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Here at Northwest Earth Institute, we’re always sharing inspiring stories and events with each other. Doing this work can often be overwhelming and discouraging, but there is also so much room for transformation and hope. (We’re using David Orr’s definition of hope as a “verb with its sleeves rolled up” here!)

Recently, Annie Leonard released a new video on “The Story of Change.” We’re already big fans of Annie Leonard’s work, particularly her original video, “The Story of Stuff.” But we really like that “The Story of Change” offers ideas and inspiration for collaboration and change — just what we all need. You can watch the video here. The website also features a quiz you can take to find out what kind of changemaker you are — builder, networker, resister, communicator, nurturer, or investigator.

What inspires you and keeps you motivated to take responsibility and make change?

What kind of changemaker are you?

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This blog post was written by NWEI’s wonderful summer intern, Caroline Cozens.

Now that summer has officially arrived in force, we thought that it would be a good time to share our sustainable summer squelcher secrets with you. While it’s hard to beat the heat all the time, hopefully you can use these tips to help you be a little more conservative in your energy consumption during these hot summer days.

  • When at home, try to mainly use fans instead of A/C. When you must turn the A/C on, keep the fan running so you don’t have to blast the cool air as much.
  • If you are doing any summer gardening, think about planting some shade trees around your home. These trees not only giving you shade and cooler temperatures, but if placed near your A/C unit, can help it run more efficiently.
  • Wear loose-fitting and organic materials to help keep your body temperature down.
  • Try to use your stove and oven less, make salads and break out your outside grill.  By keeping the heat down in your home, you are making your fans and A/C’s work less and are using less energy overall.
  • When it comes to meal time, go for light entrees, and try to add a little spice whenever you can. Spicy foods make you sweat, without raising your body temperature, so you are left with an overall cool feeling — that is, everywhere except for your tongue. Which brings us to our next tip:
  • Drink lots of water. Nothing can help you beat the summer heat better than staying hydrated. While you’re at it, ditch those disposable water bottles! Remember to take your reusable water bottle with you when heading out.
  • Try to get out of your house in the evenings to enjoy a break from the heat, go for a bike ride or just a walk around the neighborhood. It can be a break for you and for your A/C.

Hopefully these tips can help you stay cooler and more energy efficient – even during the heat wave!

Today’s blog is a re-post from 2010, but we think it’s a nice reminder of all of the other ‘R’ verbs we can use besides ‘recycle’: reduce, reuse, repurpose…

Anytime the NWEI Outreach Team receives a Priority envelope in the mail, we experience a feeling of dread, as it usually means one of our course book shipments was undeliverable.  However, a few weeks ago, when we received such an envelope, it was thankfully a Menu for the Future book from a course participant who sent us back their book for us to reuse.  We appreciate when folks occasionally do this, as it provides an opportunity to help a few more folks participate in the courses.  However, when people outside of the Portland area ask if they can return their course book for reuse, we prefer to have them share the book with someone in their community, to help spread the courses further there and also save the book from being shipped again.  However, this is not the only good way to reuse a course book…

5 Great Ways to Reuse an NWEI Course Book:

  1. Give it to someone else in your community who is interested in organizing a discussion group
  2. Give or send it to a politician to encourage more integration of sustainability in policy-making
  3. Donate it to your local library
  4. Give it to a local sustainability awareness nonprofit, PTA, or high school
  5. Compost it–your course books are printed on 100% recycled content paper with soy-based inks.  Menu for the Future could literally help you start a garden!

We’d love to hear your ideas–submit your comments to us!

Happy Fourth of July!

Today, we celebrate the U.S. winning its independence from the rule of Great Britain. We at NWEI treasure that independence, and the responsibility that accompanies being American citizens. We extend our gratitude to all who work to make our country safer, our world better and our future brighter.

This Independence Day, we ask you to consider what things you crave independence from in your life — Injustice? Illness? Overconsumption? Dirty energy? Toxic chemicals? Debt?

What steps can you take to declare independence for yourself and others affected by these unwanted influences? What can you do to create positive change, whether small or big? How can you celebrate your citizenship by joining with others to make a difference?

As Lynne Westmoreland says on the Humane Connection blog, “We can declare our individual independence from advertising, cultural “norms,” and unhealthy and inhumane actions. We can choose instead to be independent thinkers and visionary pioneers, and to practice collaboration, community, and true freedom for all to be happy, healthy, and respected.” We can also work for true freedom and independence, as a whole community, from those that don’t have our best interests in mind.

