Natural Capitalism and Taxation with Representation

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Should our politicians cut taxes? Yes, for people. However, consideration of just what a tax really is, merits further review.  Taxation with representation of the actual costs we incur for our bent towards  un-doing the many threads that hold all of  nature together, calls for such radical departure from the norm.

A tax is an instrument used to help pay for the actual price of doing business. This  includes any business, but especially human business. Being  human is a full-time personal business of scurrying around trying to make ends meet. Altruistically, it means  working towards the idea of being a contributing member of a community, biologically and socially,  to thus help propel our cultures prosperity into perpetuity.

Remember,  everything has a cost. Every action begets a reaction. No free lunch. Perpetual motion machines are still a wild fantasy. To see the total picture of anything requires nothing hidden from the camera. True capitalism must include natural capitalism, if we ever seek the best solution doing humans ongoing business. Factoring  natural capital into the original industrial capitalism equation,  as a community member,  and not continue with a dominionist attitude. is a better way not to perpetuate  that  superiority complex of man over nature.

Instead of taxing people, lets tax the resources we use. Tax ecosystem services, not people. Rather than paying personal income tax, lets pay as we go, on things that we use.  Like, on gas at the pump, pesticides we put into the ground, gases we put into the air, waste that goes to a landfill, rivers we dam, water we irrigate with, and so forth. We are already being taxed by everything we use, we just may not realize it. And politicians influencing policy rarely do recognize the true cost of doing business.  It is time to redirect our money.

For too long, many of the big businesses of corporate America has been subsidized at the expense of our public lands. No wonder they have gotten so big, not paying the true cost to the planet for doing their business.  Getting something for relatively nothing, is like trying to wash clothes without any soap.  The trick is to balance the load with the right kind and amount of soap.  Soap is needed that  not only cleans, but is also compatible with the system as it gets recycled back in.

There is nothing wrong with creating wealth, that is, if it does so without shooting off our foot in the long-range analysis.  Balance is a challenge, indeed, but a necessary one if we wish to live more gracefully on our home and with honor to our high ideals.

Our own science reveals measurable  evidence  that there are some resources that no amount of money can buy and few, if any, man-made substitutes can  provide, which nature does.  Nature will tax us, if we do not tax ourselves. We are only fooling ourselves, if we think we are exempt from paying tax on the natural resources that ultimately fuel our prosperity.  It is time to revamp our entire tax structure to align it more to the stark realities of Mother Nature.  Natural Capital Rules.  Ignoring it is ultimately a perilous path.

Rivers make good medicine with us, we make good medicine with rivers.

(Not to worry – we carry duct tape on all trips)

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Trees – To Hug or Not?

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Seriously, have you ever hugged a tree? Sure, no one wants to earn the reputation of being a “tree hugger,” after all, that might qualify you as being one of those lowly “earth muffins.”  You know, the folks so out of touch with nature that they believe in such things as little fairies and hobbits hiding in the forests.


Well, I haven’t seen any fairies yet, but I will admit to hugging trees. The ones I hug are normally those that have stood longer than a hundred years, some over half a century.  It is hard to understand, but when I wrap my arms around a tree, one so large that my embrace isn’t even near half way around, there is a undescribable  feeling that comes over me.  It is like I can feel the age of the tree being transformed deep inside my soul.  It may be cliché to say I am one with the tree, as I also feel at one with the river, but all the same, it works for me.

It is akin to standing before all within my view with open arms, that being a part of everything I see soon sinks into my consciousness of connectedness. With my upper limbs spread wide and reaching high towards the heavens, I feel like a human funnel pulling in all of the universe.

One  of my favorite trees is so ancient that it has several limbs, each one of which has the diameter of a tree more than 30 inches dbh. (diameter at breast height) in a foresters perspective.  I once took the string off my long bow (over 5′ long) to wrap around its trunk. I forget now the precise measurement, but it was more than two end-to-end string lengths worth of wrap. I love that tree, and visit it every time I pass it by.  It is a great place to rest, as its safety from the saw is its vast deepness  into the wilderness, thus a  physical boundary far to reach. But more importantly, it lives on in  a legal refuge of protection.

