October 30, 2005

Evangelicals and the environment

A Denver Post feature on Ted Haggard, pastor of Colorado Springs' huge New Life Church, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, and phone pal of President Bush, quotes him as saying that evangelical Christians should not make the same mistake on enviromental issues that they made on civil rights issues 40 years ago:

Haggard draws a parallel between the choice evangelicals face over the environment and a lost opportunity in the 1960s.

"We blew it with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.," Haggard said. "My generation's opportunity to blow it is to say we shouldn't deal with the environment because that's a liberal issue. Well, civil liberties was a liberal issue, and we were on the wrong side of that."

Haggard has urged the NAE towards environmental activism--although without allying themselves with mainstream environmental groups like the Sierra Club.

The debate over Christianity's relationship to environmental harm really began in 1967, when medieval historian Lynn White Jr. wrote an influential essay blaming Christianity for nurturing a Western form of science that treated nonhuman nature as simply soulless stuff.

The response by many Christians was to angrily attack environmentalism as "false religion".

But maybe people like Pastor Haggard are looking for a different path.

October 27, 2005

The clock of the seasons: sandhill cranes

On Wednesday the 19th I left my building, headed over to the Humanities office for a cup of coffee, and I heard them. A flock of 25-30 sandhill cranes was passing overhead, southbound, calling loudly.

None of the people passing by on the sidewalk looked up.

That night, under the gibbous Moon, more cranes passed over my house, and the next day there were more, maybe 60, circling to catch a thermal and then swinging south along the Wet Mountains.

Finally, on the 24th, a bright, cloudless fall day, I thought I heard more overhead when I was working outdoors, but I could not see them. Either M. was right and they were "ghost cranes," or they were behind the ridge.

The cranes' migration is like Big Ben donging the hour: early autumn is ending. All I can say is "Good-bye--see you in December at Bosque del Apache."

October 15, 2005

East Texas Bigfoot

It's Bigfoot conference time again--not in northern California, Oregon, Washington, or British Columbia, but in Texas, where "believers" (a rather snarky word on the reporter's part) gathered in Jefferson.

"It's not a matter of believing, like faith, when you believe in something you can't see," said Daryl G. Colyer, a Lorena businessman who has investigated hundreds of reported Bigfoot sightings in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana.

From the reporter's viewpoint, however, "believer" is code for "not rational, wears aluminum foil in his hat." I know; I once was one--a reporter, that is.

"You see one of these things and it changes your whole perception of reality," said Craig Woolheater, the office manager of a Dallas company who co-founded the Texas Bigfoot Research Center in 1999, five years after he said he saw a hairy creature walking along a remote Louisiana road.

Colyer and others estimate that about 2,000 are in North America today, reclusive nocturnal animals living in thickly wooded areas with waterways, eating meat and plants and making nests out of trees and brush.

So if you associate Bigfoot only with the Pacific Northwest, these people beg to differ.

I have no claims of Bigfoot sightings myself, but one rational friend had an interesting experience in SW Colorado. I honestly don't know what is out there, but there is nothing like a wild forest-dwelling humanoid to fuzz the boundaries between "nature" and "culture."

October 12, 2005

It feels like the 1970s again

Firewood sales up, new interest in solar panels, people buying locking gas caps for their cars--if you remember 1973, the year of the OPEC oil embargo, the social landscape is beginning to look familiar, says writer Mark Clayton in the Christian Science Monitor.

"The country spent about 20 years learning how to save energy and the next 12 years forgetting more than we ever learned," says Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute, an energy think tank in Snowmass, Colo. Subsidies for fossil-fuel development, contained in recent energy legislation, will end up being a costly waste as the economy and the public move toward efficiency on their own, he predicts.

Meanwhile, it's a good time to be in the firewood business. (Link via What's in Rebecca's Pocket.)

October 08, 2005

Spinach Mother of Christ

In his comment to my earlier post, Steve Bodio mentioned the Virgin Mary's love of spinach.

This is as well a known fact in Nazareth today as it was 19 centuries ago. Her favorite music was that of the crude bagpipes of the time, and this also a well-known fact. . . . .On the eve of Christ's birth in the cave that was called a stable, Her only meal was spinach.

Thus speaks George Leonard Herter. That Dan Brown did not mention "Spinach Mother of Christ" in The Da Vinci Code is reason enough to suspect his scholarship. Maybe it will be in the movie.

Essentially, fresh or frozen cooked spinach is mixed with garlic cloves that have been sauteed in butter, and then the spinach mixture is pureed.

Today in Belgium and Germany a little nutmeg is sprinkled over the top of the puree. This, however, was not in the original recipe..

—From Bull Cook and Authentic Historical Recipes and Practices, eleventh edition, 1967.

October 07, 2005

The clock of the seasons: Project Feeder Watch

It's not the golden blotches of aspen leaves on the Wet Mountains, nor is it the front porch thermometer reading 20 degress F. (-6 C.) when I got up this morning.

It's the fat envelope from Cornell University's ornithology lab Project Feeder Watch.

Project Feeder Watch is true citizen science. All over the county, people keep an eye on their birdfeeders for an hour or two--or more--every two weeks during the winter. They report the number of each species that they see...and that's it.

But there is no better way to watch for changes in the natural world than to look at the same thing in the same place, year after year, and record it.

October 04, 2005

The Anasazi Exodus

Writing in High Country News, Craig Childs profiles archaeologist Susan Ryan, who takes a new road between two views of the Anasazi, the ancient inhabitants of the Four Corners region. Not just refugees from drought or war, some of them apparently abandoned their pueblos in an orderly and ritualistic fashion.

Childs now can speak what archaeologists used to discuss only outside their offices: the evidence of war and violence, which has been known since the 1940s at least but which was not part of the official Park Service story of "peaceful ceremonialists":

[At one excavated site] The list of human remains revealed in the excavation reads like a war crimes indictment: infants, children, adults and elders, all found piled upon each other or scattered across the grounds and in the many rooms, their bones often disarticulated and thrown about. When the end came to this particular pueblo, it was sudden and decisive.

This tale of violence has become the new fashion among certain archaeologists. Evidence of prehistoric warfare has moved to the forefront: ancient towers found stashed with infants and children who were burned alive; skeletons discovered dismembered. Some researchers envision vicious thugs from Central America, roving gangs of cannibals overrunning pueblos weak from years of drought. Others imagine death cults and ritualized torture

Archaeologist Christy Turner finally blew the lid off that coverup in his book Man Corn: Cannibalism and Violence in the Prehistoric American Southwest , which reads like CSI: Mesa Verde.

Ryan, however, also found other sites where the burning of underground kivas seems to have followed the placement of offerings to the gods rather than violent attacks. She thinks some pueblos were depopulated in an orderly and planned fashion.

"There are all these theories about violence and drought," Ryan once said. "Why couldn’t it be as simple as it’s time to go? This culture is sedentary and nomadic at the same time. Maybe ecologically it makes sense so you don’t overstay your welcome. Sometimes you just up and go."

What impresses Ryan is that toward the end of the occupation here, the population skyrocketed. People were moving in from all around. Ryan thinks they might have been preparing for a mass exodus.

There is also a tale about a rattlesnake skeleton: Steve Bodio has more about it.

October 03, 2005

Thinking about disaster

The Mason Gulch Fire is still with us. Colorado Central, a magazine that I sometimes write for, has asked me for a 2,000 word essay on preparedness, evacuation, looters, and all of it. After hurricanes Rita and Katrina, a lot of writers are talking about "go bags, " cash stashes, food storage, firearms, and not letting the gasoline tank go below half full.

Survival literature has a long history in America. Just 45 years ago, during the height of the Cold War, George Leonard Herter, founder of Herter's Inc., (now part of Cabela's) had a few things to say in his eccentric cookbook Bull Cook and Authentic Historical Recipes and Practices.

One appendix is titled “In Case of a Hydrogen Bomb Attack You Must Know the Ways of the Wilderness to Survive.”

Get out of town, he says, regardless of what the “would-be authorities” say. “Have a wood stove that can be set up in abandoned house or shelter.”

He continues with more suggestions: dried food, matches in waterproof containers, and .22 rifle with at least 1,000 rounds of ammunition for both small-game hunting and self-defense. “Bombings bring looting and the looting is done in most all cases by so-called friends who live near you. This is what happened in both World War I and II.” (Herter came from a Belgian family.)

Finally, after discussing medicines, Herter concludes, “Have 5 one-pound cans of tobacco. This is your fortune. If there is any food or material available that you need, the tobacco will get it for you when money will not.”

There is a peculiar thrill to imagining cataclysmic disaster of such a scale that money would be worthless and you would be picking off looters from the entrance to your cave.

Here in southern Colorado, though, I will stick to planning for forest fires and blizzards.