Five Days: Tornadoes, Dust, Wind, 76, Blizzard


Hunkered down with two pillows–“Safe Place”??

Check TV to track tornadoes

It quits

Try to read, can’t

TV returns, tells me maybe safe

Tornados went east a few miles

Next day tan fog–dust

Wind, can’t stand up

Then spring, 76 degrees, birds sing,

sit on patio, sip tea.

Next morning, blizzard, wind roars,

no electricity, white out,

read by flashlight.

Electricity returns.

Thankful!

Winter Wonderland


It has not reached a temperature above freezing for six days. One night it broke the low recored set in 1895. It dropped to minus 11. The old recored was minus 6. While a lot of the rest of Texas had no power, where I lived had only rotating short blackouts occasionally. At my house, there has been no outage. Not only has it been cold but also snowing. The last two says shout out winter beauty. The first few photos I took yesterday. Then it snowed another 3-4 inches and I took more photos this morning.

I took the above photo early this morning. The following photo was also taken this morning.

Reflections–Old Year, New Year


Most 2020 goodbyes ring with epithets on the horrors of 2020. I object. 2020 brought bad, yes, mainly due to Covid 19’s effects on the lives of masses. It also enlightened us:

-staying home makes cleaner air.

-staying home increases home gardening and thus healthier eating.

-staying home leads to a slower, more thoughtful life, to extra time with family.

-staying home reconnects us with ourselves.

2020 lead to positives that have nothing to do with Covid 19:

-increased awareness and concern for the lives of others different from ourselves.

-increased awareness that discrimination and brutality among our police exists and we need to fix it.

-increased awareness of the ever growing income gaps in our society.

Covid 19 did bring:

-an increased awareness of the impacts of any pandemic and that we must prepare ourselves because there will be more.

-an increased appreciation of essential workers and their roles in our everyday lives.

-an increased appreciation for nurses and doctors and other health care workers.

Spring will come,

flowers will bloom,

birds will sing.

Yesterday, I heard Bishop Michael Curry speak on national news. I will close with one sentence which remains with me:

“Love is a commitment to the Common Good.”

Student Poems–Four


In the beginning of the world

nature provided.

Poachers, factories, deforestation,

We abuse nature.

Nature now has too much to carry,

Greed, selfishness, money.

Nature is being destroyed.

We are the ones who have destroyed.

If we continue,

then no one knows what the future will hold.

Luke Mason

 

 

All the birds are chirping.

The dogs are barking.

The leaves are falling.

The deer are eating.

As we lay here

in these oakwood desks

Learning!

Animals get to relax

and eat.

While we learn and

work.

WHY!

Ellwood Jennings.

 

 

The sun,

The moon,

The animals.

This is nature.

When the sun goes down

the moon comes out.

Animals howl, bellow and bark.

They are all part of

the animal kingdom.

This is nature.

 

Brooke Madill

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Learn Something New


After grading 45 essays this weekend, it remains a wonder that I learned anything new.  I did, sadly, once again find a few plagiarizers, but I also read some good essays on which students had obviously spent time.

As a person extremely interested environmental issues, I belong to several environmental organizations and read a lot about related issues.  Here are some of the things I have learned either recently or in the last few days:

-June and July were the warmest June and July on record and the 14th and 15th straight months in which such records have been set.

-Thawing permafrost near the Alaskan Highway has caused it to sink in places.

-In Siberia the same thawing has caused the release of deadly bacteria–anthrax to be specific.

-This past summer, toxic algae affected waterways in states as diverse as California and Utah.  It does not smell all that wonderful either.

-In Alaska so many wolves have been killed that naturalists can no longer research them in their natural state.

-The Republican Platform claims coal is a clean source of energy.

-Hot summers have caused Douglas fir trees to quit growing.

 

 

 

The Sixth Mass Extinction


Off and on the last month, I’ve posted about various issues on climate change and related topics.  Today, Life Science published an article entitled “Extinction Rates Soar to 1,000 Times Normal (But There’s Hope)”.  What causes this enormous spike?  You guessed it.  Humans.

