Silent Spring

SilentJan van Kessel (baptized 5 April 1626 – 17 April 1679)

By http://www.theguardian.com/science/2012/may/27/rachel-carson-silent-spring-anniversary

Near a brook in south-east England, the bird-spotter JA Baker stumbled on a grim little scene in 1961. “A heron lay in frozen stubble. Its wings were stuck to the ground by frost. Its eyes were open and living, the rest of it was dead. As I approached, I could see its whole body craving into flight. But it could not fly. I gave it peace and saw the agonised sunlight of its eyes slowly heal with cloud.”

The bird’s plight was clearly unnatural. But its fate was not unique. That year, large numbers of dead birds were found strewn across the countryside. On the royal estate in Sandringham, for example, the toll included thrushes, skylarks, moorhens, goldfinches, sparrowhawks, chaffinches, hooded crows, partridges, pheasants, and wood pigeons. Nationally, more than 6,000 dead birds were reported to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, a massive leap on previous years. “We were inundated,” says the RSPB’s conservation director, Martin Harper.
The UK was not alone. For years, reports in the US indicated that numbers of birds, including America’s national bird, the bald eagle, were dropping alarmingly. Something was happening to the birds of the western world.

For most of 1961, Rachel Carson had locked herself in her cottage in Colesville, Maryland, to complete her book, Silent Spring. It would provide an unequivocal identification of the bird killers.
Powerful synthetic insecticides such as DDT were poisoning food chains, from insects upwards.
“Sprays, dusts and aerosols are now applied almost universally to farms, gardens, forests and homes – non-selective chemicals that have the power to kill every insect, the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’, to still the song of the birds and the leaping of fish in the streams, to coat the leaves with a deadly film and to linger on in the soil – all this though the intended target may be only a few weeds or insects,” she wrote.

Rachel Louise Carson was born on May 27, 1907. She studied at the Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory and later Johns Hopkins University, in Baltimore. She was a brilliant marine biologist and a superb writer whose prose was exquisite in its precision and lyricism. She began writing for the Baltimore Sun and in 1936 was made editor-in-chief for publications for the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

Silent Spring was a brave effort. Even legitimate criticism of government policy was a risky act in the US then. “Science and technology and those who worked in these fields were revered as the saviours of the free world and the trustees of prosperity,” says another biographer, Linda Lear. “Rachel Carson exposes these experts to public scrutiny and makes it clear that at best they had not done their homework and at worst they had withheld the truth.”

DDT was banned not just because it was accumulating in the food chain but because mosquitoes were developing resistance to it, say science historians Naomi Oreskes and Erik M Conway.
Nevertheless, groups still blame Carson for the current blight of malaria.

She denounced the links that had been established between science and industry. “When a scientific organisation speaks,” she asked, “whose voice do we hear – that of science or of the sustaining industry?” The question remains as pertinent today as it did in 1962.

Martin Harper of the RSPB says, “It took 10 years to get DDT banned after its effects had been demonstrated. And similarly today, when warned about a chemical’s danger, governments wait until research results are unequivocal. Then they suggest industry takes voluntary action. Only when that fails does it issue a ban, years too late.”
As Carson wrote: “Chemical war is never won and all life is caught in its violent crossfire.”

“In the 60s, we were only just waking up to the power that we had to damage the natural world,” says Jonathon Porritt, a former director of Friends of the Earth. “Silent Spring outlined a clear and important message: that everything in nature is related to everything else.”

Systema Naturae

Sjupp dSjupp

Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778) was born the eldest son of parish priest, and amateur botanist, Nils Ingermarsson Linnaeus, and Christina Linnaea.
The family name ‘Linnaeus’ was chosen by Nils as a requirement for enrolling at university, and was based on the Swedish for lime tree (lind) in honour of a large lime tree that grew on their land.
Linnaeus’s brother Samuel became an expert on bees.
Although expected to follow his father into the priesthood, Linnaeus showed a keen interest in medicine and botany.

In 1746/7, Crown Prince Adolf Fredrik gave Linnaeus a raccoon (Procyon lotor), known as Sjupp, to describe.
In a paper published for the Royal Academy of Science in 1747 Linnaeus described Sjupp as ‘…tremendously obstinate. If anyone led him on a rope and tugged at it, he would immediately lie down and throw his arms and legs about defiantly…’ and noted Sjupp’s preference for ‘…eggs, almonds, raisins, sugared cakes, sugar and fruit of every kind…’ and his dislike of ‘…anything with vinegar on it, or sauerkraut, or raw or boiled fish’.
He had a watercolor of Sjupp hung in his summerhouse.

