thought not static

where one think leads to another

Archive for the ‘nature’ Category

the never ending lives of magnificent beings

Posted by thoughtnotstatic on 9 May 2008

I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve it through not dying. -Woody Allen

you\'re looking pretty good for your agePreviously, I wrote about recent findings that learning can come at a rather dramatic cost – decreased life span. Today, I swing to the other end of the biological spectrum by sharing something I learned about the mighty redwood tree: “Science knows of no built-in reason why any particular redwood tree need ever die.” This according to a story in the April – June 2008 Bay Nature about the 100th Anniversary of Muir Woods. They are able to overcome broken limbs, resist invaders and susceptible to no known diseases. Further, they not only reproduce by seed they “propagate as clones, by spouting. The stems we now see may be only the latest shoots from rootstocks many times older. Just how ancient the oldest redwoods might be, as genetic individuals, is simply not known.” We’re talking dinosaur days, folks.


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the short lived lives of intelligent beings

Posted by thoughtnotstatic on 7 May 2008

Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain.
Friedrich von Schiller

“You do not usually get something for nothing. Now a new study reveals that the evolution of an improved learning ability could come at a particularly high price: an earlier death.” So begins the article “Critical Thinking” which appeared in April 24 2008 print edition of The Economist. This article, along with a more in-depth story the May 6 New York Times, cite recent research that shows while learning is a common ability in the animal kingdom, it is not necessarily an advantageous ability.

In the results of experiments with fruit flies, for example, researchers found “that their fast-learning flies live on average 15 percent shorter lives” while “flies that have undergone selection for long life were up to 40 percent worse at learning than ordinary flies.”

Scientist speculate one reason for this may be in that learning is not free – biologically, it takes tremendous energy – and that this may, in fact, divert or take energy away from other biological functions necessary for survival…

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when unintended consequences are a good thing

Posted by thoughtnotstatic on 21 February 2008

“Evolution Wins as Creationists (Accidentally) Switch Sides in Florida”

The terms “evolution” and “scientific theory” had never appeared in Florida curriculum guidelines. Now, thanks to the insistence of religious conservatives, these terms are written into policy and must be taught. Meanwhile, teaching “creationism” remains illegal.

Sometimes, amidst all the unintended consequences that bring us down, it is nice to have stories like this.

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time for a nature’s rights movement

Posted by thoughtnotstatic on 19 February 2008

the lorax Mister! he said with a sawdusty sneeze,
I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees.
I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues.
And I’m asking you, sir, at the top of my lungs–
he was very upset as he shouted and puffed–
What’s that THING you’ve made out of my Truffula tuft?
– from The Lorax, by Dr. Seuss, 1971

Isn’t it time – no, isn’t it way past the time – to grant the trees (and rivers, streams, oceans and prairies) a legal voice of at least the strength we grant our unnatural inventions such as corporations?

Such is the position taken by Cormac Cullinan in his essay, “If Nature Had Rights“, published in the January | February Orion Magazine.

Instead of the legal system such as we have today, where ecological decisions are made and challenged primarily in consideration of whether correct procedures have been followed, “consider how much greater the prospects of survival would be for most life on Earth if mechanisms existed for imposing collective responsibility and liability on human communities and for restoring damaged relations with the larger natural community.”

Cullinan recalls the ideas of then USC law professor Christopher Stone who, over three decades ago played ‘spoze in his classroom: “What would a radically different law-driven consciousness look like? … One in which nature had rights … rivers, lakes, trees … How could such a posture in law affect a community’s view of itself?” Judging from the reaction he got from his class, it seems professor Stone might as well of been Dr. Seuss, writing of some sort of childish make-believe world, disconnected from the real world in which trees, rivers and such “are objects, not subjects, in the eyes of the law are are by definition incapable of holding rights.”

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waters of life

Posted by thoughtnotstatic on 7 February 2008

My friend Kelvy posted a great quote about dealing with pain and suffering. The gist of the quote is that suffering is like a handful of salt; when you put that salt in a glass of water, the water taste bitter, but put that same salt into a lake and the water still taste refreshing. Thus, when suffering, expand your context, your awareness and sense of being, to that of a lake, rather than a glass.

After reading the quote, I got to thinking about emotions of joy and happiness – the honey of life, if you will. To better taste this honey, might we want to revert to the glass, shrinking our awareness to the singular moment at hand, and thus be able to savor the sweetness, fleeting though it may be.

And when should we become a stream? There are times when it might be best to be narrow and shallow enough notice the nuances of salt, honey and all the other flavors life offers, yet with enough current that these feelings flow through us and then pass on, making space for what’s to come.

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