Looking through the archive of my posts, I realize this change was truly inevitable.
Hired as the Technology Editor over five years ago, I started out at TreeHugger writing almost exclusively of gadgets, data center efficiency, smart grids, e-waste and so on. In a short amount of time, that extended to biomimicry and nature-inspired innovations with a deepening interest in how nature and technology overlap. Meanwhile, I was also tasked with covering water issues, yet posts on desalination plants and water-saving technology turned into covering ocean issues from acidification to shark conservation. Eventually, I began covering animal and nature news most of the time while my interest in wildlife photography also grew. In just a few short years, my interest in technology as a means of saving our planet shifted back to a stronger passion for what we are working to save in the first place: earth and its inhabitants.
Resistance is futile, so they say, especially when it comes to talking about what you most love. So, it is only natural that starting next week, I move over to our sister site, Mother Nature Network, as an editor and writer on animal and nature news.Before I go, I wanted to look back at some of my favorite posts and projects. Those I most enjoyed writing were not usually the ones that earned page views. Instead, they are memorable for what I learned from them, the dialogue they sparked, and the ways they changed me (and perhaps other readers) as a person.
First, there is pretty much everything I wrote for the Nature Blows My Mind series, where each article taught me something amazing about our planet and kept me astounded at the wonder of nature. Working on these posts was a way to recharge my emotional batteries, and I hope the amazement I felt while writing them shines through so that you as readers can also feel perpetually in awe of our world.
Possibly one of the most memorable set of posts I wrote while at TreeHugger was that stemming from my trip to Midway Atoll. Visiting this tiny place in the middle of the Pacific ocean was life-altering for me, and I will always thank TreeHugger for making that happen and for providing a place for sharing information to readers about how our plastic consumption is threatening species in the middle of "nowhere", hammering home that there is no "away" and that plastic is deadly forever.
Writing about the Ethiopian Wolf on TreeHugger lead to writing an entire book about the critically endangered species, with dozens of gorgeous photographs from conservation photographers Rebecca Jackrel and Will Burrard-Lucas -- two photographers whose wonderful work I've covered several times on TreeHugger.
But I can't forget my techy roots on the site. I have several gadgety favorites as well. I will never forget the popularity of the $3 Emergency Solar-Powered Radio Made With an Altoids Tin.
This project rekindled my interest in the DIY ethics and what making and repairing do for us as a culture. It lead to several long-read posts about the state of DIY in today's society. In The DIY Ethic and Modern Technology: Why taking ownership of your electronics is essential, I wrote, "[T]he DIY ethic goes far beyond clothes or crafts or cooking, beyond homesteading or hacking gadgets, far beyond weekend warrior projects around the home. It goes straight into a cultural and even a psychological framework. The DIY Ethic centers around two major ideals: self-reliance and making something to your own exacting specifications, neither of which can be easily found outside of DIY living."
It also made me appreciate one of my favorite book reviews I wrote on TreeHugger: How Returning to a Low Tech Life Might Just Keep You Sane: "What would happen if we slowed down, if we used tools that fill a need that isn't manufactured by advertisers, if we appreciated the long-lasting craftsmanship of those tools? I venture a guess: We'd probably be every bit as happy as we think we are with modern 'conveniences.'"
One of the biggest questions I've faced as a writer at TreeHugger bouncing between technology and the connected world, and nature and conservation of wildlife, is how one straddles the line. How to we balance conflicting realities: the needs and desires of a modern world and the needs of the natural world. Much of this revolves in how we consume -- from food and water, to travel and yes, technology.
Many of us labor over decisions like this constantly. The clash between the consumer culture in which we are embedded and the culture of ecological (and sometimes spiritual) consciousness we choose can sometimes drive us to pure frustration. The grocery store alone is a battleground, where labels such as "organic’" "Non-GMO," "convenient," "one-step,” "compostable," "eco-friendly," and "quick-n-easy" are flung like cannon balls. As we navigate what is important to us at that moment, we question our decisions, we question our integrity, and we even question our questions.
It's not easy being a responsible consumer. It’s taken me 30 years on this earth to figure out how to stop and ask myself why I’m buying something and if I will hold that item as valuable after the thrill of the purchase disappears. This is, after all, the crux of our consumer culture (perhaps our economy?): Buying to fulfill a need or enhance our lives versus buying for an endorphin rush. With the constant stream of new technologies in consumer electronics, does the ease and instant gratification of the digital age make us forget to stop and question our purchases?
These are questions I still grapple with daily. And gratefully so. TreeHugger will always be a place that makes us question where lines are drawn and the validity of those lines in living a responsible and enjoyable life. It has been a place where I am welcome to sit back and really analyze an issue, usually as part of a conversation with my fellow editors.
As a matter of fact, book reviews have been some of my favorite things to write on TreeHugger. I've always loved a chance to sit around thinking about and discussing great books. I really enjoyed writing Vital Mangroves On The Edge Of Extinction Thanks to All-You-Can-Eat Shrimp and 4 Key Lessons Learned From The Death and Rebirth of Monterey Bay. And of course I loved writing Demon Fish Dissects Sharks' History, Future, and "The Greatest Scam of All Time".
And I can't forget to mention the work I've done on The Cooking Project over the last 11 months. What a delicious diversion that has been! Food and photography are an irresistible combination for me. I hope you have enjoyed the wonderful recipes as much as I have.
Going through my old posts and reviewing those that truly had an effect on me (and, I hope, readers), there is far more there than I can list in one farewell post. I clicked through dozens that I could highlight here. There are so many topics I have covered that taught me a great deal, that have changed the way I look at the world. TreeHugger has been a home for me over the past five-plus years, and the staff has been like family. And you just can't tease out only a handful of best memories when looking through a family history -- they are all interwoven and make up the whole beautiful story.
Just as I am grateful to TreeHugger and its staff over the years, I am grateful for our readers, who pay attention and care as much as we do about the conservation of the only planet we have. TreeHugger is a truly unique place on the web and in the world. We've seen many, many changes, and I look forward to seeing how the site continues to grow and evolve.
So, thank you, dear readers, for everything you have given me over these years. None of it would have been possible without you, and it has been truly a joy. But this is not goodbye. As I mentioned, I'm only going next door to our sister site Mother Nature Network. Look me up over there as I'll continue to cover animal news, from wildlife conservation to pets and everything in between. So don't be a stranger!