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.