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The Though Kitchen - Dedicated to Stirring the Pot

Archive for February, 2012

Mercy Corps: Letter from Tunisia

Posted by Guest | February 28th, 2012 | Filed under Partners for Change

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Jeremy Barnicle, Chief Development Officer at Mercy Corps, one of our key Partners for Change, recently journeyed to Cairo for a global leadership conference to discuss the seminal changes that have occurred in the region over the past year. He spent most of January traveling through Tunisia and meeting with local activists who, with support of Mercy Corps, are trying to build a vibrant civil society in a place that never really had one. Below are his reflections on the brave protestors of the Arab Spring and what we can learn from them.

A year ago, not far from where I sit writing this, a massive group of protesters forced from power a dictator who controlled their lives for 23 years.

The overthrow of Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali sparked a wave of anti-authoritarian uprisings unlike the world had ever seen: Egypt, Libya, Yemen and now Syria.

Over the past two weeks, as part of my work with Mercy Corps, I have been lucky enough to meet some of the people behind the changes in Egypt and Tunisia, and I have two reactions.

The first reaction is deep admiration. The courage people have shown is stunning. Going to Tahrir Square in January 2011 meant accepting a very real possibility that you might be arrested, beaten, injured or killed. One Egyptian activist told us how he said goodbye to his young children at night before heading out to Tahrir, warning that they might not see him again. It’s hard for me to imagine what would drive me to take that kind of risk, and yet thousands of people stayed in Tahrir until Hosni Mubarak was gone for good. Now that activist works in Parliament.

My second reaction is shame. Watching the 2012 campaign unfold from a distance, it is clear to me that the American political system has become ridiculous at a time when we really need it to work. Our system has become ridiculous because we have let it, because many of us — myself included — have come to take for granted a set of political rights and responsibilities that people here in Tunisia and elsewhere in the region are willing to die for.

We Americans have lapsed into disgraceful complacency, allowing super PACs, talk-radio hosts and a hysterical 24-hour news culture to control the way we govern ourselves. Government has become a zero-sum game that rarely rewards moderation and compromise.

In a December 2011 Gallup poll, 86 percent of Americans disapproved of the job Congress is doing — the worst since Gallup started asking 30 years ago. And yet fewer than five percent of Congressional seats are really competitive in the 2012 election cycle, according to the Cook Report.

In presidential election years, just over half of all voting-age adults actually turn out to vote. In the off-year elections that choose every U.S. House member, a third of U.S. senators, a dozen or so governors and countless state legislators, a little more than a third of voting-age adults take the time to cast a ballot. More Americans log on to Facebook in any given month than bother to vote in any major election.

We Americans like to think we are modeling democracy for the rest of the world. But next to the brave protesters of the Arab Spring, most of us look lazy and spoiled.

The Arab Spring movements have their flaws. They have venal politicians, rigid ideologues and apathetic voter segments of their own. But everyone I talked to was proud and hopeful. “Now, if the government we elect doesn’t do what we want,” a young Tunisian lawyer told me with a wide smile, “we can just vote them out.”

Future generations of Egyptians and Tunisians will see the leaders of their 2011 revolts as founding fathers and mothers. And yet for all of the idolatry American politicians demonstrate for Washington, Jefferson and Franklin, do we really think we are living up to the ideals of the American Founding Fathers?

“That government is the strongest of which every man feels himself a part,” Jefferson wrote. Tunisians feel part of their government; they seized that right and are holding on tight. A young guy in the town of Tataouine told me if they felt the ideals of the revolution were being ignored, they would go right back out on the streets. If polling and voter turnout numbers mean anything, few Americans feel part of the government and that needs to change.

As usual, Alexis de Tocqueville has a sharp and relevant observation on our democracy, and it makes me hopeful:

“The greatness of America lies not in being more enlightened than any other nation, but rather in her ability to repair her faults.”

If we want to live up to the vision of our founders and be the great country we aspire to be, we Americans need to learn from the Arab Spring, repair our faults and take back ownership of our system.

sahara_600pxReprinted from the Huffington Post courtesy of Jeremy Barnicle.

Winter, Instagrammed

Posted by leighann | February 22nd, 2012 | Filed under Nau Events

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This morning’s meeting consisted of a cup of stumptown, a voting ballot and a wall plastered with instagrams (thanks @connecsean for the captured moment). Our task? To pick the winners of our first #nauwinter instagram contest. (We say first, because there’s a good chance we could do this again.) First of all, thanks to all who entered. It was a tough decision, but we ultimately chose three of our favorites. Check out the winners below as well as all of the entries at #nauwinter. And for future instagram contests as well as a behind-the-scenes look at who we are, what we do and what inspires us, follow us @nauclothing.

And now for the winners…

Bendcyclocross@bendcyclocross

doryrice@doryrice

tri-kiet@tri_kiet

If you’re one of the lucky winners, contact us a share@nau.com to receive your $100 gift certificate.