It is easy for me to see why and how indigenous  people developed the concept of the sacred tree of life. When people gathered under the Sacred Tree, they could find security and healing.  The roots penetrate deeply into mother earth and the branches reach high into father sky.  Compassion, wisdom, and love for all things come from the fruit.  This tree of life is the life of the people. If they stray too far from the shadow of the tree,  and  forget to seek its nourishment , or destroy it,  a great sorrow will result.  The tree will turn from green to red and become uprooted. This happens when the people forget how to know what truth is.

As long as the tree lives, so live the people.  Not knowing truth leads to quarrelling and a division between people. It is easy to fall out of harmony with all else in the world. Not all trees are meant for cutting down, some are meant for hugging. Just as people are not meant to be divided or cut off from one another. Community means all living things collectively, and does not just pertain to people. As for me, I will continue seeking the grandfather shadows hundreds of  years old and hug their furrowed bark of a round and secure truth.

Some people hug trees, some trees hug people.
What do you embrace, and what embraces you?


Gary & Barb
(inside the wisdom of a great grand fir along the banks of Oregon’s  Grande Ronde River)

Rivers make good medicine with us, we make good medicine with rivers.

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Rocks That Talk

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Have you heard them? Ever been floating on a river during high water and heard the boulders tumbling along the bottom with an amazing rumble? Or floated on glacial waters when suspended gravel  up-wells on the bottom of your boat with a sickening sound like  what a leak would make when pressure meets the water escaping from a punctured tube?

What about the sound of a rock skipping across the water, or an avalanche of scree sliding down the hill? Is not that another sound of rocks speaking to us? If I was standing at the bottom of a steep pitched chute  I would heed the warning of that audible message.

It is all a part of natures language, but so too, is another aspects of how rocks can talk to us.  Eons ago man was drawn to record his story (history) on the face of rocks for the generations yet unborn.  In this case, the rocks are just the messengers projecting  the thoughts of humans wishing to communicate to those in the future.

When visiting such pictographs (painted), or petroglyphs (inscribed) that we visit on many of our river trips, the common question I get asked is, “what do they mean?”  If only I could be so astute at reading these testimonials to the past,  and offer up some astounding answer.  But, an educated guess is the best I can do.  Recalling what I can from a native american  who studied the artwork from his ancestors, he claimed that many used the  hand gestures of sign language  to employ meaningful representations on the rocks.  Often the messages were to give directions like road signs do for highway users of today.

For example, a dot with an arch over the top of it, meant go over the hill to find a waterhole.  At other times, the rocks may have been used as places to record family or clan history, or additionally,  for spiritual reasons. It was a common practice to honor all other creatures and creations that were viewed as  having spirits to appreciate, too.  It represented a worldview that all things in nature  are connected, and of equal value.

This is an opposing worldview from those of  European descent, many of whom even today, continue to see man as separate from and above nature.  This is a worldview that led to doctrines like Manifest Destiny and its offspring, the idea of  Eminent Domain.  Such ideas have also been expressed in stone by the dominionists.  Only these thoughts  are scribed into letters and words, then set into marble and also placed at important locations.

A few years back I made my first ever trip to Washington DC. I had been requested to testify before a natural resource committee about the importance of roadless areas in Idaho, as the integrity of their wild value was being considered for future management.  After the meetings, I took a walk on the Washington Mall to take in the sites and feel the land.  Curiously, I found it to be a place hugely symbolic of the politics and worldview that shaped our country. Marblized words on stone monuments everywhere reminded readers of ancestors who were seafaring foreign people seeking freedom from tyranny.  The hypocrisy was troubling. Euros landed in a new east, only to win the West by dispossessing indigenous people already native upon the landscape. Freedom for whom? It all saddened me.

Borrowing the original ideas of democracy from the League of Iroquois, our founding fathers arrived at the Constitution and guiding principles that govern our society today.  Even Thomas Jefferson instructed Lewis and Clark to learn how native people lived on native lands for lessons to help a budding new nation prosper.

