Inspired by Alexander von Humboldt, 1769-1859
Voices of the Global Ecology Education Initiative (GEEI)
A program within the UMass/Boston School for the Environment
"wEARTH the slow scroll, the read, the sharing..."
"Taking care of the rainforest is not only important for indigenous people. This fight, what we are doing day after day is for all of us living on this planet. I have a beautiful four-year old daughter and I want her to have the same rainforest as I have it."
-- Nemonte Nenquimo, Waorani leader,
NW Amazon, Ecuador -Yasuni region
Inspirational practitioners of earth-centered ethics
Recipients of recent Goldman environmental awards
Central to the Global Ecology Education Initiative is to periodically highlight just some of the thousands of grassroots, science-based, nature-centered leaders in countries throughout the world who are prioritizing, respecting and caring for "mother earth." It is imperative to include in high school and university curriculum, yet remains often not realized or ignored. The Initiative in its in-person and zoom presentations at high schools, universities and various venues, features in particular the stories of recipients of the Goldman Environmental Award.... https://www.goldmanprize.org Through recognizing these individual leaders, the Goldman Prize "seeks to inspire other ordinary people to take extraordinary actions to protect the natural world."
Nemonte Nenquimo, Ecuador. (shown above) led an indigenous campaign and legal action that resulted in a court ruling protecting 500,000 acres of Amazonian rainforest and Waorani territory from oil extraction. Nenquimo’s leadership and the lawsuit set a legal precedent for indigenous rights in Ecuador, and other tribes are following in her footsteps to protect additional tracts of rainforest from oil extraction.
Leydy Pech, Mexico.
An indigenous Mayan beekeeper, Leydy led a coalition that successfully halted Monsanto’s planting of geneti-cally modified soybeans in southern Mexico. Because of Leydy and her supporters, in September 2017, Mexico’s Food and Agricultural Service revoked Monsanto’s permit to grow genetically modified soybeans in seven states. see/share: https://www.goldmanprize.org/recipient/leydy-pech/
Chibeze Ezekiel, Ghana. As a direct result of Chibeze Ezekiel’s four-year grassroots campaign, the Ghanaian Minister of Environment canceled the construction of a 700-megawatt (MW) coal power plant and adjoining shipping port to import coal. Ezekiel’s activism stopped the coal industry from entering Ghana and steered the nation’s energy future away from coal. See/share: https://www.goldmanprize.org/recipient/chibeze-ezekiel
In this issue: Scroll or
click on the article title
Inspirational practitioners of earth-centered ethics -- recent Goldman Environmental Award recipients
Threatened wolves and endangered orcas: A report from British Columbia by Bob Reese, Victoria, BC/Canada
Calling 911 -- Human-caused climate change is profoundly a matter of public health by Paige Machado, MD
Athletes need to prioritize support for our endangered Home by Darwin Zook
"Good Market" -- Co-creating an economy that's good for people and good for the planet by Amanda Kiessel, Sri Lanka
Impactful Microcosmos microbial ecology program remembered by Douglas Zook
Embracing Nature, series one lay flat, photo book by Douglas Zook
"The love of Nature is more than
a hunger for what is beyond.
It is an expression of loyalty
to the earth,
the earth that bore us and
sustains us completely....
it is the only paradise we will
ever know....or need."
the late Edward Abbey, naturalist and author
Kristal Ambrose, Bahamas.
Drawing on the power of youth activism, Kristal Ambrose convinced the government of the Bahamas to ban single-use plastic bags, plastic cutlery, straws, and Styrofoam containers and cups. Announced in April 2018, the nationwide ban went into effect in January 2020.
Lucie Pinson, France.
Her activism successfully pressured France’s three largest banks to eliminate financing for new coal projects and coal companies. She then compelled French insurance companies to follow
suit. Between 2017 and 2019, mega insurers AXA and SCOR announced plans to end insurance coverage for coal projects.
Paul Sein Twa, Myanmar.
Seeking to preserve both the environment and Karen culture, Paul led his people to establish a 1.35 million-acre peace park—a unique community-based approach to conservation—in the Salween River basin. A major biodiverse region, the indigenous Karen people have long sought self-determination and cultural survival. The new park is a major victory for peace and conservation in Myanmar. See/share:https://www.goldmanprize.org/recipient/paul-sein-twa/
Over the past 30 years, the Goldman Environmental Prize has been awarded to 186 people in countries around the world.
The existential imperative: Replace our longstanding addiction with a Nature-as-mentor mindset called "biospherism"
by Douglas Zook*
There is a lot of emphasis on the need to build unity among peoples here in America. However, there is one unity that cuts across most opinions, values, ideas. It is the most widespread and entrenched of all and must be thoughtfully, responsibly, and courageously vanquished and replaced. We are all unified in our ongoing delusional thinking and behaviors that we can continue with the lifestyles and wants that we have or seek despite the devastation it is doing to the planet’s 3.6 billion year success story, the biosphere (environment), upon which we and children and grandchildren and millions of other innocent life forms completely depend.
We must face up to the fact that how most of us — even across the full income spectrum — live each day in the USA depends on:
The consumption of approximately 21 million barrels of climate disrupting, dangerous fossils fuels (petroleum, natural gas) each day, with up to 40% of this extracted from wild land each year in the United States and the rest imported primarily from USA allies Canada and Saudi Arabia. Our fossil fuel-based individual and community behaviors/lifestyles extending back for 180 years and intensified in recent decades are the primary underlying cause of the catastrophic fires, extra-intense storms, biodiversity loss, and rising seas.
The deaths of tens of thousands of primate relatives, the orangutans and other innocent life who see their rainforest homes completely chopped down and burned in order to plant monoculture palm tree plantations. The oils from these palms, even while non-essential, are included in many of the products that we choose to buy (instead of actively seeking alternatives) and have in our lives. These products include most soaps, lipsticks, shampoos, cookies, dishwashing liquid, laundry detergents, chocolate, ice cream, margarine, pizza dough, packaged bread and pastry, many snack foods, peanut butter, etc.
The destruction of vast land regions, the killing of animals, plants and essential fungi and microbes, and the draining and toxifying of waters and soils via the wide scale mining of elements, minerals, ores. Take our most coveted item, the automobile. The average car today is 60% steel and weighs over 2500 pounds. Luxury mini-living rooms on wheels, known as an SUVs, use considerably more steel. Steel is made directly from iron ore. Hundreds of iron ore mines, including on public lands throughout the world, require ecosystem destruction so as to get to the ores and extract it, leaving in most cases an ecosystem dismantled and often a wasteland behind.
Another prominent example that hits home to most of us in America is the mining for the element lithium and its partner element for many products, cobalt. Lithium and cobalt are allowing me to electronically word process this through the batteries that all computers and cell phones require. Indeed, the plan for massive conversion to electric cars would mean even more massive land/ecosystem destruction and human lives lost in that one electric battery requires at least 30 pounds of lithium. Wild regions of Chile, Australia and the Congo have among the most lithium deposits, albeit difficult and dangerous to extract. A third major example is solar energy, wherein efficient panels need an assortment of rare elements that require engineering that fosters ecosystem upheaval.
Moreover, the amount of solar farms and wind turbines required to meet energy demands in an extreme materialist society as here would cover still more massive arid, grasslands, and desert regions. This would further contribute to ecosystem upheaval, habitat destruction leading to biodiversity loss, and alterations in the albedo (reflectivity) which influences weather and climate systems. Yes, solar and wind energy is an absolute necessity as part of the demise of fossil fuels but cannot and should not be on a level designed to maintain current and growing stuff-coveting, get-rich addiction.
Global plastic saturation. Plastic is a non-natural human invention that is used in packaging or in the actual contents of nearly all that we purchase including groceries, most clothes, bottles, bags, stirrers, straws, faux-wood, faux leather, pvc in pipes and cables, insulation, blankets, signage, medical containers, furniture, automobile and airplane/train interiors, etc. Global production of plastic by humans is now over 380 million tons/yr with over 8 million tons released as waste pieces into rivers and the oceans each year. Beside breaking key food chains and webs and ultimately regional ecosystems, plastics are now within the human body ecosystem and its microbial ecology such that micro-particles of plastics with likely deleterious effects are consistently ingested via plastic containers, water, rains, food packaging.
The deaths of millions of essential pollinators such as bees, butterflies, moths, and bats due to continued manufacture, sale, citizen-purchase and use by/of toxic pesticides and herbicides. Without these pollinators, agricultural systems and ecosystems collapse, leading to unsurvivable conditions. Moreover, insects generally are in a great global population collapse as well, also in large part from toxic products that humans sell, buy and use. Their demise means the breaking of crucial biodiversity-enabling food webs, especially in temperate and tropical biomes. Also, these poisons being used by the millions around the nation now are known to be dangerous directly to human health and longevity.
Rainforest contamination and removal by loggers, oil extractors, miners, ranchers, poachers, usually directed or supported by mega-corporations and associated government policy. These actions include massive killing of biodiverse life in the rainforest -- plants, animals, fungi -- through the purposeful setting of fires, chainsawing, road-building, excavating, and dynamiting. These en masse behaviors often include direct attacks on indigenous peoples' communities who are more often than not the main protectors/guardians of this essential nature-dominated land. The indigenous removal is in many Amazon regions exacerbated by the covid19 virus pandemic spread via the invaders/exploiters.
