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.

Monday, October 29, 2012


Nations with high growth rates hinder efforts by all for climate and energy solutions.  That includes our own, where economic “elites” swoon at the mere thought of population stabilization…economist Kenneth Boulding said, “Anyone who believes exponential growth can go on forever in a finite world is either a madman or an economist.”  LTE, High Country News 23/6/08

“The raging monster upon the land is population growth. In its presence, sustainability is but a fragile, theoretical concept.” Edward O. Wilson

1.   What is a mushroom anyway?  Thurs Nov 1
2.   A pedal-powered tour of green infrastructure in SF Nov 3
3.   Feedback:  Power of the press
4.   Joy Harjo, a profile/Eagle Poem/Remember the sky you were born under....
5.   Wanted: Before/After pix of California
6.   How We're Getting Climate Change Wrong/climate potpourri
7.   Winter and Spring Outdoor Adventures in Yosemite
8.   'Tis the season - for polypody ferns

California Native Plant Society meeting - free and open to the public
What is a mushroom anyway?
Speaker, J.R. Blair
Thursday 1 November, 7.30 pm
SF County Fair Bldg
9th Av & Lincoln Way in Golden Gate Park

We will learn about the role of mushrooms in the life cycle of the fungal organism. Then we find out about the role of fungi in the environment and how other organisms, such as plants and animals, interact and are affected by fungi.

J.R. Blair received his Master’s degree at San Francisco State University in 1999 studying with the accomplished mycologist, Dr. Dennis Desjardin. His thesis was Fungi Associated with Arctostaphylos in Northern California. Since that time he has been an active member of the Mycological Society of San Francisco. He served a two-year term as President and has been the Fungus Fair chairperson four times. He has been teaching mushroom identification workshops for MSSF for about five years. Currently he is a lecturer of biology at SFSU and is the director of the University’s Sierra Nevada Field Campus.

(JS:  Those who are interested in the intricate relations between below-ground organisms and plant roots will find this a rewarding program.  There's lots more going on than is apparent to our eye.)


2.  Slow it! Spread it! Sink it! SF Bicycle Tour
A Pedal Powered Tour of Green Infrastructure in San Francisco

Saturday November 3, 1 pm to 4 pm
Meet at SFPUC Headquarters, 525 Golden Gate Ave @ Polk St.

Did you know 9.5 billion gallons of rainwater flow through the city’s sewer system and into the Bay and Ocean every year? The City is committed to designing innovative ways to keep that water out of the sewer system – through building green streets, installing permeable pavement, and developing systems to reuse it. Join city staff and design experts for a pedal powered tour of the city’s newest green infrastructure installations. Come learn about the history and future of stormwater in SF!

Please RSVP on our Facebook page at! Or email


3.  Feedback

Gray Brechin:
Dear Jake,  I read in your October 23 issue about Eric Hobsbawm's (and your) concern about our growing historical amnesia. It concerns me as well, especially in our local Newspaper of Record which leaves so much out to its owners' benefit.

Take a column in the Chronicle by editorial writer Lois Kazakoff who attended a recent talk at the Commonwealth Club where former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wowed 'em with her traveling schtick promoting cvic education and responsibility. This is the same Supreme Court Justice whose partisan swing vote stopped the election recount in Florida in 2000, thus giving the world George W. Bush, the loser of the popular vote. That subversion of democracy in turn paved the way for two right-wing justices and the equally outrageous Citizens United decision which opened the floodgates to the unlimited cash which has terminally poisoned U.S. politics. With the help of an uncritical mass media, O'Connor has left that all behind to remake herself as an icon of democratic literacy and feminism, just a smart cowgirl from Arizona who made it to the top.

Even more predictably, the Hearst-owned Chronicle has been on a bender promoting the company-produced "documentary" Citizen Hearst on the 125th anniversary of William Randolph Hearst's acquisition of the San Francisco Examiner. Leah Garchik (among others) wrote two lengthy articles about the gala parties in New York and San Francisco an on what a swell guy William Randolph Hearst was.. She neglected to note that the American Federation of Teachers named him the "chief exponent of Fascism in the United States," that historian Charles Beard called him "the creator of this aggregation of wealth, terror, and ambition," and that Senator George Norris described the Hearst press as "the sewage system of American journalism." Hearst was, in short, the Rupert Murdoch of his time.

