In this blog I focus on plants. Any gardener, botanist or horticulturist knows that plants, all living organisms, live in an incredibly complex, interwoven network of systems, each affecting the others, the health of anyone, in large part determined by the health of the ‘whole’. Life does not and cannot exist in a vacuum. We humans are also very much living organisms and subject to the same kind of limits as any species. What we build and produce, including those more abstract things like our social and economic systems upon which we are very much dependent, are subject to the same natural laws and limits, whether we recognize them or not. Very much a part of this is how we value other life collectively. Just because many may say other people and species are of less value, does not make this fact. The laws and ways of ‘man’ must remain within, and consistent with, the laws of nature. We are not at liberty to treat other life as expendable. We owe a debt and responsibility to all life. Life permits and supports us so it is incumbent upon us to do the same for it. Such is the natural law of reciprocity. Continue reading
Warning!!! This is a rant! It’s political, economic, ecological and, most definitely, covers all of the connections between with climate change, these things and our future as a species. I hope you choose to read it, but be forewarned!!
I woke up yesterday at 4:30am, unable to go back to sleep, so I got up and began writing this. The state of the world, the absolute idiocy, meanness and short sightedness of politics today, the undeniable enormity of climate change and its inevitable impacts for every organism on the planet, drives me from paralyzing frustration, to near rage, to profound sadness and despair. Most days all I can do is seek escape and I do this through gardening, reading eclectically, trying to follow some kind of routine, going for walks, a swim or a hike, sharing time with friends or delving into research on plants and the everyday miracles within them and their wondrously choreographed lives here on this planet….I spent my entire morning writing and rewriting this (and returned to it the following day, now today). It is me ‘sharing’. Yes, it’s a rant, it’s a bit of analysis, it’s a window into the world as I see it and it contains a hope I have…that I have to cling to most days, for this world and all that lives upon it, because what we have done, what we continue to do, is so profoundly destructive and disheartening to me. Continue reading
Much of today’s news media mires us in the sensational, adding little to our desperate need for clarity. Instead we are subjected to endless ‘stories’ whose primary intent seem to be distraction, obfuscation, dissipation and division, leaving us at best numbed and discouraged from taking effective action….I know many who would say that this is precisely their intent. This is not, however, true in every case. I only recently came across this story in the New York Times Magazine, yes that bastion of unabashedly liberal ‘fake news’. On the face of it, it is another such story. The story’s title plainly states, ‘APOACALYPSE’, a word which carries so much negative baggage that its inclusion alone will keep many readers away…but don’t be dissuaded! This article is more ‘wakeup call’ than hammer. It is a call for action not the simple manipulative emotional plea that has become an integral part of current political strategy. It clearly defines and lays out the problem, which is absolutely essential to taking effective action. It does indeed paint a frightening and devastating future for us all…if we choose to continue on our current path, but it also points out a way through it, and, throughout the entire article, it introduces us to individuals and organization who are credible and passionate witnesses and actors in their efforts to make a positive difference. This is exactly what we need right now. Powerlessness is not an option. Read the article!
[As I go over this post yet again, July 21, the 80,000 acre Substation Fire is still burning across canyon and wheat country here. Included in the blaze are the 20 miles of the Lower Deschutes canyon down to the campground at the confluence with the Columbia. Much of this burned down to within 2′ or 3′ of the riverbank including the historic Harris Ranch buildings. So, when you look at all of these pictures, with the exceptions of where the fire hopped and skipped, everything is charred. The Oregon Wildlife Federation, formed in the 1980’s to purchase and protect this portion of the canyon, has stepped up with $100,000 to help the area recover. It will take considerably more especially if there is any intention of making headway regarding the spreading invasives problem.]
[Now, another 2 weeks later more massive fires continue to burn across the dried up West that has just experienced another record breaking month of heat, while the president goes on ‘bleating’ and blaming it on our ‘bad’ environmental laws and all of the water we’re diverting into the ocean! ‘F’ing! moron!]
The last time we came here was eight years ago in December. My memory of then is much like the experience on this evening…only it was clear and cold. The light was similar except that then the low angled sun was due to winter, with that season’s urgency, not a late Spring evening like this outing. This time it is warm, camp is comfortable and nearby and the greens are still gathered around the river and the still moist draws and seeps. On that day we’d gone to Hood River for my birthday, to get out of town and there was a break in the weather so we drove here to these trails at the mouth of the Deschutes, hiked along the river, returning on the upper springs trail. Winter or summer, green only sticks around a little longer than we do, before it retreats…life is shier here, tough, but shy. The starkness of this landscape should be read as a warning to visitors, this is no easy Eden. Life is earned here or at least requires a strength, patience and frugality that many don’t have. This is much the same for people as it is for wildlife and plants. Them that don’t, can’t. That’s why it may be surprising to some that such a place has a problem with exotic invaders. What could possibly look on places such as this as ‘favored’? Well, Central Asia, especially its Steppe, with its continental, cold and dry climate containing many species that see such a place as this as home, or even better, without the competitors they faced back there. The temperature can swing widely here on any given day while the seasonal extremes can vary as much as 125ºF from high to low. Relatively few plants can thrive in this. The dry summers with their very limited and sporadic thunder showers, combined with the ‘wet’ winters, total only 10″-12″ or so of precipitation, plus or minus, is another major limiting factor. Of course, near the river, the moisture problem is moderated and a broader range of invasives can find a ‘foothold’. We, as a people, have ‘brought’ these weeds here with us in our travels, often as a result of our commerce. Those that have made it here are spreading. Too many prosper. Continue reading
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
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
[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