California is taking recycled plastic, bitumen, asphalt substrate and integrating it into a flexible and long-lasting paving mixture (up to 15 percent of the total volume for paving roads could be plastic).

Then there is MacRebur and Scottish CEO Toby McCartney who was working in Southern India helping people at landfills gather potentially reusable items and sell them. Scott Rosin tells us McCartney observed some of the plastics the pickers culled, putting it into potholes and setting it on fire.

Instant melted plasticized pothole filler.

“Not the most environmentally friendly way to fill potholes,” Scott said. “However, those plastic filled potholes outlasted the actual roads.”

Carbon, Global Heating, Resources Plummeting and Us v Them?

Some of the buzz words coming from the 2-hour talk include “decarbonizing the economy” and “carbon budget.”

Add to those – renewable energy; trade exposed; energy intensive.

Pat DeLaquil, with doctorate in nuclear engineering from MIT and who’s worked with USAID, the Asian Development Bank, and large companies like Bechtel (not a green company), wants people to relate to what they are seeing in the news – flooding, wildfires,, degraded ecosystems, increased rain events, droughts – as applicable to their own communities and states.

“The artic is warming two to three times faster than the rest of the planet,” he said showing us maps of that ice world. He’s also warning us about methane clathrates releasing a greenhouse gas more than 30 times as potent as carbon dioxide; and the warming tundra with millions of tons of frozen greenhouse gasses – ancient carbon. “The carbon that’s locked in the permafrost in the Arctic is thousands . . . millions of years old.”

He also brings to light the terms “runaway climate change” and the “albedo effect” – white snow and ice reflect back the sun’s rays. Less white, means more ocean warming.

DeLaquil and the Oregon League of Conservation Voters are pushing hard a Clean Energy Jobs bill.

[This] is one step in a continuing process of increasing climate change ambition in Oregon and by example the rest of the US. Just as the Renewable Portfolio Standard was followed by the Clean Fuel bill, then the Coal to Clean program, the Clean Energy Job (CEJ) bill will need to be followed next year with Agriculture and Forestry measures and elements of the Green New Deal. We are in this fight for the long haul and our strategy is to win one step at a time.

He mentioned Time magazine’s 2019 person-of-the-year Greta Thurnberg who just attended the most recent Davos, Switzerland, gathering of the World Economic Forum. DeLaquil dovetails Senator Roblan’s comments about youth being panicked about the status of the world tied to global warming with this 17-year-old internationally-known Swede.

Politics play front and center in the climate debate at the state level with all the parsing of SB 1530 (regulating carbon emissions through commercial, industrial, agricultural use of fracked or natural gas) as well as how we tax and regulate transportation fuel.

Pat also discussed the concepts around clean fuels, carbon sequestration in our forests, natural resource protection (like wetlands), assessing the emissions coming from agricultural and the forestry industries, and the heady concept of a law to protect the rights of nature. Lincoln County Community Rights is one group heralding this rights of nature designation.

This is no bed of roses, as the people attending the talk and the two speakers know. There is much push-back on this bill and other decarbonizing legislation, and many in Oregon have contrary opinions on global warming. The lobbying group, Timber Unity, has expressed disagreement with SB 1530.

Ironically, globally the court of last resort – public opinion – is pitting scientists in the climate arena and superstars like Greta against those in the Donald Trump administration and Fox news. At Davos January 21 Trump announced the U.S. would join an existing initiative to plant one trillion trees.

He also pitched the “economic importance of oil and gas” while throwing barbs at those like Greta Thurnberg, calling climate change activists “pessimistic” and the “heirs of yesterday’s foolish fortune tellers.”

Pat DeLaquil, interestingly, is not in this geopolitical arena, yet someone with his energy sector experience would paint a different picture for global warming deniers. He reemphasized the power of the youth movement. Thunberg responded to President Trump’s remarks by referring to them as “empty words and promises” by world leaders:

You say children shouldn’t worry… don’t be so pessimistic and then, nothing, silence.

Elephants, Billiards, Paradigm Shift

The first man-made plastic was created by Alexander Parkes who publicly demonstrated it at the 1862 Great International Exhibition in London. The material, called Parkesine, was an organic material derived from cellulose that once heated could be molded and retained its shape when cooled.

Svante Arrhenius (1859-1927) was a Swedish scientist that was the first to claim in 1896 that fossil fuel combustion may eventually result in enhanced global warming. He proposed a relation between atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations and temperature.

Transitioning from DeLaquil’s 35,000 foot view of the climate change debate, then down to the micro view of the state’s efforts to go carbon free by 2050, to Scott Rosin’s Plastic Up Cycling non-profit spurred the audience into thinking about one “miracle of oil” – plastic – and the consequential negative consequences both locally and globally.

It’s obvious the tall white-haired Rosin has fun talking to groups – he’s a real yarn spinner.

In 1867 an article came out saying elephants were going to be extinct in ten years. The billiards market used ivory for the balls.

Necessity and environmental concerns turned into the mother of invention. “It was called cellulose. The invention of plastic billiards balls was the beginning of the consumer revolution. Anybody could have a pool table now since the plastic balls were affordable.”

Four or five quality billiard balls could be made from the average tusk of an Indian, Ceylonese, or Indo-Chinese elephant. This market for raw tusks centered in New York and Chicago where craftsmen would eat up blocks of ivory to create the gleaming spheres.

“Now we are experiencing 154 years of plastic, and it’s not a pretty picture,” Rosin told us.

He reminded the audience of his work from January to July 2019 for Surfrider heading up weekly Sunday beach plastic debris clean ups where on average 5 people from Lincoln County showed up was disheartening. Even after he had contacted dozens of volunteer organizations.

This past October Katharine Valentino and Rosin scrambled to set up a non-profit to deal with the plastics coming into our county’s dumpsters which invariably ends up trucked to Salem and dumped into a landfill.

TechniSoil is working with the Mayor of Los Angeles to put in a plastic road that leads to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. MacRebur has a proprietary aggregate that binds the plastic to the bitumen so there is no leaching into the ground.

TechniSoil touts their roads containing 6.6 percent plastic last seven to 14 times longer than conventional roads. Rosin emphasizes how on-site machines repaving roads with plastic aggregate actually tear up the old road, grind up plastic, mix it with bitumen and old asphalt, eliminating a huge carbon footprint of dump trucks hauling off torn-up roadway pavement.

Plastic Up-Cycling is hawking its project to interested people, as well as looking for $100,000 to get the plastic road mixture tested by an OSU lab.

Plastic comes from an energy-intensive and polluting process of turning oil into polymers and then into various types of plastics to serve myriad of purposes for which we in our throwaway society consume it.

The fact is landfills are composed of 12 to 15 percent plastic. The road paving process pencils out this way: for every mile of roadway, 1.1 million plastic bottles or 3.2 million plastic bags churned into a road mix will cut down on the waste-stream big time.

Climate Action Plan 2.0

The event was topped off with Martin Desmond, with Central Coast Citizen’s Climate Lobby, giving us the table of contents to the 74- page Lincoln County Climate Action Plan. The goal for this initiative is to get Lincoln County carbon neutral by 2035.

For Pat DeLaquil, his biggest disappointment, he stated, “after working in this field for years” was the failure to pass the Waxman-Markey cap and trade bill.”

This congressional bill — American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 — was passed as major legislation to create a cap-and-trade system for heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions, but was not taken up by the full Senate and never became law.

For Bill Kucha – artist, teacher, activist and musician – he puts much hope in young people in this county and throughout the world. He’s also a prolific letter-to-the-editor writer:

The good news is that there is a growing movement toward a new type of corporation called B-Corporations. In B-Corporations, financial profit counts, but so too does consideration for the environment, neighboring communities, and the workers. Our state must actively encourage the proliferation of progressive alternatives like this, if we ever hope to heal what ails the Earth. You can play a role, too: you can insist that the 2020 Election, at all levels of government, must prominently feature serious conversations about the Climate Crisis. (Sept. 1, 2019, News Lincoln County)

For me, it’s obvious conversations have to be more dynamic and robust, covering a larger swath of citizens. We have to organize half-day or three-day summits or charrettes to get policy makers, politicians, subject matter experts and citizens coming together to communicate more effectively and think both critically and holistically about issues around ocean rise, acidification, coastal inundation, weather and climate disruptions.

Lincoln County residents need to respect (and question) the work of activists and citizens on all sides of the issue while also coming together to listen to the passionate scientists and experts working on these issues.

For Scott Rosin, getting plastics out of the waste stream means cleaner water, cleaner soil, cleaner food and cleaner human and non-human bodies. “I would have never thought about the effects of plastic on the environment and us thirty or forty years ago,” Rosin said. “It’s unthinkable to have plastic in our drinking water, in all our food, and breathing it in.”