Like you, I'm not sure whether this lack of knowledge is a consequence of our reliance upon machines to remember for us or manipulation by special interests, but I lean towards the latter. As A.J. Liebling famously said, freedom of the press belong to those who own one. Those who do subtly shape our thought and votes even more by what they omit to their and their class's advantage than by what they print.


Eagle Poem

To pray you open your whole self
To sky, to earth, to sun, to moon
To one whole voice that is you.
And know there is more
That you can't see, can't hear
Can't know except in moments
Steadily growing, and in languages
That aren't always sound but other
Circles of motion.
Like eagle that Sunday morning
Over Salt River.  Circles in blue sky
In wind, swept our hearts clean
With sacred wings.
We see you, see ourselves and know
That we must take the utmost care
And kindness in all things.
Breathe in, knowing we are made of
All this, and breathe, knowing
We are truly blessed because we
Were born, and die soon, within a
True circle of motion,
Like eagle rounding out the morning
Inside us.
We pray that it will be done
In beauty.
In beauty.

~ Joy Harjo ~

(How We Become Human: New and Selected Poems 1975-2001)

Already gone: a profile of Native American poet Joy Harjo

Hometown: Creek Nation, Okla. "My house is the red earth; it could be the center of the world. I've heard New York, Paris or Tokyo called the center of the world, but I say it is magnificently humble. You could drive by and miss it." From her prose-poem book Secrets from the Center of the World (1989)

Vocation: Poet, playwright, writer and musician with Joy Harjo and the Arrow Dynamics Band, in which she sings and plays sax and flute.

She says: "It's very important that all children, I think, and all people, have access to arts and are educated in arts. When a culture starts losing that, or the culture no longer thinks it's important, then you know the culture is in danger."

Profile - From the October 15, 2012 issue by Laura Paskus

The poet Joy Harjo claims to remember her struggle through the birth canal –– leaving a past world as a warrior with weapons in hand and entering this one "puny and female and Indian in lands that were stolen."

Most people don't wonder about the lives they might have lived before they were born into this one; most of us don't go beyond abstractions such as "heaven" or "spirit" when we wonder about what follows our departure from this earth. But Harjo has spent decades exploring the connections between worlds in story and song. Now 61, with striking dark hair and a warm, husky voice, Harjo has written seven books of poetry -- including She Had Some Horses and In Mad Love and War -- and performed solo and with her band, The Arrow Dynamics. She's taught creative writing across the West, including at the University of Arizona and the University of New Mexico, and traveled the world collecting accolades and awards, such as the Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Award and the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America. She's also written children's books, including For a Girl Becoming, and most recently a memoir, Crazy Brave.

Everyone, Harjo believes, enters this world with a map buried deep in the heart. People know, she says, when they abandon the instructions they're supposed to follow. She had wanted to write about her experiences as a teenaged mother, or about what music has meant to her life –– riding with her parents through Oklahoma in the 1950s, she first heard Miles Davis on the car radio and his trumpet suspended her in "whirling stars." But the story Harjo needed to tell wasn't about motherhood or music. And finally, after 14 years of trying, Harjo surrendered and wrote Crazy Brave.

Writing the memoir may have returned Harjo to places and moments she'd rather not revisit. But reading it offers relief to those who don't always consider "home" a refuge, or who learn in childhood that adults and ancestors are not always graceful or good. "For most people the definition of 'home' is definitely rooted. There is that statement of fact: 'I was born in Tulsa, Okla., in the Creek Nation,' " she says. "But it's a place of shifting: This is not our original home, we were removed by the U.S. government -- and maybe that makes me aware of the disjuncture between the standard definition of home and what home really might be for some people."

