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, April 20, 2012


John Muir - Born 21 April 1838

The world, we are told, was made especially for man -- a presumption not supported by all the facts... Why should man value himself as more than a small part of the one great unit of creation? -John Muir

1.   Gaylord Nelson and Earth Day
2.   Thirty years later...
3.   Robinson Jeffers, nature's oracle
4.   Conservation by knowing and using/Insect Discovery Lab tours now on weekends/Bug Day at Randall
5.   In Praise of Earth - John O'Donohue
6.   Doings in GGP Oak Woodlands
7.   Geese helping spread frog-killing Chytrid Fungus/We all live on a land we've wounded
8.   Coastside Land Trust events April 21
9.   New community group at Kezar Triangle Sunday 22
10. Celebrate Earth Day heron watching at Stow Lake


Melanie McCalmont,, Webmaster,
"I've finished a new website in honor of the founder of Earth Day, Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin,  and the 40th anniversary of this watershed political event.

The site uses the documents from the Wisconsin Historical Society to explain the true origins of Earth Day, why Nelson called for a nationwide event, and Earth Day's impact on grassroots political organizing and environmentalism. The site will be promoted by TIME, WSJ, Washington Post, the Smithsonian, and other organizations and news outlets. The website was also the subject of a Wisconsin Historical Museum exhibit that runs through June 19 (click the home page exhibit picture).

We believe it's the first time that so many archival documents have been used on the web to tell a political story, and we are told it sets a new standard for archives to expand their riches (you know I love archival research) to the general public while retaining a lot of the good stuff for archive in-person research."

"Do we really have to destroy tomorrow in order to live today?"
    Gaylord Nelson

The first Earth Day ultimately was about empowerment, not about education or protest or celebration.  Earth Day helped to make the first green generation.
    Adam Rome, Earth Day 2010

"One cannot fail to see that deforestation, ozone depletion, ocean pollution, and the threat of global warming interconnect to challenge our future.  We no longer enjoy the luxury of leisurely action."  Pres. George H.W. Bush, January 1990

"The ultimate test of our conscience is the willingness to sacrifice something today for generations of tomorrow, whose words of thanks will not be heard."    Gaylord Nelson

Earth Day marks the beginning of an historic venture involving Americans of all ages, philosophies, and backgrounds in the crucial fight to protect our environment and our very lives.  Senator William Proxmire, 1970

(The answer, I fear 42 years later, seems to be 'No, we are not willing'.  JS)

The word "environment" suggests that it's a separate thing, outside of you, whereas people vote in terms of what's inside them.   
    George Lakoff

We are like tenant farmers chopping down the fence around our house for fuel when we should be using Nature's inexhaustible sources of energy -- sun, wind and tide. ... I'd put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don't have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that. -Thomas Edison, inventor, 1847-1931


2.  Thirty years later...

Date: Tue, 02 May 2000
Subject: Earth Day reflections

By Donella Meadows, adjunct professor at Dartmouth College.

If, in the thirty Earth Day celebrations we have held since 1970, the human population and economy have become any more respectful of the Earth, the Earth hasn't noticed.

The planet is not impressed by fancy speeches.  Leonardo DiCaprio interviewing Bill Clinton about global warming is not an Earth-shaking event.  The Earth has no way of registering good intentions or future inventions or high hopes.  It doesn't even pay attention to dollars, which are, from a planet's point of view, just a charming human invention.
Planets measure only physical things - energy and materials and their flows into and out of the changing populations of living creatures.

What the Earth sees is that on the first Earth Day in 1970 there were 3.7 billion of those hyperactive critters called humans, and now there are over 6 billion.  (JS:  >7 billion now.)

Back in 1970 those humans drew from the Earth's crust 46 million barrels of oil every day-now they draw 78 million.   (JS:  In 2000.)

Natural gas extraction has nearly tripled in thirty years, from 34 trillion cubic feet per year to 95 trillion.  We mined 2.2 billion metric tons in 1970; this year we'll mine about 3.8 billion.

