Photos from WCCW Work party

Text and photos by Joslyn Rose Trivett, SPP Network Manager

In late March, the prairie conservation nursery at Washington Corrections Center for women held a work party. Three SPP staff who had never before worked in an SPP nursery got to join the crew for a day: Sadie Gilliom, SPP turtle program coordinator, Liliana Caughman, lecture series coordinator, and me. It was a gorgeous, sunny spring day—hot, even, under the hoop house plastic.

Our gracious hosts were conservation nursery technicians Stephanie Boyle and Lerissa Iata, SPP Conservation Nursery Manager Carl Elliott, and DOC’s Scott Skaggs. It was such fun to join their work, and help them catch up with the needs of sprouting seeds.

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SPP’s Liliana Caughman fills her seeding tray with Lomatium seeds while Sadie Gilliom and Carl Elliott fill racks with soil.

 

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The Lomatium helped inspire the work party—it started sprouting in the fridge earlier than normal.

 

Conservation technicians Stephanie Boyle makes tags to label seed lots sown.

Conservation technicians Stephanie Boyle makes tags to label the seed lots sown.

 

Conservation technician Lerissa Iata checks on prairie species growing in the hoop house at Washington Corrections Center for Women.

Conservation technician Lerissa Iata checks for weeds growing among prairie species.

 

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Since the violet beds were built, a pair of killdeer has used them as a nesting site, and the birds are adored by many at the prison. As is typical for killdeer, they laid their eggs out in the open, and anytime a visitor comes near they put on a loud and vigorous display.

 

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Beyond the killdeer eggs, on the first truly warm day of spring, you can see many sun lovers out in the yard.

 

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I asked the work party to pose for a group photo, and they were such cool subjects that we all cracked up.

 

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I admire the balsamroot seedlings in the nurery. I love plants! Photo by Liliana Caughman.

 

Anywhere and everywhere we can, we bring nature inside prisons. Photo by Joslyn Rose Trivett.

Anywhere and everywhere we can, we bring nature inside prisons.

Principle & Practice: Learning and doing science at Shotwell’s

by Joslyn Rose Trivett, SPP Network Manager

In February, I visited Shotwell’s Landing and got to see the prairie restoration crew in action. The crew is contributing to program coordinator Conrad Ely‘s thesis research for the Master of Environmental Studies program. The research builds on the work of an earlier Master’s thesis investigating how treating seeds with plant-derived smoke water, which contains many of the same chemicals present in prairie fires, can affect their germination rates and vigor—many prairie species are very difficult to propagate, and they hope to trigger germination with treatments simulating prairie fire.

After the first nursery tasks of the day, program coordinator Conrad Ely shared a presentation on the scientific method. He tied principles of research design to their shared experiment, and then to Mima Mounds enigma. He used theories on the Mima Mounds’ formation to illustrate opportunities as well as limitations of the scientific process. From their experience with prairie restoration, the crew knows the Mounds well, and they jumped in with their own thoughts and theories.

My gratitude for everything the crew does for the region’s prairies. They are employed in prairie restoration full time, and their efforts and enthusiasm make a big difference for South Sound prairies, one of the most rare and threatened landscapes in the nation.

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Program coordinator Conrad Ely leads discussion of the scientific method.

 

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Benjamin Hall brought great questions and ideas to the discussion of the Mima Mounds mystery.

 

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Nursery technicians Robert Bowers (left) and Andrew McManus (right) track seed lots for stratification prior to spring sowing.

 

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Conrad discusses germination rates with technicians Bobby Un (left) and Benjamin Hall (right).

 

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The group visited the demonstration garden at the north end of Shotwell’s Landing, mostly dormant in the winter but still a pleasing site for contemplation.

