Elizabeth Kolbert will be speaking at OSU, Monday, February 2, 7 pm at the LaSells Stewart Center. Kolbert is a staff writer for The New Yorker and the author of Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change. Her series on global warming, The Climate of Man, from which the book was adapted, won the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s magazine writing award and a National Academies communications award. She is a two-time National Magazine Award winner. She is also a recipient of a Heinz Award and Guggenheim Fellowship. Kolbert lives in Williamstown, Massachusetts.

In anticipation of Elizabeth Kolbert’s reading, Spring Creek is giving away three hardback copies of Kolbert’s powerful new book The Sixth Extinction. Here’s how to enter:
1. “Like” the Spring Creek Project on Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/springcreekproject?ref=bookmarks
2.  Leave a comment on our Facebook page telling us (in 20 words or less) one thing we can all do to help stem the loss of wild species and their habitats.

The three best suggestions will get a copy of The Sixth Extinction. The deadline is Tuesday, January 13, 5 p.m.

If you are not on Facebook, you can email your comment to Erica Trabold, Spring Creek Project Intern: trabolde@onid.orst.edu

*             *             *
Here are some links to a few of our favorite recent articles by her:

  1.  “The Big Kill: New Zealand’s crusade to rid itself of mammals” in The New Yorker
  2.  “Building the Ark” Zoos may have to choose between keeping the animals we most want to see and saving the ones we may never see again in National Geographic
  3.  “How the Paleolithic life style got trendy” in The New Yorker

About “The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History.” Over the last half-billion years, there have been five mass extinctions, when the diversity of life on earth suddenly and dramatically contracted. Scientists around the world are currently monitoring the sixth extinction, predicted to be the most devastating extinction event since the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs. This time around, the cataclysm is us. In prose that is at once frank, entertaining, and deeply informed, New Yorker writer Elizabeth Kolbert tells us why and how human beings have altered life on the planet in a way no species has before. Interweaving research in half a dozen disciplines, descriptions of the fascinating species that have already been lost, and the history of extinction as a concept, Kolbert provides a moving and comprehensive account of the disappearances occurring before our very eyes. She shows that the sixth extinction is likely to be mankind’s most lasting legacy, compelling us to rethink the fundamental question of what it means to be human.

EKSixthExtincLarge_CarlyEdits2 (2)

We continue with our posts on our year-long topic, “Humans and Other Wild Animals,” with a piece from Brian Doyle’s presciently titled  new book, Children and Other Wild Animals. Brian will read Tuesday, October 21, 7:30 pm in the OSU Valley Library Rotunda. Should be a wild time.

A Newt Note

Brian Doyle

One time, years ago, I was shuffling with my children through the vast wet moist dripping enormous thicketed webbed muddy epic forest on the Oregon coast, which is a forest from a million years ago, the forest that hatched the biggest creatures that ever lived on this bruised blessed earth, all due respect to California and its redwood trees but our cedars and firs made them redwoods look like toothpicks, and my kids and I were in a biggest-creature mood, because we had found slugs waaay longer than bananas, and footprints of elk that must have been gobbling steroids, and a friend had just told us of finding a bear print the size of a dinner plate, and all of us had seen whales in the sea that very morning, and all of us had seen pelicans too which look like flying pup tents, and how do they know to all hit cruise control at the same time, does the leader give a hand signal? as my son said, and one of us had seen the two ginormous young eagles who lived somewhere in this forest, so when we found the biggest stump in the history of the world, as my daughter called it, we were not exactly surprised, it was basically totally understandable that suddenly there would be a stump so enormous that it was like someone had dropped a dance floor into the forest, that’s the sort of thing that happens in this forest, and my kids of course immediately leapt up on it and started shaking their groove thangs, and dancing themselves silly, and I was snorting with laughter until one kid, the goofiest, why we did not name this kid Goofy when we had the chance in those first few dewy minutes of life I will never know, well, this kid of course shimmed over to the edge and fell off head over teakettle, vanishing into a mat of fern nearly as tall as me, but the reason I tell you this story is that while we were all down in the moist velvet dark of the roots of the ferns, trying to be solicitious about Goofy and see if he was busted anywhere serious but also trying not to laugh and whisper the word doofus, one of us found a newt! O my god! dad! check it out!