The planet feels this fossil fuel use in many ways, as the fuels are extracted (and spilled) and shipped (and spilled) and refined (generating toxics) and burned into numerous pollutants, including carbon dioxide, which traps outgoing energy and warms things up.  Despite global conferences and brave promises, what the Earth notices is that human carbon emissions have increased from 3.9 million metric tons in 1970 to an estimated 6.4 million this year.

You would think that an unimaginably huge thing like a planet would not notice the one degree (Fahrenheit) warming it has experienced since 1970.  But on the scale of a whole planet, one degree is a big deal, especially since it is not spread evenly.  The poles have warmed more than the equator, the winters more than the summers, the nights more than the days.  That means that temperature DIFFERENCES from one place to another have been changing much more than the average temperature has changed.  Temperature differences are what make winds blow, rains rain, ocean currents flow.

All creatures, including humans, are exquisitely attuned to the weather.  All creatures, including us, are noticing weather weirdness and trying to adjust, by moving, by fruiting earlier or migrating later, by building up whatever protections are possible against flood and drought.  The Earth is reacting to weather changes too, shrinking glaciers, splitting off nation-sized chunks of Antarctic ice sheet, enhancing the cycles we call El Nino and La Nina.

"Earth Day, Shmearth Day," the planet must be thinking as its fever mounts.

"Are you folks ever going to take me seriously?"

Since the first Earth Day our global vehicle population has swelled from 246 to 730 million.  Air traffic has gone up by a factor of six.  The rate at which we grind up trees to make paper has doubled (to 200 million metric tons per year).  We coax from the soil, with the help of strange chemicals, 2.25 times as much wheat, 2.5 times as much corn, 2.2 times as much rice, almost twice as much sugar, almost four times as many soybeans as we did thirty years ago.  We pull from the oceans almost twice as much fish.

With the fish we can see clearly how the planet behaves, when we push it too far.  It does not feel sorry for us; it just follows its own rules.  Fish become harder and harder to find.  If they are caught before they're old enough to reproduce, if their nursery habitat is destroyed, if we scoop up not only the cod, but the capelin upon which the cod feeds, the fish may never come back.  The Earth does not care that we didn't mean it, that we promise not to do it again, that we make nice gestures every Earth Day.

We have among us die-hard optimists who will berate me for not reporting the good news since the last Earth Day.  There is plenty of it, but it is mostly measured in human terms, not Earth terms.  Average human life expectancy has risen since 1970 from 58 to 66 years.  Gross world product has more than doubled, from 16 to 39 trillion dollars. Recycling has increased, but so has trash generation, so the Earth receives more garbage than ever before.  Wind and solar power generation have soared, but so have coal-fired, gas-fired and nuclear generation.

In human terms there has been breathtaking progress.  In 1970 there weren't any cell phones or video players.  There was no Internet; there were no dot-coms.  Nor was anyone infected with AIDS, of course, nor did we have to worry about genetic engineering.  Global spending on advertising was only one-third of what it is now (in inflation-corrected dollars).  Third-World debt was one-eighth of what it is now.

Whether you call any of that progress, it is all beneath the notice of the Earth.  What the Earth sees is that its species are vanishing at a rate it hasn't seen in 65 million years.  That 40 percent of its agricultural soils have been degraded.  That half its forests have disappeared and half its wetlands have been filled or drained, and that, despite Earth Day, all these trends are accelerating.

Earth Day is beginning to remind me of Mother's Day, a commercial occasion upon which you buy flowers for the person who, every other day of the year, cleans up after you.  Guilt-assuaging.  Trivializing.   Actually dangerous.  All mothers have their breaking points.  Mother Earth does not soften hers with patience or forgiveness or sentimentality.

