Model Mad, Painter

Mr. Bradford surveying the rotunda of the pavilion replica. Joshua White

We appreciate Mark Bradford’s concern about how he can represent the United States when he no longer feels represented by his government. Many of us on this platform are trying to find ways to express the same concern without resorting to nihilism, dystopic or other forms of hopelessness.

It takes an artist like Mr. Bradford to remind us of how we can creatively address this concern. It has the true ring of the same core concern driving others in the arts we have been pointing to in the model mad series. Thanks to Jori Finkel and the Arts section of the New York Times for An Artist’s Mythic Rebellion for the Venice Biennale:

LOS ANGELES — Mark Bradford, one of America’s most acclaimed painters, could not figure out what to put in the grand rotunda.

This artist, who is set to represent his country in May at the 2017 Venice Biennale, found an unusual way of working long-distance. In a warehouse in South Los Angeles, not far from where he grew up, he created a full-size model of the Biennale’s United States pavilion, a stately building with echoes of Monticello. Continue reading

Plants, Water & Sound

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Thanks to Brandon Keim and Anthropocene for this summary of some recent science exploring the reactions of flora to sound in their search for water:

Plants can hear water. Could noise pollution interfere?

There’s a transformation underway in how people think about plants: not just as inanimate biological objects, but as capable of perceptions and actions that resemble the intelligent behaviors of animals. Continue reading

Whispering Whales

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A mother and calf humpback whale swim in the Exmouth Gulf in Western Australia. Fredrik Christiansen/Functional Ecology

Thanks to National Public Radio (USA) for this story:

Recordings Reveal That Baby Humpback Whales ‘Whisper’ To Their Mothers

by Nell Greenfieldboyce

Whalesound.jpgBaby humpback whales seem to whisper to their mothers, according to scientists who have captured the infant whales’ quiet grunts and squeaks.

The recordings, described in the journal Functional Ecology, are the first ever made with devices attached directly to the calves. Continue reading

Lowly Creature May Represent Saving Grace

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Wayne Boo/USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab

Thanks to National Public Radio (USA) for this new appreciation for an otherwise underappreciated creature:

A Worm May Hold The Key To Biodegrading Plastic

MERRIT KENNEDY

People around the world use more than a trillion plastic bags every year. They’re made of a notoriously resilient kind of plastic called polyethylene that can take decades to break down.

But a humble worm may hold the key to biodegrading them. Continue reading

Not Quite Water Into Wine, But Righteous Indeed

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Mark Szmaida, right, Chelsea Craft Brewing’s head brewer, and Devin Hardy, the co-leader of Toast Ale’s American project, inspected the bread mash for the first batch. Credit Gregg Vigliotti for The New York Times

We have featured plenty stories about reducing food waste, and plenty about brewing various beverages, but this is the first story we have found at the intersection of the two:

Toast Ale, From Recycled Bread, Is Now Brewed in New York

By

Overproduction is built right into the business model of most bakeries. While we devour much of what is made, huge quantities of perfectly good grain are tossed.

But Tristram Stuart, an Englishman who began battling food waste 15 years ago, long before it became a popular cause, discovered a way to turn bread, an inexpensive product with a short shelf life, into one that’s long-lived and lucrative: craft ale. Continue reading

Breaking Rules When The Result Is Worth It

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The strawberries at Harry’s Berries, grown in Oxnard, Calif., are harvested only once every five days, to give the fruit time to reach its peak flavor. Credit Amy Dickerson for The New York Times

Renegade behavior in the abstract attracts us almost always. We admit to favoring examples, cases, histories that point to unusual choices that we think provide a model for others to follow to solve problems. However, sometimes there is no choice but to point to the downside of renegade behavior, aka breaking the rules on which society depends. And there are plenty of lousy renegades we read about but do not foul up these pages with. Today, it’s coming up strawberries. Thanks to Rick and Molly and to Karen Stabiner for bringing this story forward:

Red, Ripe and Renegade: Berries That Break All the Rules

“This one should be O.K.,” he said, sounding not quite convinced. Then again, his definition of ripe is more stringent than most. Continue reading

Osage Nation’s Reign Of Terror

20253bbcb2dd6c45dd81207b5472e853c352bbd3Many of our links to the too many stories of injustice perpetrated against Native Americans in the last year had to do with pipelines.  Some stories focus on the positive, but there remains plenty of negative. The only time we have noted the Osage Nation in these pages, it was under the happier circumstances of someone doing the right thing by them.

David Grann’s new book is being reviewed, and he is being interviewed, just as one of his earlier articles has become a powerhouse cinematic experience. He is our kind of sleuth, and so it is strange that we have not linked to his work before. Thanks to Theodore Ross in the New Republic for bringing this to our attention:

…In the early 1900s, the Osage were among the wealthiest people in the United States, after a large oil reservoir was discovered beneath the barren Oklahoma scrubland they had been driven to by white settlers and the federal government. Then tragedy: a string of murders, each following close on the heels of the next, as a bloody plot to separate the Osage from their money and land unfolded.

