The Truth About Hunting

a gun used for hunting deer

Photo used by Fair Use.

The subject of taking an animal’s life can certainly stir a lot of emotion in people, especially some supporters of the present day environmental movement. Infringing upon an animal’s right to life goes against an ethic to leave nature as it is. So, it seems that in order to be a “good” conservationist, a human being must leave nature unscathed, right? Well I’m here to keep those emotions stirred, by saying that this idea is very much WRONG.

Now, by saying some supporters of the conservation movement frown upon hunting certainly does not mean this is the feeling for all. The focus here is more on animal rights activists and those with similar beliefs. The reasons for why animal rights activists have developed their opinions are understandable, mostly a result of extremely evident mistreatment of animals. However, the fact is that people have known for a long time that hunting is a vital relationship between man and nature. For example, having grown up in an area of the world where hunting meant whether or not food would be on the table during the winter months, I learned to respect what nature has provided. For thousands of years, our ancestors relied upon a diet derived from hunting and gathering and for the most part those ancestors understood the importance of our relationship with the wilderness. Utmost respect and homage was paid to the earth and the gifts it provided us with, even when the taking of an animal’s life was involved. Unfortunately, that ethic was largely lost during the shift from gathering our own food to being able to buy it from somebody else.

Nowadays, it is easy to simply drive down to City Market and buy a pound of beef for $3.75 so it is hard to believe there was once a time when humans actually had to work for their food. Being part of the local foods team at the Fort Lewis Environmental Center has given me the opportunity to pursue a goal to reverse human being’s thinking back to what it once was. Hunting as a sustainable practice may sound like an oxymoron to the uneducated mind but to those who understand the importance of having a full freezer, this claim could be attested. Think of the amount of resources conserved by taking one less pound of grass fed, water consuming, packaged and fossil fuel burning (as a result of shipment) beef off of the average U.S. family’s dinner table. Not only can the practice of sustainable hunting benefit the environment but also the wallets of U.S. families.

There are many arguments and variables opposing an opinion like mine, yet the fact still remains that hunting could eventually lead to a stronger local food system in communities all over the world. It is my goal to bring a better understanding of how hunting can be a means of having stable, sustainable and secure means of putting food on the table to the Durango community and similar communities. Is it possible to polarize the two clashing mindsets regarding the ethics of hunting? Like every other progressive idea, it will take time and energy to reach a consensus.

– Hunter Mallinger

My Zero Waste Inspiration

Bea Johnson never takes out the trash. She is not lazy or a hoarder but rather a pioneer in the field of zero waste living. Bea and her family choose to act and purchase in ways that have as little impact on the environment as possible. Beginning with small changes and gradually implementing larger ones, the Johnson family completely changed their way of life over the course of a few years. Bea only buys clothes second hand and repairs or tailors them when needed, fills a reusable container with homemade toothpowder that she uses on her compostable toothbrush and harnesses solar energy to power her family’s house. Claiming to find ways to reduce waste addicting, Bea and her family say their alternative and revolutionary lifestyle has made them much happier.

Before learning about Bea Johnson and her family, I lived my life similar to how they did before they migrated towards zero waste. I took long showers, I threw out things without a second thought and I didn’t consider how my consumption affected the environment. I believed I maintained an eco-friendly lifestyle because I recycled and used an aluminum water bottle but in actuality, I was nowhere close to living green.  On the fateful day I stumbled across an article on Yahoo about the “zero waste family,” I thought about every aspect of the world in a completely new way.

produce in cloth bags

Using cloth bags to purchase produce from the grocery store is more eco-friendly than using disposable plastic ones and some bags even have nice designs. Photo courtesy of Emma Kurfis.

Bea lives by the phrase: refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle, rot. By applying this motto to every aspect of their lives, Bea and her family now only throw away enough trash in one year to fill up a single 1.5 liter Le Parfait jar. Amazing. Fascinated by this and the idea of being so waste-free, I read more of her blog posts and tried to take some of her ideas and use them in my quest to reduce my own carbon footprint. For example, I try to remember my cloth grocery and produce bags every time I go to the store, I typically use the Durango T to get downtown and I take the time to make sure my recyclables are clean and on the list of acceptable items for the city of Durango. It is quite difficult to become completely zero waste as a college student but any small changes can make a big difference, thus I am providing a list of a few tips that are simple and easy to apply to college life.

