Category Archives: wildlife

Pacific Fishers, Owls, and Telepathic Gorillas

Pacific-Fisher horz

This week, two radio programs that I co-produce with my beloved partner Amy Gustin, will air on our beloved community radio station KMUD. First, at 5pm on Thanksgiving Day, Thursday November 27, KMUD will air the latest episode of Wildlife Matters. I just put the finishing touches on it this morning. Wildlife Matters #3 will focus on the Pacific Fisher (Martes pennanti) an elusive, formidable, and unbelievably cute forest carnivore.

fisher in tree

Mourad Gabriel, fisher expert, and Executive Director of the Integral Ecology Research Center generously invited us into his home, and allowed Amy to interview him at length.

Mourad_fisher_UCDW-716x1024

He told us everything we needed to know about fishers, and the crisis they face due to extensive use of rat poison by marijuana growers, hiding-out in the fisher’s deep-forest habitat. We spent more than an hour seated around the dining room of his family’s home, while his wife, Greta Wengert, also a Ph.D biologist, attended to their infant child in another room, to give us some quiet time for the interview.

greta wengert

The show came out great! We had more good material than we could fit in one half-hour show, so in next month’s show we will talk more about the problems associated with rat poison. Last Friday, we recorded a presentation by Maggie Rufo, representing two groups: The Hungry Owl Project,

hungry owl project

and RATS (Raptors Are The Solution).

raptors are the solution

Maggie Ruffo came to Arcata to address the Redwood Region Audubon Society, about the impacts of rat poison on owls, hawks, and other raptors, and to advocate for the use of owl boxes, wooden boxes constructed to owl-nest specifications, to attract owls, as part of an integrated pest control program.

owl box

In other words, encourage owls to move in, and they can help solve your rodent problem. Then you don’t need to spend money on rat poison.

owl eating rat

She gave an excellent talk, and as a bonus, the Humboldt Wildlife Care Center brought some of their ambassador birds, so we got to mingle and chit-chat with a live: red-tailed hawk, a great horned owl, and a western screech owl. It was a noisy room, but I think we have enough good material that we can use a little from column A and a little from column B to make another good show about the effects of rat poison on entire ecosystems, and we’ll look at the campaign to ban the sale of dangerous rodenticides in California.

poison eco consequences

The other show of ours to air this week, really deserves it’s own blog post.  Teaser:  It involves an interview with Daniel Quinn, author of Ishmael.


Daniel Quinn Talks To Us About His New Book, The Teachings That Came Before and After Ishmael

danielquinn

On Sunday November 30, the Sunday after Thanksgiving, at 9:30 am on KMUD Redwood Community Radio, you can hear my lovely partner, Amy Gustin interview the world-renowned, author and thinker, Daniel Quinn, author of Ishmael, My Ishmael, The Story of B, Beyond Civilization and many other books.

cover ishmael-horz-vert

Daniel Quinn has a new book, titled: The Teachings That Came Before and After Ishmael.

cover the teachings

Quinn realized that, while many people have read Ishmael, most people have missed the material he covers in his other books. In The Teachings… Quinn condenses the ideas from all of his other writing into one book, the perfect companion to his central work: Ishmael.

ishmael cover open

If you haven’t read Ishmael yet, you absolutely must read this book. Every responsible adult who can read, owes it to themselves, and to the future of Planet Earth, to read Ishmael. Some people look at the title, and get a load of the zealous people telling them to read it, and think that Ishmael must be some kind of weird religious mumbo-jumbo that brain-washes readers into joining a cult.

ishmael tattoo

True, you’ll find some biblical stuff in there, like a pretty good explanation for the story of Adam and Eve, and Cain and Abel, and after you read it, you may want to join a cult, but there is nothing religious about Ishmael, and it contains absolutely no mumbo-jumbo. Ishmael is a good book to help you understand exactly what went wrong.

ishmael teacher seeks student

If you want to know what caused the environmental crisis, read Ishmael. If you want to understand overpopulation, read Ishmael. If you want to know why you spend so much time at work, and why it sucks so much, read Ishmael. Ishmael can help you understand where you stand. If you understand where you stand, you can figure out what to do. So, before you do anything else, read Ishmael.