Getting into the Narrative of an Energy Guy

Pat DeLaquil was touted to me by several people at the Newport gathering as “he’s really been around” and “he really knows the deal with China since he’s been there” and “he has a lot of insight into energy.” So, Pat was kind enough to submit to some email questions. Pat lives in Gresham.

Paul Haeder: You said you have been doing this for more than 40 years. What got you started in energy analysis, and was it always EEE — energy, economy, environment?

Pat DeLaquil: Following grad school, I joined Sandia National Labs in Livermore, CA to work in their new systems analysis program. My first assignment was working on safeguards for nuclear material used in the country’s nuclear weapons program, but in 1980, I joined their solar energy program and been a leader in the commercialization of clean and renewable energy technologies. In 1984 I left Sandia and joined Bechtel Corporation to lead their Renewable Energy RD group. There, I worked closely with the California utilities and EPRI to lead the development of consortiums to build key R&D projects such as PV-USA and the 10 MW Solar Two Power Tower.

PH: Your age, where did you grow up and schooling?

PD: I’m 71 and grew up in western Pennsylvania in strip mining country and saw firsthand the destruction they caused. I knew I wanted to be an engineer by age 13, and I have a B.Sc. in Marine Engineering from the US Merchant Marine and a Ph.D. in Nuclear Engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. I have authored or co-authored over 90 papers, reports, and articles on solar and renewable energy including chapters in two books on renewable energy technology. I have a patent for a high temperature solar receiver.

PH: I work on the 5 e’s — started off as triple e’s for sustainability: Equity, environment, economy . . . education and energy. There are a lot of intersectionalities here, and, of course, the environment overrides and undergirds everything. In capitalism, that is not true. What are your own intellectual challenges when you consider how rapacious, how extractive-oriented, how unjust capitalism is to the people, the 99 Percent, or the 80 percent? Discuss.

PD: This requires a long answer, and I touched on this in my talk, but only briefly. I am attaching for your information and use, both my presentation from Monday and a longer presentation on this subject I gave to the Multnomah Democratic Party Climate Action Forum back in November. Slides 1 thru 9, including the notes, provide a pretty full answer.

PH: There is a lot of policy stuff and political maneuvering and lobbying in your work. For the average reader, what are your holistic takeaways for this evening’s talk?

PD: The most important things that the average reader can do is to get engaged politically by demanding that your legislators be climate champions and if they are not find one who can replace them. While individual actions are important, they will never be enough. We must have systemic change that will only come when progressives have control of our political systems.

PH: What gives you hope for the world, for Oregon’s future?

PD: I have been in a very discouraging mood since HB2020 was stonewalled by the Republicans, and even more so given the ho-hum response that too many people have given to the wildfires in Australia, which also has a climate denying government. The voices on youth are what currently gives me the most hope, but even that seems not to be enough. I’m afraid that it’s going to take a major climate-derived calamity, with millions of people dying before the average person decides we must take action.

PH: What lends you pause?

PD: The tremendous amounts of money, embedded organizations and media-led philosophies that the oligarchs and large corporations have used to gain strangle holds on governments around the world. The four key conservative political frames are shown below, and we must replace these with progressive frames in the general public discourse. In addition to people power and grassroots organizing, we must counter and replace the Reagan framing with more progressive framing if we are to win this battle.

Bill Kucha song he performed at event –

There’s a Music –

There’s a music all around me

and it won’t go away and it’s trying to say

– everything impossible is going to see the light of day,

everything angry and mad is growing up and coming out to play.

There’s a reason for all that wrong,

it’s creating a season for a new kind of song,

everything helpful and good is sprouting in the neighborhood.

Everything helpful and wise is growing to a larger size.

So mister, now come out and say your

Yes, plow the fields of your dark past into something good at last.

Art in a changing climate

A refugee is someone who survived and who can create the future.

Amela Koluder

Climate change does not respect border; it does not respect who you are — rich and poor, small and big. Therefore, this is what we call ‘global challenges,’ which require global solidarity.

Ban Ki-moon

There are myriad reasons why people set down roots along the Oregon Coast: “the ocean,” “the air,” “the laid-back lifestyle,” “the small town feel of the towns,” “no rat race,” “the geological and ecological beauty.”

For others, like First Nations cultures (Coastal Salish), or Nehalem, their roots were set down thousands of years ago, tied to land, sky, forest and the power of place.

Now, enter the term “envirogee” — derived from both “environment” and “refugee” — a displaced individual who has been forced to migrate because of environmental devastation. Some call themselves “climate refugees.”

191220_oct_Anja Albosta IMG_6788.jpg

For Anja Albosta, and her spouse, Mark, relocating to Waldport is much more than a geographic upheaval.

In 2018 my husband and I left our home in the Yosemite area due to drought, the die-off of millions of ponderosa pines and fire evacuations three years running. The last year driving out through flames on both sides of the road. We then relocated to the beautiful coast of Oregon.

I’m in their nice home overlooking Alsea during the slack tide. Sand bars ripple under the big bridge joining two portions of the coastline over the precarious sand spits and intertidal zone that make this both a dramatic place to live, and precarious (think ocean surge vis-à-vis a tsunami).

They spent time researching places, using a climate change or global warming lens as part of their search. For them, the last time fires hit their neck of the woods, North Fork (31 miles from the south entrance to Yosemite National Park), they had all their important papers in containers as they evacuated.

The hardy Ponderosa pines in their former ecosystem were dropping like flies — creating a huge tinder box for tens of thousands of acres, putting home, roads and human and animal life in danger.

To be more specific — There are two and a half million dead trees within the 131,000-acre national park. Dead trees are a natural occurrence, but the higher number of dead ones now are attributed to warmer temperatures, drying periods, pine bark beetles. Climate has changed dramatically.

For Mark and Anja, after 20 years living in the area, they have the long view of how that ecosystem is degrading and at risk due to the results of climate change.

Enter the Beachhead of the Siuslaw National Forest

I met Anja a few months ago at Pacific Sourdough, where she had been working for around five months staffing the front counter and now also making some of those yeasty delicacies for which the Waldport bakery is known.

My SOP is learning about the various communities on the coast and digging deep into people’s lives quickly since I have been on the Central Oregon Coast barely one year. Big mouth, big heart, big ideas: I go head-first into this life with my background in radical politics, radical education, radical sustainability and journalism. I like people.

Not all my subjects are in line with my radical (rooted) politics or my deep systems thinking (the colluding negative forces of consumption/war/financialization/oppression/cultural genocide/environmental destruction/capitalism) approach to why things are a mess for not just the USA, but more importantly for the oppressed — second and third world (pejoratives by first worlders, but radically important descriptors to revolutionaries).

It was clear to me both the owner of the bakery, Katie, and the artist, Anja, were willing to riff about plastics in the ocean, acidification of the Pacific and the ragged state of American governance. In the end, though, Anja is a believer in America and Western Culture, whereas I know that America (North America) and Western Culture are pathogens against all sanity and sustainable cultures and lives and communities.

Note that this piece first appeared in the lifestyle rag, Oregon Coast Today, a gig for which I gain a few shekels for these feature columns — Deep Dive • Go beneath the surface with Paul Haeder

We swapped cards, and Anja’s piqued my interest — she’s an artist with a background in interior design. Artist-plus-envirogee- plus-world traveler makes for good fodder for my people profiles.

191220_oct_Sargassum by Anja Albost.jpg

Tranquility (sort of) in their hillside house overlooking the Pacific

I’m in the house Mark and Anja bought from the proceeds of selling their self-designed custom-built airy home with two-story view windows (eventually, a view made up of gray, brown charred trees) sited at the edge of the Yosemite National Park, which was made famous by photographer Ansel Adams, President Teddy Roosevelt and John Muir, father of the Sierra Club.

She tells me Mark’s carpentry skills and both of their sweat equity turned the outdated and dysfunctional home into a wide-open floor plan with amazing built-in shelves and classy handmade doors and frames, as well as a new kitchen.

Anja’s paintings not only adorn all the walls — even the laundry room has three large acrylics hanging next above the laundry items — but she has many leaning up on walls that serve as a dining area a-la-painting studio.

Art for Art’s Sake

Anja’s youthful years include growing up in Germany and Switzerland, then Santa Barbara. She ended up back in Switzerland as an interior designer. “I had a fancy job, money, two months off each year for a vacation. But I wasn’t being fulfilled.”

That life changed when she was in her early 30s, propelling her to Yosemite for some outdoor adventure. She met Mark, who was rock climbing and asked Anja if she wanted to try her hand at climbing escarpments and the famous Half Dome.

Most of the rock now exposed in the park is granitic, having been formed 210 to 80 million years ago as igneous diapirs six miles below the surface. “Tis-sa-ack,” an Ahwahnechee phrase for Cleft Rock, is Half Dome’s pre-white man name.