Grann tells the story of these murders, the conspirators, and the new breed of lawmen from the FBI who hunted them down. He also reveals a far worse scheme, one that encompasses America’s institutional racism and violence, and the exploitation of Native Americans… Continue reading

If You Happen to Be at the Smithsonian – But You Don’t Have to Be

Science, entrepreneurship, conservation and innovation converge at this amazing open source summit with events in multiple Smithsonian locations ranging from New York City, Washington DC and Panama City.

Frequent contributor to this site Phil Karp, will participate in a forum on Restoring Nature. The synergy of forum subjects with our interest in wild foods and our work in conservation focused hospitality makes us wish we were there.

What’s Working in Conservation

Earth Optimism celebrates a change in focus from problem to solution in the area of global conservation with an unprecedented gathering of thought leaders, scientists, environmentalists, artists, civic leaders and international media.

The global conservation movement has reached a turning point. Continue reading

Public Domain Cultural Jukebox

Alan Lomax, in 1992. As computer technology progressed, Lomax envisioned a searchable database for music from around the world. Credit G. Paul Burne

Some say music is the earliest communal art form, and one that continues to connect us. The inclusiveness of Alan Lomax’s vision with the Association for Cultural Equity and the Global Jukebox carries that inspiration further, with interactive features that connect the dots between music, culture and geography, paying “tribute to the expressive styles of all peoples within the framework of cultural equity and the diversity which is crucial to our survival as a species.”

Alan Lomax Recordings Are Digitized in a New Online Collection

Alan Lomax made it his lifelong mission to archive and share traditional music from around the world. He spent decades in the field, recording heralded artists like Muddy Waters and Woody Guthrie, as well as far more obscure musicians, from the British Isles to Haiti. He also created systems to classify this music and explore the links between cultures.

Lomax died in 2002, but the organization he founded, the Association for Cultural Equity (ACE), is hoping to further his research with the Global Jukebox, a new online database. The project, an interactive website, allows users to listen to and learn about more than 6,000 songs from 1,000 cultures — including many from Lomax’s personal collection. Continue reading

Tools, Tinkering, Science & Salvation

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Tim Boucher sets a camera trap near a bird of paradise lek. Photo © The Nature Conservancy (Justine E. Hausheer)

Camera traps are never going to lose our fascination, and have played a mitigating role in our non-Luddite but still determined effort to keep it simple, back to nature. The future depends on innovation, and we cannot hide behind trees pretending otherwise. If conservation efforts are going to compete effectively against the forces supporting environmental destruction, unconventional approaches are needed. We are entrepreneurially-inclined, and so are naturally comfortable with FishFace, among seven innovative pivots to a better future described by the wonderful team at Cool Green Science:

7 Science Innovations That Are Changing Conservation

BY ,

In our still relatively brief existence, humans have evolved our way to an era many are now calling the Anthropocene – a new geological epoch defined by human impact on Earth. But our unparalleled creativity is a double-edge sword. We are undeniably contributing to many of the global challenges now facing our species, and all species who share this planet. Continue reading

The Honeymoon Is Over

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‘But when it comes to the defining issue of our day, climate change, he’s a brother to the fat old guy in DC.’ Photograph: Sean Kilpatrick/AP

Bill McKibben, tireless fighter for causes we believe in, editorializes with no affection for the man who not long ago seemed to be the embodiment of all that was better about the North American neighbor of the country that elected a man who effectively campaigned against environmental protection. We thought this one was different; we were wrong. We avoid political news, but we do not hide from, nor hide, a clear argument calling out horrific policy:

Stop swooning over Justin Trudeau. The man is a disaster for the planet

Donald Trump is a creep and unpleasant to look at, but at least he’s not a stunning hypocrite when it comes to climate change Continue reading

Paleo Diet – Served Up Straight

Banksy’s “Caveman”. Credit: Lord Jim Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Thanks to Scientific American‘s Guest Blog feature for this interesting fodder for thought.

The “True” Human Diet

From the standpoint of paleoecology, the so-called Paleo diet is a myth

People have been debating the natural human diet for thousands of years, often framed as a question of the morality of eating other animals. The lion has no choice, but we do. Take the ancient Greek philosopher Pythagoras, for example: “Oh, how wrong it is for flesh to be made from flesh!” The argument hasn’t changed much for ethical vegetarians in 2,500 years, but today we also have Sarah Palin, who wrote in Going Rogue: An American Life, Continue reading

Letters to Young Farmers

PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY THE DAILY BEAST

The reference of the title isn’t lost on us, for the “everyday act of creation”, of coaxing bounty from the soil, is a form of poetry. We applaud both the advisors and the ears on which the advice falls.

Letters to a Young Farmer is full of good counsel for the next generation from the likes of Wendell Berry, Michael Pollan, and the noted novelist Barbara Kingsolver.

