In the beginning this blog was centered on San Francisco parks and open space issues with special emphasis on natural areas and natural history. Over time it began to range into other areas and topics. As you can see, it is eclectic, as I interlace it with topics of interest to me.

I welcome feedback: just click this link to reach me.

Friday, September 16, 2011


1.   Call for ride-sharing to Cal-IPC Symposium Oct 5-7
2.   Sunday Streets - Chinatown/North Beach Sept 18

2-A Resist your architect's desire to control nature
3.   Standards for Bird-Safe Buildings near adoption - you can help
4.   Jeepney Projects Worldwide - Art for Conversation at Dominican College
5.   AnimalPalooza! Sept 24 at Ft Mason - bring the kids
6.   EBRPD Botanic Garden California native plant sales every Thursday
7.   Feedback - oh my!  A potpourri
8.   James Broughton waves goodbye to absolutes/Jorge Luis Borges agrees
9.   Knowland Park update - progress!
10. Learn butterflies atop Strawberry Hill; learn names, the first moment in stewardship
11.  More bad news on Arctic ice
12.  Save the date:  8th River Restoration Symposium Dec 3 in Berkeley
13.  Tour Gulf of Farallones National Marine Sanctuary Oct 2 and help the Friends group
14.  Rare bird:  Ray Anderson, America's greenest businessman - obituary

1.  Going to Lake Tahoe Oct 5-7 for the Cal-IPC Symposium?  If you can offer or need a ride, please contact Denise Louie at
Information on the symposium and lodging can be found at:   and


2.  Sunday Streets - Come play in the streets of the Chinatown and North Beach September 18th!

Sunday Streets is happy to have added a new route to the 2011 lineup! On Sunday, September 18th from 11a.m. until 4p.m., Grant Avenue will be transformed to a pedestrian's paradise. Come explore Chinatown and North Beach on foot! Come walk from Bush Street to Coit Tower, and see these neighborhoods in a whole new way! We will also have a shuttle to take folks to the top of Telegraph Hill to see the city from a different point of view! This event coincides with Mayor Ed Lee's Ping Pong Tournament, which you can learn more about by clicking here.


2-A.  Beyond Equisetum: How to Resist Your Architect’s Desire to Control Nature (2 LUs)
September 23, 3:00 - 5:00 pm
$20 AIA Members | $30 General Admission
Flora Grubb Gardens, 1634 Jerrold Avenue, San Francisco

As architects venture further into the realm of landscape design, there is an increasing need to get beyond the tired palette of equisetum and bamboo and embrace the unruly, changeable, and ultimately uncontrollable aspects of nature. Join Bonnie Bridges, AIA and Seth Boor of Boor Bridges Architecture and Flora Grubb of Flora Grubb Gardens for an interactive workshop exploring messy nature and its power to transform mood and space. Participants will have the opportunity to design their own model planting arrangement and present it to the group. A discussion and cocktails will follow.


3.  Good News: On September 12, 2011 the San Francisco Land Use Committee Supervisors approved the Standards for Bird Safe Buildings in San Francisco.  Supervisors Malia Cohen, Eric Mar and Scott Wiener approved the Standards which will next move to be heard by the full Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, September 20, 2011.  Please note that no public comment will be heard at this meeting.

Now is the time to express your support for the Standards for Bird Safe Buildings.  Please contact your SF Supervisor by Monday, September 19,2011.

Why Have Standards for Bird Safe Building in San Francisco?
- Several hundred million birds die each year in North America from collsions with windows in buildings, especially with “plate” and reflective glass.
- Risks of collisions with tall structures can occur during fog and storms- conditions which are seen in San Francisco during the spring and fall migrations. - San Francisco is part of the Pacific Flyway, where 400 species of birds have been documented.
- Structures in the City put local and migrating birds at risk from collisions.
- Observers have reported death and injury from collisions to Peregrine Falcons, White-crowned Sparrows, Green Herons, Dark-eyed Juncos, and Orange-crowned Warblers and others.
What do the Standards call for?
- Voluntary efforts to reduce risks to birds by including bird-safe measures in design and operations.
- Requirements are limited to a few areas noted as high risk for birds (adjacent to the Bay or in heavily vegetated areas), with a focus on the lower 60’ of structures.
- Use of new and old technologies, from pulling down window shades to safer forms of glass that are becoming more readily and economically available

