SAGE MAGAZINE VOLUME VI 2012
SAGE MAGAZINE VOLUME VI 2012
COVER IMAGE Antarctica, by Sandy Aylesworth (p. 35)
SAGE MAGAZINE EDITORS-IN-CHIEF Michael A. Parks Aaron S. Reuben
An Ice Rink at 16,000 Feet 1
Can Doing Chores Save the World? 8
Christine Jun Jason Schwartz Dylan Walsh
LAYOUT & DESIGN Aaron S. Reuben
An Absence in the Wilderness How the West Was Won 26
The Anti-Sushi (of Miyaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Sushi)
An Unsettling Experiment
III growth / change
Photographs Amy Coplen Ainsley Lloyd
No Easy Task 79
Jonathan Minard Dylan Walsh
That Was Then. This is Now.
Michael A. Parks
Sandy Aylesworth is a first-year Masters student at the Yale School of
Amy Higgins first found her way to the Himalayas as a teacher with Vermont Intercultural Semesters. She stayed in Ladakh for three years, working with a local NGO, the Leh Nutrition Project, and later supported by a grant from the National Geographic Society, as part of their Young Explorerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s program. Amy is in her second year at FES, studying climate change science and policy.
Forestry & Environmental Studies. Her studies focus on conservation of marine resources. She is an accomplished sailor and licensed ocean vessel captain (up to 500 tons!).
Amy K. Coplen is a Master of Environmental Management candidate at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and will soon be headed for the left coast to conquer a Ph.D in Urban Studies at Portland State University as part of their Ecosystem Services for Urbanizing Regions program. She is enamored with storytelling, radio, food, and community gardens. Her heroes are Ira Glass, Will Allen, Alice Waters, and Lily, a Sesame Street Muppet who promotes hunger awareness.
Caitlin Cromwell hails from Baltimore, Maryland, and grew up traversing
the trails and ski mountains of the East Coast. She has always felt most at home outdoors, and owes any environmental inclinations to her wonderfully unconventional family. Currently, she feels most drawn to the sustainable agriculture and local food movements. A sophomore English major at Yale College, she hopes to continue to explore the environmental movement through journalism.
Ben Goldfarb is a first-year Masters student at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies studying marine conservation and social science. His career has carried him to sites as far-flung as Bangkok, Yellowstone, and the urban jungles of the Bronx. Shane Hetzler is a Master of Forestry candidate at the Yale School of Forestry
& Environmental Studies. When he is not studying or writing about the West, he can be found skiing the glades and fly fishing the streams of the northeast with his dog Bathie. He looks forward to the day that he can return to his native Oregon to work on rural community conservation challenges facing his friends and neighbors back home.
Ainsley Lloyd is a second-year masters student at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. Her interests include international development, social enterprise, and rock climbing. Jonathan Minard is an artist and filmmaker who investigates human experience in extreme environments and the evolutionary dynamic between nature and culture. Areas of interest include astrobiology, deep sea oceanography, the SETI program and the emerging culture of humans in outer space. At the STUDIO for Creative Inquiry at Carnegie Mellon University, Jonathan is involved with the Moon Arts Project. In 2011, he founded a documentary production company, Deepspeed Media. Samantha Ostrowski is a first-year Masters student at the Yale School of
Forestry & Environmental Studies. Her research focuses on conservation and hydraulic fracturing in the eastern U.S. She is also interested in the arts, and briefly studied poetry with Richard Wilbur at Amherst College.
Emily Schosid is a second-year Masters student at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. She hails from the sunny Flatirons of Boulder, Colorado, and loves to spend time outside hiking, biking, reading and writing poetry. Dylan Walsh graduated from the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies in 2011. He works as a freelance editor and contributes somewhat regularly to The New York Times Green Blog.
ou are holding in your hands SAGE Magazine, a print publication of the graduate students of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. We launched a new website in October of 2011, which has since grown into a home for an endless stream of exciting environmental journalism, writing, art, and all-around, general purpose rabble-rousing. This collection includes the best, most vibrant work we have encountered this year. Relax and settle in. We are going to take you from Antarctica to rural West Africa, from the Oxford, England, offices of a video game developer to the inner sanctum of a sustainable commune in the hills of New Mexico. We’ll explore the definition of wilderness, the real value of work, and, of course, the meaning of life. If you like this magazine, pass it on. Or else tuck it firmly into that worn knapsack or well-used wooden bookshelf that is the place for treasuring things that are only yours. And then, when you’re done, come visit our new website, sagemagazine.org, where the writing’s got vim, the videos sparkle, bloggers are always welcome, and the kids tweet for free. We hope you enjoy. -The Editors of SAGE Magazine
An Ice Rink at 16,000 Feet Amy Higgins
igh in the Himalaya, Nepali and Ladakhi laborers pause for a moment from their backbreaking job of splitting rocks to watch civil engineer Chewang Norphel, 75, patiently check the level of the stone wall under construction. A teenage boy moves a thin pink string up and down as Mr. Norphel, gazing through a level mounted on a tripod, deems the stones satisfactory. The workers gather around Mr. Norphel as he sketches in the dirt with a stick and explains what needs to be done. “It is very important for the wall to be level,” he says. “Otherwise, the water will just come down one side, and then the freezing process is very slow and difficult.”
ICE RINK AT 16,000 FEET
Colorful umbrellas dot the landscape in this high-altitude desert, shelter from the blazing July sun. Improbably enough, a square kilometer of ice will cover this same steep slope by December. Right now, a backbone of stone bunds and empty cement irrigation canals trace a skeletal path down the slope. Beginning in October, metal gates will open, diverting some of the nearby glacial stream into Mr. Norphel’s canals. Over the next three months, these small diversions of water will flow through the canals and into a neighboring valley, where the stone walls will fraction the water into six small portions.
heavy winters. All was fully covered in snow, and in the mountains we had at least eight to ten feet of snowfall. Now, the last four decades, we are having less snowfall. The glaciers are receding.”
These small portions of water, in the same way as small ponds in a forest, freeze solid well before larger rivers do. Once frozen, an additional layer of water is diverted to wash over these portions and link them together into a single mass of ice that starts to look like a hockey rink. More layers can then be added until it begins to resemble a glacier, though Mr. Norphel chuckles when recalling one year when he let too much water onto the frozen mass. Temperatures were warm, and the additional water turned the ice into slush. “We are always learning how to make it work better,” he says.
Despite the golden fields of barley rippling in the autumn breeze or the dark reds of apricot trees weighted down with fruit at summer’s end, Ladakh is a desert. Determined farmers in the rain shadow of the massive granite Himalayan massifs carve patches of green earth out of sun-bleached sand and rock.
By the end of December an “artificial glacier” will have formed, a massive kilometer-long stretch of ice. To Ladakhi children, it’s a dream ice hockey rink in their backyard. But, far more important, for farmers who can look ahead to the first buds of spring, this newly fabricated glacier may mean an extra crop per season, or enough water to revive fields that have recently been left fallow due to diminishing water resources. As one quiet Ladakhi engineer, Mr. Nazir, puts it, “When there is no water there are no humans.” He chuckles as he says this, but there is sadness in his eyes. Because the Tibetan Plateau is warming up on average two degrees Celsius faster than the rest of the world, the effects wrought by climate change are felt acutely in Ladakh. “I sweat more now when I am working in the fields,” says one Ladakhi farmer, Tsering Tundup, of Rumbuk. “It is definitely warmer now than when I was young. Maybe this is climate change. The whole valley here used to be covered in ice. When you went to town, you would have to decide if you should take the horses or the donkeys, because the horses slip more and often they would break a leg on the ice and die there. The snow was so deep it covered the tops of the trees in the riverbed. Now we get maybe one foot of snow here.” Mr. Norphel has been listening to these anecdotes of climate change for years. “When I was young, ten or eleven, we had very
While climate change can be a political topic for some, Ladakhis roll their eyes at this idea, at the arguments that climate change is not happening. They only know what they see, and they see changes in the weather, in their water, and, ultimately, in the amount of food they produce to feed themselves. The Himalayan Water Cycle & A Warming Climate
Situated on the Western edge of the Tibetan Plateau, Ladakh depends on the glacial melt flowing down from Himalayan glaciers. British mapmakers in the 1700s struggled to understand the complex watersheds of the region—the unexpected rivers springing from rocks, their sources somewhere in the sky. Ladakhis believe that the lu, or water spirit, causes the water to erupt from cliff faces and may leave if people become too greedy. To keep the lu content and the water flowing, white silk scarves embossed with circular Buddhist symbols festoon ice-encased cliff faces, tied there at considerable risk to life and limb in a show of gratitude. As spring arrives, the Ladakhi ready their fields in the lag between warming temperatures and the weeks when the water reaches the villages. Valley temperatures become warm enough to plough and sow the fields in March or April, depending on altitude; altitude also determines when the glacial melt reaches a village, as late as May or June in some places. Ladakhis are accustomed to the rhythms of this miserly environment, and make up for the short agricultural season by working from sunrise to sundown once the meltwater reaches their fields. Mr. Norphel explains the peculiar Ladakhi summer further, “The glaciers start melting in June. The sowing season begins in April and May. Summer season is very short, just a single crop. If the farmers don’t get the water at the right time, there is no crop that year.” Mr. Norphel’s artificial glaciers help smooth this uncertainty and provide water early to farmers who would otherwise wait weeks to sow their fields. A period of relative calm follows in mid-summer, and then another flurry of activity in August through October during harvest. The last remnants of the
glacial melt trickle down from the mountains in October, after final irrigation and harvest. Freezing occurs shortly after, with winter effectively halting the running clock of irrigation that drives Ladakhis to work twelve-hour days when water is available. In the stillness of winter, the cavernous family homes, quiet and empty during the summer days, become bustling hives of activity, families gathering around the kitchen stoves, enjoying the warmth and the fruits of their summer labor: barley flour noodles, carrots, and potatoes in thick stews. In the past thirty years, Ladakhis have observed the strange flow of glacial streams through November and into December, a result of warmer fall temperatures. It remains too cold to grow anything, so the water purls through hibernating villages and down to the major rivers, primarily of the Indus watershed. It weaves through Ladakh and crosses the Indian border to Pakistan then disperses into the Bay of Bengal where the glaciers – in some way, Ladakhi livelihoods – are lost at sea. Observing this in 1985, Mr. Norphel began to wonder: What could Ladakhi villagers do with this unseasonal and wasted water? A Man, A Plan, Artificial Glaciers When the seventy-five year old Mr. Norphel was growing up, Ladakh was an isolated oasis in the Himalaya. Most people carried out their lives never leaving the region. Without television, phone lines, or electricity, their world was smaller. Yet Mr. Norphel’s parents knew that their son was especially smart; he had a knack for fixing things and was good at math even as a young child in the village elementary school. His parents made the difficult decision to send him away to school. They packed him a backpack of food and sent him over the mountains at the age of twelve, telling him to “walk down the mountain” until he reached the town of Leh, and from there to take a bus to Srinagar, in Kashmir. In Srinagar he stayed with an uncle while attending high school. He came back to Ladakh years later after earning a degree in engineering, becoming one of the first educated Ladakhis. While many could have taken their education and run from rural life, Mr. Norphel returned to Ladakh and began working as a civil engineer for the government, whose early projects focused on irrigation in the cold, high-altitude desert. Although the government assigned him to design canal systems and water storage ponds, in the back of his mind he had another idea for how water could be stored
ICE RINK AT 16,000 FEET
While walking around his property one winter, Mr. Norphel noticed that a small stream had frozen solid under the shade of a poplar grove, though it flowed elsewhere in his sunny yard. He suddenly had the inspiration to apply this natural principle to his work engineering irrigation systems. “The artificial glaciers are to supplement, not replace, the natural glaciers,” explains Mr. Norphel. In the quiet of a winter weekend afternoon, at home in his backyard, Mr. Norphel had come upon an idea that could dramatically increase the amount of water Ladakhi villagers have available for agriculture. Upon reaching retirement, Mr. Norphel began to pursue this idea full time. In October and November above the villages of Ladakh, Mr. Norphel shifts large rocks and diverts fast-moving water from the main glacial stream into his canals. These stretch as far as a kilometer in some sites, winding around to reach a nearby unoccupied mountain valley. He shifts the rocks back into place after a few hours. Though temperatures reach the freezing point during those months, the main stream charges too quickly to ice over. Cold-climate homeowners who leave their pipes running through the night to prevent freezing are familiar with the simple principles of thermodynamics applied here: to discourage freezing, increase velocity; Mr. Norphel employs the reverse tenet: to encourage freezing, decrease velocity. At the end of his canals in the empty valley, water slows to a trickle, gradually spreading over the cupped ground, and then it freezes in a series of small pools. Later, Mr. Norphel again shifts the big rock to allow more water into the valley. The ice thickens as this additional water freezes. He repeats this process again and again, adding inches of ice to the valley each time. The process is similar to creating a backyard ice skating rink. Patience and observation are required to avoid adding too much water, which creates a slushy pit. The result is eventually a large mass of ice sitting in the valley. This ice, situated at much lower altitudes than natural glaciers, melts much earlier, providing irrigation water to farmers in the early spring. Down By the River More water means more food. In some villages agricultural yields have been declining along with decreasing amounts of glacial runoff. For these villages, caught on the precipice, even a small amount of additional water may allow them to stay in their ancient homes instead of moving down the mountain to be closer to the river and the city.
ICE RINK AT 16,000 FEET
To live by the river is thought by most Ladakhis to be undesirable. The river water is considered dirty, not only because of the muddy color, but by virtue of the many people upstream using it in homes and fields. Ladakhis are notably conscious of good hygiene; to put ones’ mouth directly into a water source is to irreversibly pollute it. Living downstream from others is thus polluted territory.
engine, and suddenly we begin to move uphill. There is a collective cheer, as students run alongside the slow-moving school bus and are pulled in by their friends; stragglers leap onto the ladder on the back and clamber onto the roof of the bus. We’re rolling again, slowly chugging up the vast mountain towards a bluebird sky, snowcapped peaks, and, somewhere in these barren brown hills, an artificial glacier.
The Indus River Valley is the urban center of Ladakh, called by some the “Crossroads of the Himalaya” after the ancient spice trade routes that established the city. Teenagers view the internet cafes and shops hawking skinny jeans and black-and-white checkered sneakers as glamorous and modern, but parents bemoan the loss of culture when teenagers “hang out” with friends in internet cafes after school, instead of coming back home to milk the cows and help in the fields with their families. Yet with water decreasing, many families may need to reconsider city life and the Indus River, if the streams that feed their crops year after year continue to dwindle.
Hours later, we’re still moving up hill, though now on foot. The school bus finally gave into gravity and remains stranded at a hairpin turn miles below. Ladakhi teens in hooded sweatshirts imprinted with the logos of skateboard companies and skinny jeans, or wearing traditional salwaar kameez and headscarves, trail after the unstoppable Mr. Norphel with well-worn hockey skates dangling over their shoulders, blades glinting in the mid-day sun.
The village of Kumik, located in the remotest corner of Ladakh, a region called Zanskar, recently made the difficult decision to do exactly this. In 2001, a town meeting was called. The trickling water had run out a few weeks before the crops were due to be harvested, and crops had failed. It was a pattern that had repeated itself multiple times, and the villagers were seeing themselves in an increasingly precarious situation, forced to sell much of their livestock after yet another crop failure. At their town meeting the Kumikpas, as the people of Kumik are called, decided to move their village several kilometers away to land bordering the river. The land is flat and empty, barren of the hundreds of years of accumulated familial history, but it will provide water, and this is a tradeoff the Kumikpas felt pressed to make. Artificial glaciers in this way may provide more than water; they may provide the next generation of Ladakhi youth with a reason to stay on their land, to resist the multiple forces pulling them down the mountain. Artificial Glacier #3 It’s a chilly late-April morning and our Mazda school bus shudders to a halt on the steep incline for the third or fourth time. Forty or so Ladakhi high school students cheerfully and noisily spill out of the bus and prop rocks behind the wheels, then begin pushing behind the straining school bus. Across the dusty back window white letters spell out “LOVE WILL KEEP US ALIVE.” The driver of the bus, who looks no more than sixteen years old, shouts directions over Bob Marley’s “No Woman No Cry” while revving the
The first two artificial glaciers have already melted, supplying water to the fields below, and we are hiking up to 16,000 feet to see if Artificial Glacier #3 at Stakmo remains. Reaching a massive boulder field, Mr. Norphel pauses and, with a wide crinkle-eyed grin, asks us trailing foreigners: “Kaxpo duga-leh?” (Difficult enough?) Just as some are despairing, there are cheers from ahead. Artificial Glacier #3 has been found. Reaching the top of the valley perhaps twenty minutes after the first Ladakhi teenagers, I find myself standing on the edge of an oval ice skating rink, watching a blur of colors dance across the vast expanse of white. Mr. Norphel and I watch the teenagers frolic. The kids may appreciate the ice skating rink, but what they’re really skating on is an investment in the future. The water will give their families the resources to irrigate fields that have lain fallow, requiring more hours of labor from everyone in the village, including these teenagers, and resulting in enough food for families all year. As the sun drops behind the mountain, Mr. Norphel and I keep hiking uphill to inspect the irrigation channels that feed Artificial Glacier #3. “This one is pretty good, I think,” says Mr. Norphel. “There is still lots of ice. But next year we will improve it.” In this cold place, high in the Himalaya, hope is alive. Optimism is in the air at 16,000 feet. Below, two boys in rainbow knit scarves tear after each other, and a girl in a bright orange hijab, salwaar kameez and hockey skates launches off a steep drop off. She flails for a second midair, and a crash appears inevitable, but then she rights herself. She lands on her feet.
Can Doing Chores Save the World? Emily Schosid
n the day I arrive at Lama, it takes me a few minutes to find the people. When I find them, they are all holding hands around a large octagonal table, centered in the huge octagonal kitchen. They’re singing a song to bless the dinner they are about to eat. A large photo of Amma, the Hugging Saint, watches from the window, her round face and wrinkled eyes smiling. The shelves around the kitchen are cluttered with idols, stones, feathers, and bowls, and dried plants hang on the walls. A brown striped cat surveys the dinner from the top of the fridge. Before any words can escape my mouth, I’m bear-hugged by a tall man with a wild mane of red hair. He introduces himself as Sebastian and is soon showing me where I can find a bowl, introducing me to the group. He laughs and tells me that they typically refer to themselves as “Lama Beans.” As I fill a bowl with food, people hug me and say hello. “Sit down and eat! You’ve had a long journey!” “Welcome to our home! We’ve been excited for your arrival!”
