Mother Earth News Blogs >

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

Tips to Prepare for a Thunderstorm (Climate Change Edition)


Does it seem like storms are more severe and occur more frequently today than in the past? There might be something to that claim. Various scientists, environmental groups and government leaders point to evidence that suggests our warming atmosphere may be causing more extreme weather.

Climate Change and Storms

Climate models have for a long time predicted one of the effects of climate change would be more extreme weather events. Scientists are now starting to see those predictions coming true.

The earth has started to experience a growing number of increasingly intense heat waves, thunderstorms, rainfall, flooding, winter storms, tornadoes, hurricanes, droughts and wildfires. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, nine out of the top 10 years for one-day extreme precipitation events have occurred since 1990.

The United States experienced 32 weather events between 2011 and 2013 that led to damages of at least $1 billion. Climate change is starting to more directly affect the lives of everyday people, and it’s getting their attention.

Other Impacts of Climate Change

Some weather events are more closely linked to climate change than others. The Union of Concerned Scientists say that there’s the strongest evidence for a connection between climate change and:

1. Heat waves

2. Coastal flooding

3. Extreme precipitation events

4. Extreme drought

Climate change could reduce the difference in temperature between the poles and the equator by increasing the level of water vapor in the air. This will lead to warmer temperatures and cause the biggest change outside the equator, where it’s not already humid.

Tips for Severe Thunderstorms

As far as storms go, reducing this temperature difference may lead to less frequent storms overall but increase the intensity of storms.

The International Panel on Climate Change wants governments to help prepare their citizens for extreme weather events and released a report aimed at helping them do that. Here are a few tips that you can use to prepare yourself for severe thunderstorms.

Stay Informed. Always be on the lookout for storms, especially if you plan on being outside for a long period of time. Check the weather report before going out. If there’s a chance of a storm, take an AM/FM or NOAA weather radio with you. Watch for signs of an incoming storms when you’re outside as well.

Be Prepared. You should always have necessities on hand you might need in the case of severe weather. Put together an emergency preparedness kit that includes a flashlight with extra batteries, food, water and a first aid kit as well as any essential medications. You might also want to have backup phone chargers and a generator in case the power goes out. It’s important to figure out what size generator you need before investing in one. This applies to both home generators and those used for businesses.

Find Shelter. When the storm starts, find the most protective shelter you can. If you’re inside, get into a secure room with no windows and stay away from doors and off porches. You should also avoid lying on concrete floors or leaning against concrete walls.

If you’re outside, avoid taking shelter under trees. If you’re driving, pull to the side of the road in a safe spot and stay in the vehicle but try not to touch anything metal.

Avoid Water. Water conducts electricity, so stay away from it as much as possible. If you are on open water, get to shore and then get far from the water. If you’re inside, don’t use plumbing to wash hands or take a shower.

Don’t Use Electronics. Avoid using electronics connected to power during a storm. Anything that’s plugged in could potentially be harmful. Turn off equipment like air conditioners and desktop computers if possible before a storm to avoid a power surge.

Tips for After the Storm

If you encounter any downed power lines, don’t touch them as they may contain live electricity. Check on people who might need extra help such as children and the elderly. Seek out updates by using a radio.

Thunderstorms can be dangerous, especially when they’re severe. Because climate change may increase the severity of storms, it’s even more important now than ever to be prepared for the possibility of an extreme storm event.

Photo credit:  Unsplash

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 oProductivity 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.

Curating a Community Table for Earth Day

Greenfeast_Mag-157 copy

A great gathering is in the details. Herewith, simple ideas for spreading the love on Earth Day!

Creating a Waste-Free Feast

 When we gather together to break bread and share platters of vegetables sourced from our favorite farmer, the where of what we eat is just as important as the how. Feasting with friends doesn’t have to mean stocking up on single use plates and paper napkins.

So bring a little more beauty to your life by focusing on a waste-free feast. Invest in a gorgeous glass carafe for herbal tea and check out your local hardware store to scoop up lovely Mason Jars to take the place of Dixie Cups. A smattering of cloth napkins is an elegant antidote to paper and scoring a few extra plates, forks, and spoons from your neighborhood consignment shops means there is no need to turn to the plastic junk at the party store. These small details make a gathering truly special and sustainable.