Harjo didn't find home until the 1960s, when she came to New Mexico as a teenager. Escaping from her stepfather's house of "bad spirits and pain," she left Oklahoma and attended the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) in Santa Fe. "As soon as I crossed over the state line, as soon as I was heading up that route from Clines Corners toward Santa Fe, I knew," she says. "My spirit, the heart's voice, the heart's presence, knew I was in the presence of home."

Harjo had already discovered poetry -- on her eighth birthday, her mother gave her Louis Untermeyer's Golden Books Family Treasury of Poetry -- and at IAIA she immersed herself in drawing and painting, then performance art. Being surrounded by other American Indian students was a transformative experience. "It was in the fires of creativity at the Institute that my spirit found a place to heal. I thrived with others who carried family and personal stories similar to my own," she writes in Crazy Brave. To be acknowledged and encouraged as artist, she says, saved her life.

Even today, Harjo can't say exactly what made New Mexico feel like home. It seems as though she isn't so much grounded on this earth as she is moving between the worlds, creating new stories and connecting the voices of her ancestors with those of younger generations.

"I feel like I carry a home with me, that has been with me through time," she says. "I'm also aware that this time falls away fast. On some level, I'm already gone. I'm already gone, and I'm very aware of that."

Laura Paskus in High Country News


Remember the sky that you were born under,
know each of the star's stories.
Remember the moon, know who she is. I met her
in a bar once in Iowa City.
Remember the sun's birth at dawn, that is the
strongest point of time. Remember sundown
and the giving away to night.
Remember your birth, how your mother struggled
to give you form and breath. You are evidence of
her life, and her mother's, and hers.
Remember your father. He is your life also.
Remember the earth whose skin you are:
red earth, black earth, yellow earth, white earth
brown earth, we are earth.
Remember the plants, trees, animal life who all have their
tribes, their families, their histories, too. Talk to them,
listen to them. They are alive poems.
Remember the wind. Remember her voice. She knows the
origin of this universe. I heard her singing Kiowa war
dance songs at the corner of Fourth and Central once.
Remember that you are all people and that all people are you.
Remember that you are this universe and that this universe is you.
Remember that all is in motion, is growing, is you.
Remember that language comes from this.
Remember the dance that language is, that life is.

~ Joy Harjo ~

(How We Become Human)

Once in his life a man ought to concentrate his mind upon the remembered earth. He ought to give himself up to a particular landscape in his experience, to look at it from as many angles as he can, to wonder upon it, to dwell upon it. He ought to imagine that he touches it with his hands at every season and listens to the sounds that are made upon it.  He ought to imagine the creatures there and all the faintest motions of the wind.        N. Scott Momaday


5.  Californians for Population Stabilization

New CAPS Project: The California We are Losing: Bring us your views of the Golden State's Transition...Pristine to Imperiled
Search your bookcases and closets for books, diaries, film, maps, photos or other materials showing special California places  of the past (ideally, views of what those places look like today too)! Send us what you find for a new CAPS project … read on!


Climate change

How to fix it

Climate change needs better regulation, not more political will

Oct 20th 2012 | from The Economist

The Carbon Crunch: How We’re Getting Climate Change Wrong—and How to Fix It. By Dieter Helm.

IN DECEMBER 2009, as the Copenhagen climate conference fell apart, the chairman of Greenpeace UK, John Sauven, said “the city of Copenhagen is a crime scene tonight, with the guilty men and women fleeing to the airport.” His remark captured some of the salient characteristics of climate policy: the importance of treaties and regulation; the central role of politicians, advocacy groups and non-governmental organisations such as Greenpeace; the pervasive moral certainty; and, though this was only in the background, the commitment to renewable energy, especially wind and solar power, as the primary means of cutting carbon emissions.

For many people, the great problem of climate change has been a failure of regulation and political will. If only, they say, the obligations of the Kyoto accord had been more comprehensive, the regulations stricter, or if more money had gone into renewables. Then the world might have reined in the temperature rise and the public would not have become so sceptical about climate change.

