Fruit is Fast Food

There is something startlingly                                                                                                       new at the convenience store                                                                                                                 of the gas station I frequent:

a Chiquita banana display                                                                                                                     free-standing                                                                                                                                     right up front, near the registers                                                                                                       95 cents

The only fresh food in the place!

Amidst shelf upon shelf                                                                                                                 aisle after aisle                                                                                                                                      of x-treme sweet/salty snacks

I tell you,
the colors are dazzling!

Other than that
far as I can see
they mostly sell lottery tickets

& you can’t eat those either

***

Thanks to Marai Wise for sending me this pic from Elahi Holistic: Where Ommm meets Yummm.

Is this part of the Food Revolution?

An Edible Alliance?

Is this farming some kind of PHARMN??

A marketing niche ripe for filling?

See a video about  “Chiquita to Go”:   Want bananas for your c store or foodservice operation but they’re always too green or too brown? Look no further, Chiquita To Go offers extended shelf life technology of up to 7 days longer than traditional bananas.

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Hyper-Miler-Zen-Driver

This week I accomplished something rare in my world:  I made the light at the intersection of Routes 77 and 80.

Big deal, huh?  Let me explain.  I play a driving game called hyper-miling:  you maximize your car’s gas mileage by making changes in the way you drive.  You become more aware of the traffic dynamics around you.  You tune in to the machine you are driving.  And yes, you become one with the road.

Call it intelligent-non-aggressive-eco-conscious-zen driving.

Who knew that there are a gazillion websites devoted to exposing “the driving habits of the ignorant and the wasteful”?  It’s thoroughly mainstream.  Check out Hypermiling.com for example–loaded with car ads.

The basics:  maintain a consistent speed; no jack-rabbit starts; no slam-braking.  Accelerate slowly, coast into stoplights.  Drive as far as you can without coming to a complete stop.

Twice a week for the last year, I’ve commuted 35 miles each way from Guilford to Newington CT.   For a hyper-miler-zen-driver, it is a route filled with perfect challenges.

I think of it as a cross-country course with three legs.

The 1st Leg:  Over the river & through the woods

50 yards from my driveway is a sign that reads Scenic Road 13.9 mi.  Rt. 77 begins here and takes me straight north on one of the most quietly beautiful stretches of road anywhere.  It criss-crosses the West River to its source at Lake Quonnipaug.  Past frame houses built in the 1820s and 30s, past a barn sign that reads “Insulting Manor.”

It’s a fun road to drive.  It undulates and winds, dips and climbs.  There are three hair-pin turns. It cuts narrowly through rock outcrops and perilously close to 100 year-old trees.

Then there is the place where Rt. 77 rises up sharply and drops down to the intersection at Rt. 80.

It’s the best spot on the game board.  Heading north, you  get a split-second glimpse of the light from a quarter-mile away.  If it’s yellow or green,  you won’t make it.  If it’s red, you’ve got a shot at the green.  This was my week.

The 2nd Leg: Quonnipaug to Durham

The road crosses Menuckatuck Creek and a couple of miles later, I’m hugging the shoreline of Lake Quonnipaug–a classic New England pond.  Through four seasons I’ve seen it in every humor: glistening with sunlight, draped in mist, defined by ice.

Then the road climbs the shoulder between Bluff Head and the Broomstick Ledges.  The Mattabesset hiking trail crosses there–part of Connecticut’s fantastic network of trails marked and maintained by the venerable Forest & Park Association.  You’re in a higher-elevation valley now, with  pastures and cows, bringing you into the town of Durham.

Durham is strung along a ridge line.  Brenda’s Main Street Feed is there.  So is the Moses Austin House–father of the founder of Austin, Texas.  And don’t miss the Durham Kitchen restaurant:  “Come in and sit around our table.”

The 3rd Leg:  14 stop lights in 4 miles

The last leg on my hyper-miler gameboard skirts Middletown and joins the mighty stream of commuter traffic converging on Hartford.  The last 4 miles of my trip is on the Berlin Turnpike–a commercial strip that runs me through 14 stop lights in 4 miles.

I haven’t kept a log, but more often than not, my hyper-miling skills serve me well and I can drive it without stopping, say, more than once.

