Saturday, September 28, 2013

Media & Science News Reporting about the Yosemite Rim Fire

When you ask people if they trust the News Media as recent polls have shown, most people distrust them. But even still, people will follow the News these entities spew out. Of course most journalists and the giant organizations they work for will insist that they have a commitment towards integrity in producing accurate and informative News Reporting. Well, of course, what else would they say ? In the what to believe department, there are a few things that everyone should consider when watching the News and the actual truth in News Reporting. 

Wall Street Journal
First, most of the main stream Media outlets are owned and run by giant Media Moguls who are very powerful. Those Media outlets exert a strong influence on which stories get covered, how they are covered, and how prominently they are covered. And of course, like most corporations, these entities are designed for profit. They don't necessarily do what they do out of the humanity goodness of their hearts. Let's be honest here, some stories or the way they are reported may hamper or facilitate those incoming profits. You should know that any published story will reflect profit considerations one way or another. 
image: Alphaila
Second, there is the government (Politics) factor. Some country media outlets are actually owned and run by government and often called State Media. Does anyone really believe such media would be a guarantee in honest reporting ? And even if they are not state run, they nevertheless have a cozy relationship with each other as far as source contacts, etc. This is where government has a vested interest in cultivating a healthy relationships with various Media venues. Third of course is Advertising. This is a given, as obviously the Media outlets are a business doing business with hundreds or even thousands of other businesses. So it's understandable that advertisers would not want to sponsor programs that cast an unfavorable light on their products. If they do not like what a news outlet is producing, they will take their business elsewhere. Having a keen knowledge of this, news editors may suppress certain news content of a subject matter or stories themselves that cast a negative light on their own sponsors. 
With all of this in mind, it brings me to the point of this post. There recently came up in the Media Reports a subject about the Rim fire in the L.A. Times and it was reviewed by Director of the California Chaparral Institute, Richard Halsey. The story cast a negative dire vision of the area of the Rim fire being so intensely destroyed, that it would be almost a century or more before the area could recover completely to what it once was. Again, keeping in mind the Media bias and the various entities that they may be beholding to like Government policy making, big business interests, etc, the reporting about the Rim Fire recovery was ignorant on much of the scientific understanding on how nature actually works in recovering from a disaster like a wildfire. Though I understand that somewhere in the deep dark back ground of all of this are companies waiting to offer their bids for participation in the human intervention and recovery programs, what ever these may be. Incredibly, they quoted a few so-called Forestry Experts who didn't have their information right either. Unfortunately, the average person is also ignorant on many things ecological and will not even attempt to question such authority when it is referenced, even if they only do so in their mind. In my book however, the experts in positions of charge are without excuse. As Rick Halsey alluded to on the effect of the bad reporting,
" . . . to the average reader will be that this fire "killed everything," the soil was "cooked," the charred trees have "no value," and if we don't do something soon, the landscape will "permanently convert to chaparral."  
These quoted forest management experts in positions of authority should known better. Rick Halsey summed things up this way. 
"Such statements are based on outdated perspectives, mainly that a forest has no value unless it can be logged. For example, charred trees have tremendous value as habitat-rich building blocks for a recovering forest. Despite the heat, the soil will be fine and the sediment that reaches the streams will introduce a rich variety of nutrients to the aquatic environment. To warn that "if we don't intervene, it will convert to brush," indicates that there is a clear misunderstanding about natural, post-fire processes."
Rick Halsey then asks the question, "How did the forest ever survive without us?", then he continues below:
"Photo below: the remarkable recovery since the 1988 Yellowstone Fires. The careers of a number of land managers were ruined because of the political pressure and hype about how the Yellowstone Fires were the fault of the fire service, past fire suppression, and that the park had been "destroyed." Nothing could have been further from the truth. Unfortunately, we haven't learned. The misconceptions continue with the Rim Fire."
(source - Chaparral Blog)

image: California Chaparral Institute
There is one thing of interesting note I want to point out. It has been common for many of the experts to speak of the ground being cooked so badly, that nothing survives. So in a sense they are saying it is sterile, everything, including all the underground mycorrhizal networking were cooked by the fire and it will be decades before trees can be supported, therefore we need human intervention assisted by our genius to accelerate a slow imperfect process of nature left to it's own devices. It is said that if we don't intervene, worthless chaparral scrub will take over. Absolutely and positively untrue. The scientific research, findings and literature actually do not support this outdated ideologically motivated doctrine and religiously defended dogmatic viewpoint. But I sometimes wonder, why the malpractice on the part those who were put in positions of responsibility and oversight in this Federal Forest Land Management assignment isn't exposed on those who should know better ? I'm  using the word/term "malpractice" here because in the real world, if a medical doctor abuses his trust as a result of incompetence on his part for not keeping up with the latest technique and education, he can be held accountable, be sued and loose his license. In the case of bad land management, no one is held accountable. But the land still suffers with no compensation. 

