The piece below was initially posted by Zane Maser.


The following short section (pages 73-75) is from the 2015 book, “Toward A Natural Forest: The Forest Service in Transition.” It is a memoir by Jim Furnish who was the Forest Supervisor of the Siuslaw National Forest in Corvallis, Oregon, as well as the agency’s Deputy Chief in Washington, D.C. This brief glimpse shows a pivotal, transitional, wrenchingly illuminative experience in his 34-year career, a turning point that shifted his frame of reference, his self-honesty, and set his feet on a truer path toward the inclusion of the forest ecosystem as a whole, living, sustainable complex. He began to see with “new eyes.”

“A Glimpse of the Future”

“John Kirkpatrick had roots in the Southwest Region (Arizona and New Mexico), as did his old friend John Bedell, the supervisor of the Carson National Forest. About 1986, these two instituted an annual tri-forest meeting of leadership teams, to include the Rio Grande National Forest and its supervisor, Tom Quinn.

These meetings included field trips and discussions on issues of the day—everything from heap-leach gold mining to bear hunting to grazing issues. The teams made good professional connections and enjoyed stimulating talk. The Carson bunch hosted our second event, and we headed indoors for a presentation in Farmington, New Mexico after a couple of days outdoors.

The presenter was Chris Maser, a former researcher with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) from Oregon, who, near as I could tell, now devoted himself to writings and lecturing about his forest research. Maser gave a lengthy and very detailed lecture and slide show about how forests of the Pacific Northwest function.

I sat enraptured as Maser talked about old-growth forests, squirrels and their poop, fungal spores, mycorrhizae (fungi that grow alongside tree roots to dramatically improve a tree’s uptake of water and soil nutrients), lichens, soil-dwelling insects, forest productivity, and by inference, how just about every aspect of our forest management approach was naïve and simplistic—in a word, wrong. Forests were incredibly complex biotic systems, Maser said. Simple notions of ‘just managing trees’ actually involved significant risk of upsetting the delicate balance of important forest relationships.

I found myself aware that Maser was challenging my own simple notions. This made me both irked and curious.

To begin with, I was ignorant of virtually everything he was talking about (also true, I suspect, for other Forest Service leaders in the room). Maser made a compelling case. If it was true, his conclusions damned the Forest Service. Supporting management with credible science should be the stock in trade of any competent natural resource agency. Yet how can you apply what you do not know or understand?

And so, here I sat in a Forest Service meeting, my head exploding and my heart aching with shame. Many wanted to disagree with Maser, but the credibility of his scientific evidence disarmed them.

I realized that I had relied on what the agency spoon-fed me in various training sessions, and sadly, that I’d spent little time exercising my responsibility in the professional discipline of independently pursuing knowledge. John Bedell, who was moderating the conference, enjoyed the role of provocateur and relished Maser working our brains with an eggbeater. A wild-eyed discussion ensued about the implication of Maser’s message.

I went back in my memory, reviewing the bumps and struggles I’d experienced during the past few years just trying to do my job. I thought about things I’d seen that didn’t add up. The worn-out grazing lands on the Bighorn. The ferocious pressure to ‘get the cut out’ even when the forest couldn’t sustain it. The gadfly environmentalists that seemed to delight in strewing our path with lawsuits. Now, I recalled, there was a controversary brewing in the Pacific Northwest over a shy, innocent spotted owl.

I realized these issues weren’t random and unconnected, but part of a larger reality that we were beginning to perceive. They were like icebergs—not especially menacing until one fully considered the larger threat below the surface. Internally, the Forest Service heard recurrent, insistent voices from many of our best and most credible resource specialists that the agency was ignoring important science that pointed to environmental problems. I’d seen for myself examples where our management wasn’t matching our science.

Could that be the reason for the public’s growing disenchantment with how we were managing their treasured national forests? Were we that far out of sync with what people, especially some of our own agency experts, believed and valued?

I found myself drifting toward increasing doubt about the merits of our logging policy and practice on national forests. What did the Forest Service owe the timber industry? The general public? The agency seemed to bow and scrape to a largely ungrateful commercial interest, even as the timber industry’s power and influence diminished sharply. Furthermore, strong similarities existed in the agency’s relationship with a ranching industry whose livestock grazed vast areas of public lands in the West.

What was of ultimate value to the public whose land the Forest Service was privileged to manage? I didn’t think the general public viewed commerce on national forests as our top priority. But if they wanted changes, what were we to become? I wasn’t certain how to answer that, but I sure thought it had something to do with the Forest Service managing lands with a stronger, more humble environmental ethic.”


Chris Maser is the author of “The Redesigned Forest,” “Forest Primeval,” “Sustainable Forestry,” “Our Forest Legacy,” “Social-Environmental Planning: The Design Interface Between Everyforest and Everycity,” “Mammals of the Pacific Northwest,” and a co-author of “Trees, Truffles, and Beasts.”


Short Writings from Chris Maser and other posts that include him:

• Forests as Our Spiritual Inheritance   (excerpt from Chris’ classic, “The
      Redesigned Forest”)

• Earth Day 2012   (includes a few quotes from Chris’ books)

• The Essence Of Spiritual Ecology   (about environmental mystics, written       by Chris)

• The Marys River of My Youth—Eternally Flowing   (a natural history book
      about Chris’ growing up in Corvallis)

• One Small Nudge affects the Whole World   (a brief look at the life       journey of Chris)

• Eternity And The Banishment Of Fear   (an excerpt from Chris’
      “Conversations with Fear”)

• Spiritual Essence of Stabilitas   (an excerpt from Chris’ book, “The World
      Is In My Garden”)

• In Emptiness Is Spiritual Fulfillment   (an excerpt from “The World Is       In My Garden”)

• Self-Emptying Meditation   (an excerpt from “The World Is In My

• The Planet Of Dyslexia   (in part about Chris’ dyslexia and generally about
      the learning disorder of dyslexia, as well as the number of famous
      people who have greatly struggled with dyslexia)


SunnyCat site post and photo of Chris Maser © by Zane Maser, 2021. Vertical old growth forest photo and clearcut © Chris Masers. Quoted paragraphs © Jim Furnish, “Toward A Natural Forest: The Forest Service in Transition,” pages 73-75, Oregon State University Press, 2015. Photos gratefully used from Wikimedia Commons. All 2009-2021 rights of Zane Maser and SunnyCat Astrology reserved worldwide.

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Posted by: chrismaser | May 14, 2021


So long as a tree shall stand or the wind shall blow, so long as the grass shall grow, so will my Spirit remain on this Mother Earth. When I die I would be laid to rest on a mountain side, unclothed, for to me it is home. Here can I look over the valley to the mountains in the distance, where the voices of my loved ones shall sing forever. Mayhap there will be a small cross, carved out of wood, but this is just the beginning. From this small plot shall I rise again in each tree or blade of grass that grows or each flower that blooms. As the ovary ripens, the seed is blown by the wind; so shall I wander from that small plot, once again to seek nourishment at the bosom of my Mother.

If an insect or animal, however small, should feed on that tree, grass, or bloom, even so shall they sing with a voice full of the life and love that I once felt for this land. As the eagle swoops on that animal so shall my heart once again sing with the freedom and strength that it once knew on this Earth.

If a stream should chance to plant its course across that plot, so shall I once again see the greatness of the seas. Here am I not alone, for always shall I see the sun rise and see the sun set.

May I grow as straight and strong as that tree and have roots as deep as that grass. May I bloom as brilliantly as that flower; so shall I forever thank the Great Spirit whose hand guided me straight on that narrow and twisted path.

Someday the bones of a Lobo will lie bleaching in some hidden mountain park, there to return to the Earth from whence they came, for he has but borrowed, and must now return, what the Earth has given him, so be it with all men.

When someday you stand on a mountain top and look over the valleys and forests and know your God, then look to the West for there shall be a Lobo standing beside you, and so shall He always be there when you need him.

Prayer written in 1959 and photo of Three Sisters © by Chris Maser, 2021. Photo of wolf by Jon Glittenberg from Wikimedia Commons. All 2009-2021 rights of Chris Maser reserved worldwide.

