Thank You Nebraska!

Nebraska

We have refused to give up hope because there continue to be a trickle of stories like this, thanks to the Guardian. Bruce Springsteen dedicated a whole album to Nebraska, and this short news via video reminds us of that state’s great people:

After Trump’s revival of the Keystone XL pipeline project, some communities along its route are getting ready to fight back. Others see the US president keeping his promise to ‘make America great again’. The Guardian drove along the proposed route of the pipeline, through three red states – Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska – to hear what those who will be affected have to say about it

Strengthening Our Birding With Citizen Science

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Team Belize finished with 242 species. From left: Roni Martinez, Andrew Farnsworth, Steve Kelling, Brian Sullivan.

Seth, since his time working for the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and even after his time in Ithaca, has helped me to see how important the Lab’s work is to what our company has been doing since he was an infant. Citizen science is an essential component, and at Chan Chich Lodge guests have responded to the passion the guides have for eBird, which is why we put so much attention into this year’s Global Big Day. And it is why we are already planning the next collaboration with the Lab, a collaboration Seth will lead on our side. For now, a final roundup of stories from last weekend, starting with our favorite team:

…After pooling their lists, the teams ended the day with a whopping 327 species combined—reflecting not just great birding but the region’s importance to an immense diversity of birds. Team Belize topped the friendly group competition with 242 species (including 40 species the other teams didn’t find); Team Mexico found 224 species (with 43 unique to their list); and Team Guatemala tallied 213 (with 23 unique)…

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Flame Robin by John Cantwell/Macaulay Library, taken on Global Big Day

Also, the final numbers are in and news published late yesterday confirmed what I suspected as day was breaking in Belize, titled Global Big Day 2017: birding’s biggest day ever:

…On 13 May 2017, almost 20,000 birders from 150 countries around the world joined together as a global team, contributing more than 50,000 checklists containing 6,564 species—more than 60% of the world’s birds. This is a new record for the number of bird species reported in a single day, Continue reading

Sticking To Mission & Unintended Consequences

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In recent months, as we prepared to host Team Sapsucker Belize at Chan Chich Lodge, our goals were focused on the citizen science mission. Using a couple simple metrics, the event was a clear success, comparing the number of species counted in Belize this year versus last year, and especially looking at the number of checklists submitted.

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If you look at this as the third iteration of an event that we hope to grow in future years, the progress from beginning to present is promising. As I type this there are still more than 40 hours of data entry remaining for this year’s event, so the increase in this year’s participation and species identification will likely grow larger by this time Wednesday.

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GrowFood Carolina

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I am always on the lookout for simple but effective graphics illustrating ideas that we attempt to put into action in our various projects–why reinvent the wheel? By rabbit hole good fortune, after I was referred to the Coastal Conservation League as a regional leader in entrepreneurial conservation for the southeastern USA, one of their programs, as illustrated above and described in words below, came to my attention:

The Conservation League started its Food and Agriculture program in 2007 with the goal of protecting South Carolina’s small, family farms. Between 1992 and 1997, more than 200 acres of rural land were converted every day to urban uses, placing South Carolina in the top ten states in the nation for rural land loss. We quickly realized that small farmers lacked access to the infrastructure available to industrial farms, and were therefore unable to say “no” when a developer offered to buy their land. The League saw a food hub as critical to our work protecting rural landscapes and improving quality of life across the coastal plain. Continue reading

Happy Plants?

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A dense carpet of woodland perennials. Thomas Rainer, a landscape architect, calls plants “social creatures” that thrive in particular networks. Credit Mark Baldwin

Thanks to the landscape architect Thomas Rainer, and the author, for these observations:

Thomas Rainer and I have both been doing the botanical thing for decades; we know, and use, many of the same plants — and even much of the same horticultural vocabulary. But what he and I see when we look at a butterfly weed or a coneflower, or what we mean when we say familiar words like “layering” or “ground cover,” is surprisingly not synonymous. Continue reading

Keystone Continues Calling

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Thanks to the Guardian for keeping attention where it is due:

Life on the Keystone XL route: where opponents fear the ‘black snake’

Part one: In Montana, Native Americans fear a leak could destroy their way of life, but local politicians worry about the threat of protesters above all else

Words by Oliver Laughland, photos and video by Laurence Mathieu-Léger

“)ur people call it the black snake because it is evil,” says Tressa Welch, as thunder clouds steamroll the blue sky over the plains of Wolf Point. “And like snakes they come out of nowhere, they slither and strike unknown.” Continue reading

For The Wordies In Our Midst

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A galley proof shows some of the work that went into adding “ginormous” to Merriam-Webster’s 2007 collegiate dictionary. Charles Krupa/AP

We care about the meaning and use of words about as much as we care about the specific themes words are used in these pages to evoke in all manner of variation: conservation, community, collaboration, food, etc. Among us are perhaps some repentant grammar scolds, so thanks to the Atlantic’s Megan Garber for this review, which I was led to read after listening to an interview with Kory Stamper (click the image above to go to that podcast):

The Case Against the Grammar Scolds

The lexicographer Kory Stamper’s new book, Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries, is an eloquent defense of a “live and let live” approach to English.

