Category: Environment

Dan and Lexi

Just a reminder of how we treasure our dogs.

I was speaking two days ago to my friend Dan of many, many years, and also my best man when Jeannie and I were married in 2010, and we were talking of our dogs. In the conversation Dan said this:

You know that Lexi and I are always together for practically twenty-four hours a day!

Dan went on to say that Lexi followed him everywhere and that, literally, they were together for ninety-nine percent of their time.

I asked Dan to send me a photograph of the two of them. Here it is!

Beautiful beyond words.

(And call by tomorrow for some special words about close friends.)

Mid-Winters Day.

An essay about the 2020 winter solstice!
Winter solstice 2020 in the Northern Hemisphere will be at 2:02 AM on Monday, December 21. That is our local Pacific Time which is 8 hours behind UTC.
So in UTC terms that is 10:02.
For some reason I have always regarded the Winter solstice as special, no doubt because in the Northern Hemisphere it is the time for the shortest day! It is the start of the new year!

Here is that essay published by The Conversation.

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What you need to know about this year’s winter solstice and the great conjunction

December 18, 2020
By William TeetsActing Director and Astronomer, Dyer Observatory, Vanderbilt University

Editor’s note: Dr. William Teets is the director of Vanderbilt University’s Dyer Observatory. In this interview, he explains what does and doesn’t happen during the winter solstice on Dec. 21. Another cosmic phenomenon is also going to occur on the same day called “the great conjunction,” where Saturn and Jupiter, both of which can be seen with the naked eye, will appear extremely close to one another.

What happens on the winter solstice?

The winter solstice this year happens on Dec. 21. This is when the Sun appears the lowest in the Northern Hemisphere sky and is at its farthest southern point over Earth – directly over the Tropic of Capricorn. For folks living at 23.5 degrees south latitude, not only does this day mark their summer solstice, but they also see the Sun directly over them at local noon. After that, the Sun will start to creep back north again.

The sequence of images below shows the path of the Sun through the sky at different times of the year. You can see how the Sun is highest in the Northern Hemisphere sky in June, lowest in December, and halfway in between these positions in March and September during the equinoxes.

The winter solstice is the shortest day in the Northern Hemisphere but not the day with the latest sunrise and earliest sunset. How is that possible?

The winter solstice doesn’t coincide with the latest sunrise or the earliest sunset. Those actually occur about two weeks before and two weeks after the winter solstice. This is because we are changing our distance from the sun due to our elliptical, not circular, orbit, which changes the speed at which we orbit.

If you were to look at where the Sun is at exactly the same time of day over different days of the year, you would see that it’s not always in the same spot. Yes, the Sun is higher in the summer and lower in the winter, but it also moves from side to side of the average noontime position, which also plays a role in when the Sun rises and sets.

One should also keep in mind that the seasons are due to the Earth’s axial tilt, not our distance from the Sun. Believe it or not, we are closest to the Sun in January.

What is ‘the great conjunction’?

Saturn and Jupiter have appeared fairly close together in our sky throughout the year. But on Dec. 21, Saturn and Jupiter will appear so close together that some folks may have a difficult time seeing them as two objects.

If you have a pair of binoculars, you’ll easily be able to spot both planets. In even a small telescope, you’d see both planets at the same time in the same field of view, which is really unheard of. That’s what makes this conjunction so rare. Jupiter and Saturn appear to meet up about every 20 years. Most of the time, however, they’re not nearly as close together as we’re going to see them on Monday, Dec. 21.

For a comparison, there was a great conjunction back in 2000, but the two planets were separated by about two full-Moon widths. This year, the orbits will bring them to where they appear to be about one-fifth of a full-Moon diameter.

We have been encouraging folks to go out and look at these planets using just their eyes between now and Dec. 21. You’ll actually be able to see how much they appear to move over the course of a single day.

The next time they will get this close together in our sky won’t be for another 60 years, so this is going to be a once-in-a-lifetime event for many people. In fact, the last time they got this close together was in the year 1623, but it was really difficult, if not impossible, to see them then because they appeared much closer to the Sun and set soon after it. Go back another 400 years to 1226 and this would have been the last time that we would have had a good view of this type of conjunction.

