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.
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.
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.
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.
macro of Bombus vosnesenskii wing – a beautifully engineered structure of hamuli and hairs
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.
Two Golden Hour Restoration Institute volunteers restoring habitat for lupines, the host plant for the Mission Blue 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.
Black oaks (Quercus kelloggii) was slower to leaf out in the drier year.
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 →
When backpacking the John Muir trail with some great friends I remember how critical water management was for us. We were packing lightly, covering the trail with backpacks weighing in a 40 pounds or so. Included in these weigh savings was reduced water storage capacity. We moved from creek to creek, calculating what we needed to filter, drink or carry for how long. Water defined our journey in a quietly critical way.
Both as a photographer and an ecologist I am regularly wowed by valley oaks (Quercus lobata). These comely giants rise up from the driest summer soils and produce a rich refugia for hundreds of plant and animal species avoiding the unrelenting sun. These trees create veritable oases of wildlife and wildflower activity in a desert-like August sun.
Unfortunately these giants are perishing with limited replacement. As the parent trees pass on, quality habitat for regeneration also desiccates. The fathers and mothers have seen our land shift from native American management to agro-industrial conversion. Rare trees still grow in large groves with mingling arch-like crowns. Instead they are often solitary sentinels. Listen for echos from a quieter 1800, or even a 1700.
We as humans can and must metamorphose nostalgia into restorative action. We can start to replant our valley oak spreads, but we must do it while they still have the soil, water and biotic conditions to establish. The figure below from a 2012 CA Energy Commission report models a loss of 2/3 of the extant habitat in light of rising carbon emissions and climate change. These trees are resilient when they are established, but that needs to happen soon, before it’s cost prohibitive and ecologically nearly impossible. We hope to get a small planting going in a historic valley oak area through Golden Hour Restoration Institute. We do need money (about $2000) and partners and I hope we can play a small role in helping maintain the grandiose valley oaks of our fathers grandfathers past.
Happy New Year Folks! I decided to continue the calendars as they were fun to do and I liked the monthly check in. Here’s a quick post of the January 2014 desktop image – free to use as a desktop all you’d like. I think I may try to add in non-distracting calendar “elements” at some point but January is so mixed up I’m not sure a calendar with days and things like holidays would help. Here’s the image for download.