Nature and Environment

Because at 160,000 years, the party is just getting started.

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Historians believe that nearly 30 million whitetails existed across about 80% of the U.S. before its discovery by European. The mule deer range was about half that size, and their numbers were estimated about one-third that of whitetails. North America’s forests, mountains and deserts thrived with deer before white man’s arrival. By the end of the 1900s, these magnificent animals had declined to a status of endangered. How could this have happened?

Declining Deer Population: Overhunting and Disease

The pre-colonization buffalo herds were also estimated to be around 30 million. Throughout the 1800s, buffalo were needlessly slaughtered and their population dropped to less than 2,000. With bison gone and cattle production not yet keeping up with immigration and the human population boom, deer were intensely targeted by meat hunters. Killed by the wagonloads, the U.S. deer herd dwindled to 1/60th of its 15th-century population.

The yesteryear disappearance of deer is mainly blamed on overhunting; however, the period of vanishing populations also paralleled the end of the Little Ice Age. This documented 300-year period of severe cold weather, suspected to end about 1850, impacted agriculture, health, economics, social life, emigration, and even art and literature (Google “Little Ice Age”). Earth’s continual rising temperature after this historic era of subzero weather caused the upsurge of deadly viral diseases in mammals.

Episodic Hemorrhagic Disease in Whitetail Deer

Episodic Hemmorhagic Disease In Deer 

Warmer weather proliferated the rise of a viral infection in deer dubbed Episodic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD), interrelated to Blue Tongue (BT). It was first documented in 1886 and again in 1901 on a northern section of the Missouri River when whitetails were found dead along this large tributary of the Mississippi. The last century-and-a-half-plus trend toward earlier springs, less rain in summer and fall, and warmer winters accelerated this deer disease.

This lethal virus is carried by a tiny biting fly called a midge. Its larvae live in mud along any stream or pooled water. When it pupates and emerges during dry years, infected adults fly off and bite deer, transferring the disease. After the disease is contracted, a perfectly healthy deer usually dies within 8 to 10 days. It’s speculated that eventual immunity in deer cannot be attained due to sporadic outbreaks controlled by the inconsistency of drought years.

Symptoms include loss of appetite and weight, weakness, escalated pulse and respiration rates, and fever and hemorrhaging forces the infected animal to water. A swollen tongue, bluish in color due to insufficient blood oxygen, will not allow swallowing in the case of Blue Tongue. Often, an infected deer beds down in water to reduce body temperature and passes into a shock-like state, dying within a day or two after the initial symptoms appear. EHD victims may die away from water when their blood veins rupture.

Though the adult midge lives only about a month, the larvae can survive in mud a year; it thrives on decaying organic matter until surfacing as an adult. Only sub-freezing weather for extended periods during winter can put frost deep enough to help kill the larvae. We have not had this kind of frost depth for many years, and this has caused increasing EHD and BT deaths. Whether you believe in “global warming” or “weather trend” for earth’s rising temperatures, this documented warming period has caused disease-carrying insects to greatly multiply their numbers.

It is very suspect that the disappearance of deer by the late 1800s was a combination of overhunting and disease. The closing of continental deer hunting and sound wildlife management throughout the early 1900s, of course, brought deer herds back to a huntable status. But are they in trouble again? The answer is clearly “yes.” Would it be a fictional doomsday prediction to say that poor deer management and disease could nearly wipe out an entire county’s deer herd? I think not.

Poor Wildlife Management of Deer Population

Unfortunately, individual state deer management, once based in science, has now grown to be political. Influenced by farm agency and insurance company lobbyists, legislators regularly appoint natural resources directors who are not faithful guardians of wildlife. One of the poorest-managed deer herds, in my opinion, is in my home state of Illinois. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources has allowed deer in this state to be overhunted; it’s also turned a blind eye to the ongoing EHD/BT epidemic. A group known as the Illinois Whitetail Alliance formed early this year to help turn this situation around (join free at the Illinois Whitetail Alliance website).

Conversely, Ohio, by far, is the best-managed deer state in the U.S. Its wildlife administrators assess the deer herd very regionally — by county — and perform regular hunter surveys to establish population accuracy and the effects of disease before annual permit allocation. Bravo to them!

Whether you’re a hunter or simply a nature lover, get involved in your state’s deer management. It would be inconceivable to lose such a wonderful natural resource as deer. Their majestic beauty and grace would be profoundly missed!


 Living Systems Institute Staff

Have you heard of the vanishing bees? You may know that commercial beekeepers are reporting losses of more than 30% of their colonies every year. Implicated in those losses is a class of pesticides known as systemics that show up in both the pollen and nectar of plants that have been treated. These poisons are common in insecticides sold to the public and in the potting soil of the plants that you buy.

Because pollinators are so important to the human food supply this is a great opportunity to examine our use of poisons. The issue goes beyond which pesticides are too harmful and which pesticides are acceptably dangerous. Here is the question; “Do you want a healthy system or a sterile system?”

Healthy Systems vs. Sterile Systems

Bees Talking To Each Other

When we use a poison to eliminate some species from our yard there is a series of consequences.  It is not only the collateral damage from the poison – all the bugs that die from direct contact with the poison. It is all the species that rely on the one we poisoned. And all the species that rely on those species. That process leads toward a sterile system and the end result of that process is a hospital-like environment. In hospitals, the only things that grow are super bugs that cannot be killed.

The most beautiful places you have ever been are healthy systems. They are healthy because they have a full range of species participating. They are complete food webs that process nutrients through complete growth, decay, and regrowth cycles in quantities that allow the participation of many species.

Industrial agriculture argues that it is necessary to grow food in monocultures — large areas of a single crop — if we are going to feed the world. So the argument goes, poisons are necessary to protect the crops when you grow a monoculture. This process and the use of poisons leads to huge acreages of essentially sterile cropland where nothing grows except those species that become resistant to the poisons used.

Yard and Garden Polycultures

We do not need to have this argument in a suburban landscape. Our yards and gardens can be polycultures and we have space for all the predators of all the pests. No one is going to starve if we lose this plant or that to insect damage, and the more we tolerate pest species, the quicker we attract their predators. We can assist nature in becoming healthy by encouraging a full range of species. As the ecosystem in our yards becomes healthy, it will also become correspondingly beautiful.

When we poison the aphids on our roses, we prevent lady beetles from participating in our garden, leading in the direction of a sterile system. When we think of aphids as food for lady beetles our garden starts to regain its health. A healthy system needs all its parts.

This is your habitat. Do you want it to be sterile or healthy? If you want it to be healthy, here is the deal: Someone is going to have to talk to that neighbor down the street who is using these poisons, or hiring people who use these poisons, thinking that they are safe. That neighbor believes that the poison is necessary to protect their investment in their plants and does not realize that they are damaging the health of the habitat. They are not going to listen to me, that radical environmentalist. They are not going to listen to some politician pandering for votes.  Most will at least hear out a neighbor.

The conversation does not have to be confrontational. It is essentially the opening paragraph to this blog. Even the most committed user of poisons understands the necessity for pollinators and even if they do not sign on right away, they will be watching as we demonstrate how beautiful a healthy habitat can be. If that conversation does not take place the damage will continue and build on itself leading in the direction of a hospital environment.

This is about changing the standard for landscaping in our habitat. We know it is possible because we know that people prefer beautiful places to hospitals. But someone has to have that conversation.

Bee Safe Neighborhood ProgramBee Safe Neighborhoods Program

My organization, Living Systems Institute, and our good friends at Honeybee Keep, are sponsoring the Bee Safe Neighborhood program. LSI will certify your neighborhood as bee safe if you get 75 contiguous homes to sign a pledge not to use systemic poisons.  A honey bee will regularly fly two miles to visit a flower.  In that area 75 continuous homes is just a patch of healthy habitat.

The 75 homes has to do with the way humans work. There is scientific research that shows that humans are genetically programmed to want to work together for the common good within groups of 150 people or less.1 75 contiguous homes is a neighborhood working together to improve its habitat. And that is what the bees need. That is what we all need if we want to live in a healthy habitat. If you are ready to help create a healthy, beautiful habitat, on neighborhood at a time, drop us a line and let us know about your efforts and let us know how we can help.



Wind and Solar Energy

Environment and Society: Where is the Disconnect?

From carbon emissions and food prices to green businesses, the Worldwatch Institute's latest publication, Vital Signs, Volume 21 documents more than two dozen trends that are shaping our future. Through concise analyses and clear tables and graphs, the 21st volume of the Worldwatch Institute series demonstrates both increasing pressure on natural resources and scaled-up efforts to live more sustainably, and offers a starting point for those seeking solutions to the future's intensifying challenges.

For anyone hoping to arm themselves with well-researched facts about the state of the world, Vital Signs, Volume 21 is an important resource. Key points – some troubling, some encouraging – about humanity's schizophrenic relationship with energy and the environment come through in the report:

Automobile production: World auto production set yet another record in 2012, with passenger-car production rising to 66.7 million.

Natural disasters: Natural disasters in 2012 climbed to 905, roughly one hundred more than the 10-year annual average, with 90 percent weather-related.

Organic farming: Land farmed organically has tripled since 1999, although it still makes up less than 1 percent of total farmland.

Solar and wind power: Solar power consumption increased by 58 percent, and wind power consumption increased by 18 percent in 2012.

Military budgets: World military expenditures in 2012 totaled $1,740 billion, the second highest yearly amount since World War II.

Fossil fuels: Coal, natural gas, and oil accounted for 87 percent of global primary energy consumption in 2012.

Greenhouse gas emissions: Carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel combustion and cement production reached 9.7 gigatons of carbon in 2012 (with a ±5 percent uncertainty range). This is the highest annual total to date.

Food prices: Continuing a decade-long increase, global food prices rose 2.7 percent in 2012, reaching levels not seen since the 1960s and 1970s.

Green business: More companies are seeking new legal requirement or third-party certifications that will hold them accountable to higher standards, embracing a triple bottom line prioritizing profits, people and the planet.

Worldwatch is an independent research organization based in Washington, D.C. that works on energy, resource, and environmental issues. The Institute's State of the World report is published annually in multiple languages. Published annually, Vital Signs tracks key trends in the environment, agriculture, energy, society and the economy to inform and inspire the changes needed to build a sustainable world.

By presenting cross-cutting analyses of global trends, the Worldwatch Institute's Vital Signs, Volume 21 makes it clear that positive global change can only be achieved if the social, economic and environmental dimensions are fully addressed.


"A failure to connect — to think and act across the boundaries of different disciplines and specializations — could well be diagnosed as human civilization's fundamental flaw in the face of growing and real threats," writes Michael Renner, Worldwatch Senior Researcher and Director of the Vital Signs Project.


Drawing on a wide range of sources, Vital Signs, Volume 21 highlights this disconnect between sectors by providing authoritative data and concise analyses of significant global trends in food and agriculture, population and society, and energy and climate.


For example, Vital Signs, Volume 21 shows that agricultural subsidies — some $486 billion in the top 21 food-producing countries in 2012 support factory farms that have colossal environmental footprints. They also often favor wealthy farmers and undermine farming in developing countries. By predominantly funding a few staple crops for the largest farms, subsidies support industrial-scale operations with low crop diversity which often sap soil nutrients and require heavy loads of fertilizers and insecticides.


Social concerns suffer from similar disconnects. At a time when climate change increasingly intersects with social and economic upheavals, disasters, and conflicts, governments continue to invest large sums in traditional forms of security policy. These troubling priorities mean that the U.N. peacekeeping budgets of about $8 billion per year are not enough to cover even two days' worth of global military spending. Military spending by high-income countries also dwarfs aid flows tenfold, with $1,234 billion spent on military programs in 2012.


"Governments have created a large and well-funded apparatus of security agencies," writes Renner, "but in numerous ways have failed to address many of the underlying reasons for the world's conflicts and instabilities."


On the energy front, technologies like wind and solar photovoltaics are rapidly becoming more cost-competitive. But governmental support is still essential, and policy uncertainties have put a brake on investments in renewable technologies. Meanwhile, global fossil fuel use is still growing, with coal, natural gas and oil accounting for 87 percent of global primary energy demand in 2012, and greenhouse gas emissions hitting record levels (9.7 gigatons in 2012 from fossil fuel consumption and cement production alone).


"Energy policy across much of the globe can only be labeled as schizophrenic," said Renner. "It seems driven more by the ideology of endless growth than by concern for a livable future, more by corporate strategies than by the public interest, and more by considerations of supply security and geopolitics than by shared human needs."


Vital Signs, Volume 21 presents these and other global trends and analyses of our planet and civilization. The resource uses straightforward language and easy-to-read graphs to present each indicator. Vital Signs is an invaluable guide to inform and governments, businesses, teachers, and concerned citizens everywhere to make the changes needed to build a sustainable world.


For more information, visit Worldwatch.


Photo by Fotolia/ vencav: Alternative energy consumption like wind turbines and solar panels both increased in 2012.

Cover courtesy Island Press, 2014: The cover of Vital Signs, Volume 21.


small houseThis week’s idea may sound rather radical. I should warn you that I like to make a practice of disruptive thinking. I was always the ‘why?’ child and have yet to shake that ‘why?’ throughout adulthood.

This past week I have been pondering how vastly different our world would be if every person was allotted no more than 500 square feet of housing. Considering conscious consumption is what led my thoughts to this wondering. I don’t like to think of myself as a consumer, but I am. I try to be intentional. I love to buy art — books and hand-crafted pieces. I often pick up bottles of wine, wedges of cheese, and bars of chocolate. While traveling, I find myself wanting to collect, more than I need or can squeeze into my bag when returning home. I don’t need any of this stuff.

Beyond my individual thoughts I found a Tiny House Movement that’s gathering speed. (link to organizations and articles) This movement features houses between 100 to 400 square feet. So, for this imagination game, let’s add a few feet and move forward with my proposed 500. For many among us, living under the economic poverty level, 500 square feet per person could seem palatial. Some may even initially struggle to fill the space. For the wealthier around, where 5,000 square feet might feel like a targeted norm, the 500 adjustment would be equally monumental in the reverse. If one wanted something new, methods of exchange and recycling would need to replace accumulation. The wealthy could have far more expensive items, but not more items for more’s sake. If one wanted to collect more widely, you would need to loan out your collections. To remain in the spaces we currently inhabit that are larger than the 500 allotment would require inviting others to live together – cooperatively.

Recently, my daughter Carly and I were discussing over consumption and the possibilities for more modest living. We drew conclusions on how living in small spaces would limit one’s concentration on the material world. I have learned from our 1,800 square foot home in Seattle, where we raised Carly, and her foster brother for two years. There was never space to waste. We lived in fewer than 500 square feet per person. We used every room. I believe our limited physical structure brought our small community closer together. When touring castles, seeing photos of the massive homes built for the one percent, and turning the 500 square foot idea over in my mind, I’m reminded of an observation Carly made about township living in South Africa. She noted: ”The people here rely on their community". Her comment resonated with me. Living in close quarters necessitated maintaining mutually beneficial relationships in our household. The same could of course hold true for larger communities. Space, in abundance, can isolate.

Perhaps living in smaller quarters could ultimately bring our larger seemingly sprawled and disintegrated communities closer. If so, what a socially beneficial argument for reducing our ecological footprint. This might never happen, but for me the concept poses an important question that I hope to be asking myself daily: will this fit into my 500 square feet – is this really important and necessary? How much space do you and your family want to use and live in? How might you consume less or share with others? What could you do without?


Laurel Highlands

Come early or spend a few days after the three days of the MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR, held at the Seven Springs Mountain Resort in Pennsylvania this September 12 – 14, 2014.  Less than 30 miles from Seven Springs Mountain Resort, there’s an ecotourism adventure to be had.  You can sleep at three very different farmstays every evening. Our family rafted, biked, toured some of Frank Lloyd Wright-designed homes, and savored farm-to-table cuisine that blew us away at The Historic Stone House. 

Enjoy this photo essay of the ecotourism adventures not to be missed.  Here's the links to my previous blogs on the Laurel Highlands, the first focused on the adventures and the second on the lodging and dining options; both contain more details for you to plan your own trip.

Of course, my co-author and wife, Lisa Kivirist, and I would enjoy meeting you at the MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR at one of our many presentations, including Powering your Homestead with Renewable Energy, Farmstead Chef, and our popular, Sustainable Living Simplified, where we share our journey to break free of fossil fuels, end the mortgage (aka “death pledge”), be our own boss, grow most of our own food and prepare it in your farmstead kitchen.

The Laurel Highlands stretch over three counties of mountainous terrain that starts a little over an hour east of Pittsburgh and encompass over 120,000 acres of state and federally managed parks.

 We spent most of our time traipsing through the woods around the spectacular Youghiogheny River Gorge in the Ohiopyle State Park.  An easy walk west from Ohiopyle is the bridge that crosses the river.

Yough From Bridge

Ohiopyle Water SlideFor the adventurous, try out the “water slide” in Ohiopyle.

White Water RaftingRunning the “Yough,” as it’s often called, is one of the best white water rafting opportunities in the Eastern US.  We ran the river with Laurel Highlands River Tours.

Ohiopyle BikingOhiopyle is basically the epicenter for biking, hiking, whitewater rafting and touring Frank Lloyd Wright homes.

Falling WatersThe internationally-renowned Fallingwater home, designed in 1935 for the family of Edgar J. Kaufman, owner of a Pittsburgh department store, became instantly famous for it’s distinct look and design.  Perched over a waterfall, the home and its centerpiece stairway down to the stream, brings the homeowner closer to nature.

Kentuck KnobKentuck Knob, is just up the road, nestled near the top of a ridge that offers a panoramic vista of the surrounding countryside.

Friendship FarmsConsider a stop to Friendship Farms and their Bunznudders Bakreamry for some homemade ice cream, breads and a wide assortment of other edibles. They also have a nursery of native plants on site.  The farm is operated by Mrs. Naomi Costello and two generations of her family.

Campbell Hill GlampingGo “glamping” (glamorous camping) at Campbell Hill Farm, located northeast of Ohiopyle on a 65-acre homestead.  Besides the comfty tent, it includes an outdoor kitchen and a heated tub to go for a relaxing soak with a view of the mountains in the distance.

Campbell Hill CabinCampbell Hill Farm also offers a cabin accommodation that overlooks a pond.

Inne at Watsons ChoiceFor a pampered farmstay, try out the Inne at Watson’s Choice, based on a 1820s land-grant farm just outside Uniontown.  Plentiful outside seating allows you to enjoy the sunrise or sunset.

Foxley Farm HouseOutside Ligonier rests the historic Foxley Farm, a 58-acre estate once used for fox hunting and which still has a fenced riding ring used today.

Foxley Farm GardensMuch of the ingredients for their meals comes directly from Foxley Farm's gardens.

Stonehouse Inn RibsThe Stone House Restaurant, located along the original National Pike, the first national road built in the early 1800s that became a gateway to the West. Executive Chef Jeremy Critchfield focuses on farm-fresh ingredients, prepared and inspired by seasonal abundance.  We're definitely headed back here for a sumptuous farm-to-table meal.   Another option is Out of the Fire Café in Donegal, with their signature roasted mushroom soup and smoked salmon sampler, savored as you take in the mountain vistas from their patio seating.

Farmstand SignsThere’s no shortage of roadside farmstands. Create your own simple farm-to-table meal.

Hope to see you at the Fair -- or running the Yough. If the weather cooperates, we’ll be running the Lower Yough.