She tells me that “coming to Yosemite changed my life.” In more ways than just her marital status, that is clear. Mark was a mountaineering guide in the park, and Anja threw in hard and fast as a painter while working 40 miles away in Fresno as an interior designer for clients who demanded style, panache and quality craftsmanship.

Her art from the Yosemite years is up in their house — broad horizons, silhouetted landscapes, with those rock features that Yosemite is known for. She tells me that much of the oil and water color creations ran parallel with the work she did as an interior designer — paintings that “went well” with various home settings.

On her website, her work is categorized as such — design; commissions and commercial art; watercolors, oils; mixed media.

For people living on the Coast, and others in our “green” Cascadia-Pacific Northwest, her latest evolution in her work really puts tread to the pavement when it comes to “statement art”:

From 2016 to the present, her art “has revolved around ‘balance’ and ‘the passing of time.’” Her art cuts into new emotional and societal space, for both the viewer and artist herself, reflecting her 52-years on Earth as an artist in transition. Succinctly, we might say she is looking for deeper meaning, a sense of purpose and creative inspiration — “climate, politics, religion, my own life.”

Climate Fight Should be Fight Again Capitalism

I go way back to the 1970s fighting against Sonora desert razing and scraping, against the shrimp bottom trawlers in the Sea of Cortez and the reckless, cyanide-laced explosive bait for such vermin as coyotes, puma, kit foxes, coatimundi.

I understand the long-view of how decimated the environment has become, due to rapacious capitalism and consumerism addiction. I never had much hope for humanity.

Anja sees the world from several lenses — one is hopeful as she plumbs the ideas of someone like Steven Pinker (psychologist, author of The Better Angles of Our Nature). The other lens is tied to youth and purpose, possibly hope, in the form of Swedish activist Greta Thurnberg. That third eye, so to speak, is occluded with darkness and impending catastrophe as Anja holds close to the research and writing of Elizabeth Kolbert (author of The Sixth Extinction and Field Notes from a Catastrophe, as well as Cataclysm Has Arrived: Man’s Inhumanity to Nature).

Anja galvanizes herself into that rarefied arena of being obsessed with painting —

I am an artist. I think at some point in my life I got to a place where it isn’t a choice for me. It is what I am and do.

That obsession isn’t without pitfalls, of which Anja is completely aware — tough to make a living selling paintings without a huge marketing push, and possibly a huge West Coast (LA, SF) or East Coast (NY, Boston) presence.

“I have other degrees [she tells me she is a self-taught artist from way back, in her teens] but at the end of the day I would paint.” For her, there are a thousand paintings in her head. She’s always thinking about images and color.

“I believe things are better. Women have the vote all over the world. Religion is shrinking. People are up in arms about this new attack on women’s reproductive rights, Planned Parenthood. We have all this gender awareness.”

Mixing Oils with Politics

Many in my artistic field — fiction — believe story has to flow from the common dramas of human compunction. I have had arguments with some telling me it is verboten to insert politics or a spin of political positioning in fiction.

We all have these universal stories set as conflicts, a sort of heuristic that defines how stories have always been told: man (woman) against self; man (woman) against man (woman); man/woman against culture/society; man/woman against god/religion; man/woman against nature.

For me, I add man/woman against science; and then, this new one, man/woman against Artificial Intelligence.

Interestingly, the climate change debate is political, psychological, cultural, economic, environmental and spiritual. For many now, like Greta, a collective trauma has set in. Many in my camp, however, have always questioned the fascist aspects of Capitalism holding sway over our personal, cultural, environmental lives. My cadre are also worried about climate fascism on all sides — a white Swedish teen — Greta with her Hulu special, Time magazine person of the year award, and fawning — lecturing the world on her idea of what should and should not be done in regards to climate we rebuff.

Anja sees the world in a type of collective cognitive dissonance. Anja understands that she comes from that privileged global group — white middle class American. She says she constantly thinks about how much pain and suffering will unfold in countries with less resources, less wealth and who are positioned on the front lines of extreme climate change effects.

Truly, though, when I look at Anja’s art, I see that vision of one woman who has traveled the planet emotionally, philosophically, creatively and intellectually. The art is influenced by artists such as Frida Kahlo and Georgia O’Keefe. The recent mixed media drive she is exploring is both passion and obsession, fear and darkness. She goes through hundreds of magazines like New Yorker, National Geographic, Scientific American and others — and then starts cutting out images. Her canvases can be part black and white sketches of her own, swirls of vibrant colors, dark silhouettes of trees and then this collage treatment rendering images or words not always recognizable.

We the viewer have to provide context to what she is doing in each work.

Collage, montage, mixed media, found materials and objects she incorporates, and Anja’s work is in the same league as Kurt Schwitters and Hannah Höch.

Putting my thumb on her work stylistically is challenging. California-based collage artist Eugenia Loli has some of the same techniques, but Anja is a true painter, whose canvases blend the collage with hyper evocative colors and transformed shapes from nature.

A fellow like Alexis Rockman, who has been imbuing climate change in his art since 1994, is also somewhat in the same vein as Anja. For Rockman, he uses his position as an artist “to visualize these things that were very abstract and remote in terms of people’s life span and comprehension.”

Again, Anja’s art is in its own league, tied to very specific issues of our current political, cultural and environmental zeitgeist, and when she shows me each of her works, her explication is as potent as the imagery by itself.

We talk about how to get her work “out there” — possibly in libraries, schools, restaurants, rather than this shoe-string, consignment sort of kitschy and retread art world for which she is competing.

Timelessness and Timeliness

There is a real urgency, real or perceived, in the climate change debate. My cadre is worried more about poverty, resource theft, subjugation of entire countries and areas of the globe to this thuggery of parasitic or disaster capitalism.

In any case, Anja’s art is of “the now,” emerging in tandem with the 24/7 news and attention span cycles of modern Western culture.

She’s 52, and we live in a time where her art once she has passed on will not be eliciting some miracle of resurgent interest . . . or that hidden gem producing millions in sales the art world still vaunts.

The culture she lives and works in is tied to planned and perceived obsolescence, and her work is actually beautiful, evocative and infused with those hidden or obvious images from magazine cutouts. He technique is to blend and then push a seamlessness into the entire canvas, where the viewer sometimes can’t figure out where her dense but light-filled vine-like shapes end and the National Geographic image of the giraffes begin.

Each art piece is also galvanized to “the telling” of the piece: how and why Anja conjures up the shapes and creates architectonics while also pointing out the subtle placement of magazine clips. Each piece is a story upon a story, relaying a complex overlay of where we are at now in this country’s and in the globe’s history.

Her most recent piece, “Sargassum,” reflects this globe as water planet, and while the cover of Kolbert’s Pulitzer Prize winning book The Sixth Extinction is floating in the sea, with a tether like tentacle, this piece is vibrant, evocative and something any individual or business should consider for display.

We talk about getting those magnificent explanations she does so well down on paper, and then having a piece like Sargassum anchored by the text, giving this mixed media art-form yet another dimension — words. Or a poem . . . or song lyrics.

“Galapagos Monsters;” “Alice — Looking Through Time;” “Let Girls Learn;” “Acquiescent;” “Betrayed;” and other titles are just the tip of the melting iceberg in Anja Albosta’s work. Try her out by going to her website, and then place yourself in the story unfolding in a world that without any doubt is challenged more and more daily with those cascading issues of injustice toward child-man-woman-mountain-animal-sea-lake-jungle-air-soil.

Luckily, Anja’s spouse, Mark, was willing to cross that hallowed ground of personal space — husband-wife relationship — and that of the art observer-aficionado. Here’s his take on Anja’s artwork:

Paul Haeder: What do you like about Anja’s work?

Mark Albosta: Anja’s art operates on several levels simultaneously for me. On the surface, the visual impact (color choices, images, shapes etc.). Then it pulls me in deeper to understand what the message is she is conveying, and finally I have my own interpretation or lasting effect that stays with me.

PH:  What role do you think artists — both Anja and you, as a musician — have in their communities?

MA: I have observed and think artists shape communities by revealing and delivering concepts to people that are only arrived at by doing the work as an artist. Expressing from the inside outward instead of engaging in the world from the surface. That translates outward to the community.

PH: What surprises you about Anja’s work?

MA:  Her originality in every piece. She is never at a loss for new ideas.

PH:  Define her work — her style, her final products/creations.

MA: Question 1 answers much of this but I will try and elaborate. Her style to me is of a dichotomy. Elegance and chaos. It is always present, similar to the world around us. There is a tense correlation to society and nature in her art but it is still easy to appreciate/immerse myself into every piece. The end result is passion.

 

Time #9 ~ Do You Know What You Are? ~ 18x24 ~ 2019

Art in a Few Hundred Words

All’s fair in love and art when looking at the artwork and intellectual and creative ethos of Anja Albosta. Her goal is getting her artwork out there, so to speak, and we can see that at age 52, in terms of chronological time, Anja has many good and inspiring years left. For me as a writer, this story will be read in the newspaper (part one) and then some will pick it up in the ether, reading the full-length people profile on line.

