Tag Archives: environmental degradation

52 WoLP #25: Big Sky

This week the skies over Lincoln Park have been particularly spectacular, as storms rolled in and out, drenching rains, thunder, a bit of lightening and a particularly auspicious sky the evening before the historic announcement from the Supremes….Beautiful!

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52WoLP #20: Opening Day!!!

For lots of swimmers in West Seattle and beyond, today is the first day of Swimming Season at the Colman Pool.  The Colman Pool, a saltwater outdoor pool, first opened in 1941, replacing a man-made tide filled swimming hole that  had been popular since the 20s. The Colman Pool, made possible by a very generous donation by the Colman family, has long been a favorite spot for swimmers, sunbathers and families all summer long. Here are a couple of snaps, then and now.

Enjoy!  52 Weeks of Lincoln Park is a year long observation of the many aspects of Lincoln Park, the gem of West Seattle.

52WoLP #18: Sometimes rules suck, but dogs will be dogs

Sometimes rules suck, right?  And sometimes you just want to do what you want to do, regardless of others. But we live in a big city, with more people and more dogs all the time.  Like my Dad said when I threw a candy wrapper on the ground, what if everyone did that?

It’s a very valid question.

The dog rules are there because we live in a city with a lot of other people and because this park has wild and cultivated areas–areas we pay tax money to protect.

There’s the pick-up-after-your-dog rule, and people seem pretty much okay with that one.  Then there’s the no-off-leash-dogs thing, and the majority of dog walkers seem okay with that one.  After all, it’s not an off-leash park, it’s an everyone + wildlife park.  And then there’s the no-dogs-allowed part and I gotta say, this last one gets almost no attention at all.  There really are–no really— parts in the park where dogs aren’t allowed at all: the beach and the playfields.

These rules that for some impinge on the god-given rights of dogs to be dogs really upset some people.  A lot.  I sort of understand.  You come home from work, the dog is crazy to run…what are you going to do?

Here’s the deal behind the rules: there are way more dogs and people using the park than ever before.  Way more.  We share the beach with creatures that need it for nesting and life itself.  Dogs will always be dogs on the beach and will always have a hard time resisting the urge to go after that wildlife.  (full disclosure: I like dogs. A lot.)

The other one, playfields: the ballfields are pretty carefully maintained and protected for a specific purpose: ball games.  Dogs running, chasing, digging, and doing the things dogs do (pun intended) flies in the face of the tax-money you are paying to maintain that field.  Do us all a favor and keep your dogs off the playfields.

The park really and truly is a space we all share.  Runners and walkers who frequently prove an irresistible target for even the sweetest dogs; birds and creatures who provide the feeling of getting-away-from-it-all and sing those gorgeous songs that lift our hearts–they make their nests in those bushes where some people throw balls for their dogs to chase;  baby seals and ducks and grebes who need the habitat our beautiful beaches provide.

We all share this park.  There are dozens of offleash parks in the city.  Be a citizen dog-owner, do the right thing, we will all love you for it.

52 Weeks of Lincoln Park is a year long exploration and adoration of the loveliest gem of West Seattle.  Enjoy!

52WoLP #17: the first ever Celebrate LP & our keep-you-guessing weather

Well, last saturday at this time, the overnight temps were in the upper 30s and the day never cracked 50. Chilly winds, grey skies, threatening clouds all conspired to reduce the crowds to only the toughest souls at our first ever Celebrate Lincoln Park.

Enjoy!

52WoLP is a year long exploration of and fascination with all things Lincoln Park, West Seattle.

This saturday, a mere 7 days later, windows and doors will be propped open, temps will be 25 degrees or more higher, and we’ll all be out in droves.

But the show went on, and it was pretty cool.  We even had Park Rangers there in full regalia and I sort of felt like we were at a campground at some National Park, I loved it!

The Alliance for Lincoln Park Nature, ALPN, was there with nature and bird walks, art-in-the park table for water color sketching and writing.  We had a lot of fun with both the sketching and the writing–fast writing exercises on various park-related prompts, and there’s just nothing like sketching to see where you are.  It’s a beautiful thing.