A big irony in my traveling 2040 some miles to this land embraced by the Potomac River, is in its name sake, and Algonquian/Powhatan word for: “where the goods are brought in.”  Indeed, more “goods,” or more specifically, “roads,” were being brought before a national appetite for more land.

It was nice to get back to my home in Idaho and  the Salmon River as my backyard.  My wife tells me the rocks call out to her and is how she determines which ones to collect. I think I too, will stick to the messages of our local rocks, as opposed to words chiseled in marble, that merely represent a forked tongue message. Boulders and rocks, glyphs or not,  seem a much more honest  oracle for the language of nature. When the river rocks begin to speak, I will always listen.

Rivers make good medicine with us, we make good medicine with rivers.

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Winter Wildlife Feeding Aids People More Than Wildlife

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It’s that time of year again, when we can throw another log on the fire to sit down in warm comfort and watch movies for entertaining ourselves. But, not so lucky are  our wildlife friends.  Extremely cold, hard winters, heavy with snow, are often exasperatingly  cruel to the wild things that have limited defense mechanisms beyond what nature provided them to begin with. Unlike, humans, whom can go inside protective dwellings hammered out by the hand of man, with living space  controlled by thermostats, their comfort has no such offerings.   Often deep snows prohibit adequate forage conditions for ungulates and massive starvation and die-offs result. These kinds of tragedies are hard to witness without wanting to do something, let alone except how the cycles of ecological services actually functions in the absence of our dabbling.

Who has not seen Bambi from the dream world realm of the Walt Disney dynasty?  Humans love to dream, and we use them to propel our motives and desires forward. Fantasy precedes reality, and helps shape our intended creations, but often the final result does not always lead to our  initial desired outcome. In wildlife management circles, professionals often refer to fantasy prone idealism that has sentimentalized wildlife,  as the “Bambi Complex.”  The problem of these anthropomorphic views, is that it skews what people understand, or more correctly causes gross mis-understandings,  and thereby often leads to behavior that can be more of a hinderance than a help to mother nature.

A famed psychologist in reference to this American phenomenon stated: “Disney cartoons are a shared cultural heritage that predate Beaver Cleaver and Howdy Doody. They are the beginning of our global media village…For better or worse, Uncle Walt pioneered the notion of a standard-issue childhood memory.” During the same time Bambi came into being, so did Smokey the Bear, which also became a pervasive cultural icon, often distorting our view of nature.  So it seems, these images and the “wrong headed-ness ” views they represent are burned deep into our collective cultural psyche.  No surprise there, when you consider how much unquestioned media consumption eats away at our  human mind.

During the winter, when animals are pushed down to lower elevations to seek shelter and food, many do not survive, even then. But, they are often more observable  by people, since refuge areas are closer to suburbia,  and watching an animal starve to death is not a pretty picture. It is only natural that people want to help, and so many try to organize some kind of winter feeding project. This has been happening for many years now in the Teton’s  and Jackson Hole area, for example.

However, though biologist have known for a long time now, that winter feeding often has the opposite effect from that which is intended, new studies have reinforced the idea that we should not be trying to impose ourselves on natures job.  So why is winter feeding so bad, you may be asking?

For starters, when it comes to animals like deer and elk, feeding stations created by humans,  often draw big numbers of animals, into more concentrated and confined areas. the result is often at the expense of devastating range conditions which can lower productivity of the land that further reduces its capacity to provide for wildlife needs.  Helping the few comes with the negative consequences to the many.  Short term thinking often creates more problems than it solves and clouds implementing long-range solutions that could better benefit wildlife over-all.

More nefarious though, is that artificial feeding which draws more than normal numbers of animals closer together and for longer periods of time,  increases the  threat of epizootic diseases. (epizootic: spread of disease quickly through animals). Brucellosis  and tuberculosis are two such diseases.  Another disease that can arise to make the crisis even worse and longer lived, is that caused by a protein called a “prion” which can become dangerously entrenched within the wintering grounds for ages. These  infectious prions  can cause chronic wasting disease, (CWD) which basically eats away at the brain. (like mad cow disease, only in deer and elk). Even uglier is the fact that  there is no cure for this.

