What A Week!

Now that I have gotten home, taken a long steaming shower, and slept about 30 hours over the past two days, I am ready to reflect on the amazing week we shared along the central coast.  I learned a lot of new words, for example culvert, discing a field, and the root ‘pug’ (yeah, Shirley’s dog is evil).  I got to see first hand how organizations focused on environmental education, public health, and youth empowerment all come together in the agricultural communities of Salinas and Watsonville.  And also to connections formed between environmentalists and agriculturalists in small and large farms, organic and conventional.  Whoa!  But most of all, I got to see how eight minds other than my own process all of these experiences and site visits.  I learned immensely from all of the new perspectives and perceptions that we shared with each other.

Literally standing between organic lettuces and endangered amphibian habitat, we learn about the challenges and successes of mitigation in agricultural lands.

Literally standing between organic lettuces and endangered amphibian habitat, we learn about the challenges and successes of mitigation in agricultural lands.

So one moment that will always stay with me?  There are a few.  Planting onions with Sofia, an ALBA farmer, on her strawberry plot.  She told me about the spiders she introduced as a form of integrated pest management.  Will quivered in fear.  There were definitely a few shrieks from our group when a bug jumped out of a dark hole.

Planting cebolla con las fresas at ALBA in Salinas.

Planting cebolla con las fresas at ALBA in Salinas.

What about when I had to go after Joe and Maria, after they drifted away from the group while watching sea otters rip clams out of their shells with their cute little paws.  Woops.

Joe and Maria! Left, right, left, right....

Joe and Maria! Left, right, left, right….

And of course, working with Aliza during the whole trip to keep everyone fed, happy and rested… will kind of rested.

Spreading mulch with Aliza at Food, What?!?!

Spreading mulch with Aliza at Food, What?!?!

And where will I go from here?  I am inspired to eat organic.  I am inspired to approach conservation through the lens of adaptive socio-ecological systems.  I am looking forward to finding my place in the amazing network of organizations working toward ecological health through social and environmental avenues.

Thank you everyone for allowing me to grow as a teacher and learner this past week!

The star fish is eating! at Hopkins Marine Life Refuge.


ALBA Morning, in Yuto’s photos.

ALBA Distribution Center in Watsonville.

Maria almost loses her core heat to the epic fan of maximum shelf life.  Tony chuckles.

Maria almost loses her core heat to the epic fan of maximum shelf life. Tony chuckles.

Brrrrrr! Tony shows us the strawberry fridge.  (We miss you Shirley!)

Brrrrrr! Tony shows us the strawberry fridge. (We miss you Shirley!)

Otter Dilemma?


Sea Otter feeding on clam. Yummm!

Thank you Shirley for bringing in that really cool article about the otter ban in southern California.  As we move forward with our trip, it will sometimes be useful to think about issues in terms of the different stakeholders involved.  It is hard enough to give equal voice to all the stakeholders like industry, the public, interest groups, etc.  And that doesn’t include important players like sea otters.  Abalone and other invertebrate creatures can be a shared food source for otters and humans, creating tension between conservationists and fishers.  If we help the otter population, they will come back eating their normal prey, and decrease what is there for the humans to harvest and sell.  There isn’t an easy right answer to any of these issues, and historical context can make things even more complicated!  Here is another article that gives a taste of the issue: http://seaotters.com/2012/03/24/resource-benefits-and-conflicts-of-sharing-a-coast-with-sea-otters/

The Reading List

It is finally here.   The comprehensive list of books we will pick from for our independent reading assignment!  Below is a compilation of books inspired by the themes of the course.  Feel free to comment with more additions!

*Aquaponics: A Step by Step Guide to Raising Vegetables and Fish Together by Sylvia Bernstein

“I chose this book because of it’s theme of sustainable agriculture and because it teaches you how to garden.”

*Cannery Row by John Steinbeck

*Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut

“I chose this book because of it’s theme on science and technology and how at times to can go to far.”

*Closing the Food Gap: Resetting the Table in the Land of Plenty by Mark Winne

*Diet for a New America by John Robbins

This book focuses on “vegetarianism, environmental impact of factory farming and animal rights.”

*The Earth Knows My Name: Food, Culture and Sustainability in the Gardens of Ethnic Americans by Patricia Klindienst

*Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer

“I have wanted to read this book for a long time because a lot of my friends respect him as a writer–and the book has led many of my friends to become vegetarian. While I have never been convinced to become vegetarian from books I have read and movies I’ve seen, I’m curious to see how I will react to the information in this book in terms of my personal choices.”

*The Edge of the Sea by Rachel Carson

An excerpt: “It seems more fitting than The Sea Around Us as it treats the shoreline, where life is abundant, and which we will see the most (out of all other marine zones). From what I’ve read of this, it seems that Carson treats marine life with the beauty and awe it deserves. It is also supposed to serve as a handy guidebook for general marine life by the shoreline (according to a review on Amazon) so I hope it’ll serve a practical purpose as well.”