What advice would you give to people who want to see the great conjunction?

If weather permits at Dyer Observatory, we’ll be streaming a live view of the conjunction from one of the observatory’s telescopes, and I’ll be available to answer questions. Even if you don’t have a telescope or a pair of binoculars, definitely go out and check out this very rare alignment with your own eyes. Remember that they set soon after sunset, so be ready to view right at dusk!

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From the introduction that was received by email:

I want to include another piece on the conjunction. It comes from the introduction to that item above: It’s been a tough year. To many of us, every day during the coronavirus pandemic has felt incredibly long. Perhaps it will come as a relief that Monday will be the shortest day of the year. December 21 will also bring a rare cosmic phenomenon. If the sky is clear over the next few nights, look out just over the southwest horizon. You may see Jupiter and Saturn coming together and then drifting apart in an event known as “the great conjunction.” Although this occurs once every two decades, the last time they came this close, and we Earthlings got such a clear view, was in 1226.

I also want to include a copy of an article on the website belonging to KRCC  that talks of the Great Conjunction.

Why The Jupiter And Saturn Conjunction During The 2020 Winter Solstice Is Extra Special

By Mike Procell

December 18, 2020

The conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn appears over Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado Springs. Jupiter appears brighter and to the lower right of Saturn. Saturn, to Jupiter’s upper left, has a slightly golden hue. Photo taken December 5, 2020. The planets will be closer than they have been observed from earth in over 800 years on the Winter Solstice

A rare celestial event will help mark the Winter Solstice in the northern hemisphere on Monday, Dec. 21.

Jupiter and Saturn are currently appearing very close together from an earthly vantage point. These two gas giants are in conjunction, an occurrence that happens every 20 years or so.

This one though, is extra special.

“Really, really close conjunctions like this one are quite rare,” said Hal Bidlack with the Colorado Springs Astronomical Society. “We haven’t been able to observe Jupiter and Saturn this close since the year 1226. And we won’t see them again this close for decades and decades to come.”

The two planets were last about this close together in the year 1623. But the pairing occurred while the planets were close to the sun from earth’s perspective, Bidlack said, and the sight was basically washed out in the sun’s glare.
In reality, Saturn and Jupiter are hundreds of millions of miles apart.

“On the 21st they will appear so close that if you held a dime on edge at arm’s length, that’s how close they would be together,” Bidlack said.

From Colorado Springs, sky gazers only need to look toward Cheyenne Mountain to catch a glimpse. Elsewhere in Colorado, Bidlack said folks can look to the southwestern skies, low near the horizon.

The pair sets around an hour and a half after the sun does, about 4:39 p.m. on Monday.

The planets will begin to separate when viewed from Earth, and will eventually disappear altogether from the night sky until reappearing in the morning sky in early 2021. See more skywatching tips from NASA.

If you have managed to stay on today’s post until near the end you would have seen the following: “We haven’t been able to observe Jupiter and Saturn this close since the year 1226. And we won’t see them again this close for decades and decades to come.”

Just about 800 years ago since this last happened.

If you can, go outside with a telescope or a pair of binoculars and watch the sight! That time of the sunset is 4:39 PM Pacific Time. I think that wherever you are in the world starting to watch as soon as  it is dark would be a good idea.

For me the new year starts now!

Happy Solstice!

Returning to the history of dogs.

Reflections!

Yesterday’s post about the loyalty of dogs brought to mind a post that I published way back in 2013. Let me take an extract from yesterday’s post:

It’s no secret that domesticated dogs are descendants of wolves. Even today, modern dogs continue to share similar genes to wolves that live in the wild. The idea of “the loyal dog” is both a cultural and biological construct, as humans have created the dog over years of selective breeding and domestication to be this way. Essentially, humans picked and chose the wolf characteristics that would best serve their own benefit, transforming a wolf’s hierarchical structure and social bond to their packs into obedience and loyalty to humans.

The fact that is key is that dog packs are hierarchical. They have three status roles and the rest of the pack are all pack members. The three roles are Alpha dog, always a female, the Beta dog, always a male, and the Omega dog that could be either male or female.

