Friday, July 16, 2021

History of Backcountry Water Filters and Treatment



In the Bible, water is symbolic of life. But not just any water. Specifically clean water that is good tasting is used to represent the essence of life. This is a fitting analogy that any backcountry traveler can understand deeply. When you are hot and thirsty, nothing is more refreshing than clean, cool water. Sadly, safe drinking water is hard to find. That's why a billion dollar industry has grown up around treating water. This is a history of how humans progressed from drinking dirty water in the backcountry to carrying their own water treatment plant in their pocket.

During the American Civil War, soldiers drank contaminated water frequently. Due to the hyper-consecration of people in camps, sewages routinely contaminated the drinking water supply to a worse extent than it would have been in its natural state. Illness and gastrointestinal problems were rampant due to a lack of understanding of basic germ theory.1

This general lack of understanding persisted as the Western Frontier continued to be settled and as New Englanders discovered the joys of camping. Because they often did not camp in such large groups, illness was not as prevalent in camps following the Civil War.

William HH Murray ignited the camping movement with his how-to guide to the Adirondacks in 1869. Unsurprisingly, he makes no reference to filtering or boiling water. He does inform campers where to find fresh, clean drinking water from springs. Nor does George Washington Sears in his classic book Woodcraft make any reference to treating water. How did they and a multitude of other campers avoid sickness? By a combination of luck and taste.

As we saw in Murray’s book, campers, and most people in pre-modern times, would have preferred the cool, fresh water supplied by springs when they could get their hands in it. Spring water tends to be untainted and safe to drink. At least it was often so before the 1900’s and mass urbanization. So this water was unlikely to make the drinker sick. Secondly, it becomes obvious when reading through the afore mentioned books, that people in those days were obsessed with coffee and tea. This was an ideal drink for campers because it could mask the taste of bad water and provide warmth in cool conditions. These drinks had the unintended consequence of requiring water to be boiled. So much of the water early campers consumed was either naturally safe or boiled. But without germ theory, plenty of campers still got sick. Their own lack of hygiene often contributed.

Campers finally wised up in the 1890’s as germ theory became common knowledge. George O. Shields’ book Camping and Camp Outfits is one of the earliest books to advise campers to boil their water. “If the water is stagnant or impure, it should be boiled before drinking it.”2

Finally, doctors understood the cause of numerous illnesses acquired in camps. Some doctors experimented with sand filtration as early as 1855. But this did not see widespread adoption in the United States until the early 1900's after scientists and community leaders understood germ theory.3

Lord Bayden-Powell published his book Scouting for Boys and started the first Boy Scouts program in England in 1908. In his book he teaches readers the importance of drinking clean water. It is obvious he sought to teach them about germ theory as well for many commoners may not have understood the principles at this time. He suggests that if water cannot be obtained from a known "clean" source it should be boiled. Bayden-Powell had a long career in the military prior to beginning his youth work and probably drew his knowledge from common military practice of the turn of the century. Bayden-Powell's scouting program would go on to provide the foundation for camping skills for the next several generations.

Boy Scouts became a major force in the United States following its arrival in 1911. Its programs introduced generations of youth to the noble sport of camping throughout the 20th century. Boy Scouts strove to teach the latest and safest practices to its enrollees. In a 1911 issue of Boy's Life, an article illustrates how to make a water filter from natural sand and stones layered into a bucket. The point was to filter out visible sediments not pathogens. But nevertheless, we see from it's earliest days, Boy Scouts was committed to educating scouts on safe water procurement.4

Chemical treatment was first used in in the United States around this same time in 1908 when Dr. John Leal secretly began treating New Jersey's water supply with chlorine. His idea was based on systems that had already been implemented in Europe in years prior, but he kept his chemical treatment operation a secret for fear of public backlash from a general public that did not understand this new science. His solution was effective and US water systems have been chlorinated ever since.5 However, this did not help campers in the backcountry.

An easy field solution to treat water chemically was developed by Col. William Lyster. In 1913, he perfected a portable water bag system (termed Lyster bag) for chlorinating drinking water for the U.S. military. His system was deployed during WWI and used until better systems were devised for WWII. His system was used by civilian campers and recreation programs well into the 20th century. It generally used liquid chlorine.6

Lyster Bag (alt spelling "Lister")


Towards the end of WWI, chlorine tablets known as halazone were created and provided to individual soldiers for use when they were away from camp. It was not until WWII that these tablets saw widespread use by the military. This was lighter and easier than liquid chlorine.7 Halazone tablets were first advertised to campers in a 1933 issue of Boy's Life produced by a company called Bauer & Black.8

Iodine water treatment was used by militaries in the 1920's to a limited extent. During WWII, Harvard University worked along with the U.S. Army to develop portable iodine tablets that were more user friendly. This resulted in Potable Aqua iodine tablets. Following the war, as camping exploded in popularity, Potable Aqua found a new market, and campers gained an easy method to make truly safe drinking water.9

Summer camp programs also became very popular following the end of WWII. Bigger camps with established facilities used traditional means of treating their water. Smaller, less permanent camps sometimes used a Lyster bag system. In a 1949 issue of The Camping Magazine, a magazine for summer camp directors and operators, a gravity bag filter system was advertised. It was advertised as being completely portable. Sadly no photo of the system was provided. So just how portable, and how many people it was designed to support is unknown.10

The first portable water filter durable enough to be used while backpacking was the classic Katadyn Pocket filter. It is heavy by today’s standards, but at the time was revolutionary. However, when it was introduced, the idea of water filtration was not common and thus the water filter did not become a standard feature until the 1980’s. The Pocket is still a moderately common choice for backcountry expeditions today.11

