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Archive for the ‘Ecosystem’ Category

by Kathy Landis

There are so many things to love in this world: the light coming in a window, the laughter of a loved one, the dance of water in the wind. Each is an interplay. Today I marvel at the juxtapositions of events – the interplay between Good Friday and Earth Day. This dovetailing is fascinating and together they weave something quite powerful.

I am struck by the weight and haunting image of Christ on the cross. I am also amazed at what we continue to kill that is necessary for life. It is clear that just as humanity is willing to kill “God with us” in Jesus, we are willing to kill “God with us” in Earth. It is fitting that these two days coincide.

Recently, I was reading about wolves and was reminded that they do not overkill. They kill only what they need. They live within what is available to them. They know and celebrate enough. Yet, if they have experienced a famine their habits change. They have known want, and they switch to excess: overkilling time and time again.

I wonder what is our famine? What is behind our orientation toward overkill?

The movie “No Impact Man” is an intriguing story of a family living in NYC experimenting and discovering what they really need. They live for a year trying to have as little impact on Earth as possible. From their experiment they learn what brings quality of life, what fills spaces and desires, and what simply “appears” to fill spaces within. Their self-imposed “famine” brings not overkill, but abundance and joy. At the end of the year, no impact man surmised that the source of many of our problems is that we no longer have community, we no longer experience connection.

I was reading a magazine earlier this year that stated the following:

 The environmental revolution is entering a new phase. We’ve had the dawn of awareness, the clamor for reform, a spate of legislation. Now comes the time for working a lot of bright hopes and plans through to fruition. The head of the EPA, put it, “We’re in a gap between the time of commitment and progress visible to the man on the street.” Whose job is this critical phase? It seems clear that this new chapter in the Environmental Revolution inescapably involves everybody – government, business (both industrial and agricultural), communities, organized conservation groups, and citizens… and that success hinges on the degree of coordinated effort among them.

 Indeed these are motivational words; words that could inspire us to work together, to contend with our alienation from each other, Earth and possibly even God. We are, afterall, Earth-born beings made for connection. But dear friends, these words were written in a 1973 publication!

Easter Sunday will offer us hope and images of resurrection. Yet, Earth’s restoration will not happen on Easter Sunday. Earth’s resurrection requires humanity to acknowledge its famine-induced overkilling actions and fully live into the connections we have been blessed into.

Between the idea, and reality

Between the motion and the act,

Falls the shadow.

–          T. S. Elliot

 May we understand our part of the shadow.

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Leave no trace. There’s a phrase that I’ve been familiar with for a long time. When I was ten I went on my first wilderness camping trip, which happened to be in the Boundary Waters. I still remember watching the classic Forest Service video for the first time. Welcome to the Boundary Waters. We want to keep it looking as it does now, pristine and untouched. Leave no trace. These are the words to remember… or something like that. I’ve watched it at least six times this summer alone, so I should have it memorized. Still, the idea is there, and it remains there in my mind. We as humans have touched enough of this planet as it is, often leaving ignoble traces aplenty in our wake. With a place as unique and pristine as the Boundary Waters, we should strive to keep it as ‘untouched’ as possible – for the sake of future visitors as well as the local ecosystems.

My time at Wilderness Wind has certainly inspired me to live up the Forest Service’s ideals, sometimes even going further in taking time to consider my impact. On our staff trip, I remember Kathy proudly holding up a piece of trash she found on our first portage trail. Putting it in her pocket she said matter-of-factly, “and this is what we do with any trash we find. We pack it out. We pack out our own trash, and even the trash of others that we find, no matter how big. That way, we leave the wilderness less ‘touched’ and looking nicer than we found it.” She then went on to describe how one particularly zealous former trip leader had his group pack out several large gallon-sized glass jugs they had found at a camp site. Setting the bar high… (At our very first campsite on our staff trip we found two discarded folding lawn chairs, which we diligently carted along for the remainder of the trip.)

Leading my own groups later as a trip leader, I tried to foster the same diligent, even excited, attitude toward leaving no trace. Frankly, I was amazed at how consistently people caught on and joined in the enthusiasm. On one trip, an entire family scurried around each campsite, unbidden, collecting pieces of candy bar wrapper, fishing line, discarded socks, and so forth. In one post-trip evaluation form, one member of a youth group commented under the question What makes Wilderness Wind unique? “Leave no trace!” (He was very excited about this during the trip.) On a later trip, also full of litter vigilantes, one father asked if he could get ‘bonus points’ for having picked up a wrapper on a portage trail while he’d had a canoe on his head! People are willing enough to do their part in caring for the environment, it would seem, and the enthusiasm of others helps maintain my own.

During one trip a few weeks ago, we were camped at a nice site on Lake Agnes. I was out a good distance from the site foraging for wood when I came across a large green Coleman cooler [picture above]. Forgotten? I opened it and it was full of trash – an empty ketchup bottler, plastic bags, a tang container… No, this was very intentionally left here. I was annoyed that someone had been lazy enough to not want to drag their cooler back out through the seven or so portages yet took the time to hide their laziness by lugging the darned thing way back into the woods. I was also annoyed at the thought of having to drag it out myself. I debated letting it sit for the next ecologically conscious chump… and then I realized that that was exactly the title I was trying to reclaim here at Wilderness Wind. I do my part to haul my crap out of wilderness areas, and I’m so devoted to the idea that I’ll even clean up after others.

I drug the cooler back to camp. Nobody flinched. It was unspoken yet understood and gladly accepted that we would ‘pack it out.’ Some ingenuity on the part of one group member even brought about a nifty little ‘portage handle’ for the cooler. No big trouble on our part, a slightly more natural wilderness area, nurtured steward-like attitudes toward nature… and a nifty makeshift dinner table at our camp site…

freshly harvested blueberries for dinner on a stunning new kitchen table

pack cribbage on the card table

packing out the table/trash

back on staff trip: lounging in the trash we were packing out

Blog and pictures by Matthew Rody, Trip Leader 2010

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