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.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


1.   Population matters to Population Matters/the fight for resources
2.   Two groups say the ivory-billed woodpecker is extinct
3.   Golden Gate Park: A Stroll Through History Oct 25/free estate planning seminars
4.   Accomplishments and ongoing open space programs in the Mount Sutro Open Space Reserve Oct 23
5.   Recycle water Open Houses Nov 15 and 17
6.   Feedback:  Drake's Bay Oyster Company's request for ten-year lease extension
7.   Scott Wiener's legislation to regulate commercial dog walking in city parks
8.   Joy Harjo:  Promise of Blue Horses
9.   Great Worldwide Star Count - information for you to participate.  It's easy - and important
10. Can we feed the world?  Yawn.  Can we stop asking this question?
11.  MORE trouble for honeybees?  Afraid so
12.  Speed record for Appalachian Trail.  Hello?
13.  LTEs:  Economic oxymorons/Steve Jobs
14.  Pedantry and bureaucracies
15.  Notes & Queries: Why do flies never find their way out?/Why aren't best brains running country?

1.  Population matters to Population Matters – and it should to all of us

The United Nations has designated October 31st, 2011 as the day on which the earth’s human population officially reaches 7 billion.  Around the world, the media’s image-hungry camera lenses will point and click en masse at a bawling baby chosen to symbolize this dubious milestone.

It took our species Homo sapiens all of human history – tens of thousands of years – to reach its first billion in about 1830.  This seventh billion was added in just 12 years.  Unfortunately, all too many of our fellow human beings anachronistically continue to tout this as progress.  One would think we were still just a tiny cave-dwelling tribe struggling to master fire, invent a better spear-point, and keep marauding saber-toothed cats and dire wolves at bay.  Yet this unmistakable strain of triumphalism is manifest in a number of newspaper and magazine articles around the world celebrating the 7-billion event as a remarkable human achievement over the natural adversity and scarcity that once stymied our storied march to destiny and dominion.

The U.K.-based educational and activist group Population Matters also intends to mark October 31st, but in a different manner, by calling attention to the “unsustainability of continuing population growth.” As Population Matters sees it, ongoing population growth places enormous and intensifying strains on the environment, as well as making efforts to address crucial long-term issues like biodiversity loss and climate change ever more difficult.

As celebrated documentary filmmaker Sir David Attenborough, a Population Matters patron, puts it, “All environmental problems become harder – and ultimately impossible – to solve with ever more people.”

In order to reach hundreds of thousands of Londoners with this timely message, Population Matters intends to use electronic poster boards and on-platform projections in high-volume London Underground (subway or metro) stations.  These media will underscore the population challenge and invite people to join the campaign for a sustainable global population.

Population Matters marketing manager Matt Williams explains that, “We wanted to reach as many people as possible in a limited time and talk to them in an environment that itself highlights the problem of overpopulation, the overcrowded transport system.”

Population Matters’ London Underground campaign is being supported by peer-to-peer activity across the city.  Local groups will use the opportunity to demonstrate how population growth adversely impacts people’s lives and makes the pursuit of sustainability ever more problematic.

In a recent news release, Population Matters reminds us that humanity depends on “the world’s ecosystems and rich biodiversity for everything we need to exist, from the regulation of our atmosphere and the pollination of plants to the creation of important new medicines and crops.”  What biologists term biodiversity signifies the range and number of species and other taxa (genera, families, orders, etc.) as well as the genetic differences within given species.  Population growth diminishes biodiversity through development, encroachment, exploitation and pollution.

According to Population Matters chief executive Simon Ross, “The United Nations 7 billion day is a date no one should ignore. Everyone agrees that we need to find ways to create a sustainable world for future generations….Population Matters and other population concern organizations are calling for improved overseas aid for women’s education and family planning services to enable women to have more choice in career options and family formation.  Where people have choices, such as the UK, we are asking them to have ‘two or fewer’ children as part of a sustainable lifestyle.”

In an odd sort of way, it is fitting that the designated 7 Billion Day falls on Halloween.  But whereas the frightful spectacles out and about on that night are merely fun and fake, the U.N.’s demographic projections – 9 billion of us by 2050 and 10 billion by 2085 – are truly frightening.

