Wednesday, February 29, 2012

There does not need to be a conflict between the conservation, appreciation, and enjoyment of nature on the one hand and the ability to lead a comfortable, luxurious, entertaining lifestyle.  All that is needed is a new definition of what constitutes value, luxury, and comfort.  Nature is more luxurious than anything man made.  Being able to walk through Eagle Landing Park every day is opulent, comfortable, and exciting.  Today I enjoyed a nice storm.  I found a spot at the beach, under the big maple, without a puff of wind.  The trunk of the tree rocked back and forth with the high winds at the top, but a falling helicopter seed would have spiraled straight down, near the ground.  From my windless shelter, I looked out at whitecaps and seagulls playing on the wind.  They had to work hard at landing, as the wind kept trying to lift them.  Quite often on these windy days, I see someone on a sailboard skipping along from wave to wave.  He zips right out into the middle of the sound.  If he were to hit his head on the board in an accident, he would drown before help could arrive.  Maybe he is agile and fit and knows what he is doing, but it seems to me like he is risking his life for his enjoyment of nature.  The sailboarder and I have quite different ways of enjoying a storm, but both methods respect and preserve nature.  We both embrace the excitement of the storm, which is much better than any video game or movie. 

I have wealth in this public park.  Every day I see something new, even after decades of visiting this forest.  Other people consider wealth to be large houses, gold, numbers on a computer screen, and the ability to compel others to do work for you.  There is nothing intrinsically valuable about those perceived trappings of wealth.  In a society with different values, a large house could be seen as a liability.  Gold might be viewed as an environmental disaster.  Gold represents the destruction of entire ecosystems.  Hiring others to do your work is not nearly as satisfying as having people volunteer to help you.

Although I consider myself an environmentalist in many respects, there are those committed individuals that make me look like a lightweight, a pretender.  One man rides his bike everywhere, long distances, to get to meetings and entertainments and work.  A successful Hollywood actor has no possessions and lives in a very small, plain house.  I know people who have a vegan diet, and I agree it is better for the environment.  I have not succeeded in my many attempts to stick to a vegetarian diet, despite knowing that it's best for my body, my mind, and my environment.  Still, I do make choices to be as environmentally positive as I can, given my weaknesses.  I am trying not to buy any stuff I don't absolutely need.  My books, movies, and music are mostly digital, with no packaging and no storage requirements.  I try to drive less by combining trips.  But I am not doing without.  I am not sacrificing.  I have my digital books, my photography, and my forest to walk in, so I am rich. 

I imagine a future where Seattle is completely invisible.  It appears to be continuous forest from mountains to sea.  All the housing is underground, in buildings housing 30,000 people in spacious, clean, bright apartment homes.  Everyone has a great view.  Your bowling alley, movie theater, and grocery store are all contained inside your residence building.  No one owns a car, and the train takes you from your residence building to the underground office or factory or warehouse where you work.  For recreation, people hike in the endless wilderness, take pictures, make music, ride sailboards, and read books.  Why is tearing up the Earth on a dirt bike intrinsically better than gliding along the surface of the water on a sailboard, leaving no trace?  It is not.  It is the philosophy that wealth equals the destruction of the Earth that drives these value systems.  It is not based on reason.  If you want to collect, collect memories and photographs.  If you want possess land, become the steward of your local park.  If you want to bask in luxury, sit in the sun on a mountain top after hiking up there. 

When I ask people to treat our local park with respect and kindness, I am not asking them to give up luxury, comfort, convenience, and entertainment.  I am simply pointing out that their current definitions of those terms are not inevitable.  Nature is far more opulent, interesting, and comfortable than any mansion. 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A conservative and a conservationist conversed in a conservatory.  The conservative, Conrad, and the conservationist, Constance, agreed to a rational discussion where each would try to persuade the other to change their core values.

Conrad said, "You can't have values if they change.  If your position changes over time, that means you don't have any core values to anchor your philosophy."

Constance said, "If your core value is change, specifically improvement, then your subsidiary values would necessarily change while your core value remains constant.  At any rate, the core values of conservatives have always changed.  The definition of family used to dictate that women and children were property of men, that they were servants without choices.  Women were not allowed to vote, and sometimes they weren't even allowed to speak.  Very few conservatives today want to preserve a way of life in which women are property, basically slaves.  What conservatives conserve is power.  They conserve those systems where control remains in the hands of the few.  Power has spread to an ever larger group throughout history, from a handful of tribal leaders and kings to large numbers of businessmen and inheritors of wealth.  This diffusion of power and wealth to a larger group was only ever made possible by changes brought about by liberals.  Conservatives have always benefited from the change wrought by liberals.

"In contrast, most liberals tend to vote away their own power and wealth, distributing it to ever larger subsets of formerly disenfranchised groups, not limited to people.  The heart of the environmental movement seeks to give power to the environment itself, ecosystems, animals, and plants.  The conservationist wants to conserve our most basic asset, the environment, whether or not this preservation is at the expense of traditional and opulent lifestyles.  Perversely, conservatives remain in power partially because liberals tend to surrender their wealth and power, reducing their own influence."

Conrad said, "I don't know what liberals you are talking about, but the ones I've had to deal with wanted to take power and wealth away from the wealthy.  Liberals don't give away their own money; they give away other people's money."

Constance:  "The foundation of your argument is flawed for several reasons.  First, all wealth comes from resources, namely, natural resources.  Even in the field of scientific discovery, that wealth of knowledge comes from studying nature and learning her secrets.  Every way you can think of to make money today is based on the taking of resources from nature.  One mainstay of wealth is extractive industry, where raw materials are valued at nothing until someone who finds those resources claims them.  This is just a Finders Keepers sort of claim, and it often disregards indigenous people who live on that land.  People from powerful nations make agreements with each other to respect each other's claims of ownership of property and resources that once belonged to no one.  Everything that is now owned, that is a source of wealth today, was just wilderness 50,000 years ago.  As people spread about the globe, they claimed property and resources as their own, not because they had some deed of ownership, but simply because they had the power to claim that property.  Prior to 50,000 years ago, the Earth did not belong to anyone.  Now, ownership is the foundation of wealth, and all ownership began as theft.  The wealth that you claim liberals want to take away is, in every instance, wealth that was stolen in the first place.

"The second flaw in your claim that liberals want to steal wealth from the wealthy is that the wealthy have progressively gotten wealthier in the last sixty years.  More wealth is concentrated in fewer hands.  If anything, liberals want to stop the flow of wealth into the coffers of the wealthy.  When it comes to the environment, the wealth of some people relies on the claim that not only are raw materials free for the taking, but the dumping of waste into the environment is also a traditional, given right.  Conservatives often claim that environmental regulations are an unfair tax on business, and it is a way for liberals to steal wealth and freedoms from conservatives.  50,000 years ago, humans contributed almost no pollution to the environment.  It is the consumer lifestyle that fuels our economy that increases the flow of waste and toxins into the shared environment.  Meanwhile, the wealthy and the conservatives have the resources to shield themselves from the effects of pollution while the poor must experience exposure to pollutants disproportionately.  All conservative models of government are built on economic growth, which translates into increased exploitation of natural resources and increased loads of toxins in the environment.  Conservatives have twisted logic around to say that the obstruction of paths to wealth constitutes "Redistribution of Wealth" which is a code for liberals stealing money from conservatives.  In reality, the basis of capitalism has always been the redistribution of wealth, namely getting coins out of the consumer's pocket and into the coffers of business.  If a conservationist wants to slow the accumulation of more wealth into fewer hands for the sake of preserving nature and natural resources, that is decried as communism."