Katadyn Pocket Filter
 

For most backpackers in the midcentury, boiling or chemical treatment were the defacto water treatment. In his classic guide, The Complete Walker, author Colin Fletcher does not mention the Katadyn Pocket filter, or any other filtration process. He advices readers to boil or chemically treat water from questionable sources. He feels most mountain springs are safe, but other water sources should be suspect and treated.12

Following WWII, a wide array of filter products became available for boaters and campers. One especially compact version called the Filopur was advertised in Field and Stream in the 1970's. It was designed for use car camping and on small boats. Most all of these products were too bulky to be carried into the backcountry on foot.13

Today, straw-like water filter designs are common, but that wasn't always the case. Before the early 2000s, most water filters featured a pump design. However, the first known water filter designed specifically for backpacking had a straw formfactor. An ad for The Super Straw appeared in the August 1977 issue of Backpacker Magazine surrounded by ad's showing photos of the Jumar ascender and Danner's burley hiking boots. The Super Straw featured activated charcoal and was advertised as an addition to chemical treatment that could remove the foul test left behind. It does not seem to have reached widespread use as few other ads for the product could be found.14

Surprisingly, it appears the Katadyn Pocket filter was not discovered by backpackers until the late ‘70s or early ‘80s. A 1984 article in Field & Stream warns readers about various water pathogen threats to unsuspecting thirsty hikers. The author points out the inconvenience of chemical treatment which takes a lot of time and leaves a bad aftertaste. He also laments how boiling water robs it of its cool, refreshing quality. He then introduced the Katadyn Pocket filter as if most readers have never heard of a portable water filter light enough to take backpacking. This seems the beginning of a new product market as numerous filters will be advertised in the next two decades, most not very successful, but a few that become trail staples.15.

One possible cause for the explosion of lightweight portable water filters was increasing public fear of giardia lambelia. Reports show that giardia outbreaks peaked in the early 1980s.15a  Frequent news reports of the dangers of this dreaded sickness may have forced backcountry travelers to rethink the classic approaches to water treatment. Chlorine and iodine treatments are only partially effective against giardia, and ineffective against cryptosporidium. While boiling is generally effective, it is time and fuel intensive.16

Ads for water filters and purifiers lauded their ability to make water safe from the dreaded giardia. One 1981 ad promotes a water filter model elegantly named The Giardia Trap.17. Water purifiers were filters with a chemical matrix stage added to provide even more pathogen fighting power. These were often iodine based. The matrix used a charged iodine ion that was highly effective against giardia, much more so than classic iodine tablets.18 These early water purifiers often had a funnel design. One had to assemble the pieces then set atop a container to catch the treated water below. A cup was used to pour water in the top and keep adding slowly as the water drained through. A few models were around as early as the mid-70s.



Neo Filter

By the late 80s, water filters became an essential piece of backcountry gear. More competitors were entering the market. MSR entered the industry in 1990 and released their first filter in 1991. The WaterWorks Total Filtration System, was elegant and easy to use. It was also lightweight. With this first model, MSR began to push the boundaries of water filter design and kept doing so for several decades. In 1994, MSR introduced a ceramic filter option but at a much cheaper price point than other ceramic filters. The WaterWorks filter has seen several design updates and name changes to improve it’s functionality. Yet it has remained one of the top selling filters.19.

Pump filters were a mainstay of the 1990s and early 2000s. A revolution in thinking came in 2005 with the introduction of the LifeStraw. This was a compact and lightweight water filter that required no pumping, hoses, or replacing of filters. It quickly became a filter every backcountry traveler wanted to try. It seemed so simple, just as easy as drinking through a straw, no extra work required. In practice, it was not so simple. Larger debris needs to be removed to avoid rapid clogging. Also, because it is a straw, an open water container is required to use the filter.

This is inconvenient for hikers who may prefer to keep moving while sipping water. Additionally, it does not provide a ready solution to filter large quantities of water for later use or for food preparation. Nor is it meant to share amongst a group. The straw design limits it to use by one person. These limitations kept the LifeStraw from greater popularity among backpackers and other backcountry travelers. However, it is still popular among day hikers and preppers who favor a lightweight, small filter that is primarily reserved for emergency situations rather than daily use.

While the LifeStraw has seen limited adoption, it’s design has influenced the whole industry of backcountry water filters. It has created a string of copycats as well as influenced other popular designs. Following the release of the LifeStraw came numerous water bottles with a built in straw filter. Other in-line filters have become common. One notable example is the Sawyer family of hollow fiber membrane filters. Starting in 2009, Sawyer released a small, black filter meant to be used in the line of a water bladder hose. Sawyer has since released several variations of its design but all are built around this in-line filter philosophy. They have also emphasized affordability in their products. The combination of a lightweight, reliable product, with a low price point below $50, has helped them become one of the most common brands on the trail.20


LifeStraw Filter (photo by Badri Sheshadri)


One last honorable mention in this saga is the SteriPEN UV water purifier. It even made Time Magazine's list of 100 greatest and most influential gadgets from 1923-present. This list includes only electronic gadgets so no other water treatment items were included.21 In 1997, Miles Maiden, a solar technology researcher and self-described outdoorsman invented a handheld UV light to sterilize small amounts of water. He called it the SteriPEN. It provides a dose of UV light strong enough to kill any pathogens.

However it does have its limits. The water must be visibly clear as particles in water can block the UV rays. So prefiltration is often required. Also, it cannot remove toxic chemicals or heavy metals. So a filter is also required if this is a concern. Finally, it is limited by the weaknesses common to all electronics. So it should never be the sole source of water treatment for a backcountry traveler. Nevertheless, it is a great feat of engineering and much quicker than chemical alternatives.22

In modern times there are certainly a lot of water treatment options to choose from. This diversity is good as it allows users to choose the best option for their unique needs and destination. Companies will continue to innovate and make their products better. The future of water treatment technology is yet to be written.




