Kate was sick and did not want to Thursday adventure with me. That said I really didn’t want to adventure myself. I was feeling extra lazy and Kate had to kick me off the computer and throw me out the house. It was sunny but not particularly warm so I decided to head for the great outdoors. I landed a short 15 miles outside D.C. at the Great Fall National Park, a small park overlapping the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historic Park.
My first thought after getting out of the car, was, “really, 15 minutes from D.C.?” After 6 months of living in the city and working in a strip mall I had all but forgotten nature. I was flabbergasted to find such natural beauty only 15 minutes from my house! As soon as I arrived I was greeted by two friendly Canadian Geese who walked right up to me as I took their pictures. My other amazing animal encounter was seeing my first real in the wild woodpecker (a Red-crowned woodpecker to be exact). I didn’t have much time to get a nice shot, but at least I’ve got some proof! Also, I snapped a few shots of a bird of prey (still trying to identify it). The falls were actually quite impressive. There was a long boardwalk that took you to an overlook of the falls.
When I got home Kate was feeling a little better. To end the day we made Alice Water’s simple six ingredient free-form apple tart (apples, butter, sugar, flour, water and salt). It was tasty and we ate almost the entire tart before going to bed (Kate finished it for breakfast this morning).
So a few days ago when Kate was at class I decided to take a little walk to the San Diego River park by our house to see what I could see. On the way, before I could make it very far, I came across all these wonderful creatures. In fact when I finally made it to the San Diego River park the only thing I found was a littered bag Carol’s Jr. bag being eaten by ants. Anyway enjoy the pictures.
And the shot of the day was this humming bird that was feeding in the bushes as I took pictures of the Black and Yellow Garden spider.
I just finished reading a most interesting book, “The World Without Us,” by Alan Weisman and now I wonder if taking the moral high ground will mean not having offspring. Since the onset of modern medicine, industrial revolution, and the Protestant work ethic the natural world has increasingly deteriorated because of human demands for foods, mineral and metals, natural resources, and a place to put all our trash. While I strongly believe humanity does not intend to destroy nature, we still do so because most of the damage we do is not in our town or backyard and is taking place in another state, another ocean, or another forest. Humans, like all other species, put survival ahead of everything and everyone else, making it very difficult to choose between a healthy environment and sufficient food, water, and shelter for survival (personally, I think we can have both). Additionally, since our life span is short in time we only see our habitat as past generations have left it and do not know what is would look like without us. “The World Without Us,” is a great thought experiment that explores this very question, and while a little boring at times, it will leave you wondering what will become of the world and us and if there is a way humanity and a healthy environment can coexist.
I just started reading the dreadfully interesting painfully detailed book, “The World Without Us,” by Alan Wiesman. The book is fairly straight forward…it’s about what would happen to the world if humans all disappeared today and nature had her chance to reclaim. As I delved deeper into the mysteries of the post rapture earth I found myself first wishing there was a way humans could coexist with a healthy environment, then hoping technology would save nature, and now thinking the only solution to the environmental problem is for all of us humans to pack up our bags and head to another planet. Seriously from what I’ve read we have tortured nature beyond the point of no return. Now every ecosystem on our poor little planet is so stressed they’re starting to act like an I.R.C. refugee case manager. Maybe I have exaggerated a little. Nature is one hell of a fighter and will take back what ever she can get…and I mean whatever; streets, towns, garbage dumps, Las Vegas, Lake Chad, Geneva Steel, even a Wal Mart if you give her some time.
The book is filled with anecdotal examples of abandoned human hot spots reclaimed by nature. Apparently the border between North and South Korea is one of the most biodiverse areas in the region because it is official no-mans-land and since the truce in 1960 no one has touched the place, leaving nature to do her thing. This got me thinking. Humans are stressing nearly every ecosystem on the planet through agriculture, housing development, mining, pollutants, and general wear and tear. So without killing off 90% of the world’s population (a real solution to the problem) what can be done to stop human impact on the earth. Here is my solution.
Lets move every single person on the planet to one giant city located in North/South Dakota and Minnesota. According to my calculations if we turned just these three states into one giant city every human on the planet plus some could live with a population density a little less than New York’s currently population density. Just imagine with only .4% of the earths land surface occupied by humans, the planet with the other 99.4% of her land mass to regenerate herself back to health. Now I know we have to think about land for food cultivation, the mega relocation process, and the cleanup of our former populations centers…but that will all come, let’s not shy away from the only viable solution to date (except drastically reducing our consumption…but is that ever going to happen??). We could recycle all the old cities into our new mega city- St. Fargopollis. The worldwide effort would unify us all into a new age of peace and tolerance.
I just wanted to show you this video footage I got yesterday of the hummingbird feeding her little babies.
Lets start with an evolutionarily postulate quoted from Wikipedia.org. “Natural selection is a process that causes heritable traits that are helpful for survival and reproduction to become more common and harmful traits to become rarer.” And a definition of ethics which according to Answers.com from the Philosophy Dictionary by Oxford Press is “The study of the concepts involved in practical reasoning: good, right, duty, obligation, virtue, freedom, rationality, choice….” So what does evolution and ethics have to do with our garden? Well, let me tell you.
With that in mind let me tell you about our little conundrum. As you already know we have a humming bird nesting in the NWAF compound. She must have been building her nest long before we arrived in May because shortly there after I noticed her nest and then a few days later a little hummingbird sitting in the nest. Sense that time we have witnessed the laying of two tiny hummingbird eggs, their subsequent hatching into tiny hummingbird chicks, and the constant back and forth feeding frenzy from the crack of dawn till the sun and cloud hallows set on nearby jungle mountains.
