Thursday, April 3, 2014

Pretzel Logic & the "Denial of the science is malpractice" Mandate

Define science ?, What science ?, Who's science ? 
Have some Sciences become an ideologically inspired political & Financial agenda driven Religion ?  


"Every Dark Cloud has a Silver Iodide Lining"
Yesterday in a Reuters article on the United Nations report on Global Warming, it spoke of the dire irreversible consequences of doing nothing if mankind doesn't change things now. This subject of climate change actually isn't exactly the subject of my post here for the moment, but there was an interesting quote by a well known political figure in that post that illustrates a dilemma when any subject regarding Science attempts to appeal to authority. 
"Unless we act dramatically and quickly, science tells us our climate and our way of life are literally in jeopardy," U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement. "Denial of the science is malpractice."
But the problem with most subjects on science is that everyone has a different take on exactly what that science actually is. Sadly, it's  usually based on one's personal bias, preference or what ever social group the individual may be affiliated with. The problem is that science can be used for good or bad, despite what many of the religious type of ideologues say about Science being the ever wonderful self-correcting force. And we all know this to be true. The expression, "Denial of the science is malpractice.", is interesting because two viciously opposed sides on this subject claim to have the science on their side. Often times we can observe Hiram's Law being utilized in any debate or discussion on any topic. It goes like this: "If you consult enough experts you can confirm any opinion". While I, like many other folks, do believe that there are many things (anthropological) that are presently screwing up Earth's overall climate driving mechanisms with numerous Scientists backing this up, most people who do believe in climate change will themselves often forget that half of the world's scientists are bought and paid for by many of the globe's largest and most powerful corporations who bare a direct responsibility & influence on the degradation of our Earth's weather mechanisms. So let's be totally frank and honest here, not all Scientists are on the same page on this. That brings me to my main subject here. There are other areas of industrial science using what they label as science for the purpose of economic benefit, even if sacrificing Nature is the necessary evil that accomplishes this goal.

On any scientific subject, especially when there are vested financial concerns involved, there is often a reliance on authority to the exclusion of real world logic and evidence. A motivated person can actually go phishing around the internet to find Scientists and their research studies which may agree with their own opinion, irrespective of what that idea or belief is. For example when I was a kid growing up in the 1960s, it was often heard in commercials trying to sell consumers on an over the counter medical product from a Pharmacy, "Four out of five Doctors agree . .  on whatever" To this day, nothing has changed with advertising. In recent years there has also been controversy over numerous areas of land management with all sides claiming victory because they have the science behind them. Ever heard the chant, "Just follow the Science", and of course everyone claims to have it. But now if you're completely honest with yourself, how has that really been working out for us ? Especially has this been the case in forest management whether with whether or not to use prescribed burns, whether we should allow more timber harvesting to make things like a Park or implement ways to increase the hydrological success of our streams and rivers by cutting down trees, since some recent Experts truly believe trees and forests are greedy water gulpers. And not just any trees like the usual invasives, but native trees. When looking for the truth of such stunning claims that throws up internal red flags, another expression comes to mind, "Follow the Money". If you suspect there are ulterior motives below the surface of any research paper, you need to consider the subject and it's end goal. You also need to consider who stand to gain and profit off the deal. It would also behoove you to track down the ones funding the actual specific research. That alone can go along way in exposing the bias behind the research work which exposes the outrageous claims for what they truly are.

Last week we were treated to yet another article dealing with certain specific types of  native California tree species were described as water greedy using adjective like gulping down water. Even the very descriptive adjectives (words/terms) used in that article were carefully selected for the purpose of justifying a scientific theory which the author has great hopes of becoming a land management Mandate one day. To be successful of course, it is necessary to manipulate the thinking of the reading Public on just how they should view certain specific trees up there in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Let's face it, some plants are nothing more than vicious animals or Monsters. Now if you can succeed in creating a  negative viewpoint which never before existed in the minds of the ignorant, this is the first step in accomplishing public support. But this biased view of certain specific target Trees can be found throughout the entire western United States, not just California. It's truly unfair and even if there is any unbalanced circumstance within  the landscape, it could hardly be the fault of the trees. Like all plants in Nature, trees don't think or reason, devise, plan or scheme, they simply react to environmental cues which are nothing more than changes in the environment and the response or internal reaction of their genetic mechanisms to adapt to that change. This is similar to  the way certain insect pests can become an out balanced plague of sorts to the Farmer, Landscaper, or Gardener as a result of ignorance and/or terrible mismanagement of the landscape on the part of humans. These critters then become demonized for their abnormal growth in number which disrupts some human scheme or other money making venture. First gut reaction is almost always, "How do we kill them ? Killing them is the only solution." Suddenly the call goes out for action now. But nobody seems to slow down, take a step back and allow peripheral vision to help get a responsible grip on the situation to find out what actually caused the disruption in the first place. For example, the lay public has been educated and conditioned by big business interests into utilizing what are touted as science-based innovations like chemical poisons to strike an immediate death blow which provides instant self-gratification with very little effort or energy expended. 