The role of the alpha dog is to have first pick of the eligible males and to move the whole pack if in her analysis the territory becomes unsuitable for the pack. The role of the beta dog is to keep the pack under control and not to let fights get out of hand. The omega dog is to keep the pack happy and playful.

So to the post that was first published on the 10th April, 2013.

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Yearnings for a new start!

You may wonder about the title of this post?  Stay with me for a moment.

As has been written before on Learning from Dogs, when dogs were living in the wild just three animals had pack roles.  The leader of the pack, always a female animal, was the alpha dog. Second in command was the beta dog, always a dominant male, and the third role was the omega or clown dog.  The wild dog pack was thought to have consisted, typically, of about 50 animals.

Pharaoh
The wisdom of thousands of years showing clearly in Pharaoh’s eyes, our very own beta dog. Beloved Pharaoh. Born: June 3rd., 2003 – Died: June 19th., 2017. A very special dog that will never be forgotten.

As leader of her pack an alpha dog had two primary functions .  One was having first choice as to the male dog she was going to mate with – thus demonstrating how women always choose! 😉

Her second important duty was deciding that her pack’s home range was insufficient for the needs of her ‘family’.  As wolves still do, wild dogs lived within small, well-defined territories when food was abundant.  When food became less abundant then it was time to move to more fertile grounds.  As an aside, research in South Africa as to the area requirements for a small pack of African wild dogs (Lycaon pictus) shows they require from 65 square kilometers (25 square miles) to 150 sq. km. (58 sq. mi.). (See footnote.)

Dogs, like all wild animals, instinctively live in harmony with nature.  So the call from the alpha dog to find a new range didn’t mean they left their old one as a barren disaster area.  You can see where this is heading!

Wild dogs were in contact with early man at least 50,000 years ago. (Just reflect for a moment on the length of that relationship between man and dog.) So each specie has had plenty of time to learn from the other.

Thus, as mankind is on the verge of discovering that our existing ‘territory’ is becoming unsustainable for the healthy life of the species,  one fundamental learning point from dogs appears to have escaped us: Mankind doesn’t have a new range available to our species.

This preamble came to mind when I recently read a short but powerful essay on Alex Jones’ blog The Liberated Way.  The essay was called A global leaky bucket.  Alex has very kindly given me permission to republish it.

A global leaky bucket

Global weather extremes will force people to hard choices.

Nature will have the last word in the debate over sustainability.
Nature will have the last word in the debate over sustainability.

I write this in despair, it is snowing again here in Colchester UK.  I admit envy for those of you who live in California or Hong Kong area, I see your photographs where the seasons always seem to be warm and sunny.  The northern Jet Stream refuses to move, Greenland enjoys growing strawberries as the lambs die in the fields of Britain from the winter that refuses to let go.

The extremes of weather are noted in the South of the world as well as the North.  Argentina has had the worst floods in decades last week.  The cause is that the systems such as the Jet Stream are paralysed in one place, thus everyone suffers flood, drought or winter in excess.  Nobody is sure why this paralysis is going on with systems like the Jet Stream, some say it is climate change, the point is that we are experiencing this, and it appears to be more than a temporary issue.

My opinion is that these weather extremes are here to stay for the long duration.  One is then left with a harsh reality of does one seek to control the weather or adapt to the weather? How does one control the weather, a chaotic energy system where even a small change can have great consequences? Perhaps adaptation is the better option, but does one know how huge those adaptations will have to be where drought and flood could be lasting decades?

Lets say food, water and energy are all contained in a bucket.  We take a jug and scoop out from the bucket what we need.  There is a tap that is constantly running filling the bucket with the food, water and energy.  We waste those resources so the bucket leaks.  We disrupt or destroy the renewal systems in the ecosystems so the tap is no longer running as fast as it should.  We are greedy consumers so we take more than we need from the bucket with our jug.  How will the bucket look now? Is this a sustainable future to you?