Am I annoying you?

It’s important to say that driving under-speed is not part of the strategy.  So, what about that BMW driving up your butt?  Pull over, let him pass.  My karma ran over your dogma.

Who’s the most fuel-efficient driver in the world?

Find out at the annual Green Drive Expo:  “The place to explore technology, fuel efficiency, cost savings and eco-conscious transportation.”  The event keeps growing, and this year it’s in two locations: July in Madison WI (my old home town), and September in San Francisco.  It is where you go to compete in the annual “MPG Challenge.”

For a hilarious account of a ride-along with one of the “kings of hyper-milers”, see the post on Mother Jones “This Guy Can Get 59 MPG in a Plain Old Accord. Beat That, Punk.”

The 30% Pay-off

Pump prices have skated north of $4, and hyper-miling is undeniably a skill game with real-life benefits.  MoneyTalksNews.com put up a survey a few days ago based on research by the car site edmunds.com.  Which of these strategies will improve your gas mileage?

a)  Use your AC minimally

b)  Maintain proper tire inflation

c)  Drive less aggressively

d)  Use cruise control

What does the research show?  The answer is c).

Proper tire inflation and minimizing AC use have a negligible effect.  Using cruise control increases fuel efficiency about 7%.  Driving less aggressively–aka “calm driving”–can increase fuel efficiency by a whopping 31%.

Kramer’s Way

My twice-weekly drives up and back on Route 77 came to an end last week.  I no longer need to make the commute to Newington CT.  I will miss it.

Remember the Seinfeld episode where Kramer is obsessed with how far he can drive with his gas gauge on Empty?

In my life I’ve watched exactly 3 episodes of Seinfeld.  3 of 180.  And one of those was a repeat of that episode.  

Weird, huh?

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Here and Now

March 31st, and we may see a little snow here in southern New England, to go with the flowers now in full bloom in Olmsted Outlook, tended by the intrepid Olmsted Irregulars.

I’ve just received word via email blast that today’s “Chicken in the Snow” fundraiser has been cancelled “due to inclement weather.”  What?  Isn’t a little adverse weather the whole idea?  But we can be glad that all of the chicken dinners–250 of them–are being donated to the Community Dining Room courtesy of the Guilford Rotary.

One year ago I posted First Frost/Last Frost to Some/Home, and during these last few days–as spring arrived about a month early–it has received a spike in hits.

Between then and now we experienced the infamous “October snowstorm” (aka “arbor-geddon”) that knocked out power to 800,000 homes–more than tropical storm Irene in August (and forced the resignation of the CEO of Connecticut Power & Light).

There was plenty of occasion that week to drop into a conversation, say at the community center serving breakfasts, that the essential character of climate change is not warming.  It is unpredictability.  Nonetheless, this was the only winter when, in the memory of local old-timers, the ground did not freeze–not in this town.

I am re-reading Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, and this morning this is what I find:

I have been thinking about the change in seasons. I don’t want to miss spring this year. I want to distinguish the last winter frost from the out-of-season one, the frost of spring. I want to be there on the spot the moment the grass turns green. I always miss this radical revolution; I see it the next day from a window, the yard so suddenly green and lush I could envy Nebuchadnezzar down on all fours eating grass.

This year I want to stick a net into time and say “now” as men plant flags on the ice and snow and say, “here.” But it occurred to me that I could no more catch spring by the tip of the tail than I could untie the apparent knot in the snakeskin; there are no edges to grasp. Both are continuous loops.

In 1973, when Annie Dillard was writing Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, I was her neighbor, living a mile or so away on the slope of the same Tinker Mountain in Virginia.  Climate change was nowhere on the horizon.  Now, I have little doubt that she continues to watch for the mystical transformation of the season.  And wonder, as do we all, what the seasons will bring for our children.

Oil painting by William Blake. Nebuchadnezzar’s story is told in the Hebrew Bible, the Book of Daniel.  Wikipedia offers this summary: “While boasting about his achievements, Nebuchadnezzar is humbled by God. The king loses his sanity and lives in the wild like an animal for seven years. After this, his sanity and position are restored and he praises and honors God.”

