Monday, February 27, 2012

America the Possible: A Manifesto, Part I

Generally when I see the word manifesto I head for the door, but not when the author is James Gustave Speth.  Speth was formerly the Dean of Yale's School of Forestry and Environmental Science, and is now on the board of the New Economics Institute.  In my opinion Speth is one of the most eloquent voices on our national stage.

In this new essay in Orion magazine Speth is at his best. He outlines the crossroads we are at as a nation and as a people.

"We say the best things in life are free, but not many of us act that way. Instead we’ve embraced an endless cycle of work and spend. The anthropocentric view that nature belongs to us, rather than we to nature, facilitates the exploitation of the natural world. And the habit of focusing on the present and discounting the future leads us away from a thoughtful appraisal of the long-term consequences of the world we are making..."

In this election year when we are bombarded by rhetoric from all sides I argue that Speth's essay should be required reading.    

Friday, February 24, 2012

The 99 Percent - Live!

I just got news that my good pal Mr.Savant has released a new live single in honor of all the 99 Percenters out there.  The song is terrific, and if you're a fan of Dylan, or the Sex Pistols, and people who get up and work every day - then you'll love this.  It's on sale right now for $.99 at CD Baby....check it out & rally the troops!  

Hey! Here's a message from Mr.Savant:

I have given it to people in the Occupy Milwaukee movement and I am hoping they may use it in their effort. I will offer it for free to all 99% movements for a limited time. I urge people to post comments on CD Baby and Jango. The guitar was fitted with a Gibson Burstbucker 3 pick-up and has built-in effects. I used Leslie (rotating speaker) and vintage MXR distortion stomp box on low setting. The bass line was played like a fretless bass, not pausing to hit one note twice, producing a chromatic effect. My engineer used a humanistic drum software track. Pretty cool. The audience went wild! Check the Profile View on Jango to hear all songs for free, and CD Baby for downloads. The song "Responsibility" is currently free on CD Baby. Thanks, Joe

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Is There A Bustle In Your Hedgerow?

You just can't imagine how long I have been wanting to use that headline, but I think this recent article at the  Slate website "What Animals Don't Need" justifies the excitement.  

Fact: we here at Osage + Orange have had an abiding interest (obsession, to some) about hedgerow preservation on this side of the Atlantic.  Fact: one of the biggest - if not the biggest - reasons for hedgerow preservation is the wildlife habitat they create. The lovely illustration below typifies the dream outcome for anyone waxing on about the virtues of linear corridors of Edenic bliss:     

I mean, that image really is something - and I'm just a sucker for the "build it and they will come" school of  optimism. (I think one has to be deeply optimistic and hopeful working in a field where there are so many casualties, but that is a subject for another day). And never mind that speakers at every other conservation related forum rue the lack of corridors to connect and link isolated habitats.

Trust me when I tell you that I too have sat in my chair smiling inwardly at the vision of assorted fauna traipsing along man made corridors from one nice spot to another. And maybe that happens, but I'm not sure that animals will take the hint and use such features, except by accident. And poof, there goes that happy moment in my mind, replaced by a little twinge of doubt. Well, I may not like doubt, but it can be healthy.

The folks at Do Corridors Work? are trying to study the effectiveness of these wildlife corridors, and I think this is important work - even if it does burst a bubble or two in my own thinking. I like that idea of linking habitats, and I do think hedgerows can play a positive function there. But we may ultimately learn some bad news about that, and if so, that's okay.  Money and energy for protecting natural resources is just too hard to come by to waste it on projects that don't work like we suppose (wish?) they will.  I like the ideas that picture up there represents - but where nature is concerned I don't want fairy tales. I want results.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

There's still a day to go....

We're right smack in the middle of the 2012 Great Backyard Bird Count. As of this moment there have been over 4.1 million individual birds tallied by observers throughout the US and Canada. Why not get out and join the fun?  Yesterday E and I pitched in, and she won the prize for spotting the best bird - a Northern Harrier - my first ever!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Hedgerows from Oregon

Last weekend I was heartened to read - in Yes magazine - about conservation based agriculture work being done out in Oregon.  The article went on to mention the use of hedgerows:

"And in 2001, he and his fellow farmers planted a hedgerow, a narrow strip of trees, shrubs, ground cover, and vines bordering fields. Jude Hobbs, a horticulturist and permaculture expert who helped the farmers at Winter Green plant their 300-foot hedgerow, explains that hedgerows can create shade for waterways and provide wildlife habitat. Hedgerows also benefit farms; they can decrease wind damage, reduce soil erosion, attract pollinators, and provide extra income opportunities....