"The obstinacy of human beings is what enables them to fight for their countries, repel invaders and maintain their solidarity.  But it is also what makes it so hard to fix what needs to be fixed."
    Martin Woollacott, Guardian Weekly, 6-12 May 2004


3.  Robinson Jeffers, nature's oracle

California's first important poet remains, in some ways, its most imposing. He grapples with questions that speak directly to our ongoing predicament.

Robinson Jeffers sitting on steps, 1932. (Julian P. Graham/Loon Hill Studios)

Op-ed By Christopher Cokinos
January 20, 2012

Here's a cosmic truism: The end of the Earth is just another item on the universe's to-do list. The poet Robinson Jeffers understood this reality. That such a perspective need not be bleak is something he spent decades telling readers. Until his death on Jan. 20, 1962 — 50 years ago — Jeffers celebrated the "transhuman magnificence" of nature, the beautiful things both vast and near that can provide even a 21st century reader with solace, even if we are often a muddled, ugly species and even if all things, as they do, fade away.

Jeffers built a stone house and tower on the rugged Carmel coast in the early 20th century, long before he had neighbors, and he lived there for decades with his wife, Una, and their twin sons. The son of a minister and a student of language, literature, forestry and medicine, Jeffers took time before finding his mature, mythic, sometimes bloated voice. The poet had chosen to live deliberately, like Thoreau, but unlike him, Jeffers stayed put. And Jeffers' Walden was more violent, more jagged. He wrote lyric poems about hurt hawks, the relentless Pacific, the endurance of stone, the follies of humans turned from nature. He also composed long narrative poems that read almost like ancient Greek tragedies recast to the California headlands; these poems have not fared as well over time as the lyrics.

But those epics thrust Jeffers into the national literary spotlight. He was enormously popular in the 1920s and 1930s — he was once on the cover of Time — but fell into disfavor quickly with his antiwar stance in the 1940s. When he died, Jeffers was largely forgotten by the literary establishment. Readers attracted to his environmental sensibility, however, have never let him go.

Robinson Jeffers was California's first important poet, and he remains, in some ways, its most imposing — because he grapples with questions that speak directly to our ongoing predicament.

If we acknowledge that the central problem facing our species is how to live more equitably in a biosphere we are rapidly unraveling, beneath a sky we are rapidly warming, then Jeffers becomes not a regionalist of historical note but a figure of commanding contemporary consequence — flawed, to be sure, but necessary. The flaws, at least as some see them, include an uncomfortable tendency to an almost Old Testament misanthropy. "I'd sooner, except the penalties, kill a man than a hawk," he said (in)famously in "Hurt Hawks," perhaps his best-known line from his most anthologized poem. That's a very unsettling statement, even though some people may sympathize with the impulse.

In his short poems, Jeffers can modulate this surly voice more frequently than some critics have supposed. Though it's true he never strayed far from the oracular stance that nature is savior and humans are trouble, I wonder why this is such a bad thing. In any case, here are quiet lines from Jeffers' last book, "The Beginning and the End," published in 1963, the year after his death. They're from a poem called "Salvage," a favorite of mine:

It is true that half the glory is gone.

Motors and modernist houses usurp the scene.

There is no eagle soaring, nor a puma

On the Carmel hill highroad, where thirty years ago

We watched one pass. Yet by God's grace

I still have a furlong of granite cliff, on which the Pacific

Leans his wild weight...

Jeffers goes on, considering what is gone (his beloved wife) and what remains (trees that herons nest in, the material universe as a kind of divinity). He still "can feel the beautiful secret/In places and stars and stones.../I wish that all human creatures might feel it./That would make joy in the world, and make men perhaps a little nobler — as a handful of wildflowers."

That "beautiful secret" is the radical focus of Jeffers' poetry, the comforting influence of nature, experienced directly ("I will find my accounting where the alder leaf quivers," he writes in one sonnet) but also as revealed, at least at times, by science. Drawing on his forestry and medical studies, and with a brother who was an astronomer, Jeffers could write a poem such as "Nova," about the death of a star, and "Memoir," about the suffering of lab animals and the starvation of war-torn refugees. The title poem of "The Beginning and the End" is a kind of astronomical creation myth. Science could be abused, Jeffers knew, but it could also illuminate the universe.

