Friday, September 12, 2008

~In Our Butterfly Garden, This Very Week~

Western Tiger Swallowtail
Papilio rutulus
Click on photo to enlarge - © 2008 jim otterstrom
I love how this Western Tiger Swallowtail is embracing the Rose Sage (Salvia pachyphylla) flower with its right fore-leg while drinking up nectar through it's straw-like proboscis. Enlarge to see details
Three Beauties Feeding on Rose Sage Nectar
Click on photo to enlarge - © 2008 jim otterstrom
Some years ago I was in our local birdwatcher store, Wild Wings, browsing through a book on butterflies when a wrinkled little woman, well into her 90s, came up to me and gently placed a feeble hand on my arm.
Looking me in the eyes, and obviously a bit distraught, she asked me what had happened to Big Bear's butterflies.
The old gal had grown up here, moving away decades ago, and was back with relatives revisiting her childhood home for the first time.
She told me that when she was a little girl, during every summer, the entire valley would be aswarm with a mass of butterflies and she couldn't understand why they weren't here in those numbers anymore.
Her remembrance created a wondrous picture in my imagination but the urgency in her question caught me off guard, and before I could respond, the relatives came and whisked her away.
It was one of those moments that stick vividly in my heart, and I wondered how much of her memory was idealizing the place of her childhood, and how much was reality.
Since then, I've often thought of all the square miles of our high-mountain Bear Valley meadows which have been replaced by roads, lodges and ski resorts, shopping centers, homes, small businesses, the golf course and the airport. I think about weed abatement regulations and how much of the wild flora in the valley is now cut to the ground just as spring is unfolding.
And, I remember the Mourning Cloak (Nymphalis antiopa) butterfly I saw laying eggs on a willow branch in Rathbun Creek. I was cleaning litter out of the creek channel one spring, as part of a community project, when I noticed yellow-fringed wings slowly folding and unfolding just a few inches in front of my eyes.
The butterfly seemed oblivious to my presence as she meticulously deposited dozens of tiny eggs, one at a time, in a spiral pattern around the branch of the willow (click here and scroll down to see a Mourning Cloak laying her eggs).
I watched with fascination until she was finished laying her eggs, making a mental note of the willow's exact location, and planned on coming back regularly to monitor the progress of the eggs.
Two days later I discovered that all the willows along Rathbun Creek had been cut to the ground by a giant weed-whacking machine, the branches chipped, shredded, and hauled away.
My thoughts then drifted sadly upstream and down, wondering how many millions of insect eggs, butterfly and otherwise, were lost through our obsessive/compulsive meddling in Rathbun Creek alone.
One of the primary purposes of Earth Home Garden is to provide habitat for the native species of Big Bear, and to expose other people in our community to the joy and ecological benefits of gardening with native plants. The number and variety of birds & butterflies visiting our garden seems to increase with each passing year.

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Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Ecological Food For Thought...

The Progress Of Destruction
The Heart Of The Matter
Click on image to enlarge - © 2008 jim otterstrom

A friend once sent me a link to a composite photo of the nighttime lights of North America as seen from space.
She found the photo to be very comforting in the fact that she could see the lights of all the places in America where she had friends.
But I found the photo to have a somewhat opposite effect on my emotions.
It caused a discomforting knot in my gut!
I saw the lights as countless gaping holes in the biotic communities of the continent I call home.
The more numerous, and brighter the lights, the bigger the holes in the living diversity of the natural world.
To most people, I suppose, these lights represent progress in the development of humankind.
But, to me, they dramatically illustrate the destructive imbalance between human organisms and our environments.
Where there are lights, there are buildings, shopping malls, sprawling suburbs, monstrous cities, millions of acres of roads slathered in asphalt & concrete, factories, plastic, landfills & waste management facilities, power generation plants, sewage treatment plants, schools, hospitals, prisons, machinery, automobiles, internal combustion engines, wrecking yards, toxic chemicals, pollution, oil fields, corporate headquarters & the seats of governments, police stations, courthouses, military bases and nuclear weapons facilities.
Every second of every day the exponential growth of our human creation lays waste to more of the biosphere as our species races forward in its relentless destruction of the planet.
What we're doing to planet Earth literally mirrors what insects did to the ravaged leaf above. We are eating away large bits of our habitat, but, we have no other leaf, or, in our case, planet, to migrate to when this one is stripped bare.
The results upon the victim are similar to those of a plague of locusts or a rampantly malignant cancerous growth. And, unfortunately, our victim is this magnificent place we call home, the sole source of our sustenance.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
Our imaginations are simply boxed-in, blinded by the overwhelming monolithic hierarchical structure of the civilization we were born into.
But things may be changing as more and more people seem to be realizing that the way we live just doesn’t work, and doesn’t feel good either.
Life on Earth is a vast assemblage of complex organisms, but we're all evolved from one single-celled common ancestor.
We are one family,
The Family Of Earth.
And, our species lays claim to sentience, consciousness, and self-awareness.
So, as I daily witness the continuing degradation and destruction of the biosphere, the loss of diversity, of natural habitat, and the species who live here, I can’t help but sense that these holes in our biotic communities are also metaphors for holes in our hearts. For the longing in our souls and our spirit. A longing to be whole, to be complete, to be home.
And I believe that some of us are beginning to understand this, and that many more feel it subconsciously.
Yes, the future may still hold a place for humanity, for the surviving descendants of the Agricultural, Industrial, and Petroleum Ages.
The Ages of Empire and World Domination.
Once the heavy burden of this all-consuming civilization is lifted off our backs, perhaps the collective memories of our DNA, our native intuition, will help us remember that there are many ways to live.
And certainly, among those ways, there are some which are sustainable, which would allow our species to continue living, in much more realistic numbers, through ages to come.
Are the lessons we're beginning to learn about our dysfunctional relationship with our environment guiding us toward imagining and desiring a Biocentric Age?
If so, then an Age Of Biocentrism could one day become reality, a sort of natural succession, as impellingly adopted as have been the aforementioned Ages of human history which have paralleled our ever-evolving consciousness.
A definition from Wikipedia
Biocentrism (from Greek: βίος, bio, "life"; and κέντρον, kentron, "center") is a term that has several meanings but is commonly defined as the belief that all forms of life are equally valuable and humanity is not the center of existence. Biocentric positions generally advocate a focus on the well-being of all life in the consideration of ecological, political, and economic issues. Biocentrism in this sense has been contrasted to anthropocentrism, which is the belief that human beings and human society are, or should be, the central focus of existence.
Nighttime Lights of North America
Click on image to enlarge - courtesy of NOAA
This is not the photo my friend sent several years ago. That one had an all black background.
But you get the idea...
Post Script
The leaf in the image at top is from a Hollyhock that's growing near a faucet in the garden.
It caught my eye, and my imagination, for several days before I realized what it reminded me of.
I decided to scan it and was then moved to write this post.
Nature, speaking through me, I guess you might say.
I chose today for this post to participate with Sonia in her Ecological Day at her blog, Leaves Of Grass.

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Monday, September 01, 2008

Click on photo to enlarge - © 2008 jim & peggy otterstrom
Today we celebrate the labor of hard working men and women who built America into the richest most powerful nation in the world.
But many of us are also mourning the fact that most of the wealth and power created by those hard working Americans is now concentrated among a handful of the worlds greediest war-mongering multi-national corporations.
We live in profoundly difficult days for America's great experiment with Democracy. An historical moment in our history, where factories are shuttered and shipped overseas, while American jobs are pawned off to the lowest bidders in developing countries.
Not only are our livelihoods being sold out from underneath us, but our "Purple Mountains Majesty", our rivers, wetlands, deserts, coastlines, National Parks, National Monuments and Wildlife Refuges as well.
"America The Beautiful", herself, is For Sale!
Our public lands are being opened up to the very same robber-barons & private interests, who, with the pious contempt of the so-called religious right, relentlessly cheapen the fruit of American labor while maximizing the profits of a chosen few. And, who continue plundering & profiteering from the exploitation and squandering of the worlds diminishing resources, while defending and promoting a wasteful destructive economic system that is based upon unlimited growth and conspicuous consumption.
America is no longer a sovereign nation! America is a rogue corporation whose assets have been appropriated under a hostile takeover by members of its own Board Of Directors.
The assets of America Inc.---including we, the indentured middle-class servants whose labor earns ever decreasing portions of the national pie---are being divided up amongst its major stockholders, including the chief executives of such benevolent companies as Exxon-Mobil, WalMart and Halliburton.
Yes folks, everything is up for sale, including you!
So, one last time, before you're laid off, before your home is lost to foreclosure, or before our world is consumed by our consumption, let's all do our part in trying to keep the miracle of "Disaster Capitalism" afloat.
Get out there on this great National Holiday and buy stuff on the credit card.
Something from China, something from Walmart.
Something that will hasten the exportation of more American jobs.
While you're out, fill up those gas-guzzlers at your nearest Exxon-Mobil distributor. Not just the cars, but the boats, the Jet-Skis, the OHVs, and all the other toys too.
And remember, as peak oil looms over industrial civilization, Halliburton thanks you for all the billions they're making off the hard labor of American kids fighting in Iraq, sacrificing their lives & limbs, to secure more oil for fueling our absurd dead-end climate ruining lifestyles.
~Happy Labor Day~
recommended reading - The Shock Doctrine - Naomi Klein
God Laughs & Plays - David James Duncan
recommended viewing - Out Of Balance - Tom Jackson

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