Category Archives: environment

Florida Wildflowers: Seaoats

Standard

“Seaoats are important dune builders and protect beach dunes from erosion. It is unlawful in Florida to destroy or take this grass.” – “Florida Wildflowers: a Comprehensive Guide” by Walter Kingsley Taylor

“It shall be unlawful for any person to cut, collect, break or otherwise destroy sea oat plants, Venus’s-flytrap plants or any part on public property or on private property without the owner’s consent. Any person violating the provisions of this section shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction shall be fined not more than two hundred dollars or imprisoned not more than thirty days nor less than five days. Each violation shall constitute a separate offense.” – SC Code § 16-11-590 (2013)

Herbarium Specimen – Atlas of Florida Plants photo.

Seaoats (Unicola paniculata) are perennial grasses, often clumped and with vast root systems, that can grow over six feet tall that are found throughout the state in coastal uplands and beach dunes. The flat, inch-long flowers (spikelets), which are slightly purple or the color of straw, blooms throughout the year.

Seaoats can be found along the coasts and on barrier islands along the eastern seaboard from Virginia to Florida. Seaoats are very tolerant of salt spray. They are also very heat and drought tolerant and green until late in the summer. While the conditions under which they thrive reduce encroachments from other plants, beachfront development is a primary threat. (As you can see in the Florida state park photo below, developers, dune buggy enthusiasts, and others are likely to write the plant off as a weed.)

Some people like using them as accents in flora arrangements or as the focus of dried arrangements–one reason why some areas classify the grass as a threatened or endangered species as well in addition to being vital to soil stability within its habitats. They not only protect dunes year around but are an important factor in protecting coastal areas from the erosion associated with tropical storms. Restoring seaoats often becomes an important part of dune restoration programs.

Seaoats provide food for songbirds, burrowing owls, mice and marsh rabbits. While the grass produces numerous spikelets, these don’t generate a lot of viable seed. Fortunately, the seeds don’t have any important commercial value.

Seaoats on the crest of a dune at the John U. Lloyd Beach State Park, Florida – Wikipedia photo.

“What is so tantalizing about sea oats, making one wish to break the law to have sea oats in their own garden? For starters, they have a striking appearance growing and swaying in the slightest breeze. The decorative plumes (seed heads) are often dried and placed in floral arrangements, or displayed alone as a focal point. Sea oats are quite easy to have without breaking the law, but few people are aware seeds and/or plants may be bought legally from nurserymen licensed by the state of Florida to propagate them. These nurseries supply sea oat plants to local, state and federal government agencies for dune restoration after hurricanes; the nurseries are allowed to sell them to the public as well.” – Darius Van d’Rhys

Seaoats are edible (browned or used as a cereal), but if you want to try them, you have to grow your own. Note that the plant is not the same as Inland Sea Oats (Chasmanthium latifolium) that often grows as a ground cover in open areas and is found in northern states as well as the southeast.

–Malcolm

For a chance to win a free Kindle copy of “Conjure Woman’s Cat,” see the Amazon giveaway which runs through August 8th.

 

A Frank Conversation With Mother Nature About the Rain

Standard

Me: Baby Cakes, I want to talk about the rain. There’s been so much of it.

Mother Nature: Frank, what the hell are you saying? Malcolm is the only man on the planet allowed to call me “Baby Cakes.”

Me: My name isn’t “Frank.” I’m speaking frankly.

MN: I thought only Frank could speak frankly just as I’m the only one who can speak mother naturedly.

Me: English is a strange language.

More rain today

MN: Look, Toots–I hope it’s okay to call you “Toots” for old time’s sake–global warming is tangling up the planet’s cycles of heat and cold, rain and sun, and Coke vs. Pepsi.

Me: The rain, though, is keeping me from mowing the yard. Soon, the grass will be so high I’ll tear up the mower trying to cut it.

MN: Your writer friend Smoky wants you to get sheep to handle the grass cutting duties.

Me: Sheep, quite frankly, are just too sheepish.

