Ecological spirituality workshop, day four

Summary session plan below.

My iNaturalist observations for today.

Suburban/urban nature walk

We took a walk from Ferry Beach Park Association to Camp Ellis. We walked along Surf Street until the pavement ended, then walked along the dirt track where Surf Street used to be. We turned inland at Lower Beach Road, where the dirt track ended, turned down Cove Ave and walked down to look at the Saco River, then down North Ave. to Bay Ave. to the jetty. On the walk back, we went along Route 9.

I’ve never written up full instructions on how to lead a suburban or urban nature walk, and unfortunately I’m not going to have time to write that description now. Suffice it to say the following: in a suburban or urban environment, there will be fewer native species and less biodiversity than in a landscape that is less dominated by humans. So a suburban / urban nature walk will look at what non-human species are present (and why they’re there), and in addition will look at the economic forces that shape the landscape.

Remember — the word “ecojustice” means both “economic justice” and “ecological justice.” Some of the thinking behind ecojustice is that economics cannot be separated from environmental concerns.

For reference: Ecojustice curriculum (gr. 6-8) on my curriculum website.


Yes, yes, I know, once you saw a Disney movie in which a deer was killed and now you can’t eat venison. However, from an ecological standpoint, deer are a native species that fill an existing ecological niche, unlike the soybeans in your tofu which are invasive exotic species raised in monoculture fields that wipe out countless acres of habitat. And if you’re a small farmer, like Carol’s friend Eva, deer are an herbivore pest in a landscape that now lacks large carnivores to keep their population in check. So eating low-fat, free-range, non-GMO, antibiotic-free, organic venison that is untouched by American Agribusiness is actually an environmentally sound act that lets us humans fill the ecological niche of the large carnivores we have mostly extirpated from North America. It’s nice when we humans can play a positive role in the ecosystem, instead of just replacing the existing ecosystem with our own suburban and urban ecosystems.

When she stayed with us earlier this week, Eva gave use part of a haunch of venison. Carol stir-fried some chunks of venison with onions and greens; it looked really good, but I decided I wanted plain venison. I sliced it thin, and gently fried it in a little butter for a late brunch.

Venison cooking

After gently frying both sides, I covered the pan and let it steam for a minute until the meat was just well-done, with no red in the center. It was fabulous: lean, tender, and very tasty. I re-heated some of the “Warthog” wheat berries in the pan drippings, and the combination of the nutty wheat, the butter, and the meat drippings was the perfect addition to a satisfying brunch.

Golden haze

Carol and walked down to the waterfront in San Mateo. It was a beautiful evening. It’s the rainy season, so the hills across the bay are now a soft green. The setting sun glinted off windows of houses far up in the Oakland hills. And a beautiful golden haze hung over the waters of the bay.

“It’s the golden haze again,” I said to Carol. We’ve been seeing this for the past week or so: cold, still air has settled down over the area, trapping pollutants in the wide bowl formed by the mountains surrounding the bay. The people who monitor air pollution have been detecting high levels of fine particles, and because of that all wood fires have been banned most days this week. The air quality index has been moderate to unhealthy. That’s what has caused the golden haze.

“It’s beautiful,” I said. We kept walking, watching the shorebirds, and the play of light on the water.

Written on Monday, posted on Saturday; I’ve been slowed down this week by a cold this week.