Photo courtesy of Kara Patajo
FOUNDER’S NOTES by John de Graaf
SURVEY: Happiness Alliance
REFLECTIONS: The Beauty of Wildfires, by Vicki Graham
SPOTLIGHTS: Wildlands Restoration Volunteers, California Society for Ecological Restoration, Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, Prairie Plains Resource Institute
KARA'S CORNER: Discovering a sense of home in the beautiful Hawaiian islands
NEW BLOG POSTS: Katherine Trebeck and Jeremy Williams, and Janice Kelley
John de Graaf
Friends and supporters:
I hope you are having a great summer and not caught in the huge heat wave sweeping the country. We are lucky here in the Pacific NW. It’s been cool and damp so we are actually looking forward to the typical summer sun.
This newsletter is for both July and August. We are slowing down a bit for the summer. But will get back on track with monthly mailings right after Labor Day.
I want to call your attention to the excellent blog post up now, written by Katherine Trebeck and Jeremy Williams of the UK.
And we’ve got another great blog by Janice Kelley, who writes about local beauty along the American River near her home in Fair Oaks, California.
MEETING VICKI GRAHAM
I was just in Fair Oaks, working on a film about cohousing, about which I’ve done some writing. I went to several lovely cohousing communities, including Muir Commons in Davis CA, the first one built in the US, Coho cohousing in Nevada City CA and Wolf Creek Lodge, a senior cohousing community in Grass Valley CA. The Wolf Creek folks are giving back to their town by helping to build a beautiful trail along the sparkling creek the community is named for. More next time…
One of the best things about the trip is that I got to meet our ABFA newsletter editor Vicki Graham, at UC Davis, where she was attending a conference. As I suspected, Vicki is a delightful human being and I am filled with gratitude for the work she has done (all volunteer) for this organization. You rock, Vicki!
I’ve got a lot of travel coming up in August and September.
I’m honored to be speaking about beauty in Placerville CA on August 13 to the Placerville garden clubs. If you live near there come by! The event will take place at the VFW Building, 130 Placerville Dr., Placerville.
Then I’ll be headed down to Vallejo CA to continue to work on a documentary about beauty in the city. I’ve also written a new piece on Rethinking the Good City, published by The Front Porch Republic online magazine.
On Sunday August 18, I will be screening my film, REDEFINING PROSPERITY at the Benicia CA library from 4-6 pm, an event hosted by Sustainable Solano (county).
Benicia is only a few miles from the home of John Muir in Martinez CA. Muir wrote that “Everybody needs beauty as well as bread.” Great to read this new article about the amazing ranger Shelton Johnson in Yosemite, Muir’s Eden.
September takes me to Europe for meetings and talks on beauty in Budapest, Rotterdam, and Luxembourg City. I love the beauty of the European countryside, and the pre-automobile cities that have preserved their loveliness.
If you’ve watched the first two Democratic debates you may be as disappointed as I am that there was so little focus on climate and environment. Quick soundbites don’t get us far on the huge climate issue. I’d like to see a whole debate on climate solutions and the Green New Deal, IMHO, the most significant legislative idea since the 1960s.
My friend Jerome Segal in Maryland, author of the wonderful book GRACEFUL SIMPLICITY has asked me to talk about policy ideas to enhance America’s beauty. Here are some that make sense to me:
Development of new parks, especially in underserved communities
Rails to trails and other trails
A National beautification Corps (like the CCC)
A National mural project
A small farm support act
The Green New Deal
A junkyard ban/auto recycling tax
More pedestrian malls and closure of streets to autos
An Artists’ dividend
New open space protection
A Tidy Towns competition (as in Ireland)
Local home beautification grants.
What do you think? Send your policy ideas to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will start a policy page of the website. Include a description of the policy and an argument for it.
Among other books this summer, I’m reading From Sea to Shining Sea, Melinda Ponder’s thorough and lovely biography of Katharine Lee Bates, the author of the song “America the Beautiful,” which IMHO should be America’s national anthem. Ponder shows how ahead of her time Bates was in so many ways, as an advocate for beauty, justice, equality for women, peace and international understanding and women’s leadership. She would have made a wonderful president for our sadly divided nation because she stood for everyone.
We are in need of a fiscal sponsor for And Beauty for All so we can seek grants and take donations. Our original plan for this fell through. In the interim, the Happiness Alliance (see their request below) is our fiscal sponsor. If you have any ideas, please email me.
One final thought: I’m sure you’ve noticed that the rhetoric in America has grown increasingly hateful and racist. I hope that working together for beauty can help us heal some of these wounds. As folksinger Phil Ochs put it in 1968, another time of great polarization in America: “In such an ugly time the true protest is beauty.” It’s time for protest.
Onward to Beauty!
John de Graaf
Beauty is a key factor in happiness. Please help by taking this short survey.
