March 26, 2005

Thylacine bounty madness!

Channel-surfing in a motel recently, I found an Animal Planet show on the possible survival of the thylacine, or "Tasmanian tiger," a marsupial predator whose last example supposedly died in a Tasmanian zoo in the 1930s.

The show was all pointless animated graphics, shots of attractive people dashing around SE Australia in a Jeep, and other people with with electric auras surrounding their heads--a high ratio of razzle-dazzle to actual information, but it did make this point: stockmen and others keep seeing what look like the thylacine or finding animals killed by a big predator. And other than feral dogs, it's the only possibility for Australia.

Now the Australian media are getting into the quest, with publications offering bounties.

The Bulletin magazine has offered a $1.25m reward, to celebrate the publication’s 125th anniversary.

However a report in the Mercury newspaper said another offer has topped it.

“We’ve been gazumped by the Bulletin so we’re going with (our $1.75m reward) now,” Stewart Malcolm of Thylacine Expeditions told the Mercury.

March 23, 2005

I an testing to see if this appears-- if it does I will be contributing.

March 15, 2005

Food blogging

After all, what is more natural than food. I've been Googling food blogs, and I won't even begin to try to list them all. It's a perfect marriage: A blog is perfect for discussing your particular place in detail, and so is the idea of trying to support local producers as much as possible. You could even make an argument (in some cases) for local "commercial" produce over "organic" avocados flown in from Chile, for example.

Some blogs critique industrial agriculture, for instance. I like that. But I also like "cooking for engineers" -- must be a "guy thing," but this makes sense.

March 08, 2005

Greens and Guns

Ted William's recent article in Audobon lambastes hunters, anglers, and environmental activists for failing to make common cause.

In political and financial strength, the 47 million Americans who hunt and/or fish are to environmentalists what the NFL is to Pop Warner football. So you'd think that the environmental community would be doing some manipulating of its own—or at least communicating. But it consistently blows opportunities.


March 01, 2005

The cranes are coming

National Geographic provides a live Web camera for watching the cranes' spring migration on the Platte River in Nebraska. Dawn and dusk (Central Time) are the best times to check it.

On the San Luis Valley flyway here in Colorado, the town of Monte Vista is preparing for annual Crane Festival. You can also read about last year's crane festival in this article by a first-time visitor.

February 09, 2005

"Environmentalism" is dead

The assertion that "environmentalism is dead" rocked me back for an instant, but I see the authors' point. (Registration required, or use

Their paper asserts that the movement's senior leadership was blinded by its early successes and has become short-sighted and "just another special interest." Its gloomy warnings and geeky, technocentric policy prescriptions are profoundly out of step with the electorate, Mr. Shellenberger and Mr. Nordhaus say.

"We have become convinced that modern environmentalism, with all of its unexamined assumptions, outdated concepts and exhausted strategies, must die so that something new can live," they wrote. As proof, they cite the debate on global warming and the largely unsuccessful push for federal regulation of industrial and automobile emissions.

They avoided making tactical prescriptions, but they did chide the movement for its limited efforts to find common ground with other groups, like labor and urged their compatriots to tap into the country's optimism.

Yup. Rants and jeremiads will get you only so far. Look at my other post for today; there is plenty of, um, energy to be tapped into.
Loving the trees

These young Scandinavians are taking the idea of erotic nature religion to its logical conclusion. Their public actions get attention too. (Not safe for work.)

February 02, 2005

Count birds in your own backyard

Want to do a little science but not have to spend too much time on data collection? Sign up online for the annual Great Backyard Bird Count, February 18-21. The bird sightings that you collect will go into a continent-wide database and "help build critcal information on long-term trends in bird populations," says Paul Green, director of citizen science for the Audubon Society.

February 01, 2005

The art of snow

What was forecast to be an 8-10-inch snowfall turned into three times as much last weekend. With no telephone service to call the man with the backhoe, the only way to open a Jeep-wide trail to the plowed county road was by hand. I reckon my wife and I moved about 600 cubic yards of snow with our one Ames snow shovel, a tool that I have to cherish these past few years.

Keeping my mind occupied beyond the mantra of "Scoop, scoop, scoop, step," I started inventing T'ai Chi Ch'uan moves: Bend Knees and Scoop, or Toss Snow Like Cloud. It was either that or drift back into humming one of Tenneesee Ernie Ford's greatest hits.

January 28, 2005

Forgotten pollinators

The state of North Caroline is beginning to realize that without bees, agricultural production plumments.

Other voices have been proclaiming this crisis for some time.

January 16, 2005

"The Silence of Sasquatch"

I have no personal experience of Sasquatch, or Bigfoot, although in my newspaper days I interviewed a man living two counties north of here who swore he had seen a couple of them walking in the snow near his house. He photographed the three-toed (?) tracks: they went down a road . . . and ended suddenly.
Still, I have problems imagining a hairy primate that could live year-round in the Rockies, unless it hibernated like a bear. On the other hand, one of the best Sasquatch books (set in Washington state, however), was written by a respected naturalist, Robert Michael Pyle: Where Bigfoot Walks: Crossing the Dark Divide.

It in turn inspired Joel Weishaus' digital project, "The Silence of Sasquatch: Toeing the Dark Divide," which is worth a look.

January 14, 2005

Animals translated

Temple Grandin, professor of animal science at Colorado State University (Fort Collins), is well-known for her claim that her own mild autism makes her more able to understand animal behavior than do most "normal" people. In her words, "the 'Interpreter' in the normal human brain that filters out detail, creating an unintentional blindness that animals and autistics do not suffer from."

She develops this idea in her article ,"Thinking the Way Animals Do" and now in a new book, co-written with Catherine Johnson, PhD., Animals in Translation.

January 12, 2005

Buffalo wings, 1964

An amazing food timeline starts with water and includes histories, recipes, and cookbook references.

January 11, 2005

George knows

Goddard College has created an environmental and sustainability studies resource page at its web site. Named "George," for Vermonter George Perkins Marsh, the page provides an extensive collection of print and electronic sources. They are of particular use to undergraduates and beginning graduate students.
Fear is oneness

One of the outdoor-gear catalogs that clog my mailbox recently advertised, "Get close to nature, but not too close." The product advertised was a sleeping pad.

Then there was novelist Geoffrey Household's approach. In his thriller Watcher in the Shadows (1960), the protagonist, a former British Ww 2 spy, is being stalked by an assassin in the English countryside. He thinks, "I believe that for the animal always, and for man sometimes, fear is only a vivid awareness of one's unity with nature."

It's one of few spy novels set in a realistically described outdoor setting, where wildlife plays a role in the plot.

The movie adaptation was Deadly Harvest, which moved the action to California and made it a Cold War movie.