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Letters to Young Farmers

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The reference of the title isn’t lost on us, for the “everyday act of creation”, of coaxing bounty from the soil, is a form of poetry. We applaud both the advisors and the ears on which the advice falls.

Letters to a Young Farmer is full of good counsel for the next generation from the likes of Wendell Berry, Michael Pollan, and the noted novelist Barbara Kingsolver.

Dear young farmer,

Let me speak to you as a familiar, because of all the years I’ve cherished members of your tribe. Of course, I also know you’re only yourself, just as I remember the uniqueness of every intern, WWOOFer, and summer weed-puller who has spent a season or two on our family’s farm. Some preferred to work without shoes. Some were captivated by the science of soils, botany, and pest management. Some listened to their iPods, or meditated, or even sang as they hoed and weeded, while others found no music among the bean bee­tles. A few confessed to finding this work too hard, but many have gone on to manage other farms or buy places of their own. In these exceptional souls I invest my hopes….

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Democratizing Coffee Consumption

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Tony Konecny, the head of coffee operations at Locol, outside the branch in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles. CreditEmily Berl for The New York Times

We have no reason to debate the logic of a more reasonably priced cup of quality coffee:

Has Coffee Gotten Too Fancy?

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LOS ANGELES — The $1 cup of coffee is divisive, as drinks go.

For some, it’s a staple of the American morning: a comforting routine, a good deal. Anything that costs more than $1 is needlessly expensive, a waste of money — the coffee from a deli, diner or doughnut cart is all you need to start the day. For others, the $1 cup is suspiciously cheap. Maybe it tastes bad, or its production does harm to the land and is unfair to laborers. If you have to pay more, then that is probably a reflection of a drink’s true cost. Continue reading

Family, Editorializing, Persistence

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A front page screen shot of Iowa’s Storm Lake Times, which has won a Pulitzer Prize. Photograph: Storm Lake Times

There seems to be a tradition in the field of journalism in the USA whereby one publication celebrates another’s victory in the Pulitzer awards race. Thanks to the Guardian for its shout out, from across the water, to this little publication. As a member of a small organization with multiple family members working together; an organization that editorializes about food as much as anything else; an enterprise that persists against the odds; I particularly like the David & Goliath ring of this:

Tiny, family-run Iowa newspaper wins Pulitzer for taking on agriculture companies

Art Cullen owns the 3,000-circulation Storm Lake Times with his brother John. His wife and son also work at the paper Continue reading

Model Mad, Podcast

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We, among millions of others, had to have a listen. It would be useless to comment on it, but we pass it along to the few people who have not yet heard about it. The only comment here, besides the advisory that it was produced for a mature audience, might be the conclusion that in the model mad series we have been running, this one takes the cake. Maybe with this one we need to close out that series. Until we see something better, that’s it.

Gaps, Meaning & More

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Kyle DeNuccio, right, on Lake Batur in Bali, a gap year stop. CreditKyle DeNuccio

I am currently interviewing candidates to join us for summer internships, and possible university gap year projects at Chan Chich Lodge. Most importantly the projects will focus on various food-related initiatives, some longstanding goals and others more in the spirit of random variation. We have had plenty of awesome interns, as well as wondrous wanderers and sometimes sabbaticalists join us here and there for more than two decades, and we feel qualified to claim that this fellow (who reminds me a bit of this fellow) speaks truth:

Independence Days: My Perfect Imperfect Gap Year

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Midway through a lackluster freshman year at the University of San Diego, I called my parents and told them I planned to leave school after the spring semester. Continue reading

Model Mad, Mayor

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Anne Hidalgo, the Paris mayor, said she was “convinced that together, cities, businesses and citizens will save the planet. Their alliance is critical.” Credit Scout Tufankjian/C40

We started this model mad series of links to share stories of people, and of public institutions, and of private enterprises among others finding creative outlets for expressing resistance to powerful interests determined to undermine environmental responsibility. This governor was a favorite among our readers, so we expect this mayor will join the upper ranks of appreciation:

Anne Hidalgo, mayor of Paris, is also chairwoman of C40, a network of the world’s biggest cities committed to addressing climate change. As mayor, despite strong opposition, she has closed parts of the city — including along the bank of the Seine River — to traffic. Recently, I asked Ms. Hidalgo about her interest in environmental issues and why women are important to the solutions. Continue reading

Why We Use eBird, A How-To Primer Explaining Our Motivations

Chan-Chich-Lodge-logoThis article published by Audubon (click their banner below to go there) continues to provide fresh illumination on the basics of eBird; also on why we have made eBird central to our birding activities for guests in recent years, and why Chan Chich Lodge is collaborating with the Lab of Ornithology this Global Big Day event .