The loss of millions of our best friends, trees, via the forest destruction on all lands, including indigenous lands, conservation regions, sprawling and/or invasive suburbia. In most cases, especially after catastrophic blazes that are now often dominating hundreds of square miles in the West, the forests and the biodiversity that they (time we stopped using “it” for living organisms) support cannot come back unless and until the severe climate disruption by greenhouse gases from humans is greatly reduced.
Continued investment by citizens in corporations practicing the above actions and policies here and worldwide as part of their retirement accounts or regular stock market profit-making pursuits and by continued purchasing of products and services that support such corporations.
Again, how we live each day in the USA -- our lifestyles across all the income levels -- depends on this continued personal, corporate and ultimately systematic war on Nature, or more specifically the earth's biosphere in which all life resides.
This War is a reality due largely to our ongoing "economy" construct originated not by natural systems but by humans. Because our central interest, particularly in the past two centuries, has been/is the accumulation of money as well as materials and land that can become money or wealth through investment, use and/or sale, we have seen the equivalent of a heroin drug addiction as a lifestyle. In such severe drug addictions, the perceived or temporary value of one's addicted state as experienced by the individual or community becomes the necessary, indeed only way to live. This addiction is made more severe and impenetrable, for we are born into it and enveloped religiously by those entities (corporations, governments, et al) who promote and showcase its products. We are seldom made aware of or self-question the products' origins, what happens to the biosphere (air, water, land, other life) through its manufacture and use, and ultimately its actual health and even survival cost to us and our children, grandchildren, and future generations.
Top photo shows the results of a mining operation to extract heavy metals from a forested region. In the second photo at another location, nearly all the light-colored ground is zinc and lead, the remainder of mining operations. This metal dust, toxic when extracted from rock, easily lifts into the air on winds and spreads to the nearby villages and forested regions shown in the distance. Moreover, the land itself becomes so toxic that plants and wildlife cannot inhabit the region safely for thousands of years.
The bottom image is of a typical mining operation wherein calcium carbonate is being extracted from from rock strata dating back over 60 million years. Once under the sea as part of sponge and coral reefs, thousands of such mining operations exist worldwide The blasting and extraction removes key nutrients and habitats, thus fragmenting wildlife and reducing biodiversity. While I took these photos during my many teaching and learning opportunities in nearby dynamic Kraków, Poland, the fact is such mining goes on throughout many of the nations of the world, and there is no intent here to focus on Poland.
*Doug has been an active advocate for nature and the biosphere for over 4 decades. He received his PhD in Ecology from Clark Univ. He was selected and served on three occasions as a Fulbright Scholar in Germany and Poland. At Boston University for 28 years, Doug was a professor focused on teaching global ecology, symbiosis, and overseeing the preparation of students to become engaging science teachers. He has led trips to the most biodiverse area of the Amazon in eastern Ecuador as well as to New Zealand. Doug has brought his Global Ecology Education Initiative to UMass/Boston and its School for the Environment.
He can be reached at:
Our individual"-first, community-second wealth-goal system operates like a train making all the necessary stops, repairs, and moves citizens along, albeit dependent on the "ticket costs" and often class, race and/or ethnicity...only to now be heading to massive derailment and ultimately a ride to an uninhabitable land- and sea-scape. Private ownership and wealth-gain at any cost - both of which were anathema to most indigenous communities -- are the delusional sky under which we exist.
We continue to be immersed in an economy that "second-places" at best the ecology, as we see with the current pandemic, which likely emerged from ecosystem interference and encroachment by humans. We ignore the fundamental “rules" of Nature's long-established and resilient global ecology and instead make up our own rules based on private ownership, corporate or individual, and relentless material consumption for which the government also advocates and collects necessary tax money, much of which goes to weaponry, including an actual arsenal of over 5,800 USA nuclear warheads
All of the materials that go into nearly all products ultimately or very immediately come directly from activities which exploit, extract and grossly alter the earth’s biosphere, especially at the interface of the lithosphere (geological region) with the surface ecology. Through mining, we remove iron, aluminum, zinc, magnesium and other essential elements, usually in the form of compounds. This extraction, particularly since the start of the industrial age, we have mandated as a one-way street — constant flow from Nature to us. Unlike practices of most indigenous nations/peoples over millennia who highly valued reciprocity as central to how "mother earth" works, our "economy" is uni-directional, and thus exploitative to such a degree that it operates without considering the biosphere’s wisdom (feedback loops), longevity, future -- and the fact that it is our very lifeblood. Through its stock market and its investment practices, the system ignores its ultimate and complete provider, creating an imaginary folly often called the "American Dream” wherein happiness and well-being emerge from overt materialism, the superiority over of other human beings and life forms, and competition to “get ahead” of others on the wealth-wagon. There are an estimated 8-10 million species of life on the planet, and only one -- a last minute newcomer -- has this renegade system that purposefully exploits the habitats and ecosystems of all other life forms in sufficient numbers and in such a way as to move the biosphere toward a potential uninhabitable future for all but the ever-resilient and versatile microbes.
This narrative is not an advocacy for any other specific existing human-created “economic” system in place of the current varieties, but rather perhaps some positive aspects from various economic systems around the world can have some contributions to what is essential - a new required pathway. For example, some aspects of socialism, too often usurped/abused by oligarchs as we have seen in Russia, have some merit. In the varieties of USA capitalism, some of the most widely accepted and positive features of the system that actually serve all the people are socialistic concepts, such as social security, medicare for senior citizens, and scaled taxation rates to equitably cover payment for essential services such as sewage treatment plants and reservoirs.
What I see as the only viable direction which would allow a future for humans and reduction of the human-influenced extinction of so many species in the coming generations is to remove the human-centered thinking and delusional addictions and institute an earth-centered ethic that drives all of our main policy and behavior decisions and lifestyle choices.
I would call it “biospherism.”
The biosphere is defined as the areas of the planet where there are
natural systems that directly enable life. These would include water (hydrosphere), rock (lithosphere), air (atmosphere) and the countless interdependent connections between and among life forms (the ecosphere). This life-region of the planet is somewhat analogous in thickness to the rind of an orange. Biospherism would be a way of thinking, prioritizing, considering, acting, caring, respecting, and yes even unifying to a higher degree than what we have now, wherein the one system that we depend upon completely — Nature and most particularly the life-supporting regions of Earth called the biosphere — becomes our actual daily guide and mentor. In other words, we finally decide to face reality, reconstruct ourselves and foster actual future potential to achieve compatibility with our Home.
The "green new deal” proposed by Representative Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Markey and featured particularly by Senator Sanders has some promise and deserves continued momentum of support. However, its' significant omissions are twofold:
First, throughout its advocacy by the originators and its many supporters, the individual citizens of the public - you and me - are never asked/required to do anything, other than vote of course. There is no mention of what is essential, a symbiotic partner requirement - namely a personal green new deal - which I wrote about at length in the 2019 GEEI Calling Home scrolling e-zine issue. As that article emphasizes, “How can we continue to claim we care about our children’s and grandchildren’s future and yet do not take the time to boldly and courageously alter lifestyles such that we can with each passing week say that we are putting into practice values and ways of living that prioritize the health of the planet, especially the biosphere-and thereby foster a livable future for our children.”
The article points out twenty examples (one could list hundreds) of significant changes that each of us can and need to do to be meaningfully caring about our Home, the earth, our children, and all the innocent life forms that are now being lost. I do not agree that just doing little things is what we can do — no, we need to do big consistent changes, even sacrifices in order to stop robbing the future from our children for the misleading comfort of ourselves now. So often we hear that change starts and moves strongly from the bottom-up, from the people. But, the Green New Deal” does not incentivize and insist that individual people and families make major alterations, priorities and even sacrifices. A personal new green deal needs to be a cornerstone too of the proposed Biospherism, for it allows and indeed demands that everyone be involved, that the disgraceful unity we have, which keeps ignoring Nature’s ways and wisdom and consistently misrepresents "freedom," must end.
Secondly, while healthier and “better” in many ways than what the system is now, the Green New Deal as well as many of the positive, earth/future-prioritizing Biden-Harris actions falsely implies the notion that once we get serious and make the necessary and essential transitions from fossil fuel dependency to renewables such as solar and wind, we will be able to continue our overt materialism, delusional growth economy, development of future-killing products, erroneous "American Dream-ism" and constructs that ensure continued extreme income inequities.
The green new deal thrives on the notion that profound environmental dangers will be removed in that the industries and materials we now all embrace will simply be better powered by healthier energy systems substituting for the fossil fuel dependency. Yes, of course the fossil fuel dependency must be stopped, but In the new renewable energy world, we will still not be able to be a healthy “fit” with the biosphere and all its wisdom within the ecosystems and diversity of life forms. In order for the green new deal to be viable and work, it will need a major transformation away from coveting material goods and products and chasing after luxuries and false ”dreams” and getting-aheadness at all costs.
Rather, we would en masse as individuals, families and communities need to foster a new embrace, one where Nature — our provider, a gift to us — is our prime respected mentor. Nature, especially in its biomes and ecosystems such as forests and healthy soils, is easily our and future generations’ best friend and beacon. We either just do not recognize or we do not choose to see that our many daily enticements are borne in part by our relentless extraction, ecosystem destruction, and what amounts to an undemocratic corporate and private citizen ownership economy.