Of course the newt, rattled at the attention, peed on the kid who held it, and of course that led to screeching and hilarity, and of course on the way home we saw damselflies mating, which also led to screeching and hilarity, but the point of this story isn’t pee or lust, however excellent a story about pee or lust would be. It’s that one day when my kids and I were shuffling through the vast wet moist forest we saw so many wonders and miracles that not one of us ever forgot any of the wonders and miracles we saw, and we saw tiny shreds and shards of the ones that are there, and what kind of greedy criminal thug thieves would we be as a people and a species if we didn’t spend every iota of our cash and creativity to protect and preserve a world in which kids wander around gaping in wonder and hoping nothing else rubbery and astonishing will pee on them? You know what I mean?



Humans are wild animals, too, though we forget or deny it most of the time. Lepidopterist, essayist, and poet Robert Michael Pyle knows a human-animal when he sees one, and celebrates her.


The Girl with the Cockleburs in Her Hair

by Robert Michael Pyle

We were talking about how children don’t
get out any more. She showed me
her daughter on her cell phone:
big pout, and four big burs
caught up in her hair.
That girl, I said, is
going to be

–from Evolution of the Genus Iris (Lost Horse Press, 2014)

Robert Michael Pyle and Alison Hawthorne Deming will be reading from their new books Thursday, October 16, 7:30 pm at the Corvallis Arts Center, 700 SW Madison, Corvallis.

Spring Creek Calendar


    by Alison Hawthorne Deming

      Animals surrounded our ancestors. Animals were their food, clothes, adversaries, companions, jokes, and their gods. In the Paleolithic period of the Great Hunt, Joseph Campbell writes, “man’s ubiquitous nearest neighbors were the beasts in their various species; it was those animals who were his teachers, illustrating in their manners of life the powers and patternings of nature.” In this age of mass extinction and the industrialization of life, it is hard to touch the skin of this long and deep companionship. Now we surround the animals and crowd them from their homes. They are the core of what we are as creatures, sharing a biological world and inhabiting our inner lives, though most days they feel peripheral—a wag from the dog, an ankle embrace from the cat, the pleasure of sighting a house finch feeding outside the window, the thrill of spotting a hedgehog waddling along a park path in Prague or a fox trotting across the urban campus in Denver. Animality and humanity are one, expressions of the planet’s brilliant inventiveness, and yet the animals are leaving the world and not returning.

      What do animals mean to the contemporary imagination? We do not know. Or we have forgotten. Or we are too busy to notice. Or we experience psychic numbing to cope with the scale of extinctions and we feel nothing. Or we begin through our grief to realize how much we love our fellow creatures and we tend to them. Or we write about them, trying to figure what the experience of animals is and how they came to be so ingrained in human mind and emotion, to remember what it feels like to be embedded in the family of animals, to see the ways animals inhabit and limn our lives, entering our days and nights, unannounced and essential.

–from ZOOLOGIES, Milkweed Editions, 2014

Alison Hawthorne Deming and Robert Michael Pyle will read together, Thursday, October 16, 7:30 pm at the Corvallis Arts Center, 700 SW Madison, Corvallis. The reading is free and open to all. 

Alison Hawthorne Deming (Zoologies: On Animals and the Human Spirit) and Robert Michael Pyle (Evolution of the Genus Iris) debut their new books. Alison Deming is the author of Science and Other Poems, Temporary Homelands, The Edges of the Civilized World, finalist for the PEN Center West Award, and Writing the Sacred Into the Real. She edited Poetry of the American West: A Columbia Anthology and coedited with Lauret E. Savoy The Colors of Nature: Essays on Culture, Identity, and the Natural World. Bob Pyle is the author of Wintergreen, The Thunder Tree, Where Bigfoot Walks, Chasing Monarchs, Walking the High Ridge, Sky Time in Gray’s River, and Mariposa Road: The First Butterfly Big Year; as well as The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Butterflies, The Butterflies of Cascadia. Free and open to all.



editor’s note: at the Blue River Gathering of Pacific Northwest nature writers last weekend, held at the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest, we invited the writers to share thoughts on what humans might learn from other-than-human animals. Here’s our first post in the series:

Ten Lessons for Climate Activists from the American Robin  by Pepper Trail

1. It’s good to be common

The American Robin is one of the most common and widely distributed native birds in North America. This large population gives robins great resilience in the face of ecological and climatic challenges.