Leon Kolankiewicz is a Senior Writing Fellow for Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS) and a consulting wildlife biologist and environmental planner whose professional career spans a quarter-century, three countries and more than 30 states. He can be reached at or

LTE, Guardian Weekly

The fight for resources
Lynsey Hanley's article "Seven billion and rising" was lamentable in its shallow presentation of concerns about world population increase.  She is right to point out the vast disparity in consumption levels between rich nations and poor ones, consumption levels that we know are unsustainable.  But all humans are consumers, and the more humans there are the more resources we consume.

These resources, including land and water, are needed by the other organisms on the planet.  Every increase in human population results in a decrease in populations of other species.  This also applies to Australia, which Hanley describes as a continent-sized country with a minuscule population, implying that it could sustain a much larger one.

It is possible to envisage a future when humans have control over the earth's plant production - where plants were devoted to consumption by both people and livestock, and where food distribution among human populations was fairer  - but without a reduction in human population that would occur in a world completely lacking the beauty and diversity that we have, but that we are rapidly destroying in our drive for resources.

To describe the concerns that I have about population as "fear and misanthropy wearing a mask of concern" shows either the lack of concern that Hanley has for the rest of the earth's inhabitants or else a lack of knowledge of the problems that increases in human populations pose, or both.

Seamus McCann
All Stretton, UK


2.  Two groups say the ivory-billed woodpecker is extinct

Oct 15th 2011 from The Economist

Only a memory

WHEN Elvis Presley died in 1977, a lot of people continued to believe he remained alive but in hiding. The world of conservation has a similar phenomenon. The ivory-billed woodpecker was once found across the swampy forests of the south-eastern states. But as the big woods of the Mississippi Delta were chopped down, the woodpecker—with its distinctive tooting call and double knock—was slowly exterminated. Now, as with Elvis, sightings of the bird are hotly debated.

The last undisputed report of an ivory-billed woodpecker in continental North America was in Louisiana in 1944. Since then, accounts of the bird have trickled in. Then in 2004 a kayaker caught a glimpse of a majestic woodpecker in a wildlife refuge in Arkansas. That report, and a number of others, triggered a five-year, multimillion-dollar bird hunt across eight states. Many millions have been spent acquiring the sort of forest that might be suitable for the bird—if it were to be found.

That search came to nothing, so now scientists are applying statistics to the problem. One team, lead by Nicholas Gotelli at the University of Vermont, studied the historical decline in specimens taken by museums and private collectors. They also looked at areas where bird life has been exhaustively sampled. Dr Gotelli reckons the odds of finding the ivory-billed woodpecker alive are less than 1 in 15,625. Another group, led by Andrew Solow of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, used a different statistical approach, but also concluded that the bird is likely to be extinct.

John Fitzpatrick, director of the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology and one of the leading figures in the search for the woodpecker, agrees there is a high probability that the bird is gone. But he says that, faced with the evidence of sightings, he felt compelled to search for the bird. He cautions that other birds have been assumed to be extinct, only to be rediscovered later.

The rush to protect a possibly non-existent bird’s habitat may seem odd: but, if discovered, the creature would be protected by the Endangered Species Act. One perverse consequence of this act, well documented in the case of the red-cockaded woodpecker, is that landowners rush to destroy suitable habitat before their land gets hit with a protection order. News last month that the government is planning to review the status of hundreds of possibly-endangered species has left conservationists worried. Some fear the new protections might push species such as the Texas kangaroo rat or the golden-winged warbler down the same road to extinction as the ivory-billed woodpecker.

3.  San Francisco Parks Alliance events:

Golden Gate Park: A Stroll Through History
The history of Golden Gate is a composite of stories about people. Many interesting and colorful characters have left memorable footprints in this amazing landscape over the years. Join San Francisco Parks Alliance for an evening with Heath Schenker, local landscape historian and author, and Professor of Landscape Architecture at the University of California, Davis. Ms. Schenker will recount the stories of some of the fascinating individuals who are part of the rich history of Golden Gate Park.

DATE: Tuesday, October 25, 2011
TIME: 6:30 pm to 8:00 pm
LOCATION: The Orchid Gallery (directly east of The Conservatory of Flowers) in Golden Gate Park
COST: Free to SFPA Members* (If your SFPT membership cards have not expired, then you are a current SFPA member.) $10.00 Non-Members
Light refreshments will be served.