 

A Technician’s Experience in a Room Full of Frog Scientists

Each year a group of amphibian experts meets to discuss status, research updates and action items for the recovery of the state endangered and federally threatened Oregon spotted frog (OSF).  This year, the two OSF technicians, who cared for and released 167 frogs in 2015, were able to attend this important meeting and share the critical role they have played in the OSF recovery effort.  The following blog is inmate science technician Mr. Boysen’s reaction to the meeting.  Thank you Mr. Boysen, for sharing your experience and for everything you have contributed to the program.-Sadie Gilliom-Sustainability in Prisons Project OSF and Western Pond Turtle Coordinator

Today my co-worker and I went to the Nisqually Wildlife Refuge.  We left Cedar Creek Corrections Center earlier than I expected and made it to the Refuge a little late.  We were greeted by our boss, Mrs. Gilliom and directed to our seats.  It was a pretty intimidating place at first glance.  There were lots of badges and logos on shirts and hats. I recognized most of them.  There was Northwest Trek, Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife, Woodland Park Zoo, Oregon Zoo and other people I have seen and given tours of the turtle program to at Cedar Creek.  Seeing familiar faces made it less intimidating.  Right out of the gate, Kelli Bush, the manager at the Sustainability in Prisons Project came up and thanked us for coming and I saw more and more people I’d seen before.

Mr. Boysen giving a tour to zookeepers and veterinarian from Northwest Trek Wildlife Park

Mr. Boysen giving a tour to zookeepers and veterinarian from Northwest Trek Wildlife Park

The presentations started and I was amazed at the large size of this group of really smart people- these people spend so much of their time and career on these frogs.  There are so many aspects of this project I didn’t really understand were going on behind the scenes.  It was interesting to hear from JBLM about how they haven’t found any egg masses or frogs at the release site.  It was nice to hear that they are finding Oregon spotted frogs in locations around the Black River area that are thriving.  I didn’t recognize how much work was done just to survey the swamps, marshes, and ditches where frogs might be hiding.  Getting to see the maps with the GPS lines that showed where people had actually slogged their way through mud and muck was pretty cool.

Another part of the presentation that I found to be really cool was the different types of work that is being done to restore habitat for the frogs.  The different ways that the reed canary grass is being removed/eradicated was very interesting.  The mats of native plants that were going into production at another prison sound like a good idea.  It was fascinating to see how much work was involved with the restoration of native plants.  They burn, move, weed wack, hand cut and till the soil to allow a more inhabitable place for the frogs to live.

You would never really think all of this was going on to save a frog from extinction. It kind of gives you hope when you really think about it.  If this many people can spend this much time and brainpower on one little frog and one state’s government can spend this much money to stop one species of frog from disappearing then maybe we haven’t become blind to what we have done to the world we live in.  Maybe we can fix the things we have messed up and the damage we have done to our world.

Mr. Boysen holding an OSF that was being raised at Cedar Creek Corrections Center

Mr. Boysen holding an OSF that was being raised at Cedar Creek Corrections Center

The most intimidating part of the trip was the presentation we gave.  Now, I’m not a shy person or timid in any way, but when I walked to the front of that room with Mrs. Gilliom and Bill, I was a little surprised with how big the room got.  Having that many intelligent people staring at you is intimidating.  It was trial by fire for Bill and me.  We told the group of leading experts in their field what we were getting from the program and why we wanted to be a part of it.  Neither of us babbled or passed out, so that was cool.  Then after we finished we actually got an applause.  We were there for hours and saw 10 people go up and talk to the group.  We were the only ones that got applause!

Then it was time for us to go, so we hopped into the transport van to go back to prison.  It was an eye opening experience for the both of us.

I’ve been in prison for over half a decade and for that four hours we were there, we were not inside a prison compound and were not surrounded by prisoners and razor wire.  I almost felt like I was a different version of myself, that I had not made the mistakes I made when I was young. It was nice to see that the work we do at Cedar Creek plays a pretty big role in trying to fix a problem we, as our own species, have caused in our environment and planet.

Mr. Boysen cleaning the OSF tank full of tadpoles at Cedar Creek Corrections Center

Mr. Boysen cleaning the OSF tank full of tadpoles at Cedar Creek Corrections Center

It was a Toad-ally Ribbiting Lecture with the Special Offenders Unit

Blog and photos by Liliana Caughman, SPP Lecture Series Program Coordinator

Last month the SPP Science and Sustainability Lecture Series held its first ever lecture at the Special Offenders Unit (SOU) at Monroe Correctional Complex (MCC).

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This lecture, led by our amazingly talented Frog and Turtle Program Coordinator Sadie Gilliom, proved to be one of the most interactive and fun lectures of all time.

