Archive for June, 2010

New Protection for Northern California’s Coastal Waters

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

     Good news for all who care about healthy coastal marine ecosystems! 

     In an important step toward fulfilling California’s far-reaching Marine Life Protection Act, more than 85 square miles of waters along the state’s northern coast have been designated marine protected areas.  The Act, the first of its kind in the country, requires California to establish a system of marine protected areas all along its coastline.   Waters in the northern and southern ends of the state have already been set aside under the Act, and protected status will be in place for areas all along California’s 1,100 mile coastline in 2011.  The protections will not interfere with fishing along close to 90% of the state’s coast.

     The recent step protects such special north central California sites as Point Reyes Headlands, the Farallon Islands, and Bodega Head. 

     “The Marine Life Protection Act allows us to create a legacy of healthy, resilient oceans for our kids and grandkids,” says Karen Garrison of the Natural Resources Defense Council.  Scientists who have researched marine reserves in the Channel Islands and the Great Barrier Reef report that such reserves benefit fishermen as well as fish.  

     The new marine protected areas will be monitored by scientists as part of the most comprehensive study ever undertaken of California’s coastal ocean.–April Moore

Point Reyes Headland

Point Reyes Headland

Farallon Islands

Farallon Islands

We ARE the Small People

Friday, June 25th, 2010

     Like millions of others, I was mildly offended when BP’s Swedish Chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg insisted that he and his company care about “the small people.”  Americans bristled at the term.  It sounded demeaning, implying that we U.S. citizens are little and weak, not like ’the big people’ who run BP. 

     But as I thought about Svanberg’s gaffe, I realized that his term for us Americans is spot on.  We are ’the small people.’  Even though we number more than 300 million, and even though we have a federal agency tasked with making big oil companies conduct their operations safely, we are the ones bearing the pain of damage that grows daily as oil continues to gush into the Gulf, out of control.  We ‘small people’ are paying because the ‘big people’ at BP used their might to make sure the Mining and Minerals Service did not interfere with BP’s cheating on safety or with its failure to prepare for a possible accident. 

     BP’s CEO Tony Hayward promised that BP would ‘make things right.’  But the ‘small people’ of the Gulf coast know he can’t.  They know that the damage is too great, that their means of livelihood–fishing, shrimping, tourism–at least for the foresseable future.   The $20 billion President Obama wrung out of the company to compensate Gulf coast victims is tiny, compared to the suffering being endured by so many in the Gulf region.

     While BP is losing lots of money–in payments to victims, in trying to clean up the disaster it has caused, and in plummeting stock prices–the corporation’s giant size protects it from the kinds of costs we ’small people’ must pay for much smaller crimes.  Any one of us ‘small people’ who kills another person faces life in prison or even execution.  But ‘big people’ who run corporations like BP never face execution.  And prison sentences are almost as rare.  Despite the 11 human deaths BP caused when the Gulf rig exploded, it is unlikely that those deaths will cost BP anything more than money.

     Unfortunately, there is nothing unique about BP.  The tragic deaths of 29 Massey coal miners in West Virginia recently, and the irresponsible behavior of giant financial institutions that brought us to the brink of Depression, were caused by the greed of ‘big people,’ unchecked by the federal agencies charged with their oversight.

     Yes, Svanberg was right.  We are ‘the small people.’  And we’ll remain small and weak, suffering what we must at the hands of giant corporations, for the foreseeable future.  

     But I do believe we can change the current great imbalance of power.  We the people need to take our democracy back.  We desperately need campaign finance reform, so that we can minimize the influence of Big Corporate Money on Congress, on the White House, and on our regulatory agencies.–April Moore

 

  

The Best Piece Yet on the BP Oil Disaster

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

     In the article below, Frances Moore Lappe rejects blaming ourselves for the BP oil disaster.  Sure, we are all addicted to oil.  And the widespread human traits of greed, hubris, and denial did play a role in the catastrophe.  But such a focus, she points out, leads to hopelessness.

