In Remembrance of Michael Frome: 1920-2016


Born in the Bronx in 1920, Michael Frome was an important author and teacher. He was an inspiration to a generation of conservationists and environmentalists. Throughout his life Michael was an outspoken advocate and defender of wilderness and public lands. After serving our country in the U.S. Air Force, he continued to serve as an untiring environmental voice for the remainder of his 96 years. His voice will be missed.

Professor Frome was an author of more than 20 books, a columnist for numerous magazines and newsletters, and a teacher of journalism. He taught at the University of Idaho and at University of Vermont. He also taught environmental journalism and writing at Northland College (Wisconsin) and Western Washington University. In 1995 he retired from the faculty of Western Washington University. Professor Frome received the prestigious honor from the University of Idaho that established the Michael Frome scholarship for excellence in conservation writing.

Michael also received many awards: among them, the Wilderness Writing Award from the Wild Foundation; the Thomas Wolfe Memorial Award (behalf of the National Parks); and the 1980 award from the American Society of Journalists and Authors.

Here are links to other obituaries and articles about Michael:

Here is the link to our Forces of Nature video of Michael :

In Memory of Sylvia McLaughlin Co-founder of Save the Bay



Sylvia McLaughlin passed away January 19, 2016, less than a month after her 99th birthday. She and her husband, the late Donald McLaughlin, moved to the Berkeley hills in the 1950s. Sylvia was appalled to see that San Francisco Bay was being filled with garbage to increase land for cities around the Bay. Unhappy about the future of the Bay, she became a passionate environmental activist for San Francisco Bay — a cause that consumed her for decades. Generations of citizens and environmentalists whose lives she has impacted over the past 60 years now must say farewell to one of the great environmentalists of the 20th century.

1024x1024Sylvia lived to see her much of her efforts come to fruition. With the help of two other women (Ester Gulik and Catherine (Kay) Kerr) they compelled Berkeley and other Bay Area cities around San Francisco Bay to stop the massive filling of San Francisco Bay occurring in the 1950s and 1960s. They did this through affecting legislation through their nonprofit organization, Save the Bay, which was wholly supported by small donations of $1, and later $2. They amassed the support of tens of thousands of Bay Area residents who shared their vision.


She, along with Gulik, Kerr, and Save the Bay, were influential in helping to create the Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC), a regional organization that finally regulated fill along the bay margins. This law is still in effect and has been a model for other regions with major bays and waterways. But this major victory was never enough for Sylvia. At age of 90 she protested the cutting of trees on the University of California Campus and climbed right up into one of the big trees to make her point! 628x471

imagesAlthough she was known as being tough and effective, she was always polite and courteous. Sylvia had a strong belief that the Bay Area needed shoreline parks so that people could truly experience and enjoy San Francisco Bay, and she continued to fight for shoreline parks from Vallejo to San Jose. In 2012, she was honored with the creation of the McLaughlin Eastshore State Park in Richmond, California. It was a wonderful tribute for one of the beautiful areas that she helped to save.

Sylvia always gave back. She served on the board of directors for the Resource Renewal Institute, as well as numerous other environmental organizations. Click here for Sylvia’s Forces of Nature interview.

Sylvia McLaughlin is survived by her two children and one stepson; four grandchildren and six step-grandchildren. Her husband passed away in 1985. Ester Gulik and Kay Kerr are both deceased. The Resource Renewal staff extends their deepest condolences to Sylvia’s family and friends.

A public memorial service will be held for Sylvia on Tuesday, February 2 at 4 p.m. at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, 2300 Bancroft Way, Berkeley.

The Forces of Nature Celebrates the Wilderness Act’s 50th Anniversary

Each of us has our own perspective about wilderness. This quote by Wallace Stegner stands out as I consider the magnificence of wilderness and what it means to me.  

“Something will have gone out of us as a people if we ever let the remaining wilderness be destroyed; if we permit the last virgin forests to be turned into comic books and plastic cigarette cases; if we drive the few remaining members of the wild species into zoos or to extinction; if we pollute the last clear air and dirty the last clean streams and push our paved roads through the last of the silence . . .”                                                                                     Wallace Stegner, The Sound of Mountain Water 


This month we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, a law that protects significant wilderness areas in more than 44 states. President Lyndon B. Johnson signed The Wilderness Act on September 3rd, 1964. The first designated wilderness areas comprised a total of 9.1 million acres of untrammeled forest to be forever protected from the encroachment of human impact and exploitation. Over the past 50 years, the Wilderness Act has enabled congress to designate close to 110 million acres of federal wildlands as wilderness. Ever since, each president has added additional priceless resources to our collection. These pristine lands are set aside to restrict human habitation, roads, mining, logging, off-road vehicles, and other development to protect our nation’s wildlife and natural resources for future generations.

Whirlpool_CanyonThe Wilderness Act was one of the leading legislative acts that kick-started an important environmental era in the mid-20th century. The 1950s and ‘60s were a time of great excitement and interest in the environment. It was a time when major developments such as affordable automobiles and new highways made our world smaller and more mobile. There were more opportunities to experience the magnificent beauty of landscapes and places. This was a time when an important new field of study was created, called ecology, a branch of biology that studies the relationships among all organisms on earth. Our once remote National Parks became wonderful vacation spots for families who could experience the silence and splendor of the natural world.

Individuals such as David Brower, and later, Yvon Chouinard, were young mountaineers that have expressed their love of wilderness in very different, but significant ways. As a young lad, David Brower fell in love with the land and hiked with his family. free-climber-yosemite_35063_990x742Since his mother was blind, young David became adept at describing virtually everything he saw on his hikes. Years later he became the executive director the Sierra Club, a small environmental organization with only 7,000 members, but it soon became an organization known for its ability to mobilize its members to fight large dams in the United States. Under Brower’s leadership Sierra Club membership grew to 70,000 members in 1969. Today the organization has grown to 750,000 members. David Brower (1912-2000) was a force of nature. He imbued intelligence, passion and a trailblazing energy. Brower’s messages were ahead of his time, yet right in time. In his 1959 book, The Meaning of Wilderness to Science. Brower said:

“Wilderness. The most important source of the vital organic forms constituting the chain of life is the gene bank that exists in wilderness, where the life force has gone on since the beginning, uninterrupted by man and his technology. For this reason alone, it is important that the remnants of wilderness which we still have on our public lands be preserved by the best methods our form of government can find.”

In the 1970s, Yvon Chouinard, a young mountain climber was seeking every opportunity to do what he loved best — climb to the top of remote mountain peaks or catching a wave on his surfboard.  Yvon, a resourceful and creative man was also curious and talented. It wasn’t long until he started crafting his own climbing tools and clothing. Other climbers soon noticed and coveted his creations. The climbing community encouraged him to make and sell some of his o5427078006_d679efbc9f_zutdoor gear. Since it would be something Yvon would enjoy doing, he started an outdoor clothing company called Patagonia. It is known for its progressive approach to sustainability. Yvon tells his story about Patagonia’s beginnings and why corporate and individual responsibility is our best solution to some of our environmental problems. Yvon’s video is: Be the Solution.

In another video, Oceans as Wilderness, Yvon Chouinard describes how treating our oceans as we might treat wilderness could be a starting point that might help save the oceans. Yvon says in his book, Let My People Go Surfing:   feather-stars-australia_74631_990x742

“We need to protect these areas of unaltered wildness and diversity to have a baseline, so we never forget what the real world is like – in perfect balance, the way nature intended the earth to be. This is the model we need to keep in mind on our way toward sustainability.” 

Ocean steward, Edward Ueber, is a former National Marine Sanctuary Manager. He refers to our earth as “planet water” because our planet is mostly covered by ocean water.

humpback-whales-macdonald_3691_990x742Ed Ueber’s video The Planet Water tells why this distinction is important.

Additionally, scientist John McCosker, chair of aquatic biology at the California Academy of Sciences speaks about the future of our oceans in his Forces of Nature video, Ocean Alert.


We all know that our oceans are being desecrated through overfishing, climate change, pollution and neglect. Marine toxicologist, Riki Ott shares how she was involved in the clean up of the massive Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska.  If we do not protect our waters here on earth, what is our future? Pondering this information raises the question of: How will we care for our water planet?


gc_ad_1966-1In 1966, the Sierra Club, led by David Brower, began to use ad campaigns as a tool to save important areas. Brower, along with Jerry Mander, and Sierra Club leaders would draft ads that would later become known as the “Grand Canyon Battle Ads.” These were a series of ads that were placed in several major newspapers at a time to gain awareness of the threats to the Grand Canyon and other untainted landscapes. Jerry Mander talks about one of these ads. The ad that he developed for the Grand Canyon and the unexpected outcome of placing that ad, in Using ‘Bad’ Tactics for Good. This is a short and interesting story about Brower’s legacy at the Sierra Club.

In Brower’s 1966 letter: Open Letter to President Johnson he urged him to to save the magnificent forests of virgin redwood trees in northern California. In 1968, Redwood National Park was finally established as a National Park.


Conservationist Connie Harvey recounts her story about working with Brower and how she helped the Sierra Club to save Redwood National Park, in Protecting the Sacred. Another story told by the former Forest Service director, Jack Ward Thomas, shares about the threats and the fight over the endangered Northern spotted owls that live in these old growth forests. His video is For the Love of Public Land.

mendenhall-glacier-851026-mFormer Secretary of the Interior Cecil Andrus was an important supporter of wilderness. He was responsible for several major pieces of legislation and launched the bill for the 1980 Alaska Lands Act, which protected over one hundred million acres and the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, which kept several rivers undammed across the country.  He was responsible for listing several Snake River (Wyoming) salmon species under the Endangered Species Act, this led to changes in operations of the dams that prevented the salmon from returning to their home rivers to spawn. frank_church_sign  Governor Cecil Andrus, who served 14 years, was integral in setting aside land in Idaho, which became the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness Area.  In his memoir, Cecil used a quote from Robert Frost:

“We should not have to care so much, you and I.” “But we do care,” Andrus continues, “and we should. We care about the future … I remain hopeful that I will be able to pass on to my grandchildren all the pleasures of life in an unspoiled West. Perhaps hope should be replaced by a stronger word. It is a matter of obligation.”

Another big supporter of Alaska wilderness is Bart Koehler. 14880481813_2b796feed0_z In his career he has served a leading role in the lasting protection of more than 8 million acres of wild places including recent successes in Nevada, Montana, Virginia, New Hampshire, Vermont, South Dakota, Puerto Rico, and Oregon. Bart started his career at The Wilderness Society then co-founded Earth First! Bart is an editor of the 40th Anniversary edition of the Wilderness Act Handbook and the Stand By Your Land grassroots handbook. Watch Bart’s video: Grassroots Power! 

A memorable character in the environmental movement is a man who ran dories (boats) through the Grand Canyon. Now retired at 95 years old, Martin Litton still fights against the degradation and development within important natural areas. He is renowned as a fearsome environmental advocate.  mlittongrandIn the 1970s and ‘80s, he fought alongside David Brower and Edward Abbey against dam proposals and the logging of Sequoia National Forest and Giant Sequoia National Monument. Although other kindred spirits frequently bolstered his arguments, Martin was never afraid to stand alone in any debate or fight. Martin Litton’s video Standing Alone illustrates his tenacity. 

Tom Turner, an editor with EarthJustice tells us a story about the creation of the Roadless Rules on U.S. Forest Service Land. aspen-grove-1-623035-m  We learn from Tom that the organization EarthJustice supported that rule when the federal government was not available — or disinterested in defending the law. This is a unique event in the field of environmental law. Tom Turner tells the complete story in his book, Roadless Rules, and has shared a condensed version in our video of the same name.

51ZP6X67MZLIn my lifetime, there were, and are people who understand how essential it is to protect wilderness, and moreover, how to protect land. One of the best is Huey Johnson, founder of The Trust For Public Land, and founder and president of the nonprofit Resource Renewal Institute. Huey has protected untold numbers of acres, saving land and water for our fish and wildlife resources. He works with those who are willing to fight to protect our wilderness and steward our most amazing legacy of public lands. Feature-1  Huey is featured in the documentary film Rebels With A Cause, a story about how Point Reyes and the Marin Headlands were saved in Northern California. I hope that you will put this film on your must-see movie list. You can also read about Huey in an interview published in The North Bay Bohemian.

Is protecting wilderness really a radical idea? I doubt that Brower would say so, but he would probably agree with Dave Foreman, founder of Earth First! who said in Confessions of an Eco-Warrior:

6997851139_2ef31b6475_b “In a true Earth-radical group, concern for wilderness preservation must be the keystone. The idea of wilderness, after all, is the most radical in human thought –more radical than Paine, than Marx, than Mao. Wilderness says: Human beings are not paramount, Earth is not for Homo Sapiens alone, human life is but one life form on the planet and has no right to take exclusive possession. Yes, wilderness for its own sake, without any need to justify it for human benefit. Wilderness for wilderness. For bears and whales and titmice and rattlesnakes and stink bugs. And…wilderness for human beings… Because it is home.”    

Bay’s Pick – Week 10

Our middle school reviewer, Bay Johnson, shares his video pick of the week. This week he selects Professor Paul Hewitt, a man who enjoys physics so much, he wrote a best selling textbook on how students can better understand physics principles.

Below, you may watch Bay’s Pick and learn why he has selected Professor Hewitt’s video, Taking Care of the Garden.

Bay Johnson, Middle School reviewer

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

Watch Bay’s Pick, Taking Care of the Garden, 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.

We are Forces of Nature – Rebels with a Cause

As each New Year comes around, I find myself reflecting on the past year and thinking of the coming year, and as always, I think about my age. I was born on New Year’s Day, so it is only natural. And yes, I am an environmental elder, and very proud of it! I am honored to be included in the company that I keep with the Resource Renewal Institute staff and Forces of Nature! I’m energized in my work with my vital and hard working colleagues and mentor, Huey Johnson, founder of the Resource Renewal Institute!


In 2013, Huey has successfully undertaken three major environmental projects, all featured on In addition, this year, Huey has been a film star in, Rebels with a Cause, an outstanding documentary by Nancy Kelly and Kenji Yamamoto sharing the story of Point Reyes and the land preservation fights in west Marin county in the 1980s. REBELS received the 2012 Mill Valley Film Festival Audience Favorite Award for Best Documentary – Active Cinema. The film has been held over for weeks. Check it out!

Some background on Huey’s trailblazing. In the 1980s, as the California Secretary of Resources, Huey envisioned, and his team created, a comprehensive California Water Atlas. The water atlas was the first of its kind, illustrating and dissecting every major water body in California and explaining the state’s complex plumbing. Fast forward to the present: Huey, an energetic octogenarian, has embraced 21st century digital mapping to create a New California Water Atlas. I find this unbelievably inspiring that a senior has created this digital tool for the next generation. The savvy folks who understand the power of government open data totally respect and appreciate this. Starting with California, but hopefully, this project will help to ignite a movement that explodes nationwide to bring transparency to complex natural resource issues in government.


Huey interviewing Susie O’Keefe. Peggy Lauer behind the camera.

As the director of the Forces of Nature project, I have been honored to meet those that have influenced Huey, and those whose lives have been changed by knowing him. An unparalleled friend to many, Huey’s generosity of spirit is unique. His honest and simple lifestyle encourages me to be a better environmentalist every single day. On weekends, when he is not doing something for his friends, he is in the office writing an op-ed, or thinking up new ideas for some particular passion of his, or finding ways to fund our work. He never quits – that word does not exist in his vocabulary. Huey’s outspoken nature and those of our Forces have inspired me to move beyond my fears. Being the ultimate shrinking violet, I began to write this blog and be more present in our larger electronic world. I believe this is what it will take for each of us to change our world for the better.

Our project is aptly named, the Forces of Nature. They are – we are. In the past two years of interviewing elders, I have met many extraordinary and active environmentalists who have made amazing contributions to our world. More than ever, I am inspired to share these videos with young and old. I see the Forces of Nature as a wonderful bridge from our 20th century environmentalists – to our 21st century environmentalists. We all stand on the shoulders of giants and our series illustrates just how this works. What wisdom we have to tap into today — with more than 100 videos on our website – just click play! It is so easy. We would love to hear your comments. Our Forces are so wise, and many are at a point in their lives that they can give back and share their wisdom with our wonderful, energetic younger generations. I see 2014 as a year to come together as one.

I hope you will take some time to watch these incredible interviews with Huey Johnson and our Forces. If you care about our planet – our land, water, trees, wildlife, history, public health, poetry, art, science, climate change, open data, and sharing knowledge – from one to another – for a single honest cause, consider watching the Forces of Nature and please show your support by contributing to our projects at

All of us from RRI wish you a happy, healthy, and inspiring 2014! One Love!