        Build the movement!

2. Adapt to where you are

Robins are found from steamy southern swamps to the Alaskan tundra. Their remarkable ability to adapt to local conditions and resources is the secret of their success.

        Tailor your message and manner to local conditions

3. And also have one special skill

For all their adaptability, robins also have a specialized skill: their earthworm-hunting behavior, which opens up a rich resource few other birds exploit.

        Know your special talent and make the most of it

4. Figure out how to take advantage of the dominant paradigm

Robins thrive in part because of their ability to make the most of human environments, nesting in our backyards and foraging on our lawns.

        Don’t be afraid to make alliances and to engage with mass media

5. Be alert for phonies

Robins are among the few birds able to detect and toss out the eggs of the parasitical Brown-headed Cowbird, thus protecting their nests from invaders.

        Welcome only those who truly share your values

6. Know when to move on

Throughout their wide range, robins exhibit facultative migration – that is, they adjust their winter residency to conditions. In a cold winter, they head south; if the next year is mild, they may remain resident all year.

        Know when to stage a tactical retreat, in order to win another time

7. Produce lots of young

Robins often produce two broods of offspring per year. That gives them a huge advantage compared to less fecund species.

        There’s no substitute for the energy and idealism of the young when building a movement.

8. Be confident

Robins are often described as “bold,” “confident,” and “confiding,” in contrast to related birds like the shy Varied Thrush. There is no doubt that the outgoing behavior of robins has contributed greatly to their success.

        Believe in your cause whole-heartedly, and others will too.

9. Be friendly

In addition to their boldness, robins appeal to us because they’re friendly – even if they’re keeping us company in the garden in order to snatch up earthworms!

        A friendly, positive approach will gain many more listeners than one wrapped in doom and gloom.

10. Sing!

The song of robins is beautiful. And isn’t a beautiful message what we all want to hear?


by Joshua McGuffie*


What images does wilderness evoke? For many, wilderness means pristine landscapes, scenic vistas, quietude, and wide open spaces. Many Americans may be surprised to know that, legally, wilderness has only been enshrined as a public reality for 50 years. In 1964, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Wilderness Act, surrounded by an unlikely coalition of elected officials and preservationists. To celebrate the Wilderness Act’s 50th anniversary, Oregon State University’s Spring Creek Project hosted a panel discussion on 2 May to consider the Act’s genesis, life, and future.

Dr. Jacob Hamblin discussed important environmental moments leading up to the act. He particularly singled out public outcry over the Bureau of Reclamation’s Echo Park Project. The Bureau planned to build a series of dams along the Colorado, including within Grand Canyon National Park. Hamblin argued that potential incursions into ‘protected’ federal lands raised popular environmental consciousness and incentivized politicians to support preservation measures. With this background in mind, he asked the question “Is it possible to have a community of sincerity without common purpose?” That the Wilderness Act passed, with a variety of definitions for ‘wilderness’ built into its text, seems to indicate that such a community did in fact coalesce in the early 1960’s.

Next, Dr. Lisa Machnik, from the US Forest Service, discussed wilderness from a federal agency perspective. She began her remarks by quoting President Johnson, “If future generations are to remember us with gratitude rather than contempt, we must leave them something more than the miracles of technology.” She zeroed in on federal agencies’ wilderness conundrum. If wilderness is meant to be “undeveloped” and to “retain its primeval character,” then how is it to be managed. Management, especially in the adept hands of federal specialists, implies the opposite of “primeval.” Administrative tension aside, Machnik closed her remarks with the affirmation the 110 million acres of wilderness in the US offers the the general public perspective in the midst of contemporary life.

Finally, Craig Childs shared his wilderness wanderings with the group. An author and educator, Childs has dedicated much of his life to being outside. In search of wild spaces, he has gone on multi-day treks through corn monocultures and rambled, carefully, across federal bombing ranges. Offering some perspective from these trips, he remarked “my definition of wilderness doesn’t fall within the wilderness act, it’s all over the place…” Childs used the image of the Hawaiian kipuka, an island of forest surrounded by a lava flow, to challenge the audience’s notion of wilderness. Our humanness, he claimed, may indeed reside in the wilderness islands increasingly surrounded by the flow of human development.

