Category Archives: Quotations

Quote 6. Practical Advice to Environmentalists, quoted by Stephanie Mills

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Save the Earth.  Pitch In. Help Out.  A very little goes a long way.  If you’re interested call.  Don’t stop trying.

This advice appears in the Stephanie Mills book In Praise of Nature (p.165).  Mills mentions that sometime around 1990 four little girls who had learned that the Earth was endangered were visiting homes in her neighborhood to spread the alarm by handing out colored posters they had made. The one they gave her showed “our blue and green planet rising in a field of eight yellow stars” and included the quoted text.

Stephanie Mills attended college in California, where she made an environmental name for herself at a young age with the commencement address she gave in the spring of 1969 at her graduation.  Under the influence of Paul Ehrlich’s writings on human population, she told the other graduates and their parents that we were breeding ourselves out of existence and announced that “the most humane thing” for her to do was “to have no children at all.”  It made a media splash and Mills joined in the very active environmental movement  around San Francisco.  Along with many talks here and there around the country, she was involved with writing and editing such publications as Earth Times and the Whole Earth Catalog.

In the mid-1980s Mills became a Michigander, moving to the Traverse City area near the tip of the Lower Peninsula. A few years later,  she began work on In Praise of Nature.

Published to correspond with Earth Day 1990, In Praise of Nature is a selection of environmental writings edited by Mills (assisted by Jeanne Carstensen) and published by Island Press, a California-based non-profit that aims to publish “the most advanced thinking on the conservation of our natural resources.”

The book has a somewhat cumbersome format but manages to include brief reviews of and short selections from a good many books important in the 20th-century development of environmental thought.  Included are pieces by serious students and thinkers such as Aldo Leopold, George Perkins Marsh, Rachel Carson, and John Muir plus other more journalistic contributions that summarized the current state of various environmental topics.

There is a plenty of good environmental prose to be found in the book, but as practical environmental advice, not much of it is as strong or useful as the admonitions of the four young Michigan girls.

Save the Earth!  Pitch In. Help Out.  A very little goes a long way!  If you’re interested, call.  Don’t stop trying!

Quote 5. William H. Whyte & Kalamazoo’s Own Walden Woods

Title page of Walden by H. D. Thoreau, Heritage Press edition. Photo by Richard Brewer November 2012

The woods and meadows that so attracted [new residents] disappeared as soon as developers got around to building on them, and if the residents wanted to find what other nature features would be next to go, they had only to check the names of the subdivisions being planned. When a developer puts a woods into the name, or a vale, heights, forest, creek, or stream, he is not conserving; he is memorializing.  Subdivisions are named for that which they are about to destroy.

–William H. Whyte

 William Hollingsworth Whyte, called “Holly,” wrote those words in his 1968 book, The Last Landscape (Doubleday & Company).  Whyte was many things–a keen and scientific student of human behavior, a planner and land conservationist, and an excellent writer.  He was the primary architect of the conservation easement, currently the most widely used method of private land conservation.

Whyte may not have been the first person to notice that developments tend to be named after the natural features they damage or obliterate, but I’m pretty sure he was the first prominent conservationist to state it as a rule. Most of us can come up with local examples. If we saw an ad for lots in a new development called the Preserve at Eagle Knoll, we would win more often than we lost if we bet that the knoll had been flattened, the eagles were gone, and nothing was preserved.

Recently, I came across a related but slightly different approach to naming developments right here in Kalamazoo.

A good many years ago, Western Michigan University bought some property a little beyond the west edge of the campus.  The property, sometimes held in the name of the WMU Foundation, adjoined a city well-field and the Arcadia plat and lay between Solon Street on the east and Drake Road on the west.  WMU had bought the land thinking they were going to need a bigger, grander football stadium, but the need didn’t materialize, and it turned out that the cost of such a project, especially the required utilities, was prohibitive.

The land, which for convenience can be referred to as the Arboretum, was mostly recovering agricultural fields but with a few relict patches of native vegetation.  On the northwest side of the property grew a few bur oaks of various sizes.  This was near the south edge of one of the eight tall-grass, black soil prairies of the county–Grand Prairie–and these trees were a heritage of the fringing bur oak plain.

Also on the north boundary but farther east was a small pocket, a little valley, of mesic forest, but an unusual type of mesic forest with few or no beeches or sugar maples, dominated instead by basswood trees.  Part of this little valley was on the WMU property, the rest on the parcel adjacent to the north.

