A NOVEL IDEA by Kristin McCloy

A story about how caring for animals feels as novel (if not more) as writing a book . . .

Read her personal story in a new book.
Released on August 4, 2022
Paperback & Kindle now available! 

“This book holds together the power women find when they are honest and courageous and truthful. Some of these stories moved me to tears, others made me believe in humanity again, many I could identify with. This book brought me tremendous joy, insight and brought me back to believe in the human spirit.”

~ JULIANNA MARGULIES, multiple award-winning actor and author of Sunshine Girl: An Unexpected Life


Kristin McCloy is a thrice-published author (Velocity, Some Girls, and Hollywood Savage), working on her fourth, and fifth, and a book of short stories, and living in Oakland with the cat who owns her, Zelly, and the family who took them in.  


I am an environmental educator and filmmaker. I directed and produced a short film called The Sacred Place Where Life Begins: Gwich’in Women Speak which advocates for Arctic indigenous Gwich’in women in Alaska and Canada and calls for the permanent protection of their sacred land in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from potential oil development. Their way of life depends on this sacred land and through my film they are inspiring audiences around the country to take supportive action.

I have promoted this film on my bicycle over the last two summers, because I love socially and politically driven adventures. Last summer’s adventure was called “1,000 miles for 1,000 allies.” My hope was that by riding 1,000 miles on my bicycle, stopping along the way to show my film at various venues, I would create a community of 1,000 allies along the way. I even prepared myself for spontaneous screening opportunities by inventing a portable theater to show my film anywhere and anytime!

Last summer, I rode solo on my bicycle from Washington D.C. to Bar Harbor, Maine over the course of five weeks. My journey started in D.C. with a surprise invitation to an award ceremony where Sarah James, a Gwich’in elder who is in my film, was to be recognized for her lifetime commitment to protect her people’s sacred place. At the party, I had the most significant political moment of my life – I had the honor of being with Sarah in the presence of Sally Jewell, U.S. Secretary of the Interior, as well as President Bill Clinton.


Photographer: Robert Thorpe

Five weeks later, my journey ended in an epic way. I summarized  the theme of those five weeks in Haiku (Japanese poetry):

Friendly faces, kind hands
Angels whisper when in trouble
Protected always

It was July 22nd at 4:00 AM sharp. Ravens woke me up as if asking me to enjoy the last day of my tour. I packed up my stuff and rode out to see the sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean. I saw a mama deer with a fawn in the morning sun. It was a quiet, magical and peaceful morning. I rode out to a bus station and held a sign on a piece of paper. It said: “Ellsworth or Portland.” I thought it would be safe to do this in the early morning in Acadia National Park. Some people had an early start and passed by me. Rose, one of the people who came to see my film the night before, drove by. She stopped her car and said that she would take me to Ellsworth. I said, “If you don’t need to go there, no worries. I will take a bus.” She said, “I am just going for a hike today so I don’t really mind.”  I told her to enjoy her day and sent her off.

A little after 7:30 AM, the bus showed up. “We can’t take your trailer,” said the driver. I explained to him that this was how I was traveling and that I didn’t have a car. “I have to ride this bus and get as close to Ellsworth as possible, so I can make it to Bangor today to catch another bus to Portland. I have a flight early tomorrow morning from Portland.” He said, “I can’t let you take the trailer. I will get in trouble. It’s against the rules.” I insisted that he help me out. I started to take the wheels off of my trailer so it would look just like a suitcase. Meanwhile, he called his supervisor. The answer was no.

I stood there speechless. All I could think was how the system is set up to make cyclists – minorities on the road – vulnerable. There was nothing I could do. Feeling helpless, I apologized to all the passengers on the bus for the delay that I had caused. I got my bicycle off the rack and wondered what I was going to do – there were 52 miles and lots of up-and-down between here and Bangor. I wouldn’t make the last bus from Bangor to Portland with my 50-pound trailer unless I made no stops.

