Friday, April 20, 2012

I've fallen way behind in my goal of describing the park on a daily basis.  Today, the new growth on all the plants raced ahead.  Some berries are beginning to form on the salmonberry.  Little white moths are flitting about everywhere.  The alders have leafed out and the maples are dropping flower clusters.  The vine maples have their tiny little flowers.  Very few trees or shrubs still have bare branches.  The garry oaks are the only ones I can think of that haven't put forth their first leaves.  The spruce trees have bright green paint brushes of new growth.  Even the bindweed is starting to shoot up.  Many little insects are appearing, and I fear I am missing opportunities to catalog them. 

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Today is the 103rd day of the year, and I have 99 species photographed and identified on Project Noah.  I have certainly seen and identified more than 103 species even though I haven't fully documented them.  I had better get cracking because I did all the easy species first. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Tonight we came up through the park right around sunset, and I searched the canopy for owls.  While I was looking around, a barred owl blasted us with hoots directly overhead.  He was invisible to me until he spoke up.  The barred owl will be added to my list of species that I have seen and identified definitely, but I can't submit to Project Noah because getting a picture is difficult if not impossible.  There are other species that I can photograph but not definitely identify so far.  If I reach my goal of 365 species this year, the final Project Noah numbers might not reflect that. 

Monday, April 9, 2012

The tide was -2.3 feet today.  I saw strange creatures in the tide pools, and managed to photograph a few.  Pictures from today can be seen here.  The seep had skunk cabbage, stink currant, horse tail, lady fern, and Indian plum, all bursting forth.  I may have gotten a bit of a sunburn.  The wild cucumber is sending forth its new shoots.

Friday, April 6, 2012

This evening I saw Venus before sunset.  At sunset, I took this picture of Venus, but you can't really see it with the iPhone.  Zoomed in and cropped, Venus is about the size of one pixel, seeming to rest on the branch.  As we continued our walk, I saw Jupiter, Mars, and Sirius.  I eventually saw Orion come out as the sky got darker.  It was a calm, clear night, with just a few clouds.  The dogs seemed not to notice the pure blue sky, the graceful arc of the alder branches, or the coppery color of Mars.  The sniffed urine and nibbled on grass, and they thought that was a bunch of fun.  So much beauty goes to waste.  Or perhaps I don't properly appreciate the art of urine.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

A hummingbird zipped around the currants near the parking lot.  I didn't have my good camera.  I stood still for several minutes and watched as he sipped a tiny amount from each of dozens of flowers.  It's hard to imagine that the minute quantities of nectar supplied enough calories to zip around like that, but I guess weighing about the same as a nickel makes it easier.  He flashed green and ruby in the afternoon sun.  I looked around, hoping to see his nest, but I couldn't find one.  Some of the currants, the ones that weren't butchered, are covered in blossoms.  The ice storm in January does not seem to have harmed them.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

We went to the beach at sunset, but it was a uniform, featureless gray-blue.  We did see Venus, very bright in the hazy blue sky.  The moon also came up as we were hiking back up the trail. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The rocks of ELP have been through hell.  Many times.  These rocks might be as young as 100 years old, as in the case of petrified wood, but most of them are millions of years old.  I would venture that none of these rocks are billions of years old, in their present form.  The location on Earth where ELP now sits was once the middle of the ocean.  These rocks were once molten magma deep inside the Earth.  The actual atoms within the rocks may have started in the Earth's mantle, been spewed out as lava, been churned back into the mantle by plate tectonics, and gone through that cycle hundreds of times.  Before that, the atoms in these stones, as well as the atoms in your body, were forged in the furnace of a distant star that exploded.  Although these stones are millions of years old, on average, they are constantly renewed and recycled by the Earth. 

In comparison, the forest at ELP is very young, at about nine or ten thousand years.  Over the centuries, Puget Sound will become a lake, and it may even become a desert if the Olympics grow into a mountain range like the Cascades and cut off the flow of moisture from the ocean.  If North America is moving southwest at a pace of 1 cm per year, and the accretion of material from the pacific plate builds up at about the same rate, then in a million years, the Pacific Coast will be six miles further west of ELP than it is today.  (Maybe.  Who knows if my math is right.)  ELP can't last forever as a healthy forest.  Maybe thirty or forty thousand years would be a lot to ask.  My hope is that it could last at least five thousand years, and the yew trees I've planted could live their entire natural life spans. 

Will anything we do today matter in a million years?  Most definitely.  Species are going extinct at the fastest pace in the history of the Earth.  Human are causing the Sixth Extinction.  It's already too late for millions of species, but other species might survive if we change our ways.  Millions of species will never evolve if we kill them off today.  Locally, ELP can't survive for a million years if we don't improve its health today.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Fifteen people took a tour of Seahurst Park today, to see the trilliums and skunk cabbage.  We saw about 400 trillium flowers on a two mile loop of the upper portion.  We also saw a portion of the park about the size of Eagle Landing Park that was completely free of invasive species.  That is my goal for ELP: free of invasive species and hundreds of trilliums.  It would require a different ethos of the visitors to the park.  The trilliums in Seahurst Park survive because relatively few people expend the time and energy to walk that two mile loop.  Fortunately.  Trilliums near the trail in ELP have mostly died out.  It would be a sign the ELP was headed in the right direction if the trail could be lined with beautiful native flowers, and visitors wouldn't take them or trample them.  Although I would love to walk a flower-lined trail, I don't plant wildflowers beside the trail because I know it would be a waste.  I should say, I don't plant them any more.  Previous efforts to beautify the park have been destroyed.  Now, I plant tough native species that can handle abuse, and I don't plant anything near the trail.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

As we approached the top of the stairs, the heron announced himself as he landed at the beach.  Many birds were noisy today, like the flicker, a blue jay, lots of Bewick's wrens, robbins, crows, and many others I couldn't quite identify.  Other than the birds, the park was very quiet.  I imagine that people all along the shore, on both sides, from West Seattle to Three Tree Point, were enjoying the tranquility.  A jet sky zipped along from Three Tree Point to West Seattle, shattering the tranquility.  I'm sure that was one of his main sources of pleasure, knowing he was ruining a peaceful moment for everyone else.  This sort of freedom is held up as an American ideal, the freedom to destroy someone else's peace.  Where we are is such a long way from where we need to be that I can't see a path from here to there.

Friday, March 30, 2012

I caught a hummingbird today.  This is so close to being a perfect picture.  If I had just a little more sunshine, I could have frozen the action a little more and increased the depth of field.  If the bird and the flowers were just a bit sharper, this would be a perfect picture.  As it is, this picture illustrates the importance of native plants.  Hummingbirds love red flowering currant and salmon berry.  Last week, I saw a hummingbird down near the beach that appeared to be catching bugs, not sipping nectar.  I often hear them dive bombing from over one hundred feet above, making that chirp with their wings as they skid to a halt near me.  The hummingbirds have been around all winter. 

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The eagle soared below me today.  I often see him soaring overhead, but today I was at the top of the stairs, above him as he flew south along the beach.  Lately, eagles have been flying through the area quietly.  Usually, during mating season, they are conspicuously noisy.  Maybe they are being noisy around their nest, half a mile north.  Around here, they are so silent that you have to be lucky to see them at the right moment. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Wind and rain kept most people out of the park today.  More trilliums are coming up in their secret locations.  Almost every plant has broken dormancy and shown some sign of life.  The only plant without a hint of spring so far is the wild cucumber.  I have pictures from previous years of the cucumber blooming in mid-May, so that's 45 days to go from nothing to five feet tall and blooming.  The eagle flew right over my head, silently.  I wonder how many times he has flown right over me without my knowledge.  Lady ferns are unfurling. 

