Wind, Current, Love.

 

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Vlad and Johna. Photo by Larson Harley.

HarborLAB incorporated in September 2012. In October Hurricane Sandy hit New York City. The communities and shores we were freshly chartered to serve and steward were devastated. We didn’t have a single boat in our fleet or a home launch, but we had a core of wonderful volunteers ready to help when a call went out from battered Far Rockaway.

The first and largest donors to HarborLAB’s relief work were founding science adviser Vladimir Brezina, his partner Johna Till Johnson, and their colleagues. They pooled thousands for a generator, food, water, sanitary supplies, blankets, and more that HarborLAB volunteers delivered and distributed.

Today we salute their love, and year of marriage, that began on the water. We also salute the generous spirit and fecund mind of Vlad, who passed in December after a years-long struggle with cancer. It’s fitting that Vlad turned to the sea for his neuroscience research. He studied marine invertebrates to blaze trails toward a better understanding of how animals like humans move through, respond, and learn from their environments. For a fuller appreciation of Vlad, the most moving tribute is Johna’s In Memoriam post.

Johna and Vlad’s first day together started with a handshake at Pier 40 in Manhattan. They paddled from Manhattan to Sandy Hook, NJ. Their lunch chatter on the beach was a debate over the relative impacts of the world wars on American culture. “We never did agree,” Johna says, much like their ongoing discussion about the happiness of ducks. But they did agree to more voyages.

“After a while I noticed I was always happier around him than not. After a further while I figured out why, and told him I loved him. Things progressed rather rapidly thereafter,” Johna recalls.

Spreading love across the harbor is something Vlad and Johna did well together. Despite Vlad’s struggle with cancer, they provided HarborLAB with a trip planning workshop (to be published online soon) and they shared their adventures, knowledge, and Vlad’s beautiful photographs through their blog, Wind Against Current: Thoughts on Kayaking, Science, and Life. We’re happy to say Johna is continuing the blog.

Below is one of Vlad’s recent lectures, delivered when he was already deep in his chemotherapy. Still full of energy, and still sharing. No energy is lost. No ideas vanish.

As we salute Vlad, we also solute all scientists and the scientific method, humanity’s surest philosophical approach to material truth and means of equipping ourselves with solutions to the challenges ahead. We HarborLAB volunteers thank you and hope to inspire young people to join your ranks. We love your pursuit of knowledge in service to humanity and ecology.

 

 

2014 Calendar Filling Up!

January isn’t quite over and already HarborLAB’s 2014 season is filling up! We’re having trouble with our Google Calendar, so please keep on top of opportunities to volunteer and paddle through our Facebook events page:

https://www.facebook.com/HarborLAB/events

Students and environmental volunteers have priority seating on our public trips, but we arrange special events too. Please let us know how and when we might help your service organization extend its mission onto the water, or let’s brainstorm together! 

On many days HarborLAB will organize “Partner Paddles,” which are special events for schools, universities, researchers and artists, environmentalists, and other service groups. For example, in 2013 we had special events for the Hunter’s Point Community Middle School, CUNY Baruch College, CUNY LaGuardia Community College, Hour Children, Billion Oyster Project, NYC DEP and its upstate watershed exhibitors, and others serving the common good. To avoid confusion, these events won’t be posted on our public calendars and event lists, but we’ll post photo galleries and trip reports afterward.

HarborLAB must also devote considerable attention to improving its waterfront space and launch, and conducting environmental science research there. Energetic volunteer recruitment and fundraising for boats and materials will increase our ability to produce simultaneous programs. Exciting times ahead!

Here are a few events to get you dreaming of summer!

 

Winter Solstice with Rachel Carson, 51 Years Ago

A beautiful winter solstice passage from the immortal correspondence between Rachel Carson and Dorothy Freeman.

A winter solstice passage from the immortal correspondence between Rachel Carson and Dorothy Freeman.

HarborLAB is amassing a small library of environmental science books to enrich students and volunteers. Our newest addition is Always, Rachel. This is the page revealed when we opened it for the first time. We’re happy to share this glimpse of the Winter Solstice fifty-one years ago. It was Rachel Carson’s penultimate Winter Solstice.

Rachel Carson is often credited with sparking the modern American environmental movement with her book, Silent Spring. Some forget that she was already an acclaimed nature writer with books and articles that grew out of her work as a federal marine biologist. One reader of The Sea Around Us, Dorothy Freeman, developed a powerful bond with Carson that would celebrate her rising recognition and endure through to her death from cancer in the spring of 1964. Both women destroyed many of their letters shortly before Carson’s death. The surviving correspondence is rich with insights into this leading 20th century communicator of environmental science. Freeman’s granddaughter rendered a great service to us all when she gathered them for this book, published in 1995.

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