The Weekly Watch
Happy Day you Mothers!
I thought it might be fun to celebrate everyone's Mother today...Mother Nature, our planet Earth. I was influenced by James Lovelock's Gaia hypothesis which looks at the planet as a system. Also Lewis Thomas' essays comparing the Earth to a cell. This small amazing water and life coated marble in space is so different from the other planets of our system. There is still great beauty on Earth. We are all dependent and tied to the interconnecting systems. We are also all connected as humans...sharing the same mitochondrial DNA from our common mother, Eve. If only humans would model their lives after the natural cycling of our planet. A sustainable life for all...until the big meteor or comet changes things again as they have many times in the past.
I'm off playing our annual gig at the Audubon Mountain Workshop. We gather on the river near the falls which is my avatar in an old 1920's vintage log lodge, and go to the nearby camp to play the dance on Saturday night. Often they have a telescope or two set up, or a lit sheet to collect insects, once they had a bat detector which counted and identified three different species during the dance. We've been playing this dance for forty plus years. During that time I've become a better birder learning to use my ears more than my eyes.
New to birding, try this 11 min ID of common eastern birds with calls
...or 13 min of western birds and songs
If you are an experienced birder you might enjoy watching this 2 plus hours of excellent bird video...might entertain your cat anyway. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eS1VvY3Ima4
Birds are the canary in the mine.
North Americans have cause for concern. Dozens of species lost more than 50 per cent of their populations between 1970 and 2014, from the obscure (Sprague's pipit, the oak titmouse, the bobolink) to the familiar. Snowy owl populations, for example, fell 64 per cent in that time. "In some ways, the status of these birds could indicate the status of our own health,"
Overall, 40 percent of the world’s 11,000 bird species are in decline.
Sadly it isn't just birds in decline...it is all of Earth's life...the biodiversity that creates the balance.
Nature is declining globally at rates unprecedented in human history – and the rate of species extinctions is accelerating, with grave impacts on people around the world now likely, warns a landmark new report from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services
The report’s 39-page summary highlighted five ways people are reducing biodiversity:
— Turning forests, grasslands and other areas into farms, cities and other developments. The habitat loss leaves plants and animals homeless. About three-quarters of Earth’s land, two-thirds of its oceans and 85% of crucial wetlands have been severely altered or lost, making it harder for species to survive, the report said.
— Overfishing the world’s oceans. A third of the world’s fish stocks are overfished.
— Permitting climate change from the burning of fossil fuels to make it too hot, wet or dry for some species to survive. Almost half of the world’s land mammals — not including bats — and nearly a quarter of the birds have already had their habitats hit hard by global warming.
— Polluting land and water. Every year, 300 to 400 million tons of heavy metals, solvents and toxic sludge are dumped into the world’s waters.
— Allowing invasive species to crowd out native plants and animals. The number of invasive alien species per country has risen 70% since 1970, with one species of bacteria threatening nearly 400 amphibian species.
Many causes of our environmental problems in pictures...
Many people helped me to focus on science and the planet...
Notes of a Biology Watcher aired on November 22, 1981. Featuring eminent biologist and scientific author, Dr. Lewis Thomas, the film presents an array of astonishing facts about the process of life. Thomas is a master of startling truths, with such snippets of wisdom as: all living creatures, including humans, harbor multitudes of prehistoric organisms in every cell of their bodies.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mOgODA4Oyv8 (30 min)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hk4JKJ-D1_Q (30 min)
... he builds on the analogy between the workings of the cell and the workings of the earth and its lives, including man's. He finds the earth "the toughest membrane imaginable in the universe, opaque to probability, impermeable to death" and man as '"the delicate part, transient and vulnerable as cilia," "embedded in nature" and not the master of it that he pictures himself to be. We are not separate entities so much as interdependent, sharing our very cells with separate creatures such the mitochondria. He concludes that the earth cannot be called an organism because of its invisible complexities, yet it can be compared to a single cell
"The World's Biggest Membrane," returns to the premises of the first essay, as he contemplates photographs of the earth from space: "Aloft, floating free beneath the moist, gleaming membrane of bright blue sky, is the rising earth, the only exuberant thing in this part of the cosmos." He goes beyond the famous photographs by comparing the atmosphere to the cell membrane: "To stay alive, you have to be able to hold out against equilibrium, maintain imbalance, bank against entropy, and you can only transact this business with membranes in our kind of world." .He develops this analogy as he describes the evolution of the sky, as "far and away the grandest product of collaboration in all of nature."
Lewis Thomas quotes best viewed on mute because of the bad sound track.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TEf1B4s4Le8 (2 min)
Lovelock ups the ante. He does think the planet acts as a single organism.
James Lovelock was the first scientist in my life that explained how the Earth, both the living and physical planet, operated as an interdependent system.
