Nature and Environment
News about the health and beauty of the natural world that sustains us.

Changing the World with Effective Communication


What kind of world do we want to leave to our kids? Where will all of our plastic and styrofoam be in 20 years? Will we be strong and healthy, or chemically dependent? Will our food be nutrient dense and abundant, or packed into monocultures on shrinking farmlands?

It can be hard to see it this way, but as a whole, I’m a firm believer that the human race always has the best of intentions. We take calculated risks, we weigh the pros and the cons, and we do what makes sense at the time.

However, this short-sighted thinking has landed us in some hot water, as the ecological impacts of our excessive lifestyles have become impossible to ignore. More and more of us are looking at the foods we eat, the products we buy, and we’re asking ourselves, are we part of the problem?

It’s a humbling thought, the kind that makes you want to stare at your feet in shame, that you could be a part of those floating islands of trash in the Pacific, or the once fertile lands that have been hammered flat and barren by years of industrial agriculture, and are quite literally becoming dust in the wind.

We’re only human, but in this, the greatest age of information mankind has ever seen, word travels at the speed of a click, and more and more people are turning off the drone and humdrum of everyday life to stop and examine their lifestyles. It’s happening, and we’re all part of it.

As someone who works on the (insert ominous music) marketing side of things in this niche, though, I can tell you that there is something of a tug of war between folks that want to live a better life, and people that would rather not change. Something happens when people get and share information, and if it’s not what someone else wants to hear — it can stunt education, rather than enlighten people.

All too often, there seems to be this sort of social issue occurring, wherein the people that do things like plant dandelion seeds and make their own clothes look like crazies to what we’ll refer to as "mainstream society" (though I use the term very loosely). There’s this social disconnect between what the norm is, and what someone else is doing, and for many, it becomes hard to even take their point of view seriously.

I mean look at this chick - dirt under her nails, no bra, a baby on her back — what a weirdo. (And yes, that weirdo is definitely me).

The Wheaton Eco Scale

My boss over at dreamt up this idea for what he calls “The Wheaton Eco Scale”, a successive model in which the higher the level, the more conscious someone’s efforts are to be kinder to the Earth, but the crazier they look to the people back at the other end of the scale.

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So how we do change this? How do we effectively communicate with each other, and with people that are just at different points in their lives, without coming across as having a screw loose?

There is no perfect answer, but the first step is just acknowledging that perception is everything. To some of us, it may seem like people on level one are uneducated or don’t care about the environment, when it could be a simple matter of them just having never considered or questioned the way they do things.

I know it took me a long time to look at something as simple as the stuffed animals I was buying for my son, and when I realized what a horribly wasteful production process went into creating those loveable creatures, I finally dialed it back.

Education as a Journey of Experience

But the point is, I had to come to that conclusion on my own, because if someone had attacked me and called me a thoughtless idiot for buying those things, I would have dug in my heels even harder, and dismissed their claims as a result of them being psychotic jerks.

Yea, I’m just that stubborn. And as it turns out, so are a lot of people.

If we explain our thought process and don't dismiss people as just being inherently thoughtless, maybe we won't get dismissed as being completely nuts.

So if this cute, cartoon scale that Paul put together tells us anything, it’s that this life we lead is a journey in education and experience, and we’re not all going to be at the same level, and need to understand that communicating with people in this space is going to take being tactful and respectful, and understanding how they might be perceiving us.

You can check out the full image of The Wheaton Eco Scale here.

Have you ever had a difficult discussion with someone that resulted in them thinking you were super crazy? What did you learn about communication?

Destiny Hagest is personal assistant to Paul Wheaton, founder of and, as well as a content curator and freelance writer. You can catch Destiny hanging out in the forums at quite regularly, and visit her LinkedIn profile, and follow her on Twitter. Read all of Destiny's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here. 

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to our Terms of Agreement and to follow blogging best practices. They are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.

Where Have All the Wolves, Cougars, and Wild Horses Gone?

There is an old tale that has been passed down about a frog, who was living in the bottom of a dark well. One day, a toad came and peered down at the frog. He asked, “Why do you remain down there in the darkness? If you climb out of the well, there is a whole new world out here for you to see?”

So the frog did so, and discovered what he had been missing in the darkness.*


It keeps coming up — the tragic plight of our nation’s wild mustangs and burros.

