iPhone photo--Google Images

The irony is palpable. I’m sitting in a coffee shop with my cell phone three inches from my MacBook, writing an opinion piece about the importance of a digi-free existence. The woman across from me talks on her iPhone while flipping through website on her tablet; a man waiting for his coffee leans against a countertop, tuned into the screen resting in his hand, his thumb vigorously swiping up, up, up.

“Tall mocha latte.” The barista cleans the countertops while the plume of steam rises from the unclaimed coffee. “Tall mocha, no whip?” She scans the room. “Sir. Sir?” The leaning man tunes back into the present moment, sliding his phone into his pocket long enough to sip his foamy latte, and retreats to a table in the corner of the coffee shop. Immediately, he pulls out his smartphone and disappears back into the familiar womb of cyberspace.

Is this progress, or an epidemic? All of the knowledge in the world fits inside our pockets; we capture precious moments, connect to an infinite social network, support organizations and startups, expand our business portfolios—the possibilities are seemingly endless. But, what does this infinite digital highway mean for our humanity?

Our personal lives have digressed from “behind the scenes” to behind the screens. Instant gratification has altered our sociological psyche to an extent, making society less willing to wait, work, and want. We’ve shortened our means of communication and dulled the quality of our relationships. Texts have replaced phone calls. Emails have replaced hand-written letters. Spending time on those that we love is becoming a lost art as we’ve isolated our instinct for community and transferred that need to a fleetingly fulfilling cyber-community.

Social media has digitally satiated our desire to see the world and simultaneously created an insatiable desire to live “better.” Research shows that we are less satisfied with our own lives due to media’s ability to take us inside the lives of those we admire: celebrities, travelers, professionals, etc. How did that person end up with such an amazing life—and why isn’t mine like that? We’re increasing our desire for more, while decreasing our motivation to work for it.

But, like so many trends of human civilization, this trend may be on the brink of boiling over and, essentially, distinguishing its own flames. Human beings have strayed so far from our natural existence that we seem to be waking up from the cyber-coma. We’re realizing how terrifyingly close we’ve come to making ourselves obsolete.

So, join me on my Spring Cleaning: Digital Detox Challenge. Use your phone for one thing, and one thing only: phone calls. Stop yourself from texting, taking iPhotos, and wasting your free time surfing the Internet. Then, try to wean yourself from computer and television screens. No online recipes or travel channel getaways. You’ll just have to call Mom for that banana bread recipe.

Start your Digital Detox by keeping a time log every day, hour by hour, for a single week. At the end of the week, categorize various activities during the week. An example could be “Work,” with subcategories: grading papers, giving lectures, researching on the Internet. Once you have categorized your activities, look at your lists and circle those that you see as most important to you, your health, and your future. Then, average out the amount of time that you spend behind the screens: television, computer, cell phone, tablet, kindle. This screen time could occur at work, or at home.

Take time to reflect on what you have learned in your time log. Consider: What have you discovered about your time? How many hours are spent behind the screen? How many of those hours feel “lost” to you, rather than fulfilled by meaningful activity? What may you replace screen time with to bring more fulfillment into your life?

Next, create a T-chart on a blank piece of paper. On one side, write “Barriers.” On the other, write “Solutions.” Under the “Barriers” column, consider what prevents you from using your time effectively. You will find that your phone, Netflix, computers, or being overly tired (presumably from too much screen time and not enough physical interaction) are major culprits. Under the “Solutions” column, consider what you could do to use your time more effectively. Suddenly, you’ll see words like “turn off,” “put away,” “get outside,” “procrastinate less,’ or “be more creative.” This is your Digital Detox plan. Once you begin to shift your lifestyle based on your self-reflection, your perception of life will begin to shift, too.

The Digital Detox Challenge dares you to pick up a guitar again, split wood, knit a spring sweater, paint a watercolor of the blooming cherry blossom tree in your back yard, clean your home, build a chicken coop, learn from your neighbor, plan your garden, write a short story, cook with friends, read a book… out loud… to your family. Become more socially conscious of our surroundings by being connected to others, rather than your phone. You’ll feel far more relaxed than you ever thought possible. Imagine the healthy traditions we can build again if only we try.


Contributed by Christine St. Pierre

Editor’s Note: While we often try to remain neutral on political commentary, this argument hits a little too close to home to be ignored.

As I listen to the competing arguments for the preferred use of the Suzuki property, I am disappointed by the discussions.