John D. Ivanko, with his wife Lisa Kivirist, have co-authored Rural Renaissance, Homemade for Sale, the award-winning ECOpreneuring and Farmstead Chef along with operating Inn Serendipity B&B and Farm, completely powered by the wind and sun. Both are regular speakers at the MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIRS. As a writer and photographer, Ivanko contributes to MOTHER EARTH NEWS, most recently,9 Strategies for Self-Sufficient Living”. They live on a farm in southwestern Wisconsin with their son Liam, millions of ladybugs and a 10 kW Bergey wind turbine.


Mother Earth News Fair Crowd 

When you have a passion for something, it seems that you continue to notice all connections that tie your passion to the many realities around you. I'm passionate about conscious, intentional, clear, long range parenting. As a mother, business woman, wife, author of a parenting book, and someone who cares deeply about being a good steward of the earth, I was enthralled by the lectures at the Mother Earth News Fair in Puyallup, Wash. I listened to lecturer after lecturer cover topics from renewable energy, small-scale farming, green building, organic gardening, simple living, and citizen solidarity building. While I listened, I pondered ways to weave these powerful themes into our children's lives.

Highlights from the FAIR

I'd like to share some of the highlights:

Bryan Welch spoke about the beauty and abundance that surround us, he asked a stunning question about lifespan: “If you could live forever or extend your lifespan to a much longer range, would you choose to do it?” He asked us to think about what impact longer lifespans would have on overpopulation and the Earth's resources. He told us that he'd targeted an end-date for his life. This is not to say that he's going to end his life by a certain date but that his date would mark a full and productive life. Wouldn’t it be lovely to teach our children that it's not the quantity of achievements and acquisitions that count but the quality? When we settle into thinking of life as temporary, our time on Earth becomes the most valuable commodity we have.

Lisa Kivirist, who lives with her husband on a mostly self-sustaining farm and bed and breakfast, spoke about organic eating on a budget, reaffirming that financial and environmental sustainability can be complementary Lisa and her husband, John, have lived their lives intentionally and extremely frugally. She had many great tips to share on buying dried bulk grains, legumes, and coffee. Her talk helped me become clearer about aligning my values with every aspect of my life, especially concerning how I consume.  I was wishing our daughter had been with me to share in the experience.

Ed Begley Jr. was equally delightful. He shared a lesson from his father. When he was remarking to his father about the ills of the world in the 1970s, his dad replied, “OK, I understand. So now what are you going to do to improve things?” What a simple and powerful reminder for our children. When something is amiss in your life or the world, you can affect change by taking action. Lifelong learning is truly multi-generational.

Finally, one of my favorite learnings came from Joel Salatin. Joel’s passion for our living planet permeated everything he spoke about. He highlighted: how much is sold under false pretense, talked about how to avoid buying into profit over people – corporate greed over good sense, and the need to be consistently mindful of our actions by staying abreast on changing laws and voting with vigilance. He paired individual integrity with acting for the common good. Fitting his ideas with my parenting experience reminded me how a pragmatic, disciplined, and longitudinal approach to parenting worked well for my family.

How sweet it was to sit for two days listening, learning, and relating it all back to impassioned and intentional parenting. How vital it is for us to model and teach our children about conscious living today. They, after all, will inherit our earth, and be tomorrow stewards.

If this post finds you in the Pennsylvania or Kansas areas be sure to check out the upcoming MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIRS in September and October of this year.

Shawn Hosford is a parenting mentor and healthy families advocate based in Washington state whose other interests include lively conversations, organic and sustainable food, continuous learning, being outside and living life to its fullest. Learn more at The Invisible Parenting Handbook website and Facebook pageThe handbook is available to buy here.


Woman in Healing Waterfall

"We need the tonic of the wilderness. The ocean, the mountains, the deserts, a wooded grove – all contain the magic needed to restore  pure radiant energy to a stressed soul.  Mother Earth in all of her infinite compassion and strength has remarkable powers to restore vitality. Wash yourself in the pure water of the streams, put your bare feet on the  good earth, fall asleep in the arms of an ancient tree. There is good medicine to be found in nature."  – Henry David Thoreau

Anima Sanctuary, Jesse Wolf's wild home.