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Chris Maser

Foreword of the book:

I was the proverbial fish out of water when I arrived in Corvallis, Oregon, in the fall of 1968 to begin my career as a graduate student in the zoology department at Oregon State University. I knew what research I wanted to do for my doctoral dissertation, which would involve extensive field work searching for Pacific Giant Salamanders. Being from the desert regions of the Snake River plains in southern Idaho, however, I didn’t know much about the coniferous forests of western Oregon, where I wanted to begin my search for populations of the big salamanders. Despite that, I had heard stories from professors at my previous university in Washington state about a nearly mythical guy who lived in the Corvallis area and who was associated with forestry and biological sciences at Oregon State University. His name was Chris Maser, and he was part mountain man, part field biologist, and a scholar who published papers on a wide variety of topics in the broad field of natural history. I was advised to contact him if I wanted to learn anything about the forests of western Oregon, including where to find salamanders.

Well, unfortunately, I have to make this long story short, so here goes. I was soon introduced to Chris and found him to be a formidable but accommodating character. I explained to him that I needed to find many populations of the salamander in order to do my intended work on the diversity and evolution of the species. To my delight, I learned that he not only knew the habitat of the Pacific Giant Salamander but also knew quite a lot about them … a surprise, because I thought he was primarily a mammologist. Chris offered to provide suggestions to where I might find my salamanders in the Coastal and Cascades Mountains of Oregon. But, he told me that he was a mite busy at the moment, compiling information for various projects, and he suggested that I accompany him on one or two of his field trips, so that I might start to become familiar with the forests of western Oregon.

He first suggested that we go look for tree mice and try to capture some for study. Tree mice?? I had never heard of such critters and wondered if he was yarning me. The idea of mice living way up in trees just didn’t seem right to me. But, it turned out he was serious. At McDonald Forest, just north of Corvallis, Chris found sign of red tree mice (actually voles of the species Arborimus longicaudus) near a tall Douglas fir tree, and he proposed that I climb up and drive the vole, or voles, down the tree, and he would catch them. Whoa … he wanted me to climb up to near the top of a Douglas fir and scare down a small rodent … me … a flatlander who had never climbed a conifer before in my life and certainly not one that was well over 100 feet tall … and me with more than a touch of acrophobia! As I walked around the tree looking up near the top and getting a little bit dizzy, I glanced over at Chris who was looking at me from beneath the brim of his battered cowboy/mountain man hat with what I later learned was an expression of wry amusement. It suddenly dawned on me that this was a sort of test and that I better not fail. As I clung precariously to the trunk of the tree some 80 to 100 feet above ground, I had no idea what to do to cause the tree voles to descend, but I did something right; and Chris was able to capture one of the desired, beautiful voles as it ran down the tree ahead of me. When I returned shakily to mother earth, Chris gave me a big smile and a couple of slight nods of his head accompanied with a soft click of his cheek, and I knew I had passed the test.

Subsequently, Chris was of enormous help in providing me with information and inspiration that guided me with my field research for my dissertation. We became friends and colleagues and published two short notes together in 1969 (“Water Shrews preying on larvae of the Pacific Giant Salamander”) and 1975 (“Food habits of Bobcats in the forests of western Oregon”) and a third, more substantial report in 1978 with James Trappe on the importance of small mammals in the dispersal of root mycorrhizal fungi in the coniferous forests of Oregon.

Chris has lived and worked in many countries and has written or coauthored 43 books and over 250 papers on natural history and conservation that are of great interest. He is also busy on the lecture circuit and has presented many seminal lectures, mainly on conservation issues, all over the world. Readers might want to visit his website currently at

This book is an important, almost necessary, chapter in the saga of Chris Maser. It tells the story of his youth, growing up in the environs of the Marys River in the southern Willamette Valley of Oregon. In the book, Chris pays homage to his childhood friend, Billy Savage, with whom he explored a ditch, cow pasture, and stream near Billy’s home southwest of Corvallis. There is a poignant moment when entering the 6th grade, Chris learns that his friend had died. Chris’s poetic words, steeped in the loss of his beloved friend, describing their time together exploring the ditch, cow pasture, and stream of their youth, are beautiful and mesmerizing. It becomes clear that Billy was instrumental in sharing nature with and further helping Chris along his trajectory to becoming a fiercely independent thinker and highly competent naturalist of the John Muir ilk. It is hard to be around Chris for long without being reminded of the mountain men who were at one with nature during the opening of the American West.

Chris does not dwell on the loss of his friend, but instead celebrates his life by writing a book that is a highly personal and detailed account of the riverine habitats and the wildlife Chris later encountered along “The Marys River of [his] Youth”—after Billy’s death. Chris gives us a remarkable picture of the life histories of 76 species of animals and their diverse occupancy, or niches, in and around the river, the forest, and the slough through the seasons and a portrait of the changes in these environments through time. The species include mammals, both large and small, birds ranging in variety from soaring raptors, such as the Golden Eagle, to graceful waterfowl, to the smallest of woodland songbirds, like the Bushtit. Also, included among the vertebrates are amphibians, like the Rough-Skinned Newt and the Pacific Tree Frog, and reptiles, such as the Pond Turtle, Southern Alligator Lizard, and Sharp-Tailed Snake.

Furthermore, animals without backbones (invertebrates) were included in Chris’s scrutiny as he explored these interconnecting habitats night and day, himself becoming one of the “creatures” of this magical place. He describes the appearance and lives of pearlshell mussels, earthworms, pseudoscorpions, hymenoptera (wasps, hornets, and yellowjackets), and water skaters (striders) with the clarity and beauty that only a skilled observer of nature can accomplish. Included as a fascinating aside is a mini-treatise on the “evolutionary miracle” of the birds’ eggs, which will undoubtedly change forever the reader’s perception of what an egg is all about.

Chris’s descriptions of these animals and their ways are precious in that he writes with the soul and intimacy of a man who is practically one with these creatures that he so clearly loves. The book is based primarily on Chris’s personal knowledge of these species and their changing environment through the seasons, but he also includes information about them that he has gleaned from his later scientific research and from the literature, when it is appropriate. And, sadly, the book is also an invaluable documentary of a natural world that no longer exists in its pristine state. One need only view the Marys River, as it is today in the area near Corvallis, to see the truth in that.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in natural history, especially to those who are interested in the fauna of the Pacific Northwest. Those who have read others of Chris Maser’s books will certainly want to read this one, as it describes a small glimpse into the beginnings of Chris Maser.

Ronald A. Nussbaum, Professor and Curator, Emeritus, Research Museums Center, The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI


“I worked as a forest wildlife biologist for the U.S. Forest Service and also in other fields in natural resources (fire, range management, forestry, and engineering) for agencies and conservation organizations over the past 30- plus years. I have learned so much from Chris Maser’s works and they have guided my efforts and understanding over the years. His way of connecting and communicating key ecological concepts has been far ahead of the curve. He is a true leader and a great mentor.

“As an admirer, it is such a joy and special gift to get to experience his youth with him in this book and learn wonderful things about species natural history that I have never taken the time to get to know in such depth. His stories describe how he connected and maintained an amazing relationship with the natural world as a kid and the precious gifts it gave to bravely walk a very difficult, but vita, path for rest of his life. It is incredible the depth and breadth of what Chris observed and learned. Seeing how he put himself so fully in it and the joy of what he got to see and experience from it was like experiencing it myself every bit of the way. It even made me feel like a kid again getting to know the natural world with him. It is a wonderful example of how the natural world touches us and gives us the substance we need to become great people. ‘Now, come with me into yesteryear and rest peacefully for a while along the banks of the river of my youth.’ This book is relaxing and fun, like reoccurring walks in nature with a marvelous naturalist friend.”

Cindy Haws
Myrtle Creek, Oregon

“This book is a tale of the Marys River, a tributary of the Willamette River in Oregon which flows generally southeast from the Central Oregon Coast Range to Corvallis, Oregon. Chris Maser, a long-time resident of Corvallis, begins The Marys River of My Youth as a memoir of his boyhood with his close friend, Billy Savage. After Billy died at age 12, Chris found the river and spent many hours intrigued by the animals that lived along the it. Through the fascination of a youth, we begin to know what lived on or near the riverbanks and in the river, itself. His witty recollections of his adventures with Billy and the animals they encountered, prior to his finding the river, are heartwarming and often hilarious, particularly when they encountered ‘Stinky.’