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The audience was lively but respectful. They were eager to learn more and more about the “Amazing World of Amphibians”.

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At least one of the students who attended the lecture is hearing impaired, so we had the added pleasure of seeing the lecture interpreted through sign language.

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Watching the stories about amphibians come to life through movement made the presentation even more captivating and stimulating.

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The students were particularly enthralled by a story in which Sadie was bitten by an amphibian! Many were shocked to learn that the critters have small sandpaper-like teeth.

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Sadie offered multiple hands-on activities, and the students were able to engage with the sights and sounds of amphibians, while also learning a bit about their role in ecology.

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In one activity the students were each given two papers. On command they all raised sheet no. 1 into the air and looked around the classroom. There was a plethora of beautiful and highly varied species of amphibians.

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Then they were instructed to hold up sheet no. 2 and look around. It was only bullfrogs. This helped students conceptualize the importance of biodiversity.

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Next the students worked on matching pictures of fully grown amphibians to images of their egg masses. This was an exploratory way to learn about the life cycle of these fascinating creatures.

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The lecture ended with an activity in which Sadie played audio sounds of different amphibian’s calls and the class tried to identify which species it belonged to. It was impressive how well some of the students did on this and we learned that they can often hear frogs chirping from a nearby wetland.

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It was a thrilling and inspiring day of learning. After being unsure of the reception we’d find in the Special Offenders Unit, we were delighted to discover one of the best lecture audiences we have had. We here at SPP, as well as MCC staff and students, are all looking forward to the next one.

Washington State Penitentiary Collaboration for the Birds!

By Kelli Bush, SPP Program Manager

It’s always nice to do positive projects. It helps us do our time with rewarding accomplishment knowing it helps the community and wildlife. ~Michael Feeney

We appreciate the opportunity to work with the public for environmental causes. ~Roy Townsend

Roy Townsend, Michael Feeney, Robert Beck, Robert Haugen, Luke Andrade, and Jose Ayala pose with the barn owl next boxes they build in the Sustainable Practices Lab. Photo by DOC staff.

Roy Townsend, Michael Feeney, Robert Beck, Robert Haugen, Luke Andrade, and Jose Ayala pose with the barn owl next boxes they build in the Sustainable Practices Lab. Photo by DOC staff.

Inmates working in the Sustainable Practices Lab at Washington State Penitentiary (WSP) are building owl boxes for the Blue Mountain Audubon. The boxes are installed in vineyards to help with rodent control—a strategy that will benefit viticulturists and owls alike. The boxes are designed to be suitable homes for barn owls. The Blue Mountain Audubon’s Owl Nest Box Project was inspired by the Hungry Owl Project, a non-profit dedicated to reducing the use of toxic rodenticides while promoting owl and wildlife conservation.

Rodenticides can be slow to poison rodents. Poisoned rodents are sluggish and debilitated—easy prey for owls, hawks, eagles, falcons and other wildlife. Consuming contaminated rodents can make predator animals ill and can even result in death.

Barn owls have voracious appetites. Installing barn owl boxes can be a cost effective way to manage a rodent problem without relying on rodenticides, and can support healthy wildlife. According the Hungry Owl website, a single Barn Owl family can consume 3,000 rodents during their 4 month breeding cycle. Barn owls can have multiple clutches a year, raising the total for possible consumed rodents to 6,000 – 9,000 a year per owl box!

Blue Mountain Audubon installs a barn owl nest box in a Walla Walla area vineyard.

Blue Mountain Audubon installs a barn owl nest box in a Walla Walla area vineyard.

According to WSP Corrections Specialist Chris McGill, the first round of owl boxes built by inmates was “a big hit” and they have received a request for 20 more boxes. This is an excellent example of a collaborative program to benefit people and wildlife. Great work WSP Sustainable Practices Lab!

New Program Offered by SPP: Bee Certification

By Emily Passarelli, SPP Green Track Program Coordinator

It is with great excitement that I announce: SPP is adding beekeeping certification to our lovely list of programs. Our goal is to bring this program to every prison hosting beekeeping within the next few years. As Green Track Program Coordinator, I have the amazing opportunity to coordinate two programs: beekeeping certification and Roots of Success.

Staff and offender beekeepers take a break to pose for the camera. Photo by SPP.