If our global weather extremes continue as they are it will be like a storm rocking the bucket spilling its contents, will our bucket future look even less sustainable? Extreme weather destroys harvests, kills animals, sends already distressed ecosystems into the abyss.  What happens when the bucket is so empty that people can no longer enjoy their lifestyle of wasteful excess, or worse that people grow cold, hungry and thirsty? Do they sit there and do nothing but die? Will they fight? Who will fight who? As the bucket contents get ever smaller, who will win in the fighting for what is left?

Copyright (c) Alex Jones 2011-2013.

Colchester has a place in my past as I started and ran a business there between the years of 1978 to 1986.  More about that some other day.

Back to Alex’s essay.  It strongly resonated with a recent item on Peter Sinclair’s excellent blog Climate Denial Crock of the Week which I will refer to tomorrow.

So I will leave you with this tragic, emotional thought – where, oh where, is our alpha dog?

Footnote:  The figures for the ranges of wild dogs were taken from a fascinating paper published by Lindsay, du Toit and Mills that may be read here.

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One thing that has become clearer over the years and with the advent of DNA analysis is that the process of wolf and man coming together, and wolf becoming dog, was in the timeframe of 25,000 to 40,000 years ago. It’s a very wide band of time but there’s no scientific method, certainly at the moment, to refine the years down to a shorter number.

But even taking the lower limit, 25,000 years ago, it is still an indescribably long time back in the past.

They are such precious animals.

The power of community

Despite the gloom and real stress for many people it’s not wall-to-wall pessimism.

The reason I was prompted to write about this was a couple of connections made in the last few days and the power they have to keep this elderly chap still bouncing along.

Recently on the forum Ugly Hedgehog there was a gentleman who posted some photographs of some dogs that he had seen at the dog park. It was in a post called Today at the dog park.

They were lovely and I thought what a good idea it would be if I was able to republish them for next week’s Picture Parade. So I asked!

Well I was not disappointed and indeed said gentleman emailed me with a short bio and a photograph of him and his dog by way of an introduction. This is what he wrote:

I was born on Long Island and spent the first 60 years of my life there except for my Naval service for four years during the Vietnam war. I was a Naval Aviator, and after my active duty was over I returned to Long Island and got into a career in law enforcement that lasted 31 years. I made thousands of arrests during my career and many of those who were incarcerated threatened to “get me” some day, so I would prefer that you don’t use my real name.

When I retired at age 60 I moved to Tampa, FL because my daughter lived there and I have two granddaughters and now my son lives here too. It’s great for photographing flora and fauna all year round. My love for dogs has worn off on my kids as my daughter has two of them and my son three! Photography has been a hobby of mine for over 60 years. Here is a casual photo of me and my buddy Ollie (a three year old golden doodle).

Ollie and Nimbushopper

You will have to wait until Sunday to view his photographs!

At the end of November Jean and I wanted to join the local camera club. It was clear that I had a camera, a Nikon D750, that was way more advanced than I thought and, frankly, I didn’t know my way around it.

So we joined the Caveman Camera Club in Grants Pass, Oregon. Although at the moment the pandemic puts a halt on physical meetings, twice a month ‘zoom’ meetings are held. Also mentors were available. I took advantage of the opportunity to work under a mentor and last week I went the short distance of nine miles to meet with Gene. Gene had so much knowledge and had regularly taught photography for a number of years. I came away very inspired and very motivated to become better in my photographic and composure skills. Gene’s area of interest is landscapes.

What was clear was that for my whole life, and I have been taking photographs for a very long time, I had been taking pictures and not composing photographs.

It’s going to be a long journey but one that fills me with delight

Here are some of my very first attempts, taken yesterday along the Rogue River in the rain and mist.

The Rogue River looking downstream.

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The Rogue River looking upstream from the same point.

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Looking towards the top of the opposite bank.

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Trees in the mist.

Well it’s a start!

But I just wanted to reiterate that staying local both literally and virtually is very rewarding.

Of pigs and other animals

Another guest post from John Brooks.

It really is delightful when someone comes along and reliably offers to submit a guest post or two, or three, or more. That person is John Brooks and he has submitted many posts; the last one being Ageing Gracefully Applies To Our Dogs As Well. It may be found here.

But before going on I would just like to say thank you to the very helpful comments about Pedi and his diabetes.

So without any further ado here is John’s latest:

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Pigs, Dogs, and Other Pets: Do They Get Along?

By John Brooks, December 3rd, 2020

Pigs are extremely intelligent animals, and this intelligence makes them great, loving and attentive pets. Most people opt for American miniature pigs as pets. This breed is a descendant of potbelly pigs and other small feral pig breeds. Breeders have specifically created miniature pigs to be smaller and lighter than full-sized pigs, so they can trot around the house like a dog or cat would. Most American miniature pigs will weigh between 50-75 pounds and stand 12-15-inches tall.

Ultimately however, it does not matter whether you have a full-sized or miniature pig, their ability to interact with other animals remains the same. Bringing a pig into a situation with other pets or bringing home a new pet when you already have a pet pig can be a stressful time. Pigs are prey animals. They typically react to new situations with fear.

But, you can cut down on your pet pig stress by choosing the right companion animal for them. Pigs can get along with other pets, you just need to make the introduction and relationship as safe and healthy as possible. Here we explain how to do just that.

Pigs and Dogs
Pigs and dogs living together in harmony is a big concern for most pet owners. There are plenty of photos online of pigs and dogs as best friends. But, do not count on your pig and dog getting along. Pigs are prey animals and dogs are predators. It is very easy for instinct to take over for both animals, especially if you are not there to supervise the interaction.

In addition to their instinctual behaviors, pigs and dogs have different social cues. Both are playful and intelligent animals, but their body language will be completely different. Your pig may annoy your dog and vice versa because they are unable to understand that the other animal needs a break.

These complications do not mean a pig and dog can get along. You just have to take precautions. If you do have a dog and pig together in the same household, it is essential that you supervise all of their interactions. Ultimately, if you are going to let your piggy roam free, your dog will need to be in a crate while you do so, or in another room or outside.

Pigs and Other Pets
As far as other pets are concerned, pigs will do well with almost any other prey animal. If you are searching for a friend for your piggy, here are the most common pig and pet relationships, and tips for making these relationships work:

Cats
In general, pigs and cats do well together. Despite cats being predators, the website All About Cats state that pigs have similar personality traits to cats. Additionally, cats are much less likely to hurt a pig than a dog. Even miniature pigs weigh from 50-100 pounds. It will be very hard for a common housecat to injure this size animal.

As with all animals, you will need to ensure the personalities of your cat and pig work well together. A lazy cat and playful pig will not be a good combination. However, a cat and pig with complementary personalities will likely get along just fine.

Farm Animals
Personality will come into play when introducing pigs to other farm animals. Animals that tend to buck or head-butt can hurt a pig. Similarly, pigs can bite if they feel threatened. Always test out a farm animal with a pig under supervision before putting them in a pasture together.

Farm animals that work well with pigs include sheep, goats, cows, donkeys, horses, and llamas. Obviously, you will need a lot of property to house any of these animals. Pigs work well in the same pasture as other farm animals, but it is better to give them their own living quarters in a barn or lean-to.

Conclusion
Pigs can be an amazing pet. They are trainable and affectionate. You can even teach them to walk on a harness. But, you will need to take some care in finding them a friend. Pigs can become close to many different species of animals. Some just work better than others.

Keep the personality of your pig in mind when looking for a companion. You will also want to keep early interactions short. Finally, supervision is key when it comes to successful relationships between your pig, dog, and other pets.

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Another brilliant essay.

Thank you to John and I write on my own behalf and, I am certain, on behalf of many, many other people.

Thank you, John.

The most common human infrastructure.

Is the fence!

I saw this article yesterday on The Conversation and thought it was very significant and, as a result, worthy of sharing with you.

But first a picture of the Australian dingo.

By Henry Whitehead – Original photograph, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Taken from an article on WikiPedia.

Here is that article from The Conversation.

