The Natural Step, a sustainability framework that I wrote about in the June Earth Year column, uses four conditions for success in living more sustainably. All are equally important as we look at how we live on the planet. This month covers System Condition No. 1.
“In a sustainable society, nature is not subject to systematically increasing concentrations of substances from the earth’s crust.” Sustainability consultant and author Alan AtKisson playfully rewords this as “You can’t dig stuff out of the Earth and spread it around indefinitely or you’ll be sorry.”
We need to address a cycle where we have dug so much out of the Earth’s crust that nature is not able to handle it within its normal cycles. Producing and burning fossil fuels results in the climate chaos of more frequent wildfires, drought, extreme storms, and a plethora of other consequences to all life on Earth we are just beginning to understand.
Mining releases metals from the Earth’s crust where nature has buried them for a reason — many of them are toxic to life. These substances do not just “disappear.” They accumulate on the land and in the air and in our bodies and that of other living things. Increased extraction rates overwhelm the planet’s ability to deal with these materials.
This does not mean we stop all mining activity but we do need to examine the rate and work within nature’s laws. Recycling of metals already extracted, closed loop systems in manufacturing and looking at new ways to provide energy are essential.
We need to treat the Earth not as a supplier of unlimited resources to meet the wealthier nations’ needs and wants but as a finite repository of natural resources to be shared, not wasted, and reused when possible.
It involves thinking about what we truly need for a good life and not giving in to the notion of constant novelty and growth as a desirable ethic either culturally or individually. I think we have the potential to rise to the occasion. But do we have the will?
For inspiration, check out the July events below.
• History of Bald Hill Farm: 9 a.m. to noon, July 6, Bald Hill Farm, directions upon registration. Learn about more about the fascinating history of Bald Hill Farm, from Kalapuya through Western settler migration at this free event. Discover the world of the extensive Mulkey family whose name graces the property's creek and ridgeline, and trace back local tales through oral and written documents. Register: http://greenbeltlandtrust.org/event/history-of-bald-hill-farm-30-years-series/
• It’s a Bugs’ Life: 10 a.m. to noon, July 7, Snag Boat Bend on the Willamette River, one mile south of Peoria Boat landing on Peoria Road. Oregon State University student Kendra DelToro will present the importance of natural history collections of insects in science, outreach, and society. Free. For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org
• Edible Gardens – Walking Tour: 6-8 p.m., July 10, various gardens. See food-producing neighborhood gardens in northwest Corvallis. Free. For more information contact email@example.com. Sponsored by the Corvallis Sustainability Coalition and Bountiful Backyard.
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• SAGE Summer Concert: 6-9 p.m., July 11, Starker Arts Park Amphitheater, 4485 SW Country Club Drive, Corvallis. Live music with bands Mons La Hire and Pa'lante. Local food and beverages available for purchase, family activities, and intermission entertainment. Free admission with a suggested donation of $10 a family. (All proceeds raise funds for SAGE Garden, which grows food for hunger relief organizations in Corvallis.) For more information check out http://www.corvallisenvironmentalcenter.org/events/summerconcerts/ or firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Marys Peak Hike: 9 a.m. to mid- afternoon, July 14, meet at the parking lot diagonally across from the Monroe Avenue/Arnold Avenue Allen Brothers Coffee Shop in Corvallis for carpooling. This hike, focusing on native plants, will begin at the campground on Marys Peak through the woods, out into the meadow to the summit and back through the noble fir forest to the campground. Slow elevation gain of a total of 4 to 5 miles. Bring appropriate hiking gear, water, and lunch. Free. For more information contact email@example.com.
• Electric Vehicle House Party: 7 p.m., July 17, location upon registering. Meet with Corvallis residents who are realizing the benefits of owning an electric vehicle — and take a ride in one. If you’re thinking of purchasing an EV, this is your chance to ask questions. For more information contact sustainablecorvallis.org. To register for the free event contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-230-1237.
• Sustainability Coalition Quarterly Gathering: noon to 1:30 p.m., July 18, Corvallis-Benton County Public Library, 645 NW Monroe Ave. Enjoy free presentations by Coalition partners and action teams, refreshments and networking opportunities. See sustainablecorvallis.org for details or contact: email@example.com, or 541-230-1237.
• Garden Family Cookout-Pollinator Celebration Meal: 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., July 18, Starker Arts Garden for Education, 4485 SW Country Club Drive, Corvallis. An evening of cooking in the cob oven. Celebrate the pollinators by learning more about the creatures that help to provide 75% of our food. Enjoy dinner, explore the pollinator garden, and create pollinator art. Register at https://corvallisenvironmentalcenter.wufoo.com/forms/r236lx916dul0g/ .
• Use Your Camera to Learn More About Nature: 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., July 19, Bald Hill Natural Area. This interactive workshop will cover ways you can use your camera — whether it’s a phone, pocket camera or DSLR — to learn more about nature. Learn how to get sharp, usable images and where you can get help identifying the species you’ve taken photos of. Free. Registration required at https://www.signupgenius.com/go/8050844abae2dab9-photography
• The Kalapuya and the Forest Service: 1-3 p.m., July 19, upper parking lot of Marys Peak. Greg Archuleta, Kalapuya member of the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde, will talk about Kalapuya culture and Marys Peak and U.S. Forest Service archaeologist Tony Farque will be in full reenactment mode as Forest Service founder Gifford Pinchot. The event is free but there is a Forest Service parking fee of $5. For further information: firstname.lastname@example.org
• Summer Marketplace: noon to 5 p.m., July 21, Corvallis downtown riverfront along First Street. Outdoor event with vendors specializing in local handmade items. This event is family friendly, open to the public and all vendors will accept the local currency HOURs and U.S. dollars. Free. For more information contact The HOUR Exchange at www.hourexchange.org or 541-224-7752.
• SAGE Summer Concert: 6-9 p.m., July 25, Starker Arts Park Amphitheater, 4485 SW Country Club Drive. Live music with bands Olivia Awbrey and Far Out West. Local food and beverages for purchase, family activities, and intermission entertainment. Free admission with a suggested donation of $10 a family. (All proceeds raise funds for SAGE Garden, which grows food for hunger relief organizations in Corvallis.) For more information see http://www.corvallisenvironmentalcenter.org/events/summerconcerts/ or contact email@example.com.
• Avery House Native Plant Garden Work Party: 10 a.m. to noon, July 28, Avery House, 1200 Avery Park Drive, Corvallis. Volunteer to help at the native plant garden for wildlife. For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org.