Plight of Wild Mustangs and Keystone Predators

These icons of our nation’s history endure the ongoing cruel roundups by helicopters, forcing them out of their remote refuges and into holding pens. They are no longer free. At this time there are 45,000 of these wild animals being held by the the Bureau of Land Management. Many die along the way, small foals trampled and adults collapse in exhaustion and terror.

Why? It is the story of the frog in the well. As a society we are acting like that frog — just comfortable remaining in the darkness. Not wanting to find another way to share the land with those who were here before us, and have a right to be here for sure; preferring to grab up all the land for oneself, even the land that belongs to all Americans — public land. Our landscape is covered with a monoculture of cows, who are displacing our magnificent wildlife.

I remember when I was participating in research in the Mission Mountains of Montana, my fellow researcher and I came upon a whole herd of cows high up in these mountains, in a very remote area. There were no people around, only the cows, and it seemed so, so unnatural a situation. Even in this remote wild area of a National Forest — they were there. When one experiences this personally, there is a sense of the “unnaturalness” of this situation. There were no wildlife to be seen anywhere.

So why is this government agency rounding up our wild mustangs and burros? First of all, a trust has been broken with these wild beings. They have been pushed to remote areas far too small for them to graze environmentally. The cows have taken their land.

So does rounding them up and keeping them in pens, costing the taxpayer millions upon millions of dollars a year fix their “overpopulation” in shrunken habitats? No!

Will planning all forms of inhumane birth control efforts fix it? No!

Conservation Biology for an Informed 'Land Mechanism'

In my work as a biologist, it is my goal that I never focus on the problem, but instead move on to seek viable solutions and keep my eyes on how we want it to be, not how it is.

So now back to our frog’s story. We need to climb out of the darkness into the light. The words of Aldo Leopold are so appropriate here: “The last word in ignorance is the man who says of an animal or plant: What good is it? If the land mechanism as a whole is good, then every part is good, whether we understand it or not.”


Photo by Tambako


Photo by Ronnie MacDonald  

And that land mechanism Leopold spoke of is all about the predator-prey relationship. All these places where the wild Mustangs live, wolves are not being allowed to inhabit, and cougars are being aggressively killed.  So if you were a wild Mustang, what would you choose — living with your predators, or being violently chased into miserable holding pens, your freedom taken from you, your families destroyed, and an unknown and painful future at the hands of humans?

Let us come out of the well! Let the wolves, cougars and wild Mustangs find that balance together. Let us allow the wisdom of Nature to create the balance, but also let us share the land.

Is it really all that hard to climb out of the well?

*You can see the frog story told in the wonderful film Mao’s Last Dancer.

Geri Vistein is a conservation biologist whose work focuses on carnivores and our human relationships with them. In addition to research and collaboration with fellow biologists in Maine, she educates communities about carnivores and how we can coexist with them. You can find her at Coyote Lives in Maine, and read all of Geri's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

'Only the Rocks Live Forever': Exploring Healing Energy in Stones and Crystals


One of my favorite lines from the James Michener mini-series Centennial is one he attributes to the Arapahoe. The line serves to segue from their native tongue to English during the first episode which shares the title, “Only the rocks live forever.” That idea has always brought me a peaceful feeling—that there are stalwart witnesses to time passing, though the rest of us are temporary blips in comparison. I like the idea that others feel life in the rocks.

With this in mind, it was a natural fit for me when our family dog passed away recently to choose to honor her with a medicine wheel garden atop her resting place. A good friend let me scavenge the rock pile on her farm for the anchor rocks and those lining the beds which I’ll be planting in the springtime. The large rock at the bottom of each photo in the collection above marks north. I find myself drawn to this new garden each day and love that it feels like a new reflection of my Sacred Fire Circle.

Perceiving Healing Energy in Rocks

My love affair with rocks began during childhood searches for agates and wishing rocks along the beaches and riverbanks in the Pacific Northwest. As I aged, I added perfect skipping stones to my quest. Each find brought a certain amount of glee and victory with it since no two were alike and most were just elusive enough to make each hunt a challenge.

Fast forward to a time in my mid-forties. I was visiting a dear friend who lives on a mountaintop in northern Georgia. She has a lovely three acres of wooded paradise through which she has cleared a lovely walking path. I was enjoying an afternoon stroll when a small rock gently accosted me. At first, I kept walking. But the darn thing would not stop calling to me so I went back and picked it up.

