Environmental Observations

What makes a good landscape design? Are those flowers edible? What grows best where?

Monday, June 15, 2020

Learning about Intersectional Environmentalism

Trail through northern rainforest in Alaska
Trail leaving the northern most point of the 
Pacific Temperate Rainforest in Girdwood, AK.
When I see acres of rainforest burning, or the scarred mountainsides of clear cut forests clogging streams, and bull-dozed parcels for yet another strip mall, my heart breaks. When I see troops ordered out against people protesting the XL pipeline, fracking, and nuclear waste dumps, I cry for those who will be polluted, and the beautiful earth we are abusing. I am screaming out “It’s 2020 for &hit% sake! Why do white people, old white men in particular, still think they have to dominate other groups and the earth!!!” And really, don't we have better ways to create the products we need, or, reduce our use.

Mountain top removal eastern US.
This month as my heart breaks for yet more lost lives at the hands of dumb-4ss white police officers, I found refuge in a few writers I will be learning from and want to share here. 

Leah Thomas’s article “Why Every Environmentalist Should be Anti-Racist” appeared in Vogue on June 8, 2020. vogue.com

Open vista trails in the Chugach Mountains, AK.

Leah, an environmental scientist, discusses the effects of environmental pollution and politics against people of color and lower economic status. Her article references studies showing black neighborhoods carry a burden of suffering from 1.54 times the particulates in the air they breathe than the general population. This leads to higher disease rates in affected populations. Leah’s article in Vogue introduced me to the term Intersectional Environmentalism. 

Burning forest Appalachians, eastern US.
This effect is something I have seen in many places I have lived, and in many photographic documentary artworks, yet did not realize it had a name and should be called out. I just thought people lived in areas of degradation because they were lower priced due to the poor quality of the environment. But that is no excuse for why someone should have to live in a polluted environment, it is not an excuse to make polluted environments. Leah can be found on Instagram at @greengirlleah

High desert trail lower NM.
I grew up on the Gulf Coast were I saw many poor communities, especially around refineries, ports, and chemical plants. I was in the generation of school kids after segregation so my classes were mixed and I saw that as normal. I did not realize BIPOC had relatives, and generations going back for decades, that lived in degraded conditions. As I matured, I realized toxic manufacturing was placed in certain areas for a reason: the white men in power saw the communities as lesser-than. 

Militarized police Anchorage, AK.
As a nature-lover, it is painful to see any species taken advantage of, that is why I have become a writer, to hold up that which we should cherish. But I need to keep learning from forceful writers and advocates in regards to the US heritage of dumping and pillaging without regard to the environment or human life. Another series that brings this problem to light is the Guardian’s “Cancertown Louisiana” a year-long series from Reserve, LA where cancer rates are 50 times higher than the national average. And despite the awareness, LA recently approved a new plastic manufacturing plant in the area. 

Let's build bridges. Garden Seattle, WA.
See also this Guardian article by Megan Mayhew Bergman, “‘They chose us because we were rural and poor’: When environmental racism and climate change collide.” Her research is about her home state of North Carolina choosing to build a toxic PCB waste dump in Warren, a small predominately African-American town.

Riverside industry, Oregon,
but could be anywhere across the US.
As a hiking enthusiast, I am most interested in Carolyn Finney's June 3, Guardian article, “The perils of being black in public, we are all Christian Cooper and George Floyd.” She is responding to the utterly shameful and racist actions of Amy Cooper against Christian Cooper in Central Park, NY. Finney was not surprised due to the way she has been treated as a black woman. I will be reading Finney’s book, Black Faces White Spaces, Reimagining the Relationship of African Americans to the Great Outdoors. Find more about Carolyn at her website: 


Come to the outdoors, it soothes. Walden.
The continued appropriation of land from Native Americans for resource extraction; the institutionalized theft of property from black and poor neighborhoods through imminent domain used to bisect cities with highways, bridges, and train tracks, are embarrassments to a country that claims to be the best on Earth. A country that pretends to have the best health care, the best jobs, and the best housing on Earth, news flash - does not. 

