anagnori

Posts Tagged ‘conservation’

Thoreau’s Wild Fruits by Frances Richard

In biology, literature, nature, writers on October 5, 2013 at 01:30

From: Thoreau’s Wild Fruits by Frances Richard, Cabinet Magazine, http://cabinetmagazine.org

He was deep in a writing project he called Wild Fruits, which he envisioned as nothing less than a handbook of practical woodcraft seamlessly woven into an ars poetica of New England nature—at once a scientifically accurate study of fruiting and forestry in the North Atlantic states, and a soaring though acerbic celebration of the ecological interdependences that link plants to humans, animals, weather patterns, and topography. Thoreau the serious amateur naturalist builds a scaffold inside his hat for carrying home freshly picked specimens, makes bold to taste choke cherries and spotted water-hemlock, and notes the days in consecutive years when muskmelon, fever bush, or bayberry bloom, ripen, wither, and freeze. In his pastoral-hermit guise, he squats down to watch white-pine cones dry and open, measures the tubers of wild artichokes, and draws blown cattails and the seedpods of Asclepias cornuti in his diary. As a polemicist, however, he remains acutely aware that his compatriots are busy building railroads, harvesting old-growth timber, and arguing the legality of slavery in the territories of Kansas and Nebraska. He intends his precise botanical observations to refract the moral and aesthetic life of a swiftly modernizing capitalist nation embroiled in civil war, and he seems to know that he is speaking for the conservation of undespoiled lands near a point of no return. Wild Fruits thus emerges as a kind of hands-on record of the motions of the spirit that Emerson called the “Over-Soul.” A journal of ecstatic union with the lilies of the field, the book never ceases to inquire into the biological and cultural processes whereby those lilies—or sassafras roots, nightshade berries, whortleberries, and wild grapes—are germinated, mulched, garnered by squirrels, pecked by birds, marked by rot, appreciated (or not) by farmers, sold (or not) at market, and represented in history. Thoreau’s voice in Wild Fruits, as elsewhere, can turn 
sarcastic—cranberries, he remarks grumpily, “cut the 
winter’s phlegm, and now you can swallow another year 
of this world without other sauce”6—or slides toward the 
different-drummer cadences of Walden—“If you would really take a position outside the street and daily life of men, you must have deliberately planned your course, you must have business which is not your neighbors’ business, which they cannot understand.”7 Like Emerson, he revels in cross-
referenced reading of historical sources, ranging knowledgeably from Pliny to Manasseh Cutler’s “An Account of Some of the Vegetable Productions, Naturally Growing in This Part of America, Botanically Arranged,” published in 1785. He also writes, approvingly, of Darwin. But the lonely ferocity of his earlier years has distilled to something less hotly personal, and he privileges, as kindred spirits, distinctly unlofty sources—elderly Penobscot Indians, housewives, schoolboys. Conspicuously avoiding Christian piety, he refers to Mother Nature as the “midwife”8 of uncultivated growth, and quotes delightedly the battered farmer “who always selects the right word,” when he says that wild apples “have a kind of bow-arrow tang.”9

Read the article

Reposted with permission from: Cabinet Magazine

Advertisements

Water Works by Cynthia Barnett

In architecture, community, ecology, infrastructure, North America on July 30, 2013 at 17:52

From: Water Works: Communities imagine ways of making every drop count (Reimagining Infrastructure series) by Cynthia Barnett, Orion Magazine, http://www.orionmagazine.org

On a winter’s day in Seattle, a leaden monotony hangs over the Central Business District, dispiriting to this part of downtown. Contrary to reputation, the urban pallor is not born of rain, which falls almost imperceptibly from silvery clouds that match the nearby waters of Puget Sound. Rather, the gloom rises from the cement hardscape. The busy streets are paved dark gray, the wide sidewalks beside them light gray. The skyscrapers rise in shades of gray. The hulking freeways, ramps, and overpasses: gray. The monorail track and its elephantine pillars: gray.