In a sense, to make the necessary differences, the "green new deal" must rely more on the thousands of years of indigenous thinking, values, and practices, wherein reciprocity with Nature rather than constant taking, exploiting, draining and fostering modern techno-solutions. The green new deal must have the strong, courageous personal gravitas. As with so many ancient indigenous cultures, it cannot operate and advocate as if humans were above the knowledge and ways of the lands, the seas, the rocks and all that is the biosphere.
Idealistic. Radical. Unachievable. Pipe-dreams. Call it what you may but “biospherism” and its overarching earth-centered ethics would likely be the only "truthful" evidence-led pathway to a livable, sustainable future for all life forms, including ours.
Refereces selective due to space limits...; many others available by request to firstname.lastname@example.org:
Envisioning biospherism practices:
Decisions in all societal sectors -- family, individual, community, governmental, corporate-- must consider any potential negative effects on the regional and global environment and prioritize biosphere health.
"Intelligence" would be governmentally and in society redefined away from the historical human-centric hubris to instead emphasize the degree to which humans strive to live within the biosphere's limits and systems.
Health care includes in all medical fields, disciplines, and facilities the integration of practices and thinking that respect the link between being a healthy person and living in a healthy biosphere.
City and town governments restructure pay and budgets to allow for a regional biosphere support council headed by a paid ecologist or naturalist.
Inhabited coastal regions at less than 10 feet above sea level would no longer be allowed to obtain insurance and are required to move out within 5 years.
Incentives for citizens to seek or change employers such that they can walk or bike instead of use a car.
Pesticides and herbicides are banned from public parks, private lawns, and conservation areas.
Ecosystem and farmland restoration establishes healthy soils, natural organic farming, massive increase of trees, and halts deforestation and big corporate agriculture.
Complete phase out of plastic usage. and production
Phase out large cars and shift to small-size non-luxury highly fuel efficient cars, mobilization for bicycle usage, fuel efficient train transport; and limiting air travel to half of current miles/yr.
Create a union with nations to build an earth green-military corps that protects wildlife, forests, wetlands and natural areas globally.
New curriculum requirements include nationwide teaching of earth-centered ethics, revealing the global leadership which is mainly peoples of color and women.
The worth of ecosystems, biodiversity, expanding healthy forests, indigenous guardians of rainforests, wetlands, mangroves, pollinators, et al, is for the first time financially calculated in national and regional governments and becomes a central part of how an ecological economic system of biospherism is re-structured, in that it recognizes the reality of our complete dependence on Nature.
The USA is one of the few Nations out of the 187 in the world to not have priority provisions to protect and care for Nature and the services Nature provides. Biospherism would mean establishing such an amendment to the US Constitution as well as establish a guiding doctrine that helps to educate and regulate necessary human behaviors that sustain a viable biosphere future.
Threatened wolves and endangered orca "whales"
A report from British Columbia
by Bob Reese, Victoria, BC/Canada environmental advocate and nature photographer, with special appreciation for contributions from naturalist, photographer and author Cheryl Alexander and science educator Jennifer Reese
While the Discovery Island archipelago is not that far from where I live in Victoria, British Columbia, I regrettably never had the opportunity to hear Takaya's howl. In the language of the local indigenous First Nations, "Takaya" means "wolf." Thus, the lone wolf that took up residence on Discovery Island became so-named. While many viewed the rare presence of a wild wolf so close to a city as intriguing if not awe-inspiring, members of the indigenous Songhees Nation, who have a strong cultural reverence for wolves, viewed it in a spiritual context. The timing of Takaya’s arrival in their lands was close to the passing of their Chief Robert Sam. According to their culture and traditions, wolves represented the embodiment of their Chief’s spirit.
After dispersing from his pack, Takaya made his way through the urban neighborhoods of southern Vancouver Island and swam nearly one and a half miles, across a channel with some of the strongest ocean currents on the British Columbia coast, to take up residence on a small group of islands within the Reserve Lands of the Songhees Nation. Cheryl Alexander, naturalist and photographer observed Takaya over a six year period and documented the wolf's behaviors and expressions. In her much-acclaimed book Takaya, Lone Wolf (https://takayalonewolf.com/books/) she notes: “He arrived on the island shore alone. Possibly at dawn. Likely exhausted. Probably exhilarated. Perhaps fearful. Certainly on a mission.... As a dispersing wolf, Takaya had found the first of the three things he was searching for -- a territory to call his own. He likely very quickly began the ongoing process of marking his home territory. Although a tiny one, it was his.”
As a coastal wolf, Takaya adapted to a marine-based diet that enabled him to live and thrive there for nearly eight years. Takaya lived in a territory less than a square mile, exceptionally close to the City of Victoria with a population of 386,000. This is a fraction of the normal range for a wolf, which is generally between 60 – 600 square miles. The current wolf population on Vancouver Island (which is approximately 12,000 square miles) is estimated between 250 to 350, with most in the wilderness areas located in the northern and west coast regions of the island. Population numbers so far have largely been based on anecdotal reports from hunters, who base this on a perceived reduction in ungulate populations. Unfortunately, many hunters still consider wolves to be vermin to be exterminated at all costs.
IAuthor of Takaya, Lone Wolf
“It is only if you observe a complex animal over time, and with an open mind and heart, that you can get a true understanding of the sentience of that animal, his or her being-ness. Cheryl exemplifies this approach ... and she knows how to tell a story that can be understood and enjoyed by anyone.” Jane Goodall
Takaya wolf photos courtesy of Cheryl Alexander, naturalist, author and photographer
During his eight years, Takaya seemed appropriately cautious and primarily avoided people, albeit appeared at times to be tolerant if not curious of others. Indeed, by those who knew of his presence, he was admired and revered. In January of last year, he left his island territory, ending up in the center of the city. While no one really knows why he made the swim from his island hideaway, speculations include searching for a mate and/or food, or possibly just was swept from the isle by strong winter currents. Spotted hiding against a house, he was tranquilized, caged, transported nearly one hundred miles from the coast with which he was so familiar, tagged, and let loose. His eventual relocation to a "wilder" community far from his home-island and absent the cloak of celebrity and respect, resulted in his eventual death. He was shot by a cougar hunter… simply because he was a wolf. The hunter later admitted that Takaya was not threatening, but was simply watching his dogs. Legal though it was, it was an encounter that tragically ended the life of this very unique wolf.
Concerns about his fate were always present, and in an article in the March 27, 2020 Guardian ("Canada Mourns Takaya") just prior to his death Ms. Alexander's deep concern, ultimately played out: “He (Tayaka) doesn’t have that fear instilled in him that humans are bad. He’s trusting. It worries me he may find himself in a situation where humans are not all good and don’t have his interests at heart...."
Now celebrated in various creative art forms, the life and passing of this wolf is likely to become local -- and beyond -- legend. Beside her book, Cheryl Alexander’s award-winning CBC – “The Nature of Things” documentary, ("Takaya: Lone Wolf") has also reached people around the globe. As his legend is shared, so should be the mindset of our need to respect, keep distanced, co-exist, learn from, protect, and ultimately prioritize biodiversity. Wolves have been here in North America for nearly a half million years and surely have a rightful place in the global ecology, especially as they are crucial for healthy continuance of important ecosystems.
Takaya was ‘legally’ killed because recreational killing of wolves is sanctioned in British Columbia. Over 1200 wolves are killed annually by hunters. Along with recreational killing and trapping for their fur, wolves are also threatened and destroyed due to an ongoing government-led wolf cull. A campaign led by the noted environmental advocacy organization Pacific Wild (https://pacificwild.org/) seeks to stop the wolf cull as emphasized here: "The government’s decision to scapegoat wolves represents a failure to protect and restore habitat required by mountain caribou; old-growth forest that has been fragmented and destroyed by industrial logging, oil and gas exploration and recreational activity (snowmobiling, heli-skiing, cat skiing).
Over decades, these impacts have left many populations of caribou in serious decline, without habitat they need for their specialized diets and protection from predators. A study recently released suggests 900 square kilometres of identified critical habitat has been logged since 2014. In addition, the province is considering the approval of at least two mines in critical habitat, one in the calving grounds of an endangered caribou herd. To date, the wolf cull program has killed over 1,000 wolves and cost taxpayers approximately $2.2 million."
The known ecological importance of wolves reinforces the strong objection by many animal behavior and ecology-centered scientists to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service’s recent reclassification removing wolves from the endangered and full protection status.
Ironically, the saga of the regional threatened wolves is linked to the magnificent endangered orca (Orcinus orca)"whales" off the pacific northwest coast. The oral traditions and art of the Pacific Northwest First Nations are filled with references to orcas as both “Sea Wolves” and “Guardians of the Sea.” Reverence for this, the largest of earth’s predators, stems from their intelligence, power, and durability. Moreover, both wolves and orca have complex body and vocal expressions as well as sophisticated hunting techniques. Just as with wolf packs, the orcas' life-long bonds and compassion to family, i.e. their “pods”, are strong and enduring.
Interestingly, orcas or so-called "killer whales" are not whales at all but rather are in the dolphin family, Delfinidae. If you look closely at the orca's body shape, it compares more to a dolphin than that of whales. For example, dolphins have heads that curve into a bulbous, beak-like shape with bodies that are designed to make them more efficient and aerodynamic in their movements. Orcas can live up to 70 years, weigh up to 6 tonnes, and can be up to 32 feet long.