read ishmael

…And pick up Quinn’s newest book, The Teachings That Came Before and After Ishmael to go with it. The Teachings… contains condensed versions of The Story of B and My Ishmael, as well as excerpts from Tales of Adam, Beyond Civilization, The Book of the Damned, Providence, The Invisibility of Success, and If They Give You Lined Paper Write Sideways. Even if you can’t read, you can listen to Daniel Quinn himself explain his work to you so you can see for yourself why so many people feel so strongly about a short novel about a talking gorilla.

ishmael gorilla

Please tune in on Sunday November 30 at 9:30 am Pacific Time for a very special episode of The Living Earth Connection featuring a new interview with visionary author, Daniel Quinn recorded just this week…I can’t tell you the details of it because the interview hasn’t happened yet, but we expect to talk to him tomorrow. You can hear the show on the radio, if you live within the KMUD listening area, or you can stream the show live, or at anytime thereafter on the KMUD archive at www.kmud.org

kmud logo

You can also stream or download both Living Earth Connection #12 featuring Daniel Quinn talking about his new book as well as Wildlife Matters #3 featuring Mourad Gabriel on fisher ecology and rat poison at Amy Gustin’s blog The Living Earth Connection.

living earth connection


The Ganjier’s Circular Reasoning

ganjier_

Lately, I’ve noticed a new circular tucked into the North Coast Journal, from our local SoHum cannabis dispensary, Wonderland Nursery. Even though we live in the heart of the marijuana industry, we were one of the last places in California without a dispensary, until Wonderland opened up a few years ago specializing in potted cannabis seedlings. I see from their circular that they now also dabble in edibles and concentrates.

shatter

I’ve never been to Wonderland, but I always enjoy hearing “The Ganjier” of Wonderland Nursery, Kevin Jodrey talk about marijuana. In my lifetime so far, I have listened to way too many people talk way, way, waaaayyyyyyy toooooo much about marijuana. Really, I love marijuana,and I’ve grown marijuana, but I don’t find gardening particularly interesting. I’m more interested in getting high, and when I get high, the last thing I want to hear, is some idiot drone on about how awesome this new strain of marijuana is. I get it. I’m stoned. It’s good pot, now shut-up about it.

shut up and smoke

But it’s different with The Ganjier. Kevin Jodrey really knows his cannabis, and he’s very articulate and well spoken. When I have the opportunity to hear him talk about marijuana, I take notes. So, of course, I read the editorials that appeared in the Wonderland Nursery circulars. I don’t think I’ve ever read an editorial in an advertizing circular before, but I’ve also never seen a circular advertizing marijuana plants before, so the Wonderland Nursery insert struck me as novel for a couple of reasons.

kjodrey-

Anyway, the first editorial I read from the Ganjier pointed out that as we move towards legalization of cannabis, the interests of the “cannabis cause” will diverge from those of the “cannabis industry.” I appreciate the heads up Kevin, but I’ve seen the cannabis cause, and the cannabis industry, and I don’t think the two could be any more divergent. The cannabis industry loved prohibition because prohibition made an easy to grow weed more valuable than gold.

marijuana-money1

The cannabis cause was made almost entirely of marijuana consumers. The people I met through High Times Freedom Fighters and Mass Cann all had jobs. Back then, people from the “cannabis industry” only joined the “cannabis cause” after they got busted. Some of us grew our own weed, but we supported the legalization movement with money we earned AT WORK, and we attended rallies, wrote letters, and went to meetings in our “free” time, AND we bought marijuana at outrageously high black market prices.

need money for weed

Thankfully, Jack Herer came along. Jack sold books, bumper-stickers and T-Shirts and taught people all over the country how to sell legalization. Thanks to Jack Herer, and his book, The Emperor Wears No Clothes, marijuana legalization became a business, and anyone could open a franchise. Jack taught us to sell legalization, and pretty soon, some people were making a living from it. That’s what turned the tide towards legalization. The cannabis industry had almost nothing to do with it.