For a good many years the land abided, the plants and animals cycling through the seasons, visited by no one except walkers and joggers, bird-watchers and berry-pickers, and an occasional ecology class.

Several years ago, things began to change.  Someone interested in the sequence and timing could probably work out the details from the Kalamazoo Gazette mlive archives if they wanted to spend the time.  Here’s a place to start.  A quick synopsis is that WMU wanted to monetize their land holdings, and the city of Kalamazoo desperately wanted an east-west street in the region.  Other business and governmental entities were or became involved. The Kalamazoo School system built a new middle school.  The city built a road, which they called a parkway, crossing the property from Drake Road to Solon Street.  I’ve never known just what a parkway is, but a prominent feature of this one is that there is no place to park along it. One result is that access to the arboretum for walkers is pretty much limited to some of the immediate neighbors.

And the land  began to be developed. A couple of months ago, I saw signs for a new condominium development. The literature on it mentions that it will be “set amidst 80 acres of woodlands and rolling  meadows–of which 40 acres will be preserved.” Just how preserved it will be is unclear; so also are who and what it’s preserved for.  The literature goes on with a set of bullet points one of which is “40 acres of private green space.”

The name of the new development:  Walden Woods.

Entrance to Walden Woods condo, Kalamazoo. Photo by Richard Brewer

Perhaps I’m jumping to a conclusion, but the name suggests a connection to Henry David  Thoreau, the famous  naturalist, conservationist, and environmentalist. In an earlier post, I quoted a characteristic passage from Thoreau’s journal that also pertains here:

Each town should have a park, or rather a primitive forest, of five hundred or a thousand acres, where a stick should never be cut for fuel, a common possession forever, for instruction and recreation…. All Walden Wood might have been preserved for our park forever, with Walden [pond] in its midst….


In Kalamazoo’s case, the 180+ acres of the Arboretum could have been turned into a city park–badly needed in this area of the city–along with an adjoining nature preserve. Something of this sort is what most of the neighbors and many other Kalamazoo residents wanted.  But, that, of course, is exactly what did not happen.  Instead, we have what we have, which includes Walden Wood in the form of a condo development.

It’s hard not to see this as another sad example of Whyte’s rule.  But perhaps we should try to take a little cheer from the situation. For example, if other developments follow in the arboretum, the names of dozens of other conservationists and conserved natural areas are waiting to serve. With Walden Woods honoring Thoreau, it would be only fair to have a Muir Woods for John Muir.  One of these already exists, but California is a long way from here so probably there would  be no confusion.

Among Teddy Roosevelt’s many conservation achievements, he set aside the first-ever bird sanctuary, Pelican Island.  How about Pelican Arboretum as a general name for the whole site?


L. A. Kenoyer on Saving Newton Woods

Leslie A. Kenoyer in the greenhouse at West Hall, WMU East campus. Photo courtesy Western Michigan University Archives and Regional History Collection

The essay that follows is a radio address by Leslie Alva Kenoyer, who served from 1922 to 1953 as Professor and Chairman of the Biology Department at Western Michigan University –at that time Western State Teachers College .  The piece is dated April 16, 1935.  It was written for Western’s Radio Hour, which was evidently a continuing feature on station WKZO.


Leslie Kenoyer 

“Woodman, spare that tree, Touch not a single bough.”

 The sentiment that inspired this poem has not been firmly enough established in the minds of southern Michigan people to save from destruction any more than the most scattered remnants of our once beautiful and glorious forest lands. Some fifty thousand years ago the great continental glacier receded from what is now Michigan leaving a raw and barren glacial clay, streaked here and there with sand and gravel. Such soil, in the cool climate then found here, could support only a meager arctic vegetation, consisting of such low, spreading plants as we find today in our cold bogs. The rain and sun gradually brought about favorable chemical changes in the soil and the plants gradually decayed to form humus, hence, in the course of a few centuries, the scant arctic vegetation was replaced by larger shrubs. Centuries later trees occupied the ground, starting with the poplars and developing from stage to stage to dense shady forests of beech and sugar maple. such as covered much of southern Michigan 110 years ago when the government divided our land into townships and sections.