Heard before seen
While immersed in this spectacular Pacific coastal region, I experienced the resounding behaviors of endangered orcas. About 15 years ago on a kayak trip to Robson Bight (the Michael Bigg) Ecological Reserve, I watched from 100 yards as the 5-6 foot dorsal fin of a large mature male rose out of the water. It was a moment of great exhilaration. It was there I learned that often times the presence of an orca will be heard before it is seen.
As they approach the surface, the sound of their exhale is quite distinctive and easily visible. Did chills go up my back? You bet they did! But, they were not chills of fear, rather they were chills from the excitement that comes from observing these stunning animals surface and manuever with agility and grace. We watched over the bows of our kayaks as the pod foraged for food – diving, surfacing and diving again. Breaking from the pod, a female with a calf swam toward our tethered group. At about 50 yards the mother positioned herself vertically and began to bob up and down like a slow moving cork. The behavior is called “spy hopping”. With her calf by her side, she was clearly watching us to make sure we did not pose a threat.
Orca, female, spy hop. The calf is just to her right as another female passes to her left.
Recently (October 2020), an 11 year old female orca was observed during a breach with what appeared to be a substantial baby-bump. If this calf can make it to term and survive, it means the addition of a third calf born to the endangered southern resident population this year. Two were born in September 2020. Given that there have been no surviving calves since 2015, these 3 represent hope for this particular pod's future. In July 2018, after a female from this pod lost her calf, she was observed pushing its lifeless body to the surface for 17 days. This sustained act of mourning was the subject of much world-wide attention. This is further evidence of the orcas’ ability to experience and express grieving and loss - a recognition growing among the science community re: mammals.
The population of resident orcas in the waters off the coast of northwest Washington State and southwest British Columbia are down to 73 from a high of 98 in the mid-1990s. The decline of their main food source, Chinook salmon, is being cited as a contributing factor to their dwindling numbers. And the Chinook’s decline, according to some studies, are being tied to the presence of open pen fish farms. In response, as reported in the Times Colonist (12-17-20), the Federal government of Canada has recently announced plans to phase out fish farms in the waters around Discovery Island archipelago. (Yes, the same archipelago Takaya once called home.)
While this action has been long-awaited and welcomed by local First Nations and environmentalists, it has spurred pushback by the fish farm industry and local officials for the impact it will have on local economies. The groups in play at the moment are the orca, the Chinook, First Nations bands ("tribes"), the fish farms industry and jobs in local communities (Times Colonist, 12-31-20).
A recent birth
Orcas hunt by using their own built-in version of sonar. Unfortunately, however, their hunting grounds tend to be increasingly noisy due to the acoustic “harassment devices” installed by fish farms, increased shipping traffic in the Salish Sea ,and sonar exercises conducted by the US Navy (just south of the Canadian border). While the new calf births are a good sign, long-term success of the endangered resident population depends on commitment to making the food chain to which the salmon belong more viable and accessible (Times Colonist, 11-25-20)
A more recent glimmer of hope: Recently two resident orca pods were sighted with a young calf returning after a 20 year absence to traditional hunting grounds in the Broughton Archipelago. The removal of the acoustic harassment devices is being cited as the primary reason for their ability to return. The return of these orcas is viewed as a positive sign that Chinook stocks may be rebounding and so with it the return of this particular northern pod (Time Colonist, 1-8-21). If that is the case, it is a promising sign for these orcas, Chinook, First Nations and essential biodiversity.
Some scientists speculate that orcas breach to rid themselves of parasites or maybe to scratch an itch. Personally I like to think they do it partly to get a quick look at what’s around them. While it does take considerable energy to propel their bodies far above the surface, they may at times just want to have a bit of fun. When they hit the surface the splash is impressive and loud.
Many years ago orcas were captured in these waters and shipped to oceanic-themed entertainment places to perform. It has since been learned that the separation of young orcas from their families and the absence of a pod's strong social bonds can lead to unintended and devastating results. This was a key theme in the acclaimed 2013 documentary “Blackfish” which tells the story of "Tilikum", an orca that was captured and kept for exhibition for a time in Victoria and then sold and transported to SeaWorld in Florida. It is a true story of the deadly consequences of putting a highly intelligent and social animal into captivity.
Since my trip to Robson Bite years ago, I have had several opportunities to go whale-watching with my local camera club. It was on one of those outings that while leaning against the side of a Zodiac a female separated from her pod so as to swim to our boat. I was fortunate to be right at the spot where she surfaced. Like all orces, Her eyes were quite small and positioned in front of the large, white elongated "false-eye" body mark. Yet, the experience of her gaze was so intense that I actually do not remember taking this photo (directly below). I suppose if I were asked to distill that experience down into one word, I would have to say it was “spiritual.” I’ve looked directly in the eyes of many animals, including spirit bears (a story for another day), and yet I’ve never been able to replicate that feeling. After being in the presence of orcas, it is easy to understand why First Nations cultures hold them in high regard.
Orca male with calf just behind
*Bob Reese. "After a career as an administrator at Cornell University, I moved to Victoria, BC. There in retirement I married my passion - wildlife and photography. Through my photographs, I seek to awaken in others an awareness and reverence for the beauty and wonder for the natural world that surrounds us, as well as the pressing need to
preserve it." Bob can be reached at email@example.com.
Calling 911: Human-caused climate change
is profoundly a matter of public health
by Paige Machado*, MD
The oft-quoted mantra of emergency medicine providers is “anyone, anytime, anywhere.” We are the front-line and safety net of our healthcare system. We are trained to respond in any emergency, whether big or small. As an emergency medicine physician, my job might seem to some removed from the issue of climate change. However, there is increasing recognition in the house of medicine that the far-reaching dangers of climate change are not just an issue for climate scientists and government leaders, but for our patients.
According to the authors of a recent New England Journal of Medicine article(1), climate change is a health emergency with numerous effects on human well-being. There are direct health impacts such as traumatic injuries from increasingly severe natural disasters. There are indirect impacts as well, including food insecurity from drought, increasing spread of insect-borne diseases, and exacerbations of chronic lung disease from air pollution.
Recent studies indicate major Impacts on air pollution
In the latter case, in a study from the Journal of Environmental Research just released(2) (February 9, 2021), researchers from Harvard University, in collaboration with the University of Birmingham, the University of Leicester and University College London, found that exposure to particulate matter from fossil fuel emissions accounted for almost one in five (18%) or 8.7 million deaths in one recent year, 2018. Based on the study and summarized by CNN(3) reporters Ivana Kottsova and Angela Dewan, "Burning fossil fuels such as coal and oil produces greenhouse gases that trap solar radiation in the atmosphere and cause climate change. But it also releases particulate matter (of 2.5 microns), which can penetrate into lungs and thus aggravate respiratory conditions such as asthma and lead to lung cancer, heart disease, strokes and early death."
Another recent study in the journal Lancet(4) discusses the importance of the upcoming international meetings on climate change. The researchers found that millions of deaths worldwide could be averted by 2040 if countries fully align their policies with their commitments made under the 2015 Paris Agreement to hold global warming below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. This commitment is thus far not been seriously enacted and instead is currently on track to pass 3 degrees before the end of this century according to a Report released last December by the UN. (Emissions Gap Report, https://www.unenvironment.org/emissions-gap-report-2020).
The study looked at Brazil, China, Germany, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States. Together, those countries make up 50% of the world's population and produce 70% of its greenhouse gas emissions. "The message is stark. Not only does delivering on Paris prevent millions dying prematurely each year, but the quality of life for millions more will be improved through better health. We have an opportunity now to place health in the forefront of climate change policies to save even more lives," said lead author Ian Hamilton, executive director of The Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change.
It is largely the direct impacts of climate change that will be increasingly felt by emergency medicine providers, but some of the indirect impacts affect my patients too. The patients I see every day in the Emergency Department (ED), whether the elderly woman with no access to air conditioning who presents with heat-stroke on an abnormally hot summer day, or homeless patients seeking shelter from a severe winter storm, or the chronic asthmatic who presents in extremis on a day where air quality levels are exceptionally low -- these are the vulnerable patients already feeling the emergent impacts of climate change.
In the 2018 article “Climate Change and Health: An Urgent Call to Academic Emergency Medicine” published in the Journal for Academic Emergency Medicine(5), Renee Salas, MD argues that the public health harms of climate change “...disproportionately affect children and elders, the poor, and those with chronic diseases—the patients we see in our EDs. Globally, those most affected are the least responsible. Thus, there are practical and ethical imperatives for academic emergency physicians to become climate and health champions.”
Initial covid-19 spread likely due in part to climate change
The current devastating COVID-19 pandemic is not beyond the reach of human-caused climate change either. We know that a warming planet and extensive deforestation lead to major ecosystem loss and the forced migration of both wildlife and humans, which in turn exposes both to potentially new infections, as evidenced by the increasing spread of Lyme disease and malaria in the past thirty years. Moreover, ecologists point out that direct encroachment by humans especially since the industrial age has disrupted the ecosystems and its biodiversity that have evolved to absorb and control viral spread. Furthermore, air pollution from the burning of fossil fuels, as mentioned above in recent studies, contributes to an increase in chronic respiratory disease that makes vulnerable populations more susceptible to severe cases of COVID-19 and even causes higher mortality in these groups.(6)
Climate change threatens our patients’ health, but it also threatens our ability to provide care. For example, the neighborhood where my hospital, Boston Medical Center, is located is particularly at risk for an important climate impact: storm water flooding. It is predicted(7) that by the 2030s, 11% of our neighborhood will be flooded during storms, and with just 40 additional years, the number goes up to 26%. Our emergency and radiology departments are located on the ground level of our hospital. Therefore, such flooding could devastate our ability to provide basic emergency care. The impacts(8) of "superstorm" Sandy on New York City hospitals continues to serve as a warning for what we and other vulnerable coastal hospitals may face. Power generators located in hospital basements failed, leaving elevators inoperable for evacuating patients. New York University's Langone Medical Center ended up spending $1.5 billion on repairs and fortification for future storms. Perhaps we should also consider the preemptive installation of flood barriers and other protections that would allow our hospitals to remain functional in the event of severe storm water flooding. Flooding, wildfires, and power blackouts from severe storms are just some examples of the potential impact of climate change on healthcare delivery.