image: C.J. Earle, June 28, 2008
This is exactly the case being made here against native trees all over the west, with some being specifically targeted more than others. Who would have ever thought way back when, that at some time in the future, trees or shrubs native to their own historical territories & habitats would be treated like some invasive alien species brought over from another part of the world only to get loose and wreak havoc on the environment ? I have written previously about the ongoing war with Eastern Red Cedar which is not a cedar at all, but actually a Juniper. However, it has been unfairly demonized as an invasive in it's home territory for several years now because it encroaches into precious grassland which are used for the Cattle industry. Much of this has not only been the result of climate change, but also the lousy over-grazing practices of Ranchers which have created a more favourable condition for it's spread. This is similar to another demonized tree by Ranchers called Mesquite, whose spread is because of the cattle themselves. Recently, the subject came up about the Western Juniper (Juniperous occidentalis) which is said to be invading larger portions of eastern Oregon where it is native anyway. Many will recognize the beautiful miniature sequoia look of the tree in the above photo. In Southern California, I have only seen them on the north and eastern sides of the San Bernardino Mountains around Big Bear. Hard to believe such a handsome majestic tree would be so demonized. Like the articles about water gulping trees of the central Sierra Nevada Mountains recently, these trees up there in Eastern Oregon are also being blamed for less water in streams, drying up Springs and preventing forage bunch grasses from growing. While they do give token blame to drought and climate change, they still insist that the Western Juniper is the main culprit for rangeland woes. But that's a lie and for a number of reasons. 

First off there are a number of admirable mechanical qualities about most any Juniper that make them so successful in harsh conditions where nothing else will succeed. They are also extremely deep rooted, in some cases almost mesquite-like in taproot design structure. Now just a couple of days ago someone posted a link to the Juniper eradication program going on in eastern Oregon which they take personal part in. Now I'm not poking fun or making light about what he does for a living. After all he works for the Oregon State government and part of the job there is to ensure viable healthy wildland ecosystems for recreation and agriculture. We all get that. But was all the info on his website link really true about the Western Juniper ? Take a look at the photo of a Western Juniper from his site that I have posted here above left. Notice this incredible root design underground which has been exposed by erosion. Now most people who support this Juniper eradication study would use such a photo to justify the reasons water levels are so low because of the mechanical apparatus used by the Juniper for survival success. But does this tree really suck so much water that it is responsible for everything else in the ecosystem losing out ? While those folks may find the scene disturbing and justifying eradication programs, I find it beautiful from an Earth's Internet (Networking) point of view, hence the name. Anytime anyone suggest things going wrong is nature's fault, I run the other way. I know better than that. First thing that came to my mind was Hydraulic Redistribution (this term now covers both "lift", "decent" & "redistribution" in one phrase) of water. I have written several posts here on this blogsite about this incredible but rarely spoken about phenomena which exists in all ecosystems. I have looked up numerous tree and shrub subjects, but never before the Juniper. Here's what I found in the Oxford Journals of all places and the subject was the Utah Juniper, but it referenced the same phenomena in all other Junipers of the west. Article was from 2002, so it is not like this is something relatively new which kept researchers out of the loop and it was titled: "Carbon acquisition and water use in a northern Utah Juniperus osteosperma (Utah juniper) population" There is a section in this report which references quite a bit about the hydrological effects of Juniper woodland on the landscape which were fascinating. The subheading is titled & I'll follow up with a couple selected paragraphs:
Water uptake and hydraulic redistribution
"Hydraulic redistribution is an important component of soil water dynamics and plant water relations. It is thought that upward movement of water from deep soils can increase daily transpiration, promote nutrient uptake from upper, drier soils and maintain fine roots by keeping them hydrated. Redistribution downward as we observed, can enhance transpiration by moving water away from the surface where it is subject to evaporation and plays a significant role in soil water dynamics related to spring recharge."
Without quoting anymore in the interest of time and my short reader attention spans, it was noted that in this study area, most rainwater never percolated below three feet from the surface, but deeper layers of water were strictly facilitated by the deep rooting structure of the Juniper which was even observed as being responsible for spring water recharging within the ecosystem, which is the main bone of contention by the Juniper eradication people in California & Oregon who label the trees water gulping and stream flow restricting. Also mentioned were Western Juniper, Rocky Mountain, and Alligator Junipers as having identical characteristics and effects on the ecosystems.

