Tag Archives: conservation

A question of clean water

I try to keep my personal and professional life somewhat distinct, though the work I’ve been doing for the past 18 months has made such attempts feel a little silly at times, as the lines between my passions have blurred. Now, a project that has been consuming me, my colleagues and my organization since June is finally coming to fruition and I think some of my faithful readers here might be interested.

We have made a short film about the threats that new proposals for sulfide mines (copper, nickel and other metals that exist in sulfide ores) pose to the lakes and rivers of northeastern Minnesota, including the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

It has been a great treat to work with John Whitehead, an award-winning filmmaker with a real passion for conservation issues. He really dove into the issue, educated himself and made a powerful film. The message comes through with striking clarity that this is an important issue for all Minnesotans.

Without further ado, watch a trailer for “Precious Waters:”

You can come on out and see the whole thing at our premiere event this coming Wednesday, Nov. 11, at 7 p.m. in St. Paul:

7 – 9 p.m. — Wednesday, November 11
FREE and open to the public!
John B. Davis Lecture Hall, Ruth Stricker Dayton Campus Center
Macalester College, 1600 Grand Ave, St. Paul (map)

I’ll be there (say ‘hi’ if you come!) and we’ll also have a panel discussion featuring several individuals featured in the film. I’m really excited about that part.

Business and pleasure

I know I’ve been a negligent blogger for the past couple months, and for that I apologize to those who support and enjoy my efforts here. Work has kept me busy writing and thinking about woods and waters. I’ve also had the inklings of inspiration to save up some of my writing energies for a medium perhaps more tangible. Or maybe just another Esker.

For what it’s worth, I just completed editing my first newsletter for the Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness. While you won’t find my byline in this one, I think some of you might still enjoy it, and just know that my editorial influence is all over it. There are articles on all sorts of issues regarding the Boundary Waters, as well as a really interesting examination of the essence of wilderness.

Members of the Friends should see it in their mailbox in the next day or two, but it’s also available as a PDF here.

Our next newsletter should see a lengthy report by me on an adventure I have planned for later this summer… a stint as a volunteer in the bow of a canoe with a Forest Service wilderness ranger in the stern. I’ll be helping with routine maintenance on portages and campsites in the Boundary Waters. It should be interesting to see what all goes into preserving the wilderness character of the BWCAW, though it will also be a big change to work in a place where I usually go to play.

Lastly, there was a nice opinion piece in the St. Paul Pioneer Press last week about the state of the St. Croix River, 40 years after it was declared one of the inaugural Wild and Scenic Rivers. Written by John Helland and featuring the words of former senator and vice president and perpetual St. Croix aficianado and advocate Walter Mondale, it talks about the treasure that is the St. Croix, and the very real threats it is facing from development and pollution. The article was spurred by a May meeting of river advocates that I had heard whisperings of a few months back. It sounds like the outcome was the one hoped for: interest and energy regarding the formation of a new advocacy and education group that would work to protect and preserve the St. Croix. You can read the article here.

For Immediate Release

Friends of the Boundary Waters logoI have some news that I am very happy to finally share: I am joining the Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness as their communications/engagement director. As anyone who reads this blog can imagine, I am very excited about this.

In that over the course of my brief life so far I have spent a bit of time weighing the different things I enjoy and have a relatively stable idea of my priorities, this literally could be my dream job.

It will demand writing about topics that are of great importance to me, working for something I deeply believe in. I will seek to engage young people, who are abandoning the outdoors at a frightening rate, finding ways to make an honored tradition of love for wild places relevant to natives of this crazy digital world today.

Basically, I will be doing the type of work I enjoy most to help protect one of the wildest and most beautiful places in the lower 48. And I will be doing so with a group of people I liked and respected from the moment I met them, and joining an organization that has a long history of fighting the good (and hard) fight.

And, oh yeah, I should also mention that wilderness canoeing will now be all in a day’s work. :D

Disappointment Lake, BWCAW

Vote YES For The Outdoors

As you might have heard, after nine years of debate, the Minnesota Legislature finally passed a bill on Valentine’s Day to put a question on the ballot this November asking voters to permanently fund conservation and the arts. I have addressed the issue before, in two posts last year regarding whether or not funding for the arts should be included with the conservation funding. That issue is moot now, as the bill does include both causes.

Unfortunately, a recent survey found that only 32 percent of Minnesotans approved of the amendment and 64 percent said it was a bad idea. That doesn’t leave many undecideds. Which means there is a steep hill to climb for those who would like to leave a legacy of unspoiled woods and waters for future generations.

My small contribution to that effort is this bumper sticker:

Vote YES For The Outdoors bumper sticker

You can slap one on your car for a mere $6.00. Thanks to Sam for designing that spiffy checkbox. And thanks to the National Park Service for making so many of their map symbols available as a downloadable font.

Yes, it only addresses half of the purpose of the amendment, flat-out ignoring the arts, but for now I feel like it’s best to keep the message simple. I haven’t quite figured out who’s in charge of the fight to pass the amendment, but once I do, all proceeds will be donated to that group.

Quotes for consideration

Wrench and B taking a breather while skiing at Sunfish Lake Park“One big obstacle to a more deliberate and meditative way of life is that we are so easily bored. Boredom is the soul disease of the age. The more convenient life is, the more boring it grows. It is infinitely more interesting to raise a tomato than to buy one at the grocery, to concoct a sauce than to heat a ready-made one in the microwave, to negotiate a winding mountain road than to drive an interstate highway … to canoe down a rapids than to ride the chute at an amusement park, to sail a boat than to be transported in one, to travel to Brazil than to take a cyberspace tour of it, to have sex than to watch a sex movie, to…. The list might circle the planet.

“The more bored we are, the more we feel the need to be entertained. The more entertained we are, the less interested we become in anything at all. Curiosity, imagination, inventiveness expand with use, like muscles, and atrophy with neglect.”

Kayaking near Dryweed Island in Voyageurs National Park on the Minnesota-Canada border“Studies show an increasing segment of Minnesotans – those ages 19 to 44 – no longer get outdoors to enjoy state parks or trails. They don’t go fishing or hiking. And they are not introducing their children to those outdoor activities.

“The reason? Young adults and their children lead strictly scheduled lives where other activities – sports, computer games and electronic gadgets – dominate their leisure time.

“Also, a new study shows a segment of young Minnesotans don’t have basic outdoors skills, like setting up a tent, and they’re scared of being in the woods.

“They also view parks as boring and would like them – and the delivery of nature information – to be more high-tech.”

Disappointment Lake in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness“No man should go through life without once experiencing healthy, even bored solitude in the wilderness, finding himself depending solely on himself and thereby learning his true and hidden strength.”

Holy Holy Holy

I don’t understand. And I don’t think I’m meant to. The trees. The rocks. The skies. The lakes and the rivers. Yes, particularly the water.

What don’t I understand? The why of it, I suppose. I’ve been thinking about god lately. A new stage of reflection about the whole matter of a greater force. Embarkation, at least. And the only thing I can come to is that any force that could create this world is essentially unknowable. The craftsmanship of an ancient shoreline, the ambition of a river… it is of a scale and beauty so high above any human creation that it indicates a plane of existence we are not equipped to comprehend.

Though that’s not to say I should not try to know it, or at least to admire the work. But I have no confidence that my questions will provide answers beyond more questions.

But when we rip apart the forests to make toilet paper, smash the rocks to make bullets, cloud the skies so children can’t breathe, pollute the water to power the machines that rip and smash, it seems safe to assume that this is not the way to admire the handiwork.

If there is some god above or below or more likely within, and if that god has created this Earth that is our home, it seems the only suitable worship is to bow down before that which it has given us. Trees. Rocks. Skies. Water. Loving the sacredness of our planet seems like a suitable form of benediction.

There is another reason I feel such prayers are necessary. It’s more personal. And that’s the realization that I love this Earth because it is part of me. And I have a particularly frightening love for the parts of it that I know well. The St. Croix. The lakes of the north country. The trout streams. I have become infatuated with it. The idea that, in my lifetime, the trout streams could become too warm for brookies, that the great stands of jackpine in the north, the soft clumps of cedars, could be replaced by oaks or maples, that my children and my grandchildren might never know those same rivers and woods that I love… it’s more than I can even fathom.

And I believe that if this tradition is lost, if this thing which has been passed down for millenia is finally extinguished, that there won’t be much meaning in human life.

So that’s my recent thoughts on the environment. This Earth, our cathedral. Our legacy, uncertain.

* This post inspired by the participants in Blog Action Day.