Please give 5 minutes of your time to support an effort to better understand the linkages between sustainable development and happiness by taking this survey: - IN Spanish. IN English.Your answers will be used to follow up on an article Bridging the Gap between the Sustainable Development Goals and Happiness Metrics (free to download). We will share results in an online workshop on 27 August (9 a.m. CET in Spanish; 5 p.m. CET in English), for which all who take the survey will get an invitation. Thank you kindly for your support in this effort - please do take the survey before August 16th. Thank you!
- Laura Musikanski, Executive Director, The Happiness Alliance
REFLECTIONS: The Beauty of Wildfires
Photo courtesy of Tim Palmer
“This porcupine-quilled, complicated starkness—this is beauty.” Marianne Moore “The Monkey Puzzle”
Last week I accompanied three National Forest Service botanists into the area of the Klondike fire that burned over 175,000 acres from July 15 to November 28, 2018, in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, Oregon. Our mission, as part of the Burned Area Emergency Response program (BAER), was to survey Areas of Critical Environmental Concern for invasive species and to catalogue sensitive plants that have returned.
I expected the landscape to be grim—a black desert with the charred remains of trees sticking up out of the earth. A graveyard. A wasteland.
Instead, it was beautiful. I had read about mosaics of soil burns after a forest fire, about low-, moderate-, and high-severity burns, but I was unprepared for what this meant on the land itself. Yes, there were places where all the duff had burned away, leaving exposed roots from enormous trees, thoroughly charred, and soil burnt down to mineral, dry, stony, and inhospitable. But there were many areas where the trees were not fully burned and where the soil was still intact, and here we found riches. In one year—one spring—flowers and shrubs have sprung up, and instead of a desert, we found luxuriant growth—rare plants that grow on serpentine soils: Howell’s manzanita, Bensoniella, Waldo gentian, California globe mallow, Siskiyou monardella, Coast checkerbloom, and Leach’s triteleia.
We also found what we dreaded: wide swathes of Canada thistle, an invasive non-native noxious weed, probably carried in by fire fighting equipment. We walked dozer lines, deep scars on the land where bulldozers were used to create fire breaks. Here, too, we found native plants and invasives. In one place, high on a ridge, where a seep crossed the dozer line, we found pitcher plants growing in profusion. As we hiked, the botany team marked on their maps the precise locations of new growth of sensitive plants and the areas infested with invasive species.
Photo courtesy of Kailey Clarno
A year ago, when this area was burning and smoke filled our skies, I was already mourning the loss of a pristine wilderness area. I didn’t understand then that the forests of the Pacific Northwest have evolved with fire. There is no going back—these forests will never be the same, even 400 years from now. But what comes next will have its own beauty.
Government programs like BAER are oriented partly toward human concerns—to minimize threats to human life, safety, or property—and partly toward the land—to prevent further degradation, soil erosion, flooding, decreased water quality, and loss of vegetation. This is rehabilitation and repair on a large scale, an emergency response to a natural disaster.
Photo courtesy of Kailey Clarno
But there are other kinds of catastrophic changes in the natural world, changes brought on by human impact, intervention, or mismanagement. Whole ecosystems have been broken and degraded—prairies, wetlands, riparian zones, lakes, mountains--and these places desperately need restoration.
Fortunately, all across the United States there are volunteer organizations whose mission it is to restore damaged ecosystems.
|SPOTLIGHTS: Wildlands Restoration Volunteers, California Society for Ecological Restoration, Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, Prairie Plains Resource Institute
Saddened by the loss of a once beautiful place? Discouraged by the damage to the ecosystems around you? Try volunteering at an organization devoted to restoration of degraded habitats. Volunteering at organizations like these offers opportunities to learn about the beauty of intact ecosystems and the plants and animals that inhabit them. Working on the land, we can connect to the places we live and, through hands on contact, learn to love them ever more deeply.
Wildlands Restoration Volunteers
The mission of Wildlands Restoration Volunteers is to foster a community spirit of shared responsibility for the stewardship and restoration of public, protected, and ecologically significant lands across Colorado and beyond. Wildlands Restoration Volunteers (WRV) is a Colorado nonprofit 501(c)(3) that organizes thousands of volunteers each year to complete more than 100 wild lands conservation projects in Colorado and southern Wyoming. Projects range in length from just a couple of hours or a single day to a weekend or longer with camping and great food in spectacular mountain settings. Volunteering with WRV builds great friendships, heals the land, and strengthens our communities. (From the Wildlands Restoration Website).
Photo courtesy of Wildlands Restoration Volunteers
California Society for Ecological Restoration
Sercal, the California Society for Ecological Restoration, is a non-profit membership-based organization dedicated to advancing the science, art, and practice of restoring native California habitats through its conferences, field tours, workshops, and more. These educational and networking activities empower our members to address the diverse aspects involved in restoring native California habitats. (From the Sercal website).