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Two Paragraphs that Kick Ass

Thomas Friedman’s column in yesterday’s Sunday New York Times was one of those that pressed play and made me want to pump my fist.  Maybe like my friends who went to a Van Halen concert this weekend.

Here are two paragraphs:

This is a column about energy and environment and why we must not let the poisonous debate about climate change so tie us in knots that we cannot have any energy policy at all, particularly one focused on developing much more efficient use of resources, through better designs and systems. If you are so reckless as to dismiss all climate science as a hoax, and do not accept the data that our planet is getting hotter and the oceans rising, I can’t help you. That’s between you and your beach house — and your kids, whose future you’re imperiling.

But you better believe this: The planet is getting flatter and more crowded. There will be two billion more people here by 2050, and they will all want to live and drive just like us. And when they do, there is going to be one monster traffic jam and pollution cloud, unless we learn how to get more mobility, lighting, heating and cooling from less energy and with less waste — with so many more people. We can’t let the climate wars continue to derail efforts to have an energy policy that puts in place rising efficiency standards, for buildings, windows, traffic, housing, packaging and appliances, that will drive innovation — which is our strength — in what has to be the next great global industry: energy and resource efficiency.

Friedman then cites two new books; both proposing business models for our future.

Gasoline is a hair below $4 a gallon again.  The last time we were here, those pump prices seemed to be spurring populist support for a national energy policy of (gasp!) a “balanced mix of production, conservation and innovation in alternative fuels” (per President Obama this week).

Do I hear a power chord?

Cool energy metaphor: phones have replaced lighters at concerts (...but you knew that)

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Dumb & Dumber

My friend Linda is a wealth of aphorisms and wisdom gleaned from the women in her family–her mother and her aunts.  I keep a list of phrases passed down through the family tree. “It’s better to rust out than to rot out.” “She who hides can find.” And “We might as well be drunk as the way we are.”

But one of the funniest is: “People are dumber than anybody.”

This came to mind as I read about two developments in the last week.

First was the opinion piece published by the Wall Street Journal on January 27th titled No Need to Panic About Global Warming, submitted and signed by 16 scientists who say “that nothing should be done about CO2 for several decades.”

There has been enormous push-back from the larger scientific community over the egregiously misleading claims made in the WSJ piece.  The Union of Concerned Scientists posted one of the best rebuttals.  And the letters to the editor are too good to miss.

On the WSJ website, there is also a video interview with William Happer of Princeton, the lead author of the editorial.  In it, the WSJ editorial page assistant editor, in an astonishingly goofy manner, evokes “global warming hysteria”, stumbles over the name of the United Nations IPCC–(clearly not to be taken seriously)–and can’t resist bringing “climategate” into the conversation.

Herding citizens toward cities

Second, is the reporting in Saturday’s New York Times titled Activists Fight Green Projects, Seeing U.N. Plot.  The piece begins:  “Across the country, activists with ties to the Tea Party are railing against all sorts of local and state efforts to control sprawl and conserve energy.  They brand government action for things like expanding public transportation and preserving open space as part of a United Nations-led conspiracy to deny property rights and herd citizens toward cities.”

In Some/Home, I have always been careful to maintain the distinction between a thoughtful piece and a rant.  But these two items are pushing me toward the edge.

Specifically, I fear that irreparable damage has been done by the WSJ piece.  In Washington, “climate change is already a four-letter word.”  Is there any way in which President Obama or any other candidate for public office can cut through the morass of disinformation?  The answer is pretty clear:  in this climate, the issue would be a un-winnable drag on his or her campaign.

What do you know about Agenda 21?  

In the NYT article, I learned for the first time about the 1992 United Nations resolution called Agenda 21: “a sweeping but non-binding resolution designed to encourage nations to use fewer resources and conserve open land by steering development to already dense areas.”

It has become a flash point for the paranoia-driven protests against sustainability.  Tea Party activists cite the belief that man-made global warming is a hoax, and that the U.N. is imposing a one-world order.

But this is just the fringe that refuses to be told what kind of light bulb they can buy, right?  Apparently not:  “In January, the Republican Party adopted its own resolution against what it called “the destructive and insidious nature” of Agenda 21.