Linnaeus
: The Compleat Naturalist
by Wilfrid Blunt
Wilfrid Blunt was Senior Drawing Master at Eton College. An Associate of the Royal College of Art and a fellow of the Linnean Society of London, he authored a number of biographies and books on European art and botany. His The Art of Botanical Illustration has become a standard work of reference. He died in 1987.
William Stearn’s appendix on Linnean classification provides a concise survey of the basics necessary for understanding Linnaeus’s work.

Linnaeus was of pivotal importance in the Age of Enlightenment. Though an adventurous traveler, keen collector, zoologist, and geologist, he loved botany most of all. The son of a pastor, he believed he was chosen by God to resolve the jumbled classification of the natural world. Through his Systema Naturae, first published in 1735, he brought order to all recorded knowledge about living things, distinguishing and naming 7,700 plants and 4,400 animals in his lifetime.
http://press.princeton.edu/titles/7254.html

Floralia

May Day Flora

The Jay

Marshal_-_Purple_crocuses,_cloth_of_gold_crocus,_liverwort_(double_form),_poppy_anemones_and_jay

Purple crocuses, cloth of gold crocus, liverwort (double form), poppy anemones and jay Alexander Marshal (c. 1620 – 1682)

 

Because You Asked About the Line Between Prose and Poetry

sudek detailJosef Sudek (1876 – 1976)
detail

Because You Asked About the Line Between Prose and Poetry

Sparrows were feeding in a freezing drizzle
That while you watched turned to pieces of snow
Riding a gradient invisible
From silver aslant to random, white, and slow.

There came a moment that you couldn’t tell.
And then they clearly flew instead of fell.


Howard Nemerov

 

NOT NOW

storia uccelliStoria Naturale degli Uccelli Trattata con Mmetodo e Adornata di Figure Intagliate in Rame e Miniate al Naturale. Ornithologia methodice digesta atque iconibus aeneis ad vivum illuminatis ornate
Saviero Manetti (1723-1784) (editor)
Lorenzo Lorenzi (act. c. 1760) and Violante Vanni (c. 1732-1776)                     (artists and engravers)

When To Prune Trees: NOT NOW

The idea that we can keep pruning, if we’re careful, is wishful thinking.
When arborists or tree trimmers tell you it’s OK to prune in April, May or June because they will keep an eye out for nests, the blunt translation is: “Forget the birds.”
Although rules exist that require tree workers to stop cutting when active nests are discovered, a nest revealed is a nest imperiled.

In short, only one valid excuse exists for spring or early summer pruning: a danger in which a potentially falling tree threatens life or property.

California has a long nesting season.
Hummingbirds have been broody since January and will remain so for some time.
Think of them when you tell your gardener to leave the hedges, camellias and hibiscuses alone.
Bushtits, swallows, wrens, woodpeckers, phoebes and finches are either sitting on eggs or constructing nests.
Think of them, then put off termite work, gutter repair and tree thinning.

Also: Nothing else does the kind of job that birds do controlling insects.
No pesticide matches their safety for humans.
If your hibiscus has whitefly, it’s probably because constant pruning keeps out the flocks of bushtits that would have devoured the insects.
If unwelcome caterpillars are wreaking havoc on your vegetables, rethink letting the garden crews with buzz saws evict the finches that would otherwise have eaten the pests.
If rats appear on your telephone wires at night, you don’t need poison. You need a hawk.

For trees and shrubs, water deeply and occasionally, say once a month, to avoid the stress of drought.

Years ago, in a bid to stop the routine destruction of nesting grounds in Southern California, the Los Angeles Audubon Society produced the Guide to Bird-Friendly Tree and Shrub Trimming and Removal.
Online versions are available in Spanish and English.


http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/…/…/when-to-prune-trees.html

Earth Day

Dronte_The Last Dodo 17th_Century17th-century illustration of a dodo

The dodo (Raphus cucullatus) is a bird that lived only on the island of Mauritius, east of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean. Its closest genetic relative was the Rodrigues solitaire, now also extinct, the two forming the subfamily Raphinae of the family of doves.
Mauritius was discovered by Portuguese sailors in 1505 , but it was the Dutch who established permanent habitation on the island.

The dodo had no fear of people and was easy prey because it could not fly. It lived on fruits and nuts, and built nests on the ground.
The name Dodo, is from an old Portugese word, doudo, which means “slow down”.

The first settlers brought animals with them not native to Mauritius.
There were, for example, pigs, monkeys, and rats who plundered the birds’ nests, while men felled the forests where the birds lived.