Setting a Seasonally Inspired Table

Setting a table consonant with the season’s abundance is an easy way to infuse the everyday with magic. Consider the following suggestions a blueprint for building a better party.

1. Gather together friends and family to craft simple arrangements from native flowers.

2. Reusable glass jars filled with tangles of spring herbs invite conversation and inspire reverence for the natural world.

3. Use wooden boards to serve delicate spring green tapenades and local cheeses.

Cultivation Community

A potluck is an easy way to share the harvest and nourish community. Invite friends with kitchen chops to join you in making more complicated dishes and encourage guests who aren’t as experienced to bring a simple side dish, sauce, or salad. Everyone should have a place at the table!

The Ecology Center is a non-profit eco-education center focused on creative solutions for thriving on planet Earth. You can find our complete Earth Day Toolkit here.

Evan Marks is founder of the The Ecology Center, a non-profit eco-education center focused on creative solutions for thriving on Planet Earth. The Center works to inspire communities around simple solutions that empower individuals everywhere to be part of the solution. Follow The Ecology Center on Instagram and Facebook to learn about what you can do to build a thriving world. Read all of Evan’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.

Garden Thriftiness


I’ve shared my tendency toward picking up treasures from others’ trash here and there in my blog posts. I wrote about the old pool ladder claimed as a trellis for my gourds from my neighbor’s trash and the repurposing of cardboard from Lowes and Kroger to help transform lawn into garden beds. I spoke of the reuse of bricks for a compost pile as well as the redirection of toilet paper tubes and milk containers for seedlings.

Remembering that the world is larger than us two-legged human animals, I shared how to repurpose odds and ends for the birds. I told how other animals (through the generosity of their human companions) have helped enrich my garden beds for months. I also showed how I incorporated another farming friend’s cast-off rocks into our garden.

In a way, I can’t help myself. I’ve been a thrift-loving person for as long as I can remember. There’s a certain thrill (unlike any other) that I get when I save money by utilizing something I found for free, at severely discounted cost, or that someone gifted me. I love the accompanying excitement when my mind employs its ingenuity for either artistic expression or creative puzzle solving.

I used to attend auctions for my antiques business. In the course of doing so, I picked up many of those aforementioned bricks. I also collected my $1 pitchfork, $2 shovels, $2 garden benches, old wrought iron railings and bed parts (often used as trellises), and the awesome $250 garden cart that I splurged on paying only $40. This last purchase has served me well for nearly 20 years and has long outlived the splurge-guilt I felt the first week afterward.

In fact, that very cart is being used quite a bit lately due to the arrival of a huge pile of free goodies. We use Cundiff’s Tree Care when we need our large trees pruned because they employ trained arborists who know how to tend to a tree with its health and well-being in mind. I refuse to call any of the local tree butcherers who chop willy nilly not realizing (or not caring) about the damage they are doing and the lives they are cutting short.

Last time Cundiff’s were here cleaning out our accumulated dead and damaged limbs, I asked if they would please drop off some mulch from other jobs they had nearby. Most tree services are happy to comply because they have to otherwise dispose of this “trash” themselves, sometimes paying to do so. It becomes a win-win situation since they are making their customers happy and they don’t have to haul anything longer distance.


I happily gave them a jar of my mustard in anticipation of their delivery. A few weeks later, we discovered a nice little pile in our driveway just where I’d asked them to put it. The weather was still too cold for me to enjoy moving mulch around but before long, another pile was added doubling my treasure. I was able to eek out a couple of good days moving mulch around while working out in my head just how many beds I could cover without risking not being able to cover my bank which runs the entire length of our property. I had become fairly certain that I would be able to make it work when we returned home one day to find that the pile had once again doubled! I was in heaven! With two recent 7-hour days behind me, and the loss of a few pounds, I am henceforth referring to my bark chip pile as the gym. I expect to be working out for the foreseeable future.

For this chore, I’m using my treasured, auction-bought garden cart to move free bark chips in my repurposed cat litter buckets and cover garden beds that used to be lawn but were rerouted with free cardboard. The plants in these beds are mostly relocated from other parts of our garden, gifted or swapped with friends from their gardens, or purchased on sale at season’s end. I have been using gloves purchased in bulk at the end of the season for clearance prices.