Please RSVP by Friday, October 21, 2011 to Steve Bowles at 415.750.5440 or

Free Estate Planning Seminars   
San Francisco Parks Alliance offers free estate planning seminars that give clear and concise information on a topic which is often confusing and overwhelming.  The seminars are presented by respected local attorneys who specialize in wills and trusts.  One session is for single individuals and a second session is for married couples.  Each participant will receive a free estate planning organizer.

Saturday, October 22, 2011 (Single Individuals)  RSVP by October 20.
Saturday, October 29, 2011 (Married Couples)  RSVP by October 27.

10:00 am to noon (sign-in starts at 9:45 am) at McLaren Lodge in Golden Gate Park (501 Stanyan Street)

Refreshments will be served.  Space is limited. RSVP to Donalda Watson-Walkinshaw at 415.750.5443 or


Sunday, October 23, 2-5 PM
Aldea Center on Mount Sutro
155 Johnstone at Medical Center Way

UCSF, the Sutro Stewards along with ISPN and CVIA invite you to the preview opening of the Aldea Center on Mount Sutro. Celebrate recent accomplishments and learn more about ongoing open space programs in the Mount Sutro Open Space Reserve.

Hors d'oeuvres and beverages will be served.
A brief walking tour of Rotary Meadow and the Aldea seed propagation area will depart at 3 PM.

Parking will be available at the Woods Lot, 100 Medical Center Way for those who choose not to walk from home.


5.  Alex Lantsberg:
Since jerry cadagan commented about the lack of recycled water in SF it thought it might be good to pass it on to you (and by extension your list)

Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2011
6:00 pm - 7:30 pm
Alex Pitcher Room
Southeast Community Facility
1800 Oakdale, San Francisco

Thursday, Nov. 17, 2011
6:00 pm - 7:30 pm
Mission Bay Visitor Center
255 Channel, San Francisco

Each Open House will present information so that you can:
• Learn about local water supply planning and how recycled water helps sustain our city.
• Find out about your role in helping shape the eastside recycled water project.
• Be eligible for a door prize.


6.  Feedback

Hal Beilan:
In response to the Drakes Bay Oyster Company’s (DBOC) request to produce oysters for ten more years in Drakes Estero, the National Park Service (NPS) has released a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS).
How knowledgeable are you on this issue? I suggest you listen here:


7.  A tighter leash: There are licenses for dogs in San Francisco, and soon there may be licenses for their hired help.

Supervisor Scott Wiener introduced legislation Tuesday to regulate commercial dog walkers who use the city's public parks.

"This service must be carried out in a professional manner that respects city property and the other users of that property," said Wiener, stepping into politically treacherous territory.

His proposed regulations would apply to anyone who walks four or more dogs at once for some sort of payment in a city park or on certain properties owned by the Port of San Francisco or the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.

Permits would restrict them to walking no more than seven dogs at a time. In addition, they would have to either go through a 20-hour training course that covers such topics as dog park etiquette, canine first aid, local leash laws and the like, or serve a 40-hour apprenticeship with another licensed dog walker.

However, an exception from the training or apprenticeship requirement would be made for professional dog walkers who have held a city-issued business license for the past three years to operate a dog-walking business.

The city's Animal Care and Control Department, which would administer the permit program, would have to inspect and certify vehicles that are used to transport the pooches. The initial permit application would cost $250, and the annual renewal would cost no more than $100.

If the proposal is approved, the city would begin enforcing the ordinance in April. Anyone found in violation of the law would face elevating fines of up to $500 and could have his or her license yanked.