Conrad sighed, and said, "Look, you grew up in a wealthy society.  You benefited from those industrial pioneers you are now trying to throttle.  Capitalism gave you an education, and you never could have gone to the college that gave you those environmentalist ideals if not for the hard work of businessmen, entrepreneurs, and capitalists.  If conservationists had had their way 50,000 years ago, we would still be swinging from trees, wearing loincloths, and eating monkey brains."

"Ouch," said Constance.  "The irony of your last statement was like a skillet to the head.  You're saying that conservatives are the engines of change, that piracy is necessary to conserve a way of life that hadn't even been invented yet.  Well, if an environmentalist could turn the clock back 50,000 years, she would likely want to restart the clock and guide civilization along a different path.  Instead of breeding seven billion people in the name of the right to an unlimited number of children, an environmentalist might have pursued policies limiting the total human population to less than a billion.  Also, with the benefit of knowing how things turned out, an environmentalist would have cautioned that, for every wasteful industrial process discovered, a more efficient, cleaner process is on the way; therefore, it is not necessary to throw every scrap of a particular natural resource into the hopper of one newfangled industrial process.  If we had conserved one tenth of the old growth forest present in 1492 in the land that would eventually become the US, the value of those materials would be astronomical in terms of economic opportunity, let alone environmental benefits.  At every step of the way, industrialists and capitalists have systematically screwed over the industrialists and capitalists coming along behind them.  Knowing that technologies such as tool-making, agriculture, publishing, industrial manufacturing, electronics, biotech, medicine, and transportation would always be able to accomplish more work with less effort and waste, an environmentalist would have slowed the pointless destruction of resources in processes that would soon be obsolete.

"Right now," continued Constance, "we are 50,000 years in the past of some future society.  What I want to conserve will benefit all future humans, indeed all future species on Earth, human or not.  If conservatives had their way, wealth and power would flow as rapidly as possible to an ever-smaller number of people in the present, and the environment would be sacrificed wherever necessary.  This accumulation of wealth in dollars would be passed down to a few inheritors, and probably be squandered on trifles, while our collective wealth in the environment would be diminished for all future people, conservatives or liberals.  The conservative mantra is Freedom.  Freedom might be equated with Equality, as in equal opportunity.  Instead, Freedom in the conservative sense is the right to pursue inequalities in wealth and opportunity.  In conservative terms,  all people should have an equal right to get as much money from their neighbors as possible.  If you can create an advantage over a competitor, you should.  In fact, you have a duty to be your best and to crush your competition.  That is the American Way.  The people at the greatest disadvantage, the easiest to exploit, are the ones that haven't been born yet.  It is easiest to take resources from, and leave burdens to, future generations.  If conservatives got their way, the way of life they want to conserve would be attainable by ever smaller numbers of people.  Only if conservationists succeed will conservatives even have an arena in which to operate."

Conrad said, "Although nothing you've said is remotely true, everything you want in life comes at a cost to me.  You want higher taxes, more regulation, fewer freedoms, and fewer rights."

"I want a lower tax on our environment, which is a resource that belongs to the present and the future, if it belongs to anyone.  I want regulations that protect everyone's future assets.  I want future generations to have the freedom to play in a clean, healthy environment.  I want all species to have the right to a healthy life."

Conrad said, "It sounds like you want conservatives to do all the changing while liberals stay the same."

"We don't seem to be getting any closer to an agreement on who should change," said Constance.

Monday, February 27, 2012

It's harder to tell when people are appreciating nature.  I can clearly see when they are abusing nature, but acts of appreciation can be quiet and contemplative.  Nature was spectacular today, and deserving of appreciation.  A woman and two children walked along the same tide pools where I was hunting for pictures of species.  I could not hear if they noticed all the wonderful life at their feet.  The only thing I heard was one of the girls exclaiming, "A tire!"  I suppose the fact that it struck her as being remarkably out of place is a sign of some appreciation of nature.  It is possible that the 90% of people coming to the park for some other main purpose are also appreciating nature in their own quite ways. 

I took dozens of pictures today, finding all kinds of treasures that others overlooked.  I was able to cull the collection down to 21 images.  The anemone turned out spectacular.  Photography allows me to see things better than I could with just my own vision.  The camera captures and preserves small moments so that I can explore them later.  The picture of the anemone looks like an animation, and yet you can see each individual grain of sand, giving the picture a gritty reality.  The main show hasn't started yet--the spring exlosion of flowers--but I keep finding amazing little treasures like witches' butter, liverworts, and anemones.  I had never seen any of these three species before this year, and the act of looking closer with my camera has led me to these discoveries.  365 species seems like a huge task, but at the rate I am discovering species that were hidden to me, I think it just might be possible. 

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Life is strange.  If they ever discover life on a distant planet, it won't be as weird and wonderful as life on Earth.  Pictured above is a siphon of a clam.  Actually, there are two siphons, one open and one closed, and I can't figure out if they belong to one clam or two.  Nature invented clams, seaweed, spiders, and humans using the same four base pairs of DNA.  A Douglas-fir tree 100 feet tall would seem to have little in common with the tiny mite living inside the lichen growing on its branches.They all started from strands of DNA.  The hundreds of species living in Eagle Landing Park are not so much distinct entities as they are components of the whole system, like the various organs of the human body.  If you examined each organ separately, in a stainless steel pan on the autopsy table, the human body would look alien enough.  Only when you get all those organs working in unison does a human sometimes appear to be a beautiful work of art.  The individual components of my forest often do look beautiful when photographed individually.  Still, a geoduck on the freeway or fir tree in your living room would seem out of place.  When the camera zooms in, evidence of the setting usually remains. 

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Find the Eagle contest has begun, details here.  I need to find my books.  I know I have books on identifying mosses, life in the tidal zone, lichens, plants, mammals, birds, and insects, but I can only find about half of my books.  I suppose I could go to the library.  For now, I am taking pictures and hoping I can look up the species later.  Even better would be if someone saw the pictures and identified them for me.  I would still look it up in the book, but it would save time.  Of the 365 species I hope to find, I probably only know the names of about 100.  This will be a learning experience for me as I get to know my park.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Who cares what happens to Eagle Landing Park?  It's only six acres.  As I've said before, the larger biosphere would have been better off if the land had been converted to housing.  If the entire six acres were paved, top to bottom, with not a single tree left standing, it wouldn't make much difference to the Earth.  In my own community, even among people who visit the park regularly, fewer than ten percent of people who have heard of Eagle Landing Park take the time to appreciate it or help preserve it.  If they can't let their dogs run off-leash at ELP, they will just take them somewhere else.

