Thursday, May 2, 2013

Presumpscot River Preserve

Today we hiked the Presumpscot River Preserve, an easy jaunt in the vicinity of Falmouth/North Deering neighborhoods, just north of Portland, Maine. The trail-head is well marked with a sign and runs through a 60 acre preserve starting from Summit Street.  There is a metal gate in place to prevent vehicles beyond the mountain bikes from entering.   Summit Street doesn't offer parking, but the nearest side street to the trail head is a quiet residential neighborhood just footsteps away.  There were perhaps 10 or so other people enjoying the trail today.

This trail offers an easy mile-or-so hike to the Presumpscot river, with one area at the river that's uphill for perhaps 20 yards. There are several more trails branching off once you're down to the river, but we didn't venture more than that first mile and then back again, since I had been to the dentist this morning, so I was feeling a little uncomfortable.   It was around 65 degrees, a little hazy but sunny, and far less windy than it's been on the Portland peninsula.

It's a mixed woods, with primarily a few small Eastern Hemlock, White Pine, White Birch, Beech, and Oak.  Several small streams, and other runs, low-lying marshy areas are all along either side of the trail, but mainly to the right, or river-side of the trail.
It is obviously an area that experiences a lot of drainage and was quite moist despite the recent dry, clear weather.   Solomon's Seal is up, we saw a few dozen to the side of the trail, about 6” high with 5 or so leaves. This is typical timing for them in the region. A thriver, they extend all the way from Sasketchewan south to Florida, Montana to New Mexico. They come up in May and bloom from late May through June.

We saw one patch, about a square meter, with around a half dozen Sessile Bellwort in bloom. This very common early bloomer from the lily family, Uvularia Sessifolia, get to be about 6”high, and have a range across nearly all of wooded North America.

Yellow Trout Lilies are a favorite of mine, not for their graceful drooping flowers, but for the speckled patterns on their waxy, wide leaves. There were quite a few of these....
"Troutlily Gaggle"

Exceptional specimens of  Erythronium americanum Ker-Gawl.

The Trout Lilies we saw were all 6" in height.   Common Violets were in the lawns in the residential area, but we only saw purple,  no canadian, white or yellow varieties.  One chipmunk was spotted.

Strangely, there were no song birds. Not a lot of undergrowth to attract them, and with a hundred bird-feeders in the residential area flanking the trail, it's likely they've got it pretty good...Nik did think he saw a Turkey 

They were new, also about 6" tall, stems perhaps 1/2 inch diameter, tops. I had, in fact, never seen horsetails before, but knowing that these are prehistoric fern-like plants with unique and interesting characteristics and taxonomy, I was pleased to run up on them.  I would love to re-visit them to get a good look as they grow and as the season wears on. Today I was very interested to learn that their rhizomatic root system outweighs the tops by a 100 to 1. 

Everything seemed at the same height, about 6".  Probably everything shot up at once about 1 week ago.  

Along the trail today, we saw that a number of trees were downed, or otherwise done-for,  most likely broken off in wind storms,and hanging in precarious positions. We have had a rough, long winter here in Southern Maine, with temps below F. 0 for a good week, and one of the worst blizzards ever, so it's not surprising to see this amount of downed wood.  Wind provides a cleansing of weaker branches, a natural pruning, if you will.  These trails are maintained by volunteers, and I'm sure they are always happy to have helping hands or donations. If you live in Maine, or a frequent visitor, and value access to the outdoors and experiences in natural setting, support Maine Trails, a very good cause, methinks.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Warmer Springs Mean Less Snow Cover, Disruptions for Plants and Animals, and More Allergies, Scientists Say | Union of Concerned Scientists

The Ecology of Snow
Maine is famous for Tourmaline, and it is the official Maine State Mineral.

Tourmaline is a group of similar mineral species varying in composition and color. 

Two species of the tourmaline group are widespread in the igneous rocks of southwestern Maine. 

Schorl is a black iron-rich variety, and by far the more common of the two.

Elbaite is a lithium-bearing tourmaline that forms beautiful crystals in pink, green, blue, or combinations of these colors.