Anja’s art, however, if placed into environments where people can contemplate it, look at it, and discuss the meta-cognitive value of what she is paining/saying, well, that might be ephemeral too, but many more could be inspired by her art to move into some place of understanding or healing.

I’ll let her words speak for her. Her website can lead interested people into an entire world of depth, whimsy, provocation and beauty.

Paul:  What would you say your life philosophy is in as many words as you care to express?

Anja:  Stay balanced in an ever-changing world. Express myself as myself as best I can with the awareness that we are all always influenced by the world around us.

Find enough down time in our busy world to integrate events within myself. Feel, see, be able to truly listen when needed, to nature around me, people, sift through news and events and be authentic.

PH: Postmodernism looks at busting out of grand theories and concepts of art. What would you call your art given many in and out of the art world seem to be interested in movements, styles, expressive ideology in the artist’s own words?

AA: My paintings at this time, perhaps since 2015/16 have become a ouroboros of sorts, events happen and I create, at the same time I create and see events differently because of it.

Not sure what to call my art; labels help put anything in context. Yet I am not trying to fit in nor trying to be especially innovative. My paintings are just that, my process, my expression at this moment of my life. “Process Painting” comes as close to a label as I can think of perhaps.

PH: This is a foundational question that maybe I didn’t ask in so many words: what does your art mean to you?

AA:  It helps me balance all the cognitive dissonance in my own life, the worlds, past childhood events. In some strange way my art is everything to me, and yet how can that be true, it is just paint and bits of paper on canvas.

If I had no artistic expression, I would be lost, but if I only had art, I would be very isolated and lonely.

PH: What role does the artist have in society?

AA: Many artists have been recorders of history. Otto Dix, Kandinsky, Toulouse- Lautrec, Kate Greenaway. Recording their emotions of an era as well as actual events.

Current art and so many artists bring people together, social gatherings, ideas, philosophizing over the human conundrum of our best and worst. Art, music, innovative food, creating depth for the heart and soul that corporate consumerism can’t.

PH: What do you like about your work?

AA: It always feels like my art is an adventure, brings me completely into the flow of the moment.

My art is interesting to me as I work on it, consumes me at times over the weeks or months the oils dry and the painting is ready for the next layer of depth and expression. My work is what I want to do with my time. But I struggle with it too, question myself, then I paint again, hours pass and time is lost.

PH:  Are you ever surprised by your work?

AA:  Yes. I am continually surprised by my paintings. Creativity is organic for me. I read books and articles, see images and process in the moment.

Integrating the cognitive dissonance in the world around me. Always I find I have brought together opposites. Life and death, beauty and destruction, now and the past, humans and animals. Light and dark. Politics, religion, human choices. Questions, always questions … not so many answers.

•••

Hooked on Orcas

Facts about orcas abound in Colleen Weiler’s brain, because her role is to lead policy research and engagement around what we call the Southern Resident Orcas (SROs).

Her job is with the Plymouth, Massachusetts-based US headquarters of the Whale and Dolphin Conservation non-profit, established 32 years ago in England.

Our name is what we do.

Protecting cetaceans involves direct action, lobbying lawmakers, public engagement and education/outreach to the public.

Her official title is Jessica Rekos Fellow for Orca Conservation and, for the past five years, her focus has been on orca recovery. Now headquartered in Newport, she has also been tracking the efforts of Washington Governor Jay Inslee’s Orca Recovery Task Force.

Fact: orca comes from the Greek and Latin, meaning jar.

Fact: The killer whale (ballena asesina) moniker came from some of the first commercial whalers — Basques — who hunted bigger whales but saw the orca in action taking on sharks, seals and other whales as prey.

I meet the former Flint resident — who garnered a zoology degree in 2006 from Michigan State University before finding OSU as home to her graduate work — at Panini Bakery just before she spoke to a group of 25 at the American Cetacean Society’s fall speaker series at the Newport Oregon Library.

She is at ease among fellow whale and marine ecosystem enthusiasts, and her talk is detailed, as she exudes the confidence of a woman who has been doing this work probably since she was nine years old.

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“Free Willy” and Fast Forward

When Colleen was nine, she went to the local movie theater and saw the 1993 flick, “Free Willy” and got hooked on this emblematic species, Orcinus orca. At the end of the film, she recounts there was a “for more information on protecting whales please contact” blurb. It was called the Whale Adoption Project out of Massachusetts.

For $20 a year, the young Colleen adopted a humpback whale named Colt, who spent some of his time in the Gulf of Maine. That whale is still alive and still adoptable at her Whale and Dolphin Conservation. The underside and trailing edge of the humpback whale’s fluke have helped scientists and amateurs alike to identify whales. Many humpbacks can live up to 50 years with some known individuals reaching 70.

Colleen says both of her parents were both pretty environmentally aware (“recyclers”), and her father helped organize the county hazard waste recycling project. Her older brother is a K12 teacher in Michigan.

As an undergrad at MSU, Colleen was part of the Lyman Briggs College (an honors program) where she completed a marine biology/zoology undergraduate degree.

The Details are in the Policy Work

The search for graduate programs landed Colleen at OSU, where she entered the College of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences with a focus on marine mammal conservation.

She tells me that no one in her program at that point had pursued a graduate degree in policy emphasizing marine mammals. Serendipitously, she got to partner with the Alaska Whale Foundation as a research assistant.

That work she was initiating with AWF was looking at humpback whale distribution in Alaskan waters and ship traffic overlaying ship strike risk on the species while also looking at management measures.

Six degrees of separation defines a lot of what I do. I spent a few hours with Alaska Whale Foundation researcher/board member Fred Sharpe, PhD, at our own Sitka Center for Art and Ecology at the beginning of the year. Sharpe was the Howard L. Mckee Ecologist visiting scholar at Sitka. We talked about humpbacks — he has 26 years under his belt studying the behavior of humpback whales. His specialty is on the bubble-netting proclivity of Alaskan humpbacks. He looks at the connections of this ecotype’s behavior as signals of enduring bonds, complicated task specializations, team hunting and communal tool use.

For Colleen, her purview is now focused on the Southern Resident orcas. Unfortunately, one community within the “resident” ecotype (there are 10 identified ecotypes) is in trouble. Colleen discussed with naturalists the differences in these orca ecotypes with their varying size, pigment patterns, behaviors, acoustics, social grouping and diets.

Colleen was quick to point out that Michael Bigg, a Canadian whale researcher, “changed the game for orca long-term research” with his identification techniques — photographing dorsal fins and saddle patch patterns.

When you can identify entire generations of orcas and the births, deaths and family relationships, we can get an exact population count.

Matriarchs Rule

The compelling story of the orca goes beyond the cinematic drama of “Free Willy,” and their imprisonment and virtual torture at places like Sea World (see the documentary “Blackfish”). Mothers and grandmothers of the Southern Resident orcas are at the top of the pod, and the sons and daughters stay with the mother for life.

Colleen shows her audience an aerial shot of a grandmother and great-grandson from the Southern Resident ecotype. One big Chinook salmon is a nose length’s away before being snatched up by grandmother, who then shared it with her great-grand-kid.

In her more than hour talking to people at the library, Colleen clearly is dedicated to policy work, which she likens more to a series of marathons rather than sprints. “There is often no immediate benefit seen, no immediate gratification. Policy takes time, years.”

She and the nonprofit she works for are not thrilled with the poor policy measures and enforcement of certain life-sustaining laws to help the endangered Southern Residents once they hit Oregon waters.

“I would add we’re not thrilled with these issues throughout their range (not just Oregon),” she said. The federal government has been slow to implement recovery measures; and the current administration is doing its best to roll back every environmental protection law we have. Washington and Oregon are stepping up to fill those gaps, but environmental issues often fall at the bottom of the list for resources and enforcement effort.

She is an observer of the Washington Governor’s Southern Resident Orca Task Force, and the sometimes-Byzantine task force recommendations as well as the sometimes counter-productive work of so many agencies and stakeholder groups at the table are frustrating.

The bottom line is the 35-year-old Colleen Weiler is here to stay the course, and push through the entire process of getting the 73 orcas left from the Southern Resident community help in their recovery and sustainability as a population. One challenge is their range — they spend a lot of time in Puget Sound but their entire West Coast range reaches south to Monterey. They are very urban orcas and overlap with many heavily developed areas on the west coasts of Canada and the US.

It is a Fight on Many Fronts — One Killer Whale at a Time

Colleen doesn’t mince words, “The Columbia is the most hydroelectricity developed river system in the world.”