Linda’s mother was right.  People are dumber than anybody.

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How does this make sense #1?

Below is the brilliant illustration in the new post at SalmonGuy.org.                                      His caption reads: “Madness, hypocrisy, shameful.”

It’s the kind of picture that illuminates the illogic of one piece of the world’s vast energy puzzle.  The subject is the proposed Canadian oil pipeline that I wrote about in my November post “Bold Nebraska.”

See the full post at this link: Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline (proposed) — How does this make sense #1?.

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Upstream Battle: Science, Politics & Salmon

Sockeye...Roderick Haig-Brown Provincial Park

Don Fowler is a man with an insatiable curiosity about our planet–and the intelligence and energy to go with it.  He has been my correspondent for all things critical in the Western zones of North America.  You’ve read about him previously in this blog.  Here’s the communique he emailed me yesterday:

There is a story that’s been around here for quite a while here.

It combines deceit (Canadian government’s), subterfuge (stifling of competent research), science that’s difficult to understand if you’re a lay person (me), corporatism and greed (they so often seem to go hand in hand?) further complicated by environmental-types who are anti-everything.  Wherein lies the truth?

Much is at stake.  Potentially west coast wild salmon stocks and even other species.   No one knows for sure.  I might as well come live in Connecticut if there were no wild salmon in BC.  Alaska, Washington, Oregon and California salmon could also be at risk.

Infectious Salmon Anaemia virus.  ISAv for short.

The Cohen Commission reconvened for 3 days in the waning days of 2011 specifically to hear arguments from all sides on ISAv.  The final report from Judge Cohen is due in June 2012.

Cohen’s mandate is to examine the causes of the 2009 Sockeye Salmon collapse on the Fraser River.   He is also looking at Sockeye decline. Just to make this really interesting Sockeye numbers in 2010 were off the charts. 10 million ++ more than were expected.  I have heard no reasonable explanation for the 35 million that returned.

The importance of his Inquiry cannot be underestimated. It’s perhaps the last chance Canada has to make positive changes in how we manage our  wild stocks, science and industry.  The problems are related to multinational and largely Norwegian Atlantic  salmon farmers who now have operations all over the coast.   Wherever they have gone on this planet, disease has followed.  I wish it were that simple though…….it’s not !

Here are some links you might like to check out to get a feel for what’s going on.

From most recent to older, with my annotations…..

Alexandra Morton’s “Time For Truth” blog post.  The environmental  take. Morton is the preeminent shit disturber, she deserves a medal and would get it if she didn’t have a large axe to grind: she lives among the fish farms and wants them gone or changed.

Salmon Guy is a well-done blog; it’s serious with a sense of humor.  “What’s your salmon story?”

From the Seattle Post-Intellegencer: Getting the jump on a disease of ‘devastating quickness’

From the Bend (Ore.) Bulletin: No signs of virus found in British Columbia salmon.  At the “heart” of the problem is detection of the ISAv. Private labs have been getting “hits” for years. Governments are in denial and say their tests are ALL negative; there is no ISAv in BC.   Three accredited labs worldwide say different.

And from Scientific American this past May: Upstream Battle: What is killing off the Fraser River’s Sockeye Salmon?  Includes a nifty slide show.

This is just a  sampler–googling ISAv will provide endless reading.  I believe everything I read, don’t you ?

I had to share this with you and hope you don’t mind. It is one of the most complex and fascinating issues of my life.  Let me know what you think.

Back to work–this is the highlight of my day!

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Bold Nebraska

When I heard the news last week that TransCanada would re-route the Keystone XL pipeline away from the Sandhills, I thought immediately of my friend Mo Harvey.  I knew that the pressure had mostly come from within the state of Nebraska.

Sure enough, Mo called me first.

Whoa! How about that? she said.

Mo is a born and bred Nebraska woman, and yes, she is one of the on-line activists who have kept up the drumbeat in opposition to the pipeline.

The Sandhills in springtime

She pointed me to the website Bold Nebraska, which organized the pipeline opposition:  “Our rebel alliance of ranchers, farmers, environmentalists, conservationists, young people, grandmas, professors, artists, entrepreneurs–Nebraskans.”

