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.

Thursday, July 12, 2012


Insanity is relative. It depends on who has who locked in what cage. -Ray Bradbury

1.   SacBee takes on Mayor Ed Lee
2.   2 years of Central Subway tunnel construction will decimate area's business/cultural life
3.   Beach Chalet soccer fields update
4.   Fixing the Future - spurring action to strengthen local economies
5.   Leatherback turtle migration to California TONIGHT/naturalist trivia quiz
6.   Coyote style fun and games from Thomas Wang
7.   Mt Davidson forest field trip Saturday 14 July
8.   Friends of 5 Creeks events this month
9.   Stop the reshaping of SF's waterfront by the 1% - petition signature drop-off Sat the 14th
10. SaveTheFrogs in Belize
11.  Feedback: faked orgasms/Lake Merced issues/Lucretius
12.  BAEER FAIR - Save the date: Jan 19
13.  Interested in saving SSF's Sign Hill?  July 17
14.  An Improvisation for Angular Momentum, by AR Ammons
15.  Bugs help keep the planet livable but suffer from an image problem/spineless quiz
16.  Notes & Queries: Witches always wicked, while wizards are thoroughly decent chaps?

But our civilization is rapidly becoming one in which only two values are recognized:  power and amusement.  It would be a pity if the last refuges where man can enter into another kind of relation with the natural world should be improved out of existence by even the most well meaning.  The park system of which Grand Canyon is so striking a part was planned by men who spoke of “preserving” certain of the grandest examples of the American continent’s natural beauties.  Gradually one has heard less and less about “preserving,” more and more about “development” and “utilization for recreation.”  The two ideals are neither identical nor even compatible.  Joseph Wood Krutch


Editorial: Why the hysteria over restoring Hetch Hetchy?
Published Thursday, Jul. 12, 2012

Fear-mongering wafts like a fog from San Francisco whenever the subject turns to restoring Hetch Hetchy, the valley in Yosemite National Park that is submerged by San Francisco's water supply.

Supporters of restoration have submitted more than 16,000 signatures for a ballot measure that would let San Francisco voters decide if they want to study alternative sources of water and power for the city. That way, the canyon that John Muir once called "the twin" of Yosemite Valley could be restored for the benefit of future generations.

Mind you, the ballot measure wouldn't determine if Hetch Hetchy were drained or not. That would require a subsequent ballot measure, possibly in 2016. The current measure, if approved, would merely require the city to develop a long-term water conservation plan and come up with a plan for restoring Hetch Hetchy.

Yet even that prospect sounds apocalyptic to some San Francisco leaders.  "Insane," said San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee.

"Dangerous," intoned an editorial in the San Francisco Chronicle.  Really? What is so dangerous about examining how to restore a valley in one of our nation's most prized and popular national parks?

Leaders of the keep-Yosemite- submerged crowd have two lines of argument against even studying this idea.

The first is the cost. "This issue has already been studied ad nauseam," said the Chronicle. "Draining the valley would be incredibly expensive - between $3 billion and $10 billion, according to a 2006 state Department of Water Resources study."

It's true that DWR offered that estimate in 2006, but with numerous caveats. For one thing, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission did not respond to DWR requests on documentation on its projected costs of Hetch Hetchy restoration.
For that reason and others, the DWR report stated that existing studies "do not contain enough collective detail to reach conclusions about the feasibility or acceptability of Hetch Hetchy restoration. Further studies could further refine and assess technical, cost and environmental factors in greater detail."

Opponents also claim that Hetch Hetchy restoration could deprive San Francisco of "300 megawatts of carbon-free hydroelectric power for the Bay Area." That's an interesting argument. In the past, San Francisco environmentalists and the Chronicle have supported river restoration efforts on the Trinity and Klamath Rivers, even if hydropower generation was reduced. Could it be that San Franciscans are fine with sacrificing energy generation for environmental benefits, so long as their energy isn't being touched?

San Francisco's elected leaders continue to stand on the wrong side of history on Hetch Hetchy. It will be restored one day, and everyone who visits Yosemite will benefit as a result. The question is when and at what cost. To get that answer, San Francisco leaders should let the study go forward and cease with the hysterical rantings.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.