Imagine my surprise when I felt a light buzzing energy emanating from the stone. I’d never felt such a thing. If it hadn’t been so persistent and accompanied by such a strong intuitive pull, I likely would have assumed I was imagining things.

I took my find into my friend’s house and asked her if I might take it home with me. I was so intrigued that I wanted to find out more and was curious to see how long the buzzing would last. Thankfully, she acquiesced and I still have that stone today. It continues to speak to me at the same frequency. I credit this small piece of rock with helping awaken me to the subtle energies that come from seemingly unlikely sources surrounding us.

Stones and Crystals for Positive Energy

Since that day, I’ve visited many stores that sell rocks, stones, and minerals and have developed a very specific routine that I go through when shopping. I discovered that by listening to my intuition with my eyes closed I could feel the energy more fully. I found very quickly that the stones I am visually attracted to rarely vibrate in a way that I physically feel their energy.


I find great beauty in visually attractive crystals and stones. Their eye candy can bring joy and a peaceful place to meditate. However, this is a different realm from the healing and support I feel from those that speak to me with their subtle energies. A small amount of research on the internet yields a plethora of information about the supposed qualities of different stones. For a great many years people have used crystals for all sorts of purposes.

As I mentioned in my post about Healing Dolls, crystals can enhance healing, offer support, and boost good intentions. I recently created a healing doll that combined a variety of small crystal chips. The overall energy effect of the doll felt expansive and grounding. Because each combination of chips is uniquely chosen for a specific person, the energy every doll gives off is different from the others.

I recently added trees like those pictured above to the choices in my store of goodies. The woman who consigned the expansive healing doll just mentioned added a small rose quartz tree to the mix (see photo below). This will make a lovely little bedside altar for her friend, the lucky recipient.

Using Stones in Energy Work

Beside the crystals I have on the various altars around our home and the pieces I have for inclusion in my arting, I also have a set of stones that I use in my energy work. I set them around the cleansing water that I use to rinse off my hands and arms while working. I also place three quartz crystal points in the water with a bit of purifying salt from an ancient sea bed in Utah. This also serves as a ritual to honor the rocks and crystals for the help they give while I work. If you want to know more about my energy healing, visit this page.

Something I find quite fascinating is that many times I will feel strong energy coming from a rock while other people feel nothing. The same occurs in reverse—they feel something and I don’t feel a thing. This serves to show me that we are tuned into different frequencies with differing needs. It also triggers my curiosity and further understanding of how one person’s reality can differ from another’s. I remember all over again how people can experience the same thing so differently.

Whether or not the attribution in Centennial is accurate, I am happy to have heard the words. Only the rocks live forever is true for me in my beliefs. My heart may break when another animal family member crosses the rainbow bridge, a human family member passes on, or when I see trees ripped apart by shredding winds… but I find solace in the idea that the rocks will continue to take note of all that has passed before them.


Blythe Pelham is an artist that aims to enable others to find their grounding through energy work. She is in the midst of writing a cookbook and will occasionally share bits in her blogging here. She writes, gardens and cooks in Ohio. Find her online at Humings and Being Blythe, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Feeding the Pig: The Problem with Homegrown Arts Organizations


Once upon a time there was a farmer, and he had a wonderful, vibrant garden. His garden fed his family, his livestock, even his neighbors. It was so healthy and food so plentiful that he had enough produce for his local market and so his garden even provided him with an income.

The farmer loved his garden and he tended it, took care of it, cultivated it, watered it and gave it all of his attention.

Then, one day, the farmer got himself a pig.

Sacrificing the Garden to Feed the Pig

And oh my, how impressed he was with his pig, so new and different from the garden. The farmer became so enamored with the pig that he began to give it more of his time. His pig grew and got fat and the farmer fed it more and more of the garden's produce.

Soon, most of the harvest from his garden was gathered just to feed the pig. The pig demanded so much attention the farmer had less time to tend his garden — and so the harvest began to whither and dry up. Weeds began to take over the garden, but the farmer hardly noticed because his attention was so consumed by his pig.

One day, the farmer was so exhausted from caring for the pig that he asked himself, "How did this pig get so big, and what has happened to my beautiful garden?"

But still the pig demanded more from the garden, more time and attention from the farmer. And the farmer couldn't escape the demands of the pig. He began to lose his joy — with the pig, with the garden and all the good things he once had as a loving farmer.

