Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Blue Shoulders, Blue Sky

Tree swallows are back on their house.  Looking up at them I see the clear blue sky.  Then I see the clear blue shoulders on the birds.  Mirrors for each other, are the shoulders sky and is sky the birds?  Sky and bird feed each other in their play.  The sky knows itself through bird flight and the bird know itself through sky expanse. 

They each fly without tracks.  Only mind can see their imprints, can feel their clarity and blueness.  Blessed to experience the blazing vision of swallow song and sky with a gentle breeze off the mountains.  Spring morning is full of beginnings.

Posted by michael

Saturday, April 16, 2011

War Is A False Premise

We wage war as an enemy, no different from the threats to our security.  This is an illogical, impossible task.  We are willing to go beyond all boundaries in defense of our boundaries.  We yell democracy, and are unwilling to listen to voices of differing opinion within democracy.  We are afraid of terror and project terror unrelenting in its cloak of justice.  The enemy is us as war can only be waged by threat.  Defense is another word for being afraid to listen to our inner voice.  We shall not kill, except when it suits our defense of the right to be an enemy to all those who oppose us.  

Who came up with these aggressive actions?  It has been going on much too long and it is time to trust; in family, friends, neighbors, and humanity.  There will always be a cause to fear.  Peace comes from a confidence that is in the heart.  Disarm the heart and peace will spread.  War is only the darkness that fear makes in the heart.  Turn on the light of open mind and fear will dissolve in the mirror of enemy face that we project to all our enemies. 

Posted by michael

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Fact And Fiction: The Making Of Myth

Rufous hummingbird (Nan Moore)

A friend told me a story recently.  This time of year the turkey vultures and rufous hummingbirds return together to the Oregon western valley and coast.  We see the familiar wheeling of vultures in the sky, where one day they appear as if summer never left; while hummers appear and feed on the early nectar plants of Spring.  

The story goes.  The vultures and hummingbirds winter in Mexico.  Its a long way to fly north for the hummers.  So the hummers get together with the vultures and hitch a ride north among the vulture wing feathers.  Safe and sound, the hummers arrive in Oregon, rested and relaxed, thanks to the soaring and migrating abilities of the vultures.  Arriving in Oregon, the vultures settle down on a fence or the ground, spread their wings, and the hummers emerge, to fly off seeking nectar.

Summer passes and nesting is completed.  The hummers get together with the vultures again and travel south tucked in among the wing feathers of the vultures, eventually arriving at the winter grounds.  The cycle of migration repeats again and again, confident in the cooperation among species.

Is this story true?  Maybe.  It certainly appeals to our sense of cooperation and makes a heart-warming myth.  Science can test the theory.  Or we can simply enjoy the glow of the image and inspire imagination.  We don't have to prove everything.  We can entertain ideas for the fun it brings, and the world is a little lighter for this.

Posted by michael

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Wheels And Essence

Thirty Spokes share one hub.  Adapt the space therein to the purpose in hand, and you will have the use of the cart.  Knead clay in order to make a vessel.  Adapt the space therein to the purpose in hand, and you will have the use of the vessel.  Cut open doors and windows in order to make a room.  Adapt the space therein to the purpose in hand, and you will have the use of the room.  Thus what we gain is Something, yet it is by virtue of Nothing that this can be put to use.     

Chapter 11, Tao Te Ching, translated by D.C. Lau.  

Have you ever looked around and seen that everything moves around its own central hub, or point and axis of origin?  We could call this point the center of gravity for an object.  This point and axis of origin is composed of space, otherwise looked upon and defined as Nothing.  We can not define space, yet it contains everything and is singular.  Space can be divided up by objects into inner space and outer space.  Still there is only one space, undefined, omniscient, and connecting all objects.  Space is the mother of all objects and cradles them in a warm and compassionate embrace.

The interconnection of space and movement is called emptiness and forms all objects and thoughts contained therein.  Objects and perceptions do not have intrinsic, unchanging existence.  Since the objects and their perceptions exist only by virtue of their emptiness, they are illusory, like the image formed by a whirling firebrand or a reflection in a mirror.  Cause and effect arise from interconnections.  The problem of existence is not the connections.  The problem is the clinging to the connections.  Gently watch the turning of objects around their space and you will see their joy at play.  This joy is an unbounded expression of the limitless freedom for life.

