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

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.

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.

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.

Encounters with Coyotes in the Past and Present


Fellow intelligent being reading you. Photo by Shreve Stockton 

Time spent speaking with our communities is a part of my work I very much enjoy as a Conservation Biologist. Members of the community get to ask questions they have never had the opportunity to ask before, and share experiences with coyotes they didn’t always understand.  The discussions that follow enrich all that are present.

The final portion of my Coyote presentations, I entitle “Coyote and Us.” Here, I will often ask anyone if they have had an “encounter” with a particular coyote. And just this past week, a member of the audience shared hers:

She was taking a walk down a path and she came upon a coyote that had been napping, tucked away in the shrubbery. Her presence awakened the coyote, who sprung to her feet and trotted off down the path ahead of the woman. Then the coyote stopped, turned around and gazed at the woman. They both stood there looking at each other for several moments. Then the coyote turned around and trotted off.

Many people do not understand what coyotes are about when they stop…turn around….and look at you for awhile. First of all, this is true coyote behavior. Coyotes, like other highly intelligent animals, see us as fellow intelligent beings. And as they stand there and stare at us, they are “reading us.” And they are very good at reading us! All of you who are reading this blog post, and have dogs….may I ask... “Do your dogs read you?”  And “Do you read your dogs?” You know the answer.

This same woman spoke about the coyotes that live in her area as “tame.” Oh no! Oh no! They should not be tame you say! But what is “tame” and what is what she observed?

And what she observed was not that the coyotes were tame (meaning domesticated) but that they were “at ease” in the presence of humans. Is this normal coyote behavior? Yes! But remember that “being at ease” and “being habituated,” are two different behaviors. “Habituated” starts leaning toward dependence on humans for food. And that is not wild coyote behavior!

Fellow intelligent being. Photo by Shreve Stockton

In his book The Ohlone Way author Malcolm Margolin wrote:

The white man changed the relationship that the wild ones had with us [having no fear to having great fear…and distancing themselves from us]. Today, we are the heirs of that distance, and we take it entirely for granted that animals are naturally secretive and afraid of our presence. But for the Indians who lived here before us this was simply not the case. Animals and humans inhabited the very same world, and the distance between them was not very great.

In my conversations with some of our farmers, they have shared with me their experiences with coyotes in which “the distance between them was not very great.” And I found it very interesting, that in their stories the coyotes on their farm “read” the farmer. They knew that it was safe for them to hunt for mice during the daytime. They knew they were safe on that farm. They trusted the farmers, and you know, these farmers trusted the coyote.

Coyotes have lived among our human species for over 15,000 years and they have been at ease in doing so. So I think that an aspiration for our generation would be to start learning how to be at ease with coyotes, begin learning how to read them…as they are excellent in reading us. And in doing so, we will learn the appropriate behaviors to respond to them.

Dr Gordon Haber, esteemed biologist who has spent his entire career among wolves in Alaska has shared in his writings that the natural state of wild canines is to be bold and unafraid. So our dictionary describes bold as daring, brave courageous, intrepid — all positive descriptions we give to our own species.

So in closing, I would encourage you to leave fear out of our growing relationship with this amazing, intelligent species.

Let us not fear them, let us not cause fear in them. Let us live in peace.

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.

Report Shows Damaging Impact of Climate Change in 2015


2015 was a record year for the damaging impacts of climate change all across the globe. Mankind is now looking at a present with weather conditions and rising sea levels that have never before been seen. It’s evident we must take the appropriate measures to curb the detrimental effects that have resulted from misuse and abuse of our planet’s resources.

2015 Was the Warmest Year on Record Since the 1800s

In the recent report, State of the Climate, scientists and environmental experts reported that the Earth had the highest temperatures since the mid-19th century — and not just because of the Sun. These temperatures were influenced by the effects of global warming and the most intense El Niño weather phenomenon since 1950. Not only was it the hottest year in over 100 years, but greenhouse gases and sea levels also reached record highs.

The Earth also saw more strange and intense weather anomalies than ever before — and not simply in isolated areas. This interactive map shows them scattered all across the globe, illustrating the all-encompassing effects that climate change has on the world population.

We Can No Longer Be Silent

The argument by some conservatives that climate change is a myth can hardly be supported by any type of fluff evidence anymore.

Leading climatologist, Michael Mann, told the Guardian in an interview, “The impacts of climate change are no longer subtle. They are playing out for us in real time. The 2015 numbers drive that home.” While there is a positive to implausible deniability that climate change is real, the danger in his statement reflects the urgent pace at which world leaders must adapt in the coming months and years to combat the negative impact humans have had on the planet.