     Instead, says Lappe, we need to develop the GUTS to take our government back from the oil companies and other corporate giants who now have much greater control of it than do we, the people.  Lappe’s piece, published on Wednesday, June 16, 2010 by The Huffington Post, is worth reading!–April Moore

Frances Moore Lappé

We’ll be living for decades, or longer, with the consequences of the BP disaster. That much seems clear. So the question now is, how — how will we proceed after Deepwater Horizon? What lessons will we take in and use?

Randy Kennedy, in the New York Times’ Week in Review suggests one possibility. He likens BP’s reckless pursuit of oil to the obsession that brought down Captain Ahab in his pursuit of Moby-Dick. The lesson we still haven’t learned, Kennedy implies, is a moral one: the dangers lurking not only in oil hunters’ greed and in the hubris of believing we can control nature, but in our own self-indulgence as well.

Kennedy closes with the admonition from Columbia University’s Melville expert Andrew Delbanco — that the BP horror is in part of our own making because, “we want our comforts but we don’t want to know too much about…what makes them possible.” In the same issue, Thomas Friedman seconds the point in his it’s-our-fault column “This Time is Different.”

While greed, hubris and denial have contributed to the worst single environmental catastrophe in our history, to suggest they are “causes” gets us nowhere. A character diagnosis is the evasion, the real denial, we can’t afford.

For one, it leads to despair — since few of us can imagine the end of human greed, hubris, or our tendency to deny what’s uncomfortable.

Worse, the diagnosis diverts us from the first essential step in avoiding continuing global ecocide: that we accept what we now know about our nature and work with that. We know, for example, that concentrated power and lack of transparency bring out the very worst in us. Yet we’ve fallen for an economic and political doctrine with rules certain to speed both.

Nowhere is that concentration more evident than in the fossil fuel industries, where, in 2004, just five companies controlled two thirds of gasoline sales. Their economic might dwarfs that of most countries. Such concentrated economic power infuses and distorts political decision making in its interests.

So we’ve ended up creating the systemic danger FDR warned us against: “the growth of private power to the point where it becomes stronger than their [the people's] democratic state itself.” That “in its essence, is fascism,” he told Congress in 1938. Such concentrated power is at the root of what has greased not only massive public subsidies for Big Oil — pushing aside safer, renewable energies — but also BP’s ability to stack up egregious safety violations with impunity.

Corporate lobbyists for companies like BP have become so powerful, that in 2009, for every single legislator elected to look out for our common interests, two dozen, mostly corporate, lobbyists spent $3.5 billion working Congress for their private interests. That sum has doubled in less than a decade.

We humans can’t change our nature but we can change the rules that bring out the worst in our nature.

So rather than focusing on “greed or hubris” as a cause of this disaster, let’s tackle the systemic problem that lets these traits triumph: rules that encourage concentrated power – such as those tolerating monopoly power and corporate secrecy — and its sway over public choices.

Let our takeaway from the BP nightmare be that we as a people get serious about removing the power of private wealth in our nation’s governance: enacting, for example, the Fair Elections Now Acts, pending in both houses of Congress that would usher in voluntary public financing of congressional elections.

Only as we move to democratic accountability do we have a fighting chance to enact commonsense rules to keep power dispersed, mandate transparency, and align our need for energy resources and basic fairness with nature’s unbendable rules. This, not redesigning our nature, is the road to preventing another Deepwater Horizon.

If I’m right, maybe I need to become more nuanced in my objections to a focus on character; for there is part of our moral makeup that sure needs fortification: courage. To move toward democracy by and for the people, and against established interests, takes guts.

Yes, we’ve been told that the “meek shall inherit the earth,” but I’ve become convinced that if that turns out to be true, it will be a scorched earth. The only human beings who will be able to inherit a flourishing earth are the courageous. So let’s bulk up our civil courage and go for real democracy.
Copyright © 2010 HuffingtonPost.com, Inc.