Two years' of Central Subway tunnel construction will decimate North Beach's business and cultural life.  The original Central Subway design was to stop in Chinatown at Stockton/ Clay Streets.  For political reasons to gain support, the Subway was extended to Washington Street and then to North Beach via a tunnel---for a future station..  Although Chinatown businesses will be greatly harmed by construction, their merchants have not yet organized to protect themselves.  Unfortunately, much of Chinatown's economic damage will be transferred to North Beach---in terms of boring machine extraction and staging of equipment/ materials.  In reality, Chinatown merchants and North Beach merchants should join forces to protect their livelihoods and neighborhoods.




Update on Board of Supervisors Appeal Hearing

First the bad news -- We lost our EIR Appeal at the Board of Supervisors.  Unswayed by logic or cogent legal arguments, the majority of the Board voted in favor of plastic grass, tire waste, and 150,000 watts of sports light,  instead of protecting the beauty and habitat of Golden Gate Park and Ocean Beach.  This was despite our having a great attorney, compelling legal points, and a terrific Hybrid Alternative to the project!  Sadly, there was much misinformation given to the Supervisors during the seven hour (7!) hearing,  which our attorney was given three minutes (3!) to counter.

Now the good news -- Over seventy of you (70!) showed up to support Golden Gate Park!  You talked eloquently about the flaws in the EIR and your love of Golden Gate Park.  And you were all magnificent!

Are we giving up?  No!  You have inspired us.  With your help, we will continue to work to protect the Park.  and here is how:

1.          We have already filed an Appeal of the Coastal Permit to the San Francisco Board of Appeals.  The hearing for that appeal is on August 1, Wednesday, 5:00 pm, City Hall, Room 416.  You are welcome to attend and to testify.  

2.          If that Appeal is turned down (just in case - we always have to plan ahead), then we will appeal to the California Coastal Commission.  This is a longer process, and we will keep you informed.

3.          A decision that we have to make is -- will we file a lawsuit regarding the decision of the Board of Supervisors?  Certainly we have a firm legal basis, but a lot of other factors enter into that decision.  One big factor is funding.  

4.          All of this legal work takes time and money -- to go further will take a lot more.  Let us know how you feel--do you want us to continue to pursue protecting the Park?  Can you contribute?  If you think you might be able to, let us know -- and give us an idea of how much you might be able to contribute. 

5.          We will keep you posted on all of this.

Here is how the Supervisors voted

Supporting our Appeal and rejecting the EIR:  Supervisor Olague
Opposing our Appeal and supporting the EIR:  Everyone else!  (Yes, a real shocker.  But , as we said , there was a lot of misinformation presented and very little opportunity for us to counter it all.)

Supervisor Olague did her homework, she was up on the issues, she put forth good arguments, and she voted to reject the EIR.  Please write to her and thank her for her support!

Golden Gate Park needs you more than ever!  If you would like to help out on future volunteer and fund-raising events, let us know!

City Hall Hearing Room:  Our supporters lined up at the beginning of the Appeal Hearing.  The line stretched around the back of the room, all the way to the entry doors!


4.  San Francisco joins communities nationwide to host a screening of the documentary Fixing the Future, spurring action toward strengthening local economies.

Contact: Nicole Wong, 415.487.2000,
PSAs available at:

In San Francisco, CA, a 10% shift in consumer spending from chains and the Internet to locally-owned retail, would create nearly 1300 new jobs and over $190 million in increased economic output. Customers don’t have to spend more, just spend differently. Active Voice, a media strategy organization that uses film to spark change, will join dozens of other communities across the country on July 18, 2012, as part of a one-night-only event to jumpstart local, sustainable economies. Featuring a screening of the documentary Fixing the Future, the event will take place at the Roxie Theater at 7:30pm and will be followed by an exclusive onscreen discussion panel featuring:
·         Bill McKibben: Author, environmentalist, Schumann Distinguished Scholar at Middlebury College
·         Majora Carter: Peabody Award winning broadcaster & Urban Revitalization Strategist
·         Mike Brady: CEO, Greyston Bakery & social entrepreneur
·         David Brancaccio: Host, NOW on PBS

Following the onscreen discussion, David Korten will connect the national landscape to the importance of local, grassroots efforts. The audience will then engage with representatives of the Bay Area Community Exchange, Arizmendi Bakery, Slow Money Northern California and other local organizations to learn how they can fix San Francisco’s future.

