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Asking me to look at the moon is like telling a construction worker it’s his job to ogle a skimpy dress. I’m going to do it anyway, and I’ve been doing it all my life. And there’s probably nothing much I’m going to notice this month that I haven’t pondered for years.

When I was a teenager, you knew which room was mine. My friends had pictures of Farrah Fawcett on their walls – the one in the red swimsuit… yeah, you know the one. Me? I had the moon. It was a huge poster included in the August 1969 edition of National Geographic, and I pinched it from my mom’s collection so I could cover almost one quarter of the real estate in my room. I’d sit on my bed and stare at it. For hours. I traced out the locations of the moon landings, and tacked photos of each pair of astronauts near their respective landing sites. I memorized the names of craters and seas, and I’ll bet my eyes expanded to the size of saucers the first time I realized why Mare Tranquillitatis on my moon map resembled the name Mare Mediterraneum on the map of ancient Rome.

When I look at Luna today, I still feel my eyeballs grow to try and soak up the image. I struggle – in vain, of course – to see the lander platforms and the rovers that were left behind. I imagine the wire-supported forms of the flags “fluttering” in the vacuum of space. And I remember all I’ve learned since I sat awestruck on that bed: the laser reflectors left behind to calculate the 238,897 miles between there and here on demand, the complex search for water, the comically inept attempts to deny we were ever there, and the awesome rebuttals from the people you’d expect to rise to the challenge.

And I ask myself the same question most people ask when they look upon The Man Made of Cheese: “When shall we return?”


Exotic invasive

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Let’s get something straight right up front. I may try to be a good Catholic boy nowadays, but I’ve spent enough time around military men and other foul-mouthed beasts (and occasionally been both) to giggle every time I heard someone use that expression during this course. Doesn’t it sound like environmentalist pron? “She has a nice pair of melaleucas on her, if you know what I mean and I think you do….”

Sorry, blame allelopathy for that particular poisonous thought.

Now that I think about it, the metaphor might be disgusting, but it’s appropriate. Exotic invasives treat the environment around them with the same level of concern an “adult film” producer has for “family values” in the Internet age. They invade the space, multiply virally, and suck up the nutrients from everything good and fertile around them until there’s nothing left but a wasteland populated by their own filth. Once entrenched in their new habitat, they are almost impossible to extract and destroy. When progress is made to reclaim the landscape, it is only through endless patience and mountains of hard work.

Possibly the scariest example we see of this today is the Burmese Python, whose relatively recent arrival in the Everglades only intensifies the horror of its explosive propagation. Some biologists claim the number of them living in the wild of South Florida could be well over 100,000, and recent YouTube videos demonstrate how well they can depopulate native species like deer and even alligators.

A little closer to home – on my shoelaces, to be exact – is the seed of the caesar weed plant. My children have always collected these little burrs as they played outside in nearby yards and vacant lots, so it was no surprise to me when I was asked to pull the plants from around the nature trails on campus for a service learning event. It’s tough enough to pull them off when you want to, so I can easily imagine them traveling hundreds of miles before dropping off to seed somewhere else. The little ceasar weed might not be as tough as the melaleuca or as ferocious as the Burmese python, but it does benefit from being just plain stubborn.

Almost as stubborn as Joe Francis in an off-campus bar on a Friday night.


Are they really consumer “goods”?

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When I woke up this morning, there was a package on the floor. Okay, so maybe calling him the “package” is a bit harsh, but I helped bring him home to my daughter’s house last Christmas, so I reserve the right. Even more so, since – like any bad present – he eventually ended up back on my doorstep as a regift. He comes equipped with an outer covering of thick fur that would keep him nice and toasty during the cold Bavarian winters, were he ever to actually experience one. Unfortunately for him, he was born in Florida, so instead he’s forced to pant his way through most of the hot days and steamy nights.

This really has nothing to do with this assignment, but during any 24-hour period, I bet I pull a half a pound of that warm and fuzzy gift wrap off that sucker, and it can’t possibly be good for the environment. Heck, my mom spent two hours vacuuming yesterday, and there’s gotta be three pounds of it in the garbage this morning. I’m certain my electric bill went up $100 for that alone. Next time, I’m rescuing a Mexican Hairless from the pound.

