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Posts Tagged ‘washington state’

Photo: BBC.
“In the extreme northwest corner of the contiguous US,” reports the BBC, a 1970s storm uncovered a forgotten village.

If Lewis Carroll’s “boiling hot” sea becomes a reality, if the ocean doesn’t overflow from melted icebergs but instead dries out, will the lost Kingdom of Atlantis rise up?

Something like that already happened in 1970 on the west coast of Washington state.

Brendan Sainsbury wrote at the BBC, “In 1970, a violent storm uncovered a Makah village that was buried by a mudslide more than 300 years earlier. A newly re-opened museum tells the fascinating story of the ancient site.

“Coming to the end of a short, winding trail, I found myself standing in the extreme north-west corner of the contiguous US, a wild, forested realm where white-capped waves slam against the isolated Washington coast with a savage ferocity. Buttressed by vertiginous cliffs battling with the corrosive power of the Pacific, Cape Flattery has an elemental, edge-of-continent feel. No town adorns this stormy promontory. The nearest settlement, Neah Bay, sits eight miles away by road, a diminutive coast-hugging community that is home to the Makah, an indigenous tribe who have fished and thrived in this region for centuries.

“The Makah are represented by the motif of a thunderbird perched atop a whale, and their story is closely linked to the sea.

” ‘The Makah is the only tribe with explicit treaty rights to whale hunting in the US,’ explained Rebekah Monette, a tribal member and historic preservation program manager. ‘Our expertise in whaling distinguished us from other tribes. It was very important culturally. In the stratification of Makah society, whaling was at the top of the hierarchy. Hunting had the capacity to supply food for a vast number of people and raw material for tools.’

“After reading recent news stories about the Makah’s whaling rights and the impact of climate change on their traditional waters, I had come to their 27,000-acre reservation on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula to learn more, by visiting a unique tribal museum that has just reopened after a two-year hiatus due to Covid-19.

“Due to a trick of fate, Makah history is exceptionally well-documented. In contrast to other North American civilizations, a snapshot of their past was captured and preserved by a single cataclysmic episode. In 1970, a brutal Pacific storm uncovered part of an abandoned coastal Makah village called Ozette located 15 miles south of Cape Flattery.

Part of the village had been buried by a mudslide that was possibly triggered by a dramatic seismic event around 1700, almost a century before the first European contact.

“Indeed, recent research argues that ancestors of the Makah – or related Wakashan speaking people – have been present in the area for at least 4,000 years, which, if proven, would change our understanding of prehistory in the Olympic Peninsula and Vancouver Island.

“Miraculously, the mud had protected embedded organic matter by sealing it off from the air. As a result, thousands of well-preserved artifacts that would normally have rotted – from intact woven cedar baskets to dog-hair blankets and wooden storage boxes – were able to be painstakingly unearthed during a pioneering archaeological dig. …

“The Washington Post called it ‘the most comprehensive collection of artifacts of a pre-European-contact Indian culture ever discovered in the United States.’

“Anxious the material might be engulfed by the sea and lost, the tribe called in Richard Daugherty, an influential archaeologist at Washington State University who’d been involved in fieldwork in the area since the 1940s. Having good connections with Congress, Daugherty helped secure federal funding for an exhaustive excavation.

” ‘Dr Daugherty was instrumental in the excavation work,’ recounted Monette. ‘He was very progressive and interested in working alongside the tribe.’ …

“The Makah, like many indigenous groups, have a strong oral tradition, with much of their history passed down through storytelling, song and dance. The evidence unearthed at Ozette affirmed these stories and added important details. …

“While much of the material dated from around 1700, some of it was significantly older. Indeed, archaeologists ultimately determined that multiple mudslides had hit Ozette over a number of centuries. Beneath one of the houses, another layer of well-preserved material dated back 800 years. The oldest finds so far have been radiocarbon-dated to 2,000 years and there are middens in the area that are at least 4,000 years old, according to [archaeologist Gary Wessen, a former field director at the site who later wrote a PhD dissertation on the topic].

“From the outset, the Ozette dig was different from other excavations. Tribal members worked alongside university students at the site, and, early on, it was decided that the unearthed material would stay on the reservation rather than be spirited off to distant universities or other non-indigenous institutions. In 1979, the tribe opened the Makah Cultural and Research Center in Neah Bay with a museum to house a ‘greatest hits’ of the collection. The 500 pieces currently on display represent less than 1% of the overall find.