Frances Moore Lappé is the author of Getting a Grip 2: Clarity, Creativity and Courage for the World We Really Want (March 2010) and 17 other books, beginning with the three-million copy Diet for a Small Planet.

The Solstice: A Time to Honor Mother Earth

Friday, June 18th, 2010

     This Monday, June 21, is the summer solstice, the longest day of the year.  For millennia, earth-centered cultures have observed the solstice with dances, music, and song.  

     This year, earth-loving groups and individuals around the world are marking the day with prayers and meditations for the healing of our wounded planet.  Such actions are especially needed now, with the Gulf of Mexico suffering daily damage at a rate none of us has ever seen before.

     I was asked by Holly Wilson, a writer from Ontario, to post here a poem, meditation, and prayer she has written, expressions of her yearning for the healing of our planet.  You may want to consider joining with her–and with millions of others–in expressing your loving support for our planet on the solstice.  Please see Holly’s writing below.–April Moore 

For weeks now I’ve been sickened and depressed over the devastating oil spill in the Gulf. It wasn’t until a friend reminded me that we need to focus on what we can do that I was able to move forward.

 I wrote the first draft of “Ocean Vast and Blue” on a cold and snowy night in December while sipping Chai white tea at one of my favourite cafés. I was about as far away from the sun and sea that a person can be and yet somehow that’s exactly where my pen took me. At the time, I could not have known just how much the ocean would need our prayers.

We are never powerless. Even when it seems as though the situation is hopeless and there’s nothing that we can physically do, we can always quiet our minds and seek inner guidance. I’m also a firm believer in the power of prayer. Revisiting and redrafting this poem and meditation has given me insight and peace. It is my hope that it does the very same for you. Please feel free to share your thoughts and prayers in the comments section below.

Poem

Ocean Vast and Blue

Ocean vast and blue
Turquoise and inviting
Jellyfish laden
Seaweed strewn
Waves and foam.
Sun dives into you
and re-emerges from your depths
I could never quite wrap
my head around you.
My ocean. The ocean.
Salty delicious sea
I miss you. I miss you so.

Meditation

Prayer for Healing, Prayer for the Ocean

Close your eyes and breathe deeply. Imagine yourself standing on the beach. It’s a perfect day. Breathe in peace and love. Let go of any pain or fear. Move forward in your bare feet. You can feel every step. Sometimes the earth is cold beneath your feet. Sometimes your tender skin bakes in the sun-warmed sand. But there’s fresh water to dip your strong and graceful legs in after you’ve walked and walked.

You feel happy and free because you know that all things are possible. There’s time to see and stop for stones now. Whatever catches your attention. There are notes written in the sand from those that have come before you. They say things like Hope, Peace, and Love. Little reminders of all that is good.

After a while, you sit down to rest and watch the wind whip through the tall grass. Long green blades, happy to be tossed in the breeze. The sun captures all their verdant beauty. You feel as though you could sit there for days. When you look up to the sky an eagle soars. Letting the wind carry it over and up, around and down. Tears sting your eyes and love fills your heart. The eagle is so free and glorious in its flight.

Your eyes shift to the sea. It’s brilliant. In full glitter. Dazzling light. Blues and greens. How long will you watch the waves? You never tire of that. And the sounds are mesmerizing—the surf, the sea birds, and your own breath, in and out. In the distance you hear a wind chime. A hopeful sad sound from afar. The air is crisp and sharp. The sea is full of life and death all at the same time. Beauty and fierceness. It’s a mirror of our souls. We are so small and yet so vast.

Prayer

Forgive us, dear ocean, for all that we have done to harm you. There is light in us and we send it out on this night to the ocean, the earth, and all the creatures that inhabit this planet. May this great force that is within us be strong enough to heal us. We are all one: the earth, the ocean, everything—every one.

Author Bio: Holly Wilson is a freelance writer/editor and stay-at-home mom. She lives north of Toronto with her husband Rick and four-year-old daughter Hope. To contact Holly, e-mail her at wilsonhollyamber@gmail.com.  Her work above originally appeared on June 8, 2010, at www.ecoerth.com/a-prayer-for-the-ocean/

Now’s the Time to Call Your Senators

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

     If you’re like me, you are hopping mad at BP for its greed, its cheating, and what appears to be its continued lying about the extent of the damage the company is causing. 

     This environmental disaster that grows bigger every day as oil continues to gush into the Gulf,  shows more clearly than any chart or graph or speech that we must end our dependence on polluting fossil fuels.  We must act now to embrace a cleaner environment, a multitude of clean energy jobs, and the dramatically reduced carbon emissions that would result from an economy powered by renewables like wind, solar, and biofuels. 

     The U.S. Senate will likely vote this summer on a climate change and energy bill, quite possibly in July.  If passed, the American Power Act, introduced by Senators Kerry and Lieberman, will complement the climate and energy bill passed last year by the U.S. House of Representatives.

     You can be sure that the oil industries, engorged with recent record profits, are investing heavily in making sure the American Power Act fails.  We can’t let that happen!  My hope is that the Senate will feel they have to pass the bill because their consituents are telling them loudly and clearly to transition to clean, renewable energy.  Now! 

     While I have to admit that the American Power Act is a far weaker bill than I wish it were, it is at least a start.  And we have to get started now in making the shift to clean energy.  At best, this legislation is a baby step.  But it’s all we’ve got at the moment.

     I have joined with a local Virginia climate action organization to call my two Senators every day for three weeks.  I leave a daily message on the constituent hot line, along with my name and zip code.  Congressional offices typically check the calls at the end of each day and note the number of calls received for and against any given legislation. 

     At first I had reservations about calling my Senators more than once with the same message;  I don’t want to be dismissed as a crank.  But then I was persuaded that Senators’ hearing from voters again and again, even from some of the same ones, helps create an impression that the public is demanding Congressional action to address climate change.  

     After all, if we are silent, who will be talking to our Senators?

     The calls are brief.  I complete my two daily calls in about five minutes.  You can find your two Senators’ office phone numbers by clicking on the U.S. Senate’s website:  http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm

     When you call your Senator’s office, you will likely get a recording that includes the option to leave an opinion.  Then you might say something like this:

     “I am __________________.  My zip code is _________.  Please support strong climate and energy legislation and work with your fellow Senators this summer to pass the American Power Act.  The ongoing BP Gulf oil disaster clearly shows that we cannot wait any longer to make the shift to a future of clean energy and clean jobs.”

     And if you don’ have time for daily calls, how about twice a week for a few weeks?

     One of the best antidotes to anger and despair is constructive action.  If you are angry about the BP oil disaster, then these calls are a way for you to translate your anger into effective action.–April Moore 

The Whip-poor-will

Friday, June 11th, 2010

     For most of my life, the whip-poor-will was just a name to me.  I knew nothing at all about the bird, what it looked like, where it lived, or why it had the strange name ‘whip-poor-will.’  But then we moved to Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley in the 1990s.  And I got acquainted with the whip-poor-will.  I was amazed.

     On summer nights, with the windows open wide, we would hear the whip-poor-will, deep in the forest.  And then I knew how the bird got its name.  It could be ’understood’ as calling “whip poor Will” (not a very friendly message) with a strong accent on the “Will.”  And I use the word ‘call’ rather than ’sing,’ to describe the bird’s sound.  It is not a melodious warble, but more of an insistent cry.

     And I do mean insistent!  The bird cries, “Whip poor Will, Whip poor Will, Whip poor Will,” and on and on and on, without a moment’s pause between any syllable.  I remember one night when my son and I, incredulous that the bird could go on so long without stopping, decided to count the number of “Whip poor Will” cries without a break.  We counted more than 40!   I have since read of someone who spent a nine-hour night counting the calls of a single male whip-poor-will.  The total?  20,898!  The whip-poor-will can actually be an annoyance to someone trying to sleep on a summer night. 

     Now that it is ‘whip-poor-will season,’ I like to step out onto the deck every night to listen for the bird’s call.  It almost always comes from the same spot, down the hill in the forest.  Knowing that whip-poor-will populations are in decline, I find it comforting to hear a few bars of the insistent call before I go to bed.

       The whip-poor-will is a reclusive bird, a nocturnal forest dweller.  Consequently, it is seldom spotted.  In fact, only once have I seen a whip-poor-will.  One summer night in the 1990s, I stepped out onto the deck and noticed a large, dark shape, motionless atop the deck railing.  It was a whip-poor-will, looking so settled on our deck railing, it could have been sitting on a nest of eggs.

     I have been curious about these nocturnal neighbors of ours, so I decided to do a little research.  Here is what I learned: 

     The whip-poor-will measures about 10 inches from beak to tail.  Its coloring, a dried leaf-looking brown, mottled with black and a little white, is perfect camouflage for the birds’ forest environment.  Active at night, the whip-poor-will feeds exclusively on moths and other night insects it catches on the wing. 

     The whip-poor-will has no nest;  it lays its eggs, usually two, on the ground, and hides them under dried leaves.   Whip-poor-wills sleep during the day, usually on the forest ground.  But they may sometimes be found, by day, resting on a tree branch, parallel to it.

     The whip-poor-will is a migrating bird, but little is known about its migration habits.  During the summer breeding season, the birds have a broad North American range, from southern Canada south as far as Georgia and northern Louisiana, from Kansas to the east coast.  They also breed in Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas.  The birds winter in Florida and farther south.

          If you’ve never heard a whip-poor-will, I encourage you to click on the link below.  I think you’ll enjoy it! 

http://www.nenature.com/WhipPoorWill.htm  

     And here is a photo of the seldom-seen bird.–April Moore

photo by Lloyd Spitalnik

photo by Lloyd Spitalnik

 

   

    

A Prayer on World Oceans Day

Tuesday, June 8th, 2010

     Like many, many people, I am feeling anger and anguish about the BP Gulf oil disaster.  The specter of pelicans, terns, ibises, sea turtles, and other magnificent creatures covered with oil and dying is just sickening.  And then there is the destruction of marshes and wetland habitats, of fish, and the suffering of the people who depend on a healthy Gulf of Mexico for their livelihoods.  As the oil continues to spew and to spread farther from the source, who knows how much of our world ocean will be affected?

     The Deepwater Horizon disaster casts a pall on today’s international ’holiday,’ World Oceans Day.  This annual day to celebrate the ocean ecosystem and its beauty and diverse life forms was designated just last year by the United Nations, to be observed every June 8.  This year, the Gulf oil disaster is focusing the attention of celebration organizers–and of the world–on the fragility of our marine environment  and on the need to protect it. 

     Even before the oil catastrophe, scientists have been warning that pollution, overfishing, and global warming are depleting marine health over much of the world.  And dead zones, huge, oxygen-depleted patches of coastal waters where hardly any organism can survive are increasing, off the Gulf coast and off many other coasts as well, according to Bill Mott, director of The Ocean Project.

     Today, on World Oceans Day, I would like to share a couple of things with you.  One is a short You Tube video that includes photos of many amazing ocean creatures.  Just click  Ocean Beauty .  And I have posted below a Sioux prayer for healing in the face of the Gulf oil disaster.  I thank my friend Judy for sending it to me.–April Moore 

SIOUX PRAYER REQUEST 

A letter from Chief Arvol Looking Horse
(Present Chief and Keeper of the Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe of the
 Lakota, Dakota, Nakota Nation of the Sioux)

 Gulf Coast Oil Spill – Sioux Prayer Request
 
****** A Great Urgency ******
 
To All Nations
 
My Relatives,
 Time has come to speak to the hearts of our Nations and their
 Leaders. I ask you this from the bottom of my heart, to come together
 from the Spirit of your Nations in prayer.
 
We, from the heart of Turtle Island, have a great message for the
 World; we are guided to speak from all the White Animals showing
 their sacred color, which have been signs for us to pray for the
 sacred life of all things. As I am sending this message to you, many
 Animal Nations are being threatened, those that swim, those that
 crawl, those that fly, and the plant Nations, eventually all will be
 affected by the oil disaster in the Gulf.
 
The dangers we are faced with at this time are not of spirit. The
 catastrophe that has happened with the oil spill which looks like the
 bleeding of Grandmother Earth, is made by human mistakes, mistakes
 that we cannot afford to continue to make.
 
I asked, as Spiritual Leaders, that we join together, united in
 prayer with the whole of our Global Communities. My concern is these
 serious issues will continue to worsen, as a domino effect that our
 Ancestors have warned us of in their Prophecies.
 
I know in my heart there are millions of people that feel our united
 prayers for the sake of our Grandmother Earth are long overdue. I
 believe we as Spiritual people must gather ourselves and focus our
 thoughts and prayers to allow the healing of the many wounds that
 have been inflicted on the Earth. As we honor the Cycle of Life, let
 us call for Prayer circles globally to assist in healing Grandmother
 Earth (our Unc’I Maka).
 
We ask for prayers that the oil spill, this bleeding, will stop. That
 the winds stay calm to assist in the work. Pray for the people to be
 guided in repairing this mistake, and that we may also seek to live
 in harmony, as we make the choice to change the destructive path we
 are on.

 As we pray, we will fully understand that we are all connected. And
that what we create can have lasting effects on all life.
 
So let us unite spiritually, All Nations, All Faiths, One Prayer.
 Along with this immediate effort, I also ask to please remember June
21st, World Peace and Prayer Day/Honoring Sacred Sites day. Whether
 it is a natural site, a temple, a church, a synagogue or just your 
own sacred space, let us make a prayer for all life, for good
 decision making by our Nations, for our children’s future and
well-being, and the generations to come.
 
Onipikte (that we shall live),
 Chief Arvol Looking Horse
9th generation Keeper of the Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe 

 


 

The Incredible Lives of Mosses

Friday, June 4th, 2010

     I thank my friend Kathy for giving me the beautiful book Gathering Moss, a series of informative, loving, and well-written essays about mosses.  The author, Robin Wall Kimmerer, is a bryologist (one who studies mosses–what a cool word! ).   

     Kimmerer’s writings about mosses have made me a great admirer of mosses and their complex, adaptive lives.  So I was in heaven a few days ago when my husband and I had the opportunity to walk in the Olympic National Park on Washington state’s Olympic Peninsula.  What a great place to be a moss!  Wet, green mosses of many types coated the trunks of trees, hung in draperies from the branches, and made furry mounds of rocks and stumps.  All was wet in that rainy environment.

     Below is a passage from Kimmerer’s book about the great ability of mosses to make use of the moisture in their environment:

     “The atmosphere is possessive of its water.  While the clouds are generous with their rain, the sky always calls it back again with the inexorable pull of evaporation.  The moss isn’t helpless;  it exerts its own pull to counter the powerful draw of the sun.  Like a jealous lover, the moss has ways to heighten the attachments of water to itself and invites it to linger, just a little longer.  Every element of a moss is designed for its affinity to water.  From the shape of the moss clump to the spacing of leaves along a branch [yes, mosses have leaves and branches!], down to the microscopic surface of the smallest leaf;  all have been shaped by the evolutionary imperataive to hold water.  Moss plants almost never occur singly, but in colonies packed as dense as an August cornfield.  The nearness of others with shoots and leaves intertwined creates a porous network of leaf and space which holds water like a sponge.  The more tightly packed the shoots, the greater the water-holding capacity.  A dense turf of a drought-tolerant moss may exceed 300 stems per square inch.  Separated from the rest of a clump, an individual moss shoot dries immediately.”

