GUEST BLOGGER: Zoe Bradbury

When the sun rose for the first time in weeks and filtered gently through the kitchen window, I am startled. I pause at the morning dishes, soapy sponge in hand, and say aloud to no one in particular: look. Across the yard at the edge of the woods, tender light is setting the nubile leaves of alder, poplar and plum aglow. When had that happened, the unfurling of those deciduous photosynthesis factories? And the sun itself, hitting me smack dab on the forehead from the east - not the southeast of wintertime – rocketing straight upwards and over the tops of the firs. During the past two weeks of solid rainy grey, the earth had tilted. A lot.

GUEST BLOGGER: Emily Schmitz

Not far from our neighborhood, a road climbs a mountain.  It's not much fun to go up on a run, but it flattens out at the top and twists through tall old pines and picks itself up to go over little mountain creeks. There’s a quaint little cottage after the straight bit, and that seems to be the top, but if you’re willing to go all the way up to the cottage and stand just outside its driveway, then you can see that the gravel continues up to a nice gray gate with a NO TRESPASSING sign beside it.

GUEST BLOGGER: Stephen Most

GUEST BLOGGER: Stephen Most

On June 1st, 2019, Berkeley celebrates the 50th anniversary of Ohlone Park—a park born in protest over the suppression of People's Park by local police and the California National Guard under Governor Reagan.

The 50th anniversary celebration will include California Indian storytelling and crafts demonstrations as well as a history exhibition, musical performances, a kids' bike rodeo, tai chi demonstrations, and special events at its community garden, dog park, and playgrounds.  

BOOK REVIEW: The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative

BOOK REVIEW: The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative

As a college student who attends university in the big city of Seattle, lives in the suburbs, and escapes to green spaces as often as I can, the close connections between spending time outdoors and my well-being are almost as clear as to be tangible.

Hiking at Mt. Rainier National Park, kayaking on Puget Sound, or even walking my dog in city parks all do more than expose me to natural beauty; they have restorative benefits that help me to calm my anxiety, think more clearly, and remind me of the value of life in all its forms. While exercise and the physical benefits associated with it may be the most well-known benefit of spending time in nature, the mental and emotional benefits are saleint to me.

GUEST BLOGGER: Isa Fernandez

No, your eyes aren't playing tricks on you - there have been an increasing number of large immovable metal objects peppering the already splintered landscape of American towns and cities. I’m talking about those annoying dockless scooters popping up everywhere like mushrooms. These devices serve the tech-savvy and younger, “fit” generations exclusively, and litter our sidewalks, reducing the beauty of our neighborhoods. They are both inaccessible and a hazard to our most vulnerable people, the disabled.

GUEST BLOGGER: Tim Palmer

GUEST BLOGGER: Tim Palmer

I grew up hunting. I mean real hunting, with a gun.

Hunting was deeply engrained in family and regional culture where I roamed wild in the foothills of Pennsylvania's Appalachian Mountains, right out the back door. I mostly hunted with my beloved grandfather, who lived next door, and with my older brother before he left home after high school, and sometimes with my dad on a rare Saturday when he didn't need to work. We went out early in the morning, often continuing through lunchtime, and then again late in the day, lingering until dusk.  

GUEST BLOGGER: Dianna VanderDoes

GUEST BLOGGER: Dianna VanderDoes

It takes some amount of courage to stand up for beauty and do it without irony or sentimentality. I was attracted to “And Beauty for All” when I first heard of it because of its unabashed appeal to that fundamental principle. That is the principle that I most want to see in the world, most want to feel within myself.

I’m a fiber artist and I make large art quilts made of many layers of fabric, dye and paint, all stitched together to create complex images of the natural world.

GUEST BLOGGER: Kara Patajo, Intern

GUEST BLOGGER: Kara Patajo, Intern

Growing up in the glorious shadow Mt. Rainier, a passion for beauty grew organically in me. As a senior at the University of Washington, I have been searching for meaningful projects to contribute to, and I am excited to be interning with And Beauty for All to help spread the word about protecting, enjoying, and creating beauty.

