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BY KIMBERLY MAYER

 

On June 1, 2017, the president turned his back on the planet. I was making my way to the gate having cleared airport security in Seattle, aware that this was the hour Trump would announce his decision on The Paris Agreement in The Rose Garden. It was 3pm Eastern Time, noon Pacific Time. What I was looking for no longer existed: mounted televisions turned permanently to CNN. Everyone has their own devises now, I suppose, and half the people had on ear buds.

I didn’t have to dig my phone out of my bag. When his decision was announced, it was palpable. I could feel it, all the weight and weariness in the crowd at Seatac. Wherever our destination, whatever our mission in life, we were all off on our lonely flights attending the same funeral.

If that was a death march, in the morning I woke with a Bob Dylan song in my head. Time will tell who has fell, And who’s been left behind, When you go your way and I go mine.

Flatbed truck after flatbed truck hauled in specimen trees for planting and bright yellow caterpillar tractors moved earth at The Village at Duxbury, the retirement community where my parents reside outside Boston. I was witness to the creation of what will one day, no doubt, be an arboretum. Trees my parents and future generations will watch grow.

I thought of our own expanding efforts at home growing salad greens, herbs, fruit and vegetables. Living as sustainably as possible on the island, while farming oysters, clams, and mussels in the bay. And The Demonstration Garden where I work with other Master Gardeners, growing produce for our local food bank.

Suddenly we are singing another song, something like a Battle Hymm of the Republic.

On the same day as the dire announcement in The Rose Garden, Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington, Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York, and Gov. Jerry Brown of California formed the United States Climate Alliance to uphold the objectives of the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change. To date thirteen states and Puerto Rico have joined the alliance. Eleven additional states have pledged to support the Paris Agreement, representing over 60% of the populace of the United States. Hundreds of mayors of US cities, including the 10 most populous, either support the alliance or are committed to upholding the Paris Agreement.

Businesses are going ahead with green energy because it’s good business. Pittsburgh plans to power itself entirely with renewable energy. And on and on.

Our new battle cry: the more damage the Trump Administration tries to do to the environment, the greener we go.

 

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The Things that Disappear

Taylor Shellfish Farms, Bow WA

BY KIMBERLY MAYER

“The Running of the Brides” was a one-day sale of wedding gowns at Filene’s Basement, a tradition at the downtown flagship Boston store from 1947 until the store finally closed in 2007. Gowns that retailed for thousands of dollars were on sale in the hundreds. Brides-to-be stormed the store with posses of fast running, bartering and trading friends, sisters, and mothers. As at Chicago’s commodities market, bells were rung and whistles blown to locate each other on the floor. Stepping into and hoisting out of gowns in the aisles, brides-to-be emptied the racks.

Another annual event this time of year is the Oyster Seed Sale at Taylor Shellfish Farms in Bow, Washington. In order to be in line at dawn with other oyster farmers, many from our own bay on San Juan Island, we had to ferry over the day before and spend the night. There we always purchase several bags of Pacific Triploids, Pacific Diploids, Kumamoto, and Olympia Oysters seeds. Gone like the bridal gowns, with everyone hurrying home to get their seeds back in the water at low tide.

After months of preparation, this year’s Master Gardener Plant Sale on San Juan Island was nearly over in thirty-five minutes. As the line had grown outside Mullis Senior Center before the doors opened, it’s almost safe to say one had to be in that line too for a bountiful selection of vegetable and herb seedlings.

There was just one catch: because of record cold temps, customers were advised not to plant their purchases outdoors. Not before a gradual “hardening off” to get acclimated to the outdoors. Always a good idea with vegetables grown from seedlings under cover, a one-to-two week process exposing them to a few hours of sun per day in a location sheltered from strong sun, winds, hard rain, and cold temps. Bringing them in at night, of course.

We see onions and brassica, the hardiest, going out first. Followed by celery, Chinese cabbage, lettuce, and endive in the vegetable march. Basil, tomatoes, and peppers, most tender of all, with eggplants, melons, and cucumbers preferring nighttime temperatures in the 60’s.

We’re still a ways from that this spring. In the daily procession at our home, toting vegetable plants between kitchen and deck, back and forth in what Gabe Rivera calls “a yearning to graduate to the great outdoors,” we are building horticultural armored plating in the seedlings. It’s all good. Any lingering overcast is also less stressful for plants.