More information is available at


4.  Jeepney Projects Worldwide exhibit coming to Dominican September 22
Former San Rafael resident raising awareness of endangered birds

San Rafael CA - Artist and birding enthusiast David Tomb is presenting “Jeepney Projects Worldwide – Art for Conversation” beginning September 22 at the San Marco Gallery in Alemany Library at Dominican University of California.

The exhibit will be on display during normal library business hours through October 29. There will be an Opening Reception for the public in the library on September 22 from 6-8 p.m.  Tombs will host an Artist Talk on October 26 from 1:30-3 p.m.

The installation is sponsored by Dominican’s Department of Art, Art History and Design. It will feature art about the Philippine eagle and other birds of the Philippines as well as living plants and a sound installation triggered by a motion detector.

Tomb, a former resident of San Rafael who attended San Rafael High School and College of Marin, is co-founder of Jeepney Projects Worldwide, a partnering of benefit art projects and regional conservation groups working to inspire support and restore lost habitat of critically endangered birds.
In January of this year, Tomb flew to Manila then to Mt. Kitanglad on Mindanao to see wild nesting Philippine Eagles and other endemic birds. Jeepney since has partnered with the Philippine Eagle Foundation to create a limited benefit fine art print to raise money for research and public outreach/education about the eagle.

For more information about the “Jeepney Projects Worldwide” exhibit at Dominican, contact Lynn Sondag, Assistant Professor and Chair Department of Art, Art History, Design, at or call 415-485-3269. For more information on “Jeepney Projects Worldwide” log onto


5.  Journey to AnimalPalooza! where the wild things are on Saturday, Sept 24th from 11am to 5pm at Fort Mason, San Francisco. Come to a wild celebration of animals that brings you closer to nature than ever before.
Experience up-close, hands-on encounters with animals from around the world. Hold a beetle, stroke a millipede, hug a python, befriend a frog, pat a bat!
Get back to nature and discover a universe of wild with an ocelot, serval, ring-tailed lemur, porcupine, hedgehodge, fox, alligator, skink, snakes, bats, frogs, turtles, birds, walking sticks, hissing cockroaches, raptors, ducks, rabbits, gopher and many other amazing creatures representing the diversity of life. Touch and learn about bio-facts, like pelts, bones and owl pellets.
Childlife activities include: Wildlife origami with a famous artist, insect mask making, owl pellet exploration, animal face painting, ask a scientist. Find out ways kids can outside into nature to save nature.
Tickets available online at  Eventbrite or at the door. $10/adult, $8/child. Family discounts available on Eventbrite. Kid-friendly food onsite. Call 415-648-3392 for more info.
Special Guests Appearing: Insect Discovery Lab, Tree Frog Treks, Classroom Safari, San Francisco Zoo, Felidae Conservation Fund, Sulfur Creek Nature Center, Aquarium of the Bay, California Academy of Sciences, Randall Museum, SF Nature Education, Bay Nature, Bug Under Glass, Wildcare, The Bone Room, Vicky Mihara Avery origami artist, The Grilled Cheez Guy and more!


6.  Thursday Mornings California Native Plant Sale:
If the Regional Parks Botanic Garden (on Wildcat Canyon Road in the Berkeley Hills, CA) is open and it is not pouring rain, the volunteers usually sell plants Thursday mornings between 9:00-11:00am at the potting shed (the Juniper Lodge) through the end of the year (enter garden via west gate at Anza View Road---the one-way road between the botanic garden  and the Brazil Building lawn--in Tilden Regional Park).  No Thursday Morning plant sale January  through April 19, 2012. Our big annual plant sale will be Saturday April 21, 2012    510-544-3169 or email (South Park Drive closed November through March) How to get here:  


7.  Feedback

Sandra Scoggin and Karl Cohen both sent this correction:
Your world’s shortest poem listing brought back a childhood memory of what may actually be the world’s shortest poem
had ’em
Ogden Nash

ML Carle:
Jake:  Pinter's poem might have been shortened but not lost it's length by using the musician's repeat sign after "Another time". But it wouldn't be any shorter when read aloud.