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Komu helped me free two trees from ivy.  The ivy grew 30 feet up one tree and 60 feet up the other.  The ivy stem seen in the lower picture measured about four inches wide and had at least 16 growth rings.  Unfortunately, the alder with the most ivy also had the most decay, and it may not enjoy its freedom very long.  Hopefully the ivy will be completely dead before it falls, so it won't spread any faster than it already does. 

Monday, March 26, 2012

skunk cabbage flower destroyed by casual vandal

Graffiti and trash filled the park today after the first sunny weekend of the year.  By law, graffiti must be removed in a week or less.  I would bet this graffiti stays up indefinitely if I don't remove it myself.  The park receives about 100 visitors a day, any one of whom could report this graffiti to the City, or just clean it up themselves.  We'll see, I guess.

A recent trial about Tyler Clementi's suicide has bullying in the news.  As several pundits pointed out, the roommate who violated Tyler's privacy wasn't the only one to blame.  The people who received that private information and did not stop the bully are equally to blame.  Eagle Landing Park is the victim of bullies who pick on nature because she can't fight back.  Not only are these individuals truly horrible, but the rest of the 100 visitors a day who come to the park and do nothing to stop this abuse are not such great people either.

If you see someone abusing the park, you could say something.  You could object.  You could ask them why they are doing this.  You could take their picture and possibly call the police, although the police won't actually show up.  If all of the 99 other visitors to the park told this one person to stop vandalizing the park, chances are he would stop.  Only by the apathy of the many can this person get away with it.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

I saw a bumblebee, a hummingbird, and a Douglas squirrel.  I can't count any of them in the Project Noah mission because I could not get their pictures with an iPhone.  I should be keeping two lists, in order to get to 365 species.  The Project Noah would be one list, and the other would contain those species that I positively identified without photographing them.  Bombus vosnesinskii, Calypte anna, and Tamiasciurus douglasii.  I am also seeing the begininnings of things like Cooleye's hedge nettle and sticky weed, but I can wait on those and get their pictures eventually. 

Friday, March 23, 2012

This is why humans will go extinct.  Five days ago, I first noticed this trillium beside the trail.  There used to be a large cluster of trilliums here, but over the years they had been abused down to nothing.  This year, one managed to struggle back.  When I saw it, I figured it wouldn't last long.  It lasted five days before someone plucked the flower off of it.  Most likely, it won't last too much longer before it is trampled by dogs or kids.  During those five days that people had a chance to see its flower, probably several hundred people walked by the flower, and probably several dozen noticed and admired it.  One person took the bloom, simply because it was there. 

The flower thief will suffer no consequences for her action.  Hundreds of other people who might have seen the flower will be deprived of its beauty, but the flower thief won't be punished.  The flower thief does not care that this flower was taken away from everyone else who came after her.  The flower thief may not even know why she took it.  It was there, she made up some excuse why it was okay to take this flower, and she took it. 

It is this way with everything else in nature.  If 95% of the people are willing to protect and preserve a natural resource, it doesn't matter.  The 5% who are willing to ruin everything for everyone else can demolish nature with impunity.  The 95% will not enforce laws that protect nature. 

In the neighborhood around Eagle Landing Park, hundreds of large Douglas-fir trees contribute to the environment, providing ecological services to us all.  Every year, 99% of the people in this neighborhood don't cut down their large trees, but 1% does.  They suffer no repercussions, even if it is illegal to cut those trees.  Within a certain radius of the eagle's nest tree, you need a permit to cut a significant tree.  No one ever gets that permit, and no one is ever fined.  The houses are bought and sold, and that 1% moves around the neighborhood.  In a few decades, all of the large Douglas-firs will be gone.  The people who cut them will suffer no consequences. 

We all rely on the biosphere, whether we think so or not.  Most of us degrade the environment as a byproduct of daily living.  Our way of life is using resources at an unsustainable rate.  A small portion of the population degrades our environment at a much higher rate.  This man drives a car that puts out 100 times as much pollution as the average car.  His car is even prohibited by law, but the law is never enforced.  This family has a fire in the fireplace, burning wood.  It creates pollution that is much more damaging than car pollution, and it provides little or no actual heat to the house.  It actually sucks warm air up the chimney, and may make the furnace work harder than if there were no fire.  Another neighbor uses pesticides and fertilizers on his lawn, over-waters his lawn, and washes the chemicals into the storm drain.  A small minority, like the flower thief, know they can degrade the environment as much as they want, and they will not suffer any repercussions.  This is how humans will go extinct.  The flower thief is killing us all, and no one cares.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The dogs and I reached the beach just before sunset.  At fifteen minutes before sunset, the sky and water were solid gray with just a couple of light patches in the sky.  I saw a black Labrador retriever swimming about 300 feet from shore.  Anyway, it looked like a black Labrador retriever, but given that it dove down to the sea bed looking for dinner, it must have been some other seagoing mammal.  I couldn't get a sense of the size from that distance, but it might have been a river otter or a harbor seal.  An otter can weigh up to 30 pounds and a harbor seal can weigh up to 300 pounds, so my guess is that this was a river otter.  At one point, I imagined that he was floating on his back, resting something on his chest, and manipulating it with his hands.  I took a video of him with my cell phone, but he ended up being about three dark pixels undulating in a field of solid grey. 

In the woods, it was so quiet that the faint gurgling of my hungry stomach was the loudest sound.  Down at the beach, it would have been just as quiet, but freighters sent breaking waves onto the beach.  It hadn't occurred to me before, but this is noise pollution. You think of waves as being natural sounds.  This evening, nature would have been perfectly silent.  It was unnatural commerce that created those waves.  I wish I had the inclination and habit of coming to the beach at dawn, so I could enjoy the silence as if all other humans had vanished. 

Friday, March 16, 2012

When I reached the beach today, I kept looking over my shoulder, wondering what plant or animal might swallow me next.  I was relieved when the alien just came strolling down the beach, with a hat on.  We sat down on a driftwood log.

I said, "No buttons today?"

"I thought it might be more efficient just to get your thoughts on a few things before I wasted any more time.  As you might have guessed, I came to you for this fateful decision because I read on your blog how much you hate people."

"Why does that matter?  You obviously have the technological capabilities to do anything you want with us, regardless of permission."

"Yes, but if I eradicate a species by force, I have to fill out a ton of paperwork.  If it's your decision, then I'm off the hook, and we get to save the other species without a lot of fuss."

"I already told you, I'm ready to hit the red button.  What are we waiting for?"

"I guess it just caught me off guard.  Tell me again why you hate people so much."

"Mostly, because they make me guilty by association.  I don't want to be a member of that generation of people that chose to ruin the Earth.  More than any other generation before us, we have the power to wipe out millions of species and entire ecosystems, permanently.  We also have the power and the technology to heal the Earth and make it the paradise it once was.  We can do all of that without much inconvenience to ourselves, and we would benefit in the long run. 

"Look, humans are going to wipe themselves out.  There can't be much doubt about that.  There are no political solutions.  Everyone votes his pocketbook, and the environment doesn't get to vote.  Our economy, our way of life is based on the rape of the Earth.  If you can provide me with a virus that will accomplish the job in a few weeks instead of a few decades, it will just be accomplishing the inevitable with a lot less pain and drama."

The alien took off his hat and looked at me with all three eyes.  "But wouldn't you feel sad?  Don't you see good in people?"

"I see good people every where I look.  People are capable of great kindness and sacrifice.  When it comes to stopping that small minority of people who are driving this unsustainable way of life, all of the good people are willing to just stand by and let it happen.  Plus, even the good people are complicit in our crimes against ourselves.  Almost every aspect of daily life makes the problem worse."

"Couldn't you persuade the people of Earth to do more of the good and stop destroying their own planet?  You said they have the capability.  They only need the will."

"I will keep trying to persuade people until the day I die, but no one listens to me.  If one man says that every other human is living life wrong, and that he knows the answers to all of life's problems, no one is going to listen to him.  Maybe they would listen to you, what with the third eye and the ability to travel between stars and engineer viruses inside the belly of a whale."

"Maybe, but of course, I am just a product of your imagination."

"Of course.  I guess I should have seen that coming."

I woke up again, in a bed full of dogs, smelling of dogs, mostly. 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

I went to the beach again and looked out across the water for any sign of a whale.  As I searched, the alder tree behind me bent down and grabbed me, stuffing me into a small cave beneath its roots.  I tumbled down the rabbit hole and ended up in another control room, scratched and dirty.  I walked over to the metal table with two buttons and sat down. 

To the alien, I said, "You know, you could just come to my house and discuss this problem.  If you are able to disguise a trap as an alder tree, you could easily cover up that third eye.  A hat would do the trick just fine."

He said, "This gives me plausible deniability."

I looked at the buttons, which were red and orange this time.  I held my hand over the red one and looked at the alien.

He said, "Of course, they aren't active yet.  Today, the red one still wipes out all humans.  The orange one releases a virus that increases the intelligence of all humans.  By tweaking a few gene locations, we can stimulate the body to release endorphins and oxytocin whenever people read books or learn new information or skills.  Humans would value knowledge above all, and they would logically conclude that the health of the planet was in their own best interests.  Would you be at all inclined to press the orange button?"

"I don't know.  I mean, I score much higher than average on IQ tests, and I still do stupid things.  Plus, I haven't been able to figure out how to convince people to do things that are in their best interests.  Intelligent people often delude themselves.  I'm not at all sure the orange virus would work.  I suppose you could try it for a year, and have the red virus as a backup.  Why do you care so much about Earth's biosphere when the people who live here don't care?"

"Your form of evolved life carries a wealth of information.  Molecules have been synthesized by nature that we could never have imagined.  There are processes and relationships that we could study for centuries in order to increase our own knowledge base.  Once those life forms are gone, most of their data goes with them.  Of course, we don't feel these species should die based on the arbitrary whims of people, but the lost opportunity as just as great as the loss of life itself."

"Well, I hope you find the right formula, because we are running out of time."

Again, I woke up in a bed full of dogs, wondering if I smelled like fresh earth.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

I walked down to the beach at Eagle Landing Park, and I saw a whale.  I have been looking for whales for decades, and never seen a single one despite the occasional report of a whale in the area.  I watched excitedly as it moved closer.  It seemed as if the Orca was swimming toward me.  Before I knew it, the whale launched right up onto the beach and swallowed me whole.  I snaked down into the slimy darkness and wound up in a control room with a humanoid alien.

He said, "Sorry about the rough treatment, but I didn't want to blow our cover.  Please have a seat."

I sat down at a metal table with two large buttons on it.  The one on the left was red, and the one on the right was blue.

The alien, who wore a white suit, pointed to the red button, and said, "If you press this button, a virus will be released into the atmosphere that will wipe out every human on Earth."

I slapped the red button like a game show contestant.

The alien just looked at me with his mouth wide open.  Eventually he said, "Fortunately, the button wasn't live.  Please listen to my entire explanation before you touch anything else.  The virus released by the red button will wipe out all humans in a matter of weeks.  If that happens, nuclear reactors will eventually fail, and release huge quantities of radiation into the atmosphere.  All the cars and buildings and factories will simply rot in place.  No one would be around to undo the damage done by humans."

"You mean, you have the technology to create a space ship that looks convincingly like a killer whale, but you can't clean up the mess left by humans?"

"I only brought the one ship, and my planet is many light years away.  Please pay attention.  The blue button would release a virus that would link all humans to the planet.  A person would feel ill or well depending on the condition of the biosphere.  If the planet were harmed, a person would feel pain.  Any ecosystem that died would result in horrible pain for those people living nearby.  This virus would alter the genome of Homo sapiens so that they became the sensory nervous system of the planet.  Organelles would grow on the peripheral nervous system that linked to similar organelles within all plants and animals.  A human could not damage the planet without damaging himself."

I held my hand above the two buttons, and then brought it down decisively on the red button.

"Again, the button isn't active yet, but why choose to kill all humans?"

"You would be counting on humans to not do things that cause themselves pain.  People don't work like that.  Just yesterday, I bought a bag of Easter candy, and ate the entire bag in one day.  I knew this was bad for my health, maybe even dangerous, and I did it anyway.  You just can't rely on humans to do the right thing.  The biosphere will eventually recover from the release of radiation.  The biosphere will never recover from human destruction if we are allow to go unchecked."

"Interesting," said the alien.  "Not at all the answer I was expecting."

I awoke in my bed, next to my sleeping dogs.  I thought I detected a faint fishy smell, but I couldn't be sure.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Today I saw a golden crowned kinglet.  She hopped about nearby, eating something off of fallen fir branches.  With her bright yellow crown drawing attention, she seemed remarkably unconcerned about two enormous dogs with long, sharp teeth, five feet away from her.  She was close enough and calm enough that I was able to snap a cruddy picture with my iPhone.  Most birds this size tend to be drab, blend in with nature, and stay a reasonable distance away from large, potentially dangerous animals.  They also tend to travel in flocks, so that one can sound an alarm for the others.  This lone bird hopped about with her bright yellow flag, within easy striking distance if I had been a predator.  How does this species survive?  What does the bright yellow accomplish to make up for risk from predators?  The wikipedia entry says they tend not to fear human approach.  Maybe they know people don't eat kinglets.  At least until the economy gets a little worse.

I distinctly remember an encounter with a ruby crowned kinglet.  He hopped around outside my kitchen window, eating tiny bugs.  When I went out to watch, he continued as if I wasn't there.  When he wanted to feed near where I was standing, he hopped with in two feet of me and shouted at me to get out of his way.  I never saw that kinglet again, and I hope his bravery wasn't just foolishness.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Today I saw that someone had taken a piece from a skunk cabbage near the beach and dropped it near the top of the park.  This person saw the brilliant yellow flower of the swamp lantern, and his or her response was, Nature has caught my eye, so I think I'll kill it.  The flower was probably discarded when this person realized that the skunky smell wasn't going away.  Does the person who ruined this flower for all the other park visitors feel any internal discord about this wasteful destruction?  If this person was aware of natural beauty enough to notice the flower in the first place, why didn't an innate respect for nature kick in?

Humans are a cancer on the planet.  Humans have the potential, the skills, knowledge, and ability, to be a nervous system for the biosphere.  We could be the brain of the planet.  As mentioned earlier, no other species besides Homo sapiens seems to be equiped to fully appreciate the beauty of nature.  We can choose to be a cancer or a nervous system.  We can bring destruction upon our planet and ourselves, or we can help our biosphere awaken, become conscious and sentient. 

Nature certainly does communicate with us.  Dogs, for example, can communicate very well.  I work with several scent dogs that find missing dogs and cats, and we have established ways of communicating that can be effective most of the time.  (Although, recently my communication with one of the search dogs has gone awry.)  We can also understand the language of birds.  Each songs is an identifier for a species, and there are alarm signals, mating calls, and hunting cries.  To the person who has studied their language, birds communicate very well.  Through science, we are able to communicate with almost every species in the sense that we can understand the meaning of sounds, motions, and actions. 