  • Refuse what you do not need. Refuse buying bottled water if your tap water is clean and safe to drink. Refuse freebie items handed out at fairs, events and even in the student union to avoid creating the demand to make more and accumulating junk you don’t need.
  • Reduce what you do need. Donate rarely used items to local thrift shops or the FLC Free Store to de-clutter your home. The Free Store is open every Thursday in the Student Union from 9-11 a.m.; donations are welcome and appreciated.
  • Reuse by using reusables. Taking your own shopping bags to the grocery store, bringing your own thermos to the coffee shop and using a refillable water bottle all easily prevent a great amount of waste from accumulating in landfills.
  • Recycle what you cannot refuse, reduce or reuse. With single stream recycling now in Durango, recycling is easier than ever! However, be sure to know how to properly recycle everything because if recycling on campus gets too contaminated, it gets sent to the landfill! The guidelines for Durango recycling can be found here: .
  • Rot (compost) the rest. Create a composting system that works for your home and lifestyle. The on-campus dining hall composts food waste but if you live off campus, look into composting your food waste. Composting is made easy here:

For more information on zero waste living and the Johnson family, visit the Zero Waste Home blog at


– Emma Kurfis

A Lesson on Snow at the EC Winter Retreat 2013

The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree

Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.

-Robert Frost

Snow muffles the sounds in the La Plata Canyon. Last weekend for the winter retreat, a group of us from the Environmental Center hiked to “The Naked Lady Hut” for activities and some delicious food. Though the food was delectable and the leadership workshops enlightening, it is not the stay in the cabin that struck me most about this Saturday. A simple comment Rachel made offhand in one of her “snow spiels” grabbed my attention and got me thinking.

Imagine the spring, when three days of nonstop snowing will mean snowmelt high in the mountains and a full river of runoff. Imagine the month of May when the river will feed into the fields of crops and the farmers will be happy. Imagine late summer when the lack of early snow will create less water for the rivers, making farmers not so happy. I cannot speak for all farmers but I know for certain that some people are not aware of the sources of their water beyond their faucets. If we do not have the knowledge that our own water comes from runoff from the mountains, we may not care about fighting for the conservation of the mountains.

This lack of knowledge of the connectedness of aspects of the environment leads to something else of which I have become acutely aware. I always assumed that everyone knew how plants grow from seed to sprout to fruit to table but my eyes were opened this year through the Campus Sustainability Team’s project: The Real Food Challenge. The Real Food Challenge strives to collaborate with college cafeterias to use 20% “real” food by 2020. Through a survey, our team saw that most students wanted more local, healthy food involved on campus and decided to embrace this challenge. In the case of the Real Food Challenge, real food is classified as local, environmentally sound, humane and fairly traded; or any combination of the four. Along with attempting to bring this to the FLC campus, we will also work to educate the campus about what “real” food is and where our current food comes from versus real food. Education will be a large piece of this project in addition to promoting local food. This project is long term, and will not be easy but by tackling this issue, hopefully we can reconnect the circle of understanding food and its source.

Just as farmers need the mountains and snowfall for their crops and we need the runoff for our watersheds, the understanding of the connections between our resources and us is necessary. If we can teach others about where food comes from or at least encourage them to conscious of it, it may lead to the awareness of other resources. Starting with the food our school consumes is one step towards reconnecting our species with its life source.

-Hallie Wright

cooking vegetables for burritos

EC zero waste team member Jessica Smyke cooks vegetables for burritos. All EC students that attended the retreat enjoyed cooking and eating the delicious food. Photo courtesy of Rachel of Fort Lewis College Environmental Center students       EC staff members learn about leadership while looking out at the beautiful snowy mountains in the Naked Lady Hut in the La Plata Canyon. Photo Courtesy of Rachel Landis.









My “Cooking Matters” Class Experience

A healthy homemade quesadilla.

Quesadillas are easy to make and, when filled with vegetables, a healthy dinner.

Recently, I enrolled in a six week cooking class, Cooking Matters, a national organization that strives to help families “to plan, purchase and prepare healthy, tasty and affordable foods at home.” Their idea follows the Chinese proverb: Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. Cooking Matters is sponsored by Share Our Strength, an organization dedicated to fighting poverty and hunger and coordinated by the lovely Erin Jolly whose motto is MODERATION, BALANCE and VARIETY! As the first class of its kind being offered at Fort Lewis, Erin’s primary focus was not to change our diets but to improve our knowledge of nutrition and equip us with basic cooking skills.

The evening started off with introductions, revealing an amazing variety of seasoned cooks and beginners in addition those bored with their own cooking (me).  We then moved on into the “Shared Cultural Kitchen”(Native American Center/El Centro) where cooking equipment awaited us. Each station was set up with a knife and cutting board surrounded by bowls of vegetables. Our chef, Ryan announced that we would be making quesadillas, salsa and guacamole—a fairly simple meal.