Photo: National Park Service
Now let's be completely honest, as aggressive as they insist this Juniper is, it is going through mass die offs in other regions of the southwestern USA. So it's really not the demon dog from hell after all. And as always, the regional geographic, climate and soil geological structure play out differently from place to place, but many of the main points characteristics of the Juniper's nature and it's role in the ecosystem remains the same. Interestingly, Juniper succeeds in almost all types of soil profiles. So there are no doubt,  areas with different geological soil structure where temporary tree removal probably does enhance stream flow in the short term, but they also found water sediment erosion and water runoff were negative as almost everything was absorbed into the soil profile. They also discovered the Juniper tree ecosystem builds up a better  soil profile for water percolation. The Western Juniper Management Field Guide from the Oregon State & Oregon government showed before and after pics of Juniper woodlands. Here, take a look and you decide. While the emphasis was about land and water improvement in grasslands for wildlife, there were other behind the scenes motives for this research and eradication program. Grasslands were the main objective for the grazing interests.
Click the link above and notice scrolling half way down they reveal a rather pristine looking forested environment which is not tree density or crowding at all or even compacted with dense under growth of any kind. In fact it looks much like that typical official Mandated "Palms to Pines" park-like condition most Forestry managers preach about through their public relations. Yet this this beautiful mountainside  was cut down almost completely and the following photos show gradual change to low sage scrub and bunch grasses over a period of years and the new plant growth wasn't overly dense with those plants either. You decide. Other links show increases in water flow, but not necessarily into streams, but rather watering troughs. Other links: 
Main Home page for the Juniper-Pinon Program:
Here is the real reason for the studies and also where the funding comes from. As mentioned on one page from Oregon State University's own website dealing with the possible bad side effects of miscarriages and abortions or early than normal births by pregnant cattle eating Juniper and/or pine seedlings. Now they admit that these cattle do not seek these trees out for food. In fact they do not even mention the recent studies from Idaho and Montana which show the presence of wolf populations influencing this phenomena of herding behavior as they did with Elk in Yellowstone. As we know, they do have some wolves in Oregon, but there is one paragraph in that piece that informs us of where the funding comes from for the program which explains everything.
"OSU's juniper research has been supported through a number of grants from the Oregon Beef Council and published in a handful of academic journals, including Rangelands and the International Journal of Poisonous Plant Research."
There have been other studies also funded by special interests with the Ranching Industry which are highlighting some of the major environmental changes and shifts they are now experiencing in other areas of the west. What they won't recognize is the historical role they have played in the landscape's degradation. The Great Basin Ecology Laboratory with the Rocky Mountain Research Station in Reno Nevada did some studies on the Shoshone Mountains regarding the invasive tendency of the Pinon-Juniper woodlands (Pinyon also being demonized by association only) as it has encroached on formerly bare landscape. Take a look at the before & after photos.

Photo: Robin Tausch
The above photo is of the Shoshone Mountains which looks sparsely vegetated in 1973. Notice the riparian habitat though at the foot of that mountain ? It's hard to imagine good grazing for domestic livestock on that steep mountain face. Joel Salatin said his rule is, "If you can't drive a tractor on it, don't graze it". I agree, there are certain areas that should be untouched by ranching or housing development and left for wild land sanctuary. But were these changes within this ecosystem all that bad ?
Photo: Robin Tausch
The Shoshone Mountains cloaked in Pinon-Juniper woodland in 2007. This scene below looks to be vastly improved with mostly the mountain showing fuller tree  cover. Even the riparian area below at the foot of the mountain looks much more healthy and improved, of course that is not the take given by these experts. To be honest, I find the bottom photo to be a much richer and greener improvement, even though the ranching business interests may not feel the same way. It's amazing for all the deforestation going on globally, when nature does create newer forested situations, nobody in the science world seems interested in actually studying the mechanisms involved which make it a success in the first place. Sounds more like these Researchers here have what I call "Ascension Island" Syndrome. Here is a quick link from the Dept of Ag website on the above Juniper project which is more about satisfying the Beef Lobby than preserving and caring about what's healthy for the natural world.
 USDA: "Turning Trees Into Fuels" 