As I sit quietly and sip my vegetable stew, I marvel at what one visitor to Lama later called their “expert greeting powers.” I look around suspiciously. People sprinkle things like “Braggs liquid aminos” and “za’atar” onto their soup. One woman recalls a conversation she recently had with the raspberry bush outside. This has to be some kind of cult. The Lama Foundation is a self-proclaimed “sustainable, spiritual community” nestled in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains of northern New Mexico. I came here to find out how a sustainable community actually worked. Realist and alarmist environmentalists alike have been telling us for decades that we are going to need a new way of living if we don’t want to run out of clean water, clean air, or safe food. I thought Lama might have some of the answers to what that different way of living could look like. As I drove up the winding road to this idealized place, I’d imagined the solar panels, composting toilets, and rainwater collection systems that I had heard were the community’s— nay, the world’s—salvation. But hugging saints and dinner blessings? When I go to bed that first night, I’m sure I’ve made some kind of terrible mistake. *** I wake up eager to find out how I will get to participate in this new community. Sebastian introduces me to Lucas, the summer intern coordinator—or as they call him, the “steward guardian”—who offers to take me on a short tour of the grounds. Lucas shakes my hand and then pulls me into a hug. “It’s so good to finally meet you after all those emails!” As with the rest of Lama, the image I had formed of Lucas before my arrival is far from the image that stands before me. His blond hair is pulled back into a tight ponytail. He’s got an eyebrow ring and the piercings in his ears hold inch-wide wooden plugs. He radiates the vibes of the rock musician he was before coming to Lama. He tells me he’s been at Lama for three years, and I can tell he’s been working at this spirituality thing in earnest for a long time. We walk out the back doors of the kitchen, and Lucas tells me that he’ll start off by taking me to the Dome, the central meeting space for the community. On our way, I spot four solar-hot-water panels glistening in the late-day sun—just the stuff I was hoping to see here. I make a mental note to ask about them later. When we get to the doors of the Dome, Lucas tells me to kick off
my shoes, since it is considered a “sacred space.” I nod as I struggle to balance on one leg and pull my shoes off. When we walk in the squeaky front doors, my jaw drops. I’ve never seen a room like this. In front of me is an enormous octagonal window. The blazing orange and pink sunset streams in, leaving the mountains in the west in stark, black silhouette. Just before the mountains, the winding Rio Grande is highlighted in yellow and brown shadows, and the falling sun has turned the clouds into swirling red ribbons across the sky. The room is round, and the roof, as the name of the building implies, is stretched into a towering domed shape. A large purple banner with the word “Remember” painted across it hangs over the door. Directly above the middle of the room is a skylight in the shape of an eight-pointed star. Lucas explains that this is the place we will come for such things as “Practice and Tuning.” I nod again, but have absolutely no idea what “Practice and Tuning” could be. He leads me back outside and up some crudely cut stone steps, pointing out the washhouse, the greenhouses, and the rows of newly planted vegetables. Tattered and sun-faded prayer flags flap from the hand-made fences that line the gardens. Lucas points out the path to the outhouse, and I make another mental note to ask about that later too. We start down a long dirt path toward what looks like an empty campground. We walk in single file, and Lucas continues to tell me about the Lama rules. “One thing you should know is that Lama is drug- and alcohol-free. We will share a cup of wine for religious purposes, but that’s it.” The comment takes me by surprise. No drugs at a commune in the desert? “We have a rare and precious opportunity on this mountain to remove ourselves from the distractions in our lives.” He tells me about how the founders of Lama decided to eliminate drugs from day one, which made it stand out from similar communes in the 1960s. When the founders made their decision to be drug-free, the 200 people who had initially said they would come to Lama dropped to just three. “But a lot of folks say this policy is one of the big reasons Lama is still around today.”
We turn a corner and I gasp. Just ahead of us sits the burned ruins of what looks to have once been a huge, white stucco building. Broken bricks and twisted rebar litter the ground. I ask what happened here. “The fire,” Lucas says somberly. During my time on the mountain, I learned that Lama had gone through several periods of disagreement and strife. None was so drastic, however, as the 1996 Hondo Fire, which swept through 8,000 acres of Carson National Forest and destroyed nearly everything at the Lama Foundation. Only two buildings—the Dome one of them—and two cats were left when the evacuated residents returned to the mountain. “It would have been so easy for people to give up and walk away from all of this,” one Lama Bean said about the aftermath of the fire. But the residents were determined to rebuild. “There are a lot of people who love this place very much and worked very hard to make it come back to life,” another longtime friend of Lama told me. One friend of Lama planted oak trees to help the forest regrow. When asked how many trees he thinks he planted he always says, “I stopped counting at ten thousand.” I can’t stop staring at the burned ruins. Lucas points out that the sun is descending quickly behind the mountains and that I should set up my tent before it’s too dark. He leads me back down the path to the little patch of dirt and straw that will be my home for the next three months. On the way, he warns me about a rock that juts out of the side of the hill, but I stub my toe on it anyway. *** It’s 7AM. I’ve been at Lama for about a week. From the distance of my dreams, I hear the soft melody of bells telling me it’s time to get out of bed. I don’t want to. My sleeping bag is warm and the pile of clothes next to my head smells faintly of lavender soap. But I know I’ll be late if I don’t get up. Fine. As soon as I unzip my tent, desert sage and earthy soil embrace my nose. I shake off the groggy remnants of sleep and slowly amble up the dirt path, forgetting about the rock that juts out of the side of the hill, and stub my toe. I fight the urge to yell something obscene, and continue towards the Prayer room. It’s time to meditate.
People shuffle over from every direction. Some clutch cups of coffee or jars of tea. Others hug brightly patterned blankets. No one speaks. The community practices silence until breakfast. I approach the tiny, circular hobbit hole of a door. A hand painted sign hangs on the handle: Come with Peace. Mimicking the people who entered before me, I bow, touch my forehead to the cool floor, and enter the red adobe room. I grab a pillow and sit. A tiny, high-pitched bell rings to start the meditation. The sound hangs in the air for a minute before finally fading into the walls, and all goes silent, except for the sounds of breathing. A half hour slips quietly by, and the tiny bell rings again. Later in the morning, after breakfast and cleanup, everyone heads over to the Dome for our morning community meeting—Practice and Tuning. Everyone grabs a pillow and sits in a circle around the room. Once we are settled in, each person in the circle shares briefly about how they are feeling that morning—“heart tunings.” After each person has spoken, someone rings another small bell. It’s time for “practical tunings.” We’re about to learn what chores we’re signed up for today. Megan, our chore coordinator—“seva guardian”—reads the list in her slow, relaxed voice. “Lunch Cook—Michele. Lunch Clean—Bobby. Dinner Cook—Jack. Dinner Clean—Doug. Clean the Prayer Room—Mark. Clean the Dome—Emily…” My shoulders sag as I look around the big, suddenly imposing dome. The floor begins to stretch into an endless, barren plane. So much floor to clean, to mop. The Ivy League university that had funded my excursion to this place had taught me to look for the newest groundbreaking technology, the preeminent world-changing policy, or the biggest science-forward research projects. I had spent months fantasizing about the projects I would implement at Lama and the ways I would get to use what I had learned about sustainability in a real-world context. The school could not have designed a person more ready to spread the gospel of academic sustainability than me. Instead this: daily chores. On my second day I was told that my primary activities for the next three months would be to clean living spaces and cook meals for guests and residents. Sweeping, chopping, scrubbing…mopping. Every day.
Megan snaps me out of my horrified daydream when she asks us to stand and grasp hands again. “May this day be filled with joy and love as we serve our community and our planet.” She looks around the room, beaming. Joy, love, and mopping. Yeah. Right. The meeting disperses, and I wander slowly back towards the kitchen. I stub my toe on a rock, this time I curse out loud. I grab a broom, mop, bucket, and soap from the kitchen cabinet, and trudge back down the dirt path to the Dome. I start to work my way around the circular room with the push broom. The dust flies into the air, tickles my sinuses, and lands softly on the ground, slightly closer to the center than when I started. After a half hour, the sweeping is finished. I glare at the mop and bucket. I don’t like you, and you don’t like me. But let’s make this work. With a sigh of resignation, I dip the raggedy mop into the lavender scented water. The delicate flowery smell tingles my nose and I start to feel a little less apprehensive. At least it smells better than the outhouse I cleaned yesterday. My hunched back births a dull pain, which I try to ignore. My mind wanders to my grad-school friends who were doing exciting research in foreign countries, working for high-level government organizations, and assisting on important policy and technology projects. I sigh again, grimacing at my slow progress. Why didn’t I get a nice job at some important government office? Why aren’t I in some exotic country doing groundbreaking research? Why am I here, doing this? I start to hum, softly at first. The sound bounces off the walls and echoes for a few seconds before fading into the sky-blue star above me. I realize it’s a song we sang at our Shabbat service yesterday. I think about Dome full of people singing and dancing around a circle. We had shared a cup of wine and a loaf of bread together, bringing in a new week. As I replay the night in my mind, I notice the mop running over floors that are already wet. I’m finished. That wasn’t so bad. During dinner that evening, Megan touches me on the shoulder. She’s beaming again. She’s always beaming.
This is not what I had signed up for.
“Thanks so much for cleaning the dome, Emily. It looks great! It’s so wonderful to have you here helping us!” I look at her for a moment, a look of confusion contorting my face. The sincere gratitude comes as a shock. I was only doing what I was asked to do. I smile and tell her it was no problem. And then I add that I’m glad to be there helping out, too. At least, I’m glad to be appreciated for something I thought was just part of the day-to day routine. *** After a few weeks, I’ve settled fairly well into the daily schedule and I decide to try and learn more about what makes Lama the sustainable community it claims to be. I finally ask Sebastian about the solar panels I had seen on my first night on the mountain. “Those? They’re not hooked up to anything. Those panels were a donation, and we’re not even sure they work,” He says. “We heat our water with propane” I’m baffled. In a place like New Mexico where the sun always shines, solar anything seems like the obvious choice. The Lama Beans would often speak about how great it would be to get rid of the propane tanks that heat the water for sinks and showers, but the time and money to make it happen always seems just out reach. I ask another Lama Bean, Randy, about the sustainability efforts at Lama. He tells me that when he first arrived at Lama, his expectations were high. “I thought more systems were in place, the ideal, perfect systems,” he tells me. “But the longer I’m here, the more I realize how haphazard a lot of those systems are.” It isn’t that these things aren’t important to the folks at Lama—they are. The electricity comes from (working) solar photovoltaic panels perched on a south-facing hill. They reduce, reuse, and recycle all they can. But Randy admits that these things just aren’t at the top of the priority list. “People call the outhouse a composting toilet, but it’s just a damn hole in the ground.” Each conversation leaves me more disappointed. What gave this place the right to call itself sustainable? In academia, the key to “greening” almost anything is almost always some kind of technology. Install this or that scrubber or panel, create a machine that takes a different kind of fuel, create a different kind of fuel. That was not what Lama was doing. So what were they doing? *** Another cool, sage-scented morning. The sky is washed grey with smoke
from a nearby forest fire and with storm clouds that refuse to drop rain onto the dusty ground. There hasn’t been rain—or any kind of precipitation—up here in months. And you can tell: the flowers that line the walking paths droop with a kind of dry sadness; I can almost hear the creaking aspen trees beg for a drink as I walk by. I’m on my way to the Spring House for a “water ceremony.” Lama gets all of its water from a natural spring that bubbles up to the surface from groundand melt-water from the mountains. The water gets redirected to a huge cistern, which then pipes it to the showers and sinks on the land. To protect their one source of water from animals or other kinds of contamination, some of the first Lama residents built a small stone house over the spring. A dwarfsized wooden door opens to the water so people can check the water levels from time to time. Usually, there is more than enough water, and it spills out over its rocky enclosure, creating a small stream that runs down to the rest of Lama. But these days, the streambed is dry and cracked; the water is two feet below its normal level. After our daily reminder to limit ourselves to two five-minute showers per week at Practice and Tuning, we are told that Seth, the farm guru at Lama, would be leading the “water ceremony” later this morning. I am curious to see what that could possibly mean and so make the trek up to the Spring House. When I arrive, Seth is crouching in front of the tiny wooden door, head bowed in what looks like prayer. Is this going to be some kind of rain dance? Seth stretches his arm into the spring to fill a cup with water. He stares into the cup for a moment, takes a sip, and smiles. “None of us would be here without this spring. It’s provided so much for us for so long. I just want to invite you all to appreciate the water however you would like—touch it, sip it, look at it. You can say something out loud if you would like.” As the cup gets passed, most people stare into the cup, touch the water, and then take a sip. A couple of people say a couple of words, but mostly the circle is quiet. When the cup comes to me, I mimic those before me. The water reflects the grey sky and green aspen leaves. When I touch it, I’m shocked by how cold it feels. I take a sip. It tastes a little bit sweet. I’ve never had water that hasn’t passed through some kind of filtration system, and I’m surprised it doesn’t taste more like mud or algae. Without thinking, I utter a “thank
you” into the cup. Even this early in the morning, the dry air has made my mouth and throat feel sandy, and just a small sip of the cool spring water is refreshing. I briefly consider taking another gulp before handing the cup to the next person. When the water gets back to Seth, he starts to sing what I later learned is a Native American chant about the way water can flow both gently and violently, how it can do as much harm as good. He repeats the song, over and over again, and soon everyone else is singing too. I close my eyes and let the sound wash over me like the rain we need here so badly. I find that I am singing along too, thinking about how this mountain is so fortunate to have any water at all in the middle of such a dry climate. And then it hits me: no one is asking for more water here. Everyone is simply thanking the spring, the mountain, the earth, for what water we do have. We aren’t doing some kind of weird rain dance hoping the unrelenting, grey clouds will finally drop some moisture. We aren’t coaxing the gods to give us something. We are just saying thank you, and I wonder why I had never said thank you for water before. It seemed so simple, so straightforward. I mean, I did owe my life to the stuff. Thinking back on the water ceremony, I often wonder what my friends back in academia would have done about a mountain community’s water shortage. I imagine a team of scientists would come to test water quality, map the watershed, and monitor flow rates to and from the Spring House. A team of anthropologists would interview the Lama Beans about their feelings about the water shortage, collect an oral history of water usage in the area, and write paper after paper about the meaning of water in various traditions and cultures from this and other communities. Someone would probably organize some kind of conference, where everyone would present their research on this water shortage, discuss possible solutions to the water shortage, and then go home, excited that they had gotten to present all of this research. Indeed, my friends in academia would know almost everything there is to know about the water that wasn’t there as well as the chemical and physical properties of the water that was. The water, I would bet, would be at the center of a problem, rather than a cause for celebration. But during the water ceremony, the feeling is jovial. The work my academic peers would do is not worthless. Indeed, if ever there were a severe problem with the water (or any other part of the landscape), they would be the ones who could find a solution. The Lama Beans, however, do whatever they can
to prevent such a shortage. They make sure every drop is appreciated so that it doesn’t go to waste. Even in the driest years, they are able to get by. The singing slows and quiets, and I open my eyes to look around. The faces around me are smiling serenely, the way I imagine orange-robed monks might. One by one, people hug Seth, thanking him for a beautiful ceremony. He smiles his boyish smile and bows in gratitude. “I’m happy you made it up here for this,” he says as I thank him. I nod and return his smile. I tell him I’m glad I was there also, and begin to walk back down towards the kitchen. As I walk I smile to myself: once again, I wasn’t just being polite. The gratitude I feel is totally genuine this morning. *** It’s 7AM. I’ve been at Lama for two months. The wake-up bells are ringing. I’ve finally gotten used to waking up early. My feet carry me quickly up the path, navigating around the protruding rocks with ease. The routine has become automatic: Bells. Meditate. Bells. Breakfast. Bells. Practice and Tuning. Tiny bell. Heart tunings. I smile as I listen to what each person has to say. The more I have gotten to know each of the people in the room, the more I’ve become excited to hear the daily updates for each of their lives. After everyone has spoken, another bell rings, the mood shifts, and we know it’s time to hear the chores for the day. Megan flashes her smile around the room. She consults her list: “Thanks to everyone who helped with breakfast this morning. Jack, you’ll be making lunch. Cleo—Dinner Cook. Emily—Clean the Dome…” Megan finishes her list and asks everyone to stand up and hold hands. “Today, may we set the intention to work from our hearts, to serve with compassion, and to cultivate joy with everything we do.” Mopping this room with joy? I’ll try my best, Megan. But no promises. I begin to repeat a sort of mantra as I walk up the dirt path to the kitchen, grab the mop, bucket, and broom, and retrace my steps back to the Dome: It’s not so bad. It’s not so bad. It’s not so bad. When I reenter the Dome, yellow sunlight is pouring through the star-shaped skylight. It’s not so bad. I set down the mop bucket. It’s time.
