Earth Matters

Every two weeks, the Hitchcock Center publishes a column, "Earth Matters: Notes on the Nature of the Valley," in The Daily Hampshire Gazette. Writers include Hitchcock staff and board members, former board members, presenters in our Community Programs series, and friends of the Center. Look for the column at the end of Section C of the weekend Gazette or on their website. We will keep a complete list on this site, so if you miss seeing a column in the newspaper, or want to see it again, come here at any time.

Picture books can help us talk to children about climate change

By Allie Martineau

Talking to kids about the climate crisis can feel overwhelming. Where do I start? What if I make them worry? Picture books take major events and otherwise scary topics and pack them into 32 pages or so of art, context and connections we share together. Picture books — along with novels and comics — are incredible tools for generating empathy and can help in climate conversations by keeping us focused on facts, empowerment and action.

Published in Earth Matters on September 15, 2022.

Inclusivity becomes reality at a Maine camp

By Meghadeepa Maity

This is a story about how one organization’s exemplary commitment to inclusivity helped me realize a dream. I’m a queer, disabled, South Asian immigrant, an avid birder and an activist in the North American birding community. For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to see an Atlantic puffin. It’s often easier for organizations to publish a statement rejecting marginalization in the wake of racial reckonings, than it is to take concrete steps to welcome those of us who have historically been excluded from outdoor recreation and conservation. But the National Audubon Society followed through, and I was a beneficiary.

I first proposed camperships for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and other People of Color) youth as an action item on a local inclusion committee two years ago. This summer, I was incidentally awarded a fully funded Audubon BIPOC scholarship that led to a transformational experience at the weeklong “Puffin Islands” camp at Hog Island, Maine…

Published in Earth Matters on September 6, 2022.

Everything you wanted to know about fungi

By Joshua Rose

Fungi — bane or blessing? Nuisance or nourishing? Delicious or deadly? Answer: Yes, and more. On the plus side, as I explain below, many of Earth’s plant and animal species depend on fungi. On the minus side, fungi have been implicated in widespread declines, disappearances and even extinctions of a number of animal and plant species. And eating them could be either a big plus or huge minus.

Published in Earth Matters on August 19, 2022.

English farmer takes journey back to older, deeper ways

By Michael Dover

The failure of some food systems has been cited for the decline and fall of some major civilizations. Today, we face a different kind of challenge to our food systems: the globalization of our food supply (and its breakdowns) and the effects of industrial-scale farming on a vast scale across the globe. “Pastoral Song: A Farmer’s Journey,” by James Rebanks is a personal story about the changes on an English hill farm over the last half-century. It’s a microcosm of what has happened in agriculture since the end of World War II.

Published in Earth Matters on August 5, 2022.

Role-playing games, storytelling and the fate of the earth

By Monya Relles

The role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) first gained popularity in the late 1970s and is now enjoying a resurgence. For the unfamiliar, players go on a series of quests to kill bad guys, get more powerful and collect treasure along the way. It’s a form of collaborative storytelling and I know many people use it as a tool to build and maintain community. So what could that possibly have to do with Earth Matters?

Published in Earth Matters on July 22, 2022.

Pollen: A great leap for plants gets its hooks in people, too

By Lawrence J. Winship

Every spring our car windows, decks and sidewalks are blanketed by layer upon layer of yellow powder. A seemingly unending rain of tiny particles filters down from birches, oaks, pines and other trees, sticking to every horizontal surface — and making about 25% of the human population sneeze. Lawrence J. Winship explains what wind-dispersed pollen does for plants and to people- and ends his tale with very curious questions.

Published in Earth Matters on July 8, 2022.

The Names Behind the Plants

By David Spector

I enjoy plants — foliage, flowers, and relationships of plants with humans, relationships often reflected in names. English plant names, for example, show a complex history of invasions into England, invasions by the English into the rest of the world, and interaction with dozens of languages from around the world. Here I consider a handful of western Massachusetts plant names.

Published in Earth Matters on June 24, 2022.

Walrus on thin ice: A challenge for them and an opportunity to help

By Tom Litwin

What weighs 1.5 tons, is 12 feet long, has enlarged canine teeth that can grow to over 36 inches and is featured in a Beatles song? If you guessed walrus, you’re correct. Here in Massachusetts, we tend not to think much about walrus, but there’s an opportunity for you to virtually travel to the Arctic in search of walrus. Here’s some background…

Published in Earth Matters on June 10, 2022.

Shed a little light on your local stream

By Christine Hatch

During the past couple of weeks I’ve been thinking about emergence. This is the time of year, as spring starts, that green is exploding out of every pore in the landscape. After winter, when so much is buried underground, the sudden flourish when sunlight reaches us is always a welcome shock…

Published in Earth Matters on May 27, 2022.

Farms for the community, by the community

By Katie Koerten

Last November I wrote an article for this column about the color blue in nature: how rare it is, and how difficult it is for nature to even produce it. To my delight, it garnered a lot of interest and curiosity, and even a letter to the editor with a story about why robins’ eggs are blue. I thought this a dazzling — and timely! — example of blue in nature to write about in springtime.

Published in Earth Matters on May 14, 2022.
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