GUEST BLOGGER: Sandra Lubarsky

BEAUTY FIRST

By Sandra Lubarsky

Words live in companionship with other words. By themselves, they are like a wolf without a pack; in association they gain social position and meaning. The word “sustainability,” now nearly fifty years old in its current usage, runs with a mixed band of ideas: environment, development, management, technology, renewable energy, agriculture. Missing in almost every instance is any affiliation with “beauty.”

The absence of beauty signals a systems error in our understanding of sustainability, mistaking it for nothing more than an inspired effort to keep the clock wound. But sustainability has always pointed to a vision that goes beyond mere endurance or perpetuation of the status quo. Its agenda is more radical than is usually recognized, exceeding even the most exciting technological advances in energy conservation and renewable resource development or scientific breakthroughs in environmental management and restoration. Beyond efforts to insure the continuation of human civilization-as-we-know-it, is a vision of something “not-yet and better”--a vision inspired by beauty.

Unfortunately, we have come to believe that beauty is only “in the eye of the beholder” and we speak of beauty as a superficial and trivial quality, “only skin deep.” Even though sustainability is a movement to correct the dominant paradigm, this understanding of beauty remains largely unquestioned. And so, we bracket beauty out of the sustainability equation, accepting the judgment that beauty is unimportant.

But beauty denotes life’s intrinsic worth and the quality of aliveness. It is the way we speak about the sustaining and flourishing of life-in-relationship with life. When we encounter beauty in one form or another, we feel a heightened sense of being alive and in kinship with life. Everyday beauty—this spring-pink tree, that truss of lilacs, that kindness—holds us fast to this world. To speak this way about beauty—as the value most closely related to life--is to affirm the indwelling vitality of life.

Life is no neutral province, to be treated with impartiality. We are partisans for life and beauty, desiring life-beauty in abundance and intensity. But in our industrial world, the two have been separated and belittled. Life is minimized as a kind of physical substrate, devoid of intrinsic value. Beauty is confined to the quarters of art, cosmetology, fashion, retail sexuality, and consumer marketing. And so we end up with a too-small notion of sustainability—one that leans heavily on science and technology—and a too small notion of beauty—one that fails to understand its value as that which makes life worth preserving.

Beauty is no simple add-on to a sustainability wish list; it is the orienting principle for life-affirming relations. It embodies a value system that challenges the modern materialistic worldview at its core, calling out its life-denying principles and assumptions. It places form and function, efficiency and financial gain into the larger concern for the vigor of life systems. Begin with the question, “How does this project contribute to the beauty of the world?” and function, form, efficiency, and gain are made responsible to the great economy of life. That economy is based on the wholeness of relations and the rule that every act is born from wholeness. To make the aesthetic question primary-- rather than irrelevant!--is to ask about both the vitality of the individual entity and how its vitality contributes to the vitality of the whole.

Apart from beauty—understood as the consequence and aim of life-affirmative relations--it will not be possible to reshape civilization in ways that satisfy and nourish the human spirit and honor the worth of all living beings. There is a relationship between our disregard for beauty and the disfigurement of the earth’s life-supporting habitats, between our aesthetic indifference and our overall devaluing of life.

It is beauty that is at the core of life and at the heart of living in right relationship with all that is alive. Beauty summons a vision of world-supporting structures and processes that not only sustain life but also foster the remarkable creativity of life-in-relationship-with-life. If we are to succeed with the project of sustainability, we must make beauty our orienting principle, shaping our ways of thinking, our languages, our educational systems, and our life practices.  

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Sandra Lubarsky organized the Sustainability programs at both Northern Arizona and Appalachian State universities.  She is the co-author of the book ON BEAUTY, a celebration of the life of Doug Tompkins.  She is an activist and writer in Flagstaff, Arizona, where she recently succeeded in getting her city council to pass a proclamation supporting the AND BEAUTY FOR ALL campaign.