Also in my garden, I have used old field tile collected from yet another friend’s farm piles in my Mothers’ Altar and other areas. The mothers’ vignette also contains a kitchen sink that offers water to the birds and insects during much of the year. It was collected from a different neighbor’s trash pile.

I also consistently reuse the baling wire or twine that comes around the straw bales that I purchase. It helps connect the wire mesh barriers to support poles that I put around some of my beds to keep the bunnies and cats out. Just this week I cut new pieces to secure some wire mesh to a soccer goal that I picked up a couple of blocks away last fall. I have to wonder if the gentleman who answered the door when I asked if his goal was free for the taking smiles as he drives by these days. While it spent the winter in our garage, his goalpost is now secured in one of my beds awaiting the cucumber plants thriving under our grow lights.

Cucumbers at the Ready

I highly recommend opening minds and seeing beyond the normal use for things before casting them aside. While I know there is a huge movement toward cleaning out, simplifying, and purging—and agree that there is great purpose in doing so—there can be just as strong and useful a purpose in redirecting some of those cast-offs into honorable duty.

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.

Heartworm At High Elevations


We are multiple dog parents that live remotely at high elevation. When it comes to canine disease we are  lay people with no specific training other than years of accumulated experience. We have been told by several veterinarians that heartworm is pretty much non-existent in our area because of our location and weather conditions. It is usually not even considered much of a possibility in our locale. 

One of our four German Shepherd Dogs recently developed a dry cough and we took her to our vet for diagnosis and treatment. An x-ray was taken and all her vitals were good except it appeared she either had bronchitis or ‘possibly’ heartworm. Heartworm was discounted somewhat in favor of bronchitis since our area is not known for being heartworm infected. She is on treatment for bronchitis; however if she does not clear up soon she will be tested for heartworm even though our area has such low exposure for heartworm. As I studied her x-rays I was concerned from what I saw so I did some research on the parasite.  

Heartworm Transmitters 

Mosquitoes are the primary transmitter of heartworm in dogs and cats. An adult male mosquito has a lifespan of 10 days. A female adult mosquito has a  lifespan of 42-56 days. In everything I have read and experienced pertaining to mosquitoes I have not discovered one single redeeming quality in the pest. I discovered that the males buzz to attract females but the males do not bite. The females are the ones who bite and suck blood. 

How Heartworm Is Transmitted 

Adult heartworm living in an infected animal produces microscopic baby worms called microfilaria that circulate in the animal's bloodstream. When that infected animal is then bitten by a mosquito the insect picks up the baby worms that within 10-14 days develop into an infectious larvae stage. When that mosquito then bites another host animal the larvae are deposited on the skin and enter the animal via the wound left by the mosquito. Then they travel to the blood stream as they further develop into the adult stage and end up in the heart and lungs where they develop into adults up to 10-12” long. They continue to reproduce inside the animal generating even more worms. Adults can live in an animal up to 7 years.  


Mild persistent dry cough, loss of appetite or weight loss, lethargy, rapid or difficult breathing, and reluctance to exercise are all heartworm symptoms. There are other illnesses that also have some or all of these symptoms so a blood test needs to be conducted by a veterinarian to rule out or diagnose heartworm. Heartworm is a life threatening disease that will ultimately kill the pet therefore early detection through testing is imperative.  

Risk Areas

Different areas of our country carry different elements of risk. Some subtropical  areas have high risk and other areas like ours may not have measurable risk. Our winters are long and our summers are mild which makes a mosquito's lifespan less prolific. Through what I have researched I realized that because heartworm is minimal or nonexistent in our area that it may still pose a potential danger.

Heartworm can inadvertently be brought into our area from other high risk areas. Many people travel from different parts of the country to our area and the mosquitoes can come in vehicles or campers. I learned that mosquitoes can be blown vast distances by the wind or carried in by other infected non-domestic animals like wolves, coyote, or fox. Those who travel with pets which may have been previously infected, and not treated, can be bitten by local mosquitoes and hence the baby heartworm can be transferred to other susceptible animals. In summary our area is not at risk but is not immune to importation of the dangerous heartworm from other sources.     

