Archive by Author

Earth Day: Books in Nature

26 Apr


Everyone in Yosemite is slightly relieved that we finally got some precipitation this past week. It isn’t even close to enough to relieve the drought, but every little bit helps. We’ve seen the effects of the rain most dramatically in Crane Creek, which runs smack through the middle of the burned area from the El Portal fire last summer. With no plants to hold the soil back the deluge of water has filled the creek with sediment.

The book in the picture is Your Water Footprint by Stephen Leahy. It provides a good overview of current water use issues, and includes a pretty extensive section on the water footprints of everyday products. It also provides several suggestions for how to reduce your individual water footprint, and well made visuals accompany the information.

In truth, I wanted to review more books about reducing water footprints, and after scourging the local libraries, the shelves of Barnes and Noble, the collections of other Central Valley libraries, and even the library of the environmental organization I work for, I was disappointed by how little I found. You would think that in a place in such a dire state of drought, resources like this would be in high demand. Friends, this does not bode well for us.


Read Green 4

Earth Day: Nature Journaling

24 Apr

Read Green 6.

You may have noticed that I’m a big fan of dragging art supplies out into the woods. Nature journaling gives me an opportunity to practice my art skills and refine my observations of the natural world, but that’s not why I do it. I really just enjoy hanging around outside and seeing where my eyes and my paintbrush will take me.

Sage Flowers

The only hint that I can really offer about nature journaling is that it’s more fun if you don’t pressure yourself to create a masterpiece. Make sure you’re having fun even if your painting of Tissiak ends up looking like an inbred armadillo.


For everything else I’m going to refer you to a few books on the subject:


I would start with Keeping a Nature Journal by Charles E. Roth and Clare Walker Leslie. It takes the “no pressure” approach to nature journaling. It focuses mostly on tips and techniques for seeing and observing the world around you, and only scratches the surface of technical drawing skills.


If technique is what you want, The Sierra Club Guide to Sketching in Nature by Cathy Johnson will deliver. It includes techniques for drawing and painting in a variety of mediums.


Grinnell journaling is a technique that incorporates science into the journaling process through methodical recording and observation. I was blown away by How to Keep a Naturalist’s Notebook by Susan Leigh Tomlinson. She managed to write a book that seamlessly incorporates science, art, and outdoor ethics.


Maybe you still can’t imagine why someone would ever want to make a nature journal, or you just want inspiration. You should pick up Barbara Bash’s True Nature. It’s a little hard to read, but that’s only because every time I try to sit down with it, I find myself wanting to go outside with my paints instead.

Grab your art supplies and get out there and color!


Earth Day: 50 Children’s Books to Read on Earth Day

22 Apr

Read Green 5

There are many good reasons to sit down with a child and read a book with them. Children also benefit greatly from spending time in nature, specifically unstructured time to play freely. As adults we have a great opportunity to build literacy and help them forge or reinforce their connection with the natural world through reading.

Fortunately, there are many well written and beautifully illustrated earth conscious children’s books. At the beginning of April I started making a list of books that I wanted to feature here for Earth Day, and had no idea what I was getting into. After a few weeks of looking through the library, rifling my shelves and asking friends I had a long list, and it’s still growing. A handful of books fell into clear and concise categories; you will find them at the beginning of this list. All the ones that defied easy categorization are at the end.

Books About Animals

Animalia by Graeme Base


Antlers Forever by Frances Bloxam and Jim Sollers

Bats at the Beach by Brian Lies

Blue Berries for Sal by Robert McCloskey

The Family of Earth by Schim Schimmel

Living Color by Steve Jenkins

Make Way For Ducklings by Robert McCloskey

The Mixed Up Chameleon by Eric Carle

Mossy by Jan Brett


Owl Moon by Jane Yolen and John Schoenherr

The Salamander Room by Anne Mazer, Steve Johnson, and Lou Fancher

Stellaluna by Janell Cannon

There’s a Hair in my Dirt! by Gary Larson and Edward Osborne Wilson

Ubiquitous by Joyce Sidman and Beckie Prange

Very Hairy Bear by Alice Schertle and Matt Phelan

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

Books About Environmental Heroes

Life in the Ocean by Calire A. Nivola


Mama Miti by Donna Jo Napoli and Kadir Nelson

Manfish by Jennifer Berne, Eric Puybaret

Me…Jane by Patrick McDonnel

Rachel Carson and Her Book that Changed the World by Laurie Lawlor and Laura Beingessner

She’s Wearing a Dead Bird on Her Head by Kathryne Lasky and David Catrow

Books About Stewardship

The Earth and I by Frank Asch

Hawk I’m You’re Brother by Byrd Baylor and Peter Parnall

The Lorax by Doctor Suess

Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney

Books About Specific Habitats or Places

The Desert is Theirs by Byrd Baylor and Peter Parnall

In a Small, Small, Pond by Denise Fleming


Letting Swift River Go by Jane Yolen and Barbara Cooney

A River Ran Wild by Lynne Cherry

Song of the Water Boatman by Joyce Sidman and Becky Prange

Everything Else

All the Water in the World by George Elly Lyon, and Katherine Tillotson


The Barefoot Book of Earth Tales by Dawn Casey and Anne Wilson

Come On, Rain! by Karen Hesse

Do Princesses Wear Hiking Boots? by Carmela LaVigna Coyle, Theresa Howell, and Mike Gordon