The event, sponsored by New Resource Bank, kicks off San Francisco’s participation in Fixing the Future Across America, a national campaign led by JumpStart Productions, Area23a and Active Voice. Active Voice is one of more than 50 groups around the country participating in the campaign, using Fixing the Future to encourage American communities to create resilient, local economies through innovative approaches to job creation. Fixing the Future Across America also links together a national network of business groups and community-based organizations working to improve their local economies.

“This event is an opportunity to shed light on a growing national movement in which the Bay Area is proving to be a real leader,” said Shaady Salehi of Active Voice. “Film has a unique power of inspiring people and bringing them together to talk about solutions to some of today’s most pressing issues. Fixing the Future will serve to jumpstart conversation and action around what we can do in San Francisco to support our local economy and strengthen the community.”

In Fixing the Future, host David Brancaccio (of public radio’s Marketplace and NOW on PBS) visits locations across America that are using sustainable and innovative approaches to create jobs and build prosperity, inspiring hope and renewal amidst economic collapse. These issues are particularly relevant to San Francisco, a city which often leads the nation on progressive policies and economic models.


5.  San Francisco Naturalist Society
Join us tonight for a great talk on leatherback sea turtles. Details below…

Also, try your hand at the new naturalist trivia quiz on our website at

Thursday, July 12
The Amazing Leatherback Migration to California
Dr. Chris Pincetich, of the Sea Turtle Restoration Project, will tell us about leatherback biology, ecology, and conservation challenges.


6.  Thomas Wang:

What did bok choi say to the collard greens?  Why do wiggling larvae keep eating my food?  The birds singing and talking and laughing all day long, can they be quiet?!  Not many answers, just coyote style fun and games.  Take a look for thomas' blog and the blues at


7.  California Native Plant Society field trip - free and open to the public

Mt Davidson
Saturday, July 14, 10 am to noon
Leader - Jake Sigg

This field trip is focused on issues which the City's natural areas management plan addresses, such as trails, erosion, tree removal and replanting, herbicide use, &c.  Please note that we will not talk about the specifics of the management plan or DEIR, but rather the background issues and problems. 

Prior to 1997, when the newly approved Natural Areas Program began hiring staff, there was no management at all of the City's 32 undeveloped open spaces.  People did more or less whatever they wanted to--even trash wasn't picked up and people planted trees and other plants at their whim.  Obviously this situation couldn't continue, so the Natural Areas Program was created, with the primary purpose of preserving these last fragments of our natural heritage.  However, the Program became contentious, partly because of misunderstanding and confusion, but also partly due to hidden agendas, which still obtain today.  The walk's primary focus is on ecological processes--nature's endlessly fascinating ways--and what challenges this creates for management of human-created landscapes. 

Meet at the #36 Muni bus turnaround at Myra/Dalewood/Lansdale


8.  Friends of 5 Creeks
Please join us 10 AM - 12:30 PM Saturday, July 14, continuing over a decade's creation of beautiful and vibrant nature and recreation at the foot of Albany Hill. Tools, gloves, and refreshments provided. Wear closed-toed shoes with good traction. Long pants and long sleeves recommended.

Meet at El Cerrito's Creekside Park, south end of Santa Clara Ave., El Cerrito (Internet maps 3499 Santa Clara; AC Transit 25 or 72 or short walk from El Cerrito Plaza BART). If you're driving, from Central Ave. between San Pablo and I-880 turn south on Santa Clara, toward Albany Hill. The short street ends at the park.

