Why Do I Write These Essays?

Nothing in Nature exists in isolation. The movement of life’s energy, which originates in the sun, takes place because everything is interconnected and interdependent. Your consciousness of interdependence in Nature means that, every time you engage Nature, you ask yourself how a creature, a plant, yourself,  or a natural object is connected to another and to Nature’s greater scheme of things. With this awareness you are prepared to protect Nature’s environment that sustains you. And, you create your legacy by encouraging others to do likewise.

 

If, after reading my essays, you find yourself embracing these ideas, I am thrilled in knowing that I’ve played some small part in setting this world view in motion in your mind.

 

Please Comment and Subscribe

 

I invite you to subscribe to my newsletter using the sign-up form provided at the upper right corner of this web page. As a subscriber you will receive regular email announcements of new essays that I publish or popular essays that i have previously published. In these essays you will have the opportunity to share comments and ideas about a topic. Your security is important to me. Please know that your email address is never distributed to anyone.

 

You are strongly encouraged to become one of my 11,000+ followers on Twitter. My Twitter ID is @ballenamar .  With Twitter, in addition to receiving daily Tweets that announce my essays, you will see when I retweet something that I read and that I think is important.

 

We Humans Throw Away 40% Of Our Food

Barry Commoner, in one of his four laws of ecology,states:

 

“Everything Must Go Somewhere.  There is no “waste” in nature, and there is no “away” to which things can be thrown.  Everything, such as wood smoke, nuclear waste, carbon emissions, etc., must go somewhere.”

 

One of the key characteristics of all creatures in Nature is that they never produce any waste that is not used by someone else in the food chain. Everything is recycled. That is, every creature except mankind.

 

In this short essay, I am going to let a great video about human waste do the talking. According to this video:

 

“We humans are throwing away about 40% of all the food that we produce.”

 

This becomes a huge waste if you add in all of the energy and the water that is used and the carbon that is emitted to produce wasted food that is never recycled or used in some productive way.

 

I leave it up to you to think about what is being said in this video and let you decide.

Worth Your Extra Attention :

 

Thanks for reading this blog post.

 

Here is a comment from one person who viewed this video:

 

“I work in a Chinese kitchen at a major grocers. and I’m appalled at the amount of perfectly good food that’s thrown out several times a day. We’re required to trash and then refresh our cases every 4 hrs. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with what we throw out. It temps at safe levels, still tastes good, still looks good etc. but it still gets thrown out. On an average, we throw out around 200 lbs daily, and that’s not counting what the deli throws out. They’ve recently started requiring the deli to separate certain items and put them in a special bin that gets picked up and turned into pet food and that’s a good thing. I know that people used to get vouchers to use at a second hand store to get furniture, clothing, etc. so why don’t we do this for food? I can’t even begin to count the people that have asked for a free sample. Not because they want to taste before buying but because they don’t have money and they’re homeless and hungry or just can’t afford much food later in the month. We have our regulars and we always give them a pretty good sample, or 2, or 3. I’m truly sickened when I have to throw so much out when there are so many people out there that are going hungry. I’ll also add that I’m NOT a vegetarian but I can’t help thinking about all of those chickens that were killed………just to end up in the garbage. When it comes to the produce dept., we had a lady that used to come in and pick up the produce that was being thrown out. She did this for several years and then it stopped. Something to do with her finding a piece of plastic or cellophane (so I was told) and one of her hogs. In this age of “I’m getting a lawyer and suing you for (just about anything these days) ” I can understand that businesses are looking to cover their butts. There has to be a solution, somewhere”

 

Please Comment and Subscribe

 

The purpose for these blogs is to develop a dialog between myself and my readers.

 

I invite you to subscribe to my newsletter using the sign-up form provided at the upper right corner of this web page. As a subscriber you will receive twice-monthly announcements of new blogs that I post. Your security is important to me. Please know that your email address is never distributed to anyone.

Nature’s Relationships : Fire Is A Connecting Force

 

Fire, to we humans, is a paradox. It is both friend and foe

 

We need  fire, yet it can destroy us. In Nature, fire is a positive force. Fire is an important part of forest and grassland ecology. It is a force in Nature that provides new and restored connections. Paradoxically, the destructive nature of fire is its great strength. Fire is a transformational force that Nature requires in order to bring health to ecosystems. This lesson was learned by humans only in recent times.