Attribution: Rob Lavinsky,

Friday, June 1, 2012

Greatest Danger to Capitalism?
(Hint: It isn't "Treehuggers")

The main dangers to the success of capitalism are the very people who would consider themselves its most ardent advocates : the investors who insist on profits, the management of these companies, and the politicians who tirelessly insist that they are 'pro-business'."

From The Economist:

"Many of the corporate scandals that America, especially, has endured in recent years reflect outright criminality. A lawful order knows what to do with criminals, and pro-business politicians are in truth militantly anti-capitalist if they flinch from cracking down on bosses' crimes."

"...widespread and quite outrageous abuse, by capitalists, of capitalism... The danger exists everywhere in the world, but it matters most in the United States."

The Economist, Special 160th Anniversary Issue, A Survey of Capitalism and Democracy, June 26-July 4, 2003
Politicians strain to outdo each other with promises to 'get tough' on crime and to bring law and order back to the streets.There is no question that common street crime is an important social concern. But its image has become so bloated in the mirror of public opinion that it blocks our view of the white collar crimes which are both more costly and more dangerous to society."

James Coleman. The Criminal Elite. 1985. St. Martin's Press

Here's an example of that beloved unfettered capitalism....

Groundwater depletion and sustainability of irrigation 
in the US High Plains and Central Valley. 

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA
Bridget R. Scanlona,  Claudia C. Fauntb, Laurent Longuevergnec, Robert C. Reedya, William M. Alleyb, Virginia L. McGuired, and Peter B. McMahone

Bureau of Economic Geology, Jackson School of Geosciences, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX 78713-8924;
Geosciences Rennes, University de Rennes, Rennes Cedex, France

Edited by William A. Jury, University of California, Riverside, CA, and approved March 14, 2012 (received for review January 10, 2012)

Aquifer over-exploitation could significantly impact crop production in the United States because 60% of irrigation relies on groundwater. Groundwater depletion in the irrigated High Plains and California Central Valley accounts for 50% of groundwater depletion in the United States since 1900. A newly developed High Plains recharge map shows that high recharge in the northern High Plains results in sustainable pumpage, whereas lower re-charge in the central and southern High Plains has resulted in focused depletion of 330 km3 of fossil groundwater, mostly recharged during the past 13,000 y. Depletion is highly localized with about a third of depletion occurring in 4% of the High Plains land area. Extrapolation of the current depletion rate suggests that 35% of the southern High Plains will be unable to support irrigation within the next 30 y. Reducing irrigation withdrawals could extend the lifespan of the aquifer but would not result in sustainable management of this fossil groundwater. The Central Valley is a more dynamic, engineered system, with north/south diversions of surface water since the 1950s contributing to higher recharge.  However, these diversions are regulated because of impacts on endangered species. A newly developed Central Valley Hydrologic Model shows that groundwater depletion since the 1960s, totaling 80 km3, occurs mostly in the south (Tulare Basin) and primarily during droughts. Increasing water storage through artificial recharge of excess surface water in aquifers by up to 3 km3 shows promise for coping with droughts and improving sustainability of groundwater resources in the Central Valley.


So we can see how capitalism will push businesses to eat their seed stock to maximize profits in the short term.  I suppose those trading in derivatives of these markets are thinking they can gamble their way out, or perhaps this leads to businesses who need to be bailed out by the taxpayers later on.  This is obviously unsustainable, and will inevitably be challenged.  Investors and those profiteering from the depletion of non-renewable resources are their own worst enemies.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Der Spiegel's Victims of Extreme "Green"

It seems Germans have taken it upon themselves to become martyrs for the cause of environmental degradation, and are suffering for it greatly… The whole article is a huge whine fest about how all of Germany is suffering under the weight of their own green – extremism. Sounds like a high school science project gone amuck.

Notice how nothing you hear about is ever being done in moderation. It’s all or nothing… overreacting, hysteria, burdensome impositions...

...and then, of course the resentments.

SShyeeah!! Damn green mess! That's what it is!

Also, notice how there are seemingly no grass roots efforts to reduce environmental impact of our behaviors... No ‘bottom up” solutions, such as “community gardens” and potagers (the only solution they offer is “buy organic”? ). "Veggie Thursday" is more aptly named "Expensive Guilt Reconciliation Thursday" leaving everyone feeling a bit anemic, since the nation famous for sausage is only expressing their concern for preparing vegetarian meals for a small fraction of their existence, it's probably not making many gourmets out of them, is it?