Great views and history await participants on our July walk for ages 50+, 9-11 AM Thursday, July 19. This vigorous loop with steep stretches takes you through historic Sunset View Cemetery, UC Berkeley's Blake Gardens estate, and El Cerrito paths, parks, and creeklets, ending with optional lunch and snack at Fat Apples. Wear hiking shoes and bring water and sticks if you use them.

Meet at Sunset View Cemetery entrance, 101 Colusa. Allow time for on-street parking -- don't park in the cemetery lot. The walk is free, but please RSVP to co-sponsor Albany Senior Center, 846 Masonic, 510 524 9122.

Upcoming events are listed on the events calendar on our website.

News on trails, restoration, more in long-planned projects

This planned short update has grown due to a flood a news on long-planned projects in Berkeley, Albany, and the greater Bay Area!

Trail to Marina crossing Strawberry Creek mouth to be built at last: The City of Berkeley will break ground July 17 on the long-planned pedestrian-bicycle link from the Bay Trail to the Berkeley Marina along University Avenue. The project will at least hide the ugly pipe that is the outlet to Strawberry Creek, and help more people enjoy our success in establishing natives along the beach there. The evening primrose and golden yarrow we planted are in full bloom there amid waving native grasses -- go take a look! Or see our slide show on late-summer shoreline wildflowers.


9.  An unprecedented citywide coalition of neighbors, tenants, seniors, and environmentalists has joined together to try to give the people of San Francisco one last chance to stop the reshaping of San Francisco's waterfront with the proposed 8 Washington Project's construction of huge high-rise luxury condos for the 1% on our historic waterfront.

The deadline to submit your signatures to the campaign is just seven days away. In one week's time, how many more signatures can you gather to stop the wall on the waterfront? Time is tight and every pen stroke counts more than ever, so please, please  - make these final days the best we've had yet.

*Final Petition Push Rally and Signature Drop Off: Saturday, July 14th at 10 am
Come to our HQ this Saturday to join us for our last rally. While you're here, drop off the signatures you have in hand and we'll give you a fresh petition for your final signatures.
Where: 15 Columbus Avenue
When: 10:00 am this Saturday
Event info:

*FINAL SIGNATURE TURN IN: Wednesday, July 18th until 8 pm
Turn in your books to headquarters at 15 Columbus Avenue before 8pm.
If you are absolutely unable to deliver your petition to headquarters, please call us at 415-894-7008 <tel:415-894-7008>  to arrange pick up as soon as possible.

Have at least 30 signatures in your book?
If you have at least 30 signatures, please bring your petition to 15 Columbus so that we can closely monitor our progress. We'll trade you your old petition for a brand new one.

Having trouble collecting? Need guidance?
Call 415-894-7008 <tel:415-894-7008>  or drop into HQ for some guidance and advice. We're happy to help.

Do you have a functioning laptop that can connect to WiFi sitting around? Lend it to the campaign to help process signatures between now and next Tuesday. Send Suzanne an email at or call the office at 415-894-7008 <tel:415-894-7008>  .


10.  Michael Starkey's return to Belize
An update from Belize by Michael G. Starkey, SAVE THE FROGS! Advisory Committee Chairman
In January 2012 I traveled to Belize for 12 days to help spread the message of amphibian conservation and to promote appreciation of wildlife and nature through education. SAVE THE FROGS' presence was incredibly well-received while I was in the country and I was asked to come back.  Thanks to the incredible generosity of friends, family, and SAVE THE FROGS’ supporters, I was able to return and am currently in Belize saving the frogs once again! I have been giving presentations to nonprofit organizations and public interest groups all over the country, including the Belize Zoo, Lamanai Field Research Center, and the Ya'axché Conservation Trust -- and spending a lot of time in the field surveying and photographing amphibians!
Click here to read all about my frog saving adventures!