 

 

Forest fires have the following benefits:

  • Clear out dead branches and leaves
  • Some plants seeds only germinate after a fire
  • New growth is low to the ground and accessible to animals for food
  • Dead trees are removed
  • The burned areas are suitable for new species of animals
  • Minerals are returned to the soil. When the fire burns the organic material in the forest, nutrient rich ash is left behind.  When the first rain comes, the nutrients in the ash dissolve into the soil for the new plants to use.  This process is called nutrient recycling.  These nutrients left in the soil are a good source of food for the young plants that will begin to grow back.

Campaigns in the United States have historically molded public opinion to believe that wildfires are always harmful to Nature. This view is based on the erroneous belief that ecosystems progress toward an equilibrium and that any disturbance, such as fire, disrupts the harmony of nature. More recent ecological research has shown, however, that fire is an integral component in the function and biodiversity of many natural habitats, and that the organisms within these communities have adapted to withstand, and even to exploit, natural wildfire. More generally, fire is now regarded as a ‘natural disturbance’, similar to flooding, wind-storms, and landslides, that has driven the evolution of species and controls the characteristics of ecosystems.

Fire prevention and suppression in forests and grasslands was started to protect the timber and cattle industries as well as human property. It was also believed that by suppressing fires, man ensured a healthy future for the forest or grassland. But, these ideas were proven to be wrong. Fire suppression was misunderstood. The effect of human fire suppression over many years resulted in a high density of trees and ground cover in forests and grasslands. In turn, this high density caused far more destructive fires when they did occur.

Science that has revealed important and intricate connections between fire and Nature’s ecosystems

However, the benefits of occasional fires became understood. Fire ecology is a recent science that is devoted to the study of fire in forests and grasslands. It is a science that has revealed important and intricate connections in Nature within forest and grassland ecosystems. One consideration has been the connection of humans. While humanity demands protection from fire damage, forests and grasslands need fire. One way to balance these seemingly opposite needs is to employ human initiated controlled burning. There is not yet a consensus on the wisdom of this approach to balancing the needs of man with the needs of other ecosystems. The key, of course, is to understand the effects of any action on the vital connections that sustain healthy ecosystems.

As homes are built closer and closer to national parks, grasslands, and forests, fire suppression becomes an important issue for the citizens of the region. All of the agencies involved have tried to balance fire suppression with fire management, frequently with controlled fires

As scientists gathered more information on the effects of fire on forest and grassland ecosystems, they learned that fire exclusion might not be a healthy choice for forests and grasslands. Today it is known that fire exclusion causes thick vegetation and large amounts of dead fallen materials.  The heavy vegetation and dead material increase the fuel quantity on the forest floor and may cause fires to ignite more easily.  When a fire does begin on the thickly covered floor,  the blaze burns at a much higher intensity causing more damage to the forest ecosystem. Not only does fire exclusion cause an accumulation of thick vegetation on the forest floor, but also causes an increased density of smaller trees.  When fire does occur, these small trees guide the raging fire from the forest floor to the crown of the older trees causing a crown fire. Instead of burning slowly and low to the ground, fires burned hot and high in the crowns of the trees and travel quickly from tree to tree,  These fires are more difficult to contain once started.

Fires, both natural and human-caused, are important in maintaining grasslands. Ancient hunting peoples set regular fires to maintain and extend grasslands, and prevent fire-intolerant trees and shrubs from taking over. Grasses are able to survive fires because they grow from the bottom instead of the top. The occasional fires common in grasslands keep the number of trees and shrubs there low.  Grass fires destroys trees and saplings because most of their mass is above ground and therefore vulnerable to fire.  But grasses have most of their mass below ground, which helps them survive in periods of rainfall. Fires thereby remove species that compete with grasses for resources. Another benefit of fires is that they burn away the layer of dead grass that accumulates during the year, converting it to valuable nutrients.  The nutrients act as fertilizer, giving grasslands a deep fertile soil held in place by grass roots.  Heat from fires also aids the germination of many grass seeds.

Many ecosystems, particularly prairie,savanna, chaparral and conifer forests have evolved with fire as a natural and necessary contributor to habitat vitality and renewal. Many plant species in naturally fire-affected environments require fire to germinate, to establish, or to reproduce, or all three. Fire suppression not only eliminates these species, but also the animals that depend upon them. Finally, fire suppression can lead to the build-up of inflammable debris and the creation of less frequent but much larger and destructive wildfires.

So why not just let things burn?

The fact is that fire is inconvenient to the human race. Fire can cause structure loss. This begs the question regarding the balance between human needs and the needs of Nature.

This essay has focused on fire from the perspective of Nature. Marcia Penner Freedman, a resident of a forest in California where fire is a regular companion, gives us some human perspective in her article in the Fresno Bee “We Choose To Live With Certainty Of Fire” 

 

Why Do I Write These Essays?

Nothing in Nature exists in isolation. The movement of life’s energy, which originates in the sun, takes place because everything is interconnected and interdependent. Your consciousness of interdependence in Nature means that, every time you engage Nature, you ask yourself how a creature, a plant, yourself, or a natural object is connected to another and to Nature’s greater scheme of things. With this awareness you are prepared to protect Nature’s environment that sustains you. And, you create your legacy by encouraging others to do likewise.

 

If, after reading my essays, you find yourself embracing these ideas, I am thrilled in knowing that I’ve played some small part in setting this world view in motion in your mind.

 

Please Comment and Subscribe

I invite you to subscribe to my newsletter using the sign-up form provided at the upper right corner of this web page. As a subscriber you will receive regular email announcements of new essays that I publish or popular essays that i have previously published. In these essays you will have the opportunity to share comments and ideas about a topic. Your security is important to me. Please know that your email address is never distributed to anyone.

 

You are strongly encouraged to become one of my 11,000+ followers on Twitter. My Twitter ID is @ballenamar . With Twitter, in addition to receiving daily Tweets that announce my essays, you will see when I retweet something that I read and that I think is important.

 

Sanctuaries of Silence

Even the most remote corners of the globe are impacted by noise pollution

 

 

f you have been following my essays over the years, you would be correct if you sensed my passion for silence and solitude.  Indeed, just like the creatures in the forests and the mountains that I visit, I am profoundly adverse to human created noise. Noise can deeply affect my personal ecosystem. But, much more important, it has been shown that human noise can change the ecosystems of creatures who live with us on earth. I have summarized much of this in my blog essay entitled Polluting Nature With Our Noise .

 

My passion for silence is shared with acoustic ecologists Gordon Hempton and Bernie Krause. Hempton believes that even the most remote corners of the globe are impacted by noise pollution. In his 7 minute, virtual reality, 360 video “Sanctuaries of Silence,” join Hempton on an immersive listening journey into the Hoh Rainforest at Olympic National Park. The Hoh Rainforest is one of the quietest places in North America. I strongly recommend that you view this video in the full screen mode.

 

Here are some of Hempton’s highlights from the video:

 

“Silence is on the verge of extinction”

“Silence is the poetics of space, what it means to be in a place. “

“Silence isn’t the essence of something, but the presence of everything”

“Silence is the presence of time undisturbed””

“I think what I enjoy most about listening is that I disappear.”

 

Authors Adam Loften and Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee, in their Emergence Magazine article entitled “Listening For Silence“, offer the following”

 

The Hoh Rain Forest is one of the largest temperate rain forests in the United States. Situated within the Olympic National Park in western Washington State, the Hoh is protected from commercial logging and is a haven for old-growth Sitka spruce, western hemlock, coast Douglas-fir, big-leaf maples, and black cottonwoods. Far from trafficked roads and the unrelenting bellow of development, the Hoh remains one of the quietest places in North America.

 

Acoustic ecologist Gordon Hempton defines silence not as the absence of sound, but as the absence of noise from modern life. For thirty-five years, Hempton has been documenting the sounds of the Hoh and its many species: Pacific tree frogs, Roosevelt elk, northern spotted owls, the red-breasted nuthatch, Pacific wrens.

 

Listening through a microphone taught Hempton to take things in with equal value, without judgment. We were struck by this, and as we joined Hempton in this practice, we found that we were completely present in the landscape and deeply connected to the space around us. We were surprised by the intricate sounds of life, from the creaking trees to the cacophony of birdsong filling the forest. We felt attuned to nature in ways we hadn’t experienced before.

 

The simple act of listening to the natural world can profoundly impact our relationship to place, rooting us in a presence that we otherwise often take for granted.

 

We invite you to participate in a five-step practice of listening—an opportunity to experience place through sound. These exercises could be done over the course of a day, a week, a month. Try to listen without judgment and simply be present, open, and curious.”

 

  1. Where is the place you spend the most time indoors? Go to this place. It could be a room in your home or your office. Sit or lay down in a comfortable position. Spend 10 minutes with your eyes closed, listening to all of the sounds around you, nearby and far away. What do you hear?
  2. Seek out a public or urban environment—a local coffee shop, a busy street corner, your rooftop. Again, for 10 minutes, listen to the sounds around you. Try to take it all in, with equal value, without judgment. What do you notice?
  3. Find a natural/green space within your town or city—a public park or garden or a tree in your yard. Close your eyes and listen for 15 minutes this time. How is the quality of sound different in this location compared to the location in exercise #2?
  4. Seek out a natural space, away from the hustle and bustle of the city. This space could be a wooded trail or a meadow with a stream. Sit or lay down with your eyes closed. For 30 minutes, listen to the sounds around you. What do you hear in this place?
  5. Return to the place that you selected in exercise #1. Repeat the first exercise. Has your experience of listening changed? If so, how?

