Monday, June 29, 2009

Dr. Krugman hits it out of the park

I've been pestering him for a while because climate change is going to dwarf every other issue on earth, including economic, and I have even sent him pictures of dying trees located on his Princeton campus.

It's laughable that deniers whine about the costs of mitigation and changing from fossil fuels to clean energy, when the cost of doing nothing is certain death. I'm practically euphoric that a figure as well known as Dr. Krugman is speaking forcefully about the climate. Maybe the MSM will be dragged, kicking and screaming, into a realistic discussion of what must be done.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Here, for viewing pleasure, are two paintings I have in my kitchen that I adore. Not only for their beauty, which is manifest, but for the insights they have afforded me. They are both quite large and dominating -if you like them click on the photos for much better images.

The kitties and lobsters was painted by a guy named John Dufault, who was an art teacher for adolescents with difficulties. That is how I met him, writing a story for the newspaper about art as therapy. Sadly, he died shortly after I bought this painting, over 10 years ago. Whenever I glance at it I marvel at its rich exuberance, joy, irreverance, and tactile relations between critters and fruit.

There's a story there though. A little after this was delivered, I noticed something. And it sort of seemed like maybe it was a sly joke. This generated quite of a bit of debate. My sister, after a minute, picked up and agreed. My mother figured it out, but said it was a trick of perspective, and not intentional. I have since reversed my initial assessment and agree with my mother that it is a meaningless flip of the tail. But it gave me pause and I learned quite a bit about perception in the process.

I mean, all paintings are sensual and erotic if they're any good, aren't they? Whether deliberate or not!

The next painting I purchased from an art student in Philadelphia that I came across by chance, at an annual sidewalk sale in Rittenhouse Square. She wanted $800, which I couldn't afford, but she agreed to take monthly installment payments. After about 6 months, I went back down to pick it up, and there I had a true epiphany about art, and the power of the human imagination.

When I first saw it I told her it reminded me of a gorgeous and lush Matisse exhibit I had just seen in DC, as almost an homage to his work but more vigorous, saturated and free, if such a thing is possible. Turns out, she had been to the same exhibit and painted this directly in response.

Well, her studio was her apartment, and it was a cramped, dark, tiny space. I saw the props she used to create the painting I have had in my kitchen ever since, and incredibly, they consisted of a tacky plastic vase and platter, fake fruit, shoddy imitation flowers, and a hideous vinyl cloth of the most grotesque colors!

I was utterly astonished, humbled, and impressed.

I have tried to find Ellen Fiedler since then, and last hint I had, she had moved to Asia. What an incredibly talented person. And how lucky I am to make my morning coffee under that stunning still life every morning.

What really scares me

These excerpts are from the results of a conference last March, which produced a synthesis of 1400 peer-reviewed research papers about climate change impacts that have been published since the last IPCC findings:

"Furthermore, if temperature increases by 2°C or more, there is a risk that land ecosystems, including forests, may become a net source of carbon to
the atmosphere due to increases in respiration and in disturbances such
as fire. The loss of carbon-regulating services of forests would seriously
accelerate climate change16 (session 38), (Box 2)."

But, I KNOW, from what I can see with my own eyes, that this is happening well before an increase of 2 degrees C - in fact, it is happening, here and now.

So that leaves me with a couple of questions.

1. Are there other impacts in other places which are also being ignored or not documented - on a wide scale that do not just incorporate destruction of ecosystems on their own but also do not account for predictable feedback loops that will accelerate climate change?

2. If that is happening - undocumented effects on top of those that have been included in this report - then have we passed the tipping point where we cannot slow or stop warming and the consequent mass extinctions, unless we ceased emissions, 20 years or so ago?

The last sentence in this section (bold added) is key:

"Even with the most effective adaptation approaches, very large numbers
of species will not survive with unabated climate change (Key Message
2). To avoid a worsening extinction crisis, there is no alternative to rapid,
effective mitigation. In addition, investment in ex situ conservation –
that is, keeping organisms in captivity or maintaining seed banks - could
be made in the hope that these organisms, one day, can be released
back into the wild should a suitable climate be recovered86. At best,
however, ex situ measures will be feasible for only a few species. "

But I urge anyone to read the entire report here

Yesterday I found the strangest growths on some leaves, so I brought a few home since I didn't have my camera with me. I have no clue what would cause this. The leaves are discolored and more than one tree was affected.

My camera actually didn't delete the pictures (the Mac did) so here from Wit's End is a closeup of my sad winter-blooming peach leaves, astilbe Max gave me once, for Mother's Day (thanks Max!) some more of the graceful lilies, the butterfly bush beginning to bloom, the flower of silky dogwood... and scenes from the village, including an amusing sign. The village is so charming because except for a few overhead wires and paved road, it is almost perfectly preserved.

This cryptomeria is making so many itty seed pods - last year's are further back.

My favorite copper beech is here, it's hard to tell from a photo how monumental it is. Alas, the leaves are covered with aphids.

Waxman-Markey is well and good but we have to go much further, faster:

New Greenman Video!