Staff and offender beekeepers take a break to pose for the camera. Photo by SPP.

This beekeeping certification will be a 10-20 hour course taught by a local beekeeping volunteers. Inmates and DOC staff will earn the title of “Apprentice.” If they find that beekeeping is their calling, they have the opportunity to advance to “Journeyman.” If they’re REALLY dedicated they can even advance up to “Master” (though there are only 6 Masters in the entire state of Washington!). This class will be a spectacular opportunity for hands-on experience in a green jobs field. It will also be a great way for our prisons to do more for honeybee conservation. We hope that this certification program will give a chance for everyone interested to learn about bees and their amazing life stories. To learn more about these amazing creatures check out Joslyn Trivett’s recent blog or our new beekeeping page!

We have already had two graduating classes at Cedar Creek Corrections Center. That’s almost 45 graduates! Prisons next in line to bring in beekeeping certification are SCCC, WCCW, MCC, WSP, CRCC, and AHCC. We cannot wait to see what the future has in store for our partnerships with bees!

A graduating class of newly certified beekeepers. Photo by SPP Staff.

A graduating class of newly certified beekeepers. Photo by SPP Staff.

SPP feels very positively about work with honeybees in prisons. Photo by SPP staff.

SPP feels very positively about work with honeybees in prisons. Photo by SPP staff.

Planning action for Clallam Bay

by Joslyn Rose Trivett, SPP Network Manager

After months of pre-meetings and scheduling, Clallam Bay Corrections Center (CBCC) hosted two days of Action Planning: deciding next steps to expand SPP programs at the prison. The event brought together many great minds and stakeholders: the Director of Prisons Steve Sinclair, prison Superintendent Ronald Hayes, the well-stocked Sustainability Committee, visiting experts on beekeeping, rainwater catchment, and the Makah tribe, SPP managers, and Capitol Programs staff from Headquarters. We were there to plan for two or three new sustainability initiatives.

There was no shortage of excellent ideas in the room. We explored the merits of many, many programs and strategies. Narrowing our focus was a real challenge—so many contenders, so many promising avenues toward sustainability, how to pick which are the very best?

At the end of Day 1, we held a vote, and it was a relief to see a few clear winners emerge.

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After a day of good-natured debate over CBCC’s sustainability priorities, the group gets ready to vote.

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When the votes were cast, the clear winners were water conservation/culture change and beekeeping.

Culture change through water conservation

The top choice was a hybrid focus: water conservation and culture change. At a prison where it rains 95 inches a year (that’s really wet), and pulls water from a salmon-bearing stream, the group was determined to use less tap water and catch more rainwater. Promoting these changes seemed an ideal way to promote sustainable choices in general.

To achieve this goal, we decided on several action items, including:

  • create posters to display throughout the facility (see example below)
  • publish and distribute sustainability newsletters, with versions for inmates and staff
  • in each housing unit, hold Town Hall sustainability meetings
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This poster promotes saving resources at the prison, with an inmate audience in mind; the version for staff is slightly different.

Beekeeping

The other winner was beekeeping—all agreed that a honeybee program could bring numerous rewards to the prison. Corrections staff and inmates could gain recognized education and certification. In-prison beekeepers could enjoy calming, meditative work with the hives. The hives could contribute healthy bees to pollinate the prison’s organic gardens and bolster local honeybee population. All involved could help build the international effort to restore the pollinators on which we depend.

We settled on these actions to bring beekeeping to CBCC:

  • Create beekeeping posters
  • Write and submit a proposal to the prison Captain, identifying planned costs, siting, and safety protocol
  • Consult with the North Olympic Peninsula Beekeepers on how best to offer certification program at the prison

All in all, we were impressed by how much we were able to plan in two days. The actions taken since also attest to Action Planning’s worth: we have been busy as bees turning those plans into reality.

 

Turtles and Plantain at Larch Corrections Center

by Kelli Bush, SPP Program Manager

From left to right, a WDFW biologist, SPP program coordinator Sadie Gilliom, and two new turtle technicians, discuss how to biologist how to care for a western pond turtle. Photo by Kelli Bush.

WDFW Biologist Stefani Bergh, Facilities Manager Terry Hettinger, and the new turtle technicians discuss how to care for western pond turtles at Larch Corrections Center. Photo by Carl Elliott.