Someone burned a Qur'an, I guess.  I don't know the details and I don't want to know.  Because one book was burned, thousands of people are rioting and eight or more have been killed.   The book wasn't the only copy of the Qur'an, or especially valuable in some way.  The book was a symbol.  If I had to guess at the psychology of the rioters, their reason must be something like, "If you attack this holy book, you attack us."  Well, that's how I feel about my park.  Not that I feel like rioting, since a riot of one just gets you thrown in jail, but I feel that if you degrade my park, you spit on me.

Why is it that so few people feel like I do?  Fifty years after Rachel Carson's Silent Spring supposedly launched the environmental movement, why are environmentalists so complacent?  Certainly, our rivers are no longer burning, and we don't spray children with DDT.  What we have instead is the exportation of our environmental problems to China.  We also have the steady loss of canopy in cities like Seattle.  And in an insignificant park that no one has ever heard of, people degrade the environment on a daily basis, and their fellow citizens simply stand back and watch.

If it were just ELP, I guess we could write off one park, even if it is the home of my childhood memories and my environmental education.  The problem is that all neighborhoods have their own Eagle Landing Parks under similar assaults.  I have seen the degredation caused by drug use, off-leash dogs, inappropriate activities, and apathy in many other parks around the greater Seattle area.  Entire slopes are turned to mud at Carkeek and Dash Point by dogs and kids.  Westcrest Park has had a chronic problem with a section of the park being used for drugs and sex, to the detriment of the environment.  Hiking far away from the city, I've seen sections of the ground in public parks where bullet casings covered the earth.  If a group of believers can be incited to rioting over one book, but the global village can't be bothered about the slow and steady degradation of our shared natural resources, then there is no hope for humanity.  If Eagle Landing Park cannot become healthier, then it is very likely that the whole biosphere will become sicker, to the detriment of us all.

Why don't people care?  What would it take for people to start caring?  To take action?

Today I saw three people in the park.  A grandmother and two grandchildren walked down to the beach.  I heard screaming.  The toddler banged on things with a blue plastic rake and threw rocks in the water.  The tween girl stuffed her pockets with shells and threw rocks in the water.  If the grandmother made any effort to instill respect and reverence for nature, I did not see evidence of such an effort.  Why did she bother to go to all the trouble of bringing her grandchildren to this remote beach when they could have thrown rocks at home?  I guess Eagle Landing Park has a better selection of rocks.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

I have identified all the easy species, and now when I find a moss or a mushroom or a liverwort, naming the species can involve extensive homework.  By the time I get to species number 365, I will be spending five hours at books and computers for every hour in the park.  I am hoping that Project Noah will help, but so far it hasn't.  My identification requests haven't caught the attention of the right person.  I definitely wouldn't say no to some help on this project. 

I am working on an idea, a contest called Find The Eagle at Eagle Landing Park.  I will invite people to join Project Noah and help me reach my goal of 365 species.  Whoever finds the most species would win a silver eagle coin, an ounce of silver worth about $35 to $50.  Besides helping me identify the species and write this biography, such a contest would hopefully attract more nature lovers to the park, improving the percentages.  Today, I only saw five people in the park, two young men followed by three young men, secretive, looking suspicious, and heading toward a secluded corner of the park.  Perhaps they were members of a poetry club. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Komu and I took the good camera into the park today to capture the interesting fruiting bodies of the liverwort.  They look like something from another planet.  They may have been there for years escaping my notice.  Only by stopping and looking have I discovered so many interesting things about my forest.  I think the resulting pictures are amazing, but I am often mesmerized by the pictures I have taken.  They allow me to see more reality than first meets my eye.

The other day when I talked about the percentage of people who had various priorities when visiting the park, I miscalculated and came up with 110%.  Also, it occurs to me that people can have more than one goal.  I know that I do.  I also tried to think about those percentages and whether I had distorted them.  I thought about the percentages as I saw people on the trail.  I don't think I am distorting the numbers.

50% have exercise as primary goal.
25% have evasion of laws as primary goal.
10% have legal dog walking as primary goal.
10% have enjoyment of nature as primary goal.
5%   have no particular reason for being there.

As I stopped and took pictures, one man ran by us several times as he ran from the beach to the top and back.  I saw five other people who were running or walking up and down the stairs.  Five more people were families with children, taking them for a walk in the park.  Whether that counts as exercise as a primary goal, I'm not exactly sure.  The families I saw with children did not focus their attention on the beauty and fragility of nature.  One kid was throwing a ball, and the two little girls were throwing rocks into the sea.  I saw two people with a dogs on leash, at least as long as I was watching, and two more with dogs off leash.  I saw several people smoking, even though they weren't old enough to buy cigarettes, and it didn't smell like cigarettes.  Later, when I drove by the park in the evening, I saw a car parked with two people in the back seat, and the windows were to foggy for them to have been looking at owls or stars.  I did meet a mother and her adult daughter who had a good digital camera and they asked if the eagles were around today.  About five more people did not indicate, by their behavior, why they came to the park.  So, counting myself, 3 out of 23 people may have been at the park for the primary purpose of enjoying nature.  Today's observations would seem to support my perceived percentages.

If people have other reasons for visiting the park, how do I increase the percentage of people who seek out nature primarily for education, entertainment, and atonement?  How do I get people to notice tiny magical filaments with prismatic dew drops?  I can give a detailed argument why it is in the bests interests of the general public to improve their relationship with mother nature.  Unfortunately, reason is not always persuasive.  I know I often act against my own best interests even when I have facts and logic pointing me in the right way.  Unfortunately, Nature seems to need a PR man most of all.  I find this profoundly sad.  Still, I do like to take my pictures.  If my words won't work, I hope my pictures will help bump the percentages in Nature's favor.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

I was surprised by skunk cabbage today.  I hadn't even been looking for it because I usually take pictures of skunk cabbage in March or April.  I just looked up on the hillside to see what was leafing out, and the flash of yellow caught my eye.  Even standing this close to it, I couldn't smell the skunk cabbage, possibly because of the strong wind, my cold, or both. 

Other plants leafing out included snowberry, huckleberry, osoberry, blackberry, raspberry, thimbleberry, elderberry, and ocean spray.  I will have to get out there with my good camera some time in the next week or so, to catch that fresh growth.  I have said and will continue to say that the forest is just as beautiful at all the other times of year when no flowers bloom, but the arrival of flowers is a delight just as much as the arrival of snow or fall color.  From the standpoint of photography, the flower gives you something to focus on.  Endless bare branches make a nice pattern, but the eye wanders.  Flowers work on us for the same reasons they perform their functions in the ecosystem: they stand out.  In all the six acres of the forest right now, you would only find this bright yellow on the few blooming swamp lanterns.  Like lanterns, they seem to light up the swampy, dark forest. 