Janet Gilles:
Remember Dagwood used to put the cat out at night??
 Let them kill the rats and mice at night, and sleep at home by day.
Is Dagwood the one who absent-mindedly wound up the cat and through the clock out?
Sounds like the guy.
I just now noticed I wrote  "through the clock out".  Oof!  No wonder language is deteriorating so fast; even language cops like me are losing it.  Maybe some would consider this a break threw....  :)
Email language is different.

More on low tech solutions for modern high tech problems:

Besides throwing out the cat at night, in the old days, a hamburger was 1.6 oz of beef.  Today's burger has enough meat for the entire family in one patty.

So forget meatless Mondays.  Imagine, we could all afford real grass-fed burgers and global warming would end as pastures sequester more carbon than anything else known or imagined.
Um, I don't think so.  For one thing, that grass is turned into cows (which fart methane profusely), and thence into humans (which ditto).  And when we die we go back to what we came from, and so on, and so on....  Better find another solution.
Too bad the well proven fact that pasture sequesters massive amounts of carbon is not more widely known.  Industrial agriculture on the other hand tears open the earth and leaves it uncovered, allowing the carbon to escape.

google pasture Cornell university carbon sequestration

"Feedlot and confinement livestock production are widely acknowledged as being responsible – directly and indirectly – for the vast majority of agriculture’s GHG emissions."

"The Miracle of Pasture: Carbon Sequestration
One might think the answer is simply to ban all meat production. But we can’t lump all meat production together, especially now that scientists recognize the net positive effect that pasture-based farming systems can have on greenhouse gas emissions. This is achieved through a process called carbon sequestration.

As cattle and other ruminants graze pasture, they stimulate the grasses to grow and produce more leaves. As the grass grows it absorbs more CO2 from the atmosphere and creates a mass of roots under the ground, effectively storing the CO2 in a much more stable form of carbon which can remain in the soil for centuries. Scientists have now established that grasslands are even more efficient than trees in sequestering carbon from the atmosphere. In fact, researchers now think that raising cattle on pasture and restoring grasslands could play an important role in locking atmospheric CO2 in the soil, thereby slowing the global warming process.

The well known farting cows are those who are fed diets for which they were never intended.  The soy and corn, used in all confined animal programs as these two crops get 75% of US agricultural subsidies and are sold at well below cost to produce.
Janet:  You make a number of good points here (eg, grain-fed creating >methane), but as you know the subject is very complex.

You've heard all the arguments about how ecologically expensive it is to to feed a large percentage of our 7 billion people through meat production, so I won't repeat. 

My comment on the carbon sequestration-of-pasture item below:  I read that article a few years ago, but I have questions.  It is well documented that perennial bunchgrasses, eg, have very deep (many meters) and ramified, net-like roots systems that do this carbon sequestration for very long periods of time, and that these grasses are superior in this respect to that produced and sequestered by trees and forests.

However, in order to grow root mass, plants must have leaves to photosynthesize to produce the starches and sugars to feed the roots.  If grass is constantly mowed down to a few inches high or less (so much of the pasture land in the world, including in the U.S. is over-grazed and thus shorter than this--often chewed down to the nubbin) it is very limited in its ability to generate root mass, and limited in how deep those roots are able to grow.  I am not able to fault the research that produced those statements, but I certainly question how thorough and extensive it is.

Regardless, we meat eaters can't be too smug about eating grass-fed beef. 

Stephen Byington:
A special thank you for #14, Spectacular astronomy photographs. WOW!!!! I have seen the first one while in Alaska a few times, but nothing like the rest of the photographs!!!!