These are among the things that disappear this time of year: wedding gowns, oyster seeds, and vegetable & herb starts. Just the beginning of things, really.

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The Ocean is Rising and So Are We

 

BY KIMBERLY MAYER

I don’t need to tell you how many people turned out in pouring rain for The March for Science, April 22nd in Washington DC. And for The Climate March one week later, with over 200,000 participants, along with tens of thousands in 370 sister marches throughout the country.

Marches are happening with increasing frequency everywhere. It’s getting so you can’t sit them out.

We were in DC for The March for Science, and home on San Juan Island for The Climate March. From one Washington to another.

Azalea blossoms were out in full force in DC, as cherry blossoms lingered. In the islands, Orca whales are in migration, following the salmon who are returning to the rivers where they were born. And hummingbirds returning from their vast migration to our feeders.

Nature needs to know we are with her, that we have her back.

On Saturday April 29th we gathered at noon in the upper parking lot of the courthouse in Friday Harbor. Liquid sunshine then too. Bearing hand-painted signs, wearing handmade costumes, pushing babies in strollers, and toting dogs on leash. One person wore a teepee construction around him. Essentially it was a microcosm of all we had seen, and all the camaraderie we had experienced in DC the week before. One country, coast to coast. Or so it seems.

If there is one good thing to come out of oppressive regimes, it is this: The Resistance.

Who are they, in fact, who do sit this out?

In the run up to the election, I had wanted to write an open letter to my Republican relatives, as well as a few friends I’ve probably lost by now. But I must have mulled over it too much, for I never did. Now of course I wish I had. I would like to hear from you.

Tell me, what did you not see coming with Trump? What were you thinking?

 

 

 

 

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The Secret Gardens of Trump Tower

BY KIMBERLY MAYER

In 1979 Trump made a deal with New York City. If he committed 15,000 sq ft to amenities for the public, including terraced gardens, he could add twenty extra floors to Trump Tower. The deal net Trump $530 million.

The public, for the most part, lost.

Known as POPS, privately owned public spaces, the spaces are legally required to be open to the public under a city’s zoning ordinance or other land use law. Across New York City there are more than 500 POPS in 320 buildings, but Trump Tower’s gardens are not well known because Trump Tower itself, the corporate headquarters of Trump Organization, barely acknowledges the existence of these spaces.

In the past thirty years Trump Tower has been fined repeatedly on its POPS agreement. Signage to the gardens is neither noted at the 5th Avenue entrance to Trump Tower nor on the building’s directory. Paramilitary guards guard the Tower, joined lately by Secret Service. The 6 story atrium space is often closed for press conferences, and public seating replaced with kiosks selling Trump’s “Make America Great” hats.

One reporter made six attempts over a period of two weeks to get into the gardens, only to be told on one occasion that the garden was closed due to rain.

 Wait… closing a garden due to rain?

So I checked with some of my sources in the city: Dave Yourgrau, Program Director at Startup Institute; Sarah Yourgrau, Producer for Film/TV; and Yogi Shmuel, Real Estate Agent at Douglas Elliman Real Estate. Were any of them aware of public gardens at Trump Tower? No, they were not.

“I have never heard of the gardens, nor do I know of anyone who has,” explained Dave. “Trump properties have a huge reputation of being unavailable to the public.”

Reporters from Salon, Business Insider, Crains New York, Untapped Cities, and aPOPS: Advocates for Privately Owned Public Space who have found a way into the gardens at Trump Tower tell us we’re not missing much. “A handful of hostas, a small maple tree, built-in granite benches, and a garbage can” was one description of the 4th floor garden. On the 5th floor, “A row of seven trees, probably Japanese maple or cherry (four of whom were dead).”

Not the flora and fauna one might expect in a garden, nor the visitors. Is nothing about this man, Donald J. Trump, natural? Has he ever grown so much as a geranium on a windowsill? My guess is he has not. To say nothing of a sense of civic duty. That deal he struck with the city of New York was never much more than a nod to nature on his part.

It was always about the twenty floors.