This Independence Day, celebrate your freedom by exercising your power as a citizen, and by showing appreciation for all who give of themselves to create the world we dream of.

Today’s blog post is from Marsha Rakestraw, Director of Online Communications and Education Resources at the Institute for Humane Education (IHE). To learn more about IHE, visit their website at www.HumaneEducation.org. To read more from Marsha and others, visit the Humane Connection blog at humaneconnectionblog.blogspot.com. Thanks Marsha, Zoe and everyone at IHE for all your work for a better world!

Recently I came across this quote: “What we see depends mainly on what we look for.” (John Lubbock)

It reminded me of the powerful story, based on a West African folktale, that Mary Pat Champeau, director of education, shares every summer at IHE’s student residency. Here’s one version of the story:

There was once an elderly and wise gentleman who lived in a village. He would often spend his days sitting in the shade of a big tree in the center of the village, reading books and talking to passersby. One day, a traveler came upon his village and stopped and said, “Old man, I have been traveling across the countryside, and I have seen many things and met many people. Can you tell me what kind of people I will find in your village?”
 
The elderly gentleman looked up at him and replied, “Certainly I can, but first tell me what kind of people you have found on your travels.”
 
The traveler scowled and said, “Old man, I have met people who cheat, steal, and aren’t kind to strangers, and people who don’t look out for one another.”
 
The elderly gentleman looked up and, with a faint look of sadness in his eyes, said, “Oh my friend, those are the people you will find in my village.” The traveler kicked the dirt under his feet, scoffed, and marched off towards the village.

By and by, as the elderly gentleman continued to enjoy his day, another traveler came walking through the village. Once again, the traveler stopped and asked, “Please kind sir, I have been traveling across the countryside, and I have seen many things and met many people. Can you tell me what kind of people I will find in your village?”
 
The elderly gentleman said, “Certainly I can, but first tell me what kind of people you have found in your travels.”
 
The traveler replied, “I have found people who are kind and welcoming of strangers, people who care for one another, and people who love. These are the people I have met in my travels.”
 
The elderly gentleman looked up and, with the faintest smile in his eyes, said, “My friend, those are the people you will find in my village.”

The quote and the story are important reminders for us as humane educators and concerned citizens to be mindful of our worldview. Do we mainly see the things in people that annoy or upset us? Do we focus on all the animal and human suffering and planet-wide destruction? Do we fret about all the things we’re not doing? Or, do we see all the good in others and joyfully invite them to make even more compassionate, just, and sustainable choices? Do we celebrate all the positive things changemakers around the world are accomplishing? Do we acknowledge all the good that we ourselves are doing and seek out opportunities to do more?

Part of creating the world we want means keeping alive a vision of that world — not traversing life with rose-colored glasses, but rather maintaining a dual vision: one that sees what is, while seeing what’s possible; one that is aware of what’s good and of what can be better; one that recognizes the role our own biases and experiences play in our own vision of how the world (and others) should be.

As a child, summer meant no school and being outside from sun-up to sun-down. While many of us still must fulfill our obligations even during the summer, it doesn’t mean that we have to stop our love of the summer sun. In today’s internet-minded, high-speed culture, not enough people take the time to just stop and enjoy the simple things. So this summer, we have a proposition for you… 

  • Go outside every day, whether it is for a bike ride, a walk, a run, a hike, or playing with the neighborhood kids.
  • Eat seasonal, local, fresh produce. Enjoy a picnic. Can some tomatoes. Connect with the earth where your food was grown.
  • Take the time to learn and grow from what the earth has to teach. In summer, all of the earth’s glory and bounty surrounds us.
  • Most of all, think of ways that your own life and practices are affecting the earth, and make positive steps to change what needs changing and hold on to what is positive.
  • Know that while summer may be one of the shorter seasons in many regions, its effects can last all year round.

And, if by the end of the glorious summer season, you still feel the urge to continue this lifestyle, join our Ecochallenge in October and make your summer changes last all year round.

Happy Summer, everyone!

Today’s blog post is written by guest blogger Sylvia Reynolds.

Cities Save Money When They Save the Environment.

America’s homeowners are discovering they save hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars when they take aggressive steps to reduce their consumption of gas and electricity, conserve and recycle water, and restore natural vegetation in their yards. Now, many cash-strapped cities are learning to stretch their budgets with similar “go-green” initiatives. You may save property taxes and protect essential city services when you persuade local government officials to preserve and protect the hometown environment.

