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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

River Otters Disappearance Resolved
by, Skylar Silvera

River Otters have been making a strong comeback into Marin and the Bay area after almost two years of them reportedly gone missing. This reappearance of the river otters is not just beneficial for the species but a beneficial to our environment. I got a chance to interview Megan Isadore who is a naturalist, wildlife rehabilitator and a writer who first became interested in River Otters when she spied them in Lagunitas Creek. She was working on the Lagunitas watershed in service to the critically endangered coho salmon and saw the inquisitive creatures crowding around a bank. She was hooked.

Since then Megan has dedicated her life to the species and works to answer questions about the species. Little is known about the river otters general ecology, diet, status, reproduction or diet but Megan Isadore is determined to find out. Megan is working on finding the answers to these questions by hiding cameras positioned along a 100-mile stretch of coastline and streams at 11 study locations north of the Golden Gate.

These cameras document the occurrence of the species as well as social aspect of the otters life. I learned from her videos  that males can be extremely territorial but not violent towards other male others, and that the female otters tend to be more isolated so that they can properly care for their young. The female otters are excellent mothers and actually carry their eggs inside their womb for up to two months which I found very interesting. They also gather otter droppings and “jelly” which is an intestinal secretion that Megan can use for genetic analysis  that could be used to discover population numbers, sex ratios, family ratios and otter ranges.

After Megan discovered the otters in the Lagunitas Creek, they started appearing in other locations such as in Corte Madera. They could be seen lounging in the Corte Madera Creek or the lagoon. They have also turned up on docks in the San Rafael Canal and along the county's West Marin coast.The otters come up from the bay and spend time in the canal and manage to find peaceful areas around Marin county to breed and hunt for food such as shellfish, crabs, crayfish even the occasional seagull!

During her presentation of the River Otters I was both amazed and stunned by the beautiful creatures and their livelihood.  Megan Isadore started the River Otter Ecology Project in 2012. Her first order of business was to create a website where “Otter Spotters” could chart their sightings on  an interactive map. I asked her what the point of the interactive map was and she said that she has discovered so many new homes to otters all around Marin that she can use to peacefully study and research the animals without disturbing their livelihood. The map is not only a tool used to track sightings of the river otters, but also a way to determine whether the population of river otters is thriving and growing or increasing like it was a couple of years ago.

During her powerpoint presentation of the river otters and how they benefit to the environment by supporting our watersheds, I wondered if the river otters could cause anything not beneficial to the watersheds, such as bringing the population of fish down. She responded that otters tend to not go for the big salmon such as the endangered coho salmon in Lagunitas Creek, they tend to hunt for the smaller fish and often the crabs that are easier to hunt and bring back as food for their babies. There is no reported drop in species for any key fish and yet Megan has come to a conclusion that the river otter population is indeed growing day by day.

I also wanted to know how the river otters were dealing with our current drought, and she replied by saying that the number of otters is still growing but she assumes that its much more difficult for the otters to find homes on the banks of streams so the females tend to travel more inland so they can raise their babies. Other than that she reports that everyone is a victim of the drought including herself, it truly is tragic.

As my final question I asked Megan how she was spreading the word about her work to protect the otter population. She told me that she continues to gather more volunteers every week to help her research the animals and her project is posted on Facebook and Twitter. There she posts her process regularly in hopes that others will be inspired of the work being done by her and the volunteers. You can learn more about the project the Otter Project by going to their website

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Check out the brief statement by Congressman Jared Huffman about the Environmental Leader of Marin Awards. …


MARIN, November 22, 2014 – Several Marin county environmental and sustainability leaders be recognized at the Environmental Leader of Marin Awards ceremony held Thursday December 4th, 2014 at the Mill Valley Community Center.

The VIP reception begins at 6:30 p.m. followed by the Awards Ceremony at 7:30 p.m. Several local eco-heroes will be celebrated and presented with awards, including:

Gold Medal Award: Megan Isadore, River Otter Ecology Project
Isadore, the Executive Director and Co-Founder of the River Otter Ecology Project, leads the first non-profit, in Central California, to research river otters population, range and health issues. River Otter’s habitat extends from headwaters to oceans using every part of the watershed as their home. River Otters were thought to be close to extinction in the Bay area and little was known about them. 