On Sep 14, 2011, at 8:37 AM, Ted Kipping wrote:
Jake, thanks for the link to those engaging Cosmic Glimpses. Sadly, I was not engaged by Pinter's cryptic eleven word"poem". If brevity is a desirable trait, then here is my own effort at both brevity AND clarity:
Twitching hands
A thousand eyes.
Ted:  Five more syllables and it would be a haiku.
Yes. Alas Japanese syllables do not really equate with English ones - TK

On Sep 13, 2011, at 9:29 PM, Hans U Weber wrote:
Hi Jake:
I also appreciate the Isocrates quote but find on Wikiquote that it is actually misattributed, as stated below, following the "quote":
Democracy destroys itself because it abuses its right to freedom and equality. Because it teaches its citizens to consider audacity as a right, lawlessness as a freedom, abrasive speech as equality, and anarchy as progress.
A falsified quote invented during the 2010 financial crisis. Isocrates' actual, more nuanced, quote runs as follows:                                                                                      
Those who directed the state in the time of Solon and Cleisthenes did not establish a polity which ... trained the citizens in such fashion that they looked upon insolence as democracy, lawlessness as liberty, impudence of speech as equality, and licence to do what they pleased as happiness, but rather a polity which detested and punished such men and by so doing made all the citizens better and wiser.
Areopagiticus, 7.20 (Norlin)
Hans:  Thanks very much for the correction, an important one in terms of the sentence's meaning (although the syntax is contorted, and I'm not sure I totally understand it).

All sorts of quotations are circulated--more now than ever before, thanks to the internet--and by the very nature of putative sources and the motivations of people I wonder how many are accurate, how many need context, and so forth.  I print them, sometimes with doubts about authenticity or completeness.

So I depend on attentive and industrious readers to set matters straight.  Thanks for this one.

Alice Polesky (continuing conversation about bicyclists vs cars--then sliding into other topics):
Everyone is stressed in this situation, Jake. The drivers, the cyclists, and the pedestrians. The only hope we have at lowering the stress is to treat each other with courtesy and humor. Behaving like a self-entitled asshole is not justifiable for anyone, with or without a vehicle at any time. When I encounter a courteous cyclist, I make sure they know I recognize and appreciate their courtesy. I only wish it happened more often.
Here in the UK (where I am at the moment, the streets are even narrower than in SF, and the cyclists seem to manage ok.
Alice:  If everyone in the world stopped behaving like self-entitled assholes it might bring history to a halt.  We might die of boredom because nothing is happening.

That was a bit tongue in cheek as well as cynical, although there is an element of truth in it.  Sorry, that is my way of letting off a little steam regarding our behavior.  But I hope you are not holding your breath while awaiting our transformation into gold-star behavior.

My view of my fellow Homo sapiens has been undergoing shifts lately, partly due to getting older and the lessons experience brings, but generously assisted by my reading of history.  The golden age of Athens was indeed a golden age; however, it is instructive to see how humans were behaving then.  A bit shocking, I find.  Taken in the aggregate, we seem to be a cantankerous, irascible, misbehaving, scheming, plotting, lying, competing lot, involved in our own wants and needs and only sometimes considering others.  I wish I could say I'm not like this.

Having cited Athens, they, and most societies since, at least had a glue to hold themselves together.  I worry that modern societies--and the United States arguably being the worst in this respect--no longer have as much glue, and there are powerful forces seemingly causing disintegration.  We even have a dominant political party apparently devoted to eliminating anything that helps to hold us together.

