22 December 2011


I was at the gym the other day and overheard a particularly obnoxious conversation.  Maybe obnoxious is the wrong word; as the conversation illustrates the dynamics of urban myths and ignorant people.  Fortuntately, I could concentrate more on fighting old age decrepitude than listening to the drone of an empty cranium. 

The chat was mostly one-way from a chunky middle-aged woman, whom I'll call the kayak lady, and a polite middle-aged man, whom I'll call John.  I call her the kayak lady as she fancies herself a kayaker.  Instead, I somehow have more vision of a rubber duckie floating in the bathtub, rather than a skilled paddler.  Gotta give her credit for trying.  I just wish she knew the value of quiet, as her voice is one of those that sounds like a red-hot firebrand in the inner ear. 

The conversation was along the lines of a natural healer that removes toxins from the body by soaking your feet in a solution of natural ingredients.  She's been paying this gal for services.  Anyone harken to the dark days of medievil England?  I had to smile, as I thought of someone swishing their feet in an oversize chamber pot filled with the previous evening's contents.  That would be natural, of course. 

The kayak lady explained that her doctor had found some liver spots.  "After about 10 minutes, the water turned brown and I felt so much cleaner!".  Hmmmm.  So many other more likely explanations than having toxins removed from a body through a foot soaking.  Just how bright might this woman be?  Probably close to a black hole of critical thinking.  Poor John is listening intently.  "She uses all natural products."  Rotenone, canine teeth, and heart failure are all natural, too. 

How many suckers swallow this marketing term "natural"?  It means absolutely nothing, just like so many other marketing ploys.  The USA must be filled with near-idjits, as all this marketing actually works!  Billions spent to misrepresent silly things (at best) to acquire many billions more from fools who are happy to be separated from their money.  Yet, the glazed eyes and damaged brains continue to stare at the TV, almost hypnotically. 

On a deeper level, if there is one, what is it about American society that has assigned some ersatz concept of goodness to "natural"?  Nature, naturally, is filled with wonder, beauty, and clever creation.  It's also filled with death, misery, and indifference.  How is it that so many people can only see the anthropomorphically pleasant aspect of nature?  Some might argue that seeing the bright side of things is a healthy attitude.  This is true, for those who cannot.  However, to ignore the complete package, including the "dark" 'side, is equally (if not more) unhealthy.  For wildlife, the fate is premature death. 

By extension, or arguable leap of logic, many resource management practices are dissed because they don't "look natural".  Take the most vicious forest management practice, clearcutting, as an example.  Horrible!  Destructive!  Inconceivable in a civilized society!   


Clearcutting is merely a practice that mimics "natural" catastrophic ecological disturbance for forest types that are "naturally" adapted to catastrophic ecological disturbances.  The difference is that a management regime allows humans to determine the place and time of the disturbance.  Only with management, the downsides of disturbances are minimized and the wood resource is utilized, instead of being converted to carbon dioxide and organic matter.  Of course, carbon dioxide, organic matter, and other products of these wildfires, insect outbreaks, and wind events have ecological benefit.  But mass quantities of them, in one place and at one time, have important negative consequences to humans, and sometimes to ecological balances.  The debacle in many of the mountain forests of the West should be clear examples, but unfortunately, not even these experiences are enough to free the ingrained ignorance of millions who have had their minds disconnected from horse sense. 

These disturbances, naturally, create environmental conditions that favor the regeneration of these forest types.  Without such disturbance, ecological balances go haywire and set the stage for disturbances worse than clearcutting.  It's usually better to work WITH ecological processes than AGAINST them.  Thus, the practice of clearcutting remains an essential tool. 

Now, clearcutting gets a bad name for two reasons; 1) past abuse (and sometimes current) and 2) poor visual quality (lousy measure of ecological health).  See my rant about clearcutting for a fuller explanation.  More important, is how this clearcutting fits into the Madison Avenue generated concept of what is "natural", and then inversely, into what is not natural.  Clearcutting is far more natural than benign neglect.  Any day. 

These American perceptions are entirely "unnatural", to coin a phrase.  These incorrect notions of natural are further advanced and "improved" upon by such despicable organizations as the Sierra Club, which has contributed more ecological damage in this country than the logger barons of a century ago.  Their well-oiled marketing machine has helped turned American care for the environment into a money-making dynamo that serves to fuel itself far more than it fuels conservation.  Even well-meaning and reputable conservation groups, such as The Nature Conservancy, use this marketing money ticket to generate more dollars to pay for their organization and staff people. 

