Sunday, December 31, 2006

No Frog Zone? Pesticide Database Released

Pesticide effects database released
by Nathan Rushton, 12/31/2006

The Eureka-based Californians for Alternatives to Toxics has unveiled on its Web site an assembled database of hundreds of scientific studies and research documents related to the harmful effects of pesticides and herbicides on amphibians and reptiles.

CAT Executive Director Patty Clary said the database project began about six years ago when a CAT member in the Southern Humboldt County area alerted the group that swimming holes in several local rivers and creeks were no longer populated by frogs where frogs had always been observed.

“This was a very frightening situation,” Clary said.

The Reptile, Amphibian and Pesticides database, or RAP, builds upon an earlier database covering literature up to 1998, which was assembled by the Canadian Wildlife Service.

CAT’s updated data pool is searchable by species and genus, location of research, pesticide studied and toxicological effect and includes a list of 327 scientific papers published since 1999 on the effects of pesticides on amphibians.

Another 128 research papers on pesticides’ impacts on reptiles is also included.

The database, which will be updated as new information becomes available, can be found on CAT’s Web site at

The release of the database follows on the heels of last week’s action by CAT, which joined with several environmental groups and organic farmers in announcing that a lawsuit was filed in the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals over the Environmental Protection Agency’s recent ruling change on how it permits pesticide applications near water.

The groups, which also included Bay Area water-quality watchdog group San Francisco Baykeeper, sued the EPA for its decision that spraying of pesticides into the nation’s waters should no longer be regulated by the Clean Water Act and will now be regulated under the more obscure Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act.

With declining amphibian populations linked to pesticides already well documented, Clary said she is concerned about the health of amphibians and reptiles and the “deregulating” of pesticides by the EPA in its ruling change, which the groups say allows contamination of waterways without agency oversight.

Although Clary said pesticides and herbicides are not usually the primary cause of the decline of amphibian populations, they are an additional stress that makes them more vulnerable to disease.

Amphibians are often referred to as the “canary in the coal mine” of the environment, which Clary said should cause people to be “worried about our own skins” when amphibian populations decline.

Of particular concern locally, Clary said, is the use by area timber companies of the weed-killing herbicide atrazine on its properties, which she said is known to leach into watersheds and have serious effects in reptiles and amphibians.

Scientists from Pacific Lumber Co. said the use of atrazine, which is done by licensed applicators, is non-standard application typically done in 3-foot circles, away from streams already protected by buffers, to deal with heavy grasses that compete with replanted trees.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry lists atrazine as a non-volatile, inflammable, odorless white powder herbicide that dissolves readily in water.

Typically used on farms, along highways and on railroad rights-of-way, the DHHS literature states atrazine may wash from the soil into streams or groundwater, where it will stay for a long time because breakdown of the chemical is slow in water, although the DHHS states atrazine does not accumulate in living organisms such as algae, bacteria, clams or fish.

In “Effects of atrazine on embryos, larvae, and adults of anuran amphibians,” by researchers J. W. Allran and W. H. Karasov in the 2003 Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry publication, which is found in the CAT’s database, the report stated “direct toxicity of atrazine is probably not a significant factor in recent amphibian declines.” However, frogs exposed to the highest atrazine concentration stopped eating immediately after treatment began and did not eat during the 14-day experiment, according to the scientific document.

Washington not on the same page with environmentalists

EPA Assistant Administrator for Water Benjamin H. Grumbles said he disagrees with the environmental groups’ s assertions that the ruling change is a departure from the agency’s obligation under the Clean Water Act.

Instead, Grumbles said the narrowly crafted rule, which he said was done with Congress’ help over the past two years, will boost public health by reducing the risks from mosquitoes and invasive plant and animal species.

But Clary takes issue with the EPA’s decision and said the FIFRA, which is a broad and general law that does not directly address water quality, has more to do with registering pesticides and was meant to complement, not compete, with the Clean Water Act.

“We believe that what they have done is wrong and made a mistake in having FIFRA dominate the Clean Water Act,” Clary said. “It is what the chemical companies wanted and the EPA delivered it.”

Under the Clean Water Act, Clary said provisions required pesticide and herbicide applicators to set up a process by which they had to take steps to reduce and eliminate those pesticides from getting into the water.

Grumbles characterized the ruling as an important clarification of a position the agency has already taken in the last few decades, which is that there isn’t a need for Clean Water Act permits for pesticide applications if they are covered under FIFRA.

“It is important to note that the rule does not pre-empt state and local laws governing pesticide applications,” Grumbles said.

Suggesting that many local agencies have been caught in “regulatory limbo” in recent years, Grumbles said public health officials have run into problems where there is uncertainty if they need to get a permit under the Clean Water Act.

Humboldt County Senior Agricultural Biologist Jeff M. Dolf recommended that anyone applying pesticides who is uncertain about permitting should “err on the side of caution” and contact the county agriculture department or the regional water quality board.

In speaking with a local pest control business that does the vast majority of the herbicide work for area timber companies, Dolf said that the EPA’s ruling change will not impact the habitat of the California Department of Fish and Game’s species of special concern, the Northern red-legged frog, in Humboldt County.

From Eureka Reporter 12/31/2006

Thursday, December 28, 2006

50 Ways To Green The New Year

Here is a good summary of practical small steps to ecologically inspired life. Read On!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Plant A Million Trees In LA

Some sanity to the south: a campaign to plant a million trees in LA.

Subtropical Trees of California by Mike Lee see at Good Nature

SWIM in LA: Water Run Off in Big City-- Ideas for Puget Sound

Fine series multi media story in LA TIMES on how to stop killing our oceans with our effluent -- city and rural run off. Read some fine writing here.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Courage me: Stop Climate Crisis & Help Africa, Help Yourself

BBC Green room give you something to ponder: If you give goats to poor children, don't kid yourself.

Roll up dem sleeves pardner and help stop climate crisis we are creating here in US of A.

What are you doing going against those nice people at Oxfam?

Read on!

Oxfam's offering to buy goats and farm animals for poor farmers is in their best interests short term. What Menghestab Haile with World Food Programme is asking for is for follow up -- sure you are politically silenced-- bought off with convenience and way laid from caring because you too have the busy busy bee thing going. -- read on.

Yes-- I want someone to hire us to make ecosystem posters in Africa. Have you ever sung under baobab tree? Have you seen stars when there are no lights for hundreds of miles?

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Good news on Darfur: Sudan Says Yes To More UN Troops

Read BBC for whole story. All we are saying is give peace a chance. Stop saying the holocaust was something in the past. It is happening right now in Darfur.

And except for Nicholas Kristoff in the NYT, you'd never know Africa existed in most American press.

Of course -- most American whites don't think of Africa as Mother Africa from where we came. We are somehow different than our brothers and sisters in Africa. They got it wrong. How else to explain the famine, disease, pestilence of war? Let me count the ways I keep myself separate from thee. Skin color is just the start.

I mean-- most of them are making a $1 a day. So whassup with dat?

What is the common bond of all wars that break out in Africa? Drought-- no rain.

Good to read about this breakthrough in afforable water filtration.

Thanks to BBC for creating Science and Nature.

Good Natured Writer Interview Grist Feature: Jenny Price

From Grist -- via Google News Alert "Green Cities" I found kindred spirit Jenny Price.

Price looks at the world we inhabit the way I do. Nature is not outside us-- we are Nature-- and cities are full of nature. Not just flora and fauna, but plastic flamingos, cars, strip malls, Costco-- the plastic shell of an iMac I transmit my pulses of nerve fibers through to this page you are reading.

The ecosystem posters I make at Good Nature are beautiful, educational, and speak to urbanistas craving for some scrap of wilderness to remind them where they are living.

Read Price on nature in LA heron

You're Pond Scum! An Epithet or where life begins? Scientists Fine Smallest Organisms Ever!

You find treasure in the most interesting places.