Until finally, one day, there was nothing left of the garden. It was gone, and the pig couldn't survive and the farmer had nothing for market and couldn't feed his family.

Threats to the ‘Garden’ of Musician

Thus is the state of many arts and music organizations.

Let's use music to explain, but this is true of all artists, bands, charities, and nonprofits. In my universe of folk and roots music, our "garden" is the world of songs, poetry, community, instruments, the audience, and all that is part of being a musician and songwriter. It is a beautiful, amazing, colorful, vibrant garden.

And there are many loving, attentive "farmers" for this world: The IBMA takes care of the bluegrass garden, the Folk Alliance International cares for the folk garden, South by Southwest in Austin and more.

The "pig" is the corporate structure any arts entity — whether a national organization, a local community group or a garage band — creates to oversee their operations. Mind you, the garden existed long before the corporate/business structures, but once they were created, they tend to take over the garden.

Here's what happens:

When the pig is first brought into the garden, the expenses are low and all the attention is on the artform, the artists and the garden itself. The good intention is to make the garden bigger and better while feeding the pig.

As the pig grows, the need for money takes over. Executive Director salaries, offices, managers, agent and staff, marketing. Vacations and benefits. Travel budgets. All of this money gets sucked out of the garden. The bigger the pig gets, the more unyielding the budgets become and the more attention the farmer gives the pig instead of tending the garden.

Before you know it, the garden begins to whither and dry up. The cost of being members of the organization becomes way too high. The costs of attending the conferences get way too high. The pig overtakes the garden to such a degree that all the beauty that was the garden begins to dry up and leave.

Feeding the pig makes the cost of being in the garden too expensive for the average artist.

Fact: It costs the average musician upwards of $1,000 to be a member of most music trade groups, pay for conference fees, travel, and get hotel rooms and meals. That is more than most musicians make in a year. Heck, it costs $80 just to park your ding-dang car in Austin during SxSW now.

Abandon the Garden — Or Get Rid of the Pig

If it costs more to be part of the garden than the garden can provide, the farmer needs to make a choice:

Abandon the garden or get rid of the pig.

My whole argument here is that the corporate structure of the arts world — the pig — has gotten so out of hand that it is ruining the very garden of arts we love. As the business models change and the ability of artists to make a living becomes more difficult, farmers need to reduce the size of their pigs.

That doesn't mean the people running arts organizations are "pigs." Be careful how you interpret this. Most are sincere, passionate folks that truly love the art form they are helping. It's the size of the corporate structure that becomes the pig.

Recently, the project that Pete Seeger started ran into this problem. When the Clearwater organization began, it was a community-driven, music-loving group that protected the Hudson River.

As time went on, the pig got so big and fat that most of their attention was spent on raising money to feed the pig and not to protect the garden they were part of. Finally, this year, they cancelled the famous Clearwater Folk Festival to conserve funds to keep the pig fed.

WoodSongs Front Porch Music Assocation

By contrast, the WoodSongs broadcast has a live event with artists from around the world 44 weeks a year in front of 500 people on a Monday night with a 30+ member crew, syndicated to hundreds of radio stations plus American Forces Radio in 173 nations, a 5-camera TV broadcast edited, closed captioned, satellite fed and viewable in 96 million USA TV homes on public television, live online feed, plus more than 800 shows archived for free on our website — all on a weekly budget of $619.

How is this possible, you ask?

Because — drum roll, please — we have a teenie weenie pig. WoodSongs Front Porch Association is a teenie weenie pig. Our commitment of the WFPA is to keep the pig on a damn diet. It costs a lousy $25 a year to belong and that is not just you but includes your whole band or family up to five members.

On top of that, all members get free tickets to the WoodSongs Gathering this September. The proceeds from your membership does not go to feed the pig — it goes to nourish the garden by providing roots music education programs free to teachers and home-schooled families.

Join the WFPA, a pig-less organization that loves the garden. That's why we call our members SongFarmers. Check us out at

Time to Trim Some Bacon?

My point is simple: If the pig makes more money than the artists in the garden — the pig must die. 

Or at least go on a diet.

All arts careers, bands, and groups need to take a close look at the condition of the garden you are part of. An organization with a flourishing garden and a little pig is doing it right. If you see your garden withering, struggling — if the artists are frustrated and the audiences dwindling — take a good close look at the pig.

