Category Archives: Language

On the Necessity of Poetry in the World

In Pinnacles National Park on the High Peaks Trail

Unlike the Irish, who embrace and celebrate their poets, or the Japanese with their several centuries long history of haiku, we Americans embrace the rational, the utilitarian and too often jot our observations down in reductionist, artless lines….I know that is not always true, but face it, we scoff at poetry, unless it is dressed in the postures of hip-hop or pop culture, ambient lyrics vying for our attention in the ‘battle’ to attract customers.  Poets take as a given the mystery and beauty of life.  They do not shy away from the sharp edges and risks.  Like visual artists, whose eyes cause them to see the world in a multiplicity of ways, poets describe a mutable, ineffable world, that is different from moment to moment, whose ‘boundaries’ shift and transform that which they appear to contain…as if the world were an experiment in the shifting perspective of quantum physics….Poets ‘paint’ with swaths and scrawls of letters across the page, measured and rhythmic, a code, an illumination, a pathway they’ve scribed across a page, from heart to heart across the beating Earth.  We Americans crave solidity, a stable world where being and life are fixed and knowable…we leave the rest for God and the egg-heads as if these things don’t really matter to us…as they are beyond our ken and responsibility.  The world of the poet raises too many questions for us and questions can undermine the investment we’ve put into our fixed world image upon which we’ve staked our lives.  Americans are blindered gamblers and most of us have placed our bets on the same outcome.

I do read poetry…even attempt to write it sometimes.  I read science and history, politics and about the social ways of my fellows.  I garden and often agonize over what is ‘wrong’ in this world…what we can do to heal it.  Poetry teaches us that connection is often not found in a straight line.  Solution is not found in the old ways of thinking, ways that can only lead us down this path we seem to be fatally connected to.  Poetry is opening and inclusive, it speaks to what we share, what we stand to lose.  To read it requires something different of us, that we exercise and strengthen long neglected muscles, muscles that once moved us through our childhood worlds of wonder and awe.  The adult world has largely banished this, stripped life of wonder, and with it, the value integral to the heart of all things.  We scoff at those who speak of this, call them childish and dismiss them….This is what we’ve lost and the world so desperately needs today.  Continue reading

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On Our Expulsion From the Garden: How Our Ideas of the Garden Shape What We Do

There are those who argue that life is short and violent, that we have nothing to look forward to other than our deaths…so we might as well grab for whatever we can now!….that is the path of the nihilist and the greedy, it serves as an excuse, a rationale for their choices, following an ethic of ‘why the hell not!’  This is consistent with the ‘beliefs’ of those who feel the weak get what they deserve, that anything that opposes their idea of dominance, is weakness and failure and they pursue it with the righteousness of a ‘true believer’.  “Only the strong survive”.  If our gardens can teach us anything it is instead that, ‘He/She who has the graciousness to take only what they need and gives back whatever they are able to, live on through the love and lives of those and that which they’ve nurtured, helped, befriended and mentored along the way and in this way have helped build a richer, more complex and diverse world.’  Our true legacy will be best expressed in the richness and health of the world we leave behind, of those that we’ve loved and taught.  As competitive as the world is, it is this positive, cooperative, supportive aspect of life that makes it all possible.  While the world is divided into heterotrophs and autotrophs, those that must consume to live and those able to grow and metabolize that which they need from the world around them, it requires them both, working in a balance to sustain them all.  We humans, ultimately, cannot be any different if the world is to continue on. Continue reading

A Look into Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) and the Use of Neonicotinoids: A View from two Extremes, part 2

A bee working the large inflorescence of a Heptacodium miconoides.

A bee working the large inflorescence of a Heptacodium miconoides.

This is the second and last installment of my look at Jon Entine’s articles and the strategies he employs.  Here is a link to the first of my postings on this.