From the fine science writers of the NYT

Scientists think they've found the smallest organism ever -- a microbe many times smaller than bacteria. And they're living in stuff that's worse than battery acid.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Urban Biodiversity Corridors aka Hedgerows

Developers reminded ‘wildlife needs good neighbours’
18 December 2006

Town planners should make biodiversity a core consideration within urban and suburban regeneration plans and purposefully create ‘green networks’, reveals the Wild About Gardens Discovery Survey, carried out by the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) and The Wildlife Trusts (TWT) in partnership with Ribena.

According to the findings, garden owners are responding to wildlife gardening advice and taking action but there is still considerable room for improvement even among the most wildlife-friendly gardeners. The survey’s findings that mini-habitats are spread between different gardens emphasises the importance of making it easier for wildlife to move within a connected network of ‘green corridors’ by using trees, ponds and hedgerows, and providing a greater variety of food sources from nectar, berry and seed-producing plants.

Simon Thornton-Wood, Director of Science & Learning for the RHS, explains, “Developers should be careful not to create ‘token gesture’ green spaces in anticipation they might provide real benefit for wildlife. From our preliminary findings we looked at the gardens that recorded sightings of all five of our key species and found that they nearly all had tall trees, but only a third shared other important features such as ponds, woodpiles and long grass. Not everyone, especially those with small gardens, has the room for the ultimate checklist of features which means that neighbours need to pull together to help improve wildlife communities as well as social ones. Individuals who have created a wildlife oasis in a conservation desert provide a welcome refuge but its value multiplies when connected to neighbouring habitats, as last month’s Stern Report touched upon by calling for greater linkage of ‘green’ habitats to better accommodate species movement.”

Over 1,500 garden owners responded to the survey between 2 and 17 September to help investigate links between garden habitats, gardening practices and key garden species. Participants were asked to complete an inventory of types of plants and features in their garden including the garden’s location, their gardening practices, and whether the following species visited their garden within the two-week survey period: Hedgehog, Goldfinch, Common frog, Toad, Bumblebee, and specifically the Brown Bumblebee. The data is being analysed in depth with more comprehensive findings to be released next year.

Stephanie Hilborne, Chief Executive of The Wildlife Trusts, added, “The survey showed whilst wildlife gardeners are busy supporting the ‘attractive’ species such as birds, hedgehogs and frogs, they’re not so aware of the need to encourage invertebrates, with the possible exception of butterflies, through planting buddleia and sedum. The importance of varying ground cover and shrubs should not be underestimated in supporting the less popular ‘creepy crawlies’ which play a vital role in the food chain and in making gardens effective as self-sustaining wildlife habitats. These are the sort of perceptions the RHS and The Wildlife Trusts hope to change through Wild About Gardens or through”

Giles Coode-Adams, Treasurer of the RHS and a blackcurrant grower whose family has grown blackcurrants for the popular soft drink for 16 years, added, “Our farm is made up of a patchwork of fields. During the last few years, we have implemented a wildlife-friendly conservation plan to help protect the creatures that inhabit the farm. We used to think of each field in isolation, but we quickly realised that in creatures’ eyes, trees and hedgerows aren’t boundaries: they are vital sources of food and shelter. I’d like to encourage people to take a similar approach to their gardens – the principle is exactly the same, and the difference it will make for wildlife is tremendous.”

Other preliminary findings from the survey include:

Gardens with seed or nut-producing plants were over three times more likely to attract goldfinches than those with none (72% compared to 22%).

Nearly twice as many participants who owned a garden pond spotted frogs during the survey period than those without.

Gardens with a larger area of long grass (over foursquare metres) were more likely to attract brown bumblebees.

London gardens recorded the lowest average number of sightings of hedgehogs and frogs compared to the rest of the UK.

Toads were found to be in gardens frequented by frogs but seldom in gardens without frogs (toads were spotted by 25% of garden owners, frogs by 58%).

(All five key species were chosen due to their decline or fluctuation in number over the past few years.)

For more information and hints and tips on creating a wildlife-friendly garden, visit

From Easier

Orvis, REI, LL Bean -- Got Recycled Paper Catalogs?

Orvis, REI, L.L. Bean browner than Victoria's Secret? See Environmental Defense's report on the not so green and some surprising catalog companies that have made the switch to recycled here

The NW Native Conifers poster we make at Good Nature are printed on 100% post consumer fiber -- Thanks to Fraser Papers.

But I have to say that coated white papers print just as well as any virgin paper I work with...what is Victoria's Secret, REI & Orvis?

Friday, December 15, 2006

Craig's List: Model of Real American Values

Fine story in NYT on the successful Craig's List folks explaining to Wall Street that they just aren't going to go there -- there being the monetized, advertised, web strip mining of information -- hammering you day in and out with commercials. Think about it.

People before Profits? There are many businesses-- mine included -- where work's value is in the creation. Happiness is the circle of people you can serve with your efforts.

The Capitalist Pigs on Wall Street want everyone to tow the profit line -- so their financiers can get $50,000,000 payouts as Christmas bonus.

I think there ought to be a confiscatory tax on that kind of "monetizing".

If you are Bill Gates or any other billionaire -- I don't care how great your foundation is-- and you are sitting on billions -- you got your money by overcharging your customers, underpaying your workers or both. There is so much corruption with money that instead of revulsion, we have Golden Calves to idolize.

We just call them corporations. This too shall pass.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Top Native Plant Picks For Natural Yard

What a treat to find a well organized government website that provides easy to use information on what native plants to pick.

For folks like me with a small yard-- this guide provided by King County DNR is perfect for U pick without a lot of work.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Straight Pitches Key To Happy Customers: Turning Delayed Order to Your Customer's Advantage

Good Nature Publishing is a niche publisher of fine art.

I design and publish original poster size field guides to help people connect with nature -- and have a side of love for Dugald Stermer's Anatomy of Baseball, Knuckleball, and Slider.

We usually get orders right -- I assume silence is golden with most customers. As a small publisher, it sometimes happens that I am in between editions on a print and there are delays getting art sent to a customer as promised.

And we have fine friends who just write me once in a while saying "Where's my art?"

So it was a treat to get this love note from a customer on the East Coast regarding her order for Good Nature's baseball art:


I just want to thank you for the wonderful customer service you afforded me with my recent order from your company.

The prints I ordered took longer than I expected but were no doubt worth the wait. I did inquire about the order and you told me they were backordered (or something of that nature) and that I would receive them soon.

I did received them but you went above and beyond by sending me an additional set of prints AND a larger print of the Anatomy of a Baseball.

I just want you to know that in doing that you have enabled me to make what was to be a good Christmas gift an AWESOME Christmas gift for my 12 year old baseball star.

By going that extra step you let me know that there is still wonderful customer service in this world. Since my son is an avid baseball player and fan we have contact with MANY other baseball families and once I get these framed I am going to take a picture of the finished product and email all of our baseball contacts and let them know where to go to get their own set for their baseball stars.

Being in retail you know that word of mouth is the best advertising you can get and it comes free. So I hope that by paying forward your good deed that you will reap the rewards of these other families business now and in the future. Thank you again.


Michele H.

What I aspire to with all people ordering at Good Nature's website who order:

1. Mutual respect

2. Practice golden rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

3. Be candid in communications when things are not going as expected.

4. If you change delivery of a promised product or service, see 1, 2, 3.

5. Send some love - in this particular case an extra print to communicate that while I couldn't deliver the art Michele wanted immediately, I add something to her original order to let her know I cared. Fun how things turn out.

Victoria's Secret: 1,000,000 a day Catalog Goes Greener

Good news for boreal forest fans-- and anyone interested in FSC certified forests being the source of paper for the milions of catalogs sent out every day.

Companies like Victoria Secret have a huge effect on decisions by foresters, paper mills, and printers of paper.

So the parent company Limited's decision to phase in recycled content will force changes to greener waste stream.

This is a step -- but the next time you get a catalog -- check and see what it is made of-- recycled or FSC certified bugs should be on the paper. Or ask the catalog company what Victoria's Secret is...