A Call to Action
It’s time for us in the medical community to embrace the power we have to make a difference — by both examining like all citizens our own lifestyle changes and of course helping to mitigate the impact on our patients, especially those with the fewest resources to protect them. There is plenty of room for action. First, medical schools should include climate and health in their curricula to educate future physicians and nurse practitioners on this important social determinate of health. In reviewing the Association of American Medical Colleges' (AAMC) Curriculum Inventory, there are no listed curricula explicitly addressing climate change and human health. The current presence or variety of climate and health, or “environmental health”-related content in medical school curricula is unknown.
Similarly, there is a need for increased research on the topic, including ways that natural disasters will impact the delivery of care in our EDs and hospitals, specific climate-related health effects on our various patient populations and, for example, whether these effects impact the increasing numbers of ED visits around the country.
Finally, physicians and nurse practitioners are well-suited as advocates for action on climate change. We hold a unique and trusted position in the public sphere, and have an obligation to use our voices to amplify the discussion and action around this public health crisis. The Medical Society Consortium on Climate & Health (https://medsocietiesforclimatehealth.org) is one great resource for physicians looking to get involved. Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) (https://www.psr.org/issues/environment-health/) also work as advocates for environment and health issues. Anthropogenic climate change is arguably the healthcare emergency of our time generation. Let’s get to work....
Solomon CG, LaRocque RC. Climate Change — A Health Emergency. New England Journal of Medicine. 2019;380(3):209-211. doi:10.1056/NEJMp1817067
Vohra K et al. 2021. Global Mortality from Outdoor Fine Particle Pollution Generated by fossil fuel combustion. Results from GEOS-Chem. Environmental Research, February 9, 2021, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envres.2021.110754
Hamiton, I, et al. 2021. The Public Health Implications of the Paris Agreement: A modelling study, The Lancet 5:2 E74-E83. DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/S2542-5196(20)30249-7.
Salas RN, Slutzman JE, Sorensen C, Lemery J, Hess JJ.2018. Climate Change and Health: An Urgent Call to Academic Emergency Medicine. Academic Emergency Medicine. 0(0). doi:10.1111/acem.13657
Venkata VS, Kiernan G. 2020. COVID-19 and COPD: Pooled Analysis of Observational Studies. CHEST Journal 158(4). https://journal.chestnet.org/article/S0012-3692(20)34412-3/fulltext
Climate Vulnerability Assessment. Climate Ready Boston. 2017. https://www.boston.gov/sites/default/files/imce-uploads/2017-01/crb_-_focus_area_va.pdf
Arndt, R. Z. (2017, September 9). Five years after superstorm Sandy, NYC hospitals may be as ready as Houston’s were for Harvey. Modern Healthcare.
*Paige Machado, pictured here at an ancient tree in the Olympia National Park, Washington, is an emergency medicine resident physician at Boston Medical Center. As a Colorado native, her love of the outdoors grew into a passion for understanding the relationship between climate and health. She was a an extraordinary student several years ago in my global ecology and symbiosis courses
at Boston University. Paige can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Athletes need to prioritize caring and support for our endangered Home
by Darwin Zook*
I leaped over couches, circling my first-floor childhood home like a merry-go-round, as I celebrated a Michael Jordan jump-shot in the ‘92 NBA finals. I’ve pumped my fists and exchanged video text messages with my friends in anticipation of another memorable Tom Brady playoff game. I rooted fiercely for the comeback story of Tiger Woods in 2019, because I admired his competitiveness as an athlete. Through my own sports playing days from high school in Massachusetts, to Division 3 basketball at UC Santa Cruz and semi-pro football in the New England Football League, I have tried to emulate the pro athletes whom I have greatly valued.
Like countless others, I have admired these athletes and tried to take their best qualities into my sports play or even into just everyday life. Many of these athletes have also been key voices in the growing social justice
movement, especially in combating hate and racism. Examples include former NFL quarterback Colin Kaeparnick taking a knee during the national anthem, Celtics star Jaylen Brown leading protests in Atlanta, and Lebron James helping with the “get out the vote” effort that was so crucial in the recent Presidential election. However, I say now to all my heroes over the years -- from the hardwood, to the ice, on the diamond, on the football field -- It is not enough.
For example, when thinking of "home", some of us live in a little apartment in Jersey City (raising hand), some of us live in "nice" suburban homes, some of us live in high-rise buildings in the middle of a major city, some of us live in mansions with huge yards and pools and so on.... These widely varying living quarters reflects the broad inequitable caste-like culture built in to our system of economics. We know there is a materials/money-wealth gap in our country as well as in other nations. But there is one reality that we all do share above all others: Our true, ultimate Home -- Earth or more specifically the part of the earth where there is life, the biosphere. We do not and will not have a second planet on which to evolve or de-evolve. Yet our behaviors and decisions mirror the erroneous thinking that we have unlimited resources to consume and use up, before we move to a new sector of the Universe! Hey, even if the sci fi world of Elon Musk or someone else is able to help create a new planet to occupy, we will still need to do what we are not doing very well here -- preserving and respecting our main provider, Nature. We would still need to face reality and obey Nature's rules such that we actually support a healthy biosphere, one that promotes fresh air, clean water, chemical-free soils, expanding forests, plastic-free seas, biodiversity and a greater commitment of how best to live within the "rules" of the planet, as opposed to competing with or ignoring it.
The broad reach of climate change
Many athletes on the highest sports stage are doing essential social justice advocacy, but despite the fact that many have children and certainly want them to have a viable future, the ongoing "umbrella" issue of Mother Earth as a Home-in-peril is overlooked. The continuing human-caused Climate change reality impacts everything from social injustice, to the growing gap between rich and poor and most of all to our future generations' health and well-being. Without a healthy, sustainable biosphere, all the very important societal issues will become moot. The problems are real and deep and in a very clear box. But the box is sitting in a larger Home, very much under-appreciated and mistreated.
Athletes here and globally at the professional level across all sports often have great influence in their words and actions. They also have mind-boggling amounts of money. The term "embarrassment of riches" is thrown around as a cliché, albeit it is a fitting term for many of these professional athletes. There's no question that a future with some reasonable harmony with the biosphere depends on courageous new government and corporate policies, as well as significant life style and values changes by all citizens. But, given where we live, in the United States and its current economic system, even with all its faults, monetary support on a grand scale can be used in very positive ways to help drive the mandatory nature protection and reduce climate change intensity.
Amazon's indigenous peoples a key to a healthy future
It is clear that a teacher making $60,000/year is not 100 times less valuable to society or the earth, than an athlete making $6,000,000 year. There are ways for our current economic system to be more compatible with and work for the planet. There is a way for pro athletes to once again be leaders and put monies and their voices toward helping ensure less trauma and hardship from human-caused climate change and related misdeeds for the sake of their children and future generations. For example, athletes can help lead the charge on preserving the essential Amazon rainforest in South America. The billions of trees and other plants there are crucial to helping combat climate change, for its nearly 20% oxygen contribution, and for medicinal discoveries. The main protectors of the Amazon are indigenous peoples who are currently being besieged by outsiders seeking to mine, extract oil, and remove forests for cattle grazing or monoculture farming. Moreover, these unlawful entries into indigenous regions have contributed to the spread of the covid-19 virus. The continued harm to indigenous peoples and the wild land they know so well from hundreds of years of ancestral experience are a severe threat to our children and the future. After all, one of the main ways climate change can be controlled is by keeping as many trees alive and healthy as possible and even greatly expanding tree-numbers, for plants take in massive amounts of carbon dioxide through their leaves for photosynthesis. Despite the awareness of switching to electric cars and renewable energy growth worldwide, there is still drilling-for-oil within some of the most biodiverse regions in the world, such as in eastern Ecuador rainforests of the northwest Amazon and other vulnerable nature areas globally.
Athletes can help lead the way to forever end our dependence on fossil fuels which are severely affecting 70% of the planet, our oceans. Due to our excess burning of carbon, temperatures of not only the air, but of the seas have risen. This has led to coral reefs around the globe being put in real danger. These reefs, which have been for millions of years a key habitat for thousands of species, are dying. Moreover, wide varieties of fish come to coral reefs to lay their eggs. Coral reef demise means fish demise, and this is a major problem, for much of the world’s human population depends on these fish as a key protein source.
Earth-care has to matter at least as much as sports
We need athletes to give their voices and funds to selected, meaningful grassroots environmental organizations and indigenous communities who work to promote practices that build healthy soils, expand and protect forests and biodiversity, protect wildlife through increasing anti-poaching patrols, and even help purchase natural areas for protection/conservation.