One of the things I have always found fascinating is how many of those scientific innovations we all benefit from and our present understanding of how Nature really works have come not from accredited scientists, but from people who are often called citizen scientists. Why is that ? Mostly I believe because such people have an intense love for the natural world. They are not shackled to career advancement. They are not under the strict authority and biased agenda of the political forces under which they serve as no doubt many forest land managers are under. Such managers are held to account if natural resources are not made available for the needs of their masters. Scientists and/or other researchers can (and do) sometimes manipulate data in order to achieve the results they want, whether it’s publication, tenure, or what ever furthers there personal ambitions. They are not bought and paid for to make come true the wishes and desires of a corporate master. The citizen scientist however is for the most part motivated by none of this, though there no doubt could be an odd exception. This brings me to one citizen scientist who is the daughter of a very well known amateur citizen scientist, Forest Mims.
photo: Popular Mechanics
His daughter is Sarah Mims who won a 2005 Popular Mechanics Breakthrough award on the subject on the practice of the burning of crops kills disease. She overturned the conventional wisdom from an incredibly simple experiment. I stumbled upon this in my own research sometime back, because the conventional wisdom I had been taught at school on pruning out branches of plants with what is called "Fire Blight", in order to control the disease. It was insisted upon that you could not put these branches in a compost pile as it would spread the disease. You had to burn them and sterilize your pruning shears with alcohol. I was always suspicious on the value of this. Here is what Sarah Mims discovered. 
"Sarah Mims isn't the first amateur scientist to fly a kite to test a hypothesis. Taking a cue from Ben Franklin--but skipping the lightning--Mims (pictured above) used a nylon kite to send a homemade air sampler aloft and capture smoke blowing onto the Gulf Coast from Central American agricultural fires. The Seguin, Texas, high-school student used NASA satellite imagery and NOAA atmospheric models to time the sampling. Later, her microscope revealed a surprise: live fungal spores. Mims's discovery, published last year in the peer-reviewed journal Atmospheric Environment, challenged the common practice of burning diseased crops. Her work has earned Mims scholarships and awards, including First Grand Prize at the Texas Junior Academy of Science's annual competition. Now a 19-year-old college sophomore, Mims plans to continue her fungal-spore research. "I want to do more research on which spores are transported and what crops are affected," she says. Mims sees a possible health angle to her discovery. "It's well known that smoke causes respiratory complications, but we don't know exactly why. Part of the answer could be spores." Deployment date: Mims hopes to create an awareness campaign for farmers. "I'd like to develop a Web site that would include a brochure with alternatives to burning diseased crops." 
(source - Popular Mechanic)
So what does any of this have to do with Fire Ecology, Rick Halsey and the L.A. Times article on forest recovery ? Actually it hit me some years ago long before this article came out, that fire could not totally destroy mycorrhizal spores or anything else completely which would be beneficial to forest recovery. But I have often wondered sometimes if anyone else higher up than whoever the heck I am has had the brains for putting this young woman's experiment to task with regards North American wildfires. Do they even know about the experiment to verify or even remember what she found out in the first place ? You know, this isn't exactly rocket science here. Is there no one within the U.S. Forest Service which could put two and two together and come up with enlightened solutions ? Certainly the Harvard School of Forestry understands the importance of leaving well enough alone by their research put out last year.
Rebuilding Ecosystems After a Man Made or Natural Disaster
This whole Rim Fire LA Times mess reminds me of the News Media reporting on the Mountain Fire farce. And what did the Press do this year during and after every single fire in Southern California ? They ran to favourite darling who apparently has a problem admitting that his many years of failed fire policy pimping have been proven horribly wrong. I won't say his name. But I would think it would be so very very important for the Press to learn to distinguish between the actual facts from the personal biased interpretations of an ideologically driven man and his colleagues. It should make you  angry, even if they oppose and resent the Chaparral Institute's shedding light on the subject and exposing a lack of competence, they should at least respect Rick Halsey's scientific integrity for presenting empirical evidence based on actual real world data and studies done by respected scientists. The media I get, the inability of this so-called self-correcting science by those in charge I don't get.

print: Drew Friedman
There have been many other examples this year (2013) of either deliberate misrepresentation or outright incompetence on the part of official comments to News Media, like those ridiculous answers given to the reporters in that infamous San Diego Union Tribune article (Forest Passes Trial by Fire) about the wonderful benefits of the Mountain Fire, which BTW destroyed several people's homes. The ignorant yet smug authoritative claim that the area hadn't burned in 130 years was a flat out lie. The flying Squirrel fable where the chaparral growth was so terribly dense that the Squirrel had no room to soar which was causing it's decline was untrue. The continued and ongoing demonizing of chaparral which in actuality was admitted to have been directly responsible for the increased bird diversity up in the high country are of Mount Jacinto Park, as compared to the first historical late 19th century survey when the area was first cataloged. The labeling of the old growth ecosystem as decadent by the resident forest biologist was even surprising. You have to wonder if they were all scripted on the same page by their agenda driven supervising authorities above them. Are you satisfied by the lack of science behind such answers ?  Anyone giving answers like that to justify a major failure in their land management policy should be fired on the spot. If it weren't for the fact that they have joined hands in unflinching allegiance to the News Media with their usual lapdog reporters and the intimidating strong arm of the U.S. & State Law behind them, they'd be laughed out of town otherwise. I don't believe Richard Halsey and his staff are criticizing their knowledge of real, observable biology in the field, which is often exceptional, otherwise they wouldn't have been hired for their assignment positions, but they're revealing their gross lack of management skills and exposing their purposeful ability to obfuscate when the real world factual evidence and scientific data goes against their cherished and treasured outdated land mismanagement belief system. 

Once again, I get the media, just not the officials in charge of the State's Land Management Trust. In recent decades, as the number of television stations multiplied, but the amount of time viewers spent watching just one station fell drastically. People are further distracted by all the technological innovations provided to them by other branches of Science. Interestingly, to keep those short attention spanned viewers interested, news stations are compelled to offer something unique or entertaining. I remember the reporting on the 2003 Cedar Fire. I remember the reporter standing in the strong wind at Inspiration Overlook south of Julian and putting on an act for nothing more than it's entertainment value. There's a great reference on this later day development of Media entertainment in the book Media Bias. Here is a great quote from that source:
 “The [television] news became a running picture show, with images selected to shock or titillate, and stories shortened to match an [ever-shorter] attention span on the part of viewers.”
Seriously, the average person is disinterested and/or disconnected when it comes to intelligent subject content like this one. They have extremely short attention spans. Wonder how many people reading this post have even gotten this far with my own little lengthy diatribe here ? There's no doubt that the media leaves out deliberately pertinent facts, exaggerates and embellishes upon others for the sensationalism factor. Having been interviewed myself in the past by reporters, I can attest to the angle and slant of the story they are looking for. For example, when interviewed and my answer being less than desired, the reporter would "Yeah but" me. "Yeah but don't you think . . ", Yeah but isn't it true that  . . ". If they don't like your response and prod you for another answer, then it is clear they already have a biased slant to the story line well before it was ever told. To give the benefit of the doubt, maybe in many of these folks interviewed were prodded like I was in the past. Some but not all. Of course, the Media darling, our own UC Riverside boy is one of those individuals who needs no help or prodding to say the most grossly inaccurate and out of touch with reality things. 