Photo credit

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Gardenener Gifts for Christmas: Hummingbird Garden Botanic Art by Jean Emmons Paints Portrait of 7 Hummers & Top 22 Hummingbird Plants

(Click on picture to enlarge)
Jean Emmons won Gold Medal at Kew Botanic Gardens for best botanic artist last winter.

And she won best of show for the recent American Society of Botanic Artists annual conference in Seattle.

Ms. Emmons work original art cost thousands of dollars. You can get great art and teach at the same time by ordering her seven hummingbirds and 22 of their favorite plants Hummingbird Garden from Good Nature in December with my Buy 2 Get 2 FREE Sale.

Great Garden Gifts for your favorite green thumb. You can grow the plants in this scene and bring your yard to life all year.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Top Ten Blog Writers

I enjoy lists that start with "Top Three ALL TIME..." and "Five Best Reasons to..."

The title offers seduction-- and romances us at the same time you know there is a wink.

But if you have an interest in improving your writing -- and the subspecies of blog writing evolving today -- I recommend you check out Copyblogger.

Some yahoo put a list of their Top Ten Blog Writers -- folks wrote in -- and you can flip through the links here to decide for yourself.

Design appeal for me is Copyblogger's use of the old fashioned typewriter font, the screaming red, and good understanding of the reader's context -- reading on computers is difficult. Coyblogger shows you how to make it easier on your readers.

basta. Go read.

best fishes,


Thursday, November 30, 2006

Victoria's Dirty Secret: Sexy is Killing Boreal Ecosystem

(Click on image to enlarge)
Men! Women! Stop Call Victoria's Secret and stop clearcutting our boreal forest.

Learn more about Victoria's Dirty Secret

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

This Is The Hay That No Man Planted--a poem

This Is The Hay That No Man Planted by Elizabeth Coatsworth.

This Is the Hay That No Man Planted

This is the hay that no man planted,
This is the ground that was never plowed,
Watered by tides, cold and brackish,
Shadowed by fog and the sea-born cloud.

Here comes no sound of bobolink's singing,
Only the wail of the gull's long cry,
Where men now reap as they reap their meadows
Heaping the great gold stacks to dry.

All winter long when deep pile the snowdrifts,
And cattle stand in the dark all day,
Many a cow shall taste pale sea-weed
Twined in the stalks of the wild salt hay.

Thanks for contribution from poet John Hildebidle

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Diet for CarboNation

Carbon Taxes for the Complete Idiot

Why Carbon Emissions trading won't work, what kind of carbon tax would work, and the bottom line-- you want a large publicly funded effort to deCarbonate USA.

Of course we could do nothing -- Nature's most prolific new species come after massive extinctions-- like this one being guided by corporate tools.

My thought for the day: Make a yellow tape like we see at crime scenes.

Print on it DANGER: CO2icide Site.

Likely sites to wrap it around: Your local gas station.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Picture This: To Love

Thought for the day from one of my favorite authors:

"To love. To be loved. To never forget your own insignificance.

To never get used to the unspeakable violence and the vulgar disparity of life around you.

To seek joy in the saddest places.

To pursue beauty to its lair.

To never simplify what is complicated or complicate what is simple.

To respect strength, never power.

Above all, to watch.

To try and understand.

To never look away.

And never, never, to forget."

- Arundhati Roy

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

how rich are you?

Need a little perspective this year?

Take the test to see how you measure in dollars and cents anyway.

I measure wealth differently-- starting with health and friends, number of poems read, friends and family loved, meals shared, and meaningful work.

But I offer this link to startle you: Show Me The Money

Mad Farmer Manifesto by Wendell Berry

Here is my Thanksgiving Prayer. I read Berry's poem over several times a year, but on my favorite holiday I make it part of my prayers.

I was searching for another Thanksgiving favorite -- a poem I think is titled "Oh Pie!" that I found in Utne Reader years ago.

And a conversation about that poem brought back this one

Monday, November 20, 2006

Inconvenient Truth even in United Arab Emirates

Read Remi Parmentier's journal entry

Cafe Lago-- friends Carla and Jordy make a great website

Cafe Lago has the best wood fired pizza and hand made lasagne in the world.

They recently remodeled their website -- and lined up the flavor and atmosphere in Carla and Jordy's restaurant with their online presence. As my graphic deisgner Leslie Newman said -- "Gorgeous!"

I thought you'd enjoy this site's remodel. Beautiful.

Can you imagine turning Good Nature into an old field guide?

Check out our friends at Cafe Lago's new website.

I love it.


Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Aspen Communities at Risk Art Campsite

Aspen Ecosystem at Risk Art Campsite--

Welcome to Good Nature's special Aspen preview page!

I've chosen fine artist/naturalist John Pitcher to illustrate the upcoming Aspen poster field guide. (Note: artist's page loads slowly)

Good Nature starts every poster field guide with a draft species list. We expect to create a rough draft, a final tight draft and then full color art 90 days from November 14th.

(Bulk quantities to sponsor this art available. $5 ea per 100/ $3.00 ea per 1000
Aspen Ecosystem poster field guide will retail for $16.99/$22 lam -save 60-70% today by ordering First Edition now.

Aspen Ecosystem at Risk DRAFT Species List

Common Name/ Scientific Name:


Northern Goshawk Accipiter gentilis
Flammulated owl Otus flammeolus
Calliope Hummingbird Stellula calliope
Red-naped sapsucker Sphyrapicus nuchalis
Lewis woodpecker Melanerpes lewis
Mountain Bluebird Sialia currcoides
A warbler would be nice?


Mule Deer Odocoileus hemionus
Elk Cervus canadensis
Beaver Castor canadensis
Spotted Skunk Spilogale putorius
Little Brown Bat Myotis lucifugus


Weidemeyer’s Admiral Limenitis weidemeyerii
Dreamy Duskywing Erynnis icelus


Aspen Populus tremuloides
Wild rose Rosa woodsii (L)
Snowberry Symphoricarpos sp. (L)
Corn lily Veratrum californicum (L)
Ranger’s Buttons Sphenosciadium capitellatum (L)
Sierra Tiger lily Lilium parvum (M)
Monkshood Aconitum columbianum(M)
Columbine Aquilegia formosa(M)
Geranium Geranium richardsonii(M)
Bog/Reid Orchid Platanthera leucostachys(M)
Golden Pea Thermopsis rhombifolia(M)
Bog Mallow Sidalcea oregana(M)
(M)=Medium. (L)=Large
Lewis’ Monkeyflower Mimulus lewisii

Questions? Suggestions? Write me.


Timothy Colman

Friday, November 10, 2006

The Obscenity of Carbon Credits

Excellent editorial in THE GREEN ROOM-- BBC's new section for commentary on green future:

If we want to curb climate change, carbon trading won't do, argues Kevin Smith in the Green Room this week. From the Stern Review to Europe's Emissions Trading Scheme, he argues, the aim of reducing emissions has been perverted by neo-liberal dogma and corporate self-interest.

Read on:

Kevin Smith

Be Happy -- Work at it!

Decide to be Happy

Decide to be happy
Render others happy
Proclaim your joy
Love passionately
your miraculous life

Do not listen to promises
Do not wait for a better world
Be grateful for every moment of life

Switch on and keep on

the positive buttons in yourself,
those marked optimism, serenity,
confidence, positive thinking, love

Pray and thank God every day
Meditate - Smile - Laugh
Whistle - Sing - Dance

Look with fascination at everything
Fill your lungs and heart with liberty
Be yourself fully and immensely
Act like a king or queen unto Death

Feel God in your body, mind,

heart, and soul

And be convinced of eternal life

and resurrection

by Robert Muller

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Children in a Time of War -poem by Linda Pastan

Apple Season in a Time of War
by Linda Pastan

The children are terrible
in their innocence,
and the frightened parents
can neither scold nor protect them

as the leaves continue to fall
like tiny portents
from the ancestral trees.
Weather is all

that remains unchanged,
with its accidental
almost merciful cruelties,
its winds, its falling temperatures.

But I can hear the children
whose laughter rings
like small but dangerous
hammers on an anvil.

I can hear the buzz of radio voices,
persistent as insects
on all the frequencies
of madness.

