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So Beautiful, So Scary, It’s the Future

Fall is in its glory, with beautiful weather days, clouds, pumpkins and leaf colors surrounding us here in Chicago.

Revel in this loveliness, dear readers, because Climate Change is with us everywhere always. Last Saturday, I attended a seminar at the Chicago Botanic Garden. The subject? A scientific study of which trees we should be planting because they are well suited to….future heat levels in the Chicago region. Here’s some winners: American Hornbeam [Carpinus caroliniana] ‘Firespire’, Kentucky Coffeetree [Gymnocladus dioicus] ‘Top Hat’, Miyabe Maple [Acer miyabei] ‘State Street’. Here’s a loser: White oak. My heart weeps to think this tree may be gone from Chicago by 2050. As I write, the biggest hurricane EVER is looming down on wonderful Manzanillo, Mexico, which we once had the pleasure of visiting, bringing with it 12″ of rain across the American Gulf Coast. 2015 is the hottest year on record. The oceans are already three degrees warmer than the 20th century average (and it takes a lot of heat to heat up an entire ocean), and drought will mean MILLIONS will be starving in Africa. India and Pakistan hit 118 degrees last spring, leaving no water supply. Thousands of people died. Did we even KNOW THAT? (Pet peeve: TV weather reports never show international maps, as if no one lives in foreign countries. Even Canada doesn’t show up on the TV news.) But 25 “red” states are suing the Federal government for trying to reduce emissions via regulations to be published by the EPA today. It’s a disingenuous ploy to seem like they are saving coal mining jobs since most states** are preparing plans to do the right thing, climate wise, and meet the regulations thru their own cap-and-trade programs. (**Hard-core Governors that are suing the Feds without creating their own air quality plans are Texas, Louisiana, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Oklahoma.) I’m grateful to live in Chicago, which seems fairly insulated from the big environmental disasters. But the “hot” news from elsewhere makes me want to either pull the blankets over my head and hide OR do something pro-active. I live in a big house (actually, two houses), own three cars (none battery powered), and own numerous gas-driven tractors, lawnmowers, chain saws and leaf blowers. Which means that I’m more responsible in thought (admission: I think electricity is the best invention ever) and deed for bleaching the coral animals than the average guy, although not anywhere as bad as the Koch brothers, the Tennessee Valley Authority (yes, the Federal government’s own power plants), or Exxon Mobil. Their coal companies power my house and their refineries power my vehicles. Moi? Mea culpa. Here’s a great Forbes article that explains the big polluters and the trade-offs we make. No matter how many (heat tolerant) trees I plant, it’s time for me to say “no” to gasoline and coal. Maybe one less person will starve or one more coral will live because I didn’t blow the leaves away quite so fast or (gasp) raked and composted the leaves. Less air conditioning and “cleaner” cars. Ya think?## Sounds like I’m singing the blues today.  

Reading Up on Land Use Political History

This has nothing to do with anything “gardening”, but if you want to read an interesting historical story, check this Lincoln photograph archive article out…Fascinating “garage sale” yarn. Hmm, I guess it is a “conservation”-related story…

Which brings me to this “conservation” insight. I have decided to read every book available on the politics and history of land conservation. Right now I am simultaneously reading The Swamp: The Everglades, Florida, and the Politics of Paradise by Michael Grunwald and Politics, Pollution, and Pandas: An Environmental Memoir by Russell E. Train, who was President of the World Wildlife Fund but was also a key Nixon-era EPA director and Interior Dept deputy. Before that, he headed the [new in 1969] Council on Environmental Quality, which oversaw the law requiring Federal agencies (like the US Army Corps of Engineers, did you know it has 37,000 employees?!) to publish Environmental Impact Statements [EIS]. I’ve always liked this land use law stuff: my Master’s Thesis was about the value of EIS’s…

Anywho, the two books are a good combination, because one book gives the State/Florida angle on “saving” the Everglades and the other gives the Federal perspective. And it’s really interesting to think about names “from the past” like John Erlichman [who “put the kibosh” on the Everglades-killing Miami Jetport and was a Seattle land use attorney before going to DC], Nixon himself [who wasn’t actually personally interested in the environment but initiated hugely-important environmental protections as a political move to get or stay ahead of the Democrats], VP Al Gore versus House Speaker Newt Gingrich (whose 2007 book, Contract with the Earth, is on my reading list.)

And the walk down memory lane also includes deja-vu nuggets like, “[1995] didn’t seem like a very good time for political consensus. In Washington, partisanship had become so venomous that the Federal government shut down for a week over a budget dispute…The GOP majority began crusading to roll back environmental regulations…House Majority Whip Tom DeLay compared the EPA to the Gestapo…”. Or this excerpt from Train’s book: “In 1968, oil was discovered in recoverable quantities on the North Slope of Alaska…[and] the pipeline was being called the largest private construction project in history. I [Russell Train] was determined that we not simply accept the assurances of the oil companies but that we exercise due diligence about possible adverse environmental effects…[Studies, EISs, lawsuits followed…] While there was the inevitable claim of unnecessary delay, it was basically time well spent. As the president of ARCO Oil later said, “had the pipeline been built according to original specifications, the result would have been a disaster, environmentally and economically”. Plus ca change, n’est-ce pas? [By the way, here’s what EPA said in Feb 2015 about the Keystone XL Pipeline.]

PS While poking around on Federal websites, I found this “landscaping guidance for Federal facilities”, which is as good as anything I’ve seen to guide municipal decisions too. You can bet I’m sending it on to the City of Lake Forest which is about to hold hearings (Again. Long story.) on letting Whole Foods cut down 400 oak trees and demolish a landmarked mansion to build a new store and parking on Route 60. UGH UGH UGH. And here’s the Federal guidance on helping pollinators, such as honeybees, butterflies, birds, insects, and bats. Here’s one suggestion I have for helping pollinators: restore water to the Everglades! And don’t cut down 8 acres of oak trees in Lake Forest!#

A New Way to Look at the World

Sometimes those forwarded emails are just too good to pass up and need to be shared. When I received a forwarded email about World Maps, I tracked down what might be the original source, at a blog called “The Story Reading Ape”. The Ape shares some unusual ways to look at the world:

map-1billion

map-australia

map-insidecircle

 You will find a link to this blog post on my Cool Links page.  Curious about where in the world they drive on the left hand side?  How about how many countries have McDonalds?  See the original blog post:  

Hello, You Beautiful Bird!

Look who showed up on our dock at sunset yesterday!

great blue heron

The Great White Heron (which is a white form of the Great Blue that we see in the north) can only be found in the lower Florida Keys according to the US Fish & Wildlife Service. Of course, a local Florida website disagrees with the Feds’ geographic assessment, but those nice Audubon folks have tried to clear up the confusion. Does the white turn blue or not-I still don’t know but this Queen Bee thinks that claim sounds highly unlikely. Anyway, if you are interested in herons and egrets, check  out the Heron & Egret Society website. Audubon art and literary references. Nice!

map-key-west-area01

The house we rented is near the 200,000 acre Great White Heron National Wildlife Refuge, which includes lots of boat-access-only islands that provide “critical nesting, roosting, wading and loafing habitat” for 250 species of birds. Loafing? Do birds loaf? Are there special couches?

The Great White Heron NW Refuge was dedicated because the heron was threatened with extinction because so many Victorian matrons (yes, including those from Chicago) wanted to adorn their hats with the heron’s feathers. If you want to get totally grossed out, check out these photographs of women’s hats dating from the 1900 era. It is claimed that a single order of plumes in 1892 required killing 192,960 herons.

While National Audubon was created in protest, and Iowa Republican Congressman John F. Lacey got our first national law protecting wildlife and plants passed in 1900 (it’s still going strong, being last amended in 2008 I think for the better but I’m not really sure as it was mixed up in the FARM BILL need I say more), that didn’t stop the feather trade especially in the Everglades and lower Florida. (I hope one of you can send me a great book that explains all the politics behind conservation over the years.)

If the Great White Heron National Wildlife Refuge was dedicated in 1938, that would mean that Franklin Roosevelt was President and Harold Ickes was Interior Secretary. Here’s your cocktail party factoid: Ickes was our longest serving Interior Secretary and he was a progressive Republican–from Chicago. Let’s find more like him to send to Washington!#

The Heron 

by Wendell Berry

While the summer’s growth kept me
anxious in planted rows, I forgot the river
where it flowed, faithful to its way,
beneath the slope where my household
has taken its laborious stand.
I could not reach it even in dreams.
But one morning at the summer’s end
I remember it again, as though its being
lifts into mind in undeniable flood,
and I carry my boat down through the fog,
over the rocks, and set out.
I go easy and silent, and the warblers
appear among the leaves of the willows,
their flight like gold thread
quick in the live tapestry of the leaves.
And I go on until I see crouched
on a dead branch sticking out of the water
a heron—so still that I believe
he is a bit of drift hung dead above the water.
And then I see the articulation of a feather
and living eye, a brilliance I receive
beyond my power to make, as he
receives in his great patience
the river’s providence. And then I see
that I am seen. Still, as I keep,
I might be a tree for all the fear he shows.
Suddenly I know I have passed across
to a shore where I do not live.#

All in a Day–in Florida

Last week I took a very chilly but beautiful walk in the forest preserve at Fort Sheridan, Illinois. Great shadows! fort sheridan 1 But today I saw great shadows when we took a walk along the “Old Overseas Highway” (opened 1939, thank you President Roosevelt) that runs only in bits and pieces along the far east side of the Florida Keys: florida keys Here’s a few more photos of tropical delights. I don’t know the name of this fantastic flower (does anyone want to offer a guess?) that was growing by the side of the “road”…but I think the bird is a White Ibis (yes?): florida keys But for those of you who remember our 2014 trip to Florida, the Turtle Hospital in Marathon, FL was a must-stop, again. They had more sick or recovering turtles (all species are endangered) than ever (something like 150!), including some Kemp’s Ridley turtles that were flown down here from Cape Cod Bay, where they were stranded in November, poor dears. sea turtle This is Tiny. He is a loggerhead that got hit by a boat, which means his shell fills up with air and then he can’t dive anymore…Slow down, boaters!#

Darn Those Landscape Architects!

If I heard it once, I heard it a million times: “The final landscape plan shall strive to be a model for the community with a focus on removal of invasive species and planting of indigenous species”.

And then something like this follows: “Species Palette: Birch, Eastern Red Cedar…” NOT indigenous (birch) except maybe to a ravine, and thisclose to invasive (cedar).

Or I read, “Our plant palette includes coneflowers, black eyed susans, sky blue asters, and prairie dropseed”, as if they were the only plants in a woods, a wetland, or a prairie. Could we at least hear that you are planting a milkweed for the Monarch butterflies?

AAAAAGHHHHH. Can you landscape architects get it right, please? Do you ever crack a book on ecology or take a botany seminar?

Landscape architects and municipal foresters who let landscape architects get away with nonsense should know better and do WAY better. And they should stop planting crap in our ecosystems. Especially when saying that they are “models” of ecologic design.

Between Forest Park, Northwestern Hospital, and Whole Foods–all in Lake Forest–I can’t even fathom what might be happening in the larger region. Help us all to call their bluff: the Emperor has no clothes.##