photo: Joeff Davis
To sum things up, people who actually care are going to have to work harder at filtering out the useless unreliable material fed to them not only by the Media, but also those in positions of Trust no matter what that leadership position or Authority may be. For many of the average people out there, this will be a tough challenge as they have been so thoroughly shaped and molded into the disconnected from real life human being this world's Leadership[religious, political, big business, Media, whatever] likes and wants to manipulate. Sadly no matter what happens, it's Nature that will always takes the big hit in the end. And yet on a positive note:
Agency ignored best science on sonar, marine mammals, judge rules
Well, once in a while, I guess the L.A. Times can get some things  right. But then never count out newer and newer dumb incompetent ideas coming to the fore when it comes under the cloak of "We just want to save Nature". Replication of how Nature really works is never an option in many of the modern day conservation schemes. After all, nature is often viewed by many of the philosophers of science as imperfect and flawed, therefore the collective intelligent genius of scientists and other researchers know better how to push things alone at a quicker  Not only do most of these insane schemes, as the one referenced below fail miserably, but you can be sure some Corporate elites along with their bought and paid for Scientists *cough-cough* I mean employees are going to make a lot of money on the deal if they can con, I mean sell their idea to the right out of touch leadership.
"It is time to weigh up the pros and cons of using genetic engineering to rescue species from extinction," says Michael A. Thomas and colleagues.
Nature: Ecology: Gene tweaking for conservation

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

"The Scientific Method vrs Farting around in the Dark"

Escher Stairs
This title above was actually a hilarious one I found on TED Talk by Neuroscientist Stuart Firestein who speaks about the "Pursuit of Ignorance". One of the fascinating things he pointed out was that having the ability of acquiring great knowledge and/or obtaining massive amounts of informational content is not the most important thing. He stresses that although it is important for a Scientist or researcher to have knowledge and information which is certainly necessary to be one, in the end it means nothing without wisdom to use it properly. Obviously wisdom and practical application play important roles, otherwise, such an intellect is nothing more than a stale lifeless version of a data storage program within a supercomputer. Oddly enough, there are actually individuals out there who aspire to becoming such a living entity. I think this is why such fields as biomimicry or Biomemetics are extremely important disciplines within science as they tend to dump much the old guard philosophy, ideology and religiosity that often times infect much of science like a disease and brings it back down to Earth with the old neutral position of the scientific method once again.  

"To the making of many books there is no end, and
 much devotion to them is wearisome to the flesh"
One of the best points he made in his TED Talk was about very young children who are just starting out in School with all their curiosity and hunger for learning are naturally attracted to science as a subject at an early age. Funny, I remember that. Fortunately for me it only became a private addiction. One which I often have to control. The reason for this interest from 2nd grade Elementary School level of course is their natural inner desire of curiosity to explore things, take them apart and investigate newer and newer things. But he also mentions that by grade 11 or 12, that fewer than 10% of them have any interest in things scientific (discovery & wonder) is almost totally gone as the majority don't even have an interest in pursuing anything scientific as a career. Hmmm, maybe one could blame the age of lazy consumerism for that. People today are overwhelmed with masses of informational content coming from all directions. Much of that information throughout history has been worthless. Seriously, look at the unhealthful condition of our planet's natural world and lack of any cohesive unity among mankind. Today when students or people in general are asked to research something or find out for about any subject for themselves, their source of information is usually a quick Google or Wikipedia search. Nobody likes real discovery outdoors anymore. Well anyway, enjoy the TED Talk below.
Stuart Firestein Science: "Like Farting Around in the Dark"

Further reading references on the same subject:
Science which was once Curiosity & Discovery driven, now replaced by Corporate Science - So What Happened ? 
How do People figure out whom to Trust in a Scientific Controversy?

Monday, September 23, 2013

How much Reverse Engineering of Earth happens before Humans Admit there's a Problem ?

Unfortunately I woke up this morning and read the latest World News Reports again today and saw this headline: 
"Global Warming Slowdown Hinders Climate Treaty Effort" 
NASA: Arctic Sea Ice September 2013
This headline comes on the heals of a NASA report about the ice cap which as you know covers the Arctic Ocean, shrinks and expands with the passing of the seasons, melting in the summer and refreezing during the long, frigid Arctic winter. However, this year of 2013, cooler weather in the Spring and Summer led to a late start of the melt season and overall less melt. This report comes after some had speculated that Arctic Ice could almost completely disappear during this year's summer of 2013. So what's new, there are some world leaders have their knickers in a twist over the latest findings which effects their personal country's pursuit of unlimited growth of their economies. And that's really what all this is about, nature and climate change are really taking a back seat here. Their not serious, but they have to make themselves look good to their respective public audiences like they're actually doing their job by getting together and discussing it. 

by Ignacio Marquina
While the Earth has had various changes throughout history around the globe, such changes were always localized and hence consequential effects localized as well. For example, recent studies about ancient cultures such as say the Aztecs and Mayan civilizations where they deforested their surrounding landscapes to greedily boost their agrarian based economies brought about ecological collapse in the form of droughts, but droughts specific to that area. And there are other examples to be Googled. But interestingly, such localized phenomena weren't large enough to effect the entire global weather mechanism. Life went on as normal in other parts of the Earth. I post references below. Previously, I have written about how all world empire building requires a massive amount of the earth's Natural Resources .

Animation Source: BBC
Since the industrial revolution however and especially and specifically starting with World War I, the Earth's ecological health has been in slow but steady decline on a global scale. Of course there is also a historical precedent of ecological collapse This can be actually verified by viewing various historical charts and graphs on such subjects as human population growth, weather patterns, increases in CO2s, increases in extreme Temperature anomalies, deforestation, etc, but particularly increases in historical deforestation percentage events seem to precede all all the other increases. Is there a connection ? Hmmm! More on that later. While there seems to be gradual increase throughout the 20th Century, the phenomena particularly shows signs of peaking in recent decades from what I can tell beginning with around 1980, but especially with the Fall of Communism between 1989 - 1990 onward. So why was that ? Communism was a failure and countless millions who lived a life in abject poverty were now free to pursue the very things the western ideologies always seemed to have an abundance of, material comforts and a better way of living. 