Posted by michael

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Black Swan Events And Paradigm Shifts

The negative black swan events have come to roost and humans are not very happy about it.  They manifest as economic market crashes, human tragedy emanating from Sumatra and Japan earthquakes and tsunamis, climate change in an ever-shifting planetary swirl of the moisture-heat-cloud-rain engine.  Floods of great magnitude rearrange the land, ocean, and sky and carve new river beds and marshes.  We did not notice at first, until more people became involved and compassion swelled in our hearts for those trapped by events of great consequence.  
Black swan events are surprising, rare, and unexpected events of large magnitude and consequence, with dominant roles in history events that occur on the tail ends of evidence probability curves.  They can be positive or negative, depending on our interpretation of the consequences that result from them and they can change the course of civilization.  As such, black swan events cannot be predicted and will not be accounted for in the mechanistic conceptualization of rational scientific thinking.  Science depends on the repeatable and predictable patterns of sequential events that have frequent occurrence.  For rare events of great magnitude, we say they are black swan events, and then feel smug to have identified the unidentifiable, without seeing or understanding that we live in a world punctuated by rare major events with undefinable risk or benefit.   
Paradigms are conceptual frameworks that encapsulate the current assumptions about how systems work.  As we work out the details of a system to improve understanding and predictability, we maintain our initial assumptions until evidence shows that they are incorrect.  Then we replace these assumptions with ones that more correctly reflect our evidence.  With this assumption replacement, the paradigm shifts and we have a new conceptual view of the system.  Sometimes the shifts are so large that the system becomes unrecognized; Newtonian mechanics to quantum physics, magic to modern medicine, alchemy to chemistry. 
Black swan events can produce paradigm shifts when we are overwhelmed by our inability to explain the events and consequences of surprising, rare events.  If our world view (model and assumptions) is flexible and we are not attached to outcomes of events, then our thinking and perceptions can shift and we can adapt to the new arrangement of evidence, through systems of food, clothing, shelter, work, play, sleep, families, economies, and science.  
Expect the unexpected in the open space of free thinking.  When assumptions are dissolved and our experience becomes assumption-free, then we can begin to live in the actual world, rather than in a world of assumption and probability.  Black swan events can remind us that our world is risky and composed of changes, beyond the predictability of science and rational thought.  How to think without thought?  Experience, without interpretation.  It takes great patience and courage to be free.  Can we suspend our disbelief?  In wildness is the strength of life. 
Posted by michael 

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Chainsaw Mirror

Occasionally some trees are cut, because they died their natural death, they are shading too much, or they threaten to fall on something else. During a windstorm they are going to fall in the driveway or onto a garden.  Or they are shading the solar electric panels and the sunscape needs to be cleared.  So then the chainsaw comes out of the shed and begins its work in my hands.

The chainsaw has been with me since I began clearing the land in 1986.  So we have grown older together.  Younger, we used to cut all day when clearing the driveway and the lower garden.  Over the years we have slowed down; not needing to cut trees and feeling relaxed about clearing, no longer keeping many paths open.  Now the chainsaw likes to cut for the duration of a tank of gas and then it wants to stop.  Seems like it doesn't like to run when its hot.  Neither do I when I am hot.  So we stop and cool off.  If I take a walk for ten minutes after filling the gas and chain oil tanks, we both start up after cooling off and run for another tank.

A mirror, in the chainsaw is an image of me; getting older and taking more breaks, relaxing more.  I used to just power through work and not pay attention to overheating or getting tired.  Now the chainsaw reminds me to take breaks and walk around.  Feel the fragrant breeze weaving through the trees and over the ferns.  I could take the saw to the mechanic or me to the doctor.  We would find that aging is a simply complex process and gracefully reminds us to give attention to the seasons of machines and people.  This is not disease, only natural timing.  

I don't want to replace the chainsaw with a newer model that will run all day.  Neither do I want to replace my body with a newer model that will run all day.  We can both age gracefully and be thankful for these mirrors.  The chainsaw showed me its true nature the other day.  In it I saw timelessness.  We will make more firewood together, and keep the driveway and sunscape clear while we last.  After that, the sky is boundless for both of us.

Posted by michael

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Tsunami Waves On Pacific Pond

This animation from NOAA shows the propagation of tsunami waves generated from the Honshu earthquake, March 11, 2011. Here at Beaver Creek we look out over the beach and think of the many people experiencing the shock of earth and water movement. What was too big to move becomes the toy of planetary motion. Some day we will have a big one here in Oregon and the mirror image will be produced.

This NOAA picture shows the predicted wave heights and propagation times for the 3/11/2011 tsunami.

Posted by michael

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Plum Blossom, Rhubarb

Plum blossoms swell in the late winter rain showers.  This is not the Asian plum species so revered in Chinese, Korean, Japanese poetry for its resistance to winter and symbolism of strength through adversity and patience. 

This plum blossom is without poetry tradition.  It unfolds without history of poetics, timeless.  It is simply a late winter blossom filled with the promise of longer days and fruit in summer.  So easily expresses the poetry of wild space; without words, concepts, and meaning.   

Near to plum is rhubarb; a quintessential spring tonic.  Powerful medicine for waking up the system and aligning with Spring.  These leaves are small, young, and compressed; like green lightning.  Everything begins in the small; easily changing what needs to change and leading to bigger events of season.