Jack Herer at Ann Arbor Hash Bash 1990

The cannabis industry was busy making money, from us, the cannabis cause. They were buying big diesel generators, damming creeks and putting out rat poison. They were breeding better marijuana. I’ll give them that, but when it comes to legalization, the cannabis industry was not a big help, except for the fact that marijuana smokers everywhere really, really, resented the high prices, and that resentment motivated them to work for legalization.

too damn high

So, now that legalization seems inevitable, and the cannabis industry begins to rise up out of the muck of prohibition, it’s not asking “How may we help you?” Instead, it’s warning us that it may no longer have our best interests at heart. The Ganjier warns those of us who want to “free the weed” that the cannabis industry prefers to “expensive the weed.”

cost of cannabis

In the second editorial, however, The Ganjier laments all of the bad publicity that the cannabis industry has experienced lately. Why does the press always focus on the habitat destruction, the murders, the stream diversions, and the rat poison when there’s so much more to the cannabis industry than that? Look, one dispensary uses electric cars, the Ganjier tells us.

hemp car

The Ganjier thinks that the cannabis cause should help the cannabis industry with its little image problem. I don’t think so. Here’s why:

why1

First, People should know that Humboldt County is a terrible place to grow cannabis. People should know that this is not farmland. We live in a forest. The land here is steep and poorly suited to agriculture. You cannot produce cannabis here economically, without the huge government subsidies known as prohibition. This is not a place for farmers. This is a place where criminals go to hide their criminal activity. Now that cannabis is going legal, the cannabis industry should move out of the closet known as Humboldt County.

come out of the closet

Second, people should see the ugliness and the stupidity behind the current cannabis industry. People get killed. People get hurt. Lots of people get ripped off. Besides that, people in the cannabis industry do a lot of really stupid shit, like setting a camper on fire on the side of the road, or dropping a refrigerator off of the Alder Point bridge or leaving a truck full of diesel fuel parked in the riverbed.

truck in river

Finally, the cannabis industry has all of our fucking money. If the cannabis industry gave a fuck about anyone but themselves, not only could they have legalized pot, they could have financed a guerrilla army that would have already liberated this nation from the capitalist police state, once and for all. They don’t give a fuck. Instead, they want bigger trucks, wider TVs and newer smart phones. So fuck ‘em.

fuck em paccino

Listen, if the newly emerging legal cannabis industry wants help from the cannabis cause, the cannabis industry damn well better find a way to produce marijuana at a reasonable price. No marijuana is worth more than $50 an ounce, and I’d much rather see the current cannabis industry collapse as support the environmental destruction, violence, and stupidity that defines the cannabis industry today.

drug dealing dog


Wildlife Matters #2 Airs This Thursday

This Thursday at 5pm on KMUD, catch the latest episode of Wildlife Matters, the new public affairs program my partner Amy Gustin and I produce. Amy and I are still in the midst of hammering it out, but it’s going to be a great show. On this show we’ll cover coyotes, the singing dogs of North America.

photo by Talia Rose

photo by Thalia Rose

As usual, Amy has done a lot of research, and we’ll have some great guests as well:

coyote howls

We’ll have Dr. Marc Bekoff, who studied coyotes for years talking about emotions in animals and the significance of play in canines.

marc bekoff with coyote

Dr. Michael Soule, the ecologist talks about the important role coyotes play in ecosystems.

Dr Michael Soule

Monte Merrick, Co-Director of the Humboldt Wildlife Care Center talks about attitudes towards coyotes locally.

monte merrick

Congressman Peter Defazio rails against the pointless, cruel, and government subsidized slaughter of thousands of coyotes every year by Wildlife Services, a branch of the USDA. We’ll also hear a bit from the coyotes themselves.

peter difazio

Like I said, It’s going to be a great show, but we still have about ten minutes of it to hammer-out, so I better get back to work.

get back to work


God, Einstein, Kant, Darwin, and Me

God-horz

I’ve been really busy on a couple of new radio projects. One of these radio shows relates to this blog, and will air this Sunday. I really enjoyed doing it, and I’m excited to share it, so let me tell you a little about it:

let me tell you a story

Sunday, August 31, at 9:30 AM Pacific Time on KMUD Community Radio,

kmud-radio-logo
I will appear (if one can be said to “appear” on radio) as a guest on:
The Living Earth Connection:
A Show That Examines the Root Causes of the Ecological Crisis and Seeks to Change Our Vision of Our Place in the World

livingearth back cover

On this show I talk about classical music, Einstein, Kant, Darwin, the phenomenology of the organism and the metaphysics of ecology, in that order. You know, just a regular “off the cuff” interview. We prerecorded the interview last week, and finished editing it last night.