Thanks to J. Hildebidle

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

November 7th GREAT BLUE WAVE

And inside America's political blue wave is a green wave -- metaphor for a clean healthier and socially just world where there is enough for all God's creatures.

Best fishes,


Sunday, November 05, 2006

Appalachian Cove Forest Species List

White Basswood
Carolina Silverbell
Eastern Hemlock
Yellow Birch
Fraser Magnolia
Mountain Laurel
Flame Azalea
Red Trillium
Wood Anemone
Solomon’s Seal
Ginseng Hooded
Wood Thrush
Black Bear
Mountain Dusky Salamander
Two-lined Salamander

On the Need to Write and Read-- Art's Uselessness

I want to tell you a story:
From The Guardian

Paul Auster, one of America's greatest living novelists, argues that fiction is 'magnificently useless', but the act of creation and the pleasure of reading are incomparable human joys that we should savour

Sunday November 5, 2006
The Observer

I don't know why I do what I do. If I did know, I probably wouldn't feel the need to do it. All I can say, and I say it with utmost certainty, is that I have felt this need since my earliest adolescence. I'm talking about writing, in particular, writing as a vehicle to tell stories, imaginary stories that have never taken place in what we call the real world. Surely it is an odd way to spend your life - sitting alone in a room with a pen in your hand, hour after hour, day after day, year after year, struggling to put words on pieces of paper in order to give birth to what does not exist - except in your head. Why on earth would anyone want to do such a thing? The only answer I have ever been able to come up with is: because you have to, because you have no choice.

This need to make, to create, to invent is, no doubt, a fundamental human impulse. But to what end? What purpose does art, in particular the art of fiction, serve in what we call the real world? None that I can think of - at least not in any practical sense. A book has never put food in the stomach of a hungry child. A book has never stopped a bullet from entering a murder victim's body. A book has never prevented a bomb from falling on innocent civilians in the midst of war.

Some like to think that a keen appreciation of art can actually make us better people - more just, more moral, more sensitive, more understanding. Perhaps that is true - in certain rare, isolated cases. But let us not forget that Hitler started out in life as an artist. Tyrants and dictators read novels. Killers in prison read novels. And who is to say they don't derive the same enjoyment from books as everyone else?

In other words, art is useless, at least when compared, say, to the work of a plumber, or a doctor, or a railroad engineer. But is uselessness a bad thing? Does a lack of practical purpose mean that books and paintings and string quartets are simply a waste of our time? Many people think so. But I would argue that it is the very uselessness of art that gives it its value and that the making of art is what distinguishes us from all other creatures who inhabit this planet, that it is, essentially, what defines us as human beings.

To do something for the pure pleasure and beauty of doing it. Think of the effort involved, the long hours of practice and discipline required to become an accomplished pianist or dancer. All the suffering and hard work, all the sacrifices in order to achieve something that is utterly and magnificently ... useless.

Fiction, however, exists in a somewhat different realm from the other arts. Its medium is language, and language is something we share with others, that is common to us all. From the moment we learn to talk, we begin to develop a hunger for stories. Those of us who can remember our childhoods will recall how ardently we relished the moment of the bedtime story, when our mother or father would sit down beside us in the semi-dark and read from a book of fairy tales.

Those of us who are parents will have no trouble conjuring up the rapt attention in the eyes of our children when we read to them. Why this intense desire to listen? Fairy tales are often cruel and violent, featuring beheadings, cannibalism, grotesque transformations and evil enchantments. One would think this material would be too frightening for a young child, but what these stories allow the child to experience is precisely an encounter with his own fears and inner torments in a perfectly safe and protected environment. Such is the magic of stories - they might drag us down to the depths of hell, but in the end they are harmless.

We grow older, but we do not change. We become more sophisticated, but at bottom we continue to resemble our young selves, eager to listen to the next story and the next, and the next. For years, in every country of the Western world, article after article has been published bemoaning the fact that fewer and fewer people are reading books, that we have entered what some have called the 'post-literate age'. That may well be true, but at the same time, this has not diminished the universal craving for stories.

Novels are not the only source, after all. Films and television and even comic books are churning out vast quantities of fictional narratives and the public continues to swallow them up with great passion. That is because human beings need stories. They need them almost as desperately as they need food and however the stories might be presented - whether on a printed page or on a television screen - it would be impossible to imagine life without them.

Still, when it comes to the state of the novel, to the future of the novel, I feel rather optimistic. Numbers don't count where books are concerned, for there is only one reader, each and every time only one reader. That explains the particular power of the novel and why, in my opinion, it will never die as a form. Every novel is an equal collaboration between the writer and the reader and it is the only place in the world where two strangers can meet on terms of absolute intimacy.

I have spent my life in conversations with people I have never seen, with people I will never know and I hope to continue until the day I stop breathing.

It's the only job I've ever wanted.

© Paul Auster

· This is Paul Auster's acceptance speech for the Prince of Asturias Prize for Letters, Spain's premier literary honour, which he received last month

The life

Born: 3 February 1947 in Newark, New Jersey.

Education: Attended school in Maplewood, New Jersey, and graduated from Columbia University in 1970 with a master's in comparative literature.

Family: He lives in Brooklyn with his second wife, Siri Hustvedt, author of three novels including What I Loved, and their daughter, Sophie, 18, a singer and actress. He has a son, Daniel, 28, by his first wife, Lydia Davis.

Early career: Auster worked on an oil tanker after university and spent four lean years in France, where he translated French literature for a living and wrote poetry. He returned to America in 1974. The New York Trilogy (City of Glass, The Locked Room and Ghosts) was first published as a single volume in the UK in 1986.

Film: In addition to 11 novels and collections of essays and poetry, Auster has had four of his screenplays filmed. Smoke and Blue in the Face were made with director Wayne Wang, and Auster himself directed Lulu on the Bridge and the forthcoming The Inner Life of Martin Frost.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Aspen Ecosystem in Peril Poster Field Guide

Aspen Community Species List

Common Name: Scientific Name:


Northern Goshawk Accipiter gentilis

Flammulated owl Otus flammeolus

Calliope Hummingbird Stellula calliope

Red-naped sapsucker Sphyrapicus nuchalis

Lewis woodpecker Melanerpes lewis

Mountain Bluebird Sialia currcoides

A warbler would be nice?


Mule Deer Odocoileus hemionus

Elk Cervus canadensis

Beaver Castor canadensis

Spotted Skunk Spilogale putorius

Little Brown Bat Myotis lucifugus


Weidemeyer’s Admiral Limenitis weidemeyerii

Dreamy Duskywing Erynnis icelus


Aspen Populus tremuloides

Wild rose Rosa woodsii (L)

Snowberry Symphoricarpos sp. (L)

Corn lily Veratrum californicum (L)

Ranger’s Buttons Sphenosciadium capitellatum (L)

Sierra Tiger lily Lilium parvum (M)

Monkshood Aconitum columbianum(M)

Columbine Aquilegia formosa(M)

Geranium Geranium richardsonii(M)

Bog/Reid Orchid Platanthera leucostachys(M)

Golden Pea Thermopsis rhombifolia(M)

Bog Mallow Sidalcea oregana(M)

(M)=Medium. (L)=Low

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Plane Speaking: Tax Plane trips dramatically

London's Mayor Livingstone is interviewed about Carbon Dieting -- including the taxation of plane trips enough to reduce traffic-- can Boeing react in time with a greener energy path for our planes here in Seattle?

Read on:

Plane Speaking

Ken Livingstone, the mayor of London, is on a mission to tackle climate change - and that includes challenging the aviation industry head on, he tells John Vidal

Wednesday November 1, 2006
The Guardian

The mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, holds an energy saving lightbulb in his office at City Hall. Photograph: Martin Argles

Ken Livingstone, mayor of London, is these days possessed of one great idea. Climate change, and how to avert it, consumes him. It now informs all his decisions on transport. It is top of his agenda for social housing and new building developments. He reads about it in his spare time. He talks about it to anyone who will bend an ear and he will travel to the ends of the earth if necessary to cut deals with other politicians, to steal the best ideas from other cities and to communicate with anyone the urgency and scale of the problem.