Right then, a car pulled up behind the bus. It was Rose again. “Did you come back for me?” I asked. “Yes,” she said, “I had a feeling that you were in trouble. Here, I can give you a ride. Let’s get your stuff in my car. Everything will fit.” We rearranged her stuff and surely, everything packed in nicely – her stuff, my bicycle, the trailer and me. She took me to Ellsworth and we had a great conversation on the way.

To me, these people are like angels who give me their hands when I am in trouble. This happened constantly throughout my journey and it makes me feel hopeful. We live in a world of despair, injustice, and violence, where people are hurt every day, but when I meet people like Rose, and so many others like her, I believe that the world is a good place, where people look out for each other, even if they’re strangers. The fact is, we are all connected – we are not strangers at all. This reminds me of a plaque with Rachel Carlson’s words that I saw in Wells, Maine. It says:

” . . . all the life of the planet is interrelated, each species has its own ties to others, and . . . all are related to the Earth . . .”

Most people have never heard of the Gwich’in. On my film tour, I saw audiences connecting emotionally to the women on screen, recognizing what it’s like to lose something so important and sacred. This started driving people to want to protect the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Witnessing this inspired me to hop on my bicycle every morning to reach one more person and ride one more mile.

In the end, I rode over one thousand miles on my bicycle that month. I also rode on trains, buses and support vehicles, which enabled me to reach many hundreds of people. In addition, I collected over two thousand signatures on petitions to President Obama as well as Congressional representatives. Behind those numbers is all the love and support that people provided to me.

I am hopeful – even with the news that I heard as I was getting ready to catch my plane from Portland, Maine the very next day: Shell’s Arctic Ocean drilling permit had been approved. The news was a reminder that we have numerous battles to fight, miles of walls to take down and many barriers to break through. Yet there is always hope, as long as there are people who demand justice and peace.

All this was on my mind on a hot humid evening in Washington D.C. the night before I began my journey to Bar Harbor. It led me to ride my bicycle to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial and to view the large stone with these engraved words: Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope.

In the country where I was born, I write my first name 民穂. The first character 民 (mi) means “people” and is a symbol of democracy. The second character 穂 (ho) means “rice,” which is our staple food and a symbol of our cultural and ecological heritage. My parents chose these two characters as my name with the hope that I would become a protector of people, culture and the environment.

I want to live up to my name. Even when I recognize a mountain of despair, I hope to be a person with optimism and courage who takes action to protect others. Still, on my bicycle film tour, so many people were protecting me. Perhaps that’s what my parents actually intended with my name: a secret wish that I be protected.


Miho Aida, originally from Tokyo, Japan, is an environmental educator, filmmaker, and outdoor adventurer in California. She is recognized for her inspirational media project called “If She Can Do It, You Can Too: Empowering Women Through Outdoor Role Models.” Her award-winning film is titled The Sacred Place Where Life Begins – Gwich’in Women Speak



A story about quitting a high-paying corporate career to volunteer at an animal reserve in Africa  . . .

Read her personal story in a new book.
Released on August 4, 2022
Paperback & Kindle now available! 

“This book holds together the power women find when they are honest and courageous and truthful. Some of these stories moved me to tears, others made me believe in humanity again, many I could identify with. This book brought me tremendous joy, insight and brought me back to believe in the human spirit.”

~ JULIANNA MARGULIES, multiple award-winning actor and author of Sunshine Girl: An Unexpected Life


Melissa Haynes is a shark advocate, animal lover, adventure junkie, conservationist, and author of the book, Learning to Play with a Lion’s Testicles. Her book appeared on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and on Ellen


Jo-Anne McArthur Sea Shepherd

A story about one year in the life of an animal photojournalist . . .

Read her personal story in a new book.
Released on August 4, 2022
Paperback & Kindle now available! 

“This book holds together the power women find when they are honest and courageous and truthful. Some of these stories moved me to tears, others made me believe in humanity again, many I could identify with. This book brought me tremendous joy, insight and brought me back to believe in the human spirit.”