Stop landscaping. Start land-managing.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s website offers excellent advice and guidance for homeowners and city planners. Although the EPA’s professional environmentalists develop all the details in their save-the-earth strategies, just two fundamental principles inform almost all of their suggestions: First, reduce stress on the soil and water supply by restoring indigenous plants and trees; second, preserve existing green belts and recover derelict properties for productive use. Five simple steps launch your city’s earth-saving, cost-saving initiative:

Stop run-off. Recycle gray water. Collect rain water.  If current climate and water-use trends continue, water will become the nation’s scarcest, most precious resource. The more your city can do to manage water wisely today, the better prepared you will be in the future. Your city probably loses millions of gallons of rainwater because grass-covered parkways naturally shed water and are sloped to send rain into storm drains. Creating curbside flower beds will curtail wasteful run-off and beautify the entire city. More importantly, holding rain water in the soil will reduce the need for irrigation.

Trees. More trees. Still more trees.  During hot, humid summer weather, many urban areas experience heat inversions—cold air in the upper atmosphere holds much warmer air close to the ground, sustaining higher-than-average temperatures and trapping smog. Trees reduce ambient temperatures and foster temperature equilibrium in the atmosphere. The result: you and your neighbors reduce your cooling costs and enjoy cleaner, fresher air. Of course, trees require no maintenance; they reduce your city’s payroll costs and free skilled city workers for more important infrastructure projects.

Plant strategically and save.  The sun shines brightest on south-facing walls and roofs. Therefore, plant rows of deciduous trees along buildings’ south walls. During the summer, the trees’ thick foliage will cut cooling costs at least 20 percent; in the winter, bare trees will allow sunlight to cut heating costs. Similarly, trees strategically planted around big parking lots and other paved areas will reduce summertime “heat island” effects, making commercial and civic spaces far more hospitable. Because winter-storm winds assault your city from the northwest, plant coniferous trees along the north and west sides of houses, businesses and city buildings to reduce heating costs up to 30 percent.

Reclaim land for community gardens.  Take an inspired idea from once woeful city managers in Detroit: Stuck with entire neighborhoods of abandoned homes, they cleared and recovered the land, restoring and replenishing it for community gardens. Their initiative not only solved problems with crime and vandalism but also brought supplies of fresh produce back into the inner city after major grocery chains pulled-out. Detroit residents now may claim up to half-an-acre for vegetable crops, berries and orchards. In a ten-square-mile area, only a few garden plots remain unclaimed, and local farmers’ markets are thriving.

Go wild.  Although your city’s beautifully manicured lawns grace your parks and adorn your civic buildings, they suck-up water, require constant maintenance with power equipment, and consume lots of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Up to five percent of urban air pollution comes from use of gasoline-powered landscape maintenance equipment, and lawns release water instead of retaining it. Moreover, petro-chemical soil additives pollute the ground water and poison birds and fish. You will save thousands in maintenance and fuel costs, conserve water and substantially reduce pollution when you plow-under the grass and replace it with indigenous meadow-grass or wild flowers that require nothing more than nature provides.

In 1805, British poet laureate William Wordsworth wrote, “Nature never did betray the heart that loved her.” Homeowners and city managers who embrace Wordsworth’s doctrine are discovering that Nature, in fact, quite handsomely rewards hearts that love and care for her. In one Midwestern city, eco-friendly initiatives saved enough money to save a firehouse from closure and a dozen firefighters from unemployment.

Sylvia Reynolds writes for several higher ed blogs.  To read more about masters programs in public administration click here.

There are some great opportunities coming up for folks in the Portland area to engage with each other and with sustainability issues. Please consider joining us for these opportunities!

Join a Menu for the Future Discussion Group – This Saturday
6 Saturdays, June – mid-July, PSU, Smith Union Room 323
There are still available spaces. Register now! Portland State University’s Food Action Collective and Portland Farmers’ Market will offer Menu for the Future starting with an introductory session and an opportunity to buy your book on Saturday May 26th from 12 – 1pm. The course will run for 6 consecutive Saturdays. Not only will this be a fun way to meet new folks, you’ll also be able to stroll through the PSU Portland Farmers Market before or after the discussion! Please contact carolyn@nwei.org for more information or to register.