Women into the Wind: Summiting Volcan Lautaro: Part 2

Posted by Guest | February 14th, 2012 | Filed under Outdoor Sport, Partnerships, Personal Reflection

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Editor’s Note: The much-anticipated part two of our Women into the Wind series is here. In part one, we met Anno Davis and her intrepid crew of Argentinean mountaineers. In part two, we follow them as they attempt to become the first all-female team to summit Volcán Lautaro—the highest peak in the Southern Patagonian Ice Cap.

The Expedition by Anno Davis

The weather: it’s the limiting factor for anyone who plans an expedition in Patagonia. The area is dominated by strong winds and moisture which accumulate over the vast Pacific Ocean and empty on the protruding Andes. Since our mobility on the glacier depended on the crevasses being entirely covered by snow, our particular expedition relied on ideal weather conditions. This also meant that we had to be incredibly adaptable and develop an alternative strategy based on the conditions along the way. In addition, once we ventured into the mountains we would need to be completely self-reliant since our only contact with others would be through spotty satellite phone service. And since there weren’t any helicopters in the vicinity, a quick rescue would be out of the question.

After three days of portering our gear to the base of the glacier and one day to rest and pack, we decided to go for it; the next 3-4 days presented a decent weather forecast. We carried our skis and sleds on our packs through the lush Lenga Beech forest. At Piedra del Fraile,we re-strategized since our planned six days in the mountains didn’t fit with the forecast and re-rationed our food to lighten our load. Our first night was at La Playita, a rocky beach on the west back of Lago Eléctrico with spectacular views of the north face of Mt. Fitz Roy. The next morning we picked up the remaining gear, now carrying well over 60 pounds each, and mounted the glacier first by foot where the ice was covered with rock and wound our way around gaping holes and cracks. We eagerly put on our boots and skis and roped-up to ascend the ramp of North Marconi Glacier, where the ice pours over a steep section fracturing into many crevasses, luckily still sufficiently covered with snow. Once over Marconi Pass and up on the expansive ice field (4.5 miles and 2,800 feet higher than La Playita, now at 4,800 feet in elevation), we were on relatively flat terrain and were able to ski comfortably un-roped since the crevasses were completely concealed by a solid layer of snow.

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Day 1: the west back of Lago Eléctrico

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Day 2: North Marconi Glacier

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Day 3: to Lautaro

Now in Chilean territory, we left the granite spires of the Fitz and Cerro Torre ranges behind us. The great white expansiveness ahead was an astonishing moonscape. We were ecstatic. Roughly 12 hours and 8.5 miles from La Playita, we set up camp in total solitude. By sat-phone email/text message a friend confirmed the weather conditions would hold up just enough to permit our plan to cross the ice field the next day (Tuesday), try to summit on Wednesday (the last day with a somewhat stable forecast) and return to the eastern side of the glacier on Thursday as conditions deteriorated.

We enjoyed a perfectly calm night and were setting out again as the sun rose painting wispy clouds pink. Lautaro, whose summit protruded18 miles to the northwest, could be seen in the distance, but slowly started to cloud over by mid-morning. As we moved out into the middle of the ice field, a constant head-wind picked up. The landscape warped all parameters of space and time as we skinned in as straight a line as possible for nine solid hours. Surrounded by more and more magical peaks, we stopping only briefly to change layers, take pictures, hydrate and eat small bites of gorp, crackers and cheese. Not far from our anticipated campsite, the cloud finally reached the base of Lautaro, enveloped us in a dizzying yet calm grey, and we decided to pitch the tent (13 miles from our previous camp and around 5,450 feet in altitude).

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Day 4: our attempt to summit

Once we set up camp, we consulted the forecast and weighed our options. At midnight the skies would clear and the day would stay relatively calm until winds picked up at 6 pm and continued to increase the next day, with worsening conditions developing. The girls appeased my worries of being entirely isolated with weather permitting very little margin of error, so we stuck to our plan of a summit attempt the following day. It was our only foreseeable opportunity. The summit lay 6,500 vertical feet above us and about 4.5 miles in horizontal distance over glacial terrain and we estimated a minimum of 12 hours round trip. Since clouds inhibited us from studying the mountain up-close during the approach, we aimed to leave camp between 4 and 5 am to avoid searching for a route in the dark.

The next morning we awoke to lingering clouds spitting snow and began to wonder how much we could rely on the forecast. But we started up anyway. It was 5 am. Low clouds came and went. We made it a couple of hours up the gentle slope (an estimated 1.25 miles and 900 vertical feet) before punching our skis through the first crevasses hidden under a thin layer of snow and stopped to rope-up.  Increasing wind and diminishing visibility added to our uneasiness. Should we risk the weather and go on? After debating briefly, we decided that the present conditions wouldn’t allow us to get very far. With knots in our throats and bellies, we turned around and began to ski down to camp.

Much to our dismay, within an hour of deciding to return, the peak slowly began to clear. It was one of the most difficult moments of our entire trip; had we made the right decision? Should we turn around and head back up the mountain? While the now-clear conditions appeared favorable for ascending, snow blowing off the long summit ridge indicated wind up high. Was it worth the risk of being caught on the far side of the ice cap in a storm the next day? Seeing our present summit possibilities fading fast, we wondered: should we try to make a second attempt?

