Plate is Full, Blog is Empty

Earth in Ice: Image from Goose Creek January 2008

I made the mistake a few weeks back of saying I hoped to be doubling down on efforts to apply the brake to the creening path of humanity towards the brink–as if one person can make a difference; and yet…

One person can be a bystander or can give aid at the scene of a horrific accident.

Where we are as a species today is a horrific consequence of ignorance early on, followed by full intention in the past decades–since the Great Accelleration of 1950–to push the pedal to the medal, calamitous consequences (for all but the present stockholders and CEOs) be damned.

And so since I made that declaration here (I am too lazy to make a link) I have had new obligations and opportunities to man the oars and paddle against the currents.

I am now serving on the Volunteer Core Group for the nomination then election of Anthony Flaccavento to Congress from the 9th district of Virginia; and have a multitude of new hats to wear with SustainFloyd, perhaps more about that at some point.

Also i have elaborated on the Personal Climate Pledge project of SustainFloyd and that essay will be up on Fragments in excerpt tomorrow, with a link to the full piece at medium.com

So I intend–because it is something I want to attempt to do for the first time in years–to post to the blog every day this week. The posts will come mostly from material already generated elsewhere (like the two Forestry-related presentations for the Living in Our Forests series at the Floyd library, yesterday and on January 11th.

Also now will be planning for an hour-long presentation (vs the 20 minute versions at the library) for an organization in Roanoke probably in July.

Idle hands…not so much. But I like it that way–up to a point that might have been passed a couple of weeks ago. Balance. Serenity Now! World peace!

Seeing the Forests

Found in my collections of snippets, a quote from Wendell Berry, one of the few wise men of our era, in my opinion:

To destroy a forest or an ecology or a species is an act of greater seriousness than we have yet grasped, and it is perhaps of graver consequence. But these destructions will mend. The forest will grow back, the natural balances will be restored, the ecological gap left by the destroyed species will be filled by another species. But to destroy the earth itself is to destroy all the possibilities of the earth, among them the possibility of recovery.

And adjacent to that quote and I think from this article, comes this statement about land use changes (forest conversion) in the modern era:

Nearly two-thirds of the net conversion to other uses occurred in the second half of the 19th century, when an average of 13 square miles (mi2 ) of forest was cleared every day for 50 years. By 1910, the area of forest land had declined to an estimated 754 million acres, or 34 percent of the total land area. In 2012, forest land comprised 766 million acres, or 33 percent of the total land area of the United States. Forest area has been relatively stable since 1910, although the population has more than tripled since then.

This data supports ONLY the notion that from the air, more acres are in non-pasture non-asphalt than in 1910. This is deceptive.

Many of the trees that exist in today’s “forest” (in fact almost all) will live only about 15-20% of their life expectancy if undisturbed. They will not produce “old growth” or even middle-aged growth for that matter.

Consequently, what we see from the air is a stand of trees (vast numbers in this count are even-aged pulpwood pine trees in laser-straight rows.) It is only vaguely a forest compared to that landform as it existed four hundred years ago.

The biodiversity of Earth has drastically fallen largely because the global forests, north and south of the equator, in which species evolved no longer exist. The water holding capacity, the oxygen producing abilities, the soil building process and especially for our times, the CO2 holding capabilities of today’s small-tree-populated Eastern lands are all homeopathic dilutions of the services that true forests once achieved for the planet and its living communities.

Going forward and in my dreams, we rededicate our species to live in peaceful coexistance with those living systems that allowed  our species to prosper and learn, create culture and art and science and technology.

If we don’t, all those marvelous humanities our kind has created and enjoyed for a few brief eyeblinks on the timeline of Earth will become a faint and fading trace record of yet another vanished civilization that thought, somehow, it alone was exempt from its debt to cosmic biology (insert divine providence or sheer random good luck here as your understandings would have it.) We are beholding, no matter, and our arrogance to the contrary is not to our favor.

Dingo: The First Month

This is a screenshot from a video. STILL shots of this dog would require sedation!

It has been almost a month now since we first freaked when a new dog terrorized our chickens, and only two weeks since we first “met” this dog. He has come so far, and we have so far yet to go. I’d hoped to spend more time shaping this early cameo of Dingo’s early days, but alas, the Muse now carries a leash and a peanut-butter Kong and does very little typing.