Merna Law Group
Interestingly, it wasn't just all the cash poor former Soviet occupied countries that wanted on the gravy train bandwagon, but also almost every poor third world country wanted on board as well. Remember back around that same time when most of the Industrial Lands were outsourcing things like Customer Service to places like Pakistan and India ? People there wanted a better life after generation after generation over centuries of time wanted a piece of the material goods piece of pie. now with former western jobs coming their way, consumerism could be within their reach as well. The problem is, the world leaders are selling off pieces of a Pie they've already previously bought and sold before. So around 1990, everybody wanted on board the Gravy Train and you know, the environmental charts reflect that same identical pattern. It's actually kind of spooky when you view various charts and graphs. Deforestation always taking the lead prior to the others that follow. The only other graph or chart I've found ahead of the historical deforestation is the increase in human population growth. Go figure. It takes natural resources and other material commodities. Isn't it sad when you reflect, ponder and realize that every human being on Earth under the present global system of things the way it is, being equal and having as much comforts and material conveniences as everyone else, is actually a bad thing for the Natural World ? But face the facts, it takes massive amounts of resources to satisfy ALL those needs and wants. It also takes massive amounts of resources to rebuild after all infrastructure is almost completely destroyed either by extreme weather events or this stupid ongoing global drama of war and insurrection which never seems to end. See why the climate change talks are useless, even though they need to be forced to shed light on the issue ?

Suncor's Public Relations Reforestation Page
Now as promised, forests and climate. There's really no need to debate the effects of vegetation removal and climate disruption. I say vegetation removal, because there is more to real ecosystems than just a bunch of giant trees. Yes the trees are great and wonderful and important, but so are Chaparral ecosystems and they are everywhere around the globe, though they differ in make up and structure. Still these serve the same purpose and function as any large old growth forests only on a smaller level. Even desert scrublands. Sadly, did you know these are never really counted in the deforestation charts I've mentioned previously ? So in actual fact, the term should be de-vegetation in the official listing, but it's not. Also something else which is misleading is the fact that such regions like the logging operations where the forest is clearcut or in Tar Sands projects where all vegetation is removed to get at precious oil reserved locked up in minerals, the 1000s of hectares of land they reforest with little trees like the one referenced above in the Suncor promotional photo are actually listed as a real forest. So at least on the books, the total acreage of Earth's forest looks pretty good because they put it all back again. And, since your modern day average human being is disinterested and disconnected from anything to do with Nature and the outdoors, the illusion works on paper. After all, the authorities say so and well, they are after all the authority. In a creepy scary sort of way, the majority still think this living life-support vehicle we call Earth is still fully functional and safe to drive. But how functional can a two year old tree replanting project be at cloud formation, weather moderation and climate maintenance as compared to the old growth forest that once existed previously ? 

I've gotta go back to that John Candy bit and the melted speedometer scene with the Police Officer who pulled them over to the side of the road for safety violations in the film, "Planes Trains and Automobiles" where he makes excuses to the police officer as to why the vehicle is still in a safe and fit mode of operation despite the glaring flaws which he does acknowledge exist. Since I still can't link to any video clip because of living outside of North America, here is a scripted short text of that hilarious conversation. Planes, Trains & Automobiles - Melted speedometer
 Steve Martin: "Oh, great. Great. A cop. Watch it! How fast are you going?"
John Candy: "I can't tell. The speedometer's melted." 
Steve Martin: "Pull over"
John Candy to the Officer who walks up to the driver's door: "Top of the morning, officer. Hi. Is there something I can help you with ?"
Police Officer: "What the hell you driving ?"
John Candy: "We had a small fire last night."
Police Officer: "You have any idea how fast you were going ?"
John Candy: "Funny enough, I was just talking to my friend about that. Our speedometer is melted. So it is hard to say with any degree of accuracy how fast we were gong."
Police Officer: "Ninety seven miles per hour"
John Candy whistles: "Well, yeah. I can buy that. Sure. You'd know better than us, especially since our speedometer's melted."
Police Officer: "Do you feel this vehicle is safe for highway travel ?"
John Candy: "Yes, I do. It's not pretty, but it will get you where you want to go." 
After the officer itemizes all that's wrong and missing from the vehicle, John Candy admitting the flaws, still makes excuses as to why the car works and asks to be let go on his way with only a warning. Any Climate Change debate conversation is almost identical to the script from that movie. It is similar to the excuses given as to why there is no real climate change problem. After acknowledging the environmental flaws, the modifications humans have made and Jerry Rigging humans have done to the planet to keep it on life support, they'll still insist that even though the Earth looks like a complete wreck and clearly has several major safety and life support mechanism violations which have been severely damaged, mankind should only be let off with a warning and be unhindered and allowed to continue on their journey. Pathetic really when you ponder it. While the scene in the movie was hilarious, the reality of Earth's poor health is not.

by Fintan O’Toole (The Irish Times)
Finally I found this as a fitting illustration of where this world is headed. The reality is that not everyone can make or ride the gravy train. Some will fall off or injure themselves trying to climb aboard. Those who make it will only find a precarious spot to hang onto for enduring the ride. What they don't realize it that there is a low tunnel ahead. I guess if you've viewed enough cartoons and know what's going to happen next. Those barely hanging on are going to be forcibly be scraped off. Those who do make through that tunnel in the cramped boxcar don't even realize there is a freight station on the other side waiting to couple up several more loaded boxcars full of people wanting to make Utopian Dreamland by nightfall.  They just can't wait until tomorrow. They gotta ride that train now. Unfortunately on their way to the Promised land, they have to make the journey by crossing over a Bridge on the River Kwai. Any questions ?
Nah, that Climate Change thing is a hoax! 
Further Reading References:
How the Major Historical World Empires Have "Ruined the Earth"
University of Minnesota: Aztec Drought and the "Curse of one Rabbit"
University of Florida: Pre-Columbian deforestation as an amplifier of drought in Mesoamerica
Maya Collapse Tied To Drought, Deforestation
Study: Deforestation may lead to drought

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Can Nature Predict and Forecast the Weather ?