It has been an exciting year at Larch Corrections Center (LCC) as two new SPP conservation programs have been established at the minimum security prison located east of Vancouver, WA. Prison staff and leadership have been excellent partners—they worked quickly to create a new turtle lab and build plantain beds, and have been great collaborators and communicators.

Turtles

The first new program involves work with state-endangered western pond turtles (Actinemys marmorata), that builds on the success of the turtle program at Cedar Creek Corrections Center. Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists have been finding turtles in the wild afflicted with a shell disease. Sick reptiles are transferred from the wild to the Oregon Zoo to receive acute veterinary care. After initial treatment, turtles are transported to LCC to receive extended care and monitoring. Inmate technicians are providing excellent care. Once recovered, turtles will be returned to the wild. Currently Larch Corrections Center is caring for eight turtles which will likely be released late March or early April.

Taylor's checkerspot butterfly caterpillars munch on plantain at SPP's butterfly rearing program at Mission Creek Corrections Center. Photo by Benj Drummond and Sara Joy Steele.

Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly caterpillars munch on plantain at SPP’s butterfly rearing program at Mission Creek Corrections Center. Photo by Benj Drummond and Sara Joy Steele.

Plantain for butterflies

SPP and LCC have also teamed up with the Oregon Zoo to grow narrow leaf plantain (Plantago lanceolata). This plant is a critical food source for federally-endangered Taylor’s checkerspot butterflies (Euphydryas editha taylori) which are being reared at the Oregon Zoo and at Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women. LCC is growing about 3,500 plants to feed rapidly growing butterfly larvae at the Oregon Zoo. One to two times per week, inmate technicians will harvest leaves from plantain plants grown in 10 raised bed gardens at LCC.

We are so pleased to collaborate with the fabulous folks at Oregon Zoo, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and others to bring these programs to LCC!

 

Honeybee love

by Joslyn Rose Trivett, SPP Network Manager

I am dangerously allergic to yellowjacket stings. I have been stung by yellowjackets many times, and I fear and avoid them.

As a good ecologist, I know that honeybees are very different than yellowjackets, but I still wanted to stay away from them. Even the thought of bees, wasps, and hornets has been enough to scare me. I tolerated SPP’s honeybee programs because I supported them in principle, but never wanted too get too close.

A few weeks ago, I suddenly realized that I’ve changed: I have learned to love honeybees. It happened by accident—I didn’t set out to change my mind, but changed it is!

I love this photo of bees in flight; on some of them, you can clearly see their "baskets" full of pollen on their rear legs. Image from organizedchaos.com.

I love this photo of bees in flight; on the central bee, you can clearly see one of her “baskets” full of pollen. Image from organizedchaos.com.

I think the shift started last summer, working on King 5’s story on beekeeping. Mr. Anglemeyer, Mr. Boyson, and Officer Epling’s enthusiasm and praise for the program must have been infectious. It was also the first time I met Laurie Pyne of the Olympia Beekeepers Association, and she radiates excitement about honeybees. Last fall, her guest lecture on honeybees had my rapt attention, and I memorized parts of her presentation without even trying.

Also during recent months, we have heard more and more beekeeping interest from prison staff and inmates. Cedar Creek has graduated their second class of Apprentice Beekeepers. Stafford Creek Corrections Center, Washington Corrections Center for Women, and the Penitentiary also have hives. For the prisons that don’t have honeybees yet, we keep hearing that they want them: Clallam Bay Corrections Center, Airway Heights, Coyote Ridge, and Washington Corrections Center all want honeybees too…time for me to get with the program! Luckily, seems I already have.

If I stood right next to a hive, I might still feel like screaming.

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Jamar Glenn and Fiona Edwards stand among honeybees flying to and from their hives. Photo by SPP staff.

But it seems more likely that I would feel like this:

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A beekeeper at Washington State Penitentiary shows his love for a honeybee swarm. Photo by DOC staff.

Thanks for being patient with me, honeybees. I’m your new biggest fan.

 

No More Phones

The following blog is the third article submitted to us by one of SPP’s Western Pond Turtle Inmate Technicians.  Although we may not agree with all he says, we think it is a well thought out and interesting presentation of the challenges and possibilities of building a sustainable world.  We want to thank Mr. Anglemyer for sharing his meaningful perspective.