At 50, the Wilderness Act clearly inspires an array of images and stories. Listening to an academic, bureaucratic, and artistic treatment of the Act one after the other, I wonder if part of what makes it robust is its breadth. The Wilderness Act embraces the subject/object divide, seeking to preserve wilderness for its own sake and for the sake of “primitive and unconfined” human enjoyment. Nature and humanity stand side by side in this legislation, giving their own meanings to wild spaces. There’s much built into the Wilderness Act. 50 years has already raised up a great deal to be experienced and studied.

*Joshua McGuffie is pursuing a Master of Arts in History of Science at Oregon State University.

There is no cell phone or internet service at Shotpouch Cabin, but there are trilliums and delphinium and wild iris. We’d like to invite you to unplug and enjoy the wildflower season at Shotpouch by submitting a proposal for the Trillium Project.

The Trillium Project is a residency program that focuses on the Cabin and the Shotpouch land. The Cabin is a lovely cedar and glass retreat on 45 acres of forest and meadows in the Coast Range near Burnt Woods, and it is the location for many Spring Creek events and writers-in-residency programs. The Cabin is also an idea, a set of values, a nature reserve, and a work in progress.

We are inviting proposals from people with a variety of backgrounds and interests—artists, botanists, biologists, writers, musicians, philosophers, etc.—to study and write about the Shotpouch place itself, its history or philosophy or bird species or wildflowers or mosses or limnology or trout or soundscape. People are invited to visit the Cabin for half a day or stay up to three days.

Our vision for the Project is that people will come and go from the Cabin, exploring the creek, meadows, and upland forests, encountering new people and new ideas as they go about their explorations. Our hope is that as people find inspiration and information in this special place, they will also find interest in their encounters with others who are equally involved with the land. And so people will create passing collaborations, share their perspectives and expertise, and learn to see the land through a variety of eyes.

Click here to apply for the 2014 Trillium Project online, or click here to download the 2014 application, which you can then submit by email or mail.

We’ll give first preference to proposals submitted by Tuesday April 1, 2014. We will consider later proposals as space allows.


Ursula Le Guin and Kim Stanley Robinson are two of the greatest writers of our time, period. Though their works are often categorized as ‘science fiction’ they may be better regarded as social visionaries. They have created imaginary worlds to explore elaborately detailed “what if” scenarios, using all the tools of  memorable writing—image, plot, character, attention to the nuances of language–to fashion profound literary works.  Along the way they’ve won national awards, including Hugos and Nebulas galore, and a huge and faithful readership.

Although they are long-time friends they have never, to the best of their recollection, read together. So it will be a very special evening indeed when Le Guin and Robinson appear together at “Transformation without Apocalypse,” Saturday, February 15, 7:30 pm.

Meanwhile, here are a couple of links to prime your interest:

In a New Yorker review of Kim Stanley Robinson’s work titled, “Our Greatest Political Novelist?” Tim Kreider writes: “Our culture is adrift between stories right now—the old ones we lived on for thousands of years aren’t working anymore, and we haven’t come up with new ones to replace them yet. It’s natural for us to see ourselves as being at history’s endpoint, since, so far, we are, but part of science fiction’s job is to remind us that it’s early yet, we’re still a primitive people, the Golden Age may lie ahead. In an era filled with complacent dystopias and escapist apocalypses, Robinson is one of our best, bravest, most moral, and most hopeful storytellers. It’s no coincidence that so many of his novels have as their set pieces long, punishing treks through unforgiving country with diminishing provisions, his characters exhausted and despondent but forcing themselves to slog on. What he’s telling us over and over, like the voice of the Third Wind whispering when all seems lost, is that it’s not too late, don’t get scared, don’t give up, we’re almost there, we can do this, we just have to keep going.” Read the entire insightful piece HERE.

Ursula LeGuin was recently featured in a Paris Review interview. It’s a fascinating romp. Early on Le Guin says, “But where I can get prickly and combative is if I’m just called a sci-fi writer. I’m not. I’m a novelist and poet. Don’t shove me into your damn pigeonhole, where I don’t fit, because I’m all over. My tentacles are coming out of the pigeonhole in all directions.” Read the whole tentacular piece HERE.

Le Guin’s two-volume collected short stories, The Real and the Unreal, is a finalist for this year’s Oregon Book Award. Here’s a fine Bookslut review of that collection.

Also, Le Guin, ever active and thoughtful, keeps one of the most engaging websites around, including frequent blog posts. Here’s a link to it.


Over the coming weeks we’ll be posting some profiles and links about the keynote speakers for the upcoming symposium “Transformation without Apocalypse.”

Tim DeChristopher is an environmental activist and founder of Peaceful Uprising, an organization dedicated to creating livable futures and empowering nonviolent action. Today, Tim is best known for an act of civil disobedience in which he disrupted a government oil and gas lease auction in order to protect fragile land in southern Utah from long term damage, an act of conscience for which he was sentenced to two years in federal prison. Tim was released from prison in April 2013 and currently attends Harvard Divinity School.

Tim’s keynote talk, “A Movement with Soul,” will ask the questions: How can we maintain our humanity through a period of rapid and intense change? Can the demands of an endless revolution create a movement that nourishes deeper selves and a better society?
Terry Tempest Williams did a fascinating interview with DeChristopher for Orion magazine. The two friends go into many topics—family influences, sports, religion, despair, wilderness, and freedom. Here are two brief excerpts:

TERRY: Yesterday, weren’t you saying that rich people don’t make great activists?
TIM: Yeah. In front of a very wealthy audience.
TERRY: But people understood what you were saying. I mean, we’re all privileged, right? Especially as predominantly white Americans sitting in a film festival in Telluride, Colorado.
TIM: Yeah. I also think that’s why we’re bad activists. That’s why the climate movement is weaker in this country than in the rest of the world. Because we have more stuff. We have much higher levels of consumption, and that’s how people have been oppressed in this country, through comfort. We’ve been oppressed by consumerism. By believing that we have so much to lose.

* * *

TIM: … If you look at the worst-case consequences of climate change, those pretty much mean the collapse of our industrial civilization. But that doesn’t mean the end of everything. It means that we’re going to be living through the most rapid and intense period of change that humanity has ever faced. And that’s certainly not hopeless. It means we’re going to have to build another world in the ashes of this one. And it could very easily be a better world. I have a lot of hope in my generation’s ability to build a better world in the ashes of this one. And I have very little doubt that we’ll have to. The nice thing about that is that this culture hasn’t led to happiness anyway, it hasn’t satisfied our human needs. So there’s a lot of room for improvement.
TERRY: How has this experience—these past two years—changed you?
TIM: [Sighing.] It’s made me worry less.
TIM: It’s somewhat comforting knowing that things are going to fall apart, because it does give us that opportunity to drastically change things.
The complete interview is here: http://www.orionmagazine.org/index.php/articles/article/6598


The film Bidder 70 is a moving documentary of DeChristopher’s 2008 disruption of an auction of Utah public lands and his subsequent trial and incarceration. Writing in Slant Magazine Kalvin Henely said, “Bidder 70 convinces us that these people really do care about the fate of humankind and that we’re entrapped in a legal system that is, environmentally speaking, still set on driving us off a cliff.”

Spring Creek and the Student Sustainability Initiative invite everyone to a free screening:

              Bidder 70

 Wednesday, February 12, 7 pm,

Linus Pauling Science Center, room 125,  OSU   

Proposals Due January 13, 2014
Transformation without Apocalypse: How to Live Well on an Altered Planet

Concept: We invite artists to submit proposals for interactive art projects that radically
re-imagine how to live well on an altered planet. We know that humans will be living differently in the very near future, perhaps occasioned by catastrophes brought on by forces of greed and climatic disintegration. We also know that we can choose, by acts of imagination and collective will, to create new narratives of how to inhabit the planet. We invite proposals that create these tangible visions of new/old ways to live. Projects should explore who we are in relation to the world and how we ought to live without exhausting the Earth.

