This web site is a resource for life, science and civilization in Okanogan County and North-Central Washington.
These web pages were created to encourage more outdoor education and research with stimulating collections of images.
For instance try visiting these:
There are resources here for ecology, botany, invasive species, geology, chemistry and conservation, as well as networking tools. Okanogan County has an amazing natural and cultural diversity that makes it easy to learn about life sciences. As I gaze out my window in Twisp, the foothills of the Chelan-Sawtooth Range are visible to the west and the Okanogan Range can be seen to the east. The Methow and Twisp Rivers join together here on their way to the Columbia River.
Our good fortune to live in a natural place is no longer possible in much of urban America. Trout-filled rushing rivers aren't always available in paved-over environments. Some kids have grown up thinking life's essentials come from a box. People have lost touch with their families. Lucky for country folks most of us still live and breathe in a natural world with real birds that aren't just robins, pigeons and starlings. And there is still a lot of country in North Central Washington. The picture on the right shows Twisp Park.
The biological diversity of Okanogan County makes this an open classroom. Although you can get pictures on the web and on Google Earth, you might get the mistaken impression that we are just a tourist destination or a western theme town. The web can't convey the smell of the sagebrush, the chirping of the crickets on the rimrock cliffs, the slap of smoke that is the first hint of a wildfire or the warm glow of a campfire. This is a great place for a little bit of creative enrichment.
Here is a short story about the importance of field research. Long ago, before everyone flew around in airplanes, a geologist named J Harlan Bretz (no period after the J) discovered that the landscape of North Central Washington had been marked by cataclysmic ice-age floodsand huge coulees. Palouse Falls shown on the right is just a tiny trickle compared to the size of the deluge that carved the chasm. But Bretz was a field geologist and what he saw first-hand might as well have been a fairy tale as far as the rest of his geological colleagues were concerned. So when he announced this to the world, he was scorned and cast out from the Geological Society, whose prophets decreed that floods of Biblical proportions did not belong in science. For decades, Bretz never faltered from his theory, while these wise men of the east continued to criticize him from afar. Bretz offered that they should come see the evidence for themselves, but this did not occur until he was much older. When long-time critic James Gilluly finally came to Eastern Washington and saw Dry Falls for the first time, he recanted with the words, "How could anyone have been so wrong?" So after nearly 50 years, in 1965 the Geological Society concluded that Bretz had been right all along. The point here is that this only happened after the other geologists had first hand evidence and saw the evidence for themselves.
Most people know what Web 2.0 is, and if you don't then Google it or risk being a total fossil. But we need Science 2.0. Sadly, even scientific information has become locked in the ivory tower of academic libraries where it is practically inaccessible to the public. If knowledge is proprietary, then it is not really information. Take the scientific publishing industry, whose businesses depend on stocking peer-reviewed journals in the libraries of academic ivory towers. Although the publishing monopoly on science journals is changing slowly, open scientific inquiry remains largely hampered by restricted access to scientific information.
For the public fare, we have virtualized reality masquerading as science. Our culture is being replaced by buttons and machines. Our distinctive identities are becoming milque-toasted. Are you an icon? Even the term "icon" has changed from its original meaning of something great, to practically the opposite--a small symbolic picture. Virtualization of culture isolates people from the real world and from each other. Even as the internet widens our connections with friends, there is no cell phone replacement for a hug. ihug? Technological hugs are also more costly in the sense that technological advances drive consumption and development. Our civilization is drowning in our own entropy. If we want to do something good for humanity, then let's learn how the world works and go with the flow, not against it. We should take the time to listen to the Okanogan Tribes who have been living here since the dawn of Western Civilization.
The best science lesson comes from the real world. Dry Falls didn't exist in the minds of the Geological Society members until they saw it. But Bretz never lost his sense of humor because he knew that one day his colleagues would see it and would they ever eat crow. The take home lesson is that if we are willing to pay attention to nature, we might actually be able to save civilization and see the dawn. But this means you are going to have to hitch hike to the Okanogan, home of Western Civilization.