Disciplines as diverse as ecology and cosmology reiterate what Jeffers articulated: We are a tiny strain in the cosmos. This insignificance is both freeing and humbling. It can guide us through petty passions; it can help us steward the living world. Jeffers called his approach "inhumanism," which he set against human selfishness. The coast landscape — pelicans, rivers, salmon, storms, wild grasses — fed Jeffers' sense of glorious, fitted connections. He is the ultimate poet of biophilia.

For some, his repetition of subject and stance can bore, but for others, reading a Jeffers lyric poem can be akin to meditation. He takes us out of ourselves, the way a wild swan or planet flaring between parted clouds can. This is why he is still read. Befriended by Ansel Adams, admired by a cadre of nature writers that included Loren Eiseley, invoked in books and on calendars by conservation organizations such as the Sierra Club, Robinson Jeffers is a kind of poet laureate of the environmental movement. When Stanford University Press issued "The Selected Poetry of Robinson Jeffers" in 2001, an academic journal asked me to do a review. That journal was not in the humanities. It was science.

"Coarse, limited and defective in self-knowledge," Harvard's Helen Vendler once said of Jeffers. Yet even she noted that Jeffers' "descriptions of nature are made with an intent eye." That intent eye sees what came before us, what is here right now, what lasts without us, what is threatened by us, what fades away. And though our track record may be spotty, Jeffers, for all his misanthropy, once said that his fellow humans "might go far/And end in honor..." It's true. We might.

Christopher Cokinos is the author of "The Fallen Sky." He teaches at the University of Arizona, where he is an English professor affiliated with the Institute of the Environment.

Los Angeles Times 20/01/12



Dr. Dan Janzen: Conservation by Knowing and Using

Biodiversity Development of Area of Conservation Guanacaste, Northwestern Costa Rica -
SaveNature.Org's Adopt an Acre Site
Monday, April 23, 2012
Refreshments at 3:45PM Talk 4-5:15pm
Herrin Hall T-175, Stanford University

Please attend this rare opportunity to hear world renowned and award-winning conservation biologist, Professor Janzen, in a Stanford appearance, discussing the leading edge of sustained biocultural restoration and development bridging the 21st century.

"Area de Conservacion Guanacaste (ACG) in northwestern Costa Rica is a 1,650 km2 tropical restoration and wildland conservation entity with 27 years of private-public progression towards conservation through biodiversity development.  Here I spotlight some of the salient events and processes that have led to ACG survival, primarily through interactions with society."


Insect Discovery Lab VIP Tours Now Open on Weekends!

By popular demand, our private Insect Discovery Lab is now open for booking on the weekends. Get a wild and intimate tour of insects around the world from rainforests in Malaysia, to Africa and Australia. While holding these incredible creatures, learn about their amazing lives, evolutionary adaptations and the ecosystems that they come from. Tours start at $325 for a 1.5 hour tour with up to 8 people (contact us for other arrangements). Great for engaging birthday parties, fun family get-togethers, and unique cocktail parties! Book your VIP tour - contact or 415-648-3392.

Bug Day at the Randall Museum

April 21, 2012, 10 a.m - 2 p.m
Randall Museum 199 Museum Way, San Francisco
Free Admission

Join the Insect Discovery Lab and the Randall Museum for a festival of everything insects! Learn about these marvelous creatures on one of the Randall’s favorite Family Days. See live exotic insects, view insects through microscopes, learn about the language of insects, watch beekeepers at work, compete in our Insect Olympics, and perhaps even eat a bug or two.  Insects are the earth’s most prolific creatures. Many insects are beneficial to humans.  Honeybees pollinate over one third of our food. Insects are also a source of food protein in many parts of the world. The silk worm has been integral to human history for its silk production. Wood roaches are major recyclers in the rainforests.  Join us for this fun and educational adventure into the bug world.