Now, thanks to the help of the River Ecology Project, a non-profit organization co-founded by Isadore, more people are aware of the otters, and able to help with the restoration and conservation of their watershed environment.

Silver Medal Educator Award:  Jennie Lynne Pardi
Pardi is currently the Education Manager at NatureBridge Golden Gate. She has worked in the field of environmental conservation for the past 20 years as an environmental educator, a field biologist, and program manager.

Sustainable Business of Marin Award: SolEd Benefit Corp
Formed as a benefit corporation, Sol-Ed ( is a solar company. SolEd seeks to provide the lowest lifetime cost of energy to schools, universities, municipalities and large non-profits.

About the Awards

The Awards support EarthScope Media & the Academy for Sustainability & Communications “ASC”, which provides vocational training and education to Marin county youth. Featured in National Geographic Kids, EarthScope Media believes that the public needs access to reliable information about environmental issues from independent media. This is especially true today when only six corporations, own 90% of the U.S. media.
EarthScope produces environmental news through radio, print and online stories that reach hundreds of thousands of people in the Bay area and beyond. Founded on the principle that education can change lives - and change the world, EarthScope’s ASC provides in depth vocational training and education to youth. 

According to Catriona Glazebrook, the Director of EarthScope Media, (, “Given present  job trends its more important  for young people to have the type of real job skills that ACS offers; such as  communications and technology skills, while also providing them education about science, sustainability and the environment.”
The Awards were founded by Catriona Glazebrook, who has spearheaded environmental causes since 1970. She has also helped to fund the work of over 200 NGOs’ internationally and in the US, and is an expert in environmental trends. The first award winner was former Marin County Supervisor Charles McGlashan who helped to launch the Marin Energy Authority. Other past awardee’s include Marty Griffin, who played a major role in establishing wildlife sanctuaries and whose work was featured in the film Rebels with Cause, and Congressman Jared Huffman, one of the legislature's leading advocates for sustainable water policy.

 “By honoring local leaders who are achieving results on behalf of the environment, we bring greater awareness of and support to their efforts. We also gather together those committed to environmental causes to unite and honor those individuals who make a difference. We must come together to encourage, support and environmental efforts in this critical time of unprecedented global challenges.” Says Glazebrook.

For more information about the awards, please visit

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Giving Power Back to the People of Detroit
By: Anna Traub

Jackson Koeppel and the Soulardarity Project are helping Detroit gets it power back, literally by installing solar powered lamps. Highland Park is part of the Detroit metropolitan area and the city’s population had dropped by more 80 percent since the factories left the area. In 2011, around 1,000 of the city’s 1,500 streetlights were taken out by the local utility because of the $4 million municipal debt. The streets of Highland Park were left dark.

Jackson is working towards giving the power back to the people. While he and his team install the new solar run street lamps, the people now get the power back in their own hands, by owning these street lamps. Now, instead of being afraid of walking home at nights the people of HIghland Park can know their lights won’t be taken away by corporations.
Soulardarity is all about people taking control of their own well being and lives, and it is doing wonders for Detroit. Also Soulardarity is taken a sustainable approach by having solar powered lamps. They are giving hope back to the people and empowering them to change the future of Highland Park.

Koeppel and the Soulardarity Program are moving forward everyday, with new inventions to help Detroit get back on its feet, and build new beginnings. With the enormous support the have been given the community Soulardarity is making the big changes to Detroit and helping not only Detroit be in a better place but the individual families of Detroit as well.  To learn more about Koeppel and Soulardarity’s work visit:

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Larry Bragman: Protecting Marin County's Watershed