And millions of American buy it.  It's pretty, so therefore it must be good. 

Snake oil sales campaigns are alive and well.  Rampant ignorance still serves as a deep well of dollars. 

For those of us who truly love forests and fields, and work diligently to provide both commondities and environmental benefits, this American of attitude of "natural" is both offensive and discouraging.  Some days, I think maybe it would be better to let these nature lovers sit in the bucket of swill that they unintentionally advocate through ignorance and pollyanna concepts of the natural world.  Only problem with that is that they'll take down the natural world in the process, which is the inevitable outcome that I fear despite the best efforts of natural resource managers across the country.  Mass stupidity is a massive foe. 

The ridiculous kayak lady was only talking about a particular "natural" remedy, most of which are likely to be something less than therapeutically efficacious.  I'm sure she thinks the world is flat, too.  However, she got my mind whirling about the age-old topic of societal values attached to the word "natural" . . . and just how unnatural those values too often are. 

27 October 2011

20 October 2011

Nature Centers

I despise nature centers.  They're UNnatural, filled with politically-correct hyperbole, and espouse philosophy about as far removed from "nature" as you can get.  Bunch of nature fakers . . . or fakirs.  If nature centers, "naturalist" programs, and the usual drivel of environmental education is our hope to re-connect with nature . . . then we're screwed.  

Yet, people fall for this crap all the time.  Teaching people to fall for this crap, what crap to dish out, and how to serve crap has become a role of many university degree programs.  With BS in crap, you can now teach elementary students how to appreciate crap.  And so the crap cycle goes . . .

People need to understand that nature is filled with resources that we need to survive.  To ignore this fact is suicide.  The trick is to manage and conserve these resources.  That means things like clearcutting, burning, and shooting deer.  Some dreamy pantheistic or Gaian mantra will not work.  These cloud-sitting pseudo-religious ideas are parasitic on human welfare.   

Erudite nature lovers sipping double lattes in L.L. Bean fleeces, Keene sandals, and Smartwool socks divorce themselves from the solution.   Maybe it will make some people "feel" better, or "engaged", but success in our future has little to do with feelings of engagement and locally-produced white wine.  Even Ned Ludd made more sense than this.  Popular and pretty have little to do with ecological integrity and everything to do with fantasy and cultural separation from nature.  It's anthropomorphic arrogance. 

Now, certainly nature can inspire and motivate.  Nature is marvelous in this way.  But inspiration is found through the soul with an eye that can see.  It cannot be found in a typical nature center program for dummies. 

Certainly, there is a huge need for environmental education.  But the lukewarm pansy messages of most nature centers are part of the problem, not the vision.  Programs are based on what will collect dollars from eco-suckers, rather than addressing the need for shape-shifting some reality.  It's a ruthless business, marketed under the guise of "green", pandering to the ignorant yens of Thoreau wannabes (thorough mini-minds).  "Painting Fall Flowers with Mosquito Juice" or "Finding Your Buttcrack in the Forest" will not engage citizens in a pragmatic way that leads to natural resource sustainability.  It will get in the way. 

Current environmental education is producing environment idiots equivalent in naiveté to the Eloi of H.G. Wells. 

The world of responsibly using and managing natural resources can be exciting (and remarkably rewarding), but it's not particularly glamorous in the fickle public eye.  If you want to "get back to nature", spend a week in the forest with nothing but the hairs on your body.  You'll brutally learn how important natural resource extraction can be, and how important efficient economy of scale must be when talking about billions of humans.  Visit a small village in the Sahel and this will make much more sense.

That quaint little organic farmlet with five acres of independence, complete with manicured daisies and a "country fresh" sign in the front yard, is a selfish luxury available only to the economically privileged neo-hippie.  It's a pathetically delusional practice of sustainability.  Multiply that land use and productivity by a factor to include all 300+ million Americans, let alone the billions across the planet, and you rapidly run out of land. 