Oops...starting to go off the deep end.  Better stop.
Jake, it's not the deep end. I've been looking at the news and political activism alerts I'm getting from the US and I'm starting to believe that the right wing nut cases, funded by the Koch brothers, will be successful in completely taking over the US. I was only confirmed in my paranoia (if that's what it is) by a Jon Carroll piece (did I forward it to you?). Apparently, getting the public to hate Congress, even it's a Republican Congress, is fine with the GOP. It's grist to their mill, because their plan is to get the public to hate the government they elected. The good politicians are conflated with the bad, so in the end, it will be the corporations who rule. Just like Fascist Italy. I'm so freaked that I'm revising our whole intention of coming to the UK, which was to sell our flat outside Central London and settle permanently in the US. I now want a back door where my English husband and I can go, if it looks like I'll be entitled to the same privileges as he is.
Something is definitely happening in the world, and shifts are going on. Eckhart Tolle, I believe, explains it the most eloquently, and puts in perspective. But he can't predict what will happen. The runes don't look good, I fear.
Hang in there. Is there anything I can bring you from the UK? A bee calendar? Just a token, of course, but maybe something you'd enjoy? Something floral, perhaps? You'd be right at home here, in this country of gardeners.
In terms of the English being a country of gardeners, yes, I've long been aware of that, and the fact that their interest in natural history and the sciences is long and deep, and those traits accompanied their descendants to Australia, New Zealand, &c.

However, in terms of caring for their supporting environment, they are just as bad as the rest of us.  Capitalism was born there, and the ruthless exploitation of the earth and humans by that system cannot be forgotten, something which is continuing, and which has spread around the globe and is destroying it.

Thoughtful of you to ask, but I don't think there's anything you can bring me that I would want.  I'm trying to shed the bulk of my possessions.  I'm preparing to die, but it's a long process, and at the rate I'm going I will still leave a mess for my estate trustees to cope with.  So no more possessions.  What I would really like is something you can't bring--described in the next paragraph.

The only time I was in England we visited a pub directly across the street from Kew Gardens.  I thought I had died and gone to heaven.  It was exactly the kind of place I had long fantasized about:  A spacious, quiet, homey, carpeted room comfortably and warmly furnished, drinking delicious English ales on tap, with a fire in the fireplace and no music!  The only sounds were the quiet conversations of people sitting at well-separated tables.  I kept pinching myself to see if this was really happening.  Tell me I wasn't dreaming.  And tell me they still exist like this--please.


A writer -- and, I believe, generally all persons -- must think that whatever happens to him or her is a resource. All things have been given to us for a purpose, and an artist must feel this more intensely. All that happens to us, including our humiliations, our misfortunes, our embarrassments, all is given to us as raw material, as clay, so that we may shape our art. -Jorge Luis Borges, writer (1899-1986)

8.  Having Come This Far

I've been through what my through was to be
I did what I could and couldn't
I was never sure how I would get there

I nourished an ardor for thresholds
for stepping stones and for ladders
I discovered detour and ditch

I swam in the high tides of greed
I built sandcastles to house my dreams
I survived the sunburns of love

No longer do I hunt for targets
I've climbed all the summits I need to
and I've eaten my share of lotus

Now I give praise and thanks
for what could not be avoided
and for every foolhardy choice

I cherish my wounds and their cures
and the sweet enervations of bliss
My book is an open life

I wave goodbye to the absolutes
and send my regards to infinity
I'd rather be blithe than correct

Until something transcendent turns up
I splash in my poetry puddle
and try to keep God amused.

~ James Broughton ~

Art can sometime be the opposite of collaboration; it gets messy when brought to a table -- still wet. -- Liam O'Brien


9.  Friends of Knowland Park
First, THANK YOU to all those who have come through once again and sent checks or donated via our website Pay Pal link ( We are managing to hold our own through this long process and it just shows that the little guys (and gals) still stand a chance as long as we stick together and don't give up!

The big news--and forgive 2 emails in such close succession, but we are VERY excited about this news--is that Friends of Knowland Park has been awarded a grant from the Northern California Environmental Grassroots Fund, administered by the Rose Foundation, to support our litigation efforts.

The Northern California Grassroots Fund is set up to provide support for groups just like ours, ordinary citizens that are working on the hundreds of local environmental battles that big environmental groups won't take on. Channeling the support of more than 20 environmental funding partners, it supports environmental activism from the grassroots.

The Grassroots Fund believes in the value of local people standing together to protect their local natural resources and habitat, and in awarding this grant, they indicated that the selection was very competitive this year--evidence that there are many other groups like ours engaged in environmental fights for special places. That we have been awarded this competitive grant is more evidence that this fight is worth fighting.