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Fences have big effects on land and wildlife around the world that are rarely measured

November 30, 2020

By , Postdoctoral Researcher, University of California Santa Barbara,

and

, Ph.D. Candidate in Environmental Science, Policy and Management, University of California, Berkeley,

and

, PhD Candidate in Environmental Science, Policy and Management, University of California, Berkeley.

What is the most common form of human infrastructure in the world? It may well be the fence. Recent estimates suggest that the total length of all fencing around the globe is 10 times greater than the total length of roads. If our planet’s fences were stretched end to end, they would likely bridge the distance from Earth to the Sun multiple times.

On every continent, from cities to rural areas and from ancient to modern times, humans have built fences. But we know almost nothing about their ecological effects. Border fences are often in the news, but other fences are so ubiquitous that they disappear into the landscape, becoming scenery rather than subject.

In a recently published study, our team sought to change this situation by offering a set of findings, frameworks and questions that can form the basis of a new discipline: fence ecology. By compiling studies from ecosystems around the world, our research shows that fences produce a complex range of ecological effects.

Some of them influence small-scale processes like the building of spider webs. Others have much broader effects, such as hastening the collapse of Kenya’s Mara ecosystem. Our findings reveal a world that has been utterly reorganized by a rapidly growing latticework of fences.

Connecting the dots

If fences seem like an odd thing for ecologists to study, consider that until recently no one thought much about how roads affected the places around them. Then, in a burst of research in the 1990s, scientists showed that roads – which also have been part of human civilization for millennia – had narrow footprints but produced enormous environmental effects.

For example, roads can destroy or fragment habitats that wild species rely on to survive. They also can promote air and water pollution and vehicle collisions with wildlife. This work generated a new scientific discipline, road ecology, that offers unique insights into the startling extent of humanity’s reach.

Our research team became interested in fences by watching animals. In California, Kenya, China and Mongolia, we had all observed animals behaving oddly around fences – gazelles taking long detours around them, for example, or predators following “highways” along fence lines.

We reviewed a large body of academic literature looking for explanations. There were many studies of individual species, but each of them told us only a little on its own. Research had not yet connected the dots between many disparate findings. By linking all these studies together, we uncovered important new discoveries about our fenced world.

Early advertisement for barbed wire fencing, 1880-1889. The advent of barbed wire dramatically changed ranching and land use in the American West by ending the open range system. Kansas Historical Society, CC BY-ND

Remaking ecosystems

Perhaps the most striking pattern we found was that fences rarely are unambiguously good or bad for an ecosystem. Instead, they have myriad ecological effects that produce winners and losers, helping to dictate the rules of the ecosystems where they occur.

Even “good” fences that are designed to protect threatened species or restore sensitive habitats can still fragment and isolate ecosystems. For example, fences constructed in Botswana to prevent disease transmission between wildlife and livestock have stopped migrating wildebeests in their tracks, producing haunting images of injured and dead animals strewn along fencelines.

Enclosing an area to protect one species may injure or kill others, or create entry pathways for invasive species.

One finding that we believe is critical is that for every winner, fences typically produce multiple losers. As a result, they can create ecological “no man’s lands” where only species and ecosystems with a narrow range of traits can survive and thrive.

Altering regions and continents

Examples from around the world demonstrate fences’ powerful and often unintended consequences. The U.S.-Mexico border wall – most of which fits our definition of a fence – has genetically isolated populations of large mammals such as bighorn sheep, leading to population declines and genetic isolation. It has even had surprising effects on birds, like ferruginous pygmy owls, that fly low to the ground.

Australia’s dingo fences, built to protect livestock from the nation’s iconic canines, are among the world’s longest man-made structures, stretching thousands of kilometers each. These fences have started ecological chain reactions called trophic cascades that have affected an entire continent’s ecology.

The absence of dingoes, a top predator, from one side of the fence means that populations of prey species like kangaroos can explode, causing categorical shifts in plant composition and even depleting the soil of nutrients. On either side of the fence there now are two distinct “ecological universes.”

Our review shows that fences affect ecosystems at every scale, leading to cascades of change that may, in the worst cases, culminate in what some conservation biologists have described as total “ecological meltdown.” But this peril often is overlooked.