off the cuff stuff

I know this material pretty well, but it’s quite heady. I had the rare privilege, as an interviewee, to edit the interview as well. I did my best to eliminate the long pauses and unnecessary digressions to make it as pleasant to listen to, and easy to understand as possible. Some great bits didn’t make the cut. We only have an hour of airtime, after all. This show was entirely Amy Gustin’s idea, but now that we’ve completed it, we’re both happy with how it came out. We may even post some of the outtakes as additional material on the Living Earth Connection blog.

living earth connection

I got invited on the show because of an essay I wrote that first appeared on this blog. Well, that, and the fact that I sleep with the producer, got me invited on the the show to talk about the essay titled: You Don’t Have To Call It God, But Don’t Pretend It Doesn’t Exist. Amy really liked the essay, because it points out that the best available science supports an animist, or indigenous worldview, while it indicts objective science, technology and the dominant culture.

future indictments

The essay has nothing to do with God. It’s about science, perception and phenomenology. Religion gives God such a bad name, that I hated to use the G word in the title, but “A Short Essay on Phenomenological Metaphysics” has no hook. God is still a celebrity with SEO gravitas, so I went with the stupid title.

seo stupidity

This essay elicited the most inspiring comment I have yet received in three-and-a-half years of blogging:

Frank Josef Orange
May 28th, 2014 at 1:22 am | Edit

This in regards to your essay You Don’t Have to Call It God: I’ve been a searcher all my life, read Relatively for the millions at around 11 but I was never able to do the math but I came to understand the principles.
Looked for god in LSD ,weed ..got closer
The strange thing is that recently I’ve been having some health problems, the kind you know will be the end ..ya just know, the odd part is that answers have been just showing up, I happened to watch a documentary DMT the spirit molecule And your essay, and all of it is coming into clarity.
That all of us and everything ever,was and forever well be One.
And it is simplicity and perfection and oneness and ..Self ?

Although there is still the problem how this thing came into existence. Something can’t spontaneously exist from nothing.
Could be we are just one of many beautiful shinning entities.
Oddly I’ve come to not care.

To conclude though, there were many things that lead me to the conclusions I’ve come to, but I have to say your essay just about puts the dot at the end…….

What can you say about a comment like that? Words matter! I write!

words have power

Frank read the essay about a week earlier than most of you, because I accidentally hit “Publish” when I meant to hit “Schedule.” The post appeared on the blog early, for about 10 seconds, but because he subscribes, the post went right to his email. When he came back to post a comment, it ended up under the previous week’s post. I’m telling you this, because, hey, sometimes there are bonuses for subscribers.

bonus

There are bonuses for listeners too. I always find it easier to understand something when someone explains it to me, than when I read it. On the radio show, I go into much more detail about the science behind the essay, and the implications of this world view. I’ll be the first to admit that a lot of what you read on this blog is just pointless drivel. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do, but this radio show is different. This radio show can change the way you see the world. At the very least it will give you something to think about. I hope you’ll tune in. 

tun in loungeclick this link to stream or download Part 1 of the show

click this link to stream or download Part 2 of the show

 


Bikini Weather Crisis

bikini weather crisis

I heard a pretty good radio show on KMUD this week. A local volunteer programmer failed to show up for his time slot, so they threw on an episode of Radio Ecoshock, which usually runs at some ungodly hour in the middle of the night. The show looked at why no one wants to talk about (or read about, presumably) Global Warming or Global Climate Change. The show featured guest George Marshall who has just written a new book called Don’t Even Think About It, about why it is so hard to get people to talk about Global Climate Change.

dont even think about it marshall

I haven’t read the book, but I can relate. In the ’90s I worked as a canvasser for Greenpeace. The science behind Global Warming was pretty solid even back then, and Greenpeace had an active campaign to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It had something to do with “the Montreal Protocol,” but I don’t remember much more than that. We had pretty good campaign literature and everyone could easily understand the issue. Compared to endocrine disrupting chlorinated hydrocarbons, bio-accumulation of persistent toxins, or even the dirty side of nuclear power, Global Warming seemed like an easy sell.