Dear young farmer,

Let me speak to you as a familiar, because of all the years I’ve cherished members of your tribe. Of course, I also know you’re only yourself, just as I remember the uniqueness of every intern, WWOOFer, and summer weed-puller who has spent a season or two on our family’s farm. Some preferred to work without shoes. Some were captivated by the science of soils, botany, and pest management. Some listened to their iPods, or meditated, or even sang as they hoed and weeded, while others found no music among the bean bee­tles. A few confessed to finding this work too hard, but many have gone on to manage other farms or buy places of their own. In these exceptional souls I invest my hopes….

Continue reading

WhaleCam, Antarctica

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While fish were surf-spawning in California, the Guardian was sharing this footage from way down south:

The World Wildlife Fund released this footage filmed in March 2017 that shows the view from a camera attached to a whale in Antarctica. Scientists used suction cups to attach cameras to humpback and minke whales, revealing new feeding habits and their social lives. The data gathered will be used to protect whales and their ecosystems

Surf Spawning Spree

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Female grunions twist their bodies tail first into the sand and lay 2,000 to 3,000 eggs, which males then fertilize. Credit Doug Martin

Thanks to Joanna Klein and the Science section of the New York Times for this explanation of a full moon mating phenomenon:

Silver Fish Surf the Waves to Spawn on California Beaches

Every year, thousands of little fish ride waves onto Southern California’s beaches at night to lay and fertilize eggs. High up in the sand, they squirm, wriggle and wrap around one another. As they dance beneath the moonlight, the beach transforms into a twinkling tapestry of spawning silver bodies. It’s known as the grunion run, and within a few hours, the show is over. Continue reading

Biophilia Bathing

“In every walk with Nature one receives far more than he seeks.”
― John Muir

Muir has long been a muse for many on this site, as we ponder the concept of Biophilia and the power of nature in our lives. We are motivated to work on conservation initiatives for plenty of reasons, including our belief in the link between wellbeing and a fix of nature. From bonsai, bamboo fountains and the meditative sand raking in Zen gardens, the Japanese have a long cultivated the restorative forces of natural elements, so their embrace of forest bathing is no surprise…

The Japanese practice of ‘forest bathing’ is scientifically proven to be good for you

The tonic of the wilderness was Henry David Thoreau’s classic prescription for civilization and its discontents, offered in the 1854 essay Walden: Or, Life in the Woods. Now there’s scientific evidence supporting eco-therapy. The Japanese practice of forest bathing is proven to lower heart rate and blood pressure, reduce stress hormone production, boost the immune system, and improve overall feelings of wellbeing. Continue reading

From Ew To Wow, To OMG

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When it comes to biopesticides, one of the most widely used fungi is Beauveria bassiana. Above, a kudzu bug killed by Beauveria bassiana, seen growing out of the cadaver. Courtesy of Brian Lovett/University of Maryland Entomology

Thanks to the salt, at National Public Radio (USA) for their sharing the creepy- crawliest news from the realm of mycologists working on clean solutions to some massive, dirty challenges, and changing the rules of pest management along the way:

Fungal Pesticides Offer A Growing Alternative To Traditional Chemicals

When it comes to biopesticides, one of the most widely used fungi is Beauveria bassiana. Above, a kudzu bug killed by Beauveria bassiana, seen growing out of the cadaver. Continue reading

No Forestry? No Way

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A caged songbird overlooks a logging yard in East Kalimantan, Indonesia. Photo © The Nature Conservancy (Justine E. Hausheer)

Thanks to Justine E. Hausheer for Modeling Logging’s Impacts on Biodiversity & Carbon in a Hypothetical Forest over at Cool Green Science:

Tropical forests are widely celebrated for their biodiversity and increasingly recognized for their carbon sequestration potential. But what’s less often acknowledged is halting logging entirely will make climate change worse, as wood is one of the most sustainable building materials.

So how can conservationists help nations meet the demand for wood products and protect forests, while minimizing both biodiversity loss and carbon emissions? Continue reading

Wolf Wars Waning

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In 2007, a family of wolves in Idaho’s Sawtooth National Forest killed nine sheep. Ranchers who owned the sheep asked government wildlife managers to kill the wolves; but local wolf supporters and conservationists protested, asking instead for a non-lethal solution. So began what became the Wood River Wolf Project, a landscape-scale, multi-year experiment in how ranchers, livestock, and wolves can live together peacefully. Continue reading

Democratizing Coffee Consumption

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Tony Konecny, the head of coffee operations at Locol, outside the branch in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles. CreditEmily Berl for The New York Times

We have no reason to debate the logic of a more reasonably priced cup of quality coffee:

Has Coffee Gotten Too Fancy?

By

LOS ANGELES — The $1 cup of coffee is divisive, as drinks go.

For some, it’s a staple of the American morning: a comforting routine, a good deal. Anything that costs more than $1 is needlessly expensive, a waste of money — the coffee from a deli, diner or doughnut cart is all you need to start the day. For others, the $1 cup is suspiciously cheap. Maybe it tastes bad, or its production does harm to the land and is unfair to laborers. If you have to pay more, then that is probably a reflection of a drink’s true cost. Continue reading