I’ll be meeting today with a group of retired folks, Methodists mostly, who will attend a retreat at Camp Altamons, a mere stone’s throw from home. My part is to share ways I’ve come to consider that we, and maybe especially those longest among us with the most experience and wisdom–might reconcile broken relationships.
Here is the 300 word summary:
I learned in the summer of 1970, as a new zoology grad student, that many of the planet’s species and habitats–in fact, entire classes of animals and whole biomes–were under threat from our growing numbers and resource demands now referred to as our ecological footprint.
More than that, I became aware of an alarming indifference to nature’s grave condition, beyond the youth and some older academics of that day. It was as if the planet’s matter and energy were believed to be inexhaustible and her working systems too big to fail. I saw this as the most epic of conflicts in which I was a character, a story that would shape the state of the world that my unborn children would inherit.
Now four decades of biology-watching later, limits and ecological boundaries continue to be ignored–often in the name of profit and power. I have come to believe that reconciling essential and broken relationships–to nature, to place and within our human and non-human communities–must be the chief focus of our energies if we are to leave a legacy of hope and healing for those who come after us.
But there is hope. Our nature apathy and ignorance can be reversed by renaturing our selves and our children, defeating “nature deficit” and its physical and spiritual consequences. Placelessness may be reversed by a renewed discovery of “sense of place.” In so doing, as Eudora Welty said, “one place understood helps us know all places better.” Out of these therapeutic responses may finally evolve eco-empathy–a personal, ecological, stewardship ethic. With that understanding, we might then come to use our technologies and guide our economic engines with a seven-generation view of their consequences. If we are successful, mankind may yet foster resilience and balance on a planet whose health our well-being will continue to depend.
For a change of pace I’m fleshing out this post via Postach.io–a beta blogging platform that works off of Evernote.
Since Evernote is where I create and curate my blog posts and related links (as many others do as well), makes sense that this might someday become a fleshed-out blogging medium.
So here’s a little snippet of trivia, if you’re so inclined, for a drizzly Sunday:
Sweetlips don’t take no crap from the likes of Jim Reeves (1960 country hit) and she did NOT after all, tell the man there with her he’d have to go.
Jeanne Black sings “He’ll Have to Stay” after Jim Reeves sings the contrary point of view.
What? Maybe four times of carrying credit cards in our adult lives we’ve missed a payment because I thought she and she thought I had paid it; or it got sorted by mistake into the wrong pile. Four times in decades of full-amount on-time payments to Bank of America or its predecessors.
So I admit I’m naive about how these missed-due-date things work. I slipped up this week and paid a $300 BOA bill due on the 14th on the 14th. So it would be late. Dang, I hate it when that happens once every couple of years.
And this morning, first Amazon, then Netflix tell me there are problems and I need to bill to another card.
Wait a minute. Surely not. That would an idiotic good-customer-alienating policy to inactivate the card for what turns out to be a $15 penalty for a cardholder who carries no outstanding balance beyond this one check that should arrive at BOA today or tomorrow.
But yes, that is the policy at Bank of America. Check’s late, you’re frozen. No skin off their beaks.
Yes, after holding for Eternal Muzac and talking to someone “higher up” about my displeasure, things were made right and the fee was waved, and all is rosy, they tell me.
But I want to know: is this day-late DOA standard policy for all credit card issuers? This has rubbed my fur the wrong way, and if other cards offer more rational and measured grace periods to good customers, I may want to be one of theirs, and t’ell wit Bank of AmeriKa.
Meanwhile, I’m setting up autodraft for this card from our bank. But for the longer haul, I’m shopping around for alternatives and open to any ideas.
We’re talking well-aged water: like for a billion years or more: found trapped in ancient bedrock north of Lake Superior. And that ancient water may contain living organisms that came along long before multicellular life on the surface. Or so they speculate.
So I’m looking at the map in the NPR piece–the age of bedrock coded in colors. Hmmm. I’d sort of like to know what the colors mean in terms of age.
So I find the USGS National Geologic Map Database and I’m in map-geek heaven. Except that nowhere on the elaborate customizable maps do I find a legend that gives me any information about what the map shows. Maybe the colors are something a geologist just knows. But for us armchair explorers, I need more information, please.
Then again, it looks like this overall map database is a long way from being standardized for anything (note the four maps that converge in the center of this screen shot), and the ages of the individual quadrangle maps are probably, well, all over the map yet.
So. Another science fiction storyline bubbles up in my mind, as if I ever wrote fiction: ancient trapped water is discovered, and…it contains lifeforms that are not carbon based and considered to be extraterrestrial. Or once released to the oxidizing atmosphere, the lifeforms proliferate, spread rapidly and threaten the worlds fresh water; or….
If they do find organisms, chances are they will be not too distant from the geothermal chemosynthetic autotrophs found at the boiling vents deep in the oceans. Still, that would be cool to discover that at about the same time as we resurrect extinct species like the Wooly Mammoth by currently available genetic engineering. (The jury is still out on whether that is such a great idea. DeExtinction is a whole nuther topic. See this National Geographic coverage on DeExtinction if you are interested.)
Strange world we live in. And it ain’t over. Yet.
No, this will not be another bit about the joys of garden anointments from full bladders. This particular P also does not grow on a vine in said garden. This one is, however, the reason why we will have a garden at all. Or health or life at all, for that matter. This P is phosphorus and its chemical cousin, phosphate.
Phosphorus is a limiting factor, a finite and vanishing earth-mineral resource that is built into the design of living things. It is in our bones and teeth, in every cell membrane of every cell of every living membraned thing (as part of the “phospho-lipid bilayer” you might have learned about in biology class if you weren’t texting your girlfriend.)
And we whiz away P with our pee–so much so that it precipitates out into the lining of the pipes at sewage treatment plants. And what passes on finds its way–together with the readily-leached agriculturally-applied rock phosphate as well as nitrogen–into the oceans, where, it over-fertilizes the plankton and creates the famous Red Tides and ever-popular Dead Zones.
The rate of phosphate use far exceeds the rate of phosphate recovery. We are flushing away some of the best hope of feeding the future. But it is not too late to change to become self-sufficient at least with regard to this strategic resource before we go to war with China or Morocco–the only other exporters of the stuff.
You’ll find many ideas for not treating our soil like dirt and other means of “upcycling” in the excerpt in Scientific American from the new book Upcycle, by William McDonough and Michael Braungart (Cradle to Cradle.)
One subject I learned about here was the “harvesting” of struvite–basically kidney stones–from the clogged pipes of sewage treatment plants. These pellets contain just the right mix of phosphorus compounds from flushed and otherwise-wasted human urine to provide slow feeding of field crops. This is not yet a common industrial recovery practice, but should become so right away.
Like the honeybee and the bats, we desperately need to shift our attention to those tiny cogs in the great machinery of our fragile civilization. Once they become extinct or flushed into the ocean, our Humpty-Dumpty world won’t be able to fix itself.
Can Soil Replace Oil as a Source of Energy? [Excerpt]: Scientific American
The Story of Phosphorus: 8 reasons why we need to rethink the management of phosphorus resources in the global food system
Peak Phosphorus: the sequel to Peak Oil
Why it was that, the week before, when somebody passed to Ann the children’s sermon resource book, that made her immediately see that as MY obligation, I can’t say. It HAS happened before.
I do know that I totally forgot about it, what with all the packing and then the two days at the Naturalist Rally Friday and Saturday.
So I used what I had at hand (or better, under feet) to cobble a short message for Sunday morning. It did not have anything to do with mothers, really, though they could have been the recipients of the props: earthworms.
So rather that hitting the delete button on the outline for that 3 minute homily, I posted it here on CheckThis. Worth every penny ya paid for it.
The white-nosed bats and the honey bees.
That both these earth-economy essential creatures should be threatened in a serious way should be improbable details you’d come across only in dystopian fiction.
The storyline of such a novel is predicated on the large consequences that derive from the disappearances (only a highly creative imagination could come up with a plausible cause) of the smallest and most peripheral of creatures. It would be a morality tale of arrogant, world-ravaging civilizations being brought to their knees by what would turn out to be their weakest, and in the end, most essential links.
But I digress. I only wanted to give a few details from the 39th Annual Mt Rogers Naturalist Rally Friday evening program by Dr. Karen Frankl, who is a bat biologist from Radford U.
There are some 1000 bat species world-wide. Of those, 17 are found in Virginia, 14 are resident species here. Of those about half are cave and half are tree species. It is the cave species that suffer from White Nose Syndrome.
WNS first came to the headlines in 2006. I think I just saw it was now confirmed in 22 states and spreading. It probably originated in Europe, where cave bat populations are much less dense than in American caves–this possibly indicating that these are resistant survivors of a WNS epidemic there some centuries or longer ago.
Geomyces destructans is the pathological agent afflicting cave dwelling bats. It causes the bats to use up more of their fat stores during hibernation, and to venture out during winter. Both these facts may stem from the irritation the organism causes. It itches–not to mention it causes the wing membrane to lose elasticity and develop actual holes.
Bats are impacted by large-turbine windmills. But surprisingly they are not killed by direct trauma but by barotrauma. They basically “explode” due to pressure changes caused when the blades create a low pressure suction on the bats especially fragile lungs.
So, while honeybees continue to be decimated by Colony Collapse Disorder (hit harder this year than ever in many places), up to half of all North American bats could be wiped out by WNS.
And the so-what? Read Blood and Spore: How a Bat-Killing Fungus Is Threatening U.S. Agriculture (The Atlantic)
Personally, I prefer as horizontal as possible, save for a slight–maybe 5-7 degree–cephalic inclination.
Salt, OTOH, likes it better at 32 degrees. And so, finally, I know why road department salt storage facilities I’ve seen in my admittedly limited travels store their road salt in those cone-shaped buildings. It has nothing to do with the conical equivalent of “pyramid power” that so many have used over the years to keep their razor blades sharp.
Seems that the salt destined for storage is loaded from the tops of the cones. As it piles up, it’s flanks, because of the physical properties of the salt grains, assume a 32 degree pitch. So shaping the buildings to conform to the natural “angle of repose” is the most efficient shape for storing salt. And now I know.
It occurred to me that, had this burning issue come up thirty years ago, it would have had to remain unsolved. I can’t imagine I’d keep the question alive long enough to go through the whole reference librarian pathway to an answer.
Our few hours last week without power found me quite a few times having the spontaneous urge to KNOW a meaning, more details like this one about salt housing, or to add to some growing thread of inquiry by sitting down at the computer for an instant answer. I was not aware of how often this impulse occurs in my day until there was no way to satisfy it from my office chair.
We’ve become quite spoiled by the ability to “google” the world of facts, and have far more information at our fingertips than anyone would have imagined just a few decades ago. May we use this gift wisely. (Fewer cats and chats and blog posts about salt houses would be a start. Ya think?)
Now, I will go practice my favorite angle of repose, if Gandy will give me some room on the love seat. Tsuga had to ask permission to get on the furniture. Now with Gandy, we have to ask permission. What has our world come to?