We were guided through every step in creating the ultimate and heartiest quesadillas, including rinsing fresh vegetables; chopping fresh zucchini, onions, garlic, cilantro and peppers; and fine-tuning the special technique of seasoning. Spices can be intimidating but here’s bit of chef Ryan’s wisdom: “A good chef is a chef who constantly tastes.” Next, we made salsa and guacamole dips. For this step, we all worked together to come to a consensus of creating both salsa and guacamole dips with the perfect amount of spice and flavor—and we did!  If you haven’t guessed, here is where a hint lies, jalapenos are super-hot and yours truly had the extreme pleasure of dicing these little green monsters!

Once we finished our dips and placed our quesadillas in the oven to bake, we all moved into the dining room of El Centro where we began our lesson on the basics of nutrition. Erin moved us along in a discussion about the healthy food plate, a food-serving diagram that replaced the dated food pyramid most of us saw at some point or other. We learned that the largest portions of our meals should be solely dedicated to vegetables because colorful varieties indicate vital nutrients. If we intend to nourish ourselves, we need to incorporate Erin’s motto of MODERATION, BALANCE and VARIETY into our daily diets. However, that being said, Erin quickly clarified that it takes time to understand what our bodies need and we must all be diligent in exploring our options. So, no worries! Treat yourself to the occasional dessert or pizza but in moderation of course!

With the first class over, I look forward to learning more about nutrition, reading labels and, of course, cooking. In addition, I did learn a valuable lesson: wash your hands thoroughly after handling jalapeno chilies because it’s quite challenging for anyone other than yourself to remove contacts once they start a burning! Ouch!


By Trish Yazzie

Organically Grown

In a time not too long ago, using organic methods was the only option. With the industrial age and the following “Green revolution” of the 20th century, heavy petroleum dependency became common practice. Pesticides, herbicides and mechanized labor promised to end world hunger, to bring the developing world to par and to expand the small economies of the globe. Although initially successful in feeding more and boosting economy, the revolution has backlashed. Farmers who were subsidized by large businesses in order to purchase the infrastructure needed to farm tremendous areas of land now find themselves in a cycle of debt. In order to try and repay their growing debt, the farmers continue to practice mono cropping, or the growing of just one type of crop. With acres and acres of one species, vulnerability to disease and pests increases dramatically and when a crop failure does strike, the farmer is pushed further and further into debt. Mechanization of agriculture has also removed large amounts of labor from the fields, pushing out many who need the work for their families’ livelihood.

Organic food has become scarce in our society but is making a comeback.

Organic food has become scarce in our society but is making a comeback. Photo used by Fair Use.

Aside from the political and economic impacts, the environmental destruction caused by pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers is of an unbelievable scale. These chemicals, which end up in local waterways due to runoff caused by precipitation, ultimately enter and pollute the oceans via the water cycle. These chemicals can alter surrounding wildlife through hormonal disruption, poisoning or creating an uninhabitable environment. Often the chemicals used are toxic to all forms of life, humans included. Due to the lack of safety equipment, either from lack of funds, lack of education or commonly both, the farm workers and surrounding community are often harmed by the wide, unregulated use of toxins. Cancers, endocrine disruption and mutations are some of the more serious illnesses that can be caused by pesticide use.

However, there may still be hope! A new study by the Worldwatch Institute showed that global land farmed organically has increased more than threefold to a total of 37 million hectares. Currently, the areas with the most organically managed land include Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands. Following suit are Europe and Latin America. The United States has, not surprisingly, been slow to convert conventional farmland to organic methods. Despite this, when comparing sales of organic products sold in the United States, the organic industry is one of the fastest growing with $31.5 billion in sales. The slow conversion could be due to the possible interest at stake. With many billion dollar international companies being heavily invested in conventional agriculture, both produce and livestock, there is much to lose. However, these companies know that a new wave is approaching and plan to ride it all the way to the bottom of our wallets. Many of the largest businesses in support of heavy development and petroleum usage are now offering organic brands to cash in on the best of both worlds. In fact, many of these corporations voted against Proposition 37 in California, which would have made it mandatory to label products containing genetically modified organisms (GMO and chemical usage often go hand in hand).

In the age of information, people are often coaxed to let business make our daily choices for them. People must arm themselves with the appropriate knowledge for it is all they can do. The coming revolution cannot be fought with violence and hate but must be peaceful and based on the power of the people. People are expected to believe everything they see and hear. Eat our brand to be healthy and young, try this product to be truly beautiful, wear this to have friends and love. Remove the curtains and view behind the scenes because only you can make the right choice!


– Dylan Ruckel