In Praise of the Earth

Let us bless
The imagination of the Earth.
That knew early the patience
To harness the mind of time,
Waited for the seas to warm,
Ready to welcome the emergence
Of things dreaming of voyaging
Among the stillness of land.

And how light knew to nurse
The growth until the face of the Earth
Brightened beneath a vision of color.

When the ages of ice came
And sealed the Earth inside
An endless coma of cold,
The heart of the Earth held hope,
Storing fragments of memory,
Ready for the return of the sun.

Let us thank the Earth
That offers ground for home
And holds our feet firm
To walk in space open
To infinite galaxies.

Let us salute the silence
And certainty of mountains:
Their sublime stillness,
Their dream-filled hearts.

The wonder of a garden
Trusting the first warmth of spring
Until its black infinity of cells
Becomes charged with dream;
Then the silent, slow nurture
Of the seed's self, coaxing it
To trust the act of death.

The humility of the Earth
That transfigures all
That has fallen
Of outlived growth.

The kindness of the Earth,
Opening to receive
Our worn forms
Into the final stillness.

Let us ask forgiveness of the Earth
For all our sins against her:
For our violence and poisonings
Of her beauty.

Let us remember within us
The ancient clay,
Holding the memory of seasons,
The passion of the wind,
The fluency of water,
The warmth of fire,
The quiver-touch of the sun
And shadowed sureness of the moon.

That we may awaken,
To live to the full
The dream of the Earth
Who chose us to emerge
And incarnate its hidden night
In mind, spirit, and light.

~ John O'Donohue ~

(To Bless the Space Between Us)


6.  Rob Bakewell:

Hi Jake,
The Oak Woodlands is coming along -  the 3rd Av / Fulton Natural Garden is doing very well showing off great healthy diversity and has annual grasses on the ropes.
Last Monday I was interviewed on camera in the Coon Hollow by SFRPD 's PR folks, focusing on Natural Areas' role in preserving the Coast Live Oak Woodland, restoring indigenous habitat and providing for public safety and access. 
This I think is part of campaign to build support for latest Park Bond proposal for Nov 2012.  Last Saturday I toured a group of 35 souls thru the Woodlands, sponsored by SF Parks Alliance to educate about Natural Areas and role in stewarding Oak Woodlands.

I also covered biodiversity habitat details, cultural history and future stewardship plans.  Something to build on.

We're having a special work party on May 19th, with collaboration of SFPA, Natural Areas  and Friends of Oak Woodlands Golden Gate Park to do restoration work along a route thru the so-called Fuchsia Heights (parallel south side Conserv Dr).

Recently, Peter Z and I, means of our new Park Partner group Friends of Oak Woodlands Golden Gate Park submitted grant application to CCG 2012 for restoration of people's art bas- reliefs, circa 1937, at the horseshoe courts and adjacent indigenous planting.

BTW, I'm soliciting modest donations to build up Friends of Oak Woodlands Golden Gate Park kitty to provide for appropriate native plants for further restoration at habitat sites in the Woodlands.

Best wishes,
Rob Bakewell
for Oak Woodlands GGP

........the following I lifted from your nature news (5.  Golden Gate Park Forestry Project) there may be one dead Monterey cypress near Arguello/Fulton targeted for removal before Oak Woodlands Nature Trail upgrade, but aside from last year's cut of three diseased Monterey pines (young .. only 25 feet high) near HS Courts this is the only tree removal scheduled for Oak Woodlands Natural Area.


7.  Geese May Be Helping to Spread Frog-Killing Chytrid Fungus


"We all live on land we've wounded, land we've improved to our dissatisfaction.  Yet we must be here or be nowhere and have nothing with which to make our lives together.  How should one act knowing that making a home requires this?"    DJ Waldie


8.  Coastside Land Trust

Native California Poppies

Ever wondered why they are called poppies?

