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The Elements of Typographic Style

Patagonia Synchilla Snap-T Pullover

Minding the Earth, Mending the Word: Zen and the Art of Planetary Crisis

North Face Base Camp Duffel (Medium)





Scenes from Kathmandu

In the late 1990's, I did some some project evaluations for the Biodiversity Conservation Network.  Some of these projects, e.g. Asian one-horned rhinos in Royal Chitwan National Park and sustainable exploitation of jatamansi (Nardostachys grandiflora) in Jumla, had me based in Kathmandu, Nepal.  [NOTE: These images have been scanned from slides.]


Bathing the Elephant

A slow Sunday morning on the Ledo Road (see Hukaung Valley Rattan Survey) is a good opportunity to bathe the elephant. [NOTE: Gentle pokes on the flank are used to get the elephant to turn.]


Threads of Life

Last September, Tony Cunningham and I gave a workshop to a group of weavers in Flores Barat, Indonesia on sustainable  harvesting of the plant dyes used in their textiles.  The weavers were worried that supplies of certain dye and mordant plants were running out.  They were right.  As a result of the workshop, we were able to develop a better system for producing "mengkudu" (Morinda citrifolia), an important red dye, and we located a dense population of "loba" (Symplocos spp.) in the forests of Tenda Bhera that could be managed to produce a virtually inexhaustable supply of leaves.  The leaves contain a high concentration of aluminium which acts to fix the red color.  The workshop was organized - flawlessly - by the Yayasan Pecinta Budaya Bebali (YPBB) and Threads of LIfe  (thx, Jean and William).

[NOTES: The weavers are wearing their textiles as sarongs. The t-shirts show the whole plant collection, dyeing, and weaving cycle, and say "Nature Protected, Culture Conserved, Humanity Secure". The weaver in the lower image is holding a Symplocos leaf.]


Tapajós Vignette

Women were important members of the field crews in the Tapajós project (see Tapajós-Arapiuns).  One afternoon during the inventory work at Nova Vista, I noticed that one of the crew members had given her clipboard to a friend and grabbed something to take home for dinner that evening...


Moore at the Garden

The largest outdoor exhibition of Henry Moore's sculpture ever presented in America is on display right outside my office.  Twenty colossal pieces scattered throughout 250 gorgeous acres.  Don't guess there's any chance that the Henry Moore Foundation would forget to pick these up when the exhibit closes on November 2...

Hill Arches, 1973

Knife Edge Two Piece, 1962-1965

Goslar Warrior, 1973-1974


Sunday at Shwedagon


One Sunday in early January of 2005, I spent a quiet morning at the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, Myanmar.   There is a palpable serenity and magic here, which, I am convinced, is at least partly due to the eight strands of Buddha's hair that are enshrined on the site.  There is also an impressive banyon tree (Ficus religiosa) which is said to have been grown from a branch of the original tree in Bodh Gaya under which Siddhartha Gautama attained enlightenment. [NOTE: The monks are "bathing the Buddha" with little cups of water].



Not surprisingly, very soon after local carvers started buying sustainably-harvested Bursera wood from Jayacatlán (see previous post), a new product called an "eco-alebrije" appeared on the scene. 



Alebrijes are whimsical, brightly painted figures carved by artisans in the Central Valley of Oaxaca. These popular handicrafts first started appearing in the market in the early 1970's, and currently hundreds of thousands are produced each year.  All of these  figures are carved from the wood of one species of dry forest tree, Bursera glabrifolia, or "copal".  The intense commercial demand for this wood has virtually eliminated the tree from the forests of the Central Valley.  When I first started getting interested in alebrijes, local craftsmen were buying copal wood (at exorbitant prices) from middlemen who harvested the material (illegally) from dry forests over two hours away.  

In response to this situation, Silvia Purata, a Mexican ecologist and former Kleinhans Fellow (currently with People and Plants International), and I started looking for communities with significant quantities of dry forest that could be managed for Bursera glabrifolia. We found a suitable site at San Juan Bautista Jayacatlán, north of Oaxaca City.  Field operations were initiated in collaboration with the community in 2001 to collect the baseline inventory and growth information needed to put together a forest management plan.  These data were painstakingly collected over the next two years, and a management plan was developed and submitted to the Secretary of the Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT).  And then we waited...

Upon inquiring about  the delay, we were told that there was a bit of uncertainty in the decision-making process because  "no one had ever solicited a management permit for dry forests in Mexico".  After a bit of discussion (thx, Silvia), the permit was finally granted to Jayacatlán and, as a result, the first sustainable source of Bursera glabrifolia wood was created.

Shortly after the SEMARNAT permit was granted, the first "sustainably harvested" copal tree was felled at Jayacatlán.  I was there with a video camera.  [NOTE: The toast offered to the tree says "With the permission of the forest, and the owners who are here with us, we offer a toast to start work on the management and exploitation of the forest resources found here"].

Further information about the alebrijes project can be found here.



Oficinas Caboclas do Tapajós (B&W)

The forest inventories conducted outside of Nugini involved several generations.  The older men knew the names and uses of several hundred trees, but they were also very interested in learning the ways of the younger guys, e.g. d-tapes and hardhats (thx, Iona).

All of the furniture produced by OCT is made exclusively using hand tools (thx, Toby).



Several caboclo communities in the Tapajós-Arapiuns Extractive Reserve wanted to start a small furniture business using selected timbers from the forest.  To do so, they needed to prepare and submit a formal management plan to IBAMA, the Brazilian Institute of the Environment and Natural Resources.  They had no idea how to do this.  I did, however, and so in mid-2004, in collaboration with IPAM and with support from the Overbrook Foundation, I started working with a couple of communities in the reserve to collect the baseline data needed to write a management plan.

The video was shot during the forest inventory and growth analysis work conducted by villagers from Nugini. The fieldwork involved 18 people who worked for 8 days, encountered 5 poisonous snakes, established 1,000 sample plots, and counted and measured 3,452 trees from 42 different species. More information about the Oficinas Caboclas do Tapajos and their forestry operations within the Tapajós-Arapiuns Extractive Reserve can be found here or here.

[NOTE: The management plan for Nugini was submitted to IBAMA and approved, and the community is now harvesting furniture woods from a 100 hectare management area on a sustained-yield basis.]