It was inevitable that the trees should succumb to the lumberman’s axe, when the land was cleared for farm homesteads, but it is particularly unfortunate that their removal should have been so complete. Indeed we have here and there a small woodlot to serve as a rather meager sample of the forests that were. but larger tracts are now exceedingly scarce. One of the finest and most extensive remaining areas is Newton Woods in Cass County, adjoining the road from Decatur to Cassopolis, and not far from the village of Volinia. Here are several hundred acres of practically virgin timber, including large blocks of both the beech-maple and oak-hickory types of timber. The trees of this forest were large long before southern Michigan was surveyed and opened to the settler. Among them is an elm which now lifts its head to the majestic height of 150 feet and has a circumference. three feet above ground of 24 feet [91-92 inches in diameter]. Some believe it to be the largest tree now standing in Michigan. There is also a magnificent group of giant tulip or whitewood, the largest of which is 145 feet high, 90 feet to the first branch and 30 feet in circumference [114-115 inches in diameter]. It takes three to five centuries to grow such trees as these.

Ten years ago we could see from our college campus, at a distance of eight or nine miles, a stately elm, towering far above the other trees. Suddenly this tree ceased to be seen, and we learned that it had been sold for $100 for the manufacture of barrel staves. On visiting the stump and counting the rings of growth, I found that the tree was considerably over 400 years old. It was a sapling when Columbus crossed the Atlantic in his puny sailing vessels. Probably the barrels have worn out and the $100 has been long since spent and forgotten, but it will take 400 years to grow another such tree.

When a forest is cut, it is not only the trees that go. The shrubs and the herbs, the orchids and other rare plants, the mosses and lichens that form the turf, will not live when deprived of the shade of the trees. The disappearance of this ground cover permits the erosion of the soil, which represents the accumulation of many thousands of years. The insects, the birds, and the beasts are dislodged from their accustomed haunts, many of them to perish. Hence the restoration of a denuded area cannot be accomplished by the mere planting of trees, nor does a planted forest ever prove a satisfactory substitute for a destroyed native forest.  The old conditions will not and cannot be restored, once the forest is gone.  How, then, will the next generation know anything of the beauties and glories of the forest with its wonderful variety of plant and animal forms  This is a question which our generation must answer.

A part of the Newton Woods is now in the hands of a lumber company and some cutting has already been done, but there is a chance that it may yet be rescued if the public will take sufficient interest in its preservation. The lumber firm is kindly witholding operations in view of an aggressive campaign that is now being sponsored by the Michigan Academy [of Science, Arts, and Letters], the Michigan Forestry Association, and other organizations and individuals who feel that the value to the people of such reserves for the continuation of our wild life is one that cannot be measured in mere dollars. The present leader of this movement is Shirley W. Allen, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Professor Allen would like to hear from all who are interested in finding some means to save the tract.  It is well to bear in mind that our present state parks are mostly in northern Michigan remote from centers of population. Here is a real wilderness with immense trees, a small stream, a profusion of wild flowers, birds, and other natural beauties easy of access to a million people.  We cannot blame property owners for wishing to realize from their investments, but we deplore the fact that the people are not awake to the desirability of keeping the few remaining bits of out landscape as nature gave them to us, free from the artificial modifications imposed  by farm and city development.  With an awakened public, our officials and our public-spirited citizens of means would put forth the necessary efforts to save from the general destruction these remnants of wild nature for the instruction and enjoyment of generations yet to come.

Kenoyer’s comments on post-glacial vegetation change hold up well enough as a broad pattern.  However, the quoted estimate of 50,000 years ago since the last ice sheet melted from southern Michigan is too high. Something on the order of 15,000 years would be closer to the interval based on current evidence.

I like Kenoyer’s plea for protecting natural areas “for the enjoyment and instruction” of later generations.  If I were to revise it I might write “enjoyment, instruction, and health of our own and later generations.” But Kenoyer’s plea for land conservation was accurate and eloquent exactly as he wrote it and, in 1935 on a radio broadcast, far ahead of its time.

The script of this and a few other of Kenoyer’s radio addresses, preserved by Biology Prof. Frank Hindshave been deposited in the WMU Archives and Regional History Collection

Kenoyer received his Ph.D. in 1916, evidently done in some sort of joint arrangement between the University of Chicago and Iowa State University.  He is credited with receiving the first Ph.D. granted by  what was then The Iowa State College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts.  Kenoyer’s thesis research dealt with environmental influences on nectar secretion.  This and his research interests as shown in later life seem clearly in line with the work being done at Chicago by Henry Chandler Cowles and the other faculty and graduate students.