Not so, says Dieter Helm of Oxford University. It is not the failure of the regulations that is the problem but their basic design. They have caused people to focus on the most expensive ways of mitigating climate change, rather than the cheapest, imposing high costs for little gain. Moreover, by concentrating on their own carbon production, and how to reduce it, Europeans have ignored the impact of their continued demand for goods made using carbon- intensive processes. Since Chinese and Indian manufacturing is usually dirtier than Europe’s, the real upshot of Europe’s choices has been an increase in global emissions. The regulatory approach, argues Mr Helm, has got the worst of all worlds. It is expensive, it has not cut emissions and its treaties are unworkable. No wonder the public is growing sceptical.

The heart of Mr Helm’s book is an examination of the economics of renewable energy. Take wind farms. Wind-power generators are expensive. But this is only part of the problem. They are also intermittent. One day last February, wind power produced almost a third of German electricity; four days later, nothing (it was a calm day). This, argues Mr Helm, has damaging consequences. Supplies are unreliable so wind does not really add to the security of a nation’s energy supplies though proponents argue that it does. Nations have to build lots of spare capacity for windless days. This was fine when wind farms were marginal, but now they produce a tenth of Germany’s electricity and their output is rising fast. To make matters worse, wind messes with the economics of the spare capacity, too. When the wind blows, the extra energy is free. Other forms cannot compete and the standby generators have to close. But other sorts of power stations are not designed to be switched on and off: they are supposed to run all the time. Since energy cannot yet easily be stored, wind farms are making other forms of energy uneconomic.

The system therefore relies on a panoply of subsidies which, as night follows day, has produced an enormous industry to compete for them—wind and solar firms, lobbyists, NGOs and politicians. The entire renewables sector, Mr Helm argues, has become an orgy of rent-seeking.

Green activists, politicians and NGOs will hate this book. But Mr Helm has done a service to everyone else by describing what a global climate-change mitigation regime would look like if one took economics seriously. You would start, he says, with the cheapest way of reducing carbon emissions (not the dearest), meaning gas, especially abundant shale gas. Gas produces less than half as much carbon per unit of energy as coal and about 50% less than oil. But the French government wants to ban shale-gas production.

Second, you would introduce a carbon tax, rather than (as now) a carbon price. These sound similar, being different ways of embodying in the price of a good the real cost of the carbon it takes to make. Actually, a tax is better. To see the difference, consider an extremely toxic substance such as mercury. Even a small amount in a river can do immense damage, so this is a case for strict permits, which should be tradable to encourage efficiency. You want fixed amounts and a variable price. Carbon is different. A small amount extra makes little odds. But miscalculating the cost of reducing emissions, as the world is doing, is expensive. In this case it would be better to fix a price (ie, a tax) and let the quantities vary. Third, Mr Helm argues, some of the money that goes on renewables would be better spent on future clean technologies such as carbon capture, energy storage and electric vehicles.

This prescription is unrealistic. Europeans are too committed to their regulatory approach to change now. But Americans, Chinese and Indians would learn a lot from Mr Helm about cutting carbon emissions rationally. And all readers will get a cogent account of how self-defeating current global climate-change policies are turning out to be.


An error of emission

Inter-industry carbon shuffling and optimistic figures mask the true extent of the environmental damage of flying, warns George Monbiot

Almost everyone in politics appears to want to forget about aviation’s impact on the environment.…In the same month the secretary of state for communities launched a bold plan to make new homes more energy efficient. She claimed it would save 7m tonnes of carbon. A day later the transport secretary, Douglas Alexander, announced that he would allow airports to keep growing: by 2030 the number of passengers will increase from 228 million to 465 million. As a result, according to a report commissioned by the Department for Environment, carbon emissions will rise by between 22m and 36m tonnes. So much for joined-up government.

The British government says it will cut carbon dioxide emissions by 60% between 1990 and 2050. In November it promised to introduce a climate change bill, which will make this target legally binding. Douglas Alexander's decision ensures that the new law will be broken.

…So how does the government navigate this contradiction? It's simple. It doesn't include international aircraft emissions in its target. Whatever their impact on the world's atmosphere might be, they don't officially exist.