Nature would not communicate with us through configurations of patterned rocks.  The squeaks of trees in the wind are just random, other than communicating the information about the behavior of tree branches in wind.  Everywhere I look in Eagle Landing Park, I see nature communicating with me about her activities, intentions, and general health.  The more I learn about the 365+ species in the park, the more I understand the information being communicated to me.  If more people would make the effort to listen, they could eventually hear the music of nature.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

I've been taking pictures of rocks for seventy-some days now.  It started as a way to document the 365 stones.  I see patterns in the rocks, both in the way they are made and the way I arrange them.  If nature could speak, I doubt she would tell us something important in the stripes on a rock.  More likely, the patterns I record are a reflection of something within me, my response to the act of examining nature closely.

One way that Nature might speak to us could be the discord we feel in our everyday lives.  We have taken up a position of spoiler.  It's like, when you are having a quiet conversation with a friend, enjoying common interests and sharing memories, and an acquaintance barges in and takes over, talking at length about herself and showing no interest in you except as an audience.  Humans are that loud, obnoxious, clueless person, as far as the biosphere is concerned.  For billions of years, organism traded information through their actions, maintaining an equilibrium.  Along came modern humans, and they said, From now on, everything is about us.  Nature has no value or purpose unless it serves human wealth, consumption, or entertainment.

Although we are taking everything we want or need from nature, it is certainly possible if not likely that we feel a deep dread and unease because of our roll as gluttons, taking all for ourselves and leaving none for others.  This could be nature's way of telling us something's wrong.  We are nature, or at least we were natural for most of our evolution.  Only recently have we taken ourselves out of nature, set ourselves apart.  My grandparents grew up on farms, among forests, among animals.  My great-great-grandparents traveled from Indiana to Denver in a covered wagon, completely surrounded by wilderness.  I grew up playing on vacant lots, down by the creek.  I played in the woods that eventually became Eagle Landing Park.  My nephew will not have a chance to play on a vacant lot, and the only nature experience he can have is in a public park, with the beer cans, used condoms, and dog waste.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

How can I best help Eagle Landing Park?  I can pick up trash, or I can persuade and inspire others to stop dropping trash.  I can remove invasive species, or I can convince others to help me, and to stop planting invasive species in their yards.  I can keep my dogs on leash, or I can ask others to keep their dogs on leash.  As long as the number of people interested in improving the health of ELP remains smaller than those who feel entitled to degrade the park, it will be difficult to turn things around.  It is certainly in people's best interests, even monetarily, to treat the park right.  Few will be persuaded, but below are my economic reasons to take actions that benefit the park. 

1.  Don't drive to Eagle Landing Park.  If you live within a three mile radius of the park, which includes 80% of the population of Burien, then walk to the park.  Walking is good for your health, good for the environment, and saves you money on gas and car repairs.  I see one woman who comes to the park several times a week.  She lives two blocks away, but drives to the park to exercise.  She starts her cold car and gets the worst possible gas mileage for two blocks, lets her car cool, and then starts her cold car again.  If she would simply walk the two blocks to the park, she would get a little more exercise, which is her primary goal, plus she would save herself money and save the environment.

2.  Plant native plants in your yard, everywhere in Burien.  Native plants, when chosen properly and planted in the right place, don't need extra water or fertilizer or pesticides.  Why would you choose any plant other than a native?  Because it is more attractive?  Who says so?  Why would you think that a non-native rhododendron pruned into a ball and completely covered in purple blossoms is more attractive than our native rhododendron with its few pink blossoms amid a background of thick green leaves?  The non-native simply is not more beautiful, and if you think so, it is because you have been brainwashed by people out to make money from you.  Save yourself money and save the environment by planting native plants in your yard. 

3.  Volunteer in your local park.  Volunteering is a great way to meet nice people.  I'm not talking about me, of course, since I am obviously obtuse and antisocial.  But you would meet other volunteers who would probably be very nice.  If you are looking for exercise, pulling ivy is great exercise, and helps the planet.  If you walk to the park and spend two or three hours pulling ivy, that's several hours that you aren't spending as a consumer, wasting your money and hurting the environment.  Volunteering every week can improve your health and save you money on health care. 

4.  Don't buy stuff.  If you don't buy stuff, then you won't need to discard it in the park.  What is this fascination with spending excessive amounts of money on beer?  What is so wrong with your mind that you would be happier if you drugged yourself?  If you stop buying that beer, you'll save a ton of money, and you won't need to throw your beer can in the bushes in our park.  Whatever is so wrong that you think beer will make it better, it is still going to be wrong when the effects of the beer wear off.  Unless you stay drunk 24 hours a day, there's no point in getting drunk in the first place.  Think of all that extra money you would have if you didn't buy beer, and the problems you could solve with that money.  Don't buy bottled water, either.  Fill your own bottle with tap water, and you will be motivated to take the more expensive bottle home, unlike whoever it is that keeps throwing water bottles in the bushes. 

5.  Read a book.  Reading a book is much cheaper than watching movies or TV shows.  The TV shows either cost money in subscriptions or in watched advertising, which makes you buy stuff you don't need.  Books make you smarter while TV usually makes you dumber.  Smarter people often make more money.  You could read any number of books on the environment, and you could choose electronic books, so no trees would be cut down.  Reading lots of books makes you a more interesting person. 

In short, be an environmentalist to save your own money and improve your own health, if you won't do it for the sake of the environment.  You can still be an ignorant, nature-hating jerk at heart, if you really feel the need, and you can take environmentally positive actions for purely selfish reasons. 

Okay, so I doubt anyone is going to be persuaded by that.  I'll try again tomorrow.

Friday, March 9, 2012

A light mist floated down on us, hardly getting us damp.  It rains 150 days per year, but it only rains 37 inches per year, so most of those rains are light.  I remember the record rain of about five inches one October day a few years ago. We get less rain than New York, Miami, or Houston.  But we get a variety of types of rain.  We should have fifty words for rain in Seattle. 

Certain forests with tall trees can create their own rainfall, greatly increasing the water captured.  I wonder if Eagle Landing Park has trees tall enough to squeeze rain out of the clouds.  We know that rainfall totals are highest where air has to climb over mountains and the moisture is essentially squeezed out by the pressure and temperature changes.  The top of Eagle Landing Park is about 275 feet.  If you add trees 100 feet tall, that's 375 feet the air has to climb to get over this forest.  If the trees grow to 300 feet, like they should, the clouds will have to climb to 575 feet.  I will have to come back in a few hundred years and see if the rainfall has increased. 

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Nothing makes sense except in the light of evolution.  Why would we be destroying nature at our current rate if we can see it will be to our detriment in the long run?  Well, for millions of years, our ancestors did not need to worry about the environment.  50,000 years ago, a person could not pollute the environment even if he wanted to.  Fifty thousand years ago, there were fewer than half a million people on the planet.  We were insignificant, and it did not matter how we treated the environment. 

Also, fifty thousand years ago, nature was trying pretty hard to kill us.  We were hunted by snakes, lions, jackals, and who knows what else.  We were being killed by famine and drought, ice ages, volcanic eruptions, and just the hazards of trying to make a living with our bare hands or primitive tools. 

For hundreds of thousands of years, nature was trying to kill us, and we couldn't harm nature even if we wanted to.  Only in the last five hundred years or so have we had the ability to seriously harm nature.  (Humans may have killed off the megafauna of North America over five thousand years ago, but ecosystems adjusted and thrived.)  Only in the last two hundred years or so have we been able to greatly reduce our chances of being killed by wildlife and natural disasters.  We evolved patterns of behavior and instincts during a time when environmentalism would have made no sense.  Protect nature?  Why?  I'm more interested in protecting my self from nature. 

We have conquered the traditional causes of death, and now the things most likely to kill us are man made.  You are much more likely to die from an unhealthy diet, cigarette smoke, or a car accident than you are likely to die from a snake bite or a lion attack.  Of the top 97 causes of death in the US, at least 25 can have human actions as a contributing cause.  Attack by a wild animal or bad weather do not even make the list.  The only one of the top 97 causes that might have nature as a contributing factor would be poisonings.  Well,  some diseases are natural, but that has little to do with nature in the sense of ecosystems. 

If humans are evolutionarily predisposed to harm nature, how would we stop this destruction?  It needs to be a conscious choice based on reason.  Or, it could be based on love.  There is much to love in the natural world, and we won't be able to reproduce this delicate fabric once it's gone.  

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Because I am in the park every day, new growth seems to be emerging in slow motion.  In the past, when I only walked to the beach maybe forty times a year, flowers and new growth seemed to suddenly appear.  Now that I am looking at the same buds every day, they seem to get a little fatter, a little fatter, show a little color, slowly unfold, and eventually bloom.  I saw the white on the Trillium buds about a week ago, but none has opened yet.  I wasn't aware how slowly these things happen.

Perhaps in a few weeks, so many things will be blooming that I will be thankful that they happen slowly.  Certainly, this slowness to open bodes well for longevity of bloom.  Right now, salmonberry is blooming nicely, but I have had a hard time photographing it.  The blooms are often at an awkward height or location, and the slightest bit of wind complicates things.  The trilliums are really the highlight of the year for me, as far as flowers.  They should be opening any day now.  Of course, when the ocean spray blooms, I might say it is the highlight of the year.  And then there's the fireweed.

The skunk cabbage I rescued from the beach is growing nicely, a little later than the other plants that were not disturbed.  My plan is to plant it in the seep just north of the stairs, so everyone can see it from the platform.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

In a nutshell, this is the problem we face.  Near Eagle Landing Park is a small post office.  About five hundred mail boxes are in the lobby.  Also in the lobby are two cans: one is a garbage can and one is for recycling.  The recycling can is clearly marked, and it has a slot in the top so you know it is only for recycling.  Right next to it, touching it, is a can that is clearly an ordinary garbage can, an iconic garbage can, and it is labeled, in big, bold letters, Garbage only, No recyclables.  Every day, the garbage can has more recyclable junk mail in it than it has garbage, and there is more recyclable material in the garbage can than in the recycle can.  Every single day of the year.

The people who come to this post office have been coming here for years, sometimes decades.  They are well-educated, on average, and judging from the yard signs in the neighborhood, mostly liberal.  They are middle to upper income.  They are the kind of people that you would expect to recycle.  The neighborhood has a higher than average number of Priuses.  Still, when they have the cloak of anonymity, when it takes no extra effort at all to recycle, a significant number of my neighbors willfully, deliberately choose to throw recyclable material in the trash can right next to the recycle bin.  When saving the earth would take no extra effort, they would still take steps to destroy it.

Eagle Landing Park faces the same problem.  For a significant number of park visitors, the function of nature is to be hunted, harvested, consumed, abused, or polluted.  That is how some people appreciate nature, by ruining it.  Think of the ultimate wilderness outing for a large number of people: fishing or hunting, with beer and a camp fire.  The thing most people appreciate about nature is that it is free for the taking.  Whoever gets there first has the right to despoil something.  The wilderness is where no one can tell you not to do something.

Even if that was the only way you could enjoy nature, by destroying it, it would make sense that you would want to leave a little nature around so you can come back and destroy it later.  Let's say you like beer.  Let's say, just for the sake of argument, there was a finite capacity to produce beer.  If people consume too much too fast, the beer production capacity will be permanently damaged, and eventually all beer production will cease.  You have a choice between drinking an unlimited amount of beer now, and having none later, or drinking a limited amount of beer now and having an assured supply later.  What would you do?  Well, most people would probably drink too much beer now even if it meant having no beer later.  That's just the way people are.  If you ask them to think about it, to plan for the future, they will just laugh at you.

I intend this biography of a park to be a snapshot of how things were at this moment, so that future generations can look back at the state of the park and see how much it has improved.  It is more likely that this is the golden age of Eagle Landing Park, and people will have only these pictures to see how beautiful the park was, before it was ruined. It takes a commitment from everyone to save nature, and it only takes a small minority to destroy it, if they go unchecked.

Monday, March 5, 2012

I lucked out today and caught some Barrow's Goldeneye ducks with my lens.  Their world population is about 200,000.  That seems rare to me, in the entire world, but they are not an endangered species.  I didn't know this until I took the picture, but their heads aren't really black.  They are deep purple, and you can see a flash of purple on the cheek of the lead duck.  They dive down and eat mollusks.  They only come here in the winter, and for the rest of the year they will go to some mountain lake in Canada or Alaska.  The rest of the day's pictures can be seen here.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

In the future, people will not need to damage nature.  Perhaps it will be ten years or 100 years, but we will eventually get beyond automobiles and the destruction they cause.  For entertainment and sport, people will have the internet in their heads.  A future visitor will come to Eagle Landing Park, simply look at the plants, and instantly fill in his spottings of species on his Project Noah page.  He will look up and see the eagle soaring overhead, and a memory chip in his head will capture the image he sees.  The internet in his head will provide the species name and as much or as little information as he cares to know.  The collection of 365 species, which is taking me all year, will be accomplished by this future visitor in one afternoon visit.  If he wants a more active sport, he can ride a hovering skate board that skims along above the ground, never touching it.  He can ride his hoverboard down the trail and even down the stairs, without harming a twig, able to stop on a dime if he encounters another park visitor.  For added difficulty, he might try to collect 365 species while riding his hoverboard down the trail.  Of course, he would take his time comming back up the trail, stopping to enjoy and experience each species of native plant.  In the future, people will look back on our generation and view us as barbaric and primitive for the way we wasted nature. 

The most damning judgment of our generation will be that we had the tools and the ability to change, to become symbiotic with our biosphere, and we chose to procrastinate, to leave it for the next generation to set things right. 

Saturday, March 3, 2012

A sunny Saturday brought lots of visitors to the park.  A man and a woman were stopping to look at the new growth on many plants beside the trail.  I couldn't hear what they were saying, but it seemed they were identifying species and discussing their properties.  As a member of the Washington Native Plant Society, that sort of attention to plants seems so familiar to me, but it is rare enough in my park that it is notable, and refreshing.  I don't know why that couldn't be the norm, for people to observe and appreciate all the native plants growing beside the trail. 

Stone 63 is pictured above, which means I should have 63 species in the bag.  I have seen many more than 63 species, but it is not so easy to photograph and identify them.  Birds are much harder to photograph than Trillium.  I have photographed many lichens and mosses that are hard to identify.  Today, there was a green bug on Komu's snout.  The velvety brown background was perfect for a picture of this bug, but it flew away by the time I got the camera ready and the dog still.  If I'm going to hit 365 species, I will need more books, more time in the park, and more patience.  Seeing a bird is hard enough, but snapping a picture before it moves seems nearly impossible. 

Photography done well is really an extreme sport.  (Which is not to say that I'm doing it well.)  It requires the skills and abilities of hunting, patience, stamina, broad knowledge, and moderately expensive equipment.  I could easily spend $20,000 for my ideal camera toolkit.  And then I would need to go to school to learn to use that equipment.  My low-end-but-still-costly equipment does take excellent pictures.  You have to be there at the right time and place.  You also need to take twenty pictures for every good one.  Looking at all the amazing pictures of incredible species pouring in to Project Noah, it is easy to see that one could do nothing but take pictures of nature for the rest of one's life. 

Friday, March 2, 2012

A rainy afternoon means I got the park all to myself.  I like to imagine that the entire Earth has been eradicated of all Homo sapiens and all the structures they have built.  While walking through Eagle Landing Park, if you ignore the occasional bench or sign, you can get the feeling of what it might have been like before the ice age.  Before this land was reshaped by a glacier half a mile thick, many of the same plant and animal species lived here.  The glacier pushed them away, and they returned as the glacier receded.  For millions of years, Eagle Landing Park did not know what a human was.  I would like to go back in time and carefully take pictures of that era, without disturbing anything.  There are certain people that I like, and I believe humans in general have the capacity for enormous benefit to the biosphere someday.  Still, the world before humans must have been gloriously beautiful, almost unimaginable.  I hope the world after our extinction will regain some of its past glory.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

A new species of lichen blew down out of the canopy.  I think it might have been growing in a cherry tree.  I never see this species anywhere near eye level.  I've only seen it once before, and that was another twig blown down by the wind.  It turns out to be ragged lichen, Platismatia glauca.  Thanks to Richard Droker for providing the identity.  He is an amazing photographer, and I aspire to improve my photography to his level.  Before asking Richard for the identity of this lichen, I tried to look it up myself in my gigantic book of lichens.  My hand gets tired holding this book while I try find the species.  I would like to find the species the correct way, by using the key, but the key in this book asks for the results of chemical tests I don't yet know how to perform.  Lichens of North America is a beautiful book.

Lichens are symbiotic even more so than most plants and animals.  Humans are symbiotic in many senses.  We have hundreds of species of bacteria in and on our bodies, keeping our systems in balance, and the loss of those bacterial species can lead to poor health.  Lichens are more thoroughly symbiotic in that they are composed of two species, a fungal host and an algae growing inside.  The algae growing in these lichens can exist outside their hosts, but they look and act very different.  There are about 18,000 known species of lichen, combining different fungal bodies with different algae inside.  The fungus provides a home for the alga, keeping it moist and providing certain minerals.  The photosynthesis taking place in the algae provides energy for growth in the fungal body.  It is similar in a way to the mitochondria in the human body that provide the energy we need to live.  Mitochondria have their own genomes, separate from the DNA that defines a person.  We would die with mitochondria. 

In fact, humans are ecosystems in and of themselves.  Over 200 species of bacteria live on the skin of the average human.  If I counted those bacteria, and I was able to photograph and document them, they would get me most of the way to my goal of 365 species for the year.  You have more cells in and on your body of a different species than you have cells with your own DNA.  Your personal cells with your DNA are typically larger, and most of your body mass is made up of your cells.  Still, if you took away all the other species from your own little ecosystem, you would die instantly.  Much of the diversity of species has been removed from Eagle Landing Park and may never come back.  My goal in improving the health of ELP is to get ride of the invasive, cancerous species of plants, and increase the diversity of native plants.  I can't bring back grizzly bears and elk, unfortunately.  The one invasive species that will never go away is humans, but hopefully they can be converted from parasitic to symbiotic in nature. 

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

There does not need to be a conflict between the conservation, appreciation, and enjoyment of nature on the one hand and the ability to lead a comfortable, luxurious, entertaining lifestyle.  All that is needed is a new definition of what constitutes value, luxury, and comfort.  Nature is more luxurious than anything man made.  Being able to walk through Eagle Landing Park every day is opulent, comfortable, and exciting.  Today I enjoyed a nice storm.  I found a spot at the beach, under the big maple, without a puff of wind.  The trunk of the tree rocked back and forth with the high winds at the top, but a falling helicopter seed would have spiraled straight down, near the ground.  From my windless shelter, I looked out at whitecaps and seagulls playing on the wind.  They had to work hard at landing, as the wind kept trying to lift them.  Quite often on these windy days, I see someone on a sailboard skipping along from wave to wave.  He zips right out into the middle of the sound.  If he were to hit his head on the board in an accident, he would drown before help could arrive.  Maybe he is agile and fit and knows what he is doing, but it seems to me like he is risking his life for his enjoyment of nature.  The sailboarder and I have quite different ways of enjoying a storm, but both methods respect and preserve nature.  We both embrace the excitement of the storm, which is much better than any video game or movie. 

I have wealth in this public park.  Every day I see something new, even after decades of visiting this forest.  Other people consider wealth to be large houses, gold, numbers on a computer screen, and the ability to compel others to do work for you.  There is nothing intrinsically valuable about those perceived trappings of wealth.  In a society with different values, a large house could be seen as a liability.  Gold might be viewed as an environmental disaster.  Gold represents the destruction of entire ecosystems.  Hiring others to do your work is not nearly as satisfying as having people volunteer to help you.

Although I consider myself an environmentalist in many respects, there are those committed individuals that make me look like a lightweight, a pretender.  One man rides his bike everywhere, long distances, to get to meetings and entertainments and work.  A successful Hollywood actor has no possessions and lives in a very small, plain house.  I know people who have a vegan diet, and I agree it is better for the environment.  I have not succeeded in my many attempts to stick to a vegetarian diet, despite knowing that it's best for my body, my mind, and my environment.  Still, I do make choices to be as environmentally positive as I can, given my weaknesses.  I am trying not to buy any stuff I don't absolutely need.  My books, movies, and music are mostly digital, with no packaging and no storage requirements.  I try to drive less by combining trips.  But I am not doing without.  I am not sacrificing.  I have my digital books, my photography, and my forest to walk in, so I am rich. 

I imagine a future where Seattle is completely invisible.  It appears to be continuous forest from mountains to sea.  All the housing is underground, in buildings housing 30,000 people in spacious, clean, bright apartment homes.  Everyone has a great view.  Your bowling alley, movie theater, and grocery store are all contained inside your residence building.  No one owns a car, and the train takes you from your residence building to the underground office or factory or warehouse where you work.  For recreation, people hike in the endless wilderness, take pictures, make music, ride sailboards, and read books.  Why is tearing up the Earth on a dirt bike intrinsically better than gliding along the surface of the water on a sailboard, leaving no trace?  It is not.  It is the philosophy that wealth equals the destruction of the Earth that drives these value systems.  It is not based on reason.  If you want to collect, collect memories and photographs.  If you want possess land, become the steward of your local park.  If you want to bask in luxury, sit in the sun on a mountain top after hiking up there. 

When I ask people to treat our local park with respect and kindness, I am not asking them to give up luxury, comfort, convenience, and entertainment.  I am simply pointing out that their current definitions of those terms are not inevitable.  Nature is far more opulent, interesting, and comfortable than any mansion. 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A conservative and a conservationist conversed in a conservatory.  The conservative, Conrad, and the conservationist, Constance, agreed to a rational discussion where each would try to persuade the other to change their core values.

Conrad said, "You can't have values if they change.  If your position changes over time, that means you don't have any core values to anchor your philosophy."

Constance said, "If your core value is change, specifically improvement, then your subsidiary values would necessarily change while your core value remains constant.  At any rate, the core values of conservatives have always changed.  The definition of family used to dictate that women and children were property of men, that they were servants without choices.  Women were not allowed to vote, and sometimes they weren't even allowed to speak.  Very few conservatives today want to preserve a way of life in which women are property, basically slaves.  What conservatives conserve is power.  They conserve those systems where control remains in the hands of the few.  Power has spread to an ever larger group throughout history, from a handful of tribal leaders and kings to large numbers of businessmen and inheritors of wealth.  This diffusion of power and wealth to a larger group was only ever made possible by changes brought about by liberals.  Conservatives have always benefited from the change wrought by liberals.

"In contrast, most liberals tend to vote away their own power and wealth, distributing it to ever larger subsets of formerly disenfranchised groups, not limited to people.  The heart of the environmental movement seeks to give power to the environment itself, ecosystems, animals, and plants.  The conservationist wants to conserve our most basic asset, the environment, whether or not this preservation is at the expense of traditional and opulent lifestyles.  Perversely, conservatives remain in power partially because liberals tend to surrender their wealth and power, reducing their own influence."

Conrad said, "I don't know what liberals you are talking about, but the ones I've had to deal with wanted to take power and wealth away from the wealthy.  Liberals don't give away their own money; they give away other people's money."

Constance:  "The foundation of your argument is flawed for several reasons.  First, all wealth comes from resources, namely, natural resources.  Even in the field of scientific discovery, that wealth of knowledge comes from studying nature and learning her secrets.  Every way you can think of to make money today is based on the taking of resources from nature.  One mainstay of wealth is extractive industry, where raw materials are valued at nothing until someone who finds those resources claims them.  This is just a Finders Keepers sort of claim, and it often disregards indigenous people who live on that land.  People from powerful nations make agreements with each other to respect each other's claims of ownership of property and resources that once belonged to no one.  Everything that is now owned, that is a source of wealth today, was just wilderness 50,000 years ago.  As people spread about the globe, they claimed property and resources as their own, not because they had some deed of ownership, but simply because they had the power to claim that property.  Prior to 50,000 years ago, the Earth did not belong to anyone.  Now, ownership is the foundation of wealth, and all ownership began as theft.  The wealth that you claim liberals want to take away is, in every instance, wealth that was stolen in the first place.

"The second flaw in your claim that liberals want to steal wealth from the wealthy is that the wealthy have progressively gotten wealthier in the last sixty years.  More wealth is concentrated in fewer hands.  If anything, liberals want to stop the flow of wealth into the coffers of the wealthy.  When it comes to the environment, the wealth of some people relies on the claim that not only are raw materials free for the taking, but the dumping of waste into the environment is also a traditional, given right.  Conservatives often claim that environmental regulations are an unfair tax on business, and it is a way for liberals to steal wealth and freedoms from conservatives.  50,000 years ago, humans contributed almost no pollution to the environment.  It is the consumer lifestyle that fuels our economy that increases the flow of waste and toxins into the shared environment.  Meanwhile, the wealthy and the conservatives have the resources to shield themselves from the effects of pollution while the poor must experience exposure to pollutants disproportionately.  All conservative models of government are built on economic growth, which translates into increased exploitation of natural resources and increased loads of toxins in the environment.  Conservatives have twisted logic around to say that the obstruction of paths to wealth constitutes "Redistribution of Wealth" which is a code for liberals stealing money from conservatives.  In reality, the basis of capitalism has always been the redistribution of wealth, namely getting coins out of the consumer's pocket and into the coffers of business.  If a conservationist wants to slow the accumulation of more wealth into fewer hands for the sake of preserving nature and natural resources, that is decried as communism."

Conrad sighed, and said, "Look, you grew up in a wealthy society.  You benefited from those industrial pioneers you are now trying to throttle.  Capitalism gave you an education, and you never could have gone to the college that gave you those environmentalist ideals if not for the hard work of businessmen, entrepreneurs, and capitalists.  If conservationists had had their way 50,000 years ago, we would still be swinging from trees, wearing loincloths, and eating monkey brains."

"Ouch," said Constance.  "The irony of your last statement was like a skillet to the head.  You're saying that conservatives are the engines of change, that piracy is necessary to conserve a way of life that hadn't even been invented yet.  Well, if an environmentalist could turn the clock back 50,000 years, she would likely want to restart the clock and guide civilization along a different path.  Instead of breeding seven billion people in the name of the right to an unlimited number of children, an environmentalist might have pursued policies limiting the total human population to less than a billion.  Also, with the benefit of knowing how things turned out, an environmentalist would have cautioned that, for every wasteful industrial process discovered, a more efficient, cleaner process is on the way; therefore, it is not necessary to throw every scrap of a particular natural resource into the hopper of one newfangled industrial process.  If we had conserved one tenth of the old growth forest present in 1492 in the land that would eventually become the US, the value of those materials would be astronomical in terms of economic opportunity, let alone environmental benefits.  At every step of the way, industrialists and capitalists have systematically screwed over the industrialists and capitalists coming along behind them.  Knowing that technologies such as tool-making, agriculture, publishing, industrial manufacturing, electronics, biotech, medicine, and transportation would always be able to accomplish more work with less effort and waste, an environmentalist would have slowed the pointless destruction of resources in processes that would soon be obsolete.

"Right now," continued Constance, "we are 50,000 years in the past of some future society.  What I want to conserve will benefit all future humans, indeed all future species on Earth, human or not.  If conservatives had their way, wealth and power would flow as rapidly as possible to an ever-smaller number of people in the present, and the environment would be sacrificed wherever necessary.  This accumulation of wealth in dollars would be passed down to a few inheritors, and probably be squandered on trifles, while our collective wealth in the environment would be diminished for all future people, conservatives or liberals.  The conservative mantra is Freedom.  Freedom might be equated with Equality, as in equal opportunity.  Instead, Freedom in the conservative sense is the right to pursue inequalities in wealth and opportunity.  In conservative terms,  all people should have an equal right to get as much money from their neighbors as possible.  If you can create an advantage over a competitor, you should.  In fact, you have a duty to be your best and to crush your competition.  That is the American Way.  The people at the greatest disadvantage, the easiest to exploit, are the ones that haven't been born yet.  It is easiest to take resources from, and leave burdens to, future generations.  If conservatives got their way, the way of life they want to conserve would be attainable by ever smaller numbers of people.  Only if conservationists succeed will conservatives even have an arena in which to operate."

Conrad said, "Although nothing you've said is remotely true, everything you want in life comes at a cost to me.  You want higher taxes, more regulation, fewer freedoms, and fewer rights."

"I want a lower tax on our environment, which is a resource that belongs to the present and the future, if it belongs to anyone.  I want regulations that protect everyone's future assets.  I want future generations to have the freedom to play in a clean, healthy environment.  I want all species to have the right to a healthy life."

Conrad said, "It sounds like you want conservatives to do all the changing while liberals stay the same."

"We don't seem to be getting any closer to an agreement on who should change," said Constance.

Monday, February 27, 2012

It's harder to tell when people are appreciating nature.  I can clearly see when they are abusing nature, but acts of appreciation can be quiet and contemplative.  Nature was spectacular today, and deserving of appreciation.  A woman and two children walked along the same tide pools where I was hunting for pictures of species.  I could not hear if they noticed all the wonderful life at their feet.  The only thing I heard was one of the girls exclaiming, "A tire!"  I suppose the fact that it struck her as being remarkably out of place is a sign of some appreciation of nature.  It is possible that the 90% of people coming to the park for some other main purpose are also appreciating nature in their own quite ways. 

I took dozens of pictures today, finding all kinds of treasures that others overlooked.  I was able to cull the collection down to 21 images.  The anemone turned out spectacular.  Photography allows me to see things better than I could with just my own vision.  The camera captures and preserves small moments so that I can explore them later.  The picture of the anemone looks like an animation, and yet you can see each individual grain of sand, giving the picture a gritty reality.  The main show hasn't started yet--the spring exlosion of flowers--but I keep finding amazing little treasures like witches' butter, liverworts, and anemones.  I had never seen any of these three species before this year, and the act of looking closer with my camera has led me to these discoveries.  365 species seems like a huge task, but at the rate I am discovering species that were hidden to me, I think it just might be possible. 