Google "nature center" and begin to look through the programs they offer.  "Nature" programs take an innate human desire to connect with something of the Earth and turn it into a pale Hollywood echo that scores high only on box office returns.  Ka-ching for the nature center.  There's very little fare about how human beings will survive only through the sustainable manipulation of their environment.  Perversely, the people and professions that are involved with a sustainable future are typically vilified (a suicide syndrome). 

But at the local nature center, you can learn about how to photograph a dew droplet on a deer turd. 

17 October 2011

Grandstanding Politicians

"Light travels faster than sound.  This is why politicians appear bright until you hear them speak."

Obsenators and Reprehensibles. 

Well the pork boys are out spending more time and money to garner votes, while doing nothing to solve problems.  Four Congressional Representatives and a small cadre of state mini-minds are buffooning over forestry issues at a large panel conference at a local community college.  An extravagant display, complete with verbal fireworks and politically-correct dancing girls.  They sit on panels talking about timber supply, transportation, and how lousy the Forest Service is.  While all of these issues are legitimate, and action certainly ought to be taken, the topics have been studied ad nauseum and recommendations never followed through.  If these political hacks were genuinely interested in making positive change, they would be directing their staffs to comb through all the groundwork done over the past couple decades and devine a strategy to resolve the problems.  Instead, they appear to prefer the media limelight, posturing and blustering about how bad this thing is or inefficient that agency has become.  They are good examples of what they advocate against.  I think that's what straight-thinkers call hypocrisy?  I can think of worse descriptors.

11 October 2011

Fall Colors

Well, the color season is almost behind us.  The tourism weenies have done their usual marvelous job of overselling and misrepresenting.  The bumpkin RVs are bobbling their way back to the big cities.  The annual moronic banter across the media is whining down. 

Granted, the season is a gorgeous one.  And, the weather was particularly spectacular this year.  Of course, it's good that neophytes and nincompoops get out for at least a taste.  However, when tasting only the icing on the cake, one really doesn't know how the cake is supposed to taste. 

The aesthetic appreciation of a dynamic forest system goes far beyond the simple visual quality of the fall season, or some cute furry animal scuffling away from an assumed predator.  The ignorant platitudes and attitudes towards forests by the majority grows offensive, and occasionally nauseating. 

Damn nice view Marge.  Can you pop me another Bud Light? 

An entire cheesy industry (Pure Michigan!) is built on the superficial fluff of natural resource visual quality.  The meat is almost entirely missing.  The fact that the use of these resources are essential to our survival goes unnoticed.  In fact, the hollywood version too often trumps the real life version.  When celebrities rule the day, the days run short.  When tourists call the shots, it's almost game-over. 

I fear for the grandchildren. 

09 June 2011

More River Bank Development

Many people seem to think the Upper Peninsula of Michigan is a "wilderness".  Well, I suppose if you live a typical urban/suburban setting, then I suppose it might me.  However, if you observe through the lenses of nature, it is not.  Not by a long shot.  The "Pure Michigan" campaign claims are lies . . . but then it's marketing and what else would you expect? 

I paddled a middle stretch of the Ford River.  Most of the private property, which is at least half the adjacent land, has a cabin or house on the river.  Prime habitat "developed " against wildlife by those who supposedly claim a love of wildife.  Idjits.  This spring there were five new houses and/or major additions.  Most were within 30-50 feet of the river bank.  One had spoils over the bank into the river. 

In a sense, the Upper Peninsula is still 'wild' in that compliance with such mickey-mouse ordinances like set-backs and other environmental protection regulations can be successfully ignored.  County and township officials don't care.  Why should arrogant property owners?

31 May 2011

Cutting Trees

There is nothing inherently wrong with cutting trees, as long as the harvest is done with science-based forestry practices in mind.  At least not in North America.  All forests and tree species require forest disturbance for regeneration.  Forestry practices imitate these natural disturbances but happen without the negative consequences to humans and provide essentials for humans.  "Natural" is not necessarily better.  Management provides more "stuff" for people per unit area, and without the negative environmental consequences.  Management also adds value (monetary and otherwise) to forests and helps keep forestlands intact (as opposed to urban splatter).  A properly harvested forest, which includes clearcutting of certain forest types, is not harmful, evil, devastation, ruin, or any other undesirable outcome.  The only possible downside is the change in visual quality, which is basically a selfish "me now" attitude.  Get over it and think of someone else for a change.