-- - What's News?Letter -- Spring 2003 - -

1. Refresh My Memory, What's SOS?
2. Great News!
3. The Blue Planet Indeed
4. SOS Press Goes to Harvard!
5. Bringing Sustainability Home
6. National Perspectives
7. Our Friends at Work (a new feature highlighting public land work being done by others)

Greetings Sustainers!

Welcome to Sustainable Obtainable Solutions' Spring '03 Newsletter! To those who have received SOS's newsletters in the past, I trust you'll again find this concise and lively overview of interest. And for you Sustainers new to the list, welcome! If you'd prefer not to receive this, or want it sent to a different address, just let us know.

In January, a granddaughter was added to the Flora family! Her presence reminds us anew of how important our collective efforts are to ensure that she, her brother and all little ones around the globe enjoy a clean, healthy environment. Every action we take to live more sustainably gives them greater opportunity to thrive. What a priceless legacy!

Enjoy spring and thanks again for your concern for future generations and our intriguing Blue Planet.

Gloria Flora and your friends at SOS


1. What's SOS ?

SOS is a non-profit dedicated to the sustainability of public lands and the plant, animal and human communities that depend on them. Our mission is to enhance people's understanding of the language and science of sustainability, and of systems thinking (the study of interrelationships), to encourage more sustainable use of public lands.

Communities dependent on natural resources suffer greatly in the long run from placing too much emphasis on economic growth without factoring in the social and environmental costs of unsustainable extraction. Inappropriate development sends its biggest bills to the future, for example Superfund sites alone are going to cost us taxpayers (and our kids) $100's of millions of dollars to clean up, not to mention the costs in health. Declining air and water quality, fragmented habitats and increasing development cause plant and animal communities to suffer also.

SOS focuses on the real leverage point for change: how we value our public natural capital long-term. We stress evaluation of the triple bottom line of social, environmental and economic costs and benefits. SOS helps at-risk communities apply sustainability criteria and systems thinking to their deliberations on public lands. When people know how to evaluate the sustainability of current and proposed actions, they can develop solutions that maximize benefits in their unique situations. SOS excels at examining and describing human/landscape interrelationships and the long-term effects of mismanagement. That helps to avoid building problems into the planning, design, and implementation of projects and processes.


2. Great News!

SOS unveiled its website in January! Find out more about our projects. Learn what you can do to live more sustainably. Soon our home page will feature public land issues and updates – stay tuned. Visit us at www.s-o-solutions.org.

TIME magazine (January 27, 2003) reported on "How Bush Gets His Way on the Environment." Not only was the article insightful but also included a quotation from our director and a sidebar noting the ecological sensitivity of the Rocky Mountain Front. SOS continues to work intensively to protect the Rocky Mountain Front from inappropriate development. We were delighted to see The Front get this national recognition. Learn more at our website!

SOS Director Gloria Flora was honored for Environmental Inspiration as one of the Environmental Heroes in the March issue of Sunset, the Magazine of Western Living. With a subscriber base of 1.5 million people, we're delighted Sunset is demonstrating that all it takes is action by ordinary citizens to bring about significant change for a sustainable future.


3. The Blue Planet Indeed!

SOS went to the other side of the Blue Planet to attend the World Water Forum this March. Why? The issue of water -- quality and quantity -- knows no boundaries. Water cycles through the atmosphere and through our waterways -- but less than 1% is fresh and available. What we see above ground is as critical as what is below the surface. And nothing on this Blue Planet survives without water.

Unfortunately, over 1.3 billion people suffer from a lack of water. Even here, we see climate change and drought compounded by pollution, over-drawn aquifers, leakage of toxins into groundwater, and dewatering for energy development reducing agriculture and drinking water supplies!

The problem of how to supply the growing population of the world and our own hometowns with fresh, affordable water looms large. Privatization of municipal water supplies is a new attempt at meeting those water needs. But experience in the U.S. and abroad has shown that the profit-motive routinely trumps the welfare of communities. The privatization of airport security lead to the hiring of the least qualified and least trained at the lowest wages, which severely compromised our security. We don't want our right to clean water to suffer the same fate.

Public lands in the United States are critical to our supply of water. Forest Service lands alone cover 8% of our nation but produce 14% of our surface freshwater! (www.stream.fs.fed.us/Water_and_FS.pdf ) Many communities adjacent to national forests depend on a public watershed for their water. Can a private company go downstream and bid on that water, just to sell it back to you at a big profit? Only citizen vigilance will prevent it.

Effective grassroots efforts from Chochabamba, Bolivia to Atlanta, Georgia have reclaimed the people's right to water from the vagaries and soaring costs of corporate-controlled water supplies and sanitation. To learn more about the growing water crises, visit Council of Canadians (www.canadians.org) or Public Citizen (www.citizen.org/cmep/water). Or contact us for a reading list.