- Rachel Gordon

Read more:



Promise of Blue Horses
A blue horse turns into a streak of lightning,
then the sun --
relating the difference between sadness
and the need to praise
that which makes us joyful, I can't calculate
how the earth tips hungrily
toward the sun - then soaks up rain -- or the density
of this unbearable need
to be next to you. It's a palpable thing -- this earth
and familiar in the dark
like your skin under my hand. We are a small earth. It's no
simple thing. Eventually
we will be dust together; can be used to make a house, to stop
a flood or grow food
for those who will never remember who we were, or know
that we loved fiercely.
Laughter and sadness eventually become the same song turning us
toward the nearest star --
a star constructed of eternity and elements of dust barely visible
in the twilight as you travel
east. I run with the blue horses of electricity who surround
the heart
and imagine a promise made when no promise was possible.
~ Joy Harjo ~
(How We Become Human)


9.  Great Worldwide Star Count

JS:  Reward yourself and contribute to the drive to save energy costs and to make cities more friendly and livable by participating in the Great Worldwide Star Count, scheduled originally for October 14-28, then changed to October 29-November 12.  The website still has it for Oct 14-28, but I'm not sure the date is important.  What is important is that you observe for two weeks and report what you see.

To prepare for the count, get used to locating Cygnus the Swan, in the Summer Triangle, (note shown).  The Triangle is directly overhead at dark and consists of the three brightest stars in the sky at this time of year.  (Don't be confused by the even brighter Jupiter in the eastern sky.)  One of the Triangle's stars (furthest north and east) is Deneb, the tail of the Swan.  Inevitably clouds and fog will deprive you on some nights, but we stand a chance of having some clear and semi-clear nights.

I hope my instructions are not too confusing.  The website directs you to various stars and star groups to notice.  Likely from the city lights you won't see more than the tail and wings of the Swan, and perhaps the head.  If you report only that, it's still important, but try for the dimmer objects.

I repeat what I posted on September 20:

Deneb and Albireo--indeed, the entire constellation of Cygnus--will draw the universal attention of sky-gazers in October.  The Great World Wide Star Count, a project conducted by the National Earth Science Teachers Assn (NESTA), will use Cygnus as a barometer to map the global extent of light pollution.  Volunteers (that means us!) will observe Cygnus any evening between October 14 and 28 (ugh, the below website says its October 29 - November 12; better go with the website. JS) to determine the magnitude of the faintest stars visible.  The process will entail matching what we see in the sky with one of seven charts showing the appearance of Cygnus when the limiting magnitude is 1 through 7.  Urban dwellers will struggle to see 1st-magnitude stars like Deneb, while those fortunate enough to live in regions where dark skies prevail will detect stars of 6th or even 7th magnitude.

The beauty of this activity is that virtually anyone can do it, as long as you can locate Cygnus in the night sky.  No equipment other than eyes, a red flashlight, and a set of magnitude charts (obtainable off the Great World Wide Star Count website) is necessary.  The process isn't time-consuming either.  It takes 10 to 15 minutes to make an observation, and another 10 to forward the data.  The activity is so simple, you may want to make multiple observations by extending your Cygnus star counts to other communities near your home.

The Great World Wide Star Count is a meaningful activity...because light pollution is a menace all amateur astronomers must deal with.  Teachers, as well as individuals involved with secondary-school outreach programs, will appreciate the opportunity to engage their students in scientific data collection and analysis.

...Last year, the Great World Wide Star Count collected nearly 4,500 observations.  NESTA graphically portrays the results on a world map set up on the Great World Wide Star Count website.  Refer to the map to see what regions of the world were covered.  If you live in an area where no one filed a report, make a star count to help fill in the gaps.  Let's all do our part to document the spread of light pollution.  For more information, log on to

Questions, comments, or suggestions?  E-mail me at

Glenn Chaple in Astronomy, September 2011


"....Was I only experiencing a small portion of my world, I wondered, the segment right in front of my nose from a level gaze?  How often did I pull my eyes away from the rush and rumble of my everyday routine for a slow, quiet look skyward?  I know it's not just me who has this tendency.  Most of us are out there striding or shuffling along, too absorbed, too hurried, or too harried to look around, much less above our heads.  And haven't you, in one of your more mischievous moods, stopped in the middle of a sidewalk and looked up into the sky just to see how many people would follow your gaze upward?  The joke depends on the unusual sight of someone looking up.

 "A friend recently told me of a study showing that a small percentage of our time is spent looking up.  Ah, modern life.  Our ancestors could not have been so oblivious.  Looking up--with curiosity, fear, concentration, discernment, and wonder--was a part of life, by necessity.  The gaze toward the heavens was, in fact, a vital part of the daily routine, as it still is for folks who live or work close to nature, without the various distracting sights and sounds that make up most modern days.  Would a farmer or a mariner, for example, not be acutely aware of the promise or foreboding told in the skies?"