And being able to demonstrate--as, thanks to all of you, we could--that we have the capacity to raise significant funds from our own membership was important. Grantmakers don't have money to waste on lost causes and ineffective efforts. So keep those cards and letters coming! They really help.

CONGRATULATIONS to all of you who have helped sustain us through thick and thin for more than 4 years now, and helped us show the Grassroots Fund what a viable and vigorous organization we have become--a group whose members will put their money on the line for what they believe.

Mediation discussions continue, but have run into a few snags. We hope these are not serious, but will keep you posted. Having strong financial backing helps put us in a stronger negotiating position.

So, not to sound like a broken record, but: If you haven't sent a donation lately, please do! Remember all donations are now tax deductible through our partners, the California Native Plant Society. Checks can be made out to CNPS with "Friends of Knowland Park" in the subject line and mailed to our Treasurer, Lee Ann Smith, 111 Shadow Mountain, Oakland, CA 94605. Or use the Pay Pal link on our website. Every penny donated goes for our legal and mediation bills. The core leaders of Friends of Knowland Park cover everything else, including printing and copying of documents, website hosting fees, parking during meetings and mediation sessions, gas for going downtown and obtaining copies of documents, etc. Your support helps us stay strong. Thanks again for everything you do.

Ruth, Tom, and the Friends of Knowland Park Leadership Team


10.  Jake -- Just wanted to let your readers know of a recently installed trail sign at the top of Strawberry Hill I've been working on for about a year.  Commissioned by the SF Parks Trust and it tandem with SF Rec & Park, there was a nice ceremony for it's unveling and a swell feast for all the volunteers that have worked so hard in the restoration of the native plants at the summit. Phil Ginsburg and Gloria Koch-Gonzalez spoke.  The glorious phenomenon of "Butterfly Hilltopping" is on full display year-round there, and now when a butterfly lands in front of them up there, they can immediately learn it's name: the first moment in stewardship.  Liam O'Brien


11.  (Omitted from TOC and not numbered in last newsletter)


12.  Save the date Saturday, 03 December 2011 for the Eighth Annual Berkeley River Restoration Symposium:

The symposium is free but advance registration is required

Further detail forthcoming. See: for further information as available.


13.  Whale Watch Fundraiser – October 2, 2011

Join FMSA and San Francisco Whale Tours on a trip to the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary on Sunday, October 2, 2011. The Farallones Marine Sanctuary Association is again hosting an exploration of the seas close around the islands, accompanied by some of our most experienced and knowledgeable naturalists.  We will only be able to take a few dozen people, so RSVP quickly if you would like to join us.

The best way to RSVP is to download the trip registration form and return it either by mail, fax or email to Ingrid Overgard. The mailing address and fax number are on the form.

Like our land parks, our ocean parks need help and support from people like you. One way that you can help is by making a $175 donation (minimum) and joining us on this trip. Captain Joe, the owner of San Francisco Whale Tours, has generously donated the entire trip as a fundraiser –absolutely all the money we raise will go towards FMSA’s programs in education, oil spill response preparedness, Visitor Center programs, and resource protection.This also means that your donation is 100% tax deductible.

FMSA is the only organization directly supporting the work of the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary as their nonprofit partner. Please download the trip registration form and return it by September 22nd. We expect this trip to fill quickly and space is limited! We hope you will be able to join us, and at the same time, have your 100% tax deductible donation go directly towards supporting the Farallones Marine Sanctuary Association programs!


14.  Ray Anderson

The carpet-tile philosopher
Ray Anderson, America’s greenest businessman, died on August 8th, aged 77

Sep 10th 2011 | from The Economist

WHEN Ray Anderson first encountered the concept at an international conference, it took his breath away. It was so smart, so right. It was flexible, practical, beautiful, and made perfect sense. He knew right then that modular soft-surfaced floor coverings (carpet tiles, in other words), could change the world.

