The scientist who’ll help celebrate four years of Clark County’s Green Neighbors program on Sunday afternoon is a really colorful guy. About as colorful as the butterflies he’s spent most of his life studying and writing about.
Robert Michael Pyle is an author, biologist and lepidopterist (a butterfly scientist). He’s written hundreds of research papers and 20 books. They include everything from “Wintergreen: Rambles in a Ravaged Land,” a prizewinning meditation on logging and loss of habitat in the Northwest, to practical guidebooks like “The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Butterflies” and “The Butterflies of Cascadia.” He’s the founder of the Xerces Society, a nonprofit agency that strives to protect threatened invertebrates like butterflies and bees. (When thousands of dead bees were discovered in Wilsonville, Ore., a few years ago, Xerces was called in and determined that it happened due to misuse of a common pesticide.)
But Pyle is also a poet, novelist and all-around nature celebrator. He’s lived in Grays River, in the Willipa Hills, for nearly four decades, and every once in a while lately he sneaks into the nearby Skamokawa Grange with a special musician friend of his to combine verse about the natural world with some acoustic-guitar picking. That special friend is Krist Novoselic, formerly of the Seattle band Nirvana.
Just out now is a new retrospective called “Through a Green Lens: Fifty Years of Writing for Nature.” Pyle will read from the book and sign copies during the Green Neighbors event on Sunday.
“Dr. Pyle is something of a living legend here in the Pacific Northwest,” said Sally Fisher, coordinator of the Green Neighbors program. “He is deeply devoted to our landscape … and will be talking about his long and passionate life studying nature in the Northwest and beyond.”
Also colorful is the county’s Green Neighbors program — a clearinghouse of information about all things ecological around here: workshops and volunteer activities, waste reduction and recycling. The handy website clarkgreenneighbors.org is a veritable encyclopedia of information you can use at home — composting and green gardening instructions, home-energy-efficiency advice, even some clever interactive quizzes and calculators that willll help you size up your ecological footprint, choose the right appliances and rethink how to heat your home.
If your big blue recycling cart has ever gotten an unexpected compliment or slap on the wrist — a tag that either says “LOOKING GOOD!” or calls out the plastic bags or other stuff that didn’t belong in there — you’ve felt the long, hopefully friendly arm of the Green Neighbors program. Green Neighbors is responsible for the county’s entire residential-outreach effort on behalf of waste reduction and cleaner, greener living, Fisher said.
“We have a community calendar and send out a monthly newsletter to 6,500 residents to keep them up to date on the things that are happening in our community,” she said.
That’s a whole lot of happenings: Green Living is the umbrella organization for the annual, super-popular Recycled Arts Festival; this year’s Recycle Days in Vancouver, Battle Ground and Washougal; and the summertime Natural Garden Tour, a visit to 10 different neighbors who are grow beautiful, sustainable gardens without any synthetic chemicals and with an eye on water and wildlife conservation.
Even rocks are colorful, once the Green Neighbors program has gotten through with them. You might have heard about Vancouver Rocks!, a local group that’s bringing a little DIY joy to the landscape; what they do is paint little stones and hide them (in plain sight) here and there in order to give the eventual finders an unexpected smile. Yes, that’s really all there is to it.
Green Neighbors has joined hands with Vancouver Rocks! to spread special Green Neighbors rocks around Clark County; find one and bring it to the birthday party and you’ll get a special prize in addition to that smile.