Last week, Sir David Attenborough went to City Hall to talk to staff about the acceleration of change. When former US vice-president Al Gore's film on climate change, An Inconvenient Truth, was released, Livingstone hired a cinema and invited staff to watch it. He bought 20 copies of Jared Diamond's book on the ecological collapse of civilisation and gave them to colleagues; yesterday, the day after the Stern review warned of economic mayhem unless climate change is tackled, Livingstone signed up to Friends of the Earth's lobby for a law to reduce national emissions annually.
"In a practical sense, you can see climate change is now top of the London agenda and is being personally driven," says one of his colleagues, impressed at how Livingstone has linked the social and environmental agendas. "People used to see the congestion charge and public transport from the point of view of social inequality and the functioning of the city. They are all still core issues but they are not separate to climate change, they are integral to it now. He had to focus on things such as the public-private partnership [for the London Underground] in his first term. Now he has more time, the emphasis has changed. It helps having a strong Green contingent in the assembly, because there is very little disagreement."

Livingstone admits his position has changed, is changing, as information emerges. "I think what is happening is absolutely terrifying. When I first ran for mayor in 2000, the scientific consensus was that we would reach the climate change tipping point around the second half of the century. Depending on which scientific evidence you look at, it's down to between two and 10 years. There's no time for more studies or surveys.

"I just do not think that politicians understand the implications, which at the very extreme is the end of most large life forms. If we slip into irreversible climate change, it means hundreds of millions of people migrating and deaths. It means the poorest being hit the hardest."

As mayor, he has one arm tied behind his back, he says. If it were up to him, he says he would legislate against almost anything that adds to the problem. He would ban inefficient light bulbs, bang on carbon taxes, and massively increase the cost of air fares. "I think that every city is doing something quite well," he says. "We should take the best from around the world. We could take the plastic bag tax from Ireland, the packaging laws of Germany. We should put them together.

"But the one big thing that no one is tackling is aviation. Emissions are completely undermining the reductions achieved elsewhere," Livingstone says.

But there have been serious contradictions in his positions. His proposals for the London Plan, which will determine development in the city from 2008 onwards, says major airport expansion will be needed in the south-east "to meet London's economic needs". Is that not arguing that Londoners should be able to travel by air more? "I am no longer sanguine about that," he replies. "When we drafted the London Plan in 2002, we were nowhere near getting the alarming information that we are today. We have to address it. We are now preparing amendments to the plan against any further runway capacity in the south-east."

While Livingstone has no direct power over future developments at Gatwick or Stansted, observers say the significance of his withdrawal of support for the growth of these two airports - he has always been against the expansion of Heathrow - is that he is now challenging the aviation industry head on, as no other major politician has been prepared to do. His target is not business travellers, he says, who would need tickets to be massively more expensive to reduce the number of flights they take, but the frequent leisure fliers. "All tickets should reflect the impact of carbon emissions of that journey," he insists. "Instead of £12 or £15 for a ticket, it should be five or six times that. A lot of Labour party people say that the dramatic growth in air traffic is the poor getting on the plane for the first time, but it's not that at all. Half the population never gets on a plane. What's happening is that relatively few people, instead of going away once a year on holiday, are going three or four times a year to Barcelona or Prague or wherever. That's all very nice, but not at the cost of the continuation of life on planet Earth."

Targeting carbon polluters

What he can do, and intends to do more, is make it harder for carbon polluters in London and easier for people to cut back. Over the next year, Londoners will get a blizzard of new initiatives aimed at decentralising and reducing energy consumption. The city's new climate change agency has begun a commercial partnership with French energy giant EDF to roll out combined heat and power units across London; all new social housing developments will soon have to be nearly 60% more efficient than they are now; in 2008, he will introduce Britain's first low emission zone, which will ban heavy goods vehicles and cut emissions by 4% across much of central London. A new organisation will advise and oversee the greening of people's homes and lives. It will be easier for householders to install wind and photovoltaic energy systems; new congestion charges will be shortly announced that will pile more cost on to polluting cars. He is said to be delighted that Richmond council, in west London, is planning to increase parking charges for cars that are heavy polluters.

Just as US mayors and state governors have led federal government in setting targets and timetables for emission cuts, Livingstone sees one of his roles to pummel and lobby central government, and other authorities, to act. The governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger was heading for defeat, Livingstone says, before he grabbed the climate change agenda. Now he is leading the polls again.

London is the first city in Britain to set itself statutory carbon dioxide emission reduction targets. They are roughly on a par with the government's - 20% cuts by 2015, 60% by 2050. They are not as much as Livingstone would like, or thinks possible, but they are as far as he thinks they can be pushed for the time being. London's particular problem is that, unlike most local authorities, aviation represents 30% of the city's emissions. To get them down means he absolutely must tackle flying as well as transport and housing.

To do so, he has linked with leading green campaigners. Charles Secrett, former head of Friends of the Earth, advises him, and Greenpeace has worked with him on devising a plan to decentralise energy. "Livingstone understands the increased threats that climate change poses and the incredible opportunities it presents if we act fast enough," Secrett says. "He sees London's future being shaped by our response to climate change threats, and that if we decentralise energy and have non-polluting transport systems we can create jobs, have a better standard of living and show others a way forward in a climate-changed future."

Other EU cities are far ahead of London, Livingstone says, but he's chuffed at what's been done in just a few years. London is the only large city in the world, he says, that has achieved a major shift in transport from car to bus. All the predictions were that car use would increase, but traffic levels have been held for six years. Four years ago, 38% of people used their cars daily in London, it's now 19%; there has been a 72% increase in cycling over four years and there will be a 70% decrease in bus emissions as 500 buses are converted to run on hybrid electric-diesel motors; renewable targets for buildings are to be doubled; there are 20% more pedestrian crossings and 48% fewer people died on the roads last year compared with 2000; in a year the low-emission zone comes in, curtailing heavy lorries and coaches.

Meanwhile, Livingstone has been to the US to link with other world cities to share knowledge on reducing emissions, and to China to see the beginning of the world's first major eco-city. London will not get a Dongtang - a carbon neutral city for 800,000 people, powered by wind and sun - but a minuscule version of 200 carbon-neutral homes in Docklands. Every bit helps.

"That's the future," he says. "That's the way the market is going. London is going to grow by 100,000 people over the next 10 years and we don't want anything built that will add to the problem. My vision is of a city with a lot less carbon emissions, a lot more walking, more public transport, more bicycles. If you look around London, it's not a very attractive place to walk round."

But he is criticised, too. His backing of a controversial £450m motorway-scale bridge over the Thames in east London will increase traffic and emissions and - say Friends of the Earth, the Greens and locals - increase environmental injustice for some of the poorest communities.

Restraint on development

Livingstone fiercely defends the scheme, saying the green campaigners are "dangerously close" to proposing that poor people should be restrained from developing. "They have at present no option about where they cross. It's not unreasonable that they should have one bridge," he says.

The locals of Beckton, contemplating 20,000 cars an hour passing through their community, are not impressed. "He's talking rubbish," says one of the local organisers of the opposition to the bridge. "It's only for car drivers and just 25% of us near the bridge have cars."

Livingstone is on far safer ground with climate change. "I do not think there's the slightest doubt that we can get the emissions down," he insists. "In the areas I have power, a lot is being done. Individuals are already making decisions not to have that extra weekend in Barcelona or Prague. Nothing we are doing means that anyone's quality of life needs to change. It's not a massive change. It's just doing things differently."

Photo credit: from NASA off Google Images

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Rapid Climate Change Economic Disaster

From The Guardian:

Tackle climate change or face deep recession, world's leaders warned

· Economic review turns cost argument on head
· Technologies investment 'could stimulate growth'

James Randerson, science correspondent
Thursday October 26, 2006
The Guardian

Climate change could tilt the world's economy into the worst global recession in recent history, a report will warn next week.
Sir Nicholas Stern, a former chief economist with the World Bank, will warn that governments need to tackle the problem head-on by cutting emissions or face economic ruin. The findings, due to be released on Monday, will turn economic argument about global warming on its head by insisting that fighting global warming will save industrial nations money. The US refused to join the Kyoto protocol, the international agreement on greenhouse gas emissions, because George Bush said it would harm the economy.

