Every Day is Earth Day for a Master Woodsman

Today, April 22, 2013 is a good day to remind all of us who spend time in the outdoors, that EVERY day is Earth Day.  Not just today.

As woodsmen who have an ecological knowledge of our surrounding environment, we should be the truest of conservationists.  Please note that I referenced ‘conservation’ and not the commonly used word of the day when it comes to the environment, preservation.

Preservation, to preserve something, keep it the same, is not how nature works.  Nature doesn’t stay the same.  She changes, evolves, and we are a part of that – using and protecting her resources in an ethical manner.

Conservation is a state of harmony between men and land.”
— Aldo Leopold, US conservationist, 1887-1948

From spreading ashes from our cold campfire into the surrounding woods to harvesting a suppressed tree for a bow, to cleaning up someone else’s garbage, our stewardship in some cases in not just minimizing the impact of a resource we use, it can be an improvement.  Never forget, you can make a difference.

“The more you know, the less you need,” means more than “needing less gear.”  The less we need, the better for the environment, because it means we are more a part of it.


Two and half years earlier I had harvested the inner bark of a White Pine for a medicinal tea. Having ethically done so on a south facing branch and topographical aspect to help reduce moisture and subsequently pathogens, the tree has healed nicely.

Over the next couple of weeks we will be posting a series of articles from our good friend, Mark Warren, who runs the Medicine Bow Primitive School (see Training ~ East Schools).  Here is an excerpt from one of those upcoming articles, quite fitting for today…

The Cherokees called the trees “The Standing People.” Their choice of words is profound. “Standing” does not refer only to the upright posture of tree trunks. It reminds that the trees do not move around in the search for food. “People” denotes some kind of sentient capacity for awareness – a primordial feature of all plants discovered by our scientists only in the last few decades. In other words, when you think you are alone in the forest … you’re not.

All of us were introduced to the former concept (“standing”) in high school through a rather dry interpretation of photosynthesis. It’s a pity how cold and lifeless the presentations were, because this miraculous process is the linchpin equation for every single beat of our hearts, every step we walk, literally every move we make and thought we entertain. Plants supply us with every ounce of energy we burn by first capturing it from the sun. The sun produces the fuel that runs us. The plants deliver it.

This little known fact about life on Earth – or at least one that we don’t fully acknowledge – ought to take a front seat in our consciousness. Let me briefly put it to you again in such a way that your entire perspective on life might be forever changed!

Revisiting a Miracle

Physicists of Einstein’s era learned that sunlight contains energy – packets of it. Those packets might as well be encased in blocks of solid steel, for we can’t open them. Only the green plants can.

Just a tiny sliver of the sun’s total output touches our planet. But it is enough. That sliver would fall impotent upon the Earth (other than warming it) and for the most part reflect away were it not for the green plants. It is the “green” of plants that absorbs energy. And so plants are our allies in the life-on-Earth equation. They are the middlemen, capturing solar energy so that it is available to every living thing. Where do they store it? In the food they make. We call it sap.

So, while all the animals of the forest – fox, deer, snake, etc. – are spending almost all their waking time in the search for food, the green plants are making it. And in the process, with each solar-brewed batch of sap, two by-products are worth mentioning: 1.) A gas is made by the plant. It’s the gas we breathe. 2.) And a gas is absorbed – the one we exhale as a waste.

If you are sitting by a window right now, look outside at a tree. If the last three paragraphs sank in, I’m betting that tree is looking a little different to you now. It’s more than pleasing to the eye. It’s crucial, regal, highly specialized, salubrious, beneficent, and very cooperative.

Our sustenance comes from the Earth, whether in town or in the woods, everyday, everywhere.   For more, “trail food for thought,” on that perspective, PLEASE check out THIS ARTICLE from Steve Watts if you haven’t already.

And remember, EVERY DAY is Earth Day.

Slough Creek in Yellowstone NP

Slough Creek in Yellowstone NP

Yellowstone Bison

Yellowstone Bison

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Click on photo for larger image.


About Christian Noble

Chris Noble is the founder of MasterWoodsman.com and Woodsmoke Camping Company. A Master Naturalist, he holds a Bachelor of Science in Forestry and has worked as a Registered Forester and Certified Burn Manager in several states. Chris is also a Wilderness First Responder and since the late 90’s has been “practicing primitive” skills and taking lessons from numerous Master Woodsmen throughout North America. An advocate for Conservation, teacher of Wilderness Living Skills, and happily married, he enjoys passing what he has learned thus far to others, especially his 2 children, Emerson and Duncan.
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