Well not in so many words as much as actions. For Many people, September 1st marks the end of Summer. I know here in Sweden, it's almost like someone flips a switch and turn on the cooler temperatures, increases the wind and starts rapidly turning down the lights from that time forward. It also marks the beginning of American football (NFL) season which I actually watch late night sometimes on the international sports channel. Retailers have clearance sales on all their summer wear, as they begin to transition into fall and the winter season scene. For me, it brings a sort of sadness to my face knowing the days are getting radically shorter and the days are getting colder. The end of summer, however, also marks the time when Nature begins to give off her signs of what our winter will be like. Although in Sweden, often times to the clues come very early.

Yesterday, my wife and I went out for a walk in Trädgårdsföreningen (The Garden Society of Gothenburg) which is a Park in Central Gothenburg. I’m not overly sensitive to this swedish natural environment, but my wife often tells me of old Swedish sayings about plants which people for ages say predicts either a cold or mild winter. So any changes in the Boreal forest are familiar to a native Swede. Well, those at least still connected to the nature of things outside. Well yesterday, the amazing thing I noticed was the incredible amount of Acorns in the Northern European Oak trees as opposed to the lack of any acorns last season. Suddenly that "Hey wait a minute !" factor kicked in. That could typically mean a harsh nasty cold winter here in Scandinavia and that would agree with an earlier report this past summer my wife was reading about a much colder winter this year 2013/2014. Last Autumn & Winter (2012/2013) prior to my coming to California for the Spring visit, I deliberately went to Göteborg Botanical Gardens to look for Acorns to take to my mum's place to plant next Spring. There is an area where the acorns on the ground beneath four massive Oak trees are normally so thick, the ground looks like it has fresh layer of of road gravel laid down. But all I found and collected was a mere handful of acorns. Probably 15 altogether and I had gone and combed the area thoroughly. All but five floated to the top of a bowl of water when I checked for viability. The others however never did germinate as I wanted. They were rotten inside. But it struck me as amazing, because our past winter was extremely mild, with little rain and almost no snowfall. What do the trees know ? Or rather what sensory mechanisms trigger such a response months in advance ?
Lorne Gill / Scottish Natural Heritage
Rowan Berries or Mountain Ash
Prior to realizing what this season's great abundance of acorns could mean, I recalled the two powerfully heavy snow winters and extreme cold the two previous years 2010 & 2011. Just prior to those winters three years ago on a summer afternoon walk in June 2010, my wife told me that the Rowan Berries were early and ripe and that meant a heavy snow with cold winter. Rowan Berries are everywhere here. They are often very weedy in the Boreal Forest understories. They are called Rowan Berries here and the native one in North America is referred to as Mountain Ash only because of it's leaf pattern which is ash-like. Now while I put up and fuss and told my wife, "Ah come on, that's an old wives tale or Norsk Folklore", never the less it all came true. BTW, Rowans were ripe early again this year. *sigh*

Farmer's Almanac
Earlier this year I remember watch CNN and a report they did on this coming Winter for the north hemisphere, but particularly North America. They mentioned that the Farmer's Almanac says so.  Knowing the new Farmer’s Almanac was just released for the 2013-2014 year. Caleb Weatherbee is the official forecaster for the Farmers' Almanac. His name is actually a pseudonym that has been passed down through generations of Almanac prognosticators and has been used to conceal the true identity of the men and women behind their weather forecasts and predictions. I quickly looked up the southwestern United States and yep they predict a very cold winter with more wet than normal. Actually the new normal is drought, so going back to historical would be unusual. So this coming season is interesting.
But not satisfied with that, I also checked another weather website location on the Net I had used in the past. I also cross referenced the Southern California area weather through this site, & Yes Sir, above average rain and cold. In fact they are predicting a little more than the Farmer's Almanac, but still pretty close. Man, we were going to visit in March. Below is their version of the map which also indicates a slight El Nino effect. Something about it being a moderate El Nino and allowing the southern Jet-Stream to pump in more moisture feeding into to those cold Pacific Northwest Storms which roll in off the Pacific Ocean from the north. So for Southern California, that means cold and extra wet.
Here is liveweatherblogs Forecast for the Southwest
Our thinking here at is a west based weak to moderate El Nino to develop in late fall or early winter. This will keep the southern jet active and allow for the areas from California to Texas to the Mid Atlantic to have above average winter precipitation. 
California will have above average rainfall and snowfall and even a few very big winter storms esp. along the coast. The Pacific Northwest will see near to slightly above average rainfall and snowfall."   
But once again, what does Nature have to say ? Of course it can't talk, but what are the visible signs again, if any ? Well, I guess we'll have to go back to look at some of the traditional folklore, since many of us have lost much of those older stories or are so disconnected from Nature and indoctrinated by the present enlightened age where such lore is generally made fun of, that we may need to go back and review what people use to actually look for in times past. One plant of old folklore note is the Scarlet Pimpernel, which has been called the “poor man’s weather glass”. This is because its flowers opens in sunny weather, but closes tightly when rain is expected. Here's what the "How Stuff Works" website explains it:
"The petals fold up when skies darken before storms or at twilight, not opening again until morning light triggers their rebloom -- hence its other common name, poor-man's weather glass. A native of Europe and Asia, it is sparingly naturalized in parts of the United States."
Scarlet Pimpernel
Hmmmmm, I doubt that flower would do well as a predictor of rain here in Sweden. Maybe if there were one that could work the opposite way  ? One other way I have heard of as being reliable in natural weather indicators are pine cones. This year here in Sweden has also shown an abundance of cones, at least in my area. But the Squirrels also have been going crazy all late summer chewing seeds from the still green cones and dropping them on my head as I walk to my Trolley stop. This also makes me wonder about the Parry Pinyon Cones which were not viable back in 2000 thru 2002 when I went collecting seed for Tree of Life Nursery. What a disappointment. But now I'm curious about the following winters and the lack of normal rainfall back then. Could something be learned there ? These cones have traditionally been used to forecast the weather as they change shape according to whether it is wet or dry. In dry weather, pine cones open out as the scales shrivel up and stand out stiffly. When it is damp, they absorb moisture and as the scales become flexible again, the cone returns to its normal shape. Although you can often see this even in sun and shade of opening and closing, but I think everyone has seen this, but never put two and two together before.