Testing For Heartworm 

Dogs and cats should be tested on an annual basis for heartworm. The test for heartworm is a quick easy blood test. Our dogs have been tested but since there is no heartworm activity in our area and the tests were negative they were not re-tested. They stay with us on our homestead and we did not consider the potential of invasion from the outside.They are not exposed to areas where heartworm is even slightly prevalent.   

Changing Weather Patterns

Additionally, weather patterns have greatly changed so the parasite could have been introduced from an outside source and mutated or now finds our area more compatible to its lifecycle. At our elevation I have been bitten in both February and March this year by mosquitoes. Highly unusual for our area especially with 2’ of snow still on the ground. If you have lived in an area that was similar to ours where heartworm was virtually non-existent it may be wise to rethink taking precautions against heartworm. It is my personal opinion that climate change should be a quantified scientific fact and not a political agenda. Clearly our weather patterns are visibly changing or I would not get mosquito bites in February.    


We try to take sensible precautions to keep our pets free from parasite infestation. When the conditions warrant we apply a recommended spray to keep the pests off them. If we need to apply deterrent against mosquitos ourselves then our pets need some also. We had used heartworm preventative in the past but since our immediate area was not considered at risk for heartworm we discontinued this preventative treatment.  

We are hopeful our sweet girl’s (see photo) current condition is bronchitis and will respond well to treatment and is not heartworm which is a far more serious condition. We hope we do not regret taking our fur family off preventive treatment because we live in an area where it has not been a factor in the past.  

Environmental Changes 

With changing weather patterns and the prospect that mosquitoes can be carried on the wind for vast distances or brought into our area inadvertently on other hosts - we now are thinking much differently. We now think it is best to use preventive measures and not take any risk of infection by heartworm parasites. It only takes one bite from a mosquito that is carrying the parasite to infect a family fur member. It should be a conversation to be discussed with your veterinarian as to applicability and risk.     

Bruce and Carol McElmurray and their four German Shepherd Dogs live at 9,800 feet elevation in  a small cabin which they heat with a wood stove in S. Colorado. For more about them and their four German Shepherd family members go


Ecotourism in Nebraska: Part 1, Sandhill Cranes Migration


It's an aerial spectacle like no other, with over half a million Sandhill Cranes converging on the Platte River valley in Central Nebraska on their epic journey northward every spring, from late February to early April.

Jane Goodall calls the arrival of the Sandhill Cranes here one of the world's ten greatest wildlife migrations.  We call it mesmerizing and transformative, unparalleled in our thirty years of travel around the world.  If you have a bucket list, this needs to be near the top -- even if you're not necessarily a birder or hardcore wildlife enthusiast.  For those whose only Nebraska experience involves whizzing through on Interstate 80, start planning your detour trip off the main drag to bond with these birds.

This is the first of a series of posts covering some ecotourism adventures we enjoyed in Nebraska, a "fly over" state perhaps more frequently known for its massive fields of corn and home to William “Buffalo Bill” Cody — buffalo hunter, soldier and showman of America’s Old West.  While Nebraska farmers do, in fact, have millions of acres planted in corn -- and Wild Bill seems to comes to life at his ranch, now a state historic park in North Platte -- we found an unexpected abundance of ecotravel that uniquely immersed us into nature and paid dividends to the conservation efforts underway, helping preserve exactly what we can to see for generations to come.  Beyond the Sandhill Crane migration, we witnessed up close the intricate prairie chicken mating ritual from a blind, plied the braided currents of the Platte River in kayaks and biked through prairie on fat tire bikes.

Sandhill Cranes’ Roosting Hotspot

“This spot is the largest bird roost in the world,” shares Chuck Cooper, President and CEO of the Crane Trust, a non-profit dedicated to preserving this migratory bird habitat along the Platte River.  “We call it 'habitat,' but three hundred years ago you just called it [land that would become] Nebraska.  We had to come up with a name for it because there is so little left.  No matter how many birds come in during your viewing, you’ll still see more birds in one place than anywhere else in the world.”