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Life is strange.  If they ever discover life on a distant planet, it won't be as weird and wonderful as life on Earth.  Pictured above is a siphon of a clam.  Actually, there are two siphons, one open and one closed, and I can't figure out if they belong to one clam or two.  Nature invented clams, seaweed, spiders, and humans using the same four base pairs of DNA.  A Douglas-fir tree 100 feet tall would seem to have little in common with the tiny mite living inside the lichen growing on its branches.They all started from strands of DNA.  The hundreds of species living in Eagle Landing Park are not so much distinct entities as they are components of the whole system, like the various organs of the human body.  If you examined each organ separately, in a stainless steel pan on the autopsy table, the human body would look alien enough.  Only when you get all those organs working in unison does a human sometimes appear to be a beautiful work of art.  The individual components of my forest often do look beautiful when photographed individually.  Still, a geoduck on the freeway or fir tree in your living room would seem out of place.  When the camera zooms in, evidence of the setting usually remains. 

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Find the Eagle contest has begun, details here.  I need to find my books.  I know I have books on identifying mosses, life in the tidal zone, lichens, plants, mammals, birds, and insects, but I can only find about half of my books.  I suppose I could go to the library.  For now, I am taking pictures and hoping I can look up the species later.  Even better would be if someone saw the pictures and identified them for me.  I would still look it up in the book, but it would save time.  Of the 365 species I hope to find, I probably only know the names of about 100.  This will be a learning experience for me as I get to know my park.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Who cares what happens to Eagle Landing Park?  It's only six acres.  As I've said before, the larger biosphere would have been better off if the land had been converted to housing.  If the entire six acres were paved, top to bottom, with not a single tree left standing, it wouldn't make much difference to the Earth.  In my own community, even among people who visit the park regularly, fewer than ten percent of people who have heard of Eagle Landing Park take the time to appreciate it or help preserve it.  If they can't let their dogs run off-leash at ELP, they will just take them somewhere else.

Someone burned a Qur'an, I guess.  I don't know the details and I don't want to know.  Because one book was burned, thousands of people are rioting and eight or more have been killed.   The book wasn't the only copy of the Qur'an, or especially valuable in some way.  The book was a symbol.  If I had to guess at the psychology of the rioters, their reason must be something like, "If you attack this holy book, you attack us."  Well, that's how I feel about my park.  Not that I feel like rioting, since a riot of one just gets you thrown in jail, but I feel that if you degrade my park, you spit on me.

Why is it that so few people feel like I do?  Fifty years after Rachel Carson's Silent Spring supposedly launched the environmental movement, why are environmentalists so complacent?  Certainly, our rivers are no longer burning, and we don't spray children with DDT.  What we have instead is the exportation of our environmental problems to China.  We also have the steady loss of canopy in cities like Seattle.  And in an insignificant park that no one has ever heard of, people degrade the environment on a daily basis, and their fellow citizens simply stand back and watch.

If it were just ELP, I guess we could write off one park, even if it is the home of my childhood memories and my environmental education.  The problem is that all neighborhoods have their own Eagle Landing Parks under similar assaults.  I have seen the degredation caused by drug use, off-leash dogs, inappropriate activities, and apathy in many other parks around the greater Seattle area.  Entire slopes are turned to mud at Carkeek and Dash Point by dogs and kids.  Westcrest Park has had a chronic problem with a section of the park being used for drugs and sex, to the detriment of the environment.  Hiking far away from the city, I've seen sections of the ground in public parks where bullet casings covered the earth.  If a group of believers can be incited to rioting over one book, but the global village can't be bothered about the slow and steady degradation of our shared natural resources, then there is no hope for humanity.  If Eagle Landing Park cannot become healthier, then it is very likely that the whole biosphere will become sicker, to the detriment of us all.

Why don't people care?  What would it take for people to start caring?  To take action?

Today I saw three people in the park.  A grandmother and two grandchildren walked down to the beach.  I heard screaming.  The toddler banged on things with a blue plastic rake and threw rocks in the water.  The tween girl stuffed her pockets with shells and threw rocks in the water.  If the grandmother made any effort to instill respect and reverence for nature, I did not see evidence of such an effort.  Why did she bother to go to all the trouble of bringing her grandchildren to this remote beach when they could have thrown rocks at home?  I guess Eagle Landing Park has a better selection of rocks.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

I have identified all the easy species, and now when I find a moss or a mushroom or a liverwort, naming the species can involve extensive homework.  By the time I get to species number 365, I will be spending five hours at books and computers for every hour in the park.  I am hoping that Project Noah will help, but so far it hasn't.  My identification requests haven't caught the attention of the right person.  I definitely wouldn't say no to some help on this project. 

I am working on an idea, a contest called Find The Eagle at Eagle Landing Park.  I will invite people to join Project Noah and help me reach my goal of 365 species.  Whoever finds the most species would win a silver eagle coin, an ounce of silver worth about $35 to $50.  Besides helping me identify the species and write this biography, such a contest would hopefully attract more nature lovers to the park, improving the percentages.  Today, I only saw five people in the park, two young men followed by three young men, secretive, looking suspicious, and heading toward a secluded corner of the park.  Perhaps they were members of a poetry club. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Komu and I took the good camera into the park today to capture the interesting fruiting bodies of the liverwort.  They look like something from another planet.  They may have been there for years escaping my notice.  Only by stopping and looking have I discovered so many interesting things about my forest.  I think the resulting pictures are amazing, but I am often mesmerized by the pictures I have taken.  They allow me to see more reality than first meets my eye.

The other day when I talked about the percentage of people who had various priorities when visiting the park, I miscalculated and came up with 110%.  Also, it occurs to me that people can have more than one goal.  I know that I do.  I also tried to think about those percentages and whether I had distorted them.  I thought about the percentages as I saw people on the trail.  I don't think I am distorting the numbers.

50% have exercise as primary goal.
25% have evasion of laws as primary goal.
10% have legal dog walking as primary goal.
10% have enjoyment of nature as primary goal.
5%   have no particular reason for being there.

As I stopped and took pictures, one man ran by us several times as he ran from the beach to the top and back.  I saw five other people who were running or walking up and down the stairs.  Five more people were families with children, taking them for a walk in the park.  Whether that counts as exercise as a primary goal, I'm not exactly sure.  The families I saw with children did not focus their attention on the beauty and fragility of nature.  One kid was throwing a ball, and the two little girls were throwing rocks into the sea.  I saw two people with a dogs on leash, at least as long as I was watching, and two more with dogs off leash.  I saw several people smoking, even though they weren't old enough to buy cigarettes, and it didn't smell like cigarettes.  Later, when I drove by the park in the evening, I saw a car parked with two people in the back seat, and the windows were to foggy for them to have been looking at owls or stars.  I did meet a mother and her adult daughter who had a good digital camera and they asked if the eagles were around today.  About five more people did not indicate, by their behavior, why they came to the park.  So, counting myself, 3 out of 23 people may have been at the park for the primary purpose of enjoying nature.  Today's observations would seem to support my perceived percentages.

If people have other reasons for visiting the park, how do I increase the percentage of people who seek out nature primarily for education, entertainment, and atonement?  How do I get people to notice tiny magical filaments with prismatic dew drops?  I can give a detailed argument why it is in the bests interests of the general public to improve their relationship with mother nature.  Unfortunately, reason is not always persuasive.  I know I often act against my own best interests even when I have facts and logic pointing me in the right way.  Unfortunately, Nature seems to need a PR man most of all.  I find this profoundly sad.  Still, I do like to take my pictures.  If my words won't work, I hope my pictures will help bump the percentages in Nature's favor.