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Colin Fletcher, 85, a Trailblazer of Modern Backpacking, Dies

Dennis Hevesi, NY Times
Colin Fletcher, whose ornate prose and prosaic tips on subjects like choosing the right hiking boots helped start the modern backpacking movement, died June 12 in Monterey, Calif. He was 85.

Mr. Fletcher died as a result of complications of head injuries he sustained in 2001 when he was struck by a car while walking near his home in Carmel Valley, Calif., said Chip Rawlins, who helped Mr. Fletcher write the fourth edition of “The Complete Walker” (Alfred A. Knopf, 2002). Many wilderness enthusiasts consider the work to be the hiker’s bible.

First published in 1968, the book has sold more than 500,000 copies and remains in print. So, too, have two of the seven other books that Mr. Fletcher offered as paeans to soul-restoring and solitary strolls through the hinterlands. Hiking, he wrote in “The Complete Walker III,” is a “simple, delightful, intended-to-be-liberating-from-the-straight-line-coordinates-of-civilization pastime.”

…His main point, Mr. Rawlins said, was to “reduce the weight of virtually every item in one’s outdoor inventory.”

You are “carrying your house on your back,” Mr. Fletcher wrote. Although “the best roof for your bedroom is the sky,” a light tarp is better than a tent. Among his other suggestions: trim the handle of your aluminum pot and even that of your toothbrush.

“Colin was sort of the founding father of modern backpacking, the first person to write about going out for an extended period and being self-sufficient,” said Annette McGivney, the Southwest editor of Backpacker Magazine.

“A lot of men were coming back from Vietnam,” Ms. McGivney continued, “and looking for some alternative to the regular American life.
(19 June 2007)
A remembrance by Charles Komanoff at Gristmill:
Farewell, complete walker

A wiser Earth movement (Paul Hawken)

Amanda Witherell, SF Bay Guardian
Have you ever wondered how many environmental and social justice nonprofits are really out there?

Noted local environmentalist Paul Hawken estimates there are at least one million and as many as 10 million do-gooder alliances throughout the world, toiling away at their local niche problems or tackling the grander crises of the day, staffed by volunteers sacrificing time and desperately trying to raise enough money and political will to rebuild from the ruins.

And while environmentalists often are derided — and even criticize themselves and their allies — for being too fractured, lacking focus and an overarching leadership, Hawken thinks that’s actually a good thing.

Hawken is the founder of the gardening and tool company Smith and Hawken and author of several books, including The Ecology of Commerce and Natural Capitalism (the latter with energy efficiency guru Amory Lovins).
(20June 2007)

Debating Energy as if Communities Mattered

Joe Brewer, Common Dreams
Congress is debating legislation that will impact our capacity to address the global warming crisis.

…But there are other important considerations that belong in the energy debate if we are to actually rise to the challenges humanity faces. Progressives have not articulated the idea that sound energy policy is meant to promote livable communities and a livable world for all life forms, half of which now face extinction. My purpose here is to clarify the terms of the current debate to reveal a path the discourse can take to promote this central progressive idea.

The climate crisis has finally become a household concern and decision makers are struggling with policy choices. We have gone from thinking about dependence on foreign oil to the recognition that we must reduce our dependence on oil itself. Talk has begun to focus on alternative sources of energy that do not release as many greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The public discourse is obsessed with fuel!

The same thing happens when we talk about energy independence. The concept for energy includes the source of energy being some kind of fuel. Because the focus on energy independence has been on Middle East oil, energy is commonly taken as referring to fuel. The terms oil and foreign oil, are also associated with fuels. This is why public discourse keeps coming back to the topic of fuel. Each concept has its own frame, thus the meaning shifts as one term is replaced with another, but the problem is being defined as finding an alternative source of fuel.

This narrow discussion has missed the most fundamental concern of all, which is that we want our societies and life on Earth to survive indefinitely into the future. Ecology teaches us to think in terms of whole systems, but energy problems have not been approached holistically. We need to look at the society-wide patterns for energy production, distribution, and consumption to find workable solutions at the level of communities as well as the wider patterns that threaten half of the life on Earth. “Energy independence” is an issue with much wider consequences.

…So what’s missing from the energy debate? The necessity to look at our society and our world holistically is absent. This is why the idea of livable communities doesn’t pop up in discussions about energy use. Central to the energy crisis is the amount of energy required to live the way we do now.
Joe Brewer of the Rockridge Institute.
(20 June 2007)

Adam’s Story: Nanmin Voyages

John Michael Greer, The Archdruid Report
This narrative, the second part of “Adam’s Story,” continues using the tools of fiction to explore the five themes introduced in my Archdruid Report post “Glimpsing the Deindustrial Future.” As with the first installment of “Adam’s Story,” the setting is the rural Pacific Northwest during the second half of this century. -JMG


It took Adam most of three days to walk from Learyville to the coast highway, the main route through that part of the state and the nearest thing he’d had to a goal when he left home for the last time. The first day, leaving as late as he did, he only walked an hour or so before night closed in and he found a sleeping place under the stars. The second day brought him down out of the hills into the Meeker River valley, where the soil was good enough to make farms profitable and an old rail line ran back inland where the markets were. A train was growling its way east as he came down to the valley floor, though it wasn’t much like the trains in the children’s books he remembered; some local mechanic had reworked two trucks and most of a dozen trailers to run on rails, and the wind coming past the rails brought the fried-food smell of biodiesel with it.

Toward late afternoon he stopped at a farm just off the road and asked the farmer if he could cut firewood for him in exchange for a place to sleep in the barn. The farmer, a stocky man with hair the color of gunmetal and overalls that had seen many better days, looked him up and down and asked, “You can chop wood with one hand?” Adam grinned and said, “You’d be surprised what I can do with one hand.” The farmer just nodded, and took him in back of the farmhouse, where an old stump and a cruiser ax showed plenty of signs of use.

Adam spent the next few hours turning big pieces of wood into small ones – nothing new, he’d done the same chore back home for years, and it just took more cleverness to do it well after the accident messed up his right arm.
(20 June 2007)

Sharon Astyk interview

KMO, C-Realm Podcast
The most recent episode of the C-Realm Podcast features an interview
with Sharon Astyk, who wrote the essay, “Enough with the Freakin’ Bathroom Metaphor Already” which was featured on Energy Bulletin:

Sharon Astyk’s interview is in the second half of the program.
(20 June 2007)