Mo says that in the early days of the effort, Jane Kleeb, who started Bold Nebraska, endured a lot of ugly criticism.  A few weeks ago though, boos went up at the sight of a TransCanada advertisement at a Nebraska Cornhusker football game, and “political seismometers went off all over the state.”

All politics is local

Nebraska may not be high on the list of environmentally progressive states–I can’t say–but it has taken this bull by the horns.

Nebraskans went to D.C. too, of course

There’s been an alignment of political forces too:   Those who oppose the exploitation of tar sand oil, period.  Those who want to protect the Sandhills and the Ogallala Aquifer.  And those who see the siting of the pipeline as an issue of Nebraska state sovereignty.  Not to be decided by the White House.  Not by the State Department.  Not by a Canadian corporation.

Now, it is a kick in the pants that this tempting offer for a 7 billion dollar, 1,700 mile construction project right through the middle of the American heartland comes now, when jobs are so desperately needed.

But isn’t that the very definition of a Faustian bargain?

TransCanada reports that after the construction is done, the number of pipeline-related jobs that would remain in Nebraska is…about 100.  The cost in terms of climate change?  Priceless.

Trust is the issue

A critical issue is whether this or any industry earns the public’s trust.

Bold Nebraska features this quote from a University of Nebraska study: “Analysis of Frequency, Magnitude and Consequence of Worst-Case spills from the Proposed Keystone XL Pipeline”:

Map from The Guardian newspaper (UK)

TransCanada assumed, without supporting data, that Keystone XL will be constructed so well that it will have only half as many spills as existing pipelines, even though the tar sands crude to be transported through the pipeline is more likely to leak than the conventional crude in other pipelines (tar sands oil pipelines have 16 times more safety incidents due to its corrosive nature, much more so than traditional crude oil).

That kind of “assumption” puts a finger on the cocktail of arrogance and greed that makes it oh so tempting for a corporation to underestimate risks and cut corners.

The Department of State’s response to the analysis is here–interesting reading.

2010 brought us Deep Water Horizon and the Upper Big Branch coal mine explosion.  They were just momentary pauses though; then it was back to business-almost-as-usual.  We want to believe that the coziness between industry and regulators has been broken up.

But I love a history lesson, don’t you?

North to Alaska

In 1968, oil geologists discovered an immense oil field in Alaska, above the Arctic Circle.

A pipeline was proposed to carry the crude from the North Slope to the marine terminal in Valdez.   A nine year legal and political battle ensued–in many respects comparable to the Keystone XL.  PBS’s American Experience did a fascinating episode about it in 2006–here’s the historical timeline from their website.

Pipeline to tanker, Valdez, Alaska

You’ll thrill to the discovery of more than 30,000 falsified weld x-rays (1975).  You’ll gasp as the oil tanker Exxon Valdez runs aground, 11 million gallons spill into Prince William Sound and images of oil-covered seabirds become iconic (1989). You’ll thoughtfully weigh the benefit of 16 billion barrels of domestic oil that have been delivered by the pipeline since 1977. And you’ll note that the most recent leak to shut down the pipeline was in January 2011.

Build a pipeline, load up tankers, insure the risk.  We know how to do that.

Pipedreams

TransCanada’s CEO said they re-routed Keystone XL because “This project is too important to the U.S. economy, the Canadian economy and the national interest of the United States for it not to proceed.”

Apparently he’s wrong though.  Like a drug dealer, the energy industry is simply moving   to a new street corner.

This week, it’s reported that the smart money is shifting to pipelines that would run west from the tar sands, over the Canadian Rockies to Vancouver.  From there, oil tankers will take it to California refineries which have already been upgraded to process the heavier, lower quality crude.

“California is the prize,” said Greg Karras, senior scientist with Oakland-based Communities for a Better Environment. “It’s where the [Canadian tar sands] industry is going. They have this gigantic reserve of fundamentally dirtier oil that they want to exploit, sitting above the best refining country in the world.”

Win the battle, lose the war?

This has been an extraordinarily good year for Nebraska farmers.  Corn prices are at record highs and the Sandhills are safe for now.