“There was this gunshot reaction of, ‘Let’s get rid of all wildlife and habitat on farms,’” Baumgartner says. Farmers throughout the Salinas Valley, under pressure from large buyers and suppliers, bulldozed trees and hedgerows, filled in ponds, and removed and trapped wildlife. The shift away from conservation was particularly distressing, because many more large conventional farms will need to transition to wild farming to reconnect the nation’s fragmented wildlife habitat... 

The story led me to contact hedgerow practitioner Jude Hobbs who has written a brochure on Multi-Functional Hedgerows. This is a template that could be creatively adapted to local native plants and conditions.  In a time when we're desperately looking for habitat for our pollinators and other wildlife, this is inspiring work.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Tritiumensis in Calgary!

Old Three-Eyes is getting around! The Un-Natural Disasters tour has now landed at the Sugar Cube Gallery in Calgary AB.  They have recruited a familiar looking amphibian for it's marketing effort. What fun this all is:  

By the way, please let me know if you know of a venue that would like to host this show. It's been getting some pretty good reviews.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Update: Thousand Cankers Disease Nearing Illinois

Just what we did not need in the wake of the Emerald Ash Borer - another native tree in peril...

Monday, February 13, 2012

Reading Around : Forest Forensics

Several years ago I heard author Tom Wessels speak about his (then) new book Reading the Forested Landscape.  Anyone who has ever wandered across a landscape can't help but process the evidence at hand and try to decode the history of the place. RFL was focused on the forests of New England, but the ideas he outlined were universal to any terrain. 

Imagine my delight when I saw the companion field guide at the library, Forest Forensics. In this volume Wessels provides a method - similar to a plant identification key - to help the reader understand the land use history by reading the assorted clues that are in view. 

Again, there is a New England focus here, but the techniques are useful anywhere. If you get a chance, get a hold of one of these books. Reading the land can be just as compelling as any book.     

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

The Fate of Urban Trees: A Sobering Update

This new article "Tree Fall" in Conservation magazine should be required reading and a call to action for our local and regional leaders.

Long time readers of this blog have seen assorted pieces about the obvious values that trees offer our ever more congested urban areas.  Trees help mitigate pollution, reduce energy costs and storm water run-off.
They add beauty and attract wildlife. They make people feel better, and help to make our cities more tolerable and humane.  By the way, none of the points in the preceding two sentences are speculation - they are pretty well established facts.

But this article points out that in this study it seems like we (as a society) are heading the wrong way.

Over the years I have said to many of my colleagues - only partly in jest - that there are no accidents when it comes to the existence of urban trees. In many cases these trees were planted and looked after for by others before us.  It's not always easy for a community to maintain the quality of their urban tree population in the face of  storms, invasive species, development, and shrinking budgets.  Over my career I have seen many different situations. Some good ones where their "tree arrow" was pointing up - and others? Not so much.

I could go on for hours about that.

There is so much political rhetoric floating around these days about green jobs, etc. Planting trees is a way to make real and tangible (vs. rhetorical)  improvements in more ways than I can shake a stick at. At the rate were going future generations won't even know what that expression means for the lack of sticks. Is this the kind of world we want?  

"We could have saved the Earth but we were too damned cheap..."   
- Kurt Vonnegut, Jr  


Friday, February 03, 2012

The return of tritiumensis...

Hey, I like an excuse to promote my work as well as the next guy, but they're making this too easy. Ribbit!  

Rana tritiumensis 
Wood-block print,
Dave Coulter, 2011

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Hedgerow Futures Conference 2012

Pack your bags! Later this year Staffordshire University will be hosting the Hedgerow Futures Conference

I realize that any exposure to hedgerows that most of us get here in the United States may be from the lyrics of Led Zeppelin.  But, some of us - here and there - are working to change that understanding. The work being done in the UK to protect these features in the landscape sets the standard for the rest of us to follow.       

Into The Ditch

Moraine Hills SP :: December 2011

When I gave that talk about hedgerows a couple years back I was introduced - via Dr. Rocky Smiley of Ohio State -  to the biological value of ditches. They're not nearly as devoid of life as one might think, and this recent article Into The Ditch at Conservation Magazine explores their potential.  After listening to Rocky's talk back in 2009 I opined that ditches might just be the aquatic cousins to hedgerows. Often ignored and often destroyed outright - but full of potential for expansion of habitat.