Half the Earth

E. O. Wilson has been a friendly, expert voice championing species conservation for more decades than I can recall.  He has initiated a project to catalog the estimated 10 million species that our planet harbors, most of them still unknown and unnamed.

This week he explains his plan to set aside half the earth as a wildlife preserve.   And it can’t be the half that’s least useful to us!

Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life
Read from the New York Timeselephants_at_amboseli_national_park_against_mount_kilimanjaro

We are playing a global endgame. Humanity’s grasp on the planet is not strong; it is growing weaker. Freshwater is growing short; the atmosphere and the seas are increasingly polluted as a result of what has transpired on the land. The climate is changing in ways unfavorable to life, except for microbes, jellyfish, and fungi. For many species, these changes are already fatal.   …Read more


Capitalism and its Alternatives

Everything is reduced to money.  Ecosystems, kidneys for transplant, a ton of mercury in the air over Philadelphia, a human life, an extinct species, your health, a good night’s sleep, a pile of nuclear waste that will last for 20,000 years—all these things are routinely valued in dollars. The idea that there is a single scale that can be used to compare the value of everything is so familiar to us that we might forget that it is absurd.  We might forget that capitalism by its nature steamrollers over anything that we might regard as too precious to place on the auction block.

Indian economist Amartya Sen has devoted a long career to telling us why capitalism inevitably leads to moral travesty, and finally in the last 20 years he has found respectability and recognition.  At least in some circles, people are starting to recognize that there are alternatives.

Read Tim Rogan’s AEON article about Amartya Sen and the history of critiques of capitalism.


Failure is not an option

I had made up my mind to find that for which I was searching even if it required the remainder of my life. After innumerable failures I finally uncovered the principle for which I was searching, and I was astounded at its simplicity. I was still more astounded to discover the principle I had revealed not only beneficial in the construction of a mechanical hearing aid but it served as well as means of sending the sound of the voice over a wire. Another discovery which came out of my investigation was the fact that when a man gives his order to produce a definite result and stands by that order it seems to have the effect of giving him what might be termed a second sight which enables him to see right through ordinary problems. What this power is I cannot say; all I know is that it exists and it becomes available only when a man is in that state of mind in which he knows exactly what he wants and is fully determined not to quit until he finds it.

— Alexander Graham Bell, born in Scotland this day in 1847, invented the telephone while experimenting with hearing aid devices for his deaf wife. He lived to see telephone wires spread across the American continent.



Life evolved in the sea (so we think) and moved much later to land.  For 160 million years, there were fish, but no vertebrates on land.

Lungfish were a narrow bridge from the water to the land.  A bottleneck from the vast diversity of fish to the equally vast diversity of amphibians, reptiles, mammals and birds.  Lungfish moved to the land about 370 million years ago, but remarkably, there are still a few lungfish hanging around.  They live in Australia, South America and Africa.


Lungfish are fully equipped with gills, and breathe in the water like any self-respecting fish.  In addition, they are equipped for dry spells.  Maybe the pond where they lives dries up during the summer, and they burrow into the mud to tough it out.   Their fins look a bit like legs, so they can waddle around on land.  They have air sacs—primitive lungs—that let them breathe air during this time.  Remarkably, when they are in air-breathing mode, their gills don’t work.  You can drown a lungfish if you immerse it in water without sufficient time to re-acclimate!

Berkeley Biology article

The Beautiful Changes

One wading a Fall meadow finds on all sides
The Queen Anne’s Lace lying like lilies
On water; it glides
So from the walker, it turns
Dry grass to a lake, as the slightest shade of you
Valleys my mind in fabulous blue Lucernes.

The beautiful changes as a forest is changed
By a chameleon’s tuning his skin to it;
As a mantis, arranged
On a green leaf, grows
Into it, makes the leaf leafier, and proves
Any greenness is deeper than anyone knows.

Your hands hold roses always in a way that says
They are not only yours; the beautiful changes
In such kind ways,
Wishing ever to sunder
Things and things’ selves for a second finding, to lose
For a moment all that it touches back to wonder.

— Richard Wilbur, born this day in 1924


The Loom of Dreams

I broider the world upon a loom,
I broider with dreams my tapestry;
Here in a little lonely room
I am master of earth and sea,
And the planets come to me.

I broider my life into the frame,
I broider my love, thread upon thread;
The world goes by with its glory and shame,
Crowns are bartered and blood is shed;
I sit and broider my dreams instead.

And the only world is the world of my dreams,
And my weaving the only happiness;
For what is the world but what it seems?
And who knows but that God, beyond our guess,
Sits weaving worlds out of loneliness?

Arthur Symons, born this day in 1865