Editor’s Note: The Quackers are three awesome ducks — Rusty, Richard and Sydney — from the canals of Venice who are on a mission to educate the community about the dangers of global warming and the importance of practicing sustainability, all while surfing the most gnarly waves possible.

It was still very early when a delightful aroma drifted into our bedrooms and our dreams. I popped my head out of the bedroom and saw Rusty doing the same. If we were still dreaming at least we seemed to be having the same one.

We wandered toward the kitchen, still rubbing the sleep from our eyes. There was Richard buttering a tall stack of fluffy, golden-brown pancakes. Funny, we thought, it wasn’t Sunday. Humming, Richard poured three steaming mugs of thick hot chocolate and topped them all off with tons of mini marshmallows. When he asked if we would like our maple syrup warmed or at room temperature we lost the ability to reason and speak.

“Warmed it is then”, he said. We grabbed our knives and forks.

While we ate pancakes dripping with buttery syrup and sipped sweet, creamy hot chocolate it was easy to ignore that little voice in the back of our minds that kept repeating over and over, “Pancakes on a weekday?”

As our bellies filled the voice got louder. What was Richard up to? Was he angling for us to rake leaves for the compost bin? Nah, that wouldn’t rate this breakfast. Did he want to borrow money? What had he done? These thoughts and more raced through our minds.

We stared expectantly at Richard hoping for an explanation. He seemed oblivious to us. He just continued humming a little tune and reading the Santa Monica Daily Press. 

All of the sudden Rusty blurted out, “OK, OK! We’ll rake the leaves for you!”

Startled, Richard looked up from the paper, “What are you talking about? I didn’t ask you to rake any leaves.”

Rusty squinted trying to read Richard’s face and said, “Then why did you make us pancakes on a weekday?” 

Richard answered, “Can’t a brother just be nice? Let’s go surfing.”

I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Richard is a nice guy but I was sure there was more than brotherly love behind that delicious breakfast. It had to be something terrible. Maybe that was his strategy. If we imagined the worst and he told us something not half as bad we might forget to be upset with him.

Some situations call for diplomacy and a subtle approach. I decided this was not one of them. Walking home from the beach I exploded, “It’s driving me crazy Richard. What did you do? Did you blow up my computer? What?”

He had no idea it bothered me so much. “Sidney, I’ll come clean if you just calm down. I volunteered the three of us for eight straight weekends of carbon farming.”

His strategy did not work. Rusty and I fumed. Eight weeks doing something we never even heard of. He kept saying, “It is for a great cause. Calm down.   Just let me explain.” 

We said, “Talk fast!”

Richard, always on the lookout for new ways to combat global warming and help wildlife, had found a project called Green Trees. It pays farmers across the lower Mississippi River Valley to convert their croplands to woodlands. Instead of soy beans or corn they would “farm” a new crop, carbon dioxide.

The goal is to restore a large swath of the vast bottomland hardwood forest that once stretched from Illinois to the Gulf of Mexico. Right now only 20 percent of this critical wildlife habitat remains. The rest has been cleared for agriculture. The growing global market for carbon credits, where individuals or businesses buy credits to offset greenhouse gas emissions, presented an opportunity that will help the program raise a billion dollars to re-plant one million acres. The restoration will improve farmers’ financial stability, help global warming by sequestering and storing carbon dioxide, restore wildlife habitat and keep soil from being washed into the Gulf of Mexico.

We were softening.

Still talking fast, he told us of another similar project that The Trust for Public Lands had taken on along the Tensas River in Louisiana. They are planting 11,000 acres of trees. This will not only add to the Tensas River National Wildlife Refuge, it will also sequester three million tons of carbon over the next 100 years, create a continuous forested corridor for the threatened Louisiana black bears and provide habitat for other wildlife.

Luckily, we did not have to travel out of state for the next eight weekends. Richard found us something closer to home. We would be volunteering in Northern California’s Mendocino County on a conservation fund effort called the Garcia River Project. It is helping safeguard more than 330,000 acres including 40,000 of watershed and forestlands that are invaluable to the current climate crisis.

OK, Richard was right. They were all important projects and the Garcia River project sounds like a good choice for us. I guess the Quackers are taking up carbon farming.

I still think he should have asked first.

Phyllis and the Quackers can be reached at phyllis@phyllischavez.com. The Quackers have a new, amazing Web site! Stories, pictures and a blog at www.thequackers.com.  

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