climatebikini

Most of the people who worked in that office lived “car free” already. We knew vehicle exhaust was destroying the planet. We immediately understood the importance of the issue, and we all developed raps to explain Greenpeace’s strategy to stop Global Warming. We immediately recognized Global Warming as “the ubber-issue”, the issue that supersedes all current issues and spawns all future issues. We knew that Global Warming would define our lives, so we worked that campaign enthusiastically.

climate bikini

Unfortunately, Global Warming turned out to be a really tough sell when talking to the general public. When we told them that the Japanese were still hunting minke whales, it incensed them and made them angry. They were happy to give us money to stop them. When we told them that DuPont made carcinogenic plastics, pesticides and ozone destroying chemicals, as well as medical equipment and chemotherapy drugs, they said “go get ‘em” and wrote a check. When we explained that fossil fuels caused global warming through the greenhouse effect, and that we must, on a global scale, reduce the amount of fossil fuels we burn, or face catastrophic consequences, they just got depressed.

global warming hot gets hotter

They got it. That was the problem. They believed that Greenpeace could stop Japanese whaling ships. They believed that Greenpeace could pressure DuPont into phasing out CFCs. They believed Greenpeace could close down nuclear power plants. They knew that global warming meant something else entirely. Global warming meant we lost the war.

global-warming-proof-funny

By the early 1990’s we had lost a lot of environmental battles. Those were not the best of times for the environmental movement. We were used to not getting what we wanted. We were used to setbacks, but people still believed we were relevant. We still believed we were relevant. Global Warming meant we had failed. We could no longer claim we were swimming towards a distant shore. We had clearly been sucked out to sea.

lifeguard

With other issues, we can fix a problem, without challenging our underlying way of life. Saving whales or banning CFCs were little things we could do to fine-tune civilization, to make it more civilized. Global warming indicts civilization itself. Global Warming is the altimeter that tells us that we are plummeting, rather than flying. Global warming is not a problem, Global Warming is an indication of failure.

bikini-failure

Global Warming isn’t the only indicator of failure, by the way, here’s a short list, in case you haven’t been paying attention:
1. Overpopulation
2. Mass extinction and global wildlife population decline
3. Ocean acidification
4. Peak Oil
5. Peak Water
These “meta-crises” indict more than an industry, or a class of chemicals, or a technology, they indict our whole way of life.

no

If you think solar panels and electric cars will solve this crisis, you are dreaming. If you think there is a political solution, you’re delusional. We’ve blown it. We will not have a soft landing. I’m not saying that there’s nothing to be done; I’m saying that we’re doing everything wrong. Grassroots organizing isn’t working because democracy doesn’t work. Technology isn’t helping because capitalism doesn’t work. We cannot even conceive of what to do next because our culture doesn’t work.

climate bikini4

We need to have that realization. We need to realize that what we are doing here, as a global culture, does not work. Every man, woman and child, in all of civilization needs to know that they have been betrayed. Everybody needs to know that everything we know is wrong. If we don’t stop doing what we are doing, and what we’ve been doing for longer than anyone can remember, we will lose everything.

climate bikini1

That’s why people don’t want to think about Global Warming. That’s why people deny that Global Climate Change is real. That’s why even people who know that climate change is real, try to pretend that it’s really not that big of a problem.

climate bikini8

Nobody at a bar wants to hear about Alcoholics Anonymous.

fail thong

This is the only way of life any of us have ever known, and a lot of us like it, but it simply does not work. It never has, and it never will. As long as civilization persists, it’s appetite for energy guarantees that the effects of Global Warming will intensify still further, and persist far longer, with catastrophic consequences.

climate bikini too cold

Scientifically, we can expect the consequences of Global Climate Change to intensify as long as the levels of greenhouse gasses in the environment continue to rise. The question now becomes, how long will civilization persist in the face of Global Climate Change.

bikini question mark

Do we get smart and bail-out early, in hopes of surviving as a species, or do we plunder forth in the face of certain destruction, to join countless other species that have disappeared into extinction at our hands? From an environmental perspective, the sooner we abandon this crazy, dysfunctional, unsustainable global culture, the better.