Recently, because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the NBA and NHL set up a bubble-type format that completely cut out air travel. Planes zig-zagging across the country and world are a huge problem with fossil fuel emissions. In this new season, NBA teams are playing more “mini-series” greatly cutting down on travel. It is being done because of the pandemic but this and other sports leagues and their player unions must develop similar plans post-pandemic as a necessary permanent action to reduce greenhouse gases.
Two summers ago, over 3 billion dollars was paid out in contracts to NBA players during the “free agency period,” where players are free to sign with any team. The number continues to go up each year. There is no reason that portions of contracts, with these athletes' consent or by the athletes themselves, who make tens and sometimes hundreds of millions of dollars, can’t go to varying environmental specific causes with a proven track record. For example, the NBA's Charlotte Hornets' forward Gordon Hayward got his second career long term deal this offseason, both worth over 100 million dollars. Yes, half or more goes to taxes. However, that doesn’t change anything in terms of that phrase “embarrassment of riches.” It is still a huge amount of money.
Even just one per cent...
If every athlete that got a contract like Hayward regularly gave just 1 percent of their yearly salary to preserve rainforests that are crucial in the fight against climate change, that would be a legacy and influence that is beyond calculation. I admire these athletes and have looked up to them throughout my life. Still do. But they now need to become active, giving advocates and spokespersons for caring for Home. Nothing is more urgent than protecting the planet upon which we live. And, much of the science-based grassroots leadership around the world caring for and protecting the environment are peoples of color. This athlete commitment would serve as an expanding powerful bridge between essential racial/cultural diversity and crucial biodiversity, between justice for maltreated citizens and communities and action to stop the continued assaults on nature, and between connecting our community home to the Home that gives us our lifeblood, mother earth.
I will continue to scream “lets go!” as Marcus Smart knocks down a clutch 3 point shot for the Celtics in an NBA playoff game or give a pump fist as Brooks Koepka drains a clutch 20 foot birdie putt in the Masters golf tournament. But now, I’m really ready to celebrate and be inspired when my favorite athletes give more of their time, voice and yes money to reverse the human-caused environmental damage that will otherwise severely and negatively impact the future of their and everyone’s children and other innocent life, including in generations to come.
Bottom line - It's time for an organized, energized, and ongoing Athletes Committed to Earth-care (ACE)!!
"Good Market": Co-creating a sustainable economy that’s good for people and good for the planet
by Amanda Kiessel*
The organic participatory guarantee system in Sri Lanka helps small-scale farmers access local organic markets and makes organic food more accessible and affordable for local consumers. These farmers from Moneragala have an organic home gardening group.
The Saturday Good Market in Sri Lanka is a curated weekly event for farmers, social enterprises, responsible businesses, and voluntary initiatives that prioritize people
and the planet
It was a monsoon Thursday in Sri Lanka’s capital city of Colombo. The vendors were setting up their stalls for the very first day of “Good Market,” and we were watching the skies and wondering whether they would have any cus-tomers.
This small event was part of a much bigger idea. Years earlier, I had studied ecology because I was awed by natural systems and deeply concerned about ecological collapse. After graduation, I began working with local organizations in Asia and learning more about community organizing, common resource management, social movements, how ideas spread, and how change happens. Eventually, this background in ecological systems and social systems led to a completely unexpected focus on economic systems and ultimately to "Good Market."
If you’re looking for root causes of our environmental crises, it’s hard to avoid our misguided economics. We’ve created an economic story and rules that prioritize extraction, short-term profit maximization, accumulation of financial capital, and the illusion of continuous growth. Even when we realize that this is not sustainable, it can be challenging to know what to do. The current system feels so entrenched. The problem feels too big and insurmountable.
But if you look carefully and globally, you can see that the transition to a new system has already started. There are millions of us around the world working according to a new guiding narrative and new rules. We are voluntarily choosing to prioritize people and the planet over profit maximization. We are the native grasses pushing through the asphalt. We are the pioneer species of a new economic system.
The true scale of this global movement is still not fully visible. Social and environmental labels and certification schemes can help people identify participants in this new economy, but they tend to be fragmented by sector and by region. They are also expensive and out of reach for many small-scale, localized initiatives.
The idea with Good Market was to make it easier for participants in the new economy to find and connect with each other, increase the visibility of the movement, and speed up the transition. We had been talking to friends around the world about a community-based curation
system and online platform that would work across economic sectors, scale, organizational type, certification, language, and other divides. There would be minimum standards for every sector, an application and review process in multiple languages, transparent public information, and a crowdsourced monitoring system.
The curation process, minimum standards, and the design brief were developed in 2011, but we didn’t have the resources for software development, and we were hesitant to start with funding from donors and investors. I'd been in
Sri Lanka during the tsunami and civil war and had seen some of the worst aspects of aid funding. I’d also seen many “ghost platforms” that had started with grants and then stopped after the project funding ended. The goal was to develop something that was community owned and self sustaining...which brings us back to that cloudy Thursday in 2012.
Initiating a weekly market event
We decided to start a weekly marketplace event as a low-cost way of testing the curation process and the concept. Would people even be interested? We had minimum standards for all sectors from energy to manufacturing to transport, but we figured this would be a small event with about 10 stalls for organic farmers, natural food, and fair trade artisan groups. It took months to find a venue, because everyone we spoke to said that people were only interested in price, and a curated marketplace wouldn’t work in Sri Lanka.
Finally, we managed to get an appointment with the then President’s brother who was serving as the Secretary of Defense and Urban Development. We asked to rent a space in central Colombo on Saturdays so that it would be easy for working families to come. He replied that the only option was Thursday, in a new space that he’d just developed in the suburbs, on a road that was known for bad weekday traffic.
The response on the vendor side was better than anticipated. Three times the expected number signed up for the first month. They pre-paid for their stalls so we could cover the upfront costs for the venue and logistics, and they volunteered time to help review applications and spread the word. That first day didn’t look promising. The sky was heavy and the buses and cars on the only access road were moving at a crawl, but still people came, and in the weeks they followed, they kept coming and they told others.
New applications started coming in from groups that we never expected. There were farms and businesses that had been prioritizing people and the planet for decades because it was “the right thing to do”, and they joined because they were excited to finally be recognized and have a community. There were startups that used the space to test new ideas. There were renewable energy and recycling enterprises that we didn’t know existed. There were volunteer groups doing awareness programs and artists and musicians and environmental programs for kids.
Eventually we told the friends in other countries that we were going to need to put the software development on hold. People’s livelihoods had become dependent on the event. For many small-scale organic farmers, this was the only place they could connect with people that were interested in their products. We needed to make sure that the event was self-sustaining, and we needed to expand distribution channels so the ecosystem would be resilient beyond Good Market.
Over the next few years, the event expanded to additional days of the week and additional locations. Farmers and consumers developed a local participatory guarantee system (PGS) to help make organic products more accessible and affordable. An organic and natural food shop opened to serve as an incubator for Good Market approved farmers, social enterprises, and responsible businesses. Good Market community members began trading and partnering with each other. They formed support groups by sector, shared information, organized tree planting events and beach cleanups, and worked together on campaigns and policy initiatives.
The program evolves to 57 countries!
By 2016, we finally had enough resources to start software development, and more importantly, we had a community that was asking for it. If the planned software from 2011 had been built, it wouldn’t have worked. The curation process, crowdsourced monitoring system, marketplace connections, and community connections were all tested with an in-person community before going online. The online application went live in three languages—English, Sinhala, and Tamil—in late 2016, and the rest of the platform began rolling out in 2017. We said the site was being beta tested in Sri Lanka, but groups in other countries started signing up from the beginning. On one early application, I remember seeing a pin dropped in the middle of the ocean for a question about location and initially assumed it was a rural applicant that wasn’t comfortable with technology and had made a mistake. Then I realized that the applicant was from the island of Kosrae in Micronesia. They were making vegan banana fiber wallets, and they really were in the middle of the ocean!
The Good Market platform was designed to support and connect existing movements, networks, and local communities. Most applications come from community members inviting other like-minded groups and from participating networks engaging their members. By the end of December 2020, community members had translated the application into 7 languages and there were Good Market approved social enterprises, cooperatives, responsible businesses, and voluntary initiatives across 57 countries.
A concern about the environment brought me to economics, but seeing the emerging new economy movement keeps bringing me back to ecology. For decades, the pioneer species pushed through the asphalt in relative isolation. Now "mycorrhizal-type" networks are forming that make it easier to share information and exchange resources. Participants in the new economy prefer to source from and partner with each other, which is leading to new value chains and symbiotic relationships. As the system is becoming more complex and diverse, new ecological niches are opening up, and purpose-driven enterprises are emerging and adapting to fill them.
Economic systems, like ecological systems, cannot be predicted or controlled, but they can evolve and change over time in response to changing conditions, and in this case, the changing condition is all of us. In communities all around the world, people are choosing to prioritize people and the planet in their daily lives and work, they are choosing to support enterprises that share their values, and they are choosing to collaborate and take collective action. By making different choices, we change the rules and speed up the transition to an inclusive, regenerative economic system that enables us all to thrive within planetary boundaries.
*Amanda Kiessel is an innovative progressive entrepreneur
prioritizing a symbiosis between economy and the environment.
She has a PhD in Environmental Studies from U. California/Santa Cruz
and is a ongoing Fellow
advocacy team, Ashoka. S
he lives in Sri Lanka s
erving as an advocate and communicator for Good Market.
She was an outstanding
student in my (DZ) Global Ecology and Symbiosis courses at Boston University
in the late 1990s.