Posted by michael

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Herbal Remedies In A Coastal Garden

An inventory of plant remedies in our coastal gardens at Beaver Creek shows over 90 species.  It is clear that we have a variety of plants with a wide range of medicinal properties.  When we began making gardens on our land, we decided to save indigenous and naturalized plant remedies, as well as cultivate other species that we have used for medicine when living in other places.  We set out to make gardens in which we could learn and show others about these special plants.  Plant remedies in the Niemi-Davis gardens include red Alder, Angelica, Bee-balm, Cleavers, paper Birch, wild Blackberry, evergreen Blackberry, himalayan Blackberry, Black-eyed susan, Bleeding-heart, Borage, Calendula, German Camomile, Cascara, broad-leafed Cattail, western red Cedar, Chive, red Clover, Comfrey, English Daisy, Ox-eye Daisy, Dandelion, Dill, red Elderberry, Elecampane, Evening primrose, False lily-of-the-valley, False solomon’s seal, bracken Fern, deer Fern, licorice Fern, maidenhair Fern, sword Fern, Feverfew, douglas Fir, Fireweed, Foxglove, Hawthorn, Hedge nettle, western Hemlock, Hops, Horehound, Horseradish, blue Huckleberry, evergreen Huckleberry, red Huckleberry, Juniper, Kinnikinnick, Lavender, Lemon balm, Miner’s lettuce, Peppermint, Spearmint, Monkshood, Mullein, stinging Nettle, Nasturtium, Ninebark, Oceanspray, Oregano, Oregon grape, Pacific wax myrtle, Johnny-jump-up, Pearly everlasting, shore Pine, broad leaf Plantain, narrow leaf Plantain, Queen Anne’s lace, Quince, red Raspberry, Rhubarb, wild Rose, Rosemary, Sage, Salal, Salmonberry, Self-heal, Sheep sorrel, Skunk cabbage, sitka Spruce, St. John’s wort, coast Strawberry, Thimbleberry, Thyme, Twinberry, Usnea, Valerian, Wintergreen, Witch hazel, Willow, Yarrow.
Why so many herbal plants?  To treat patients effectively, an herbalist really only needs a dozen species or so, with a range of properties for the diseases encountered.  Our interests go beyond remedies, as we enjoy the presence and company of medicinal herbs in their natural habitats, prior to harvesting, and have great respect for their contributions to health throughout human history.  We are concerned that species diversity of plant remedies is conserved and this is our small effort toward that conservation.  We carefully note what plant remedies will grow in coastal gardens and what conditions they prefer.  Studying these herbal remedies in the wild brings us knowledge of their properties and interactions with humans and other animals and plants.  
Sometimes there is confusion in the marketplace of ideas about when to use plant remedies for health.  The herbalist Michael Moore writes a summary to this question, in Medicinal Plants of the Pacific West.  Consult his books and website for additional information about plant remedies and their history and uses. 
“The proper use of herbs in most cases is for the subclinical stage of a disease, for a person in normal health, and they are not going to be of value if the imbalance progresses to a full overt disease response.  Conversely, most existing drugs, with toxicity at therapeutic levels, work poorly for subclinical problems that have not “ripened” yet; the side effects are greater than the benefits.  If you figure on getting better, use herbs to help; if you think you are really getting sick, it doesn’t help to take a lot more of the same herbs until they make you sick as well.  The therapeutic window for herbs will always be below their adverse effects.  Excessive quantities of an herb sufficient to cause a toxic reaction simply compromise basic health without supplying the synthetic defenses offered by proper drug therapies.
Put it this way: most herbs are used to strengthen the innate defenses, and attempt to stimulate natural healing; if they make you sick, this weakens you, and it is harder to get well on your own.  If you get really sick, and can no longer be expected to recover unaided, or without organ damage, drugs can intervene and turn the decline around.  They may sicken you, but you are not relying on your defenses at that point; your sickness is draining you, and the drug shield is far more positive than its side effects are negative.  When you turn the corner, then you will heal by yourself.”
Using herbal remedies is not simply a matter of going into the store and buying a bottle of pills off the shelf.  To use herbal remedies, you must know the plants, their properties, their preparations, how they work in your body, and what the purities of commercial sources are.  You can study these topics to gain confidence or go to a competent herbalist for information.  Stop to consider that herbal remedies sold in stores are often not what they claim to be.  Wholesale harvesting of plant remedies, either from wild or cultivated sources, should document the ability to conserve these plant species and their habitats.  Loss of species diversity in the future will probably impair our ability to discover new medicines and their actions on human health.  We have depended on plants for medicine since the beginning of human history.  Gardens can contribute towards conservation and help to demonstrate relationships between plant remedies and humans.  Given the increased interest in plant remedies, it is important to understand their role in subclinical medicine and their interface with clinical medical practices.  
Posted by michael   

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Soundscapes And Increased Anthropogenic Disturbance Effects