The readers of Mother Earth News understand that we are each an inextricable, essentially natural part of this living earth, and that our well being depends upon our relationship to the land. Whether urban dwellers, suburban, small town, remote wildscape or country farm, our bioregions can provide the local food options, natural medicines, inspiration, and rooted identities we need to flourish.  Now, after 35 year of reinhabiting and restoring the Anima wilderness sanctuary and authoring over a dozen other books, I have finally written and released “The Healing Terrain,” a 300 pages-long volume focused entirely on deepening our vital relationship to the natural world, from land acquisition and preservation to wildcrafting, gardening, wild foods, bioregional herbalism, including what it takes to learn how to be more native to place, more truly and wholly at home. 

And for you, I present here the first of several “Healing Terrain” excerpts, drawn from the book’s introduction:

“We are a special blend of Earth’s many elements, erupting from its mysterious ferment, and then recycling back into the land and every life form that ever sprouts from it, and this is true no matter what our philosophy or religion. For the devout, nature is God’s perfect creation, a balanced blessing of needed nourishment and necessary challenge, and a pharmacy of the medicines we most often need. For the secular or scientific minded, it is the set of processes and relationships essential for the continuation of life on this planet – from Earth’s carbon fundament to its exact atmospheric blend. To all who truly notice, it is not only essential but amazing, fascinating, awesome!“The land provides the fertile soils for our gardens and farms, and thus the nutrient filled foods and medicinal plants we need to be healthy.

Tree Hugging

Even the sometimes beneficial, sometimes harmful pharmaceutical drugs at the core of modern medical practice are simply isolations, copies, derivatives and recombinations of natural botanical compounds.  Shelter from storms and the security of a home contribute to that health. From the land come not only the materials for our houses and the terrain upon which they are built, but also, most medical technologies depend upon the land’s minerals – for everything from steel apparatus to computers, radium cancer therapies to x-ray machines. In addition, to the degree that any ailment is exacerbated by rootlessness, disembodiment, imagined separation, artificial environs, indoor lifestyles and the resulting stress, reconnection to nature can itself be a natural treatment for what ails us.

“At risk if we pay nature no heed, is our sentience and awareness, wildness and liberty, growth and effectiveness, ultimate satisfaction and fulfillment. On the other hand, by deepening our conscious relationship with the natural world and a particular place we create the opportunities and conditions for increased sensual engagement and creature awareness, broadened organic perspective, greater insight, holistic understanding, dynamic reciprocity, personal liberation and re-wilding, empowerment and self-authority, uninhibited pleasures and fun, and greater effectiveness at nearly everything we might try to do in life.”

Elka gathering nettles.

A garden is just not an indulgence for the person with taste, anymore than herbs are simply a more natural way of treating our bodies’ imbalances and illnesses, or time spent outside merely recreational.... such practices a points of connection to the planet, our regions and place, to our wild and dreaming selves, to our greatest potentials and the world we seek to envision and create.

Whenever I commit to spending hundreds of my irreplaceable mortal hours writing a book, I carefully measure its intent and purpose. When writing and illustrating “The Healing Terrain,” I could feel the importance of our species’ moving closer to the earth, noticing more, feeling more, and doing more to not just survive but thrive. It is important to us, and important to the well being of the rest of this living world, that we look not so much to heady thoughts and distant stars as to the earth we are extensions and agents of.  For the sake of the planet itself, we will need to sentiently reinhabit what the poet Gary Snyder once described to me as the “real world,” a world of great consequence and heartful rewards.

Click here for more information on Hardin’s book: The Healing Terrain. You can read more of his writings on his blog at, in Plant Healer Magazine, and in the Natural Health section of the Mother Earth News blog beginning with "Medicines of The People."

We cannot discover ourselves without first discovering the universe, the earth, and the imperatives of our own being. Each of these has a creative power and a vision far beyond any rational thought or cultural creation of which we are capable."  – Father Thomas Berry

yerba mansa

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