“Education, I fear, is learning to see one thing by going blind to another.”
~Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac
It’s hard to be an optimist when you work with environmental issues. That’s the story line that I hear anyway. It became the basis of such a common question in my environmental science courses – ‘how can you teach this course and not be completely depressed?’ students would ask – that I began to interject empowerment clauses throughout the semester to stop students from becoming despondent. My final lecture is now a discourse on optimism and possibility and is probably the antithesis of anything you might expect by way of concluding a semester spent groveling in the wastewater of civilization.
A new film worth seeing, Wasted looks at one of the great tragedies of our time – the fact that people go hungry while we throw away food.
Our wasteful tendencies have far reaching consequences, ranging from overfishing to climate change. These are things we generally don’t associate with the uneaten food on our plates.
The narrative breaks down the food waste issue into a stepwise approach to mitigation. To me, this is the best kind of environmental problem to have. The solutions are manageable, and within our grasp. They involve beautiful things, like gardens, and they invite a fresh look at our cuisine. The solutions can be homegrown and delicious. What more could we ask for?
Check the trailer here –
This has been an intense period of time for me. Half of my family, virtually everyone on my wife’s side, is recovering from the hurricane damage in Puerto Rico. Two weeks in, they have just gotten running water, but are still without power. Unless you have spent time in the islands, I don’t think you can fathom trying to sleep amidst the intense heat and humidity without so much as a fan to stir the air and nevermind the mosquitos. In most places, the vegetation is stripped bare, so there is no longer even shade from trees. It’s sweltering.
Although I am currently thousands of miles away in Thailand, I keep thinking of what an important transition it is in my life when summer turns to fall, and the desert, off limits due to the heat of summer for so many months, once again welcomes us to explore.
Though I frequently espouse the beauty and grandeur of the big-ticket destinations like J-Tree and Anza-Borrego, there are countless other unsung places that will welcome your thirst for adventure or solitude.
A more obscure region that will take a little more effort to access is Agua Caliente. Part of the San Diego County Parks system, it’s on the fringe of Anza-Borrego, out the Butterfield Stage Route along S2, and has hot springs to make the arduous journey worth your while. Stock up before the drive – it’s a desolate road. Spend the weekend, hike the trails, or tackle them on mountain bike, and be sure to soak in the pools. Discover the desolation and enjoy the millions of stars at night. Now you are initiated into desert life.
Oh, and they now have cabins if camping isn’t your thing.
Three weeks in Croatia was long enough to fall in love. I can’t say that I fully understand the place – the nuances are still a mystery. The language is foreign and for all I know there are hidden elements that I was never able to grasp. It made a hell of a first impression though.
The Trans-Siberian is one of my dreams, though in the current political climate it’s probably best to put it on hold. Truth is, I love all trains, local and long distance. If I had one to recommend, I would suggest grabbing the Amtrak that runs up the coast from San Diego or Los Angeles and take it all the way to Seattle.
There is something about the relaxing pace of train travel, the uninterrupted enjoyment of the passing landscape, the ability to roam around the massive moving structure and the chance meetings with complete strangers that is ultimately captivating, the epitome of slow travel.
If you haven’t the time, the money or are still leery of trains, start by moving up and down the SoCal coast on the Coaster where the stops are frequent and the scenery mesmerizing, or taking the MetroLink commuter from the Inland Empire to the beach. Surprisingly, after years of using Los Angeles as an example of how to build a city devoid of public transit, there is actually a pretty useful and functional lightrail system in place. It’s great for exploring. If I had to recommend a random stop, it might be Mariachi Plaza.
Enjoy this video of the Trans-Siberian Railroad trip.
There are two separate majors that can prepare you for environmentally-oriented careers: environmental science and environmental studies. In the midst of all of the other confusion you are bound to feel as you try to determine what to do with your life, this is an unwelcome addition. Let’s sort it out.