Jason Mark, Writer-Farmer



photo of Jason writing next to an arctic river


Here’s a smattering of articles, essays, and book reviews I’ve written over the years.

On Wildness

Wifi in the Woods, from The Atlantic.com
“If we ever succeed in knitting all (or even most) of the physical world into the Internet, we could end up abolishing the sense of the Away. When we’re all able to connect from anywhere – well, then, there’ll be no place left to hide.”

Why We Still Need Wilderness in the Era of Climate Change, from The Nation.com
“The wild can also be an anchor, a counterweight to the force of industrial society. … The wild represents the now-radical idea that life on Earth is not here just to suit our needs.”

The Place Where Life Begins, from SIERRA
“Being out on the tundra felt like being on the ocean. At the top of the world at the height of the summer, the sun refused to set, and direction was all but meaningless. The never-ending light also blew apart time, turning a.m. and p.m. into abstractions. Even distance dissolved – with no trees to speak of, it was impossible to tell if something was half a mile away or three miles.”

Wilderness in the Anthropocene, from Earth Island Journal
“Wilderness in the twenty-first century is invaluable precisely because it is away and apart. In a world of all-encompassing human authority, we are going to need the wild to hold steady the sanity of our species.”

On Food & Agriculture

Myths: Busted – Clearing Up the Misunderstandings about Organic Farming, from Scientific American.com
“Synthetic pesticides are qualitatively different from natural ones, and it’s the differences that often make the danger.”

The Plight of the Pollinators, from Civil Eats.com
“All of this attention on the honeybee’s poor health is important because it’s an opportunity to illustrate our utter reliance on other creatures. But often lost amid the honeybee anxiety is a much bigger story: The decline of native bumblebees, butterflies and moths, which are even more important for pollination.”

Digging for the Roots of the Urban Farming Movement, from Gastronomica [pdf]
“When potential McKinsey consultants decide they would rather dig in the dirt than work in the comfort of an office, a shifting of culture’s tectonic plates must be underway. … What, exactly, is going on? Why are a growing number of people so hungry to do hard, dirty work for little or no compensation? How has a trend become a movement, and what motivates it all? Or, as I’ve asked myself many times as I watch the volunteer work crews at our farm, ‘Why would someone spend their limited leisure time shoveling horseshit into a compost pile?’”

On Energy & Climate

Obamacare for the Air, from The Daily Beast.com
“The new power plant rules, which are scheduled to be finalized next June after a year of public comment, will likely mark the most significant environmental achievement of Obama’s presidency.”

Digging for China, from TheAmericanProspect.com
“American coal companies like Peabody and Arch have pinned their hopes for the future on exports to Asia for a simple reason: Their domestic market is drying up.”

Disaster on the Half Shell, from The Progressive [pdf]
“Among the human victims of the [BP] spill, perhaps no group will be harmed more than the gulf’s oystermen. Oyster farmers are unlike other fishermen who make their living form the sea in that their product has no way of moving out of the way of the oil spill. Oysters, after all, aren’t caught; they’re raised.”

We Are All Louisianans, from Earth Island Journal
“If Louisianans have been willing to sacrifice their unique landscapes for oil and gas, the rest of us put them up to it. We do so every time we put the key in the ignition or enjoy a 15-minute hot shower fueled by natural gas. We feed Port Fouchon and Port Fouchon feeds us.”

On Science & Technology

Climate Fiction Fantasy, from The New York Times
“Movies, of course, are based on the promise of escape. Illusions are fun, until they slide into delusion. A scant 536 people have slipped the surly bonds of Earth. Which means we won’t squish the human race through a wormhole anytime soon, nor establish a colony out among the stars for anyone but a lucky, stranded few. Escape is not an option, at least not in a time frame relevant to our current environmental predicament.”

De-Extinction Won’t Make Us Better Conservationists, via Salon
“There’s no doubt that a revived giant ground sloth would be awesome, in the truest sense of the word. But I doubt such a sight would revive a wonder with the nonhuman world and, in the process, reinvigorate efforts to protect that world. Why? Simply because of the difference in how we experience a man-made wonder and a natural one. The amazement we experience with our technological gee-gaws (remember the first iPhone you saw?) is one thing. The amazement we experience with the surprise at natural forms (remember the first time you visited the Grand Canyon?) is another.”

Hacking the Sky, from Earth Island Journal
“The geo-engineering debate proves once again that while our technological society is adept at exploring the how, we are less practiced in pursuing why and whether. As geo-engineering proponents acknowledge, schemes like sulfur aerosol address only the symptoms, not the source, of global climate change. That fact betrays our society’s bias for the techno-fix, the seemingly easy way out. Seemingly – because geo-engineering is the most complicated strategy we could pursue. It takes a problem, simplifies its cause, and then exaggerates its solution. It’s like a Rube Goldberg machine, employing eight or nine steps when one or two would do. Instead of pursuing the elegant solutions – trading in our cars for buses, turning off the coal and turning on the wind – we are going to build a contraption to make the clouds shinier.”

Is the CIA on Its Way to Hacking the Sky?, from TheAmericanProspect.com
“For at least the last 25 years, we’ve been dumping carbon and methane into the air knowing full well the risks of doing so. When it comes to planetary-scale manipulation, we crossed the line a long time ago. Still, something like solar radiation management would mark an unprecedented leap in humanity’s ownership of Earth. Geoengineering would turn us into a kind of bubble species, all of us living inside a massive armature.”


Letter from California: Field Notes of a State in Drought, from The Progressive
“The central problem is this: The state and federal water systems allocations are based on water we don’t have. The numbers on the official paperwork are five times greater than the amount of water in the actual, physical hydrological system. The water allocation figures are fixed to a figment of history, a time when the state was wetter. California has hit overdraft.”

Naomi Klein: Big Green Is in Denial, via Salon
“Klein’s books and articles have sought to articulate a counternarrative to the march of corporate globalization and government austerity. She believes climate change provides a new chance for creating such a counternarrative. ‘The book I am writing is arguing that our responses to climate change can rebuild the public sphere, can strengthen our communities, can have work with dignity.’”

In Conversation: Michael Pollan, from Earth Island Journal
“Pollan is best known as a food journalist. But his primary interest is something deeper: the question of how to balance our civilization’s drive for control with nature’s insistence on wildness. Pollan’s first book, the precocious Second Nature, was a profound meditation on humans’ place in the world, disguised as a book about rose care and lawn maintenance. He followed that with the often-hilarious The Botany of Desire and the blockbuster The Omnivore’s Dilemma.”

It’s Not Easy Being Green, from The American Prospect
“Environmentalists have found themselves being taken seriously, and it has proved to be something of a curse. As they are asked to come up with solutions for the cascading eco crises, internal divisions are becoming more obvious. The biggest divide may be between those who would do anything to cut carbon emissions and slow climate change – going so far as to support natural gas and nuclear fuel, or even supporting geo-engineering and other controversial ideas – and conservationists who don’t want to trade one earth-damaging practice for another.”