” ‘The tribe was very assertive of their ownership and control of the collection,’ said Monette. ‘A lab was developed in Neah Bay. For the museum, we hired Jean Andre, the same exhibit designer as the Royal BC Museum in Victoria.’ “

More at the BBC, here. Doesn’t it sound like Pompeii, only with the preservative being mud instead of volcanic ash?

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Photo: Walter Siegmund via Wikimedia.
The forested western slopes of Washington State’s Fidalgo Island overlook the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

The pandemic may have distracted you and me from the environmental crisis, but many indigenous tribes have tackled Covid while also keeping their eye on the ball. In this article from the Washington Post, Jim Morrison explains that for the Swinomish people, it has something to do with their holistic world view.

“For 10,000 years,” he writes, “the Swinomish tribe has fished the waters of northwestern Washington, relying on the bounty of salmon and shellfish not only as a staple of its diet but as a centerpiece of its culture. At the beginning of the fishing season, the tribe gathers on the beach for a First Salmon ceremony, a feast honoring the return of the migratory fish that binds the generations of a tribe that calls itself the People of the Salmon.

“At the ceremony’s conclusion, single salmon are ferried by boat in four directions — north to Padilla Bay, east to the Skagit River, south to Skagit Bay and west to Deception Pass — and eased into the water with a prayer that they will tell other salmon how well they were treated.

“In recent years, though, the tribe’s harvest, diminished by vanishing habitat and warming waters fueled by climate change, hasn’t been sufficient to feed the hundreds of people who come to pay homage to their ancestors and to the fish that sustained them.

“ ‘We don’t have that abundance anymore,’ said Lorraine Loomis, an elder who has managed the tribal fishery for 40 years. ‘To get ceremonial fish, we buy it and freeze it.’

“For the Swinomish, perched on a vulnerable, low-lying reservation on Fidalgo Island, the effects of a warming world have been a gut punch.

“The tribe has responded with an ambitious, multipronged strategy to battle climate change and improve the health of the land and the water and the plants, animals and people who thrived in harmony for generations. In 2010, the Swinomish became one of the first communities to assess the problems posed by a warming planet and enact a climate action plan. An additional 50 Native American tribes have followed, creating climate strategies to protect their lands and cultures, ahead of most U.S. communities.

“The Swinomish see the tasks beyond addressing shoreline risk and restoring habitats. They look at climate adaptation and resilience with the eyes of countless generations. They recognize that the endangered ‘first foods’ — clams, oysters, elk, traditional plants and salmon — are not mere resources to be consumed. They are central to their values, beliefs and practices and, therefore, to their spiritual, cultural and community well-being.

“Loomis is 80. Every member of her family, from her grandfather to her nine great-grandchildren, has fished the tribe’s ancestral waters. She has watched over the decades as the salmon disappeared and her family turned to crab, geoduck and sea cucumbers. She’s seen the salmon season drop to only a few days per species from the eight months — May through December — of decades past in order to protect populations. The Skagit River is the last waterway in the continental United States that’s home to all five species of Pacific salmon.

“Progress has been slow; some researchers say it could be 90 years before the salmon recover. Loomis is taking the long view. ‘If I didn’t believe we would recover [the fishery], I guess I wouldn’t still be working on this,’ she said.

“In recent years, the tribe has fostered salmon recovery through a variety of projects. It has restored tidelands and channels, planted trees along streambeds to cool warming waters, and collaborated with farmers to increase stream setbacks to improve water quality.

“Restoring salmon populations is just part of an ambitious climate action plan to blunt the effects of increased flooding, ocean acidification, rising river temperatures, more-destructive storms and habitat loss.

“The Swinomish are rebuilding oyster reefs for the native Olympia oyster. They’re planning the first modern clam garden in the United States on the reservation’s tidelands, reviving an ancient practice. They’re monitoring deer and elk populations through camera traps to understand the climate change pressures and to inform hunting limits. And they have ongoing wetland restoration projects to explore preserving native plants and to help naturally manage coastal flooding.