I dip the mop in the lavender water, and begin the slow dance around the room, repeating my mantra with each push of the mop. As I make my way around the room, the words in my head fade away, and I become absorbed in the silence pressing into my ears. My breathing slows to match the rhythm of my movements. And the mop glides leisurely across the wood floor. I pause to brush the hair out of my face. Sunlight from above makes the freshly mopped floors sparkle like dew on grass early in the morning. And I think to myself: they’re not so different, morning dew and these damp floors. What was I doing here? Cleaning a floor? Maybe. Refreshing a space? That was more like it. I ran through memory after memory of the many people who walked across these floors. And here I was, not cleaning up after them, but renewing the space for the next set of memories to be made. In the light of a new dawn, the dew shines and reminds us that the day is fresh and ready to be filled with life. Or something like that. I shake my head out of my musings, dip the mop, and finish last patch of floor. As the mop runs over the wood, I am struck by how clear the contrast within the wood grains becomes. These aren’t just worn-out, dried-out pieces of wood are they? I’m not even just refreshing the space. With each effort of my arms and back, with each slow, rhythmic breath I take, I am giving life back to this space. I imagine the towering trees this floor used to be, and think about the way of honoring the lives of those trees with the efforts I am putting into maintaining them. When people come into this Dome tomorrow morning, they won’t just have a clean floor. The space will be renewed, revitalized, and ready to hold the community again. I suddenly notice I’ve been standing in the middle of the room smiling like an idiot for several minutes now. And I’m feeling excited. Not because I had finished my task, but because I had gotten to enliven a space. I hear the bells signaling that lunch is ready. I pack up my cleaning supplies and head back to the kitchen, where I run into Megan. She touches me on the shoulder and tells me how great it is for me to be there. Then she thanks me for cleaning up the Dome. I smile back. “It was my pleasure.” As Megan walks away, I can’t help but dwell on how this chore I’ve hated all my life could have made me so happy this morning. It isn’t like I’ve suddenly
started to love mopping; I haven’t. It shouldn’t be such a big deal, but for some reason, it feels like one. *** Back at school, I have a simple student job that makes me responsible for making sure our communal kitchen stays clean and functional. When people catch me doing a pile of dishes, they often ask why I’m doing it; most times it almost sounds accusatory—as though they are really asking why I would waste my time with such a menial task. I tell these people that it’s my job. They’ll shrug and walk away, apparently satisfied with that answer. They almost never say thank you. A lot of days I dread to see what kind of mess my classmates have left for me to clean up. Even just the small gesture of thanking each other makes the chores at Lama seem better. But it goes deeper than that. Lama isn’t just a place where people are more polite. It’s a place where a mundane chore like mopping is given value. In mopping a floor, I’m not just the person making the floor clean. I am giving something tangible back to the community of which I am part. And maybe this is what Megan means when she tells us to “serve with love” every morning. Maybe what she means is to serve and be served with love. To know that what others do to make the community run smoothly requires each of our actions to have some value beyond their utility. But how does society make mopping more than just cleaning a floor? At Lama, part of the answer seems to come from the fact that my coworkers are more than just my neighbors. With every heart tuning, with every hug, the Lama Beans have become people that I genuinely love. So appreciating them for what they contribute to our lives together comes easily. But it’s even more than just simple appreciation. Through genuine care for one another and for the land, the Lama Beans are creating a community from the inside, out. Life at Lama led to fulfilling relationships with other people, with the land, and for some, with the divine. These relationships drive the desire for a continued existence there. In academia, my classmates and I are trained to create sustainable communities from the outside. We conduct research, create management plans, and implement the technologies and policies necessary to carry out those management plans. We try to figure out what the major barriers to implementation will be and then work to remove those barriers. In short, the work is
about how best to make the technology work, rather than how best to make our communities work. The technology I had once equated with sustainability is of secondary concern to the Lama Beans. Efforts to do things like replace propane water heaters with solar are sporadic efforts—“when we have time,” “when we have money.” But efforts to build relationships with one another and with the land are the base of everything they do there. Lama sustains despite the fact that they have not pursued the newest and most revolutionary technologies, nor have they done extensive research. But they have created a place where it seems like the greatest possible tragedy would be the end of that place. And because of that, the Lama Beans are willing to do what it takes to keep Lama going—not asking for more water, as I learned at the water ceremony, and really, not asking for very much of anything. But even when I was convinced Lama’s non-academic approach to sustainability was an effective one, I was left with the question: what happens when not asking for much becomes the problem itself? What if the water from the spring stops being enough? Can this community really continue using propane to heat its water during the long, hot New Mexico summers? While academia certainly has something to learn from the Lama Bean approach to sustainability, perhaps the Lama Beans have something to learn from academia, too. Rainwater catchment systems, solar heating that works, real composting toilets: all of these are technologies that my academic peers can—and do—help people to adopt in communities around the world. Trying to force such technologies on a community that may not want them might never work. And the determination of a place like Lama to focus on relationships rather than technology might prevent them from arriving at solutions like those on their own. But academic technical know-how paired with Lama’s willpower to sustain might make for the perfect combination. *** It’s my last day at Lama. Tears stream down my face as I prepare to drive down the winding road back to academia. As I shoulder my heavy, orange backpack, I feel the weight of the lessons I want to bring back to my life in the Ivory Tower.
As soon as I get back to Yale, I dive into the research, papers, and discussions that had been so conspicuously missing from my summer on the mountain. I also dive back into my kitchen-cleaning job, excited to feel the same things cleaning my school kitchen as I did while cleaning spaces at Lama. Most days, I arrive at school and find the kitchen counter piled high with coffee mugs, dirty plates, leftover food, and rotting compost. The refrigerator is a graveyard for forgotten Tupperware containers and long-expired lunches. Before Lama, I always considered the messy kitchen just a sign of busy graduate students, nothing to really be concerned with. But after Lama, a gross kitchen signals much more than students who are busy. It signals an irony that we are all trying to find “the next big thing to save the world,” but cannot manage to even take care of the tiny kitchen in our building. It makes me wonder how we can help other communities thrive if we ignore our own. The work that my peers and I do while in this institution is sometimes completely unbelievable. It seems impossible to come to a school devoted to sustainability and not think that the work we do will make a huge difference in the world. And I’m totally convinced that it will. But even in a place completely devoted to learning about and helping the environment, the more humble, mundane components of sustainability—creating communities based on strong personal connections and great appreciation for the people and resources we are lucky enough to have access to—are often times overlooked. Sure, my school has been around for 110 years at a university that has been here for over 300. It’s not on the brink of survival, hoping to keep going the way a small, off-the-grid mountain community in northern New Mexico might be. But if my classmates and I are supposed to go out in the world to tell others how to make their communities sustain, we will need to rethink our own communities. Sustainability isn’t necessarily going to come from grand, sweeping innovations in policy or technology, and changing the world won’t necessarily require the expert opinion of leading scientists or politicians. Or maybe sustainability will come from those things, but only if they are built on a base as solid as the wooden floors of the enduring Dome.
An Absence in Wilderness Shane Hetzler
is a visitor who does not remain.” Less well known is the fact that this poetic prose has created a endless series of headaches and questions for the people on the ground tasked with administering the Wilderness Act. For one, what did Howard Zahniser, the Act’s primary author, mean by “untrammeled?” The Nez Perce lived in the present-day Selway country for centuries before white homesteaders such as the ones who patented Seminole Ranch appeared. Then there were the homesteaders themselves: the land set aside under the Wilderness Act encompassed plenty of places that were already inhabited. Seminole Ranch was one such place. Until recently, it was what is known as a private inholding—a piece of private land grandfathered into a larger public Wilderness area. For purists, private inholdings directly challenge the idea of wilderness that environmental “archdruids” like Bob Marshall, Aldo Leopold, and David Brower fought so hard to establish. For plenty of others, though, it is the government’s continuing effort to buy back private inholdings that is the affront. In the Selway country, the Forest Service has spent five decades engaged in a slow and contentious process of land reconsolidation. In 2003, the agency finally acquired the Seminole Ranch, bringing the total number of private inholdings left within the 1.3 million acre Wilderness down to three.
een from the air, the Seminole Ranch site looks like a tiny scar on an endless landscape of steep canyons, towering old-growth cedars, and surging waterways. Down below, deep in the forest that spans Montana and Idaho, three U.S. Forest Service Rangers, a Forest Service mule packer, and four interns from the Selway-Bitterroot Frank Church Foundation, are hard at work pulling a cargo net across frothy Moose Creek. Transporting the contents of the net—irrigation pipes, barbed wire, cement blocks—from the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness to a landfill in Missoula, Montana, will require a horse-drawn wagon and a plane. Yet the task today is small, at least relative to the work that’s already been completed. Nothing, for instance, like the time when a helicopter carried a full-sized slate top pool table, a water wheel, and several tractors up over the tops of the trees. In 1964, Lyndon B. Johnson signed the U.S. Wilderness Act into law, setting aside some 9 million acres of land—an area nearly three times the size of Connecticut—as unadulterated wilderness. To this day, the Act is famous for its vivid language: “A wilderness…is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself
Now the Forest Service is working to turn the former Seminole Ranch site back into wilderness. For the past five years, people have been laboring in the forest to remove signs of people who came before. The logistics of the project are daunting, particularly given that the mandate to maintain the Selway country’s “wilderness character” limits available tools. The philosophical questions raised by having to figure out the meaning of terms like “wilderness character,” or even “wilderness” itself, may be even trickier. What do we as Americans want from our wild spaces? How do we manage wilderness when everyone seems to have a different opinion about what it should be? *** Situated on a bluff above the confluence of the Selway River and Moose Creek, about a half-mile from the Seminole Ranch site, the Moose Creek Ranger Station is another exception to the wilderness character of the Selway country. Like any human habitation in wilderness, the Station is a wellspring of paradox, a focal point for the strange results that pop up where different conceptions of “wild” meet. It might irk a hardcore wilderness advocate to know, for instance, that a certain number of people use Moose Creek’s runway to “plane camp” each year. But rest assured, the drop-in campers aren’t
allowed to unload bikes or other insults to the “wilderness character” from their planes. Similarly, while the Forest Service needs the runway to carry out restoration at sites like Seminole Ranch, the runway is itself a major entry point for new invasive species.
be a shame due to the historical value of the place.” For the moment, Forest Service personnel are hesitant to speculate about how they will proceed. An archaeologist is currently assessing the worthiness of Seminole Ranch’s structures for listing in the National Historic Register.
Visitors who reach the Moose Creek Ranger Station (non-plane transportation options include long kayak or horse trips) will usually find Anna Bengtson, a 32-year old native of West Glacier, Montana, and one of only six Wilderness Rangers who patrol the entire Selway country. Trailed everywhere by her black lab, Lucy, Bengston has for the last three years overseen day-to-day restoration at the Seminole Ranch. She possesses just the sort of the qualities you might expect from a person who has spent years in wilderness: extremely competent with an axe, always cognizant of the location of the ripest huckleberry patches, and just as comfortable traveling by “backcountry cadillac” (mule) as by car. For Bengston, the value of restoring Seminole Ranch is clear. “In so many places outside of designated Wilderness, humans are developing and destroying our remaining natural areas,” she says.“Here in the Selway-Bitterroot, we have a rare opportunity to do the opposite—to return this small area of land to a more primitive state.”
In the fourth phase of the Seminole Ranch restoration, the Forest Service will assess the possibility of removing invasive species from and promoting native species at the Seminole Ranch site. For the moment, this phase, when the “wild” forest might once again re-take the land, remains a distant hope.
As part of its planning process, the Forest Service has divided the Seminole Ranch restoration into four phases. During the first phase, the agency inventoried and sought to auction off nearly 100,000 pounds of personal property. In the end, however, all but one set of winning bidders—the people who were able to fly their new pool table out by helicopter—defaulted after realizing the challenge of claiming their items. After securing some unexpected funding, the Forest Service was able to pay for a helicopter to fly in and remove the remaining tractor and 10,000 pounds of salvage lumber. Today, the restoration is in its second phase, which involves removing all ranching refuse with the exception of historical items and buildings. The third phase will present the most polarizing question: what to do about the buildings on the Seminole site? Public opinion on the matter ranges widely. Debbie Lee, an English professor at Washington State University and Project Leader at the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness History Project, has a grandfather who homesteaded a piece of land not far from the Seminole Ranch. Still, she thinks the buildings should be torn down; “there is a presence that is also in absence,” she says. Others, like Dick and Terri Wenger, caretakers at one of the three remaining inholdings in the Selway country, argue that “the loss of the buildings would
*** If anything, wilderness restoration is an evolving art form. In the 1960s, not far from Seminole Ranch, the government “returned to wilderness” an entire valley of old homesteads known as Three Forks. Unfortunately, the Forest Service’s cavalier approach to building removal at Three Forks created enduring tensions. At the same time, the standard practice during the Three Forks era was to simply bury garbage. Today, it does not take long for someone exploring the site to find evidence of the area’s trammeled legacy, be it in the form of a moss covered car protruding from a creek bank, the occasional smokestack of a buried piece of farming machinery, or even the lonely graves of some of the area’s earlier inhabitants. As Forest Service personnel proceed with their work at Seminole Ranch, they are cognizant of the lessons of wilderness restoration past. They are also aware of the difficulty of coming up with a definition of success that accounts for a wide degree of interpretations about what wilderness actually means. Judging the results of the restoration efforts in simple black-and-white terms overlooks the gray reality of the task at hand. The classic wilderness management paradox, best described by Howard Zahniser is that “we are managing Wilderness to be left unmanaged.” Nevertheless, says Suzanne Cable, Wilderness Program Manager for the Moose Creek District: “Persistence and creativity can get [Seminole Ranch] close to ‘back to wilderness.’” Over time, the resiliency of natural systems will no doubt soften the physical impact of Seminole Ranch’s past residents. Yet even if the site’s buildings are torn down, oral histories will preserve the 132 acres, at least philosophically, as a ranch. Above all, the pilots, recreators, outfitters, Forest Service personnel, and other Wilderness users to come will continue to add their stories and experiences to Seminole Ranch, leaving their mark on man’s absence, forever.
How the West Was Won Photographs by
Stephen Brooks, Larry Rogero, Shane Hetlzer, Ben Goldfarb, anthony clark, Kyle Joly, and Austin Lord
he photographs in this section are the product of a collaboration between SAGE Magazine and Westies, a student group at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies that explores issues affecting the North American West. Together we put out a call for photos that tell stories about important Western topics. And, boy, did we get ‘em! Within weeks, dozens of people had shipped us hundreds of images taken out beyond the 100 th meridian. Some of the contributors were students at or alumni of Yale. Some were simply residents of the West. All submitted capitvating images with compelling stories. The photos captured everything from muskox reintroduction efforts in Alaska to American Indian tribes advocating for dam removal in southern Oregon to an immense Mexican wilderness. It was a pleasure for us to peruse images bearing so much obvious love and concern for some of North America’s most magnificent landscapes. It was also a huge challenge to choose a small number of images to print. We hope you’ll enjoy our selection, and the story it tells about a land we’re still learning to live up to, even after all these years. -Shane Hetzler and Michael Parks
“Increasing periods of drought in the American West have raised concern among those dependent on the land. Nathan, a young rancher in Eastern Oregon, awaits the building clouds with hope that they may bring a much-needed spring rain for the parched soils.”
“This picture is from a backpacking and mountain bike trip in North Dakota through Theodore Roosevelt National Park: a sunrise with the Little Missouri River in the background, which we crossed later that morning. It’s interesting to note that today oil and gas development is booming all around the park. During our trip we only saw a scattering of [drilling] pads.”
“This photo was taken at dusk on a rock promontory in Washington State’s Goat Rocks Wilderness with Mt. Adams in the background. Funding for federal wilderness programs across the country has steadily declined over the years, leaving federal land management agencies to rely on volunteer groups and nonprofits in part to fulfill their stewardship responsibilities.”
“A helicopter battles a forest fire in Yellowstone National Park. Scientists think that climate change could increase the frequency of fire in Yellowstone over the next century, potentially turning many of its forests to grasslands.”
ne cannot be pessimistic about the West. This is the native home of hope. When it fully learns that cooperation, not rugged individualism, is the quality that most characterizes and preserves it, then it will have achieved itself and outlived its origins. Then it has a chance to create a society to match its scenery.â&#x20AC;? - Wallace Stegner, The Sound of Mountain Water, 1997
â&#x20AC;&#x153;On my first visit to Yellowstone in 1998, I was greeted by vast swaths of burned out landscape. Twelve years later I returned to find firesprouted trees surging among the charred remains of their forebearers.â&#x20AC;?
- Anthony Clark
“Though virtually extirpated in the contiguous States, caribou have flourished in Alaska. However, the Arctic is rapidly changing. Climate change and industrialization threaten caribou habitat and migratory patterns, which can involve circuits of nearly 2,000 miles. Here, two bulls swim across the Kobuk River. Their hollow hair, wide hooves and powerful legs make them very buoyant and strong swimmers.”
“The Grand Prismatic Spring is the largest hot spring in the United States and emblematic of Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. Its famous range of colors is created by a balance between mineral content and colonizing extremophile bacteria - the extremely fragile nature of this area contributed to the iconic decision to create the park, America’s first.”
Photographs by sandy aylesworth ANTARCTIA SPIKEY #1
ntarctica. Land of darkness and light, heorism and adversity. The world’s coldest continent has always stood to our south as a testament to Nature’s great enduring power—and as a test to humanity’s endurance (or arrogance) in the face of it. As you will see it is also a land of incredible, solitary beauty. I’m pleased to present this collection of photographs by Sandy Aylesworth, a graduate student at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, who supported, before coming to Yale, the U.S. Antarctic Program in their quest to understand the ecology and global atmospheric impact of the Antarctic region. In these images we chose to focus on people and land, but Sandy has many more photographs that celebrate the playful and impressive life that thrives in this cold region--perhaps those are for next time. -Aaron Reuben
ANTARCTICA GRAY ANTARCTICA GRAY #2
The Anti-Sushi (of Miya’s Sushi) caitlin cromwell
n a recent evening in New Haven, Connecticut, chef Bun Lai held court in a busy corner of his restaurant, Miya’s Sushi. Sitting at a table crowded with dishes, he traded fish jokes and talked seafood, expounding on the virtues of rock seaweed and Appalachian moonshine. The latest course had just been plunked down on the table with an unceremonious thud, and he was watching in amusement as his guests examined the food with varying degrees of bewilderment. It’s a situation familiar to Lai, whose menu contains little trace of a typical sushi establishment. The dish in question was the delicious and unorthodox Peanut Butter and Jelly roll, an inventive combination of jellyfish, peanut butter, cucumber and rabbit that’s almost guaranteed to stump first-time diners. Jellyfish? Peanut butter? Rabbit? For those expecting California rolls, it’s a rude, if wonderful, awakening. “The rabbit’s from Connecticut, actually,” he said. “From a farm that got some award for humanitarian efforts.” He grinned. “I should know this stuff.” Rabbit, as it turns out, is quite the eco-friendly choice, providing more meat than a cow for a given amount of feed. They breed rapidly, take up little space, and produce meat that’s lean and healthy. As for the jellyfish, both SAGE|39
overfishing and the acidification of oceans have eliminated many of the invertebrate’s natural predators, resulting in the explosive growth of world jellyfish populations. So why not add them to the menu, says Bun Lai – saving the seas, one delicious piece of sushi at a time. And this is all in one roll. The concepts at work in the Peanut Butter and Jelly roll characterize every dish that passes from Lai’s kitchen, which maintains a playful and fantastically innovative commitment to sustainability. The concept of “sustainable sushi” is something of an oxymoron to most of the world, but not in this little corner of New Haven. In fact, it’s a genre that Lai practically invented, tossing out the heavily leaned-upon sushi ingredients in favor of the local, the safe, the clean, the unpopular. Miya’s offers no freshwater eel, yellowtail, octopus, farmed salmon, or Maine sea urchin. And the restaurant is busy expanding that list to include other ingredients that are particularly harmful to the environment. “We got rid of shrimp,” he said, “and we’re phasing out tuna.” Shrimp is imported with minimal inspection. The small fraction of shrimp that do receive inspection are regularly contaminated with herbicides and pesticides, which bodes ill for the local sushi joint. Tuna, on the other hand, is the lifeblood of the sushi industry. While Lai can get sustainable tuna, he prefers to veer from the mainstream whenever possible. “The whole foundation of sushi is tuna,” he said. “If I’m going to turn sushi on its head, I’ve got to get rid of tuna.”
long jaunts to dive for the appetizing creature with oysterman Bren Smith of Thimble Island Oyster Company. The two even started a Community Supported Fishery, which is a seafood-oriented take on Community Supported Agriculture. They offer subscribers the opportunity to receive oysters, clams, and other fish fresh from the Sound on a regular basis. Clearly, Lai’s no typical chef, content to hang up the hat at night’s end. Seafood has become far more than a way to make a living. Lai literally grew up at Miya’s, which his mother founded in the early eighties. Since taking the helm, he has plunged into the business with the combined creative energy of a fish enthusiast and an environmental activist. “My rule of thumb is if I think I can do something better than what’s traditional, I’ll make the change,” he said. Miya’s is, more than anything, defined by its remarkable thoughtfulness. Lai spends many of his nights surrounded by drinks and delectables, teasing out the broader implications of eating sushi. His cuisine is as philosophical as it is delicious; his menu cites Buddhist principles, the Hebrew Bible, and “traditional Japanese aesthetics,” offering gems like “Eat it slowly as a meditation on impermanence.” The way we eat says a lot about our relationship with the environment. What we take from the earth, how we take it, what we do with it: all of these questions have found purchase at Miya’s. For environmentally conscious eaters, there is no better alternative to the fish industry than a Miya’s roll of sushi. Grab some sake while you’re at it, and keep the conversations flowing.