Join a Powering a Bright Future Discussion Group
Two Thursdays, June 21st and 28th, OMCC Think Tank
We will be hosting our new two-session course on energy at our office building (Olympic Mills Commerce Center) on Thursday June 21st and Thursday June 28th from 5:30 – 6:30pm. We hope that you’re interested in joining! Please email carolyn@nwei.org for more details and to order your electronic copy of Powering a Bright Future for $10. You must pre-register for this course.

“Reduce Your Waste, Reduce Your Impact,” presented by Betty Shelley
Tuesdays, June 12th – June 26th, NWEI Office
If you’ve not yet had the opportunity to take the “Reduce Your Waste, Reduce Your Impact” class, now is your chance! This class comes highly recommended by two NWEI staffers who both agreed that participating was a wonderfully educational and rewarding experience. The course is held on three consecutive Tuesdays beginning June 12th from 6:30 to 8:30. The class will deal with solid waste, a.k.a. garbage, but will also touch on reducing water, energy, and other resource use. The format is interactive with the goal of engaging participants through discussion and assignments to explore their actions and behaviors, and learn ways to make lasting changes. Learn new techniques and share your own. Please contact Betty Shelley no later than June 8th. See the official class announcement for more details. 503-244-8044 greenhouseone@gmail.com

This Spring, a group in Concord, New Hampshire has been exploring the challenging and sometimes frustrating world of resource depletion and the many impacts of food production on climate change and the environment through participation in NWEI’s discussion course Hungry for Change: Food, Ethics and Sustainability. This is the sixth and last post from the Nourishing Words Blog, where author and course participant Eleanor Baron muses on conserving water, sustainable cheese production and the call towards a plant-based diet.

——————-

A few weeks ago, this six-week discussion course ended with readings and questions about waste, better ways of managing our food system and working toward change.

Our group, by this time, had settled into a comfortable rhythm together. Honest conversation came easily to us by now, and we’d long since established a common philosophy that “it’s all good.” Tiny, magnificent, global, local, personal or community—all efforts are good efforts. We are an accepting group.

Our eyes were opened, once again.

Mark Bittman got us thinking about how much energy goes into our food. Realizing that a one-calorie Diet Coke requires 2000 calories of energy to produce is a good reminder of why avoiding processed, packaged food is a sound choice for the environment. Eating close to the ground and choosing simple foods just has to be a good thing for our bodies as well as the planet.

Thinking about food waste, first on a global scale and then on a personal scale, embarrassed us all. How can this be, that so many people are hungry while 209 to 253 pounds of food is wasted every day in North America and Europe? That’s enough to feed us all for nearly two months. How is it that we take this so lightly? This is not about somebody else; it’s about the small and large piles of food each end every one of usthrows away. Taking actions (or re-committing to actions) like shopping wisely, making stock, composting, cooking appropriate portions—just being conscious of the issue—will move us each steps closer to zero waste living.

Just how hungry for change are we? That is the question that faced us in our last discussion. After reading and talking about the truly impressive, activist work of people like Will Allen of Growing Power, urban farmer and educator in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and other inspiring changemakers, we were asked to think about what we could do in support of a healthier food system.

We were, at first, silent on this question.

The course book suggested follow-up activities like organizing community events or starting a letter-writing campaign. Still, we were silent.

Oh, we do want change. That’s not the problem. In fact, as individuals, we’re already making important changes in our lives and in our communities. Teaching, writing, growing food, supporting good organizations, buying good food—we are living by our values. This course has prompted us to make even more changes and, perhaps, allowed us to be more confident in our beliefs and able to speak out even more. Our work together bolstered our resolve to continue those efforts, refining them over time.

I had mixed feelings, at first, about our reticence to commit to a broader goal. But then I realized that we had, in fact, created something just as important.

We’d created community.

Just a couple of weeks after our last discussion, we gathered for a celebration potluck. It was there that I realized (quite literally) the fruits of our labors. Talk flowed easily, as we savored a rich variety of homemade dishes. Discussing our creations was a big part of dinner conversation—not just the recipes, but the sourcing of ingredients, in colorful detail. We loved our food. Our commitment to the values we examined in this course was palpable. Together, we enjoyed the simple good feeling of community around shared values.

Wouldn’t you know that, just a few days later, we made plans for a second potluck?

Only good things can come of this.

I urge you to consider starting a Northwest Earth Institute course in your town. For a weekly commitment of a couple of hours of reading and a couple of hours of meeting, the benefits are huge. Besides, maybe your course will lead to a sense of expanded community for you, too. 