Stay tuned: in part three of our series, find out whether Anno and her team decide to risk it and make a second attempt or pack up and head for home.

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Day 4: in the clear

Finding Simplicity in Complexity

Posted by Alex | February 7th, 2012 | Filed under Environmental Change, Sustainability

Can three minutes change your life? For TED Senior Fellow Eric Berlow, the above three-minute Micro-TED Talk opened the door to a new world. In a matter of weeks, he went from being a university ecologist to a global expert on applying a system-based approach to problems ranging from international conflicts to recycling rates. We caught up with Eric during a recent traverse of the French Alps—he’d been navigating deep powder and farmer’s fields before we spoke—to learn what understanding ecosystems can teach us about solving our biggest problems.

So on this topic of complexity and simplicity: Randonée or Telemark?
Telemark, of course! Yeah, I love it. I’ve been doing it forever; I just love the feel.

So you’re obviously someone who loves the mountains. How have the outdoors shaped your work?
I got into ecology before I was into the outdoors: I was into environmental stuff in college, but I hadn’t spent a lot of time camping. I was just really into the theory, about how everything was connected. So I did a degree in marine biology and ecology, and started spending a lot more time outside in Oregon, and got really into backcountry skiing and all the rest. And then I did my doctorate at UC Berkley, and started doing field work in the Sierra Nevada, and spent weeks and weeks on end in the Sierra and couldn’t get enough of it. I think when you study ecology, no matter what you’re doing, the only way to do good science in ecology is to have a big-picture view.

In your Ted Talk, you explain how embracing complexity can help lead to simplicity. How does this kind of systems thinking apply to issues of Sustainability?
To me, if we can provide people the tools to think more holistically about problems, to say, ‘yeah, everything is connected, but that doesn’t make it harder to understand,’ we can get over the fear factor. So many issues around sustainability have to do with just thinking a little bit bigger, and seeing the connections between things. I feel like if people thought about their problems a little more systemically, then the sustainability stuff would also fall into line. They would elect leaders who had holistic visions. So that’s my idea: to help people think about mapping out the ecosystem of problems, so that they can start thinking more holistically about everything.

How has being a Ted Fellow impacted your work?
For the first time in my life, I’ve seen that having a Ph.D in biology has value to other things. When I got the Ted Fellowship, it was a chance to speak to other people who are outside of my fishbowl.

During my talk—Jullian Assange of WikiLeaks spoke right before me—I was like, ‘Oh, man, I don’t know what I’m doing here!’ But then afterwards I started getting hundreds of emails, and I ended up quitting my job at the University because I had so many neat opportunities to apply a holistic approach to mapping the ecosystem of complex problems, and trying to find leverage points.

I worked on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, mapping expert knowledge of Palestinians and Israelis who were committed to non-violence to understand the ecosystem of that problem—so that if you’re going to throw money at it, you know where are the biggest points of leverage. And there was another one looking at recycling in America: how can we bump up recycling of Aluminum from like 20% to 80% in five years, again, mapping expert thinking and the ecosystem of the problem. What are all the moving parts, how do they influence one another, and use the network structure to find self-reinforcing feedback loops and points of leverage.

So it’s been really interesting: I started in academia, and now I’m working on a lot of other kinds of problems.

It sounds like a really powerful tool you can bring to a wide range of problems.
Yeah, and I didn’t realize that until now. It seems like there’s a real appreciation for a systemic approach, and we have some new tools now in complexity theory about how to take a really big system and find the subset of that system that maybe drives it the most.

You can learn more about Eric’s work through the TED Senior Fellows, or his website, ericlberlow.net

Under Perfect Conditions: The New Spring Line

Posted by Peter | February 7th, 2012 | Filed under Design, Nau Events, Who We Are

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We spent a lot of yesterdays in the studio and in the natural world creating images with our friends to unveil the SPRING 2012 season. It all started at the Oregon Coast—rugged, dynamic, textural. The conditions were perfect: sunny, foggy, and magical with great surf, perfect light, friends, and, of course, the lens.

Mornings started early (at the crack of first light). Six a.m. on day one followed by 7:30 a.m. on day two and three (once we got a hold of what the light would bring). The days were packed with back-to-back locations from beachside to coast range and staged to set the perfect backdrop for our new styles. The evenings were spent reviewing the day’s shots and sharing great homemade food, conversation, local wine and local whiskey (for those who chose to indulge).

In the studio shoot we wanted to bring to life the simple, dynamic presence of each style.

We used part of the same crew from the beach shoot plus Nathan and Mackenzie, our other Nau extended family members. A beautiful contrast to the beach shoot, we captured the simple forms of each style and their graceful presence.

Hope you enjoy the fruits of our efforts.

You can see the behind-the-scenes takes from these shoots here.

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Photo by Ben Moon

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Photo by Ben Moon

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Photo by Ben Moon

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Photo by Ben Moon

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Photo by Ben Moon

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Photo by Ben Moon