Posts Tagged ‘urban ecology’

The Lands

8 February 2018

dead trees along american river
…Some background on a new writing project and WordPress site…here…

Inspirations from odd places

I had recently been exposed to a film story called “Blade Runner 4049.” Though I found the story overly complex, its vision of our future is not that unusual in contemporary fiction. I particularly recall from the movie an area called “San Diego” that had become a huge dump and salvage yard for the Los Angeles metropolis. The piles of junk went on for miles and miles in all directions. It was also pointed out that there were no living trees in the environment. It was noted that at a “rebel” outpost, a dead tree had been kept standing using steel cables.

The Blade Runner story is a “loose adaptation” of a story by writer Philip K. Dick. Philip is considered an important science fiction writer. Born in 1928, he was influenced by the somewhat older sci-fi writers of the pulp days, such as Hubbard and Heinlein, but also the “beat” writers like Jack Kerouac. He died at only 53 under circumstances that remain poorly understood. He was a drug user, that is for sure.

In Dick’s book, the dystopia evident on the West Coast was brought about by war. In the movie this is not mentioned, except for a reference to a “high radiation” area near Las Vegas. In both stories, androids apparently designed for robotic tasks (I don’t believe it) acquire their own sense of humanity and wish to have equal rights with humans and an end to the control programming. Science fiction writers who have gone down this road seem to be of a mind that something like this could happen. They don’t try to understand why. The difference for me is that I now know why. The design and manufacture of human-like androids would be seen as a dangerous and stupid activity by anyone who understood the likely spiritual outcome of it. The androids in the film, called “replicants,” would be even more susceptible to this problem, as they are almost totally biological.

Bicycling downtown through the riverside park, I noticed a large stand of dead trees that has always been there, but seemed unusually gloomy with no spring foliage to offset the grayness. And I thought, “this is the Land of the Dead Trees.” And so I began to formulate the starting point of a story.

I am incapable – even if I wanted to – of writing an ordinary fiction story. I have been exposed to too much actuality that is much stranger than most “fiction” written these days. The trick would be to start with how things are now and somehow show how the situation could be improved.

That leads to Edward Bellamy’s “Looking Backward” which employed a similar technique. But I have no use for his time traveler. I can simply assume a viewpoint of some future time and “look back” to now.

phto with added effects

The photo above with two effects added to it: “oil” and “sepia.”

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Goose Poop

6 October 2016

geese in park Omaha

Geese feed on a lawn in Omaha downtown park.


We’ve all seen Canada Geese stop over at some local lawn on their way North or South. But these weren’t Canada Geese, and they acted like they’d been living in this park for a while. These geese, in fact, look more like domestic geese.

I don’t remember geese of any description living in parks. But when I visited the favorite park of my boyhood, Nicholl Park in Richmond California, Canada Geese were obviously living there.

geese in Richmond park

“Wild” geese living in Richmond.

What’s going on here?

Google “urban geese” or “goose poop” and you will find plenty of reading materials on this subject. But they most all say the same things.

What certain sites (such as Cornell’s) will tell you is that the U.S. government started a program in the 1930s to re-establish the Canada Goose population which had dwindled considerably due to hunting. They did this with captive birds. These birds did not know to migrate, and they didn’t migrate; they stayed put. These are the birds filling our city parks and causing most of the problems we are having with goose poop, noise, and aircraft interference.

They are safe in cities because no one can hunt (with guns anyway) in cities.

I wondered after getting back home if no one was using the Nicholl Park lawn because of all the goose poop in it. And that probably is a factor. There was a lot of it, and per all the materials I’ve read, it’s not very healthy to be in contact with it.

As it turns out, the real key here is lawns. These birds love lawns, and will seldom settle anywhere other than a grassy field.

Odd coincidence

Oddly, last night I attended an event titled “12th Annual Palouse Basin Water Summit.” We listened to the usual local speakers on the subject of the Palouse water supply, plus we had one international speaker, Maude Barlow, a Canadian water activist.

Right now, the Palouse gets most of its fresh water from underground sources (aquifers). Agriculture and industry are not significant users of aquifer water in the Palouse. Even so, the aquifer water levels have dropped over 100 feet since we have been pumping out water for human uses.

The most attractive and realistic way that most residents can reduce water use is to switch to gardens around their houses that require little or no irrigation. This is no panacea, but it got a lot of attention at this meeting because it is a fun and interesting way to reduce domestic water consumption.

Most residents are already aware of low-flow toilets and shower heads, waiting for full loads before washing clothes or dishes, and generally being stingy with water. These are all part of “going green” and have gotten a lot of attention in many urban areas because many urban areas have had water shortages.

Lawns

Lawns have reached a kind of iconic status in the American and European psyche. Anybody’s dream house has a lawn in front of it, possibly quite a large one. All those photos of our little kids playing on the lawn at home or in a park…it seems an essential part of life.

Yet lawns are atrocious water hogs. They require tremendous amounts of water to keep them green, but will tend to drain off excess water, rather than pull it into the soil. They are like many of our crops that must be irrigated to survive. And so, though grass can be very green, lawns are not very “green.”

What’s odd about me going to this conference then wondering about goose poop is that lawns are related to both issues. Lawns. Odd.

There are still some municipalities (Orlando, Florida is cited by Wikipedia) that mandate front lawns. In more hip communities, the problem is more likely to be front no-plants-at-all. But people in general are gradually coming to realize that the more soil that is covered with plants that will help it soak up, rather than reject, any precipitation that comes its way, the more pro-survival that soil will become for all involved.

So, the answer to both goose poop and water over-use is getting rid of lawns and replacing them with more natural gardens or vegetable gardens.

I have recently posted a lot of photos of urban parks. They all have lawns. You might say, “What would a park be without a lawn?” To which I would reply, “A lawnless park.” I have absolutely no sympathy for golfers, either. None.

I have not begun to even scratch the surface! After we de-lawn, we are going to have to confront re-forestation. And that involves our current methods of agriculture, both mass crops and grazing animals. I’m not sure how far we can take this, but I know that the ideal scene would be to phase out our impact on the surface ecology almost entirely.

I wanted to show you a picture of Bird Hills, but couldn’t find one, so here’s Discovery Park in Seattle.

discover park seattle trail to beach

My ideal park.