I am going to go out on a limb and say our hummingbird (Kate, please don’t make me sleep on the couch) is not the brightest bird in town. She built her nest in the middle of a heavily trafficked archeology compound in a tree that can barely hold its own weight and is poorly protected from the rain. So a few weeks after we first noticed the nest San Cristobal was struck by a large storm. It rained all day long every day for about a week and by the time the rains subsided the poor nest looked as though it was going to melt right off the tree. Fortunately for this small bird the next month was dry and she had time to patch up her nest, dry out, and lay her eggs.
About two weeks ago the little eggs hatched into two strange looking mohawked hummingbird babies. And as is expected about two days later the heavens opened and San Cristobal received another torrential pounding. About two days into the heavy rains the nest, now holding two newborn babies, was soaked through and slipping off the tree. Being the good people we are Kate and I lashed an umbrella to a tall poll and put it over the nest. While our little hummingbird seemed very disturbed by the new black shape looming over head, her nest was no longer getting wet and I would like to think she is grateful. We left the umbrella up just in case another big storm comes through, just until the kiddies are big enough to fly on their own and make the migration to where ever they need to go. The hummingbird habitat has been in place for about a week now and she doesn’t seem bothered by it at all. She is so busy feeding her little chicks that she has little time to notice anything. On a side note those chicks are getting so fat they fill the entire nest with their wrinkly little bodies.
I feel good about building the little hummingbird shelter and in the process am sure Kate and I have saved the lives of the two chicks. But did we do the right thing? If our little hummingbird had chosen a better suited position her little nest would be protected from the rain and if her nest wasn’t so low to the ground she would run the risk of interference from careless humans or hungry cats. Lucky for her she chose a scientific compound where people appreciate her enough not to interfere…at least until Kate and I came along. By setting up the umbrella we have given her offspring an unfair advantage. Do we want a dumb bird to pass on her low intelligence to the next generation of hummingbirds? Have we done more harm than good? What would have been the right thing to do?
I actually believe we did the right thing. But in most cases I would say it is important to leave nature be and let evolution weed out what needs weeding. Yet on the other hand humans do such a good job destroying environments and interfering with animal habitats that I fail to see why it isn’t okay to help animals. The best possible solution would be one that allowed animals to live in their natural habitats unmolested by evil does or those trying to do well. And to do this we all need to be a little more conscious of the world around us and how our actions are affecting all other living things. Do it for the birds.
Penguins have been the subject of many books and films as of late such as Happy Feet and Surf’s Up, March of the Penguins, and a parody film entitled Farce of the Penguins. What is the allure of these wobbly, feathered creatures?
This is a traditional woolen doll with an Antarctic twist we found here in Mexico
Is it the tuxedo-like coloring? Is it that they mate for life? Is it the solidarity of the males during the long winter? What makes them fit to be the subjects of so much media?
Popular in Mexico, penguin gummy candies. Seriously.
Certainly, they can do amazing things. They are able to drink salt water safely because their supraorbital gland filters excess salt from the bloodstream. The salt is excreted in a concentrated fluid from the nasal passages. Aka salt snot. Penguins communicate by vocalizing and performing physical behaviors called “displays.” They can recognize their mates & chicks this way. And, of course my favorite habit… the male incubates the egg alone while the female heads to sea to chow-down. The male, for this several-week period, fasts and can lose up to 45% of his body weight.
These are fascinating facts are indeed impressive. But, there are plenty of awe-inspiring creatures out there. Like the naked mole rat, for example. Those things can chew through cement! 25% of the muscle of these little underground rodents is devoted to closing the jaw- compared to 1% of human muscle mass dedicated to the jaw. I became obsessed with the naked mole rat at the Portland zoo in 1999. Did you know that worker mole rats eat their own droppings? This gives them a second chance to digest the fibrous roots that they feed on. Efficient to boot. After watching all available editions of the “Blue Planet” series, I am even extremely impressed with the biodiversity of our world. But, if a penguin and a mole rat were both Homecoming princesses, I’d vote for the mole rat!
Long live the queen!
That’s right I decided to divert large quantities of my income to creating Biosphere 3: Caterpillar Habitat. Ravaged by bird, sun, and rain the diverse population of NWAF compound caterpillars are under attach. In attempt to monitor and assist the perpetual growth of NWAF compound caterpillars I have decided to collect the most robust specimens and hand rear them in Biosphere 3 to beautiful, healthy, reproducing butterflies then reintroduce them to the NWAF compound. In addition I will help the butterfly cause by giving them a world wide voice via the internet through video footage, photos, and written exposes on their progress and health (so be sure to check back often). Construction of Biosphere 3 is under way and conservative estimates put its complete at tomorrow afternoon with the ribbon cutting, habitation, and sealing at 4 PM CST. Check back tomorrow evening to see how the procession went and for additional information on biospheres, caterpillars, and butterflies.
Please help us build and maintain Biosphere 3!
Friday afternoon, just after work, I decided to take the office’s macro lens for a stroll around the compound. Actually I want to make a documentary about the bugs I find in the compound so went about collecting images. Shooting with a macro lens is hard stuff because if you move just a shake everything is out of focus, that and the ominous lens scares the bugs away. Here are some samples of the bugs in the compound to wet your appetite for the documentary will be coming out soon.
2:30, Kate and I were watching an episode of Lost during our siesta when I started to feel the bed shake. I asked Kate is she felt it too. She thought it was just me paying a trick until I pointed out the swinging curtains, Kate’s purse, and everything else hagging on the walls. We got out of the house just in case something bad was coming on but nothing else did. Turns out there was a major earthquake int he ocean outside Guatemala and we were just ridding the waves. Read more about it at www.kateandneil.com