The importance of urban gardens to city dwellers cannot be stressed enough. Gardens restore both our lungs and our spirit. They provide a sanctuary, a connection and with nature, a sense of season, and an unhurried stillness. Lynden B. Miller, Director of The Conservatory Garden in Central Park observes, “People simply feel better about themselves and their communities when surrounded by beautiful plants.”

And those who plant, or provide a garden, know that they are doing something for the good of the world.

Donald J. Trump is missing this, all of this.

 

 

 

 

 

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What Makes Us Human, What Makes Us Good

moon-over-forest

Photo by Paul Mayer

 

BY KIMBERLY MAYER

I am walking in the woods alongside the sea pondering these questions: what makes us human, and what makes us good? And the answer, it seems to me, is the extent to which we are connected to, and value, wildlife.

Consider the whales in the sea and the trees in the forest. Consider the elephants if you please.

Strong mother-child bonds characterize the Orcas whale as well as the elephant. Offspring often stay with their mothers for life. And upon death, Orcas keep vigil, actively mourning the passing of one of their own.

“They’re not killer whales, they’re lovers,” writes reporter Hayley Day in “Wired for Orcas Love,” published online, The Journal of the San Juan Islands, 2/14/17.

Ken Balcomb, Founder of the Center for Whale Research in Friday Harbor, San Juan Island, suggests, “They may be a superior species actually. They’ve certainly been around longer than us. They may think ‘those monkeys’ on the beach have almost whale-like intelligence.”

Or not.

Turning now to the trees, I am realizing from the beautiful little book I am reading, The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben, that the forest is another remarkable social network. Trees too are social beings, and a solitary planted tree would be hard-pressed to enjoy the benefits of those in the forest. Growing near each other, like families, trees support each other, share nutrients, and care for their sick and elderly. They communicate through both roots and leaves, warn each other of dangers—such as insect infestations, and accommodate for one another’s growth rather than crowd each other out. Together in a forest, trees create a hospitable climate that one tree alone would be incapable of achieving.

My woods here is full of deer, but continents away from the Puget Sound elephants tell a remarkably similar story to the trees and the whales. Elephants also form close family bonds particularly between mother and offspring, and live in a complex, matriarchal, social structure. Elephants greet one another, work in teams, and exhibit emotions such as crying at birth and death. They grieve, bury their dead, and frequently return to revisit the body. Elephants care for each other’s orphaned offspring, sharing food when it is scarce. Capable of enormous empathy, elephants do not do well in isolation.

Whales, trees, or elephants, there is resistance in numbers. We must remember this.

Only four weeks into the Trump Administration and the future for wildlife—wild animals, fauna, flora, mammals, fish and birds–looks bleak. And with it, would go our humanity.

Climate change is locked in denial by the very man chosen now to lead The Environmental Protection Agency. As Attorney General of Oklahoma, Scott Pruitt fired off multiple lawsuits against the EPA on behalf of oil, gas, and coal industries. Long an adversary against regulation to control pollution, can’t you hear them all laughing in the fossil-fuel board rooms now?

What did the American people expect? A developer looks at a forest and sees a golf course, hotels, casinos. He sees trees for cutting down. To him, an ocean is for skimming his yacht across. His sons trophy hunt in Africa, like Colonialists out of the 19th century.

And we, the monkeys on the beach, are rendered less healthy, less humane, and less human for this.

 

 

 

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Walls vs. Coexistence

chinas-great-wallPhoto credit: Paul Mayer

 

BY KIMBERLY MAYER

A long time ago in a land far away, there once was an emperor who wanted a wall. It is always one grandiose scheme or another, and that one was defensive. The longest defensive barrier ever built to keep out invaders. Begun in the Qin Dynasty, and later rebuilt in the Ming Dynasty, the Great Wall of China covered much of the northern border of China.

We all know how well that worked out. For over 2,000 years the nomadic Mongol tribe of the north regularly invaded and conquered the Chinese Empire.

Extending through all types of terrain including mountainous regions, the Great Wall itself took its toll on the Chinese. Thousands of workers died in the construction, and many are thought to be buried under the very wall they were assembling.

And what of the wildlife? On that continent: wild boars, oryx gazelle, and the Chinese monal pheasant. Red fox, Siberian Roe Deer, Hog badger, and African Hoopoe in forests. Whatever became of the wildlife with the wall?