——————-

See the original post and other great musings on food and community at http://nourishingwords.net/2012/05/24/hungry-for-change/

I can’t think of a better time to pursue a life that’s simpler, richer and more fulfilling than right now.

Year-round NWEI helps you to experience the “Aha!” moments that change the way you live, work, create and consume. NWEI’s work to spark the conversations that create change, through our discussion courses and the EcoChallenge, wouldn’t be possible without your support.

As we reflect on the past year, and a year of inspiring stories of positive action relayed by our participants, we also give thanks for the donors who support our work. As a nonprofit, we rely on the support of the people for whom our work resonates. Perhaps you were inspired by a discussion course—recently or years ago– to take action to simplify your life. Maybe participating in the EcoChallenge launched a lasting new behavior to save water or energy, or choose more sustainable food options. Or, you might be one of the thousands of people each year who take part in a discussion course and find the inspiration to make changes at home or in your community to reduce your impact. Whatever your “NWEI story”, you are a valued member of our community. And, your support as a donor will go directly toward our efforts to create a simpler, richer, more sustainable future for us and generations to come.

Make your gift today knowing that your donation will be invested wisely. NWEI is a nonprofit with a strong volunteer base and small staff, and we work year-round to ensure that we’re having the greatest impact possible.

Every dollar truly does count. Thank you for your generosity today. On behalf of NWEI’s entire staff and Board of Directors, we wish you happy, healthy, joyful holidays.

With the holiday season upon us, I wanted to remind you that NWEI course books and memberships make wonderful gifts. Share the gift of simplicity with your loved ones, and wrap up a copy of NWEI’s newly revised Voluntary Simplicity book. Or, provide your friends and family with the information and inspiration to pursue sustainable food choices with a copy of our newest book, Hungry for Change.

To share NWEI’s mission and message with your dear ones year-round, an NWEI gift membership makes a perfect present. For $30 you can purchase a gift membership for a friend or family member, or for $45 purchase a gift membership package, which comes with the NWEI book of your choice (shipping is on us!).

Simplify your shopping and support NWEI in the process by ordering NWEI books and memberships for everyone on your list who’s interested in creating a life that’s simpler, richer and better!

To order gift membership packages (memberships+ a book) please call us at 503-227-2807 and reference the holiday gift membership package. Gift memberships and books can always be ordered separately on our website too: for gift memberships click here, and to order course books click here.

 Happy Holidays!

Hungry for Change has arrived! Get your copy today!

Sometimes it can be overwhelming to consider how we can do the most good and the least harm when it comes to what we eat. Until we got our own chickens, it took me at least five minutes to pick out which eggs to buy every time I went to the market. I’d try to figure out how to prioritize the qualities of affordable, organic, humane, local and healthy, and wonder what all the labels really meant.

You see, I think about the ethics of food quite a bit. If recycling was my entry point into taking responsibility for Earth, choosing to eat food that is better for the planet was my second step. I remember learning in my freshman year of college about the resources required to produce a serving of meat as opposed to a serving of grain (for example, it takes about 16 pounds of grain to produce one pound of meat). From that moment on, I started eating less and less meat. Eventually, I became a (mostly) vegetarian for seven years, until I started eating meat again this February because of health reasons. My “going vegan” EcoChallenge the last two weeks has reminded me of the challenges and rewards of limiting my diet in order to live better for the whole planet.

While developing our new course Hungry for Change: Food, Ethics and Sustainability this summer, I was struck anew with how impactful our food choices are. I tend to think I know a lot about the impacts of our food choices because of my history of being a vegetarian, my background in sustainability education, and my residence in the foodie haven that is Portland, Oregon. But through Hungry for Change, I’ve been reminded of the complicated larger systems our food is entangled in. And I’ve been amazed at the new information daily made available, the challenging dilemmas that abound for conscientious eaters, and the myriad innovations that exist for positively changing our food system.

Each person comes to the intersection of food and sustainability for different reasons. For me, it was the environmental implications of what was on my plate. Maybe trying to live healthier brought you there. Maybe you’re concerned about your children’s future. Maybe you want to live with more independence and self-sufficiency. Maybe you just think organic and local food tastes better. Whatever the reason for your interest in food, Hungry for Change has something for you. Participating in a Hungry for Change discussion course will help you learn more about where your food comes from and the far-reaching impacts it has. The action plans and group project will help you invest that new learning in making change for good. And the opportunity to talk with others about food can lead to shared recipes, the planting of community gardens, or life-long friendship!