Written by David F. Garner


Sources

1. https://www.bethelhistorical.org/legacy-site/Drinking_Water_in_the_Civil_War.html

2. https://northernbush.com/wp-content/downloads/woodcraft/Shields-George-Camping-and-Camp-Outfits-1890.pdf (see pg 51)

3. https://nepis.epa.gov/Exe/ZyPURL.cgi?Dockey=200024H9.txt

4. https://books.google.com/books?id=GP19Dn55Qq8C&lpg

5. https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2014/10/30/1331082/-How-John-Leal-Put-Poison-In-Our-Drinking-Water-And-Saved-Us-All

6. https://history.amedd.army.mil/booksdocs/misc/evprev/ch7.htm

7. Russell, Philip. 100 Military Inventions that Changed the World. United Kingdom: Little, Brown Book Group, 2013.

8. https://books.google.com/books?id=xQVf9FBnxdQC&pg=PA30&dq=halazone&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjM-O6JgtLxAhUHheAKHRFQCcYQ6AF6BAgLEAI#v=onepage&q=halazone&f=false

9. https://www.potableaqua.com/history/#:~:text=Potable%20Aqua%C2%AE%20iodine%20water,disinfection%20for%20over%2050%20years

10. The Camping Magazine. United States: American Camping Association, 1949. https://archive.org/details/sim_camping-magazine_1932-01_4_4

11. https://de.zxc.wiki/wiki/Katadyn

12. Colin Fletcher, The Complete Walker, 1968, pg 94.

13. https://books.google.com/books?id=749LR15uQzoC&pg=PA140&dq=water+filter&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjR7rKRksrxAhUHmGoFHfI3CIk4FBDoATABegQICxAC#v=onepage&q=water%20filter&f=false

14. https://books.google.com/books?id=8N8DAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA77&dq=water+filter&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjVqKH7jcrxAhWFlGoFHTbiDAUQ6AEwAXoECAQQAg#v=onepage&q=water%20filter&f=false

15. https://books.google.com/books/about/Field_Stream.html?id=AQoUSNNI5h8C


15a. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5150856/

16. https://www.health.state.mn.us/diseases/waterborne/prevention/backcountry.pdf

17. https://books.google.com/books/about/Backpacker.html?id=8d8DAAAAMBAJ

18. https://books.google.com/books/about/Backpacker.html?id=o-EDAAAAMBAJ

19. https://www.msrgear.com/blog/gear-archives-trusted-source-evolution-miniworks-ex-microfilter/

20. https://sawyer.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/UNC-Handout_2015-10-21.pdf

21. http://content.time.com/time/specials/packages/completelist/0,29569,2023689,00.html

22. https://bangordailynews.com/2011/12/14/outdoors/blue-hill-outdoorsman-inventor-paves-the-way-to-safe-water-any-time-anywhere/




Sunday, July 4, 2021

The Independence Tree

Note: This devotional thought is designed to be used in an individual or group setting. 


What does independence mean to you?

The oak tree is the national tree of the United States. It represents strength and endurance which are qualities we prize as Americans. It is also a symbol of righteousness. 

It is often depicted standing alone in a field surrounded by grass. This is because of an ecological community where oak trees are the only tree surrounded by grassland. These result from fires because oaks are often the only species that can survive the fire. After the fire, grasses grow in quickly. Farmers like these kinds of fields for their livestock. The occasional oak tree located in a field provides shade for the animals on hot days. The thick bark provides a good surface for livestock to scratch their backs without damaging the tree. When growing alone as in a field, their crowns will spread wide, as much as 80 feet of ground coverage. They create an imposing image. 

At first glance it seems these oak trees are the epitome of independence. They are hearty enough to withstand forest fires and livestock. They live extremely long lives living to 300+ years, and are resistant to pests and rot. Their only real enemy is man who may cut them down. Luckily we tend to prize oaks so we often leave them when cutting down others around them. 

Oak trees are mentioned in the Bible a few times. Most notable are the oaks of Mamre that Abraham camped near. Some versions say great trees but they are often called oak trees as oaks are common in that region. These trees are closely associated with Abraham and his legacy. 

Let’s read about the most important event that took place under one of these trees. Please read Genesis 18:1-10 In this text we learn that Jesus himself visits Abraham. Here he promises to give Abraham and Sarah a miracle child through whom all nations will be blessed. Why did Jesus choose to visit Abraham in person and promise to bless the whole world through him? Was it because of Abrahams money or popularity? No. Let’s read further to find out. Please read Genesis 18:16-26.

The conversation continues until Jesus agrees to spare Sodom and Gamora if there are just 10 righteous people in the city. This is the true reason God chose Abraham to be the line through which the savior would come. Abraham was a righteous man. Now read Isaiah 61:3 (note some versions simply say trees but most say oaks in this verse). In the Bible, oaks represent righteousness. Why was Abraham considered a righteous man? Finally, please read Romans 4:13. Abraham was made righteous through his faith in God. 

I want to share a few more facts about oak trees with you. They are considered a keystone species. If the oak trees in an ecosystem die off, this can cause the ecosystem to crash and many other species can die in that region. Just like if you pulled the keystone out of an arch, the whole thing can come tumbling down. Oak trees are believed to support at least 4000 other species either directly or indirectly. Many common native plants play host to 15-30 species directly or indirectly on average. There may be a few species of mammals that eat those plants for food also. But oaks are unique among trees in North America. They are believed to support the most species of any tree that grows here. They can withstand fire as was mentioned. They are able to withstand hurricane force winds and droughts better than many other species. They can do this because of their tap root. When an acorn falls to the ground, the first sprout does not grow up as with some seeds, it grows straight down. The sprout is sensitive to gravity and knows which way to grow. It does not grow sideways or at an angle. It boroughs straight down into the earth. It continues growing like this for the life of the oak tree. Other roots will later grow sideways and every which way. But the taproot is the anchor. It literally roots the tree deep in the earth. 