Back to packaging… I normally don’t see a whole lot on any given day, because we shop weekly at BJ’s warehouse. As soon as we get home, all the meat is opened up and repacked in the freezer in cellophane. (And you can’t see cellophane!) Ditto the breakfast cereals, which get stored in Rubbermaid containers in the pantry. I see the Maxwell House tub, provided my eyes open wide enough while making coffee, which is rare. That big blue plastic monstrosity is huge and each one lasts us about a month. So I’m not throwing many of those out.

When I get my coffee, I dispense it into the same old mug I’ve been using for years, so no packaging there. My sub from the deli came on a piece of waxpaper over a reusable plastic tray, so I suppose I can count that, as little as it is.

The only real “litter” I encounter during the day is the wrapper of the tiny little single-serving M&M bag I pulled from David Jones’ candy drawer. Jones uses the candy drawer to appease people who are always annoyed with the fact that he manages the MIS team: too few people doing too much work and ignoring a whole lot of complaints that just don’t merit enough attention because other people yell louder.

Thus, we arrive at what MUST be the moral of this story: if we had more computer programmers and desktop support geeks in the world, there would be less trash in landfills, because no one would need to wallow in the comfort that chocolate brings. So think green: give a geek a job.


Ode de tillage

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Okay, I’m weird – sue me. But I do love the smell of manure.

It was the first thing I thought about when we started to walk through the laboratory of ecosystems at ECHO. Growing up in a rural area, never more than a few miles from farmland, I always equate the “fresh” smell of cows with “home”. And boy, does ECHO smell homey at times.

In a roundabout way, I think that’s very much the point of ECHO. It might not be a popular thought in our sterilized and homogenized suburban culture, but that smell carries with it a king’s ransom of nutrients that too much of the rest of the world doesn’t have or can’t get. With conditions too wet, too dry, too rocky, or too barren, many of the world’s poorest communities have a hard time acquiring even the most basic of necessities. Without those resources, the Western concept of what “home” should be might be too much for families to hope for as they struggle for survival.

Put another way: if the mere opportunity for fresh, healthy cow dung tilled into a field is considered a luxury to you, you could probably use a helping hand.

That’s what ECHO does – it offers a helping hand. With a methodical patience, the crew at ECHO replicates and analyzes the kinds of conditions that these poor communities struggle with, and attempts to find answers for them. Not the kind of answer a sterilized and homogenized suburbanite might pick, but answers that are technologically appropriate for that community. In that way, the third-world farmer might just begin to pull himself up toward a time and a condition when his children can sniff the air and wrinkle their noses.

Perhaps that’s another way of framing the question that Richard Louv is trying to ask with his idea of the “Nature-Deficit Disorder.” What exactly does it take to make a sterilized and homogenized suburbanite like the smell of “home”?



Filed Under Environment | Comments Off on Neighbors

Growing up in the hills of rural New Jersey, I was a lucky kid.  There was a big yard to play in, surrounded almost entirely by woods strewn with huge boulders that were dug up and flung across the countryside by the last ice age. And in those woods were countless deer, bears, raccoons, and the million and one creepy crawly things little boys love to chase and poke and prod. Most winter mornings, the snow-draped lawn would show signs that the deer had passed by at dawn. Most summer evenings were filled with the smell of maple sap oozing out of the trees.

My favorite part of that childhood came in the springtime, after the snows had all melted and just as the foliage was hitting its peak before summer arrived in full force. I’d walk behind the house, plod through the underbrush for 20 minutes or half an hour until I was deep enough into the woods that I was protected from most of the sounds of civilization nearby. I’d pick a sturdy tree three or four times as big around as I was, and put my back against it.

That’s it – I’d just sit, and listen, and smell. I’d try to keep a sharp eye out and spot wildlife, but most of my forest neighbors were smarter than me in that department, and they’d stay away. Sometimes, as I got impatient, I’d start tipping over rocks to figure out what was under them. I’d study the maze of little tunnels created by a nest of ants, or count the ribs on an earthworm.