Consider organizing a Hungry for Change course in preparation for the upcoming food-filled holidays, and connect around food in a different way than you ever have before.

Our Fall EarthMatters newsletter is here, a little in advance of the change of seasons. In addition to the latest NWEI program news, inside you’ll find articles from:

  • Scott Dodd, who writes for OnEarth Magazine
  • Duncan Berry, a values-based business man, who also writes beautiful poetry about his place, the Oregon coast, and
  • Barbara Duncan, a long-time NWEI volunteer and director of the Catamount Earth Institut

Inside, you’ll will also find all the latest details about the 2011 EcoChallenge. Join us from October 1-15, 2011 as we collectively prove that many people taking action adds up to real change!

Click here to download your electronic copy of the Fall EarthMatters newsletter.

Create positive change in your community and join the growing number of Certified Sustainable Building Advisors in the Country.

August 11, 2011 | Portland, OR

Free information session to register for the limited entry CSBA program, a national certificate program for building professionals approved by the American Institute of Architects.

Register Today>

Today’s post is a guest post by Gregory Zimmerman, a Biology professor at Lake Superior State University. 

According to us boomers, we invented everything. If we didn’t invent it, we popularized it. Following the natural progression of the generations, now the millennials think that they invented everything. Only, here’s the thing– some of what we (boomers and millennials alike) invented may not be real. There’s a long list of physical, mental and social maladies unverified by social or natural science. In the words of 30 Rock’s Liz Lemon, “is that really a thing?” Which brings me to today’s question: is sense of place “really a thing”?

Sense of place has been getting a lot of attention lately—from conservation types, artists, authors, architects, city planners, public health professionals and others. This has led me to wonder what elevated the construct of Place, and what societal influences are triggering the conversations about a “sense of place”.

Does a desire for a sense of place come from a resistance to the inexorable growth of suburban development and its homogenizing influence? Is sense of place in the news now because planners want to capitalize on it? Is sense of place on our minds now because we are able think of the land differently, as something to appreciate, not something to master?

It’s easier to appreciate woodlands if your livelihood doesn’t depend directly on the board feet of lumber they can produce. As we move farther away from land-based economies, the land is increasingly seen as resource for more than just extracting commodities. The history of organized place-based conservation movements shows us that the debates between appreciations of place versus economic exploitation are not new. Conservationists in the late 1800s and early 1900s were seen as outsiders who could afford their romantic notions but didn’t understand economic reality. The sagebrush rebellion echoed the same sentiments in the 1970s. In my region, a new mine and a wood technology plant are currently reinvigorating the age old debate of money now or greater, but less tangible, value later?

Perhaps a sense of place represents a desire to return to something we used to have, when more of us were tied closer to the land? After extensive conversations with my grandparents and grandparents-in-law, who were born in the late 1800s, from what I could tell, they had a sense of place but it was not today’s sense of place.

They were connected to the land and seasons. Much of that connection was grounded in making a living off the place in which they were born. Years ago I was traveling with one of the grandmothers in my family, through what to me was absolutely gorgeous country — a wide sweeping river valley in the northern Great Plains. When I commented on the sheer beauty of the landscape, grandma replied, ‘I wouldn’t give anything for it, the land doesn’t look like you could grow anything on it at all.’

My grandparents had a strong “sense of place”, but would not have used those words to describe it. I heard them speak thoughtfully of the land, its natural history and their history on that land. As far as I know, my grandparents didn’t read Wallace Stegner, but they knew their place in the world. They knew of its beauty, and of its challenges. They were attuned to natural cycles. Sense of place runs deep if you’re living in the place where your forbearers lived and were buried.

I don’t think what we mean today when we say “sense of place” is quite the same as the connection that my grandparents held to their place.  I don’t think those currently interested in discovering their sense of place are necessarily trying to recapture something we, as a culture, used to have and lost. But, yes, sense of place “really is a thing.” It seems to me, what we mean now by sense of place is an evolution of our natural desire to be connected, to each other and our environment–whether a natural or built environment.

Gregory Zimmerman is a Biology professor at Lake Superior State University in Sault Sainte Marie, Michigan.    He serves on the Binational Public Advisory Council for the St. Marys River Area of Concern, and other local boards related to environmental protection. This essay was adapted from a post on his blog, www.know-your-place.blogspot.com

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