Apr 1, 2008

Back in the Field + Updates and April Fools

I injured my neck in February while "playing" a game of "weeding Twister". In other words, I was removing invasive species from an area so dense with wildflower sprouts that I couldn't find the surface area to put my knees on the ground. Thus I totally tweaked my neck. This has kept me out of the field with respect to habitat restoration. I've still been doing my dog walking, but with the flowers blooming, I miss working for habitat. But I'm outside a whole lot at the moment, and it's a nice time for it, too.

I guess I was still working for habitat as I finished up the outreach phase of the Green DogWalks project. But outreach is such a laborious and thankless job, that sometimes it doesn't feel like I'm doing anything at all. Whereas when I work in the field, I can see changes, often subtle, but I know exactly what effect I've had. With outreach or public education work, it's hard to know if anyone's listening, in part because it takes information a long time to percolate.

I've been working on Green DogWalks for two years. It's my baby and I have rampant thoughts of infanticide. This may sound ungrateful given that the project was a smashing way to end my undergraduate education and it was surely the clincher for my acceptance to University College London. The project's also been a great link for me to the SF ecological community. I know I've reached some of the Bernal Heights community with the outreach efforts. I'll understand better the effect Green DogWalks has had at the end of this second data collection, hurray for being in the field! Here's hoping there are measurable changes that will encourage other park agencies to use positive outreach as a tool for managing dogs in sensitive habitat.

Despite the gains and potential effects, I have mixed emotions about this project. Doing the second data collection feels weird. Among other things, I'm essentially measuring the efficacy of the Green DogWalks outreach plan and the execution of that plan. With two years invested in this work, I'm a bit nervous about the results. Research at this park is tense at times anyway. People are so suspicious. Suspicion usually has a root in truth, but I've encountered belligerence, condescension, and snarkiness through every phase of this project. It's tiring. This is not to say that I haven't heard kind words of appreciation and support, because I certainly have. But I think most folks can recognize that even one jackass can totally screw up your day if you're already a bit tired or doubtful of yourself.

Another conflicting aspect of this project is that I got into grad school with this work, but I do not want to continue it myself so I have failed in finding funding for my studies. Though it appears to have presented enormous opportunities, those opportunities are a bit narrow. I really want to work in the field. And I don't mean that I want to stand in the field (ie a park) begging people (ie park visitors) to be sensitive to habitat. That's such crucial work, but my heart's not in it. I want to pull weeds, harvest seed, monitor landscape changes, etc. I know that some public education and engagement is required for that as well. Cool, I think I'm prepared for that given this experience.

I also have some strange feelings about the way the animal welfare and sustainability communities approach Green DogWalks, me, and each other. It's a difficult relationship and I'll leave that there.

But, I love observing in the park. I love watching dogs, particularly when I'm just noting volume from a high ridge, removed from most of the humans. And I'm so lucky to be allowed to watch the red tail hawks and kestrels at all hours of day. Along the ridge at my favorite observation spot is a vibrant patch of wildflowers. They're opening up more and more each day and it's really fun to get a fresh glimpse of them when I arrive. I look at the Viola penduculata with a bit of pride, knowing that I'm working to protect its habitat. (Viola penduculata is the larval food plant of the Callippe silverspot, a federally endangered butterfly found nearby). It's a damn pretty patch of flowers. Yarrow, lomatium, lupine, and Johnny Jump-up clinging to the side of a human created cliff - cut on one side for a road, quarried on the other by idiots looking for gold.

In other news, I loved the responses to the lotto question. Very cool answers. Clearly we all hang on to the hope of being free from financial worries. It was illuminating to hear more than a few say they would take care of health stuff if they had money. Me too, folks.

I also wanted to recommend a new site, neighborrow.com. Obviously a site like this will need some folks to try it out to make it successful. I love love love the concept and hope you'll give a look and perhaps a post.

And we have a Compact France, now! Check it out at http://compact.over-blog.com/

Finally, did anyone else read the news today and think, "This must be an April Fools joke"? I thought the story that the Berkeley Marines Recruiting Station is pulling out was a joke, but folks are swearing it's real. On the other hand, I did not believe the Nature in the City story about the Iraq War funding being pulled for ecological purposes. But the folks who really got me (and I say "got me" even though I have no definitive source saying it was a joke) are the founders of V, a new vegan restaurant opening in SF sometime soon. I get emails from these guys because I wanted to invest in their place - yeah, that was before I understood what "investing" means. Still, I love hearing about the restaurant, until I got an email today that said they're going omnivore and installing "decorative" solar panels with the help of investment partners at Chevr0n. Seriously, I fell for it as I skimmed with a quickening pulse. I was getting indignant and outraged ... and maybe (melodramatically) a bit frightened for the world. These guys are awesome, and the thought of them selling out was really scary. Thank god it was a joke (I think).


Tom Mayer said...

I don't like the name April Fools. I'ld prefer Day of Humour.
But I like this day because it reminds people that they are under constant threat of mass-media hidden actions.

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