It will be a hard row,
but we can make it,
we have so much to offer each other,
and so much to treasure.
Come on, can’t we learn from history? This kind of behavior does not end well. Can’t we learn from nature? Partnerships and mutualism create a thriving environment. Mycorrhizae and plant roots, pollinators and flowers. Just look at lichens. Half the being is from the land of sunlight, the other is from the land of dark and damp. Yet when they met, and realized a partnership where one feeds the other and one houses the other, some stunning life forms were created. Those lichens not only are fascinating to look at, they are food, housing, and decomposers helping to recycle the environment where they grow. 

I selected the photos illustrating this article purposefully. They don't necessarily match the paragraphs they are with, the photos are kind of an essay on their own. These photos are places I have seen, and but few examples of beauty, and damage. I am hopeful all who want to enjoy these places can, and I will do what I can to learn, defend land, and bring attention to communities plagued by pollution in the name of capitalism.

Friday, June 5, 2020

Protect our Cultural Resources art Fundraiser for Alaskans in Need

My husband and I are both from Texas so Willie is a hero to us! (but would be otherwise, he is universally great!)

The community, country, and world around slipped into illness, fear, and panic. I had been working at home grateful that my husband has a “critical infrastructure” job. The closing of businesses did not affect us in a manner detrimental to our well-being. 

We are fortunate, many around us are not. We live in Alaska. Contrary to mythical stories of state residents receiving subsidies to live here—of big oil, of big fish—salaries in this state are not that high. There are a few exceptions, of course: doctors, lawyers, a few in real estate, descendants of those who started the banks and grocery stores. But most incomes are hourly jobs, the service industry, and seasonal tourism. Many of the oil jobs are filled by out-of-state workers. The top industries are heath care; government and military; grocery and similar services; tourism; fishing; and oil, gas, and mining. That “subsidy” is the Permanent Fund Dividend, and it pays out on average, between $1,000 and $1,800 per year. 2020 is seeing the lowest payout yet, $1,000. In my opinion, that about covers the higher price of fuel and healthcare in the state. 

But the PFD is a subject unto itself. It should be apparent that the PFD would not make up anyone’s income that lost their job during the pandemic. The PFD, in most cases, would not pay one month’s rent in this state. The PFD would not cover yearly dentist exams, a trip to the ER, or health insurance payments—especially for a family. 

I had been thinking of what I could do to help those less fortunate than myself. All the food servers I rely on, the movie theater workers, the bus drivers, and airline attendants. All the people soon to be and already homeless. I shied away from volunteering because I didn’t want to get sick and transmit the virus to my husband. Though we are financially secure, for now, we cannot afford to lose our income. One day my husband and I were talking and he expressed an interesting concern. He said: “We need to watch out for Willie!” As in Willie Nelson, as in the virus is most detrimental to our elders and those with health issues. 

This is my poster version on velvet art paper
(I know you can't tell that,
but it's nice and heavy, and smooth!)

I took his idea and ran with it, applying the concern to other cultural resources: Jimmy Carter and the dedicated first responders and health care workers. I hoped, if I made some fun artwork to sell to others who also have secure incomes, I could take the proceeds and donate them to Alaska-based resources. Like many other middle-income Americans, I have been watching the late night shows and the regional and world-wide fundraisers. But unlike most states, those big nonprofits promoted nationally do not have much, or any, reach in Alaska. 

So I created these art pieces which anyone can purchase and have imprinted on an item of their choice: poster, t-shirt, mug, tote bag, and more. I will take the proceeds and donate right here in Anchorage, Alaska. Proceeds from the sales of “Watch Over Willie” will go to our food banks, Bean’s Cafe, and Children’s Lunchbox. Sales from “Shelter St. Jimmie” will go to the Downtown Hope Center which houses women and children. Sales from “Support the Front Line” will go to restaurants—keeping their workers employed—to give to businesses in the state that have transformed their operations to produce PPE. I have more works in progress that will be just as fun and attention-grabbing. 

My husband is a medic and I know nurses and doctors.
I have spent many hours as a volunteer *victim*
so I am well aware of their valuable skills!

I look forward to public support and helping more where I can. Thank you for your support!

Stickers coming soon.

Face mask choice on Fine Art America is pretty nice,
and for me was 11-day turnaround. 

Learning about Intersectional Environmentalism

Trail leaving the northern most point of the  Pacific Temperate Rainforest in Girdwood, AK. When I see acres of rainforest burning, or the s...