Bewilderment & Richard Powers In Conversation

When I first linked to the work of Richard Powers it was when his previous book was being reviewed. Now he has a new book out, and from the conversation that follows it sounds like this one is a very good bookend to that one:

Richard Powers on What We Can Learn from Trees

The Pulitzer Prize-winning author asks whether we can reimagine our relationship with the natural world before it’s too late.

There are certain conversations I fear trying to fit into a description.

Continue reading

The Nature Conservancy’s 2021 Global Photo Contest Winners

MALUI Western lowland gorilla female ‘Malui’ walking through a cloud of butterflies she has disturbed in a bai. Bai Hokou, Dzanga Sangha Special Dense Forest Reserve, Central African Republic. December 2011. © Anup Shah/TNC Photo Contest 2021

There are several annual photo contests that we have been following over the years. Thanks to The Nature Conservancy for convening this one:

FIREFLIES Just before Monsoon, these fireflies congregate in certain regions of India and on a few special trees like this one, they are in crazy quantity which can range in millions. © Prathamesh Ghadekar/TNC Photo Contest 2021

Save The Waves @ Arroyo San Miguel

The young man who we met 15 years ago is going strong. Save The Waves Coalition has pulled off another small miracle:

SAN MIGUEL SURF BREAK PROTECTED WITH LANDMARK CREATION OF BAJA CALIFORNIA’S FIRST STATE PARK

Save The Waves Coalition and Pronatura Noroeste achieve approval for Arroyo San Miguel

In a historic moment for environmental and surf conservation, the first state park in Baja California, Mexico was officially approved, providing long-lasting protection for the iconic San Miguel wave alongside 67 hectares of green space.

The local initiative spearheaded by Pronatura Noroeste AC, and joined by international nonprofit Save The Waves Coalition (STW), has been in the works for years. Today, the campaign to legally protect San Miguel becomes a reality. Continue reading

Gerald Durrell, The Stationary Ark, And A 2021 Maverick

Gerald Durrell, somehow, has escaped mention in 11,281 previous posts over the last decade+ on this platform. Today is the day to begin correcting that oversight. His novelist brother Lawrence is worthy of his own post here another day. And the family name was recently popularized on television. While Gerald’s own legacy is not easy to categorize, a good starting point is to look at Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust and his related conservation work. Books are a big part of the legacy and the one to the right has had a tangible influence:

An Ark for Vanished Wildlife

Derek Gow’s maverick efforts to breed and reintroduce rare animals to Britain’s countryside.

Derek Gow wants his farm to be a breeding colony, a seedbed for a denuded island. Photograph by Jonny Weeks / eyevine / Redux

Derek Gow decided to abandon conventional farming about ten years ago, not long after the curlews left. At the time, Gow, who is thickset and white of beard, had a flock of fifteen hundred breeding ewes and a hundred and twenty cows, which he kept on a three-hundred-acre farm of heavy clay close to the border between Devon and Cornwall, in southwest England. He was renting an extra field from a neighbor, and a pair of curlews had come to forage for a few days. A farm worker spotted the distinctive brown birds; they have long beaks that slope downward, like violin bows. “He didn’t even recognize what they were,” Gow told me.

Curlews are Europe’s largest wading bird. Continue reading

Wheat 2 Schools

Harvesting Hard Red Spring wheat variety Summit 515 at Whitehead Elementary school in Woodland, California – the second school to grow wheat as part of the Wheat 2 Schools project. (Photo courtesy of Claudia Carter)

Thanks to Civil Eats, after a while, for bringing Nan Kohler and her mission to our attention:

The Next Chapter for Farm to School: Milling Whole Grains in the Cafeteria

Elementary students processing whole wheat pasta with the wheat they harvested that season from their school’s wheat garden.

A new project in California aims to purchase mills for school cafeterias, marking the next step in years-long effort to bring local, whole grains to schools around the country.

Nan Kohler founded the milling company Grist & Toll in Pasadena, California in 2013 and her freshly milled flours have been a hit with bakers, chefs, and locavores ever since. But her abiding wish is to sell California-grown, freshly milled whole grain flour, which is nutritionally superior to refined flour, to the public schools in the area. Continue reading

Kim Stanley Robinson’s Message For All Of Us

When The Ministry for the Future came to my attention late last year, it was the first I had heard of this author (I am buried deep under a big rock when it comes to science fiction). Now I wonder how I could have missed such an important thinker on the most important topics of our time (not science fiction):

Kim Stanley Robinson on “Utopian” Science Fiction

One of the premier writers of thinky sci-fi, Kim Stanley Robinson opened his book “The Ministry for the Future” with an all too plausible scenario: a lethal heat wave descends on India, with vast, horrifying consequences. It’s a sobering read, especially after July, 2021, was declared the hottest month on record. And yet Robinson tells Bill McKibben that his work is not dystopian; his central concern is how the globe could respond to such a disaster and begin to halt the momentum of global warming. Continue reading