Here are a coupla pics:

52WoLP #11: the secret lives of Lincoln Park (Happy 1st Day of Spring)

There’s the beach trail and the bluff trail; the playgrounds, old fashion zip line, wading pool and picnic shelters; the ball fields and, of course, the Colman pool. These are the places we all know and use and appreciate. There are other places, a little bit secret, not so much for us humans, although we definitely benefit from them.

I was looking at a parks dept map of Lincoln Park the other day and was sort of impressed by the forest areas. Forest. Take a look at the list:

Lincoln Park Forests: particularly H, B, G and J

Lincoln Park Forests: notice particularly H, B, G and J

This is cool, because those areas are part of what makes LP the most excellent park it is. HBG and J are beautiful and sort of urban-wild. There are nicely tended trails through and around them, and at this time of year, those forested areas are extremely active…and their inhabitants particularly vulnerable. Why? Nesting. Lots and lots of nesting going on, nest building and baby making by the ones who sing beautiful songs, flit in and out of trees and bushes and make us feel a little bit more alive and in touch with nature. Here are a few of those creatures, maybe you’ve seen one or two?

And this is just a little tiny smidge of the secret lives happening in LP right now and through Spring/ Summer. So, keep an eye out, take it easy in areas H, B, G and J–we’re just visiting where they live. And many of them live pretty close to the ground, so if you are a dog walker, best to stay on paths, keep your dog on a leash and enjoy the beautiful music of the forests.

**H/t to Trileigh for her bird notes and help
52 Weeks of Lincoln Park, a year long project: #11

Video

52WoLP: #10, Animal Presence Part 2

This is a bit of a riff, but bear with me, we’ll end up at Lincoln Park. I’m still buzzing about animal presence, and wanted to share some o’ that love. After the iridescent octopus at Makena on Maui, the turtle-paloosa at every beach we visited, the shave-ice colored wrasses and graceful idols, the whales, spinner dolphins, I wanted to learn about local folks helping to protect the gift of nature that Hawaii is… and one group stood out: Hawaii Wildlife Fund.

HWF was founded in 1996 by two biologists who saw the encroachment of all kinds of not-very-wild activity on an environment that depends on wild conditions. They are, as co-founder Hannah Bernard put it: “small but mighty.” They spend most of their energy actually doing things like this and this and this (poopy!). They have an awesome education and intern program (do they take 60 year olds??), outreach, and have built an impact worth supporting.

So….Lincoln Park, here’s the link up: as soon as I learned about HWF, Seal Sitters here in West Seattle came to mind. Local with an impact that belies its size, passionate and visionary…Good stuff. Some things I love about Seal Sitters: they have educated a whole city about the little seal pup on the beach, the one people may mistake for injured or worse, others may think would be a happy playmate for their dogs, and still others who might not have noticed at all. It’s neighborly, it’s profound, it’s small but mighty.

Co-Founded by author Brenda Peterson and gaining strength as Seal Sitters in 2007, the group has helped so many–kids, adults, even dogs– understand that it is up to us to protect and share the beach as part of our wildlife habitat. You see them often on Alki, but for the last couple of years, you’ll also see them at the beach in Lincoln Park, setting up a protective zone around a seal pup resting on the shore. They have a great blog (blubberblog, best. name. ever.), our beloved West Seattle Blog is a big booster, and the volunteers are more than happy to talk about what they do. The pups are still taking long sleeps on the shores so keep an eye out for that thing that Seal Sitters does so well.

Wildly, improbably, a few people saw a need and decided to do something about it. As a result, they really have changed the world–one beach at a time. I love that.

52 Weeks of Lincoln Park: week #10

52WoLP: week #9 and Animal Presence

I can’t help it. I’m still enveloped in the pleasure of swimming with green sea turtles in Hawaii for the past two weeks, and am not yet finished replaying the sensation over in my imagination.  Those great bodies moving so gracefully through blue green water, coming up for a gulp of air and a look at the odd but apparently harmless creature swimming alongside–I will not soon forget the glint in the turtle’s calm, accepting eye.