     Here is another quote, from Kimmerer’s book, about mosses and moisture:

     “Watch a drop of rainwater fall on a broad, flat oak leaf.  It beads up for a minute, reflecting the sky like a crystal ball, and then slides off to the ground.  Most tree leaves are designed to shed water, leaving the task of absorption to the roots.  Tree leaves are covered with a thin layer of wax, a barrier to water entering by absorption or leaving via evaporation.  But moss leaves have no barrier at all, and are only one cell thick.  Every cell of every leaf is in intimate contact with the atmosphere, so that a raindrop soaks immediately into the cell.”

     Below is a photo I took of mosses in the forest near my house.–April Moore 

Mosses with sporophytes

Mosses with sporophytes

     Robin Wall Kimmerer’s Gathering Moss is published by the Oregon State University Press, http://oregonstate.edu/dept/press

Mount St. Helens–Nature’s Success Story

Tuesday, June 1st, 2010

     It is 30 years ago this month that Mount St. Helens ‘blew.’ 

     Without warning on a Sunday morning in May, the mountain in southwestern Washington erupted.  The blast killed 57 people, 7,000 elk and deer, and it ‘shortened’ the mountain from a 9,665-foot peak to a crater just 8,300 feet high.  The eruption of this volcano, which had been considered dormant until that day, triggered the largest landslide in recorded history.  As a result, 230 square miles of forest were laid waste, and 14 miles of river valley were clogged with mud.  The churning pillar of ash and rock that Mount St. Helens spewed upward and eastward turned day into night in Yakima and Spokane, and spread particles of volcanic ash as far east as New England.

     But this is a success story, not a tale of utter destruction. 

     Miraculously, 30 years after Mount St. Helens erupted, the mountain is coming back!  While scientists predicted that the barren, ‘lunar’ landscape that the pristine mountain ecosystem had become on May 18, 1980, could never recover, life is returning to Mount St. Helens!  Humans left the mountain relatively undisturbed after the eruption, and now scientists are viewing Mount St. Helens is a testament to the resilience of nature.  It has become apparent that many, many plants and animals can make a dramatic comeback, even after a catastrophic disturbance.

     Today, visitors to Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument can see many signs of regeneration:  alpine wildflowers and herbs, patches of scrubby willow and alder trees, chipmunks and grazing elk.  From microbes to mammals, from fungi to flowers, millions of plants and animals of thousands of species are now flourishing on Mount St. Helens.  And while the mountain today is a far less diverse ecosystem that it was before the eruption, so much life has returned that scientists now expect that in 30 more years a forest will begin to grow in what is still wasteland below the crater.   

     Mount St. Helens has provided scientists with an unprecedented opportunity to observe what happens to a landscape that is virtually wiped clean biologically.  Researchers report that they have learned a great deal about how plants and animals respond to volcanic blasts.   For example, when mountain lupine began to grow in profusion on the incinerated plain below the crater, scientists were surprised because the large seeds of the purple wildflower had not been thought to travel great distances on the wind.  Yet they did.   There have been many similar surprises.    “We have learned to expect the unexpected,” says Jeanne Bennett, executive director of the nonprofit Mount St. Helens Institute.

     The national monument that Mount St. Helens has become attracts more than 200,000 visitors every year.  I can imagine that it would be a thrill to visit the place every few years and observe new life each time–more plant and animal species returning to a mountain once deemed forever dead!–April Moore

Mount St. Helens--2010

Mount St. Helens--2010

Mount St. Helens explosion, May 18, 1980

Mount St. Helens explosion, May 18, 1980

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