While the 150-page report from the task force highlights dozens of measures to mitigate the failing Southern Residents, Colleen can whittle down the fight for the orcas’ lives to many factors, but a monolithic one is the loss of salmon runs, down to 3 percent of their historical levels of 10 to 16 million of all salmon species coming back annually to the Columbia.

Salmon populations have to be restored to some higher measure of returns — the Four H’s destroying the Southern Residents’ food source, Chinook salmon, point that out: habitat, hydropower, hatcheries and harvest.

“They don’t go off menu,” Colleen said. That means each ecotype and population of killer whales has very specific dietary preferences — while overall, orcas collectively have around 140 species of prey to include sharks, seals, rays, octopi, dolphins, penguins and sea lions.

Orcas are one of the top marine predators, and it is actually the largest member of the dolphin family, Delphinidae.

They are found in every ocean in the world; thus, they are considered the most widely distributed of all whales and dolphins. With different foraging behaviors and diets, many killer whales deploy a coordinated hunting strategy, working as a team like a pack of wolves.

Hunters and fishermen once targeted killer whales. Historical threats to killer whales included commercial hunting (not in the US but in other countries), and, worse yet, culling to “protect” fisheries from killer whales.

What has particularly decimated the Southern Residents’ total census was the live capture of killer whales for aquarium display and marine parks. From 1962 to ’77, up to 307 killer whales were captured and removed from the wild. At least 47 were from the Southern Residents.

Colleen emphasized that 98 percent of the Southern Residents’ summer diet is salmon — 80 percent Chinook and 15 Percent Coho. With a crash in salmon in the mid-1990s, the Southern Resident Orcas also crashed. Abundant food equals nourishment, big bodies, lots of fat on their frame and fertility.

These different populations — the Southern and Northern Residents — do not interbreed or intermingle. When the Southern Residents are in the Salish Sea, the Northern Residents are in coastal waters. Their habitats never overlap, she said. This exclusivity of ecotype society has gone on for hundreds of thousands of years, where significant genetic differences in the populations occurred a long time ago.

Humanity’s Footprint

Colleen is quick to point out that she is “an observer” of the Task Force on Southern Resident Orcas so she can be a watchdog and keep things in perspective. While 18,000 public comments the first year of the task force is impressive, there is such a thing as task force fatigue.

It’s a big task force with state, federal, and local agencies, as well as NGOs, scientists, industry reps, and Washington state tribal nations.

Colleen said the 36 recommendations coming out of the November 2018 report are impressive. In a nutshell, increasing Chinook populations, reducing toxic contaminants and reducing vessel noise are at the top of the task force’s list of recommendations.

Controversy abounds. Whale watching outfits bucked the proposal to place a moratorium on whale watching. Consensus may be the goal for modern task force engagement processes, but that can also be the paradigm that hobbles action. If agriculture and barging interests on the Columbia River protest any talk of breaching those lower Snake River dams (which they did) — which are the cause of a large chunk of the salmon population declines — then everything gets tricky.

“As a whale person,” Colleen said, “I have learned a lot about salmon the past five years.”

Then there’s even controversy to get an added $10 recreational boater whale education endorsement for Washington state residents.

Add to the mix climate change, contamination from industries that produce PCBs, CECs (chemicals of emerging concern), forever chemicals and other toxics that can mess up reproductive, immune and endocrine systems, we then have a wicked brew of factors not only decimating endangered species, but other species.

For other whale species, another big issue hitting the radar of various industries in our neck of the woods, especially the Dungeness crab industry, is line entanglement. There are many regulations imposed on the Atlantic Coast for lobster traps, and reducing vertical lines by 50 percent is one proposed mandate to lower the number of entanglements with endangered North Atlantic right whales.

For us on the Oregon Coast, line entanglement affects our iconic Gray whales, but the requirement to reduce entanglement risk is driven by humpback whales, which have higher rates of entanglement than Grays and are ESA-listed, according to Colleen.

Orcas can become entangled, but currently this is not a pressing threat to the ecosystem changes, but all the other factors henceforth discussed do. The US Navy is harassing orcas (and other whale and dolphin species) just with their sonar testing in open ocean waters. Pier-side sonar testing in the Puget Sound is being proposed by the navy as part of their next seven years of training and testing activities in our area.

This could be another “hit” on the Southern Residents’ viability.

People at Colleen’s talk brought up recent sightings of two pods from the Southern Resident orcas — J & K pods — off Ballard near Seattle. Colleen said she saw images of some of them surfing on the wake of a barge.

Policy research turns from research into policy making, then legislation into enforcement — a long politically-charged process which still turns people like Colleen Weiler hopeful for these animals.

Orca Talk

Paul Haeder: Name a couple of environmentalism influencers in your life, and why and how those people influenced you?

Colleen Weiler:

• Sylvia Earle, for being an amazing pioneer in marine science and a strong, essential voice for conservation and protecting our oceans.

• My supervisor and mentor at WDC, Regina Asmutis-Silvia, for her years of dedication to protecting whales and dolphins and teaching me how to effectively advocate for them.

• My dad, who shared his love of the environment and passion for conservation with me.

PH: As illustrated in your talk at the library on September 21, there is sort of an analysis paralysis and task force fatigue. Can you articulate a bit on these, and how we as the public can overcome the real problem of becoming disengaged when so many other things tied to global heating and extinction and extermination are on our radar?

CW: Interest and engagement in the task force definitely seem to have declined in the second year, within the task force itself and from those following it. The topics the task force is discussing this year are big issues — climate change, ocean acidification and population growth — which can feel overwhelming. But addressing these topics is important not only for the survival of Southern Resident Orcas, but for us as well. They seem too big to deal with, but they are all interrelated, and we must start having these conversations and taking action now to protect the ecosystems that we all depend on — salmon, orcas and ourselves.

PH: Your opinion of keeping orcas captive at say places such as Sea World? I continue to hear this time and time again: “To say that keeping captive marine mammals contributes little or no information/research that will aid animals in the wild is simply untrue.”

CW: Most of the research conducted in captive facilities on the whales and dolphins held there is specific to captivity-related issues like husbandry and captive breeding and have limited applicability to wild, free-ranging whales and dolphins. The Southern Residents were gravely impacted by efforts to take individuals into captivity, and their population today is still trying to overcome the effects. For more about how captivity harms whales and dolphins, see our website.

PH: The sciences as illustrated at Hatfield are becoming much more multi-disciplinary and inter-disciplinary. Have you seen this trend in your own work? Point out the positives.

CW: Yes, there is growing effort in science and in conservation for more communication and coordination among different disciplines. For example, we work with many partner organizations on issues such as salmon recovery, water quality and reducing toxic contaminants. Bringing people and groups together who work on different issues that all relate to environmental health helps us learn from each other, highlights the connections between these issues and creates stronger positions and arguments for protecting our shared ecosystem.

PH: All those cooks in the kitchen allusion with the task force being so big. I know you are in policy as a marathon, Colleen, but how can you keep stakeholders, especially the public, engaged when time and time again, very little action comes out of long, extended task force session where there are so many special interests?

CW: We try to keep people involved and engaged by celebrating the victories, no matter how small or incremental they may seem, and by living our WDC mission statement — amazing people with the wonder of whales and dolphins and inspiring global action to protect them. Luckily, we work with species that are charismatic and can keep people engaged without too much convincing.

The task force is a long process, but it is the most concentrated and strongest effort that has been initiated for Southern Resident recovery since they were listed under the ESA. We recognize and emphasize that, note the progress that has been made, and are also realistic about the long journey ahead. There has not been “little action” out of the task force, there have actually been significant wins like the legislative and budgetary highlights I mentioned — but like many policy things it takes time to see the results of those changes. There’s not a lot of instant gratification, which can make it hard to keep the forward momentum going.

PH: What gets you engaged and excited about your job every day?

CW: Getting to work in conservation to protect whales and dolphins, which continue to amaze and inspire me the more I learn about them.

•••

Should We Trust Science?

Scientists working on the issue have often told me that, once upon a time, they assumed, if they did their jobs, politicians would act upon the information. That, of course, hasn’t happened. Anything but, across much of the planet. Worse yet, science failed to have the necessary impact in significant part because of disinformation promoted by the major fossil-fuel companies, which have succeeded in diverting attention from climate change and successfully blocking meaningful action.”

— Naomi Oreskes, author of Why Trust Science? and professor of the history of science at Harvard University

There were 60 of us with four facilitators asking us deep questions about the best ways to protest, preserve, rehabilitate and reimagine Oregon’s rocky intertidal habitat.

“What does make a community resistant and resilient?” Steven S. Rumrill, Department of Fish and Wildlife shellfish program leader, asked us all.

In a nutshell, this breakout session was a microcosm of Saturday’s conference, State of the Coast at Salishan Resort.

Three other leads to this afternoon session titled, “Complex and Connected: Holistic Approaches to Management in the Nearshore” — Sarah Gravem, OSU Marine Ecologist; Dom Kone, OSU graduate student in Marine Resource Management; and Deanna Caracciolo, Department of Land Conservation and Development – challenged us to think about issues near and dear to not only the scientists, but to us lay persons. We held onto the anchor question: “What makes the Oregon Coast vibrant, healthy and a visitor destination.”

Rumrill posed key brainstorming questions:

1. What are the primary drivers of variability in rocky habitats?

2. What are the key stressors and threats to them?

3. What proactive steps can resource managers take?

4. Think of five words associated with holistic management of rocky shores.

Coastal Confab Inspires Next Generation

This was the sixth year in a row for the State of the Coast, but this past Saturday’s was the first sold out gig, according to Shelby Walker with Oregon Sea Grant, main sponsor of the Gleneden Beach soirée.

The all-day session included the requisite keynote – Bonnie Henderson, author of several books, to include “Day Hiking: Oregon Coast,” “The Next Tsunami: Living on a Restless Coast” and “Strand: An Odyssey of Pacific Ocean Debris.”

Even more compelling and intriguing — and dovetailed to the State of the Coast theme of looking into the future — 28 student researchers with their poster projects displayed in the Longhouse conference room, and the 10 student artists alongside their creative endeavors, with both groups being voted on by all the guests.

Projects tied to pollution, microplastics, the Pacific heat blob, hormone mimickers, ocean acidification and more are at the forefront of these highly motivated and interdisciplinary-steeped students from Oregon State University, University of Oregon, Portland State University.

 

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I spent time talking with Reyn Yoshioka from UO, as he explained the remarkable findings in his participation in Oregon Institute of Marine Biology’s BioBlitz in the Coos Bay area. We discussed how his team’s inventory of invertebrates would be ideal to present to city and county officials, as well as groups like Rotary clubs and chambers of commerce.

“The people with political and economic clout need to see not only the work you all do, but what really is at stake if anything threatens this incredible biodiversity,” I told many of the fledging scientists and artists.

Every single one agreed. Many asked me how they might connect to myriad other stakeholders and powerbrokers in their communities.

I introduced Reyn to OSU senior in arts Kenneth Koga, whose watercolors of various elements of a vibrant ecosystem bring the scientist’s eye in focus with a much broader scope beyond just the materialistic world and into the interpretation of nature through the artist’s lens. Reyn told me “it would have been cool” to have dancers, photographers, painters, sculptors and musicians as part of the biodiversity transect inventory.

The Arts Help Define and Contextualize Science

While we received quick teach-ins (one hour presentations of eight minutes each) from researchers looking at rocky habitats, the warm Pacific blob, Oregon’s five marine reserves, sea star wasting disease, threats to Gray, fin, blue and humpback whales on the West Coast, and the status of groundfish recovery, Marion O. Rossi, OSU Associate Dean of Liberal Arts, gave a quick snapshot of Republican Governor Tom McCall’s legacy in helping preserve our coastal habitats.

Author Studs Terkel asked McCall decades ago where the heroes of the political world are. “Heroes are not giant statues framed against a red sky,” McCall said. “ They are people who say, ‘This is my community, and it’s my responsibility to make it better.’”

Rossi and I talked about what better things might be done to bridge the divide between the sciences (and technology, engineering and math – STEM) and the arts.

Part of the conference included a rather telling – possibly debilitating – aspect of science and various stakeholders. I counted more than 21 agencies involved in just managing and setting plans for our rocky habitats. Unfortunately, there are many more agencies, bureaucracies, boards, quasi-legal, legislative, non-profit, industry groups with some sort of skin in the game tied to our coast.

Think of tide-pools, habitat for many juvenile species, kelp incubators, biodomes to invertebrates such as anemones and sea stars. One issue we tackled was the fact that we can love our coastlines to death; i.e., since we have so many visitors and local aficionados wanting to get into these areas, so many species are being trampled upon.

Ecological balance, keystone species and the entire web of life also were prominent discussion points for the speakers.

For instance, the wasting disease promulgated deeper response in coordinated research projects called STARS – Seastar Tragedy and Recovery Study. Sarah Gravem of OSU discussed the implications of this species’ decline most probably attributed to a virus as well as ocean conditions (warming) spurring the virus’ growth. In some areas along the Pacific Coast, there had been a 100 percent die-off of sea stars observed in 2018. Recovery has been slow.

The ecological consequences from this wasting disease hitting pisaster ochraceus that once was ubiquitous in our rocky shorelines (purple, orange, brown many-legged beauties) spurred a kind of domino effect.

• this predatory sea star feeds on the mussel Mytilus californianus and is responsible for maintaining much of the local diversity of species within certain communities

• compensatory predators come in when a die-off hits

• low sea star prey growth occurs upsetting the balance of the ecosystem

All these pieces to the marine puzzle make up the coast’s mosaic of life. With warming waters, the bull kelp die off, and then sea urchins populations explode and any sort of juvenile kelp that might attempt a foothold on rocky bottoms gets gobbled up by the armies of sea urchins.

Everything is connected in the coastal life in and around the sea.

Whose Oregon Is It?

The Oregon Coast Trail is a hiking trail along the Pacific Coast. The length depends on the use of ferries, and varies between 382 miles (615 km) and 428 miles (689 km). The trail is set out on the beach, paved roads and tracks.

– Traildino.com

“You know, the funny thing about aging is you can watch entire forests grow,” author Bonnie Henderson said. “Fifty years is a harvest rotation. I can say to the students here you will watch forests grow thanks to those with vision and persistence.”

The author made it clear that her love of the Oregon Coast Trail could have only been germinated through the auspices and hard work of forerunners like Governor Tom McCall who pushed the 1967 Oregon “beach bill,” making all beaches accessible to the public.

She went back farther, 1913, to Oswald West, the governor who made all Oregon’s public beaches highways for wagons, horses and cars. Fellows like state Parks chief Sam Boardman (retired 1950) increased the acreage for coastal parks almost 20-fold. Then Sam Dickens, a Kentuckian who ended up running the UO geology department, saw the value in knitting together all the trails in Oregon, along the coast.

The well-known Pacific Crest Trail is more than 2,600 miles long and takes five months to traverse in snow-free conditions. It’s a wild back-country affair, whereas the Oregon Coast Trail cuts through cities, highways towns and waysides. Henderson has traversed it many times.

She is fighting for more camping areas. She is also keen on her other position as communications director for the Northwest Land Conservancy, trying to get more land set aside for a reserve in Oswald Park near Cape Falcon. That’s a $10 million fund drive, of which the NWLD has procured half.

With the snow season hitting the Sierras and rampant fires in California and Oregon, many people had to forego their Pacific Coast Trail adventure and ended up on the Oregon Coast Trail in 2017 and 2018.

She rhetorically asked how long people have been hiking and walking along the trail. Jorie Clark, OSU Geology and Geophysics department, has looked at the shoreline changes dating back 18,000 years when the oceans along the Pacific were 450 feet lower than today. It was around 6,000 years ago when the ocean hit the current level.

There were glaciers along the coast dating back 14,000 years, but also evidence of people from Chile up to Oregon, before the land bridge, who went along the so-called “kelp highway” where they found enough refugia to survive, Henderson told the crowd.

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Rejecting Cornell University — Art for Art’s Sake

Ram Papish apologizes to the group in his breakout session for a jump drive failure. He is wearing self-designed blue jeans with a collection of tufted puffins painted all over.

He currently lives and works out of Toledo, and his artwork is not only of interest to collectors. More importantly, he has worked with Oregon State Parks on 63 panels of interpretative work tied to our wonderfully varied ecosystems.

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All along the Oregon Coast, at waysides and other locales, these illustrated panels are set throughout the tourists’ pathway. Here are just a few of the illustrated large panels:

• Salmon Life Cycle

• Tidepool Explorer

• Sea Bird Island

• Tidepool Life

• Shorebird Stopover

• Mixing Zone

He tells the mostly young students in the session that he had to fight hard to become successful, and he said it was just last year when he began to feel somewhat secure in his artistic profession.

He has illustrated field guides, and in his early life he spent half the year as a guide in Alaska and then the other half as an artist – 15 years straight undertaking that lifestyle. He’s an avid photographer and he has worked sculpting into his life – with works including the walrus that sticks out of the wall at Hatfield Marine Science Center.

When I went to college, I didn’t think I could make a living at it. I sent out dozens of portfolios to publishers and children’s book publishers. I was really naïve.

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The introduction to art class at Cornell was a turning point in his pursuit: “The professor was basically trying to teach us how to be a snobby artist. I wasn’t going to have any part of that.”

Ram’s drive is to connect people to nature. He works mostly on commission, gigs assigned by Oregon State Parks, other agencies and publishers. His drawing avocation started when he was very young, and by age 14 he was designing dolls.