Come to our workshop to find out! Also learn about more native and non-native wildflower species abundant here on our coast.  Toni Corelli, Half Moon Bay plant expert and co-author of Plants and Plant Communities of the San Mateo Coast will be leading a Workshop at Seacrest School and Walk along the Railroad Right of Way open space. The walk will cover our beautiful coastal prairie, wetland and coastal bluff top habitats.  The workshop and walk are suitable for beginners, experts and families. The weather can be unpredictable so wear layers and sturdy shoes. Refreshments and warm-up hot cocoa will be provided!

Suggested Workshop Donation:  Adults- $15, Seniors & Students- $5, Kids- Free

             Wildflower Identification Workshop & RROW Tour - Saturday April 21st
                    Workshop, 1-2:30pm
                    Seacrest School
                    901 Arnold Way, Half Moon Bay

                    Walk, 3-5pm
                    Meet at corner of Poplar Street & Railroad Avenue

Work Parties: Now scheduled for every 1st Saturday & 3rd Wednesday of the month.
       Join us for a few hours of work on the land.  Depending on what is needed each month we will be pulling invasive species,
     picking up trash, removing graffiti etc.
       Meet at the CLT office, 788 Main Street.  10-noon
       Upcoming dates will be: Saturday May 5 and Wednesday May 16

Ongoing and Upcoming:
       Mid-winter Art Show through April 29, original artwork by 20 artists, gallery open Th-Fri 11 - 2 and Sun 9 - 1
       Spring Art Show opens May 6, Open house from 2-5pm
       Seabird & Songbird Workshop & Walk, Saturday May 26th
       Please "like" us on our Facebook page or follow us @CoastLandTrust
       Native plants for sale, 1 gal, $10 each
       Plants and Plant Communities of the San Mateo Coast by Avis Boutell, Toni Corelli and Nancy Frost, $20
       Envirotokens for bringing your own bag earns CLT 10 cents each at New Leaf Market

For more information call Lindsey (650) 726-5056


9.  Earth Day, please swing on down (with food, friends and goodness to share) for a Community Picnic at the Kezar Triangle in SF.

I (Sam Bower) am planning to be at the Triangle by 12:30pm for an hour of meditation before the event.  Anyone who wants to come early and join me is very welcome!

The full event:  Sunday afternoon, April 22, 2012,  from 2:00pm - 5:00pm
Where:  Kezar Triangle, Kezar Dr. and Lincoln Way, San Francisco, CA

Celebrate Earth Day and the Park's planting of new trees on the edge of the Kezar Triangle with a community picnic!

Artful blanket arrangement and embroidery activity with artist Lea Redmond, hands-on ephemeral "create with nature" workshop with artist Zach Pine, PLUS a chance to share food, meet local neighbors and enjoy the sun and the Earth. Bring food, friends, kids and dogs and something to share!

We could use some outreach support, so we'd love it if you could invite friends and neighbors.  Here's a link to the Facebook event listing to share with friends.  Our new blog in progress:


10.  Celebrate Earth Day with San Francisco Nature Education at Stow Lake - Heron Watch in full swing! - FREE and open to the public
April 21, 28 and May 5, 12 and 19
Stow Lake, follow sign at Boathouse to observation site
FREE Observation Program at spotting scopes 10am -1pm
Come and see the Great Blue Herons and their chicks!
The first chicks have already hatched at Stow Lake!
Interns and Volunteers will answer your questions and explain the behavior of the Great Blue Herons and their chicks
Also, meet Executive Director of San Francisco Nature Education
Nancy DeStefanis who discovered the first documented nesting of great blue herons in the city of San Francisco in 1993 and monitored the colony ever since
Nature walks 10:30-noon, Children FREE, Adults $10
Contact Anastasia Marin at or 415-387-9160 for more information.

Copyright: 2012 SF Nature Education

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