“ ‘They’re doing really innovative climate adaptation,’ said Meade Krosby, a senior scientist with the Climate Impacts Group at the University of Washington. ‘They were way ahead of the curve.’ …

“Their plans merge traditional and academic resources. When looking at ways to protect wetlands, Todd Mitchell, the tribe’s director of environmental protection, discovered that knowledge about traditional plantings passed down through the generations was lost. So he turned to the University of Washington, which had archived notes by ethnographers and anthropologists who had interviewed tribe elders in the 1950s and 1960s.

“A tribal member who earned a geology degree from Dartmouth College and a master’s degree at Washington State University, Mitchell returned to work for the tribe 20 years ago. ‘I think the missing piece [is] how to take this straight-up science in the academic sense and put it together with traditional knowledge.’ …

“Jamie Donatuto, the tribe’s environmental health officer, and Larry Campbell, a 71-year-old tribal elder, have created a tool, Indigenous Health Indicators, that goes beyond typical morbidity and mortality measures and considers ecosystem health, social and cultural beliefs, and values integral to a community. …

“Seen through that lens, restoring ‘first foods’ is important not just for diet and nutrition but for nourishment of the soul. Living somewhere for a long time fosters a sense of place, and a sense of place fosters stewardship.

“ ‘It’s a different worldview,’ said Donatuto, who has a doctorate in resource management and environmental sustainability from the University of British Columbia. ‘The salmon and the crabs and the clams are relatives. They’re living relatives. They’re not just resources. And so you treat them with a symbiotic respect. They feed you because you take care of them. It’s a very different way of thinking about why these areas are important.’ ”

More at the Post, here.

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Photo: International Mermaid Museum.
This mermaid museum is in Washington State. It opened about the same time as one in Maryland.

I have a granddaughter who is into mermaids big time. And my friend Asakiyume has done considerable research on people who give expression to their inner mermaid on a regular basis. (See Asakiyume’s interview with a “mer-tail maker,” here.)

So I’m not as surprised as some folks might be that the interest in mermaids is enough to support two museums in the US, at least for now.

Hakim Bishara reports at Hyperallergic, “A curious, almost mystical coincidence occurred earlier this year when two separate mermaid-themed museums debuted almost simultaneously on opposite ends of the United States. First, it was the Mermaid Museum in the town of Berlin, Maryland, which opened its doors on March 27. Days later, on March 29, the International Mermaid Museum started welcoming visitors outside the coastal town of Aberdeen in Washington state.

“So, how can we explain this coast-to-coast siren call in the span of one week last spring? According to the respective founders of the two museums, Alyssa Maloof and Kim Roberts, they were just as surprised as anyone at the concomitance of their mermaid-centric projects. …

“Variations of the myth of fish-tailed people, first appearing in Mesopotamian art from the Old Babylonian Period, exist in nearly every oceanic culture, from Europe and the Americas to the Near East and Asia. Their magic endures, as evidenced by the stories behind these two new American mermaid museums.

“Both museums are self-funded, women-led projects that hold personal importance to their founders. And both happen to be located about nine miles from the ocean.

“Maloof, a visual artist and photographer, lived between Philadelphia and Berlin, Maryland, since 2018, until she eventually permanently settled in the small seaside town with her 7-year-old. She rented a studio space and prepared for a new chapter of her life and career, but then COVID-19 happened, forcing her to conjure up a new plan.

“It’s around then that the second floor of a 1906 building — built by the secret society of the International Order of Odd Fellows, as a wall insignia testifies — became available. Maloof used her savings to purchase the 2,200-square-foot space and started conducting research and collecting items for the museum.

“ ‘I thought of it as re-feminizing the space,’ she told Hyperallergic in a phone conversation, explaining that the project was a long-held dream driven by her ‘love of the feminine and the water.’