“Along the way, his in-depth descriptions of the inhabitants in the river and along its banks, include their physical descriptions, behavioral patterns, nesting habits, and lifecycles. His descriptions are so thorough, the reader gains a substantial body of knowledge. Whether it walks, crawls, flies, slithers or swims, the information is interesting, informative and detailed.

“Today the river has changed drastically due to the impact of increased human population; most of the animals still exist, although perhaps not along or in that portion of the river Chris knew.

“Chris has devoted his life to learning about the Earth we inhabit and to teaching others. His insights and appreciation of the life that surrounds us are invaluable and thought provoking, especially in today’s times. He encourages each of us to consider our impact on the sustainability of our amazing world.”

Kathleen LaFrance
Cheney, Washington

The Marys River of My Youth: A Natural History of Its Seen and Unseen Life 2019. Luminare Press, Eugene, OR If you want more information about this book or want to purchase it, visit “BOOKS” on my website.

Quoted material from book text © by Chris Maser. 2019. All rights reserved.

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If you want to contact me, you can visit my website. If you wish, you can also read an article about what is important to me and/or you can listen to me give a presentation.

Posted by: chrismaser | August 31, 2019




Cameron La Follette and Chris Maser (editors)

Editor’s Note for the “CRC Press” Book Series, Social-Environmental Sustainability:

In reading this book, keep in mind that Nature functions perfectly without any human “help” or intervention, which means Nature’s value is entirely intrinsic and self-reinforcing. But, the majority of people feel that Nature, as a resource, is wasted if it is not used for their benefit—hence the concept of “conversion potential.” In other words, how can a particular natural resource be converted into a commercial product for human use, thereby giving it economic value?

Here, a basic principle is that community programs must be founded on local requirements and cultural values in balance with those of the broader world, which includes understanding and acknowledging environmental issues, long-term biophysical trends, and their social-environmental ramifications. After all, social-environmental sustainability is a common relationship between people and the natural environment based on the constraints of the underlying biophysical principles that maintain the lands and waters in a sustainably productive state. Simply put, as we honor our relationship with Nature in a sustainable way, we honor all generations. As we abuse Nature by overexploitation, we abuse all generations.

Maintaining a respectful relationship with Nature—by placing its right to flourish foremost in human economics—forms a critical, worldwide nexus between the social-environmental sustainability of people in the present and those of the future. With respect to every culture worldwide, it is imperative that we take personal responsibility for our words, deeds, decisions, actions, and their consequences, because the first step toward social-environmental sustainability begins with the respect and the quality of the care we give ourselves. We must then extend that respect and care to our families, friends, neighbors, and Nature, because community sustainability is the foundation of every nation. This said, the degree of mutual caring; cooperation; and long-term, sustainability of the landscape characterizes a community and reflects the psychophysical health of its citizenry.

And, it is our humility and consent to the Rights of Nature, by prioritizing and repairing our relationship with Nature, that determines the legacy we leave—one that in today’s world either progressively liberates or progressively impoverishes all generations. The choice of how we, the adults of the world, behave is ours—either with psychological maturity and sacred humility or self-indulgence and monetary arrogance. Fortunately, our human consciousness is elevating as the Rights of Nature paradigm continues to spread in countries throughout the world—illustrated in part by courageous articles in this book.

Finally, this CRC series of books on the various facets of social-environmental sustainability is a forum wherein those who dare to seek harmony and wholeness can struggle to integrate disciplines and balance the material world with the spiritual, the scientific with the social, and in so doing expose their vulnerabilities, human frailties, and hope, as well as their visions for a good-quality, sustainable future.

As the title of this book implies, the human component of the world is critically important—but often an overlooked or blatantly ignored dimension of social-environmental sustainability. Yet, it is the integrity of the relationships among the diverse elements of any system that both defines it through its functional processes and, in obeying the Right of Nature, confers global social-environmental sustainability to all generations of life on Earth.

Chris Maser, Series Editor


























Sustainability And The Rights Of Nature: In Practice. 2019. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL. If you want more information about this book or want to purchase it, visit “BOOKS” on my website.

Text © by Chris Maser 2019. All rights reserved.

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If you want to contact me, you can visit my website. If you wish, you can also read an article about what is important to me and/or you can listen to me give a presentation.

Posted by: chrismaser | March 27, 2019




Chris Maser and Lynette de Silva


There are a number of schools of thought in the mediation/facilitation world about, well, just about everything:

• Should a mediator be trained in the topic they are mediating or not? Some argue ‘no,’ what one needs to know is how to bridge human divides, and the topic itself is not central. Some argue ‘yes,’ especially when the subject matter is especially complex; that without topical expertise, one will likely miss opportunities for agreement.

• Is a successful mediation about the results or the process? Those who argue the former often suggest that whatever feathers are ruffled will smooth out with time, especially if the results are desirable to all. Those who argue the latter suggest that without healing relationships through the process, any agreement may be too fragile to last.

On these and a host of other complex dichotomies, Chris Maser and Lynette de Silva seem to answer simply, ‘yes’—all sides have value, and the dichotomies are mostly false. Perhaps because of their vast experience, both starting as scientists, then evolving to roles as mediators/teachers/trainers/researchers, their contribution with this work is not to advocate for any particular school of thought, but rather for the value in all sides of each complex setting, to be appreciated rather like the facets of a diamond.

Maser and de Silva weave together a number of important strands—environmental sustainability, resource conflict management, and the art of teaching—any of which could be a book by itself. Their contribution is not only in each of the topics—each of which is handled thoughtfully and with nuance—but more so in the linkages between each strand, which seems to be where they find the sizzle. Just read these sentences, so emblematic of their approach:

“The aim of mediation, as we practice it, is to help parties become better human beings by stimulating growth in personal consciousness, thereby transforming human character, which results in parties finding genuine solutions to their real problems. In addition, the private, non-judgmental, non-coercive character of such mediation can provide disputants a safe haven in which to humanize themselves despite the disputants having started out as fierce adversaries. This safety helps people feel and express varying degrees of understanding and concern for one another, as they grow toward greater, mutual understanding and compassion, despite their disagreement.”

The reader finds this exquisite blend of the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual worlds throughout. This wonderful work is part description of some of the world’s most seemingly intractable problems, part ethical polemic, part how-to manual, and, importantly, part how-to-teach manual. The authors are not satisfied with simply describing what’s wrong with our relationships with each other and with our environment, nor do they stop when you personally are committed to action, but they will also give you both the motivation and the tools to help others learn how to do their parts in healing these relationships as well.

This is an important, readable, thoughtful book. As they suggest, ‘ways will be explored through teaching and practice that will enable society to replace non-constructive patterns and incorporate more meaningful connections’—aspirations that are sorely needed for our difficult times, and these are the guides to help us on our way.

If Nature’s rights are to be recognized, who would have the status to defend Nature’s rights in courts or other bodies? Will it be government entities, conservation groups, or individuals? Will development in law and consciousness be limited to litigation in the courts set in place, or will there arise something new, like Nature Tribunals? And who will be the lawyers, scientists, politicians, and citizens who drive us toward a new generation of rights?

Aaron T. Wolf
Professor of Geography, Oregon State University,
Corvallis, Oregon

Editor’s Note for the “CRC Press” Book Series, Social-Environmental Sustainability:

There are two primary emotions: love and fear. All other emotional expressions are merely aspects of these two. Kindness, compassion, and patience are the hallmark of love, while impatience, anger, and violence and are the stamp of fear. Thus, where unconditional love dwells, there dwells also peace, contentment, and harmony—both inner and outer, whereas fear cannot endure. Where fear dwells, there is discord, discontent, and conflict, wherein peace cannot be found.

Conflict—like cooperation—is a choice, but one born out of one’s fear of being out of control, whether of one’s physical life, financial security, personal identity, or coveting someone else’s possessions, such as land and its recourses. Moreover, the dynamics of conflict are essentially the same, whether interpersonal, intertribal, international, or interreligious. Strife, after all, is dependent on the notion of inequality: I’m right; you’re wrong. I’m superior; you’re lesser. I belong; you don’t. This is mine to do with as I wish; it’s not yours—hands off. I want what you have, so give it to me or I’ll take it.

The challenges we humans face in today’s world are the result of unconscious, competitive, conflict-prone social conditioning, which begins at birth and ends at death. There is, however, no such thing as “right” or “wrong” in the universe, which is an all-encompassing relationship based on eternal creation and novelty, wherein all change is impersonal, neutral, and irreversible, despite the outcome.

Social conditioning, on the other hand, creates a myriad of perspectives that, in turn, spawn infinite, personal perceptions (human values), each accepted as “the truth”—from a certain point of view. The paradox is that everyone is “right” from his or her vantage point, which creates a venue of “right, right, and different.” So, the question (and the heart of conflict resolution) becomes: How do we negotiate the differences, while honoring one another’s perceptions?

This being the case, resolving a conflict is based on the art of helping people, with disparate points of view, find enough common ground to ease their fears, sheath their weapons, and listen to one another for their common good, which ultimately translates into social-environmental sustainability for all generations. As it turns out, people agree on virtually 80 percent of everything—unbeknownst to them—and disagree on 20 percent, which becomes the sole focus of their dispute. If, therefore, disputants can be helped to see and move toward the predominance of their agreement, the differences ensconced in their quarrel are more easily negotiated. Ultimately, however, it is necessary for the participants to formulate a shared vision toward which to strive, one that accommodates the personalized perceptions to everyone’s long-term benefit. Only then can the barriers among disputants dissolve into mutual respect, acceptance, and potential friendship—only then is a conflict truly resolved.

Chris Maser, Series Editor


“Lynette de Silva’s contribution brings to this new edition up-to-date educational practice for both professional development and the college classroom. The philosophical underpinnings for resolving environmental disputes benefit from the practical guidelines in this book on how to translate theory into educational practice. Two very different experts have collaborated on this important treatise.”

Dr. Susan Eriksson
Independent Educational Consultant, Eriksson Associates, LLC
Boulder, Colorado

“Whether you are a student new to the process of resolving conflicts, or an experienced practitioner, this book will speak to you with its practical examples, its consideration for all involved with a focus on a healing approach, and its different perspectives from the authors. The reader will certainly come away with a better sense of what leads to conflict, and the path forward for a sustained and peaceful collaboration.”

Janine Salwasser
Graduate of the Water Conflict Management and Transformation Program
Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon

Resolving Environmental Conflicts: Principles And Concepts. Third Edition. 2019. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL. If you want more information about this book or want to purchase it, visit “BOOKS” on my website.

Quoted material from book text © by Chris Maser and Lynette de Silva. 2019. All rights reserved.

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If you want to contact me, you can visit my website. If you wish, you can also read an article about what is important to me and/or you can listen to me give a presentation.

Posted by: chrismaser | December 14, 2016




Rachel Beck, Gazette-Times, November 24, 2009

Chris Maser’s connection to the natural world is long and deep.

As a young boy, his mother tethered him to the clothesline of their southwest Corvallis home to keep him from wandering off into the woods. In later years, he spent many hours playing in a neighborhood ditch with his best friend.

“It was a marvelous place,” he said. “The ditch was filled with life. That’s where I began to understand relationships in nature.”

But whether you grew up playing in a forest or a concrete jungle, Maser wants you to care about the natural world and work to preserve it for future generations. In some form, that is the message of most his books, which number 31 and counting.

His latest, “Social-Environmental Planning: The Design Interface Between Everyforest and Everycity,” recently was published by CRC Press. It is the first book in a series on social/environmental topics. The next, about sustainable community development, will be out in January. Maser believes that the world could be better if people would take responsibility for their actions – and how those actions impact others.

Preserving the Earth for future generations will require a radical shift. People are afraid of change, he said, because they are comfortable with what they know – even if the alternative is actually much better.

Maser hopes the series he’s currently working on will help people understand what to do when they’re forced to change how they live.

One of the biggest challenges to sustainability is population, Maser said. Population control can only be achieved by honoring women and creating equality.

“Equality starts at home,” he said. “I see very little equality in this country. We give it lip service.”

“Earth in Our Care,” which was published last summer, focuses on the conflict between money and nature.

“In the money chase, we’re making war on nature,” he said. “Why? Because we’re terrified of not having enough.”

In “Trees, Truffles and Beasts,” published in 2008 by Rutgers University Press, Maser and two other authors compared a eucalyptus forest in Australia with a conifer forest in the United States, focusing on the relationship of the forest and the soil and the myriad parts of the ecosystem affected by it.

If that relationship isn’t protected, Maser said, the forests will disappear. If the forests disappear, so does the water.

“We’re doing this to ourselves,” he said. “We’re the authors of our own demise.”

Not just our own.

“Every decision we make has a trade-off,” he said. “What we have got to understand is our decisions become the children’s consequences and we don’t give them a voice. They have to live with the consequences.”

But Maser believes firmly that it can be different.

For his 2004 book, “The Perpetual Consequences of Fear and Violence: Rethinking the Future,” Maser asked fourth-graders at Harding Elementary School what they wanted the world to be like when they grew up. Answers included peace, clean air and clean water.

“There’s nothing the kids want that we can’t do,” Maser said. “What they have identified are basic human values.”

Maser has visited numerous foreign countries, but it was a trip to Mount St. Helens in 1961 that left an impression that made him want to share his thoughts with the world. He hiked into the backcountry, only to find that an area of old-growth he loved had been logged. It was disheartening, but made him realize he needed to do what he could to prevent others from experiencing the same sense of loss.

His work is a way of “just saying ‘thank you,’ by leaving the world a little better place,” he said. “By helping people understand there are other choices.

“I will live and die, writing,” he continued. “Sharing ideas and never know if I’m right. I just do the best I can.

“That’s the joy of living.”

Related Posts:

• Is World Peace Possible?

• Knowledge Is Some Version Of The Truth

• A Prime Directive For Healing The Earth

• Climbing Mt. Consciousness

• Do We Owe Anything To The Future?
— Part 1

• Do We Owe Anything To The Future? — Part 2

• Earth Is A Biological Living Trust

• Global Commonalities

• How We Participate

• Making Enough, Enough

• Why Make Life a Battlefield?

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Posted by: chrismaser | November 15, 2016




Cameron La Follette and Chris Maser



The crises of climate change and ecosystem disruption are true planetary emergencies. Given the magnitude of these problems (and many others), old thinking will not be enough. Only bold new approaches will suffice.

This wonderful book proposes a new framing that provides some questions that we need to ask—and some answers that may be the ones we need. It is not surprising that such new ideas would come from Cameron La Follette and Chris Maser.

Nearly 40 years ago, Chris Maser (a Bureau of Land Management wildlife biologist at that time) helped open my eyes at a week-long “short course” in the ecology of old-growth (ancient) forests. The course was held at the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest in the summer of 1978. He and other scientists associated with Oregon State University’s Department of Forestry had started to untangle the puzzles of the ancient forests, which the timber industry viewed as simply a source to be exploited and which the industry called a “biological desert.” Maser and his colleagues showed this was far from the truth.

A few months later, the Lane County Audubon Society organized a series of evening lectures on the ecology of old-growth forests. One of those lecturing was a college student named Cameron La Follette, wise beyond her years, who was in the process of publishing a small book titled “Saving All the Pieces: Old Growth Forest in Oregon.” She pointed out that the “first rule of intelligent tinkering is saving all the pieces,” a paraphrase of the advice of conservationist Aldo Leopold. Cameron later went to law school, but decided to devote her life to other ways of saving all the pieces.

Cameron and Chris have long challenged us to think in new ways. This book is their latest effort, and it is one of stunning scope. Both of them have always exhibited passionate creativity. Their thinking was indispensable to the reframing of lawsuits and politics that led to new visions of the disappearing ancient forests of the Pacific Northwest of the United States. They are now embarking on a new journey with this book—one that asks us to redesign legal approaches and reimagine the tools that we need to craft solutions. The heart of their vision involves ecosystem rights—rights for Nature itself.