It might be time to trim some bacon.

Michael Johnathon describes himself as an organized vagabond, a home-loving traveler, folksinger, a poet and writer, and tree-hugger. Originally from New York (where he was a neighbor of Pete Seeger), he moved to Kentucky in the 1980s and now lives in a log cabin on seven rural acres where he plays his banjo on its "grand front porch." Michael is the producer and host of WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour, a radio and television program featuring Americana, folk, and American roots music. Connect with him online on his website, and check out Michael’s play, Walden, and Woody Guthrie Opera.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Get Rid of Mosquitoes Without Spraying Chemicals

cows in field

Mosquitoes are much more than pests on a farm. These insects can carry diseases that threaten your animals, your family and your very livelihood. Unfortunately, farms are natural breeding grounds for mosquitoes that have constant sources of water.

Pestered livestock do not properly feed. The truth is that agricultural operation is dependent on healthy livestock to provide delicious and nutritious food.

When controlling the mosquito population on the farm, I take care not to spray any chemicals and use only natural methods to banish pests from our plants. Adding harsh chemicals into the mix doesn’t make sense, as it’s only lowering safety standards. There are many natural methods to rid the farm of mosquitoes that are just as effective as commercial chemical sprays, plus they’re much safer.

Keeping the Mosquitoes Off of You with Essential Oils

The best natural methods to keep mosquitoes off your body on the hottest of days is by using essential oils. These oils are extracted directly from the plants in their most potent form. Here are a few of my favorite mosquito repellent oils:

Catnip has proven to be one of the most effective essential oils against mosquitoes. Historically, many tribal communities would rub its leaves on the skin before hunting.

Basil is often planted around the home to deter both mosquitoes and ants from entering the house, but its essential oil is also used in ointments and sprays.

Lavender essential oil is taken from the sweet blossoms and provides instant relief from bites with spot treatment. However, it’s also notably powerful as a repellent. Lavender essential oil is popular for its diluted topical treatment to soothe bug bites on children’s skin, and its sweet smell is pleasant for their sensitive little noses.

Never use essential oils directly on your skin. Because of their potency, these oils must be diluted. There are many sprays, candles and ointment recipes to consider and customize. Make your own bug spray with a little water, glycerin, witch hazel and a few drops of essential oil.

Banish Mosquitoes and Other Pests From Your Home and Land

Keep mosquitoes away from your home and other areas of your land by planting plants that repel pests, which include primarily herbs from the mint family. Mosquitoes, ants and other insects avoid these plants:

Lavender repels moths, flies, fleas and mosquitoes. Its sweet smell is pleasant to humans but not to insects. Tied bouquets of lavender inside of your home keep the flies outside. Plant lavender by entryways or in rows to create a barrier to shoo those pests away.

Rosemary repels mosquitoes and insects that are harmful to vegetable plants. This plant is hardy and loves full sunlight. Plant it in containers or create an ornamental shrubbery from it. Its cuttings may also be hung to repel pests. The bonus is that you also can make a delicious rosemary chicken from herbs right from your garden!

Basil is delicious in pasta and meat dishes, but it also repels flies and mosquitoes. Plant basil along areas you want to deter these pests.

Bay leaves are tasty in soup, but they also repel flies.

Dill repels squash bugs, spider mites, tomato hornworms, cabbage loopers and aphids.

To effectively repel unwanted insects, plant these herbs strategically in borders along entryways, in window boxes and areas that you and your animals relax within. Though many of these herbs are safe for consumption, certain ones may adversely affect animals. Always do research and consult a veterinarian.

The Easiest Way to Get Rid of Mosquitoes

To deter mosquitoes in larger areas, I prefer to use a mosquito trap. This product has worked in the long term for me, and science backs it as a solution.

The trap works by focusing on the biology of mosquitoes and why they bite humans. Propane is converted into carbon dioxide, combined with heat and moisture, to create an attraction trap. The mosquitoes get vacuumed into the trap and die within 24 hours.

The best part of capturing and killing mosquitoes with a trap is that it stops mosquitoes from breeding and coming back in full force every year. Get those mosquitoes off your back and off your land. You don’t need harsh chemicals to get rid of the problem, either. All you need is what Mother Nature provides and a little determination.