What does this have to do with Lincoln Park, you might ask. Well,  I was reminded of a post on the subject of animal presence by the eloquent Trileigh Tucker, intimate friend of Lincoln Park and all of nature. Her post is this week’s contemplation of LP, because it’s an awesome post, and because we are heading into a period of intense animal presence in and around the park.

How rare it is for us humans to be encountered in the wild by an animal who seems without fear of us, and even more powerfully, to whom we are of calm interest. To see ourselves in their eyes, to be recognized in some way as having a presence, perhaps even being of a kindred nature, perhaps, ultimately, with personhood — such an experience reminds us who we are….Some deep part of us yearns for this recognition.

RCK

Personally, I wait each year for the ruby crowned kinglets–skittish little lovelies with beautiful songs.  Yesterday I noted on WSB Facebook that a neighbor had seen a coyote on the perimeter of the park three days in a row, a seasonal presence to watch for. There are owls, bald eagles, wrens, tree creepers like nuthatches and browns, song sparrows and squirrels, of course. We can watch them, and there’s a sense that they might enjoy watching us.

May you be in the presence of the animals that make their home in LP; coexisting with them is deeply, deeply soothing to the soul.  Thanks Trileigh!

52 Weeks of Lincoln Park: Discovery Park

Hey wait a minute. This is supposed to be about LP, how come we’re talking about DP? Good question, read on….

Discovery Park is the biggest park in Seattle, and has its share of interesting history.  Originally an army base, Fort Lawton, it was given to the city of Seattle as surplus land in 1970.  Seems the ball was immediately in play and many forces, including national ones stepped forward with plans for utilizing those vast acres of sweeping views and winding trails.  In 1974, a focused group of citizens came together as Friends of Discovery Park to protect and preserve the wild natural beauty of the park–and it seems they were (are) fierce.  No push-overs these, and that’s where it gets interesting.  Their mission statement made me sit up and take notice:

In years to come there will be almost irresistible pressures to carve out areas of the Park for structures or activities, because it would provide “an ideal site at no cost.”  There must be a deep commitment to the belief that there is no more valuable use of this site than as an open space.

To me, that statement is revolutionary.  To proclaim that open space is worth fighting for, that there will always be someone thinking about ways to monetize, utilize and rationalize something that is uniquely and stunningly beautiful as it is, especially in an urban setting…well, take a bow, Friends of DP.  You deserve a round of applause.

Every city has its great parks, and those parks go through good times and bad.  Central Park in NYC was on its last legs in the 70s when a group of civic leaders, Central Park Conservancy, was founded to reverse the decline. Last night at the Fauntleroy Community Association, a group that grew out of the Go Ape fiasco of last summer, presented its ideas, concerns and its mission to protect and preserve the West Seattle gem that is Lincoln Park introduced itself.  You can read about last night’s meeting here in WSB--the response has been very very positive and while it’s early days yet (we don’t have a website etc), we have a vision and plenty of passion.  It’s going to be a good year!

(week #6)

From Italy to our National Parks and Forests to Lincoln Park: a NYT opinion piece plus some..

Timothy Egan recently wrote a piece about our National Parks and Forests, the envy of the entire world, a fluke almost in a land-grab world of power and exploitation (The Geography of Nope, T. Egan, 9/29/12).  It’s a pretty good read, check it out.

And of course, since it’s the crazy season, there’s a real live and imperative political angle…Not that Obama has been any sort of champion at all of the free and open spaces that grace our country, he hasn’t.  But Romney tipped his hand, showing that he would deal a devastating and permanent blow to the gems that define America “…earlier this year when he told a Nevada newspaper that ‘I don’t know what the purpose is’ of all this federal land in the West. It would be nice to think he just doesn’t get it, because he’s never spent any time in the free outdoors.”