4. SOS Press Goes to Harvard!

Education is key to our mission and SOS Press, our publishing division, takes that to a new level. Our first book, Collaborative Spunk: The Feisty Guide to Reviving People and Our Planet, by A. Gayle Hudgens, Ph.D., rolled off the press last fall to an appreciative and expanding audience. Harvard University is featuring Collaborative Spunk in a required course for environmental management studies. Dr. Hudgens, a futurist and a sustainability coach, appears regularly as a virtual lecturer, presenting her exciting yet practical approach to cultural change by creating more sustainable lives for everyone.

Through the
Natural Step Framework ©, a science-based guide to sustainability, Dr. Hudgens describes the tight squeeze our planet and societies find themselves in. The facts about where we are and where we're going will shake you to your core. But Hudgens brings to life the power of coaching to guide you to reviving yourself, your communities and your environment. Not surprisingly, the more caring we are as individuals, the better the chance our planet will recover from its downward slide. And the more fulfilling our lives will be. Help create a better world: check out www.collaborativespunk.org. Order a copy there or by reply to this email. Our print-on-demand service and recycled paper conserves resources. What a great gift for you and your friends!


5. Bringing Sustainability Home

Literally taking a page from Collaborative Spunk, we're pleased to show you a fun way to learn more about sustainability in your daily life. In the form of a quiz, the questions will actually alert you to things you can do to live a little more lightly (and save some money!). Take the quiz every couple of months and see how much you can improve your score. Go to www.s-o-solutions.org/life_requirements.html, print the pages and start checking off the actions! Or buy the book and learn even more.

Getting more fish into our diets is a great idea. But nearly 70% of the world's fisheries are fully or over-fished, which means, some species are at risk of extinction. Fish at the high end of the food chain bio-accumulate heavy metals and which we absorb when we eat them. Pregnant women should be very cautious about eating swordfish, shark and tuna because of the concentration of mercury in these species. To make matters more complicated, fish farms can actually cause considerable damage to ecosystems and other fish. Good grief! How do you eat healthily for yourself and responsibly for the planet? Relief is on the way! Audubon has excellent information and a great little pocket guide that shows you both. www.audubon.org/campaign/lo/seafood/index.html.


6. National Perspectives

There's not enough room for even a summary of the changes in public land and environmental policies over the last two years. Unfortunately, most are short on sustainability and long on quick profit! Decisions are made with little attention to science or long-term effects. After the results of the scientific studies that this administration has commissioned, we suspect there will be even fewer. A multi-year study found that oil development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge would have a negative effect on caribou. The study was re-written in one week: the findings were reversed. A national energy study found that contrary to industry claims, vast amounts of public lands are open to oil and gas leasing and that environmental laws are not unduly restricting access. The study's been mothballed and Phase II cancelled.

After years of study and public involvement, Yellowstone National Park decided to phase out snowmobiles. And despite over 1 million letters supporting it, the Bush administration cancelled the ban then asked the National Academy of Science to study the health effect on humans and the environment. The NAS study was unequivocal: the proposed level of snowmobile use presented significant deleterious effects on both. The proposed level was about a 1000/day. The final ruling? 950 snowmobiles a day.

Vice President Cheney conferred with industry representatives in secret and developed an energy plan contingent upon extensive, subsidized development of public lands. Alarmingly, the energy plan refuses to raise fuel efficiency standards, wants to develop the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge, dismisses conservation, and does not even mention global warming. Congress is right now trying to pass similar bills. Boy, are our kids going to be mad! (We should be too.)

The only sustainability we're seeing these days is in corporate bottom lines. You'll find more examplesat www.s-o-solutions.org/readingroom/national_context.html.



The Bridger-Teton and Gallatin Forests, and Grand Teton National Park, are working together to develop a unique way to capture the essence and importance of public wild land. Read on!

GOAL: Develop a regional framework that helps managers strategically address growing recreation use so that the full spectrum of backcountry opportunities and ecological conditions (including the most wild, undisturbed end) is maintained over time.

WHAT? Describe and map the existing wild land spectrum in the Greater Yellowstone Area incorporating typical resource qualities as well as less obvious factors such as distance from major overflight paths, where the night sky is most visible, etc. Those places most pristine and vulnerable to increasing pressures from human activities -- as well as those places that are more resilient and suitable for recreation and other uses -- will be mapped.

HOW? With graphics/analysis tools and field monitoring and inventory protocols to identify (1) the rarest wild lands to be preserved, (2) areas of high-quality recreation opportunities of varying intensities, (3) significant access and use areas that offer a chance for large numbers of people to interact with nature.

Articulate why wildlands matter in the social context and how to ensure supply meets demand over time.

Collate background data and summaries of studies that show the significance of these wild lands.

WHY? To identify regional trends in recreation use and demand for particular wild land settings and to foresee demands so that public land managers can make intelligent sustainable decisions about wildlands.

SOS applauds this important, innovative effort and contribution to better management of public lands!

For more information, contact SOS or Susan Marsh, Bridger-Teton National Forest (smarsh@fs.fed.us).

If you want to get on the What's News?Letter electronically, or know of others who might be interested, just email SOS and we'll add you to our mailing list!