Bold Nebraska rightly congratulates all those who forced the re-routing of Keystone XL.  However their claim that they “beat Big Oil” should be probably be modified to: “We made Big Oil abandon Plan A.”

The Alberta tar sands oil fields in springtime

***

Note:  Tar sands, or oil sands, is a mixture of sand, other minerals, water and a dense form of petroleum – bitumen — that resembles tar in appearance. Like tar, it doesn’t flow easily and requires extreme heating via steam injection to extract. Intense energy is required, giving the crude a carbon footprint that is 10-20 percent greater than other oil.

.

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Maps & Legends

”]Cover of "Murmur [Deluxe Edition]"

R.E.M. announced its breakup a few days ago. Their songs and their sound captivated me through the 80s and 90s. An outspoken band, they buried their meanings in poetry and their lyrics in the mix.

Let’s put our heads together, start a new country up,
Underneath the river bed we burned the river down
This is where they walked, swam, hunted, danced and sang,
Take a picture here, take a souvenir

A book on my shelf about the band is titled It Crawled From the South. The cover of their first full LP, Murmur, featured a photo of kudzu–strange, but familiar to me from my North Carolina days. I heard them cover Creedence’s “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?” at the Stock Pavilion in Madison, Wisconsin in 1984.

That year my son Nathaniel was born, and R.E.M. became our band.  I took him to his first concert on Father’s Day 1994.  The band opened with “I Don’t Sleep, I Dream.”

A young man, Michael Stipe talked about “the whole idea of the old men sitting around the fire, passing on … legends and fables to the grandchildren.”  R.E.M.’s lyrical landscapes and bottom-of-the-drawer cover art may have been purposefully obscure, but their melodies sounded timeless to my ears.

The legacy of the band is complicated, it seems. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame notwithstanding, there is such a niggling coterie of detractors. That’s a mystery to me.

Maybe these maps and legends
Have been misunderstood

Marcus Gray, “It Crawled from the South: An R.E.M. Companion.”  Da Capo Press, 1992

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North Knife

"Al Bear"

A quite amazing string of posts have been appearing on facebook and in my gmail via kickstarter almost daily since last week.  Photos of polar bears and beluga whales along with short, in-the-moment accounts, even some witty verse.

They’re coming from Mark Lender, who said bye to his wife Valerie in Clinton, Connecticut nearly two weeks ago and flew to Churchill, Manitoba.

Writing this from SW Hudson Bay. Internet sketchy at best. Looking out on wide rocky expanse of the Bay at low tide, in gold last light of 9 PM. Single polar bear, golden also in this light – & color & shape and size of the boulders – working his way into the gathering twilight. More than two hours till full dark, and dawn begins at 3:45 AM.

Bears sharing Beluga carion

Couple of days later, he was close enough to photograph a group of adult polar bears as they feasted on a young beluga whale caught bereft on the rocks of Hudson Bay.  The bears had not hunted the whale (polar bears fast in summer), but as Mark wrote, it is bounty for them.  They gather round the remains in twos and threes and though the truce between them is temporal, for the sake of supper an uneasy peace abides.

Now, nothing for the last 3 days.

I know Mark is okay.  What this means is that he and his Inuit guide have finally gotten beyond the web. They are in the Nunavut territory; Latitude 61 degrees north.

They are not hunting caribou–summer is not the time for hunting.  Their destination is North Knife Lake, a place you will not find on Google maps.

Radio Expedition

Mark is a writer (1st), radio producer (2nd) and photographer (3rd he swears, but consider his pictures).

Rainbow at sunrise

His compelling purpose for this expedition is to see eye to eye with wild creatures.  He’s been in that place many times before, with foxes, osprey, bears, seals…you name it.  The seagull with one red eye who visits the seawall behind their house on Long Island Sound, daily for dinner.

Climate change is progressing faster in the Arctic than anywhere else on earth.  Mark’s goal is to present portraits–in words and pictures–compelling enough to engender empathy for wild creatures and their increasingly unstable habitats.

Arviat

In the Inuktitut language, Inuit means the people and Nunavut means our land.

The Inuit people inhabit the territory north and south of the Arctic Circle from the Chukchi Peninsula of Russia, across Alaska and Canada to Greenland.  Countless generations of hunters and fishers living through extreme winters along with polar bear, beluga whale, caribou, ringed seal, foxes, millions of migratory birds.

Three Beluga

Perhaps the most important thing I will do in the arctic will be the time I spend with Inuit hunters in and around the far north community of Arviat. The relationship between traditional hunters and their prey is as important a part of the picture as anything else. Inuit lived in harmony with nature for thousands of years, exterminating not a single thing. It is their perspective I want to reveal.

Salt Marsh Diary

I first met Mark in April when his book Salt Marsh Diary: A Year on the Connecticut Coast was published.  He came to R.J. Julia Booksellers in Madison CT for a reading and book signing.  I’m an events host there, and when I introduced him, I held up my copy of A Sand County Almanac, the classic of environmental ethics by Aldo Leopold (given to me by my Dad).  The comparison was a tribute to Mark’s writing, which shares that spirit, although his style is really more like prose poetry than essay.

That evening he told the story of a Maine moose and her calf in late summer–a calf too small to survive the coming winter.  A few weeks later, I heard the story again–this time as a first-rate radio piece.

For years, Mark wrote a nature column for the chain of weekly newspapers published along the Connecticut Shoreline.  More recently, he’s found his largest audience on radio.  He is a prolific contributor to Living On Earth on National Public Radio.

Uggianaqtuq: The weather is no longer itself

A year ago at the bookstore, an advance copy of Heidi Cullen’s book The Weather of the Future arrived and I scooped it up.  Cullen is a climate researcher; she focuses on 7 regions on the planet, the people who live there and the stresses they are likely to face in the century ahead.  One chapter is about Nunavut and the future of the Canadian Arctic–I made a copy of that for Mark.  Good airplane reading.

Cullen describes how the traditional ways of navigating over sea ice in winter are becoming increasingly risky; forecasting is unpredictable.  On page 154 she writes:  “Until recently, little was known about Inuit perspectives on climate change.”

A climate researcher named Shari Gearheard, (who moved with her husband to Clyde River, north of the Arctic Circle), sought to find out. She heard a descriptive (discouraging?) word from an elder named Zacharias Aqqiaruq:  uggianaqtuq.

For example, I’m very close with my sister.  Say I wasn’t feeling myself one day and I went to visit her.  As soon as I walk in the room or say something, she would know right away that something is wrong.  She would ask me, “Is there something  wrong with you?”  She would say I was uggianaqtuq.  I was not myself.

Heidi Cullen writes:  “This was something Gearheard would hear again and again.  The weather had become a stranger; it was no longer itself.”  You can be sure the Inuit are recording for themselves (and their children’s children) the glacier melt, the unstable sea ice, the changing wildlife patterns.  Simultaneously, ‘powerful interests’ are banking on the Northwest Passage becoming open to year-round shipping in the years ahead.

D.I.W.O.

Mark will come back from Nunavut with enough material for at least six radio pieces for which he will receive his usual fee.  That fee, however, does not begin to cover the distance he’s traveled or the expenses he’s incurred.  The program simply has no budget for its correspondent’s travel.  His opportunity came when an eco-tourism outfit named Churchill Wild signed on to cover all of his in-country expenses, including his guides.

So back in May, Mark posted his project on Kickstarter, with a goal to raise $8,625 by the June 30 deadline.  That is D.I.W.O.–Do It With Others.  See his project page here.

A day from the deadline it looked like he wouldn’t make it.  In fact, Mark sent out an email  saying he was going to have to figure out some other way.  Then, by end of day June 29, a pledge of $2,500 came in–the last of 24 total backers.

Your link to the Arctic

Here are three ways to see the remarkable pictures and accounts Mark has been posting:

The Living on Earth blog site.

Visit MarkSethLender.com

If you’re on facebook, search Mark Seth Lender, Writer/Producer or use this link to his page.

In the next few days, as his party re-enters internet range, Mark will again be posting some of his bounty.  I can’t wait.

All photos in this post are copyrighted and used with permission of Mark Seth Lender

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