Bails of hay also won’t save animals, who hang  around eating them, while standing in a feedlot-like prion impregnated area.  In addition, often the micro-flora inside the stomach of deer and elk are not adept at adequately digesting the domestic grasses, that were more created for cows. If their diets are changed too drastically, their microflora do not have a chance to adapt, so is why animals are often discovered dead with a full stomach.  It may buy them a little more time, but in reality may only prolong their  agony, than light up  their futures.

The better solution to reduce winter starvation is by paying more attention to maintaining the amount and  integrity  of the habitat used by wildlife. If people continue to move into the WUI zone (wildlife – urban -interface) so they can get closer to nature, it only increases encroachment and reduces what is available for critters, both quantitatively and qualitatively.  What we do to the land has far more repercussions than what we can do with artificially trying to save wildlife.

Bambi should not be coddled by well-meaning, but ineptly armed humans flinging poison tipped sentimental arrows towards the predatory effects of climate.   Forget the hay.  Nature does a fine job without our prying and poking. Lets just be sure there is plenty of healthy land left for nature to do her work.

 Rivers make good medicine with us, we make good medicine with rivers.

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Is It Time To Eat More Dirt?

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How sanitized is your world?  Is cleanliness a big priority to you? Not yet polishing door knobs or washing your hands after shaking someone else’s?  Does knowing that you share your pillow with 40 million bed mites every night, make you feel queasy? Think about it, not only mites, but their dung, too.  Or do you practice the 3 second rule, where food dropped on the floor can be eaten  if picked up before that time elapses?

As progress (a highly debatable  concept) marches forward, it seems people in general continue to remove themselves from nature, inch by inch. Our fears of rats, bats, and scats, often leads us to living more inside some protective bubble of our own making. We sanitize our relationship to nature so much these days, that our fear of  bacteria and bugs may be causing us to become less resistant to them.  Exposure, not isolation from, allows us to live with better abilities to build up our immunity systems.  This lack of exposure is the reason more people are developing allergies now.  Putting a wall between ourselves and the outdoor world, is akin to trying to fool mother nature, and as the old tv commercial claims,   is not good to do.

Being too paranoid when your  kid is left to scramble around the floor, or play in the dirt, or engage raw nature, can backfire. Over-protection from coming face to face with nature, can be a kick in the butt to your intentions.  Lighten up, get out, get down and dirty.  It might be more fun than you think. And better for your health.

Try a river trip. Not only will you be able to run bare foot through the sand, but there is plenty of water to be as clean as you wish. In the end, it is all about balance when engaging our natural world, bugs and all.

Rivers make good medicine with us, we make good medicine with rivers.

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Where is the Center of Everything?

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Everywhere of course. After all, the world evolves around me, and you. Therefore, wherever you or I go, there goes the center of the universe.  Thanks again to Einsteins theory of relativity, our understanding of anything is by our frame of reference. More importantly, because the world revolves around everyone else too, then it only makes good sence to improve upon our self-awareness and repercussions of our actions. Like bumper cars in an amusement park, bumping, or being bumped, does matter to our outcome.

Just how easy is it to be unconscious to many of our actions? Well, I was out chukar hunting the other day with my dog Sugar. We were high on a remote ridge,far away from town, which is even farther away from the next nearest town, and progressively removed from any major city.  But, there along the edge of a cliff lay the remnants of a mylar balloon.  Once it was filled with helium, not only to make the micro-thin orb rise, but probably also the happy spirits of those celebrating something at a party.  It reminded me of the other balloon crash-sites I have occassionally found even further out in other wilderness areas, over time.

It always is such an effrontery to my senses. Both is it surprising to find such a thing, yet sad to think how much harder it is to find places that are not in some way another mirror to the mis-applied hand of man. I often wonder about those who release such hot air balloons.  What are they thinking, if anything,  beyond being over joyed watching the launch? Where do they think that floatie will end up? Carried off into the stratosphere where it will be absorbed into nothingness by the cosmos?

Like the Kon-Tiki expedition of Thor Heyerdahl, when they discovered the heaps of floating garbage far out in the middle of the ocean, finding these mylar balloons were yet a reminder that we need to pay attention what leaves our finger tips. Being in the seat of a bumper car has consequences. Perhaps it would be a better game if we change the goal to avoid hitting others, instead of running into them with as much force as possible.

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How to Be a Better Observer

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The short answer is: pay attention. But, pay attention to what? And How? Those are the harder questions.  Did you notice that there are two spots of yellow on the bark of the tree behind the flower (one above, one below), before I directed your attention to such?

This isn’t science, but in the following observation  experiment I would sometime like to do,  I am quite confident I can guess the most likely results. Lets say I find  a group of four people to get into my boat for an hour-long float through a wild section of dessert river canyon lands. Before stepping into the boat, I whisper something to each person. Person one,  I tell to count the total number of yellow flowers they see during the float time.  Person two, I tell to count total birds of prey circling high in the sky.  Person three, I tell to  count total  water ouzels doing their dipper like dance along the shoreline, and finally to person four,  I tell to count total number of bird songs heard along the way.

Furthermore, there is to be no talking during the float time, so they can practice their skills at being more observant. Before we embark, I instruct them to be open to everything and take in as much of what they can see, so as to improve their powers of observation. What will happen?

Most likely each person who was instructed to notice a certain secret thing, unbeknownst to the others, will come up with the highest count in their respective pre-selected subjects of interest.  Why? Because we see more of what we are looking for, at the expense of other things that would dilute our focus.

Some studies have suggested men and woman differ in their abilities to multi-task because of basic evolutionary reasons. The theory goes that men are more focused because they need this ability to concentrate on tracking, while women must pay attention to children while doing other things.

Scatter vision, or being able to see things more broadly, may be good for family things, but it  is not conducive to  becoming  a better observer. While the human eye has a blind spot  (known as the scotoma) located in the middle of the retina which affects our field of view,   our mental acuity cannot adequately absorb everything either.  To find your blind spot look at the O and X below, with  your face about 6 inches from the screen, so that your left pupil  lines up to the O and your right pupil lines up with the X.  Now close your right eye and stare at the X, and  move slowly away from the screen.   The O will soon disappear. Move farther away from the screen and the O will re-appear again. You have just found your blind spot. It is sometimes responsible for car wrecks, where the unsuspecting victim relates that ” I didn’t see them coming.”

       O                                                                     X

Furthermore, there have been scientific studies that show that highly educated urban folks pay no attention to unfamiliar objects placed in front of them if they focus too much on the familiar objects. Basically illustrating that what we already know “frames” our vision, which in turn, “frames” what we understand.

Have you ever discovered something along your habitual path to work, day after day,  that you had never seen before, yet was there all along?  What we see, or do not see in the world gets clouded by our thinking, or lack of thinking.  Not everything in the brain  can be at the center of focus simultaneously.  Just like our understanding about the world we live in, it comes piece by piece. This is the same reason we eat food by smaller bite size chunks. It is how our bodies can digest it all.

So plenty of things escape our attention, like the effects of rain splashing on the water, hitting everywhere and nowhere at the same time.  A multiple of explosions erupting from the surface are spaced by calm waters untouched by the same pelting. Which do you notice more?

At other times our brains play tricks with us. Try this maneuver. Place the index fingers of each hand pointing towards each  other tip to tip about a foot away from your nose. Now focus at something in the far distance on the backside of these two touching fingers and you will see a small sausage. Pull your fingers slightly apart, and you will see the sausage suspended in mid-air. It will disappear if you stretch the fingers even farther apart. It is a opitcal illusion, of course, but demonstrates how we can be fooled by many things in nature.

To be a better observer, you must first determine what the main object will be to focus on. Luckily, you will still make new discovers of other “sausages”  along the way that were not your object of attention, while gaining a deeper understanding of the object of your focus.

Bottomlime: pay attention to paying attention.

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