So it’s now well past the half way point of January and still no calendar. It’s been busy for sure, but more importantly, my mind has been filled with how I create the impact I dream of. The impact that … Continue reading
So here we are, a culture – a nation of immigrants – dearly needing to settle into the holidays. And I’m not feeling so cheery. Many people are suffering, crying, feeling disgraced. I’m feeling a bit uncomfortable in my skin. It itches.
America is a killing culture. We continue to institutionally and violently kill the young black man. Why? Because we have a culturally created “bad feeling” about someone and think that’s reason enough to shoot someone. This is the most demonic and violent projection of institutional racism and it occurs every day. Over and over again. Believe me, I’m not against cops and policing of communities, I’m against all cops carrying guns. I’m against the cultural christening of the gun being a tool of peace.
Guns don’t stop crimes, they instigate them. They elevate the risks and therefore more dramatic, poorly intended decisions happen. They happen alot. Even with 12 year olds. We need peace officers to drop their guns. We need to form an armed division and a peace division of our policing departments. We need police forces to be required by law to culturally reflect the communities they protect. We need ten times the peace officers as we do armed police.
You know what else I think we need, we all need to go for a walk in the woods together. Let it filter us. Allow the forest to heal us, and it will.
Here’s the December desktop calendar, free for personal use. Full file here.
One of the greatest challenges with managing ecological systems is investing in patience. Large scale changes, both positive and negative often occur over many years, decades and even millennium. Oaks, in particular, grow very slowly, and the recovery of an oak savanna can easily take decades. This is often too long of a timescale even for long-term (5-10 year) restoration grants.
In contrast to annual financial balance sheets which expire after 365 days, nature takes too long. In some cases, quarterly reports rule, reducing time lines to about 90 days. Purely and simply, patience can be expensive especially when there are expectations of regular production.
It’s been a dry year, again. El Nino is out on vacation (not like she would necessarily bring the coastal areas relief). And it’s hot again. Resources are thin and getting thinner. Our water is literally evaporating away, like those underground rivers that we never see. The aquifers that creep quietly far from the reach of most straws are themselves creeping along ever more slowly. Well are being drilled everywhere. The graph below from the USGS tells that story.
For this month: a prairie state of mind.
As I crank away (as an ecologist) on a project looking towards restoring and revitalizing hundreds of acres of coastal prairie grasslands, I am always amazed (read:appalled) by how much prairie we’ve lost. There’s maybe 5% of the historic, original California prairies. And that true number may be more like 2-3% when you consider what percent are ecologically intact or healthy. Even our most beautiful wildflower fields have been difficult to protect. These prairies provide critical wildflower and pollinator resources that simply can’t be replaced with simple restoration practice. We need to keep the landscape alive as we help in little, supplementary ways through protecting rare plants, corridors, native vegetation, natural disturbance regimes.
Many high alpine meadows in the Sierra Nevada are undergoing conversion to lodgepole pine woodland and forest. These pines are grand and beautiful in many ways, but its the meadows that are risking extinction since they have little ability to equilibrate with the pines given reduced wildfires. These vast meadows that are critical habitat for wildlife and wildflowers alike are losing out to marching pines that seem to particularly invade (and become established) on excessively dry years (see John Helms’ 1987 Madrono article). Notably, as with many climate mediated change, the changes aren’t necessarily gradual. They occur at distinct moment (punctuated equilibrium), when a system will transition suddenly from one state to another: e.g. wet meadow with running water becoming mesic pine stand. A ticking timebomb if you will. Once the conditions are right, and all the seeds are in place, the pines get through a critical 3-year growth cycle and become established even if conditions return to a wetter cycle.
One notable implication occurs at the pollinator level. Bumblebees, bees, butterflies, and other pollinators typically have fewer flowers available in a closed canopy pine forest vs. an alpine wildflower meadow. Where will Pooh get his honey when the pines come marching in? I’m not sure, but I know that big meadows certainly are important for pollinator services. Basically, we could start to see quick losses in pollinator habitat at high elevation if meadows are congested with pines.
So what’s it all mean (big picture style)…
The European continent is painted with thousands of centuries of industrialized, high density civilization. As compared with our North American continent which was gardened and nurtured by first nation peoples, Europe feels more conquered. The brazen castles guarding the hills of Catalonia for instance communicate a feeling of a land that has been well-surveyed through the ages. Few acres sit quietly untrodden.
Bumblebees on the wing bear the promise of wildflower seasons to come. Their enormous (well in a bee sense) black and gold bodies float through air with grace and fluidity. I sometimes imagine they’re underwater, steady, slow, even. They are tremendously efficient workers who regularly visit the same patches of flowers throughout a season. They have their gardens (our gardens) they steward as we’re away at work, or off playing. Continue reading
When you step foot atop Twin Peaks in San Francisco, you imbibe sweeping views of a thriving metropolis nestled in nature. There are vast swaths of gray hugged by adjacent seas of green and blue. It’s not Brooks Range-esque wilderness, but as Bill Cronon professes, “what brought each of us to the places where such memories became possible is entirely a cultural invention.” Although I don’t always completely agree with Professor Cronon’s view of a necessarily anthropogenic wilderness – San Francisco undoubtedly stands as living proof that cultural intervention has allowed for these memories to be accessible (my interpretation) to the masses, not the few private property owners. Cultural intervention has also preserved a taste of wilderness, and the home of this unlikely resident of Twin Peaks, the Mission Blue Butterfly. MBB’s fly from about April to May, each year, a reminder of how delicate biodiversity can be, while at the same time celebrating the incredible resiliency of this tiny, ephemeral butterfly.
Drought is kind of a dirty word. It’s a dry, dusty, parched, scary, dirty word for most Californians. I feel for the farmers and ranchers and fish as we survive through epic drought conditions.
Although the important discussions press onward about impacts of drought on people (which I think is an extremely important discussion), I’m taking a second to think about it from a wildflower perspective. Yes, drought means limited water, but what’s that decrease mean for one of California’s oldest residents – the flora. Continue reading