Category Archives: Stewardship

Imagine a world without trees

We had no idea how many trees were on earth, but there were plenty of wild quesses. The September  issue of the journal Nature provided much needed answers. Three trillion! There are 7 billion folks walking around, that’s 425 trees per person. Is that a lot of trees per person?

The study theorizes that at the beginning of civilization, there were 6 trillion trees. Yes indeed, half the earth’s trees are no more. The investigators estimate that we are losing 10 billion trees per year. In 150 years, there will only be half again, 1.5 trillion trees. We can count on 10 billion folks walking around 150 years from now. That’s only 150 trees per person. Yikes!

Let’s assume that 150 years ago there were less than 1 billion folks walking around amonst 4.5 trillion trees. Back in the day, there were 4,500 trees per person. We were tree rich, now we are heading towards tree bankrupcy.

What good are trees you ask? They clean water, stabilize climates, build fertile soil, provide food and raw materials, and soak up carbon emmissions to mediate the effects of global warming. You might come to the conclusion that they are one of the most important organisms on earth. They are also beautiful and produce oxygen, you know, the stuff we breathe!

Human activity is the most significant cause of the decline in trees. Currently, 50% of the trees live in tropical and subtropical regions, 25% live in temperate zones, and 25% live in the northern boreal forests. The boreal forests happen to be the most dense, 1 tree per square meter. That’s about a square yard for you nonmetric people. The following map shows the worldwide distribution of trees.

That strip across the top is the boreal forest. My fear is that as the climate warms and the boreal forests dry out, there will be massive wildfires that greatly increase the rate of future tree loss. If you have ever seen a wildfire, you know that dry trees growing close together burn like crazy.

We should have a goal of increasing the number of trees on earth to 4 trillion. As the population grows to 10 billion, that keeps our current ratio of about 400 trees per person intact. Note: I have rounded numbers to make the math more pleasing to the eye without changing the overall gruesome results.

My advise, while trees abound,

Get out there and be amazed…


Organic Farm School Final Harvest Day

It was a gorgeous day at the Geenbank farm on Whidbey island. We were walking the dogs on the land that was once a loganberry farm. 

Located on one edge of the property is the certified organic farm and home of the Organic Farm School Program. Young people from all over the US attend this 8 month school that teaches organic farming techniques.


It was the last week of school and the students were harvesting their final bounty to sell to the public.

I chatted as they picked amazing kale, lettuce and carrots. Each had an amazing experience and were planning to find jobs on existing organic farms or start their own farm. One person was remaining on Whidbey Island to manage the South Whidbey School Farm and Garden Program.

Get out there and be amazed…

Which came first, the chicken or the cage?

On January 1, 2015 California law will require that chickens raised in cages commercially must have room to turn around and spread their wings! Almost every egg laying chicken in the US is raised in a “battery cage”.

Chickens are cramed into these cages. Each has approximately 67 square inches of floor space. An 8.5 x 11 inch sheet of paper is 94 square inches. That means you can raise three chickens on two pieces of paper side by side!

Chickens packed into battery cage.

Chickens packed into battery cage.

The average life span for each chicken is two years. Two years couped in these horrible conditions in cages stacked in barns without windows. During that time most develop calcium defienciecies that deterioate their leg and spine bones so they cannot even stand up. Many die in the cage from dehydration, they can’t get to the water.

For ten years I had an organic farm. We raised chickens for eggs and meat. They free ranged outside during the day and spent nights in a coupe. No cages. They lived about five years and were happy. Today I eat organic eggs which are free ranged. Yes, they cost more. But what price do we pay to raise food the absolute cheapest without any regard for the animal.

Chickens, like most birds, are highly inteligent. If you have spent time with chickens you know they have individual personalities.

How big will the new cages be? Most growers are pushing for the European standard of 116 square inches per chicken. That still seems small to me.

Washington and Oregon are passing similar laws, yet six other states are suing California to get the law invalidated because their battery cage raised chickens cannot be imported into California.

Raising chickens for food under these conditions is not only unethical, it’s spiritually wrong. We should treat our fellow beings with more respect and give thanks for the gift of their meat.

Human nature amazingly incorrect…

Expressing Gratitude to the Earth

I listened to a Christmas Eve podcast of NPR’s “On Point”. Dacher Keltner, co-founder of the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, was discussing the positive benefits of expressing gratitude.

New research is validating an old wisdom. Money, power and station in life cannot buy happiness. In fact, the pursuit of material possessions can increase stress, anxiety and affect health adversely.

The antidote to materialism is to shift your mindset and express gratitude for the things you have. Perhaps what you already have is enough to provide contentment. There is a difference between need and want. Most of us want so much, but actually need so little.

Studies of the neuroscience of positive emotions conclude that activities that benefit your pro-social nervous system result in a happier attitude, healthier immune system and better sleep patterns.

These activities include experiences in beauty and awe. Where better to find experiences of beauty and awe than in our own natural world.

Instead of acquiring a never ending mound of consumer goods, why not pursue experiences in nature. Spend some of that money on a wilderness trip, an outdoor hiking adventure or rafting down a white water river. The opportunities are endless. Studies have proven that experiences have a  longer lasting positive memory than the purchase of yet another consumer item. An experience can last a life time. The newness of a new consumer item seldom lasts longer than a few days.

Gratitude is the social glue that holds communities together. Being grateful for the gifts you have and the folks you know is good for your soul. People have a large capacity to express gratitude in situations of crisis.

The earth is entering an era of climatic and ecological crisis. It is time to express gratitude to our home, the earth. We should be grateful for the gifts the earth has provided and show that gratitude in our relationship to nature. We can give back by being good stewards and conserving our natural resources.

Most important we can express our love for the earth and the natural world in which we live. The diversity of animals and plants are a special gift, a sacred gift to be cherished, not plundered.

Get out there and be amazed…