The World Is Literally at a Crossroads

This is no joking matter — regardless of what critics of climate change might have to say now. Last year, India and Pakistan saw a record of more than 1,000 people die as a result of heat waves. California also suffered a drought at levels not seen in a millennium, and walruses in Alaska were forced to shore in mass numbers.

Perhaps even more alarming, though, is that last year, James Hansen, a leading NASA climatologist, discovered a new feedback mechanism that predicted sea levels to rise much faster than originally thought — 10 feet by 2065 — and there is almost nothing that can be done to prevent it.

So Are We Past the Point of No Return?

As harrowing as these recent findings are, climatologists like Hansen remain optimistic — that is if mankind takes the steps necessary to cap and reduce CO2 emissions. In fact, the historic COP21 agreement in Paris this past November shows that governments around the world are beginning to wake up and see that action must be taken now.

Transitioning away from fossil fuels in transportation, power and industry to renewable energies is an absolute necessity if mankind wants to make a significant effort at lowering the overall temperature of the globe.

The Paris agreement historically resulted in 186 countries pledging the formulation of action plans to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and even review those plans every five years. Moreover, the meeting encouraged involvement from not only governments, but the private sector as well.

Specifically in the United States, the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) released its guidance and recommendations for agencies to combat both direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions. However, the longevity of this policy will also depend on who takes office in November — the document was still met with heavy criticism by Republicans.

It remains to be seen if the U.S. will finally step up and take a leadership role in combating climate change, or if it will be left behind. There is a chance yet this year, with the COP22 in Morocco, but the lasting impact of involvement in this meeting will depend largely on the 2016 election.

One thing is for certain: The climate is simply an issue that can no longer be ignored. The information contained in the State of the Climate is proof of that. Mankind must continue to commit time and energy to solving this global problem as quickly as possible if we wish to see an inhabitable planet for our children and our children’s children.

Photos by NASA

Kayla Matthews writes and blogs about healthy living and has an especially strong passion for helping others increase their mental health and happiness by improving their daily productivity and positivity. To learn more about Kayla, you can follow her on Google+Facebook and Twitter and check out her most recent posts on Productivity Theory. 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.

Salvaging Campus Trees for Education

Joseph sawmilling at the university.

The Harvest-to-Use Initiative was started at Indiana University of Pennsylvania with an idea that was seemingly overlooked within fine arts academia. Growing up in Elk County, Pennsylvania, I was immersed in the forest. I was always cultured to comprehend the significance of a tree, no matter what type, it had a place in our day-to-day lives.

My name is Joseph Lovenduski, I am the Shop Technician for Indiana University of Pennsylvania's Art Department, primarily within The Center for Turning and Furniture Design. One of my most significant roles within our community is the operation and maintenance of our portable sawmill at our campus location.

It Started With a Wood-Mizer

The Wood-Mizer sawmill came to IUP in 2004 as a vital piece of the puzzle to get the Center for Turning and Furniture Design off and moving. Most importantly, it was an enormous part of the Harvest to Use Initiative. At that phase, Professor Chris Weiland had the key element to go into campus once a tree had come down and mill right on location.

This harvesting sequence brought a distinctive feature to IUP’s campus and was the first time a “collective” action was engaged to give downed trees a new life.

Loading a log onto the portable sawmill.

Thanks in part to the Allegheny Arboretum, a community of like-minded folks brought together with a vision to safeguard these “historic” trees among us, our local community was able to bring the tree through every step – from reason for the tree coming down, all the way to the finished piece of furniture.

Trees are brought down for a variety of reasons at IUP such as natural issues deeming it a hazard to public safety or disrupting the vision of growth and improvement, but a new tree is often times established in a nearby area for future growing.

Harvest to Use

When a tree must come down, faculty and staff at the Woodworking Facility meet with the Facilities Management Team to plan how the tree will be felled as well as how it will be cut into sections. From there, the sections are transported to our milling location on campus. Upon arrival at the site, we label each one with a detailed tag and date which allows us to preserve histories of the trees’ campus location as well as the period it was received or cut down.

We seal the ends and allow it to correctly season before sawing. After seasoning, we saw the trees into boards that vary in size and cut type depending on future plans and place them in our drying shed until they are ready for use.