Instead, he uses sea robin. Arctic char. Dogfish, bluefish, catfish. Horse radish grown by the Yale Farm. Tilapia from the Bridgeport Aquaculture School. Asian shore crabs. The list goes on. If he’s not sourcing local, then he’s drawing on invasive species, and if not that, then the food has some other interesting story behind it. The Miya’s menu – Wonka-esque, a kaleidoscope of foods – is sixty pages long, and when Lai can’t find the right fish, he ignores it altogether: three-quarters of the menu is vegetarian, which is cheaper, healthier, and more environmentally friendly than seafood. “It’s always an experiment,” he said. Lai also owns 100 acres of oyster fields in Long Island Sound, where he dives regularly. While his oysters haven’t yet made it to the menu, it’s only a matter of time before the commercial license comes through. For now, he takes day-
AN UNSETTLING EXPERIMENT
An Unsettling Experiment:
Dispersants in the Gulf sandy aylesworth
ulf of Mexico, 2009 The stars spin overhead as our 135-foot schooner charges through eight-foot seas. The night is black at 0200, and I am on watch for the beginning of our 24-hour passage through the Yucatan Straits, the slim body of water between Mexico and Cuba through which the Atlantic squeezes to become the Gulf of Mexico. I march forward to inspect the headsails and pinrails, where most of the ship’s lines are made fast. Two sparkling missiles suddenly shoot through the water below and erupt alongside the schooner. I dash aft to alert my stillawake students, who squeal to see the dolphins outlined in fluorescent green. The bow wave hisses, and the dolphins’ echolocation calls ring shrilly against the hull. The froth of the wave sizzles green with the bioluminescence of phytoplankton, the microscopic marine plants that produce half the world’s breathable air. Seven years at sea has taught me that phytoplankton are essential to human existence, knowledge that only enhances the magic of seeing them strewn like glitter across the black sea.
The ship’s bow wave thrusts the dolphins forward like watermelon seeds squeezed between wet fingers. Though they’re clearly enjoying the surf, the dolphins are also hitching a free ride to their feeding grounds, where they will feast on Gulf menhaden and flying fish. And those baitfish, in turn, eat five hundred times their biomass in marine larvae, zooplankton, and phytoplankton every day. Today, nearly three years after I delighted in that sparkling scene, I worry for the health of those dolphins and their precious feeding grounds. That night’s voyage through the Yucatan Straits brought us within 200 miles of the Macondo oil well: the BP-owned well which, on April 20 th, 2010, unleashed the largest oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry. The crude oil from that well and the chemicals used to treat that oil are toxic to nearly all marine organisms, and even today the Gulf ’s abundance remains in jeopardy. In the 17 months that have passed since the Macondo well was finally capped, however, the media’s summary of the disaster has often been unabashedly sanguine. In The New Yorker, Amy Parker wrote, “[S]omething was accomplished, and the Gulf is in better shape for it.” Lisa DiPinto of the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said, “Based on what I have seen so far, it could have been a lot worse.” Now that the wellhead is tamed, the business of deepwater drilling is again booming, and Gulf fisheries are reopened, there are some who may wonder what all the fuss was about. Yet although the Deepwater Horizon disaster has not proved apocalyptic for the Gulf, the spill carries the potential for long-term damages, many of which may not become clear for years. Dr. Ian MacDonald, an oceanographer at Florida State University who has studied the Gulf for 30 years, says “I expect the hydrocarbon imprint of the BP discharge will be detectable in the marine environment for the rest of my life.” And Matt Rota, Water Policy Director at the Gulf Restoration Network in Louisiana, cautions, “The disaster isn’t over. Our fisheries are still impacted, we still have wetlands that have oil in them. There are still tarballs washing up.” Those impacts threaten the United States’ most valuable body of water. Gulf oil accounts for 25 percent of domestic crude oil production; the Gulf ’s fishermen harvest 1.3 billion tons of seafood each year, with total landings worth $659 million; and tourism revenues generated $20 billion in 2010. If the Gulf States became a country, that country would have the seventh largest economy in the world.
AN UNSETTLING EXPERIMENT
Despite the Gulf ’s enormous value, however, BP and government agencies were both ill-prepared to defend it. During the spill, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) insisted that keeping Louisiana Sweet Crude off the Gulf ’s shorelines and wetlands was critical, and rightly so: the Gulf ’s wetlands provide a nursery for 98 percent of marine animals that live in its pelagic waters. But BP’s method for “preventing” oil from encroaching on the marshes was destructive in its own right: the company used chemicals to disperse Sweet Crude over swaths of ocean hundreds of miles wide and thousands of feet deep. Chemical dispersants do not make oil disappear—they simply transfer oil from surface waters deeper into the water column. BP’s dispersants simply moved the oil from one ecosystem to another.
chemically dispersed crude may constitute a unique threat to the Gulf ’s marine ecosystem.
Dispersing oil into the plankton-filled water column still threatens a huge array of marine life. Plankton, like those bioluminescent flecks that illuminated my 2009 trip through the Yucatan Straits, form the basis of the food web that sustains the Gulf ’s phenomenal bounty. Gulf waters are the briny domicile of loggerhead, leatherback, and Kemp ridley sea turtles; Minke, blue, and sperm whales; great white and hammerhead sharks, and fish from bluefin tuna to moray eels. And all of these animals would perish in the absence of the Gulf ’s tiniest creatures—phytoplankton, zooplankton, and fish larvae.
Skimming oil off the ocean’s surface may be the preferred method for dealing with a spill, but it remains hopelessly inefficient. The 30,000 people devoted to skimming, scooping and lassoing oil during the BP disaster managed to recover less than 3 percent of the total crude spilled. Although BP promised in its spill preparedness documents to be able to collect 500,000 barrels a day, it took the company a full week to mobilize its skimming flotilla, at which point it never recovered more than 15,000 barrels per day, a mere fraction of the oil gushing from the well.
Scientists still don’t know the extent to which dispersants and dispersed oil poisoned these microscopic drivers of the Gulf ’s ecosystem. Few studies have been published on the effects of dispersants, and that limited body of literature draws conflicting conclusions. Dr. Mandy Joye, a microbial geochemist at the University of Georgia who studies the BP Oil Spill, says, “We have no idea what dispersants are going to do to microorganisms. We know they are toxic to many larvae. The base of the food web in the ocean is going to be altered. There’s no doubt about that.” What those alterations will entail, however, remains an open question.
Although burning off oil is more efficient than skimming it, burning crude releases clouds of toxic gases—sulfur dioxides, nitrogen oxides, and carbon monoxides to name a few—high into the atmosphere, where they can pose a serious risk to human health. The remaining noxious compounds are left to sink to the deep ocean, where marine animals can ingest or respire them. On a research cruise in the Gulf, Dr. Joye photographed heaps of dead sea cucumbers and starfish, up to 10 cm thick, amidst burnt crude oil debris.
By the time the Macondo well was capped and officially declared “dead” on July 15 th, 2010, nearly five million barrels of crude oil had leaked into the Gulf. But “dead” doesn’t mean gone. According to the Final Report of the National Commuission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil, 50 percent of the spilled oil is still in the water. That’s 2.5 million barrels of Louisiana Sweet Crude suspended in the water column or bobbing on the surface, enough to fill 159 Olympic-sized swimming pools—48 of which would contain oil dispersed by chemicals. That lingering,
*** “All we had were bad options.” -The Oil Spill Response Toolkit, April 2010 While deepwater drilling itself employs some of the most advanced technology in the world, the methods for cleaning up a spill remain laughably rudimentary. The existing arsenal of weapons against a spill is limited to skimming, burning, and dispersing, and each is flawed.
Compared to the futility of skimming and the toxicity of in situ burning, chemical dispersants appeared to be the lesser of evils. As the well vomited the equivalent of one Exxon Valdez every four days, local authorities, residents, and BP grew concerned about oil smothering marsh grasses, working its way into mangrove hatcheries, and, most visibly and so most worrisomely to authorities, floating onto beaches in black, stinking mats. Like a squirt of dish soap dropped into a greasy lasagna pan, a shot of chemical dispersant breaks oil down into small droplets. These tiny droplets sink into the water column, where they either hover or continue to sink. Dispersing oil in the water column, therefore, can prevent crude oil from coating the
AN UNSETTLING EXPERIMENT
ocean surface and reaching wetlands, and can save birds from drowning in life-sucking slicks. Additionally, some scientists think that smaller, dispersed oil droplets will biodegrade more rapidly than undispersed ones. Just as a horde of flesh-eating hagfish more easily consumes a partially decomposed whale than an intact one, so too might oil-eating microbes more readily digest dispersed oil than an entire slick. That line of reasoning propelled BP and the Coast Guard to begin administering dispersants almost immediately after the spill.
approve more dispersants after a spill begins – meaning that BP effectively had no upper limit on the volume of dispersants it could spray into the Gulf. Not until a month into the spill did EPA exercise its authority to limit chemical inputs into the Gulf, leading Rep. Edward Markey, D. Mass, and chair of the House Energy and Environment subcommittee, to observe that BP’s applications for increased dispersant use “appear to be rubber stamped.” BP’s 582-page Oil Spill Response Plan was, in essence, a carte blanche for unlimited chemical dumping.
Yet, since dispersants simply shuttle oil from one ecosystem to another, using dispersants imposes what Lisa Jackson, EPA administrator at the time of the spill, called a “tradeoff.” According to Jackson, the quality of tradeoffs in this particular spill put EPA “in a position with no perfect solution.” During her congressional testimony Jackson recalled with anguish sitting in a meeting with fishermen and having to explain that her decision to use dispersants represented the better “of two very evil situations:” forced to choose between poisoning fish’s wetland nurseries or poisoning their open-ocean habitat, she chose to save the wetlands.
Overall, nearly two million gallons of Corexit, BP’s dispersant of choice, were pumped into Gulf waters. Roughly 40 percent of that total was sprayed directly into the oil as it gushed from the wellhead. Injecting Corexit into the sea almost a mile below the surface was a Deepwater Horizon innovation, and the approach had never before been tested for its efficacy or its effects on deep ocean ecosystems. The decision to deploy Corexit in the deep sea, then, was a grand experiment that used one of the U.S.’ most important assets as its lab rat.
Unfortunately, Jackson was operating under a serious information deficit. Even thirty years after dispersants first became integral to oil spill cleanup, scientists still don’t fully understand how dispersed oil affects plankton or larvae. Most alarmingly, dispersants’ long-term impacts on marine ecosystems remain completely unknown. Not knowing the precise nature of those impacts made it almost impossible for EPA to make a well-informed decision. As Jackson said, “It would be my wish that no one ever has to make the same risk-management decision with the same level of science.” Using dispersants is illegal in the marine industry: if I used even a bottle of dish soap to disperse a thin film of gasoline, the Coast Guard could revoke my captain’s license. But somehow the same Coast Guard authorized the use of 1.8 million gallons of dispersants during the Deepwater Horizon spill. When BP submitted its mandatory Oil Spill Response Plan to the Minerals Management Service (MMS) (the notoriously corrupt agency that oversaw offshore oil leasing in federal waters, since restructured into the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Regulation and Enforcement), the EPA and the Coast Guard “pre-approved” the use of certain dispersants. Granting pre-approval is standard practice, and although the Response Plan ostensibly limits dispersant use during a spill, the Coast Guard and EPA have the authority to
Not only did BP experimentally apply huge doses of chemicals to the Gulf, its choice of which chemicals to apply seems to have been made for dubious reasons. Nalco, Corexit’s manufacturer, makes two kinds of Corexit—Corexit 9527 and Corexit 9500A. Of the two, Corexit 9527 was the first to go into the water, despite not being the best dispersant available. Instead it seems that BP purged its warehouse of the stockpile they’d had on the shelves since the 1990s. Ron Tjeerdema, an environmental toxicologist who consulted for NOAA during the spill, said that he understood immediately that BP was “getting rid” of their old Corexit. “They’re kind of efficient in wanting to get the most out of their stockpiled dispersants,” he observed wryly. In this case, BP had stockpiled a very toxic compound. Nalco no longer makes Corexit 9527 because it contains 2-butoxyethanol, a carcinogenic solvent linked to health problems during the Exxon Valdez cleanup: after the cleanup, Valdez response workers observed blood in their urine and were later diagnosed with kidney and liver disorders. Corexit 9527 has the same health rating as carbon monoxide and formaldehyde. Once BP had rid itself of its Corexit 9527 stocks, the company switched to the scarcely better Corexit 9500A – a chemical that’s listed as an “acute health hazard” and shares the same human health rating as jet fuel.
AN UNSETTLING EXPERIMENT
Some scientists and environmental groups suspect that BP’s choice to use Corexit was borne of Nalco’s intimate relationships with oil companies. Nalco and Exxon Mobile formed a joint venture in 1994, and there’s considerable oil industry representation in Nalco’s leadership, including an 11-year BP board member who is now a Nalco executive. Nonetheless, BP’s decision to use Corexit was wholly legal— Lisa Jackson, EPA administrator, says, “If it’s on the list and they want to use it, then they are preauthorized to do so.” Never mind that Nalco’s entire Corexit line was banned in the UK for the harm it does to marine life. *** Sailing into a plankton bloom during Gulf Spring smells like an oyster tastes: salty, fresh, strangely earthy. That smell is biomass, a briny slurry of phytoplankton, zooplankton, fish larvae and minute jellyfish. A water sample from such a bloom teems with these organisms, the very foundations of marine ecosystems. A look through a microscope at a single droplet of seawater might reveal a robust bluefin tuna egg. Each year thousands of prized and threatened Atlantic bluefin tuna swim thousands of miles to spawn in the Gulf of Mexico, one of the species’ two known spawning grounds. While Corexit prevented some of the Gulf ’s marsh grasses and mangrove harbors from drowning in crude oil, dispersants and dispersed oil could prevent tuna eggs from developing normally or maturing at all. Scientists such as Dr. Joye are concerned that long-term exposure to dispersed oil will kill or disable some of the Gulf ’s most important microorganisms. Dispersed oil contains higher concentrations of toxic compounds than undispersed crude, is readily ingestible, and does not necessarily biodegrade faster than undispersed oil does. Current dispersant testing protocols measure an animal’s acute toxicity to dispersants over a period of 96 hours – the immediate, short-term effects of exposure. But for Dr. Nancy Kinner, a microbiologist at the University of New Hampshire, chronic toxicity is a much more interesting, and heretofore unexplored, issue. According to Dr. Kinner, chronic toxicity tests better mimic the underwater reality of today’s Gulf. Innumerable marine animals now live inside of dispersed oil plumes that penetrate for miles deep into the ocean. Much of the Gulf ’s biomass will be exposed to dispersed oil for months or years—much longer than the standard 96-hour test period.
Instead of spending a few nights at a smoky bar, these organisms are now experiencing the equivalent of lifetime with a chain-smoker. While Corexit supposedly biodegrades in 28 days, that period is still three times the duration of a bluefin tuna’s larval stage, meaning that plenty of miniature tuna spent the most sensitive phase of their life bathed in dispersants. But standard toxicity tests typically use adult fish and shrimp rather than larval fish or plankton. When the EPA performed its own toxicity tests during the spill and reported that Corexit was “slightly toxic” or “practically non-toxic,” many scientists refuted the findings on the grounds that the animals used in the tests, mysid shrimp and inland silverside fish, were both mature specimens. Dr. Kinner insists that “a new set of protocols to evaluate the risks associated with dispersants” is needed, and that those protocols should require testing animals in “relevant life stages,” including larval phases. In many ways, the BP spill could not have come at a worse time of year for the Gulf. In April 2010, when the well erupted, warming surface waters stimulate fish to release billions of eggs into the water column. A single bluefin tuna will release 30 million eggs, though fewer than 1 percent will survive to adulthood. If dispersants or dispersed oil poison half of those eggs, the world’s truncated tuna stock could shrink even closer to commercial extinction. Scientists have already announced that the Gulf spill has resulted in a 5 percent decline in tuna populations, and the full effects remain to be seen. Yet another problem with generic dispersant toxicity tests is that they do not test all of the affected local species. The EPA’s tests during the spill used emuysage shrimp and inland estuarine fish, types of shrimp and fish that, Dr. Kinner says, “may not be the most relevant species for this particular spill.” Unsurprisingly, different species respond to dispersants in different ways. Previous toxicity studies show that bacteria, Atlantic menhaden, giant kelp, and phytoplankton are more sensitive to Corexit 9527 than the species used in the EPA studies. Exclusively using hearty species such as shrimp and silversides for toxicity tests is like using a 160-pound male for all FDA health studies and not worrying about toxic effects on a 10-pound child. Further muddying the oily waters was the fact that only Nalco’s own lab had conducted toxicity tests on Corexit 9500A. And Nalco used fuel oil Number 2, a different type of oil than Louisiana Sweet Crude, meaning that there was zero scientific data on the effects of combining Louisiana Sweet Crude and
Aerial view of relief well drilling operations at the Macondo site in the Gulf of Mexico in the summer of 2010. Photo courtesy of Anthony Clark
Corexit 9500A. Ideally, the EPA would have developed Gulf-specific, dispersant-specific, and oil-specific data before the largest oil spill in U.S. history. When the agency’s toxicity findings finally came back a month after the spill, Jackson confidently announced that all of the dispersants were “practically nontoxic to slightly toxic” to the shrimp and fish tested. Good news, but the EPA forgot one detail: the oil. Scientists are primarily concerned about how dispersants interact with oil. According to Dr. Mervin Fingas, one of the world’s foremost experts on oil spill response, “Most researchers found that chemically dispersed oil was more toxic than physically dispersed oil.” This puts the EPA’s sanguine findings very much in the minority. A month into the spill, I saw a photograph of two blue crab larvae extracted from the Gulf of Mexico. Their bodies were translucent and tinged sunset orange – save for the black glob of dispersed oil that floated inside each larval crab. These crabs’ contaminated state was far from unique: in May 2010 The Huffington Post reported globs of oil in “almost all” of the crab larvae sampled along a 300-mile stretch of coast. Dr. Susan Shaw, a toxicologist and director of the Marine Environmental Research Institute, says that when dispersants break oil into tiny droplets, those droplets are better able to permeate planktonic cell walls and cause damage. “The dispersant acts like a delivery system for oil in the water,” she explains. “And oil contains hundreds of compounds that are toxic to every organ in the body, including many carcinogens.” In this case, dispersed oil penetrated the larval crabs’ walls, wrecking potentially severe damage to their development. Not only do dispersants transport oil to internal organs, they can also increase the concentration of oil’s most toxic compounds. These especially toxic compounds are called polycyclic aromatic compounds (PAHs) and are carcinogenic compounds inherent in all crude oil. Transforming oil globs into minute droplets makes these PAHs more readily ingestible to small fish, filter feeders, and plankton. Dr. Richard Camilli, an oceanographer, says that PAHs are “often associated with adverse biological effects.” Water samples from the Gulf collected two months after the spill show that these deleterious compounds “may be in greater abundance at depth,” according to Dr. Camilli.
AN UNSETTLING EXPERIMENT
*** “Someone said to me yesterday, ‘Where did the oil go?’” recalled Frances Beinecke. “And I said, ‘You know what? They don’t have any idea where the oil went.’” A recent study highlights why even Frances Beinecke, one of the few true experts on the BP spill, doesn’t know where the oil went. Eric Adams, a chemistry professor and Nobel Prize recipient, studied subsea-dispersed oil to find out why determining the fate of Corexit-stamped oil is so difficult. Dr. Adams announced that spraying oil with Corexit directly at the wellhead resulted in “atomizing” small oil droplets tenfold. An “atomized” oil droplet could take a full year to rise to Gulf surface waters. Or the droplet might never surface: Adams says that the droplet’s slight positive buoyancy paired with the Gulf ’s water cycling processes means that, “In essence, this oil is just standing still.” Manhattan-sized swaths of immobilized crude pose another host of threats to the Gulf ’s biodiversity, exposing plankton and larvae to PAH invasions, oxygen deprivation, and poisoning. Dr. MacDonald says such a sustained impact on an already stressed system “could be severe.” Once dispersed oil is integrated into the bottom of the food web, predators like tuna, sharks, dolphins, turtles, and whales run the risk of consuming or filtering dispersed oil. Not all organisms that come into contact with oil are harmed by it, though. One potential salvation for the Gulf, some scientists and pundits speculated in the weeks after the spill, was the oil-eating bacteria that abound in the Gulf. These naturally occurring microbes use surrounding oxygen to ravish crude oil and transform it into less toxic, biodegradable components. The Gulf ’s oil-chomping bacteria have adapted to the Gulf ’s many natural hydrocarbon seepages, and thus are especially adept at biodegrading oil. Scientists hypothesized that populations of these oil-eating microbes would explode in response to an abundant supply of hydrocarons. And, in the October 8, 2010, issue of Science, Dr. Terry C. Hazen and his colleagues observed precisely that effect, claiming that an oil plume dispersed in the deep sea stimulated the growth of Proteobacteria within the plume. Even better, they found that the dispersed oil in the plume sample was biodegrading at a faster rate than non-dispersed oil in control samples. The study supported,
then, the application of Corexit: dispersed oil appeared to biodegrade more quickly than undispersed oil. Other scientists, though, were quick to refute Dr. Hazen’s study. In the same edition of Science in which Hazen’s team published their article, Dr. Richard Camilli and his colleagues analyzed water samples pulled from the same deep sea oil plume and found little evidence of biodegradation. Instead, they suggested that Dr. Hazen’s oxygen analysis was corrupted by an instrument contamination error. Dr. David L. Valentine, a professor of microbial geochemistry at UC Santa Barbara said that microbes’ ability to biodegrade oil “have been grossly overstated.” According to Dr. Mandy Joye’s research, the oil does not appear to be biodegrading quickly. In order for microbacteria to bloom and consume vast patches of oil, says Joye, they need to be able to feast on increased quantities of all their life-sustaining nutrients, not merely the carbon oil provides. If just one of these limiting nutrients is absent, the microbial population will not grow, and dispersed oil won’t biodegrade any faster than undispersed oil. This nutrient limitation may be preventing the Gulf ’s bacteria from fulfilling their oil-consuming potential. While the oil’s fate remains uncertain, the dispersants are clearly lingering. In November 2010 Dr. Elizabeth Kujawinski, a marine chemist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, announced that, while the Corexit injected into the deep sea had been diluted, it had “resisted rapid biodegradation.” “We don’t know if the dispersants broke up the oil,” she said. “We [also] found that [Corexit] didn’t go away, and that was somewhat surprising.” Dr. Kujawinski identified DOSS in her water samples, which is one of the compounds that caused health problems in the workers that cleaned up the Exxon Valdez spill. Clearly, Nalco’s claim that Corexit biodegrades completely in 28 days is false. In contrast to the lingering dispersed oil, crude that floats on surface waters evaporates quickly: up to 50 percent of a Louisiana Sweet Crude slick will evaporate within two days of prolonged exposure to air. Given that dispersed oil could stay entrained in the Gulf ’s water column for years or decades, allowing the oil to surface, and so evaporate, may have been the better risk management decision.
AN UNSETTLING EXPERIMENT
*** Because the BP oil spill was the largest in US history, and took place at precisely the frontier of future deep water drilling, BP’s cleanup strategy will likely set the precedent for future spills. “Industry will want to draw the conclusion that dispersants should be used all the time, at the wellhead, based on how well they worked,” says a distraught Lisa Jackson. “And I am personally not there” – meaning that she has not drawn the same conclusion. Jackson fears that if industry, scientists, and the media conclude that using dispersants succeeded, those parties will advocate for massive dispersant use in future spills. And future spills will happen. Despite the passage of the Oil Pollution Act in 1990, approximately three million gallons of oil spill into US waters each year. Even when accounting for increased oil production, the average number of annual spills greater than two million gallons increased 500 percent from 1970 to 2009. Since spills are bound to occur, investment in clean up technology is imperative. Just as it did following the Exxon Valdez spill, funding for cleanup research has surged since the Deepwater Horizon. The National Science Foundation has awarded $19 million to organizations requesting funding, and, in a display of either contrition or masterful public relations, BP’s Gulf Research Initiative has already granted $50 million to Gulf Coast universities and institutes, and promises to spend another $450 million over the next ten years. Other agencies, such as the EPA and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Regulation and Enforcement, will also fund research and development projects. Still, the attractive and seemingly non-partisan cry for more research will not, by itself, resolve the problem of inadequate spill response technology. The only federal money available for oil spill research comes from the annually allocated Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, which contains zero dedicated funding for dispersant research. Much of that fund is dedicated to the Coast Guard’s annual operating costs, making it even less likely that dispersant research will receive its due. Since there is no guarantee that money will be spent on cleanup development, mandatory Congressional funding may be needed. After the Exxon
AN UNSETTLING EXPERIMENT
Valdez spill, research funding initially increased for five years, and then decreased steadily over time. In the 1990’s, deep-water drilling and oil production technology became more sophisticated, and complacency reigned at the EPA and MMS. Even as drilling innovation erupted, cleanup technology remained in the dark ages. The results of this discrepancy were clear during the BP spill. “There wasn’t any routine training going on,” explains Frances Beinecke; and so, when the spill began, “Everyone was scrambling to figure out what was going on.” The knowledge that spill respondents had gained during the Exxon Valdez was nowhere on display. Congressional funding for oil spill research and development still remains paltry. Since 1995, Congress’ total relevant allocations have amounted to between six and seven million annually, not nearly enough to combat complex, high-volume spills. “The engineering sophistication required of deep water drilling blows my mind,” says Matt Rota. But where is the equally sophisticated spill response? “We’re using booms and burning?” Rota scoffs. “It’s ludicrous.” Nancy Kinner’s Coastal Response Research Center complained in September 2010 that only 25 percent of their requested $40 million for research had been funded. The National Oil Spill Commission, established by an executive order from President Obama in 2010, unanimously agreed that oil spill research funding should be mandatory and at least equal to the amount allowed under the Oil Pollution Act, but their recommendation has yet to receive any serious Congressional attention.
fects of the oil to ripple up through the food chain. Though scientists can’t determine causation, these numbers clearly imply a disturbance to the Gulf ecosystem. I fear that the oil-engorged worms and pallid sea stars that Dr. Joye observed near the broken Macondo wellhead will become the norm in the Gulf of Mexico. If the US continues to allow loosely regulated drilling to dictate the Gulf ’s future, plankton, larvae, and other marine animals will eventually lose their ability to survive major ecosystem disturbances. In response to the spill, BP fabricated a new emergency well cap. With ideal installation in ideal conditions, BP now needs seven days to cover a leaking well. “That doesn’t give me much satisfaction,” says Matt Rota. “I don’t have a lot of confidence that we’re going to do better next time.” And if we fail to do better next time, we will have given oil industry giants permission to poison US waters once again.
While the United States is hardly unique in its inability to manage oil spills, it does lag behind many nations. “We thought, oh, it’s the US, we must be operating at the very highest standards,” Beinecke says, reflecting on the start of her tenure with the Spill Commission. “But that turned out not to be true.” When BP operates in the UK and Norway, the company adheres to higher standards than when it drills in the Gulf of Mexico. Requiring better safety performance from its oil industry is vital to prevent future spills and all the negative outcomes that attend them. *** Today, I wonder whether dolphins could put on the same spectacular displays as they did during my trip through the Yucatan Straits. In the 18 months since the oil spill, 22 dolphins have stranded themselves on Gulf beaches — a fourfold increase from the pre-spill era. And 60 percent of these unusual mortalities happened seven months after the spill: long enough for the ef-
An Interview with Author Paul Greenberg ben goldfarb
nourishment. We have to keep raising fish, then, but we have to do it better. Four Fish offers both diagnosis – why do we eat the fish that we eat, and into what crises have they led us? – and prescription, advocating for several species of cultivable fish that can sustainably meet our needs. Greenberg imagines a world in which farmed fish alleviate the pressure on wild stocks, in which obtaining cheap protein doesn’t destroy ecosystems, and in which humans can forever, albeit carefully, harvest wild food. I spoke with Paul Greenberg about the reaction to Four Fish, the future of genetically-modified salmon, and what decidedly un-Kosher seafood will be appearing on his Seder plate this year. interviewer How have various stakeholders – from fisheries biologists to fish farmers to fishermen – responded to the recommendations you make in Four Fish? What kind of feedback have you gotten?
hen I interviewed Paul Greenberg, the fisherman-turned-journalist was in the middle of a good week. The previous day, Greenberg, the author of Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food, had caught a pair of striped bass off Breezy Point in Brooklyn. Considering recent declines in bass abundance, two respectable stripers is enough to land a week squarely in the win column. In an age in which nearly all food is relentlessly manipulated and homogenized, the fact that a person can still snag forty pounds of untamed protein off the beach in Brooklyn qualifies as extraordinary, and Paul Greenberg wants to make sure his readers know that. Four Fish is many things – social history, science journalism, prognostication – but, at its heart, the book is a paean to fish, and to fishing. From his rapturous description of landing a tuna to the reverential capital letters with which he spells the word COD, it’s clear that Greenberg holds dear our ability to reap nature’s bounty without the mediating presence of agriculture. Fishing is our final direct link to the food chain, and that thought fills Greenberg with a kind of awe. Yet Greenberg also recognizes that our exploding population requires ever more calories, and that farmed fish will inevitably provide a critical source of
greenberg I haven’t had any major conflicts with any of the groups. Fish farmers are accustomed to getting beaten up in the press, because there’s this body that says that all wild fish are good and all farmed fish are bad. So they were pleased to have their perspective taken into account. The biggest complaint I got from fishermen, actually, was from the hookand-line bluefin [tuna] guys, who I don’t think liked being portrayed as pursuers of an endangered species. They’re a pretty sustainable fishery in a vacuum, and they see themselves as being the ones who are doing it right, whereas the Europeans are destroying the stock with purse-seining. But I also had one fishermen from Chesapeake Bay who was about eighty [years old], who told me he felt like every word in this book is true, and I was really touched by it. I feel like people sometimes give me more credit than I deserve. interviewer One of the themes that emerges from the book is how much disagreement exists over what constitutes a healthy, fishable stock. For example, one biologist looks at the Gulf of Maine cod stocks and declares them mostly recov-
ered, while another considers the same stocks nearly collapsed. What’s the source of that disagreement, and how can we move toward more certainty in our evaluation of fishery health? greenberg If you talked to a layperson, they might tell you that fisheries managers go out and count all the fish and tell us how many we should catch. Which, of course, is not the case at all – fisheries biologists sample a small part of the ocean, and come up with models based on certain assumptions that are not necessarily one hundred percent in tune with reality. Fisheries biologists are simply doing the best they can with a huge amount of territory. Deciding how you’re going to manage a fishery depends on what you’re trying to accomplish. There are two goals I heard again and again from my sources: on the one hand, we can have a sportfisherman’s scenario, where you have a low harvest and a high abundance of fish. The other scenario is to have high harvest and low abundance, which is the commercial argument. And, although I initially came at it from a sport fisherman’s perspective, and wanted to see more abundance, I started to see the negative effect of restricting commercial fishing. You lose the functionality of the waterfront [with excessive restrictions], and if you drive too many fishermen out of business then you get condos coming in, and soon the waterfront is not a waterfront anymore. I think in a way we might have swung too far on the pendulum toward the sport fishing lobby, and we need to think about how we can constructively rebuild working waterfronts, and restore commercial fishermen as a visible presence in our lives. interviewer Presumably, though, there must be some way of returning to a scenario of high abundance and high harvest, right? greenberg That requires restraint for an extended period of time. If we really want to rebuild stocks, we’re going to have to lay off them.
In the case of the bluefin, people from Carl Safina to hook-and-liners will tell you that we should shut down purse-seine fishing altogether in the Mediterranean. Right now we have a good year-class of bluefin that just came to maturity a year ago – it’s the first big spike we’ve had in years, and it might be our last chance to protect those fish. We need some sort of moratorium on that year class to preserve it. interviewer Changing tacks for a minute, you wrote a piece earlier this year about AquaBounty’s creation of a genetically-modified salmon, and how society doesn’t need a genetically modified (GM) fish. Still, given that global population just crossed seven billion and will continue rising, couldn’t a genetically-modified salmon someday be a useful tool for meeting the world’s ever-growing demand for food? greenberg [Genetic modification] is a point of last resort, but we’re not there with fish yet. We’re still working on [improving] feed efficiency for salmonids through breeding, and we’re getting better every year. While the AquaBounty fish grows twice as fast, it requires almost as much feed – optimistic scenarios say it uses only 10 percent less feed [than a non-GM salmon]. But a modest improvement in feed efficiency is not an equation that’s going to sustainably feed ten billion people. I would rather see us look at unmodified fish that might be brought into culture. There are a number of different fish that have tremendous growth rates but aren’t fully understood yet, like yellowtail. There are fish like cobia, which grow extremely quickly and do really well in close containment. We’re just scratching the surface with which species we might try, but people get obsessed with these brand-name fish like salmon that everybody recognizes. At the end of the day, I think the creation of GM salmon is about making a profit play, a stock play, to get people excited to invest in AquaBounty, rather than about the future of aquaculture. interviewer Lately it seems like the “social history of fish” has become its own literary
subgenre, with great books about cod, shad, and menhaden appearing in the last decade. What unsung species of fish do you think is most ripe for its own social history? greenberg
Blue World Photographs by
sandy aylesworth, stephen Brooks, and Tahria Sheather
What really needs to be done is a book about algae and phytoplankton. I was thinking about doing an article called, “The Little Unicellular Organism that Could.” That’s what’s going to be feeding the world eventually. interviewer
Sandy boat shot?
One of the charming things in Four Fish is your description of how your passion for fish, and fishing, blossomed in Long Island Sound. Do you still fish in Long Island Sound, and are you engaged in its conservation in any way? greenberg I’d like to see Connecticut and the Sound be a force toward bringing seafood closer to the epicenters of populations. When you’re going to have a planet of ten billion, you can no longer continue to treat the oceans as a waste disposal system – it needs to become a food system. And that has to be fully realized right at ground zero, right at the population centers like New York City. The next book I’m working on is loosely titled The Fish Next Door, and it’s about the importance of returning local fisheries to our lives. interviewer Last year you put an oyster on your Seder plate to call attention to the plight of oysters in the Gulf of Mexico. Any early frontrunner for the honor of gracing your plate this year? greenberg I think we’ll have to see how the oyster beds are doing. You know, I don’t normally seek out traif (non-Kosher food) to put on the Seder plate. I used an oyster last year because Passover is about remembrance of past tragedies, as well as future hope, and the Gulf is a tragedy that’s going to unfold over a number of years. This year it could very well be a bluefin tuna, or maybe the scale of a bluefin tuna – you certainly wouldn’t want to put a chunk of tuna on your plate just to make a point.
Photo by Sandy Aylesworth
he following photographs offer glimpses of our planet’s blue places– snapshots stolen from coasts and oceans around the world by globetrotting graduate students. They reveal just a hint of the diversity of forms our blue world takes and, I hope, showcase a few of the reasons why some of us at Yale are dedicating our lives to protecting it. -Aaron Reuben
“Increasing numbers of fishing communities along the coastline of South Sulawesi, Indonesia, are utilizing mangrove plantations for protection against coastal erosion. In addition to buffering wave abrasion, the forests also provide a wide variety of valuable ecological services that benefit the livelihoods of nearby communities.” -Stephen Brooks
“The lobster population in Connecticut has barely recovered from a massive die-off event in late 1999, which was spurred by rising water temperatures, changing ecosystem dynamics and increased pollution stresses. Most lobstermen in the state have turned to other fisheries or livelihoods to survive. But not all. Connecticut lobsterman Mike Theiler (pictured) told me recently, ‘I could probably make better money, at this point, doing something else but it’s really more than just a job --it’s a livelihood.’” -Tahria Sheather
â&#x20AC;&#x153;This bangan structure serves as temporary shelter for local fisherman while fishing at night in South Sulawesi, Indonesia. Lights are often used to bait fish into nets placed directly beneath the platform.â&#x20AC;? -Stephen Brooks
III Growth / Change
The rock coast of Southern Maine. -Sandy Aylesworth
Natural Pools in Semuc Champey, Guatemala. -Soojin Kim
A close encounter on the island of Dominca, in the West Indies. -Geoff Giller
Late Afternoon in Mali-ville, Guinea. -Ryan Sarsfield
These are some of the winning photographs from this yearâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s International Society of Tropical Foresters annual photo contest. For more winning pictures from the tropics, visit sagemagazine.org.