Part II: Bee Deaths And CCD – Flawed Chensheng Lu Harvard Studies Endanger Bees

By Jon Entine | November 24th 2014

Last week, in Part I of this two part series, “Bee Deaths Mystery Solved? Neonicotinoids (Neonics) May Actually Help Bee Health”, we explored the claims by Harvard School of Public Health researcher Chensheng Lu, heralded by anti-pesticide and anti-GMO advocacy groups, for his research that purportedly proves that the class of chemicals known as neonicotinoids are killing bees and endangering humans. And we saw how many journalists, our of ignorance or for ideological reason,s promote dicey science. 

(Some advocacy groups have latched on to Lu’s work looking for legitimacy and support. There has been a growing community of resistance to much that has been going on in the agro-chem-gentec industry that pre-dates Lu and his research. They have been challenging the multi-billion dollar industry on multiple fronts. On the other hand, it only takes a little checking to discover that Lu is often viewed as a ‘liability’ within the scientific community and a hinderence to their efforts by many in the community who have been advocating for good science in the political process that regulates these industries. They did not choose Lu nor do they now claim him as their champion. Entine, in his previous article strategically chose Lu as a ‘straw dog’ to represent his opposition, the “anti-pesticide and anti-GMO advocacy groups”, a target that he could then ‘tear down’ and then apply to the opposition groups as a whole, as if Lu, with his biases and ‘sloppy science’ were truly representative of them. In these articles, at least, Entine gets to choose. This strategy is becoming increasingly common when ‘industry’ and their front men, under attack, seek to ‘confuse’ the public thus reducing political pressure that might seek to limit them and their ability to conduct ‘business as usual’. Continue reading

A Look into Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) and the Use of Neonicotinoids: A View from two Extremes, part 1

A bee visiting the flowers of an Edgewortia chrysantha in Washington Park.

A bee visiting the flowers of an Edgewortia chrysantha in Washington Park.

The following posting is built around an article written by Jon Entine in response to Chensheng Lu’s claims that Neonicotinoides, synthetic Nicotine, a commonly used ‘group’ of insecticides in modern conventional agriculture, are at the heart of CCD.  There is a link to the original Entine article posted on his site, the Genetic Literacy Project ,it also appears, on the Science 2.0, website.  There is a second Entine article as well addressing more directly Lu’s ‘science and Entine’s conclusions that I will deal with in a later posting.   I began this after reading it several weeks ago on Facebook and was initially, convinced by it that Lu was in fact practicing bad science and that bothered me, because Entine’s article was ‘pushing’ me so hard to get to that conclusion.  Later, the topic kept popping up on my radar as I saw calls for bans of neonics here in the US.  I more recently was puzzled by what I found on the Xerces Society website regarding the issue…so I decided to look a little deeper.  What follows is still a beginning, an attempt to winnow the ‘wheat from the chaff’.  There are many more questions to ask if we are to make a responsible decision on this issue.  Such things are never simple when fallible humans and corporations are involved. Continue reading

Blurfillication and the Neutering of Language

[Okay.  Every once in awhile you’re going to have to allow me one of these.  I am a horticulturist and a word guy.  Communication is hard enough even without interest groups screwing around with our language!!!  Throw in the taxonomists endlessly resorting families and genera…and I can’t hardly think.]

Before you start, I offer this in the way of a little explanation:  In my previous life as a horticulturist working for the City of Portland Parks and Recreation, I attended more meetings than I want to think about, and I was a field guy.  One series of them focused on “sustainable landscapes”.  I felt like I might as well have been sitting there with a bunch of Russian and Chinese speakers, I mean no disrespect, but I have absolutely no facility for foreign languages.  English and botanical latin pretty well max me out.  I could not believe how many different interpretations of the phrase there were.  To me it was very simple and very clear…somebody either stole the word sustainable and transformed it or I was asleep that day in class when they passed out the definitions.  That is where the following comes from…that and my own often off the wall associations….

Blurfillious: \ˈblər fil-le-yəs\ adj, the quality or state of having been rendered meaningless, generally applied to words themselves not the actual objects or actions. Continue reading