Down to Earth: The Power of Nurture, the Antidote to Fear
Feb06

Down to Earth: The Power of Nurture, the Antidote to Fear

Nurturing. It’s so often a feminine term, bringing thoughts of mothers, sisters, daughters; of Gaia, the Mother Earth. For a synonym, my thesaurus gives me “motherly.” It’s a term linked, too, with gentleness and tenderness, which in turn are associated with deference, docility and mildness. But in the past few weeks, I’ve seen nurturing become an act of strength — an act of resistance and assertiveness. And not just for women. On...

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Down to Earth: When Life Gives You Lemon Peels, Make Compost
Jan09

Down to Earth: When Life Gives You Lemon Peels, Make Compost

My first container of compostables was beautiful. Inside a repurposed chipped ceramic crockpot lay a smorgasbord of broccoli stems, wilted lettuce, carrot shreddings, sprouted potatoes, onion skins, outer cabbage leaves, asparagus ends, and tomato stems. It looked almost good enough to eat. My second, I admit, was less pleasing. I’d begun broadening my idea of what’s compostable, throwing in chicken bones and soiled napkins and a...

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Down to Earth: Hope, the Environment, and the Election
Dec05

Down to Earth: Hope, the Environment, and the Election

I sometimes startle people by saying I don’t have much hope for the environment. “But you’re an environmentalist!” they stutter. “Surely, you must think we can prevent nature from being destroyed? That taking action is worth it?” The other day, for instance, I chatted with a friend about the recent election and Donald Trump’s anti-environmental stances, like claiming he’ll disband the Environmental Protection Agency and falsely...

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Down to Earth: Is the Valley Prepared for Another Flood?
Nov07

Down to Earth: Is the Valley Prepared for Another Flood?

Just across from one of my favorite writing spots — the window counter at Northampton Coffee — I can see a dark mark on the former lumber building: “Flood Level — 1936.” When I walk past, the mark is almost a foot over my head. After writing, I often hop on my bicycle and cross the levee meant to guard the town from rising waters. As I cycle over it, I ponder the 2005 collapse of New Orleans’ levees during Hurricane Katrina and the...

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Down to Earth: A Vote for Clinton is a Vote for the Environment
Oct10

Down to Earth: A Vote for Clinton is a Vote for the Environment

Our natural environment needs us now, and the stakes have never been so stark. I’ve been frustrated this election season at how little attention the environment has gotten. In the first presidential debate, moderator Lester Holt didn’t ask a single question about environmental issues. Just one was asked in the second debate this Sunday. Maybe that’s because only about half of Americans worry “a great deal” about the environment — down...

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Down to Earth: Sustainable Farming 101, Five College farms face challenges teaching the next generation about food
Sep19

Down to Earth: Sustainable Farming 101, Five College farms face challenges teaching the next generation about food

I arrive at Book and Plow Farm to find production farmer Tobin Porter-Brown on a tractor, forking a pallet of canvas sacks off a pickup truck. He’s wearing a Book and Plow shirt, khaki shorts and thick boots that will later serve him in better stead than my sandals when we happen across a stretch of poison ivy. Under a nearby awning, dozens of garlic plants are strung up to dry; red onions sprawl on a plastic sheet. Cultivated flowers...

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