Late October Update


The little pumpkin plants are growing, but many perils await. I’m trying to cover the vines with dirt and coffee grounds, to protect against vine borers. Hopefully the shade from the wildflowers nearby will keep them safe from the mid-day sun, which is still blazing despite it being a few days until November. Maybe I’ll be able to give people pumpkins as Christmas presents?

Thank You

Thank you:

Franks sometimes has misgivings about the emphasis placed on experimentation with animal brains. Even as scientists learn more about the depth of animal thoughts and feelings, they continue to treat animals as means to human ends. It’s a concern shared by Lori Marino, whose research led to her present role as an animal advocate and activist, marshalling the science to argue for better ethics. “There’s a lot of stuff I’d like to know,” says Marino, “but I’m not going to kill a dolphin or stick electrodes in their brains or do invasive work just because I want to satisfy my curiosity.”

This quote is from a fascinating article about what humans think other animals are thinking: “Animal Minds“. It should come as no surprise to you, if you read this blog, that I think the danger of not anthropomorphising far outweighs the danger of doing so. If the worst we can say of thinking, for example, that rats are capable of empathy is that it is unscientific, then to me it’s worth perpetuating the idea, if only to save a few rats from being tortured—er, I mean, having experiments run on them.

One of the ideas debated in the article is whether or not crows can use syntax. I think it would be cool to learn that they can, but either way, it should be obvious that they’re not simply Cartesian machines, i.e. things. As such, they deserve respect, no?

“When I Consider How My Light Is Spent,” Reconsidered

My first thought when reading what I wrote more than three years ago about Milton’s “When I Consider How My Light Is Spent” is that, wow, I used to write long, convoluted sentences. Maybe I was trying too hard to be complex. Since then I’ve come to think that the beauty in any form of communication is its simplicity—its elegance.

But w/r/t the poem, it remains one of my favorites, so I’m glad it was the first one I included in my list (which isn’t final, but isn’t exactly running these days, either). There is also a place for those who stand and wait. Patience is a strange idea for environmentalists; we embed value in geologic time but also constantly attempt to combat apathy, the dirtiest of words.

Of course, the real enemy is the notion that there’s nothing we can do. I think such an enemy is insurmountable because it’s supported by overwhelming evidence.


Mid-October Update


Finally, a sweet pepper! Let’s see if it gets big enough to eat. The temperature swings as of late (90s in the day, 60s at night) have probably confused many of the older plants, while the younger ones (spinach, pumpkin, lettuce, et al.) are happy just to be getting daylight and water.


Here I was, worried about massive die-offs, but apparently bees* are doing just fine.

Yet, according to this report (linked in the above article):

We use a spatial habitat model, national land-cover data, and carefully quantified expert knowledge to estimate wild bee abundance and associated uncertainty. Between 2008 and 2013, modeled bee abundance declined across 23% of US land area. This decline was generally associated with conversion of natural habitats to row crops. We identify 139 counties where low bee abundances correspond to large areas of pollinator-dependent crops. These areas of mismatch between supply (wild bee abundance) and demand (cultivated area) for pollination comprise 39% of the pollinator-dependent crop area in the United States. Further, we find that the crops most highly dependent on pollinators tend to experience more severe mismatches between declining supply and increasing demand. These trends, should they continue, may increase costs for US farmers and may even destabilize crop production over time.

Whew, that’s a relief.

*Domesticated, American honeybees