The Earth Book by Todd Parr

Flotsam by David Weisner

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstien

The Great Kapok Tree by Lynne Cherry

The Green Mother Goose by Jan Peck, David Davis and Carin Berger

One Well; The Story of Water on Earth by Rochelle Strauss and Rosemary Woods

The Princesses I Know by Ayla Mae Wild

Re-Cycles by Michael Elsohn Ross and Gustav Moore


Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost and Susan Jeffers

There Once was a Sky Full of Stars by Bob Crelin and Amie Ziner

A Tree is Nice by Janice May Udry and Marc Simont

Water by Frank Asch

Where Do Mountains Come From, Momma? by Catherine Weyerhaeuser Morley

Where Once There Was a Wood by Denise Fleming

You Are Stardust by Elin Kelsey and Soyeon Kim

Happy Reading!


Earth Day: Overdressed (and a Refashion)

20 Apr

Read Green 5

A few months ago, Mara came to me with a dress she wanted to refashion. While we worked on the dress she kept starting sentences with the phrase “In this book I’m reading called Overdressed she talks about how (insert something we were working on) changed because….” After a few sessions of this I finally got the hint that Mara wanted me to read it. So I checked it out of the library, and it was great. I spent most of the book thinking that Jillian the ReFashionista would love it. Then I found myself reading about her in chapter eight! When Earth Day rolled around I knew I wanted Overdressed to be among the books we featured but it only seemed fair that I let Mara tell you about it since it all started with her.



I am honored that Robin has asked me to write a guest blog for Earth Day. She asked me specifically to write about a book I shared with her: Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion by Elizabeth L. Cline.

This book made me realize that my perception of clothes becoming cheaper and less well-made was not just “back in my day…” thinking and was actually true. Not only are the clothes in stores getting worse, but the world has totally changed for garment workers.


But my edification is not why Robin asked me to write. It’s because this book, combined with Robin’s amazing creativity and sewing skills, inspired me to rework my Mom’s vintage blue velvet dress. Here is a before shot of me in the dress about 16 and a half years ago. (That toddler graduates this year!) The dress fit OK back then.

After reading Overdressed I realized that this was the perfect dress for a remake. It no longer fit, had seams rather than serged edges, and a long hem that I was happy to cut shorter. So I brought my dress to Robin’s house.


At first she did not want to cut up a 1950’s cocktail dress, but then I started spouting from Overdressed. She was convinced, or, at least no longer quite as reticent. Then she found out it was my mom’s dress and then we had to go through it all again. I assured Robin that my mom would be impressed if we made it wearable, and besides, she gave it to me. It was mine now!

After a couple of weekend afternoons with Robin’s coaching, I had a brand-new dress with a shorter hem, shorter sleeves, and a stunning new back to go with my now short hair. I debuted it at a fundraiser for Mountain Crisis Services.


When my mom saw the dress on Facebook she picked up the phone to tell me what a spectacular job Robin and I had done with the makeover. Thanks Mom!

I am now inspired to take one of my step-mom’s hand-me-downs and have Robin coach me through another makeover. This sort of sewing fits in with my Reduce-Reuse-Recycle (in that order) lifestyle.

I was bitten by the “makeover for clothes” bug several years ago when I came across Stephanie Girard’s Sweater Surgery: How to Make New Things From Old Sweaters (Domestic Arts for Crafty Girls) and have had fun reinventing sweaters as all sorts of new items. You may be able to get Sweater Surgery or Overdressed from your library. Because Earth Day is everyday!



Earth Day: The Lorax

18 Apr


UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.

-The Lorax, by Dr. Seuss-

(The photo is from last night’s Earth Day Family Night performance of The Lorax. Today is also Jr. Ranger Day. There are more events happening today, and it’s a fee free weekend in honor of Earth Day and National Park Week.)


Read Green 5

Earth Day: Book Spine Poetry

16 Apr



Read Green 5

Earth Day: The World Without Us

14 Apr


I can’t quite recall how The World Without Us wandered into my collection, but it has languished on my shelves for over a year while I was distracted by other books. When April and I agreed to do a literary themed Earth Day I decided to pick it up to see if I wanted to review it. Within a few pages I was totally sucked in. The giant stack of books flowing in from the library that I needed to look at for other Earth Day posts was ignored so I could finish it.

The central question of the book is brilliantly simple: “What would the world look like if humans disappeared?” The answer is surprisingly complex.

In trying to answer it Weisman takes the reader to some surprising and fascinating places. Through his descriptions we are transported across the globe and through time. From the subways and skyscrapers of New York to see how long our buildings would last, to our evolution in Africa to see what might replace us. We witness nature reclaiming abandoned cities in war torn Cyprus and explore the long lasting underground cities of Cappadocia. We learn about the lasting legacy of plastic, deep space probes, dioxins, nuclear waste, radio waves, and the world’s most interesting pile of sloth poop. It’s not always a happy-go-lucky journey, but it is fantastic. The book is well paced, and manages to be informative without information overload.