On November 4, West Marin residents hit the polls and elected Larry Bragman, the Vice Mayor of Fairfax, as their representative on the Marin Municipal Water District Board. Our class was lucky enough to interview him a week previously. Bragman’s campaign platform is rooted in updating fire policy, making Marin more pesticide-free, conserving water, and preventing the construction of a huge new water pipeline across the Richmond Bridge.
One of his major goals is to create a “watershed economy here in Marin,” so that our water needs are locally sourced. This has the added benefits of being “less energy intensive,” and Bragman also claims that if we keep our water local, “We will know the quality of the water that we’re getting.”
The water pipeline project would cost about $45 million dollars to build and even more to actually pump. He believes that although the Drought Resilience and Operations Committee supports the pipeline’s construction as a last resort solution for a horrible drought, Marin County might “draw the short straw in terms of actually getting water.” Bragman says that the new pipeline would be “unreliable” because that water source is already very “oversubscribed.” Furthermore, we really don’t need an additional water source because we could all live off of the water stored in our watershed and the water we get from the Russian River for “two years without a drop of rain.” If we were to instead invest that $45 million locally, Bragman argues that we would produce more water at a lower marginal cost.
Another idea of his is to start (if necessary) pumping groundwater locally. There is a large volume of water stored underground near Bon Tempe lake that could be a potential site. Furthermore, he says that during years when we are actually dumping water from the reservoirs, we can simply pump the surplus back into the ground to restore that environment. Groundwater also eliminates waste because there is no evaporation underground like there is in reservoirs.
In addition, Marin needs to take a more radical stand on conservation. Santa Rosa, for example, has had a “cash for grass” incentive in play for years, in which the local government actually pays private customers to switch from grass lawns to artificial turf, saving 18 gallons per square foot per year of water. Bragman also suggests that we should replace all of the plumbing fixtures in the district with higher efficiency ones, and make their replacement a recommendation, if not a requirement, before a home can go on the market.
His bottom line is that we need to “get ahead of the drought” through conservation with a more urgent approach. Bragman thinks that the best way forward is to focus on the smaller things that all add up to higher efficiency. He maintains that “There is no silver bullet, but we have a suite of no-regret options that we should be pursuing here.” If we prioritize our water productivity as Bragman suggests, “We could be water-secure for the next 20-30 years.”

For more information on Bragman’s policies, visit his web site: 

Makena Schwinn, Earthscope Media Intern, 10/7/14

Green Chemistry Champion: An Interview with John Warner

I interviewed John Warner, green chemistry pioneer and recent recipient of the 2014 Perkin medal (basically the Pulitzer prize of chemistry), at the National Bioneers Conference in October. Though incredibly humble, Warner’s work speaks for itself. In the 1990s, Warner and a colleague published the definitive book on green chemistry, explaining it as a new technology that is environmentally sustainable, is economically feasible, and outperforms old technology. Recently Warner was the recipient of the Perkin Award in chemistry.
The Perkin Medal is recognized as one of the highest honors given for outstanding work in applied chemistry in the United States.  The Perkin Medal was first awarded in 1906. Since then, more than 90 such awards have been given to notable scientists.This is the very first time that the award has been given to a “green” chemist. In a field not normally associated with being eco-conscious - this is a tremendous breakthrough for chemistry and a tremendous honor for Dr. Warner.
Warner’s two main (interconnected) focuses are: green chemistry, which involves eliminating hazardous materials from chemicals in the design stage; and biomimicry, a new practice in which technology replicates processes found in nature, which are nearly always more efficient than those are manmade. As Warner stated, the two go hand in hand, but “you can still mimic nature using toxic materials.” One example of this is new adhesive technology that is based on the way geckos can climb vertically, but is still very dangerous. Warner made it clear that the two concepts don’t always go together though, saying that “You can use biomimicry to make toxic materials, on the other hand you can do green chemistry and not be biomimetic. The wonderful part is when you do both.”
            Warner also believes it is crucial for the average person to have a better understanding of chemistry because it affects virtually everything about our lives--the products we buy, the foods we eat, and the air we breathe, how we communicate--and it affects legislation. He says that there are flaws at the collegiate level of chemistry education. After being an industrial chemist for over twenty years, Warner had never been required to take courses in environmental mechanisms nor toxicology. He is convinced that the way in which chemistry is taught in high school needs to be dramatically improved because most people’s bad experience in a high school chem class scares them away from the area for the rest of their lives. He is a testament to this theory, receiving a D in high school chemistry himself. He claims, however, that “once you understand that there is a science about trying to do things in a more environmentally responsible way, it makes [chemistry] much more palatable.” It is Warner’s philosophy that young people need to get hooked on chemistry not because of the cool reactions teachers demonstrate to entice them, but by the idea that “the future is made by chemists.” He wishes that teachers would instead approach a class and say “Listen. The world has problems. If you really want to contribute to a successful future, would you think being a chemist is at the top of the list? If it’s not, who’s going make the future?”
To inspire youth to pursue green chemistry, Warner wants them to understand that “We need people who want a successful future to be part of making it, not describing it.” In order to accomplish this goal, Warner’s team created the Beyond Benign foundation, which incorporates green chemistry curriculum into K-12 education in the Boston area and connects science with health and environmentalism. So far, the foundation has reached out to thousands of students.

