Sierra magazine: Bald eagles and lots more

Bald eagle photo courtesy of We for Animals

I wrote an eco-tour story for the Jan/Feb 2009 issue of Sierra magazine on the bald eagles of Brackendale, B.C. (Sierra, the national publication of the Sierra Club in the U.S., has more than a million readers.) Click here to read my article.

Brackendale has set the world record for the most bald eagles counted in a single day. However, in recent years, due to depleted salmon, thousands fewer bald eagles have come to the area.

“Very thorough and professional” — Sierra magazine

Sierra Magazine, San Francisco, CA 2008

I spent four months working in the editorial department of Sierra magazine where I wrote news stories, web copy, and reviews as part of a requirement for my master’s degree in creative nonfiction writing.

Sierra is the national publication of the Sierra Club and has more than one million readers.

Here’s what Sierra‘s then-copy editor Karina Kinik had to say:

“Heather . . .was very thorough and professional . . . and she wrote clean, catchy stories. She is well-qualified for any editorial position.”

 

From Sierra Club Bulletin, July/August 2008:

British Columbia: Nice Break
Our neighbors in British Columbia are cheering a victory that favors farms over fairways. Last year Patricia Aldworth, a member of the Sierra Club of Canada’s Malaspina Group, spearheaded protests against a massive development on protected farmland. The project in Powell River, a remote town about 80 miles northwest of Vancouver, included a golf course, gated community, airport, hotel, and convention center on 850 acres of cropland preserved by B.C. law. Aided by Club activists, environmental groups, and outraged residents, Aldworth’s efforts bore fruit when the provincial Agricultural Land Commission rejected the proposal. “People saw that we need our agricultural land,” says Aldworth, “and that more and more development is not sustainable.” In February, she was elected to Powell River’s city council. —Heather Conn

Maryland: In Focus
From a workshop on “wacky weather” to a hybrid car display, the Sierra Student Coalition (SSC) last winter brought home the impact of global warming to a group of Maryland high schoolers. The Sierra Club’s student arm invited scientists, Club volunteers, and a Democratic congressional candidate to Oxon Hill High School to discuss climate-change solutions with about 100 teens. The one-day event was part of Focus the Nation, an environmental education initiative held at 1,000 campuses and businesses nationwide; the SSC participated at more than 200 schools. “Focus the Nation has changed the way both students and administrators view environmental activism,” says student Dominique Hazzard, the SSC’s campus organizer at Oxon Hill. “The [school] administration definitely gives our group more respect now.” —Heather Conn

© 2008 Sierra Club. All Rights Reserved.

 

Local and global: A few recommended books

ENVIRONMENTAL BOOKS

Do you want to save the planet with small, daily steps? Try reading the books I reviewed for the HR Voice website:

http://hrvoice.org/story.aspx?&storyid=4248&issueid=825

RECOMMENDED BOOKS

Blessed Unrest by Paul Hawken

The Ecology of Commerce by Paul Hawken

Fight Global Warming Now by Bill McKibben

 

RECOMMENDED GREEN PUBLISHER

New Society Publishers, carbon-neutral and British Columbia-based

 

Roberts Creek Co-Housing: Canada’s first rural model

Roberts Creek on British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast is home to Canada’s first co-housing community. Based on a Danish model, this form of sustainable living offers detached homes in a wooded setting, a communal garden, kitchen/recreational space, and protected forest.

Find out more in my feature, with photos: Roberts Creek: Canada’s first rural co-housing community (Western Canadian Resorts magazine, December 2006)

Balanced Life magazine: Find the essence of bird-watching

This article appeared in the May 2005 issue of Balanced Life magazine:

BIRD-WATCHING: Find the essence
BY HEATHER CONN

If a stranger walked through your yard, peered at you through a window and made funny sounds to attract your attention, you’d likely call the police.

Yet birds endure such attention every day. They’re the focus of the fastest-growing hobby in North America: bird-watching or birding. In the U.S., 51.3 million people report that they watch birds, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service, and more adopt this pastime every day.

That’s a lot of people trampling through woods, parks, and shorelines. Yet few leave any trace of their presence because bird-watching demands a deep respect for nature. To discover the essence of birds, one must feel attuned to their surroundings and wait with patience and stillness, absorbing their sounds and movements like an honorary guest. We can all grab binoculars, flip through a field guide, and check off a name on a list. However, to capture the true art of birding, one must find that quiet place within and surrender to what comes: the beauty of wing beats, a sweet song or a brilliant flash of colour.

Bird-watching is like meditation with open eyes; it requires concentration and a release of expectations. Maybe no birds will appear. Maybe a flock. Maybe a pair. Whatever nature brings is a gift. Such quiet readiness can provide wondrous contentment and a sense of spiritual connectedness.

“When we enter the world of nature in a spirit of openness, splendid experiences come to us unsought,” says Joseph Cornell, one of the world’s top nature educators, in his guidebook Sharing Nature with Children (Dawn Publications, 1979). “Receptivity, combined with our efforts to expand these blessings, clears a channel that enables us to receive still deeper inspirations.”

Such an approach eliminates the need to make species identification your primary goal in bird-watching, or to even take a camera. (As one wise observer said: “To name something is to lose its essence.”) You can begin at home, in your own backyard, with the help of a bird-feeder or bird-bath.

Beyond your home, most rural areas abound with birds, as do forests and wilderness. Bird-watching is a great addition to any walk or hike (see sidebar). Parks make good venues for spotting birds, either on water, land or in the air.

Even cities can offer prime bird-watching habitat. In Vancouver, Stanley Park makes a perfect locale for offshore birds, while Lost Lagoon remains home to many ducks. Vancouver’s Pacific Spirit Park, Van Dusen Gardens, Jericho Beach marshes and Queen Elizabeth Park are all good viewing spots. (To find out other recommended areas, call the Vancouver Natural History Society’s Bird Alert at 604-737-3074.)

Bird sanctuaries or reserves make ideal viewing points; some have observation towers. Vancouver residents can enjoy the Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary in nearby Ladner or venture north of the city near Whistler to Brackendale, a 550-hectare eagle reserve that boasts the world record for bald eagles counted in one day: 3,766.

Bird-watching is a delightful activity to share with children. Afterwards, you can invite them to draw the birds they saw. Cornell’s book offers respectful ways to attract and observe birds, aimed at youngsters age four and up.

After a bird-watching session, you might be surprised how inspired and energized you feel. It’s exhilarating to spot a bird for the first time and share this with friends or family. The fresh air and rich smells of nature, whether it’s forest, marsh, or shoreline, will heighten your birding experience, adding sensory pleasure to your time outdoors.

Don’t be surprised if you also feel tired after you sit or stand without exertion. It takes effort to remain motionless and aware for long periods, training your eyes and ears to pick up sudden movement or sounds.

Enthusiasts who do seek bird identification can consult two excellent field guides: Sibley Guide to Birds, written and illustrated by David Allen Sibley (Knopf, 2000) and Field Guide to the Bird of North America, 4th edition (National Geographic, 2002).

For more information, check out the Internet. Two introductory sites, targeted to the U.S., are www.birdwatching.com and www.wildbird.com.

Whatever your venue, enjoy the journey of discovery into the world of birds. Remember: You don’t need a passport or permission — just bring silence and respect.

“Birding is a quest,” the www.birdwatching.com website reminds us. “You set out to see birds – but the prize you may come back with can only be described as happiness. Learning to bird is like getting a lifetime ticket to the theatre of nature.”

Feature on Frances Moore Lappe: “We need to regain control of our food supply”

Frances Moore Lappé

I interviewed the author of Diet for a Small Planet at the Women of Wisdom conference in Seattle, WA in 2003. She had recently published Hope’s Edge, co-written with her daughter Anna. Lappé’s dedication to ending world hunger and promoting sustainable agriculture and democracy world-wide is impressive. My article “Reclaiming control of our food supply” appeared in the November 2003 issue of Alive magazine.

Want to learn more about Lappé’s work? Check out the websites of the organizations she founded: Small Planet Institute, The Institute for Food and Development Policy/Food First and Center for Living Democracy.

OTHER RECOMMENDED BOOKS BY LAPPE

Getting A Grip: Clarity, Creativity and Courage in a World Gone Mad

You Have the Power: Choosing Courage in a Culture of Fear

Kermode features & merchandising help save habitat of rare west-coast white bear

photo copyright Heather Conn

Canada’s rare Kermode bear

After joining a small group of eco-tourists on British Columbia’s Princess Royal Island, I was lucky enough to see and photograph the white Kermode bear in remote wilderness.

Canada is the only nation in the world that’s home to this rare form of black bear, whose fur is white due to a genetic abnormality (it’s not an albino).

Inspired by this beautiful animal threatened by poaching and logging, I wrote about it in the Vancouver, BC magazine Shared Vision and the U.S. publication Bears (click here to read the article).

I also created postcards, bookmarks, greeting cards, and stationery to promote public awareness about the bear. I gave a portion of the proceeds of sales to the Valhalla Wilderness Society. This environmental group, based in the West Kootenay region of British Columbia, has worked many hard years to protect the vulnerable coastal habitat of the kermode from logging.

A portion of the kermode’s habitat, part of the region known as the Great Bear Rainforest, is now protected, thanks to the committed efforts of many environmentalists, which prompted a 2006 B.C. government decision. But a key watershed, vital to the bear’s survival, was not included in this conservation measure. For more information, check out the website Spirit Bear Youth Coalition.