By Mr. Anglemyer, Western Pond Turtle Inmate Technician

Simulation done by NASA showing CO2 in the earth's atmosphere.

Simulation done by NASA showing CO2 in the earth’s atmosphere.

The following is my attempt to put the climate crisis into an analogy that defines the seriousness of the problem and how easy it is to become distracted from it by short term goals, wants and the ostensible necessities that we all seem to be obsessed with.

Nothing seems more important to people nowadays than their phones, so I’ve decided to use a phone analogy in order to be as relevant as possible. Let’s say that: Everyone has a cell phone that runs off the same communal battery. This battery has been around forever; before phones and even people. It belongs to no one and everyone (including non-human animals) at the same time. This battery has a really long life–four to five billion years or so. Unfortunately, this battery has no gauge to tell how much of a charge it has left; it is impossible to tell when it will run out. The battery can recharge itself to a limited degree, yet it never recharges faster than its optimum potential and it will recharge slower (or even to the point where the recharging is not sufficient to stop the battery from depleting) depending on the amount of use.  Moreover, its recharging capacity will become permanently damaged by extreme over use.

All the phones will die if the battery is depleted completely. The battery cannot recharge itself if it is drained below half of its capacity. Once it passes the threshold of half charged to below half charged, that’s it. It will run down its last half charge and then go out forever, done, dead, kaput!

As long as the battery is kept charged above half full, it will continue to recharge itself and will be around for a very long time– the aforesaid five billion years. The problem is, although the battery will continue to hold a charge for a long time, the time that it takes for it to go from above half charged to below half-charged will happen in an instant. Because there is not a battery gauge it is necessary to be conservative with phone use and liberal in regards of charging the phone, right? That seems rational, does it not?

Let’s think of the planet as analogous with the phone/battery described above; a phone that will last for eons; a phone that we depend on.  It is the only phone that we’ll ever have access to.  The phone just needs to be kept charged above half at all times.  This means that it is our duty to conserve use and be careful with how we use the phone.  If we hand the phone over to our children only half-charged they will not be able to recharge it. It will last them and their children, and their children’s children (maybe longer, maybe not, definitely not equally in terms of quality); but it will never be recharged again. It will have a lifespan that is a small fraction of the four to five billion years.

The ability of the battery to recharge in this analogy is similar to how the planet’s ecosystems work to keep the planet healthy. The degradation of the battery represents the degradation of the ecosystems which sustain the planet in a livable form. The air, water, and soil are all necessary for life. Their degradation to a point which they are unable to regenerate themselves is the end of…well…the end of everything (at least as far as we’re concerned). These elements regenerate as long as the plants and animals that support their health are not destroyed, poisoned, or overharvested past the point of their own ability to replenish themselves. Once the soil and the animals that contribute to its ability to regenerate die out forever–it’s, as they say in showbiz, a wrap.

No more phones — forever. No more planet–forever.  All that had to be done to prevent this tragedy was for people to take a stance on the side of caution, dial down their consumption, and put an end to their wastefulness; thusly, allowing the ecosystems to heal.  Instead it looks like our species (and many others, thanks to our myopic actions) is soon to be evicted from this world–like loud, destructive, and messy tenets from a rental (and rightly so, if we don’t change our ways).

I know this is an oversimplified analogy. I’ve probably failed to put it down in an articulate way–the way it made sense in my head.  I’m not a professional writer. I’m not a professional scientist. I’m not a philosopher. I’m just some dude in prison with lots of time to think.  I may be wrong. The climate might not be becoming unlivable; the animals may not be becoming extinct; and, if they are, our species’ activities might not be the cause. But, if, there’s the slightest chance that they are, and we are causing it, wouldn’t it be sensible to be extremely cautious with regards to the impacts we impose upon them?

Anglemyer holding an federally threatened Oregon spotted frog. Photo credit: Sadie Gilliom

Anglemyer holding a federally threatened Oregon spotted frog. Photo credit: Sadie Gilliom

The thing that worries me though is that if I have come to these conclusions about playing it safe when it comes to our planet: why haven’t most of the extensively smart and caring individuals that have been elected to represent us in the legislature come to the same conclusions?