*The Ethics of What We Eat by Peter Singer

*Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer By Novella Carpenter

“This book is an easy read about a young woman trying to grow–and raise–all of her own food in her backyard in West Oakland. Her attitude shines through strongly in her writing, and the end of the book, while certainly eventful, has an uplifting message about the concept of urban farming.”

*Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal by Eric Schlosser

*Food, Inc. by Peter Pringle

*Food Justice (Food, Health and the Environment) by Robert Gottlieb

*Food Politics by Marion Nestle

 *Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual by Michael Pollan.

*The Gastronomical Me by M.F.K. Fisher

*Harvest for Hope: a guide for mindful eating by Jane Goodall

*Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

*The Jungle by Upton Sinclair

“I chose this book because of it’s theme on food and knowing what what we eat.”

*Life and Death in Monterey Bay by Stephen Palumbi

“A story of Monterey’s ecological and social revival.”

*Life of Pi by Yann Martel

*The Old Man and the Sea by Hemingway

*The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan

*Out of Poverty by Paul Polack

*Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver

*The Real Cost of Cheap Food by Michael Carolan

This book “looks at how food has become reduced to price/oz, yield/acre, calories and the damage the production of cheap food causes on our environment and health.”

*Recipe for America: Why our Food System is Broken and What We Can Do to Fix It by Jill Richardson

This book “outlines how America’s food system is dominated by agribusiness and corporate farms and proposes a soln of sustainable, local, and seasonal agriculture.”

*The Sea Around Us by Rachel Carson

*Song for the Blue Ocean by Carl Safina

“I love how Carl Safina takes you to places you’d never be able to go.  Reading this book feels like exploring the ocean, and falling in love with it.”

*Walden by David Thoreau


Talk about them, pick one, read it!  Then, you’ll tell the group about it in the last few weeks of the quarter.



A Dive I Remember

She pumped her eight little legs to propel herself out of harms way.  I caught her.  This was the first time I had held an octopus.  I welled up with empathy for the tiny squishy creature. I let her free, and she glided through the water, her legs like a squash blossom opening and closing.  We began to play.  And she came back to my hands, changing my concept of what it is to be alive with every flex of her chromatophores, and graceful swoosh of her suckers. Her calm stillness as her bulb head swayed slightly with the surge led me into deep concentration. 


A well camouflaged octopus. See the eyes on that orange thing?

I studied her little eyes, just bumps, that couldn’t even see the colors she imitated so closely.  She was a mystery.  Rhabdoms sprinkled across her retina took in the e-vectors reflecting from my glove, my face, my bubbles, and the sand.  She sensed the delicate contrast between angles of polarization in the light she absorbed, rather than the hues I watched with amazement.  Like a dialogue spoken in two languages, neither person understanding the words, both parties understanding the content, we communicated through sight, connecting two biologically distinct perspectives through common experience.  She dazzled my idea of color and identity as she shifted between a swimming ruddy brown to a blackish, hugging my elbow.  Maybe she saw me as a silly seal, an unusually soft rock, a friend and fellow sea-dweller?

A few weeks later, my summer internship was ending, and my dad wanted to come down to Monterey to take me out for a dinner at The Fish House, a seafood restaurant renown among locals.  When the waitress told us about the grilled baby octopus special, we instantly turned to each other with wide smiling eyes.  Nine charred baby octopi sat upright on a perfect white plate.  Each one, eight slender legs, their tiny suckers still tiny nubs, splayed out from under a golf-ball sized body.  No breading, sauce, or garnish distracted from their perfect octopi form.  The simple preparation added to the resemblance of Ruby, her reddish brown pigment so similar to the savory skin before me, except these little beings could no longer camouflage or glide awayWe squeezed a lemon wedge over them, and devoured them.  We ate the little crispy legs, gingerly tugging them from the bodies with our teeth.  The heads were a scrumptious chewy mouthful, the mystery of their intelligence conquered in a single gulpThey were delicious.  It was thoughtless.  Dad and I smiled, savored, and enjoyed, as we had so many times before, bonding over plates of tender cephalopod meat.  We were so focused catching-up, we tossed back the little beings, barely touching the aioli dipping sauce in our flurry of conversationI told him about the wonders of the kelp forest between gnawing on grilled, crackling skin.  I told him about the gorgeous scenery below the algal canopy, that he would likely never appreciate for himself, comparing it to majestic redwood stands and mysterious old oak groves. 


My experiences with the ocean range from academic dives to playful splashing to eating it’s amazing creatures.  I am excited to further explore the interactions people have with the ocean in Monterey and Santa Cruz, from harmful runoff to educational outreach.  Looking forward to an awesome quarter with ASB!  What what E.Sys. 16!!