It’s Summer! Let’s Go Out and Get Dirty!

Summer solstice, June 21st is the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere and the first day of summer. It is time to get out and enjoy the long, wonderful days. What have you planned for your summer vacation: a camping trip, boating, kayaking, surfing, visits to the beach? Summer is a great time to share outdoor experiences with kids.

Many of our Forces of Nature have said that their love of nature began with childhood experiences. For example, Ane Deister tells a sweet story about fishing with her dad, and Riki Ott shares the unusual way her father introduced her to Rachel Carson’s fight against DDT, a commonly used pesticide in the 1960s and ‘70s. For these women, time with their fathers helped to shape their future into careers in environmental engineering and marine biology, respectively.


Forces of Nature – Latest Interviews

The Resource Renewal Institute (RRI) staff has been busy with interviews this winter and spring. We have uploaded many new videos, and I’m certain that you will find at least one that will inspire you. This year we have interviewed additional land savers: Michael Wright, Bob Kiesling, Amy Meyer, Steve McCormick and Will Rogers; ocean and fish experts: Riki Ott, Edward Ueber and Zeke Grader; deep thinkers like Michael Murphy; educator and health policy expert, Tracey Woodruff; activists like Carol Moss, John Amodio and Michael Herz; a most amazing recycler, Joe Garbarino; a fundraiser, Catherine Fox; a digital archivist in Asia, Alan Potkin; an executive that thinks outside the box, Marty Krasney; and consulting environmental engineer, Ane Deister.


Forces of Nature in the News

Our Forces of Nature are very active and they are frequently being recognized for their contributions. Below, are a few updates. Throughout this blog, you will find clickable links in blue.  Clicks on names will take you to the video, clicks on words such as “activists” above will take you to the referenced playlist. Links are provided to articles, books and other relevant references. I hope you will enjoy learning more about our Forces. We welcome comments on this blog, as well as any of the videos, and we challenge you to interact.


Scavenging Toward Zero Waste

20140614__joegarbarino~1Some folks refer to Joe as a trailblazing recycler, but he modestly calls himself a “scavenger.” Joe Garbarino Jr. was recently honored by the Marin County Board of Supervisors for his commitment to recycling more than 75% of the county’s solid waste. Hats off to Joe!


The Art of Reciprocity

IMG_3315 copyFrom Kennebec Maine to San Francisco, educator Susie O’Keeffe has presented her multi-media performance of the “Art of Reciprocity: Rekindling the Exchange of Wild Affection.” Her presentation contemplates the beauty and awe of Southeast Alaska in poetry, prose, images and music, and is part of Susie’s effort to understand and help end our destructive relationships with the larger life community.


No More Oil Spills

4747186346_8544519212_zDr. Riki Ott is a marine biologist who frequently speaks about environmental and policy issues related to the Exxon Valdez oil spill that devastated the ocean waters of Prince William Sound in Alaska where she fished. In the twenty-five years since responding to that environmental disaster, Riki has been sought out as an expert on oil spills and spill disaster response and recovery. She has recently been informing the public about the National Contingency Plan that was adopted in the wake of the Exxon Valdez spill. The Plan is currently being updated in response to the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico.


The Art of Simplicity 7790649948_e4c213dd7b_z

Forces of Nature, Yvon Chouinard, founder of the outdoor clothing company, Patagonia, is frequently in the news. Chouinard has invented a new and simple fishing rod that illustrates an important concept: you don’t need a fancy fishing pole to catch fish – or to enjoy fishing. As Yvon says, “Simple Fly Fishing [his new book] is a metaphor for society. I want to show a simple life is not an impoverished life.” Here’s a link to another excellent interview with Chouinard.  Additionally, Yvon is also the subject of a new documentary, “180 South.” Watch the trailer.


Protecting Habitat IMG_2517

Marin Audubon President, Barbara Salzman has announced that the Marin Audubon Society has signed a contract to purchase a critical 5.2-acre former tidal marsh property along the Corte Madera bay front that it has eyed for 25 years. The group now has eight months to raise the $1.035 million to buy the land. The adjacent marshes support the rare and endangered California clapper rail and the purchase of this property would allow it to be returned to tidal action once again.


Wolves and Wolf Pups 7934350882_6dbe0aa8b3_z

Carter Niemeyer was featured in the Spokesman Review [Idaho] in an article titled, “Idaho Department of Fish and Game defends handling, collaring wolf pups.” Carter Niemeyer worked as a government trapper for wolves and wrote the book, Wolfer. In the Review article, Niemeyer questioned the potential for increased mortality to the pups from handling and collaring. He is currently a contractor for the Washington Department of Fish and Game.


The Public Trust Doctrine 3103727286_a412979d23_z

Although Joseph Sax passed away recently, his legacy of invoking the public trust doctrine and using it to protect public resources will continue to be newsworthy. The Cap Times [Madison, WI] reports that the public trust doctrine can point the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources in a new direction. The Cap Times quotes Sax: “When the state holds a resource that is available for the free use of the general public, a court will look with considerable skepticism upon any governmental conduct which is calculated either to reallocate that resource to more restricted uses or to subject public uses to the self-interest of private parties.”


Protecting Our Watersheds with Trees Unknown

TreePeople founder, Andy Lipkis, is tirelessly working to make a difference in Los Angeles and his focus always involves trees. Andy has made the critical connection between tree canopy and watershed retention which is reported by Sierra Wave Media. Lipkis has planted thousands of trees in the Los Angeles basin and tells people about the intrinsic value of trees to our environment. If you haven’t seen Andy’s video, won’t you take 12 minutes to watch it?


Seeds and Agriculture


The 1993 book written by Helena Norberg-Hodge with Peter Goering and John Page, From the Ground Up: Rethinking Industrial Agriculture is the topic of an in-depth article featured in The Nation. The book is a comprehensive critique of industrial agriculture. In 1986, Helena received the Right Livelihood Award, commonly known as the ‘Alternative Nobel Prize.’


The Grapes of Charity 3947287703_baf6dcaf88_o

Dr. Gray Brechin, historical geographer and director of the Living New Deal Project at UC Berkeley shared his expertise in a California State University Bakersfield History Forum presentation: “The Grapes of Charity: Excavating California’s Debt to Franklyn Roosevelt’s New Deal.” The Living New Deal Project at UC Berkeley is a national team effort to tally, map, and interpret the vast public works legacy of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s initiatives to extricate the United States from the Great Depression. Dr. Brechin explained how this relates to John Steinbeck’s book, The Grapes of Wrath.


Are you inspired by the Forces of Nature? Do any of our interviews inspire you to enjoy the outdoors with a child, a spouse, a friend? Perhaps you are inspired to plant a garden, or to contribute toward something you are passionate about. Now is a great time! Take advantage of these long days: why not go out and get dirty?

The Resource Renewal Institute is a 501(c) 3 organization. We welcome contributions in support of our Forces of Nature storytelling series.

Who Are The Forces of Nature?

As we embrace the 44th Earth Day, we examine our individual and cumulative human impact on the planet with the intent to find sustainable solutions to our impacts. We look to our elders for guidance in our journey.

It is worthwhile to review the wisdom of past environmental movements to review and understand possible strategies for creating a sustainable future. How is the late 20th century environmental movement different from today’s 21st century environmental movement? Today’s world is different, but our old strategies may still offer promise. We learn from our past. Any movement requires dynamic, charismatic leaders with great ideas, strategy, and perseverance. Such are the attributes of our Forces of Nature elders. You ask, who are the Forces of Nature elders?

Our Forces of Nature are, and were legislators: Cecil Andrus, Pete McCloskey, Mary Lou Reed, Jack Ward Thomas and Tom Hayden. These individuals, committed to the democratic process, have worked to create the Alaska Lands Act, the California Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, the Federal Endangered Species Act, the 1975 Land Use Planning Act in Idaho, and the protection of the Northern spotted owl in the old growth redwood forests of California.

Our Forces of Nature are, and were, public servants and stewards: Bern Shanks, Grand Teton National Park, and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife; Ray Murray, the National Park Service; Pete Dangermond, California State Parks; Kirk Marckwald, California Under Secretary of Natural Resources; Tom Stokely, a local planner. These individuals are notable for overseeing our land use planning, natural resources and parks that so many of us enjoy.

Our Forces of Nature are strong women who have made a difference: Patricia Schifferle; Reverend Canon Sally Bingham; Sylvia McLaughlin; Alice Tepper Marlin; Michaela Walsh; Nona Dennis; Jodie Evans; Vera Marcus; Gloria Flora and many more. These women did not wait for someone else to step up. Instead, they took the initiative to lead! Our Forces of Nature women are leaders in water policy, climate change, community activism, peace, human and women rights.

Our Forces of Nature are community activists. Marty Griffin, a Bay Area doctor who loved the landscape of West Marin and Sonoma so much that he quietly purchased a checkerboard of land in a proposed highway right of way in order to thwart the possibility of any highway crossing the Marin Headlands. Sylvia McLaughlin, a housewife, who watched San Francisco Bay being filled in for development. Sylvia created a group with two other women to stop the bay fill – and they succeeded! Robert Praetzel, an attorney who donated 1,000 hours of his time, blocked a massive development in the Marin Headlands and won the landmark case. This land later became part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. In the 1960s, Alf Heller, a newspaper publisher, watched unchecked growth occurring everywhere in the state of California. He cried out that the state needed to do comprehensive planning. He created a forum for people to get involved in state planning issues. When the state balked at creating a comprehensive plan, Alf and his team published, “The California Tomorrow Plan.” This was the beginning of the first state comprehensive development plan.

Our Forces of Nature are land savers and protectors of fish and wildlife resources. Foremost among this group is Huey Johnson, former California Secretary of Resources, and the founder of the Resource Renewal Institute. His work with the Nature Conservancy and the Trust for Public Land has inspired many. Huey interviews each individual Force of Nature, many of whom he has known throughout his land saving work. Phil Wallin, co-founder of the Western Rivers Conservancy; Henry Little, with The Nature Conservancy; Joan Maloof, founder of the Old Growth Forest Network; and Rod Sando, former Chief Executive of Natural Resources for Minnesota, also, former Director of the Idaho Fish and Game.