If I was especially industrious and lucky over the summer months, I’d find a bed with enough worms that I could come back with a foam cup and collect them, since they made the most excellent bait to catch catfish down at the lake. One time, I had enough for two cups full of them, so I tried to sell one cup down at the local bait shop. I really confused the proprietor, because he couldn’t comprehend that the little forest-wandering five-year-old didn’t understand how he farmed his worms in the worm beds in the back of the shop.

But those days usually didn’t end with such a remarkable accomplishment as that. I wasn’t going out there to make a score, or build a fortune, or save a buck. I just wanted to know what was out there, and soak it in. It seemed like the neighborly thing to do at the time – getting to know the folks next door.


Of fireballs and baseballs

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I love the environment on my server. I love to walk through the jungles of Stranglethorn Vale, climb the pinnacle of Mount Hyjal, and run across the desert of Tanaris, chatting all the while with the people in my guild. I’ve even swum across the-

What was that? We’re not talking about World of Warcraft? I thought this class was going to be about our interaction with the world’s environment, so naturally I assumed… Oh, wait. You must be talking about the Windows 7 environment. I love that too, it’s far superior to Windows XP or any of the other prior versions of computing’s premiere OS. It’s the only Windows version I’ve ever enjoyed straight out of the box, and it takes very little to acclimate yourself to the-

Wait a second. You’re not talking about operating systems either? What other kind of environments are there for a geek? We’re all about circuit boards and source code. The only flowing water I spend any time around is when I stand in the isle at CompUSA and drool over an overclocking coolant system.

Oh, you want to know how I interact with the natural environment in Florida? You mean outside, where there’s no A/C? Where you sweat more than you consume if you spend more than twenty minutes in the sun, and the mosquitoes harpoon you with a snout as big as a toothpick? I don’t ever… I mean, only when absolutely necessary-

Is this confidential? It’s just between you and me, right? Because I could get in a lot of trouble with the guys online if they found out about this. So here goes…

I try to get in a round of golf every once in a while, even though I hate it when my spikes get all soggy. Where I grew up in New Jersey I loved to hike through the woods across the street from my rural home. Because the swampy terrain around here is less comfortable for me than the temperate deciduous forests back home, walking the golf links is about the closest thing I can come to my teenage nature walks.

I also like baseball – a beautiful game of statistics, mathematics, and physics. And it’s played on natural grass. Usually. Except in Tropicana Field where the Rays play on Astroturf. Okay, maybe that’s a bad example, but at least the kids still have grass and dirt at the little league where my own children used to play. Though it’s not really a “natural” environment after you build the concession stand and the bleachers…

How about tennis? My son and I play at the park down the block, and we try to get in a set a few times a week. I suppose some people might also take issue with calling a hard court an “environment”. And usually we play under the lights after I get home from work so it’s cooled off a little. Without the sun being out, you can almost convince yourself you’re indoors with the blinds drawn and your desk lamp on. Well, as long as you don’t look up and see the stars. I wouldn’t want to feel like I was turning into one of those dorks at NASA.


If you are a supporter of “a woman’s right to choose” please read this article. I ask this of you because, once you have read it, I need to ask you a few questions. If you are not supporter of abortion,  please pass this along to any friends or associates that may be  “pro-choice” and have them answer the questions.

Eighteen and pregnant, Sycloria Williams went to an abortion clinic outside Miami and paid $1,200 for Dr. Pierre Jean-Jacque Renelique to terminate her 23-week pregnancy.

Three days later, she sat in a reclining chair, medicated to dilate her cervix and otherwise get her ready for the procedure.

Only Renelique didn’t arrive in time. According to Williams and the Florida Department of Health, she went into labor and delivered a live baby girl.

The complaint says one of the clinic owners, Belkis Gonzalez came in and cut the umbilical cord with scissors, then placed the baby in a plastic bag, and the bag in a trash can.

Williams’ lawsuit offers a cruder account: She says Gonzalez knocked the baby off the recliner chair where she had given birth, onto the floor. The baby’s umbilical cord was not clamped, allowing her to bleed out. Gonzalez scooped the baby, placenta and afterbirth into a red plastic biohazard bag and threw it out.