She can be reached email@example.com
Finding community and dynamic Nature in Southeast Asia
by Alex Ray*
Mangroves at Krabi, Thailand, Photos by Alex
Railey Beach near Krabi, Thailand. The region is dominated by high karst towers (limestone rock), cliffs and caves some dating back to the Permian at 300 mya. Much of this calcium carbonate (limestone) was once part of life below the sea level forming massive platforms and reefs.
It was over 100 degrees in the Mekong Delta when the bus dropped me off an hour away from my hotel. I had a backpack weighing 60 plus pounds and a bag of empty water bottles. My clothes were soaked. I walked along an unpaved highway, motorbikes kicking up mud-brown clouds as they zipped by pho vendors lounging lazily behind brightly colored wooden stalls set a savvy distance from the road. I was the only one walking, a rare but not unfamiliar sight in rural Vietnam: a 6’2’’ white guy with long hair, shabby clothing, and a dopey grin. It was the last place I expected to feel welcome.
In September of 2019,
I journeyed to Southeast Asia with the intention to eat, sweat, and wrap my New York-indoctrinated brain around a land less industrial. Hoping to avoid the pitfalls of tourism and hedonism that come with tropical beaches and mega-fauna haunts, I decided to set up my trip with a degree of structure. I planned to make a circuit through five countries (Malaysia, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand), spend a full month in each nation, and between all the culture shock and esoteric exploration, attempt to educate myself on the area’s trajectory. Specifically, I wanted to understand the effects of climate change and glean the region’s potential for an egalitarian response.
The trip was wild and perspective-shattering. Yes, in that cliché way that most vagabonds claim on a backpacking adventure through unfamiliar land. The nature was staggering in lushness, diversity, and ironically alien biology. The food (nature’s gullet-gut conduit) was luscious and thundering. And, despite how often I will refer to these countries as a group, it’s worthy noting that they are more than these five. Indonesia, in particular, will have a massive role to play with climate change given it’s oceanic nature and colossal population size. All are unique in history, ethnic make-up, geography, and overall cultural identity.
Despite their differences (such as Vietnam having over 2000 miles of coastline and Laos having zero), they all share a diverse set of biomes within a burgeoning region of the world. Vietnam alone has a mind-boggling array. Between the humid Mekong Delta in the south, the misty Sa Pa Mountains in the north, and the geological jewels of monkey-clambered limestone dappling Ha Long Bay, I was in a constant state of Humboldtian awe.
Sadly, not everything was endless emerald jungle and fresh fruit juice. The atrocities committed during the Vietnam War are still stark. The genocide by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia is still felt in the killing fields and prisons. Acres of wild biodiverse rainforest are now monoculture palm tree farms in Malaysia. Foreign companies spread capitalism-at-any-cost dominance via skyscrapers and mega-malls in Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur. Populations are booming. Poverty is amok. Change is volcanic.
Back to the Mekong motorway. I trudged bleary and determined through the heat and dust. My brain was set on downing a bowl of spicy noodles and a passion-fruit shake. But my salivary daydreams kept getting interrupted. Almost every single motorbike that passed me, and there were many, slowed, stopped, and gestured me to hop along for a ride. Nervous and sullied by the fearful admonishments of my upbringing, I politely declined their offers. They simply smiled and zoomed on. A few minutes later, another motorbike would pull up and pat on the back seat. They didn’t make me feel stupid. They didn’t even ask me where I was going. They just simply offered a ride.
I pictured the opposite situation, a Vietnamese person walking down a highway in New York, and wondered how many, if any, would stop and offer a ride. It was this type of hospitality, the unwavering human kind, that kept arising from the region and its people. The idea that everyone is part of the community if you walk the same land. Zoom out, and we’re all creatures of the same species on the same chemically-chaotic rock. Ecology and geology unite us all -- borders and boundaries be damned! In now the anthropocene age, this was simultaneously an inspiring yet sobering reminder.
Communities band together
At the end of the day (or era of history), what matters in regards to climate change is action. Human beings coming together, from grassroots to the government chamber, and enacting sustainable solutions. This requires the force of tangible communities, not just those that are propagated online (although they have their own immense power), but actual living groups of people who interact with each other and the environment upon which they fully depend. Throughout my trip, I was amazed at the strength of these communities and their integration with each other. Farming families banded together to sell their produce in a market. Festivals and holidays focused on music and history, instead of buying and accumulating. Restaurants served local, healthy food. I couldn’t help but compare this unity to America, where physically interacting communities shrink, food is increasingly separated from its nature-source, and selfishness is often the highest mark of success.
I’ll be honest, I was not expecting to find such powerful layers of community. Even less to see them welcome someone like me. After America’s political effluvia in the region through the last century, I was expecting gelid tour guides and hateful hawkers. Instead, they acknowledged that many Americans were opposed to what was done, and knew that even more would have been opposed if they had seen what was happening firsthand. As with their own national foibles, they believe that the leaders at the top are the ones to blame. Despite the Vietnam War, Nixon's secret war in Cambodia, and all the unexploded ordinance in Laos, they were ready to befriend and build towards something better. Such displays of forgiveness and logical antagonism seem impossible in America's political climate today, where populations are vilified en masse and leaders are viewed as powerless pawns ultimately at the mercy of large corporations.
A crucible for meaningful change
Woe aside, the potential for positive feels immense. On a grand scale, the governments are young and malleable. Tolerance for existing social machinery is appropriately wary. The pillars of society that dictate life are not so old as to stand forever in the way of change. Many have lived through horror. They are not naïve to the way the world changes. Such factors form a crucible for meaningful change; the type of change necessary to combat warming seas, land-use change, and the current catastrophic culling of biodiversity worldwide.
This region of the world has the potential to be one of most progressive and active forces in combating human-caused climate change over the next three decades. Between their cultural connections to their environment, relatively recent industrialization, and passionate sense of community, and a sense of their dependency on Nature, they have the ingredients necessary to transition themselves and their neighbors into paragons of a sustainable future society.
Last anecdote in the Mekong. Eventually, I arrived at my hotel. I was greeted with a fresh dinner and a cool bed. That night, it was New Years Eve. I had anticipated spending it alone, but the owner of the hotel ushered me to one of the local restaurants where other members of the community had gathered. The jungle was alive and noisy around us. There was a massive spread of incredible food, an endless chest of potent drinks, and a smiling group of people, none of whom spoke a word of English. They welcomed me as if I was family.
As a final disclaimer, in case this was not already clear, it is appropriate to note that much of what I’ve discussed is oversimplified and generalized. I’m not an expert in agriculture, global politics, or sociology. I’m a curious observer. An amateur armchair biologist. A member of the unwashed many. But still, I hope, I believe -- that as the oceans rise, so will the people.
Te, owner of a small hotel in Mekong, Vietnam and Alex. Alex is a writer and was an exceptional former student in my (DZ) Global Ecology and Symbiosis courses several years ago. Alex can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Microcosmos - remembering a unique and impactful
microbial ecology educational journey initiated 32 years ago
by Douglas Zook
How strange that the most common and arguably the most influential life forms on earth cannot be seen with the naked human eye. The vast majority of Homo sapiens inhabiting the planet today and throughout our 250,000 year history have never seen the diverse microcosmic life which we now know are as relevant and important as one can imagine. After all, many of their bacterial members are lifelong partners with and in us and all mammals, influencing profoundly the proper functioning and longevity of all our body organs. This "hidden universe" viewable by eyes was surely a highly "reasonable" and quick rejection in the evolutionary processes of natural selection for us primates. I mean, can we imagine what it would have been like to have eyesight such that we could see several million microbes in nearly every square centimeter around us?! This would be beyond walking through the densest locust swarm event or nearly impossible to traverse even a room or a park path in reasonable time, consistently blinded by constant layers of microobial life.
This far out-of-sight all-important realm of life became the basis of a program designed for teachers of science in the upper elementary through early college years. Longtime friend, mentor, and colleague, the brilliant late and legendary Lynn Margulis and I had initially embarked on a road to create a microcosmos museum where young learners, their teachers, and the public could learn about who really makes the biosphere be operative and effective. While an ambitious undertaking with support from renowned scientist colleagues and educators, it also required more time than either of us could devote. However, we then thought perhaps even more far-reaching and productive would be an engaging curriculum guide for teachers with direct workshops offered such that science educators and planners far and wide would discover that microbial life and their important unending contributions can actually be discovered and accessed in school settings at various grades with minimal technical instrumentation and within a hands-on ecological framework.
With Lynn's blessing and promise of her participation as needed in leading some workshop sessions, I used my role as overseeing the Masters program and teaching both the science teaching methods and symbiosis courses to encourage enthusiastic and talented graduate students, experienced creative teachers, scientist-colleagues, and artists, to come on board. Thus, there emerged a uniquely dedicated and talented Microcosmos Team which would quickly go on to develop interactive explorations for the classroom that would later result in a 380 page loose-leaf binder curriculum guide, published by Kendall-Hunt, reaching hundreds of teachers nationwide and in five countries during the 1990s. Perhaps most remarkable was that this Microcosmos Team, that varied from 15-20 participants at any given time, developed the highly-regarded, practical Guide as volunteers! Immersed in this goal, grant-seeking ironically was not as yet prioritized. After all, the Guide's lessons, often created by individual members of the Team and then brought to all for feedback, had to be tested out directly with teachers. Microcosmos explorations for the draft Guide were enacted by various teachers at various school districts in New England, providing important feedback and resulting in the published Guide.