Excerpted from Guardian Weekly, 5 Jan 07

(Remember, he’s referring to England; the very same thing is happening in every country of the world.  Monbiot exposes all the hoopla about addressing climate warming—it is mostly political show.  Flying, and other climate-change culprits are too embedded in the way we live, so it makes change impossible, and “environmentalists” are as guilty as anyone.  JS)

Comment (in Guardian Weekly)

Change all the light bulbs you want
Juliette Jowitt asks why we are unwilling to address the accelerating growth in the world's population

In the time it takes you to get to the end of this sentence, seven people have been added to the world population. At this rate the UN estimates that the number of people on the planet will nearly double by the middle of this century. Even with significant reductions in birthrates, the population is expected to increase from 6.7 billion now to 9.2 billion by 2050.

These figures are staggering. Yet there was hardly a mention of them in a major story last week: the announcement by Britain's two main political parties of how they will tackle what is commonly agreed to be the biggest threat facing the planet, global warming.

Labour unveiled its climate change bill promising to cut emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases by 60% from 1990 levels by 2050. Suggested policies to achieve this ranged from banning standby buttons on electrical equipment and inefficient light bulbs to "capture and storage" of pollution from coal-fired power stations.

These have been well-intentioned, if not always convincing ideas. All the standby buttons and low-energy light bulbs are dwarfed by the pressure of a global population rising by the equivalent of Britain every year.

Put simply, if governments want to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 60%, and the world's population rises to the mid-range forecast of 9.2 billion, each person would have to slash emissions by 72%. More efficient technology, renewable energy and lifestyle changes will help to do that, but growing prosperity and consumption in developing countries will also make it harder. That all our low-energy light bulbs, home insulation, efficient cars, boilers and washing machines have so far failed to stop emissions growing illustrates how difficult it will be to cut them.

Some activists argue that the Earth can support a population of only 2-3 billion, even as few as 500 million in future. But even if reducing the world's population is unlikely or distasteful, it is incredible that there is not a debate about limiting growth.

Some people question whether there is a problem at all. At a global level, optimists say advances in science and technology will provide the solution.

But other evidence suggests that it is too soon to relax. Even if huge advances can be made in slashing greenhouse gases, there is an argument that densely populated countries cannot cope with local environmental stresses such as home-building, fresh water use, waste, traffic, light pollution and noise. More worryingly, the evidence that technology can solve the problem is not yet convincing: the recent failure of European car makers to make voluntary reductions is a reminder that emissions are still rising.

There remains another barrier to raising the population issue: even when people acknowledge the problem, it seems too big to solve. But things can be done at least to reduce population growth. Last week the UN population fund said its latest projections "underline the urgency of family planning needs". It says 200 million women in the world do not have access to "safe and effective" contraceptive services and calls for a big increase in funding for family planning, especially in developing nations. Britain's Optimum Population Trust (OPT) calls for 45 countries to drop policies to increase birthrates, which were introduced mostly because of worries about paying pensions for an ageing population.

Is this enough to tackle such a big issue? Even with the most optimistic assumptions about falling birthrates, the UN forecasts a population increase to 7.8 billion by 2050. But that is still considerably less than 9.2 billion. And the OPT says the success of campaigns in countries such as Iran and Thailand suggests that the best family planning services, especially combined with women's education and human rights, could go even further.
It is understandable, then, that people are worried about discussing population, but fear of failure is not a good enough reason to ignore one half of the world's biggest problem: the population effect on climate change.

A Baltimore Sun opinion article by John Seager:  “If we had zero population growth, part of the global warming problem would, well, melt away.”

If the population of China walked past you, in single file, the line would never end because of the rate of reproduction.