Article continues

The contents of the Stern review into the economics of climate change - commissioned by the Treasury - have been kept secret since the nature of the work was revealed to the world's environment ministers in Mexico this month. But Sir David King, the government's chief scientific adviser, yesterday gave the Guardian a preview of its main findings.
Speaking at a climate change conference in Birmingham, he said: "All of [Stern's] detailed modelling out to the year 2100 is going to indicate first of all that if we don't take global action we are going to see a massive downturn in global economies." He added: "If no action is taken we will be faced with the kind of downturn that has not been seen since the great depression and the two world wars." Sir David called the review "the most detailed economic analysis that I think has yet been conducted".

The review will highlight the threat of sea level rise. Sir David said: "If you look at sea level rises alone and the impact that will have on global economies where cities are becoming inundated by flooding ... this will cause the displacement of ... hundreds of millions of people."

Sir David's comments mirror those of the foreign secretary, Margaret Beckett, on Tuesday. "This is not just an environmental problem," she said. "It is a defence problem. It is a problem for those who deal with economics and development, conflict prevention, agriculture, finance, housing, transport, innovation, trade and health." Sir Nicholas will argue that tackling the problem may not prove as economically painful as some experts predict. Investment in low-carbon technologies could stimulate the global economy. Sir David said: "[Stern's] analysis, I think, will also surprise many people in terms of the relatively small cost of action."

The International Energy Agency predicts that $15 trillion (£8 trillion) of investment in new energy sources will be required over the next 15 years. "The massive investment programme that's ahead of us is an opportunity for us to move towards a zero carbon energy system. The investment process is going to act quite possibly in the opposite direction to an economic downturn," Sir David said.

He told the Rapid Climate Change conference, organised by the Natural Environment Research Council in Birmingham, that achieving global political consensus would be extremely difficult. "In my view this is the biggest challenge our global political system has ever been faced with. We've never been faced with a decision where collective decision making is required by all major countries." The timescale too is unprecedented. "Actions being asked of the political system today are only going to play through into mid-century and beyond. So for the first time we are asking a global political system to make decisions around risks to their populations that are well outside the time period of any election process."

He drew parallels between scientific advice on global warming and advice from seismologists ahead of the Boxing Day tsunami. A month before the disaster a delegation warned governments around the Indian ocean about the extreme danger posed by tectonic activity under the sea. No government chose to act on the advice. "$30m as the cost to install some kind of early warning system presumably looked like a lot of money." But such a system could have saved 150,000 lives.

FAQ The Stern review
What is the Stern review?
Gordon Brown asked Sir Nicholas Stern last July to analyse the financial implications of climate change.
What will it say?
Climate change poses a threat to the world economy and it will be cheaper to address the problem than to deal with the consequences.
Why does it matter?
The global warming argument seemed a straight fight between the scientific case to act and the economic case not to. Now, economists are urging action.
What next?
International action beyond 2012 is debated in Nairobi next month.
What about the US?
The great sticking point. Some believe only a change of president will bring serious action.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Tres Cool Lunar Planting Calendar 2007

2007 Planting Calendar -- Plant your crops with the Lunar phases!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Kyota Accords No Enough

From Google News search "climate crisis" comes this story from Australia' Green Left Magazine

Global warming: looking beyond Kyoto

Zoe Kenny

Al Gore's documentary An Inconvenient Truth has helped focus attention on the threat posed by fossil-fuel driven climate change. Gore’s film was met with a predictable barrage of criticism by right-wing pundits. For example Herald Sun columnist Andrew Bolt wrote in a September 13 article that the “former US vice-president's ludicrous scaremongering contains exaggerations, half-truths and falsehoods”.

However Bolt and his ilk are increasingly isolated. Over the last decade, the framework of the debate on climate change has shifted, with so-called “greenhouse sceptics” increasingly rare.

A GlobeScan opinion poll of people in 30 countries conducted between October 2005 and January 2006 found that a large majority believe that global warming is a serious problem. A Lowy Institute poll released on October 4 found that climate change is seen as one of the top three threats to Australia's vital interests in the next 10 years.

In 1997, PM John Howard said, “There is ... quite a bit of debate about the science, so far as greenhouse effects are concerned, and it’s not all one way. It is not all — how should one put it — the apocalyptic view of the world and of life.” But on the October 15 60 Minutes Howard talked about living in “an age where we’re worried about global warming” (of course he was arguing that climate change is a case for Australia developing nuclear power “because it’s clean and it doesn’t emit greenhouse gases”).

Although it’s good news that the terrain of the “debate” has decisively shifted from whether global warming is happening and is a problem to the question of solutions (even if in Howard’s case it’s a non-solution like nuclear power), the bad news is that in the meantime more evidence has emerged that paints a terrifying picture of the scope, speed and impact of climate change.

Of major concern to climate scientists are findings that the Arctic ice cap is melting faster than expected. According to a September 26 Bulletin article by Tim Flannery, although the Arctic ice cap has been melting at a rate of 8% per decade since the 1970s, resulting in thinning of the sheet and a loss of one quarter of its surface, during the summer of 2005 the melting accelerated, resulting in the loss of 300,000 square kilometres of ice.

The results of the monitoring of winter ice are no more heartening. According to Gretchen-Cook Anderson of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Arctic winter ice has been retreating at a rate of 1.5% per decade since 1979. However, over the last two years the ice has retreated by 6% each winter — 40 times faster than in previous years. Flannery speculated that this could be as a result of the Arctic Ocean passing “an important thermal point and ... retaining the warmth it gains from the 24-hour summer sun”, which could trigger the collapse of the Arctic food chain and destabilise the Earth's heat balance.

Possibly the gravest warning so far about global warming’s speed was given by NASA scientist James Hansen at the Climate Change Research Conference in California on September 13. Hansen said that the world has “at the most” a decade in which to stem climate change, warning that a “business as usual” approach would raise global temperatures by 2-3°C, producing a “different planet”.

Melting icecaps will raise sea levels by between 10 and 25 metres forcing millions to seek refuge, increasingly violent weather patterns will cause major destruction and as the land dries up bushfires will be more frequent.

A 2°C rise in temperature will raise sea levels, inundating low-lying countries in the Asia Pacific region and create up to 150 million refugees by 2070, a CSIRO report released in October predicted.

But the challenge posed by global warming has been met primarily with criminal inaction from the governments of the two highest per capita greenhouse gas polluters — Australia and the US. Both countries have refused to sign on to the Kyoto Protocol, citing as “unfair” the fact that Third World nations are not bound to reduce greenhouse emissions and possible economic damage caused by the agreement.

Instead of promoting green technologies like solar, wind and hydro power, the Howard government is pushing “clean coal” — an attempt to rehabilitate a polluting industry on the basis of unproven technology — and nuclear power — low in greenhouse efficiency and high in environmental and human impact (though with wonderful profit margins thanks to the massive government subsidies needed to make it viable) — as solutions to climate change.

Forcing climate renegades like the Howard and Bush governments to sign on to Kyoto has been a natural and useful focus of these movements. However the severity of the threat posed by climate change means that on its own Kyoto isn’t enough.

According to New Scientist, the treaty's range of loopholes and scams will mean that even if the industrialised countries achieve Kyoto's reduction of 5.2% below 1990 levels by 2012 on paper, the real-world reduction will be more likely to be 1.5%.

A September 21 British Guardian article by George Monbiot argued that atmospheric carbon concentrations need to be stabilised at the current level in order to avoid a 2°C temperature rise that will send the Earth's climate spiralling out of control. This would mean that the industrialised nations would need to cut emissions by 90% by 2030.

Not only does Kyoto not go anywhere near mandating the kind of greenhouse emission cutbacks that are needed, it also relies upon carbon-trading schemes that have proven ineffective in curbing emissions.

