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Wigeon And All

Anas americanaAn American Wigeon (Anas americana) and American Black Duck (Anas rubripes).

The other day a commentor here bemoaned the intrusion of ideas into his refined quest for pictures of nature. Those who refuse to make the connection between politics and the natural world, or what there is of it, are a monstrous problem.

From the beginning this blog has been inspired by Henry David Thoreau. You can read posts I’ve written about him here. This is the 200th anniversary of the year of his birth. I am committed to honoring his great legacy of acute natural history observation and his politics. They were inseparable.

Stay tuned for more HDT200, including a new book by my friend Kevin Dann, Expect Great Things: The Life and Search of Henry David Thoreau, just outAs you can imagine, this is going to be a banner year for ol’ Henry. March sees Thoreau’s Animals, by another friend, Geoff Wisner. In April: Thoreau and the Language of Trees, by Richard Higgins is being published. In July: Laura Dassow Walls’ Henry David Thoreau: A Life. I’m sure there are others….

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A reminder, as if you needed it, by Michael Tomasky, of just how bad Trump’s gang of bigots, kleptocrats, and authoritarians promise to be.

Taking a lesson from the McCarthy era, this historian of that lamentable period surveys the future. The fiercely reactionary politics of Trumpism may try to resurrect “many of [McCarthyism’s] techniques and objectives. After all, the new regime relies on the same kind of right-wing forces.” In the case of the Koch brothers, a direct line to their father, who was one of the founders of the lunatic fringe John Birch Society.

Yikes!

caterpillarAnother detail from Audubon’s BoA. I’ve read that JJA had help with the plants in some of his paintings. But what about insects like this one?

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Gosh, this is rude. But bracing: the Rude Pundit begs to differ with this notion that we should respect the half-assed, conspiracy-addled, anti-intellectual ignorance of GOP-voting fools.

Raptor Wednesday

Accipiter cooperiiA Cooper’s Hawk on a winter’s day. JJAudubonHere’s Audubon’s rendition. Normally, I find JJ’s birds on the strangely attenuated side, longer and skinnier than they are, probably a result in his pinning up their dead bodies to illustrate them. But I like his capturing of the patterning on the back here very much.

Another thing I like is Mike Davis, a great American radical. LA has always been his beat, but he has much else to say. This interview in retirement gives a flavor.

Last call: my illustrated lecture at the fantastic Brooklyn Brainery is tonight at 8:30.

Rotten Wood

img_2117Here’s a guide to rebuilding the Democratic Party from the ground up. Those Augean Stables need a power-cleaning.

Fevers

Passerella iliacaA couple of the eight Fox Sparrows (Passerella iliaca) I ran into recently. That’s a lot for me. Usually I just seen one or two or a time. Passerella iliacaThese birds nest in the north, that north so radically changing now, in Newfoundland, and upper Quebec, and further west right into Alaska. This is the south they’ve migrated to for winter.

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Agents of the petroleum industry are about to take over the government, rather more so than usual. They will lie, deny, and destroy evidence, but the planet continues to warm at an alarming rate. They can’t change that. They can make it worse, though, and leave us even more unprepared.

Read this visceral piece on a veterinary pathologist working on the front lines of the Arctic, where the Earth’s fever is most extreme

We Are Petroleum Junkies

Hydrocarbons are a dog-damned miracle. The things we get out of crude oil, from fuel to explosives, from fertilizers to clothing, from pharmaceuticals to candle wax, from pesticides to plastics, from asphalt to inks… it’s just mind-boggling. Mostly we think of gasoline, but that’s not the half of it. The stuff both powers and rules civilization: we wear it, we eat it, we breath it. And what happens to the stuff when we burn it radically transforms the planet.

That old baked plankton, all that life from at least a 100,000,000 years ago, we shoot it up the mainline! I’ve been reading Eric W. Sanderson’s Terra Nova: The New World After Oil, Cars, and Suburbs. I think everybody should have a copy at home. The first half of the book is how we got here. The second, where we should go. (There’s a discussion of the book in this Roosevelt House/CUNY video.)

Here is where oil, cars, and suburbs have left us. Sanderson gives us a great primer on hydrocarbons and their “siren song,” which lured us into the mess we’re in now, especially during the halcyon days of the “cheap oil window” of the 1930s-1970s. I lived through some of this, but of course the times you grow up in always seem like the way things are, and always have been.

Part Two of the book is his vision of a new world. Here’s a teaser: we have to get rid of the automobile. Check! I’ve been on that track for some 35 years, never having owned a car.

You may have noticed the paucity of optimistic thinking about the future in recent decades, barring the usual bubble-mania-hype of the market. The Right even believes — gotta defend their privileges any way possible — that utopian thought leads, inevitably, to the gulag. Yup, straight line.

Yet in this mire we’re bogged down in, clear-headed thinking about the future, envisioning it (with actually existing technology, not science fiction), and proposing how to make those visions come true (politics) are more vital than ever. With The Dumpster approaching the White House, now more than ever. That makes this book a weapon. Arm yourselves!

Frozen

img_1957An early form of writing or waterfowl prints in the ice?

“Amazingly, we take for granted that instinct for survival, fear of death, must separate us from the happiness of pure and uninterpreted experience, in which body, mind, and nature are the same. And this debasement of our vision, the retreat from wonder, the backing away like lobsters from free-swimming life into safe crannies, the desperate instinct that our life passes unlived, is reflected in proliferation without joy, corrosive money rot, the gross befouling of the earth and air and water from which we came.” ~ Peter Matthiessen, The Snow Leopard. Reading this again after many years. I know a number of people who “chase” rare birds; they always make me think of this book.

Sometimes the hunt is very much besides the point. Just ask the Simorgh: the great being/power/bird “The Conference of Birds” journey to for answers in the 12th century Persian poem. Thirty birds, most reluctantly, with their all too human excuses, finally make it to meet the Simorgh, only to discover their own faces reflected back to them. “Simorgh” meaning, well, “thirty birds.”


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