In many respects, this is a bizarre story of a geographically exclusive city that prides itself on being environmentally conscious, whose city council can approve the construction of yet another 10,000-square-foot vacation home with a heated outdoor swimming pool, and simultaneously decry as an eyesore the “ugly” multifamily developments where working class people live. In other respects, this is a familiar story of America’s continuing clash between people of differing economic classes, who rely on each other, and yet cannot figure out how to live with each other.

Bainbridge Island’s service sector is teetering on the edge of unsustainability for one reason and one reason alone – lack of available workers. Historically, to maintain our two restaurants’ doors open we have required some 60 – 70 persons in our work force per year. That nets out to about 35 full time equivalents (FTE). We are just one employer on an island that continues to demand a vibrant and healthy downtown. Each year we watch as our available labor pool shrinks and the number of staff miles driven to get to work increases. In my many years on the Chamber of Commerce board of directors, I have heard a common refrain from the island’s employers. How is that good for the island and our island environment?

For those who are taking issue with the Housing Resource Board’s (HRB) proposal based on environmental concerns, please take pause. If Bainbridge Island is a defining place that embodies the best of environmentalism, then much of that movement becomes wed to the condition of the privileged. Privileged environmentalism is not progressive politics but a politics of the rich and comfortable that only claims progressive ideals. That brand of environmentalism becomes entirely consistent with – and is a close cousin of – class exclusionary politics.

Has Bainbridge Island, through its environmentalist claims, targeted for exclusion those workers who service the island-city?

I sincerely hope not.

I urge the City’s decision makers to actively engage and support the HRB’s proposals for the Suzuki property.

J.L. Waite

P.S. – If you’d like to read more about “environmental privilege” read The Slums of Aspen (Immigrants vs. the Environment in America’s Eden) by Lisa Sun-Hee Park and David Naguib Pellow, 2011, New Yoork University Press

The local food movement is growing by leaps and bounds. Everywhere you look it seems there is a new farm or farmers market starting up, giving rise to the notion that small farms are the latest dot.com-type success story. While true for some, there are plenty of small farms trying to find their niche in the 21st century’s latest iteration of the world’s oldest occupation – agriculture. To help these modern-day agriculturalists, the Cultivating Success™ program has put together four Farm Talks to address the challenges today’s small farms face.

1.  Join us starting Thursday, March 3, 2016 for Farming Is a Risky Business, an informal Q&A-type panel discussion on the legal, financial, farm management, and food safety issues farmers often find themselves up against. Our panelists include George Benson of Schweet Linde & Coulson who specializes in estate planning and commercial real estate, as well as the banking and legal issues farmers might face; David Poor from Northwest Farm Credit Services whose focus is on credit and debt restructuring; the Washington Sustainable Food & Farming Network; and Brian Bookey from National Food Corporation. In addition, we’ll have local farmers bringing their unique “Been there, done that!” perspective to the conversation.

2. We’ll continue on Thursday, March 10 with Managing Your Water Resources with Bob Simmons, WSU Olympic Region water resources specialist; Scott Patee, Skagit NRCS forecasting expert; and John Rose, hydrologist and GIS analyst with Washington Department of Ecology’s Water Resource Program. The evening will focus on water quality, quantity, and rights including: H2O facts and myths: Will we have enough? Do you know your water rights? and Water quality: What you need to know as a farmer.

3. Thursday, March 17 will be devoted to Selling What You Grow with Whitney Keyes from Whitney Keyes Productions and Greg Prang, an expert on consumer insight. During the evening, you’ll learn how to gather and put to use information about you and your customers to make marketing and promotional efforts more strategic and effective. Learn how to find and reach the right customers, gain more value from your efforts, and be more profitable.

4. We’ll wrap up the series on Thursday, March 24 with an evening devoted to No Fear Farm Financial Management with Dr. Michael Brady, WSU Extension economist, and Wendy Knopp from Northwest Farm Credit Services. Topics covered include financial statements, benchmark ratios, investment analysis, budgeting, and tips to help put your bottom line in the black.

With locations on both sides of the state connected synchronously, each evening session runs from 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm. Eastern Washington location is WSU Spokane County Extension at 222 N Havana, Spokane, WA. For those in Western Washington, location is at Everett Community College’s Gray Wolf Building, 2000 Tower St. Everett, WA.

All Farm Talks are free! However, space is limited and you must pre-register to ensure your spot. To register, visit FarmTalks.Brownpapertickets.com. For more information on the FarmTalks, visit snohomish.wsu.edu/FarmTalks/ or contact Jeremy Cowan at jeremy.cowan@wsu.edu or 509-477-2145.

Course sponsors include Snohomish Conservation District, Moss Adams LLC, Western Extension Risk Management Education, USDA RMA, and Northwest Farm Credit Services.