MN: That sounds like something a guy named Frank would say.

Me: The thing is, sheep are more expensive than a lawn mower.

MN: That’s probably true. Nonetheless, I’m working hard to get the planet under control, and that’s not easy to do when–too put it frankly–so many people don’t mind p_ssing in their own pools and s_itting where they eat.

Me: Well said, Baby Cakes.

MN: What time do you get off work?

Me: I’m married. We can no longer meet behind the barn like we did when I was in college.

MN: Barns have changed since then, what with the hay being made a mess with pesticides and GMO tinkering. Maybe you can do something about that. Next time you update your blog, say something about the clowns who think climate change doesn’t exist, that fast food is really food, and that mayo should be slathered all over a hamburger.

Me: If I say something about climate change, will you give me a sunny afternoon and evening so I can mow the yard?

MN: Toots, I’m working on it. If only you weren’t married: we could make beautiful weather together.

Me: Aw, shucks, Baby Cakes, you’re making me cry.

MN: Me, too, and my tears are what you call rain.

Me: Oops.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell’s new short story is now live in Kindle, Kobo and iTunes.

 

National Parks Boast a $34 Billion Boom as Budget Cuts Loom

Standard

from the National Parks and Conservation Association

Record-visitation pumps billions into national, local economies in 2016

WASHINGTON – National park visitation generated $34.9 billion for the U.S. economy in 2016, a $2.9 billion increase from 2015, and supported 318,000 jobs, the U.S. Department of the Interior announced today. The number reflects the significant, positive economic impact national park visitors have on gateway communities, including sales, lodging and jobs, as well as the impact on the national economy as a whole.

Read the rest of the press release here.

Acadia National Park in Maine. © Coleong/Dreamstime.

It’s widely known that our national parks are having infrastructure problems because funding has been so insufficient that keeping roads, bridges, structures, trails, and emergency and communications systems up to date is impossible.

Like infrastructure needs outside the park system, allocating money to roads and bridges isn’t sexy in spite of the fact that we see periodic reports about the number of bridges, dams, locks, levees and other vital transportation and safety structures and systems that are below par throughout the country.

Writing for SmartAsset in January 2016, Amelia Josephson said that, “According to the NPS, the nearly $3 billion appropriated for the NPS budget falls short of what’s needed. In May 2015 the park service said it had delayed $11.5 billion in necessary maintenance in 2014 due to budget shortfall. Although national parks charge fees, these fees are not nearly enough to fund the national park system, which is why the NPS depends so heavily on Congress’ budget appropriations.”

A small fraction of this money can be made up by friends of the parks organizations that raise money and fund discrete projects within the parks they’re associated with that would otherwise fall outside NPS’ spending. But this is like bailing a lake with a thimble. It does help, but the overall park’s system continues to fall behind.

Cheating the parks isn’t just about nature, protected areas, and outdoor recreation. It impacts the local economies as well–generally those within 60 miles of a park. As the NPCA press release notes, park visitation doesn’t simply bring money to the park, but also to gas stations, camp grounds, stores, restaurants and hotels in the surrounding area. Those who visit national parks tend to stray longer than random tourists who make brief stops at roadside attractions and less-well-known tourist destinations. Of course, park service employee salaries add to the “new money” brought into the regional economy from the park.

Cheating the parks and other public lands is cheating the future, and not just the environment on which we all depend even if we never go out and visit it. It reduces the value of the country in terms of assets and makes the ultimate loss of parks, or parts of parks, more and more likely in the future. We can pretend it isn’t happening just as many pretend there’s no such thing as global warming. That’s the head-in-the-sand approach. We can do better.

Malcolm

 

Climate Change: Water Cycle and Water Demand

Standard

from the EPA

Water Cycle and Water Demand

“The water cycle (shown in the following figure) is a delicate balance of precipitation, evaporation, and all of the steps in between. Warmer temperatures increase the rate of evaporation of water into the atmosphere, in effect increasing the atmosphere’s capacity to “hold” water. Increased evaporation may dry out some areas and fall as excess precipitation on other areas.