There have been times over the past week when I was sure we had over-committed, had acted out of the heart and not the head. In the end of things, we would surely be compelled to endure the pain of a promise, broken, and would see the grief of goodbye in the eyes of a dog we almost loved and then, relinquished with mixed emotions, to strangers.

I’d like to think this was the hardest week in the long life of a new family member sent by the Adoption Agency of Canine Fate. I know the week of Dingo’s neutering has been an ordeal for all of us—quite possibly, least of all the dog. There will be weeks worse than this, maybe, but surely, please, not the week to come. We all need a break.

I say this as I see this through the eye of faith, with hope, more than a little exhausted by what it has taken to keep a year-old puppy from “running, jumping or getting the stitches wet” for 7 to 10 days, per the recommendation.

This has been almost impossible, since the dog kept saying “What stitches?” and dashing full speed to an abrupt halt at the end of his six foot leash or bounding over furniture, unrestrained by pain, discipline or good sense.

At the root of this logistical turmoil has been the apparent novelty for this dog of every aspect of “normal” that we’ve grown used to now with almost seven years with Gandy. She reads our thoughts. She knows the nuance of our footsteps. She totally wants to do the dance that has become so deeply a part of her personality and character. Dingo does not hear the music at all. And what’s worse, he is all left feet.

He has no social skills or sense of behavioral propriety whatsoever—not having been much around people or other dogs; never in a house or a car (except to be dropped off in this strange place along Goose Creek almost a month ago; never was the recipient of all of the attention and love he so earnestly asks for there at our side no matter what we are doing, inside or out.

This is a smart dog. He already knows (and inconsistently obeys) the command to SIT. He does this faithfully at the beginning of walk-about, and both dogs sitting attentively looking up for a treat makes a gratifying scene. Once sitting, STAY will keep Dingo across the room until COME brings him to his food or a Kong with a smear of peanut butter.

We have to suspect that he has never been on a leash before. He’s done well on that count, and learned quickly to walk with us instead of freezing in place as he did on day one—as if he’d once been chained in place.

He may have never had much human care. Although he is a loving and affectionate dog, he hasn’t a clue how to show it. With Gandy, now that his interest has shifted from his Little Brain’s fanatic drives towards his Big Brain’s desire to make friends, he is like a gawky adolescent: enamored of the opposite sex, but drop-dead dumb about how to engage one of them without a total turn-off.

“Hey, watch me put your whole face in my mouth! Want to see me spin around really fast and catch my back foot in my teeth? Think I can run all the way under your belly and come out on the other side? Huh? Huh?” Gandy says: Dog NERD!

But he is having some calm moments, finally, not so many days after returning from his surgery, on the heels of totally forgetting any progress he had made before it. We’ve started over again from the bottom of the learning curve.

He has been actively affectionate to Gandy—when not showing off—and to us this week, including to my mother who was a stranger to him for only a half-minute. It will take time to widen his exposure to other creatures and humans, and know he can trust them. He has had a shaky first year in that regard.

Like the puppy that he is, his brain map has a huge territory devoted to the MOUTH. He is prone to showing his affection by mouthing the hand of whoever attempts to show him attention, and if he persists with this, we withdraw attention and scold him: NO BITE! He has shredded a rubber glove, a small pillow and an old quilt. So far, no gnawed furniture, which was part of Gandy’s puppyhood tooth-works.

The encouraging background of all of this is that he shows much promise on many fronts, and that we don’t have to endure his first year, but only his second, as a puppy. It will be a long year, to be sure, but one higher in energy and longer in country miles around the pasture and woods than without this new activity director living with us.

He is an intelligent and oh-so-faithful dog. I think we should have no fear of his running off, after he has so decisively chosen this family and this place out of all the places he must have wandered to get here. His claws are mere nubs. We will always wonder about his story, before Goose Creek, and never know.

A Human History Without Oil: A Speculative Ramble

So again, the blog is a bookmark to bits in other places.

I jotted down some thoughts at the end of days-long “what if” mind play about how civilization, technology and culture might be today had Earth events not delivered to us various forms of carbon, packaged in mass quantities underground, ostensibly for the eventual discovery by homo sapiens and use of human genius, to drive what we have come to know as modern civilization.

Click the blue bar to read the whole piece at medium.com or just read as long as you can stand it in this blog post to get the flavor of the thing.

Carbon slaves have powered the Industrial Revolution, the Green Revolution, the Great Acceleration of the Anthropocene, and the Population Explosion of the past two hundred years.

This is just an exercise. It is not a Luddite dream of how things would have been “better” without oil and all of the technologies that have been powered by it.

I, for  one, have been the beneficiary of cheap energy, modern medicine and ample food to eat, gifted to me by the energy slaves of our time. I just wish we could have managed our appetites with more temperance and justice in our zeal to prosper and grow.

This head-game assumes we still would have had an “Enlightenment” and a “Scientific Revolution” but not the familiar tools to do the work that oil has done.

The genie can’t be put back into the lamp, at any rate.  We live with the good and bad consequences of oil, a tiny side-note in the long narrative that remains ahead of life on Earth.

We WILL some day–within a very small number of generations, I believe–live in a world where use of carbon energy is practically non-existant for the ordinary person, other than wood.

We can and should be thinking about some of those “smaller footprint” ways of living in the future that would have been the historical norm, had the Carboniferous never happened.

I’d be interested in but do not necessarily expect to hear your thoughts.

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 and plants, its microorganisms and microhabitats–is a faint shadow of the forest of five hundred years ago. And many. of course, are entirely gone.

And that’s important because the planet grew up over the past millions of years with yesterday’s definition of forest being an intact regulator of biodiversity, carbon dioxide, oxygen and moisture. To the extent that a forest of today has lost that capacity we stand at risk of lost planetary regulation–homeostasis–that keeps things more or less “normal” and predictable.

Tomorrow’s “forest”: those who live among them may have gone another few notches down on the scale of expectation for what constitutes a “normal, healthy, intact forest.” We are losing even what we have had in very many places across the states and the globe.

FORwarn forestry threats map, discovered fortuitously by guided serendipity among saved links going back to 2014, provides maps that can chart the changes in vegetation from mild to extreme across the continent.

ForWarn provides near-real-time tracking of vegetation changes across landscapes in the United States. Useful for both monitoring disturbance events as well as year-to-year variability, derived products can also be used to develop insights into seasonal and inter-annual dynamics.

Dark blue is essentially undisturbed vegetation. Carvin’s Cove north of Roanoke is one such place you can see on the map. Elsewhere, note the spots and clumps of red. We have only to walk out our back door or down our road less than a mile to see dark red.

How about you? Find your homeplace. What is the nearest extreme alteration to the forest there? Were you aware of it? Can you see it from your roads or is it hidden from view? What streams are drained by that logging and do those streams remain clear?

You shouldn’t claim you couldn’t have known.

A Pill Bug By Any Other Name

So what do you call them? And if you say you’ve never seen them before or held one (or a couple of dozen) in your hands as a child, well–the pity.

We called them roly-polies. You might have called them pill bugs or sow bugs or wood lice, but they are not bugs nor lice, and they are not even insects. They are more closely related to shrimp and lobsters, and are Crustaceans living on land–the only ones fully capable of doing so.

And judging from the widely-divergent and varied names they have been given, you can assume that these innocuous detritivores are globally cosmopolitan and probably enter the mythology of almost all cultures going way way back.

And here are just some of those names (other lists have even more): they make me smile, for some reason, so I offer them here for your brief enjoyment:

20 Regional Names for Woodlice | Mental Floss

1. Cheesy-bugs or Cheeselogs (England)
2. Slaters (Scotland, New Zealand and Australia)
3. Gramersows or gramfers (Cornwall, England)
4. Butchy boys (Australia)
5. Boat-builders (Newfoundland, Canada)
6. Chisel bobs (England)
7. Woodpigs or timberpigs (England)
8. Monkey peas or peaballs (England)
9. Pishamares (England)
10. Potato bugs or tomato bugs (United States)
11. Sow bugs (United States and Canada)
12. Chuggie pigs, chuggy-pegs or chucky pigs (England)
13. Crunchy bats (England)
14. Wood bugs (Western Canada)
15. Pill bugs or roly-polies (United States)
16. Carpenters (Eastern Canada)
17. Granny greys (Wales)
18. Billy buttons (England)
19. Doodle bugs (United States)
20. Parson pigs (Isle of Man)