OK… now the questions: 1. Does this story bother you? 2. Is the clinic owner guilty of murder? 3. Do you believe Sycloria Williams has the moral standing to sue the clinic? Answer these questions in your heart, but – whether anyone is around you or not – please verbalize your answer, so that the words become real. And after each, ask yourself if the words coming out of your mouth match what you feel in your heart.

1. If you answered “Yes” that this story did bother you, an avowed pro-choicer, then I must ask why? Sycloria Williams walked into that clinic and paid $1,200 to terminate a pregnancy – and that is exactly what happened. Perhaps, you are disturbed by the manner in which the termination occurred? Again I must ask why? Oh, wait… that’s a inconvenient question. We’ll move on for now.

2. I assume, again since you are an avowed pro-choicer, that you believe the clinic owner is not guilty of murder, because in your view, abortion is not murder. Right? But the baby was actually born – she had air in her lungs – she was alive! Isn’t causing the death of a living, breathing child … Oops! Another inconvenient question. Next!

3. As for whether Ms. Williams has the moral standing to sue the clinic, I’ll bet you are really conflicted on that one. On the one hand, you probably agree that she is the victim of a morally bankrupt and evil corporation’s malpractice and greed. Ergo, she does have the moral high ground to claim that the clinic didn’t kill the fetus she was carrying before it became a baby. On the other hand, it’s an abortion clinic… a Temple of modern liberalism that frees women from the shackles of motherhood. Ergo, their moral authority is sacrosanct and unassailable. My oh my, what is a progressive to do with a Morton’s Fork like that?

Questions too tough? Need help? Maybe you could look to popular opinion for an answer. After all, isn’t that what the liberal politicians do?

“The baby was just treated as a piece of garbage,” said Tom Brejcha, president of The Thomas More Society, a law firm that is also representing Williams. “People all over the country are just aghast.”

Even those who support abortion rights are concerned about the allegations.

“It really disturbed me,” said Joanne Sterner, president of the Broward County chapter of the National Organization for Women, after reviewing the administrative complaint against Renelique. “I know that there are clinics out there like this. And I hope that we can keep (women) from going to these types of clinics.”

Does that help?

I believe that if you really answered those questions honestly, the story really did bother you (though you may not understand exactly why), you do think that poor baby was murdered (or allowed to die), and that as horrific as the experience must have been for her, Sycloria Williams has no right suing a clinic for doing exactly what she really wanted – “getting rid of” the baby she was carrying. Combine that with the fact that the National Organization for Women want’s you to help keep (women) from going to these types of clinics (would that be Abortion clinics?) and you’ll find that what it comes down to is that you who are pro-abortion really just want the right to kill what the rest of us consider to be a baby, before you start thinking about it as a living being.

The Inconvenient Truth here is that the science and technology you prize above all else keeps moving the line you draw, between when it is a lump of cells and when it is a living being, closer and closer to the point of conception. And I believe that while your intellect may be able to handle that, your conscience cannot. As a progressive thinker, the type of person that often personifies animals, plants, and even the Earth itself (Gaia), you must have real trouble not personifying an embryo – which, if left alone, would have an excellent chance of actually becoming a real person. I think your intellect may even be betraying you, because you have to know that at one point you – your living, breathing, thinking, caring, thriving, progressive self – was just a “lump of cells,” and look how far you have come. You must wonder if any person, given the chance, and with help from progressives like yourself, couldn’t grow and thrive in the same way – no matter how initially unwanted or unloved.

Well, here’s something else to wonder about; what if one of those millions of babies that were disposed of was the next Jonas Salk, Albert Einstein, or would have invented the cure for AIDS or invented an alternative fuel to replace our dependence on oil? Tired old pro-life argument, you say? Ok… what if, now that you approach your golden years, one of those discarded lumps of cells was around to love you, call you mom, give you grandchildren who would think the world of you, and help take care of you as your body and mind failed? Ever think about that?

You know, for a bunch of folks known as the “Free Love” generation, you have just about guaranteed that as you grow old, many of you will do so alone. How profoundly sad.

So, word comes out today that the word out yesterday was just an evil plot by the meanies at the Times Online: Google is no more guilty of Carbon Crime than any other presence on the Web, and it’s “footprint” is as pristine as Neil Armstrong’s lunar calling-card. Color me shocked.