It also reaches water sources deep in the ground that other plants and trees often cannot reach because they do not grow deep roots. More importantly, the roots of the tree form connections with up to 40 different species of fungi growing in the dirt. This is common to many tree species. Tree roots form mycorrhizal networks with the fungi underground. The fungi break down the nutrients in the soil and pass it on to the tree roots, the tree in turn provides carbon from the atmosphere to the fungi. This symbiotic relationship is vital to tree survival. 

Some acorns get carried long distances from its parent tree and deposited in the middle of a field where no other trees are growing. Where do the fungi come from? After all, each tree species can only from these networks with specific fungi species. Well, the spores of the appropriate fungi are transferred near the young tree by animals, usually birds or mammals. 

The point is that the oak tree, symbol of independence, strength and righteousness, cannot function in isolation. We tend to picture oaks growing alone in a field, or our yard. But they are not alone. They are supported first and foremost by their long root growing deep in the bedrock of earth. Second they are supported by a vast community of fungi, mammals, birds, and other creatures. Their strength comes from the community that grows around. 

It was the same for Abraham, his righteousness came not from within himself, but from a deep and abiding faith rooted in the True rock. He was supported by the community of believers around him that left Ur along with him, his wife, Lot, his trusted servant. These people were flawed, but they trusted Abraham and supported him. 

The strength and independence of our country does not come by everyone living for himself. It comes from community. That is why God has blessed this country. That is why the United States has been a symbol of righteousness and freedom among the nations. No one can deny our country is imperfect. We know according to prophecies in Revelation that one day it will persecute the people of God. But it has been a place of freedom that has allowed the Gospel to spread to every corner of the earth to help bring about the second coming of Jesus. When you think about the independence we celebrate in this country. Remember that independence is dependent on community. Most importantly, remember that we are never truly independent agents unto ourselves. We depend on God for everything. If you want the righteousness of Abraham, you need a deep abiding faith in the Savior. 

Written by David F. Garner

Sources:
Note, this worship thought was originally prepare for an oral presentation and no sources for the facts mentioned were kept. 

Thursday, July 1, 2021

Bio-agapé

How much do you enjoy creation? This is a question most people do not give much conscious thought to. Many people can tell you that they enjoy a good view, going to the beach, or some other place in nature. They may say they love being outdoors, or doing outdoor activities. But if you ask them why, you will often receive a thoughtful pause before being given some recycled shibboleth such as, "the sunshine", "fresh air" or "to get away for awhile." 

Occasionally, you will encounter an armchair philosopher who can spout paraphrases of great literary genius' such as John Muir or Henry David Thoreau. It is all too rare to converse with a person who can eloquently express the deep emotional currents stirred by encounters with the natural world. It seems modern Western society prefers to consume nature as fast-food rather than a home-cooked meal. We want it now, as much of it as we can get in as little time as possible. We care little for the nutritional value and only for the taste. 

We live indoors 90 plus percent of the time, then run to nature for a quick jaunt on the weekend. A privileged few take longer vacations in which they accrue the highlights, the best views, most iconic destinations, mostly from the comfort of a vehicle. We care for the quantity, not the quality of our nature diet. We check places off our bucket list, fill in the sticker maps on the back of our RV's. But do we take the time to get to know a place? 

Do we stop and listen to nature? Yes, we hear the sounds, but do we listen deeply, as John Muir and Henry David Thoreau listened? Their famous writings were not the result of a 30 day west coast RV tour to see all the National Parks. No. They lived in communion with nature. They consumed it as a home-cooked meal, slowly, with thoughtful appreciation to the One who prepared it. This is the recipe for developing a personal and conscious answer to the original question, how much do you enjoy creation? 

Over a life-time of nature study, biologist E. O. Wilson says he enjoys creation as much as he does being at home. He has come to believe there is an innate pull toward natural environments, especially those that resemble the African Savanah. He believes all humans share this attraction and he has termed it "biophilia" or a friendly love for nature. In other words, he believes we have a longing for creation, similar to a longing for a close friendship.1

The difficulty is that many people do not see this longing within themselves. Our reductionistic, hyperrational thinking has trained us to imagine creation as a commodity rather than a friend. We view earth in parts rather than a whole. We talk of rivers, oceans, forests, mountains as separate entities instead of portions of a totality. We often pick one as a favorite and disregard the rest. One can frequently hear questions such as, "do you prefer the mountains or the beach?" "is your favorite season summer or winter?" We can have our preferences, after all this keeps one type from being over crowded, but each one cannot exist without the other. Mountains without the ocean would be brown and barren since rain would be minimal. Summer without winter would quickly cast the global temperature balance into catastrophic chaos. The seasonal swings keep the world stable. 

We need a change in our conscious view of how we enjoy creation. Cornell Williams Brooks suggests we need more than a friendly love for nature. Biophilia may describe an innate pull in our biology. We must develop a stronger relationship if we are to maintain creation as we have been enjoying it. Brooks suggests we need a bio-agape view of creation. Only then can we truly begin to appreciate creation as God intended at the beginning. He proclaims that when we have an unconditional love for blue and green spaces, for mountains, rivers and oceans, then we will cherish the creation as a whole. We will treat it as it deserves, as a product made by the hand of the Almighty.2

Bio-agape will enable humanity to regard nature as we did before the fall, as something we know and care for intimately. It is only then that we will stop using nature in a way that benefits the few at the expense of the many. An unconditional love for the biosphere will lead us to realize that all people enjoy nature and need what it provides. Some do not have more claim to it than others. 