The last widely accepted record of a dodo sighting is the 1662 report by shipwrecked mariner Volkert Evertsz of the Dutch ship Arnhem.
“These animals on our coming up to them stared at us and remained quiet where they stand, not knowing whether they had wings to fly away or legs to run off, and suffering us to approach them as close as we pleased. Amongst these birds were those which in India they call Dod-aersen (being a kind of very big goose); these birds are unable to fly, and instead of wings, they merely have a few small pins, yet they can run very swiftly. We drove them together into one place in such a manner that we could catch them with our hands, and when we held one of them by its leg, and that upon this it made a great noise, the others all on a sudden came running as fast as they could to its assistance, and by which they were caught and made prisoners also.”

The last known dodo was killed less than 100 years after the species had been found.
Its extinction was not immediately noticed, and some considered it to be a mythical creature.

http://da.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dronte

see also: https://secretgardening.wordpress.com/2014/04/07/the-american-frontier/

Two Hares –and A Fox

two hares (and fox)
Japanese, c. 1870

Published in: on April 16, 2015 at 12:24 am  Comments (2)  
Tags: , ,

Kindness to Creatures

G Walter HarrisGeorge Walter Harris (1835–1912)

Several years ago, culinary ethnographer Eve Jochnowitz came across a Yiddish vegetarian cookbook from 1938. The book was written by Fania Lewando, a restaurant owner in what was then Poland (it’s now in Lithuania).

“She says it has long been established by the leading medical authorities that the vegetarian diet is the most healthful for the human organism,” Jochnowitz translates. “And then, in the second sentence, she says … our Jewish tradition upholds the principle of tza’ar baalei chaim — kindness to God’s creatures.”
There’s also an exploration of all sorts of dishes and ingredients, like Jerusalem artichokes and chanterelle mushrooms, or red wine soup and radish jam.
Jochnowitz argues about Lewando’s recipes: They’re more than just a historical document of that era. First of all, they’re delicious. But more than that, they capture a Jewish practice that continues to this day — of looking to the spirit of the times, or your own internal compass, and making that a part of tradition. And that can happen in a vegetarian restaurant in Poland in the 1930s or in an American kitchen this Passover.

Jochnowitz says the underlying striving for an ethical, healthy future was very much part of the zeitgeist in the years just before World War II.
“I think there’s very much a feeling that one is really just on the brink, the threshold of a great new world,”
Lewando didn’t survive the war, and neither did those hopes for the future.

Different Kinds of Air

A man, like  mouse, should have more than one avenue of escapeA man, like a mouse, should have more than one avenue of escape
Joris Hoefnagel (1542 – 1604)


                    Observations on Different Kinds of Air
. . . . I flatter myself that I have accidentally hit upon a method of restoring air which has been injured by the burning of candles, and that I have discovered at least one of the restoratives which nature employs for this purpose. It is vegetation. In what manner this process in nature operates, to produce so remarkable an effect, I do not pretend to have discovered; but a number of facts declare in favour of this hypothesis…
One might have imagined that, since common air is necessary to vegetable, as well as to animal life, both plants and animal had affected it in the same manner, and I own that I had that expectation, when I first put a sprig of mint into a glass-jar, standing inverted in a vessel of water; but when it had continued growing there for some months, I found that the air would neither extinguish a candle, nor was it at all inconvenient to a mouse, which I put into it.
…Accordingly, on the 17th of August 1771, I put a sprig of mint into a quantity of air, in which a wax candle had burned out, and found that, on the 27th of the same month, another candle burned perfectly well in it. This experiment I repeated, without least variation in the event, not less than eight or ten times in the remainder of the summer.
Joseph Priestley (24 March 1733 – 6 February 1804)


In 1771, about the time of the first stirrings of the industrial revolution and its appetite for fossil fuel, an English minister grasped key processes of the natural carbon cycle. In a series of ingenious experiments, Joseph Priestley found that flames and animals’ breath “injure” the air in a sealed jar, making it unwholesome to breathe. But a green sprig of mint, he found, could restore its goodness. Priestley could not name the gases responsible, but we know now that the fire and respiration used up oxygen and gave off carbon dioxide. The mint reversed both processes. Photosynthesis took up the carbon dioxide, converted it into plant tissue, and gave off oxygen as a by-product.

The world is just a bigger jar. Tens of billions of tons of carbon a year pass between land and the atmosphere: given off by living things as they breathe and decay and taken up by green plants, which produce oxygen. A similar traffic in carbon, between marine plants and animals, takes place within the waters of the ocean. And nearly a hundred billion tons of carbon diffuse back and forth between ocean and atmosphere.
.http://environment.nationalgeographic.com/environment/global-warming/missing-carbon/#page=2


In other words:
Alone in a sealed jar, a mouse would die from exhaled CO2. But as Priestley observed in 1771, adding a plant allows the mouse to thrive. In this proof of photosynthesis, the mint absorbed CO2, retained carbon for growth, and released oxygen
https://diogenesii.wordpress.com/2014/08/17/august-17-1771-a/#comment-486

 

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