Archive for the ‘natural history’ Category

SUMMERTIME AND THE LIVING ARE ON FIRE

June 27, 2019

Europe’s biggest forest fire in two decades.
And some of Europe’s hottest June days in recorded history

Meanwhile, climate emergency declared in New York City.  While Dems debate in Miami on what is now the Florida peninsula, likely to become an archipelago with a storied past.  Not only Florida is in danger, and not only New York City.  Nor all the coastal cities in California.  How about Texas?  That homeland for so many professional oil-enriched climate change deniers?

Yet petroleum does not have to morally corrupt as it has in Oklahoma and Texas, Venezuela and Russia, Saudi Arabia and most of the oily parts of the Mideast…oil wealth can lead to good things if there is a honest and conscientious government.  Norway is green.  We shoud all be green with envy.

Covering the climate can be deadly for reporters.  Or, if your are fortunate, you just lose your job, and rise another day.  Neither is good since the US Department of Agriculture doesn’t want you finding out about the possible damage from a hotter planet.

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WILL LIFE ON EARTH OUTLAST THE CURRENT VERSION OF GLOBAL CAPITALISM?

June 24, 2019

There are two easily defined words that should begin and end any discussion of our climate crisis and where the planet is heading:  GREED, EXTINCTION.

In the June 7 Times Literary Supplement has two essays focused on the world economy and the climate.  Joseph Stiglitz reviews three new books on the capitalism of the moment with its self-destructive momentum toward ever-greater concentration of wealth, and use of resources without regard to effects on the planet and life.
His opening sentences: “By now it is clear that something is fundamentally wrong with modern capitalism. The 2008 global financial crisis showed that the system as currently constructed is neither efficient nor stable.”
“…while many of these Friedmanite economists have stayed remarkably quiescent in the aftermath of the crisis, the ideology and sets of beliefs they pushed and that bear significant responsibility for the crisis remain alive and well.”
“Paul Collier… in The Future of Capitalism: Facing the new anxieties proposes a tax not only on urban land – on the rents that accrue as a result of the increased productivity from economic agglomeration in our thriving cities – but on the high-income urban workers who share in that prosperity.”
All three books give prominence to the role of the battle of ideas, explaining how misguided theories have won out from the era of Reagan and Thatcher onwards. Block, for example, details the role played by several misconceptions about our economic and political system, beginning with market fundamentalism (what I refer to in my book, Globalization and Its Discontents, 2002, as the almost religious belief that markets, on their own, are efficient, stable and in some sense fair). He rightly shows that, without government constraints, the rich and powerful shape capitalism to give themselves the advantage, undermining competition and exploiting others, eventually undermining the capitalist system itself. [my emphasis] Adam Smith recognized this, but his latter-day followers often seem to forget it.”
This is where the greed becomes central value of capitalism.  CEOs may hold as much stock as any shareholder and thus driving profits, dividends and stock price matter far more than anything else the company does…as long as it doesn’t get caught.  Even so the CEO just bails with billions.

See Countrywide’s loans before 2008,  Perdue’s pain-killers that were also profitable human killers but marketed as non-addictive, VW’s diesel fraud, Deutsche Bank’s money laundering, see most of the publicly traded companies in the US that make no profit but keep borrowing money to make their quarterly reports look good and bolster stock price.

Stiglitz says the current system must be replaced.

“…creating this new system will only happen through politics – which, in turn, is why the future of capitalism, our democracies and the world are inextricably linked. We’ve seen what misshapen capitalism has done to democracies in the US and elsewhere, and how the resulting electoral perversions then distort our economies. The sad reality is that matters could get worse. President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil is merely the latest authoritarian on the global scene.

“If we are to achieve an ethical capitalism, we need an ethical politics, which respects the basic tenets of democratic values. Again, that’s not likely to happen on its own. We can see this clearly in the US, where the right has been engaged in a systematic agenda of disenfranchisement and disempowerment – limiting voting for citizens who oppose the right’s ideas, limiting (through gerrymandering) opponents’ ability to translate votes into political power…. This is especially easy in the US, where highly politicized Supreme Court justices on the right read into the Constitution new rights for the wealthy and fewer rights for ordinary citizens: for instance the right of rich corporations to make unbridled campaign contributions while circumscribing the rights of workers to organize or individuals to sue corporations who have abused them[money as speech!]…

“These three books naturally ascribe a key role to the power of ideas. But interests matter as well. Economics is about growth but it is also about distributive battles – and as Trump’s devastating Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 illustrates, the latter proved more important than either ideas or growth. A small state is a handmaiden to these interests. Citizens with economic power simply don’t want a state that would prevent them from exercising that power. Businesses that exploit others don’t want a government capable of preventing them from engaging in nefarious activities, or of redistributing their ill-gotten gains. Oil, chemical and coal companies don’t want a state powerful enough to stop them from destroying our planet.

“In its attempts to circumscribe the state, the right also destroys the ability of a nation to do what it must for all its citizens to prosper… In their selfishness, even those at the top may be hurting themselves: they would be better off with a smaller share of a larger pie, and they, like everyone else, would benefit from a more stable and sustainable economy and society. Not to mention a habitable planet.”

“It is now time to find a path between incrementalism on the one hand and violent revolution on the other. A radical change in economic and power relationships is possible. It is also existentially urgent. This is the only thing that will save capitalism from itself and from the capitalists who would unwittingly destroy it, and the Earth along with it.”

The second essay is by Naomi Klein.   She makes a cogent argument for a Green New Deal.  Environmental and economic problems are  linked and cannot be separated she argues.

“…global emissions continue to rise alongside average temperatures, with large swathes of the planet beset by record-breaking storms and fires. The scientists convened in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have confirmed precisely what those African and low-lying island states long since warned: that allowing temperatures to rise by 2 degrees is a death sentence, and that only a 1.5-degree target gives us a fighting chance. Six Pacific islands have already disappeared beneath the rising seas this century.”
“…Europe, Australia and the United States have all responded to the increase in mass migration – intensified by climate stresses – with brutal force, ranging from Italy’s de facto ‘let them drown’ policy to Donald Trump’s war on an unarmed caravan from Central America. Let there be no mistake: this barbarism is how the wealthy world plans to adapt to climate change.”
Her conclusion is that now, with youthful activism in mind, “when other young people are finding their climate voice and their climate rage, there is finally a handful of political leaders able to receive their message, with an actual plan to turn it into policy. And that might just change everything.”

Greed and extinction.  They go together.  The bumper sticker that pertains: Change or Die.

 

CLIMATE REPORT–2018

November 24, 2018

Every four years American government scientists are supposed to issue an assessment of climate change and its effects.  This one is a doozy.  Here’s National Geographic’s summary: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/2018/11/climate-change-US-report0/

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

Climate change killing off ocean fish.

2019 report on pollution on Treasure Island.  Thanks, U.S. Navy.

In a recent Guardian an article traces the changes made in California’s Silicon Valley since the days of the Ohlone, who got there before the Spanish Empire and their vicious missionaries who came to “convert” and enslave the locals.  This piece does describe the epidemics that nearly wiped out the Indian population.  It does not disclose that even before Europeans and their guns arrived, the Indians had more slowly done great damage to the native wildlife.  Why did Europeans in 18th and 19th Century find a wildlife paradise when they arrived in the Bay Area?  European diseases arrived first and the Indian population had decreased markedly, removing alpha predators, allowing ducks and deer and elk populations to soar.

Scallops, nanoplastics and what we have done to our planet.

Plastic in every human  body.

What climate change has already done…destruction and deaths.

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