As we gaze over wild landscapes and seascapes, it is easy to see examples of anthropogenic disturbances.  These include building roads and structures, harvesting natural resources, and recreation forays by walking, boating, vehicular traffic, and other means to transport.  Our presence and disturbance in these wild areas clearly has effects on wildlife.  As we become aware of our footprints in these areas, we can mitigate effects by learning how to make our presence softer and less frequent.  Our increased adulation and presence in wild areas may often “love them to death”.  We must balance the pervasive need for healthy wild areas, our need to interact and recreate with these areas, and the often overwhelming need to conceptualize and manage wild areas.  If we do not pay attention to the unique qualities of wild areas, we may “manage them to death” in our own image.  Sometimes the best management is to manage humans, while leaving wild areas alone to intrinsic natural processes.  
The effects of increased anthropogenic sound can be even more widespread than the visual effects of disturbance.  Increased sound is perceived by animals as predation risk.  Disturbances evoke antipredator behavior  and interfere with foraging, parental care, and mating.  Increased sound can also mask animal communication and hearing, fundamentally altering animal interactions.  Some animals can adjust their vocalization to compensate for reduced hearing and communication, but this ability varies widely among species.  Animals change their distributions in response to anthropogenic sound.  Bird nesting density is reduced in noisy areas.  Other species avoid areas of increased sound, thereby reducing their available habitat.  
When planning parks and open wild lands, whether terrestrial or aquatic, it is essential to evaluate all aspects of the space.  We can consider physical setting (land, water, sky, and climate), visual stimuli (open, cover, transition areas, edge effects), soundscape (sound levels and information, including anthropogenic sounds), available resources for feeding and reproduction, and all of the living inhabitants.  Human interactions through conservation of wild areas are summarized in the mission statement for the US National Park System to “conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations” (NPS Organic Act, 1916).  Fulfillment of this conservation mission includes evaluation of all the resources available, understanding the possible enjoyment of these resources, and conservation management for the resources into the future.  We are part of the landscape and soundscape.  As such we need to integrate our activities in a way that does not threaten our neighbors, human and other animals.  We can all get along together if we respect each other and continue communicating beyond the din of civilization.
Posted by michael

Beaver Creek State Natural Area Planning Newsletter

Received this newsletter from the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department.  If you are interested or concerned about the Natural Area, contact OPRD and get involved in the planning process, as they describe it.

Master Planning Beaver Creek State Natural Area 
and Ona Beach State Park 

February 2011 Newsletter 

Beginning a Master Planning Process 
The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD) is beginning a master planning process for Beaver Creek State Natural Area and Ona Beach State Park located south of Newport in Lincoln County.  Beaver Creek State Natural Area (SNA) was recently acquired and opened with initial improvements as Park of the Year for 2010.  Ona Beach State Park was recently expanded with the acquisition of a large parcel on the east side of Highway 101. A master plan is needed to fully address future recreational use and resource management in both parks. In the planning process OPRD will take a comprehensive look at current information on natural and cultural resource conditions and management needs related to both parks, outdoor recreation trends in the region, areas within the parks that are suitable for recreational development and use, possible affects of park uses on local public facilities services and neighboring land uses, and related ideas and concerns identified through public input. 

Assessments of the parks’ natural and cultural resources are scheduled for completion by late summer 2011. Some of this work was previously completed in preparing a site development plan for the limited development needed for the opening of Beaver Creek SNA. Once these assessments are completed for the rest of the park property, OPRD will take the next step in mapping opportunity areas, identifying areas that are suited for potential recreational development and resource management activities. The map of opportunity areas, supported by the resource assessments, will provide a basis for discussing options for future development and management of the parks in upcoming public meetings. 

Opportunities to Participate 
At key times during the planning process, OPRD holds public meetings followed by written comment opportunities to ask for input on planning issues, goals, use and development concepts, and management strategies. Concurrently, OPRD also holds meetings with a Stakeholder Committee made up of representatives of key interest groups and agencies. The first round of public and stakeholder meetings usually occurs when OPRD has information to share on the park resource conditions and opportunity areas, based on the resource assessments. Accordingly, this first full set of meetings is expected to occur in early fall 2011. (However, OPRD may hold one or more early meetings of Stakeholder Committee members, before completion of the resource assessments, as appropriate to share information emerging from the assessment process and to take full advantage of information and expertise offered by Committee members regarding the assessments in progress.) The next round of public and stakeholder meetings normally occurs when OPRD releases a draft master plan for public review and comments. Optimistically, the draft plan should be ready for public review in late winter 2012. Later in the process, formal meetings on the draft master plan provide additional opportunities for public comments. Comments can be made at a meeting of the State Parks Commission where OPRD asks the Commission for their concurrence on the draft plan. Following, OPRD will hold a public hearing when the draft plan is proposed for adoption as a state rule, and Lincoln County will hold a hearing when the draft plan is presented for land use approval. OPRD’s anticipated master planning schedule will be posted at the master plan web site currently under construction. (See web site address on the reverse side of this newsletter.)

When Will The Stakeholder Committee Be Formed, and Who Will Be On It? 
OPRD is now in the process of identifying key interest groups and agencies that should be represented on the Stakeholder Committee. Persons or groups who wish to participate on the Committee should make their request to OPRD through the contact listed on the reverse side of this newsletter. Final selections will be decided by agreement between the OPRD Coastal Region Manager and Planning Manager. The roster of selected Committee members and the groups they represent will be posted at the master plan web site currently under construction. In general, the criteria used to select Committee members are: 1) The represented group has a significant stake in the outcome, or the representative has professional expertise of particular value to the planning process; 2) The group representative will represent his/her group’s interests ahead of personal interests, and coordinate comments with and convey information to his/her group; 3) The representative is willing to work toward consensus and seek solutions that address multiple interests; 4) The representative is available to attend the meetings; 5) Duplication of membership is generally avoided in representation of an interest, agency or expertise (although members may identify a backup representative to participate in their absence).  