~ JULIANNA MARGULIES, multiple award-winning actor and author of Sunshine Girl: An Unexpected Life


Jo-Anne McArthur is an award-winning animal photojournalist, author, educator, and the founder of We Animals Media, a photo agency which explores our uses, abuses, and sharing of spaces with the animals of this planet. She is the protagonist in the award-winning documentary The Ghosts in Our Machine (2013) and has authored three books, We Animals (2013), Captive (2017) and HIDDEN: Animals in the Anthropocene (2020). We Animals Media makes thousands of images and video available for free to anyone advocating for animals.

VIEW FROM THE TOP by Nalini Nadkarni

Photo by Michael and Patricia Fogden for National Geographic

I have a great job; I climb trees to study the rainforest canopy. My journey to understand trees started early in my life, when I climbed the eight sturdy sugar maples in the front yard of my home in suburban Maryland. Most afternoons, I would drop my school books inside the front door, grab a snack and a book, and scramble up one of those trees, each with its own vertical pathway to a comfortable nest aloft. Those perches were refuges from the world of homework, parental directives, and the ground-bound humdrum of the everyday. I could look out across my home territory, check on the progress of squirrel nest constructions, and feel the strong limbs of those trees holding me up for as long as I wished. It was in those afternoons of arboreal repose that my sense of kinship to trees germinated.

Trees were not my only focus in those formative years. My parents provided me with modern dance lessons from Erika Thimey, a German-born dance teacher who offered the gift of creativity to her students. I learned the expressive ways the body can move and acquire the discipline that is needed to hone my muscles. From Miss Erika, as we called her, I learned that with mindfulness, the simple act of walking across a wooden floor or noting the graceful fall of a leaf can be an aesthetic action. It opened up a whole different way of seeing that has kept me aware of the multiple ways that one must look at nature to understand it fully, an approach I now bring to my scientific work.

In college, I first discovered the world of forest ecology through the lectures of an ecologist, Dr. Jon Waage. When he wasn’t teaching undergraduates, he carried out research on damselfly behavior. I was amazed to learn that he could make a living by sitting at stream edges to record the movements of these aquatic insects. From him, I learned about the world of academic science. He posed seemingly narrow questions that later turned out to relate to much broader issues about life and death, competition and mutualism, and the evolution of life on Earth. Wrestling through the labyrinth of the scientific literature, I learned to trace citations to their sources and recognize the key players in a scientific discussion. Science seemed the right approach to really understand the world.

But what of dance? With my deepening passion for science, I soon fund myself in something of a love triangle, having to choose between very different professions. Parallel with my enthusiastic forays in science, I delighted in the sparks of creativity that flew from each composition in the dance studio, the sense of feeling my body move with others, the messages about life and emotions conveyable on stage, which no scientific paper could communicate. Right after graduation from college, I decided to test out which would be the better profession for me – field biology, manifested in the scholarly persona of Dr. Waage, or modern dance, exemplified by the graceful spirit of Miss Erika.

I first tried on the life of a field biologist. By writing letters to 70 field stations all over the world, and offering my services as a volunteer field assistant, I found a temporary position to help a septuagenarian entomologist (insect biologist). He studied the taxonomy of tropical leaf-feeding beetles and directed a tiny field station in the highlands of Papua New Guinea, in the South Pacific. I accepted with joy. In January of 1978, I arrived at the entrance of the Wau Ecology Institute, in the foothills of the Morobe Province. The field station consisted of a few shabby wooden buildings, a small herbarium and insect collection, and a central table occupied by a chipped coffee pot around which staff gathered each morning to discuss progress on their research projects. I spent the next twelve months on expeditions around the country, thrilled by the stunning diversity of the rainforest. In that rainforest cloister, I felt at home with the people and work I encountered.

After the year in Papua New Guinea was over, it was time to investigate dance. I traveled to Paris, and made contact with a modern dance company, Danse Paris. I first took classes, and was then invited to practice with their troupe. The opportunity to dance for hours at a time and hang out with professional dancers was perfect to test out my potential future profession. After a year in the rainforest, it was a delight to gulp in the cultural offerings that only Paris provides. The art museums, city parks, urban architecture, and evening concerts filled my non-dancing times.

After six months, I had to make a choice. I knew that I could not do both professional science and professional dance. The former demanded years of academic preparation and wildland settings; the latter required years of physical and aesthetic training and an urban homespot. On a sunny morning in April, I sat down with my journals from both locales at a neighborhood café. Over numerous cups of tea, I read through them all and then sat back to decide which was to be my choice. The forest or the stage? As much as I loved the world of dance, the time I spent in the tropical rainforests seemed truer to my own spirit. I felt closer to my biologist colleagues, and more at peace in the forest environment.

I returned to the USA and entered graduate school in forest ecology at the University of Washington’s College of Forest Resources. I spent a summer in Costa Rica on a field biology program, surrounded by fledgling graduate students and experienced faculty who opened the world of tropical ecology with enthusiasm and expertise. Each had his or her own specialty: hummingbird physiology; beetle distribution; songbird migration. Early on during that course, my eyes looked up to the complex world of the forest canopy – the plants and animals that lived their lives high above the forest floor and were among the most poorly known in the world.

I had the good fortune to encounter another graduate student who was studying canopy interactions. Don Perry had developed modified mountain climbing techniques, and he agreed to ‘show me the ropes’ in exchange for help with his field study. After a month, I was ready to climb on my own and to pursue my own set of canopy questions – activities that would enliven my life for the next three decades.

My canopy research colleagues, students and I have enumerated the rare and often unknown species that dwell on branches and twigs that never appear in ground surveys. I discovered that some trees put out “canopy roots” from their own branches and trunks, which gain access to the arboreal soil that accumulates beneath mats of canopy-dwelling (“epiphytes”). We learned that treetop versions of traditionally terrestrial insects and even earthworms – are found in this canopy-level soil, living out their entire life cycle high above the forest floor. We have measured the amounts of nutrients that the epiphytes intercept and retain from rain, mist, and dust, which can be considerable.

Over the last 30 years, new techniques of canopy access have evolved to include hot-air balloons, treetop walkways, hanging platforms, and 30-story construction cranes. The answers that canopy researchers report in scientific meetings confirm that trees are a critical part of ecosystems, landscapes, and the biosphere. Canopy researchers now quantify the amount of oxygen tree canopies produce, the amount of carbon dioxide they store, the volumes of soil they protect, the amount of water they retain, and the scores of wildlife species they support. Urban foresters have documented the “ecosystem services” provided by trees in urban settings: reduction in noise, temperature, and pollutants. Thus, the growing body of treetop research documents that loss of canopy diversity and function is a loss to the forest as a whole and to the landscapes beyond them.

Over the years, aware of the importance of the forest canopy and forest ecosystems in general to the health of the Earth, I have made deep forays into doing outreach and communication of what I have learned. I am especially interested in reaching “non-traditional” audiences, those who don’t automatically pick up a Natural History magazine, or watch a nature documentary film. Each of these projects involves connecting with other partners. One of my programs involves gathering scientist, urban youth, and scientists to spend time in the field and create rap songs about trees and insects. Another program brings science research projects involving endangered plants and animals into prisons so that incarcerated men and women can contribute to solving environmental problems, even though they are behind bars.

Another set of my partners to help communicate scientific messages are artists. One of my favorites is a wonderful collaboration with a modern dancer and choreographer. On an afternoon last year, I got a telephone call from Jodi Lomask, the Director of the San Francisco-based modern dance troupe. She wanted to make a modern dance about tropical rainforests, but wanted it to be based in science – could she come to my rainforest study sites with me to learn about them? Indeed she could, and did, and this year, we are performing the dance she choreographed while climbing my rainforest study trees to public audiences in Seattle, San Francisco, and Washington, DC. I feel happy that the two seemingly divergent forces in my life – studying trees and making modern dances – has come together for the sake of protecting rainforests.

Dr. Nalini Nadkarni is a Professor of Biology at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City and a leader in the scientific field of rainforest canopy research. Nalini created a unique method for rappelling to the top of the canopy using mountaineering equipment and has become known as “The Queen of the Forest Canopy.” She is featured in the Emmy award-winning National Geographic documentary “Heroes of the High Frontier.” She is also the author of three books and numerous scientific research articles. 

HER NAME WAS HONG by Jill Robinson, MBE

Jill Robinson moon bear

A story about an impactful interaction with a moon bear, and how that led to Animals Asia . . .

Read her personal story in a new book.
Released on August 4, 2022
Paperback & Kindle now available! 

“This book holds together the power women find when they are honest and courageous and truthful. Some of these stories moved me to tears, others made me believe in humanity again, many I could identify with. This book brought me tremendous joy, insight and brought me back to believe in the human spirit.”

~ JULIANNA MARGULIES, multiple award-winning actor and author of Sunshine Girl: An Unexpected Life


Jill Robinson is founder of Animals Asia, devoted to ending the practice of bear bile farming and improving the welfare of animals in China and Vietnam. Through her work with the bears, and her many other programs administered through Animals Asia, she is at the forefront of changing the way animals are being perceived and treated on that continent. In 1998 she was awarded an MBE by Queen Elizabeth in recognition of her services to animal welfare in Asia. In 2002, she received the Genesis Award in the United States–the only major media and arts award concerning animal issues. 

HEART by Julia Butterfly Hill

Julia Butterfly Hill and Luna

The root word for courage comes from the French and means “heart.” True courage can only come when we are speaking out or taking action from the heart. For me, this seed of understanding took root and began to grow in December of 1997.

While traveling west with friends, I experienced the ancient redwoods in person for the first time. I was deeply and profoundly touched by their beauty, majesty, and ancient wisdom. I felt like I had walked into the most sacred of cathedrals.

A few weeks later, I found out that over 97 percent of these trees—that grow to be 200 to 300 feet tall and 2,000 to 3,000 years old—have already been logged and that they are continuing to be cut down with highly destructive industrial logging practices. I could not believe this was happening. I felt like I should do something to try to help stop this atrocity from continuing, but I didn’t know how or what to do.

Then, I heard that people were living in trees in order to protect them from being cut down and to try to bring attention to the issue. I thought to myself, “I could do that!” I grew up with two brothers and no sisters, so I knew how to climb trees! I wasn’t quite sure how to be an activist. I wasn’t even sure what that meant exactly. But tree climbing was something I knew how to do, so I volunteered.

When I climbed 180 feet up into the branches of a 200-foot-tall, over 1,000-year-old redwood tree, now known as “Luna,” I thought I would be there for three weeks to a month. It turned out to be over two years, 738 days to be exact, before my feet would touch the ground again. In that time, I faced many challenges that left my heart, spirit, and body broken. There were so many moments where I wanted to give up. Yet every time I felt myself in this space, I would pray and ask for strength. The funny thing is I would always get sent more challenges. Finally, I realized that I was receiving what I had asked for because the only way we get stronger is through exercise, including the exercise of heart, mind, and spirit. Every challenge then became an opportunity for learning and growth.

It was in this way that I realized that every moment, every day, every choice is an opportunity for courage. Every time I choose to act consciously out of my love for my world, no matter what the status quo says, no matter how difficult the choice might be, I am living a life that has meaning, joy, and true power. No matter how dark things in our world seem sometimes, I am the only one who can consciously choose to shine a light of caring, commitment, and courage. It really is a moment, by moment, choice. Yes, we need the “big” acts to encourage and inspire us, but it is only through looking at these as examples to empower ourselves, that we find the extraordinary person that lives within the heart of each and every one of us.

Julia Butterfly HillJulia Butterfly Hill climbed the 1,000-year-old Redwood to stop loggers from cutting it down. Little did she know she’d remain in its canopy, defying the scare tactics of the logging company, for two full years. Julia received international attention and went on to become an international speaker, author, and life coach.