image: UC Davis
There is one study however that has created controversy for the Eradicate the Invasive Juniper Interests. In 2012 the University of California at Davis published a peer-reviewed research article on a study dealing with Juniper removal in the Klamath River Basin and how water yields made no improvement by the program. The author was Timothy Kuhn and it was published in the online journal "California Agriculture". I use to subscribe to this journal back in the late 1970s thru 1980s. I didn't even realize it was still around. Anyway it contradicts the speculation  bias of the Oregon Research Group and Ranching & Water Hydrology interests up there who were livid by it's release. (read here: Klamath Bucket Brigade) . The photo above shows the review and analysis found that even the complete removal of juniper is not likely to significantly increase water yields in the California portion of the Klamath River Basin. The picture above is the Big Juniper drainage, between Alturas and Likely California. It also contradicts the hopes and dreams of other UC Research individuals like Roger Bates and Helen Poulos who believe tree removal will provide Californians with more water in their precious reservoirs. You may read the entire report here in the online journal of California Agriculture.
Juniper removal may not increase overall Klamath River Basin water yields
One other important link which relates to the geology of the eastern Oregon region. In the photo of the Juniper Management Field Guide near the top of this post, notice the eroded gully with Juniper roots exposed. Appears to be a sandy based soil structure. Now this next article below came out a couple days ago about the bad practice of deforestation, but especially on sandy soil sites and it's eventual consequences. I appreciate most won't even click on the link, but here it is for reference anyway.
Yale News: "Deforestation of sandy soils a greater threat to climate change" 
 Also, here is a climate change report on the detrimental effects with this ongoing obsession of consumers demanding a regular diet of Beef & Dairy Products. Okay I like beef as much as anybody else and who doesn't love a good summer bar-b-que ? Again I appreciate most won't click and read the link, but such growing demand by consumers requires that more and more countryside be deforestation to satisfy this need for more meat in their diet. This story comes from right here in Gothenburg Sweden at Chalmers University.
Chalmers University: "Meeting climate targets may require reducing meat and dairy consumption" 
The illusion of Pretzel Logic
Image: Peak Oil News
Momentarily reverting back to my Climate Change subject for illustration purposes only, the same arguments used against climate change by those with a vested financial interest in doing so, are also used to justify demonizing anything in Nature that may disrupt any other type of human economic endeavour. Oddly enough, there are a number of default pretzel logic excuses used by big business & government concerns to justify to critics and/or the public that the present environmental mess isn't as bad as some experts want to speculate. #1, there is the "we will absolutely not run out of current resources" argument, #2, then there is the, "there are plenty of alternatives to use when we run out"  argument, #3, then we have the "we don't really need all that energy to maintain our present lifestyle anyway" argument, and then finally in an extreme twisted form of pretzel logic (pay close attention, this is where religion sneaks in), #4, "we now live the age of enlightenment where Scientists with all their genius will be able find newer resources and create amazing new technological innovations which will not only continue the lifestyle we are accustomed, but even improve upon it." argument.
Okay, so let's see how easy it is to use Pretzel Logic to succeed in getting one's way financially. Let's say I actually buy into the storytelling myth about the evil water gulping grassland inhibiting nature thingy-gingy of the lowly Western Juniper. I think would take a different approach in eradicating this unwanted *cough-cough* invasive pest. The goal would be to nip this pest problem in the bud by preventing seedling emergence at the beginning. I could rationalize that cutting and burn won't be a final solution as they always seem to spring back with a vengeance. After all, that is what all invasive pests do, right ? But oddly enough, as rapid as this tree spreads, one has to wonder how & why it succeeds as it does. Especially is this curious for anyone who has worked in the Nursery business knows just how tough that Juniper seed really is. It can last for years and years as it has a tough seed coat which is impermeable to water penetration which explains it's longevity. The propagation in the old days was almost impossible. In the 1970s, seed germination of Juniper and other tough native plants like Cypress was one of my major interests in school, especially with local native plants said to be almost impossible to propagate under artificial nursery conditions. So that means something out in nature facilitates this purpose in a more rapid efficient manner, but what ? Take a look at a government site which explains the reasons:
"Birds are considered to be important dispersal agents for juniper. The fruit surrounding the seed is thought to contain a germination inhibitor; when the fruit is broken down during the acid digestion in the bird’s gut, the chances of the defecated seed germinating is thought to increase (Meyer & Witmer, 1998). This is consistent with the results from this investigation and with the circumstantial evidence suggesting that more seedlings germinate close to bird perches and fence lines than in areas where berries have just fallen from bushes." 
(source: UK Forestry) 
Couple of fascinating and interesting points here. First birds have rapid digestion and one of the strongest stomach acids for breaking through almost anything. Some birds even more than others, like Vultures. But by all means please read the entire link above. Keep in mind that although they are talking about Junipers in Europe, the same basic fundamentals and principles nevertheless applies to all Junipers. Also take very special note of the reference to seedlings found along fence lines. Sure enough this is even true of Arizona & Tecate Cypress which are said to germinate ONLY after a fire blows through an area. Are we taking note here fire ecologists ? I photographed this phenomena regarding Cypress over at my brothers place in Ranchita last Spring 2013. You outdoor Hikers need to pay close attention to such clues and forget what the literature says. I'm serious! Birds like perches for which fences offer and they poop just about anywhere, fences lines no exception. Also in the link above, please take note of the major discussion of artificial means used for Juniper seed germination mentioned in that UK Forestry site. At school, we also used Caustic Sodas (Sodium hydroxide), Sulfuric acids, scarification by sand paper, etc to break through that hard shell seed barrier which prevents water from penetrating and of course as always there is that important necessary cold stratification. Still, out in nature, it's the birds that do the planting, hence Pretzel Logic would suggest killing lots of birds or at least drastically lowering their numbers so that they wouldn't defecate all over the countryside spreading those wicked Juniper seeds would be the clear on the surface answer to the problem. Volunteers could be found everywhere to help out in bird elimination, since hunting and killing things especially for contest prize money seems to be the sporting flavour of choice in our modern times. Heck, I'll bet you could find some Human animals who would probably do it for free. But seriously, take a look at the benefits to wildlife that the Western Juniper and other Juniper provides within any ecosystem. Robins, Cedar Waxwings, Catbirds, etc crave such foods & find vitally important shelter provided by Junipers, especially during wintertime.