Cultivating Community Amy Coplen
A male purple-throated carib feeds at a Heliconia bihai inflorescence on the island of Dominica. -Geoff Giller
en years ago, on a blistering summer day in New Haven, Italian immigrant Enza Madalloni sat behind the wheel of â&#x20AC;&#x153;Betsy,â&#x20AC;? her green truck. In the bed of the truck was the bow of a 15-foot boat, and crowded around the stern and sides were more than a dozen sweaty but determined community gardeners. The makeshift nautical raised bed sailed along the streets of a city where accessing healthy food can be as tough as finding water in a desert. With Enza at the helm, the boat drifted though the Fair Haven neighborhood, an area with no grocery stores and limited greenspace. When volunteers anchored their vessel in the budding community garden on Castle Street, they celebrated by shoveling in soil and compost and planting corn, beans, and squash. Enza was one of a dozen or so gardeners who graciously welcomed me into their homes to contribute to a collection of stories about New Havenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s community gardens. They work in urban greenspaces nestled in the backyards, schoolyards, vacant lots, senior citizen centers, and public housing developments that span the city. Just as biological diversity builds a healthier environment, a mixture of backgrounds, ages, and abilities is what makes the gardens thrive. Fruitful greenspaces supplement diets for those of low
socioeconomic means. Gardens make fresh fruits and vegetables possible in an otherwise barren food desert, where grocery stores are hard to come by and their food is out of economic reach. Above all, they build community by transferring knowledge across age, race, class, and culture divides in a notoriously segregated city. Yet as strong as the gardens become, fueled by the will to transform urban blight and sustained by the resolve to sow each spring, they are at the mercy of shrinking budgets, the whims of City Hall, and the bulldozers of development. As I found out during my conversations with Enza and other community gardeners in New Haven, every day is a fight to keep the gardens intact. These stories, two of many I collected as part of a larger project, are the stories of people set on cultivating healthy food and healthy communities – work that is difficult to translate into dollar signs, but is more valuable than property tax revenues. These are the stories of folk who contend that lasting human relationships and meaningful connections to healthy food cannot be bought. These are the stories of New Haven’s community gardeners. *** Every September, Yale opens its doors to a flood of incoming students, many of whom feel safe only when those doors are swiftly closed behind them. They hear through the grapevine that New Haven is a dangerous place. When I came to New Haven a year ago, I found myself perplexed by this attitude. The ironclad gates and spike-topped fences created a physical barrier between classrooms and communities that had so much to offer one another. I craved a sense of belonging in this city, a city in which myself and 11,000 other students lived, but few called home. Then, a fortunate thing happened. I met Chris Randall. Chris is the Executive Director of the New Haven Land Trust. He oversees the stewardship of six nature preserves and almost 60 community gardens, in addition to serving as Democratic Chair of New Haven’s 8 th Ward. But despite his serious responsibilities, Chris is playful by nature. He wears many hats—of the costume variety, that is. At this year’s Polar Plunge for Parks, a charitable benefit for the Land Trust, Chris was dressed as Poseidon,
god of the sea—complete with trident, bushy blue beard, and flowing toga. And when he’s not making appearances in a suit and tie, he might be romping around farmer’s markets in an eggplant costume. There’s more to Chris Randall than silly costumes and public appearances, though. At earlier points in his life, Chris struggled with drug addiction and had several run-ins with the law. A judge even called him “a hazard to humanity.” Then, when Chris was 24, he moved to the Wooster Square neighborhood. His neighbors were in the midst of starting a new community garden, and though he had no prior gardening experience, he joined them in the effort to reclaim a blighted lot on William Street. Over time, many of the garden’s founders moved out of the neighborhood, and left Chris as the lone gardening ranger on the street. He began recruiting people and organizing workdays, and, through trial and error, quickly learned what he needed to—cultivating plants, vegetables, and a sense of community. “It turns out I was pretty good at running a community garden.” As the garden flourished in the community, so did Chris. “The William Street community garden changed my life,” Chris said. Through his work in the garden, Chris found belonging in his neighborhood and discovered his capacity to generate positive change in the community. Eleven years later, Chris Randall, the man called a “hazard to humanity,” was hired as the Executive Director of the New Haven Land Trust. Despite his powerful position, though, I get the sense that Chris feels most comfortable sweating side by side with community members among the squash and collard greens. “I can walk into any neighborhood in New Haven,” said Chris, “and reach out to or relate to anybody there, because the garden is there.” *** In Enza Madalloni’s backyard, miles of grapevine weave in and out of a trellis-covered patio, lichen-covered stone cherubs and saints wait patiently, and a tangled mass of wildflowers and grasses threatens to engulf the once wellworn paths through them. It’s the least of Enza’s concerns, though. She’s ill with terminal cancer—her prognosis gives her only until the end of the summer.
Growing up on a farm in Italy, Enza came to understand soil as the source of everything. “I just grew up with it,” she says, laughing. “I ate dirt! That’s how small I was when I was on the farm.” I feel as if I’ve been offered a seat at her childhood kitchen table. “Dirt is good!” Enza came to the United States in 1971. Upon arriving in New Haven, she began to garden in her backyard—the same cherub-studded, chain linkenclosed backyard I see today. But the small plot couldn’t contain her passion for gardening. She started to work in a community garden on Blatchley Avenue, and was quickly volunteering in gardens all around New Haven. Before long, Enza was hired by the New Haven Land Trust. She worked with people all over the city, sharing her knowledge with people young and old, black and white, native and foreign born, those with yards and those without homes, the able-bodied and those with disabilities. “The kids was the best part,” she says, remembering how they would visit her home to help her mix, knead, stretch, and cook pizza dough. The pizzas would be layered with toppings from their “pizza garden,” a pie-shaped piece of land that had different “slices” of vegetables and herbs. With Enza, New Haven’s children learned the origins of food, and the pleasures of eating something they had grown for themselves. Enza is known for her mighty garden feats. “I almost had to rub my eyes, the strength, the physical strength that you had and the stamina,” a friend tells her. “How did you stay so strong? Where did you get your physical strength?” I can’t help but notice the religious saint hanging on the wall above her as she replies, “God was with me. That’s all I can say.” She talks about the time she spent stewarding New Haven’s community gardens with both pride and amusement. The gardeners on Star Street would challenge her to arrive at their community garden at five in the morning, ready to work. “I used to go load up the truck at night,” she says. She would arrive in the garden at four thirty am, truck full of compost and shovel in hand. “They didn’t come out at five o’clock sharp,” she says. “I’d go wake everybody up and knock on their door. ‘I’m here! The compost is here! We have to unload the truck!’” Enza often worked late into the night, under utility lights, tapping the fire hydrants for much needed water. “That’s all we had,” she says. The Land Trust lacked a number of resources, including money, compost, tools, and
access to water in many of the gardens. The one thing they had plenty of, though, was volunteers. As food justice advocate Karen Washington puts it, a “hand in” is more valuable than a “hand out” when it comes to community gardens. The more hands that touch the soil, sow seeds, and reach out to one another, the less monetary and material resources needed for success. In New Haven, those hands come from an array of diverse backgrounds. The city is more than a melting pot, though; New Haveners are a hearty stew simmering in a stockpot, identities still intact but influenced by other flavors, languages, and ways of life. “The more people you get in the garden, the more they learn from each other,” Enza says. Enza’s grape vines can still be found sprinkled throughout the City, she says. I picture trellises like the one in her backyard, living on long after cancer takes her from this world. She will leave more than fava beans and grapes behind; instead, she’ll leave a lasting legacy of cultural exchange and knowledge sharing across ages, races, classses, and cultures. In some ways, Enza has been the spoon that stirs the pot. *** These days when Chris meets New Haven newcomers, he often suggests a bicycle tour of the community gardens. He might even volunteer his services as tour guide, or as chauffeur in the New Haven Land Trust’s red truck. Accompanied by Chris to the West Rock neighborhood of New Haven, these newcomers might find the Springside Garden, where residents of Liberty Safe Haven, a supportive housing community for the homeless, volunteer their time among the flowers, corn, herbs, and melons. Around the corner from the KFC in Beaver Hills, they might stumble upon the Carmel Street Garden where the smell of deep fried chicken mingles with the aroma of fresh dill and rosemary. On Mead Street, Chris and company can explore the Grandparents Garden, equipped with extra high beds to serve elderly folk with disabilities, who pass on gardening knowledge to their grandchildren. If it happens to be a school day, they can look across the street to catch a glimpse of students at the Barnard Environmental Magnet School gardening in their outdoor classroom. In the Hill section of town, one of New Haven’s poorest neighborhoods, they might discover a bounty of gardeners conversing in Spanish at the Casa
Latina, Casa Linda, and Casa Otonal Gardens. Chris might then steer the newcomers over to the Public Library in Fair Haven, home to the ABC Children’s Garden, where literacy and healthy eating go hand in hand. The community gardens sprinkled throughout New Haven are fresh oases in a desert of processed and packaged staleness. In outdoor refuges, children learn that cucumbers do indeed originate from the soil, the elderly find security in the surplus of a neighbor’s plot, and immigrants retain their culture while finding belonging in a new locale. Gardens provide services that the public and private sectors have failed to adequately deliver—services that must instead be cultivated from the ground up.
No Easy Task:
Bringing Solar to the Bottom of the Pyramid Ainsley Lloyd
Together, the individual stories of New Haven’s gardeners and the spaces they cultivate build a mosaic of collective will—will to connect, will to grow, and will to overcome. Each story is unique, but all are spoken in the same language: that of food, culture, and belonging. Although community gardens face an onslaught of threats, Chris, Enza, those who came before them, and those that will undoubtedly follow, are up to the challenge—both hands in.
mmanuel greets me with a wide smile and an outstretched hand, a sixinch-square solar panel propped on his corrugated iron roof just steps away from where we stand. Two months ago he received a visit from Energy in Common (EIC), an organization pioneering the use of tiny loans to fund clean energy for what the social enterprise movement calls the “bottom of the pyramid”—the four billion people living on less than eight dollars per day. The EIC staff member who visited Emmanuel secured him a loan for 50 cedis, about $35, to pay for a household solar system. Now the panel on his roof feeds energy down one black wire through a window to an LED desk lamp. The lamp provides eight hours of light in the superblack Ghanaian night, and its phone charger attachment saves Emmanuel several ten-mile trips every week to the next electrified town. He’ll repay his loan in six monthly installments using the money that he no longer spends on kerosene. Or that’s the theory. In practice, things get complicated. EIC is implementing a new model for financing and distributing solar home systems in which the organization matches thousands of individual borrowers like Emmanuel to thousands of individual lenders in the U.S. and elsewhere. These lenders aren’t the big
NO EASY TASK
donors that much of the philanthropic world works with. They are teachers, students, shop clerks and bank tellers, each one inspired by the idea that all it takes is a small loan to light lives. I was equally inspired when I heard about EIC, and I came to Ghana to collect data on outcomes among borrowers. During my visit, Emmanuel was dressed in a white tunic and trousers of fancy eyelet fabric, which seemed an impractical choice given everything from the walls of his house to the floor underfoot was red dirt. He motioned to the old, gnarled shade tree next to the road on the edge of Dogoketewa village. Each village has a tree like this one, always with a long, wooden bench underneath, worn shiny smooth by constant use. As a visitor to their village, conducting surveys for EIC, I’m always offered a white or blue plastic patio chair. I want to picture rural Ghana with handmade everything. In truth, it’s handmade some-things, second-hand American clothing, and Chinese everything else. We sit and talk through Kennedy, my translator. At night, Kennedy tells me, Emmanuel’s children play in the light of the solar lamp. Sometimes his wife uses it for cooking. When the children study, they no longer suffer the smoke from their kerosene lamp. “He says it helps them a lot.” It’s a dream come true for development. Other borrowers report that their children study up to six hours more each night. Though I appreciate everything EIC borrowers share with me, this discussion with Emmanuel is one of many encounters that leaves me feeling as though our interaction is rehearsed. *** Meeting Emmanuel uncovered the first of many complexities I’d find in Ghana’s Volta region, a long slice of former German Togoland separated from the rest of the country by the enormous Lake Volta. This 3,300 square mile reservoir filled in when the Akosombo dam was constructed in the 1960s. In conversations with solar beneficiaries like Emmanuel I perceived an odd power dynamic between borrowers, who’d always like a little more, and inquiring outsiders like me, assumed to somehow control the purse strings. Predictably, this interaction makes it nearly impossible to get reliable data on
the program benefits: the lamp is great! The charger is great! Six hours of extra study! For most development organizations, the process is kept simple: deliver the products, assess the impacts, however reliably, move on and continue. It is perhaps easy to find a feel-good story about someone who got a solar lamp in Ghana, but that misses the details – details that provide EIC co-founder Hugh Whalan daily and ongoing difficulties. To start with, EIC has to move solar systems like Emmanuel’s over vertebrae-crunching dirt roads for a full day to cover the 200 miles between the port at Tema, where goods are delivered, and Nkwanta, the district capital. It’s an expensive trip in fuel and time, not to mention the hassle that EIC goes through to find someone who will reliably deliver several thousand cedis worth of products to Nkwanta. Once those products arrive, a loan officer must deliver them to individual borrowers. Payments are then collected every month for half a year. Our collection day with Emmanuel and five other borrowers in villages strung along the road between Nkwanta and Kpassa cost seven cedis in fuel, and ten cedis for my motorcycle driver. If we collected payments from all six borrowers we’d have had 60 cedis – more than enough for our expenses. But we caught only some of them at home, and fewer still had cash on hand. In light of these challenges, Hugh has taken on the role of full-service professional with a durable commitment to long-term fulfillment. He and his staff handle logistical issues, visit borrowers for repairs when products break, and collect loan payments—all the while generating enough revenue to pay the bills and keep things moving. He has thousands of micro-lenders that have to be repaid, so he must budget carefully for the long run. That’s where I fit in. Hugh wants me to take a closer look at his energy-lending program. I’m a ground-truther, an auditor in a foreign land. *** In May 2011, a month before I met Emmanuel, I had my first deep breath of Ghana’s damp, hot air from the runway of Accra’s Kotoka International Airport. While Accra showed me the puzzling, spontaneous order of full-tilt development, the Volta offered an undeveloped purlieu. Most travel there occurs by motorbike, for reasons of both affordability and
NO EASY TASK
road quality. By the end of the summer, main roads can become impassable until government graders fill in their deep, rain-carved ruts. On either side, yams grow atop manmade mounds that stretch across the machete-cleared fields. In the mornings, my translator and I would ride past the sinewy, rubber-booted men who shaped these fields, all of them in their characteristic slow and steady gait headed to farm, water hauled in a salvaged fivegallon yellow plastic container. In this agricultural area, electricity from the Akosombo dam only reaches larger towns, where residents can enjoy endless light, television, refrigeration, and all of the other modern conveniences. Their more rural counterparts confine activity to daylight hours. They cook and read by the light of kerosene lamps and Chinese flashlights.
Hugh Whalan, not yet 30, is among them, and he’s determined to eliminate energy poverty.
Ghana today is a collision of millennial globalization and 1940s America. As recently as 2005, 46 percent of Ghanaians lacked access to electricity through the national grid. But you’d never know it from the proliferation of cell phones. There are currently 63 mobile cellular subscriptions in Ghana per 100 people. By these numbers, cell phone use is more pervasive than electricity.
Over the past decades, shiny black solar panels have appeared with increasing frequency atop the roofs of Ghanaian homes and businesses. It’s a convenient setup in a place with bright sun and inadequate electrical infrastructure. With this in mind, companies like Barefoot Power—one of Hugh’s suppliers—have begun packaging solar panels in self-contained energy systems sized for the individual home: a postcard-sized panel, a battery, a lamp and a cell phone charger.
There’s no question, then, that Ghana is clawing its way towards first-world living standards, wishing for full access to electricity and eager to embrace technology that will make life easier. But the slow pace of large infrastructure projects like grid electrification frustrates these aspirations. While the Akosombo dam just 100 miles to the south pumps out electricity, the Volta region—like many others—lacks enough transmission lines and transformers to make electricity accessible in remote villages. High-voltage lines sometimes pass directly over the roofs of rural villages; all that’s missing are the transformers to bring that electricity down to a lower, useable voltage. And because not everyone is willing to wait for the government to deliver on its promise of widespread electrification, social entrepreneurs step in. In 2004, C. K. Prahalad touched off the social enterprise movement with his book, The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid, pointing out to the world that more than half of earth’s people make less than $3,000 per year, but together represent a $13 trillion market. This sudden perception of overlooked opportunity has led a generation of young entrepreneurs to develop products and services that are both affordable and financially sustainable in the long run – in other words, that appeal to this massive and overlooked market.
Hugh co-founded Energy in Common in 2009 after realizing that larger efforts to fund projects for reducing carbon-dioxide emissions were failing to reach small-scale projects in Africa. In the fall of 2010 I had my first conversation with Hugh. He greeted me warmly, spoke with an Australian accent and patience. Because I was just beginning to plan a summer research project with EIC, I had a long list of questions for him. He was happy to oblige. First, he introduced me to the model.
Hugh’s contribution has been sorting out the messy logistics of distribution. He knew the rural poor were resourceful. From tiny in-home workshops, to food stalls in deconstructed shipping containers, they innovate and improvise, finding opportunities that larger businesses don’t perceive, can’t bother with, or aren’t agile enough to act upon. Unfortunately, the poor often abandon these opportunities because they don’t have capital and bank-based loans available on the scale that they need. EIC helps to provide these microloans, which are used to fund the purchase of energy improvements—replacement of kerosene, for example, which can require upwards of 30 percent of family income for fuel. When borrowers no longer pour money into inferior energy, they can instead make monthly payments on a solar system and then enjoy the benefits for decades. In May of 2011, immersed in research in the Volta, I learned early and quickly how complicated this process of improvement can be. Hugh arrived off a trans-Atlantic flight and immediately explained that we had a problem: The shipment of solar products that we had been counting on—a half container’s
NO EASY TASK
worth of one and a half to 15 watt systems, enough to bring light to 6,000 families in rural villages—had been delayed in another port for several weeks. What does this mean for borrowers? They started several months ago with a loan application. After waiting for their loans to be approved, they waited for funders—those average-Joe lenders across the ocean—to select them from EIC’s lending website. After this new shipment delay, borrowers in Nkwanta had waited almost six months for their products to arrive. By the time of delivery, many borrowers will have lost trust and interest in the organization. Over the coming years, economies of scale will solve many of these start-up problems. Growth in demand will make it feasible to order a full shipping container of solar systems; Hugh won’t have to wait for the other half-container with someone else’s goods to be offloaded elsewhere. Once the systems arrive at port, expanding demand will make the trip to Nkwanta less expensive too, since hiring someone to haul one big load to Nkwanta costs less and consumes fewer resources than hauling many small loads.