One of the first major tests of Kyoto’s carbon trading has been the European Union's Emissions Trading Scheme, which has been an almost total failure. The ETS is a carbon-trading market that includes all 25 EU member-states. Earlier this year the ETS market crashed as a result of member EU governments setting lax national emission targets, meaning that high-polluting industries could continue with business as usual and had no need to buy carbon credits.

By May 2006 the market price of permits had dropped to 10 euros per tonne, down 20 euros from April. In another indication of the ease with which corporate interests undermine “market mechanisms”, on June 28 Germany announced that it would exempt its coal industry from any Kyoto requirements.

Some of the harshest criticisms of Kyoto are of its “Clean Development Mechanism”. CDM allows First World countries to avoid reducing their emissions by investing in projects in the Third World that reduce emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs). The amount of GHGs that are theoretically reduced by the projects are transferred into credits that First World countries can buy to allow their companies to continue a pollution-as-usual approach.

Participants at the first anti-carbon-trading conference, held in South Africa in October 2004, issued a statement declaring: “As representatives of people’s movements and independent organisations, we reject the claim that carbon trading will halt the climate crisis. This crisis has been caused more than anything else by the mining of fossil fuels and the release of their carbon to the oceans, air, soil and living things. This excessive burning of fossil fuels is now jeopardising Earth’s ability to maintain a liveable climate ...

“Carbon trading will not contribute to achieving this protection of the Earth’s climate. It is a false solution which entrenches and magnifies social inequalities ... ‘giving carbon a price’ will not prove to be any more effective, democratic, or conducive to human welfare, than giving genes, forests, biodiversity or clean rivers a price. We reaffirm that drastic reductions in emissions from fossil fuel use are a pre-requisite if we are to avert the climate crisis.”

However the kind of “drastic reductions” in fossil-fuel emissions that are required have barely even registered on the policy agendas of governments like Australia’s.

The degree to which the Howard government and the Bush regime in the US have shifted rhetoric on climate change reflects the cracks in the political and corporate elite over climate change. Those who now see global warming as a threat to the stability of capitalist economies, and, therefore, a threat to corporate profit, reflect an increasing body of elite opinion (as, indeed, is reflected by Gore).

But the kind of changes that are urgently needed — severe restrictions on greenhouse emissions, massive investment in public transport and renewable energy sources, access to clean technology for poor nations, and the eradication of the First World/Third World divide — will mean cutting into the “right” of corporations to profit at the expense of the environment. Governments that rule on behalf of the corporate rich, like Howard’s, will only take these steps — which are needed now — under pressure from a strong, grassroots environment movements.

However the global warming crisis also raises questions about the sustainability of the capitalist economic system. The economic competition that is so fundamental to capitalism drives corporations to maximise their profits no matter what damage is done to the environment or face ruination at the hands of competitors, and the anarchy of the so-called “free market” renders impossible a rational allocation of resources on the basis of social need.

Renowned socialist environmentalist John Bellamy Foster explained in the October 2005 Monthly Review: “The main response of the ruling capitalist class when confronted with the growing environmental challenge is to 'fiddle while Rome burns.’ To the extent that it has a strategy, it is to rely on revolutionizing the forces of production, i.e., on technical change, while keeping the existing system of social relations intact ...

“In stark contrast, many environmentalists now believe that technological revolution alone will be insufficient to solve the problem and that a more far-reaching social revolution aimed at transforming the present mode of production is required.”

Foster argued that environmental sustainability was achievable only through radical social change: “The creation of an ecological civilization requires a social revolution ... It must put the provision of basic human needs — clean air, unpolluted water, safe food, adequate sanitation, social transport, and universal health care and education, all of which require a sustainable relation to the earth — ahead of all other needs and wants.”

“Such a revolutionary turn in human affairs may seem improbable But the continuation of the present capitalist system for any length of time will prove impossible — if human civilization and the web of life as we know it are to be sustained.”

From Green Left Weekly, October 25, 2006.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Ancient Forest Birds: Pileated Woodpecker & Marbled Murrelet 6" x 9" postcards $1.99 ea

Here is a preview of two beautiful bird families coming soon as a 6" x 9" portrait on card stock for your enjoyment.

See Coming Soon at Good Nature

Marbled Murrelet and Pileated Woodpeckers are $1.99 ea

Fine solo mountain climber story

From New York Times.

I post this story for friends in Colorado who like to hike and don't subscribe to the NYT.

But I leave it up for you as a fine example of clear, crisp writing in a short format.

Oakley Brooks sets up his protagonist quickly, someone with a wild hair, perfect Northwest weather and nuts enough to climb steep Cascade peaks in the Pickets by himself. Read on:

Lone Climber Attacks Rocky Proving Ground

Published: October 21, 2006
In the heart of North Cascades National Park in north-central Washington is a saw-toothed line of 8,000-foot volcanic rock known as the Picket Range. The sheer faces and the bruising, off-trail slogs required to get to the Pickets make the mountains some of toughest climbs in the lower 48.

“For a mountaineer, it’s probably the best venue in the lower 48 because there are a lot of appealing climbs that haven’t been done yet,” said Peter Potterfield, editor of and author of a Cascades climbing guide.

In 1980, John Roper, a Bellevue, Wash., physician who grew up climbing the mountains in the national park, went on a three-peak expedition that included 8,291-foot Mount Fury in the Pickets. Walking around the south side of Fury, he passed a jagged, 4,000-foot ridgeline leading up toward the summit. The last spike in the ridge jutted out and cast a finger-like shadow against the mountain. Roper later theorized that, given the difficulty of the Pickets, the spike on the ridge of Fury was probably the hardest place to get to in Washington State. Roper named the line Mongo Ridge and the last tower The Pole of Remoteness.

This summer, the Seattle climber Wayne Wallace decided to ascend the ridge and reach the Pole. Nobody else had done it. Few had even considered it.

“It never occurred to me to climb it,” said Roper, now 62 and one of the old guard of Cascades climbers. But when the two talked about going up Mongo, Roper encouraged Wallace, a sinewy, 5-foot-11 carpenter foreman with a thick grip who had in recent years completed tough climbs in the Pickets.

In late August, Wallace had three weeks free because of a strike, and he tried to rally some climbing friends for an attempt at the ridge.

“I only know three people that really qualify for that trip, but everybody had commitments to other climbs or family,” said Wallace, who is 43 and single. “I had the line on this, I had the approach, I had the weather, but I didn’t have partners.”

On Aug. 23, Wallace attended a slide show in Seattle of a first ascent in Alaska. He returned home, packed his gear and left at 4 a.m., charged up by the idea of tackling his own new route — alone.

“In the daily world, we have so much padding around us,” Wallace said. “When that’s gone and it’s just you hanging there in control of your life, that’s when life is at its clearest.”

Wallace’s planned route was a grueling four-and-half-day trek, including a crossing of the eastern summit of Fury before he even got to Mongo Ridge. On his first day, he hiked 28 miles, the last 14 off-trail, through thick forest and clumps of devil’s club, a thorny plant. The next morning, he crossed Fury’s glacier en route to the mountain’s eastern peak. He reached the summit and stretched out to watch a molten red sunset — a good sign for the next day’s attempt on Mongo Ridge.

“When you don’t have any excuses, that’s when it’s scary,” said Wallace, who took a few sleeping pills, as he usually does during climbs.

Upon reaching the base of Mongo the next morning, he looked at the ridge’s first three major pinnacles using his digital camera. “It was a weapon throughout the trip,” he said of the camera.

After going up some steep rock leading to the bottom of the first pinnacle, he began a moderately difficult climb up the 400-foot first tower. Wallace kept his 45-pound pack on and stayed unroped — which saved him the time of looping back down to retrieve rope holds. At the top of the tower, he set a rope and rappelled some 200 feet over to the base of Tower 2, an up-and-down pattern he would repeat throughout the day.