Okay, of course I'm joking here, but sometimes this is exactly how some of the reasoning works in Pretzel Logic motivated by the usual  religious prioris and other economic presuppositions. For me personally, when I research and write about the natural world and subjects that are of interest to me, I do so out of a passion for the natural world and how it works. I'm also jealously against anything or anyone who would harm or ruin it. I try to view things in their entire context, minus the tunnel vision. I'm deeply interested in what can be learned and used in the form of practical application in the real world. Indeed, for me, without the practical application, the information is worthless to me and nothing more than some lifeless encyclopedia sitting on a lonely library shelf that no one visits anymore. I'm not paid by anyone, nor do I have any political agendas of backers to satisfy. So I am not motivated by the same things that shackle most researchers in our modern world. The bottom line here is that science is whatever any self-interest wants that science to be. Whatever money is behind the science dictates what that science is going to be. Whatever political or economic interest there is behind the scenes is going to motivate the public policy put into Law. 

"The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie— deliberate, contrived and dishonest, but the myth, persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic. Belief in myths allows the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought." – John Fitzgerald Kennedy (1917–1963)
Other References of Reading Interest:
From Texas A&M Agrilife Extension Service: 
How an increase or reduction in juniper cover alters rangeland hydrology
This next link below isn't about Junipers, but rather Hydraulic Redistribution phenomena within a sagebrush steppe remote area of mature sageland near Utah’s Bear Lake in 2006 and 2007 where Silver Sagebrush was studied for it's amazing ability of hydraulic redistribution.
Why the Sagebrush Grows: USU Scientists Explore Arid Plant Survival
Some relevant quotes which apply to habitat restoration and other ecosystem planning processes.
"Greater understanding of hydraulic lift could aid scientists and growers in finding ways to protect crops from the effects of prolonged drought."
“We can learn a lot from native perennial plants that could be applied to agriculture,” Stark says. “This is increasingly important as climate change affects precipitation patterns and drought becomes more common.” 

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