Soon after, I took on the challenging task of doing something on a scale I hadn't attempted before -- designing with input from several of the brilliant Team members an ambitious 3-year funding proposal to the National Science Foundation. To my surprise, I was asked by the Program Officer assigned to give the final thumbs up or down, to come to Washington DC on my own expenses and meet with him. Within minutes of the meeting's start, he made clear that the funds I requested were not enough and that "our approach should be to seize the opportunity for such a unique and necessary program." So, my $600K program, thanks to the NSF program officer went up to $1.1 million, allowing us to really reach in an in-depth fashion hundreds of teachers. A crucial piece that really made a difference in the Team's success was "the multiplier effect," wherein selected teachers known to have leadership qualities were chosen from the many applicants with the important stipulation that they would be required to organize and enact a minimum 10-hour workshop for teacher-colleagues in their State regions. About 20 selected teacher-leaders attended each of the original 3 two-week Microcosmos Workshops at Boston University, each involving over 75 hours of direct Microcosmos exploration (lesson) familiarity and
At the Microcosmos exhibit area at the Boston University School of Education are several members of the Microcosmos Team with visiting teachers prior to a workshop.
University students in 1992 with the International Honors Program (IHP) build a microbial Winogradsky column at a Boston University Microcosmos session before they embark on their global ecology-centered visit to New Zealand, reconnecting with Dr. Zook there.
Teachers in India getting familiar with the Microcosmos curriculum
After one of the New Mexico workshop sessions near Albuquerque that featured a field trip, a dedicated teachers decided to take some notes and recollections sitting in the Rio Grande.
Lynn Margulis periodically treked into Boston University from UMass/Amherst to lead one of the Microcosmos sessions and to interact with the science teacher-leaders from around the Nation. Lynn's impact on the teachers was profound with her wealth of biosphere knowledge and her dynamic enthusiasm for the microbial world.
The two-week intensive workshops for teacher leaders, such as those pictured here from around the country, were always lively and engaging. Here they practice a Microcosmos activity that gets middle and high school students intrigued about the symbiotic origin of eukaryotes, wherein working in teams one bubble must be taken in but not "digested" by another bubble (a kind of "phagocytosis"), mirroring how certain free-living bacteria became part of an evolving microbial protist.
Childen at a school in Denver, Colorado discovering a new, dominant and eye-opening world with the 30X microviewer and assorted miscellaneous objects in this
practice. These 2-week sessions included field trips to Sippiwisset Marshlands on Cape Cod, to the Parker River Wildlife Refuge in Newburyport, MA, and the Halibut Point coastal conservation region at Pigeon Cove,/Rockport, Ma.
The regional workshops around the nation, later organized and conducted by the Microcosmos-trained teacher-leaders, effectively resulted in over 500 teachers becoming Microcosmic, many profoundly and creatively, directly through the grant. Several of the teacher-leaders from around the Nation were selected to be visited by a Microcosmos Team member, a few of whom became critically important Microcosmos employees through the grant and beyond. Moreover, from 1988 through 1998, apart from the NSF-supported sessions at Boston University School of Education, Microcosmos workshops continued via invitations and small grants including for USA teachers in the settings of Oxford University, UK; in Puerto Rico; Winnipeg, Canada that included a live tv broadcast of Microcosmos; the Exploratorium in San Francisco; several in New Mexico based at Albuquerque Academy; in both the North and South Isles fo New Zealand, and of course in scores of schools and community settings in New England. New York and beyond. All told, an estimated 150 multi-day workshops were conducted, led by at least one Microcosmos team member.
So just who were these science education heroines and heroes that made up the Microcosmos Team? Key Team members and Microcosmos employees who contributed major time, energy, expertise, creativity and essential humor, include versatile outstanding leaders Pam Pelletier, who later went on to become science education director for Boston public schools; Joe Martinez, herpetologist and one of my doctoral students who went on as a curator assistant and educator at Harvard's Museum of Comparative Zoology (now Natural History Museum). Without Pam and Joe, Microcosmos would never have had the educational successes it had. The employed Team members also included another of my doctoral students Doris Santamaria, now a professor at Frostburg State University, Maryland and Jennifer Alienello-Young), now Library Media Specialist at Norton High, MA.
And, so many Team members continued as volunteers within their busy work and/or student schedules. Truly remarkable, talented, winsome people whose impact on the Microcosmos program and its goals was extraordinary. They include Tom Danko, a much-admired and impactful teacher at Lincoln-Sudbury High, MA; Jeanne Century, now Director of Outlier Research and Evaluation, University of Chicago; Fred Stein, who went on to be the Education Director of the Science Discovery Museum in Action, MA and now is Senior Science Educator at the Exploratorium, San Francisco: Ann Powers, whose creative art skills often elevated the Microcosmos message; Jenny Stricker, now a soil conservationist, Colorado; Brian Dempsey, Biology teacher at Acton-Boxborough High School and Coordinator of the Massachusetts Association of Biology Teachers; Don DeRosa, who went on to direct the CityLab program based at Boston University; Barbara Dorritie, now a science teacher at Cambridge Rindge and Latin; David Form, science teacher at Nashoba Regional High in Bolton, MA; Martha Brunet, now a retired science teacher in Tennessee; Martha Svatek, now a retired science teacher, Concord-Carlisle, MA; Joel Hawes, School Director at Berwick Academy, Maine; Daniel Eleuterio, now program manager for the US Navy Marine Meteorology and Space Program; and Paul Utterback, now Occupational Health Consultant, Oregon, among others.
In addition, many of workshops or special presentations featured distinguished highly accomplished scientists beside of course Lynn Margulis. These individuals added greatly to the workshops and included Prof. Ricardo Guerrero, microbial ecologist at Autonomous University in Barcelona, Dr. Nancy Kedersha, cell biologist and photographer; and microbiologist Dr John Stolz of Duquesne University who specializes in magneto-bacteria and earth systems science.
The creative hands-on teaching and learning approaches we developed for the Microcosmos Curriculum Guide and is implementation in classrooms throughout the Nation received a good deal of positive attention from education specialists. This fueled in 1993 my being selected by the National Academy of Sciences to be part of a committee that would develop science teaching and content standards for the Nation, After two years of meetings, sharing, discussion, the Standards were released and over the years became the basis for comprehensive science teaching frameworks in each of the fifty States.
Initiated in 1988, the Microcosmos Project made an historic impact in raising awareness of the importance of microbes in the biosphere and emphasized engaging, innovative teaching methods. After about ten years, I and the Team transitioned to new challenges and themes. While the Microcosmos Curriculum Guide to Exploring Microbial Space has been out of print for some time, I hope to make the pdf of the book available on line in the near future for today's science educators to discover, utilize.
A few photos above and to the left accompanying this narrative give some hints about the program. But, even better is to take some time and click up the series of three video excursions -- each about 10 minutes -- showing the Microcosmos in action (with music), and featuring just a fraction of the hundreds of teachers and thousands of students who were actively involved in the Microcosmos microbial ecology experience around the Nation and beyond in other countries (Spain, New Zealand, Canada, Bahamas, Puerto Rico, United Kingdom, and India). Here BELOW are the video links to view and bookmark. Enjoy!
Global Ecology Education Initiative
a program within UMass/Boston
School for the Environment
Via invited zooms, I (Doug) am landing at various high school classes periodically now thru mid-June as part of a new EarthCare tour focused on global ecology, the Amazon, and earth-centered ethics. Recent and upcoming sessions include at Cambridge Rindge and Latin, Concord-Carlisle, Northampton, Roxbury/Boston,et al. Made possible by donors and my belief in reciprocity, giving back what I can to the earth and its dynamic biosphere.
To contribute to GEEI efforts, send a tax deductible check made out to UMass/Boston (NOT to GEEI) and write "For GEEI in SforEnv't" on the check memo and send to Dr. Douglas Zook (GEEI), 136 Pleasant Street #5, Brookline, MA 02446. I will then pass it along to the appropriate financial administrator at UMass/Boston who handles gifts wherein it will be placed in a Global Ecology Education Initiative account in the School for the Environment. Any questions or if you prefer credit card, contact me at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org and i can give you the link/info to do this directly to UMass/Boston.
I and the planet deeply thank you!
Remembering a special friend of mine (DZ) and of the earth,
I had the great pleasure of working with Mike many years ago as part of a creative education team at the Boston Franklin Park Zoo. Mike was caring, warm, and often brightened a room or situation with his great wit and down to earth intellect. Mike passed away recently from a stroke at age 72. One of a kind, he will be greatly missed by all who knew him.
by Janina Lamb, https://www.lamblionstudio.com/lettering.html
Very cool relaxing experience!
Embracing Nature, series 1 by Douglas Zook
The collage on the left shows several of the featured 22 images, which on the lustre high weight photo paper, really look
like original prints.
The dramatic wraparound panoramic image is embedded into the hardcover front and back. And it is a layflat 10 x 12.5" book, meaning that the binding is such that there is no annoying page lift/bump.
In a sense it is more like an artist portfolio book. Such books on quality material are not cheap unless the photographer has ordered and paid for hundreds to stock up, which of course I cannot do!
It is available for $100 including shipping,
10% of which will go to the
Global Ecology Education Initiative.
Send a check for $100 made out to
Douglas Zook and send to: 136 Pleasant Street #5, Brookline, MA 02446.
Or order via Paypal to my