He climbed the next tower unroped and rappelled to the base of Tower 3, where Wallace photographed one of the more intimidating spots on Mongo: a sheer granite pinnacle that soared into a deep blue sky. A gaggle of other towers lay in waiting behind it. Wallace roped up. The climbing ahead looked more technical.

His calves were feeling the effects of carrying his pack. “You’re working against time and energy,” he said.

As he climbed across the face of Tower 3, he looked down on a thousand-foot drop. He repeated a mantra that every mountain has a way up, and another saying: if you live through this, seek help.

Wallace’s hands began to cramp as he traversed the fourth tower. Reaching the top, he had to move across a sharp ridge to get the base of the Pole. He recalled it as one of the dicier points — “like climbing on loose teeth.”

Wallace had been climbing for nearly 12 hours. He sensed that his concentration was blurring from fatigue. Looking up at the Pole and its sheer headwall, he thought it might be the most difficult climb of the day. But he found a notched path up the right edge that allowed him to keep his pack on and ease his way up.

Once atop the tower, he let out a bellowing yell and captured a vertigo-inspiring image: the shadow of the Pole projected against the rest of Fury, with Wallace’s tiny likeness perched on the pinhead top.

He was not finished, however. In his final rappel that day, Wallace triggered a rock fall that sliced into one of his ropes. He said he had a sense something bad would happen on the Pole. It had been named before he had reached it, something mountain climbers are wary of.

But Wallace safely reached the backside of the Pole and had stamped the ridge with a new identity: his own.

Roper ranked the climb among the most challenging first ascents in the North Cascades in the past several years. “It’s impressive,” he said. “And brazen.”

That night, Wallace found a crack in the rocks with a pillow of snow to sleep on. He filled his water bottles with melted snow, and the next day, he climbed to the top of West Fury, traversed across to East Fury and began the long walk to Ross Lake. He celebrated with a dinner at a small resort at the south end of the lake, then hustled back to Seattle.

The strike had ended, and work was starting up again.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

In Blackwater Woods by Mary Oliver

In Blackwater Woods
Look, the trees
are turning
their own bodies
into pillars
of light,
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
and fulfillment,
the long tapers
of cattails
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders
of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is
nameless now.
Every year
I have ever learned
in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side
is salvation,
whose meaning
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world
you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it
against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.
~ Mary Oliver ~
(American Primitive)

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Plant Ancestors

Unraveling Plant Ancestry Through Modern Technology

Bruce Baldin

Baldwin at work in Carson Ridge, Marin County. In addition to his research using plant DNA, Baldwin is editing a new edition of the Jepson Manual, an extensive guide to California's native and naturalized plants. (Photo by Bridget Wessa)

Since Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus created the modern biological classification system in the mid 18th century, botanists have determined a plant's place among the wild diversity of life on the planet primarily based on its morphology, or form.

But to Bruce Baldwin, a professor of integrative biology at UC Berkeley, what a plant looks like isn't always the best indicator of its species or closest relatives. "When morphological similarity has been the sole line of evidence, it's often been misleading about evolutionary relationships," he says.

Baldwin, whose specialty is native plants of California and the Hawaiian plants that evolved from them, uses DNA testing to resolve plants' ancestry and evolution. The evidence he has unearthed shows that plant evolution can occur more rapidly than once thought, and that plants evolve with remarkable precision to fit sometimes extremely local environments. While botanists have long known that California is rich in native species, Baldwin and his students' work proves that the state's plant life is even more varied and diverse than his predecessors imagined.

Baldwin's most extensive studies have focused on Madiinae, a group of plants in the sunflower family commonly known as tarweeds. The group includes plants that look dramatically different from one another, from the more than 6-feet tall, yucca-like Hawaiian silversword to the tiny California tarweed, Hemizonella minima, often less than an inch in height. "The group has undergone tremendous change for having such a short evolutionary history," says Baldwin.

Baldwin, who is also the curator of the Jepson Herbarium at UC Berkeley, has recently used experimental and genetic methods to explore theories about the evolution of different tarweed species proposed by earlier researchers, including Jens Clausen, David Keck, and William Hiesey, a Bay Area team well known worldwide in botanical circles. The three were pioneers at their time, from the 1930s to 1950s, for incorporating genetics, ecology, and physiology into plant classification. But they lacked the tools necessary to resolve relationships with modern levels of precision.

the yellow variety of layia glandulosa

A rare, yellow variety of Layia glandulosa. The yellow variety is more closely related to L. discoidea than it is to the white plants of its own species. (Photo by Br. Alfred Brousseau, Saint Mary's College)

"There wasn't at that time a way to reconstruct genealogies rigorously, and there certainly wasn't any means of getting at the actual timing of when one species separated from another," says Baldwin.

To determine relationships between different plant species or populations, Baldwin extracts their DNA, then sequences non-coding regions that evolve rapidly enough to provide evidence of recent evolutionary change. Instead of looking for overall genetic similarity between species as in the past, which can be misleading, Baldwin reconstructs relationships based on the fewest mutational steps, or a more explicit model of DNA sequence evolution.

Through these and other techniques, he's been able to resolve questions left unanswered by earlier botanists. One of these questions is the evolutionary history of Layia discoidea ("Discoidea"), also known as rayless layia, a small annual herb.

Unlike other layias, Discoidea has a yellow bloom without rays, or showy petal-like flowers. It lives in serpentine soils, with a mineral composition toxic to many plants, in a small area of San Benito and Fresno counties, and looks so different from other tarweeds that some botanists once thought it wasn't even a member of the tribe.

Layie discoidea

Layia discoidea, a plant whose evolutionary history had long baffled botanists. (Photo credit: James R. Griffin/California Native Plant Society)

Clausen's team discovered it was a tarweed and related to Layia glandulosa ("Glandulosa"), or white layia, a ray-bearing plant found in sandy soils throughout the western United States. But the researchers weren't sure which plant came first, and thought that the rayless plant could be an evolutionary relict.

Through genetic testing, Baldwin found that Discoidea split from Glandulosa less than a million years ago. And he discovered an interesting fact about both species. Glandulosa's common name – white layia – is something of a misnomer. While most of the plants have white rays, a rare variety has yellow rays. Baldwin discovered that the rare, yellow-rayed version is more closely related to Discoidea, a separate species, than it is to the white-rayed plants in its own species. That means Discoidea underwent such rapid change that its close relationship to yellow Glandulosa was obscured, except with the aid of molecular data, Baldwin explains. Discoidea even retains a gene coding for yellow ray color, although it no longer has rays, he says.

This example "shows that evolution can proceed at very different rates and in very different ways, depending on ecological circumstances," Baldwin says. California, with its many microclimates and soils, offers a multitude of distinct environments that have shaped plant evolution here, Baldwin says. That means the state likely has many new species yet to be discovered, he adds.

But Baldwin knows if species lose their habitats, they could disappear before being discovered. "If a (species) disappears, we're losing something irreplaceable," he says. "We still aren't knowledgeable enough to say whether these plants have special ecological properties or special medicinal properties," he adds. "But we do know once they're gone, they're gone forever."

Story in Science Matters

Monday, October 16, 2006

Tallest Tree almost 400 feet --

World's tallest tree

Researchers have confirmed that a redwood named Hyperion in a remote Northern California forest is the world's tallest tree.

Steve Sillett, a forestry professor at Humboldt State University, recently climbed Hyperion and measured it at 379.1 feet, one foot taller than previously thought.

Hyperion, which grows in Redwood National Park, edged aside the previous record holder, a 370.5-foot redwood called Stratosphere Giant in nearby Humboldt State Park.

Researchers had to wait until the end of the endangered marbled murrelet's nesting season to measure Hyperion and confirm its status as the world's tallest living thing.

If it weren't for damage caused by woodpeckers at its top, Hyperion could have reached 380 feet, researchers said.

Michael Taylor and Chris Atkins, the naturalists who initially found Hyperion, said the chances of finding a taller living organism are slim because they have already searched about 95 percent of the prime habitat for big redwoods.

Officials would not pinpoint the exact location of Hyperion because they are worried that too many visitors could damage the tree's delicate ecosystem.

Picture Credit Treehugger