I’m sure that many of them would say that I’ve been brainwashed by environmentalist propaganda.  They’d say that I’m anti-business, or even anti-American.  Others might just make excuses for how change happens slowly, or how we’re just not ready to make the jump to a “green lifestyle/economy.” I’d retort by accusing them of being the lapdogs of industrialism and imperialism.  But sadly, they’re not alone.  We’ve all been enchanted by the spell of industrialism.  We all live and depend on the conveniences and privileges that Industrialism and Imperialism force upon us–privileges and conveniences that addicted us to an extremely unsustainable and wasteful lifestyle.

Recently, we had some people come out and give an estimate of what it would take to set up a solar powered shack. They gave a well-researched, thorough presentation. I felt so discouraged when it was over; Thousands of dollars for initial setup and one huge battery to run only four 100 watt heat lamps. At the time I remember thinking: “What a bummer! I really thought that solar power had come much further than that.” I had fallen victim to the energy addiction that industrialism has to offer. In reality, 400 watts of power is a lot of power. It is plenty to reasonably light a house, but it’s not enough to keep up with our excessive demand for energy.

A model of the proposed solar power unit for the turtle shed. Photo credit: Sadie Gilliom

A model of the proposed solar power unit for the turtle shed. Photo credit: Sadie Gilliom

We’re going to have to say goodbye to lots of the things we have become reliant on, before a sustainable—and healed—world is possible. This means that instead of depending on others to feed us, we are going to have to become responsible for growing our own food. This means cities will have to transform drastically from their current state of existence. This means that, our economy is going to have to change as well. We’re going to have to figure out new ways to feed and entertain ourselves, hopefully we can. We all might become more responsible family members, friends, neighbors (as people connected to their land bases usually are) … you know, better HUMANS, more connected to each other than with our stuff.

These changes are going to be fought against by many of us. “What do you mean I can’t have bacon and cheese on everything!? What do you mean I can’t have avocados in February? What do you mean I can’t drive a monster truck that gets 6 miles to the gallon? I’m an American! Which means that I can have whatever I want whenever I want it, and do whatever I want whenever I want to!” I can hear it now. Indeed, I do hear it now—it seems to be the attitude that many people have when told that things they have become accustomed to are destroying the planet’s ability to sustain life.

Switching back to the phone/battery metaphor, people with the above attitudes want to use their phones more and more. More data, more apps, more Google searches for meaningless trivia or celebrity gossip, more and more till the battery is drained past half and can never be recharged.

So when you hear some politician or plutocrat and their commercials spouting slogans like “energy independence,” “economic stability,” “more middle-class jobs,” “make America great again,” realize that they’re peddling the destruction of everything and everyone in the future in order to make gluttons of themselves in the present. They want to run the battery out as quickly as possible. They want to bleed the planet dry as quickly as possible, and they are relying on us to be complicit (or at least complaisant) in the waste. They are selling what we have been buying for centuries; the same myopic idea of utilitarian use and pervasive domination that got us into our current crisis.

It is an easy sell. Change towards a sustainable world is going to be hard work. I mean literally and figuratively. It will entail the literal, hard physical, work of growing food and raising animals and tearing up parking lots and renovating office buildings into more useful structures. It will entail the figurative, mental and emotional work of reimagining social organizations and power structures. (So much more could be written about these aspects, but this is a blog, not a book.) It’s a shameful fact that the hard physical work that sustains our agriculture and construction industries has been consigned, for the most part, to the most vulnerable of our population—the undocumented and uneducated, the marginalized and the poverty-stricken. If sustainability is to become a reality everyone is going to have to do their share of labor (real labor that produces needed things). The changing of deeply ingrained ideas is going to be a lot harder. It may take a very long time; and, it may never be completely finished.

So instead of running down the battery watching NASCAR on your 60 inch television, playing fantasy football, immersing in presidential politics, becoming obsessed with the latest exercise or diet fad—or some other wholly insane and preposterous activity, try thinking about what you have been buying all these years and why you need it (or don’t). Realize that it’s been easy for sellers to peddle these things/attitudes to you, because irresponsibility and gluttony sell themselves—especially when their disguised as inevitabilities that are going to be bought with or without your consent.