To learn more about Dr. John Warner and the Beyond Benign Foundation go to and

Makena Schwinn, Earthscope Media Intern, 10/22/14

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

EcoViva for Mangrove Conservation

EcoViva for Mangrove Conservation

            Today, half of the world’s mangrove forests have disappeared. Mangroves play a crucial role in the planet’s environment, but they are vanishing from Earth.
EcoViva is a non-profit organization that uses their efforts to conserve and secure the Mangrove forests of El Salvador. Unlike anywhere else, El Salvador has some of the largest Mangrove forests that are being threatened right now.
Some of the main causes for Mangrove loss are due to deforestation and intense fisherman farming using explosives. Mangroves are being damaged by explosives used by local fisherman to catch fish. Harming these tropical forests does not allow for water life to be supported. The roots of Mangroves, as well as the land surrounding them, absorb salt water that serves as nursing grounds for marine life. Ironically, local fishermen destroy their own food supply, because in the long run, fish will not be able to survive in the damaged environment.
            EcoViva supports initiatives to stop this process of hunting for fish using explosives. This organization works with local people to have regional and environmental policies. EcoViva has had great success with changing fishing practices by teaching fishermen of new and efficient ways to catch fish. They help around eighteen communities from different parts of Central America like El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, and Panama. The group also fights to stop resorts from being built in these communities, because it will negatively affect the environment.
            Along with supporting conservation initiatives, Eco Viva also supports community level involvement and enforcement. It is crucial to them that the community they are working in gets involved with and supports their initiatives. By having local people included in their projects, they are able to maintain their important work for long periods of time. In an interview with the executive director of EcoViva, Karolo Aparicio stated that he did not just want to “plant trees,” but instead have the Mangroves cure themselves by protecting the ones that remain. It has been found that allowing the Mangroves to regenerate themselves is a much more effective and an eco-friendlier process.
            The Mangrove forests are significant to balancing the climate, because they absorb so much carbon dioxide from the atmosphere which helps to deter climate change. Mangroves support life by creating a breeding ground for shrimp and other marine life, like crab, shellfish, and endangered sea turtles.
            If you would like to help EcoViva and their mission to conserve the mangroves, you can become a Mangrove Forest Guardian. These people support local communities who fight for the preservation of their local forests. For more information, go to their website at We must help organizations like these to preserve the world’s biodiversity.

A New Hope for Restoration

In the past decades, the San Francisco Bay Area has seen a steady decline in the Otter population. While the River Otters were close to extinction in the region, many did not know this due to the minimal information there is about otters. Before the existence of the River Otter Ecology Project, only two articles could be found about our local river otters. Now, thanks to the help of the River Ecology Project, we know more about otters than ever before.
The River Otter Ecology Project is a non-profit organization that aspires to discover the connection between the growing population of River Otters and our watersheds. Their goal is to bring awareness to the public in order to get more people involved in the restoration and conservation of the watershed environment. Their workers consist of only volunteers who are determined to find more about Otter ecology, habitat, and behavior in our watersheds.
It is essential to know about River Otters, because they are an important species that live in our waters and on land. Watersheds are very important, because they supply our drinking water, provide water for agricultural use and provide a habitat for many plants and animals. Unfortunately, many of these watersheds have been polluted or diminished from years of drought conditions. In spite of this, the otter population appears to be rebounding. The River Otter Ecology Project has recorded over nine hundred sightings as of July 2014. That is why seeing an Otter brings hope to our watersheds. Their comeback shows great promise for conserving the watershed, and by restoring it we help support us all.
River Otters can be seen in the San Francisco Bay Area ranging from San Jose to the Sacramento Valley. Their habitat extends from headwaters to oceans using every part of the watershed as their home. The River Otter Ecology Project has obtained lots of information about Otters that educate the public of their ecology. Their research methodology does no harm to the otters, their natural environment or daily rituals, mostly because their research consists of cameras being placed in certain areas. At first, the researchers believed the Otters would be afraid of their cameras, but as it turns out their curiosity took over and some of the otters even played with these cameras.
After a presentation from the co-founder, Megan Isadore, I was intrigued to hear about how near Otters lived near my own home. Isadore spoke about the variety of ways one can find Otters by identifying their tracks. One can find Otter signs by observing the land along creeks and rivers or anywhere that consist of small to large bodies of water. The first signs of an Otter habitat are their latrine sites. These sites are filled with a variety of Otter scat. These are located on high ground around a river of water usually on ponds, logs, or rocks on water.
Along these streams, slides can also be found. These are indicators of Otters sites. As a way of getting into the water, otters slide from land into lakes or rivers, and can be clearly identified when seen. Other indications of Otter environments are flat beds of land. Otters tend to roll around along the edges of water where they twist and turn flattening grass and dirt along with their scat. This may be odd, but it is their way of communicating to each other the type of surrounding they are in, like the food they eat or any illnesses in the environment. Anyone can find these signs along their neighborhood creeks or streams that are attached to larger bodies of water. Anyone can submit their findings to the River Otter Ecology Project website, and see their findings posted on their Otter Spotter blogs.
Every single person working for the River Otter Ecology Project is a volunteer ranging from specialist to high school interns. Their staff consists of around twenty or so members that are busy trying to find more information about River Otters. But there are those who simply spot otters and record it. This is called a citizen scientist.  A citizen scientist is someone who observes otters in their neighborhood or anywhere else near them. Anyone can become a citizen scientist and help support the River Otter Ecology Project and their cause. Taking a picture or video of an otter near you can help the ROEP accomplish their mission of discovering new information about Otters. By going onto their website, one can find quick facts about Otters as well as how to spot any near you.
The River Otter population was once close to extinction from the San Francisco Bay Area. Let us help the ROEP ( not only to conserve the health of our watersheds, but also to restore the wonderful unique species that once filled our watersheds in the Bay.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Messages from the Heart of the World

High in the Sierra Nevada mountains in Colombia live the Kogi people, an isolated, indigenous tribe that have preserved their customs and lifestyle for the past five hundred years. They’ve come out of isolation in the past few years to share their knowledge of and worries about climate change, and to try to protect their series of sacred sites along the coastline of Colombia which they refer to as “el Corazon del mundo,” or the heart of the world.  I met with the governor of the Kogi people, Jose de los Santos Sauna, and one of the spiritual leaders, or mamas of the tribe, to hear their thoughts and insights about two major ideas. First, what is happening to the world today and why is it happening, and second, what can we do about it? Their ideas were both simple and revolutionary.

            When I interviewed the Kogi, we met around a small round table in the courtyard. Both Jose de los Santos and the mama were dressed in white, almost robe-like outfits, which we were told they had made themselves. This particular mama was well known for his gift for making clothes. Additionally, the mama held a small, hollowed out, bowl-like nut, which he used to hold coca leaves for chewing. When chewed, coca leaves act as a stimulant, and are also nutritious and help to ward off diseases. They both wore hats which came to a point at the top of their head—these symbolize the mountains where they make their home. Despite having spent at least a month in the United States, travelling around and giving talks about their mission, neither Jose de los Santos Sauna nor the mama had bought any manufactured items or western clothes. They had refused to accept any gifts of western items from anyone who had offered, and had not wanted to buy anything that they’d seen. They had looked at our consumer culture and decided that they didn’t want to be a part of it.

            During the interview, I would ask a question in English, which would then be translated into Spanish so that Jose de los Santos could understand. He in turn would translate the question into the native Kogi language, so that the mama, whose ideas hold together the tribe, could understand and answer the question. Mamas spend their first nine to eighteen years living in total darkness without exposure to daylight. However, when they are deemed ready, they are taken during the night up to the top of the highest mountain in the Sierra Nevada, so that they can watch the dawn break over the sea, coast, and mountains. It’s surely a sight that is incredible and unforgettable, especially as someone’s first experience of daylight. The mamas then are in charge of the spiritual side of tribe life, while the governor is in charge of the material side. Through a union between these two, the tribe remains happy.

