“In the language of forestry and forest ecology, the ‘understory’ is the name given to the life that exists between the forest floor and the tree canopy: the fungi, mosses, lichens, bushes, and saplings that thrive and compete in this mid-zone. Metaphorically, though, the ‘understory’ is also the sum of the entangled, ever-growing narratives, histories, ideas, and words that interweave to give a wood or forest its diverse life in culture.” — Robert Macfarlane

If the ‘understory’ names the sum of the “entangled, ever-growing narratives, histories, ideas, and words” about a wood or forest, in addition to the burgeoning life that teems between the ground and the tree canopy—well, then, we must be part of it. The Understory blog, in other words, highlights not only the natural world but the ongoing work of the climate justice movement to bring people back into balance with it. We want to feature a diversity of the stories and characters that inhabit the activist ecosystem, with the hope that you’ll find your place in it. Oh, and maybe write for us, too.

Editors: Amanda Sorell and Annie Dwyer

Campaign Hot Take: Stop the Highway Building Beast

For over a year, the Washington State legislature has been struggling to pass a new multi-year transportation revenue and spending package. Big differences between the House and Senate versions led to impasse last session, and a group of 8 Democratic legislators --...

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Growing Up at the End of the World

Created by Mia Werger This is my story of growing up under the constant threat of climate destruction. Living with this threat is something I thought was “normal” as a child, and only recently have I realized how bizarre it is to face the possibility of outliving...

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Introducing Grace Hope

Grace Hope is our new Leadership Development Director and the 350 Washington Network Facilitator. Q: What was your first visceral awareness of the scope of the climate crisis? A: I feel like it took me a long time to realize that the many crises around me - industrial...

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Barry Lopez: A 2019 Interview

The acclaimed writer Barry Lopez passed away on Christmas day, 2020. Here, he was interviewed by Malcolm Johnson in 2019. Barry, how have you been? Well, I was getting ready to go to Alaska tomorrow morning, but had a long talk with my wife and decided to pull the...

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Determined to Forget

We caught up with Dr. Sarah Myhre, an advocate, science communicator, paleoceanographer, and outspoken feminist and anti-racist. Among other credentials, she is a Kavli Fellow with the National Academy of Science, a founding member of 500 Women Scientists, and a board...

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Introducing Michael Renaissance

I am focused on building in a world that will sustain the victories we win as a people concerned with social justice. My nieces and nephews will be living in the world we leave for them, and their children’s children’s children will wonder why we did or didn’t do the things to overcome the climate crisis; this is always on my mind.

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River Restoration: A Collaboration

Q&A with Dr. Cleo Woelfle-Erskine: Collaborating with the Duwamish Tribe and Community Groups on River Restoration Cleo Woelfle-Erskine is an Assistant Professor at University of Washington’s School of Marine & Environmental Affairs. We talked by phone to...

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Healing for Activists

It’s hard to prioritize personal well-being in the face of so much to fix in the world. I struggled with it, certainly. I started volunteering with the climate movement in early 2019. In two years, I’ve already pushed myself to the brink of burnout. Despite a keen...

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The Cause that Connects Us

The day after election day, feeling fear and dread, I boarded a bus to Pioneer Square, where I met with a group of organizers who shared my worries. Before joining a larger protest for justice, we gathered in a circle and sang together, “count every vote” and “protect...

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Raising Children in a Warming World

“Because I have children, I want to bury my head under a pile of pillows and forget about the world’s woes. But because I have children, for whom I want the world to be better, avoidance and denial are inexcusable.”

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Present & Powerful

As a child, I used to lie in a hollow space below a cherry tree that was wound around a mulberry tree, their branches reaching toward the ground and surrounding me on all sides. Inside that secret place, I took my pick of the fruits in the canopy, and I thought of it as a single tree, capable of something greater than the sum of its parts.

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It’s a Way of Life: Rachel Heaton interview

“The biggest thing is having my kids see my work… it’s a way of life. It’s who I am as a Native person…It’s about having a better place for all people. The biggest gift that I have is taking over a bank and wearing my son in a pack and knowing that he sees that.”

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In your heart, you know we’re right

It always seemed a little like Imogene forgot to grow old, unruly white hair notwithstanding. I told her at one point that I wanted to be like her when I grew up, and I still do. She never stopped expecting the best from people, so she never gave up on trying to get it.

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