SMOKE, WINE GRAPES AND A DROUGHTY FUTURE IN THE WEST

October 5, 2018

What sort of population upheaval awaits the American West?  Effects of forest fires lead to job loss at theatre festival. 

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TINY ISLAND WITH UNCERTAIN FUTURE, PEACEFUL PRESENT

August 12, 2018

Perhaps one of the most relaxed places on earth is endangered a tiny island off South America. No crime, no police, little money.  Peace.

No cars, no traffic besides boats.  No airport, no buses, no lawns and no lawn-mowers. No mosquitoes. Checking on sewer system…

You want to see a short, documentary?  Click here.

LET’S KILL MORE BEARS AND WOLVES

May 22, 2018

Make America trigger-happy again  as in the frontier days.  Shoot first…

The Trump Administration has proposed lifting a ban on shooting grizzly cubs and various ways of slaughtering wolves in Alaska.  Great white hunters rejoice.

All the current shooting mania abroad in our land makes me think we need a constitutional amendment: legislatures, Congress, governors and White House may NOT have any stricter gun controls or safety measures than are found in the poorest public school district in Mississippi or any other red state with minimal taxes.  It is time for the right-wing rich politicians to have to live like the poorest of our citizens, right?

In fact, I’d rate a grizzly both rarer and more beautiful than any pro-gun politician I can think of.  If we allowed shooting of as many pro-gun pols as we do grizzlies…bet conservation would get very popular even within the Republican Congress, though I note they did nothing after one of their own was shot on a softball field…maybe all they need is Trump’s blessing and lots of prayers…

NEWS STORIES RELATED TO SAN FRANCISCO’S NATURAL HISTORY

November 30, 2017

The sixth mass extinction now underway. Over 80% of mammals killed by people.

Climate change: will the west see major emigration?  Smoke the wine industry.  Smoke leads to lay-offs at theatre festival.

Now the transit center next to the troubled Millennial Tower has its own structural issues.  Engineering does not conquer all.

Climate change will make disease and traffic accidents…worse.

Curse of the introduced spartina–a video tour.

August, 2018:  California firefighters on front lines of battle with climate change.

The earth as a hothouse.

San Francisco is a disaster waiting to happen…according to scientists.

July, 2018: Northern Hemisphere overheated.

How we need to get beyond plastics.  So old and out-dated and dangerous.

Earlier springs.

The battle over fuel efficiency standards in California.  Trump Admin comes out in favor of more pollution and more gas guzzling.

The ecological woes of the Central Valley; slumping land, arsenic in the water.

Why plant restoration should be done in stages.

China has stopped being the world’s major plastic buyer.  Oh well, we can always keep dumping it into the ocean…or maybe burn it, sniff that aroma…or bury it where it can last through the millennia and leach chemicals for eons…or maybe we could stop making the stuff?  Oh, sorry, that might hurt some corporate profits.  Oh dear…

How climate change is killing off trees around the globe, including California’s pines.

How badly the world is failing to deal with climate change according to one of the first scientists to sound the alarm…thirty years ago!

How our use of antibiotics has led to superbugs, that we cannot stop, like MRSA and a new strain of gonorrhea.

How robotic tech will alter the food poison industry.  Zap, not spray away.  Why not lasers? I ask?  Or super-heated steam?

National Park Service quietly releases report on climate change and sea level rising.

Two pieces in “Sierra Magazine” on effects and economics of climate change: https://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/2018-3-may-june/feature/the-case-for-climate-reparations

https://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/2018-3-may-june/feature/worlds-sinking-islands-challenge-our-imagination

California has sick and dying Brown Pelicans. 

Now you can watch an animation that lets you see what happens to your favorite coastal area. South of Market goes under water. Martinez will take a drowning as well.  Back east Florida becomes a narrow neck of land.  Sea level rise with climate change…watch it happen on this website, Earthtime. 

American cities losing their trees because of streets, parking lots and construction, i.e. capitalism,  not conservation.

Humans have been destroying other species for a long time.

How cities’ artificial environments speed up wildlife evolution.

Can migratory songbirds adapt to climate change?  Will migration and nature’s changing schedule cause population crises?

Trash vs. whale…trash wins.

New York City joins SF’s lawsuit against fossil fuel companies over climate change.

Scientists look at what climate change could do to California agriculture.

Modern agriculture  messes with environment; nature strikes back in Argentina.

Up to one-third of American wildlife species may be headed to extinction.

Heavy use of antibiotics, polluting planet and helping resistant microbes evolve faster.  Will this bring the demise of people?

Washington State has banned all Atlantic salmon farms in that state.  That follows an accidental but apparently careless release of Atlantic salmon into the wild when netting around a salmon farm broke in 2017.

San Francisco and Oakland vs. five big fossil fuel companies…in climate change lawsuit.

Bay Area biologist, Paul Ehrlich, predicts over-population will destroy civilization.

The heat blob diminishes in the Pacific Northwest.

Pacific plastic pollution worse than earlier estimated.

What’s killing starfish–the science.

San Francisco’s endangered manzanita.

Hot times in the Arctic…bad news for polar bears, coastal cities and life in general.

Drying earth leads to big crack in Arizona’s skin.

NOAA’s 2017 technical report on projected sea level rise in US.

Washington State ousts Cooke Aquaculture from one lease after the firm’s nets broke, releasing thousands of Atlantic salmon.

Dutch man comes up with plant to remove plastic pollution from the oceans.  We need to hurry because most seabirds on the planet are already carrying plastic inside them.  If Bill Gates puts enough of his money behind the clean-up, it could be good news. We need some.

Plastic is just another bad thing we humans are doing to coral reefs.

The ozone layer in the atmosphere is not recovering over cities…likely due to man-made chemicals.   One more self-destructive move by people against themselves.

Capetown dried up due to climate change.

Joys of fossil fuels: gas well explosion in Oklahoma.

2017 one of the three hottest years on record.  Other two: 2015 and 2016.  Get it?

Salmon killing ag chemical protected by Trump Regime.

Poison used by non-organic pot farms threatens wildlife.  I point in my book that poisoning rats in Golden Gate Park killed off the Great Horned Owls and it took them a decade to return.

New York City vs. Big Oil

Noise pollution hard on birds as well as humans.

How animals cope with extreme heat–some die.

Story on the size of 2017’s climate related disasters.

Graphic showing increasing costs of climate change influenced disasters. How long before our lifestyle drives this nation broke?

Leaning tower of San Francisco (Millennium) cited for fire risk.

Modern technology and economy killing the Earth’s oceans.

Oregon sues Monsanto over PCBs, decades after they were banned.

Is there a population problem on earth or is that a silly worry?

Greenland’s melting ice and coastal cities’ future.

Don’t flush those drugs down the toilet or put ’em in the sink or the landfill.

SAN FRANCISCO’S NATURAL HISTORY

November 27, 2017

RECOMMENDED READING LIST:

Abbey, Edward.  Monkey Wrench Gang.

Harper, Kyle.  The Fate of Rome: Climate, Disease, and the End of an Empire.

Lifton, Robert Jay.  The Climate Swerve.

Monbiot, George.  Feral: Rewilding the Land, the Sea, and Human Life

Thoreau, Henry David.  Any or all of his journals.

SAN FRANCISCO IMAGES: AFTER 1860

November 13, 2017

The city in 1864:SF AERIAL--1864Lake Merced, 1868:lake-merced-1868

Plowing the dunes in preparing to create Golden Gate Park, 1870s:GGP-plowing-dunes

1875 map:sf 1875

The city in 1877, looking south over Telegraph Hill:sf--1877

Golden Gate Park as trees take root, 1880, along Ocean Beach:GGP-1880San Francisco, 1890:SF--1890

Golden Gate Park, 1892, for Mid-winter Exposition:GG PARK 18921897 map:sf 1897San Francisco before earthquake:OLD WATERFRONTCutting through sand hill to make Second Street near Rincon Point, before 1900.Second-Street-Cut-1869-A12.28.752nLiving with sand after earthquake:sand hillsTheodore Wores’ painting of dunes looking across to Lake Merced in early 1900s, lupine in bloom where houses now stand:1914San-Francisco-Sand-Dunes-and-Lake-merced

1914, as automobiles begin to dominate the city:sf aeriaL--1914Lake Merced Boulevard construction:LakeMercedBlvdConstruction

Fort Funston, preparing for war. Below that is Lake Merced at top of image with the peninsula leading to today’s golf course visible:Ft_Funston_Cantonment_Areafunston2

Sunset District just after WW2:Sunset_dunes_1947Richmond District today, note the small pockets of private open space between houses:richmond aerialrichmond aerial2Lake Merced today:merced todaySan-Francisco-Natural-Heritage-Map

SAN FRANCISCO IMAGES: BEFORE 1860

November 13, 2017

The Ohlone managed the landscape through use of fire. They traveled on the bay in tule canoes:

ohlone boatOHLONE FIREOhlone village sites:Ohlone_villages-mapohlone1ohlone3Pre-colonial landscape:IMG_1964

Capt. Beechey’s map from 1826-7:sf mapJust before the Gold Rush:early yerba buena town
First United States map of San Francisco, before Gold Rush.sf1848

1849, Gold Rush boomtown and bay fillearly mapearlysf1early-yerba-buena YB PORTSan Francisco viewed from Yerba Buena Island, circa 1850.SF from YB

1851 and the ships abandoned by crews

1851MapSF-1851YB PORT2YB PORT3YB PORT4San Francisco in 1852:SF DURING GOLD RUSH-18521855 view of city from Rincon Point:SF FROM RINCON PT-1855South of Market developed despite the natural landscape and marshes:soma yesterday

 

HOW TO HELP TRACK SAN FRANCISCO’S CRITTERS

November 1, 2017

For any non-avian species you can record your sighting on this website: https://www.inaturalist.org/

The best place to record your bird sightings is on: http://ebird.org/content/nw/

SAN FRANCISCO NATURAL HISTORY BOOK

April 20, 2017

Click here for description of contents and images and maps of early San Francisco.

Table of Contents:

Introduction

Map of original landscape

Chronology

Preface

Chap. 1  Before

Chap. 2 People Evict Nature

Chap. 3 Green in Winter, Brown in Summer: Precolonial Flora

Chap. 4 Before the Guns Arrived: Pre-Colonial Fauna

Chap. 5 Low on the Food Pyramid: Cold-blooded Animals

Chap. 6 What Happened?

Chap.  7  Tree Cutting: What Else Are Trees For?

Chap. 8 People Change Nature: The Introduced and the Invasive

Chap. 9 Killing for Fun and Profit

Chap. 10  Gold Rush and Urban Growth

Chap. 11   Changes in Bird Life

Chap. 12   Mammals: Survivors and Ghosts

No mention of rabbits of either species, inc coyote status however

Chap. 13  San Francisco’s Islands: Fragile and Despoiled

Chap. 14  Golden Gate Park, includes more on McLaren and Hall

Chap. 15  And Now…

Chap. 16  Climate Change

Chap. 17 A Throwaway Society and Where All That Unwanted Stuff Goes

Chap 18 Disturbance and Restoration

Acknowledgements

Bibliography and useful websites

Index

San Francisco’s Natural History

April 20, 2017

Now I am shipping copies and taking orders.  This title is on sale at Green Apple Books near Sixth and Clement in the Richmond District, also at Alexander Book Company south of Market on Second Street.  This book is available for order from Amazon as a paperback and inexpensive Kindle download.

The San Francisco Public LIbrary system has six copies of the book you can borrow for free.

SAN FRANCISCO’S NATURAL HISTORY
FROM SAND DUNES TO STREETCARS69644847_Kindle Ready Front Cover JPEG_7303473


This book sells for $25 with free shipping if you order from me.  See bottom of this blog for related websites and news updates on San Francisco’s environment.

This book traces the changes in San Francisco’s landscape from the days of the Ohlone to the present.  What native species were present when only Native Americans lived here? What animal grazed, flew or swam here? In the wild countryside what natural waterways supported life?  What trees, fruits, and flowering plants would the Ohlone have known and used?  And…what happened to all that after the Europeans arrived? It’s a dramatic cascade of changes, filled with disappearance and devastation, ruin, restoration and rebirth.  As the centuries passed and the cityscape developed and changed, so has the natural landscape and the creatures in it, including us–humans, whose values and actions have altered and shaped everything.

In spite of what amounts to obliteration of the old natural environment, many native species survive and even thrive in the modern city.  “Life” here includes wildlife. Contemporary restoration projects mover forward.  Brown Pelicans and coyotes have been joined by new immigrants like collared-doves and eastern gray squirrels.  Forests of introduced trees today host Red-shouldered Hawks and Hooded Orioles. And yet, there is not stasis and never has been. Now comes climate change.  All is flux.

Through this book, I hope to help provide knowledge and perspective on what has gone before, but also what we now face.  To protect and preserve this peninsula, this beautiful piece of our planet, the decisions we humans must make are not just cosmetic, they are matters of life and death.  People must understand what’s happened and what’s happening in order to avoid repeating devastating mistakes of the past, and in order to proceed wisely and humanely into the future. From open space to micro-plastic pollution, the decisions rest with us.

SOME EXCERPTS

The want of sufficient level space on which to found so great and growing a city, has been partially rectified, at an enormous expense, by taking building ground from the waters, and by lowering, and in many cases absolutely removing bodily the multitude of sand hills, by which the place is immediately surrounded. What with digging out and filling up, piling, capping and planking, grading and regrading the streets, and shifting, and rebuilding, and again rebuilding the houses, to suit the altered levels, millions upon millions of dollars have been spent.                                       –Frank Soule, et al., The Annals of San Francisco, 1855

***

Nature’s plan has evolved through millions of years while man’s plans for the earth cover a short span of time and are very often both selfish and short-sighted.
–Helen Cruickshank, Thoreau’s Birds, 1964


***

Captain Jean François de La Perouse from France was the first European from outside the Spanish Empire to visit California after the founding of the missions and pueblos. In September 1786, he spent time in Monterey. About Monterey Bay he wrote: “It is impossible to describe the number of whales with which we were surrounded, or their familiarity. They spouted every half minute within pistol shot of our frigates, and caused a most annoying stench. We were unacquainted with this property in the whale, but the inhabitants informed us that the water thrown out by them is impregnated with this offensive smell.”