The ideal project will:
• Thoughtfully explore the concept “Transformation without Apocalypse.”
• Include an interactive component during the Transformation without Apocalypse symposium on February 15, 2014 at LaSells Stewart Center in Corvallis, Oregon. The interactive component will invite students and community members to help in the creation of your artwork. Artists are asked to create a hands-on experience for symposium visitors. Options include inviting visitors to experiment with your materials and/or process, to design a collaborative work of art that visitors will help create, to design a component of your work of art that is inspired by your interactive experience at the symposium, etc. To this end, artists must be willing to speak with visitors, answer questions, and to invite visitors into your creative process. Your interactive component should last from at least noon to 7:00 p.m. on February 15. You are encouraged to continue the interactive aspect of your project after the symposium, however you may also choose to work independently.
• Invite students and the community to think deeply about how to live well on an altered planet.
• Take any form including, but not limited to painting, drawing, sculpture, photography, mural, collage, etc.
• Not exceed 4 x 6’ for 2D proposals and 3 x 3 x 6’ for 3D proposals.
• Be completed and installed in a prominent location on campus (TBD by Environmental Arts and Humanities) by March 21, 1014.

Project timeline:
• January 13: Proposal submission deadline.
• January 20: Winners announced.
• February 15: Community engagement during the Transformation without Apocalypse symposium at OSU.
• February 16 – March 20: Continue to work on your project at your studio. You may choose to continue the community engagement aspects of your project during this time or work on the piece independently.
• March 21: Installation complete.

Eligibility: The Environmental Arts and Humanities Initiative will consider applications by student artists, professional artists, or artist teams. The artist (or at least one of the artist if working on a team) must live or work within a 100-mile radius of Corvallis, Oregon and be available to attend the Transformation without Apocalypse symposium on February 15. Each applicant, or each team, may submit one design for consideration.
Compensation: The artist or artist team will be awarded a $2,000 artwork contract plus up to $1,000 for materials. Materials reimbursement will be for actual costs of materials and require detailed, original receipts. The $2,000 will be awarded after March 21 and be dependent on the completion of the contract.

Submit a proposal: Artists are invited to submit a proposal on or before January 13, 2014 by 1) emailing a single PDF document to Carly.Lettero[at]oregonstate.edu or 2) mailing one copy of your submission to: Environmental Arts and Humanities; c/o Carly Lettero; 208 Gilkey Hall; Oregon State University; Corvallis, Oregon 97333. Please note that mailed submissions must arrive on or before January 13. Late submissions will not be considered.

Proposal must include the following:
1. Artist’s statement
2. Current resume (for each artist, if working as a team).
3. Visual documentation in digital format of previous works, with all images clearly annotated.
4. Specifications and installation information including:
a. Details of proposed project: Describe your proposed project with text, sketches, models, or other documentation. Each artist or artist team may submit one design.
b. Student and community involvement: 1) How will you involve students and community members in the creation of your piece during the Transformation without Apocalypse symposium on February 15, 2014? 2) Approximately how many students and community members would be involved? 3) If you will continue to involve the community in your project after February 15, how will you involve them?
c. Work plan after the symposium: Where will you work on the project after the symposium (e.g., in your own studio)? How will you transport your materials from the symposium to your workspace and finally, to the installation space?
d. Timeline: What is your timeline for the project? Please note that the installation must be complete by March 21, 2014.
e. Long-term maintenance: Will the installation require any long-term maintenance? If so, what maintenance is required and how often will it need to be done?
f. Space: How much space will your installation require 1) during the interactive portion of the Transformation without Apocalypse symposium, and 2) when it is installed (not to exceed 4 x 6’ for 2D proposals and 3 x 3 x 6’ for 3D proposals)?
g. Budget: What is the budget for your project (not to exceed $2,000 for the artwork contract plus up to $1,000 for materials)?
Artist selection criteria include:
• Thoughtful engagement with the theme “Transformation without Apocalypse.”
• Artistic excellence including technical competency and aesthetic content.
• Community engagement in the creation of the piece during the Transformation without Apocalypse symposium on February 15, 2014.
• Plan for long-term maintenance of the artwork if applicable.
• The project’s timeframe and budget.

For more information
• About the Call for Artists: Contact Carly Lettero at Carly.Lettero[at]oregonstate.edu
• About the Environmental Arts and Humanities Initiative visit: http://liberalarts.oregonstate.edu/centers-and-initiatives/environmental-humanities-initiative
• About the Transformation without Apocalypse symposium and the Spring Creek Project visit: http://liberalarts.oregonstate.edu/node/953