Category: Nature

Here it Comes – The Death of the Boomers

Death isn’t something we like to think about much. But in 2016 it feels like death has been all up in our faces.

This shouldn’t be surprising. The Baby Boomers are coming of age. As a society we’ve held death at bay for a long while now, but here it is, death is catching up with us.

The Baby Boomers have changed the world, for better or for worse, in everything from the way we celebrate Christmas to the music we listen to in elevators.

In the same way that the Boomers have dominated culture, the pig-in-the-python generation is destined to shape the way we look at death. They say life comes at you fast, but starting now death comes at you faster. The Boomers, who statistically should be living longer, are dying younger than earlier generations.

So as we remember the lives of Carrie Fisher, David Bowie, Sharon Jones, Alan Rickman, Prince, Gary Shandling and quite a few others, be prepared for the next wave coming in 2017.

Sometimes You Need a Map – Here are Some of the Best

map of areas without roads

Regions of the world without roads – National Geographic

I recently had a conversation with my wife, her sister and her brother about the value of a good old fashioned paper map. While GPS systems are convenient they don’t help you get the big picture of your surroundings.

National Geographic, known for its amazing maps, serves up the best maps of 2016. Along with the map of the world’s most valuable roadless areas, shown above, there are secret Japanese military maps, maps of cities under surveillance by the FBI and DHS, and a glimpse inside Stanford University’s public map collection.

And if National Geographic’s site isn’t enough for you, check out Edward Tufte’s collection of unusual maps.

[via Kottke.org]

Wide Open Spaces Are Going Fast – Map Shows How Fast

dwindling open spaces

You’ve heard of urban sprawl. Chances are you’re quite at home with it. But you might not be aware of how fast it spreads – an acre of land is lost to human development every 2-1/2 minutes according to the website Disappearing West.

An interactive map of disappearing open space gives a county-by-county view of land loss with an explanation of what is being lost and why development is taking place.

A team of scientists at the nonprofit Conservation Science Partners, or CSP, analyzed nearly three dozen datasets; a dozen types of human activities; and more than a decade of satellite imagery for 11 western states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.

Here is what they found: Human development in the West now covers more than 165,000 square miles of land. That is roughly the size of 6 million superstore parking lots.

This development is growing fast. Between 2001 and 2011, natural areas in the West—including forests, wetlands, deserts, and grasslands—were disappearing at the rate of one football field every 2.5 minutes.

The aim of the site is to inform, inspire and motivate people to make an effort to protect open space before it is too late.

[Via Adventure Journal]

Spending Time in Nature Reduces Stress – But How Much?

Matthew Forkin in the Wild courtesy National Geographic

Matthew Forkin in the wild courtesy National Geographic

A growing number of researchers are finding evidence that stress levels drop off and mental function improves when you get out into nature. Florence Williams explores the science behind nature therapy in National Geographic’s “This is Your Brain on Nature.”

The article looks scientific findings behind the three day effect, the theory that three days in nature will recalibrate your brain and improve creative thinking. Shorter jaunts such as a 50 minute walk down to a 15 minute meditation – even virtual nature can have physiological and cognitive benefits according to Williams.

One thing Williams doesn’t delve into is the aspects of nature that can significantly raise your stress levels. As they say, nature always wins. It may be that researchers are finding that nature, when it’s peaceful, gives us peace. But nature when it’s wild – well that’s something else to study.

 

”Human Beings Are Wired to Find Peace in Nature” … Honestly?

Photo by Joshua Earle

Photo by Joshua Earle

I pretty much take it as fact that human beings have not evolved to run on concrete. It kinda makes sense that scrambling over boulders and swinging from trees are better exercise for micro-muscles than are gym machines. And I can mostly accept that our digestive systems have not evolved to handle processed foods.

But what nearly made me spit coffee out my nose this morning was reading Dr. Ming Kuo explain that getting out into nature is healthy for us because

When we are in nature in that relaxed state, and our body knows that it’s safe, it invests resources toward the immune system.

Nature makes us feel safe. Right. Try telling that to the guy who stumbled over a sleeping grizzly last week and wound up having to shove his arm down the bear’s throat to convince the beast to stop biting him. Nature is no place to relax. It is out to get your ass.