And see birds you will, from thousands to potentially tens of thousands.  Wave after wave, the cranes stop in this single Nebraska spot for a short few weeks every spring, just as they have for millions of years as they fly north from Mexico to their summer nesting grounds as far north as Siberia.  Cranes are among the oldest living birds on Earth.  With the shallow river waters offering protection from predators and a buffet of spent grain in the nearby crop fields giving nourishment, Nebraska imparts the perfect resting spot.  It’s estimated that more than 80-percent of the world’s population of Sandhill Cranes converge here.  Hundreds of other bird species, including eagles, ducks and geese, can also be seen.

Only about an hour's drive apart, the two best places to view the spectacle are at the Crane Trust, near Grand Island, and the Iain Nicolson Audubon Center at Rowe Sanctuary, outside Kearney.  Prime viewing will be at sunrise or sunset.  While each spot has a visitor center, it's their blinds that you'll want to snuggle into in order to witness the birds arriving to roost at night or as they depart in the early morning.  The blinds are as close as you’ll ever get to being one of the flock without getting wet.  The strategically placed and camouflaged covered shelters have viewing slats or openings, allowing our group of twenty to watch or take photos, undetected by the birds.

Crane Trust Near Grand Island

The sheer breadth of the scene unfolds as you peer from the blind where you witness either the arrival of the Sandhill Cranes as the come in to roost for the night or at pre-dawn as they slowly wake up and prepare to lift off for the day.  Their rowdy clatter captivated us. The Sandhill Cranes’ calls can be heard over two miles away as the birds connect with their mate and other family members, or dance around while searching for a possible lifelong partner.  With an impressive height of up to four feet and six-foot wingspan, the Sandhill Crane possesses the ideal evolutionary combination for the thousands of migratory miles they fly every year.

Classy comfort meets cranes when you upgrade to the Crane Trust’s all-inclusive VIP Experience, giving you premiere access to their toasty heated blinds, lodging on-site in their cozy Legacy Cottages (each with private bathroom), dinner and breakfast, plus a wine reception.  Open your window at night in the cottage and listen to the distant chatter of cranes or calls from coyotes as you drift off to sleep. 

“The sun will crack the horizon in sixty seconds,” whispers our personal guide in the blinds, Ben Dumas, Excursion Manager for the Crane Trust. Looking like a layer cake with bands of orange and blue from the sun and clouds, the sky filled with thousands of cranes already airborne in V-formations as far as the eye could see.

In the morning, the scene typically crescendos to a series of blissful moments when the birds suddenly take to flight en masse, perhaps spooked by a bald eagle landing along the river bank, as in our case. Thousands upon thousands of them lift off.  Their squawking rings out as they circle about while others depart from the river, heading to feeding grounds in nearby corn fields.


Iain Nicolson Audubon Center at Rowe Sanctuary

At the Iain Nicolson Audubon Center at Rowe Sanctuary, you’ll be led to and from the blinds in reverent silence, meandering along a gravel trail the cuts through a tall grass prairie. Seasoned volunteers come from as far away as Alaska to share their passion for these cranes, guiding our way to the blind with red flashlights.  The Rowe Sanctuary is a 1,150-acre refuge in the Platte River valley that serves as a welcomed resting spot for these birds. The volunteers and staff at Rowe believe conservation and land stewardship grow when we experience nature’s splendor.

We discovered during our final evening perch at Rowe Sanctuary that it only takes one to get the show underway.  One crane, that is.  As we gathered in anticipation for the cranes’ evening roost under cloudy skies, the shallow river bed sits open, awaiting potential evening guests.  We peer forward when one crane lands on a nearby sand bar, in anticipation.  Then another lands, followed by ten more.  Then a hundred or two birds descend, right in front  of our blind and less than a hundred feet away.  Their calls riotous.

“This is like Christmas for us,” we recall Bill Taddicken, Director of Rowe Sanctuary, saying before we set out that night.  Now we understand. It’s the gift that keeps on giving as darkness falls and the cranes settle in for the night.

Lisa Kivirist is the author of Soil Sisters and founder of the Rural Women’s Project of the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service. She is also Senior Fellow, Endowed Chair in Agricultural Systems at the Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture at the University of Minnesota. With her husband John D. Ivanko, she has 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. As a writer, Kivirist 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.

 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.