The gray shellac of a city repels more than the imagination. When rain flows along streets, parking lots, and rooftops rather than percolating into the ground, it soaks up toxic metals, oil and grease, pesticides and herbicides, feces, and every other scourge that can make its way to a gutter. This runoff impairs virtually every urban creek, stream, and river in Washington. It makes Pacific killer whales some of the most PCB-contaminated mammals on the planet. It’s driving two species of salmon extinct, and kills a high percentage of healthy coho within hours of swimming into Seattle’s creeks, before they’ve had a chance to spawn.

Returning some of nature’s hydrology to the cityscape can make an enormous difference —or could—as more individuals, businesses, and neighborhoods remake their bit of the terra firma. Washington State University scientists have found that streets with rain gardens clean up 90 percent or more of the pollutants flowing through on their way to the sound. Green roofs reduce runoff between 50 and 85 percent and can drop a building’s energy costs by nearly a third. Cisterns like the one on Vine Street solve two problems, reducing runoff and capturing water for outdoor irrigation—which in summer can account for half a city’s freshwater demand.

Seattle was among the first major American cities to accept that it had hit the limit. The Emerald City taps a clear mountain river called the Cedar, and a smaller river, the Tolt, to quench the thirst of 1.4 million urbanites and corporate giants from Amazon to Microsoft. The Cedar River begins in the cloud-laced foothills of the Cascade Range, flows forty-five miles south to Seattle’s iconic Lake Washington, and ultimately to Puget Sound. Seattle’s leaders had the foresight to begin buying up the river’s watershed for drinking water in the late 1800s; over a century, they’d preserved more than ninety thousand acres. At the upper reaches of the watershed, snowpack collects in winter, then fills the city’s reservoirs for the dry summer. At the lower end, the Landsburg Dam diverts the river for drinking water.

Read the article

Reposted with permission from: Orion Magazine

Ma Jun: Information Empowers by John Haffner, Ma Jun

In Asia, ecology, economy, environment, government, human rights, information, politics, science on June 3, 2013 at 21:19

From: Ma Jun: Information Empowers by John Haffner, Ma Jun, Policy Innovations, http://www.policyinnovations.org

Sitting with Ma in his office last year, I asked him to talk about the remarkable 20-year career that propelled him to the forefront of China’s environmental movement.

Ma was lucky enough to find a job with “the privilege of asking questions.”

He took me back to 1992, the year Deng Xiaoping made his famous tour to open southeastern cities to commerce. China remained closed in many ways but Ma was lucky enough to find a job with “the privilege of asking questions.” He was a fresh journalism graduate from the University of International Relations and had landed a position as a researcher and translator in the Beijing office of the South China Morning Post, later working his way up to office manager. At the paper he found himself immersed in every kind of issue and story.

While working as a journalist Ma came to realize that China was in an environmental crisis. He had grown up learning the poems of Li Bai and Du Fu, poets who spoke of China’s lakes, rivers, and land in lyrical, beautiful images. “I grew up reading these books, knowing this landscape through the words of ancient literary giants. I had an image in my mind, but when I traveled—it was just so different.”

In 1994, he found himself at the Three Gorges Dam site covering the story for his paper. Ma was saddened to find that the trees had been clear cut, the river muddied and polluted. “Li Bai and Du Fu had both been so inspired by the landscape, by the gorge, by the torrential flow. When I saw the river, I felt such a big loss.”

When he traveled to Dongting Lake in 1996, he expected to find a place he knew from ancient literature as “vast and extremely pretty.” But when he got there, he “found that the lake during the dry season had been reduced to a few rivers. The degradation was just so obvious.”

And when he went to the Fen River in Shanxi province, Ma saw “streams coming out of different villages with different colors, representing different industries: copper green and iron red and iron brownish, and yellowish and reddish. And they all came together to form a very highly polluting flow, eventually ending up in the Yellow River.”

Read the article

Reposted with permission from: Policy Innovations

%d bloggers like this: