Archive for the ‘Nature’ Category

Winners of the 2021 nature photo awards

March 13, 2022

My friend Hal Bauer called my attention to the winners of the 2021 World Nature Photography Awards.  Here’s a partial selection.

In nature, there is no justice or mercy, but there is beauty and awesomeness.

Grand Prize Winner, Behavior of Mammals by Amos Nachoum, USA.

Gold Prize Winner, Invertebrate Behavior by Chin Leong Teo, Singapore.

Gold Prize Winner, Animals in Their Habitat by Thomas Vijayan, Canada.

Gold Prize Winner, Plants and Fungi by Gautam Kamat Bambolkar, India.

Gold Prize Winner, Urban Wildlife by Matthjis Noome, USA.

Gold Prize Winner, Planet Earth’s Landscapes and Environment by Sam Wilson, Australia.

You can click to enlarge all these photographs.

LINKS

Our 2021 Winners on the World Nature Photography Awards web site.  This archives all the gold, silver and bronze winners for 2021 and the back stories of the 13 gold winners.  The alternate links are on two web sites that are of interest to anyone who is interested in good photographs.

The Winners of the 2021 World Nature Photography Awards by Jason Kottke for kottke.org..

20 Mesmerizing Nature Photos That Won the 2021 World Nature Photography Awards on deMilked.

Book note: Braiding Sweetgrass

December 9, 2021

BRAIDING SWEETGRASS: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Wisdom of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer (2013)

Sweetgrass is an aromatic grass found in Canada and the northern USA.  Indigenous people of the Great Lakes believe it was a gift from Skywoman, a divine being who brought plant life to earth. They pluck the grass reverently, gather it into three bundles and weave it into braids.  Then they make the braids into baskets, which, according to their tradition, should always be given away, never sold for money.

Robin Wall Kimmerer is a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation and distinguished teaching professor at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse. In this book, she weaves together three strands—indigenous ways of knowledge, scientific knowledge and stories of her own life and lives of her ancestors.

She does not draw a line between humanity and the natural world; she sees them as parts of the same thing.  She does not draw a line between scientific knowledge and indigenous knowledge; she sees them as two ways of understanding the same reality.  

Indigenous knowledge has its own validity; scientific knowledge has its own beauty and awesomeness.  But both are needed.  Neither one is a substitute for the other.

She weaves her book out of many strands—myth, history, botanical lore, cultural survival, environmental and ecological issues, and her own experiences.   It is a rich tapestry, and I’ll only pick out a couple of the strands.

One strand is the Indian idea of the Honorable Harvest.  The idea is that it is permissible for humans use plants and animals to serve their own needs, but it has to be done with restraint and gratitude.

The rules are: Never take the first thing you find, because it may be the only one.  Never take more than half of what you find.  Never take more than you need.  Show respect and express gratitude for what you are given.  And give back as well as take.

This is a form of reverence for life that embraces acceptance of the fact of death.  Some sweetgrass has to be plucked or else the rest will not get enough sunlight and nutrients.  Some deer must fall to predators or hunters, or else the herd will starve.  My life and yours must end someday, or else there will be no room for new people.

Even if we get what we need from the supermarket rather than the forest, we can show gratitude and avoid greed and waste.

Another strand is the idea that plants are teachers.  Kimmerer shows the grandeur of cedar trees and the amazing tenacity of lichen and moss, but there is more to it than that.

It is a wonder and a mystery that living things can be brought into existence by the photosynthesis of light, air and water.  If it weren’t familiar, we’d call it a miracle.

Nor are plants passive entities.  They move and adapt to their environments, although at a pace of seasons and decades, not seconds and minutes.  They communicate and cooperate, using biochemistry instead of words and gestures.  Indeed, as she wrote, plants can be our teachers.

(more…)

Eyes on the prize

July 17, 2021

The [red-tailed] hawk is hunting, floating on the wind searching for small prey, its head perfectly still while its body stabilizes around it.  I could watch this clip on repeat for the rest of the day…so cool!

This is not just a thing that hawks do — see also This Owl Will Not Move His Head and The Eerie Stillness of Chicken Heads.  Birds: nature’s steadycams.

Source: Jason Kottke on kottke.org.