By David F. Garner

Sources:
1. Chris Mooney, “E.O. Wilson explains why parks and nature are really good for your brain ,”The Washington Post online, September 30, 2015, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2015/09/30/e-o-wilson-explains-why-experiencing-nature-is-good-for-the-human-mind/.
2.   Cornell Williams Brooks, “The Call Of The Wild In Our Cities: Morality, Race, And The Environment,” June 21, 2021, New England Aquarium Lecture Series, 57 min 30 sec, https://thecallofthewildinourcities.splashthat.com/.

Monday, June 14, 2021

History of the Humble Disposable Bags

In the early 1800’s, thanks to the industrial revolution, the prices of many goods grew steadily cheaper. This corresponded to a boom in product sales and distribution. One of the products that costed less was paper. This was thanks to a 1799 invention of a machine that could mass produce it. A few vendors found that customers appreciated having their goods packaged and bound together in order to take home. Paper was the perfect material to protect items in transit. Twine was used to close the paper into a bundle and a loop could be added for a convenient handle. According to Pamela Klaffke in Spree: A Cultural History of Shopping, stores across Europe and America began to provide this packaging as a curtesy to their customers. 

In 1852, Mr. Francis Wolle received a patent for a machine that made a paper bag. It was the birth of the disposable bag.1 Incremental changes were made to improve the paper bag over the next century. Various designs and sizes were developed to accommodate a variety of needs. Almost 100 years later, Canadians Harry Wasylyk and Larry Hansen invented the plastic garbage bag in their kitchen in 1950. Prior to this people used paper bags or simply placed their garbage loose in the trash can. These green bags ushered in a more hygienic future. They were first used in Winnipeg General Hospital to help reduce the spread of polio during the polio epidemic. These trash can liners as they were originally known, finally became widespread in the 1960’s. Trash management has been easier ever since.2


An interesting side note is that, Wilhelm Wendt, owner and founder of the Swedish store Perstorp attempted to find a cost effective replacement for paper bags in the 1950s. He developed what is likely the first mass produced reusable shopping bag called Shopping Bag 329. His patented bag had some success in Europe. In the 1960’s disposable plastic shopping bags led to a decline in popularity of Shopping Bag 329. Ironically, the over-prevalence of plastic shopping bags and widespread knowledge of their negative environmental impacts led Perstorp to resurrect the design in the early 2000’s as reusable shopping bags gained popularity.3

Another major innovation happened in 1951 when Borge Madsen invented the plastic zipper. It functioned with a slider pull tab like a conventional zipper and was expensive to manufacture. It found limited use as a closure for packages and bags. Two brothers, Max Austin and Edgar Austin, saw promise in the idea and purchased the patent to start a company around it called Flexigrip. Over the next decade and multiple design iterations, they produced the first plastic zipper bag. It featured a press and seal zip closure rather than a slider pull tab design. In the mid-1960’s Dow Chemical approached the brothers for exclusive rights to make the product. Thus the famous Ziploc was born.4,5

A major change in disposable bag technology came in 1965 when Sten Gustaf Thulin invented the first disposable but sturdy plastic shopping bag. His major idea was to add handles for easy carrying. The technology received mixed reviews from store clerks and was improved incrementally by various companies for several years. In 1982, grocery store chain Kroger settled on a winning design and switched from paper to plastic bags in their checkout lines. It was wildly successful and many other stores switched rapidly. This is the most common and versatile disposable bag around today.6

What do disposable bags have to do with the outdoors? Two major, and frequently overlooked, ways. Garbage bags have not only made our modern lives more sanitary, they have also improved the environment. Throwing trash in the street, in the river, or elsewhere was a common practice prior to the introduction of the disposable trash bag. This humble invention made trash collection much simpler, cheaper and more convenient. So, more trash is collected and disposed of in a more environmentally friendly landfill or recycling facility. Bagged trash tends to have less odor meaning wildlife is less likely to get into the trash exposing them to toxic chemicals or pathogens. In modern times, classic trash bags are seen in a less favorable light by environmentalists because they take so long to decompose. Thankfully, modern trash bags can be made of more earth friendly biodegradable plastics. Completely eliminating the disposable trash bag would definitely be worse for the environment. 

Second, disposable bags have made outdoor recreation infinitely better. Plastic bags are inescapable for the outdoor recreator. Nearly as soon as they became widely available, backpackers and all sorts of other outdoor enthusiasts adopted them. One of the very first how-to guidebook for backpacking was The Compete Walker printed in 1968. In it, author Colin Fletcher discusses several uses for plastic bags out on the trail.7 They can be used to package food, keep clothing and gear clean and dry, double as an emergency poncho, hold your trash, or simply keep your gear organized. 

While they are inseparable from outdoor pursuits, it is important to reuse your disposable bags as many times as possible to reduce excess waste and cost. Purchasing biodegradable bags is also an eco-friendly choice. This modern convenience did not come about by accident. It is a result of over 100 years of hard work and innovation. Next time you use a humble disposable bag, think about how much better it makes your life. Then recycle it. 