A Taste Of Matthew Raiford’s Heritage

The last food book we featured was not a cookbook, but had plenty of food for thought. Thanks to the Kim Severson (again, after a couple years of our not seeing her work) for bringing Matthew Raiford, his family heritage, his farm and his cookbook to our attention in her article: A High-Summer Feast to Forge Connections in the Deep South. And if time is short, click through just for the exceptional photography:

Rinne Allen for The New York Times

Matthew Raiford swore he’d never return to his family farm in coastal Georgia. But in breaking that vow, he found a sense of community worth celebrating with a lavish spread.

BRUNSWICK, Ga. — It’s not a stretch to say there may have never been a party for a cookbook like the one Matthew Raiford threw on his family farm a few weeks ago.

Rinne Allen for The New York Times

The book’s title is “Bress ‘n’ Nyam” — “bless and eat” in the English-based Creole spoken by the Gullah Geechee people who live along the coasts of the Carolinas, Georgia and northern Florida. Their ancestors were captured in West Africa and enslaved. Nowhere else in America has the cultural line from Africa been better preserved. (Mr. Raiford’s people call themselves freshwater Geechee, which means they are from the mainland of coastal Georgia. Saltwater Geechees are from the barrier islands.) Continue reading

The Unalloyed Joy Of Given Plants

Being a gardener has an odd way of attracting the kindness of strangers. Illustration by Daniel Salmieri

Charlotte Mendelson addresses a topic that we can relate to as we repopulate a one-time farm, primarily with coffee but plenty of other goodies as well, most of them gifted to us:

Give Me All Your Cuttings

Free stuff is the zenith of the gardener’s life, the soil tender’s greatest thrill.

I may tell myself that I chat up my neighbors out of a post-quarantine craving for connection. I can pretend that I haul myself outside for a swift ten thousand steps because I’ve finally learned the value of tending myself, body and spirit. But the truth is that I have one motivation for every social interaction, city walk, or strenuous cycle ride: free stuff. Continue reading

Beauty Of The Wild

Library of American Landscape History has published this book, which came to our attention thanks to this excellent article (again) by Margaret Roach:

Three large islands at Storm King Art Center are planted with a mix of prairie grasses, including little bluestem, big bluestem, Indiangrass and switchgrass. Jerry L. Thompson

Your Garden May Be Pretty, but Is It Ecologically Sound?

Darrel Morrison, the elder statesman of the ecological landscaping movement, offers some advice for gardening in a changing world.

Mr. Morrison’s mesic prairie design for the University of Wisconsin Arboretum Native Plant Garden, with the larger Curtis Prairie restoration in the distance. Robert Jaeger

Some gardeners react to any mention of ecological landscaping — the merging of environmental science and art — as if it were a compromise or concession meant to limit their creativity. Darrel Morrison, a landscape architect who has been practicing and teaching this philosophy for some five decades, begs to differ.

“There is the implication that you are suggesting a vegan diet,” said Mr. Morrison, the creator of influential designs at Storm King Art Center, in Orange County, N.Y., the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, Texas. “A lot of people, when they hear a phrase like ‘ecologically sound landscaping,’ they think they are giving up something. But they are not — it only enhances the experience.” Continue reading

The Arbornaut

The author has been featured in these pages multiple times over the years. The publisher makes it easy to find an option that suits your shopping preferences (our preference is obvious). Her new book has received plenty of praise, according to an email she sent us:

Readers everywhere will be fascinated and inspired to learn more about nature, and especially about how we need to conserve the world’s forests.” ―Jane Goodall, PhD, DBE, founder of the Jane Goodall Institute, and United Nations Messenger of Peace Continue reading

Amaranth All Over

Blanca Marsella González, a member of Qachuu Aloom, harvests amaranth plants. Photograph: JC Lemus/Juan Carlos Lemus

We have been paying attention to amaranth plenty over the years. It should have occurred to me back in the early days of this platform to investigate its origins. Amaranth was so central to our diet in India that I assumed it was a native plant. Not so, but it grows all over the world:

‘It could feed the world’: amaranth, a health trend 8,000 years old that survived colonization

Indigenous women in North and Central America are coming together to share ancestral knowledge of amaranth, a plant booming in popularity as a health food

An elderly woman cuts an amaranth crop, in Uttarakhand, India. The plant is indigenous to North and Central America but also grown in China, India, Southeast Asia, West Africa and the Caribbean. Photograph: Hitendra Sinkar/Alamy Stock Photo

Just over 10 years ago, a small group of Indigenous Guatemalan farmers visited Beata Tsosie-Peña’s stucco home in northern New Mexico. In the arid heat, the visitors, mostly Maya Achì women from the forested Guatemalan town of Rabinal, showed Tsosie-Peña how to plant the offering they had brought with them: amaranth seeds.