Before recently, the extinction rate was one per every ten million annually.  Now it is 100-1000 every million.  Where do researchers and scientists find hope in this adverse increase?  Let’s look at Earth’s history for a moment before answering that question.  Since life began on our planet, five mass extinctions have occurred, leaving only half of living organisms each time.  Reasons for these extinctions vary from Earth’s shifting axis to asteroids–see previous posts related to effects of changes in the Earth’s axis.  The big question:  how do humans affect the current extinction?       Yes, we caused the demise of the passenger pigeon, the Tasmanian tiger, and the dodo bird.  And human poaching and habitat destruction now endanger elephants, rhinos, and all subspecies of tigers, among others.  One problem in accurately determining human effects is that new species are discovered annually so we are not even sure how many species currently exist.  Using what we do know about current species, DNA, and some rather sophisticated techniques, scientists come up extinction rates.

Where is the hope?  The most endangered species tend to range in small areas in poorer countries lacking resources to protect them.  Modern technology can help, using satellite imagery, biodiversity mapping, as well as other methods.  Drones have been used in Africa to track both animals and poachers.  We can focus efforts on the areas where the most endangered species live.

How can you help?  Become a citizen scientist.  Use your smartphone camera and report your findings to scientific conservation groups.  A site called iNaturalist allows ordinary individuals to upload photos of plants and animals, tagging date, location, etc.  This site links to an international organization that tracks endangered and threatened species.

What else can you do:  don’t buy anything with ivory in it, don’t buy anything with the fur or body parts of endangered animals.  Spread the word.  Become more informed, read articles and books related to these topics.  Care.  This is the only Earth; help save it.

 

Apocalyptic Planet-Part Seven: Species Vanish


We all know extinction occurs.  Nearly everyone knows different species of dinosaurs at varied times roamed the earth for millennia.  Bones of all sorts of animals and various hominids are dug up off and on.  Scientists study them, determine their age, where and how they lived.  Scientists and sometimes even average persons develop theories about why they went extinct.  Regardless of which theory a person decides is accurate, these ancient extinctions generally took thousands of years. Recent extinctions are different, e.g. carrier pigeons.  Millions existed a couple of hundreds of years ago; now they are gone.  Why?  Humans.

Various causes exist for the extinctions of ancient species.  A major cause is the climate change caused my the changing tilt of the earth’s axis.  These changes occur over thousands and thousands of years.  What is different now?  Let’s take corn.  Native Americans cultivated rainbow colors of corn in small, frequently irrigated fields.  Where is most corn grown now?  Giant fields of GMO corn grow from horizon to horizon in the Midwest.  And if Monsanto had its way, no other corn would continue to exist for long.   Iowa is a good example.  Wherever this corn is grown, native grasses and other native plants totally disappear, in part due to cultivation.  A bigger issue is herbicides–to have clean fields, nothing and I mean nothing but corn must grow there.  A farmer’s expertise as a farmer is measured my just how super clean his fields are.  The only way to get these totally weedless fields is to use herbicides.  Biodiversity is a key to environmental health.  Little biodiversity exists in giant fields of crops like corn and soybeans.  Fertilizers to obtain huge yields wash downstream and in the Midwest eventually end in the Gulf of Mexico and cause giant marine algae blooms which pulls oxygen from the water to create a dead zone where no marine animals or fish can live.

Perhaps readers have heard of the plight of monarch butterflies.  Compared to just ten years ago, the population has dropped dramatically.  What happened to them?  Roundup.  Over 100,000 tons of Roundup and other brands of glyphosate herbicides are annually applied to crops in the US.  What do monarchs eat?  Milkweed.  Since 1999, 58 per cent of the milkweed has disappeared.  Recently, monarchs experienced a 30 per cent reduction in their numbers in one year.  Are we headed toward a mass extinction?  Some scientists think so.  These scientists are not talking about tigers, elephants, and rhinos being killed at an ever increasing rate for their body parts, but rather about the less noticeable extinctions of various plants and less obvious animals like frogs.  And then there is the problem with bees.  Bees are disappearing at an ever increasing rate due to not only diseases but due to herbicides and pesticides.  Without bees to pollinate the giant fields of almonds and various fruits in California, for example, those foods won’t exist.  See a previous post for more discussion on the importance of bees.  So why care about frogs?  Scientists consider frogs and amphibians in general an indicator of the health of an ecosystem.  Certain more tropical species of frogs are especially subject to the effects of climate change and they are disappearing.

Where I live big bluestem, blue grama, buffalo grass, and other native species grew from horizon to horizon.  This is the high plains.  Root systems of some plants grow twelve feet deep.  It has not rained in over a month.  Where the native grass once grew, crops are now grown.  This time of year finds open fields. Without rain, with the recent endless high winds, dust fills the sky.  To safely return home from town Sunday, I had to turn on the car lights to see.  The dryness fuels wildfires.  Earlier this week, over one hundred homes burned down in a wildfire north of Amarillo.  Drought.