As I read the scathing criticisms for all these "literal" translations of what amounts to experimental solutions, I easily conjure up practical, and basically FREE solutions for nearly every one of these “complaints” as I read them…

The regulations from above that are enforced onto people are going to be huge let downs… and we're surprised by this, why?   Simple solutions at home seem quite salient and realistic. Are people really so helpless and hapless in the face of environmental challenges?

Have Germans lost their “edge” when it comes to innovation and engineering?

And why are Germany's citizens sounding a lot like guinea pigs for industrial solutions? And never mind that, a better question is, why on this green earth would anyone rely on “industry” at any rate to solve these problems?  Think about that for a moment...

Not that there may be some solutions that are applicable on a wide scale, effective, and successful in a wide distribution... I'm sure there are... but to rely on that?
But wasn’t it Einstein (A German) who said that the thing that causes the problem is unlikely to be the source of its solution, or some such pap?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

So, do economic values trump everything?

Dec. 20, 2011

Want to be spoon fed the apologist's resolved defeat, with an all you can eat, bottomless barrage of nauseating negativity?  Read today's TIME Science article "Winning the Conservation War: How to Manage the World We're Stuck with"

It really crystallizes so much of what's wrong, and what cannot be made right in the world.  Complacency.   The mainstream mentality so often heard now.

So, Time's piece encourages us to be complicit to a "reality" to which we are subjected and of which we are subjects at once;
From the article:
"...a recent scientific review that looked at 240 studies of different types of ecosystems following major disturbances like deforestation or oil spills, and found that the abundance of plant and animal species recovered at least partially in 72% of them."

They call this "winning."
To this i say,
How very Anemic and pathetic.

So, do economic values trump everything?  Maybe in a world to which the apologists would damn us all.  The message I'm getting is that, ultimately, for those who would think of revolting: "You Lose."

It seems to me there is often displayed in certain corners of the media, this arrogant agreement toward conciliation. A "bow", if you will, to the "moneyed interests" which seemingly prevail in all aspects of the physical world to a degree that is, well, disheartening if you know no other reality.

There is certainly a tense resolve in our collective situation that can urge most of us toward denial and distractions a-plenty.  The burdensome sense of truth is met with what must surely be the ultimate, "Fuck It!" a la the Bohemian Grove's infamous "Cremation of Care" ritual. 

Some folks really know no other way than the one they're in, and also, in effect, doling out to us.   Some, likely most, folks wake in the morning to a reality that more and more, they did not choose for themselves; they wake to a life that is less and less "of their own design". We are born into a prescribed sense of fatalism, we are defined. We are defeated. But are we damned?

If not, then, what does saving ourselves even look like?

We cannot choose to walk, or ride Bicycles instead of driving a car because, in many areas there are too many dangers.   Limited or nonexistent access to this option or manyleads some to fight for bike-lanes and awareness.  Some take this front and a few in some more progressive urban areas make it their life's work.  It is one battle in the war.

We can seek out or work to build up alternative economies, smaller, local economies.  Worker  Co-ops.   Local barter groups,  "hours exchange" programs,  local currencies.   Buy from makers you know.  Make for ourselves, DIY.    Skillshares.   Many actively reject the extreme specialization that creates dependency on the destructive system.  "Don't be a cog."   Some take this front.  It is one battle in the war.

We look for ways to reuse things, recycle, use it up, make do.... but then we learn that recycling garbage into fabric and selling it back to us is bad for the oceans... It's all garbage.  A plastic world.  Garbage in, garbage out. The laws of conservation of matter are a real bitch.
Solution: Choose local, organic foods. Organic fibers. Natural organic fibers. Flax. Hemp. Cotton. Wool. Non gmo.  This is another front.

We innovate, cut back, shore up and access renewable energy. Some opt for wind, photovoltaics, masonary stoves, coppicing managed woodlots, use of passive solar, fuels made from recycled vegetable oil, alternative building, alternative lifestyles, public transport, rail... 
Another front.