            The Kogi people have a unique way of viewing the world. To them, everything in the world is interconnected, just as all parts of a body are interconnected. If one part of the body gets sick, the body will not function as well. Similarly, if a part of the body is lost, like an arm or a leg or even a finger, it will impact the rest of the body. They believe that the way that current society is acting, waging war, consuming more than we need to survive, and taking resources like oil and natural gas out of the earth is like a sickness. “You’re taking the blood and the bones from our mother,” said Liliana Madrigal, when asked to explain the Kogi viewpoint on what our society does. They believe that sooner or later, the effects of what we are doing to “our mother” will make her angry. Western civilization, or the “younger brother,” needs to stop the abuse of the earth before it goes too far.

            However, the tribe does not make dire and apocalyptic predictions for the future. The Kogi believe that we can and will change, and that anyone, no matter what their background, can learn to live in harmony with nature and with themselves. “If the desire is in your heart, then you can change,” said Governor Jose de los Santos Sauna. In fact, the future success of the change in ideology and way of living that the Kogi are trying to help create depends on people who have not grown up in isolated tribes to recognize and change our ways.

            For the Kogi, the most pressing matter is reclaiming their sacred sites along the coastline of Colombia. They’ve been involved in several legal battles and have managed to obtain one, securing it against the threat of being drilled or turned into an amusement park. Through the sale of their ecologically harvested coffee, they’ve been able to raise enough money to buy back that one site. It’s up to the rest of us to spread their message to the rest of the world.
By Kate Iida

Monday, July 21, 2014


By: Genevieve Finn

Right now, California is facing one of the toughest droughts recorded in our states history. The situation is so desperate that Governor Brown declared a State of Emergency and directed state officials to take all necessary actions to prepare for these drought conditions in January. This may have come as a shock for many Californians who were unaware of our waning water supplies, but in reality this situation has been brewing for years. Let’s take a walk way, way down memory lane to the days of William Mulholland.
William Mulholland emigrated to the United States in 1878 and worked as a ditch-digger in the Los Angeles area. This is where he was introduced to the hydraulics business of Los Angeles, which he soon became deeply involved in, taking on the position of superintendent at the peak of his career. It became Mulholland’s job to supply water for the ever-growing city of Los Angeles, which quickly sucked its main water source - the little Los Angeles River - dry. Mulholland looked north to the fertile Owens River Valley to quench Los Angeles’s huge thirst.

Throughout 1911-1923, Mulholland’s team quietly acquired the water rights to 95% of the Owens River and constructed a giant 233-mile aqueduct across the Mojave Desert to bring water to Los Angeles. Although Mulholland’s intentions were good, the way he went about doing this could be considered corrupt because he allowed his bureaucratic friends to purchase desert land for cheap with the knowledge that it would soon be quality farmland because the aqueduct would run across it. Many also think Mulholland “tricked” the people of the Owens River Valley and stole their water. In response, the local ranchers of the Owens River Valley seized the pipeline and dynamited it repeatedly. But they were no match for Mulholland and the city of Los Angeles, who promptly seized it back with a huge showing of armed force.
A few years later, disaster struck again. The San Francisquito Dam burst in 1928, with such horrible consequences that Mulholland resigned in shame, his real achievements forgotten. Mulholland’s predecessors continued his perpetual search for water for Los Angeles, looking east to the Colorado River and north to the Feather River. The city still proved unquenchable, but the last straw for the rest of California came when Los Angeles officials drained Mono Lake, destroying important ecosystems and causing an outcry from environmentalists and landowners alike.
Nowadays Los Angeles still struggles to provide it's burgeoning population with the water it needs, especially in our current drought. The effects of Mulholland's groundbreaking actions are still felt in the Owens River Valley and Mono Lake. We must always remember this story in the present and try to look to the past to solve our future problems.

What do we do now?