Saturday, June 27, 2009


Following the narrow vote in Congress yesterday to approve Obama's energy and climate change legislation, I wrote to my Senators to urge them to act as well.

Then I joined these groups:

And I plan to become as active in them as time will allow.

Here's a sorry tale, and doesn't bode well for olive oil and Liminocella:

The camera ate all the pictures I took this afternoon save this one, which is a charming wild lily that appeared all by itself near the barn. It has been spreading every year and now there are quite a few.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Route 202

In a mix of sun and clouds I drove to Bernardsville yesterday, and stopped every few minutes along Route 202 on the way to take pictures of the trees along the road. All of these dying trees are within a mile of each other, and certainly, there are others.

It's insane that all these beautiful trees are dying in front of our eyes and people just drive by, utterly clueless.

Regarding the timing of ripe mulberries, I found this tree close to the center of town. Look at how absurdly small the leaves are, compared to the berry, which is actually a rather tiny (but delicious) fruit.

This is another example, like pine cones, of desperate trees putting all their energy into reproduction.

I'm thinking, we should build biodomes, and grow bonsai versions of today's trees so we can eventually replant them, assuming we don't unleash such runaway warming that nothing can survive.

I'm also thinking, the best way for any of us humans to survive is to band together as small communities that can farm together. And this morning I discovered a link sent to me via Climate Progress, to this:

Which is exactly what I have been seeking! This made me feel almost buoyant with happiness. I can't wait to investigate further.

Yesterday I wrote to a professor whose profile is here: and I'll be very interested in any response I may get, since she seems to have a realistic approach - although of course, I'm sure she would rather her research show species will migrate when they can't adapt (because who wouldn't wish for that) but it doesn't.

Here's the article about her paper that led me to write:

So often, scientists have a very narrow focus - which is the correct way to do science. I admire them for the temerity it takes to drill and read hundreds or thousands of ice cores or tree rings, or count pollen buried under the sea. But I haven't really been able to find anyone who is studying the decline of Eastern Forests - I wish I could find someone! Because usually someone studying, say, butterflies, isn't particularly interested in trees - even though without them, the butterflies won't survive either.

There are plenty of scientists doing research on trees out west and some in the boreal forest of Canada, but few if any here.

It seems to me that she is overly optimistic about transferring insects or anything else, because that assumes a linear, gradual, even increase in temperatures. But that is not how climate chaos is going to work! It is going to entail wild swings in temperatures, and precipitation, in fact it already is. Also it is ignoring the complex interconnectedness of an ecosystem. In other words, how are you going to move mushrooms that have a symbiotic relationship with trees? Most of them we cannot even figure out how to grow in a greenhouse, although we'd love to market the most edible of them, like truffles and morels - because their requirements are such a mystery.

So the idea of just moving species northward or upward is what I call unnatural exuberance.

I would be thrilled to hear from anyone who has good reason to think this is not true.


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The FUNNIEST ever! Also!

The bitterz have gone berserk and made this absolutely insane youtube video attacking one of my favorite bloggers, mudflats. It's maniacal!

Flowers Gone Rogue

Today we have a mix of lovely flowers and miserable trees, as usual.

Let's start with the trees and get that over with. Those pictured here possessed full crowns even at the end of last summer, and I was surprised at how robust they appeared when others were in poor condition by August. Now, they are thinning noticeably by the day, dropping those leaves that did appear earlier in spring. I don't know if it's possible to tell from the pictures, but they are huge mature trees. It is a dismal prospect that they too are in decline. It appears to be universal, at least in this neck of the world.

I could be getting overwrought on this but the individual leaves look odd - aside from being dry, furled, and droopy - in that they appear to be translucent. I didn't have time to take more than a couple of shots of this but I have been noticing it on various species and will try to take more photos in the next few days.

I'm guessing a bit here because I may have forgotten, but I'm pretty sure that when my kids went to pony camp every summer, year after year, it was in the middle of July. We would cool off in the shade of a mulberry tree, and eat mulberries. Yum! Here they are in June, and they've been ripe for over a week. And the leaves just flopped over totally limp.

The weeping cherry next to the pond is exactly in the condition of every other. Dreadful. If you watch "The Guiding Light" (I never have, I understand it's a soap opera on the teevee) they film by this pond every week. The cedar tree in front of the cabin that is so woefully bare is across from the pond.

Then there's the nasty black fungus creeping all over the tree trunks, this particular one is a maple. This has started in the past 6 months or so and is spreading like crazy.

The flowers are all those that have escaped their proper garden beds and run amuck at Wit's End. The cosmos has self-sown in the driveway, the cleome is everywhere and the rest just suit themselves.

Those big green leaves (I forget the Latin name) are quite nice as a ground cover in an otherwise useless damp spot (and they have funny flowers very early in spring that look like they came from outer space), but I also made the awful mistake of putting them near a spring next to the vegetable garden and they have taken over. Their roots are so rugged that I have had to resort to poison, regretfully. But they are hogging an otherwise productive spot.

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