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Since its launch in 2002, eBird has revolutionized the way birders worldwide report and share their observations. A joint project by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Audubon, eBird is a free online program that allows birders to track their sightings, while other birders watch and search in real-time. Articles have been written about eBird with mind-bending titles like, “eBird Changed My Life” and “The Agony and Ecstasy of Surrendering to eBird.” In a front-page science headline in 2013, The New York Times called it “Crowdsourcing, for the Birds,” and concluded that eBird is “a revelation for scientists” and gives birders “a new sense of purpose.” Continue reading

Scott Chaskey, Inspiration

Chaskey.jpgI had not heard of him before, but as we move the Chan Chich Lodge farm to table program forward it is instructive to listen to him speak about his journey:

Farmer, poet, and pioneer of the community farming movement, Scott Chaskey is the kind of progressive thinker that doesn’t come around often. Weaving together his passion for farming and prose, the 66-year-old has penned multiple books on the community farming movement, creating a road-map for Americans who want to live off the land as a community. He talks to Here’s the Thing host Alec Baldwin about deciding to “eat consciously,” watching his love for the earth go global, and the food his kids hid from him when they were little.

This also has me looking at his books: Continue reading

The Future Of News

2503_cover_beigeThe purpose of this, where I am typing this just now, is to share information. Sometimes that information comes in the form of a personal story, which is highly subjective but informative about the challenges, the innovations, and accomplishments related to conservation and the wellbeing of communities around the world. We depend on the New York Times for this kind of information every day, and more days than not we link out to stories they publish related to the environment, community, or other topics of interest on this platform; so this story matters to us:

ARTHUR GREGG SULZBERGER doesn’t remember the first time he visited the family business. He was young, he says, no older than 6, when he shuffled through the brass-plated revolving doors of the old concrete hulk on 43rd Street and boarded the elevator up to his father’s and grandfather’s offices. He often visited for a few minutes before taking a trip to the newsroom on the third floor, all typewriters and moldering stacks of paper, and then he’d sometimes go down to the subbasement to take in the oily scents and clanking sounds of the printing press. Continue reading

Librarian’s Librarian

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The Librarian of Congress, Dr. Carla Hayden, believes in citizens’ right to access information. “It should feel very special because it is very special,” she said, of the Library. “But it should be very familiar.” ILLUSTRATION BY BEN KIRCHNER; PHOTOGRAPH BY LEXEY SWALL / THE NEW YORK TIMES / REDUX

It has been too long since our last shout out, among dozens starting in 2011, to libraries and librarians, so we are thankful for this opportunity with a brief excerpt from the middle of this post on the New Yorker website:

THE LIBRARIAN OF CONGRESS AND THE GREATNESS OF HUMILITY

The values of Dr. Carla Hayden, the first woman and the first person of color in the position, can be seen in every aspect of the institution she runs.

…Mention her name to a New York Public Library staffer, and there’s a frisson of excitement; at her raucous and bustling sendoff in Baltimore, a high-school librarian, quoted in the Washington Post, called her a “rock star.”…

Coastal Preparations

Thanks to the Nature Conservancy’s Cool Green Science, and specifically Lisa Feldcamp, for this note and video on adaptive coastal folks:

“It hurt my heart to see how [the beach] had been deteriorated,” says Norris Henry of St. Andrew’s Development Organization. “I know in the past there was a nice beachfront, where you can play cricket, you can play football, you can run. But it’s so sad to see it is no longer there.” Continue reading

Made In India, Another Success Story

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A wheel of hard, aged cheese. Aarthi Gunnupuri

Since our setting up shop in India in 2010 we have seen many improvements all around us, all much more important than cheese. But, finally, even the cheese is making life here better. Thanks as always to the folks at the salt, from National Public Radio (USA):

These Monks Have A Calling: Making Fresh Italian Cheese — In India

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In a monastery tucked away in a quiet back lane of Bangalore, India, Benedictine monks of the Vallombrosian Order are using their European connections to meet rising demand for fresh, Italian-style cheese in this South Asian country. Continue reading

Mad, Yes

0115-bks-ivorytower-blog427-v3As we approach our 8,000th post on this platform we realize that for the nearly six years we have been posting there was plenty of hopeful, helpful news related to community, collaboration and conservation–the themes we committed ourselves to at  the outset.

Times seem different now, to state the obvious. And yes we are “mad” about what is happening around us. Madly determined. It will take discipline to remain focused and find the news that fits our purpose here. But we intend to.

The point has not been to ignore the bad news, of which there has been plenty in recent years, but to share a few notices each day that highlight better news. Or possible solutions. The spirit of our intent, which has been to support “the fight” as needed but remain civil to the end, is captured well in this book review:

How to Be Civil in an Uncivil World

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