The issue that Egan takes up reminds me of our recent run-in with the “think creatively: minds in Seattle’s Parks and Recreation Dept. that came up with the idea for a tree-top zip line with concession stand and ropes course in the middle of one of our few remaining urban sanctuaries and old growth forests, Lincoln Park.  The response was quick and decisive but you have to believe that they are back at the drawing board trying to figure out how to monetize the park by the square foot.  It’s almost a carbon copy of the national urge on the part of a few:

The states, of course, are cash-strapped, and want these lands only so they can industrialize them quickly, with minimal regulations. If you want to know what our public lands would be like under states in the pocket of oil companies, just look at the closing days of George W. Bush’s presidency, when drillers pressed to scar up land near some of the most iconic national parks and monuments in the Southwest. Only a change in administrations, and lawsuits that back the people’s right to manage the lands properly, stopped them in their tracks.

Second — and more importantly — these are our lands they want to take away. The toddler in Tuscaloosa has equal claim to the stunning Vermilion Cliffs outside the Grand Canyon as does a cowboy in Arizona. One day, when we are a nation of 600 million, these community-owned treasures will be all the more valuable.

And that last part is the part that will challenge the small thinkers who are driving monetization: the importance of our free and open lands will only grow as the lack of free and open land decreases.  And not just for us, but for all migrating animals and birds, for an entire ecosystem that requires space and diversity and a multitude of resources we scarcely recognize.

So, dear Seattle City Council, Mayor McGinn, Parks Dept: I ask you to think in terms of a broad and varied portfolio of open space.  Some quite urban, some urban sanctuaries, some tiny, some quite grand.  Don’t apply a single rule of $X per SqFt to evaluate what we have that makes this city liveable.  Think truly creatively, think really big, think for the long term.  Consider existing city parks like Central Park and Golden Gate park.  No cheap, short term tricks but rather a vision of the gems we have becoming even more valuable with time.

Zipline in Lincoln Park? Thanks for the offer, but, uh…No Thanks.

There is a proposal to install a Zipline and ropes course amusement area in Lincoln Park (you can learn more about it here on WSB, Tracy’s article garnered more comments than any in the history of the blog).  There is a wave of activism against this proposal and this coming week will include a presentation by the offending developers to the Fauntleroy Community Association Tuesday at 7pm, Fauntleroy Hall.  More informal meetings of outraged west seattleites are happening throughout the week.

Lincoln Park in West Seattle is a pristine old growth forest in an urban setting, a unique gem on the Salish Sea

There are two Facebook Groups you can join, just search on Zipline Lincoln Park or anything like that and you’ll find them.

There are a few blogs springing up in an effort to get the word out, such as this great one.

Here are a few things I’m thinking about regarding the numbskull idea:

–Go Ape says the park will handle *only* 14 riders per hour.  14.  That’s likely 20-30 more cars at any given point during the day in the parking lot, if you consider the inevitable wait lines for riders.  There is talk that this will necessitate a new parking lot in the park.

–No trees will be harmed in the process of building and maintaining the park, the developers say.  It only impacts the tree tops.  THE TREE TOPS, where our eagles, hawks, owls, herons and other large birds roost and hang out.  Loss of predator birds will result in a burgeoning rat infestation, which will be helped along vigorously by the waste and trash produced by the concession stands.

–Traffic along Fauntleroy—do we really need to discuss this?  Sometimes the ferry lines stretch back 4 or 5 miles.

–No alternative revenue ideas to help defray the costs of maintaining the park have been investigated or attempted.

There are many communities that have successfully pushed back on these development plans and specifically against Go Ape.  A few are:

Napa Valley
Monterey County
Woodinville WA

Let’s all just say No.

Thank you, Ms Matai, the earth will miss you

Wangari Maathai

Tireless, awesome, determined, visionary, gift to the whole world–Wangari Maathai is leaving us way too soon.

A beautiful article in The Guardian by Joseph Kabiru pays loving tribute to Maathai who passed away this weekend at 71.  She could see the impact of rural communities on the overall ecosystem of East Africa and began her work in 1977.