The coming of spring

May 2, 2021

The Trees

by Philip Larkin

The trees are coming into leaf

like something almost being said;

the recent buds relax and spread,

their greenness is a kind of grief.

Is it that they are born again

and we grow old? No, they die too.

Their yearly trick of looking new

is written down in rings of grain.

Yet still the un-resting castles thresh

in full-grown thickness every May.

Last year is dead, they seem to say,

Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.

The passing scene: March 22, 2021

March 22, 2021

Here are some articles I think are interesting.  Maybe you will, too.

Steve Donziger Ecuador Case: Q&A With Human Rights Lawyer Under House Arrest by Jack Holmes for Esquire.  This lawyer won a lawsuit against Texaco (since acquired by Chevron), which lasted from 1993 to 2011, on behalf of farmers and indigenous people who lived in the Amazon rain forest, who accused the company of dumping cancer-causing toxic waste where they lived.  THey won a $9.8 billion award.  Chevron refused to pay and counter-sued their lawyer. Awaiting a verdict, he has been under house arrest for more than 580 days for refusing to hand over his computer and phone with confidential lawyer-client information on them.  Incredible!

How the West Lost COVID by David Wallace-West for New York magazine.  “How did so many rich countries get it so wrong?  How did others get it so right?”  This is the best article I’ve read on this particular topic.

Your Face Is Not Your Own by Kashmir Hill for the New York Times. “When a secretive start-up scraped the Internet to build a facial-recognition tool, it tested a legal and ethical limit—and blew the future of privacy in America wide open.”  (Hat tip to O.)

Nina Turner: “Good ideas are not enough.  We need to marry our ideas to power”, an interview for Jacobin magazine.  (Hat tip to Bill Harvey)

New study shows microplastics turn into ‘hubs’ for pathogens, antibiotic-resistant bacteria by Jesse Jenkins of New Jersey Institute of Technology.

The Crow Whisperer by Lauren Markham for Harper’s magazine.  “What happens when we talk to animals?” 

How did the octopus get to be so smart?

March 20, 2021

The Earth’s first intelligent life-form was not a primate or a dolphin.

Good Samaritan bunny helps a kitten

March 10, 2021

I don’t know whether the rabbit and the kitten were friends, or whether the rabbit is an altruist.

Surfing sea lions, having fun

January 30, 2021

The comeback of the bald eagle

November 27, 2020

Writers for Bored Panda say this map represents nesting places of bald eagles in Wisconsin in 1974 and 2019.  They attribute the 45-year comeback to the Clean Water Act.

The flight paths of an eagle who got around

November 27, 2020

Writers for Bored Panda say this represents the tracked flights of one eagle over 20 years.

What lies in the ocean’s depths?

August 1, 2020

Click on The Deep Sea for a look.

Is green technology a mirage?

June 9, 2020

If a problem cannot be solved, it may not be a problem, but a fact.  [Attributed to Donald Rumsfeld]

It is possible to ignore reality, but it is not possible to ignore the consequences of ignoring reality.  [Attributed to Ayn Rand]

A new Michael Moore movie, “Planet of the Humans,” is an attack on the renewable energy movement.  Environmentalists by and large are outraged, and some demanded the movie be suppressed.

It actually was taken down from YouTube for 11 days, but it’s back up now.  If it is taken down again, you can view it on the Planet of the Humans Home page.

It runs for 100 minutes, which is a long time to watch something on a computer screen.  But it held my interest, and maybe it would hold yours, too.

In the first part of the movie, director Jeff Gibbs shows that solar panels and windmills are built through energy-intensive industrial processes and that they are made of materials such as high-grade quartz and rare earths that are scarce and non-renewable.

Solar panels and windmills wear out and have to be replaced.  In one scene, he visits Daggett, California, which pioneered in the development of solar and wind energy.  He sees a wasteland of dilapidated panels and windmills, because the pioneers couldn’t afford to keep them up.

And they don’t even fully replace fossil fuels.  Because of variability of sun and wind, backup electrical generators have to keep spinning, and the ones that aren’t hydroelectric use coal, gas and nuclear fuel.

In the second part, he looks at the environmental destruction caused by biomass energy.  There is no gain from freeing yourself from dependence on coal companies and embracing logging companies.

