By Michael Ebinger
WSU Spokane

What can a desire to learn and practice more about intellectual wellness and celebrating Earth Day have in common? I thought about that for a lot of time in March and stumbled on the easy answer: quite a bit.

To qualify this, I took an individual view of my former life as a scientist studying the soil’s role in climate change. But to bring climate research and Earth Day together took reflection on a trip to Brazil in 2006. Carbon in rainforests isn’t in the soils but in the leaf litter, the trees, and pumped into the atmosphere through trees. That concept pushed my intellectual side as well as my environmental side.

From 1997 or 1998 until I moved to Spokane in 2009, I was involved in an intense research program to understand the contributions of soils to the carbon cycle, or that group of organic, inorganic, microbial, ecosystem-scale, and human-mitigated reactions and interactions that moved carbon around landscapes, oceans and the atmosphere.

I spent an illuminating 10 days in the Mata Atlantica (Atlantic Rainforest) of southeast Brazil and I realized that 1) I was only one person trying to bring some positive change to things in the environment; 2) one person has almost no measurable effect on carbon movement; and 3) seven billion people can actually control the fate of the world with regard to carbon dioxide.

So, the Earth Day part of the equation was covered—just make sure I stay viable as one in seven billion and do my part every day. Recycle, reuse, drive less, use less water, eat more vegetables, all of that.

But what about the intellectual wellness side? In an earlier blog, I wrote about going a different way to work once in a while. How about by bus? Not attractive, not necessarily comfortable, but really a lot healthier than driving a car by myself, every day.

And a lot more inconvenient. I have to get to the bus stop at 8:09 for my favorite bus, then plan on either a 12-minute walk or another 15-minute wait and bus ride to campus.

So, what do I do? I am not a good reader while moving, so that is definitely out, and that particular intellectual wellness avenue is shut off. But I could have someone read to me via a podcast. Books are too long and too involved to follow for the commute, but the podcast medium is ideal. And I can feed the internal nerd: Science Magazine has an excellent roundup of weekly headlines and listening to these helps me decide which articles to spend more time on later.

The Economist has a similar roundup, and since I read both Science and The Economist regularly, the podcasts only enhance the experience. I am currently searching for the combination of podcasts that will get me to campus for the 2-3 days I will be bus commuting in April, which I call Earth Month.

So, from the Mata Atlantica to Bus 44 coming from South Hill to Downtown Spokane, I have been able to bring the intellectual wellness of daily living together with Earth Day, and Earth Month, 2017.

My challenge to all: find your podcasts and get your bus on!