James White is green builder and home improvement blogger who focuses on sustainable living via his family blog Homey Improvements. He also enjoys sharing his recent discoveries with DIY projects, home tips and organic gardening. James is "Alaska Grown" but now resides in Pennsylvania. Connect with him  on Twitter at @DIYfolks. Read all of James' MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Nevermind the Politics, Forests Can Help Cool the Planet

I have received many informed, some not so informed, but some real heartfelt responses to my first blog post for MOTHER EARTH NEWS: Forestry, Global Warming, and the Multi-Billion-Dollar Carbon-Credit Grab.

Forestry and global warming are complex and emotional issues. In this follow-up article, I’d like to focus on the forests themselves and how they can contribute if forest management practices can be adjusted through the incentives in the multi-billion dollar carbon credit programs being formed.

I’ve seen too many politically motivated reports from all spectrums of the debate claiming that the kind of forestry I’ve described and advocate — called "Restoration Forestry" — is irrelevant or cannot be done because of much supposed science.

But, I stand behind the main points in the article. Let me discuss several issues  that were not fully mentioned in my prior blog post.

The Pacific Northwest is the Key

First, I reviewed an alarming report showing that significant acreage of boreal and other lower volume forestlands may not contribute as much to the global cooling equation in the coming decades and beyond as prior expectations and studies have shown:

Although the facts are sad and not reversible in the short-term, these relatively low volume per acre forests are not the large forest carbon sinks of the world and their distress is not a strong argument to discount what greater forests can contribute.

The studies also do not take into account the tremendous capacity that exists to multiply the carbon held by the more carbon-dense forests if an economic incentive is set to do so.

The number one carbon sink on the planet, measured by capacity per acre to retain carbon, is located on the west coast of the United States and Canada. The same North American forest report mentions that these forests may actually contribute more than prior reports suggested. And, this note does not take into account the incentives that can multiply this contribution.

Considering this, the headline must be adjusted to say that the marginal forests in all probability will make a smaller contribution to the solution but the more important forests may actually make a much greater one.

The Redwood, Cedar, and Douglas-Fir forests of the Pacific Northwest have a capacity to retain carbon (think board feet per acre) that is wildly greater than the boreal forests mentioned in the article or the still expansive rainforests of South America and Africa. The average stand in the Pacific Northwest has a carbon carrying capacity that is a factor of 5 to 7 times greater than the Amazonian rainforest or the typical boreal forest. They are not in the same league. The trees can grow to enormous height and girth like nowhere else on earth if allowed to do so.

No other forest in the world can retain anywhere near as much carbon per acre as the forests that stretch from Big Sur in California into British Columbia. It is THE forest carbon sink of the earth. However, it is not alone. Some other forests have the capacity to contribute significantly per acre also.

For example, the Alerce Forests in Chile and others. But, the Redwoods, Cedar and Douglas-fir forests of Northern California and Oregon that stretch north to Alaska are the kings of carbon per acre sequestration capacity on the planet hands down. No other forest comes close. 

While the forests of the tropics are the biodiversity fountains of the world, the Pacific Northwest, on its own — if managed to multiply standing timber volumes on all the working forests of the area — will contribute enormously to carbon sequestration. Receiving news that more marginal stands are being slowed and in some cases killed off by the effects of changing climate is a sad and alarming consequence of the issue at hand.

But, it is no reason to neglect the help that the large carbon-sequestering forests of the world can and should contribute if managed differently using the carbon credits being developed.

The great majority of the forests in the Pacific Northwest are managed for timber production, either privately or by government. The U.S. Forest Service under option 9 in 1994, significantly reduced the rate of cut on most of the Pacific Northwest lands under their management.

The public lands have been adding volume consistently since then. Problems of fire danger still exist from a lack of thinning these relatively young stands in recent decades, which should be addressed, but the overall curve in terms of carbon sequestration on public lands is positive.

Where dramatic improvements can still be made is with the privately owned lands or the lands owned by the crown and other public agencies in Canada that are being more aggressively managed. Their stands are more depleted in general and have levels of standing trees volume per acre that is many times below the forest’s natural capacity.

Triple the Volume of Sequestered Carbon in Working Forests in a Century

Second, the bottom line is that we can at least triple the carbon removed from the atmosphere and held in the form of trees just in the Pacific Northwest over the next 100 years if we choose to. This alone will make a huge contribution in the global cooling equation despite losing growth rates in the less carbon dense stands. This can be done while still managing these lands for timber production and healthy employment.  

