Inside Out

Island Living

Although I am not living on an island, it sometimes feels like it.

Unless I make the three mile trek to town I hear no human voices. The only footprints around the house are from feathered or furry friends. I don’t mind the isolation, or should I call it insulation? Insulation protects from outside perils.

Without the moon nights have been pitch black. It is a joy to see the sun rise in the morning. Some days there is fog drifting down from the mountains, slowly burning off, giving way to a breath-taking scenery. Those moments make up for the long, dark nights and gray, rainy days.


“The isolation spins its mysterious cocoon,
focusing the mind on one place, one time, one rhythm

– the turning of the light.

The island knows no other human voices, no other footprints.”

M. L. Stedman


I have not read Stedman’s “The Light Between Oceans”, which is apparently a novel about a couple living in a remote lighthouse.

”There is something that appeals to the human psyche about lighthouses because of their isolation. Their presence offers up a marvelous set of dichotomies the human imagination likes to explore – darkness and light, safety and danger, stasis and movement, isolation and communication”, she says.

I have read Bob Kull’s “Solitude: Seeking Wisdom in Extremes”, which is a diary about living alone for one year on a remote island off the Patagonian coast. He took his doctoral dissertation very seriously. At age 55, he  traveled to Chile with enough supplies to study the effects of deep wilderness solitude on a human being, himself.


“We experience the earth as a stranger we know we should protect for pragmatic or ethical reasons, but until we individually transform our consciousness and come to experience non-human beings as family and the earth as our home, we are unlikely to relax our demands for comfort and security and make the changes necessary for our survival, joy, and sense of belonging.

Bob Kull


His dissertation is available online. It’s an easy and interesting read. You can also learn how much stuff you need to bring to survive for one year on an uninhabited island off Patagonia.

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One Man's Paradise

Happy birthday!

“Only by going alone in silence,
without baggage,
can one truly

get into the heart of the wilderness.
All other travel is mere dust

and hotels and baggage and chatter.”

John Muir


Those are the words of John Muir, who was a loud and clear voice in the creation of the national park system in the United States. His travels in and writings about the wilderness of North America had an influence on many, including Theodore Roosevelt. Interestingly, John Muir was opposed to the government running the national park system, as he considered many politicians as being incompetent, to put it politely. He wanted the US Army to run the park system. John Muir died 2 years before the National Park Service was instituted by Congress in 1916.

Today we celebrate the 100th birthday of the National Park Service.

The Organic Act of 1916 states the mission and goal of the National Park Service, which is “…to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.”

Many voices and powers have formed the NPS into its current shape. Already at it’s 75th birthday it was recognized that “…the Service faces challenges greater than at any time in its history. The parks, many buffered by rural or wilderness surroundings in years past, are increasingly besieged by development. What goes on outside their boundaries can affect their air, their water, their wildlife, their natural and historic ambience, as profoundly as what goes on within. Natural and cultural landmarks outside the parks face similar threats, prompting pressures to include them in the park system.”

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Denali National Park, Alaska

 My feelings about the national parks are ambivalent. The idea to preserve wilderness and history for future generations is commendable. However, what we consider wilderness and how we access and manage wilderness is contentious. I am with Edward Abbey, who suggested parks with limited access by automobile. I know this is not a very popular proposition, but it is the only way to experience real wilderness, as described by John Muir. Thanks to their remoteness, size, and administration some parks in Alaska come very close to John Muir’s idea. Access to Denali, Wrangell-St.Elias, Glacier Bay, and other parks in the state is limited due to their remote location and their sheer size. Those are the places that appeal to me.

In the 80’s I spent many days and nights in Yosemite Valley. Above the valley floor it is strikingly beautiful, but I never understood, why we had 1-hour film processing and other unnecessary amenities in the valley. There was a time when private traffic was banned in the valley, which I thought was a great idea. Today, up to 21,000 visitors find their way into the valley on a peak day! Campsites are hard to get without advance reservation. The Park Service has the difficult task to balance conservation and visitation. In 1917 there were 11,000 visitors in the park all year!

I think it is worthwhile, especially on a day like this, to reflect on our views of wilderness and conservation. Do we really need to drive our vehicles into parks and expect to see wildlife and pristine landscapes from the comfort of our cars?

I think wilderness is something that cannot be experienced from a vehicle. It requires effort, sweat, patience, and time…

It is not available on demand.

It is an experience that you cannot buy.

It is priceless.

Without it our planet is a cold, dead place.

To the next 100 years!

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Conservation, One Man's Paradise

Howling

It’s been bugging me for a long time.

They say if you can’t change it, don’t sweat it, or something along those lines.

I do sweat it!

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A few weeks ago U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has denied recognizing protection for the Alexander Archipelago wolf.

“Our review of the best available scientific and commercial information indicates that the Alexander Archipelago wolf is not in danger of extinction (endangered) nor likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future (threatened), throughout all or a significant portion of its range. Therefore, we find that listing the Alexander Archipelago wolf as an endangered or threatened species under the Act is not warranted at this time.There is no agreement on whether these wolves represent a  subspecies that deserves protection.”

The Alexander Archipelago wolf (Canis lupus ligoni) is considered to be a distinct subspecies  that is isolated from other wolf populations by water and mountain barriers.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service suggests in a November Species Status Assessment that the Alexander Archipelago wolf population occupying Prince of Wales Island declined by 75 percent between 1994 and 2014, from 356 to 89 individuals.

The decision to not grant protection equates a death sentence to the Alexander Archipelago wolf population, which is met with approval by US Senator Lisa Murkowski (R) of Alaska: “The attempt by some environmental groups to list the wolf seemed to be an effort solely to end the last of the remaining timber industry in Southeast Alaska. Fortunately, it did not work.”

Are you still with me?

On other shores the Finnish Wildlife Agency has authorized to kill nearly 20 percent of the country’s wolf population in a controversial trial cull.

“We wish to gain experience (to see) if this could be one solution to the conflict around wolves,” Sauli Harkonen, a director tasked with hunting administration at the Finnish Wildlife Agency, told AFP.
What?

Despite a hunting ban poachers had decimated the total wolf population throughout the country’s vast and remote forests to between 120 and 135 animals in 2013, from an estimated 250 to 300 in 2007. One of the contrived arguments to have this hunt is the hope that it would reduce poaching, argh.

Since 2013, the wolf population has rebounded to around 250. Now they are ripe for the taking again.

Why?

Not for food. Too protect life stock or human life?

I doubt it.

What this tells me is that arrogance, indifference, or other motivations in federal institutions lead to decisions with irreversible effects.

To tone it down. Why not err on the side of caution? A few hundred individuals of a species: Is that enough to guarantee the survival of the species? Are you sure?

What can I do?

Make you read about it.

Let me know if you have a better answer.

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One Man's Paradise

Early bird gets the fish

This happened already a few months ago. I just never got around to finish this entry.

eagle“While I had a warm and dry place to sleep at night the eagles where sitting on their lookout trees. When we arrived in the morning before sunrise they were already chirping socially. It was one of those rare clear mornings. The twilight lowly turned into purple, dipping distant mountains in a fantastic light.

One juvenile bald eagle picked a lone dead tree as his lookout. Thank you very much. Amazing how these creatures survive. Some birds were standing with their talons in the cold water waiting for some exhausted salmon to drift by.”

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