Kenoyer was born in 1883 in Dover, a small community in north-central Illinois. After completing his Ph.D., he taught botany in India for six years, then spent a year at Michigan State before coming to Kalamazoo.  He became head of the Biology Department soon after arriving, when LeRoy H. Harvey died.

Newton Woods was saved by a donation of  land (580 acres) and an endowment by Fred Russ in 1939 .  The story is complicated (and deserves a thorough treatment by someone), but there is a rough correspondence between the “Newton Woods” of the 1930s and Fred Russ Forest managed by Michigan State University.  MSU applies the name “Newton Woods” to 40 acres of old-growth hardwood, the only part of the forest that is protected from timber cutting.  E. Lucy Braun in her monumental study Deciduous Forests of Eastern North America (1950. Blakiston, Philadelphia) sampled two distinct areas at Russ Forest, probably in the early 1940s (pp 318-320).  One was beech-sugar maple with American elm, black walnut, tulip tree, and several other species well represented. The other was dominated by white oak with sugar maple second and red oak and black walnut tied for third.  Evidently, the oak-maple stand is what MSU terms “Newton Woods.”  

Whether Kenoyer and some of the other individuals and groups who worked to preserve Newton Woods 75 years ago would  be wholly be satisfied with the outcome is not certain.


Quote 4, Jeremy Grantham on human population size as the latest bubble

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Whether the stable population will be 1.5 billion or 5 billion, the question is: How do we get there?… I have no doubt we’re going to have a bad hundred years.  We have the resources to gracefully handle the transition, but we won’t.  We apparently can’t.

–Jeremy Grantham


Jeremy Grantham is an investment strategist who has specialized in identifying bubbles–Japanese stocks in the 1980s, dot-com corporations in the 1990s, housing in 2008.  It appears that he has come to see the current world population size as a bubble.  If so, he may have reached roughly the same position as Richard Heinberg, senior fellow at the Post Carbon Institute, who has suggested that we have passed or are about to pass, not just peak oil, but peak everything.  Heinberg published a 2007 book called just that, Peak Everything.

Of course, peak oil is the trigger. As fossil fuel energy becomes more expensive, everything gets harder to do.  Mining, food production, transportation and travel, providing potable water, all become more expensive, and eventually too expensive.

That there is such a thing as a carrying capacity for humans and that exceeding this carrying capacity can lead to degradation of the environment in such a way that the carrying capacity is itself reduced are not new ideas.  Thomas Malthus, William Vogt, Garrett Hardin, and Paul Ehrlich are a sampling of those who made the case from 1798 to 1968.

But the idea that there can be too many people is not popular, and such words as “overpopulation” and “population control” and “ZPG” have not been heard much in the U.S. since the 1970s.

In the New York Times Magazine article (“A Darker Shade of Green” 14 August 2011) from which this quote is taken, author Carlo Rotello also quotes Grantham as saying that people won’t listen to environmentalists, but will sometimes listen to people like him.  Rather than concentrating on overpopulation and global warming, he talks about our coming problems with commodity shortages. “Global warming is bad news,” according to Grantham.  “Finite resources is investment advice.”

Will enough people connect the coming shortages and rising prices of potassium and phosphates and other such shortages and dislocations with global climate change resulting from overpopulation (combined with our energy technology and corporate/political system)?  Possibly.  Grantham’s newsletters posted on the website of his investment management firm make the connections.  Here is a link to the July 2011 newsletter, Resource Limitations 2: Separating the Dangerous from the Merely Serious.

Quote 3, John Eastman on Wetlands as Wilderness

And the fount of biodiversity is wilderness.  Today, American forest wilderness exists, when at all, in patches, “museum cases” of public lands, which give only pallid ideas of the large biodiversity our ancestors blithely relinquished.

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Wetland wilderness, however has not fallen quite so far…. Although many surviving wetlands have indeed suffered irreversible changes… it is remarkable how many of them remain relatively pristine. Most American wetlands have existed as such since the retreat of Pleistocene glaciers.  Some of their plant populations may, in many cases, be directly descended from the original wetland species of their locales.  The pleasure and adventure of experiencing a bog or marsh of native vegetation may bring us as close to experiencing true American wilderness as most of us may ever come.

–John Eastman

John Andrew Eastman was an American naturalist and writer and a Kalamazoo resident.  Of many publications, probably his most influential were three books, The Book of Forest and Thicket, The Book of Swamp and Bog, and  The Book of Field and Roadside.  They are field guides of a special, ecological sort.  Arranged by species of plant, they deal with the interactions of each species with its associates–consumers, parasites, competitors, mutualists–and with the physical features of its habitat.

