TGSG Note: Sometimes you meet a person and you hit it off right away. That was Adam and I. Not sure if it was the kindred writer souls or the pint of Guinness, but I suspect a bit of both. Anyway, I am tickled to have my friend Adam Shake, the dynamo behind Twilight Earth (and SO much more!) stop by The Guru today. A great interview from a great guy. Enjoy!
See ya outside! ~ The Grass Stain Guru
1. What kind of kid were you, and how do you think that influenced your career now as an environmental blogger and advocate?
I was a bow legged, buck toothed, triple bi-focals wearing kid with a bowl haircut. –laugh- My Grandparents lived on 50 acres of Michigan Woods about a quarter mile down a dirt driveway off a country road.
Sundays were spend “On the farm” were my favorite day of the week. Being the oldest of three, I was kind of a loner. No, that’s not quite right. I was a loner. I loved being by myself because I had a really active imagination and could keep myself occupied for hours and hours while wandering around in the woods, imagining I was a big game hunter or an explorer.
In the summer, I would find a lonely spot between the trees and I would sit with my back against a tree and force myself to be still and quite, so that after a while, nature would open herself back up to me. I was in my element when the squirrels, rabbit and birds forgot I was there, and moved all around me.
I forgot that feeling on connectedness until I got out of the military. It was then, while trying to re-define myself, that I turned back to nature, to find that it wasn’t the same nature that I grew up in.
2. I know you are a big outdoor recreation enthusiast – camping, hiking, canoeing, etc. What benefits do these activities bring to your life?
Being outdoors, whether camping, hiking, canoeing, rock scrambling or back packing, reconnects me to what is real.
I hiked the “Hundred Mile Wilderness” in Maine a few years ago and it was amazing to me how long it took to get mans world out of my head. For days, I couldn’t stop thinking about what I was going to do to reward myself for finishing the hike. Dinner, movies, a new gadget, a soft bed, whatever it was, I craved those things. I missed them. I needed them. I also couldn’t stop thinking about things I needed to get done when I got back. I wasn’t enjoying the experience for what it was. I wasn’t in the now, and it made me mad. I finally got there though, and the last 60 miles of hiking were the best I’ve ever had.
Over the years, I’ve realized that it still takes me a couple days to completely relax and unwind when I’m in nature. The wilderness to me is something that is real, something that defines me and brings me back to who I really am. Nature is something that I can measure myself against in a very raw way. Being outdoors and a part of nature help me remember who Adam is. It humbles me, and it makes me feel as if I am a part of something bigger than me, instead of a part of something that I have created or that I am competing in.
3. Obviously as a blogger and a mover and shaker in social media, you spend a lot of time online. How do you find balance in your life, and what are the signs that make you say to yourself, “Whoa, I need to unplug…”?
That’s an excellent question, and one that I struggle with. As environmentalists, writers, advocates and activists, we must have integrity. Without it, our message means nothing. There is a balance, like you said, between advocating protection of the environment through spending time in nature, and spending too much time with technology while trying to get that message out.
I think that just like anything else in life, it comes down to priorities and division of time. As an example, we have a popular feature on Twilight Earth called Photo Sunday. That means I’m usually up by 6:00 a.m. on putting it together. I spend some time getting it out there on Social Media and then by 8:00 a.m., I wake up Hippie Chick and we go out for coffee and start our day. I’m a very early riser, usually up by 5:00 a.m. during the week, and I get most of my writing done by 8:00.
That doesn’t mean that I’m not on throughout the day, but when I am, it’s usually in 5 or 10 minute bursts. I also spend time working between 8:00 and 10:00 p.m. when most people are sitting in front of their TV sets.
The rest of my time is spent planning, researching, networking, and recently, forming Simple Earth Media. Now that we have six websites and Green Talk Radio, the time division has become a lot more important. I also attend conferences, forums, fundraisers and networking events. It can be a lot to handle, but it’s what I’m passionate about.
But to really answer your question, when my fingertips start to go numb, I know it’s time to get off the computer and get outside.
4. Name five (5) can’t miss nature moments for today’s kids:
Five or ten years ago, I would have said that every child should explore a local creek or stream. Get right in it and feel the mud between your toes, catch Pollywogs and collect shiny stones from the bottom. But most streams and creeks aren’t safe to be in anymore. Most of them have diverted sewer runoff flowing through them.
But streams and creeks can still be just as educational, except that it is parents who need to take their kids to explore them. Its parents who should be explaining to their children exactly why 100% of all fish tested in the United States have Mercury in their systems from coal burning power plants. This is a can’t miss moment for all kids. Unfortunately, it’s not about the discovery of something wonderful, but about the recognition of something wrong, and what we must all do to make it right.
Kids today also know more about what’s going on in the Amazon Rainforest than they know about what’s going on in the woods at the park just down the street. Again, parents need to take their kids outside so that they can see what the inside of a forest looks, smells and sounds like.
Kids should also have the opportunity to be on the water. Most areas in the United States either have a lake or river within driving distance, and taking the kids kayaking or canoeing is something that they will never forget.
National Parks not only have great views and campgrounds, but great programs for teaching kids and families about the hidden side that particular park. Park rangers give guided tours, pointing out local wildlife, talk about food cycles, hold fireside chats and are a huge source of information. National Parks also have visitor centers with small museums and interactive displays.
But the most important cant miss nature moments for today’s kids, are literally, their own back yards. There is a wealth of knowledge that can be gleaned from spending 15 minutes lying on your stomach in the sun, while investigating between blades of grass, exactly what is going on beneath our feet. Turning over rocks to discover whole other worlds, dissecting a milk weed pod to see exactly why it’s called “milk weed.”
5. I love your Photo Sunday posts on Twilight Earth. Can you share a few “dream destinations” you would like to go photograph?
My wife and I are planning on going Iceland next year. We want to spend a full week in the wilderness of the Fjords, hiking and hanging out in the natural springs. Other dream destinations are hiking Hadrian’s Wall, Tongariro National Park in New Zealand (Where a lot of Lord of the Rings was filmed) and renting a couple off road motorcycles and doing a dirt road trip through Vietnam.
6. You have a free afternoon all to yourself, what do you do?
I go to where no one else is, where there is nothing separating me from the universe except for the clouds.
Bio: Adam Shake is Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Simple Earth Media. He also founded Twilight Earth and EcoTech Daily. He is an environmental writer, advocate, entrepreneur, speaker and Washington DC-based activist. Of his accomplishments, he is most proud of having risked arrest at dirty coal powered power plants and the work he has done to raise money for homeless kitchens and environmental non-profits. He spent over a decade in the U.S. Army and has worked with Homeland Security and the Defense Industry. When not working on Pennsylvania Avenue, he can be found in the woods with his wife and , kayaking, sailing or on the Appalachian Trail. Adam is a member of the Society of Environmental Journalists, and an active participant in a number of environmental and social media clubs and organizations.