Is OPRD Trying To Add More Land To The Parks? 
OPRD is continuing to negotiate with interested land owners for possible expansion of the park properties. A map of OPRD’s current ownership will be posted at the master plan web site currently under construction. 

Will Any More Development Occur In The Parks Before The Master Plan Is Completed? 
Prior to the official opening of Beaver Creek SNA, limited improvements were needed ahead of the master planning process to provide for basic management of the visitation that was already occurring. Property acquisitions for Beaver Creek included a dwelling that was well suited as a base for visitor contact and orientation with the addition of some parking, signage, a host site, and minor modifications to the dwelling. Because the improvements were limited, they were allowed through a standard land use permit. Before the master plan is completed, additional changes in the parks will be limited to management activities such as control of weeds, control of unauthorized vehicular access on existing forest roads, and vegetation management for forest health and fire protection.  

What Is a State Park Master Plan? 
State park master plans are defined and adopted in state rule. A park master plan guides the development and use of park facilities and the protection and management of important natural, cultural and scenic resources within the park boundaries. The plan is a written and illustrated reference that describes the planning purpose and process, existing park facilities, expected future recreation demand, the suitability of the land for resource protection or recreational development, issues related to public use and management, park goals and objectives, development concepts for future uses and development in the parks, and guidelines for managing the park resources. The useful life of a park master plan is generally no longer than 20 years before it needs to be updated, and the projects described in a master plan may take as long as 10 to 20 years to be fully implemented. 

Where Can I Review The Draft Plan? 

Master plan web site (currently under construction).  As materials produced during the planning process become available, including the draft plan, any addendums to the draft, the final plan, newsletters, etc., they may be reviewed at the master plan website at http://egov.oregon.gov/OPRD/PLANS/planning_ona&beaver.shtml.

OPRD offices. When available, the plan can also be viewed at the OPRD headquarters office in Salem (see address below), and at the South Beach State Park office near Newport, at 5580 South Coast Highway. 

Questions or Comments? 
Please direct questions or comments to: 

Ron Campbell, Master Planning Coordinator  (503) 986-0743 
Oregon Parks and Recreation Department 
725 Summer Street, Suite C    ron.campbell@state.or.us  
Salem, Oregon 97301-1271 

Posted by michael

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Value Of Wild Space; Counting The Ways

Wild space gives us natural capital.  Natural capital is defined as the stock of ecosystem structure that produces the flow of ecosystem goods and services.  Instead of thinking that we must sacrifice something (money, profit, freedom, land use) to conserve natural capital, we can understand that natural capital is one of society’s important assets.  These natural assets supply key services (ecosystem services) to all living beings, including the plants and animals that we are interconnected with.  Natural capital is becoming scarce and degraded.  This trend is partly due to lack of valuation because it is impossible to manage what we do not value.  Demand for natural capital is increasing as populations and standards of living increase.

We can value these natural assets as they contribute to human welfare in three activities.  1) Provide comparisons of natural capital to physical and human capital values.   2) Monitor quantity and quality of natural capital as it changes over time.  3) Evaluate effects of projects that change (enhance or degrade) natural capital stocks.  The success of natural capital valuation will ultimately be judged on how well it facilitates real-world decision making and the conservation of natural capital.
Here are some of the ecosystem services that are provided by natural capital:
Gas regulation 
Climate regulation
Disturbance regulation
Biological regulation
Water regulation
Soil retention
Waste regulation
Nutrient regulation
Water supply
Raw materials
Genetic resources
Medicinal resources
Ornamental resources
Science and education
Spiritual and historic
Philosophical and ethical objections to assigning monetary value claim that natural capital and ecosystem services are not economic assets, and therefore it is immoral to measure them in monetary units.  Another objection to assigning monetary value is based on the perception that willingness-to-pay criteria may assign values that are too low relative to the importance of the services in question, mostly because of the failure to understand the multi-faceted contribution of these services.  
Monetization is a convenient way to express the relative values that society places on different ecosystem services and natural capital.  The purpose of monetary valuation is to create a comparison of disparate ecosystem services through a common metric.  Other metrics are possible; energy units, land units, ecological footprints.  However the choice of unit is not critical because appropriate conversion factors can be used to translate results of the underlying tradeoffs from one metric to another.
The key issue is identification of tradeoffs, in the context of explicit statements of policy objectives and decision criteria.  If one does not have to make tradeoffs between ecosystem services and other things, then valuation is not a concern.  If there are tradeoffs, then valuation is important and will occur.  In these cases it is better to make tradeoffs explicit.  Since everything cannot be reduced to monetary value, we must also include sustainability, fairness, and efficiency in the consideration of tradeoffs between natural capital and human economic activity.
Cost-benefit analysis through natural capital valuation does not dictate choices or replace the authority of decision makers.  It is a tool for organizing, testing, and expressing information about a range of alternatives with regards to courses of action.  This is the science that helps leaders decide about the fate of natural capital.  Analysis should include consideration of ecological structures, processes, functions, and services, human welfare, land-use decisions, and dynamic feedback between these elements.  
We cannot manage what we do not know and understand.  Get to know your wild space and understand how it supports your well-being.  Talk with others about this critical connection between you and the world that supports life.  You will become a better citizen and a good neighbor.  We all depend on the wild space around us for life and death.
Posted by michael

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Robin Returns

Saw a flock of robins on the road and remembered that Spring is not far off.  Then later, among daffodils and English daisy, the flock came up on the hill and began looking for food, running and stopping, overturning leaves and dirt for bugs.  Spring seems early here, perhaps because it has been a mild Winter.  The progression of seasons is powerful enough to change behavior.  In Winter, robins migrate south to warmer climates.  They roost together at night in trees.  When robins return to their Spring nesting grounds, they become territorial and don’t tolerate each other.  They chase and make noise to intimidate their neighbors, keeping nest territories clearly defined.  Turdus migratorius, migrating thrush, is the quintessential early bird.  Their song is first in the morning, a cheerful chorus. Robins were the indicator species warning Rachel Carson when she wrote Silent Spring about the effects of DDT pesticides on birds.

Now in the transition time, robins stay together as they migrate into Spring and nesting.  Flocks will pass through for a month or so and then birds will take up residence and nest.  Seeing this change from friendly flocks to agonistic territory defense, reminded of the fluid nature of behavior so dependent on seasons and resources, nests, mates, and food.  We humans have these seasons too, yet choose to ignore them and remain remarkably resistant to behavior change.  We think that animals are inferior to us, maybe because we can gossip, hold grudges, and wage wars when animals don’t.  They simply observe the changes of season and go about their migrations and living rituals without clinging to rigid patterns of spiteful behavior.  Humans isolate themselves from seasons and changes, fearful of losing their differences from animals.  Humans can become the unchanging avatars of war and conflict, resistant to the bending forces of nature.  We have not always been this way and perhaps we will again enjoy the power of seasons in our cultures.  Holidays seem to be the last holdout of season effects on our behavior.  Christmas and Valentine's Day can remind us of love and generosity.  Thanksgiving reminds of gratitude and enjoyment of bounty.  Halloween reminds of spirits and the power of Fall and decay.  

These changes in season signified by animal migrations and floral phenology lighten us up and remind us of the joy and beauty of change and the oscillation of sounds to make music communicating love and compassion.  The seasonal changes in behavior and hormones support our need for renewal and life.  Paying attention to these changes charges our spirit.  Remaining the same without seasonal patterns deprives us of the vitality of wildness and place.  We forget our birthright and dwell in the darkness of fear and aggravation.  
Posted by michael

Monday, February 7, 2011

Science And Thought

Science is a method for the systematic observation of phenomena and testing of hypotheses.  Successful tests organize knowledge and make predictions about mechanisms and outcomes of action to and from objects.  Science assumes logic and rational explanation of testable hypothesis concerning quantifiable objects.  Objects are subject to the laws of physics and chemistry and are composed of sub-atomic and atomic particles, which are further aggregated into molecules and inorganic and organic structures.  Inorganic structure includes physical existence without life, while organic structure includes life composed of organs, organisms, and ecosystems.  The absence of quantifiable objects precludes the use of scientific methods and requires the use of metaphysics and other forms of philosophy for study and understanding.  Space and energy cannot be studied directly by science because they lack object nature.  If space or energy are objectified for scientific study, then they are not observed in their true nature.  
Thought is pure and not objectified.  Some scientists assume that thought is the sum total of chemical reactions in the brain.  However, this assumption cannot be scientifically tested because thought is not an object and is not subject to the laws of physics and chemistry.  While thought perceives objects, it is not an object itself, as evidenced by imagination, dreams, spirituality, irrationality, intuition, opinion, and other types of imaging activity.  Thought appears to take a seat as consciousness in the brain or awareness in the heart.  However thoughts cannot be captured and contained, like objects in the world.
Science attempts to objectify the world to test and predict its function and meaning.  This is a powerful method for organizing knowledge and controlling the irrational and unknown; dispelling superstition.  Thought is free and not required to follow the laws of physical nature.  With thought we have art, religion, politics, metaphysics, and culture; all ways of expressing the irrational and feeling or rejecting the compassion of space.  
Attempts to scientifically study thoughts and phenomenon that cannot be objectified or do not follow the laws of physics and chemistry violate the assumptions of science and cannot produce valid results.  These attempts waste valuable research money and time, appearing to lend a pseudoscientific patina to otherwise dubious efforts.  We should not confuse science with the cultural and spiritual aspects of our being. 
Space is the source of science and thought.  Everything is included in space and nothing is apart from space.  There is only one space and it has not been created or destroyed.  Space is not an object and every object and thought comes from space.  Space is infinite compassion and love because it touches and supports every other object and thought in loving embrace, never letting go, always supporting without bias or neglect. 
Be careful to include space in your thoughts and actions.  Without space you are compressed, depressed, and listless, feeling a heavy heart that knows the darkness of objects.  The darkness of objectivity is dispelled by the light of space.  Light emerges from space through the mirrors of stars and other sources of illumination and reflects off of objects to give them definition, context, and meaning.  Science is powerful, modern predictable form.  Thought is formless, luminous, and fluid.  Space is timeless and unchanging.  We are all of these, not be be confused with each other.
Posted by michael

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Nineteenth Century Medicine And Herbal Remedies On The Oregon Coast

During the later half of the 1800’s, settlers began to move out to the Oregon coast for homesteading.  The coast experienced a time of transition from Aboriginal People’s culture to European-American and Asian culture (settlers).  Aboriginal medicine relied upon shamanistic removal of disease objects and the application of herbal remedies using indigenous plants.  Settler medicine in the late 1800’s relied upon doctors, who were often poorly trained and not licensed, and herbal and chemical remedies compounded according to the Remington and Wood Dispensatory.  When doctors were not available or were not trusted, books such as Gunn’s Domestic Medicine were consulted, or local herbalists who used plant remedies were visited.  

As culture transitioned from aboriginal to settler, herbal remedies remained a mainstay of medicine.  However, the source of herbal remedies changed from indigenous to a combination of local plants and a greater reliance on imported formulas and medicinal species found in the eastern U.S. and in Europe.  The settler medicine formulas often incorporated chemical medicines in addition to plant sources.  A primary focus of the medicines was to relieve pain and act in general ways to rebalance the patient, through digestive, purgative, and emetic means.  Common medicine found on the Oregon trail included purgative pills, castor oil, rum, and peppermint oil.  Laudanum and mercury were used extensively.  The germ theory of modern medicine had not been developed yet.  Instead, 1800’s medicine relied on the ancient Greek theory of the four humors: yellow bile; black bile; blood; and phlegm, corresponding to fire, earth, air, and water.  Bleeding and cupping were common.  Surgery was conducted without disinfection or anesthesia and often resulted in death from infection.
Pharmacists were important sources of medicine for settlers.  They formulated medicines for a wide variety of doctors and they gave advice to customers about using medicine.   Melancthon M. Davis, born in Lane County in 1851, was one of the best know pharmacists in Oregon during the late 1800’s.  He assisted in framing and enacting the initial medical and pharmaceutical laws of the state and was instrumental in establishing the pharmacy program at the Oregon Agricultural College.  In 1874 Mr. Davis married Mary Bushnell and in 1881, they moved with an infant daughter to Newport, where they started a drug store.  In 1884, when a railroad was built between Corvallis and Yaquina City, the Davis family moved to Yaquina City and started a drug store there, where they lived and practiced medicine until 1893.  They would probably have been an important source of medicine for the settlers in the area.  Residents in the Beaver Creek valley, just south of Yaquina City, brought produce and milk to Yaquina City and probably traded with the Davis family.  M.M. Davis owned land near Beaver Creek marsh and the ocean, so he would have been familiar with Beaver Creek settlers and their farms.  He also had tracts of land in the Yaquina estuary and in 1909, built the first dredge to be used on that bay for diking and reclaiming tidelands.  His land became one of the finest dairy farms in the state.

Posted by michael

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Ethnobotany Of Beaver Creek Marsh