"Don't speak to me of shortage. My world is vast and has more than enough--for no more than enough. There is a shortage of nothing, save will and wisdom; but there is a longage of people." —Garrett Hardin

“For every single gallon of gasoline burned, 20 pounds of carbon dioxide go into the atmosphere.  Carbon dioxide is considered a main culprit in global warming.  Union of Concerned Scientists


7.  Yosemite Conservancy Unveils Winter and Spring Outdoor Adventures in Yosemite National Park

This Year’s January-June Programs Include Scheduled Outings and Customized Opportunities from Backpacking and Photography to Native American History

Yosemite National Park, November 1, 2012 – Yosemite Conservancy announced new ways for visitors to experience Yosemite National Park through its Yosemite Outdoor Adventures programs   from photography courses on capturing stunning natural phenomena, snowshoe treks among giant sequoia trees, to springtime geology and birding field seminars.

“Our Yosemite Outdoor Adventures program opens doors to Yosemite that most people have not hiked through. They offer rare opportunities to enjoy everything the park has to offer with expert instructors,” said Mike Tollefson, president of Yosemite Conservancy.

When the July-December programs are announced in January, more than 40 Yosemite Outdoor Adventures field programs will be available for park visitors to hike, observe, experience and explore Yosemite. Instructors have decades of experience in the park and in their areas of expertise. Programs occur throughout the park from the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias to Tuolumne Meadows, and to the steep slopes of Half Dome. Other programs include hikes to learn about little-known history of Yosemite Valley, discovering how American Indian baskets are made, and photographing landscapes in autumn light. These programs supplement National Park Service interpretive offerings.

Groups and families can also customize their experiences in Yosemite with the Conservancy’s naturalist-guides. Anyone can register for a Yosemite Outdoor Adventure or inquire about a customized experience on Yosemite Conservancy’s website. Custom Adventures might lead you on a birding quest, a challenge hike or to explore incredible geology in the park – whatever you like.  An increasing number of travel companies are using the Conservancy’s experts for interpreting the park to their clients.

“The Conservancy’s Yosemite Outdoor Adventures are a great hands-on way to gain a deeper appreciation for Yosemite’s wildlife, geology and cultural history, and a have a great time doing it,” said Yosemite National Park Chief of Interpretation & Education, Tom Medema. Program fees generated by participating in Yosemite Outdoor Adventures support the Conservancy’s extensive work in the park.

About Yosemite Conservancy
Yosemite Conservancy is the only philanthropic organization dedicated exclusively to the protection and preservation of Yosemite National Park and enhancement of the visitor experience. The Conservancy works to restore trails, protect wildlife through scientific research and habitat restoration, and offers outdoor programs that provide visitors with unique ways to connect with the park. It has funded over 300 projects through $60 million in grants in areas including trail and habitat restoration, wildlife protection, education, volunteering, and the production of award winning books and DVDs.
Learn more at or call 1-800-469-7275.


8.  'Tis the season

Polypody ferns, by Tom Annese
(reprinted from Yerba Buena News)

For many of us, the polypody "blooms" are one of the first signs of winter. After the first heavy rain, California polypody (Polypodium californicum) emerges from our north-facing cliffs, rock outcrops, and sandy banks.

Unlike its close cousin, leather fern (Polypodium scouleri), California polypody is ephemeral, meaning that its leaves shrivel and disappear in the dry months and reappear after the first autumn rains. Both polypodies are epiphytic.  Those of us in the fog belt occasionally enjoy a second California polypody "bloom" in particularly foggy summers.

The National Guard Amory at Mission and 14th Street is one of the oddest polypody sites in San Francisco. The huge, seismically-unfit, brick building has sat vacant for 30 years and is known more for its drug addicts and redevelopment battles than for its status as a historic landmark.  If you look at the gritty north face of the building on 14th Street, just east of the service entrance steps, you'll find a few small patches of California polypody.  (Another maverick polypody appearance was [still?] on the marble walls of the entrance to the BART Civic Center station nearest to City Hall.  JS)

The ferns have rooted among the mossy, lichen-filled clinker bricks, the dark, misshapen bricks that give the Armory walls their three-dimensional appearance. With some imagination, the armory clinker bricks resemble the chert outcrops where in San Francisco polypody ferns often grow.

No comments:

Post a Comment