In the city, programs are underway to figure out how to grow food vertically, or to reclaim and remediate such nastiness as mercury and lead in unused lots through a process of chelating pollution by growing sunflowers. Growing healthy food nearby. Security from fluctuating food prices, and processed foods that make us sick... Food justice.  It is one of life's greatest pleasures to understand what there is to appreciate about the ability to eat healthy, tasty, slow food. When more people come to see what factory farms are really up to, we can choose to become vegetarians or vegans, even for only one day a week, and it cuts the problem by 1/7th.
Another front.

We can demand, or build our own, homes that are within the landscape, not on it. We can build with natural materials, locally sourced, renewable. We can live in homes that are scaled down, comforting, nurturing, protective. As it turns out efficient and small is also smart. The opportunity to adopt minimalism is always at hand. Give away "stuff", and stop buying more. Far more people can choose to go with a low tech lifestyles, head on back to the earth. Alternative building. Rammed earth. Strawbale.   Another front...

So the more this information is shared, becomes known, becomes our first hand experience, then the more support for our own industriousness at hand instead of industry imposed upon us we shall see. (Unless we're repeatedly denied access to such occasion, experiential learning, information, and resources, which is why co-ops and community initiatives are of vital importance now.)

It is in us, we have evolved to sow and grow, and it is still with us since long before marketplaces, or our propensity to sell and buy.

As it turns out, it's helpful, healthful to green things up, and it's not "rocket science", though science is immensely helpful when applied to something of use.

Back to the earth.

Will more and more of us move away from the technology, refusing to be "in on it",  or will we continue to play along nicely?

It is becoming harder for the dungeon masters to convince the players to continue on with the status quo.  It's becoming obvious that human beings will fuck a majority of their own selves out of existence on the current trajectory.

By creating my own life, right where I am and wherever I go in the future, I can increase my own "environmental values" in all the ways I possibly can find to do so. Breaking from a world where economic values trumps all else. Finding out ways and means to make my whole life, everything about it, into an endeavor of activism and protest.

 30 years ago when my dad abandoned my mom and I,  I questioned his cold stare. I mustered the guts to ask him how he could sit there and watch his own daughter cry like that and not even flinch. He said, "That's just the way it is"
To this day, these words lift me out of complacency, out of apathy, and move me to action, because that was how it was to him, in his world. In my world, what was happening was inconceivable, and remains so to this day. The year I graduated high school, I left my hometown, ran off in a van with a guy named Mike, drove over 3000 miles, and made a life for myself in California for awhile, and this song played on the radio again and again during the trip...
I am sick of having the values of the world explained to me, being told, this is just how "it is".
"That's just the way it is... some things will never change... Awww, but don't you believe them...
...I said, Hey old man, how can you stand to think that way? Did you really think about it before you made the rules?"
In this Time article, the most solemn and sickening sentence I see is this:  
"In a world where economic values almost always trump environmental ones this may be the best we hope for"
But I'll hope in my own way for what I damn well please, thanks.

One of the best examples of the mindlessness of the trajectory we are on is Christmas.

What do I buy at christmas? Nothing. You know what I want for Christmas? Nothing.   When I make up my mind that I simply refuse to be complicit in predefined, status quo, traditional things that support the reality that was created for me without my say, that alone eliminates a reality that has been dictated to me, and all in my society.      I strive to see, and hope to understand the world, not based on what I've been told, or what others believe, but solely on face value.  I want to see the reality in the world for what it is; Not for what others see, or what I'm told it is, So often there is a pre-arranged lie everyone agrees upon.  Everyone goes around telling each other these same lies again and again. 
Gaslighting is a psychological manipulation technique against which we must steel ourselves.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The path less chosen...

Something is happening on the planetary scale. Humans have caused a lot of damage to our planet over the course of very short time. We have withdrawn from having direct experience in nature, and turned toward symbolic realities; we have a tolerance for being crowded, we can get by in managed artificial environments, we survive through commercialization, relying solely on socially facilitated constructs of nature.  We are at a crossroads, and one way continues on the status quo, the other will be very challenging.  Change is difficult and even when one wants it, it is hard won.