Our Forces of Nature are whistleblowers, and folks that expose the truth: Felix Smith and Lloyd Carter exposed the toxic conditions at Kesterson National Wildlife area in the 1980s, when they found deformed and dead birds resulting from toxic selenium levels. Ted Smith exposed the dirty secrets about the electronics industry in Silicon Valley. The computer industry was forced to clean up and the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition was born.

These are but a few of our influential environmentalists interviewed on The Forces of Nature. Today on Earth Day we ask, ”Where is the environmental movement going?” If we don’t understand our past, how can we make the most of our present efforts.

The power to change our world for the better is available to each of us. One of our Forces of Nature, Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia clothing said:

In my own philosophy I’ve always felt that evil is stronger than good, because if you don’t stand up to evil, it wins. If you do absolutely nothing, evil wins every time. To do good, you have to do good. You have to do something.”

This philosophy compelled Yvon to create 1% for the Planet — a corporate donation program that gives back to the planet in exchange for the use of its resources. What better example of how to live our lives with an eye on the future.


Remembering Joseph Sax, A Force of Nature

Joseph Lawrence Sax passed away on Sunday March 9, 2014. He was 78. We send our deepest condolences to his three daughters.

Sax was considered “the father of environmental law.” He was the first American attorney to focus his intellect and careful attention almost exclusively on this emerging area. Following Earth Day in 1970, he made the argument that some natural resources — the oceans, other bodies of water, shorelines, the air and portions of land — are so important that they should be treated in the courts as a “public trust,” and that citizens had the right to sue to protect them against government, business and private individuals who might threaten them.

Joseph Sax began teaching at the University of Michigan in 1965 and it was there that he wrote a textbook on water law. In the 1970s, he joined a campaign to stop the use of DDT, which persuaded 39 cities to stop using the pesticide. While teaching at the University of Michigan, Professor Sax began to develop and shape his ideas about environmental protection and a major accomplishment at that time was to promote a state environmental law, which was adopted by the Michigan legislature.

Professor Sax also taught law at University of Colorado and University of California, Berkeley. In addition to textbooks, he has written five books on natural resources law, including:

Mountains Without Handrails: Reflections on the National Parks; Legal Control of Water Resources: Cases and Materials; Playing Darts with a Rembrandt: Public and Private Rights in Cultural Treasures; Defending the Environment: A Strategy for Citizen Action; and Defending the Environment: A Handbook for Citizen Action.

During the Clinton Administration, he served as counsel to Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt and often worked on strategies for protecting endangered species habitat. Always a scholar and gentleman, never attacking personally, he could argue vigorously. He was an inspiration to legal and environmental communities and will be sorely missed.

RRI had the opportunity to speak with Professor Sax in October 2013. You will find two short videos of Huey Johnson’s interview with him at The first video is about the public trust and the second is about water law.

Links to the obituaries in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, the San Francisco Chronicle (SF Gate), and the website for U.C. Berkeley’s Boalt Hall.

Bay’s Pick – Week 9

Our middle school reviewer, Bay Johnson, shares his video pick of the week. This week he selects Felix Smith of Sacramento, California who was a federal employee-turned whistleblower. Hear Felix tell about what he learned during this process.

Below, you may watch Bay’s Pick and learn why he has selected Felix’s video, Perseverence.

Bay Johnson, Middle School reviewer

Click here to watch Bay’s Pick for this week.

Watch Felix Smith’s, Perseverence video here.

You can find all of Bay’s Pick’s in the pull down “Theme” menu on the Gallery Page or just click on the blue words in this post.

Bay’s Pick – Week 8

Our middle school reviewer, Bay Johnson, shares his video pick of the week. This week he selects author and publisher, Malcolm Margolin, the founder of Heyday Books.

Below, you may watch Bay’s Pick and learn why he has selected Malcolm Margolin’s video, Learning From Native Ways.

Bay Johnson, Middle School reviewer

Click here to watch Bay’s Pick for this week.

Watch Malcolm Margolin’s video Learning From Native Ways

You can find all of Bay’s Pick’s in the pull down “Theme” menu on the Gallery Page or just click on the blue words in this post.

Bay’s Pick Week 7

Our middle school reviewer, Bay Johnson, shares his video pick of the week. This week he selects Mary Lou Reed, one of the first women senators in Idaho.

Below, you may watch Bay’s Pick and learn why he has selected Mary Low Reed’s video, Choosing Our Future.

Bay Johnson, Middle School reviewer

Bay Johnson, Middle School reviewer


Click here to watch Bay’s Pick for this week.

Watch Mary Lou Reed’s, Choosing Our Future Video

You can find all of Bay’s Pick’s in the pull down “Theme” menu on the Gallery Page or just click on the blue words in this post.