Photo courtesy of California Society for Ecological Restoration
Western Pennsylvania Conservancy
The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy has been dedicated to protecting and restoring the region’s exceptional natural places since 1932. As a member-based nonprofit organization, we work in cities and towns across Western Pennsylvania and rely on the help of thousands of members, partners and volunteers. We are making a difference in our region’s water, land and life. We do this work for the wildlife and people that call Western Pennsylvania home. Do you have a passion for planting trees and flowers? Would you like to donate your time and skills to make a difference for nature? Whether you enjoy getting out in the woods, or prefer to work indoors in an office setting, we have rewarding volunteer opportunities throughout the year. Each year, thousands of volunteers help make the work of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy possible. You too can make a difference by volunteering to protect and restore our region. Whatever your skill level and schedule, there's a place for you to volunteer to help keep Western Pennsylvania green and beautiful. (From the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy website).
Photo courtesy of Pennsylvania Western Conservancy
Prairie Plains Resource Institute
Prairie Plains Resource Institute was founded in Aurora, Nebraska, in 1980 with the intent of preserving native Nebraska habitats for use as educational sites for biodiversity, preservation, science, history and land management. A non-profit membership organization, Prairie Plains preserves, maintains and restores native prairies and wetlands on its own land and on other private and public lands. These conservation sites are used for community education, recreation and sustainable economic development. (From the Prairie Plains Resource Institute website)
KARA'S CORNER: Discovering a sense of home in the beautiful Hawaiian islands
Photo courtesy of Kara Patajo
Last month, just after I graduated from college, my family vacationed in the magnificent Hawaiian islands. My expectations for the trip included watching all of the sunsets from the beach, spending most mornings snorkeling with colorful fish and green sea turtles, and maybe returning home with a nice tan. Fortunately, all of these expectations and more were met. However, the most meaningful takeaway from my trip was also the most unexpected: a sense of home.
Traveling over 2,500 miles and living out of suitcases does not fit standard definitions of "home." In fact, people tend to take vacations to catch a break from their lives at home.
When I was a kid, "home" was synonymous with "house," as it likely is for many others. Now, I see the word in a more amorphous sense. In my eyes, "home" is less of a physical, tangible structure, and more like a deep feeling of connectedness to and appreciation for my surroundings. More than anything else, beauty is the spark for this feeling.
I found joy in the most glaringly beautiful parts of the islands- the palm trees swaying in the breeze, the breathtaking beaches, the bright blue waters. This is no surprise.
I also found joy in experiencing the parts of the islands that I did not anticipate, such as while running along the streets of downtown Oahu in the pouring rain of a thunderstorm, swimming in a bay on an overcast day in which the view in front of me was blurred, almost like I was in a hot spring, and from an odd sense of comfort I felt as I walked from the air-conditioned indoors to the humid and hot outdoors.
The saying "I left my heart in Hawaii" bears some truth for me, but I also know that beauty is abundant in my home state of Washington and that the same feeling can be sparked by hiking in Mt. Rainier National Park, kayaking, and even simply bird watching in my own backyard.
As working for this organization has taught me, beauty is powerful. It can bring people together and inspire attuneness for how humans are and have been tied to the natural world around us.
NEW BLOG POSTS: by Katherine Trebeck and Jeremy Williams, and Janice Kelley
Katherine Trebeck & Jeremy Williams, "Arriving in a Place with Beautiful Potential"
Authors of the new book, The Economics of Arrival, Katherine Trebek and Jeremy Williams offer our first blog from the UK. They are part of the WellBeing Alliance (WEAll), a coalition of groups looking for new approaches to wellbeing and quality of life. We're excited to have input from Europe! And everywhere else! Wherever you are, consider writing a blog for us!
Dr. Katherine Trebeck is Policy and Knowledge Lead for the Wellbeing Economy Alliance. She is a political economist with over eight years’ experience with Oxfam GB (including developing the Humankind Index). She sits on a range of advisory boards, holds several academic affiliations and instigated the Wellbeing Economy Governments partnership.
Photo courtesy of Katherine Trebeck.
Jeremy Williams grew up in Madagascar and Kenya, where he developed a passion for the environment and for social justice. He studied journalism and international relations and now works as a writer and campaigner. He has worked on projects for Oxfam, RSPB, WWF, Tearfund and many others, and is a co-founder of the Postgrowth Institute. His award-winning website ( Earthbound.report) was ranked Britain’s number one green blog in 2018.
Janice Kelley, “This Special Place at the Lower American River"
Janice Kelley is a writer, naturalist, and regional interpretive specialist. She says of her work, “When others see a place, I listen for its stories. When others see plants and trees, I watch life in motion. I invite others to be curious and ask questions as the doorway to a better understanding of ourselves and our relationship to the outdoor world.” Kelley works with land trusts, conservancies, parks and open spaces, historic sites and museums, organized groups, schools, and the public to inspire active participation in the world and build meaningful story connections and interpretive programs one voice at a time. Her blog, “This Special Place at the Lower American River” is drawn from her book, Mornings on Fair Oaks Bridge, a collection of 75 first person narratives and scenic photographs describing “the magic moments of morning on Fair Oaks Bridge and American River Parkway” in Sacramento, California.
Photo courtesy of Janice Kelley.