“Ya eja,” I replied. Kennedy, like Emmanuel, spoke quietly but warmly when he translated. He introduced himself with only a first name. “He wants you to take his picture,” said Kennedy. “He says you will show it when you go to America.” “Okay.” I snapped a photo of Emmanuel as he sat solemnly in his plastic patio chair, bright blue lamp in hand. He didn’t smile for the photo, but after meeting dozens of villagers I’d learned that few Ghanaians do. I showed Emmanuel the photo and he finally grinned. I nodded back, and began the somewhat convoluted communication chain with a turn to Kennedy. “How does he use his solar lamp?” I asked.
When the systems are delivered and payment collection begins, economies of scale will continue to improve the EIC model. If it costs fifteen cedis to visit a village to collect ten-cedi payments, it makes far more sense to do this if there are ten borrowers in the village rather than one. Denser demand spreads fixed program costs across more borrowers, making the whole program more financially sustainable. Then there’s the feedback effect. Cheaper borrower visits mean more frequent borrower visits, faster repairs on systems that break, better borrower education, and a great deal more trust from the borrowers – trust in both EIC and its technology. All of this, the positive reinforcement, sparks more interest in solar among community members. Economies of scale, then, will make Hugh’s job easier. So might better infrastructure and international efforts to support economic development in Ghana. But people—not policy—will ultimately solve energy poverty, however slow the process and however rough the road. *** Emmanuel was wearing yellow foam slip-on sandals when we met. “Akwaaba” (Welcome) he nodded.
THAT WAS THEN. THIS IS NOW.
That was Then. This is Now. Jonathan minard
Cambrian Explosion. The Center for PostNatural History has staked its claim as the only institution in the world dedicated to cataloging postnature, i.e. life forms that result from humans tampering with DNA. The man behind the Center is Richard Pell. Part artist, scientist, documentarian, curator, naturalist, and engineer, he eludes classification. “We’re interested in what people do to living things on purpose. We’re not a biology museum, not a science museum,” explains Pell, 36. The collection is “anthropocentric,” he says, “looking at human culture through the lens of biology.” ***
hat’s the difference between a green fluorescent bunny and a GloFish®? One is furry: the invention of an American bio-artist. The other is a trademarked product from Singapore, outlawed in every country but the United States. They share a single gene responsible for their bioluminescence originating in the jellyfish, Aequorea Victoria. On Pittsburgh’s Penn Avenue, between an Italian sub shop and a Vietnamese Pho restaurant, a storefront labeled “Center for PostNatural History” goes quietly unnoticed. In the dimly lit exhibit hall, glass vitrines house familiar looking specimens: an array of fruit flies impaled on mounting pins; a flask of live, fluttering Sea Monkeys; a cabinet marked “Specimen Vault” bearing corn kernels and slides of bacteria. It is not until you read the wall text beside each display that what you are looking at becomes apparent. Each specimen has a story encoded in its DNA. Every microbe and vertebrate in the collection was designed to serve a human need. Typically, it is biodiversity loss that makes the news. Less talked about is the fact that humans are creating the greatest boom in new species since the
The 21 st century has been heralded as “The Century of Biotech.” And yet, genetic engineering is hardly new. Perhaps the rules of biology have changed as a function of cultural evolution. Since well before recorded history, humans have been pruning the tree of life. Our interventions began with the advent of agriculture, roughly ten thousand years ago, when foragers transitioned to animal husbandry and crop domestication: wild boars became pigs, and teosinte became corn. In the 1920s, food producers discovered new methods of accelerating mutagenesis in fruits and vegetables to yield a wider array of traits. Irradiating crops with isotopes, such as cobalt-60, bred larger, sweeter, more attractive varieties. The practice, known as mutation breeding, continues to this day at facilities called gamma farms. Modern genetics developed in the last 35 years enable scientists to make precise alterations. By deftly cutting and pasting genes from one species to another, bioengineers approach genomics as a form of computer programming—only using base pairs rather than bytes. Recombinant DNA inserted into a species’ genome continues to function normally, providing the instructions for synthesizing proteins. That is why the cells of a rabbit with the addition of a single jellyfish gene produce Green Flourescent Protein (GFP). Transgenic species are considered technologies. When the artist Eduardo Kac worked with Dr. Louis-Marie Houdebine to invent Alba the Glowing Bunny, the two patented their creation. The patent, number 5,792,902 describes, “A transgenic rabbit expressing a protein capable of interfering with dyslipoproteinaemia-related liver diseases.”
THAT WAS THEN. THIS IS NOW.
Since founding the Center for PostNatural History in 2008, Rich Pell and his small research staff have scoured science journals and patent records for the latest additions to the transgenic tree. Many of these experimental life forms are ephemeral, one-offs. A majority go extinct before coming to term. “Maybe their germ plasm, their DNA survives on in some long term freezer,” says Pell, “but virtually nobody is preserving the body, the morphology, the physical forms of these organisms. So they just kind of fall in this blind spot.” *** Pell studied at Carnegie Mellon University with Steve Kurtz, a pioneer of interventionist art whose work injected biotechnology into the context of art museums and public spaces by offering audiences hands-on learning experiences with the tools of modern genetics. In 2004, while preparing for two major art exhibits—one about GMO food at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art and another about germ-warfare—Kurtz awoke one morning to discover his wife, Hope, had died in her sleep. Her untimely heart attack was just the beginning of Kurtz’s extended nightmare. Authorities investigating the cause of death discovered a bio lab in Kurtz’s home, including cultures of a harmless bacterium. After the FBI ransacked his lab and seized his work, Kurtz became entangled in a Kafkaesque plot, and was eventually put on trial for bioterrorism. After four years the charges were thrown out, reduced to “mail and wire fraud.” Pell is tall, lanky, with angular features and a scruffy beard. In attitude, he resembles his mentor Kurtz. While less defiantly outspoken, he’s similarly engaged in political discourse, with a passion for creative disruption. As a young graduate student Pell worked under the aegis of an artist consortium known as the Institute for Applied Autonomy (IAA), developing guerilla technologies to speak against the military’s application of robotics and artificial intelligence in warfare. The IAA’s GraffitiWriter robot enabled activists to remotely spray-paint messages of dissent on public pavement. They famously used a version of the bot to infiltrate a DARPA (Department of Defense Advanced Research Agency) sponsored robotics competition and write, in large red letters, Asimov’s First Law of Robots: “A ROBOT SHOULD NOT KILL.” In 2004, shaken by Kurtz’ arrests and having worked on a widely distributed film about the incident, called “Strange Culture,” Pell returned home to Wilmington, Delaware, for a 10-year high school reunion. There he met up
with an old friend whom he describes as “the other hacker” in his graduating class. Pell recalls: “When I told him about my work in robotics, the guy said ‘That’s cool, Rich. I make robots too except mine are alive and I program them with DNA.’” That friend was Christopher Voigt, now Professor of Biological Engineering in the Synthetic Biology Center at MIT. Pell began attending bioengineering conferences and schooling himself in techniques of gene hacking. At first he approached biotech as an activistartist, with the intention of engineering “a provocative bacteria.” As Pell reflected on what Kurtz had gone through as a consequence of radical tactics, however, he realized that the subject of genetic engineering required a different approach. “I realized that what was already being done [in biology labs] was far more provocative than anything I had to contribute. The politics I was interested in bringing to the table were already present and very loud.” Pell began envisioning a place to investigate genetic technologies and encourage public dialogue on biology and culture. In 2008, the idea for a PostNatural History Museum was born. While teaching at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Pell set up an early prototype of the Center. He visited the labs of scientists doing research and development on transgenic species, and began building his collection. His first acquisition was a jar of malaria resistant mosquitoes from the University of California Irvine. By the time Pell was hired as a professor at Carnegie Mellon, he was keeping a strange menagerie of specimens in his living room. Today, he and his partner, Lauren Allen, a biologist who is the project’s Lead Scientific Advisor, share a second-floor apartment above the Center. In 2011, Pell’s work on the Center for PostNatural History won him a summer fellowship to poke around “America’s attic” at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C. Ignoring the more exotic species at his disposal, he chose to focus his efforts exclusively on documenting the origins of countless common white lab mice and lab rats—two of the most thoroughly domesticated and genetically homogenous species on Earth. Arrayed row upon row in stacks of drawers in the Smithsonian, each identical rodent bears a little tag on its hind foot, specifying the date and location of its death. Cross-referencing the tags with sites in the Pacific and Nevada
THAT WAS THEN. THIS IS NOW.
desert, Pell began to notice a pattern. Large numbers of mice had come to the museum during periods of frequent nuclear testing. He describes the collection as “an inadvertent record of American warfare.” How these rodents were used to understand the effects of radiation is the subject of a forthcoming exhibit titled “Of Mice and Men.” “I find again and again that any living thing that I look at long enough will yield an extraordinary story,” says Pell. In recent years, he has tracked goats with spider genes to a remote military installation, visited the world’s only public grove of transgenic dutch elms, and delved to deep into the story of Amazing Sea Monkeys™. Pell declined to give a full account of what he had discovered through research on the creation of Amazing Sea Monkeys™—the story was too complex, he said—but he mentioned that it involved an adult film star from the 60’s; a researcher trying to coax rare blue lobsters into mating; and a Jewish man who went on to become one of the primary funders of the Aryan nation. “I think it will become a screenplay one day,” said Pell. *** Pell is not the only artist of his generation exploring the social and cultural dimensions of genetic engineering. Curator Andrea Grover recently assembled a half-dozen artists and researchers for an exhibit titled, “Intimate Science,” hosted by the Miller Gallery at Carnegie Mellon University. Artists featured include Phil Ross, a sculptor who moulds reishi mushrooms into building blocks for sustainable homes; Allison Kudla, who uses a computer plotter to lay intricate designs made of living algae; and Broken City Lab’s Shiho Fukuhara & Georg Tremmel, who clone genetically modified Moondust™ Carnations. CPNH’s exhibit in the show presents the story of the blight resistant American Chestnut, engineered at the SUNY College of Environmental Studies and Forestry in an attempt to resurrect the decimated tree. None of the artist-researchers in Grover’s exhibit have advanced degrees in science, yet they have cultivated expertise in peculiar niches, in some cases inventing their own biotechnologies. While the artists spend “ninety percent of their time outside of the lab,” says Grover, mastering the language of science gives them special access to domains off limits to most artists. According to Grover, “Scientists are very interested in what they’re doing, and they have become valuable contributors” to their chosen fields of inquiry.
In conversation, Pell will casually drop the full latin names of obscure bacteria. He has become so familiar with the lab procedures used in genetic engineering that one wonders if he could recreate many of the specimens in the collection himself. In describing one procedure, he makes synthetic biology sound frighteningly easy: “There are a number of companies that do gene synthesis. And you simply send them an email message full of the A’s, T’s, G’s, and C’s and in a few weeks turnaround time you’ll get a styrofoam cooler full of dry ice, with an eppendorf tube in the middle of it—that’s that gene suspended in some kind of fluid.” As once exclusive knowledge passes down from well-funded biotech labs to do-it-yourself scientists and bio-artists, the effort to regulate the field of genetic research seems increasingly futile. What happens when experiments in DIY genetics go awry? One of the most unnerving images in the Center for PostNatural History’s collection requires 3D glasses to view. What is it? A contorted form, not immediately discernible as a bird or reptile, emerges into visceral relief. It is poultry of some kind. It is a work by Adam Zaretsky, a bio-artist who injected a plasmid of DNA into a pheasant embryo to disrupt its development. Conceived in the Netherlands, the chick was killed before coming to term, in accordance with Dutch laws that prohibit transgenic birds from hatching. CPNH christened the specimen: “Intentionally Developmentally Disabled Pheasant.” Had the bird lived it would have been severely disfigured with a reddish-orange glow. The CPNH presents Zaretsky’s piece to counter the popular image of science as clean and infallible. Every successful genetically modified organism is preceded by a series of miscarriages. The process can get messy. And yet, most of the transgenic specimens in the collection look no different from their wild counterparts. None of them exhibit the extreme physical aberrations one might expect, such as extra eyes and appendages. Seeing these modern chimeras in the flesh and learning their stories immediately defuses the expectation of monstrosity. It also removes the subject of biotechnology from the realm of abstraction and what-if scenarios. As the science of transgenics becomes a viable option for addressing heritable diseases, our very own genes will become the subject of debate, further complicating these slippery bioethical questions.
While some transgenic species, like the GloFish®, offer little more than novel aesthetics, there are other invented organisms that validate their own existence. It is not easy to wage an argument against a malaria resistant mosquito with the potential to save millions of lives. At the same time, the public will and should be wary of genetic innovations claiming to offer a panacea— in the delicate balance of ecology there are often hidden consequences. Rather than providing easy answers, CPNH presents visitors with compelling stories, allowing them to contemplate the issues and slowly come to their own nuanced conclusions. While the collection currently has under a 100 unique species—a tiny fraction of the tens of thousands of transgenic organisms in the world – the examples presented are captivating. “I want people to come away hungry,” says Pell.
Change Gamers Dylan walsh
When the Center for PostNatural History opened its doors to the public, visitors had an opportunity to participate in a workshop to plant GMO corn in a cup. As a seedling shot up from the soil, they alone held the power to decide: kill the sprout or let it grow?
att Harvey listed universal truths of gameplay. “First, you must have a collapsing situation,” he said. That is rule number one. “If you sit still, bad things happen. The player’s job is to prevent this collapse.” We sat in a small kitchen on the second floor of a nondescript building on the outskirts of Oxford, England. A teakettle boiled on the stove. This is Matt’s workplace, the independent computer game publisher Red Redemption Ltd. With 11 other employees he is designing the computer strategy game Fate of the World in which players take charge of global politics and tackle the imminent threat of climate change. Though unconventional, Fate of the World is part of a growing industry of social-impact games – games premised on real, pressing social issues. “A collapsing reality is the first universal truth of gameplay,” Matt continued. It turns out that climate change, for better and for worse, is a textbook collapsing situation. If you sit still, really bad things happen: ranks of biodiversity are lost to extinction, rising seas inundate coastlines, and fragile ecosystems dwindle to nothing. For this reason, climate change makes good gaming.
Another universal truth, said Matt, is obvious: choose a topic that people find interesting. People love the thrill of crawling under concertina wire and wielding sniper rifles; World War II games fill shelves. People are fascinated by magic and spellcasting, by the dark allure of grimoires, and as much by skidding cars hugging the tight curves of a coastal highway—and so fantasy and racing games proliferate. By Red Redemption’s reasoning, people also find politics and climate change interesting. If we abide logic – and software developers abide logic – why not make a game about politics and climate change? Gobion Rowlands, cofounder and chairman of Red Redemption, has wagered two and a half million dollars on this logic, money fundraised over two years and plowed into the development and release of Fate of the World. Gobion is among a swelling rank of academics and professionals, philanthropists and non-profits who all support a larger, bolder wager: socialimpact games can truly help solve the problems on which they’re based; Fate of the World, for example, might on the screen and the ground provide solutions to climate change. Perhaps we will avert a real collapsing reality by playing through a fake collapsing reality. *** The growth of social-impact games has backstory written in numbers. The 2010 release of Call of Duty: Black Ops grossed $360 million in 24 hours, representing the highest earning debut of any entertainment product ever. Fans worldwide purchased 5.6 million copies within 24 hours of release. Continuous gaming, a kind of psychological addiction, has proven lethal to dozens of players who forgo food and water in order to advance their level. This has incited the installation of “anti-obsession systems” on select games. Perhaps the most staggering statistic regards the massive online world of World of Warcraft: the cumulative man-hours devoted to exploration of the virtual continents of Azeroth and Kalimdor thus far sums to more than 5.3 million years. Put in perspective, 5.3 million years would accommodate construction of the Transcontinental Railroad ten times over.
Naturally, everybody wants a piece of this pie. Government agencies, social enterprises, and myriad other organizations are falling into tighter and tighter orbit around the videogame market. The Knight Foundation is investigating games as a small-scale journalistic tool. The United Nations developed Food Force to educate players about the logistical challenge of delivering aid during humanitarian crises. Even former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor is invested in a gaming venture. Dismayed with the state of public civics knowledge, O’Connor founded iCivics.org to engage children with the powers and functions of government. Klaude Thomas, CEO of Red Redemption, considers the expansion of gaming into new realms inevitable. “New technologies are always first adopted for basic or rudimentary purposes,” he says. “Over time they gain sophistication as we realize new ways to use the technology that had not before been considered possible.” This technological trajectory is obvious everywhere: the telephone developed from a means of communication to a personal office to a money transfer service for earthquake relief efforts; Twitter evolved from documenting the quotidian to sourcing news stories and broadcasting revolution. By describing our government through animated lawyers and speech bubbles on the Third Amendment, Sandra Day O’Connor is in line with this trajectory. Asi Burak, co-president of the Manhattan-based nonprofit Games for Change, is meanwhile hoping to shape this trajectory. “We’re trying to take games to the next level,” Asi told me as we walked to lunch in a small subterranean restaurant. “Like a little bit of Europe in the middle of Manhattan.” The low-hung catenary of heavy drapes muted the winter sunlight. We sat beside a gas fireplace. Asi is not from Europe. He is from Israel. He told me about his work. “You know, it’s very hard to ignore the power of games anymore. You can’t fight it, so why not get on the cart?” Asi devotes himself matter-of-factly to this practiced pitch. He is compact and broad-shouldered with tightly curled receding black hair and is perhaps most well known for designing PeaceMaker while a master’s student at Carnegie Mellon. PeaceMaker explores the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through a computer strategy game. The central objective is a peaceful and viable two-state solution. Players can serve as the premier of either country, and this decision proved strategically critical to the game’s effectiveness. “The thing about [war] games that allow you to play both sides,” Klaude Thomas told me, “is that you always empathize with the side you’re on. So
these games actually teach you something really honest about the nature of war, which is that everyone sees things from their side as being justified.” The game touched a nerve upon its 2006 release. Media outlets including Wired Magazine, The New York Times, NPR, Time, and Al-Jazeera covered PeaceMaker with impressive enthusiasm. Casual readers of Middle East newspapers praised Asi’s efforts, emailing to say they learned more from playing his game than reading the paper. PeaceMaker offered a level of complexity and perspective absent from “flat news pieces,” as Asi calls them. The game did not gross $360 million in 24 hours, and it does not, I suspect, need an anti-obsession system. “PeaceMaker is far from being a household name,” Asi admits. He swept his hand out to indicate the other diners. “If you ask somebody on the street, he won’t know the title.” But the game kindled conversation around the role of games in addressing social problems. Indeed, PeaceMaker drew enough attention that Dani Yatom, a member of the Israeli Parliament in 2007 and former director of Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency, offered to play the game on broadcast news. His ingrained hawkish disposition proved self-destructive. Yatom was quick to retaliate against a virtual suicide bomb in Jerusalem with the use of military force. “Great! We destroyed them!” he exclaimed after his first turn. But his persistent and uncompromising military pressure ultimately strained relations over the course of play, and his game concluded with the inception of the Third Intifada. “You Lose,” the screen flashed. According to the design of the game – that is, according to decisions made by Asi and his classmates at Carnegie Mellon – Yatom had led unwisely and so suffered the consequences. Pushed back from his desk with the laptop in three-quarters view, Yatom glibly passed off his loss and talked on-camera with the reporter. “I’ve lost because the computer decided I’ve lost,” he said, “while I believe I took all the right actions. You can’t learn from this game. Nothing about reality.” Asi counters that, in fact, Dani Yatom’s stubborn failure demonstrates the value of PeaceMaker by illuminating how “the same actions lead to the same desperation.” But regardless of what this televised gameplay demonstrates, it is clear that PeaceMaker did not convert a warrior to a dove. The head of a national intelligence agency did not renounce the error of his ways and pursue the fruits of pacifism. He laughed off his loss because games have limits – limits that Gobion reflected on while discussing Fate of the World.