She lived to see the devastation caused by unsustainable farming practices be addressed and changed; she received wide recognition including the Nobel Peace Prize for her tireless efforts and vision; she lives on as an inspiration to so many.

Amidst the silly, short term, wildly selfish me-first bottom line nonsense that fills the “news” and defines much of our conversation, the work of one woman who could see a path to sanity stands as a benchmark of our times.  May her spirit live on and keep an eye on things for just a little longer.

Better Off: one year, two people, zero watts

I just finished reading Better Off by Eric Brende who, a decade ago as part of a graduate project, went from MIT to OTG (off-the-grid) for 18 months with his wife, and amidst it all, new baby.

The book is based on his journals from that 18 month period and has a ton of really interesting anecdotes and observations.  Bottom line: he really never came back to the machine-and-technology world.  He didn’t stay in the zero-watt Mennonite community he joined for the project, but he and his family learned they quite liked a life with very little technology and have over the years built a lifestyle that suits them really well.

The end of the book has an epilogue that is markedly different in tone from the rest of the book in that it takes a sober look at his conclusions–no folksy tales about how and who and why and when in the country. A very stripped down appraisal of the True Cost of how we live–and the True Cost is high, make no mistake.

Interestingly, he gives a nod to the internet he uses at the library and how it allows him to reach a larger audience for trades, barters and such.

It’s worth the read.

Take the time: Nick Werle on Free Markets and Nature

We tell ourselves stories, and sometimes we can see with frightening clarity the impact of those stories on our behavior.

A recent essay in 3 Quarks Daily by Nick Werle (Competing to Live: On Planet Earth and Being in Nature) takes a careful but wide ranging look at the many stories we tell ourselves about Nature.  He looks at David Attenborough’s Planet Earth series and the focus on the delicate balance in nature…and its requirements.  He looks at Darwin’s story in The Origin and sees similar threads regarding competition and the urge to survive. They both have a keen interest in understanding the mechanism of competition.

“In the rain forest, which we have seen has both high productivity and unceasing conflict, ‘competition for resources ensures that no one species dominates the jungle.’”

David Attenborough, Planet Earth

All of Nature is Regulated and Interconnected…and we are part of Nature

At the end he raises the obvious question of how we humans, the closest relative to the marauding gangs of chimpanzees that are depicted wrecking havoc in the jungle, care or alternately don’t seem to care about our place in the balance of nature.  Deregulationism has at its core a willful faith that the market will balance out all transgressions, that it is a marvelous–nay, Magic–self-regulating machine that is well within the bounds of Nature itself. It is a faith that ignores the obvious issue of interconnectedness.  Witness the global concern over Japan’s under-regulated, under-managed, growth focused nuclear program in the last month.  Earthquakes and tsunamis are natural disasters; nuclear meltdowns as a result of deregulation are not, and no market forces  can adjust the damage done.

As we have seen with increasing regularity, our wave of deregulation–from bubble to bust, from drilling and chemicals to “clean-ups,” implosions,  and overpopulation, we are not living in balance with the planet we call home.

We have managed to upset the balance of so many systems that it seems to me we are now living well outside of nature.  Plastic may well be the iconic metaphor for all we have become. The story we tell ourselves, and what we are actually doing, are not concordant, even as they could be.  Attenborough makes an argument that yes, we are part of Nature, and our particular playing field is uniquely human, but is nonetheless part of the large balance we would do well to have an interest in. The point Attendborough makes is more subtle than those put forth by deregulationists:

It positions humanity not as an alien force superimposed on an independently existing natural world but as a part of the same precariously balance system. The argument is so affective because it refuses to plead. Instead it suggests that we reconsider the boundaries we draw between systems we hope to keep in balance.

Instead of defining the jungle as the wild and unthinkable state of nature, this naturalist approach seeks to fuse man’s understanding of himself with the complexities of Nature in order to ensure that Planet Earth never becomes a stunning monument to irrecoverable beauty.



Midway Atoll: Art, Grief and Transformation

Take a look at some photos from the front–the front being that stretch of sea that holds the world’s biggest floating garbage patch.  Will it someday come to be known as an “oceanfill” like landfill?