When Weather is Dry, Pine Cones will be opened

Pine Cones the day before it starts to rain heavily
Can Cows Really Predict the Weather ?
Cow Weather Gauge: University of Arizona
The idea of watching animal behavior has in the past been one of the most well known natural weather indicators. The old wives’ tale that cows lie down when it is about to rain may not be so far fetched after all, according to a new study earlier this year from the University of Arizona. The researchers discovered that cows stand up for longer periods when it is hot, proving there is a definite link between their behaviour and the weather. They also suggest that cows lie down when it is colder, which is often what happens to the weather just before it rains. This is explained by the fact that the cows sense the cooler temps and moisture in the air and are making sure they have somewhere dry to lie down. Next time you see cows out in a field, pay close attention to see if they are lying down or standing up. Then take note of the surrounding weather conditions or what soon transpires sometime after, just for fun. 

The British Columbia Folklore Society
There is no doubt that the early American farmers (and I'm sure many others) held some strange beliefs if judge by today's intellectual standards. Many of these folklore or old wives tales as they are labeled have still survived until well into the 20th century, and some may still be around today. Those people lived closer to the land and observed natural phenomena of Nature and put things together. In other words, they used the Scientific Method before it was labeled such. Sometimes I even wonder if the Scientific Method is even used anymore from reading some of the literature that has come out lately loaded with what appears to be nothing more than storytelling. A columnist writer for Farm Collector, Sam Moore quoting from a 1926 monthly "Farm Life" magazine article referencing an old farmer who said, "A lot of folks don't believe in signs, but a heap o' times the frost nips them folkses' taters."  This was funny, the old way of country speak was the way my Uncle Marshall back in Iowa use to talk. They were all intrigued by the Farmer's Almanac and planted by the dates suggested. They always did well. But Nature was not as dismantled then as it is now in our age of enlightenment. I wish I'd paid more attention and asked more questions of things back then. Now so much has been lost. I like research what many modern intellects dismiss as mere fables or myths, only to replace these with newer fables or myths and then fall back into denial. It hardly seems possible under the present system if Nature will ever heal back to what it once was or even better. Speaking of climate, the Climate of Human Leadership just question begs here. Clearly some sort of removal of their historical inept direction is in order soon, but in the mean time, we can all, especially Families, have fun in looking for ways to predict weather, that is if the change hasn't been made too drastic. Check out some of the fun references below.
What do you use and trust as a reliable Weather Predictor ?
Reading References:
Scarlet Pimpernel, Poor-Man's Weather Glass 
Pine Cone Weather Station
Cows really can predict the rain. Scientists prove they are more likely to lie down when the weather is cold
The Farmer's Almanac

Friday, September 20, 2013

"The Hygiene Hypothesis", We should all be like 'Pigpen'

"Just look at you; you've been outside only ten minutes
 and your clothes are a mess." 
So what are the historical foundations of good health and vitality before humans came along and created those major imbalances to the Natural World which have given us far more disease and illness than previously ? Seriously, we are now at that promised future time in history in the age of enlightenment where most of these past plagues of mankind are not only still with us, but in many cases have morphed into things often times more serious than previously experienced in the past. Historically where severe sickness plagued certain civilizations at one time or another, it was the result of unsanitary living conditions brought on by people moving to city centers where people practically lived on top of one another and proper hygiene wasn't exactly even an expression word or term used or even known back then. But traditionally, people in more rural settings were not necessarily plagued the same way if at all by the conditions experienced in the cities. Of course there will always be exceptions. Talking to African friends, they have said that some of the common allergy problems that exist in Industrial Lands are not present there in Africa. Why ? A lot has to do with them living a more outdoors lifestyle.   

"Peanuts Wiki"
Incredibly, getting ourselves outdoors and doing things like gardening and getting a little dirt and grit under our fingernails is actually a good thing. We are biologically a part of the Natural World with all of it's micobiological critters like bacteria and viruses the majority of which are friendly and good for us. Some like our own gut bacteria we have a symbiotic relationship with. Without them we'd starve without their ability to process what we enjoy eating. Plants have the same type of digestion symbiosis, but more of an external as opposed to our internal. Hence the often used term 'primitive' in describing such an amazing group of living organisms is really unfair. They are truly complex and in many ways a part of us. If we could illustrate through some type of an intense magnification and illumination device, we'd probably all look like the famous 'Peanuts' character "Pigpen" with that ever present cloud hovering around our bodies everywhere we went. Too bad the peanuts-wiki had this to say about that well known character.
"Charles M. Schulz admitted that he came to regret "Pig-Pen's" popularity, given the character's essentially one-joke nature; he utilized the character very rarely in the later years of the strip's run."
So everyone loved 'Pig-Pen' (actually me too). I think it is because I could identify with him, and his little cloud of swirling dust. I was always outdoors as a kid. Remember the little boy saying - "sticks and snails and puppy dog tails" ? Yeah, me, and proud of it! *smile* Children today for the most part in the Industrial Societies with all manner of electronic gadgetry, are sadly foreigners when it comes to Nature and the outdoors in general. That's why the phrase has been coined "Nature Deficit Disorder". They have been brought up in an Anti-Bacterial world advertised and sold to us by Industrial Science over many generations. Of course it was all for our own good and who would dare question the authority of the then known Science back then. How often did kids back in the 50s and 60s hear their mother say the above quote at the top of this page where the little boy got his brand new clean clothes soiled ? Funny, sometimes it's still like that today. Old traditional genomically imprinted paradigms given birth to decades ago are hard to cast off. 

But this is where researchers in recent years have come up with something called, "The Hygiene Hypothesis". Here are some quotes from the Wiki article on the subject:
" . . a lack of early childhood exposure to infectious agents, symbiotic microorganisms (e.g., gut flora or probiotics), and parasites increases susceptibility to allergic diseases by modulating immune system development." (source)
 Or in other words, we in the industrial lands have sanitized ourselves sick or to death. It is well known that the incidence of allergies in children has risen since we have become overly preoccupied with sanitation of our world around us. The education from the past was that all those little creepy germs were bad for us. Then another  Hygiene Hypothesis article has this to say:
"Viewed through the lens of the hygiene hypothesis the modern obsession or preoccupation with sterility, equating it with cleanliness and goodness, is revealed for what it is. An unhealthy cultural artifact that arose as a consequence of the more immediate and apparent benefits from adopting modern sanitary practices and technologies. Eliminating typhoid and cholera has saved millions of lives in the aggregate since sewers and clean drinking water was introduced in North American and Western Europe for instance. But in so doing we caused the rise of the modern diseases involving immune dysregulation."  (source)
image: John Kelly
Recently there was an article on the research work done around the Chicago Metro area where it was found that water from storms drains which also feed off industrial sewage overflows, can be contaminated with all manner of pharmaceuticals like, Triclosan, which is a synthetic antibacterial widely used in personal home care products. Unfortunately, it appears to be fueling the development of resistant bacteria in streams and rivers. So the journal Environmental Science and Technology, attempted to document Triclosan resistance out in the natural environment. They have found this antibacterial resistance out in the wild, but created an experiment with an artificial stream to prove how it happens.

image: John Kelly
Article's Abstract: 
Antibacterial Products Fuel Resistant Bacteria in Streams And Rivers
Triclosan (TCS) is a broad-spectrum antimicrobial compound that is incorporated into numerous consumer products. TCS has been detected in aquatic ecosystems across the U.S., raising concern about its potential ecological effects. We conducted a field survey and an artificial stream experiment to assess effects of TCS on benthic bacterial communities. Field sampling indicated that TCS concentrations in stream sediments increased with degree of urbanization. There was significant correlation between sediment TCS concentration and the proportion of cultivable benthic bacteria that were resistant to TCS, demonstrating that the levels of TCS present in these streams was affecting the native communities. An artificial stream experiment confirmed that TCS exposure could trigger increases in TCS resistance within cultivable benthic bacteria, and pyrosequencing analysis indicated that TCS resulted in decreased benthic bacterial diversity and shifts in bacterial community composition. One notable change was a 6-fold increase in the relative abundance of cyanobacterial sequences and a dramatic die-off of algae within the artificial streams. Selection of cyanobacteria over algae could have significant implications for higher trophic levels within streams. Finally, there were no observed effects of TCS on bacterial abundance or respiration rates, suggesting that bacterial density and function were highly resilient to TCS exposure. 
Incredible! This triggered my finishing this post which I had already thought about and started, but just left it sit around for some months. For all the knowledge that the enlightened gang on this planet have at their finger tips, why do we still have and live in this artificial world we have now ? Mostly it has to do with Corporate P&L Statements. That's Profit and Loss bottom-lines. Acquiring the Big Coin is a strong motivational driver. Yet, the resulting consequences which have resulted in allowing them control the foods industry  defies all logic. But remember that newer modern day version of the "Golden Rule" ? "The one with the Gold makes the Rules".

Daniela Maschek, Institute for Wood Biology
and Wood Products, Göttingen, Germany
That's really what defines our world, among other imperfections and flaws. There was also recently another great article about the microbial world in the American Journal of Botany Rhizosphere Interactions Special Section. This is an incredible world mostly unknown and overlooked by most humans. Yet it is a foundation for all other biological life. Without them, all much larger physical life would cease to function. Wonder what we'd find it we took a closer look at Nature's P&L Statement ? With Nature however, this is known as Nature's own checks and balances. It's a system where everyone and everything benefits for FREE. As the article noted in the beginning: "We often ignore what we cannot see, and yet organisms below the soil's surface play a vital role in plant functions and ecosystem well-being." But most people don't actually know this. They are never taught this in schools early on and they should. Not that this is a secret, it's not. But people have been so thoroughly trained by every manner of television, radio and/or journal advertising scheme that the Industrial Brand Name Corporate Science has now made gardening and landscaping easier, cleaner  and more convenient for you. Actually, that is a lie. It is not more convenient, time saving and cheaper and the horrible end results over decades which has created our planet's health condition as a whole now puts it in serious jeopardy. The once perfect planetary hygiene has been seriously compromised by those who have persuaded the Public that they know more than Nature does. That's why we have countless chemicals. That's why we have GMOs, because Nature evidently got it wrong and who would know better how to create and design better biological systems than a human scientist bought and paid for by the Industry in charge of change ? 

Image: Mycorrhizal Applications Inc.
Fortunately, not everybody believes in the industrial type of science. There are companies like "Mycorrhizal Applications Inc" who not only has developed microbial products for the garden and urban landscape use sector, but also is developing products to be used on large scale Agricultural situations which is an area in which the Industrial Chemical giants have traditionally avoided. As you can see in the above photo, such biomimicry of what nature actually does and making practical application of those components, also works on a large scale application with regards large scale Agriculture needs. Unfortunately, recent grant research funds have been awarded for to various groups in the research and development of genetically modifying mycorrhizae and bacteria for root colonization. This is not only is totally unnecessary, but also hints at more of the same product patenting business schemes which were the original driver behind most of the Bio-techs agendas today. Feeding the world was always nothing more than an advertising tool. It really never was about charity and caring for fellow man. It was always a business commodities trades decision for those that profit from  the massive monocropping on industrial levels. 

Photo: Chaparral Institute
Then there are also not-for-profit organizations like the California Chaparral Institute that are determined that people be educated about how nature actually works and correcting many of the ideologically driven misconceptions and traditional believes about Nature by individuals or corporations with a vested interest in development of wildland areas. There is also an ongoing educational program by the Institute's director, Richard Halsey and his staff in reaching out to younger generations and providing an accurate education and instilling a deeper appreciation for the chaparral ecosystem early on in life. Helping all types of people understand how these wild ecosystems really work and operate and how we can restore such damaged wildlife habitats by replication of what has been observed and learned in the field. This is actually a growing interest in a research called biomimicry or biomemetics. 