In recent years, the linkages between human rights and environmental protection have been increasingly recognized around the world. Over 100 countries have embedded a right to a safe and health environment in their national constitutions—as have five states of the U.S. in their state constitutions. Books, articles, and journals are being published on “human rights and the environment.” The organization that I co-founded, the Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide, has lawyers in countries all around the world who litigate and advocate on behalf of human environmental rights. But Chris and Cameron ask us to look beyond “human” rights. They ask us to look even more deeply at nature, ecology, and law.

Laws in numerous countries and international agreements have evolved to give citizens the right to file lawsuits against government bodies or polluters for causing environmental harm. United States laws since 1970 have provided for “citizen suits” in the fields of air pollution, water pollution, endangered species, and many other areas. In Europe, the Aarhus Public Participation Convention, now nearly 20 years old, states explicitly that a right to a healthy environment exists and requires that the 45 countries that have ratified or acceded to it must open their courts to citizen groups that are defending the environment, without having to prove an economic or personal interest will be affected before suing.

Various experts have talked about “legal standing” in court for natural places, about the glacial pace of environmental regulation, about the difficulty of getting political bodies to react with urgency to the loss of biodiversity and the looming tragedy of global warming. What La Follette and Maser do in this exciting book is to bring these problems together in a new synthesis and to describe a radically new solution that is already forming in a few scattered countries and cities—recognizing that Nature itself could have legal rights. They also demand a radical (that is, fundamental) understanding of true “sustainability”—not as a political or economic magic phrase, but as a truly ecological concept. They take their vision and work through its implications in a multitude of contexts. One need not subscribe to every argument they offer in this book. But one cannot read this book without opening one’s eyes to new insights and new possibilities.

When the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 was drafted, there was little thought that it would apply to issues of clean water, clean air, and other environmental matters. Yet decisions of the European Court of Human Rights, Inter-American Court of Human Rights, and other bodies have interpreted older human-rights language to extend to environmental rights for human beings. Who is to say that this process is complete—or that it must stop with “human” rights? Reading this book will raise new questions. Will Nature’s own rights—to be free from excessive and debilitating human contamination and pollution, for example—be next in the evolution of ideas? Is it possible to create a legal and sustainable order in which Nature can continue its own natural processes without its protectors being restricted to narrow, 17th-or even 20thcentury conceptions?

If Nature’s rights are to be recognized, who would have the status to defend Nature’s rights in courts or other bodies? Will it be government entities, conservation groups, or individuals? Will development in law and consciousness be limited to litigation in the courts set in place, or will there arise something new, like Nature Tribunals? And who will be the lawyers, scientists, politicians, and citizens who drive us toward a new generation of rights?

Read, admire, argue, challenge, and enjoy this statement of a new vision for Earth. And, consider ways to make this kind of vision real. The life of Planet Earth depends upon new thinking, such as this.

John E. Bonine
B.B. Kliks Professor of Law, University of Oregon
Founder, Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide (ELAW)

Editor’s Note for the “CRC Press” Book Series, Social-Environmental Sustainability:

In reading this book, keep in mind that our earthscape is composed of three interactive spheres: the atmosphere (air), the litho-hydrosphere (the rock that constitutes the restless continents and the water that surrounds them), and the biosphere (the life forms that exist within and between the other two spheres). We humans have, however, arbitrarily delineated our seamless world into discrete ecosystems since the advent of agriculture, as we try to control—”manage”—the fluid interactions among the nonliving and living components of planet Earth for our material benefits. If you picture the interconnectivity of the three spheres as being analogous to the motion of a filled waterbed, you will see how patently impossible such divisions are because you cannot touch any part of a filled waterbed without affecting the whole of it.

Together, these three spheres form myriad interactive, self-reinforcing feedback loops that affect all life on Earth. It is the degree to which we humans either honor or defy the reciprocity of these feedback loops that form the legacy we leave—one that either liberates or progressively impoverishes all generations. The choice of how we, today’s adults, behave is ours—either with psychological maturity and our respectful treatment of Nature through sacred humility or continued self-indulgence through unbridled materialism, profit seeking, and their ensuing environmental violence.

Where in the United States today are there unequivocal voices that speak for protecting the sustainability and productive capacity of Nature, as our bequest to all children—present and future? Without such voices of consciousness, courage, and unconditional commitment to the Rights of Nature through the present into the future in all ranks of leadership, we, the adults, are increasingly condemning our children, grandchildren—and every generation yet unborn—to pay a progressively awful price rather than accept the sometimes-difficult choices of our adult responsibilities, as trustees of our home planet’s social-environmental integrity.

The psychologically maturity choice to become a truly peaceful society for the rest of the world to emulate requires that we, in the United States, transcend the environmental violence of our often-declared “war” on Nature. To rise above this violence, we must focus first and foremost on the “Rights of Nature” by accepting and honoring Nature’s Laws of Reciprocity with total dedication and persistence in our economic/political/legal systems and our common social systems.

Peace will reign only when there is no longer any thought of abusing Nature for personal gain. But, to eliminate this linear, economically oriented mentality, its environmental violence, and its intentional overexploitation of dwindling resources, we must shift the economic/political/legal systems from their current focus on acquiring money and power to a single, integrated, social-environmental system that fully protects and prioritizes Nature’s right to flourish as a living entity.

Finally, this CRC series of books on the various facets social-environmental sustainability is a forum wherein those who dare to seek harmony and wholeness can struggle to integrate disciplines and balance the material world with the spiritual, the scientific with the social, and in so doing expose their vulnerabilities, human frailties, and hope, as well as the wisdom of their visions for a viable future.

Chris Maser, Series Editor


Sustainability and the Rights of Nature: An Introduction is a much needed guide that addresses the exciting and significant paradigm shift to the Rights of Nature, as it is occurring both in the United States and internationally in the fields of environmental law and environmental sustainability. This shift advocates building a relationship of integrity and reciprocity with the planet by placing Nature in the forefront of our rights-based legal systems. The authors discuss means of achieving this by laying out Nature’s Laws of Reciprocity and providing a roadmap of the strategies and directions needed to create a Rights of Nature-oriented legal system that will shape and maintain human activities in an environmentally sustainable manner. This work is enriched with an array of unique and relevant points of reference, such as the feudal notions of obligation, principles of traditional indigenous cultivation, the Pope Francis Encyclical on the environment, and the new Rights of Nature-based legal systems of Ecuador and Bolivia that can serve as prototypes for the United States and other countries around the world to help ensure a future of environmental sustainability for all living systems.”

Publisher’s description


“As an avid reader, now in my seventies, I have found that only about twice a decade a book comes along that challenges the foundation of what I know and provokes me to think afresh. ‘The Rights of Nature’ is such a book. La Follette and Maser have used the lens of systems theory to capture the history, ecology, geography, technologies, laws, and politics, as well as challenges and solutions, to the relationships of people to the planet. The book consolidates the complex dimensions of human and natural systems to support a paradigm shift, which embeds the Rights of Nature in national and state constitutions, to create the essential reciprocity between people and the planet.

“Systems theory, which is about understanding relationships among ‘things’—not the things themselves—grew out of the theories of Ludwig Von Bertalanffy, George Miller, Kenneth Boulder, and others, surrounding World War II. As a self-described ‘systems wonk,’ it was heartening to me to find a book that offers system concepts in the 15 ‘Laws of Reciprocity.’ These laws remind us that everything is related to everything else, and that one can not only analyze and explain systems relationships but also geometrically expand the understanding of problems, and hence, solutions. If one thinks that problems are unidimensional, then one proposes a single ‘silver-bullet’ solution, and often causes yet another problem or problems. The authors’ approach reminds us that not only is there complexity in the system but also cumulative effects over time, which are understandable, if we think systemically.

“For all of their concern about the environment, La Follette and Maser are not anti-people; indeed, they recognize, honor, and incorporate people into their analyses, recognizing that ultimately it will be people who create the change that leads to a harmonious relationship with the planet. The authors are clear that we are locked with nature toward a future in a reciprocal relationship, a species with rapidly increasing brawn now needing sufficient brain to understand who we are and what we do to our essential partner. While other species have created massive die-offs and changes in natural systems, we are the first species that has created the very-real risk of making our planet uninhabitable.

