Thursday, April 22, 2010

water on earth . . . day

Today - Earth Day - let's consider water. Water drying up, dirty water, and water coming in bottles.

Bottled water is weird. It's even unnatural! If you live in a nation where water - good for drinking - comes right out of the faucet then bottled water is a waste of money and materials. One thing that will make all our water worse is all the stuff we're putting into it. And making more bottled water (the irony) is polluting and wasting water by turning it into a commodity. Check out The Story of Stuff Project and this clarifying episode on The Story of Bottled Water.

In my travels through Peru and Bolivia, Egypt or Mexico . . . I've struggled with the bottled-water-issue because, well sometimes it's all there is to drink! By drinking it, I add to the production of plastic in our oceans AND take in whatever plastic-y toxin is leaching out of the bottle and into its contents. Yikes! Yet in these places - where the water coming from the tap isn't safe people need clean water. Not to mention many, many people don't have taps to turn on and drink from. In Bolivia I met some folks working with SODIS - an organization helping educate people about a way to get purified water by using the sun's UV rays to kill bacteria. PET-plastic bottles (or better yet) glass bottles filled with funky water, can be left in the sun for 6 hours allowing the sun's radiation to kill pathogens and make the water safe for drinking. This solution saves lives.

Finally, about water drying up - or being bought up, I recommend the documentary Flow: for the love of water. They offers some hearty sips for thought. The facts their website will link you to are shocking - 1.1 billion people on earth have no access to clean drinking water. No access. None. And this lack of water sanitation claims more lives through disease than any war claims through guns (

This Earth Day may those of us who can consider giving up the plastic bottle - or tradeing it for a glass one. And may we also consider a substance we're likely taking for granted - water.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

what's grand in utah

If ever you hanker for red rock canyon lands and the sense that you are an intrepid explorer head to Cedar Mesa and the Grand Gulch country of southern Utah. There you can throw on a backpack and hike into a spot like Collins Canyon where in a few hours you'll trek past Banister Ruin (above). It's well preserved thanks to the sheltered location and includes a roofed kiva!

These places housed the ancestors of today's People people. They dot the southwest and in Grand Gulch so many are tucked away in nooks and on south-facing sandstone ledges. They have lasted for centuries - time capsules that hold the history of a people.

They tell us that farmers lived here - managing to create enough surplus that they needed these clever storehouses for their corn crops. The canyons are well watered for an arid land - some have running streams and productive springs. The canyon walls that sheltered families were etched on too - here a collection of petroglyphs stand out, cut through the desert varnish (stained or oxidized rock layer) to reveal the lighter rock beneath.

On my second morning in a canyon labyrinth I bent to scoop water. The canyon walls were close here - they seemed to be on all sides, except for the blue strip above, and reflected in the running stream.

This places drew inhabitants for centuries, then they left and archaeologists and cowboys came. Writers, poets, and backpackers too. Edward Abbey roamed this land long enough to correctly (I believe) observe, “Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit” . . how right on he was - still is.

Monday, April 12, 2010

dogs and other nations

Dogs have been our companions for ages. They may be descended from wolves or several species from the Canidea family, but we know we became fond of them long, long ago. In the southwest we can find their bones in the archaeological record sometimes buried with a person or with careful attention to their grave. Maybe they were offerings, maybe hunting companions or traveling companions. In the cool of a rock shelter, maybe they were warm sleepers. It's true that there are cut marks on some disarticulated bones. Perhaps some were eaten.

How we feel about our own dogs today is fairly diverse too. Some have jobs, some have homes, some I saw in Bolivia ran in packs and foraged for their food. The dog I knew was the kind of person I think of when I read Henry Beston's view of animals.

"We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals. In a world older and more complete than ours they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth."
Henry Beston

I'm glad that as human beings we have for centuries founded friendships with these animal nations - to better enjoy the splendors and face the travails of life on earth.

Hanna pup
2000 - 2010

A dog's life must be a big adventure - and yours was . . . archaeological expeditions, escapes from peril, you were content with travel, dreaming rabbit-chase dreams. You kept us all company - you, a most loyal friend. Good dog. Good dog!