dysfunctional


Pisaster Disaster

starfish_quoteThis starfish wasting syndrome is not funny folks. In case you haven’t heard the story, an epidemic of disease among Pacific starfish, specifically pisaster ochraceous, or Ocher Starfish, the big orange “stars” of beaches and tidepools, is causing them to waste away, fall apart and die in alarming numbers.

alarming numbers
Humans have adored these strangely beautiful creatures for eons, and their popularity hasn’t waned one bit, but within the tidal ecosystem, the ocher starfish is a feared predator, at least to the degree that a bivalve mollusk can experience fear.

fearful-clam-

Frightening or not, the ocher starfish plays the same role in the intertidal zone as lions do on the Serengeti, or that wolves do in Yellowstone National Park. The ocher starfish is the apex predator of Pacific tide-pools. In fact, scientists have learned a lot of what they know about apex predators, like lions and wolves, from studying ocher starfish.

starfish look and learn

Ecology, especially ecosystem ecology, is a very new field of scientific inquiry. It seems hard to believe today, but before World War II, nobody really gave a rats ass about how ecosystems worked. The story of civilization has been one of “plunder first, ask questions later,” and so it goes that the science of studying ecosystems didn’t get under way until well after most of the world’s ecosystems had been severely impacted by industrial exploitation. As a result, we may never know how a healthy ecosystem operates. In a sense, studying ecosystem ecology today, must be a lot like trying to learn about antebellum life and culture by observing a confederate field hospital towards the end of the Civil War.

confederate_field_hospital-600x374

Still the nascent field of ecosystem ecology can teach us a few things about what happens to an ecosystem when you remove a keystone species. In fact, one of the landmark studies in the field of ecosystem ecology looked at the effects of removing just this particular species, pisaster ochraceous from a tide-pool ecosystem.

tidepool anemone-horz

The scientist in this study, Robert T. Paine, marked off two equal sized patches of tide-pool habitat. A couple of times a month, Robert would go to one of those marked off areas, and within it he would meticulously remove every single ocher starfish from that area, and hurl them, as far as he could, into the surf. In the other marked-off area, he did nothing but observe.

bob paine w starfish

Every two weeks or so, for a year, Robert went down to his little marked-off areas and began chucking starfish. Doesn’t this make “ecosystem ecologist” sound like a pretty sweet job? Spend your days splashing around on the beach skipping starfish across the water. How do I sign up? I guess his hands got pretty torn-up from the abrasive skin of starfish, but it still sounds like a pretty good job to me.

good job

Over the course of the year, Paine observed the results of his strange new obsession. In the area where Paine had removed all of the ocher starfish, the ecosystem collapsed. Initially Paine observed dozens of different species living together in that area. Within a year, half of those species had disappeared completely, and those that remained, did so only tenuously. Before long, all but one species completely vanished from the experimental area.

vanished where

The only species left inhabiting the area, had completely taken over. Every square inch of the marked off area was covered with large mussels, mytilus californianus, the ocher starfish’s favorite prey. In absence of starfish, nothing could stop the mussels from squeezing everyone else out of the picture, leaving a desolate monoculture where there was once a thriving, diverse ecosystem.

mussel

Paine published the results of his experiment in 1966 in the scientific journal American Naturalist, and it has become a foundational work in this emerging new field. Paine’s experiment revealed that certain species, specifically predators, have a greater effect on their ecosystem than their numbers suggest.

big impact

Paine’s work with starfish eventually led to federal protection of keystone predators like the spotted owl, and to the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone National Park. Paine had demonstrated that predators are critical to maintaining healthy ecosystems, and that without them, complex and diverse ecosystems quickly collapse into desolate wastelands overrun with pests.

desolate-wasteland

Like I said, ecosystem ecology is a new field, and its progress has been greatly compromised by the impacts of industrial exploitation. As a science, ecosystem ecology remains in its infancy, especially regarding marine ecosystems, but when it comes to the question “What happens to intertidal ecosystems when ocher starfish disappear?” thanks to Robert T Paine, science can give us a pretty good answer. Unfortunately the answer itself is neither pretty nor good.pisaster starfish-bob paine


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