I agree that the climate situation is going to deteriorate significantly in the short term. I also agree with the critics who say that offsetting and other carbon trading schemes are partial or inadequate solutions. But, the politics is beyond the scope of what I’m addressing in these posts. Let’s establish the baseline reality first, then deal with the politics.

The public in general is not aware that the forests of the world today hold a small fraction of the carbon they once held. The studies to quantify this are numerous and our prior blog post mentioned some of the main statistics. The working forests of the world represent the bulk of the earth’s forest. Most of them are well below 30% of their carrying capacity. Some are below 10%.

Yet the carbon credits are being defined now and the market is huge. Whether we like it or not, this is going to happen. Big money is lined up for this and so are the politics and international agreements. What is not lined up is the will to tie these carbon credits to substantial permanent carbon sequestration, which can best happen by targeting the major forests of the Pacific Northwest. This area represents our biggest leverage point, a golden opportunity for maximum global cooling results.

On average, the great majority of the forestland of the planet can be at least tripled in terms of volume in less than a century. There is a large percentage of overcut and severely understocked forestlands that can be substantially restored to mature trees. All is needed is an incentive to do so.

Trees are mostly carbon. Multiplying standing inventories as a primary goal for granting carbon credits will encourage private landowners to do the right thing for climate and their pocketbooks. But, if they don’t have to, they won’t. The forest products industry and politicians are writing these rules. If the public does not demand significant and permanent sequestration, only minor improvements will occur and the main point will be obfuscated for short-term economic gain.

We can go on endless tangents about how larger forest inventories will be purchased by polluters to keep up the status quo, etc. But, let’s keep our eye on the ball. Those of us that know this basic reality need to raise our voices and let everyone know. If the public is aware that the great carbon sinks of the world are mostly not being utilized and that no plan exists to change this in any dramatic form, the debate may finally change.

The typical stand in the working forests of northern California, for example, has on average less than 10,000 board feet to the acre today when most averaged well over 40,000 prior to being cut. The most productive acreage in the area holds hundreds of thousands of board feet per acre still today in parks. There is room to grow dramatically.

The lands we manage have doubled their volume in 22 years and will double again in the coming decades despite several conservative and careful timber harvests. They are average quality Redwood and Douglas-Fir stands in the southern end of the Pacific Northwest forest. If we can achieve a 4 fold increase in less than 60 years, a 3 fold increase in less than 100 years forestwide is a reasonable goal that will also protect and create additional jobs in the industry.

I have received straight faced responses that say that collecting and permanently storing enormous quantities of carbon permanently will make no difference because of trade offs with huge polluters, etc. Yes, if the sequestered carbon is used to allow huge polluting interests to buy offsets, it is a wash, but this consideration cannot be a zero sum game.

The science says we must lower the amount of carbon in the atmosphere substantially, not just get to no net more carbon added to the atmosphere. If the goal then is to quickly stop the accumulation and begin to lower the amount, the forests are key to making this happen. They are willing and able now. They can triple their contribution in less than a century if we go about this in a constructive manner.

Give the forestland owners the incentives in the carbon market for volume increases. The more volume increases, the more carbon credit dollars. The increases must be permanent. You just need to lower the rate of cut permanently. Less wood quantity will be harvested, but better quality. The credits will bridge the gap financially in the first few decades until the forests are transformed from low volume stands that produce quantities of low quality lumber to high volume forests that will produce ever higher quality lumber at a premium.

Get involved. If you are in the industry and understand this to be true, please spread the word. Insist on huge and permanent standing inventory increases as a requirement for the carbon credits and no substitutes or half measures. It is the proven technology and like a factory sitting mostly unused, we have huge manufacturing capacity sitting idle. The forests can sequester a lot more carbon if we let them and in and of itself, this is big step in the right direction. Stay informed and spread this news!

Raul D. Hernandez founded Forever Redwood in 1995 by purchasing 41 acres of logged forestland and now manages over 700 acres of redwood forest with a focus on hands-on restoration. He incorporated the business in 1999, serves as its CEO, and wrote the manual "Old-Growth Again: Restoring Logged Forests One Tree at a Time." Raul spends his time between the Redwood forests of Annapolis, Ca., and the Forever Redwood woodworking shop in Ensenada, Baja California. Connect with him on the Forever Redwood Blog, Facebook, and Twitter. Read all of Raul's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

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How to Relocate Spiders


Scientific Name: Araneus diadematus
Pronunciation: ah-RAY-nee-uhs dy-uh-DEM-uh-tuss

Common names: Orb Spider, European Garden Spider, Cross Spider, Diadem Spider, Garden Spider, Garden Cross Spider, Gartenkreuzspinne (Germany)

Benefits of Spiders

Spiders are beneficial arachnids, meaning they have eight legs. They can be found in or near a home. Relocating spiders to a more appropriate place is a much wiser idea than killing them when they're in our way.

Spiders are beneficial because they eat bugs that can destroy crops such as aphids and caterpillars. Spiders eat fleas, which is a good thing since some fleas carry life-threatening diseases like bubonic plague or typhus. Other disease carrying bugs spiders eat are mosquitoes, flies, and cockroaches.

Scientists are experimenting with spider webs able to be used in parachutes and bullet proof vests. Spider web silk is considered one of the strongest of natural fibers especially considering its elasticity. Villages in developing countries have devised ways of using Orb Spiders’ webs as fishing nets. They coax the spider into an oval frame where it naturally spins a web. The fishermen use this web as fishing nets.

Orb Spiders are beneficial in the organic garden since they keep predator insects in check. If your kale has aphids, then spiders are just what you need! If your beans, cabbage, potatoes, or lettuce have flea beetles then spiders are your best friends. If your dahlias have earwigs, spiders can decrease their population.

We often have the Orb Spider just outside our front door, since this area is plentiful of flying insects, the spiders’ main food source. We sometimes leave the spiders alone if they’re not in our way, or we gently capture them and relocate them out in our yard where they can continue with their lives.

The Orb Spider spends its life outside in yards, gardens, orchards, and on farms in North America and Canada. They build their webs a bit off the ground, wherever they believe flying or jumping insects will be captured in their web. When felt threatened, the Orb Spider bounces on it’s web in an effort to appear larger to a prospective predator.

Spider Webs

The Orb Spider’s web is generally large and suspends from plants, trees, or structures by long traverse-like lines which are not sticky like the orb itself. Typically, although not always, the female Orb Spider stays in the center of the web waiting for a wiggling insect to cause the web to jolt and notify her of available food.

If she’s sitting somewhere outside the web, she can easily and quickly traverse to the web and capture her prey. The spider usually eats the web each evening, recycling the proteins and any moisture, using them to re-build a new web the next morning.

Famous Spiders

The Orb Spider is one of the better known spiders around the world and has been studied in scientific research documents time and time again. Quite a famous spider indeed, as in 2010 the Orb Spider was elected “European Spider of the Year”.

Capture and Release


To capture a spider with the intent to relocate it, a small clean sturdy vessel with a secure lid is needed. We keep a basket of small vessels in a basket for spider capturing emergencies. When we have spiders in the house, we always capture and relocate them safely outside.


If a spider is in an orb, try to visually locate the traverse lines suspending the web, there should be several going out in different directions. These lines are not sticky and you can easily detach them if you need to in order to get the capturing vessel closer to the spider.

It is in the spider’s interest to capture them in the evening when they would be eating their web soon and retiring for the night. Then you haven’t interrupted their intent to find food for the day and causing them to need to begin a new web all over again. This may sound extreme but if you have ever watched spiders in their natural habitat, they are fascinating creatures and have their own rhythm of life you can learn as you observe.


Once you can approach the spider’s orb closely, carefully hold the small plastic container behind the web and quickly, because the spider will try to escape as soon as she see’s what you’re doing, draw up the container and put on the container top simultaneously so as to capture the spider in the vessel without harming it.

Verify you indeed have the spider in your vessel. Carry the vessel to a pre-determined location where there are plants and the prospect of bugs for food. Tip the vessel as you carefully remove the top and give the vessel a gentle shake to encourage the spider to crawl out assisted by gravity. Watch for a moment, or as long as you want, to make sure the spider has quickly adapted to its new surroundings.

Voila! You have successfully lead an arachnid release project! Congratulations!

Mary Ann Reese is a certified mentor in designing, building, and operating food bank farms. She has also been certified to teach cooking classes to low-income families. As an organic grower, Mary has owned a mini-farm, greenhouse, chickens, ducks, and geese raised from eggs in an incubator and is happy to share years of wiser living advice with her readers. Read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.