“Accrued from thrift shops and internet sites like eBay, the museum’s collection spans dozens of mermaid-related artifacts, most prominently a Fiji Mermaid, a mythical half monkey-half fish said to have been caught off the coast of Fiji. …

“The museum also features a timeline of mermaid sightings by sailors and pirates from the first century CE to as recently as 2017. It also offers activities for children, including a scavenger hunt and an opportunity to dress up like a mermaid. The Mermaid Museum’s gift shop sells aquatic paraphernalia crafted by local artists. …

“Thousands of miles away, on the other side of the country, the International Mermaid Museum is a nonprofit created with an educational mission to teach ocean ecology ‘from seashore to seafloor’ through mermaid mythology. According to Roberts, the museum is currently developing a curriculum for school children and will soon launch a scholarship program for individuals who wish to work in the marine industry. The museum’s board of directors is comprised entirely of local women leaders with an interest in ocean preservation.

“Roberts is an architect, author, and local entrepreneur who runs several businesses in Aberdeen with her husband Blain, an underwater photographer. … Roberts, a pioneering boat captain, has also authored three mystery novels set on Maui, where she and her husband formerly owned the island’s largest scuba charter.

“Roberts is also a venerated member of the West Coast mermaid community. In July, she received the 2021 Mermazing Citizen Award from the Portlandia Mermaid Parade and Festival. …

“Portland, Oregon, is home to one of the biggest modern-day mermaid societies in the country. Other groups are active in Seattle, California, Florida, and New York. They are part of a global community of merpeople (or ‘mers’) of all genders, who commune to swim together in mermaid costumes and tails. … They have a vibrant online community and local pods and meetup groups that organize conventions, festivals, and competitions. …

“The idea of creating a mermaid museum occurred to Roberts when a friend sent her a shipment of special seashells, among them a single ‘mermaid comb,’ also known as the Venus Comb murex. ‘That’s when it’s all clicked,’ she said. The museum was set to open in March of 2020, but because of the COVID-19 lockdown, the official opening was postponed to March 29 this year, which marks the annual International Mermaid Day.”

More at Hyperallergic, here. And if you have a middle grade reader who likes mer people, there are a few in Eva Ibbotson’s wonderful children’s fantasy Island of the Aunts, which has a not exactly hidden theme about protecting the sea.

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Photo: Mark Stone/University of Washington
Researchers Jenifer McIntyre, from left, Edward Kolodziej, and Zhenyu Tian investigate the salmon die-off at Longfellow Creek, an urban creek in the Seattle area.

Today’s post features two articles on a worrisome environmental issue. In the Guardian, Oliver Milman reports that pollution from abandoned tires is killing off salmon in the Pacific Northwest and may be harming other wildlife as well. But at the Christian Science Monitor, writer Lindsey McGinnis suggests help is on the way.

Oliver Milman: “Pollution from car tires that washes into waterways is helping cause a mass die-off of salmon on the US west coast, researchers have found.

“In recent years, scientists have realized half or more of the coho salmon, also known as silver salmon, returning to streams in Washington state were dying before spawning. The salmon, which reach 2ft in length, are born in freshwater streams before making an epic journey out to sea where they live most of their adult lives. A small number then return to their original streams to lay eggs before dying.

“The cause of the die-off has remained a mystery but a new study, published in Science, has seemingly found a culprit. When it rains, stormwater carries fragments of old car tires into nearby creeks and streams. The tires contain certain chemicals that prevent them breaking down but also prove deadly to the coho salmon. …

“Said Jenifer McIntyre, an assistant professor of aquatic toxicology at Washington State University. ‘The more we look, the more we find it. In some years all of the fish we find dead did not spawn.’

“Samples taken from urban streams around Puget Sound, near Seattle, and subsequent laboratory work identified a substance called 6PPD, which is used as a preservative for car tires, as the toxic chemical responsible for killing the salmon.”

What can be done? Lindsey McGinnis talks to a group of inventive young people in England who may have an answer.

“Every time a car brakes, accelerates, or changes direction, the friction wears down the exterior of the tire, sending particles into the environment. Some remain suspended in the air, and others get swept into local waterways, where they can have devastating effects on plant and animal life. …

“A group of master’s students from Imperial College London and the Royal College of Art had an idea: what if the tires picked up after themselves?

“The Tyre Collective, a project by recent graduates Hugo Richardson, Siobhan Anderson, Deepak Mallya, and Hanson Cheng, seeks to capture this stealthy pollutant as it flies off the wheel. For the past year, they’ve been working on a device that can attach to the bottom of a car and use electrostatic charges, along with the airflow of the moving wheel, to collect particles for reuse.  

