I'm not just a tree hugger; I'm a tree kisser.
Okay -- I don't actually kiss trees all that often (finding them to be rather rough and cool to the touch), but I do have an abiding passion for trees, and for the natural world in general. Growing up in the then-small town of Sebastopol in northern California, I had old, untamed apple orchards and open fields for playgrounds. My brother and sister and I spent our leisure time tunneling in the tall grass and climbing trees. We didn't play video games or watch television; our recreation was the wild outdoors.
At the time, mind you, I thought this patently unfair, and I was pretty sure that being denied video games and MTV was the greatest tragedy ever (which maybe it was, because back then MTV was still cool). But instead of learning how to thumb the Nintendo controls faster, I learned how the earth smelled after a rain. Instead of zorbing on music videos, I noticed how the light moved through the trees, and how a long grass blade would bend under a breeze.
Summers and weekends were the crowning glories of our outdoorsy lifestyle when we were kids. We often piled into Mom or Dad's car for camping trips in the Sierra Nevada mountain range (a six hour drive) or the nearby California coastline. We swam in icemelt streams and glacier-hewn swimming holes, clambered along coastal precipices, poked around in tidepools, and backpacked into the wilderness for days. And I loved it. I loved spending my days outside, calloused feet and all.
Those experiences matured into an overall awareness of my natural environment as I grew up, and I've never lost that sense of childlike awe at witnessing the natural world in motion (or in stillness, for that matter). It still makes my heart leap to see wet yellow leaves dangling from bare maple twigs in the fall, or watch a sunrise, or glimpse dolphins playing in open ocean waters, or stand in cool, wafting mists to listen to the oceanic roar of a great waterfall. I gasp. I point. I get wide-eyed. And I just don't get nature-non-appreciators. I just don't relate. I think this earth is absolutely breathtaking. I love it, passionately.
The natural world isn't separate from humankind - it's a precious, fragile, and integral part of who we are and where we live, and I feel lucky to have been raised with an active awareness of that (thanks, grownups!). And as an adult nature nerd, it's tough to avoid feeling a sense of heartbreak about the immense ecological impact that we "civilized" humans unwittingly make on this little blue planet every single day. Whether you personally believe in the existence of global warming or not, no one can deny that there are several human-created, Texas-sized plastic garbage patches floating in our oceans, or dismiss the images of pelicans mired in sludge from the BP oil spill -- casualties of human errors it will take our planet untold decades to recover from. We've been very, very careless.
As a wedding photographer and a person, I make every effort to run a sustainable business and live an environmentally friendly life. I live in Portland, Oregon, one of the greenest cities in the world. I reuse, I reduce, I recycle. I compost. I take cloth totes to the grocery store and decline plastic bags everywhere I go. I bike or bus whenever possible and I offset my emissions. I pay attention to packaging (especially plastic, which never erodes) and make earth-friendly choices as often as possible. But I still have moments of true, wretched despair over the realization that no matter how careful I am about my own impact, I can never undo everything being done to our planet on a daily basis.
Despair is like a sadness sandwich on hopeless bread. And sadness is one thing, but I'm not the biggest fan of feeling hopeless at the same time. It feels suffocating... dude, despair blows. But! I know that I have the power to change the way I feel, no matter how impossible that seems, yadda yadda self help book excerpt etc. So recently, I decided to take action.
So here goes: I hereby pledge to donate at least 5% of Luminous Studios' profits every year to protect our environment (some years it will be more, but it will always be at least 5%). I do so knowing that this may be tough to give sometimes, because the profit margin on wedding photography probably isn't what you think-- but knowing that I am committed to giving even when it feels tough, because the plight of the polar bears is more critical than whether I get to buy an iPad this year. And I do so knowing that this gesture won't save the planet singlehandedly, but knowing that it will make a difference. Think about it: how many times have you heard a fundraising friend plead, "even five bucks helps"? Well, it's true - because just five bucks from a hundred people equals $500 in good money that came pretty painlessly from many pockets. And funds from people like you and me are what send cleanup teams, wildlife veterinarians, biologists, researchers, volunteers and many others out into the natural world to effect change. No one person can do it alone, but together, by combining resources, we can make a difference.
So here's where I need your help. Since initially broaching this subject on Facebook last week, I've received some great suggestions for worthy organizations from some very knowledgeable friends. But I want to open this up for your input here on the blog. I know what I care about, but I want to know what you care about and I need your help selecting an organization to give to this year. So please tell me - what's important to you? If there's an environmental cause, or a specific organization close to your heart, please advocate for your cause with a comment below, and spread the word to others so they can contribute their votes as well.
The only criteria is that any suggested organizations must be nonprofit, and causes must be focused on protecting our natural world. (This includes wildlife, but not stray cat spay/neuter programs, mmkay people?) I'll announce the chosen organization here in about two weeks, on December 3rd.
And please, spread the word. The more the merrier. And if you ever find yourself with an extra $5 burning a hole in your pocket, please, please consider giving it away.
P.S. Photos taken in Zion National Park in Utah and the Virgin River Canyon in Arizona. <3