Back then, Tsosie-Peña had just recently come interested in environmental justice amid frustration at the ecological challenges facing her native Santa Clara Pueblo – an Indigenous North American community just outside the New Mexico town of Española, which is downwind from the nuclear facilities that built the atomic bomb. Continue reading

Coffee & Plastic, Second Shift Footwear

The company said the shoe, called Nomad, will be made from coffee waste and recycled bottles, while recycled polyester will be used to create the membrane to make the footwear waterproof. Photograph: c/o Rens

There is nothing particularly remarkable about the idea of using coffee bags a second time. But it was fun realizing how easy it is, and just doing it. Less easy and maybe lots more fun is the idea in the article below. Hats off to the creative founders who chose this path instead of chasing Silicon Valley unicorns (perhaps their success will demonstrate that unicorns thrive on a healthy planet, as expressed in this t-shirt I saw recently):

Firm seeks funding for ‘performance sneakers’ made from coffee waste

Finnish firm Rens says shoes made from used grounds and recycled plastic will be climate neutral

It is the typical morning routine for hundreds of thousands of Britons: have a cup of coffee and then slip on your trainers before heading for a jog. Upon returning, a quick drink of water to rehydrate before stepping into the shower.

Now, one firm has enabled one thing to beget another, by creating trainers made of recycled plastic bottles and used coffee beans.

Finnish footwear firm Rens launched an online fundraising campaign for its latest sustainable trainer on Tuesday, which it claims will be climate neutral in its production, packaging and transport. Continue reading

Nature, Intervention & Protection

Discovery inspires.

Participation motivates.

Discovery + Participation + Organization =

Results

Click any of the images above to go to the website of this organization featured once before in our pages and now again in the article below. It will make more sense after reading the article. But do visit the site and consider volunteering. Take some kids along.

In New York, Kate Orff will use oyster reefs to mitigate storm surges. Photograph by Thomas Prior for The New Yorker

Eric Klinenberg‘s work on the topic of libraries provided a sense of common cause. After featuring so many stories about libraries and librarians (my more recent personal anecdote was purposely brief so did not relay how many ways my local library impacted my young life, a topic for another day), his book summed up much of why the institution matters to us. And then some. Advocating for libraries was something a talented academic could do on a larger scale than we could in these pages, especially with publications like those. Bravo. And now this.

After lots of attention to rewilding in these pages, plenty of it related to urban landscapes, the same author that further illuminated our understanding about the value of libraries has convinced me of how much more there is to learn on this topic:

The Seas Are Rising. Could Oysters Help?

How a landscape architect is enlisting nature to defend our coastal cities against climate change—and doing it on the cheap.

On a windy afternoon in April, the landscape architect Kate Orff stood on the open walkway of a container crane, some eighty feet above the Red Hook Terminal, in Brooklyn, and the Buttermilk Channel, a tidal strait on the southeast side of Governors Island. Continue reading

Art Of The National Parks

Click the image above if this is your kind of coffee table book. It is of course available elsewhere but please, support the publisher instead of the elsewhere option. We feature stories related to the national parks of the USA about as frequently as any other topic; here is a unique way to support the idea and the actions that flow from the idea.

Thanks to the Guardian’s feature on the book for bringing it to our attention:

The art director JP Boneyard ’s favourite park is Montana’s Glacier national park. “It’s breathtaking, I’m smiling just thinking about it ,” he says. For his screen-print project Fifty-Nine Parks, now collected in a book, he asked modern artists to reinterpret America’s classic national park posters, commissioned by the government in the 1900s.

“I hope they inspire people to visit the parks and connect with nature, but, heck, it’d be awesome if the book inspired folks to pick up a squeegee and start printing too,” he says.

The National Parks Conservation Association has been mentioned in our pages a couple times before, but only in passing. Finding out more about this book led me to their website for the first time, and I already see a post on that topic is needed, but on another day.

Adventures In Blue

Blue morpho butterfly

The last time I posted about a blue insect you could see the blue. In the case of this butterfly above, all the blue is on the upper side of the wings, hidden in this view. To wrap up the thoughts started a couple days ago, I share a few more photos that for me qualify as visual micro-adventures.

Probable identification: one of the 50 or so species of the Trametes genus of fungi

I do not know the species of this fungi, but I find it remarkable that it comes to my attention just after the surprise of seeing a blue morpho butterfly, not commonly seen on this land in Escazu. Remarkable because some of the colors in common, including an unexpected hint of blue.

View to the east from Escazu as sun sets

Likewise, by the end of a day on this land, dusk may not produce a classical awe, but in the context of the various shades of brown it is something to still see some blue.