“Changes in the amount of rain falling during storms provide evidence that the water cycle is already changing. Over the past 50 years, the amount of rain falling during very heavy precipitation events has increased for most of the United States.  This trend has been greatest in the Northeast, Midwest, and upper Great Plains, where the amount of rain falling during the most intense 1% of storms has increased more than 30%.  Warming winter temperatures cause more precipitation to fall as rain rather than snow. Furthermore, rising temperatures cause snow to begin melting earlier in the year. This alters the timing of streamflow in rivers that have their sources in mountainous areas.

“As temperatures rise, people and animals need more water to maintain their health and thrive. Many important economic activities, like producing energy at power plants, raising livestock, and growing food crops, also require water. The amount of water available for these activities may be reduced as Earth warms and if competition for water resources increases.”

epa1

Currently, this information can still be found on the EPA site here.

Malcolm

As a long-time member of such organizations as the National Parks and Conservation Association and the Nature Conservancy, I can’t help but write novels that support conservation the value of the environment.

 

 

 

Wisdom from nature and indigenous cultures

Standard

“Malidoma [Dr. Malidoma Some´] teaches that the healing power of nature, ritual and community is what the indigenous world offers to the modern world. In the indigenous world, community is integral to the harmony and balance of each individual.” from the mission statement of East Coast Village

africaThe modern world of science and technology has learned a lot from observing nature and indigenous cultures’ relationships with the natural world. Unfortunately, we have also missed most of what nature and indigenous cultures have had to offer, and we further facilitated that tragedy by calling such cultures hicks, savages, superstitious, ignorant and pagan (in the negative sense most people assign to that word).

Organized religion went a step further, claiming throughout history that pagans–including witches–worshiped the so-called “devil” and needed to be put to death for their beliefs. These beliefs were not only natural but threatened the knowledge and wisdom a culture based on patriarchy had to offer.

Today, for example, we look at prescribed drugs as compounds invented in laboratories and produced in factories. While synthesized drugs have brought quality control and the benefits of mass production, they also come with a price based on a patent that allows drug companies to charge hundreds of dollars for little bottles of pills with ingredients that are probably worth a few pennies.

Yes, it can be dangerous for people without an herbalist certification or an oral tradition of using plants as medcine, much less prescribe them from others. Yet, when the medical establishment condemns the practice out of hand, they are overlooking the fact that many major drugs, past and present, originally came from plants and were frequently discovered by observing what native cultures used for medicine. One expert says that 120 distinct chemicals that come from plants are currently used throughout the world.

In a recent news story (A Doctor Discovered Why Insulin Is So Pricy In America — And How To Buy It More Cheaply)  it was shown that insulin costs diabetes patients more than most of them can afford because a pricey biotech drug created in the 1970s took over the market so completely that the off-patent, generic insulin is no longer available in the United States. The whys and wherefores of medicines and their costs are part of a complex tangle of issues. The lack of natural drugs just might, in some cases, stem from our championing what comes out of a lab over what nature produces.

spellsensuousIn The Spell of the Sensuous, David Abram argues that “Humans, like other animals, are shaped by the places they inhabit, both individually and collectively. Our bodily rhythms, our moods, cycles of creativity and stillness, even our thoughts are readily engaged and influenced by seasonal patterns in the land. Yet our organic attunement to the local earth is thwarted by our ever-increasing intercourse with our own signs. Transfixed by our technologies, we short-circuit the sensorial reciprocity between our breathing bodies and the bodily terrain.”

We have been making excuses for years about the supposed Gods of science and technology at the expense of a shared relationship with the natural world and those who understand it. From time to time, we run across articles that focus on one indigenous culture or another that show one group has little or no cancer and another group has little or no stress and stress-related maladies. But such things usually stop at the curiosity-level “go figure” or the profit-motive level of “how can we synthesize what they know put it in a pill?”

ofwaterDr. Malidoma Some´, a widely known teacher of African wisdom, is the author of multiple books, including “The Healing Wisdom of Africa: Finding Life Purpose Through Nature, Ritual, and Community,” “Creating a New Sense of Home” and the now-classic “Of Water and the Spirit: Ritual, Magic and Initiation in the Life of an African Shaman.”