Others thought he was round the bend. When he decided to give up his job at Milliken Carpet in LaGrange, Georgia to set up a 15-person carpet company, and was clearing out his desk that February of 1973, two colleagues looked in. “We don’t think you can do this,” they told him. He replied, in his languid, ever-courteous southern lilt, “The hell you say.” Fifteen years later his company, renamed Interface, was the biggest carpet-tile maker on the planet.

This also made Mr Anderson a considerable plunderer of the earth. He never thought about that at first. To his mind he was no more a thief of Nature than when, a country boy during the Depression, he had hooked 20-pound channel catfish, now long gone, out of the Chattahoochee River. His business complied with government regulations. His product, too, was much less wasteful than broadloom carpet, since you could easily cut the tiles to run cables underneath, and replace them one by one as they wore out. They were, it was true, almost entirely made of petroleum in some form or another. Some pretty bad stuff was used in the dye and the glue. More than 200 smokestacks blackened the sky to produce them. But boardrooms laid with Interface carpet tiles looked and felt a million dollars.

The turning point, his “mid-course correction”, came in 1994. He was 60, but not yet ready to retire to the mountains or chase a little white ball. Under pressure from customers to produce some sort of environmental strategy for his company, he got a small task-force together. Someone gave him a book, Paul Hawken’s “The Ecology of Commerce” to help him prepare his first speech on the subject. Thumbing vaguely through it, he chanced on a chapter called “The Death of Birth”, about the extinction of species. Reading on, he came to a passage about reindeer being wiped out on St Matthew Island in the Bering Sea. Suddenly, the tears were running down his face. A spear-point had jammed into his heart. It was the very same feeling, he said later, as when he had first seen carpet tiles, but orders of magnitude larger. He was to blame for making the world worse. Now he had to make it better.

Interface, he decided, would leave no print on the green-and-blue carpet of the world. By 2020 it would take nothing from the earth that could not be rapidly replenished. It would produce no greenhouse-gas emissions and no waste. That meant using renewables rather than fossil fuel; endeavouring to make carpet tiles out of carbohydrate polymers rather than petroleum; and recycling old-carpet sludge into pellets that could be used as backing.

Some of the technologies Mr Anderson hoped for (and half-envisaged, as a graduate in systems engineering from his much-loved Georgia Tech) had not been invented when he started. Several colleagues thought he had gone round the bend again. He had to bring them along slowly, in his quiet way, until they “got it” by themselves. But by 2007 the company was, he reckoned, about halfway up “Mount Sustainability”. Greenhouse-gas emissions by absolute tonnage were down 92% since 1995, water usage down 75%, and 74,000 tonnes of used carpet had been recovered from landfills. The $400m he was saving each year by making no scrap and no off-quality tiles more than paid for the R&D and the process changes. As much as 25% of the company’s new material came from “post-consumer recycling”. And he was loaded with honours and awards as the greenest businessman in America.

Most satisfying of all, sales had increased by two-thirds since his conversion, and profits had doubled. For Mr Anderson always kept his eye on the bottom line. He could be sentimental, ending his many public speeches with an apologetic poem to “Tomorrow’s Child” written by an employee after one of his pep talks, but he was only half a dreamer. His company was his child, too. Profits mattered. This made some greens snipe at him, but it also made Walmart send two of its senior people round to his factory in LaGrange to see what he was doing right. As a success, he could powerfully influence others.

The forest floor

He never dreamed of giving up carpet tiles. Their beauty and variety delighted him, just as Nature’s did. In his office in LaGrange they were laid out like abstract art on tables, while hanks of yarn hung on the walls. His company introduced Cool Carpet®, which had made no contribution to global warming all along the supply chain, and multicoloured FLOR for the home, “practical and pretty, too”. He was proudest, though, of Entropy®, a carpet-tile design inspired directly by the forest floor. No two tiles were alike: no two sticks, no two leaves. They could be laid and replaced quite randomly, even used in bits, eliminating waste. And when you lay down on them you might almost be in Mr Anderson’s 86-acre piece of forest near Atlanta, listening to the sparrows in the long-leaf pines, rejoicing in being a non-harming part of the web of life, like him.

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