43.8554° N, 102.3397° W
The earth is a descendant of the sky. It allows itself to be what it is. Nature has no ego. It is raw, unedited, essential, the seductive dream our cities have just before twilight. We awaken from everything we forgot about ourselves when we enter the realm of nature. In the city, we live our days without crushing pine needles as we walk, or discovering mossy rocks full of macrocosmic worlds of lichen and red-stemmed feather moss. I wonder often, could I leave the city, could I live inside a dream of the trees? But how would I choose one place to live? And who would share such a life with me?
42.0943° N, 93.5700° W
Scalloped-edged lichen unfold into paper-thin leafy waves of ashen sea-green. Old pine bark pushes up into patterns and around limbs on branches and trunks where bryophytes and bright green mosses sprout spores. Tiny worlds cover everything, but who notices in the company of white pine, birch and cedar.
41.6533° N, 87.0524° W
Quiet marshes around the southern edge of Lake Michigan are the legacy left by glaciers over 14,000 years ago. Groves of trees outline the edges of the Great Marsh, protecting expansive wetlands that purify water, filter pollutants, and facilitate storm drainage. Open ponds are hemmed by sways of cattails, also providing filtration. The dunes and wetlands provide a buffer between the lake and the land, protecting inland ecosystems from flooding and damaging winds. American beach grass and other plants root into the sand, stabilizing dunes that, in turn, minimize beach erosion.
These ecosystems invite me to hope, if I deeply contemplate these interwoven systems that balance fragility with an abstruse resilience. There is profound wisdom in the communities that nature creates.
41.2808° N, 81.5678° W
While it is still designated by the EPA as one of the 43 contaminated sites within the Great Lakes Areas of Concern, the Cuyahoga River was the catalyst for establishing the National Environmental Protection Agency January 1, 1970 and the Clean Water Act in 1972.
Until 1969, the Cuyahoga river caught fire 13 times due to pollution from Steel Mills, starting as early as 1868. Over 100 years would pass before President Nixon would propose to regulate pollution through the creation of the EPA.
38.4426° N, 96.5730° W
A thousand eyelashes of hairy grama and buffalo grass fail to be still in the gentle gusts of wind as the sun descends. Chartreuse thickets of grass turn brilliant yellow at the top, an ombré of grasses, a million long-stems. Repeating. Repeating. Repeating in the wind. An ecstatic frisson erupting from earth’s joy.
Tallgrass prairie once spanned 170 million acres across the US. Now less than 4% remains. The rocky soil of the Flint Hills prevented early farmers from tilling the land, inadvertently preserving the largest expanse of this unique ecosystem in the US.
46.4425° N, 95.1361° W
12,000 acres of pine forest were purchased by a North Dakota company to convert into potato crops. The clearing of this rare Minnesota forest in Wadena impacts wildlife unique to the area and creates a possible water safety issue. Potato crops typically use heavy pesticides, a potential threat to a local aquifer and drinking water source. 42 square miles of Jack Pines were cleared, an area equivalent approximately to three cities combined, before the clearing was stopped by the Minnesota DNR.
Heather Dudley-Nollette is co-founder of The CoLab, a coworking space in Port Townsend, Washington. This increasingly popular model of sharing space and resources strengthens community and encourages entrepreneurs and freelance professionals to share ideas, collaborate and innovate. While Heather is investing energy into the new collaborative workspace model of The CoLab, she is also helping to preserve and restore a prominent historical landmark in Port Townsend. As project manager of the Hastings Hotel Project, she is leading the historic rehabilitation of the 125-year old building into a boutique hotel.
The synthesis of cultivating the new, restoring the old and preserving the historic, gives Heather a unique and broad understanding of the effort and humanity required to collaborate. She believes that at the core of this work is the human need to connect. Whether she is collaborating to restore and bring into service a cultural and historical landmark or creating partnerships with small business owners to stimulate a new economy, the intent is the same: to bring people together to connect, make good things happen and help community thrive.
I’m a performing artist, a business person, a mom, a wife, a daughter, a niece, a sister, a friend. Art and relationships tend to lead my perspectives on the world. So, when I put on my entrepreneurial, business and community leadership hats, I tend to see all of my work through that lens.
Brian’s academic training is in groundwater geology and environmental engineering, but his interests are much broader and have been always evolving. He spent a lot of time at his grandparents’ house on Lake Michigan, which imbued in him a deep reverence for water. He also spent some time living on a hobby farm in rural northeast Wisconsin, where he worked on dairy farms. In the past, his jobs involved remediating contaminated groundwater—mostly from leaking underground storage tanks. He wanted to help clean the planet. His job at Chevron, and later engineering consulting work, allowed him to see oil production in far-flung places (Azerbaijan, Angola, Kazakhstan).
I began to realize that humans were mis-using this one-time bounty of stored energy from the sun—cars and plastic bags being examples of mis-use. We’re using this carbon too quickly—and we might just eliminate our species in the process. Not to mention all the others. I am trying to fight my own anthrocentrism.
Marianne works as an arts reporter at Minnesota Public Radio, and has always had a strong connection to the environment, which has deepened significantly over the past decade. She grew up along the Pacific Ocean, and remembers picking up plastic trash that washed up on the shore with her mother. Her mother and walking buddy Laurie would using a Swiss Army knife to release birds caught up in fishing wire.
When I return to the coast these days, I’m always saddened to see how the wildlife—starfish, sea anemones, mussels—has diminished.
As a high school exchange student in France, she learned the importance of locally-sourced food, but didn’t connect it to her own actions until she bought a house in 2002. She planned to fill the yard with roses, lilies and tulips, but her mother suggested she start a little herb garden behind the kitchen. Now the tulips she planted have been overrun by strawberries, and the lilies are crowded out by the tomato beds.
Continue on to read the interview with Bran’s 3 Tips for Urban Gardeners and Marianne’s 3 Tips for Reducing Household Waste.
T.R. Boyce Jr. has been working on sound for film and television since 1995, from “The Bourne Legacy” to the HBO series “Girls.” A few years ago, filmmaker and writer Andrew Mudge persuaded T.R. to make a film in Lesotho, a tiny country that resides completely inside the borders of South Africa. Together, director Andrew Mudge and producer T.R. Boyce Jr. made the film The Forgotten Kingdom, a beautiful story about a man who travels back to his homeland, and begins a journey to discover who he is.
I interviewed T.R. in the sculpture garden at the Walker Art Center where we talked about how making this film changed him. In this video, he draws a line of contrast between holding on and letting go, calculating and taking a leap, preoccupation and being present.
Producer T.R. Boyce Jr. reflects on taking a leap and making a film in Africa with director Andrew Mudge. Music by Karen Kopacz.