In addition to the swamp lantern, I found these odd little seedlings.  Each stalk is as thin as fishing line.  The seed husk sits on top of most of the stalks, each husk about the size of the tip of a ball point pen.  Some of the husks have fallen off to reveal three little things that might be the start of leaves.  I've never seen anything like it.  They could be from outer space. 

The wind roared through the tops of the trees, but down inside the forest, the wind was reduced to random little breezes that would barely move a leaf.  The heavy waves came around the bulkheads to the south coasting on the energy they had.  The whitecaps broke farther out, and the waves lost steam as they hit the beach at ELP. 

I grabbed five stones without looking, just feeling for stones the appropriate size.  Then I rolled them around my cupped hands and let one fall out.  The red one was the winner of the daily lottery, and became the day's stone. 

Monday, February 20, 2012

A Land of Opportunity

Today I saw the first Indian plum bush that broke into full bloom, and I also saw a significant amount of new garbage.  When I am in the park, my forest and my church, I often struggle to direct my thoughts toward the positives.  At every turn in the trail, I am faced with reminders of the bad decisions of people resulting in harm to the park, with no lasting benefit to the perpetrators.  I have a million reasons to be angry, but I don't want to be an angry person.  I don't want to give those people control over my mind, which is in part what they seek with their deliberately thoughtless acts.

So, I paused a good while to admire that first blooming plum, I picked up some of the trash, and I decided to leave it for another day to come up with ways to prevent people from vandalizing my church.  The plum tree was in the middle of the slope, north of the stairs.  I had been watching most of the plum trees for weeks, waiting to see which would be the first to pop.  I had not been watching that particular shrub, nor had I even noticed it was there until it was the first to bloom.  I won't try to photograph it, since it is in the middle of the fragile slope, away from the stairs.  I will wait for the trail-side plants to bloom, any day now.

As I have said previously, it was a mistake to make this land into a park in 2005.  The ecosystem would have been much better served if dozens of homes had been built on this land and healthy forests away from the city could have been spared from development in return.  Since it is now a park, and development is not an option, then I will try to help the forest contribute to the overall ecosystem as much as possible.  Certainly, this forest, with its soil over 8,000 years old and its healthy trees, can provide much-needed ecological services to local species, human and otherwise.  Where this forest could really benefit the rest of the ecosystem would be in the fields of education and culture.

Right now, I would estimate that 10% of the visitors to the park come here to enjoy, respect, protect, and celebrate nature.  50% seem to come here for exercise, to walk on the trail and stairs.  25% would appear to come to the park because it is a place where no standards of behavior can be enforced.  This 25% likes to use the park as an off-leash dog park, a place to use illegal drugs and consume alcohol and tobacco (where they are supposedly prohibited).  A portion of this 25% comes here specifically to inflict damage, knowing they will never, ever see a police officer or any sort of enforcement in the park.  Another 15% come here to walk their dogs in a safe and legal manner.  10% don't particularly have a reason to be here.  They come to the park because they are lost, to meet someone, or just because it was there.  In our current culture, the smallest minority of park visitors come here with the intention of appreciating and admiring nature.  This is based on seven years of observation.  If others have a different view of the intentions of park visitors, I would like to hear their perspectives and the reasons for their conclusions.

If Eagle Landing Park is to have an impact on the environment, it could best do so by changing those percentages mentioned above.  That is the goal of this biography, to make others love the park as much as I do.  As I was walking through the park this evening, trying not to be angry at those who abuse public property for a slight and fleeting benefit, it occurred to me that Eagle Landing Park is a place where you can choose who you are, who you want to be.  It is not Nature, like the wilderness you can find when hiking in the mountains, but it is a proxy for nature.  It is a local interface with nature.  This park is a place where the individual can decide if he wants to be one of those people who preserve and enhance nature, or if he wants to be a member of the group that deliberately destroys nature faster than her ability to heal herself.  I can choose whether to spend my time worshiping my little ecosystem, or being angry at all those people while not changing their minds.  Others who come here, especially the 25% specifically seeking this space as the vacant lot where misbehavior is permitted, have an opportunity to choose a new way.  They can choose to become contributing members of society and help protect the forest.  Or they can choose to continue causing pointless destruction that does not benefit them in the long run.  Visitors to the park have a chance to atone.  They have an opportunity to choose who they want to be, destroyers or protectors.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Again I couldn't muster the energy for a full walk through the park, due to illness.  Instead, I poked around the edges and saw signs of spring.  The Indian plum is leafing out, not quite blooming yet.  The tall Oregon grape has large flower clusters that haven't opened up yet.  Some of the snowberry bushes are covered with fresh little leaves while other snowberry bushes remain dormant.  Some trilliums have poked their heads up through the leaf litter while others are still sleeping. 

Since I have been reading Pacific Feast, I decided to try a little nettle tea, to see if it would help my cold.  I found nettles on private property that are just poking up, and I harvested less than five percent of the colony, with permission of the property owner.  I was careful not to get stung as I snipped off the tops of two plants.  I steeped the nettles in boiling water for fifteen minutes.  It smelled a bit like spinach, so I added a little sugar before tasting it.  With sugar, it was okay, nothing special that I would seek out.  I can't say that it has particularly made me feel better so far. 

60 minutes had a segment on the placebo effect.  The book by Pojar and McKinnon is full of supposed medicinal uses of native plants, and I wonder if the effect may have come from the expectation of a cure.  If I want to reap the benefits of medicinal plants, do I need to cultivate a peculiar ignorance?  Do I need to believe in the power of the plant to heal me?  I can believe in nature, I can believe in the potential goodness of humans and Traditional Ecological Knowledge, but I don't know if I am able to believe in the curative properties of nettles.  I hope it can still work on a skeptic. 

Saturday, February 18, 2012

I didn't know I would be taking so many pictures of rocks when I first started this biography.  It started as a way to visually demonstrate the authenticity of the effort.  Now, it is a ritual, and every time I go to the beach, I look for interesting rocks and interesting settings in which to photograph them.  It has become a kind of language or code.  I have not deciphered the code, and I don't know what the patterns of rocks mean.  It probably means nothing, but the patterns feel like the communication of an essential truth.

I have been searching for a particular type of rock that would speak of the deep history of this land.  I keep checking for fossils as the land opens up before it falls into the tidal zone.  So far, that mammoth tooth or arrowhead has escaped my notice.  I did find one piece of petrified wood, although it does not say anything specific about this forest.  It may have come from far away, brought here by the glacier.

The stones are new every day, even though they are always the same.  When you look across the gravelly beach, it seems the same as every other day.  When I hunt for that particular stone that will star in the day's picture, I see just how varied and beautiful they are.  So many are unique, created in processes I don't understand.  The stones with perpendicular lines seem like that couldn't have been made by any sedimentary process I can imagine.  If each stone could tell its story of millennia, I could learn of the fire and ice, rain and wind, accretion and erosion.  Some rocks bear the scars of sudden dramatic events.  Was one of them blasted out of Mt. Rainier the last time it experienced a major eruption?