Questions abounded at his talk; he stated his interpretative panels follow the Rule of Threes –

It’s better to have less text. Over the years we went from textbooks on a stick to art pieces with no more than 300 words.

• three seconds to get the headlines

• 30 seconds to glance over the panel

• three minutes to read everything, including the captions

I ask him who his inspirations were. He rattles off Lars Jonsson and Robert Bateman. His number-one inspirator was a guy who wrote a book, Birds in Art. That was Larry McQueen, who ironically turned out to be living in Eugene where the young Ram lived. Ram saw his photo in the newspaper. It turned out Ram had been his paperboy from age 12 to 14. Ram introduced himself to McQueen and ever since he has been Ram’s inspiration.

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Our Collective Potlatch

There are many challenges to our coast – to the livelihoods of the people who make money off our coast’s marine resources. There are challenges to scientists who have to spend more time stumping for grants. There are many silos of people who are gatekeepers of information but fail to abide by transparency. Tourism and sustainable economies are debated weekly in city council meetings.

Unfortunately, for many coastal people, the elephants in the room are global warming, ocean level rise and ocean acidification and hypoxia. I’ve written about researchers diving deep into those topics.

But the bandwidth of the American public, lawmakers and industry is taken up by the stumbling blocks to progress – profits at any cost and doing business as usual for the benefit of a few rich people and stockholders.

The state of the coast, as seen at the Salishan Resort, is one tied to vibrant thinkers and activists; scientists and researchers; explorers and dreamers.

On the surface, some things look hunky-dory, but when we peel back layers as both naturalists and scientists, we see a more varied and complicated picture. The State of the Coast is a multivariant symphony of sometimes syncopated and discordant arias.

Music is in the eye of the beholder, but for our coast, the people dedicated to learning and sharing are really the bedrock for the rest of us who find some niche or dream or hope in this place.

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Maybe we need this sort of potlatch — the name given to most Northwest Coast celebrations – every month.

Imagine, State of the Coast as our potlatch, from the Nuu-chah-nulth “pachitle”’ (potlatch), which means “to give.” How much does the reader have to give to this vibrant and vulnerable coast? How much do you have at stake in ensuring future generations have a healthy coast?

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Note: Article first appeared in Oregon Coast Today, author’s copyright.

In the Eye of the Eagle: From Strict Catholic School to Adventures in Rainforests

A slow, tacking flight: float then flap. Then a pirouette and it has swung on to a different tack, following another seam through the moor as if it is tracking a scent. It is like a disembodied spirit searching for its host…” — description of the strongest of all harriers, the goshawk, by James Macdonald Lockhart in his book, Raptor: A Journey Through Birds

We’re watching a female red-tail hawk rejecting the smaller male’s romantic overtures barely 50 yards overhead.

There it is. Ahh, the male has full extension. So does his girlfriend. I see this every day from here. This courting ritual . . . testing each other’s loyalty. Watching them in a talon lock, spiraling down, now that’s an amazing sight.

I’m with Chris Hatten on his 10 acres overlooking the Siletz estuary along a gravel road. Saying he lives for that typical red-tail hawk behavior would be an understatement. His passion for raptors has taken him to many parts of the globe, and those trips involved exhilaration, danger, risks to his life, and the trials and tribulations of living primitively in tropical zones which Westerners sometimes deridingly call undeveloped countries or third world nations.

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 Wild Harpy eagle being recaptured and treated after being shot in leg, northern Guatemala.

We are traipsing around his property where Chris is ninety percent finished with a two-story 1,400 square foot home, a modern efficient house he’s been building for two years from a kit out of Lynnwood, Washington.

He told me he’ll never do that again – building a full-sized house.

The 42-year-old Hatten got a hold of my name when he found out I write about Oregon coastal people with compellingly interesting lives. He is in the midst of witnessing adjoining land (more than a hundred acres) to his property about to be clear-cut – forested hillside owned by Hancock Timber Resource Group, part of John Hancock Insurance (now owned by a Canadian group, Manulife Financial).

When he first bought the land eight years ago, representatives of Hancock told him that the company had so much timberland it would take years, maybe a decade, to get to this piece of property.

We discuss how Lincoln City and Lincoln County might prevent a clear cut from the side of the hill all the way down to Highway 101. “It’s amazing to witness in this coastal area — that depends on tourism — all this land clear-cut as far as the eye can see.”

The red-tail hawk pair circles above us again, while a Merlin flits about alighting on a big Doug fir.

When he first saw the property — an old homestead which was once a producing dairy farm — Chris said two eagles cawed above where he was standing, which for a bird-man is a positive omen and spiritual sign of good health. He calls his place “The Double-Eagle.”

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Hands on bio blitz Northern Brazil.

Non-Traditional Student Backpacks into Jungles

He’s not living in the house, per se, but rather he has a tent he calls home. “I feel suffocated inside four walls. I want to hear animals, hear the wind, be on the ground.” He’s hoping to rent out the house.

His current kip is set up near a black bear den, where mother bruin and her two cubs share an area he is willing to stay away from. “The mother bear and I have an understanding. We don’t bother each other.”

He’s part Doctor Dolittle, part Jim Fowler (from Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom), and part John Muir. My own intersections with blokes and women around the world like him have put me eye-to-eye with pygmy elephants in Vietnam, great hammerheads off Baja, king cobras in Thailand, schools of barracudas off Honduras, and a pack of 20 javelina chasing me along the Arizona-Mexico border.

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Jaguar rescue northern Belize.

Hatten’s wildlife adventures indeed take it up a few notches.

“When I finished high school, I wanted to follow my dreams.” That was at Saint Mary’s in Salem, a school that was so constricting to Chris he had already been saving up dollars for a one-way ticket out of the country.

He had started working young – aged 8 – picking zucchini and broccoli in fields near where his family of six lived. “You feel invincible when you are young. You’re also more adaptable and more resilient.”

He ended up in Malaysia which then turned into trekking throughout Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, East Timor, and even down south to Darwin, Australia.

Those two years, from age 17 to 19, are enough to fill two thick memoirs. Upon returning to Salem, he applied to the National Park service and bought a one-way ticket to Alaska, working the trails in small groups who lived in tents and cleared trails with 19-Century equipment – saws, shovels, picks, pry bars.

With his cash stake growing, he headed back south, by mountain bike, along the Prudhoe-Dalton Highway. He hit Prince George, Vancouver Island, and stopped in the Olympics.

He then worked summers and attended Chemeketa College in Salem.

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Finding small spot fire Colombia River Gorge, Oregon, working for U.S.F.S.

Homeless-but-inspired at Evergreen State College

He wanted to study temperature rainforests, so he showed up unannounced hoping for an audience with a well-known scientist and faculty member — Dr. Nalini Nadkarni, who is an expert in temperate forests and sap maples. Chris had read the book she co-authored, Forest Canopies.

Before showing up to Evergreen, Chris had developed a sling-shot contraption to propel ropes into forest canopy. He barged into Nadkarni’s office with his invention. She was surprised Chris wasn’t already student, but she quickly made sure he enrolled in the environmental studies program.

Spending his last dollar on tuition, Chris resorted to sleeping in a tent and inside his 1988 Honda Civic while using campus rec department showers. He told me he received free produce on Tuesdays when the farmer’s market would pass out vegetables and fruit after a day’s sales.

Another faculty member, Dr. Steve Herman, motivated Chris to really delve into ornithology. Chris recalls coastal dune ecology trips, from Olympia in motor pool vans, all the way into the southern reaches of Baja. “We looked at every dune system from Baja all the way back north to Florence.”

The ornithologist Herman was also a tango aficionado, and Chris recalled the professor announcing to his students many times, in the middle of dunes in Mexico, it was time for some tango lessons. “He told us there was more to life than just science.”

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Educational Harpy eagle to take into classrooms Panama city, Panama, has one blind eye, could not be released into wild.

Adventures and Misadventures of a Bird Fanatic

My life’s work has been to produce scientists who will seek to protect wildness. But I also just really enjoy teaching people about birds. I’ve been lucky to get to do that for a very long time.

— Steve Herman, Evergreen State College faculty emeritus Steve Herman, 2017

Chris laments the lack of real stretches of wilderness in Oregon, most notably along our coast. These are postage stamp areas, he emphasizes, around Drift Creek, Rock Creek, Cape Perpetua, but “it’s abysmal.”

We have the Cascades in Washington and the Great Bear Rainforest in British Columbia, and lots of wilderness in Alaska. But really, nothing along the Pacific in Oregon.

After camping in the forest around Evergreen College, Chris still had the travel bug bad. On one foray, he went to Thailand, studying the mangrove forests there. He traveled with Thai army anti-poaching teams who went after poachers. He came across poachers’ camps, witnessed firefights and saw a few poachers laid out dead. “The captain gave me a pistol and one bullet. He said the torture would be so bad if I got captured by tiger poachers that I’d beg for a bullet.”