On his website, Dr. Some´ writes that “It is possible that we have been brought together at this time because we have profound truths to teach each other. Toward that end, I offer the wisdom of the African ancestors so that Westerners might find the deep healing they seek.”

I don’t reject art, culture, science or technology. I do reject thinking they are all we have.  Dr. Some´ has things to teach us that we have turned a deaf and snobbish ear to for generations. Now we have a medical system nobody can pay for, global warming nobody knows how to fix and poverty that exceeds our comprehension. Something is badly out of sync and those who tell us that modern man is like a cancer upon the climate suggest that we ourselves are the problem.

Abram suggests we will never solve the major issues of life as long as we’re only willing to look at everything except nature and natural wisdom whether it comes out of Africa or the so-called “First Nations” (to use the Canadian phrase) who live invisibly among us.

I was taught what most kids of my generation were taught. Christianity is all there is. Paved streets are better than unpaved country roads. Science and technology are better than anything the witches, root doctors, and “illiterate savages” have to offer.

Undoing all that brainwashing can take a lifetime. If only, we could start fresh with our children and not addict them to false gods in the first place.

–Malcolm

KIndle cover 200x300Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of “Conjure Woman’s Cat,” a novella about a granny and a kitty fighting the KKK that’s filled with the wisom of the natural world. It’s on sale today on Kindle.

“I loved the way Campbell made magic part of the fabric of the place…Readers of magic realism will appreciate Conjure Woman’s Cat. Highly recommended.” –  Lynne Cantwell, hearth/myth – Rursday Reads

 

 

 

 

Meditations on Seeds and Their Immense Journey

Standard

from Magic Moments:

“The seeds on my carpet were not going to lie stiffly where they had dropped like their antiquated cousins, the naked seeds on the pine cone scales. They were travelers. Struck by the thought, I went out next day and collected several other varieties. I line them up now in a row on my desk—so many little capsules of life, winged, hooked or spiked. Every one is an angiosperm, a product of the true flowering plants. Contained in these little boxes is the secret of that far-off Cretaceous explosion of a hundred million years ago that changed the face of the planet. And somewhere in here, I think, as I poke seriously at one particularly resistant seedcase of a wild grass, was once man himself.” – Loren Eiseley in “How Flowers Changes the World”

I have always been fascinated by the science and mystery of seeds. I first noticed seeds when I opened packages of Ferry’s seeds for the back yard garden mother chaperoned when I was young. Later on, I discovered the poetic writings of such naturalists as Loren Eiseley whose 1957 book The Immense Journey blended in my mind the facts of science with the mysteries behind the world’s metaphors about seeds, seasons, and the cycles of time.

Place a seed in the soil and it waits. Perhaps it dreams. Years ago, I saved a cartoon out of a magazine–perhaps it was the Saturday Review or The Atlantic–that showed an acorn dreaming of the mighty tree it would become, but then in succeeding drawings, that dream became smaller and smaller as a squirrel nibbled it away. While there was something dark and amusing about this cartoon, it bothered me because it represented what might have been. While they wait, perhaps seeds dream of the roses and pine trees and grasses they will become while worrying about squirrels.

Avocado Seed – Wikipedia drawing

We make much of spring in our metaphors and myths and for that, I suppose, we have seeds and flowers to thank, for they not only made it possible for us to be here, they gave us a road map that reads equally well in planting guides and poems and fantasy. When the waiting seed meets water and warmth, enzymes release food energy, the seed coat opens, oxygen enters, and growth begins followed by the urgent need to breath the soil with a sprout and first leaves.

flax flowers

I used flax, flax seeds and linen in Sarabande because the steps taking seeds to yarn remind me of the steps taking a child to an adult and the equally mysterious steps leading that adult’s whole self to bloom into all the possibilities once dreamt of by the egg in the womb. But I could have used roses or even squash!