So where did this obsession with microbes as evil originate ? Mostly  from Louis Pasteur we got Germ Theory and all those microscopic organisms were all lumped together as evil pathogens that had to be eradicated. Much of Pasteur's life was dedicated to finding substances that would kill the infecting organisms. Not that a certain element of pasteurization has been beneficial, but things have gone fanatically way overboard. What an open door for abuse by industrial giants this has led to. Why, new business markets had now suddenly been discovered. The medical industry suddenly became obsessed with killing the infective organism rather than promoting defense against infection. Let's be honest here, it makes for better business sense by those with a vested interesting in keeping their livelihood intact. Servicing the symptoms as opposed to preventative medicine has always made better business sense. 

Louis Pasteur's nemesis, Claude Bernard had an entirely different take. He believed one's own internal terrain as he called it or the immune system was more important. So bizarre were some of his experiments that they created quite a controversy in the Germ Theory adherents. He and his research associates consumed cultures containing millions of cholera bacteria. Yet none of them developed cholera. The reason ? Their immune systems were not compromised. Still, while fascinating, I don't think I'd even go that far. But he made the point, building up the immune system is important and it starts early on in life. That's where the Hygiene Hypothesis kicks in. Allowing kids to be exposed early on to normal healthy outdoor activity is a good thing. Unfortunately in this day and age, forcing may be necessary as kids are addicted to their sterile life altering electronic gadgetry. You know how babies have that yucky habit of putting almost any thing in their mouths ? Maybe there's something natural to that in the immune system building game that continues on as they grow up. Hindering much of this outdoors exploration either intentionally or unintentionally may be the very thing that is compromising that immune system development in the youth. There was a great Canadian study a couple years ago on this very thing. It seems the well educated set have it worse than those from developing countries when it comes to allergies. I'll post it below, but in the mean time, I'd say leave most of those microbes alone and concentrate on spending more time outdoors with your family and/or friends. Once again, there is this incredible earth networking system that needs respecting. So what do you say ?
The downside of a good education: food allergies
Update April 15th 2014
 Exercising outdoors may help boost its positive health effects in children
 Coventry University: "Health benefits of 'green exercise' for kids shown in new study"

image: Coventry University
The research was conducted on a group of 9- to 10-year-olds who had to complete multiple 15-minute cycling sessions. During one session, the children were shown pictures of a forest path which was synced to their bike; in another session, they were given no visual enhancement at all. After the session in which they were given "green stimulus," the children experienced significantly lower blood pressure than when given no stimulus. The authors of the study noted that lower blood pressure can be attributed to a lower risk of healthy problems such as cardiovascular disease. The lead researcher of the study, Dr. Michael Duncan of Coventry University had this to say regarding the results: 
"Hypertension is a chronic health problem across the world, so given the results we've seen in our study it's crucial that we continue to try to understand the role physical activity and – in particular – green exercise plays in blood pressure."
"If there is indeed a correlation between viewing scenes of nature and a lower blood pressure post exercise, as indicated by our data, it could have very positive implications in encouraging public health practitioners to prescribe outdoor exercise to reduce health risk." 
image: Tech-Addiction
There has been so many scientific research findings are coming out lately which reveal the health benefit virtues of incorporating such  wholesome qualities which influence even the development of one's personality with such attributes as kindness which results in the right type of happiness which effects one's DNA. Human cells respond in healthy, unhealthy ways to different kinds of happiness Here are some great quotes from that article. Basically it's the Hedonistic type of happiness we get from pleasure of the senses, such as going on vacation, having a good meal, enjoying a hobby, sports, other types of personal indulgences or even the common modern day party animal pursuits on the weekends. Or the Eudaimonic type of happiness, which is a contented state of being happy that we get from a noble goal that brings us pleasure. This can be working to relieve the suffering of another living being, spiritual pursuits, or searching for and finding a greater purpose in our lives. But don't believe me, read from the link above what the Scientists are now saying.
"But if all happiness is created equal, and equally opposite to ill-being, then patterns of gene expression should be the same regardless of hedonic or eudaimonic well-being. Not so, found the researchers."
Or how about the recent virtue of showing "Gratitude" which goes and and hand with "Patience" and the health benefits received not only personally, but how it effects others within the community. In the past these types of subjects have been a turn off to the modern day intellectual crowd as something religious, and yet how does that modern day expression go ? "Follow the Science ?" 
"In a potentially landmark study, a team of researchers demonstrate that feelings of gratitude automatically reduce financial impatience. The human mind tends to devalue future rewards compared to immediate ones -- a phenomenon that often leads to favoring immediate gratification over long-term wellbeing. As a consequence, patience has long been recognized to be a virtue. And indeed, the inability to resist temptation underlies a host of problems ranging from credit card debt and inadequate savings to unhealthy eating and drug addiction."
Bottom line here is, if wholesome things in life are a matter of choice in which direction you choose can have a positive effect on one's genetic make up which can also be past on to future generations, then what do negative choices have in the form of entertainment have in the same long run and does this explain the increasing violent world born out to us through the News Media ? Hollywood is hardly an example of anything decent or virtuous as this video so beautifully illustrates, although a word of caution here: This video is of the Hollywood Celebs climbing the Gun Control bandwagon, which is fine, but they are the biggest hypocrites regarding this issue. 
Hollywood Hypocrites Demand Gun Control For Citizens As Their Movies Promote Gun Violence
Parent are directly responsible for what goes into their kids minds. You can allow Hollywood and the other entertainment Tech-Venues babysit and mold & shape your kids brains or you can get them outdoors and appreciate Nature which will have a longer lasting positive benefit on them later on in life. I know most won't agree or follow this, but again, if you don't like traditional values, then at least follow some of the interesting science which is backing up that there are benefits after all. Maybe all of us should stop and allow a hygienic over haul of who we are on the inside also.  
Further Related Reading: