All posts by fred

Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

Forest Is…

forest ridge in morning sun
Click the image to enlarge and read some details about the photograph and the photographer
Forest: a bunch of trees. A product. A profit source for shareholders. A place where something useful might be built. Forest: a living community of interconnected lifeforms, above and below ground, that breathes oxygen, captures and stores CO2, communicates across distance and shares nutrients within a community of tethered trees and shrubs; an evolving habitat and nutrient-rich shelter for birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians; a generator of topsoil and sponge for … Continue Reading ››

We Can’t Say We Didn’t Know

I've made this claim often here and elsewhere, having observed the evolution of a half-century of new electronic eyes and ears to better grasp the state of the planet. We can't say we did not know the extent of change our one species has brought to every single place on Earth, on land and sea and in the very air. It is the change we bring to forests that holds my attention lately, "forest" being the word we use to describe the wooded areas between cities and crop fields and around interstates. But we suffer from baseline creep. Today's global forest--it's age mix, its amalgam of animals … Continue Reading ››

At the End of Your Rope

Pulling, lifting, holding, securing, lashing and binding. Construction, seafaring, sports, adventure. For these purposes, even in our age of advanced technologies, nothing has or will ever come along to replace "the rope." First found in use around 17,000 years ago, the basic design has remained little changed,  the natural jute, cotton, or hemp fibers have been replaced by nylon and other synthetics since my boyhood. (I remember how hard on the hands was the natural rope we used in the last-evening bonfire tug-of-war at summer camp.) It is such an inexpensive and low-tech tool with so many varied and practical uses in everyday life … Continue Reading ››

The Contented Zoologist: Mid Feb 2017

My MS degree from Auburn (just after the last Ice Age) was in Vertebrate Zoology. I would have been just as happy--if not happier--if it had been in Invertebrate Zoology since there are a gazillion times more animals without than with backbones. And they have had oodles (another highly scientific word) more time to show up with bizarre, worthwhile and "clever" adaptations to life on Earth. And it has never been easier for an armchair BoZo (I go both ways, botanical and zoological) to explore the world of animal wonders. How could I possibly keep from sharing from time to time? ► This … Continue Reading ››

Big-Data Big-Brother NewSpeak

There are, of course, those who say that this big-data psychometric neurosociological element had nothing to do with the Trump win. What do you think? Twig from this quote from Cambridge Analytica's own boast on their website on November 9 and go from there: “We are thrilled that our revolutionary approach to data-driven communications played such an integral part in President-elect Donald Trump’s extraordinary win,” said Alexander Nix, CEO of Cambridge Analytica. “It demonstrates the huge impact that the right blend of cutting-edge data science, new technologies, and sophisticated communication strategies can have.” The Rise of the Weaponized AI Propaganda Machine – … Continue Reading ››