Stauffer’s Treefrog, Scinax staufferi

"More than a hundred species and subspecies of mammals are known to have disappeared from the face of the earth since the beginning of the Christian era.  Along with them have gone perhaps as many birds and an unknown number of humbler creatures.  How many plants have suffered extinction has not, so far as I am aware, been even guessed at."
        Joseph Wood Krutch, around 1960


11.  Feedback

On Jul 10, 2012, at 6:50 PM, loretta brooks wrote:
Thank you, Jake, again another great piece on ecology and conservation with your newsletter's #10 today on Nora Ephron and Lonesome George, who I had heard of but not to the degree you illuminated here.  Most all of this article was just great, as are all your pieces, but one part not so much so:  the part saying most females faked orgasms was surely incorrect; oh yes, some inepts may do this on occasion but for the most part, women are too smart to engage in the such a wallop of energy expenditure without getting the gusto from it all.  Just my viewpoint, as is apparent, but certainly you would agree.  Enjoyed most of Efron's works, but the "Harry/Sally" scene, tho often pushed into all of our views, was not among her best.
    All the best to you, and hope to see you soon, loretta
Um, Loretta, what the writer said was:  "At which stage Ms Ephron might have asked, couldn’t he at least have faked it? Women did that all the time."  That's a long way from what you said.

Peter Vaernet:
re:  Lake Merced Boathouse meeting:  
Just fyi, I stated at the first meeting that the boat house should also allow for for example community meeting space for SFSU biology students, and for example native plant and animal study groups studying the lake.  However, 200+ high schooler rowers use the lake six days a week and deserve priority.  They do not pollute the lake or drive their cars.  They take MUNI, bicycle or walk from their high schools all weekdays and Saturdays to the lake to row and practice technique.  Bless them for finally getting use of more of the boathouse after having paid rent there for decades for nothing but the cold damp garage-like boat dungeons below the sealed-shut boathouse.  By the way, no - the boathouse will not have showers.

The boathouse restaurant idea is dead since Harding Park already has a good restaurant in the gold club house (very nice with great views by the way. go there to eat), and a restaurant RFP last year got not even one proposal submitted, even with deadline extension.

On Jul 12, 2012, at 9:50 AM, Jeanne Thomas wrote:
Hi Jake,  Thanks for your wonderful newsletter.  After reading all the recommendations, where is the poem? Is there a link to it, or did you publish it previously, or is it just too scandalous and controversial?  Thanks, Jeanne

De rerum natura (about the nature of things) by the brilliant philosopher-poet Lucretius who lived in the first century BC
Jeanne:  Did you note?
This poem (in 6 books) was admired by Cicero and other great minds

And too scandalous and controversial?  You think that would stop me?  You're on your own on getting a copy.


12.  Save the Date! Saturday, January 19th , 2013
BAY AREA ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION RESOURCE FAIR, BAEER FAIR 36 Conference on Engaging Youth in the Environment -

Here is a link to the Save the Date:


13.  If you're interested in Saving Sign Hill, please plan on attending this important informational meeting:

Tuesday July 17th
6:30 pm
Paradise Valley Boys & Girls Club
291 Hillside Blvd, SSF 94080

Sign Hill Park in South San Francisco only covers about half of the open space on Sign Hill.  On the north-east facing slopes there are 3 parcels that are still privately owned and development of these properties is actively being discussed. The easternmost parcel is of the most concern.

San Bruno Mountain Watch and Friends of Sign Hill will be hosting this meeting to discuss some alternatives to preserve this much needed open space.

David Schooley is the founder of San Bruno Mountain Watch, an environmental activist group dedicated to saving the mountain from development and environmental degradation.

San Bruno Mountain Watch
partnered with
Friends of Sign Hill


An Improvisation For Angular Momentum

Walking is like
imagination, a
single step
dissolves the circle
into motion; the eye here
and there rests
on a leaf,
gap, or ledge,
everything flowing
except where
sight touches seen:
stop, though, and
reality snaps back
in, locked hard,
forms sharply
themselves, bushbank,
dentree, phoneline,
definite, fixed,
the self, too, then
caught real, clouds
and wind melting
into their directions,
breaking around and
over, down and out,
motions profound,
alive, musical!