I see seeds in stories where seeds aren’t mentioned because the metaphors and mysteries of seeds have stayed with me for years, ever since the first seed was planted in my mind when I opened a Ferry’s packet over the waiting earth of our garden and saw that what I held in my hand would become squash and become tomatoes and with even more seeds that would one day lead to probable plants and worlds spinning off in all directions.

The “immense journey” in the title of Loren Eiseley’s classic book refers, of course to the journey of life on the planet. Yet I cannot help but think that each seed also sets out on an immense journey after its period of dormancy ends with the spring. Perhaps at some level of our psyches, every flax seed and every human knows where the journey will take them. Perhaps we know and then we forget until the water, warmth and light have reached their appointed moments in our transformation.

“Flowers changed the face of the planet,” wrote Eisely. “Without them, the world we know—even man himself—would never have existed. Francis Thompson, the English poet, once wrote that one could not pluck a flower without troubling a star.” I hope Thompson was right.

As I ponder this post written for my soon-to-be-discontinued blog “Magic Moments,” I think that with the increasing amount of discussion these days about the Goddess and Mother Earth, that we forget that seeds germinate in darkness; without it, they come to nothing. We are often quick to marginalize, ban and libel everything dark from the dark goddess to the mysteries of the moon to night itself. There is symbolism in the immense journey of seeds that we can apply to our lives, beginning with the idea that if we are kept out of the darkness by religions, cultures, industries, governments and societal mores and folkways, we are stunting our growth from the beginning.

Malcolm

LadyoftheBlueHourcoverMalcolm R. Campbell is the author of the Kindle paranormal/spiritual short story “The Lady of the Blue Hour.”

Will Earth last forever in spite of the damage?

Standard

“The eyes of the future are looking back at us and they are praying for us to see beyond our own time. They are kneeling with hands clasped that we might act with restraint, that we might leave room for the life that is destined to come. To protect what is wild is to protect what is gentle. Perhaps the wilderness we fear is the pause between our own heartbeats, the silent space that says we live only by grace. Wilderness lives by this same grace. Wild mercy is in our hands.” – Terry Tempest Williams in “Red”

Some claim that no matter what foolishness we bring to our planet, Earth abides. Do you agree?

I hope that claim is more than wishful thinking. For years I thought an ever abiding Earth was a certainty and that even in the worst-case nuclear winter we can imagine, the planet could shake off the damage. Now, I think we’ve done too much for that certainty.

Author George R. Stewart certainly took that view in his famous 1949 science fiction novel called Earth Abides. While this book, which is among the best novels I’ve ever read, is a eulogy for civilization as we know it, it’s not a story about the end of the Earth. This book is somewhat responsible for my thinking that when all is said and done, the planet will one day be reborn without us.

Plenty of Time?

For years, people have said that no matter how badly we treat the environment, the ultimate destruction of the planet is so many years into the future that we still have time to change what we are doing. In that vein, saying that global warming or dying oceans or dangerously high population growth will one day do us in, is about like telling a teenager he needs to save some of his summer job money for retirement or he’ll starve some day.

As an author, I have absolutely no interest in writing post-apocalyptic fiction. Nonetheless, I often play the what-if game inside my head about all sorts of things that will never evolve into my books.

One game involves walking down a long highway into the future and seeing alongside the road a timeline of positive and negative news events, discoveries, storms, political decisions, and other critical moments. How far can I walk and still find mankind here? Are there actually multiple roads? Perhaps a frightening event leads us to make positive changes and one prospective road gets longer. Perhaps something else lures us into a false sense of security and we begin to think Earth will abide forever. At that point, all the roads get shorter.

If we knew how long the Earth would abide at our present rate of destroying it, what would we do? Would we keep on keeping on or would we finally realize that the world’s wild mercy really is in our hands?

This post first appeared on my now-discontinued Magic Moments blog in 2012.

–Malcolm