As in China, the U.S./Mexican border runs through a delicate ecosystem. Traversing mountains, rivers, desert, and scrub brush, various species have been crossing it for billions of years. On this continent: mountain lions, bobcats, cougars, desert bighorn sheep, the endangered N.A. jaguar, and ocelot. Roadrunners and low flying birds such as the pygmy owl, as well as annual  migrations of Monarch butterflies.

“Border infrastructure not only blocks the movement of wildlife, but… destroys the habitats, fragments the habitats and the connectivity that these animals use to move from one place to another,” notes Sergio Avila-Villegas, at the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum, in Tucson.

As it is, with approximately 40% of the U.S./ Mexico border presently fenced, desertification, erosion, pollution, groundwater depletion, and distressed animals are already evident. Construction of a wall would further disturb watersheds and waterways, resulting in possible flooding.

“For some species, the desert bighorn sheep, for example, you have decent populations on both sides of the border. But they depend on these movements for maintaining genetic diversity, for recolonizing habitat where they’ve suffered long extinctions,” states Dr. Clint Epps, a biologist at Oregon State University.

According to the World Wildlife Fund, world wildlife biodiversity is diminishing at an alarming rate. A complete divide along the US/Mexican border would isolate subpopulations of many animal species, hampering gene flow. Plants too are dependent on wind to spread their seeds. A wall would disrupt pollination and have effects on the ecosystem as a whole.

You have to remember, nature doesn’t know borders. A wall, any wall—one for defense, another to control immigration, can easily create more disorder than order.

In the words of Michael Crowther, CEO Indianapolis Zoological Society, we “… must recognize that we are a part of this world, and trying to become apart from the rest of it is not a viable solution in the long term. We must create a new focus on what our countries share in common—our biodiversity, our ecosystems and our planet—rather than what makes us different. Then, and only then, can we begin to have a meaningful dialogue around flexible solutions that benefit humans, ecosystems, and wildlife on both sides of the border.”

 

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The Mother of All Marches

16325750_10101777905954025_1220437753_oPhoto Credit: Ashley Mayer

 

BY KIMBERLY MAYER

In a circuitous route by way of Seattle, Boston and Rochester, New York, I made my way to Washington DC last weekend for The March. So if I was in the air for the Inauguration ceremony, I considered that a good thing. Well above the clouds, all I could think at that moment was “not my president.”

Alas, I had to land.

I was not the only one to arrive exclaiming about a “planeload of women.” Whether by air, bus, train, or car, we all had that experience. By the hundreds of thousands, indeed millions, we poured into the city for The Women’s March on Washington. And on Saturday our March would dwarf Friday’s Inaugural event down the same Pennsylvania Avenue for The Emperor Who Has No Clothes.

This is a story that can be told in garments. The army of women who poured into DC could be called The Comfortable Shoe Crowd. Dressed in jeans, parkas, and fleece, wearing running shoes or hiking boots, we had miles to go and mileage on our minds. From grandmothers to little girls, many donned pink knit “pussy hats.”

At the intersection of Inaugural Ball attendees and this army of women entering town on Friday evening, it looked just like what it was: a coup d’etat. I saw it in the outfits on the sidewalks, crosswalks, and in our restaurant. It was like Dior and Jessica McClintock meet Eddie Bauer and North Face.

Couples dressed to the nine’s, the women barely able to walk in stilettos and long lean gowns with slits, and tuxedoed men weaving and rolling about like a penguins on ice. They were far and few, whereas the women coming in for The March traveled in packs and were numerous. And from what I saw, all the camaraderie too was on our side.

DC was packed, as was the fabulous Greek/Mediterranean restaurant Zaytinya. Fortunately we had reservations, occupying large round tables, sharing multiple small plates and wine with a great deal of noise and merriment. Among us in the restaurant were occasional couples at tables for two dressed for the Ball. But it was as if they had lost, for every time a pink pussy hatted client walked through the room, the crowd broke out in cheer.

They may have won the election, but the evening was counterintuitive. And the next day with The March on Washington, as well as all the marches that marched in solidarity around the country and the globe. And we will keep on marching until everyone sees it and shouts, “But the Emperor has no clothes.”

 

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