In all of modern man’s 200,000 years on this planet I’d say that it’s only been since they put bathrooms in nature that anybody felt like nature was a great way to “get away from it all.” Prior to that most people spent all their energy trying to get away from nature. Going back to the 9th century most people felt that nature was a hostile, miserable place, a wilderness that needed to be tamed and subdued. To the extent that this taming and subduing was successful humanity began to have better feelings about the wilderness. Consider that Rousseau’s philosophy of the Natural Human followed on the heels of the Age of Discovery in which the globe and its continents were transected, mapped and claimed.

There is a notion going around these days, the biophilia hypothesis, that suggests we have evolved to have a natural fondness for nature. That feeling of OMG when you see a beautiful sunset. It goes a little deeper than that – merely getting a glimpse of nature is supposed to have beneficial impacts on our health.

I think a better argument can be made that humans are hardwired to flee nature. To hide in caves, to put up walls, and to pave the hell out of anything soft and springy. As Woody Allen said, “nature and I are two.”

If Dr. Kuo is saying that there are good things in nature that our bodies need, things that can’t be found in a formaldehyde-belching office environment, well I can accept that. But to suggest that human beings are evolved to spend time in nature is to ignore humanity’s relentless campaign to plow everything under.

As much as I love the idea of forest bathing I rather fear that our evolutionary agenda is less to find ourselves in nature than it is to whip, beat, pummel and torture our natural environment until it whimpers and is willing to eat from our hands. Then we will view pictures of nature and feel at peace with ourselves.

Photo By Joshua Earle via Unsplash

 

Coyote Cute Overload

Charlie the coyote

When photographer and writer Shreve Stockton found herself the guardian of a two-week old coyote pup she began taking pictures every day and mailing them to her friends. This grew to a sizable mailing list to which you can subscribe, therby getting your own daily coyote. Aside from being too cute to be legal, these photos of Charlie are unfolding into a poignant drama–what will Charlie’s future be? How will he survive in two worlds, the world of humans (where his kind are shot for being sheep stealers) and the world of his breed? Catch up with the whole story at the Daily Coyote.

A Whale of a Weekend

Dead Blue Whale at Hobson Park

It’s been a busy weekend. As some of you know, my daughter is getting married next Saturday. But you’re never too busy when you’ve got a dead blue whale in your backyard.

In between trips to Smart and Final for Ginger Ale and phony champagne glasses I joined the human carnival that was keeping vigil over the whale carcass that washed ashore near Hobson’s Park. All kinds of crazy folks were there to look at the whale, take pictures of the whale, touch the whale, say a prayer for the whale, burn incense for the whale, show the whale to the baby, have the baby kiss the dead whale.

People Viewing Dead Blue Whale at Hobson Park

Later in the day Maureen and I drove to Santa Barbara to do some reconnaissance at East Beach where Matt and Emma will be getting married. On the way up I had to stop at Faria Beach to see how the whale interment was progressing. I mean, how big a hole does it take to bury a blue whale?

Turns out that you bury a whale the same way that you eat an elephant: one bite at a time.

Flensing Dead Blue Whale at Faria Beach

Grove of the Titans

People sometimes say there are no more unexplored frontiers. Orion Magazine’s April/May issue puts that fable to rest with an amazing story of two botanists who, in 1998, stumbled upon an unmapped grove of redwoods…some of the largest redwoods alive today.The USGS topo map below shows what I assume is roughly the area where Sillet and Taylor found the mammoth trees. The exact location is a guarded secret.

Jedediah Smith Redwoods USGS

From the map you certainly don’t get the impression that this is a dense, wild, and uncharted region. It’s just a few miles outside of Crescent City after all. Now look at the Google Earth picture of the same area:Jedediah Satellite Photo

Supposedly the USGS maps are derived from aerial photographs similar to the above. But it looks to me as if the terrain is entirely different from that pictured on the map–which is what Sillet and Taylor discovered.

Part of the story the Orion article doesn’t convey is told by the Google Earth picture of the Jedediah Smith Redwood State Park below. Look at the clear cutting that surrounds the park. The “Grove of Titans” found by Sillet and Taylor seems all the more precious looking at this picture…another couple of decades of unrestrained logging and those trees would be gone forever.

Jedediah Smith Redwoods Google Earth View