Meet the man...(4 min)
James Lovelock is best known as the father of Gaia theory; the idea that all parts of our planet form a complex interacting system, like a single organism. His new book depicts Gaia in trouble. In this interview Lovelock sounds a final warning for planet earth and enthuses about his upcoming space trip.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=29Vip-PbuZQ (13 min)
Here he explains his Gaia Theory and more. I don't always agree with Jim, but he enlightened me about the nature of this planet...(29 min)
Here he is this spring in his 100th year (1 min)
Among those is Aldo Leopold...
This award-winning film chronicles the life of Aldo Leopold, father of modern ecology. In addition, it portrays, month by month, the natural events described in his seminal book, A Sand County Almanac. (58 min)
If you can't spare an hour for Aldo's documentary above try this shorter piece. Here's a nice series of his quotes read by Peter Coyote (3 min)
His land ethic had tremendous effect on me that has lasted my lifetime... (3 min)
Want to live the good life?
I followed a path led by many...like Scott and Helen Nearing (3.5 min)
Economist, Author, Organic Farmer : 1883 - 1983
"Could this be the country I had loved, honored, worked for, believed in? The general welfare was forgotten. The land had become a happy hunting ground for adventurers, profiteers, and pirates who called history bunk and used their privileged positions to promote their careers and fill their pockets at the public expense. Peace, progress, and prosperity had become scraps of raw meat, thrown to a pack of venal, military minded ravenous wolves."
In the 1930s, Nearing and his second wife, Helen, bought property in Vermont to begin a new life of living off the land. In 1954, Living the Good Life was published. The Nearings traveled, wrote, and continued to spread their anti-war, pro-peace message, all the while devoted to their "old-fashioned" homesteading way of living. Eventually they moved their life to Maine. In the mid-1960s, during the tumultuous years of the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement, Scott Nearing's anti-war message and his and Helen's sustainable lifestyle inspired a younger generation´s "back-to-the-land".
Scott Nearing continued his writing and his work on the land into his nineties. He died after turning one hundred in 1983. He left behind an extensive body of work and the idea that a life lived simply can lead to satisfaction.
Helen and Scott Nearing have been living today's counterculture for better than a generation. Almost four decades ago (in 1932), the couple "dropped out" to a rockscrabble mountain farm in Vermont's Green Mountains where they spent the next 20 years rebuilding the soil, constructing solid homestead buildings from native stone, growing their own food, heating with wood they cut by hand, and co-authoring numerous books and magazine articles. Tick off any of the present's most "in" passions — women's lib, equal rights, organic gardening, vegetarianism, radicalism, homesteading, subsistence farming, ecology — and you'll find that the Nearings have been doing instead of talking for 40 years.
"So what's your gain, what's your advantage? (with living a life within the system) Well, for two or three weeks you get to go to Maine or Vermont on vacation. Then it's back to the slave pen, back to the whip, back to the tyranny of doing that which in itself is really not worth my doing" (3.5 min)
There were important women who shaped the environmental movement too. Rachel Carson comes to mind. Perhaps the finest nature writer of the Twentieth Century, Rachel Carson (1907-1964) is remembered more today as the woman who challenged the notion that humans could obtain mastery over nature by chemicals, bombs and space travel than for her studies of ocean life. Her sensational book Silent Spring (1962) warned of the dangers to all natural systems from the misuse of chemical pesticides such as DDT, and questioned the scope and direction of modern science, initiated the contemporary environmental movement. http://www.rachelcarson.org/
She was not a silent activist. We need someone like her today to help eliminate the use of glyphosate like she did DDT. (9 min)
In this interview with one of her biographers you get a notion of her life and work.
Rachel Louise Carson (May 27, 1907 – April 14, 1964) was an American marine biologist and conservationist whose book Silent Spring and other writings are credited with advancing the global environmental movement. (38 min)
There was also a nice documentary about her on American Experience. Here's the first 9 minutes of the film.
...and a final 11 minute clip.
Historical clips on DDT, Rachel Carson and science explaining why humans pollute.
Another important female environmentalist that affected me was Annie Dillard and her book "Pilgrim at Tinkers Creek" (3 min)
She is still alive...
...and received a national humanities medal in 2017
Here's three short essays of hers published in the NYT magazine.
She focuses on being in the moment. Here are some quotes from her chapter "The Present".
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KTHsBmcL9Ks (4 min)
A short power point about Annie's approach to seeing things with quotes.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2VfVJfaBiM0 (2 min)
...and a final 2 minutes of her trip to the Amazon
Our Mothers start us on our path in life. Others are guides along the way. I hope you enjoyed meeting or remembering some the guides and mentors along my path studying and appreciating our planet. May the spirit of Gaia fill us all with the wonder of our amazing planet.
So, I'll not be around to chime in this morning, but I'll check in with you late this afternoon and evening. Sunday mornings we sometimes have a nice singing session, but if it is good weather we might swim, paddle, and play in the river. However at the time of writing it looks to be rainy this weekend.
The Earth from the ISS 20 min of beautiful time lapse of this blue marble hurling round the sun. I find it comforting to watch the mother...
Happy Mothers Day!