Micro Versus Macro

Mather Point, at Grand Canyon National Park, over the Fourth of July weekend.

Likely there is an algorithmic explanation for why the article I chose to riff on yesterday from one publication is followed by my coming across this article to riff on today as a follow-up:

PHOTO ESSAY

Americans are flocking to national parks in record numbers, in many cases leading to long lines and overcrowded facilities. Here’s what four parks looked like over the holiday weekend.

After so long being constrained from travel, and being socially distanced from others, I can imagine that all the people in all the crowded national parks are delighted by the combination of social and natural awe. As for me, I will continue the thoughts started yesterday, and share a few more images of a morning full of micro versus macro awe. About that ant I concluded with yesterday:

I have no clue about the species; but the herky-jerky movement is awesome. After that little parking lot observation, walking to the other side of the house, I see the hen again in a planter. I had shooed her away each recent morning, thinking that she was digging for worms or otherwise disrupting the growth of the herbs.

Hen again

I got her to vacate with such enthusiasm that she scrambled to the top of a tall column next to a mango tree where she often spends the night.

When I came back to inspect the damage to the herbs, I instead found what she was really doing there.

When your hen lays eggs in the tarragon and parsley bed, she is telling you something. Omelette

Not only not destructive; on the contrary, awesome breakfast.

All In A Day’s Microadventures

A New Hampshire lawn in June. John Tully for The New York Times

Emily Pennington has shared recommendations from some experienced folks about alternatives to the well-known spectacular adventures, such as hiking the Grand Canyon. She recommends trying microadventures in this article subtitled How to find a sense of awe and discover a miraculous world right outside your door. Early on she writes about what we are often looking for in the places we travel to :

…Researchers often describe awe as an emotion that combines an experience of vastness with both pleasure and a fear of the unknown. While many of us might consider these moments rare, ephemeral and tricky to reproduce, a few scientists are finding that this reverence is a skill that can be cultivated and has remarkable mental health benefits.

“Awe basically shuts down self-interest and self-representation and the nagging voice of the self,” said Dacher Keltner, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley. “That’s different from feeling pride or amusement or just feeling good. It’s like, ‘I’m after something sacred.’”

I have spent most days since early March 2020 looking for awe at or close to home, so I could relate immediately to what she was writing about in this article. A typical day starts with this view:

Start of a day’s microadventures

If you cannot imagine being awed by that, stop reading here. I will seek more awe as the day continues. Continue reading

Sugarcane On The Curvy Berm & Other Wonders

Sugarcane planted with vetiver grass mulching cover

The saving grace of the period from March, 2020 to the present day has been this few acres of land needing attention and care. Saving grace means that by giving attention and care to the land, I was simultaneously tending to my own wellbeing. The therapeutic value was such that by September, half a year of cloudy outlook was giving way to an urge to send postcards to the world. It was an urge urged by tending that land. As we began the second year of the venture that supports that land, all kinds of regenerative initiatives kept coming to my attention. And now it is nonstop planting around the curvy berm.

Urban Jungles & Biodiversity

A peregrine falcon flying over Leipzig, Germany. Peregrines survive and reproduce more easily in cities than in rural areas. SEBASTIAN WILLNOW / PICTURE ALLIANCE VIA GETTY IMAGES

We have frequently considered urban greening in reference to social justice and to agricultural innovation. Thanks to Janet Marinelli for this consideration of a more fundamental possibility:

Urban Refuge: How Cities Can Help Solve the Biodiversity Crisis

Cities have long been considered species deserts, devoid of wildlife beyond pigeons and squirrels. But with animals such as snowy owls, otters and bobcats now appearing in urban areas, scientists are recognizing that cities can play a significant role in fostering biodiversity.

Last year, as billions of people around the globe were in coronavirus lockdown, students of Queens College ecologist Bobby Habig discovered a bobcat roaming around the Bronx River in New York City, better known for its recent past as an open sewer and repository for automobile tires and rusted chassis than as a habitat for elusive wildcats. In January, a snowy owl, native to Canada’s Arctic tundra, touched down in Central Park for the first time in 130 years and spent more than a month supplementing its usual diet of boreal lemmings with choice urban fare such as mice and rats. For weeks a coyote was spotted in the Ramble, a 37-acre “wilderness” of rocky crags and hilly forest in the heart of Central Park. Continue reading

Humpback Whale Rebound

A humpback whale off the shore of the Gold Coast in Australia. (Photo: Steve Austin, Flickr, CC BY-ND 2.0)

Just absorb this (thanks to the Living on Earth podcast for this short segment):

…Experts estimate there are about 40,000 humpbacks that migrate each year between the southern oceans around Antarctica and the oceans around Australia. And there used to be 1500 a half century ago, mostly wiped out due to wailing. Continue reading

%d bloggers like this: