Today is Earth Day. This whole week is actually Earth Week. Sorry I just got to the post but I was out on the Earth today. Of course, everyone is out on the earth. Whether you spent it in front of your computer, in front of a classroom or in front of the most wonderful view, you're on the earth.
But Earth Day is about enjoying the natural earth. It's not about drinking beer or listening to a band. which it seems is what it was mostly about in Asheville and probably most other places. In other venues, it was all about talking about climate change.
I remember the first Earth Day in 1970. It was the height of the hippie era. Air pollution was awful and gas guzzling cars filled the road. As with most of these successful movements, it's hard to attribute the idea of Earth Day to any one specific person.
But today, according to some reports, people are less earth conscious than they were in 1971, a year after the first Earth Day. Read this Christian Science Monitor Report. Frankly that's hard to believe.
More people are aware of the effects of climate change. Cars use less gasoline. No one would think about throwing trash on the trail. And recycling has become law in most cities. Does that sound like less earth conscious?
But still, not enough people are getting out on a trail - hiking, biking, paddling or skiing. There's a lot of talk about enjoying the wilderness but not enough people are doing it. Even in the East, most woods trails are empty.
What can we do to get them to take that first step onto a trail? As I go around the state of North Carolina talking about the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, I get a lot of questions about bears, snakes, and other problems that they heard about walking on a trail?
I don't want to end this on a downer. So Happy Earth Day and get out there.
I'm going to be at two Charlotte libraries on Saturday, August 11th.
I'll be speaking about hiking in Western North Carolina in the Blue Ridge Heritage area and about how I wrote my hiking guides.
At 11:00 am, I'll be at the South County Regional Library
5801 Rea Rd, Charlotte, NC 2827 704-416-6600
At 3:00 pm, I'll be at the Mountain Island Library
4420 Hoyt Galvin Way, Charlotte, NC 28214 704-416-5600
I'd love to see you. So come on by and say hi!
I posted a blog last week about my interaction with the Dogwood Alliance at Bele Chere. I got an immediate reply from a Dogwood Alliance representative. It answered my questions and left no doubt that the cutting and destroying of swamp land was not being done in our National Forests.
So read the reply.
Reply from Dogwood Alliance
I am Haiz Oppenheimer, Campaign Organizer at Dogwood Alliance. I received your message below about your experience at our table this weekend at Bele Chere, and I also read your blog post. I am emailing you to answer some of your concerns.
First, I want to clarify, the people that you met at our booth were volunteers not staff. At Dogwood we are a small non-profit (7 staff) and in order to make the biggest impact we can we rely on an awesome team of volunteers to help us with many aspects of our work, especially outreach.
While they are all talented and passionate people, it can take a while to come fully up to speed on all the details of the complex issues that we work on. So, while they were clear that the Green Swamp is being clearcut to produce KFC's packaging, they may not understand the specific details of land ownership and management.
To answer your questions about land ownership and management in the Green Swamp, the 17,424 acres of the Green Swamp Preserve owned by the Nature Conservancy is but a small remnant of the native Green Swamp.
Today, the vast majority of the Green Swamp has been clearcut, ditched, drained, and converted from the native hardwoods and long-leaf pines to monoculture loblolly pine plantations. Until recently virtually all of the Green Swamp was owned by International Paper. However, in 2006, IP sold off 5.1 million acres of US landholdings including all of the Green Swamp in order to take advantage of lucrative tax incentives. Today, the Green Swamp is owned by RMS (Resource Management Service). IP maintains an exclusive contract for all of the wood from the Green Swamp to supply their Riegelwood Mill where they manufacture among other products, KFC's chicken buckets and other paper packaging.
At Dogwood Alliance our mission is protecting Southern forests. One major strategy we employ is working with major customers of the paper industry to use their buying power to leverage demand away from paper produced at the expense of our beautiful native forests, in favor of sustainably produced paper products. Over the years, through a combination of negotiation and persistent public pressure we have gotten major companies including Staples, Office Depot, Sony Home Entertainment, Johnson & Johnson, Proctor and Gamble, and McDonalds to adopt sustainable paper policies. As a result, we have convinced Georgia-Pacific, Domtar, and Resolute Paper Products (formerly AbitibiBowater) to adopt fiber sourcing policies that have led to increased protection for millions of acres of endangered Southern forests.
For more than 4 years now, we have been attempting to convince KFC to change their paper purchasing policies in order to protect, rather than destroy Southern forests. Sadly, though they are well aware of the issue, the company still hasn't budged. Recently it came to light that KFC (and parent company Yum! Brands) is sourcing their packaging for the Chinese market from clearcut Indonesian rain forests that are the last habitat of endangered Sumatran tigers and orangutans. So, while it may be IP and Asia Pulp and Paper who manufacture their buckets, KFC cannot avoid responsibility for the impacts of their packaging. Here in North Carolina, KFC could play a big part in helping to convince IP and RMS to change the way they manage forests in the Green Swamp, and we think as corporate citizens of the South it is their responsibility to do so. That's why we will continue to educate citizens and get them involved in our Kentucky Fried Forests Campaign.
Thanks. Feel free to email or call me with any more questions.
PS. Feel free to post this as a response on your blog.
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This was thorough reply and I felt it needed a blog post of its own.
This weekend, Asheville is celebrating Bele Chere - three days of music, art, food and booths by nonprofits. And like most people, we walked around, looked at art and ate. But I also talked to environmental nonprofits to see what their issues were.
The Dogwood Alliance had a "case against KFC". Their argument was that KFC was destroying southern forests, in particular, the Green Swamp in North Carolina. Now, you have my attention. I am writing my book on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail; I am steeped in the swamp, so to speak.
But where is the Green Swamp and who owns it? The people staffing the booth couldn't tell me. Was is public or private? They had no idea other than it was someplace in eastern North Carolina. We know that; it's not in the mountains.
I checked it out on the web. Some of the Green Swamp is owned by the Nature Conservancy.
Now, I'm fairly certain that the Nature Conservancy is not letting KFC or anyone else take trees from the Green Swamp. So there must be other parts of the Green Swamp that are private.
According to the Dogwood Alliance, International Paper manages the other land in the Green Swamp. But who are the owners of the Green Swamp land? Why aren't they identified? I couldn't find the answer on the website of the Dogwood Alliance or anyplace else.
Why go after those who buy the wood rather than the companies who cut down the trees in the first place?
And why are the people who staff the booths so clueless?
Yesterday I attended a meeting of the Asheville City Council. I was there to support a proposal to implement a charitable contribution combined campaign for City of Asheville employees.
In English that means that I support the inclusion of EarthShare as another option for Asheville City employees to have when they give through their workplace. As of now, the only option they have is United Way. I had sent an email to each council member separately to voice my support for EarthShare. Only Cecil Bothwell and Mark Hunt replied. The others ignored it. I always remember who bothers to answer me.
So I went there with a written statement, planning to be able to read it in maybe, 30 seconds. I never got the chance.
Julie Mayfield of Western North Carolina Alliance was also there. She's very politically savvy and knew that no one would be able to speak. A resolution was proposed by Cecil Bothwell but no one seconded it. If the resolution doesn't get a second, there's no discussion. It was over very quickly.
I was very disappointed. This move was choreographed like a ballet. The council knew that it was not going to pass so they chose to not second it. Excuse me?? But what about those of us who wanted to speak? If you're going to turn it down, turn it down legitimately. Let it come to a vote and stand by your vote. Don't blow off your own citizens.
The actual reason that there was not majority support is that they're concerned about competition with United Way. I'm all for United Way Campaigns; I gave to them for my 35 years of my working career. But this is 2012 and other concerns deserve money as well.
They moved on to Occupy Asheville. They wouldn't have dared to blow off Occupy Asheville; there were dozens of them. Maybe if we had had dozens, we might have gotten a hearing.
For this I missed my Zumba class?
The Carolina Mountain Club hike on Sunday was not at all routine. The area was in the news yesterday.
We started at the new trailhead at Florence Preserve in Hickory Nut Gorge - US 74A. I had scouted that hike in November for a new printing of Hiking North Carolina's Blue Ridge Heritage. At that time, the trail at the beginning went straight up.
But since then, the owners of the land, Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy, rerouted the trail to make it more friendly. They hired some mechanical help (read - a guy with a bulldozer) to switch back the trail. CMC trail crew put in several log bridges.
Once out of Florence Preserve, we walked on a road up to the top of Little Pisgah Mountain. I spotted several Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy (SAHC) signs. And also a bathtub on the side of the road - see the top photo. Where did that come from?
According to the Asheville Citizen Times, the Fisher family owns the property along with a summer home on Little Pisgah Mountain. SAHC, the conservancy, arranged for a conservation easement that is supposed to be valued at $1.5 million. The property remains with the family but the land can't be sold for development - ever. In return, they save on property taxes. Well, that makes sense. The land is now worth less if you can't develop it.
For some reason, they can still put six homes somewhere on the property.
Here's the full article in the Citizen-Times. Read it quickly because articles on the Citizens-Times website disappear after a week.
Still on the west coast of Florida with my son and his family.
We took our older granddaughter to J.N. Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island. This is a birding paradise with a couple of short trails and a 8-mile driving tour. We walked the Indigo Trail for two miles and the road back for another two.
It was hot and humid but the birds were amazing. Anhingas were preening themselves on trees above large pools. Lakes attracted large numbers of pelicans, wood storks, egrets and herons. At one point, a whole group of horseshoe crabs had congregated, almost in military formation.