He makes a big point of pointing out the corporate ties of environmental organizations such as the Sierra Club and of environmentalists such as Al Gore, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Richard Branson and even Bill McKibben.

He questions the whole premise, promoted by advocates such as Al Gore, that it is possible for middle-class Americans to enjoy our current material standard of living simply by adopting a new technology.

Fossil fuels made possible a world with an exponentially increasing population with the average individual using an ever-increasing amount of fuel and raw materials, Gibbs said.  Such a world isn’t sustainable, he said.

(more…)

Under the electron microscope

March 28, 2020

There are many more than 10 amazing images in this video, although none of the coronavirus.

The coming of spring

March 15, 2020

Coyote and badger hunt as a team

February 8, 2020

Coyotes and badgers sometimes hunt together as a team.

When the coyote chases a ground squirrel, the squirrel will take refuge in a burrow.  When the badger digs a ground squirrel out of a burrow, the squirrel will emerge from a different hole and run away.

Teaming up, the coyote and badger catch more prey than they could hunting apart.

The Hopi and Navajo have stories about the tricky coyote and stolid badger working together.  I myself never knew about this until I saw these videos on kottke.org.

Kangaroos hopping through the Australian snow

August 25, 2019

This video was shot about two weeks ago in New South Wales, Australia, where it is, of course, winter.

I understand that it’s a mistake to attribute human emotions to animals, but these guys sure look like they’re having a good time.

Peregrine falcons are feathered fighter jets

August 24, 2019

Peregrine falcons have a top speed of more than 200 miles per hour.

I found this video from KQED Deep Look on the Boing Boing web site.

Light shining through hummingbird wings

July 13, 2019

Photographer Christian Spencer shot these pictures of jacobin hummingbirds from his verandah in Rio de Janeiro.  The translucent wings act as a kind of prism that turns each bird into a tiny rainbow.

(more…)

Flying with migrating birds

April 27, 2019

Hat tip to kottke.org.

A giant floating ice disk forms in Maine

January 19, 2019

This video, taken last weekend, shows a massive spinning ice disk in the Presumptscot River near Westbrook, Maine, which is just west of Portland.  Local residents say it is 100 yards across, which would make it possibly the largest such ice disk on record.  Wonders never cease.

Click on A Massive Naturally Occurring Ice Carousel by Jason Kottke for more information.

From the Big Bang to the origin of humanity

December 22, 2018

This 10-minute history of the universe shows all the amazing things that had to happen in order for the human race—that is, for you and me—to exist.

It’s quite a story.  My question is: Where are we in the story?  Are we near the end?  Or at the beginning?  Or somewhere in the middle?

I grew up reading science fiction, and envisioned the human race spreading out to the planets, then to other solar systems and perhaps other galaxies.  I now realize this can’t be taken for granted, but I also know I don’t have the knowledge to set limits on the future.  If life is a rare event in the universe, could it be the destiny of humanity to spread life beyond its point of origin?

Or are we at the end of the story?  Is it the destiny of the human race to use its intelligence to wipe itself out—through nuclear war, through plague, through runaway global warming or just through loss of the will to live.

Or is the history of civilization is just a blip in the life of a species evolved to be hunter-gatherers?

Migratory birds hitch rides on merchant ships

November 17, 2018

Caterpillars on parade

November 10, 2018

I can’t help but find this funny.

The total weight of life on earth

August 18, 2018

A group of scientists have written a paper for the U.S. National Academy of Sciences estimating the weight of the different kinds of life on earth.

The total carbon in all living things amounts to 550 billion metric tons, they wrote.  A metric ton is 2,200 pounds.

The weight of all the world’s plants is an estimated 450 billion metric tons.

The world’s bacteria weigh 70 billion metric tons.

All the world’s animals weigh only 2 billion metric tons, of which 1 billion tons consists of arthropods (including insects).

All the world’s humans total a mere 60 million metric tons.

Put another way, life on earth is, by weight, 82 percent plants, 13 percent bacteria and 5 percent everything else, of which 0.01 percent is human life.

(more…)

The awesome beauty of a lightning storm

August 11, 2018

Click to enlarge

Gabriel Zaparolli took this striking long-exposure photo of a lightning storm over the outskirts of Torres, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, during the evening of June 10, 2018.   I found it on the kottke.org web log.