As this month’s guest author, Inian Islands Institute welcomes our board member Molly Kemp from the tiny town of Tenakee, in rural Southeast Alaska.
Just over a year ago I was invited to join the Inian Islands Institute board of directors. I was flattered , and jumped at the chance.
“By the way” wrote Zach, “you’ll have the Treasurer position.”
Gulp… This was not the assignment I expected, as my frugal personal economy is still measured in nickels and dimes. I’ve had some experience with non-profit organizations, but only on a similar nickel-and-dime basis. The scale of the Inian Islands vision, and a business plan with seven digits, was more than a little intimidating.
In these early days, there’s a limit to how much scientific research we can conduct at Inian Islands Institute. After all, notwithstanding the excitement of our purchase agreement and palpable momentum towards buying the Hobbit Hole, this place remains the home of the Howe Family. Building our science laboratory, hosting visiting researchers all summer, and mooring our electric boat at the dock will have to wait until the sale is done, lest we impinge too greatly on this gracious family’s lives and livelihoods.
By Tania Lewis, Wildlife Biologist at Glacier Bay National Park, and President of Inian Islands Institute’s Board of Directors
Do you remember the first time you fell in love with something wild? Maybe it was the waves pounding on the sand when you first saw the ocean, or a group of deer grazing peacefully when you began wandering the woods, or a deep green pool of a cascading mountain creek on your first backpack trip. For many of us, these early memories shape our lives, how we live, where we travel to, and how we devote our life’s work. Experiences in wild places generally make human beings feel profoundly good, connected to a larger universe, less alone. Research has shown that spending time in nature decreases anxiety and increases feelings of empathy and altruism. These feelings lead to healthy stewardship of our land, resources, and community. Many of us believe that connecting people to nature may be our best shot at turning this world around.
It was a dizzying month. After our last student group left, I set off for the wide world to keep plugging and pitching Inian Islands Institute. Having decided that October was “the month,” I may have been a bit too cavalier with scheduling my time in one city after another, from Portland to Seattle to San Francisco and beyond. After all, I thought, it’s all the Lower 48 – compared to Alaska, it’s all in the same neighborhood! In the final tally, I gave 6 presentations and sat in 43 meetings in 20 cities, with 17 planes, 28 trains, and 30 buses connecting it all. At such a feverish pace, at times I became a bleary-eyed shell of myself, a zombie lurching. Though I remained pretty confident that the year was still 2015, I was so disoriented and sleep-deprived you could’ve convinced me otherwise. It was time to get back to the Wilderness.
As guest blog writer, Inian Islands Institute welcomes Elizabeth Hillstrom, a wonderfully bright Stanford student in mechanical engineering — and, we hope, a future intern at the Inian Islands!
We came to Alaska to learn about sustainability. There were over twenty of us at any given time: twelve undergraduate students, plus our professor, instructors and course assistants, a local coordinator, a media tag-team, and a rotating cast of guest lecturers, experts in everything from ecology to policy to art history. We moved as a herd. We did not come to the woods to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life; we came as a mob of disoriented students with a support crew, hoping to glean something intellectually useful from an environment and lifestyle completely foreign to us: to neatly wrap up these lessons and take them back to our well-planned academic lives.