Then at the education center, we saw that children could get a badge for an activity at the Refuge. "Is there any recognition for a child who walked 4 miles and can tell you about the birds she saw?" I asked.
The volunteer explained that she could ride in a car and scan the stations along the way with a GPS that they were willing to lend you. Or she could do a worksheet indoors in the education center. Both would get her a badge - their version of a Junior Ranger badge. But for a child to actually walk several miles, that didn't get her any recognition from the Refuge officials.
They obviously have not heard of Michelle Obama's Let's Move program. And they certainly were not encouraging moving or walking. I was more outraged than Hannah, my granddaughter, was. She just had a good day with us.
Merry Christmas! Today is our wedding anniversary. What to do on Christmas Day, if you’re on vacation on the west coast of Florida?
We went to Corkscrew Sanctuary, formerly known as Corkscrew Swamp. Located southeast of Fort Myers, the land is owned by Audubon. I was surprised that it was open on Christmas Day but they pride themselves on being open 365 days a year. Even the gift shop is open.
The site has a 2.25 mile boardwalk over the swamp. And this is where all the action is. We saw a snake, two baby alligators and several large “mama” alligators. Swamp lilies (to the right) stuck to the swamp. But this is Audubon and the area was full of birds.
Forest birds such as warblers, woodpeckers and yellow-bellied sapsuckers flittered from tree to tree. Anhingas and egrets preened themselves. Volunteer wardens helped us identify warblers high in the trees. These volunteers were very knowledgeable and enthusiastic. They carried binoculars and birdbooks.
By midday, we reached the end of the boardwalk and visitors were starting to come out. Most were not walking "all the way" but just ventured on the boardwalk to see the baby alligators.
I'm on a family vacation in Florida, about as far away from Southern Georgia as you can get culturally. But I just finished Ecology of a Cracker Childhood by Janisse Ray.
"Cracker Childhood" was one of the first books I read when I moved to Asheville. It has nothing to do with the mountains but it was about the South and I was devouring anything. I reread it to study how a serious memoir can be a popular book.
Ray talks about her poor, religious childhood but she also has serious discussions about the environment of the coastal plains. Every other chapter is about loss of some kind - longleaf pines, red-cockaded woodpeckers, wiregrass, bachman sparrow ... Loggers took out as many longleaf pines as they could and upset the balance of nature, all dependent on longleaf pines.
She describes her background as coming from Oglethorpe's debtor prison folks. I sat up and took notice. A few days ago, I didn't even know about that history. But now that I visited Fort Frederica, I knew what she was talking about.
There's nature everywhere, even on Miami Beach. Now residents and visitors may not notice the natural environment but it's there.
I took a walk on the beach today. People were sunning themselves, playing frisbee, strolling and of course, playing on their phones. A few hardy ones were in the water. Were they paying attention to the environment around them?
There were terns and gulls dive bombing on the beach. Sandpipers ran like wind-up toys. A few pigeons added to the mix. And the pelicans. Nothing says South Florida to me like pelicans.
Pelicans don't worry about people. They hang around the fishing pier, waiting to steal fish from fishermen. They fly around boats going deep-sea fishing, also looking for loot. And all of this is happening around a beach lined with high-rise co-ops.
Even Bal Harbor, the fancy shopping center in North Miami Beach, has "nature". It has several fish ponds with koi fish and turtles. People stare in the pond. trying to figure out if the turtles are real. They're real!
Florence Preserve in Hickory Nut Gorge has had a new trailhead for a few months now. I finally got to rehike my loop in Hiking North Carolina's Blue Ridge Heritage because the book will be reprinted next spring. That was motivation to get down there.
The new trailhead is about a mile south of Kelly Hill Rd. I drove down, down, down, knowing full well that I'm going to have to get back up. The trailhead is very nice, at a chimney on the left side of the road. See above.
There's parking for several cars. There's even two sets of stone steps which lead up to the chimney but no indication about the origin of the chimney.
The trail starts left of the chimney, as you face it. It's well signposted with yellow diamonds and white circles - no relation to the Mountains-to-Sea Trail.
The new trail is steep; it just goes straight up. I'm concerned that it will discourage marginal hikers who don't want to put out the effort to climb.
It's a short climb, a very short climb, but it starts at the beginning of the trail. As soon as the trail moderates, it passes an old cabin. After less than a half-mile, the yellow trail intersects the blue trail. If you make a right turn, you'll be back on the loop.
The new trailhead and trail were needed because Kelly Hill Rd. is a private road. Residents didn't want people driving or even walking up the road. So Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy which owns the land came up with this alternate route.
The new route (or should I say, current route) adds more than 500 feet of ascent and about 0.8 mile to the hike. Still a great, short hike.