“It’s not our job to change everyone’s mind on our own. We are just a games company.” Red Redemption is not a legislative body. It is not a scapegoat for stalled politics or social ennui. Nor, Gobion noted, is Red Redemption a team of climatologists or glaciologists or meteorologists attempting to carry out hard science. “We’re just trying to find a means to turn what scientists are doing into something that is better understood.” But Gobion is confident that Fate of the World can help inspire action on climate change. He draws his confidence from two sources. Had Yatom been playing Fate of the World instead of PeaceMaker, the computer’s decisions would have been more difficult to dismiss because Fate of the World is powered by empirical scientific data instead of soft policy prescriptions. This is one source from which Gobion draws his confidence. The other source is the precursor to Fate of the World, a much more compact game titled Climate Challenge, which was built with virtually no budget by a team of young and inexperienced game designers, Gobion among them. Climate Challenge was an idea spawned late one night amid the raucous exchange of an Oxford pub. *** Matt Harvey and Gobion founded Red Redemption in 2005 and quickly committed themselves to developing an online spy game. Progress slowed into a muddle that was, in the diplomatic words of Gobion’s wife, Hannah, “not quite working.” Hannah was then completing her Master degree at Oxford University’s Environmental Change Institute with a focus on climate change communication. One evening Gobion joined her for drinks with a few classmates and Myles Allen, a professor of climate modeling. After enough imperial pints to lose count, Gobion, high in spirit, boasted that games could be made on any topic. Myles spoke up: Any topic? he asked. How about climate change? Two hands extended, then shook. Myles followed up a few days later and cemented the bet. Thus the attentions of Red Redemption were turned from a spy game to a game about climate change. The project began with three full-time employees working from home. The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), at that time launching a comprehensive investigation into climate change, learned that Red Redemption was designing a game on the subject and offered them a spot on their Science and Nature website. In December of 2006, Red Redemption completed and
released Climate Challenge in collaboration with the BBC. The game centered on the management of U.K. climate policy for the next 100 years. Constituent and budgetary concerns had to be balanced against environmental policy choices, all of which were playable as cards: an energy efficiency card, a carbon tax card, and so forth. Into the early months of 2007, millions of people played the game, many repeatedly, exploring different scenarios and outcomes. The player traffic and response exceeded Red Redemption’s wildest hopes. “We occasionally received letters saying, ‘You changed my life!’” said Hannah. Jolted by public response to his first – perhaps the first – game explicitly about climate change, Gobion envisioned a grander sequel, and very soon began working to realize his vision.
cushioned headphones, and stained coffee mugs. A small library of textbooks and manuals on game design fill the freestanding shelves angled to create a makeshift waiting room. The meeting space in back overlooks the damp and dreary road. Double-decker buses coast down the nearby hill with engines whining. A straight shot down this busy artery and around a traffic rotary is Oxford University and Myles Allen’s Climate Dynamics Lab.
He canvassed major game publishers for start-up support, the kinds of publishers that sink tens or hundreds of millions of dollars into the so-called triple-A gamesthat mark ever-higher revenue records. “All the publishers,” said Hannah, “told us, ‘That’s a great idea, but we can’t help you.’” Though intriguing in theory, accountants and shareholders demanded more than theory. There were no proofs-of-concept or sales figures for social-impact games released on the commercial market. Until that point, social-impact games had been released in a distinctly separate forum: commercial games made profit, social-impact games were sponsored. Foundations or corporations used social-impact games to train employees, governments used them to explore policy options, and schools used them as instructional tools. These same organizations that used them, financed them, therefore buffering social-impact games from the stiff competition of the game market. After all, how could the Red Cross’ Food Force be expected to compete against The Sims? With this model in mind and no historical samples to support positive returns on investment, the industry offered kind words in place of capital.
The very core of the game is Myles’s climate model. Early in production, Red Redemption decided to connect the climate system in Fate of the World to real scientific data. Much as cars in racing games accelerate, skid, and tumble according to Newtonian mechanics, Earth’s biosphere in Fate of the World evolves according to the forecasts of Myles’s climate model. And though climate dynamics are fuzzier than Newtonian mechanics, this connection lends the game a degree of veracity. Hannah is the guardian of this veracity.
Spurned but not dejected, the team of three rented a cramped and noisy backroom from a cramped and noisy computer repair shop. They set to work independently on their next big project, Fate of the World. Over development, the team grew to 11 full-time employees, with Klaude Thomas as CEO. The company eventually moved into a larger space on the second floor of the same computer repair shop. In the open office, vinyl window blinds are perpetually closed. Thin fans of light split the imbrication and a plastic clacking stirs whenever the ventilation thrums on. Over lunchbreak, employees eat sandwiches hunched over their keyboards while battling online in Starcraft 2 or World of Warcraft. Beside every monitor lie loose cables,
Myles manages the world’s largest climate model, a cloud-computing operation hosted at Climateprediction.net, and the data from his models flow those three miles back around the rotary and up the road where they are put to use as Fate of the World’s bedrock.
Hired full-time by Red Redemption as a science advisor, Hannah keeps the design team honest by stocking playable scenarios with factual numbers. Her weeks are full of research, data collection, and friendly tugs-of-war with the creative designers who tend to demand more than the science can deliver – more melting! higher oceans! bigger storms! greater privation! Or, conversely, Hannah will push for inclusion of scientific facts. Lecturing on, for example, the terrific importance of Earth’s albedo as a positive feedback mechanism, Hannah will describe how the melting of white icecaps exposes the dark surface of the ocean which absorbs heat faster and leads to more melting ice caps. The designers will nod and look at her and complain, “‘But that’s boooring.’” Obviously, good entertainment need not adhere to good science, and good science needn’t translate into good entertainment. While space colonization makes for interesting gaming, no player, not even the most diehard, would wait eight years during virtual transit from Earth to Mars. Despite this debating at the fringe, the essential complex dynamics of climate change have proven well suited to gaming. “Complexity is good,” Gobion said. “We,” meaning game designers and game players, “like complex-
ity.” Hannah corroborated: “The tensions, the challenges, the complication, the detail – that makes gameplay.” At any given moment, World of Warcraft players manage 156 active user interface elements simultaneously. Equip your bow, mount your horse, check your health, cast a spell, collect the gold, etcetera. Or as it applies to Fate of the World: phase out US dependence on oil, develop renewable energy in China, provide job relief in Northern Africa, fend off drought in Russia, manage forestry regulation in Brazil. Etcetera. *** Welcome to 2095. In China, I’ve built out a monolithic system of nuclear energy prone to diminishing plutonium stocks. My failure to invest in nextgeneration biofuels despite their necessity for replacing petroleum has created an intense competition for land use – food or fuel? – and prophesies famine on a horrifying scale. And chronic inattention to the policies of Southeast Asia has culminated in civil unrest generated by hundreds of millions of migrating climate refugees, their homelands sunk below rising oceans. I’ve also ushered in a seminal, if modest, era of African prosperity. European policy responded well to the shock of peak oil in 2035, and most economies have continued ticking up in lockstep with environmental protections. The world is not a husk, and hope – the hope of its people alongside the hope of its player – affords incentive to push into the next century. Take another turn. Drop the confetti and mark 2100. This is my game. It is the future I’ve created. If I tire of it, or if it collapses, then I can scratch the decades of intricately networked policy efforts and start all over again, reset in 2020, the year in which Fate of the World begins. The game opens centered on a vibrant marble of land and water and cloud spinning slowly on-screen. Tiny lights flicker in constellation as the scythe of night passes from east to west. The main character, if you’d call it that, is not an errant cowboy or urban mafioso, but this, the marble. It is the player’s job to manage environmental and social concerns across the world’s twelve regions. The first few times I played, I destroyed the planet. I scanned online message boards for survival tips. I stumbled across a solitary March 13 tweet from pr1001: “Saving the world is hard!”
Yes. It is. Like its predecessor, Climate Challenge, Fate of the World is a card-based strategy game. Hundreds of policy options are available for play, and each policy drives regional responses that ripple outward to other regions: switching to less intensive, organic agricultural methods in the U.S. can drive up food prices and create political unrest and war halfway around the world; or forest protection laws can slow the atmospheric accumulation of greenhouse gases and improve environmental zeitgeist by establishing national treasures. Ultimately, Fate of the World creates a complex system of policies and responses that interact in long and often unpredictable cascading effects. No policy and no people, you quickly learn, exist autonomously. As I took charge in 2020, I gravitated first to intervention in regions with the highest annual greenhouse gas emissions. The game provides detailed information on tons of greenhouse gases emitted per year by region and the breakdown across sectors, so I targeted investment accordingly: renewable energy technologies and an electric automobile fleet in the U.S.; nuclear research in China; stricter industrial regulations and better technology in Russia. This was the method: review regional data for appropriate regional policies. When my money ran low, I clicked through to the next turn, pulled in taxes from each region, and leaned back as the timeline surged five years forward. 2025 dawned and news headlines rolled in:
Resource Shortages Hinder Growth; Degree of Warming over Pre-industrial Levels; Rise in Arctic Methane Reported; Global Oil Production Peaks; Advanced Drilling Breakthrough; The next turn presented a choice that would linger and frustrate me the rest of the game: how much money would I invest in industrial emissions abatement at the expense of poverty relief? Would I prioritize European carbon capture and sequestration, or the distribution of food and medicine in Africa? Would I chase technology, or dispense welfare? Softhearted, I opened a regional welfare office in Northern Africa. Rampant deforestation in Latin America had established the region as the fourth largest emitter of greenhouse gases, so I laid down long-term forest conserva-
tion policy. The choices continued with an endless and impossibly difficult set of trade-offs. Come 2035, the Arctic experienced an ice-free summer and Northern Africa struggled against political instability while Japan heralded smartgrid breakthroughs and North America had maxed out its nuclear power capacity. Newflashes came and went with a reliable mixture of affirmation and censure. Undeveloped regions became increasingly restive, squeezed between social welfare and environmental protection. There were victories, but they were challenging to achieve and often offset by unforeseen effects. My first “successful” policy offered just such a lesson: ten years after celebrating the success of my forest management in Latin America, timber extraction in Russia and South Asia spiked. With timber demand unchanged, I’d simply shifted the harvest. What was good for Latin America was not necessarily good for the world. I eventually did beat the mission, but was forced to make discomfiting sacrifices. I allowed war in the Middle East to run its course, and I bailed on water infrastructure investments in India. Whether or not you agree with the outcomes, Fate of the World forces a central, difficult question: what tradeoffs are you willing to make? Climate change has been termed a super wicked problem; it has been described as a soft balloon – squeeze in one place and the sides bulge elsewhere. All game long I squeezed, and the bulges kept bulging. This process offers one of the key insights from Fate of the World, an insight that perked Asi from his slouch. “Feedback loops,” Asi commented, “are extremely important. What feedback loops do is they get you to understand choices and consequences, and they link events together.” Players begin to read connections between events, to understand how certain policy plays might unfold in context. “It all starts to make sense as a system,” Asi said. In the case of Fate of the World, this system is built on the work of Myles Allen’s lab and operates under the direction of genuine scientific principles. The narratives I witnessed while playing through the game were not picked from thin air, but based on advanced climate modeling. And while the future is impossible to predict, this veracity lends Fate of the World a distinctive sobriety. The travails I faced in each passing decade portended some vague and formless future in store for us all.
I was able to see this future because the game accordions time, and what might normally take 50 years to occur instead takes 50 minutes. The long, slow processes of climate change snap with urgency; though it might require a hundred years for the Greenland ice sheet to slide from its volcanic foundation into the warming Atlantic where it will bob and melt and raise sea levels worldwide, Fate of the World allowed me to personally witness this gloomy outcome. I watched take place what I could otherwise never see take place, and this made for a powerful tool of engagement and illumination. “Those who separate education from entertainment don’t understand enough about either,” said Gobion as we ate lunch. “The best education is always entertainment,” he reiterated. “Always.” In this vein, Red Redemption hopes Fate of the World will spur people to think and talk about climate change by entertaining them with climate change. The degree to which Red Redemption has succeeded in its goal is debated among reviewers. PC Gamer scores Fate of the World 61 out of 100, describing the game as “well-intentioned and beautiful, but...small, hard and depressing.” Paste Magazine gave a high 8.9 out of 10, with a review to support this score: “Instead of cracking skulls,” writes Nathan Grayson, “Fate of the World had me crack books and pore over graphs. And I loved it...It had played on my expectations as a gamer – my desire to master systems and worlds – in order to make me obsess over a topic of real relevance.” And, as if a company shill, Grayson concluded, “that’s when it hit me: Fate of the World had tricked me into learning.” These words alone may be worth the $2.5 million of fundraising, the uncertain and lengthy development process, the steady call for personal sacrifices from Gobion, Hannah, and the rest of the Red Redemption team. For all of their hard work, these words may be payoff. *** After a pizza lunch with Gobion and Hannah the waitress delivered a profiterole for dessert. “You’ve earned it,” Hannah said as Gobion took a quick forkful. He sank sighing into the red vinyl bank, like a spring uncoiling. “Hardest job I’ve ever had,” he said shaking his head and chewing and going for another forkful. “Hardest.”
He had recently returned from a ten day, 14 city, rapid-fire promotional tour in the US. Over two years he has been forced to learn extensively about business development. “I’d never raised a million Pounds before, I’d never done publicity for a big A-type game before, I’d never done distribution channels before, or even established a distribution deal,” he said. Hannah chimed in: “But then, none of us had ever made a game about climate change on this scale.”
Fate of the World was launched February 24 th, 2011, at the “Gaming the Future” conference in Asheville, North Carolina. A team of NOAA scientists was the first to try the game, followed by a line of conference attendees who took turns at a long bank of computer terminals. Gobion gave a short ribboncutting talk, dressed sharply in a three-piece suit, red tie, and French cuffs. “When I’m confronted with a subject that terrifies me,” he pronounced from the lectern, “that I don’t know anything about, that I’m intrigued by, I’ll make a game about it.” He leaned into the microphone. “Gaming is my way of interacting with the world, of processing what we do here.” When I talked to him, he said that, of course, he would be thrilled with commercial success. Of course it would be nice to break even, or even turn a profit. “But, really,” he said, “I just want as many people as possible to play the damn thing.”
dure it, but afterwards, as it did not cease, they sought for remedies; and one devised one thing and another of them devised another thing. And then were discovered, they say, the ways of playing with the dice and the knucklebones and the ball, and all the other games.” “These games they invented as a resource against the famine, and thus they used to do:—on one of the days they would play games all the time in order that they might not feel the want of food, and on the next they ceased from their games and had food: and thus they went on for eighteen years.” The famine gave no sign of respite after these eighteen years. With its resources strained thinner every year, the Lydian kingdom attempted a final measure of survival by splitting in two, with half of the population seeking new settlement. Though Herodotus passes this migration off in one sentence, recent discoveries have linked Etruscan DNA to the Lydians, suggesting that long ago, if imperfectly, a game of dice saved a civilization from collapse. Climate change is not a famine, and Fate of the World is not a dice game, and in present day there is no king neatly calling out mandates, but one must wonder what parallels hold.
When I asked Asi what it would take for the successful beachhead of socialimpact games in the commercial market, he sipped his coke and said, “a lot.” Pressed further, he went on: “It’s complex, and we need many things to happen together: money, distribution, changes in public perception and support. And we need more stories,” he said – stories to support the place of gaming in social uplift. Whether this incursion would then lead to genuine, durable social change is another question entirely, one answered only by the slow flow of real, not virtual, time. Whether the force of games as educators will translate into the force of games as changers remains to be seen. But there is at least one powerful story of gaming from 2,500 years ago. It is recounted by Jane McGonigal, a fellow at the Institute for the Future, in her book Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World. The story is from Herodotus in the first book of The Histories. “In the reign of Atys the son of Manes their king there came to be a grievous dearth over the whole of Lydia; and the Lydians for a time continued to en-
SAGE Magazine is especially grateful to: Sir Dean Peter Crane and Assistant Dean Pilar Montalvo Fred Strebeigh and Paul Draghi The Class of 1980 Fund Thomas Chase
A fallow field leaving winterâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s dryness
and the staff and faculty of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies for their time, guidance, and generous support.
Sits with its stumped stalks beside a river, Collecting fog and throwing clouds of black
Birds against the expectant oyster sky. As the waters pull away, they leave mud Beside the rows of corn. In a century, The farm will follow the fleeing shoreline, Drawing furrows in the earth the river leaves Behind, still feeding hungry starling flocks. Just as the round earth pulls around the flat Horizon and an invisible wind Rustles pale and desiccated foliage, Does time creep forward as we think it does? The birds have flown before and will again. SAGE Magazine is a student-run environmental magazine published through the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. We showcase student environmental journalism, art, literature, poetry and multimedia of all kinds. We also accept submissions from the broader environmental community. Visit our website, SageMagazine.org, to read new stories, see our latest videos and interviews, and find out how you can get involved. Art submissions may be sent directly to email@example.com.
SAGE Magazine 195 Prospect Street New Haven, CT, 06511
A graduate student publication of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies