Not so very long after the 2016 U.S. presidential election results were announced, more than just a few people in the so-called “blue states” began openly wondering about the possibility of breaking away from the rest of the country and setting up one of their own. It’s not terribly surprising. For a substantial portion of the citizens in such states as Oregon, Washington, and California, much of what the new president-elect had been openly threatening to do for the many embarrassing months of his campaign were so diametrically opposed to what they saw as the right way to live – as individuals, with one another, and with the world around them – that they quickly came to see secession as a viable alternative to enduring a life under the new administration.
However what many of these potential would-be secessionists may not have known is that in 1975, Ernest Callenbach’s novel Ecotopia portrayed in remarkable detail what such a possible successful secession of the “left coast” might look like twenty years following the split. Rejected by over twenty publishers prior to finally seeing print, Ecotopia has developed from an obscure word-of-mouth recommended novel (reviewers initially refused to give it any attention at all) into a genuine classic of modern fiction with over a million copies having been printed. Thus in 2015, Heyday Books brought out this special Ecotopia – 40th Anniversary Epistle Edition containing the full text of the novel as well as Callenbach’s breath-takingly prescient 2012 essay “Epistle to the Ecotopians.” Keep reading…
Recent Book Reviews
It never fails. Whenever we have any fruit in the house, not five minutes following the missus pouring herself a glass of her favorite pinot, I hear her utter a mild oath under her breath and notice that she’s playing lifeguard to a floundering Drosophila melanogaster. “Why do these things have to exist?” she exasperatedly exclaims – rhetorically, or course, as she knows perfectly well I could very easily (and with more than just a little enjoyment) launch into a short disquisition on the ecological and scientific importance of the species. Nevertheless, her frustration is understandable, as is the emotion behind her question – being one that the vast majority of the planet’s human population has at one time or another uttered in earnest. Keep reading…
How do you begin to understand something you’ve never before seen – or perhaps even knew existed? Do you try to relate it to a thing about which you do know? Do you seek out the counsel of those you consider knowledgable, or those who have at least been identified to you as knowledgable? And what if this thing you are trying to fit into your understanding isn’t even something you’ve actually seen for yourself but only something that has been described to you; not in film or in photographs but only in words with perhaps a simple sketch as proof of its existence? How do you separate what might be factual from what could very well be fantasy? Keep reading…
Newly Noted Books
Having been raised on the Oregon coast, I’ve seen a good number of whales over the years; however each and every one has been of the species which tend to venture into viewing distance from the shore; Gray Whales being far and away the most frequent of my sightings. Of the beaked whales, those little-known species only found in deep waters and remote locations, despite having gone to sea in ships, I have seen nary a one.
Planning a trip to, or presently living in, Spain? (Goodness knows I certainly wish I was!) If so – as you’re reading this publication – chances are you’ll likely be wanting to include at least a little “naturalizing” in your activities.
Zoos are amazing places. At their best, the modern forms mix research and spectacle into a melange that has the power to both entertain as well as enlighten. At their worst… well, let us not dwell on that at present. And as to their history; in their previous existence as menageries and indeed, right up into living memory, some have not only been institutions of scientific study, but but also centers of far more social and political influence than we would likely think possible today.
A social media message from the Oregon Department of Forestry about the coïncidence of the expected eclipse-viewing tourist deluge with the peak of the state’s wildfire season got me thinking about just how wildfires effect both ecosystems as well as economies. However a wildfire in central Oregon is not the same type of event as, say, a wildfire in Nebraska, or in southern California, for that matter.
Most readers of this publication are likely to be at least somewhat familiar with the famous 1831-1836 journey of Charles Darwin aboard the H.M. S. Beagle (and for those who aren’t, I highly recommend his own account of it, published as The Voyage of the Beagle). However much less attention seems to be given to what happened at the locations of his researches afterward.
With the exception of ants, it’s difficult to imagine an arthropod more colonial than bees. However in thinking of bees this way, we all-to-often forget that not all bees are colonial. In Britain and Ireland, for example, there are approximately ten times more species of solitary bee than bumblebee and honeybee species combined.
As luck would have it, the grade school I attended had just that year reduced its size from a kindergarten through sixth grade school to a kindergarten through fourth grade school as the result of a then new “middle school” being opened as part of a nineteen-seventies progressive restructuring that took in the fifth and sixth grade students from our grade school as well as two other grade schools in the area. As a result of this, my school ended up with a number of no longer needed classrooms – one of which was a biology lab.
I’ll save the story of what we discovered one day in the storage closet in that lab for another time; however for the purpose of this essay, what we discovered on the tables during a teacher-sent errand into this now-abandoned lab were microscopes – old-fashioned but perfectly serviceable microscopes, both compound and dissecting styles. None of the remaining teachers at the school had any use for them, so for the better part of that year they simply sat collecting dust in the usually locked lab.
The Well-equipped Naturalist
For as long as I’ve ventured afield in search of whatever nature might wish to show me, I’ve gone fully vested. That is to say, I’ve worn a field vest. Not that I have anything against day packs or shoulder bags, mind you; I just find that vests (or as my British friends call them, waistcoats) allow me to carry what I need in a way that allows me easy access to all of it while still letting me move about with a feeling of being unencumbered.
I was particularly pleased to discover that the 2 June 2017 issue of the Times Literary Supplement contained a review by Tom Holland of not just one but two recent books on foxes; Lucy Jones’ Foxes Unearthed: A Story of Love and Loathing in Modern Britain. from Elliott & Thompson, and How to Tame a […]
Having discovered the National Science Teachers Associations‘ Lab Out Loud during that organization’s 2017 annual convention in Los Angeles, I’ve added it to my roster of regularly followed podcasts, a decision I was particularly happy I made when I noted that their most recent episode contained a full-length interview of Sean B. Carroll discussing his recent […]