Many human inventions are wonderful and make many lives better, but for some of them, I cannot help but wonder at what cost.

 

 

Random Thoughts at the End of a Rather Long Day


When I realized the time and know 5:30 tomorrow morning will come sooner than I may prefer, I decided I had to write something here to fulfill my commitment to write daily for at least one month–three weeks down and one to go.  Will I continue?  Don’t know yet.  Pluses:  I have gained quite a few new followers, at least ten, maybe more–have not taken an exact count; it proves that if you stick to something, there are pay offs; and it forces me to think about some things I’ve read or experienced in a way that I might not if I were not going to blog about it.

What are some of those things I am thinking about?  First, the weather.  We desperately need rain and this statement comes from someone not all that fond of rain.  I like the green results but do not like to be out in the rain normally.  It is a wonder I love Costa Rica because it rains almost daily at least it did when I was there two summers ago.  Fire warnings are even currently posted on overhead flashing signs on the interstates–not daily, but every time the wind rises which here is almost daily.  Second, when I think about the destruction of volcanoes–from reading another chapter in Apocalyptic Planet last night, I keep wondering what would happen today if another explosion like Krakatoa in the 1800s occurred.  Mass famine I imagine and a bunch of certain types of religious people claiming the end of the world.  Third, after spending two boring mornings giving STAAR tests–the state standardized tests in Texas, and another morning left to go, wondering exactly why I still think standardized tests are good.  Fourth, wondering how to turn this blog into a sort of website where people who want a signed copy of my new book, On the Rim of Wonder, can order it directly from me on this blog/website (I have had requests already which is, of course, a wonderful thing since book marketing is not all that easy).  Fifth, well this will have to wait until another day when my mind is really sharp and we can have a discussion about the effects of poverty and why it is so difficult to escape.

In the meantime, while I was out watering around my house–to keep my xeroscape garden alive (even drought resistant flowers need some) and to, I hope, make my house safer in case of a wildfire, I thought about all the lovely flowers blooming in spite of the dry weather.  Here they are in all their enduring beauty.

 

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Amazon


His milk chocolate, heavy lidded eyes stare at me from the

front of the magazine.

His cheeks display charcoal tattoos, a criss cross

design, tiny Xs on top, stopping where his nostrils flare.

His straight hair barely touches his shoulders.

not the black I expected, but the color of mahogany.

His eyebrows grow thin and wide,

no visible eyelashes.

His skin, color of morning coffee with two teaspoons of milk,

looks clear, smooth.

His full lips only slightly darker than his skin

do not smile.

He, a Kayapo Indian, continues staring.

He lives in Kayapo Territory, Brazil, land the size of

Great Britain and Ireland.

He plans to save it from the rest of us.

He plans to save us from our own worst selves.

 

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The Kayapo and other indigenous Amerindians have lived in the rainforest for millennia.  They and most environmentalists view their rainforest as a priceless haven for biodiversity.  Their Amazon remains a major defense in the fight against global warming and habitat destruction.  Fifteen per cent of greenhouse emissions, more than all the trucks, cars, buses, and planes combined, come from deforestation.  Although Brazil has slowed the deforestation rate by 70 per cent in the last nine years, last year saw a reversal with an sudden increase of 30 per cent.  Brazil also began construction of a network of canals, dams, and a huge hydroelectric project on the Xingu River in the middle of Kayapo territory.  The Kayapo and other Amerindians defeated a larger project in the 1990s. They intend to defeat this one.

The chief of the Kayapo, Megaron, knows what is at stake, not only for his tribe, but also for the rest of us, long term survival.  One  National Geographic article noted, “It is one of the richest ironies of the Amazon that the supposedly civilized outsiders who spent five centuries evangelizing, exploiting, and exterminating aboriginal people are now turning to them to save ecosystems recognized as critical to the health of the planet–to defend essential tracts of land from the outside world’s insatiable appetite.”

Kayapo success can be attributed to their ability to embrace some of the best of the modern world while retaining a strong sense of identity, culture, and traditions, all of which come from the forest.  As Megaron notes, “Before the white man, we were always fighting other tribes.  Not anymore.  We stopped hitting each other over the head and united against a bigger threat.”  For our own long term health and success, we can support them and hope they succeed.