By: Geffen Hochschild

It is guaranteed that you have heard of the effect of fossil fuels on the environment, and there is a good reason for it. This problem is only expanding, as scientists say that our planet is now “beyond the point of return.” Global warming has become one of the largest crises we will face in the future. The burning of fossil fuels has doomed our Earth to environmental changes, has created wars, and has allowed business monopolies to form throughout our country for centuries. But now, we have new technology. As solar energy is becoming more cost effective and accessible, there is a way for all of us to fight the use of fossil fuels and ensure a better future for our children.
Solar energy is now an option for all of us. With a certain amount of space and energy, we can all lower our energy bill with almost no change of lifestyle. There are fewer and fewer excuses to neglect these new forms of energy, as solar panel systems are becoming increasingly advanced and easy to use. Chris Bunas, the owner of Sunterra, says that depending on how much you are willing to invest in solar (with space and money), you can accomplish an energy system completely free of charge. On top of this incredible financial situation that solar energy can provide, it affects virtually nothing. There is practically no air or noise pollution, which creates an incredibly ideal source of energy. The fact that we have this incredibly useful technology at such a low cost prompts the question: Why don’t we all simply switch?
The answer is: tradition.Traditional energy is the safe choice. We all want reliable, old-fashioned energy sources. We want the energy sources that are used by our neighbors and that are used by our neighbors’ neighbors.  If solar is out of the question for your household, that isn’t the end of the road. It is just as possible to save large amounts of energy (and money) just by being conscious. Bunas explains, “The same people who paid $500 dollars a month in a three bedroom house with an electric bill can move out...and somebody else can move in and only pay $200…It all depends on your lifestyle.” If someone is focused on saving money and saving energy, it is quite possible to achieve that. Things such as opening windows instead of using the AC and turning off lights when no one is in the room can lead to an incredible amount of conservation.

Whether you switch to solar or choose to switch to a lifestyle dedicated to conserving energy in the household, it is truly our future. Both options help our wallets, and both will help our planet and our fate.  By simply making sure that you turn off a switch, we can preserve our way of life for many generations.

The Greenest Store

Charlotte Trotter

Have you ever wanted a grocery store that contains all healthy food alternatives for your daily food products? Meanwhile, the store itself was helping the environment. Good Earth has mastered these tasks and much more.
Good Earth is owned by Al Baylacq and Mark Squire, yet there are many more helpful employees that are involved in Good Earth. Good Earth is natural foods store located in Fairfax, Marin County. Mark Squire was inspired to open a sustainable grocery store 40 years ago when he read scientist Rachel Carson's book, The Silent Spring. The book explains how artificial chemicals are used in the process of farming conventional crops. Carson proved that this is unhealthy for humans, and extremely harmful to the environment, and will ultimately lead to a “dead” planet. Because of the harmful chemicals used in conventional farming, Mark started a unique grocery store called Good Earth that provides all natural foods that don’t harm the environment.
From the beginning, Baylacq and Squire wanted to make Good Earth as green as possible. Today, Good Earth has 852 solar panels which generates 35% of the store’s daily energy use. Once Baylacq and Squire received a grant from the federal government to install solar panels, both felt confident about their decision to make Good Earth as green as possible. Therefore it was a no brainer for the owners of Good Earth to put in the 6th largest solar panel system in the county. Baylacq also explained that every grocery store uses massive amounts of energy on a daily basis, and for Good Earth to have 35% of that energy to come from a natural source is one of their favorite and best accomplishments.
Good Earth provides healthy, fresh, and sustainable lunches everyday for 14 different Marin schools. In order to meet their demand, Good Earth starts cooking from scratch at 5am. The food is then put in hot boxes in order to keep the food fresh and warm until 12pm when it is then eaten by thousands of students.  
Good Earth is changing rapidly. Al Baylacq and Mark Squire have much more in store for the future. Because of the increased demand, Good Earth is opening a new store in the fall of 2015, located in Marin County. The owners and daily customers are more than excited to have natural foods become more popular throughout Marin County. With the new store coming soon, hopes are high for sustainable and green alternatives in order to create a healthier community.  

The Kogi Have Something to Say, and We Need to Hear It

A member of the Kogi tribe.
By: Sammy Herdman

When explorers from the Old World flocked to the Americas over five centuries ago, the formerly flourishing indigenous cultures began to deteriorate due to disease, war and forceful assimilation into European societal standards.  The Kogi tribe, descendants of the Tairona civilization, dating back to 1000 AD, is the only tribe with intact traditions.  They escaped Spanish conquistadores by fleeing into the Andes mountains and found refuge on the mountain Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in Colombia.

Today, the Kogi people believe that the entire Earth is a “mother nature” figure complete with organs and limbs, and Sierra Nevada is the heart of the world.  Historical experts say that this idea may be due to the varied climates of the Sierra Nevada that come close to representing the diverse habitats of Earth. Its peaks are capped with snow while further down the mountain there’s a large tropical region. There’s a sandy coastline and regions of rocks and sparse forests. In addition, the mountain is so near the equator that the day and night are the same length all year. Sierra Nevada has isolated and protected the Kogi civilization for centuries, and in return, their culture has adapted to respect and rely on the mountain.

