earthweal weekly challenge: WHAT HAPPENS TO ONE, HAPPENS TO US ALL


by Sherry Marr

I was fascinated when I first learned about the re-introduction of wolves into Yellowstone National Park, after an absence of seventy years, and how this impacted, in what is called a trophic cascade, everything in the ecosystem, ultimately actually changing the course of the river.

Nature is amazing!

A trophic cascade is a series of consequences, starting at the top of the food chain, that affects all the species lower down.

Yellowstone Park was created in 1872. Poachers, hunters, tourists and park rangers were free to kill wolves, who were considered a nuisance and given no protection at all. By 1926, wolves had vanished from Yellowstone.

The park began to suffer from the absence of wolves. There was an increase in grazing populations, and human efforts to cull the herds weren’t successful. Areas along riverbanks were denuded, soil erosion occurred, and small species withdrew.

Scientists argued for the re-introduction of wolves into the park, but park rangers were opposed. In 1967, wolves were classified as endangered. But it wasn’t until 1973 that U.S. Fish and Wildlife were required to do something about it. Years of studies were begun, working towards a restoration program.

Paul Nicklen, National Geographic photo


Finally, in 1995, fourteen wolves were captured in Alberta, Canada, and introduced into Yellowstone.  The results were astonishing. Grazing herds moved away from the riverbank to less open locations. With less grazing, forest regeneration stabilized the slopes; there was less soil erosion. Pools started forming; rivers became narrower. The wolves had impacted the physical geography of the entire park.

This all blows my mind. They say the increase in songbirds, beaver, and small animals like gophers and ground squirrels, which fed eagles and hawks, was amazing. Landscape that had been grazed bare became lush and green once more. Willows grew and spread. The area healed and grew into a paradise.

Best news of all, to me, is that wolves were removed from the endangered species list in 2009, as their numbers had become sustainable.

This is all marvelous to contemplate, and makes me ponder how every species has its important role to play in the working of whole ecosystems. The participation of each impacts the health of the whole. Or, as my Nuu chah nulth neighbours teach: Everything Is One. What happens to one, happens to us all.

Here is a little-known fact: salmon change forests too! One doesn’t think of salmon as having a connection to the forest. But eagle, bears and wolves all eat salmon. Fish carcasses and the droppings of the animals that eat salmon are compost, adding necessary nitrogen to the trees and the forest floor. They keep forests thriving. Here on the West Coast, our salmon stocks are dying out, because of climate change, warming seas, over-fishing, and, especially, pollution and disease from the open-pen fish farms in the area.  First Nations have been advising of this danger for decades, yet governments are slow to act in legislating fish farms into contained land-based locations. I fear our salmon will go the way of the cod stocks of the eastern seaboard before long.

The Nuu chah nulth people have lived off salmon for ten thousand years. It only took greedy settlers a couple of hundred years to plunder everything into near-extinction. I can’t imagine, as outraged as I am by environmental degradation, what it must be like for the original people of this land  – its caretakers and guardians – to watch everything being destroyed: salmon dying out, forests being clearcut, everything being paved over in an accelerating rush to grab it all before it all is gone. I am astounded by how patient the First People are, and how willing, still, to talk to us and try to help us learn.

It saddens me to reflect on the outrageously heavy and disproportionate impact our human species has, the harsh toll it is taking on the non-human realm – who have as important and necessary a role to play as we do in an interdependent ecosystem, and as much right to life.

“Mother Nature provides for our need,” a local Chief often repeats, “but not our greed.”

Let’s think about this for our challenge: Share any example you wish of a human or non-human being, and the impact it has on its surrounding ecosystem. Share your wonder, your despair, your hope, your respect: whatever this challenge brings up for you. I look forward to being amazed.

earthweal open link weekend #46


Happy Friday earthwealers,

Welcome to our open link weekend #46. Share a poem and visit your fellow linkers and comment.

Sherry takes over the reins for the next weekly challenge with a prompt that will make you both think and feel. I’m looking forward to it!

Open link lasts until midnight Sunday EST, when Sherry’s challenge rolls out.




earthweal weekly challenge: GIVING THANKS


For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, winter approaches with dimmer days and longer nights. It’s not cold here in Florida, but there a wan tone feels durable, tending toward grey, long shadows, a weariness and pall which carol the year’s decline.

Further North, a vaster chill gathers and deepens.

For our neighbors south of the equator, there is an equidistant suggestion of spring; a flush to morning skies and widening buds.

Inbreath and outbreath; one half trudges toward winter while the other breathes a springtide sigh of relief.

There are inversions. As the I Ching says, to and fro goes The Way. While light recedes to a nadir in winter, it is yet a creative time in the inward spaces, perhaps the most fertile of all. Certainly there is flush of good cheer to the coldest winter night. And on the other side of Earth where springtide courses run, it is a time to be out, planting gardens and ramping up new projects.

Of late, pollutants have marred the clarity of these movements. The Anthropocene brews monster hurricanes at the Equator and far East, sets fire to wetlands and foments vast uncertainty in the fast-heating poles. However we may have acclimated to our local weather, changing notes are part of the mix.

Along with the weltering weather, the human community hunkers down to battle other extremes—pandemic, political instability, disrupting norms of truthful discourse and community. The 21st century so far is behaving far more uncivilized than the last!

So: A tempered seasonal, imbued both with traditional cheer and a rattling chill of change in the eaves.

In my country, this week we celebrate Thanksgiving, a celebration of family and community much eroded by capitalism and pandemic. My wife and I will celebrate at home, perhaps to Zoom with distant family; but without aren’t in the mix any more, and no kids (just cats), we’re uncertain about the entire holiday season. A tree with lights? Wreath for the door? Any more? Who knows.

But still we can give thanks. Like Rilke writes in his Sonnets to Orpheus, “praising is what matters!”

Come these Florida Novembrals, breezy with strolling fronts of light and cloud, wisps of rain, sighs in the trees, time is afoot, the sky hiking great lengths across the Earth. It’s not cool or warm, just alternations of wan; days pass quickly into long nights. In my drinking days it was an end of the world time, weeks of blackout drinking and the world about dazed and thirsty for happy hour: now it is inner and nourishing, fleeting fast toward the Christmas holiday. Advent season still approaches and yet feels already over. As David Spangler wrote in Festivals of Manifestation, this is the innermost season of the Christ, giving birth to a great sense of Being within: In these latter days of November, the coming month of December feel almost inaugural.

Let us praise the season we enter, this time in which we still exist, and give thanks for the bounty we are yet surrounded by, the nurture of what’s given.


earthweal weekly challenge: KEEP IT GREEN


I’ve been deep in a forest of late, departed from the mad tumult of bloodsport politics, soaring pandemics and climate derangement. I’m staying green, hopping tree to tree of an ancient singing tradition, wintering, as it were, while the sun beats down and the winds yet blow.

I’m still there: So I’m not sure what I have in my creel to salmon for a challenge.

We had a minor scrape earlier in the week with the remnants of the year’s 29th named storm, the Greek maiden Etta who had ravaged Nicarauga, flooded Miami and then rattled our morning here with 50 mph gusts. No big deal. The year’s 30th storm Iota take aim again on Nicaragua, swollen and swirling thanks to infernally hot southern Carribbean waters; this, while to the south the Pantanal wetlands burn out of control … With all the storms and heat of late, it’s hard to feel here in Florida there are only two seasons: summer and zombie summer.

For counter-compass I’m staying green, writing in the manner of this unknown poet of distant monastic age:

A wall of forest looms above and sweetly the blackbird sings;
the birds make melody over me and my books and things.

There sings to me the cuckoo from bush-citadels in grey hood
God’s doom! May the Lord protect me writing well, under the great wood.

Anyway, what in the living world delights you today? Sing a song of earth-praise. Let’s KEEP IT GREEN.

— Brendan