The search-engine phenom is perhaps the best example of Silicon Valley gone Hollywood – and by that, of course, I mean leftist chic. As with the rich and famous in LA, Google is all about the Great Liberal Dichotomy, “More for me, less for thee.” It proposes and supports every Democratic boondoggle it can dream up, from confiscatory taxes to entangling carbon-emission regulations, but it continues to get wealthier and wealthier, and every suggestion that it gets its hands dirty is scrubbed clean.

Not that there’s anything wrong with full pockets and clean hands, except for the hypocrisy of it all.

On a related but contrary note, I’m delighted to hear that the U.S. Army is going electric for some of its on-base vehicles. While I don’t give a rat’s tail about “carbon emissions” unrelated to pollution (and even then, maintaining clean air and water should be a corporate responsibility, not a government regulation), I’m very happy whenever we take steps to wean ourselves from non-renewable, and especially foreign, sources of energy.

If only we could bottle this carbon emission and power our cars with it…. but likely there’ll be a restriction proposed against pork and beans sometime soon from Google.

Click the image to see a higher-resolution (and unspoiled) version.

In the shadow of Saturn, unexpected wonders appear. The robotic Cassini spacecraft now orbiting Saturn recently drifted in giant planet’s shadow for about 12 hours and looked back toward the eclipsed Sun. Cassini saw a view unlike any other. First, the night side of Saturn is seen to be partly lit by light reflected from its own majestic ring system. Next, the rings themselves appear dark when silhouetted against Saturn, but quite bright when viewed away from Saturn and slightly scattering sunlight, in the above exaggerated color image. Saturn’s rings light up so much that new rings were discovered, although they are hard to see in the above image. Visible in spectacular detail, however, is Saturn’s E ring, the ring created by the newly discovered ice-fountains of the moon Enceladus, and the outermost ring visible above. Far in the distance, visible on the image left just above the bright main rings, is the almost ignorable pale blue dot of Earth.

little green footballs

“Never argue with the data.” – Sheen Estevez

With the argument about global warming/cooling, I got to wondering about sunspots. Since I forgot where I could see recent images of the solar surface, I Googled it. I got the Wikipedia article about sunspots. This is where I found this image. Please note that this is reverse; the most recent being on the left. Which made me wonder: has anyone overlaid the solar activity w/ global temperatures. So, I went looking for global temperature charts. Here’s a global temperature chart from the U.S. Global Change Research Information Office. You make the call.

Believe it or not, we could see the end of the Global Warming myth, and unlike the myth itself, we don’t have to wait 50 or 100 years to hear the result.

A Canadian scientist has developed a climate model that ties together sunspots, cosmic rays, the ozone hole and climate change, and he predicts one of the largest ozone holes we’ve ever seen will appear over Antarctica this month, not as a result of CO2 emissions or pollution, but because the sun is hitting us with an unusual amount of cosmic rays right now.

The model has already predicted the drop in global temperatures that’s causing the priests of the Church of Global Warming to scratch their heads. If the sunspot theories keep making predictions better than the anti-homo sapien crowd can, maybe just maybe we can get more scientists out of the closet they’ve hid themselves in trying to avoid the Inquisition.

Ace of Spades (who may or may not be in Gabriel Malor’s basement).

Let me just say up front that I have seen and read compelling evidence that during the last quarter of the Twentieth century the planet has indeed been on a warming trend. I have also seen and read compelling evidence, however, that suggests that during the first part of this century that warming trend has plateaued and possibly even peaked and begun to decline.

Having stated that, and having watched the putz I am probably going to be forced to cast my vote for President this fall (because the alternative choice is exponentially worse) give a speech stating that Anthropological Global Warming is settled science and needs to be addressed with Government programs and regulations, I feel it necessary for everyone to examine with a bit more scrutiny the linchpin of the Anthropological Global Warming premise – the Anthropological part.