Harvesting a campus tree

Based on the projects they are planning, students are able to choose from the wood we have in the drying shed. During that time, students learn about things such as grain pattern, board feet, species and how all that will relate to their detailed projects.

The boards are then brought to the basement of the Art Department where the Center for Turning and Furniture Design is located. In the Center we have a full arsenal of tools and machines, which means students have the potential to make just about anything they can think of.

Finding Purpose in Each Tree

From trees, to the finishing room, students partake in the entire cycle, thus the Harvest to Use and its full circle method to woodworking. Since the commencement of the Harvest to Use program, the Allegheny Arboretum has worked with us to approach areas of IUP with ideas to create.

An amazing example of that was a bench project for the Lively Arts at IUP. An oak tree had to come down due to the construction of a new campus building. The tree was then turned into benches for the lobby inside the new building.

A bench made from salvaged campus trees.

The bench project allowed the school to still have a connection with the oak tree that once stood there, one of the first great examples of the true meaning behind the program. It gives us, and the students, the ability to have a closer relationship with the cycle and see the tree being used artistically instead of taken away to the dump or turned into mulch.

The Harvest to Use Program is reusing the wood and understanding the historical value of the tree during the process. We aren’t recycling wood, we are finding purpose in each tree.

Integrating Campus Education

A great example came recently during BA Harrington’s advanced woodworking class in which students were asked as groups to design a bench that would endure within the Art Department. All of the benches were considered with the idea of using campus harvested oak trees.

With the Harvest to Use Program now becoming a full part of the curriculum, BA’s advanced class got to hand pick their rough lumber from our drying shed. They got a chance to see grain patterns and different sawing techniques, then select based on what was best for their benches. The completed benches can really show just what we are capable of at IUP in both the conceptual and technical aspects involved in the cycle of tree to finished creation.

Finger joint box made in a woodworking class by Heather Tabacchi.

It doesn’t stop there however, because even our introductory students benefit from the Harvest to Use Program. The intro classes conclude the semester by designing and creating a finger joint box out of rough sawn oak. Each student hand selects and processes a section of quarter sawn or unique grain patterned oak, depending on what wood characteristics they want in their projects.

The amazing thing about the culture here is the sense of community and how everyone benefits from it. We are able to teach students who come from different academic backgrounds. They come into the intro class knowing little or nothing about woodworking and leave with an incredible understanding of the process thanks to BA and the Harvest to Use Program.

BA Harrington and Chris Weiland discussing their next cuts

The projects created from introductory to graduate really prove a collective understanding of the creative features that wood can hold, while still referencing its traditional use.

BA puts it all in perspective by saying, "IUP's Harvest to Use Program provides a unique teaching opportunity, as we are one of only a few university wood programs in the country with the capability of harvesting local lumber in-house with a portable bandsaw mill. In addition to teaching the comprehensive cycle of tree-to-lumber, I see this as a crucial situation for incorporating ideas around the meaning of materials, renewable resources, community sustainability, and collaboration into the art curriculum."

Influencing the Community

Not only has Harvest to Use become a staple for the current curriculum, but it has been brought to the rest of the university and neighboring community’s attention. Prior to the program, no one really knew where the wood was taken, or why a tree had to come down. Shedding new light on the whole procedure gives IUP the unique opportunity to expand the founding principles of Harvest to Use to everyone.

We are creating a better community that can exchange ideas and form a more sustainable future for IUP and its upcoming projects. By raising mindfulness, we can show that any tree has a purpose and can be used.

The program also shows that trees are not just turned into construction lumber or mulch. They can be used to create something stunning and evocative of the tree’s initial beauty.

IUP Residential Revival

IUP is continually evolving, with that, the Harvest to Use will grow with it. More trees are being established for every one that comes down. The curriculum grows as well, educating students and the community about the importance of repurposing trees and planting new ones.

With these goals in mind, we are able to have a very positive future planned for IUP and its surrounding community. It also helps us to continually pay back by educating others and creating a better sense of our mutual surroundings.

By Joseph Lovenduski, Indiana University of Pennsylvania

Photography by Heather Tabacchi and Steve Loar 

The Wood-Mizer Team includes a diverse group of woodworkers, farmers, homesteaders, arborists, entrepreneurs, and more who are excited to share their knowledge and experiences of working with wood from forest to final form. Since 1982, the team has brought portable, personal sawmills to people all over the world who want the freedom of sawing their own lumber. Find Wood-Mizer on their websiteFacebookInstagramYouTubePinterest andTwitter. Read all of the team’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.