Perhaps the death mother like the birth mother
does not desert us but comes to tend
and produce us, to make room for us
and bear us tenderly, considerately,
through the gates, to see us through,
to ease our pains, quell our cries,
to hover over and nestle us, to deliver
us into the greatest, most enduring
peace, all the way past the bother of
beyond the finework of frailty,
the mishmash house of the coming & going,
creation's fringes,
the eddies and curlicues

~ A.R. Ammons ~
(Poetry, 1994)

“Which is it, is man one of God’s blunders or is God one of man’s?”  Friedrich Nietzsche

Rough number of all the ants living on earth:  10,000 trillion.  Combined, they weigh about as much as all the humans.
Source:  The Social Conquest of Earth, reported in Scientific American

Bugs Help Keep the Planet Livable But Suffer From an Image Problem
Invertebrates are unloved, it seems, and more's the pity

By William K. Stevens

Humans may think they are evolution's finest product, but the creepies, crawlies and squishies rule the world.  Remove people from the face of the earth and the biosphere would perk along just fine, ecologists say.  Remove the invertebrates — creatures like insects, spiders, worms, snails and protozoans — and the global ecosystem would collapse, humans and other vertebrates would probably last only a few months, and the planet would belong mostly to algae and fungi.

But does invertebrates' indispensable role in supporting human life earn them any understanding, gratitude, respect or even recognition?  Precious little, according to a new
study that explores both the critical importance of invertebrates and people's attitudes toward them. The study suggests that for the most part people hate the myriad small, spineless; creatures on which their very existence depends and would just as soon see them wiped out.

People have long been repelled by bugs, worms and the like, of course, but hostility to invertebrates has now become a dangerous attitude, says the author of the study.  Dr. Stephen R. Kellert, a professor of social ecology at Yale University, whose findings are reported in the December issue of the journal Conservation Biology.

Catastrophic Losses

Because many people do not know or care much about invertebrates, Dr Kellert said, they do not worry about conserving them. Yet to the extent that humans are precipitating a mass extinction of species, as many biologists believe, invertebrates are being hit the hardest. The world is experiencing a "catastrophic loss" of invertebrate life as natural areas are destroyed and degraded, he writes.  Despite this loss, he continues, "the general public seems largely unaware of its possible impact on human well-being."

Not least because invertebrates are so pervasive, conservationists have lately shifted their focus to the protection of entire ecosystems, with all their multifarious tiny life forms.  Rescuing single species of big animals like tigers, whales, pandas, bears, wolves, eagles and condors is not enough, according to the new phiIosophy; for all their charisma, they are far less important to the maintenance of life than the uncountable armies of the spineless, not to mention vascular plants and bacteria.

"The world is going to go on without golden lemurs and without any one of a number of orchids," but invertebrates "are responsible for all the ecosystem processes," said Melody Allen, the director of the Xerces Society, the country's only conservation organization devoted to invertebrates.  The society, based in Portland, Ore., is named after an extinct butterfly.

90 to 95 Percent of Animal Species

Invertebrates — the group includes mostly insects and spiders but also other soft-bodied and sometimes hard-shelled organisms like crabs, lobsters, clams, squid, sea urchins, jellyfish and sponges — account for 90 to 95 percent of animal species and total animal weight on earth. In reviewing the scientific literature on the subject, Dr. Kellert found that in the United States, for instance, the combined biomass, or dry weight, of earthworms, insects and spiders is 55
times greater than that of humans.

Partly because of their sheer numbers, invertebrates are the biological foundations of every ecosystem.  They are not merely indispensable links in the food chain or key denizens of wild habitats, though they are both of those; to a large extent they are the habitat.  They maintain the soil structure and fertility on which plant growth and thus all higher organisms depend.  They cycle nutrients by consuming decaying matter, pollinate crops and other plants, disperse seeds, keep populations of potentially harmful organisms under control and eliminate wastes. In the ultimate example, colonies of corals, many of them now endangered, provide habitats for a seemingly infinite variety of sea creatures, including perhaps one-third of all fish species.

While scientists know in general that invertebrates are the key to ecosystem functioning, they know comparatively little about the details and, in fact, scientists say that many of the tiny actors are completely unknown.  Consequently, said Ms. Allen, "we can't even recoup our losses" if particular assemblages of invertebrates disappear and their ecosystems consequently fall apart.

On another level, the spineless kingdom directly provides food for innumerable larger organisms, including humans.  People may dislike the look of crabs, as Dr. Kellert reports, but they eat them with gusto, along with lobsters, clams, crayfish, oysters, scallops, octopuses and squids. Many non-Western peoples dote on locusts, ants, termites, grasshoppers and beetle grubs.

One example offered by Dr. Kellert speaks volumes about humans' dependence on invertebrates. In the United Stales, humans produce some 130 million tons of excreta annually, while livestock produces an additional 12 billion tons. "Of this waste," Dr. Kellert writes, "99 percent is thought to be decomposed by invertebrates, leaving one to wonder, if not for our 'little friends', what humans would be 'up to their eyeballs in.'"

If invertebrates are so valuable, then, why do people so often regard them with anxiety and disgust?  That they do so was borne out by a limited survey of attitudes conducted by Dr. Kellert among various economic and social groups in and around New Haven. The survey included 145 members of the general public as well as separate, randomly selected samples
of farmers, scientists and members of conservation groups.

"For the most part," said Dr. Kellert, "we found that aversion, anxiety, disdain, fear and loathing were very prevalent," especially regarding insects and spiders.  A large majority of the genera! public, according to the sampling, displayed dislike of ants, bugs, beetles, ticks, cockroaches and crabs.  A majority expressed willingness to eliminate whole classes of animals altogether, including mosquitoes, cockroaches, fleas, moths and spiders. Farmers conveyed similar altitudes, and both groups disapproved of major expenditures or economic sacrifices on behalf of endangered invertebrates.

Scientists, and to a lesser extent conservation group members, were far more likely to support such efforts. The best-educated people expressed the greatest of conservation concern for invertebrates, as did younger people and men.  Biological scientists, as might be expected, knew more about invertebrates and were more interested in and less afraid of them than other scientists.  A series of true-false questions indicated that most people had a limited knowledge of invertebrates*.

Dr. Kellert's search of the scientific literature turned up a number of possible reasons for humans' aversion, which he offers as speculative explanations.  Some arc obvious:  the ability of some insects to harm people (through stinging and disease transmission) and crops, for instance.  Some scientists have suggested that humans have a genetic predisposition toward this fear, forged out of evolutionary necessity millenniums ago, and that it lias been generalized to include other invertebrates.

Other speculation holds that the appearance of many invertebrates, their otherworldly monstrosity, plays a role. Some scientists also suggest that their overwhelming numbers and rapid reproduction rates challenge human assumptions about personal identity and individuality, that they are perceived as pitiless and devoid of feelings, and that their willingness and ability to invade human space so ingeniously, insidiously and indifferently to human wishes threatens humans' feelings of control and security.  Ignorance  undoubtedly plavs a big role: "For most people," Dr. Kellert writes, "invertebrates remain largely alien and unfathomable."

Some species are exceptions to the general rule of fear and loathing, of course. The Kellert survey found more positive attitudes toward pretty invertebrates like butterflies, and toward useful ones like shrimp and bees and those with recreational value, like mollusks whose shells are collected at the shore.

In this, Dr. Kellert sees cause for hope among conservationists.  Some charismatic butterflies and utilitarian creatures like bees might be enlisted as conservation symbols, just as whales and elephants have been, he says. Likewise, he says, corals might provide an especially effective symbol because "we do have an emotional tendency to recognize order and pattern and harmony, if you will, in nature," and nothing in the world better suggests this than a coral reef.  The association of greater education with increased knowledge and concern about biological diversity in general and invertebrates in particular is (rest of sentence missing).

While it is unlikely that many people will learn to love bugs and slugs, Dr. Kellert wrote, it may be that a greater appreciation of ttieir importance to the ecology and ultimately to human welfare can do much to change human attitudes. Ms. Allen of the Xerces Society says that in her experience, people tend to "get over some of their phobic responses" once they understand invertebrates better.  Even so, she said, "the most difficult thing in the conservation world is to get even other conservationists to realize the role of invertebrates."

New York Times 21 December 1993

Spineless:  A Pop Quiz

These items are selected from the questionnaire used by Dr. Stephen R Kellert to assess people's understanding of invertebrates. Test your own knowledge by choosing "True" or "False" for each statement.

1.  No insect species is currently endangered.

2.  People should try to keep earthworms out of their gardens.

3.  Swarming bees usually will not sting.

4.  Caterpillars are more closely related to earthworms than to beetles.

5.  A sponge is a large species of seaweed.

6.  Insects cannot carry plants or animals greater than their own weight.

7.  Most insect species living in fields are harmful to crops.

8.  Most insects have backbones.

9.  The snail darter is an endangered butterfly.

10. Most insects will lay only a few eggs at one time.

11. Dragonflies sting humans.

12. An octopus is a type of fish.

13. Herbicides are used to control aphids and other insects.

14. Insects visiting flowers are unnecessary in modern fruit farming.

15. Spiders have a different number of legs than flies.

16. Queen bees get their names because of the way they rule their workers.

17. Coral reefs are made by plants.

18.  All species of bees collect pollen.

19.  The gypsy moth is a severe pest in vegetable gardens.

20.  Malaria is transmitted by fleas.

Answers:  1 - F, 2 - F, 3 - T, 4 - F, 5 - F, 6 - F, 7 - F, 8 - F, 9 - F, 10 - F, 11 - F, 12 - F, 13 - F, 14 - F, 15 - T, 16 - F, 17 - F, 18 - T, 19 - F, 20 - F.


16.  Notes & Queries, Guardian Weekly
In the stories of old, why are witches always wicked, while wizards are thoroughly decent chaps?

It's all part of the great conspiracy to downgrade women. Spinsters are relegated to the shelf but bachelors remain eligible. The hero is a wonder whereas the heroine is a lesser being. Poet or poetess? Author and authoress? The -ess added to the male form is nicely diminutive. Let us not, however, think of such examples as sexist. It is more a case of language being used to reflect sexist attitudes in society.
Ursula Nixon, Bodalla, NSW, Australia

• Witches and wizards are a bit like apples and oranges. They resemble each other but are not the same thing. Witches, with the exception of Glinda in The Wizard of Oz, are bad: hags, crones etc. Wizards, on the other hand, are sage, foreseeing and intelligent, with the exception of the eponymous aforementioned resident of Oz, who was a bit dim.
Peter Vaughan, St Senoch, France

• It was said that the fact that witches burned at the stake proved their wickedness. They were probably wise women who threatened the status quo.
Margaret Wilkes, Perth, Western Australia

• Because the stories were written by men?
Nigel Grinter, Chicago, Illinois, US

• It's a gender bias. Wizards are male, so that's OK. No way there could have been a Harriet Potter.
Chris Barnett, Tokyo, Japan

Longevity can be a bad trip
If brevity is the soul of wit, what is longevity?

The punishment for a celibate and teetotal life.
Alasdair Courtney, Perth, Western Australia

• It's what caused Methuselah to lose his sense of humour.
Joan Dawson, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

• For Lonesome George, longevity was a solo trip.
Howard Wiseman, Brisbane, Australia

• It's the opposite. Tell an old joke and see what happens.
E Slack, L'Isle Jourdain, France

• Painful.
Philip Stigger, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada

• The sole halfwit.
Bryan Furnass, Canberra, Australia

• Often the cause of losing your wits.
Barrie Sargeant, Otaki Beach, New Zealand

Really taking the biscuit
Why are most biscuit tin lids square?

Because it makes it easier to fit on to the square tins.
Dorothy Holmes, Palmerston North, New Zealand

• Well, that question certainly takes the biscuit!
John Ryder, Kyoto, Japan

A very knotty question
What does the Queen carry in her purse?

Someone I know was once sitting next to the Queen at a dinner. As a result of something that came up in conversation, she said she needed to remember to do something the next day. So she opened her bag, took out a handkerchief, tied a knot in it and put it back in her bag. My acquaintance happened to know that the reminder was effective.
Christine Reid, Eastbourne, UK

Any answers?
When did neocons become neoliberals? Is this some kind of con job?

Colin Horricks, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

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