Hidden from the modern world’s technology and inventions, there is almost nothing that the Kogi use that they haven’t made themselves or that hasn’t been passed down from earlier generations. They depend on the land for their food, shelter and traditions.  It’s critical that they work with the land, and because of this, they notice every variation in its climate patterns. The Kogi practice the most original and basic form of science: observation.  Despite all of our advantages, such as new tools and generations of scientific knowledge, the Kogi have come to the same conclusion as us: the world is in danger, and it’s our fault.

Just decades ago, the Kogi made their first appearance in the modern world when they invited a videographer to document their culture and carry their message.  “They can’t live in isolation. So whatever is happening beyond their borders is definitely going to impact them,” said Liliana Madrifgal, who is working with an organization to conserve the Kogi’s ancestral lands.  The Kogi have observed that the climate is growing warmer, the water is becoming polluted, and the diverse range of species on Sierra Nevada is having to adapt quickly. The Kogi have started appealing to the “younger brothers” (all people not belonging to the tribe) to be kinder to our planet.  They believe that once the Heart of the World dies, so will all of Earth.

“They tell you: we’re not living in isolation, that’s why we came out.  Because we can’t just continue to go up. There is nowhere else to go; we’ve gone high enough in the mountains.  Now we’ve got to come down and be a part of the solution,” said Madrifgal. The Kogi’s sacrifice of their isolation indicates the gravity of their warning.  Maybe we should listen.

The impact nature has on your life and health: Nature-deficit disorder

Marin County Parks' open space land.

Marin County Parks is an organization working to restore and provide healthier, safer, and better natural habitats for our community. It has acquired and taken care of many of the parks known within the Marin community that are enjoyed by the public.

Marin County Parks has welcoming staff, such as park rangers that host daily fun and collaborative activities for all ages. These activities will get you off your seat by engaging in nature, even if it is your first time doing outdoors activities! “People work together towards a common goal while also getting to know each other and having friendly conversations with each other and our staff,” said volunteer coordinator Kirk Schroeder.

There are many opportunities offered by this organization that has been working for years to promote and ensure the health of our natural habitats. Schroeder emphasized, “ People need nature in their lives to be happy and healthy.” All rangers and volunteer coordinators work side by side with their community to restore natural habitats, which are important for wildlife and for people who love to be outdoors and do daily healthy activities such as biking, hiking, and walking on the Marin County Parks land.

However, to maintain our parks’ natural beauty, we need your help to restore our parks and to create a more involved community with our parks, which is vital and necessary for our health and for the sake of our precious native plants, animals and yes, us too. Schroeder works hard at protecting our parks and other natural habitats and explains the importance of plants, trees, and wildlife that our earth has granted us, saying, “It is really important to maintain a healthy ecosystem because parks, forests, creeks, and other natural areas are inhabited by many different species of wildlife that are dependent on that habitat that has a lot of natural resources they need to survive.”

Yet, we fail to show gratitude by caring and protecting earth from the many potential dangers. We are harming the planet with our rapidly growing industrial economy, which creates high levels of CO2 in our atmosphere, triggering global warming. In Addition, plants and animal life to go extinct as we become increasingly urbanized. Schroeder said, “Everything is affected by the way we manage our land, and there are many ways we can help protect our land, but there are also many things that contribute to the destruction of our land.”

But it doesn’t end there. In the near future, urbanization may also become an even more serious threat to us and our physical, mental, and emotional health. There are various cases of adults who suffer from nature-deficit disorder; it is even more common among children born in the 21st century, who have the tendency to spend less time outdoors interacting with nature than their parents did as children. By being less active and healthy, children are more vulnerable to illness and emotional disabilities. Schroeder said,  “Doctors are prescribing visits to parks and nature because it will help them [children] have not only a healthy body but a healthy frame of mind which, in the long term, means a happy life.”

To join Marin County Parks in their mission to preserve our forests while also getting outdoors, having fun, and encouraging a healthy lifestyle, visit their website at

By: Anahi Mendieta