“Change in systems can be slow in terms of a human life, but very rapid in terms of historic time. Through my own training in landscape architecture and natural resource management, I’ve often wondered what part of this planet we will leave untouched. My landscape-architecture training, in the 1960s, valued nature only as a substrate to grow ornamental plants; there was little concern for wildlife (even bees and birds), much less for soil or water. That profession, and many others in natural resources, has grown much over the past 50-plus years, and now there are green roofs, bio-swales, native plants, and home landscapes planted for wildlife. There are a host of environmental regulations at both national and state levels to protect the environment. In natural resource management, there is far more concern for sustainability with its myriad meanings than there is for nature as a ‘resource’ having its own intrinsic value.

“Although change within professions, institutions, and cultures is slow, I would argue that it is inexorable. Embedded in the 15 ‘Laws of Reciprocity’ is the reality that human systems do not like change unless it is safe, incremental, and rewarding, but change is happening nevertheless. There are always people who push the frontier of what we know and do, who define new values and ways of achieving those values.

“The incorporation of Rights of Nature into national and state constitutions has already begun. The authors review in detail how Ecuador and Bolivia have made this change, and how the United Nations and other entities have entered the discussion, providing both hope and incentive to continue the effort. The authors have, in what must be a unique synthesis of the literature, pulled together in their ‘endnotes’ the diversity of efforts occurring on the planet, providing a comprehensive and integrated review for anyone working on a specific issue or cluster of issues.

“For those who wish to sustain the status quo, La Follete and Maser are dangerous: They propose the kind of fundamental change that will upset disciplines, corporations, organizations, institutions, and people who benefit from current circumstances. They are not bound by an orthodoxy and doing what has always been done. While I would not agree with all statements they make or solutions they offer, I appreciate the opening of a much broader and deeper discussion of the relationships between people and the planet.

“I agree whole-heartedly with their concern for Indigenous peoples and their Native ways. From my own years in Alaska, teaching co-management of natural resources, I know that the loss of Native ways, including their languages, leaves the world poorer for ideas about how we might fashion a new relationship between Western culture and the planet. This is no small matter, because how we think and how we assign value defines how we act; if the environment is made up of resources without souls or purpose other than those we give it, there is little room for the new thinking and new ways.

“The book is not simple, but La Follete and Maser use a five-part structure to move the reader carefully through the 16 chapters. Part I addresses the systems theory, the Laws of Reciprocity foundation of their logic, and the emerging legal paradigm centered in Ecuador and Brazil. Part II concerns building blocks for rights of nature system, such as private-land ownership. Part III describes stumbling blocks, notably a diverse array of technologies and one of the most challenging—corporations. Part IV shifts into possible solutions in application of Rights of Nature for land, water, and air, whereas Part V adds discussions of food supply, energy, mining/drilling, and trade.

“Parts IV and V are particularly rich for their discussion of ‘management considerations,’ what is working now or could work. Each chapter concludes with scores of references that make the book the center of a much greater worldwide discussion. Here, the professor in me wants students to pick one of the dozens of subjects and grapple with issues and solutions, to go beyond doing what society, or their profession does now, but looking toward what is possible tomorrow. Indeed, I would want students to look back 50 years to what was, and then look forward 50 years to what could be. I would ask them to use this book to be part of the paradigm shift that La Follete and Maser imagine.

“The health of the planet has never been as threatened as it is now, largely by new technologies distributed by larger-than-government corporations. ‘Modernity,’ with all of its products, expectations, and values is changing and spreading with unimaginable speed. Such rapid change has become the norm and is threatening many, if not most, people and societies, promoting often dramatic and hostile feedback from those who feel threatened, left aside, or who cannot compete. There is tremendous pressure for countries, religions, and more broadly cultures, to accept the Western paradigm to develop their natural world in Western ways. Yet, to do so may be to come onboard a sinking ship. There are no easy answers, but there needs to be an in-depth and fact-based discussion. This book serves to both initiate and support that discussion.

“Good books are provocative and often require several readings. Sometimes they are ‘right on’ and fit our personal views, while other times they can be annoying or feel mistaken or biased, but often on a second or later pass they make sense, good sense. As an academic and practitioner who feels proud to be shunned by both ‘deep’ environmentalists and aggressive ‘developmentalists,’ this book is refreshing, but not easy: the simile that comes to mind is of diving into a cold mountain lake—awakening, something you don’t forget, something that helps you find feelings and senses that have become dormant. As much as the problems feel overwhelming and apocalyptic, on one hand, so the solutions, including those the authors point out have already happened, encourage us not to despair, on the other. Where Aldo Leopold and Rachel Carson helped me to a greater appreciation of nature over 50 years ago, La Follette and Maser help me to think about that nature with new insight, information, and hope today.

“We are, as noted, the one species that can destroy itself and all others. We are a young species that, by one definition, is only recently conscious. I would argue that most of what we think and do is rote, stamped into our right brains by our culture through our parents, religion, and social norms. We learn a way of thinking that makes response easy, but unreflective and often wrong. It is heartening to see Pope Francis mentioned as a proponent of what this book is about. It also gives me hope to know that some corporations are seeing the inevitable—we need to go beyond who we have been and how we think about nature to who we can be. We need to know our limits and ourselves. Perhaps most importantly, we need to get past what the authors call our ‘self-righteous arrogance.’ And, we need the planet to hang with us a little longer while we grow the humility to become part of long-lived and diverse ecosystems, rather than the invasive species we are today.

“Looking back over my lifetime, I can see clearly that there has been a paradigm shift in our culture and our society, but it is not enough. Now, on what corporations would call a ‘just in time basis,’ arrives La Follette’s and Maser’s book, providing a summary of where we’ve been, guidance on where we need to go, and how to get there. I heartily recommend this book for concerned citizens and students. In addition, having served as the director of a division of a family foundation, I strongly encourage leaders of corporations, foundations, universities, and organizations to read this book and reflect on their own orthodoxy and whether they represent an obstacle to change or are open to developing a reciprocal relation with nature.

“One of my favorite sayings is: We all live in an economy; we all live in a community, and we all live in a watershed. These three systems form, for me, a Venn diagram of overlapping circles, each with its own interior relationships and each with relationships to other circles. La Follette and Maser have described the nature of these relationships, providing a ‘go to’ book for understanding, planning, and action. In the conclusion, the authors review doomsday scenarios that have been written, but they end on a strong note of hope, that ‘courage and altruism are two indomitable human traits that will lead us to repair … severed relationships with courage, responsibility, and a deep commitment for one another and all life.’ Amen.”

Dr. Thomas J. Gallagher
Professor of Natural Resources Management, University of Alaska, Fairbanks,
Scholar with the Western Rural Development Center, Oregon State University, Corvallis,
Founding editor of the Journal of Leadership Education,
Director of the Ford Institute for Community Building of The Ford Family Foundation, Roseburg, Oregon.

“With a great sense of relief and hope, I endorse SUSTAINABILITY AND THE RIGHTS OF NATURE: AN INTRODUCTION. Esteemed authors Cameron La Follette and Chris Maser have gifted the world with a roadmap for ecological and social resilience based on a thorough understanding of ecology and ethics favoring the common good. The often-detailed concepts of environmental science are accessible to a broad readership, and the legal contexts are clearly presented. I also see it as an excellent textbook for college students, for all branches of science—environmental, ecological, historical, political, physical, sociological, technical, and engineering—and for economics, arts, and humanities. The book touches down into details about places around the world, which exemplify both grave predicaments and attainable solutions for the pathway forward. The losses of habitat and ecosystem integrity are staggering, yet there is hope for protecting what remains. By following the ‘blueprint’ outlined in this book, we can find ways to ‘retool’ by instituting laws, policies, and practices based on ‘The Rights of Nature.’

“In following the work of Chris Maser since the late 1980’s, I see that he is continuing to produce timely publications of crucial information needed by organizations, institutions, and communities facing choices between natural resource sustainability and the path of further destruction of the planet’s life-support systems. This new book provides ecological, historical, legal, and contextual information about the wide range of seemingly insurmountable challenges we face around the planet. Thankfully, along with in-depth analyses of the problems and causes, the recommended solutions seem attainable. The lists of specific recommendations for management, restoration, research, and governance, all emphasize justice. Indeed, ‘The Rights of Nature,’ as an overarching framework for choice-making at all levels of governance, from personal to global, is a greatly needed manifesto.”

Judith Ann Wait

Ph.D. Candidate, Environmental & Natural Resource Science
Agroecology & Urban Ecosystems
School of the Environment
Washington State University, Vancouver.

Sustainability And The Rights Of Nature: An Introduction. 2017. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL. If you want more information about this book or want to purchase it, visit “BOOKS” on my website.

Text © by Chris Maser 2016. All rights reserved.

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Posted by: chrismaser | July 13, 2016



One day, while taking a walk, I saw a paper clip lying on the sidewalk, and I thought to myself, “I don’t need that.” As I walked past it, the voice of my heart said, “Go back and pick it up.” So I did, and walked on wondering what on Earth a paper clip lying of the sidewalk had to do with anything.

My heart said, “This paper clip represents the Path of the mystic, the one you begin to walk in this material world.”

“How?” I asked.

The voice continued, “First of all, the paper clip represents you, as a self-contained, spiritual being in the physical world, wherein you are surrounded by the millennia-old, human belief in the power of materiality—which lies beyond the outer perimeter of the paper clip. Look carefully at the picture of the clip. The world’s belief in materiality is depicted by the seemingly random, confused pattern of the concrete. Secreted within the clip’s outer perimeter is the mystical Path, the entrance to which is the narrow opening near the bottom of the left side.”

Indeed it is! The narrowness of the opening is exceedingly rigid and taut.

“That is precisely why so few even notice the entrance, in the first place, let alone choose to enter this spiritual Path of self-discipline, as it leads ever closer to consciousness that allows you to experience the infinite beauty and spiritual freedom of Creation. At this point of attainment, you begin to transcend the unconsciousness of the material mind.”

“But what,” I asked, “is the purpose of the open area at the top within the clip? What happens there?”

“When you reach that upper space where this new vista begins to open out,” came the answer, “you have reached a critical place of indecision and choice—a juncture that will determine the outcome of the meeting of the socially conditioned, material mind of the ego and the unconditioned, spiritual mind of the heart. In other words, it’s a time of struggle between needing to see in order to believe and believing without needing to see—the ‘dark night of the soul.’ It’s a spiritual ‘tar pit’ in which a person is challenged on all levels and can flounder blindly for years.”

“So, if one chooses to stay on the mystical Path after this heroic, internal brawl, why does the Path once again narrow into yet more constraint and patience?”

“Look at it this way. If the spiritual mind of the heart wins this extreme tussle, the person has had to die daily to himself or herself (meaning letting go of long-cherished worldly beliefs, possessions, and outer identities). Thus has the spiritual mind grown leaner through a singular focus and simplification, becoming receptive to the silent spaciousness of the Eternal. Then the purpose of the winnowing hardships of the journey becomes clear.”

“So, if one stays the course, what is to be found within the center of the clip?”

“Once inside,” comes the answer, “you are surrounded by the light of Grace, and your inner eyes are fully opened to the spiritual beauty and wonder of Planet Earth. You are truly in the world—but not of it.”

Related Posts:

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• I Love The Seasons

• The Fire Of Life

• Today I Go Hungry

• For An Instant

• Keyboard Of The Winds

• My Lesson In Humility

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• What A Stream Taught Me

• Musical Corridors

Text and Photo © by Chris Maser 2015. All rights reserved.

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Posted by: chrismaser | January 23, 2016


I have often wondered how would it feel if I was aware of being the last, living individual of my human race or, even more profoundly, the entire human species? Being the last of my race or species would constitute a “double extinction”—that of a single, millennial, genetic experiment of me, as an individual, as well as that of a collective, millennial, genetic experiment of humanity as a whole.

Prior to now, there were five geological periods in which “great extinctions” took place: the Ordovician (about 435 million years ago), the Devonian (about 357 million years ago), the Permian (about 250 million years ago), the Triassic (about 198 million years ago), and the Cretaceous (about 65 million years ago). Today, we are facing what some scientist term “the sixth great extinction,” which began about fifty thousand years ago with the undisputed dominance of humanity on the world scene. But what, exactly, does it mean to become extinct—to be the last individual of a species, such as the last “taimen” or giant salmon of the Uur River in Mongolia, or the last of a race of people, such as James Fennimore Cooper’s “Last of the Mohicans?”


Extinction means that something no longer exists in its living form; its spark of life has died out like embers of a dying fire. Extinction is generally thought of only in terms of the disappearance of a living entity. But, the concept of extinction goes far beyond living things. The disappearance, the irreparable alteration of a nonliving component of the environment is a “hidden extinction” linked inseparably to the extinction of living things. What, you might ask, does he mean by all this.

Well, look at it this way. While I was working in Nepal in the early 1960s, a helicopter crashed and killed two people. A helicopter has a great variety of pieces with a wide range of sizes. The particular problem here was with the engine, which is held together by many nuts and bolts. Each has a small sideways hole through it so that a tiny “safety wire” can be inserted and the ends twisted together to prevent the tremendous vibration created by a running engine from loosening and working the nut off the bolt. The helicopter crashed because a mechanic forgot to replace one tiny safety wire that kept the lateral control assembly together. A nut vibrated off its bolt, the helicopter lost its stability, and the pilot lost control. All this was caused by one missing piece that altered the entire functional dynamics of the aircraft. The engine had been “simplified” by one piece—a tiny, hidden length of wire.

Which piece was the most important part in the helicopter? The point is that each part (structural diversity) has a corresponding relationship (functional diversity) with every other part, and they provide stability only by working together within the limits of their design, whether natural or artificial.

So, one small alteration in the aerial habitat of two unmarried men caused their extinction, as well as that of the unbroken, millennial, genetic experiment that each man represented. In addition, whatever offspring they might have fathered will never materialize, nor will whatever skill or service the offspring might have offered the human ecosystem and the world. Moreover, one unnoticed, forgetful moment caused the absence of a tiny piece of wire to irreparable altered a critical structure that, in turn, caused the extinction of a vital function—lateral control—within the hidden systemic region of their aerial habitat.

It’s these “hidden extinctions,” the ones of which we are almost always unaware, the ones to which we pay no heed, that cause habitats to change. As a habitat changes, so does its ability to function as it once did. In essence, some functional component has become extinct, which in turn affects the species that are dependent on it. If a habitat changes enough, the species that are adapted to that specific habitat in a certain condition become extinct, because the habitat’s ability to fulfill their requirements became extinct. For an example, let’s consider the rain forest in Gabon, Africa, where to biologist Louise Emmons its fascination lies in “its stunning complexity.”


In this forest, says Emmons, “You can stand anywhere and be surrounded by hundreds of organisms that are all ‘doing something,’ going about their living in countless interactions—ants carrying leaves, birds dancing, bats singing, giant blue wasps wrestling with giant tarantulas, caterpillars pretending they are bird droppings, and so on.”1

In Gabon, Emmons found that nine species of squirrels all live together in one forest. Each is a different size; three species have specialized diets or habits, which leaves six that feed on nuts, fruits, and insects and could therefore be potential competitors for food. But a closer look reveals that three of the six species—a large, a medium, and a small—live exclusively in the canopy of the forest, with the largest one, a “giant” squirrel, feeding primarily on very large, hard nuts while the smaller ones eat proportionally smaller fruits and nuts. The other three species—again a large, a medium, and a small—live exclusively on the ground, where they eat the same species of fruits and nuts as do their neighbors in the canopy, except they eat the fruits and nuts after they fall to the ground.

The forest in Gabon is evergreen, and fruit can be found on the trees throughout the year, but any one species of tree produces fruit for only a short period each year. To support three species of squirrels, eight species of monkeys, and eight species of fruit-eating bats (and so on) in the canopy, the Gabon forest must have a wide variety of species of trees and lianas (high-climbing, usually woody vines), each producing fruits and nuts in its own rhythm. The varying sizes of the fruits and nuts can support different sizes of squirrels with different tastes, whereas these same fruits and nuts when they fall to the ground can feed a whole analogous array of species.

But just how rich in species is a tropical rain forest? Alwyn Gentry of the Missouri Botanical Garden had for many years been counting the species of trees and lianas in tropical rain forest. The richest site he found was a plot two and a half acres in extent near Iquitos, Peru, where he counted an amazing 283 species of trees over four inches in diameter. There were 580 trees of this size in the two-and-a-half-acre plot, which means there was an average of only two individual trees per species, and there were an astounding 58 species among the first 65 individual trees that Alwyn counted.

Worldwide, tropical rain forests seem to have from about 90 to 283 species of large trees within every two and a half acres, and this is not counting the other plants and the animals. Even the “poorest” of tropical rain forests have an average of about five individual trees per species every two and a half acres.

In contrast, a dry tropical forest, such as ccurs in northern India, has about half as many species of trees as does a wet, tropical forest. And the richest forests of the United States have about twenty species of trees over four inches in diameter, with an average of about thirty individuals per species, in each two and a half acres of ground. But most temperate forests are much poorer than this.

So it seems clear that tropical rain forests are amazingly rich in species of trees. But not just any trees: especially those trees whose fruits are eaten and dispersed by birds and mammals. Not surprisingly, therefore, tropical rain forests also are rich in species of mammals and birds. But not just any mammals and birds: especially those that eat fruits and disperse their seeds. There are, for example, 126 species of mammals within a single area of forest in Gabon and 550 species of birds within a single lowland site in the Amazon basin of Peru. Further, the life cycle of each species is interdependent on the life cycles of the other species. The enormous number of vertebrate animals appears to be supported by the large number of species of plants acting as sources of food the year round.

If all this biodiversity is to be maintained, each tree must succeed in leaving offspring. Seeds and tender young seedlings are amongst the richest foods available to forest animals, and their succulence greatly increases their chance of begin eaten by the large numbers of hungry animals searching for food around the bases of fruit- and nut-bearing trees. Likewise, such organisms as fungi, worms, and insects soon accumulate where the seeds and seedlings are concentrated, and they spread from one seed or seedling to another.

Under such circumstances, seeds carried away from such concentrations of hungry organisms are more likely to succeed in germinating. Another major benefit of seeds being carried away from the parent tree is the availability of a wide variety of places with different conditions into which a seed is likely to fall. A new condition might offer a pocket of better soil on a mound created by termites, or in a spot where a dead tree has created a hole in the canopy, a hole that emits sunlight.

It is certainly no accident that about eighty to ninety-five percent of the species of trees in tropical rain forests produce fruits that are dispersed by birds and mammals. By dispersing those seeds, the birds and mammals also are maintaining the rich diversity of species of trees, which not only formed their habitat in the first place but also perpetuate it. This is an ideal example of a self-reinforcing feedback loop.

Many species of trees in the tropical rain forests, especially those germinating in the dark understory, have large seeds that carry enough stored energy to put out leaves and roots without much help from the sun. Such fruits and seeds are often so large that only proportionately sized birds and mammals can swallow or carry them. In Gabon, for example, monkeys dispersed sixty-seven percent of the fruits eaten by animals in Emmons’s area of study.

Seed-dispersing animals, like large birds and large monkeys, are the most important animals for replacing the large trees and lianas of the forest canopy and thus helping them survive. Those animals are, however, the first species to disappear when humans hunt them for food. These species, along with elephants, have already been hunted so heavily that have they either been drastically reduced in numbers or eliminated completely over vast areas of African forest, and the situation in the tropical rain forests of Central and South America is much the same.


A male African elephant reaching up to break a branch off for food.

Foresters, for the most part, have overlooked the whole subject of the way the interdependency of plants and animals affect biodiversity of a plant community. Elephants of the Ivory Coast, for example, disperse the seeds of 37 species of trees. Of those, only seven species had alternate ways of being dispersed—by birds and monkeys. In one study area, out of 201 individual trees, 83 species were dispersed by elephants, which are increasingly on the verge of extinction due to illegal hunting for their ivory tusks.

The illegal trade of elephant tusks is primarily driven by a burgeoning demand for ivory in China, where it has played a centuries-old role in Chinese. And, still today it is seen as an important medium in art and as a symbol of wealth. Hence, the rapidly growing Chinese middle class is fueling demand and escalating the price of ivory ever higher.2


East African Ivory trade in the 1880s/1890s.

In one forest where humans had eliminated elephants a century earlier, few juvenile trees of the elephant-dispersed species were left, and the two major species had no offspring at all. One of these two species just happens to be the single most important species for the two largest squirrels that Louise Emmons studied in Gabon—the one that eats the large, hard nuts in the canopy and the other that eats the same nuts once they’ve fallen to the ground.

Once the large species of birds and mammals are gone, the stunningly rich tropical rain forests will change and gradually lose species of trees, lianas, and other plants. Smaller seeds dispersed by wind will replace large seeds dispersed by large animals. Those species of plants whose seeds grow in the shaded understory will not survive, and the land will gradually be forested by fewer, more common species.

As the forests become poorer in species of plants, the number of species of birds, mammals, and other creatures will decline accordingly. The entire complex of interconnected, interdependent feedback loops among plants and animals will gradually simplify. The species of which the feedback loops are composed will be lost forever (= extinction)—and the feedback loops with them. This is how the evolutionary process works. Ecologically, it is neither good nor bad, right nor wrong, but those changes may make the forest less attractive, less usable by species, such as humans, that used to rely on it for their livelihoods and for products. So, if we want to think about the survival of humans, we have to think about all interrelationships of animals with plants.

The same types of self-reinforcing feedback loops that take place in tropical rain forests occur also in the temperate coniferous forests of the world, and they represent the same four basic elements of diversity: genetic, species, structural, and functional. Genetic diversity is the way species adapt to change; it is the hidden diversity that is so often subjected to the “secret extinctions” mentioned earlier. The most important aspect of genetic diversity is that it can act as a buffer against the variability of environmental conditions, particularly in the long term. So healthy environments can act as “shock absorbers” in the face of catastrophic disturbance.

Here looms a critical concept: the past function of an ecosystem determines its present structure, and its present structure determines its future function. This means that structure is defined by function and function is defined by structure! So, as we alter the composition of species in an area (however that is done), so we at the same moment alter its function in time.

Consider, for example, that all white storks in Europe have traditionally flown south to spend the winter in Africa, but in recent decades an increasing number have stayed closer to home, drawn to the food discarded at garbage dumps—a changed in their behavioral patterns due to human influences. This shift in behavior allows birds that stayed north of the Sahara to survived by feeding on human refuse, enabling them to obtain food without the added energy expenditure of long-distance flight.3 However, the ecological services the storks had traditionally performed on their African wintering grounds now go unfulfilled.


European white stork.

Over time, this new arrangement of species will respond to conditions differently than the original arrangement of species would have—often to our human detriment with respect to the ecosystem services we rely on for a good quality of life.

Related Posts:

• Biodiversity—Our Social-Environmental Insurance Policy

• Principle 1: Everything is a relationship

• Principle 2: All relationships are inclusive and productive


1. The following discussion is based on: Louise H. Emmons. 1989. Tropical rain forests: why they have so many species, and how we may lose this biodiversity without cutting a single tree. Orion, 8:8–14.

2. Wildlife Conservation Network.
(accessed January 13, 2016).

Andrea Flack, Wolfgang Fiedler, Julio Blas, and others. 2016. Costs of migratory decisions: A comparison across eight white stork populations. Science Advances, 2(1) e1500931 DOI:10.1126/sciadv.1500931 (accessed January 23, 2016).

Text © by Chris Maser 2016. Photos gratefully used from Wikimedia Commons. Photograph of elephant eating by Charles J. Sharp. Photographer of ivory trade unknown. Photograph of European white stork by Ron Knight. All rights reserved worldwide.

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