Chris Jordan’s work is entitled “Art, Grief and Transformation.”  As he says, the grief of seeing wildlife killed by having ingested plastic it thinks is food is nearly too much to contemplate.

The amount of plastic we are producing, discarding, and sending into the food chain is unfathomable.  Our disconnect from the reality of overpopulation and over-consumption is stunning.  How did we evolve to such a level of magic thinking?

End-of-year round up: yeehah!

Some updates on two themes for the year, Living Green and Running.  I’ll save Running for another day before 2010 descends.

Living Green

One big change I’ve really enjoyed is switching to home-made toothpaste.  “Enjoyed” is an overstatement, in fact it was a pretty big adjustment. What most of us are used to wrt to toothpaste is pretty sweet gel stuff, easy to use and tasty like good chewing gum.  Home-made toothpaste isn’t like that so it was an adjustment.

What led to making my own:

  • Estimating the annual landfill caused by non-recyclable tubes emanating from our house, our neighborhood, our city (literally millions of tubes)
  • Investigating toothpaste recipes and history and realizing there were real health benefits to a simple recipe of baking soda, mint mouthwash, glycerin and flavoring
  • Trying it out and learning it takes about 5 minutes to make a jar of it that will last a month.  5 minutes = 1 month.

Some downsides:

  • My partner didn’t like the taste and refused to use it, thus my goal of reducing our personal landfill quotient was cut in half for a while.
  • It doesn’t leave your mouth “zingingly” clean-feeling, so I continue to rinse with mouthwash, but that container IS recyclable  and it added nothing new to my existing habits.
  • You have to stir it up sometimes, but that was good enough for Bob Marley so it’s good enough for me.

An update to the first bullet/”downsides”: I had my first dental check-up about 6 months after I started using homemade toothpaste and was given the most glowing report I’ve ever had from a dentist.  In fact the technician said, in that geeky dental technician way: “I have total gingi-envy of your teeth.”  Homemade toothpaste cuts bacteria way better than traditional toothpastes on the market, it turns out.  My partner started using the homemade version about a month after that report.

Another change we’ve put in place regards plastic bags. Even though we’re fortunate in Seattle to have a plastic bag recycling program, still, once you become aware of how many plastic bags you’re putting into the system, just picking up more and more becomes slightly irritating and disturbing. When you factor in the issue of plastic bags making their way into the oceans and waterways of the world, well, my head sort of explodes, ok?

We began tracking the amount of bags we have in a week: bags from produce, packaging bags for everything from rice to frozen berries, bags from the grocery store.  We made a decision to simply clean and dry all we could and reuse them at the store.  This was a clumsy new process and took time before the magic started to happen: after a while, we simply weren’t bringing IN as many bags.  AND! we now had fridge storage plastic and stopped needing to use so much plastic wrap.  All in all, after about a month, it was a no-brainer.

Upsides:

  • Once we figured out a path to get clean, dry bags into our shopping bags for weekend market/grocery shopping, the system worked.
  • Fridge storage is a lot easier–this was unexpected.  There’s always an easy to use bag in the drawer waiting for you.
  • We’ve reduced our recycling load, again–not by a ton, but by some measure for sure.
  • A bag is a bag is a bag–at first I was self-conscious about using bags with marketing on them, but now I don’t care.  A bag is a bag, it’s a container, that’s all.  Relief.

Downsides:

  • Making a process, and building a habit around the process takes about 3 months
  • When reusing the packaging bags, like from frozen berries, the store has problems with the existing bar code on the bag; we just turn then inside out now so the bar code doesn’t trigger.
  • Sometimes we have a few too many bags in the clean/dry process and it gets a wee bit unwieldy.  Just sometimes.

Those are the two GREEN initiatives that have taken root in our home.  Change is slow.  We’ve done lots of other things over the last few years but I wanted to highlight these two because they indicate a different level of commitment to change than other things we’ve done (drying our clothes on lines when possible, driving less, composting more).  Happy New Year! Let’s make it a good one!