***

            In 1792–1793, Archibald Menzies, the medical officer for the British Expedition, headed by Captain George Vancouver, was immediately taken with the dramatic “broad sheet of water” that is the bay, described in the epigraph to this chapter. The observations by Menzies and other expedition crew are valuable as baseline information about how the area was changed over the decades that followed their visit. During their stay in the fall of 1792, the British sailors reported a large number of waterfowl in the marsh that is now Crissy Field. Menzies describes the area between Fort Mason and Fort Point as a “low track of Marshy Land along shore, with some Salt Water Lagoons that were supplied by the overflowings of high Tides and oozings through the Sandy Beach: on these we saw abundance of Ducks and wild Geese…”  Vancouver mentions large livestock flocks. He is visiting in 1792, less than two decades after the first colonists arrived from Mexico. Yet, already hundreds of domestic animals are ranging across a fragile landscape.

***

1820   Estimated 200,000 northern fur seals killed for their pelts.

1932  First Mockingbird sighted in San Francisco.

***

One of the few surface streams still to be seen in San Francisco runs down Glen Canyon. It constitutes the headwaters of Precita Creek, which joins Islais Creek, named from the Ohlone word for hollyleaf cherry… In 1869 America’s first dynamite factory, the Giant Powder Company, blew up in Glen Canyon. Also, in the late 1800s, the canyon, then known as Rock Gulch, supported a private zoo and amusement park.

***

San Francisco’s original grasslands and coastal scrub are almost gone. Most grassland fell before invasive plants, pavement, housing, and other heavy use. A large swath of coastal prairie in McLaren Park became Gleneagles Golf Course. Fortunately, a parcel of nearly natural habitat survives on the eastern slope of Mount Davidson.

***

Farallones: Research over the past four decades by Point Blue has shown that Common Murres are now breeding earlier in the year, in response to climate change and its effects on upwelling in the California current.

***

Golden Gate Park: In 1870, when this land was set aside by the city government for a park, it was largely sand dunes. Before it was landscaped and planted, there were a few willow-bordered lakes on the site, some squatters in residence, and scattered oak groves in sheltered areas furthest from the windy beach. The most respected landscape expert at the time was Frederick Law Olmsted, designer of New York’s Central Park. He warned San Francisco these lands outside the city limits were not suitable for a proper urban, forested park. Olmsted’s conclusion about a park in the city was part cautionary, part damning: “There is not a full grown tree of beautiful proportions near San Francisco, nor have I seen any young trees that promise fairly, except, perhaps, of certain compact clump forms of evergreens, wholly wanting in grace and cheerfulness. It would not be wise nor safe to undertake to form a park upon any plan which assumed as a certainty that trees which would delight the eye can be made to grow near San Francisco.”

***

In 2010, the public had no idea that harmful micro-beads of plastic were being put into many consumer products and we were all guilty of spreading them across the planet. The San Francisco Estuary Institute and its partners are now studying the presence of micro-plastics and nano-plastics in San Francisco Bay. This research is being led by Dr. Rebecca Sutton. Her preliminary study found the bay was more contaminated by plastic than the Great Lakes or Chesapeake Bay.

***

Perhaps most threatening are a group of invasive Asian earthworms first identified on the East Coast and found in Oregon in 2016. The risk from these invaders is that they feed on the surface material in forests, quickly turning leaf litter and fallen plant matter into worm food and then feces. They drive out nondestructive worm species and clear the soil for erosion and desiccation, weakening forests trying to survive climate change and drought.

***

Climate change: Just how bad can this get?  A scientific look back at a previous die-off caused by ocean acidification brings up terrifying images if you value any currently living creature.  Volcanologist Seth Burgess studied the geological and biological changes that took place at the end of the Permian period about 250-255 million years ago.  It wasn’t simply the end of a geological age, it was the end of most living organisms.  Fossil records show that 90% of all ocean organisms and 70% of those on land went extinct. Trees and coral reefs disappeared. 

=============

Other links pertaining to this book:

Newslinks, stories pertinent to San Francisco’s natural history—present and future.

Table of Contents

Species named in the book

San Francisco images, before 1860 
San Francisco images, 1860 to present