By David F. Garner


Sources:
1. https://www.thecut.com/2013/12/bag-envy.html

2. https://www.cbc.ca/amp/1.4024908

3. https://www.plasticstoday.com/packaging/plastic-bag-1950s-hot-new-thing

4. https://www.whoinvent.com/who-invented-ziploc-bags/

5. https://www.impakcorporation.com/history-of-ziplock-resealable-bags

6. https://www.qualitylogoproducts.com/blog/the-history-of-plastic-bags/

7. Colin Fletcher, The Complete Walker, 1968, p. 271, print.

Friday, April 2, 2021

Outdoor Object Lesson: The Easter Tree



Key Text

"But now Christ has been raised from the dead. He became the first fruit of those who are asleep." I 1 Corinthians 15:20 (WEB)

Lesson

Some plants have unusual names. One prime example is serviceberry. Serviceberry describes a genus (Amelanchier) of small trees rather than a single species. There are around 20 species in this genus. These plants live up to their name as they serve a lot of uses. Today they are commonly used in landscaping. They produce beautifully colored, showy flowers in spring and their small size ensures they won't grow above buildings and become hard to tend. Flowers are usually white but can also be light yellow, pink, or tinged with red.

In past centuries the serviceberry provided other uses to humans. Native American tribes used its wood to create sturdy but flexible arrow shafts. Some tribes used the wood to make armor. Most importantly, the berries provide a good source of food. Northern Native American tribes used these berries to make pemmican, a life-sustaining food used during the harsh northern winters. This dried, calorie-dense food was the original granola bar. It was a staple food of polar explorers for centuries because it provided a smorgasbord of vital nutrients. Its berries are so popular some species are still harvested commercially today.1

Serviceberry also provides food for animals. Like humans, they love the sweet, dark blue berries. Sometimes these trees are planted in order to attract wildlife for viewing. So where did the name serviceberry come from? It is said that these trees always bloom at Easter time.2 They open just in time for the Easter service and thus represent an end to the death of winter and the new life of spring. They remind us of the service Jesus provided when he died on Good Friday.

Easter is the oldest and most important Christian holiday. While Christmas may be more popular, Easter captures the heart and soul of Christianity-- Jesus' death and resurrection. It provides hope of life after death for us. This was his greatest service. Like Jesus, serviceberry trees serve many purposes and ask for nothing in return. At Eastertime, remember what Jesus has done for you. And then go and do likewise, serve others without asking anything in return. 

Questions

Can you think of a weird name to give a plant?

What does Easter mean to you?

Do you think egg hunts, Easter bunnies and special candies undermine the true meaning of Easter?

Name one way you could serve someone this Easter.


Sources

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amelanchier

2. George M. Dickert, "Serviceberry," Clemson University Cooperative Extension online, Jun 25, 2018, from https://hgic.clemson.edu/factsheet/serviceberry/.


Written by David F. Garner
Photo credit:  lqlqlqlq75 via www.pixabay.com

Friday, December 25, 2020

Outdoor Object Lesson 112: The Savior's Wreath




Key Text

"They braided a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and a reed in his right hand; and they kneeled down before him and mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!”" Matthew 27:29 (WEB)


Lesson


A Christmas wreath is one of the most recognizable decorations, second only to the Christmas tree. Wreaths have been used continually since ancient Greece. The Greeks used them as a symbol of honor and victory. When an Olympian won a race he was presented with a wreath of greenery to wear on his head. Greek kings work a golden and jeweled wreath, called a crown, as a symbol of their position. This became a common symbol used by monarchs for thousands of years. The Greeks also hung wreaths over their doorway after the harvest as a symbol of prosperity and blessing that would see them through to the next spring. The wreath was later used by the Romans and then Medieval Europeans for similar purposes. 

The Romans valued heroes above all else. The highest honor they could bestow was a wreath woven of grasses and flowers. These were reserved for military generals and commanders who heroically rescued an army threatened with defeat. The rescued soldiers would fashion the wreath out of grasses growing right on the battlefield and present it to the General as a sign of gratitude for saving them. The General then wore this on his triumphal procession.1 

When Jesus was being led to the cross, the Roman soldiers put a staff in his hand and fashioned a wreath of thorns which they put on his head. They then mocked him because he claimed to be a king. The wreath of thorns was meant to mock the wreath given to heroic generals. What they didn’t realize is that he was about to die in order to save them and the rest of the world. Jesus was the ultimate Savior. The soldiers fashioned a wreath out of thorns from the battlefield--earth. The thorny crown they placed on his head was the very curse of sin God pronounced on the world after Adam and Eve's fall in Genesis 3:18. Jesus wore the wreath as he died thus claiming victory over sin and Satan. 

At Christmas time we place beautiful green wreaths outside our homes. They celebrate the prosperity and blessings God has given us that will sustain us into the new year. When you look at a Christmas wreath this season, remember that Christmas is about the birth of the Savior who came to rescue us. When Jesus returns the next time, he will no longer be wearing a wreath of thorns, he will be wearing many crowns (Revelation 19:2)! He will be wearing golden and jeweled crowns of all the nations because he is the mighty King who saved them all from defeat!



By David F. Garner

Photo credit: JillWellington via www.pixabay.com

Sources: 
1. CAleb D Parker, "The Many Coronas of Ancient Roman Society," Medium.com, June 28, 2020, https://medium.com/@CalebDParker3/the-many-coronas-of-ancient-roman-society-55eb0974cddc

Friday, May 8, 2020

Christianity’s Early Environmental Movement

Before environmentalism became mainstream in the 1960s and 70s, Christians were concerned about conserving nature. They started the summer camp movement in the latter part of the 19th century to instill in young people awe and appreciation for nature. Leading progressive Christian thought saw the benefit of preserving areas of undeveloped nature against the onslaught of urbanization in the late 19th and early 20th century. Before there was a National Park Service, Christian groups were aggregating areas of undeveloped land or reclaimed farmland and setting them aside as sanctuaries of unspoiled nature. 


Summer campgrounds were areas set aside for purposes very similar to National and State Parks. They protected land from major urban and suburban development and allowed nature to reclaim the land.5,5a Christians were not the only group to do this. But, like later environmentalists such as Leopold or Olson, they agonized over the increasing rarity of sprawling nature. Their assumptions about why nature was worth saving may have been primarily anthropocentric, but their impact was no less important. 


First Fredrick William Gunn, then Dr. Joseph T. Rothrock, then numerous others saw the benefit of summer camp for children. Rothrock is of particular interest because much of his career was dedicated to environmentalism and educating others on conservation. He is recognized as the Father of Forestry in Pennsylvania.1 He was also the first to start a private summer camp program. His camp was first held in 1876, “so that the pursuit of health could be combined with the practical knowledge outside usual academic lines."2


Rothrock and other summer camp pioneers saw encounters with rural and wild nature as having a positive effect on youth. Edwin DeMeriette established Camp Algonquin in 1886, one of the earliest and most successful camps of the late 19th century. At that time summer camps were very experimental and controversial. When asked why he decided to start a summer camp he said in order to teach campers to, "enjoy nature, love the trees, shrubs, flowers, birds and animals and to make a study of the same."3 Many youth workers saw nature encounters as especially beneficial for at-risk youth. They believed such experiences could turn them into productive, law-abiding citizens. "The street boy needs the open air, the warm breath of nature on his check, the calm patience of her slow processes, the subtle teaching of the changing seasons, the new companionships of wild and tamed animals, and by them, he grows into a well—rounded manhood," said a social worker in 1903.4


Before there were environmental science classes in schools and conservation books aimed at children, summer camps were teaching ecological ethics. "I learned how before there was an environmental movement how to discover a campsite and how to leave it better than you found it and how you make a fire from birch bark off a dead tree as opposed to off a live tree," observed Michael Eisner, former CEO of the Disney Corporation who was a summer camper in the 1950's.6 Many summer camp programs taught an appreciation for nature and low-impact camping practices as they were understood at the time.7 Scouting programs did so as well.8, 9


The summer camp movement paved the way for later environmentalist's message. It helped many Americans know personally the value of preserving nature. It fostered an interest in nature among urban dwellers. The summer camp movement helped to bolster the importance of nature in the minds of average Americans.10 The message of nature's importance preached by environmentalists in the second half of the 20th century was not wholly new. It built on the foundation laid by the nature-study and summer camp movements.11,12 Many Americans heard or read about the grand majesty of the National Parks and mountains out west from the likes of John Muir. But not until after WWII did many Americans get the chance to visit the Parks. More Americans in the years before WWII experienced primitive nature in the summer camp setting.13 The summer camp movement played a key role in helping the average American appreciate the message of environmentalists in the 20th century. 


It goes deeper. The nature-study movement during the Progressive Era sought to integrate the study of the environment into children's education. It included ideas of environmental preservation.11 "The nature-study movement, reaching its peak between 1890 and 1920, was the first major American educational reform movement to fully attempt general educational reform theory with the study of the environment."14 The nature-study movement was not shunned by Christian's as later attempts to integrate environmental education were. In fact, just the opposite took place. Christian's adopted nature-study into child education wholesale! Nature study was an aspect of nearly every summer camp program including Christian ones. It was central to scouting programs which were primarily run by churches. It was included in Christian classrooms across the country. It even became common in Sunday School lessons.6 The 1915 book Biblical Nature Study exemplifies this. Its nearly 250 pages are dedicated totally to creating an appreciation for nature from a Christian perspective. Nature study in Christian circles became so pervasive one author described it as a "pastoral Christianity."15


The summer camp was seen as the best place to awaken a proper appreciation for nature by many camp advocates and educators. Teaching conservation was part of their goal.5a 


"[Camping] is an opportunity to awaken within the camper a sense of wonder, a chance to make real to him the meaning of God’s laws at work in the natural world. Aware of God’s creative power in the physical universe, the camper is not only awakened to his responsibility for conserving natural resources for mankind, but may be inspired to work with God in his ever unfolding purposes for human beings."16


Christians were interested in conserving nature. A Library of Congress analysis of the early conservation movement (1850-1920) found that the summer camp movement was largely a result of conservationism philosophy.16a Christian leaders in this time period saw conservation efforts as an extension of their mission to help the poor and underprivileged in society. During the Great War (WWI) Christians were talking about stewarding the world's natural resources for the good of all mankind, including their enemies. 


"Those who would extend the Gospel of Jesus Christ should insist that this partial measure should be made a world measure; that economic imperialism—the final cause of world conflict—shall be removed once for all by a permanent co-operative administration of the world’s resources, and that there shall be no exclusion, not even of our enemies. ...That will mean recognizing brotherhood in a greater sense than the world has ever seen it before. It will recognize that the great natural resources are not the property of the strongest group or the strongest nation, but belong to all the children of men, put here by God for the development of all the people. It will mean that the great powers will stop exploiting the weaker peoples, that the world’s great resources will be co-operatively controlled for the good of all."17


Long before the messages of biocentrism or the Gaia hypothesis were widespread, Christians were talking about the benefit of conservation and wise resource management for global benefit. In an era when Nationalism was peaking and the ideas of eugenics dominated Western thought, Christians were talking about nature's importance to all human-kind. Yes, there were Christians on the side of Nationalism and eugenics. There were and still are Christians who are anti-environmental. But, as seen in the historical struggle over slavery in England and America, there were Christians on both sides of the debate. It is a mischaracterization to place all blame for modern environmental destruction squarely on the shoulders of the Christian worldview as some have tried to do. 


Again I point to the summer camp movement, primarily headed by Christian organizations in the first half of the 20th century, as an example of Christian-based conservation. In a manual on running summer camp programs, one author lists the values provided by such a program to the children they serve. She seeks to answer the question, why have a summer camp program? She states the most profound of these values is to teach people "what our responsibilities are to preserve our great [natural] heritage to those who come after us." She ends by encouraging summer camp leaders to read Aldo Leopold's A Sand County Almanac. This is ironic as Leopold viewed Western Christianity as anti-nature and anti-conservation. While Christian society may be partly to blame for the overuse of natural resources and destruction, Christian society is also largely responsible for the Conservation Movement.18 Looking back from the 21st century, Nancy Unger sees summer camps as central to developing environmental awareness, especially among girls. "For generations, [scouting] organizations (as well as a multitude of private and civic summer camps) gave girls outdoor experiences and fostered environmental awareness."19


Christianity and especially Christian summer camps were pivotal in laying the foundation for modern environmental conservation. A Christian camping association participated in the Congressional briefings leading up to the passage of The 1964 Wilderness Act. 


"We, the Barton Flats Camping Association, are strongly in favor of the passing of a wilderness bill that will preserve and protect wilderness lands in their natural state for our generation and all of the future generations of our Nation. We feel that we have an obligation to the millions of children yet unborn to preserve for them a place where they can enjoy a true wilderness as God created it, a place for them to learn to love the simple things and feel at home with themselves and nature, and not watching out for cars as they whisk by on the roads or watching the ski lift pass over their heads."20



Written by David F. Garner

Sources: 

1. The Pennsylvania Forestry Association, "Who was JOSEPH TRIMBLE ROTHROCK," Pennsylvania Forestry Association, January 2015, slide-show presentation, http://www.paforestry.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/RothrockPresentation-PDF-File.pdf.

2. American Camps Association, "Timeline," American Camps Association online, accessed May 3, 2020 from http://www.acacamp.org/anniversary/timeline/. 

3. Carlos Edgar Ward, Organized Camping and Progressive Educaiton, (Galax, C. E. Ward: 1935): 23, Print.

4. Mornay Williams, "The Street Boy: Who he is and What to do with him." The Christian Register, 80(51): 1485-1486, December 17, 1903, Print.

5. Abigail A. Van Slyck, A Manufactured Wilderness: Summer Camps and the Shaping of American Youth 1890-1960, (Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press: 2006): 4, Print.

5a. Danielle C. Sheppard, (2010). "Summer Camps in the Belgrade Lakes Region: Historical perspectives." Retrieved April 29, 2020, from http://web.colby.edu/senseofplace/files/2011/08/epscor_sheppard10camps.pdf.   

6. Michael Smith, (2006). 'The Ego Ideal of the Good Camper' and the Nature of Summer Camp. Environmental History, 11(1), 92-93. Retrieved April 29, 2020, from www.jstor.org/stable/3985739

7. Roberta Jordan, "Campland Conservation: Protecting the Hidden Valley Reservation," Exchange: Journal of the Land Trust Exchange (Summer 1992): 20, Print. 

8. Biennial Report of the Commissioners to Manage the Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Big Tree Grove, Sacramento State Office,  (A . J. Johnston , Supt. State Printing: 1894): 10. https://www.google.com/books/edition/_/UBhHAQAAIAAJ?hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiKzPKyutHtAhXJneAKHQyKDgQQre8FMAB6BAgDEDM

9. Lord Robert Baden-Powell, Scouting For Boys, (London, Horace Cox: 1908): Camp Fire Yarn 12, Print.

10. Wikipedia, "Environmental education in the United States," Last modified February 19, 2020, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Environmental_education_in_the_United_States.

11. Kevin C. Armitage, The Nature Study Movement: The Forgotten Popularizer of America's Conservation Ethic, (Lawrence, University of Kansas Press: 2009), Print.
12. David Wells, "Environmental Movement," Sonoma State University online, Nov. 9, 2014, https://web.sonoma.edu/users/w/wallsd/environmental-movement.shtml, paragraph 7.

13. Natalia Mehlman Petrzela, "Why Fear of Big Cities Led to the Creation of Summer Camps," History Channel online, Aug 7, 2017, https://www.history.com/news/why-fear-of-big-cities-led-to-the-creation-of-summer-camps.

14. MINTON, TYREE GOODWIN, "THE HISTORY OF THE NATURE-STUDY MOVEMENT AND ITS ROLE IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION" (1980). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI8019480. https://scholarworks.umass.edu/dissertations/AAI8019480

15. John Hannigan, Environmental Sociology Ed 2: Edition 2, (New York, Routledge: 2006): 41, Ebook.

16. Elizabeth Brown, Camps and Summer Conferences in Orientation in Religious Education ed. Philip Henry Lotz, (Nashville, Abingdon Press: 1950): 338-351, Print. 

16a. Library of Congress, "The Evolution of the Conservation Movement, 1850-1920 [An Overview]," Library of Congress online, accessed July 16, 2020 from https://www.loc.gov/static/collections/evolution-of-the-conservation-movement/about-this-collection/overview.html. 

17. "A Movement Toward Brotherhood," The Christian Century, 35(27): 6-7, July 18, 1918, Print.

18. Barbara Ellen Joy, Camp Craft: A Manual for Leaders Responsible for Organization of Camp Craft in the Summer Camp, (Minneapolis, Burgess Publishing Co: 1955): 4, http://cdm15932.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/ref/collection/tp/id/84805.

19. Nancy C. Unger, "Women and Gender: Useful Categories of Analysis in Environmental History," in The Oxford Handbook of Environmental History ed. Andrew C. Isenberg (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014), Ebook.

20. United States. Congress. House. Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs. (1962). Wilderness preservation system: hearings before the Subcommittee on Public Lands of the Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs, House of Representatives, Eighty-seventh Congress, first[-second] session, on S. 174 [and other] bills to establish a national wilderness preservation system for the permanent good of the whole people, and for other purposes.... Vol 3: 774, (Washington: U.S. Gov.) https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/009859744.