The quotation is from the Introduction to the Swamp and Bog book and makes a point about many existing wetlands of North America that no one else has stated as directly:  Unlike most upland sites, wetland sites, if not destroyed, often preserve conditions and ecosystems with direct genetic connections to the landscapes encountered by the earliest European settlers–and, of course, by American Indians before them.

Many wetlands have another conservation connection: Pollen and other remains of plants and animals preserved in their sediments are the main evidence for reconstructing the vegetational and climatic history of the region surrounding the wetland basin.  Not mentioned in the Introduction, this important role is alluded to in the book’s entry on Mosses, Sphagnum (p.130).

Quote 2, Henry David Thoreau on Preserving Land


Each town should have a park, or rather a primitive forest, of five hundred or a thousand acres, where a stick should never be cut for fuel, a common possession forever, for instruction and recreation. We hear of cow-commons and ministerial lots, but we want men-commons and lay lots, inalienable forever….


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All Walden Wood might have been preserved for our park forever, with Walden in its midst, and the Easterbrooks Country, an unoccupied area of some four square miles, might have been our huckleberry-field…. As some give to Harvard College or another institution, why might not another give a forest or huckleberry-field to Concord?

–Henry David Thoreau

Thoreau is well known as America’s philosopher-naturalist. Here he gives an early statement of the need to set aside natural land. By the mid-1800s, many people were lamenting the loss of the country’s wild lands, but few took the next step of recommending preservation.  In this passage and also other writings of his later years, Thoreau did.  He not only states that every town (what in the Midwest we call a township) ought to set aside a 500- to 1000-acre preserve, but also notes that the protection should be in perpetuity (“inalienable forever’) and suggests a method–by charitable donation to the town government.

This passage was in his journal for October 15, 1859, but he was also including it, slightly reworked, in his last book, eventually published in 2000 as Wild Fruit.

More About Aldo Leopold’s Subversive Ideas

@Dick Klade in Comment 3 to preceding post

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Thanks for restoring the interesting lost section of your comment.

It’s not surprising that Leopold’s ideas didn’t always suit the bureaucracy.  Ecology is the subversive science, as Paul Sears said.

The game managers seemed to accept Leopold early.  As an undergraduate in 1953 or 1954, I had a course in game management taught by Willard D. Klimstra, an Iowa Ph.D. from the period when Paul Errington, another game management great, was there.

Klimstra’s supplementary reading list for the class had at least one piece by Leopold. It was my first encounter with Leopold’s writing though I don’t remember just which of his articles it was. I’m afraid I didn’t read it as carefully as, later on, I would expect students to treat my reading lists.

Lots of people came to environmental issues in the 1970s from the humanities side.  Many of them think highly of Sand County Almanac, but I have a suspicion that not all of them take the quote given in the earlier post (19 April) as literally as Leopold meant.  It is a profoundly anti-anthropocentric idea.

Leopold had other heterodox ideas, some of which still haven’t had the attention they deserve.  For example, he thought that conservation was everybody’s, and especially every land owner’s, duty.  Hence, paying land owners to conserve would be counterproductive.  If the government pays land owners for doing some reforestation or leaving second-rate cropland in perennial grass instead of planting corn, the incentive for the land owners to do it on their own will be lessened or lost.  Likewise, if the government will buy conservation easements, fewer land owners will be willing to donate them.  It’s a sound conclusion. At least, most of the people where I grew up would have thought that if somebody will pay for it, you’re a fool to give it away.

Quote 1, Aldo Leopold and the Odyssey of Evolution

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Every once in a while someone puts a thought so well that other people ought to know about it.  As I come across such a wise saying, or wise crack, I’ll put it in a post like this, for a while at least.

Here’s the first one.

We know now what was unknown to all the preceding caravan of generations: that men are only fellow-voyagers with other creatures in the odyssey of evolution.  This new knowledge should have given us, by this time, a sense of kinship with fellow-creatures; a wish to live and let live; a sense of wonder over the magnitude and duration of the biotic enterprise.

–Aldo Leopold, 1949

These two sentence come from a brief essay “On a Monument to the Pigeon” included as one of the sketches in A Sand County Almanac and Sketches Here and There.  Leopold was probably America’s most insightful thinker on conservation.