Interview with NikiAnne Feinberg, Director of the School of Integrated Living

Homesteading Photo Collage

The School of Integrated Living (SOIL) inspires people to live responsible and creative lives by providing experiential education in integrated living and regenerative systems. Its programs educate empowered, skilled, and conscious leaders dedicated to creating radical change and healthy reciprocal relationships.

SOIL was founded in 2013 by NikiAnne Feinberg and Lee Walker Warren, two experiential education leaders and residents of Earthaven Ecovillage near Asheville, NC. NikiAnne builds cultural health and resilience by helping people discover their gifts and match them to community needs. She sees School of Integrated Living as one node in a web that connects us to ourselves, each other, nature, and the resources we need for village building. She is also a nature-awareness facilitator, outdoor educator, project manager, community leader, and village builder. She builds cultural health and resilience by helping people discover their gifts and match them to community needs. NikiAnne coordinates, facilitates and leads educational experiences emphasizing service learning, nature connection, and building community for groups of all ages in the U.S. and abroad.

You “build cultural health and resilience by helping people discover their gifts and match them to community needs.” Can you elaborate on what you mean by cultural health and offer some examples of how you help people discover their gifts?

I believe our modern world is suffering from disconnection disorder. We are disconnected from the sources of our lives (our food, electricity, building materials, water, etc.), the impact of our choices, our emotions, our bodies, our relationships, and ultimately ourselves and our inherent unique gifts. A healthy culture is connected — to ourselves, each other, and the natural world.

My work is devoted to increasing authentic connection in the world.

Everyone comes into this world with a unique gift to offer. I strive to help people get in touch with their authentic selves, articulate life visions, and design lives founded on those visions. One of my greatest joys is looking into the eyes of someone who is on fire for life and has found a deep sense of rootedness in themselves, their community, and nature.

Do you see the community as the Hero more than the individual these days?

A healthy community is like a forest ecosystem: at any given moment, it contains individual trees and plants that are at different stages of succession. Likewise, the Hero or Heroine's Journey involves a sequence of transformative experiences, and a community includes individuals at different stages of that journey of initiation. Community itself is not the Hero or Heroine, but instead the ecosystem that contains different initiation journeys.

What kinds of new traditions and rituals are brewing at the School of Integrated Living? Are pagan and transition movement components involved in this process?

We think about culture and tradition like seeds: they carry the library of all the lineages they come from, but they also adapt in every generation to new conditions and needs. We carry on different traditions, ceremonies, and rituals that we've learned from our mentors and elders, as well as innovating our own layers on top of them.

In the traditional Roman sense of “rural”, SOIL does include some pagan elements. As a rural community, we practice land-based and agricultural rituals that draw from the ecology of our surroundings. Some of our elders and teachers have also given us rituals that are pagan in the sense used by the New Age community. Our practices include rituals from the Druidic and Goddess lineages, as well as rituals from the Dagara people learned through Sobonfu Somé, Mayan rituals learned through Martin Prechtel, and Lakota and other Native American traditions shared by various elders and teachers.

Another strong lineage represented at Earthaven (and thus SOIL) is the Wise Woman tradition, which teaches us to deeply inhabit our bodies, feel our emotions, and nourish ourselves and each other. All of these traditions share a connection to the earth-based practices of our ancestors, who knew how to align themselves with the whole world.

All of these lineages are preindustrial and non–Judeo-Christian. However, they are carried in a spiritual ecology cooperative with Judeo-Christian beliefs and practice. We are consciously moving towards a spiritual polyculture that includes and interconnects with all spiritual lineages, as long as their practitioners are willing to work together. One of our founding goals of Earthaven is to encourage an atmosphere in which diverse spiritual practices can thrive.

Earthaven is not explicitly based in the Transition Town movement as set forth by Rob Hopkins. However, it emerges from the same early stages of permaculture and solution-based thinking.

To me, Nature is both a place and a feeling. A hike and a blog, so to speak. When I say SpiritNature, what do you think of?

It sounds like “SpiritNature” is your word for the living mystery that others might call Gaia or life-force. In our modern world, we can become disconnected from our own essence and the essence of the living world around us. Most indigenous and traditional peoples believe that everything is alive. We have to be reminded of that through sacredness, and often nature provides that sacred connection.