“The inspiration came from rubbing a balloon over a sweater and seeing the pieces ‘dancing around,’ says Mr. Richardson, chief technical officer of The Tyre Collective. ‘That led us to the assumption that the particles are charged due to the friction.’ ” 

The Tyre Collective won the 2020 James Dyson Award for the UK, which celebrates the next generation of design engineers. It was a runner-up for the international version of the award.

“Gavin Whitmore, manager of the Tire Industry Project, an initiative by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development geared toward better understanding the potential health and environmental impact of tires, says his organization is keeping an eye on their work … said, ‘We’re certainly interested to learn more, because it could be a very, very promising thing.’

“Tires are more complex than they look. The vulcanized rubber compound that makes up the outermost layer, the tread, often contains sulfur, zinc, carbon black, bisphenol A (BPA), and other chemicals. A lot of that gets swept off the roads by rain, along with motor oil, bits of pavement, and other litter.

“A three-year study by the San Francisco Estuary Institute (SFEI) found that stormwater carries roughly 7 trillion microplastic pieces into the bay annually – more than 300 times the discharge from the area’s wastewater treatment plant. Nearly half of those appear to be tire fragments.

” ‘Seeing all these black rubbery particles was a surprise,’ said Rebecca Sutton, a senior scientist at SFEI. … ‘No one had really looked at stormwater. It’s also probably just a tip of the iceberg, because most tire particles are actually smaller than our sieve size.’ …

“Tires are the second-largest source of primary microplastic pollution in the ocean, after synthetic textiles, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources. To reduce the amount of tire pollution, Dr. Sutton says governments could consider setting emission standards similar to those for engine exhaust.

“But it can be hard to figure out how much material tires are actually shedding, or should be shedding. Tire wear is heavily influenced by the roadway, the weight and type of vehicle, and the driver’s behavior. In London, The Tyre Collective says a busy bus route can generate a grapefruit-size pile of tire dust in a day. …

“Says Sarah Amick, vice president of environment, health, safety, and sustainability for the U.S. Tire Manufacturers Association, ‘Tires are one of the most regulated products for safety in the United States. [Ensuring] that we can continue to meet those safety requirements, plus adding more renewable and recyclable materials to our tires, it’s a challenge, but our members are working on that.’ …

“During lockdown, the [Tyre Collective] team has focused on turning their vision into a full-fledged startup. They say several manufacturers have expressed interest in their design, though no partnership has been formalized yet. When restrictions due to COVID-19 ease, they’re looking forward to returning to the lab and producing a set of first-generation prototypes to test with potential partners.” More

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beaver-map-saltwater-beavers

Illustration: Mark Garrison
“The mouths of the Elwha, Snohomish, and Skagit rivers in Washington State provide important saltwater habitat for beavers, salmon, and other estuarine species,” says the radio show Living on Earth.

One of the main reasons I like writing a blog is that I like to learn new things and to have something interesting to think about. I save up promising links, sometimes just because the headline looks interesting. Later, when I actually work on the post, it’s such a treat to read the whole story!

When I saw that there was such a thing as saltwater beavers, I thought, Really? This is a keeper!

From the radio show Living on Earth: “Until recently, biologists assumed that beavers occupied freshwater ecosystems only. But scientists are now studying beavers living in brackish water and how they help restore degraded estuaries and provide crucial habitat for salmon, waterfowl, and many other species. Journalist Ben Goldfarb speaks with Host Bobby Bascomb.

“BASCOMB: The eager beaver is an extremely effective engineer of its environment. Beaver dams hold back water that can be a nuisance to homeowners, but they create a complex system of ponds and wetlands that are a haven for numerous plant and animal species. …

“Scientists recently discovered that beavers are also happy to live in the brackish mix of fresh and salt water in coastal areas. And just as they help restore freshwater ecosystems, beavers could also hold the key to restoring damaged coastal wetlands. Journalist Ben Goldfarb wrote about saltwater beavers for Hakai Magazine. …

“Ben, how surprised were you to find out that there are saltwater beavers? …

“GOLDFARB: It was definitely surprising. … It’s just really within the last several years, thanks in large part to this guy, Greg Hood, a scientist who works in the Skagit river in Washington, that we’ve begun to understand that [beavers are] living full-time in these intertidal estuaries. …