Donna B. Smith, Vanderbilt University, in Mercury Sept/Oct 2000


10.  SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN MAGAZINE: Can We Feed the World and Sustain the Planet?
A five-step global plan could double food production by 2050 while greatly reducing environmental damage

OBSERVATIONS: Feed the World, Save the Planet
Billions more people, plus rising living standards, mean that global agriculture will have to double food production by mid-century

(Yawn.  How many times have we been assured we can feed the world?  How many End Hunger movements have we been through?  The result is people get money and attention for writing the story, media get grist for their mill, government programs are created and staffed with self-important people on a humanitarian mission, and nothing changes.  JS)

• Danger! The bee-killing Asian hornet is set to invade Britain
It's already made its way across France and now it could be heading our way – and it's our hard-pressed honey bees that will suffer


12.  From notes in current Sierra, November-December 2011

North Carolina hiking guide Jennifer Pharr Davis breaks the SPEED RECORD FOR HIKING THE APPALACHIAN TRAIL: 2,175 miles in 46 days.

(See anything, Jennifer?  You know you could have done the same thing on a walking machine without leaving the comfort of your home.)

13.  LTEs, The Economist

Opposites attract

SIR – One of your readers doesn’t like the use of oxymorons in your newspaper.  And yet contradictory terms have become ingrained in the vernacular of economists. Professional dismal scientists have noted recently that “negative growth” is explained by “toxic assets”, but this will ultimately lead to “creative destruction”.

Andre Harboe
Salem, Oregon

SIR – Surely a little bit of perspective is needed on Steve Jobs. The world is a big place. He managed successfully to sell some overpriced toys to a comparatively small number of wealthy people in industrialised nations who could afford to play with them.

What is the big accomplishment in that?

Hermann Kaiser


Pedantry and mastery are opposite attitudes toward rules. To apply a rule to the letter, rigidly, unquestioningly, in cases where it fits and in cases where it does not fit, is pedantry ... To apply a rule with natural ease, with judgment, noticing the cases where it fits, and without ever letting the words of the rule obscure the purpose of the action or the opportunities of the situation, is mastery. -George Polya, mathematician (1887-1985)
(So there you have it; we should call them pedantocracies rather than bureaucracies.  JS)


15.  Notes & Queries, Guardian Weekly

Chicago White Sox outfielder Brian Anderson makes a leaping catch for an out on a fly ball hit by Chicago Cubs' Jake Fox.

Why do flies never find their way out?

I thought they were the way out. I know my fly is.

John Grinter, Katoomba, NSW, Australia

• They  don't want to find the way out as they much prefer to stay inside and pester us.

Margaret Wilkes, Perth, Western Australia

• Flies should be treated like humans. If they don't know the way out, take them by the hand and tell them the way. If that doesn't work, give them a smack about the head.

E Slack, L'Isle Jourdain, France

• What, never? With the likes of Babe Ruth at bat, many a fly has found its way out of the ball park.  And even when flies are caught, they are called out.

Daan Zwick, Rochester, New York, US

• Because, when confronted by a window of opportunity, they are incapable of lateral thinking.

Bill Lake,  Acre, Dent, UK

• Because then they would be flees.

Keith Simes, Hastings, New Zealand

• Just another bug in Windows.

Stefan Allen, Gex, France

Running from a challenge

Why aren't the best brains running the country?

Unlike rum running and gun running, running the country has the inherent difficulty that when it moves, so does its border, and this is a metaphysical problem the best brains have not been able to solve.

Kevin Peterson, Antwerp, Belgium

• Because the headhunters haven't caught up with them yet.

David Tucker, Halle, Germany

• Because under the democratic system the people get the government they deserve. In Greece, the birthplace of democracy the best brains have for years been working out how to avoid paying taxes.

John Anderson, Pukekohe, New Zealand

• There's no black or white answer; it's a grey matter.  

Gerard Ponsford, White Rock, British Columbia, Canada

• Because we won't vote for them.

Jake Sigg, San Francisco, California, US

• Because too many of them are running from the country.

Shawn D Bindon, Ottawa, Canada

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