Friday, February 17, 2012

The day after I talked about how my forest makes me strong, I became deathly ill.  Sure, it was only a minor cold, but I felt like I was dying at several points.  I did not make the full walk through the park.  Instead, I visualized the park.  I tested myself to see if I could remember every tree, shrub, and blade of grass.  I had no trouble remembering the major trees, the landmarks of the park.  The two remaining sentries by the street, and the one that was sacrificed, now lying on the ground, becoming a nurse log.  I could visualize every twist in the big maple by the Y.  The maple and fir trees smashed up against each other make a memorable image.  I could even think of the trees that were removed, for no good reason.  There are sections of the park that aren't completely visible from the trail, and I could not be certain I remembered the number and orientation of those trees exactly right. 

Some of the shrubs are just a mass, like the salal in the middle of the park.  I remembered most of the individual ocean spray plants, with their distinctive arches.  The red huckleberries are rare enough that I could think of both of them.  I know the locations of all the surviving trilliums, those that haven't been plucked and killed by thoughtless people.  The ferns are hard to remember in specific terms, since they are ubiquitous and fairly uniform.  I remembered all the little trees I planted in the landslide, trying to stabilize it, before I finally gave up on that after losing dozens of trees.  If I knew how to draw or paint, I think I could recreate a representation of the forest, although some of the proportions and exact locations might be a little off. 

Some day I will actually be deathly ill, not just sidelined with a common cold.  My beautiful dogs will probably be gone by then.  When I am alone in that hospital bed, with the noise of distant TVs and the smell of medicines and sanitizers, I will close my eyes and take a walk with my dogs through my forest. 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

In the late nineties, before I became interested in native plants, I worked hard for days to eradicate a patch of thimble berry plants near my kitchen window.  It didn't work.  They grew back bigger and healthier than ever.  I am glad of that, and years later I came to appreciate them.  The would come alive in summer, electrified by dozens of bees.  The patch of thimble berry was about eight feet tall, fifteen feet wide, and forty feet long.  What had been an eyesore and a problem became a treasure because of my attitude change and increased knowledge of ecosystems. 

I did not set out to be an environmentalist.  15 years ago, if you would have told me that my future involved volunteering hundreds of hours for the benefit of the environment and helping lost dogs and cats, I would have said you were crazy.  I am much different now than I was 15 years ago, not because I changed in a way someone mandated, but because I became aware of the value of things I once found worthless.  As a kid, I only thought of the forest as a place to be alone.  I did not care for the environment, and I did not hesitate to flatten any plant that was in my way.  It was just growing there, so why shouldn't I trample it?  If someone would have told me, "You have to change your ways for the benefit of trees and ferns and dogs," I would have resisted.  The change came naturally, over time, as I learned things.

For ELP to be healthy, many people need to change their behaviors.  Obviously, they are not going to change because I want them to.  If I think it is vital for the planet that people change their ways, no one is going to listen to me.  Instead, people ought to change because it is in their own best interests, which it most certainly is.  By entering into a symbiotic relationship with your planet, you can become something greater than you were.  I am the forest and the forest is me.  Where I used to see some trees and a bunch of worthless plants, I now see a vibrant and beautiful ecosystem.  I have integrated myself into that ecosystem in many ways, and I am smarter, stronger, and healthier because of my relationship with the forest.  I am smarter in the sense that I understand how it all works.  I understand most of the individual pieces of the ecosystem, and I see how they interact.  I am stronger in the sense that I know where I belong and what I stand for.  When trying to fit into other ideologies, such as capitalism or religion, I was constantly frustrated by the incongruities and hypocrisy.  Capitalism is designed to fail.  Religion is deeply in conflict with itself.  Democracy, well, that is just a complete myth. Long before those ideologies came along, ecology flourished.  Ecology made us, and we hurt ourselves if we try to destroy it. 

I am not asking people to enter into a symbiotic relationship with their environment because it benefits me or because it benefits the environment, although both are true.  People should take a different approach to nature for their own health and well-being, for their own enjoyment and entertainment.  A world with trees and wilderness is just richer, more alive, than a world of highways and strip malls.  Rows of similar houses with lawns and hedges are just boring and pointless.  Wilderness is where we belong, where we can be alive.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Today I set my iPhone up to shoot a time lapse of the clouds rolling by over Vashon.  Well, the clouds hardly budged, but an eagle swooped through the scene, hunting a duck.  The duck got away.  That was the first time I had ever seen the eagle actually in the process of hunting.  He had been in the perch tree, directly above that spot.  He swooped straight down at the duck he had been watching, but the duck dove down under water.  The eagle swooped back and forth, climbing and diving, keeping the duck underwater.  When the duck came up for a breath, the eagle dove again, but the duck dove down deep and swam away.  The eagle made a brief attempt at two more ducks about thrity feet away, but they flew off before he could reach them.  The eagle gave up and flew up to the alder tree just above my head.  Then he let out a loud call.

When I saw the eagle, I pointed him out to a man exercising on the stairs.  He got to watch the whole episode.  He said he had been coming to the park for years to exercise on the stairs, but that was the first time he had ever seen an eagle.
Stone 46

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

I have dreams where I fly through the park.  Instead of walking along the trail, I float along between the trees.  During these dreams, I think, Oh, right, people can fly.  Of course that is natural.  How could I have forgotten.  Then, when I wake, even though the dream wasn't real, it retains a sort of reality, like an extra dimension.  I tried to shoot a video that would represent flying through the park.  The app on my iPhone was not all that easy to use, and the end product does not match up at all with the feeling of my dreams.  Also, trying to shoot a time lapse video while holding onto four dogs is not a recipe for success.  I will try to shoot this video again, some day when I have more time and fewer dogs.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Back in Eagle Landing Park, thinking about the homeowner's desire for order, color, and definition, I realized that my writing and photography about nature are usually focused on finding patterns, highlighting colors, and arranging details.  When taking pictures, I have a selective eye.  I look for something noteworthy or novel.  I try to keep my horizon level.  I may use techniques like the rule of thirds, leading lines, or framing.  I balance light and dark.  I find edges and accentuate shapes.  These are the same artistic touches that are so detrimental to the environment in the homeowner's yard.  The desire for order and structure makes a landscape of wild natives less desireable in this sense. 

When I am writing about the park, or about anything, I follow rules, usually.  I make a stab at correct grammar, and I try to stick to one topic at a time.  I group my ideas into paragraphs.  I usually have a point I am trying to make.  A native plant garden in someone's back yard might not follow the expected rules for gardens.  One particular example is that, in the typical garden, any leaf that falls is whisked away in order to avoid the perception of carelessness or untidiness.  In nature, fallen leaves are healthy and natural.  Lawns are supposed to be kept trimmed, neat, edged, green, lush, and groomed.  Nature does not stay within boundaries, sprawls wildly, often shows brown leaves and damage, and resists any attempts at grooming. 

A desire for order and structure can be useful and healthy even within ecosystems.  One could add this order and structure through writing and photography, through the selective eye, rather than imposing a physical order on nature that would be stifling and destructive.  Even in doing restoration within ELP, an ordered approach is helpful, attacking vertical ivy first and clearing the healthiest areas of all invasives first.  I can even rearrange elements of the park into patterns temporarily if I put them back.  The pictures below show today's stone in its natural state, with the other stones of the beach, and then highlighted in an artificial way that allows the viewer to see the details of one particular stone.  Neither way is better.  The isolated stone is simply easier to comprehend.  Choosing particular details of the environment fits the habits of our minds.  The stone will go back home some day, and nothing will be lost from nature.  If viewing nature in an artificially ordered manner makes us like it more, then that can be a benefit to the ecosystem. 

It is not enough for me to say that the typical suburban yard looks as if people hate nature.  We need to understand the reasons for this bias against nature.  One reason is that our system of capitalism punishes those who do not display their primary asset, their home, in the standard fashion.  Another reason is the mind's natural tendency to impose order as a way of increasing understanding.  A third reason is cultural bias that has not been questioned.  A fourth reason may be that people do not understand the impact of their gardens on the environment.  People think a garden is friendlier to the environment than a parking lot, which may be true, but not by much.  A fifth reason could be security, as burglars might be more likely to strike at a home with a wild, unkempt yard, although I don't know that this is necessarily true.  All of these reasons why people have a prejudice against nature can be overcome if they are examined.  The main obstacle to a true appreciation of nature is the blind assumption by people that the way things are is the way things ought to be. 

Eagle Landing Park would be in its best possible health if it was restored to all native species, and if every yard adjoining the park was also filled with native species.  Eight parcels of private property surround the park.  The two parcels that share the most linear footage of fence line with the park are very wild looking, although those properties are not necessarily any healthier than the park.  When the majority of homeowners throughout Burien view a wild tangle of native plants as desirable for their own back yards, then I will have done my job and ELP will breathe easier.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

I didn't have time to visit ELP during daylight hours, so I had to grab today's stone from the roadside.  I staffed the WNPS booth at the Northwest Flower & Garden Show.  While I was there for three hours, talking to people about native plants, I observed people's behavior.  Next to our booth was a booth for the rhododendron garden in Federal Way.  They brought in two rhododendrons, one that was showy white and another that was small, orange, and like an orchid.  In our booth was a healthy young hemlock tree.  No one gave our little tree more than a passing glance.  Hundreds of people stopped to admire the rhododendrons, some of them oohing and ahhing and making a big fuss.  Were the rhododendrons more attractive or better than my little hemlock tree?  Why? 

For their gardens, most people choose bright colors, simple shapes, and order.  Most gardens are unnatural.  Especially the display gardens at this show.  The ideal garden, according to the throngs of people who come to this annual event, is a perversion of nature.  Gardening, or horticulture, is the opposite of nature.  It is taking species out of nature and making them jump through hoops in tidy little circus acts.  Gardening, as practiced, is not ecological.  The gardening industry has a huge impact on the environment, shipping all those plants, introducing invasive species, disturbing native habitats, adding pesticides and fertilizers.  If all of the space used for gardens could be converted to native plant ecosystems, the world would be a much healthier place.  The book Bringing Nature Home by Douglas Tallamy describes what a benefit to our environment this could be. 

Why don't people want native plants in their yards?  Why is a flat green lawn bordered by flower beds and severely pruned shrubs considered more beautiful or desirable?  Why is it that people walk through Eagle Landing Park and ignore nature as if it was a waste of space?  Part of the reason is due to commerce and capitalism.  Demand is manufactured for unnatural landscapes through images and poetic writing.  A whole industry depends on cultivating a hatred of nature and natural beauty.  The first thing you do when you build a home is to strip away nature, even the soil.  Then you import plants from elsewhere and even import new, lifeless soil. 

Everywhere I looked at the flower and garden show, I saw the manipulation and explotation of nature in unnatural configurations and uses.  Even those displays that used native species tended to set them in neat configurations, tame, not wild.  I hope my time spent at the flower show was of benefit to the people I spoke to, because I would much rather have been in my park, in nature. 

Saturday, February 11, 2012

The eagles put on a show today.  I saw them way out over the water, two small lines changing shape over the water as the flapped, basically two-dimensional.  One chased another all the way to Eagle Landing Park, where the lead eagle dropped a fish and the second eagle dove down after it.  I could not distinguish whether they were adults or juveniles.  Moments later, I saw two eagles, I assume they were the same two, land in a couple of cedar trees.  One had a white head and the other was a juvenile.  The adult then flew by at eye level.  The juvenile flew into the maple trees, a dangerous mistake by an inexperienced flier.  The adults always land in the same spots, where they have plenty of room to take off.  This juvenile amid the dense branches of the maples had to take some time to plot a course back out. 

Later, after we walked out of the park and headed north, I saw two eagles side by side in the dead tree half a mile north of the park.  Right near that dead tree, I saw a nest with fledglings in it a couple of years ago.  The two trees, the nest tree and the perch tree, are right on the southern edge of Seahurst Park, near some homes.  The homes are always quiet, as far as I have ever observed, and they probably don't shoot at the eagles.  In 2008, a local resident took a picture of 18 eagles in the dead tree.  The accompanying comments said there had been as many as 24 at one point.  They may have all been related, all offspring of the pair that first nested in ELP in 1989.  Maybe they will move back to ELP someday, or a new pair will begin nesting here.

Friday, February 10, 2012

We hurried to the beach and back without taking much time to enjoy the park.  Still, a quick visit is nice. The park can be just a place, sometimes.  Although ELP is definitely alive, many uses of the park as merely a place can have little or no impact.  Even if you are just passing through, it is a nice place to pass through. 

Thursday, February 9, 2012

It's hard to say what counts as the first flower of the year in Eagle Landing Park.  A currant started blooming before the snow and the ice storm, but that is probably a non-native cultivar planted in the park by mistake.  A trailing blackberry vine has a couple of flowers, but those are probably a mistake by a confused plant that got its signals wrong.  Indian plum, traditionally the first flowering native plant in local forests, is dangerously close to blooming.  I feel like the Indian plum is teasing me with its big fat buds that won't quite open.  Any day now. 

Whales were reported at Vashon Island and West Seattle.  I looked, but I couldn't see any from Eagle Landing Park.  I have lived near Eagle Landing Park much of my life, and I've never seen a whale in person.  I did see ducks and cormorants, and I heard a loon.  A hummingbird was chirping while dive-bombing in a territorial display. 

Red elderberry is starting to leaf out.  The tips of the red huckleberry are swelling.  Some of the snowberry bushes are leafing out while others look totally dormant. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

I wasn't the only one happy about the clouds, rain, drizzle, mist, and fog today.  Many birds twittered about, filling the forest with sound.  I heard flickers, jays, pileated woodpeckers, eagles, wrens, nuthatches, chickadees, towhees, and the varied thrush.  The Indian plum is just about to bloom.  One trailing blackberry bloomed, but it may have been just one confused plant.  I brought all four dogs, knowing the trail would be less crowded on such a nice gloomy day.

stone 39 in the middle

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

And now, a word about dog poop.  If it was just one or two dogs, it wouldn't be a problem.  When people bring their dogs to the park, they only see one or two dogs, and they might think it won't hurt anything if they don't pick up after their dogs.  Well, it's not just one or two dogs leaving a mess.  It's dozens every day.   Dogs like to use their noses, especially my youngest, and he points out every pile of poop on our usual two mile walking loop.  It's a lot.  I mean, like, alarming.  When you actually notice how much canine feces there is in one little neighborhood, and you multiply that by all the little neighborhoods in the Puget Sound watershed, that is a mountain of poop.  No wonder the whales are sickly and declining. 

Walking along the trail in Eagle Landing Park, you can't go ten feet without encountering a pile of crap.  If you don't look down along the edge of the trail, you might not notice it.  I have to watch the edge of the trail because I have to make sure that none of my four dogs eats a cigarette butt or any other detritus along the way.  Especially on days with sunny weather, I'm looking at a parade of poop.  Maybe this has something to do with my general dislike of people.  Once you get to the beach, you are going to find poop there as well even though the tide washes it away twice a day. 

Cleaning up after a dog isn't the most fun thing in the world, but if you adopted or bought a dog, that's what you singed up for.  It's a shame that, after reading Jennifer Hahn's book on foraging, I can't sample a little bit of the seaweed in Eagle Landing Park just to see what it tastes like.  The ducks and the fish and the little crabs and sea creatures don't have a choice.  They have to feed in these shallow waters no matter how much dog poop washes into their home.  And it all washes down there eventually.  Even if you let your dog out into your back yard and don't clean up after him, it ends up in the storm drain and eventually empties into the Sound. 

Many people let their dogs swim in the Sound at Eagle Landing Park, regardless of the leash law.  If you do let your dog swim there, that's even more reason to clean up after your dog.  Puget Sound is a cesspool.  Besides the dog waste, there is all the oil from dripping cars, the equivalent of an Exxon Valdez oil spill every other year.  Also, all the brake dust from a million cars winds up in the sound, with copper and other toxins.  If you let your dog swim in the Sound, be sure to give him a bath later.  And clean up after your dog. 

Monday, February 6, 2012

I don't like warm, sunny days like today.  I prefer rain.  I am more comfortable in the rain, and it keeps the crowds away.  On sunny days, more damage happens to the park.

I have been told I am too negative, that if I want to rally people to the cause of protecting the park, I should focus on the park's positive attributes, make people fall in love with her.  Well, I have been doing that for five years with the web site dedicated to the park,  That web site has hundreds of pretty pictures of the native plants of the park, and pages of helpful information.  If it has had a positive impact, then that must mean the park really would have gone to hell without the web site.  If people cause unnecessary damage to the park and I try to stop it, I am viewed as being too negative.  If I would speak for the park, serve as her voice, what should I say?  Should I say that nature is happy to be degraded if it gives a fleeting thrill to a thoughtless person?  Even if we forget about what nature wants, there are other park patrons to consider.  Some people, a few or many, come to Eagle Landing Park to enjoy nature.  We can't do that at the skate park or the basketball court or the soccer field.  If I tried to build a native plant garden in the middle of the baseball diamond, I would be arrested for vandalism.  If I walked into a bar and started planting trees, I would be thrown out.  The only local place that nature lovers can feel at home is in quiet places like Eagle Landing Park.  Yet, if I dare to ask people to ride their bikes, swing their sticks, drink their beer, smoke their drugs in some more appropriate place, then I am the bad guy.

Mothers are the worst.  You expect vandalism from boys of a certain age because that's what they do.  Mothers, however, have the shield of motherhood, and because they are ostensibly caring for children, you are expected to accept anything and everything they allow their kids to do.  Parents have allowed or encouraged their children to trespass on neighboring property, tear out plants, trample sensitive areas, and take home bags full of rocks and shells that they are just going to throw out sooner or later.  Mothers look on with pride as their children blaze new paths through the native plants or hack up a sword fern with a stick.  They encourage their children to scream.  If you dare to suggest they ask their children not to damage or disturb the park, you will be greeted with scorn or rage.  There are certainly parents who teach their children respect for nature, but they are not in the majority.  Most of the mothers expect their children have a right and even a duty to destroy public property.  That's what it's there for, so their children can have a moment's idle entertainment.

Today, two women walked up the trail with three boys flailing at the bushes with sticks.  My youngest dog tends to get excited when people make sudden, inexplicable movments near him, so I moved to the side to get my two dogs far away from the stick-swinging boys.  One of the women made a comment about one of my dogs.  I kept my attention on the dogs in order to help the puppy feel calmer in the presence of the boys, and also to avoid telling the mothers they ought to respect nature.  For keeping quiet, I got told I was rude.  In the eyes of many, the family is so sacred that any transgression must be overlooked.  In fact, we are supposed to praise the disruption a family causes because they are happy, which is the important thing.  Okay, then, what about the family of eagles that has to abandon a place named Eagle Landing Park in order to find a little peace?  What about the families of the Douglas squirrels and the robins and the flickers?  Oh, only human families count.  And if I even dared to think otherwise, it is proof of my antisocial behavior.  People who destroy nature are normal, and people who think nature should be protected are negative.

I can certainly put it in a positive way, as I have been doing for five years.  If you treat nature with respect, then it will still be here for you to visit in the future.  If you would like to engage in sports where you can throw things and swing sticks, the taxpayers have provided facilities exactly for that purpose.  If you would like to do illegal drugs, no one will know or care if you go to your own home and do them.  If you want to have sex, then I think that's great!  You can have sex with any man or woman who consents, and you can go do it at home where you don't have to trample a restoration project.  And I applaud your use of condoms as long as you don't leave your used condoms in the park for any child or dog to find.  I think it is great that you are riding a bike, and there are miles of road where you can do that.  If you want to ride your bike on dirt trails, nearby facilities have been created just for that purpose.  I want you to engage in any recreation that pleases you, and you will better be able to enjoy that sport if you go to the facility expressly created for that purpose.  If you want to enjoy recreations specifically suited to a nature park, you can engage in bird watching, geocaching, beach combing, or simply walking in peace and quiet.  You can walk your dog on a leash, which keeps him safer.  You can take your dog to the off-leash park if you want him to run free and play.  I suggest people learn to treat nature with respect for their own benefit and enjoyment.  Nature is endlessly wonderful and fascinating, and the more you appreciate it, the richer your life will be.

If I were to speak for nature and be the voice of Eagle Landing Park, I guess I should say something like this.  "All are welcome here.  If you treat me gently, I can be a benefit for you in the future.  I am utterly at your mercy, and I hope you will take advantage of the opportunity to enjoy my many unique features found nowhere else in the city.  We can work together, and I can benefit you as you benefit me.  Any damage you cause me will take years to reverse, and I will appear degraded in the mean time.  If you help keep this a beautiful place, then you will always have a beautiful place to come to.  If you want this forest to look like a junkyard, then that is your choice.  I can only be of value to you if you treat me as valuable.  This fragile beauty is yours to embrace or discard.  If you hurt me, you are only hurting yourselves, depriving yourselves of something that cannot be found elsewhere."

stone 37

Sunday, February 5, 2012

I had to find today's stone by the roadside because a busy day kept me from walking through the park during the hours it was open.  Many people ignore the posted closing time, but I can wait until the next day.  I can see my forest from the outside, and I imagine the damage by the beer drinkers and fire builders will probably be minor.  We will go tomorrow.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

The bald eagle could see for miles on this clear day as she scanned the waters from the perch tree in the middle of the bluff.  They don't seem to be using the nest tree this year.  I have seen an eagle's nest a quarter mile north, and I wonder if they just moved to a new location.  I have also seen neon green airsoft pellets in the park.  The pellets might not physically injure the eagles, but they could cause them to look for a better neighborhood, without the nuisance. 

The bald eagle population in the 48 states was about 400,000 a couple of centuries ago and they were reduced to about 400 breeding pairs by the middle of the 20th century.  Hunting was one of the main causes of death even after hunting eagles was outlawed.  Pesticides and habitat loss contributed to the decline.  there are now over 100,000 eagles in the 48 states because those who care about their welfare have been able to exert more influence than those who still wish to kill them. 

Eagles had nested in the land where Eagle Landing Park is since about 1989.  It is sad that they had to move away since the land was made into a park in 2005.  It is possible they could move back again if those people who wish to protect the eagles would exert their influence over this few people who choose to harass them and drive them away.  Besides the kids with the pellet gun, eagles can be driven away by excessive noise, such as people screaming as they walk along the trail.  I have no idea why people feel the need to scream in the forest.  It seems like they wouldn't be too inconvenienced if they were asked not to scream in the vicinity of the eagles' nest.  If some people would like the eagles to come back, then they should say it is not okay for these few people to drive the eagles away.  If the friends of the eagles remain silent, then a thoughtless few will wield disproportionate power over our environment.  If anyone besides me wants the eagles to come back, they should speak up. 

Friday, February 3, 2012

Most people who cause damage to the park wish to remain anonymous.  I would like for them to say, publicly, "My name is _______, and I am proud that my dog crapped on the public beach every single day of the year.  I think it is my right as an American to exploit the environment for my personal convenience."  If people would come forward with the reasons they cause damage, maybe we could discuss how that would work out.  If the environment is gone, because proud Americans used it all up, is it just too bad for Americans who come later?  That's what they get for being born after us?  I know I would like to see a land where there were giant trees everywhere you looked.  I would like to see the wilderness of 1849, when the environment was healthy.  People who came before me took away that chance.  Our economy, and my ability to live my current lifestyle, is based on the destruction of the environment.  I am not proud to say I am one of those people who is using up the planet's resources faster than they can be replaced.

The people who damage Eagle Landing Park will not come forward publicly and declare they have a right to do so.  They conduct drive-by environmental crimes, knowing that no one is watching besides me.  And what am I going to do about it?  I can't punch everyone in the face who needs punching.  By law, I am required to sit by and allow degradation of our public spaces.  I can observe and report, but no police or local agency will respond.  The taxpayers of Burien will not pay for protection of the environment. No significant group of people will approach the City Council and demand enforcement of laws that protect our common good.  If I am the only one asking for enforcement, then I can be easily ignored.

"He who is silent is assumed to consent."  "All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to stand by and do nothing."  I would agree with both those statements.  I don't want to be silent.  I don't want to stand by and do nothing.  What can I do?  I am trying to help the park, my local environment, by making the park better every day.  I do this by taking pictures, hopefully raising awareness, and by removing a little ivy every day.  I would like to stop the damage that occurs daily.  I have not found support in the community for enforcement of environmental laws.  My goal has been to see the park healthier by the end of the year.  At the rate people are working against this goal, I will not succeed. It may be a Sisyphean task to carry my 365 stones up the stairs.  Perhaps it is my punishment for being a member of the generation that destroyed the Earth.
Stone 34

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Stone 33 with eelgrass

Jennifer Hahn spoke to the Washington Native Plant Society last night about her new book Pacific Feast.  Her talk was entertaining and informative.  I learned a lot about the strange seaweed species I see on the beach from time to time.  I am not an adventurous eater, so I can't see eating most of the plants and animals she talked about.  Even if I wanted to, it would not be legal or healthy to eat these things in Eagle Landing Park.  Except for the berries.  If people want to eat Himalayan blackberries, they definitely should.  The environment would be better served if people removed the whole blackberry plant rather than just eating the berries.  As for clams and seaweed, it is not legal to harvest them in Eagle Landing Park, and the water is too polluted.  I wish she had a recipe for English Ivy Casserole.

Hahn emphasized stewardship, which is good.  Her thesis is that eating local is good for the environment and good for your health.  The main problem with this is that people should not be foraging for food on public lands near population centers because those lands need protection from overuse and abuse.  If you go to the wild, remote areas where Hahn's advice could be followed, you are no longer very local.  You've used those resources to travel 30 miles for one meal, or five meals.  This is not environmentally sound or sustainable.  I could see Hahn's book being useful for people who are going hiking or camping anyway.  I don't see how the majority of people could get a benefit from her book, or benefit the environment, unless they are eating dandelions and blackberries. 

Hahn suggested that when we take from the wild, we pause to say thank you to the environment for its gifts.  This puts one in the right frame of mind, acknowledging that the Earth does not belong to us to exploit and that we have a duty to be good stewards.  I support her suggestion, and I would be grateful if more people had that mindset.  However, a better way to say thank you to the environment is to stop destroying it.  The lifestyle of the average American is not sustainable or environmentally sound.  I would venture to say that most environmentalists have not achieved a lifestyle where they do more good than harm to the planet.  I know that is my goal, to be a part of the solution and not the problem, and I have not achieved that goal.  Rather than pausing to say thank you to the environment when you take a fish or a clam or a handful of berries, it would be better for all if you said thank you by not driving your car or buying that new TV.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

When I lived in Colorado, I missed the forests and beaches of Washington, but I did appreciate the open sky and sun sometimes.  I am glad to be back home.  The darkness of the forest feels like home, and I can walk out onto the beach at low tide to get 360 degrees of sky and sun.  The beach is part of Eagle Landing Park.  It is important to the health of the forest in its own way.  Eagles fish in the shallow waters, and nitrogen and calcium from digested fish fertilize the forest.

In the picture above you can see some little specks that are actually ducks.  They eat the eelgrass growing on the sandbar.  It is just at the right depth where it can get lots of sun and where the ducks don't have to dive too deep for it.  This sandbar is maintained by landslides and by the constant erosion of soil into Puget Sound.  At low tide, you can see where the eelgrass grows.  It only becomes exposed to air, briefly, when the tide is -3 feet or more.  Eagle Landing Park extends out about 300 feet westward from the high tide line, and the half acre of eelgrass, Zostera marina, is an important component of the park's ecology. 
Stone 32