The Alsea people lived near the Beaver Creek marsh before the 1850’s and the coming of European and Asian settlers.  Drucker (1939) recorded plants that Alsea used for food, shelter, and tools.  Carrying baskets were made of spruce root, willow bark, and grass fiber and smaller baskets were decorated with fern.  Cordage was made from beach grass, willow inner bark, and tule.  Digging sticks and bows were made of vine maple and yew.  Camas and roots of black fern and skunk cabbage were dug for food.  Berries and greens were picked.  Acorns and camus were gathered from inland and eaten.  Houses were constructed of cedar and mats of grass or tule were used throughout houses for door, wall, and floor coverings.  Summer camps had huts constructed with grass and tule thatch tied to roof and wall poles.  Canoes were constructed from cedar, with hardwood paddles, spruce and fir poles, and vine maple fittings.  Yew was used to make wedges for splitting logs into planks.  Clothes were made of shredded bark or grass.  Cooking vessels were carved from maple or alder.  Tobacco was grown in small plots and kinnikinnik was gathered for smoking.  Pipes were made of hard wood or a stone bowl with an elderberry stem.
Clearly, the Alsea people used plants that were available in their environment for all aspects of their lives.  Their uses were not much different from other coastal cultures with access to plant materials.  Zobel (2002) made a study of the people who lived in the Salmon River estuary which is approximately 60 miles north of the Beaver Creek marsh.  The Salmon River people were a subgroup of the Tillamook.  Zobel’s study is a useful summary of available information about use of plants by aboriginal people of the Oregon coast.  He summarized plant types, species names, uses, and origin: Ferns-7 species; Trees-9 species; Shrubs-17 species; Forbs-18 species; Grass-like-12 species; Algae and Moss.  Recorded uses included containers, clothing, food, housing or bedding, implements, medicinal uses, recreational use, ceremonial use, and firewood.  Origins included trade, cultivated, alder forest, dunes, estuary, headland, marsh, spruce-hemlock forest, and ocean.  Plants from all available habitats were used.  There was a close correspondence between the percentages of species gathered and recorded or probable uses in the landscape.  
In a study that included the peoples of coastal Washington state, Gunther (1973)  surveyed plants used by five coastal people: Makah; Quileute; Quinault; Chehalis; and Chinook.  Their use of coastal ecosystem plant material would be similar to the Alsea people uses.  Gunther included more species than did Zobel, suggesting a richer environment for gathering and trade.  
In our gardens next to Beaver Creek marsh we have maintained native vegetation and planted other species that are found in Gunther’s list of plants used by coastal aboriginal people.  In this way we have a relationship with the land, the people, and the plants that sustained them.  Slowly we can understand the qualities that these plants have and the ways in which they interact with each other and with their habitats.  Observations of plant habits begins the story of how plants and people interact to benefit.  After 1850, settlers came to the marsh and brought their own plants in gardens and these changed the story again, something we can study in depth from historical records of farms and forestry.
Here are some examples of indigenous plants used by coastal aboriginal people and listed by Gunther, that are in our gardens:  licorice fern, sword fern, wood fern, lady fern, maidenhair fern, brake fern, deer fern, horsetail, yew, lodgepole pine, spruce, hemlock, fir, cedar, juniper, cattail, rye grass, sedge, tule, skunk cabbage, rush, hellebore, fairy bells, false lily-of-the-valley, trillium, plantain, willow, alder, nettle, wild ginger, dock, spring beauty, water lily, anemone, buttercup, larkspur, columbine, Oregon grape, bleeding heart, alum root, gooseberry, current, ninebark, ocean spray, spirea, wild rose, thimbleberry, salmonberry, blackberry, strawberry, crab apple, lupine, clover, giant vetch, geranium, wood sorrel, maple, vine maple, cascara, yellow violet, fireweed, cow parsnip, rhododendron, huckleberry, salal, kinnikinnick, mint, self heal, hedge nettle, horehound, mullein, speedwell, bedstraw, elderberry, twinberry, honeysuckle, pearly everlasting, yarrow, ox-eye daisy, coltsfoot, thistle, and burdock. 
The names invoke pictures, smells, tastes, textures, medicinal actions, and a host of cultural uses.  The history of plant uses by humans is long and rich with tradition and ingenuity. 
Posted by michael

Monday, January 24, 2011

Place-Based Learning On Beaver Creek Marsh

The importance of place in culture became clear to me as I attempted to outline the early aboriginal inhabitants and their culture near Beaver Creek marsh from sources of ethnography and archaeology for the area.  Few sources of information are available on the Alsea people that lived here before European and Asian settlement.  I listened to the stories that the marsh tells every day living here.  The living Alsea people and their culture have been lost in the passing of time.  Their stories live in nature.  Their possible ancestors may live among the Siletz Confederated Tribe.  
A new book “The People Are Dancing Again” by Charles Wilkinson (2010) documents the history of the Siletz Confederated Tribe of western Oregon.  The Siletz Tribe was originally composed of people from numerous village cultures in western Oregon and northern California that were forced onto the Siletz reservation in 1856.  In aboriginal times, each individual village had political authority and was autonomous.  The ethnographic concept of tribes was not supported.  The villages were exogamous, with men taking brides from other villages and the women becoming citizens of their new places.  In the beginning chapter on aboriginal village societies, Wilkinson gives a clear explanation of the importance of place in culture:
“The village as a place carries powerful emotional content.  The multidimensional Athapaskan word duh-neh means “the people of the place” and also encompasses “the blood line”.  It is “the place where your family has always been buried.”  There is no comparable concept in the English language, and I have seen Siletz people strain to articulate the intensity and specificity of the term.  The village is at once concrete and dynamic.  While it is a fixed place on the land and the people are tied to it, the population changes because of births, deaths, and the law of intermarriage, causing some people (women) to move from one village to another.  Yet for both men and women the tie to the village is immutable.  Duh-neh: This is the one place where a person is from, where the ancestors are buried.  This is the only place, the heart place.  There can be no other place.”
This heart place is the singular place where we learn from our elders, teach our children, and return to in our death.  It gives us the connection to living that sustains our breath and life, sparks our imagination and gives us the stories that support our narrative to explain existence and give meaning.  We all come from the one place, which can be different for each of us.  This one in the many and many in the one is an important recognition of how to get along with each other and the world.  Place-based learning is an effort to bring the resources of place to education and learning.  In this way culture can be made stronger by linking with wildness and the wisdom of nature that is heart place.

Posted by michael