He’s worked on the island of Hawaii with the USGS focusing on a biocomplexity project looking at how mosquitoes are moving higher and higher because of global warming. The consequences are pretty connected to other invasives – pigs introduced to the islands several centuries ago – disturbing the entire natural ecosystem.

Pigs chew down the ferns, and places that have never seen pooled water before are now wet troughs where mosquitoes can now breed.

Those insects carry avian malaria, and alas, endangered honey creepers can’t adjust to the mosquitoes like their cousins elsewhere who have evolved over millennia to just rub off the insects. The honey creeper is being decimated by this minor but monumental change.

Peregrine Fund

Right after matriculating from Evergreen with a bachelor’s of science, Chris ended up in Panama, working throughout Central America rehabilitating, breeding and introducing Harpy Eagles – the biggest forest eagle in the world with a wingspan of six and a half feet – into their native jungle habitat.

These are massive birds. They dwarf our American bald eagle, for sure. My job was to follow them when the fledglings were grown and released.

He acted like an adult Harpy who catches prey and puts it in the trees for the youngster to eat and learn some hunting skills. Frozen rats, GPS backpack transmitter fashioned on the birds, and orienteering throughout Belize and Southern Mexico were his tools.

It sort of blew me away that here I was living the dream of studying birds in a rainforest.

Territorial ranges for these birds spread into Honduras and south to Colombia. Wild Harpies eat sloth, aunt eaters, howler monkeys, even giant Military Macaws.

He ended up in the Petén, Tikal (originally dating back 2000 years), one of Central America’s premier Mayan archeological and tourist sites.

His role was to study the orange-breasted falcon, a tropical raptor which is both endangered and stealth. “We got to live on top of pyramids off limits to anyone else,” he says, since the bird was using the pyramids as nesting and breeding grounds.

He recalled tiring of the tourists down below repeating the fact that one of the Star Wars movies was filmed here – “I got tired of hearing, ‘Wow, is this really where Yavin 4,  A New Hope, was filmed? We’re really here.’”

Imagine respecting this ancient Mayan capital, and studying amazing raptors as the antithesis of goofy tourista comments.

No 9 to 5 Working Stiff

He tells me that his idols are people like Jane Goodall and David Attenborough. While he went to school in a conservative Catholic setting where his peers were mostly farm kids —  and some were already pregnant and married (before graduation), his family was not of the same stripe.

“We were like the people in the movie ‘Little Miss Sunshine,’’’ he says with a laugh. His parents took the brood to the Oregon Coast a lot, and that 1976 yellow VW van’s starter was always going out. “I remember we had my sister and mom blocking the intersections in places like Lincoln City while we pushed the van to get it started.”

He’s got a brother, Steve, an RN in Portland, and another Portland-based brother, Mark, owner of a micro-car shop. His older sister, Amy, is a newspaper journalist in Grand Junction, Colorado – a real lifer, with the written word coursing through her blood. She’s encouraged Chris to write down his story.

Their mother went to UC-Berkley, and has been a public education teacher for over 25 years. Their father (divorced when he was 12) got into real estate but is now living in New Zealand.

That one-way ticket to Singapore that got him into Southeast Asia, ended with him running out of money after a year, but he was able to get to Darwin, Australia, by paying a fishing boat in East Timor to get him down under illegally. He spent time picking Aussie Chardonnay grapes to stake himself in order to see that continent.

He was blown away by the kangaroo migration, a scene that involved a few million ‘roos kicking up great clouds of red dust. He ended up going through Alice Springs to see the sacred Uluru (formally known as Ayers Rock). He met undocumented immigrants from El Salvador and Greece while making money picking oranges.

We talk about some frightening times in our travels, and per usual, the worst incidents involved criminals or bad hombres, not with wildlife. For Chris, his close call with death occurred in Guatemala where he, his female supervisor (a Panamanian) and another raptor specialist were confronted by men on horses, brandishing machetes and leading tracker dogs.

“’We’ll let you live if you give us the woman.’ That’s what they gave us as our option.” The bird team went back into the jungle, the two male researchers buried their female companion with leaves, and then Chris and the other guy took off running all night long.

The banditos chased them through the jungle. He laughed saying they ran virtually blind in places where eyelash vipers (one bite, and three steps and you’re dead), coral snakes and tropical rattlesnakes lived in abundance.

“It’s a very creepy feeling being hunted by men with dogs.” Luckily, the female team member headed out the opposite direction, with a radio. All in a day’s work for environmentalists.

That’s saying, “all in a day’s work,” is ominous since we both talk about how most indigenous and local environmental leaders in so many countries have been murdered by loggers, miners, oil men, ranchers, and coca processors (many times executed by paid-for military soldiers).

Never Return or There Will Be Tears

Two telling quotes from world-renown traveler and writer, Paul Theroux, strike me as apropos for a story about Chris Hatten:

Tourists don’t know where they’ve been, travelers don’t know where they’re going.

You go away for a long time and return a different person – you never come all the way back.

We talk about a crackling campfire being the original TV, and how being out in wilderness with 5 or 10 people for an extended period gets one really connected to working with people and counting on them to be friends and support.

“It’s tough going back to places I’ve been,” he says with great lamentation. In Borneo, a return trip years later discombobulated him. “The rainforest is being plowed over daily. I couldn’t tell where I was walking miles and miles through palm oil plantations. It was as if the jungle had been swallowed up.”

What once was a vibrant, multilayered super rich and diverse place of amazing flora and fauna has been turned into a virtual desert of a monocrop.

This reality is some of the once most abundant and ecologically distinct places on earth are no longer that. “This is the problem with any wildlife reintroduction program. You can breed captive animals like, for instance, the orangutan but there’s nowhere to release them. Everywhere is stripped of jungle, healthy habitat.”

The concept of rewilding any place is becoming more and more theoretical.

We climb the hill where the clear-cut will occur. Chris and I talk about a serious outdoor education center – a place where Lincoln County students could show up for one, two or three days of outdoor learning. We’re serious about reframing the role of schools and what youth need to have in order to be engaged and desirous of learning.

That theoretical school could be right here, with Chris as the lead outdoor/ecological instructor.

All those trees, terrestrial animals, avian creatures, smack dab on an estuary leading to a bay which leads to the Pacific is highly unique – and a perfect place from which to really get hands on learning as the core curriculum.

We imagine young people learning the history, geology, biology, and ecology of where they live. Elders in the woods teaching them how to smoke salmon, how to build a lean-to, how to see outside the frame of consumption/purchasing/screen-time.

Interestingly, while Chris has no desire to have children, he has taught tropical biology/ecology to an international student body at the Richmond Vale Academy on the island of Saint Vincent (part of the Grenadines).

Koreans, Russians, Venezuelans, Peruvians and Vincennes learned organic farming, bio-fuel production, solar power design, how to grow passion and star fruit. There is even a little horse program in the school, founded by two Danes.

Chris said that the local population is taught about medicinal plants, recycling and responsible waste disposal. “Everything used to be wrapped in banana leaves in their grandparents’ time. Now there is all this single-use plastic waste littering the island.

Like the dynamic rainforest that once carpeted the Central Coast – with herds of elk, wolves, grizzlies and myriad other species – much of the world is being bulldozed over, dammed and mined. Wildlife leave, stop breeding, never repopulate fractured areas where human activities are the norm.

But given that, when I asked Chris where he might like to go now, he mentioned Croatia, his mother’s side of the family roots. He may have swum with 60-foot-long whale sharks and kayaked over orcas, but Chris is still jazzed up about raptors – maybe he’d end up on the Croatian island of Cres which is a refuge for the spectacular griffon vulture.

“Nature has a purpose beyond anything an extraction-based society puts its monetary value on trees. We have to show young people there is value to natural ecosystems beyond extracting everything for a profit.”

One-Minute Q and A

Paul Haeder: What is your life philosophy?

Chris Hatten: Make the best use of your time. Time is short.

PH: How do we fix this extractive “resources” system that is so rapacious?

CH: We need to value forests for the many multitude of services they provide, not just quick rotations. Forests are not the same as fields of crops.

PH: Give any young person currently in high school, say, in Lincoln County, advice on what they might get out of life if they took your advice? What’s that advice?

CH: Get off your phone, lift up your head, see the world for yourself as it really is, then make necessary changes to it and yourself.

PH: What’s one of the most interesting things you’ve experienced — what, where, when, why, how?

CH: I have had very poor people offer to give me all they had in several different countries. Strangers have come to my aid with no thought of reward.

PH: In a nutshell, define the Timber Unity movement to say someone new to Oregon.

CH: They are people who mostly work in rural Oregon in resource extraction industries and believe they are forgotten.

PH: If you were to have a tombstone, what would be on it once you kick the bucket?

CH: “Lived.”

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Running in step, at sunset on the beach with horse St. Vincent and Grenadines