To borrow a few lines from Joni Mitchell’s arguably most famous song, “Don’t it always seem to go / That you don’t know what you got / ’Til it’s gone / They paved paradise / And put up a parking lot.” However when it comes to Idaho’s Silver Valley district, a century of mining for silver, lead, zinc, and other metals didn’t so much cause paradise to be paved as dug up, sifted and strained, and the remains dumped into the Coeur d’Alene River.
“Nearly the entire range of the Coeur d’Alene mountains, clothed with evergreen forests, with here and there an open summit covered with grass; numerous valleys intersecting the country for miles around; courses of many streams, marked by the ascending fog, all conduced to render the view fascinating in the greatest degree to the beholder…” So quotes Michael C. Mix, author of Leaded; the Poisoning of Idaho’s Silver Valley, from the writings of Isaac Stevens, first governor of the Washington Territory, who passed through and described the region in 1853. Stevens, as well as another quoted visitor in the 1840s, the pioneer botanist Charles Geyer, painted a picture of a verdant wonderland of mountains and valleys stretching as far as the eye could see. However beneath all those trees, under the mountains, lay vast deposits of the very metals a rapidly industrializing nation desired. Keep reading…
Recent Book Reviews
In the movie Kinsey, Liam Neeson, portraying the noted (and in some camps notorious) scientist Alfred Kinsey, trying to understand the public outrage that followed the publication of his 1953 book Sexual Behavior in the Human Female, asks a colleague why this book has aroused such indignation while his original study (Sexual Behavior in the Human Male) did not. His colleague replies – and please forgive me for paraphrasing as I could not locate the exact quote – because you just told every man in American that their mothers and sisters were… well, let’s just say that they were doing something which would be very emotionally uncomfortable to imaging them doing. Keep reading…
At the beginning of the 1970s, Theodore Seuss Geisel, finding himself increasingly troubled by the rapid and careless commercial development of the land around the then still idyllic La Jolla, California where he and his wife made their home, decided to do something about it. After giving the matter some thought, he determined that the best thing he could do was the thing he did best: write a book for children about the importance of conservation. The problem was how to write it in a way that was not boring or preachy. Keep reading…
Newly Noted Books
There are those who say that the age of printed atlases is now past; that due to the so much information being available in quickly updatable digital formats that the production of the classic large format books of maps and pertinent geographic information is no longer needed.
Wildfires are peculiar phenomena in the American west. The bane of logging companies, they are also a necessity for the life cycle of many ecosystems. And despite how much damage they may do, in many instances they seem to be forgotten far more quickly than would seem reasonable.
I have walked through some of the world’s great man-made cathedrals, and I have walked through some of the Pacific Northwest’s great old growth forests; between the two, I prefer the forests. Not due to any anti-religious sentiments, mind you, rather because just as many people I know find a connection to the universe whilst praying in magnificent temples of glass and stone, I find that connection whilst sitting quietly – my own manner of prayer, if you will – in magnificent temples of moss and trees.
When it comes to the recounting of history, the focus has traditionally been on either wars or politics. However when it comes to places like the American west, the land itself has played as much a part in shaping what happened there – and indeed what is still happening – as either of these two traditional foci.
It was back in 2014 while attending the 2014 convention of the Entomological Society of America being held that year in Portland, Oregon that I first became aware of both the possibilities for, and scope of interest in, entomophagy. Intrigued by its traditional practice as well as by its potential for sustainability if expanded to a large scale, since that time I have never passed up an opportunity to learn more about it.
Since its original publication, Birds of the Horn of Africa by Nigel Redman, Terry Stevenson, and John Fanshawe has come to be widely regarded as the most authoritative and reliable field guide to the birds of that region. However, like all good natural history field guides, there comes a time when updates, expansions, revisions, and other emendations […]
Unlike James Taylor, I will soon be going to California not only in my mind but in an Alaska Airlines Boeing 737. I’ll be there for a week to attend to some business for Celestron in Los Angeles and to speak at the San Diego Bird Festival. Thus in keeping with my preferred practice of taking along a book or two with relevance to my destination, I’m planning to pack copies of the American Birding Association Field Guide to the Birds of California by Alvaro Jaramillo and the recently published third edition of Insects of the L.A. Basin by Charles L. Hogue and James N. Hogue in my shoulder bag.
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.
There was apparently so much palaeological goodness at the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology’s 2016 meeting in Salt Lake City this year that Palaeocast couldn’t contain their coverage of it in a single podcast episode.
For those who, like me, enjoy listening to intelligent people having intelligent conversations with one another about science and natural history, I am pleased to report that I was recently made aware of a podcast that perfectly fits this description: STEMxm.