“BASCOMB: You actually went to visit one of those beaver lodges on this Snohomish river in Puget Sound. Can you describe that? …

“GOLDFARB: It’s kind of this huge saltmarsh that’s scored with these little freshwater channels that freshwater comes down in. But then when the tide comes up twice a day, those freshwater channels are completely submerged, they’re inundated. So it’s this really dynamic ecosystem with the tides are just going in and out all the time. And beavers are actually building in there. So they’ll build these dams that when the tide comes up, the dams are actually completely submerged under water, you could kayak over the top of one of these dams and have no idea that they were beavers building there. And then when the tide goes out again those dams suddenly reemerge. …

[It’s] almost like the beavers are anticipating these tidal fluctuations and are accounting for them in their construction, and in this really sophisticated way. …

“BASCOMB: How do their dams in these intertidal areas affect the ecosystem around them? …

“GOLDFARB: What Greg found is that [these beaver construction sites] are hugely important for juvenile salmon, especially. You know when the tide goes out, those fish would get flushed out into these estuaries where they’re really at risk of being preyed upon by larger fish, by birds. … Baby salmon were three times more abundant in these beaver pools than in other habitat. …

“BASCOMB: Wow. So, they really serve a critical function. I mean, everybody likes salmon, right? The bears, the whales, people. …

“GOLDFARB: We saw this past year just how badly the southern resident killer whales are doing, the orcas in Puget Sound, and they’re essentially starving because there’s just not enough salmon. …

“BASCOMB: It’s all connected. Now, you write about how beaver ponds can help restore degraded coastal wetlands. And there’s clear evidence for that in removal of dams on the Elwha River in Washington State. …

“GOLDFARB: Two enormous dams had basically been there since the ’20s, I think, just trapping enormous amounts of sediment and blocking salmon runs. … A few years ago the government actually bought those dams and — thanks to pressure from native tribes — removed the dams, and opened up this huge amount of spawning habitat for salmon, so now salmon are swimming up river, past the former dam sites.

“[But] the river mouth had been starved of sediment for so long that it basically just flowed straight into the ocean. There was no real estuary there. … Beavers are really going into town in there. And by creating burrows and canals and dams, they’re just creating this amazing habitat complexity. They’re just opening up lots and lots of little spaces for all kinds of salmon and trout and other fish to live in.”

More here.

Photo: Becky Matsubara, Flickr
Because they build dams that shape the very environments in which they live, beavers are a classic example of a “keystone species.”

beaver-beaver

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Here’s a creative way to address the urgent need for housing in this country: make a deal with Canada to take the houses it doesn’t want anymore.

Kirk Johnson has the story at the NY Times.

“In the San Juan Islands of northwest Washington State, where a severe shortage of affordable housing threatens the economy and the community, a small nonprofit group has found an unlikely way to help anchor families that are struggling to stay — by lifting up unloved houses in Canada, hoisting them onto barges and hauling them to where they are needed. …

“The structures had what builders call good bones, and the group, the San Juan Community HomeTrust, discovered that the cost of transporting them across the Haro Strait from Canada and restoring them here was comparable to the cost of building from scratch. …

“The number of people living in poverty in the county has risen about 17 percent since the end of the recession in 2009, according to census figures, even as the economic recovery in Washington and around the nation gained steam.

“ ‘It’s kind life or death to keep our working families here,’ said Peter Kilpatrick, the project manager in refitting the houses to be imported by the San Juan Community HomeTrust. When the rewiring, painting and structural repairs are finished in June, buyers who have already met income and residency requirements can take possession.

“Through a combination of donated land, government and foundation grants and local fund-raising, the homes will cost the buyers — a hospital worker, several teachers and a massage therapist among them — from $160,000 to $210,000. The median market price here was almost $500,000 at the end of last year.” More here.

Nothing like a little recycling ingenuity applied to a problem! In fact, I was just commenting to a blogger who’s teaching in El Salvador that the locals’ skill at repairing and reusing items is a great foundation for creative problem solving in general. (Please read Milford Street’s report from El Salvador, here.)

Photo: Nancy DeVaux
Houses from Canada were transported by barge to the San Juan Islands in Washington State, where affordable housing is badly needed.

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