Hopefully I’ve raved about this book enough to make you want to read it. Make sure you learn from my mistake and put it at the top of your “to be read” pile.


Read Green 5

Earth Day: Books in Nature

12 Apr


This is the World Without Us in front of Half Dome. A great place to entertain the thought of what Yosemite Valley would look like without us.


Read Green 5

Earth Day: Twenty Thought Provoking Facts and Quotes from “The World is Blue”

10 Apr


This book grew out of a TED wish presented by the legendary Sylvia A. Earl. It’s one of my favorite books, and full of mind blowing facts about the ocean, and many reasons why everyone on earth should care about it. This is just a sample of the quotes and facts that blew my mind:

1. “Even if you have never have the chance to see or touch the ocean, the ocean touches you with every breath you take, every drop of water you drink, every bite you consume. Everyone, everywhere is inextricably connected to and utterly dependent upon the existence of the sea.”

2. Less than five percent of the ocean has been explored, and only one percent has been protected.


3. 20% of the oxygen in earth’s atmosphere, or one in five breaths, has been produced by one type of water dwelling blue green bacteria with the unfortunate name prochlorococcus.

4. Aside from seafood, we regularly use a variety of ocean products in our everyday lives. A thickener derived from a single species of Kelp can be found in sauces, cheese, ice cream, pudding, chocolate milk, candy, toothpaste, those weird tooth impressions they make at the dentist’s office, lotion, tape, and hundreds of other products.

5. Fish populations are plummeting on a planet where one of seven people rely on ocean caught fish as their primary source of protein.

6. “We can shift our trash, move it, cover it up, toss it into the sea, and turn our back, but everything connects. There is no “away” to throw to.”


7. The top ten categories of marine trash are: cigarette butts, plastic bags, food containers, caps and lids, plastic botles, paper bags, straws and stirrers, cups plates and eating utensils, glass bottles, and beverage cans. These account for 83 percent of the trash found in the ocean.

8. A 1999 expedition to the Pacific Gyre found that trash outweighed plankton six to one.

9. “That same year, on a reef in the Coral Sea, I swam in a milling circle of more than a hundred gray reef sharks, feeling much safer than I do while driving on a freeway with cars heading in my direction at high speed, separated only by a line of yellow paint and a mutual desire to live.”

10. Before human impacts started affecting them, oysters managed to filter and clean all the water contained in New York Harbor every few days. The Chesapeake Bay was filtered every 24 hours.


11. “Their present precarious state makes eating bluefin tuna comparable to dining on snow leopard or panda.”

12. The World Wildlife Fund estimates that millions of tons of fish and invertebrates are caught and then discarded as bycatch every year.

13. Most United State Marine Sanctuaries still allow for commercial and sport fishing. Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument in Hawaii was the first and largest Marine Protected Areas in the world to ban fishing, and was created with a great deal of political support from (get this) George W. Bush.

14. Given how much of the ocean has yet to be explored or even seen by human eyes, we have no idea how many ocean species there are. Conservative estimates put the number at around ten million.


15. Loss of biodiversity in the ocean impacts its ability to provide food, and maintain water quality. One study found that restoring biodiversity increased it’s productivity by 400 percent.

16. Half of the worlds coral reefs have disappeared or are in sharp decline.

17. “Our near and distant predecessors might be forgiven for exterminating the last wooly mammoth, the ultimate dodo, the final sea cow, and the last living monk seal for lack of understanding the consequences of their actions. But who will forgive us if we fail to learn from past and present expriences, to forge new values, new relationships, a new level of respect for the natural systems that keep us alive?”

18. The ocean absorbs more than 22 million tons of CO2 daily. Unfortunately a large portion of the absorbed carbon turns into carbonic acid, which increases the acidity of the ocean, and has a huge impact on coral reefs.

19. The Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet. Even if green house gas emissions are halted at their present levels we can expect an ice-free summer in the arctic by 2040.

20. “In the end, our society will be defined not only by what we create, but by what we refuse to destroy.”



P.S. With the exception of the cover image the photos are my own and are of tide pools and mussels at Pillar Point Harbor, a sea star at County Line Beach, Malibu Point Reyes National Seashore, and the Indra’s Net exhibit at the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito.

Read Green 5

Earth Day: Byrd Baylor and Peter Parnall

8 Apr

Read Green 5

Together Byrd Baylor and Peter Parnall have created ten books and every one of them is worth adding to your library. They are infused with the desert, and are among the most beautifully illustrated books ever made. I tried to pick my favorite and only managed to narrow it down to four:


The Table Where Rich People Sit


The way to Start a Day


The Other Way to Listen


I’m In Charge of Celebrations

Take a child to a wild place and read them one of these books. I promise you, what happens next will be unforgettable.


P.S. For the record their other books are:

The Desert is Theirs
Everybody Needs a Rock
Your Own Best Secret Place
Hawk I’m Your Brother
Desert Voices
If You Are A Hunter of Fossils


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 169 other followers