 

Worth Your Extra Attention :

Footage from the documentary “Soundtracker” A Portrait of Gordon Hempton

Quiet Planet video

He Hears Music in the Quietest Place on Earth—Can You?

 

Why Do I Write These Essays?

Nothing in Nature exists in isolation. The movement of life’s energy, which originates in the sun, takes place because everything is interconnected and interdependent. Your consciousness of interdependence in Nature means that, every time you engage Nature, you ask yourself how a creature, a plant, yourself, or a natural object is connected to another and to Nature’s greater scheme of things. With this awareness you are prepared to protect Nature’s environment that sustains you. And, you create your legacy by encouraging others to do likewise.

 

If, after reading my essays, you find yourself embracing these ideas, I am thrilled in knowing that I’ve played some small part in setting this world view in motion in your mind.

  

Please Comment and Subscribe

I invite you to subscribe to my newsletter using the sign-up form provided at the upper right corner of this web page. As a subscriber you will receive regular email announcements of new essays that I publish or popular essays that i have previously published. In these essays you will have the opportunity to share comments and ideas about a topic. Your security is important to me. Please know that your email address is never distributed to anyone.

 

You are strongly encouraged to become one of my 11,000+ followers on Twitter. My Twitter ID is @ballenamar . With Twitter, in addition to receiving daily Tweets that announce my essays, you will see when I retweet something that I read and that I think is important.

 

The Power of Legacy

 

An early mentor was the spark plug that set me on my pathway to becoming a scientist.

 

During a recent summer camping trip, my partner and I visited Rocky Mountain National Park. The visit was a particularly emotional experience for me because, about 70 years ago at the age of 10, my parents took me to the Rocky Mountain National Park Moraine Museum (now called the Moraine Park Discovery Center). At the Moraine Museum, I learned my geology from a ranger whose name was Beverly. I have never forgotten Beverly or the experience because Ranger Beverly put me on a lifelong track of pursuing a scientific career. I became her legacy. While standing in the Moraine Park Discovery Center some 70 years later, I was brought to near tears as I relived my time with Ranger Beverly. I felt the great power of her legacy that has inspired me to become a scientist and an environmental educator in my later years as I work with high school young people in hopes that they will carry on in my stead. I have been blessed with other influential mentors over the course of my life. But, Ranger Beverly was the spark plug that set me on my path.

During my summer travels in my camper in the United States, I frequent national parks. I make it a point to stop by park visitor centers to talk with park rangers and to observe their work with youth through the Junior Ranger Program. Park Service Rangers are now trained to utilize Socratric (inquiry-based) teaching methods that pose questions to the students rather than lecturing to them. This powerful teaching method builds critical thinking skills and helps build a consciousness for Nature and Her interdependent character in the minds and souls of young people.  Through their important work, these US Park Service rangers are creating a legacy much like the legacy I acquired from Ranger Beverly some 70 years ago. I respect and praise their work. Their efforts have the potential of building a new and sustainable consciousness for Nature within our youth.

 

Why Do I Write These Essays?

Nothing in Nature exists in isolation. The movement of life’s energy, which originates in the sun, takes place because everything is interconnected and interdependent. Your consciousness of interdependence in Nature means that, every time you engage Nature, you ask yourself how a creature, a plant, yourself, or a natural object is connected to another and to Nature’s greater scheme of things. With this awareness you are prepared to protect Nature’s environment that sustains you. And, you create your legacy by encouraging others to do likewise.

 

If, after reading my essays, you find yourself embracing these ideas, I am thrilled in knowing that I’ve played some small part in setting this world view in motion in your mind.

  

Please Comment and Subscribe

I invite you to subscribe to my newsletter using the sign-up form provided at the upper right corner of this web page. As a subscriber you will receive regular email announcements of new essays that I publish or popular essays that i have previously published. In these essays you will have the opportunity to share comments and ideas about a topic. Your security is important to me. Please know that your email address is never distributed to anyone.

 

You are strongly encouraged to become one of my 11,000+ followers on Twitter. My Twitter ID is @ballenamar . With Twitter, in addition to receiving daily Tweets that announce my essays, you will see when I retweet something that I read and that I think is important.

 

Last updated by at .