Read more

You would be hard pressed to find another person who enjoys and relishes the beauty that the natural world possesses and the awe it inspires more than me. The most memorable times of my youth were spent at a lakeside cabin in Canada enjoying the beauty of the lake (above and below the water), the surrounding forest, and the abundant fauna. I have had the great good fortune in my life to experience the pre-historic, Jurassic Park feel of the Everglades, the wide-open splendor of the High Desert of the American Southwest, the Shire like rolling hills of the Midwest Prairies, and the deep rooted agelessness of the forests of the Appalachians. To me, a guy who grew up in the shadow of a major metropolitan city and has seen my share of ornate churches, there is no greater Cathedral than a moonless night in the country – away from all the light pollution – under the blanket of a universe of stars. I will actually stop, as often as possible, to smell the roses and listen to the birds, and remind myself of the wonder of the world God has Graced us with – and thank Him for it, and for giving me the ability to appreciate it all. We are all part of this world, and to not recognize the wonder and majesty of it all is to deny the wonder and majesty of God.

But don’t you ever – EVER – call me an Environmentalist! Rachel Carson was an Environmentalist !

Others, such as writer Paul Driessen, describe the fear of DDT as a “country club anxiety,” a luxury of rich Westerners who can afford organic foods and all-natural cosmetics and clothing. They will never contract malaria. Meanwhile, Africans – many of whom are lucky to afford any food at all – have made it clear that they’re willing to accept the risk of potential side effects if it means avoiding the very real threat of malaria. Two weeks ago, Uganda initiated a program to spray houses with DDT, even though it will probably hurt their trade with the U.S. and the European Union. As Ugandan businesswoman Fiona Kobusingye told reporters, “I lost my son, two sisters and two nephews to malaria. Don’t talk to me about birds. And don’t tell me a little DDT in our bodies is worse than the risk of losing more children to this disease. African mothers would be overjoyed if that were their biggest worry.”

I’m not saying the environmental movement is entirely without merit. Nor am I a “global warming denier” or a person who believes in messing up the environment just for fun. But a movement that values a bird’s life over a human life is hard to accept and even harder to respect.

Thanks to Rachel Carson and the banning of DDT, 20+ million people have died. (a VERY conservative number I might add) Now, Al Gore looks upon himself as the new High Priest of Global Warming and head of the church of Environmentalism. Given the news about food shortages around the world thanks to the push by Environmentalist Al (remember, he cast the DECIDING VOTE in 1994 regarding the US Govenment Ethanol mandate) toward Ethanol production, one has to wonder how many people will suffer and die this time!

I care a great deal about the environment and the natural world, but if these two short-sighted do-gooders are examples of the quintessential Environmentalist, I think I’ll pass on that label, thank you.

I found a very funny story over at NewsBusters this morning. It seems that someone watched The Right Reverend Al Gore’s movie and took it’s Global Warming conclusions a bit too literally, and is now finding those conclusions quite a bit more inconvenient than truth. Not to fear though, the answer here is clear. Since Global Warming is the new religion of the left, this guy doesn’t need to call the Russians for help, he just needs to show a little faith and pray harder to the Global Warming gods (Gore and Dicaprio) that the ice won’t crush his boat and polar bears won’t munch on his frozen carcass.

I’m sure they’ll race to his rescue… right after their spa treatments, facials, and a few Half-Caf Double Espresso Soy-milk Lattes.

* A character in Elmer Gantry – A novel by Sinclair Lewis and 1960 film starring Burt Lancaster.

You know what… I think I may have been all wrong about this Global Warming thing. I think it may really be happening! After all, what else could explain the cooler than normal waters of Eastern Atlantic, which in turn have reduced the total number of predicted Tropical storms and Hurricanes for this year? Man made Global Warming, of course! And the fact that Johannesburg had snow for the first time in 26 years and Buenos Aires for the first time in 89 years? You guessed it…man made Global Warming again.

Does anyone with a brain still doubt it? I mean hundreds of millions of expert global climate scientists – perhaps even billions – have concluded without a doubt that Global Warming is caused by evil humans… right? They have thousands of pages of facts and… lots of computer models that show… I mean, it can’t be refuted that… it’s established fact that…

LA LA LA LA LA! I can’t hear you!

Oh, and by the way, not only is Anthropologic Global Climate Change an absolute fact, but so are the Piltdown Man, Crop Circles, and Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity.

Take that you Deniers!

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