“School of Integrated Living (SOIL) inspires people to live responsible and creative lives by providing experiential education in integrated living and regenerative systems. Its programs educate empowered, skilled, and conscious leaders dedicated to creating radical change and healthy reciprocal relationships.”

Are you finding jobs for your graduates?

SOIL has a strong professional partnership network that offers graduates access to local and global opportunities, as well as continued growth, support, inspiration, learning, and economic vitality.

However, SOIL’s programs are not intended as vocational training programs. Instead, we help participants gain skills and exposure to sustainable lifeways, which helps them identify appropriate career paths for themselves. We aspire to connect participants with the next steps in their lives towards permaculture or related vocations, which can include additional education, mentorship, reading, and research.

Is SOIL’s mission about survivalism?

Surviving in the presence of extreme climate change, economic collapse, and political turmoil is certainly one of the threads that we pursue, but we don’t consider ourselves as “survivalists.” We have a positive vision for a sustainable human future, and we actively seek the strategies and scales of action necessary to grow that desirable future. However, we are realistic about the risks and challenges we are likely to face in the future, and we embrace creative solutions and lifestyle choices for survival in the face of these challenges.

Are there folks that do not support your mission?

When SOIL first began we had people who wanted to see our mission in action and were holding back to see if we were serious and could be effective. Now that we’ve served over 500 students in four years and have a great track record for quality education, those initially skeptical folks are now some of our biggest supporters.

Please share some stories concerning “radical changes.”

Etymologically speaking, “radical” means root. From that truest meaning of radical, we believe our programs help people source their lives from a rooted place.

Going back to the Heroine’s Journey, the definition of radical change depends on the difference between where someone is now compared to where they came from. I’ve had the privilege to bear witness to many people stepping into their power and taking responsibility for their lives, their choices, and inevitably the larger world around them. The space, safety, support, and mentorship we offer allows the people to emerge into their most creative and expansive selves.

To share people’s individual stories out of context and relationship wouldn’t do them justice. It’s very difficult to define what radical change looks like in someone’s life if you’re not that person. What is radical to one person may not be to another. We do follow up with our participants to help them keep implementing the lessons, tools, and practices gained over their learning experience in their ongoing lives.

Does this mean that you are, in general, preparing your community for an alternative future without the electric company and other traditional utilities? What are the ramifications of this strategy in your mind?

We are preparing ourselves for a different type of future; one that might not have the luxury of relying on cheap oil as we do today. The ways that future might play out are quite complex and not totally controlled by our choices. We do have choices though; we make them every day. Earthaven Ecovillage has chosen to source its electricity from the sun and water as a means to take responsibility for the power it uses. To learn more about its newest solar technology- a solar powered micro-grid, check out Home Power Magazine.

What the future looks like is partly depends on the choices of individuals, communities, and governments, as well as the way in which technologies develop. At Earthaven, we are certainly trying to provide a baseline of electricity for the things that electricity is uniquely suited for. One of our dreams is to be a small-scale, bio-regional model of alternative energy systems to empower bio-regions and communities nation-wide to become energy independent.

One of the elements in my New Myths is re-wilding. This is about old tools and new spirit and adventure in Nature, right?

To me, it’s about giving thanks to the various traditions, and elders who shared knowledge so that we could be here today. It’s about consciously stewarding and applying the embedded wisdom of the seeds we carry appropriately into our modern world.

The word “old” in our society implies outdated or defunct. Instead, we’d call these approaches “living tools” or “traditional tools”.

At SOIL and Earthaven, we strive to connect with and hold nature from an indigenous mindset. To us, “indigenous” means people who are from a place, who think of nature as their home. As humans, we are a part of nature—albeit a very unique one—and we are truly a part of natural ecosystems. Although being in nature can be fun and pleasurable, we also think of nature as a teacher. Nature is our home. Nature is where we go to when we die. Nature is our food, friend, and predator all at once. That’s the relationship with nature that we are coming from.

NikiAnne builds cultural health and resilience by helping people discover their gifts and match them to community needs. She sees School of Integrated Living as one node in a web that connects us to ourselves, each other, nature, and the resources we need for village building. She is also a nature-awareness facilitator, outdoor educator, project manager, community leader, and village builder. She builds cultural health and resilience by helping people discover their gifts and match them to community needs. NikiAnne coordinates, facilitates and leads educational experiences emphasizing service learning, nature connection, and building community for groups of all ages in the U.S. and abroad.

Willi Paul is Principal of Willi Paul Studio and founder-publisher of Magazine. He contributes interviews, articles, new myths and workshops in the sustainability, permaculture, transition, sacred nature, new alchemy and mythology spaces. Connect with him on Facebook, LinkedIn and

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.

Flint Families Paying for Still-Unsafe Drinking Water


Imagine being asked to pay to poison yourself and your family. Sounds ridiculous, right? Residents of Flint, Michigan, feel that is exactly what the government is asking them to do. Their water has been unsafe to drink for several years.

Residents have been drinking bottled water donated by the government, charities and celebrities. Some even bathe with bottled water because they do not trust the tap water is safe, regardless of what the government tells them. Trust has been broken and fear and suspicion run amok.

How Did This Happen

In 2011, Gov. Rick Snyder discovered Flint’s finances were a disaster. He appointed an emergency manager, and Flint was placed in receivership. The emergency manager’s job was to get Flint’s finances in order. Part of the effort to save the city money was to remove Flint from the Detroit Water Department, which it had been using for decades.

Flint paid to have water piped from Lake Huron, as did many communities in the surrounding region. Anti-corrosion chemicals were routinely added to the water to keep the pipes from leaching hazardous metals into the water. In 2014, the emergency manager switched Flint’s water source from Detroit and Lake Huron to the local Flint River.

In doing so, they failed to add the necessary corrosion control treatment. Lead, rust, and iron leached from the pipes into the water. Residents could even see it coming from their taps. Lead exposure can cause permanent mental and physical damage, especially in children. Other residents suffered Legionnaires’ disease, causing death in a dozen cases.

How Can This Be Fixed?

Water is treated before it arrives to our homes. One of the most common methods is called flocculation. Flocculation, in simple terms, is getting the particles suspended in water to stick together, so they can be easily removed through filtration. This process can also be used to test water to determine what is polluting it.

Anionic flocculation refers to using negatively charged ions as a polymer. Adding what professionals call a 30 percent anionic flocculent can help determine what's wrong with your water. Knowing what is causing the problem is important. Keeping it from happening in the first place is essential. That was the biggest problem with the Flint crisis: not treating the water before it was delivered to the local population.

In Flint, it’s too late to treat the water in some places because the pipes are too corroded for safe drinking water. Fixing it would be costly and time-consuming.

What Has the Government Done for Flint?

The government is continuing to address the safety of Flint’s water. Since 2014, Michigan has spent $41 million on tax credits for Flint residents, which essentially paid for their water. The state has provided bottled water and filters for the tap water. It has tested and assured the safety of the water, as long as it is filtered. Filters and filter replacement cartridges will continue to be provided by the government.

However, on March 1, 2017, Michigan ended these tax credits because it claims tests show Flint’s water to be comparable to other cities in regard to the acceptable levels of metals. Flint’s water was tested in the hundreds of parts per billion range, when an unacceptable level would be 15 parts per billion. The state claims Flint’s water tests as being below the action levels for lead and copper, and it is safe to drink if a filter is used.

Most Flint residents feel they should not have to pay for water that is not safe to drink from the tap. The mayor and local officials agree, and they feel the residents should be given tax credits for a longer period of time.

Plans for the Future

Flint would like to remove itself from the Detroit Water Department again, but it wants to do so carefully and safely. Genesee County is constructing the Karegnondi pipeline, which will get its water from Lake Huron to serve Flint and other surrounding communities. However, the Environmental Protection Agency feels Flint is not ready to safely connect to a new water supply.

There is still too much work to be done in Flint when it comes to assessing the condition of the pipes, testing the water in specific areas and replacing pipes known to be unsafe.

In the meantime, it’s Flint residents who have to pay for potentially poisonous water. Is it fair to make them pay for water that can’t safely be drunk unless it is filtered? Many would leave Flint if they could, but who would want to buy a home in Flint now?

Photo by Catt Liu

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 oProductivity 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.