The authors assembled a conservative data set of potential fence lines across the U.S. West. They calculated the nearest distance to any given fence to be less than 31 miles (50 kilometers), with a mean of about 2 miles (3.1 kilometers). McInturff et al,. 2020, CC BY-ND

To demonstrate this point, we looked more closely at the western U.S., which is known for huge open spaces but also is the homeland of barbed wire fencing. Our analysis shows that vast areas viewed by researchers as relatively untrodden by the human footprint are silently entangled in dense networks of fences.

Do less harm

Fences clearly are here to stay. As fence ecology develops into a discipline, its practitioners should consider the complex roles fences play in human social, economic and political systems. Even now, however, there is enough evidence to identify actions that could reduce their harmful impacts.

There are many ways to change fence design and construction without affecting their functionality. For example, in Wyoming and Montana, federal land managers have experimented with wildlife-friendly designs that allow species like pronghorn antelope to pass through fences with fewer obstacles and injuries. This kind of modification shows great promise for wildlife and may produce broader ecological benefits.

Another option is aligning fences along natural ecological boundaries, like watercourses or topographical features. This approach can help minimize their effects on ecosystems at low cost. And land agencies or nonprofit organizations could offer incentives for land owners to remove fences that are derelict and no longer serve a purpose.

Nonetheless, once a fence is built its effects are long lasting. Even after removal, “ghost fences” can live on, with species continuing to behave as if a fence were still present for generations.

Knowing this, we believe that policymakers and landowners should be more cautious about installing fences in the first place. Instead of considering only a fence’s short-term purpose and the landscape nearby, we would like to see people view a new fence as yet another permanent link in a chain encircling the planet many times over.

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This is something that I hadn’t hitherto thought about. I suspect that I am not alone.

There are many aspects of the fence that warrant more careful thought. I will close by repeating what was said just a few paragraphs above:

There are many ways to change fence design and construction without affecting their functionality. For example, in Wyoming and Montana, federal land managers have experimented with wildlife-friendly designs that allow species like pronghorn antelope to pass through fences with fewer obstacles and injuries. This kind of modification shows great promise for wildlife and may produce broader ecological benefits.

Another option is aligning fences along natural ecological boundaries, like watercourses or topographical features. This approach can help minimize their effects on ecosystems at low cost. And land agencies or nonprofit organizations could offer incentives for land owners to remove fences that are derelict and no longer serve a purpose.

We are never too old to learn!

 

It’s all too much, or it could be!

This year, 2020, has been unlike any other year.

I am not saying anything new but just reiterating what has been said before: 2020 is going to go down as the year from hell! And I don’t think that is too strong a word!

Part of it are the news stories that sweep the world: Covid-19; Brexit; Climate change; up until yesterday what was President Trump going to do in his last few weeks; etc; etc.

Also part of it is the way that news and more news and, yes, more news is flashed around the globe. Most of it bad news as we all know that bad news sells!

Finally, part of it is the new world of social media especially messaging on a smartphone. President Trump isn’t the only one to communicate greatly via Twitter.

Now, speaking personally, I couldn’t have got through this year without Jeannie and our dogs.

Pure bliss!

But, nevertheless, something has changed and Mark Satta has written an article that tries to explain things.

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Three reasons for information exhaustion – and what to do about it

By Mark Satta, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Wayne State University.

November 18th, 2020

An endless flow of information is coming at us constantly: It might be an article a friend shared on Facebook with a sensational headline or wrong information about the spread of the coronavirus. It could even be a call from a relative wanting to talk about a political issue.

All this information may leave many of us feeling as though we have no energy to engage.

As a philosopher who studies knowledge-sharing practices, I call this experience “epistemic exhaustion.” The term “epistemic” comes from the Greek word episteme, often translated as “knowledge.” So epistemic exhaustion is more of a knowledge-related exhaustion.

It is not knowledge itself that tires out many of us. Rather, it is the process of trying to gain or share knowledge under challenging circumstances.

Currently, there are at least three common sources that, from my perspective, are leading to such exhaustion. But there are also ways to deal with them.

1. Uncertainty

For many, this year has been full of uncertainty. In particular, the coronavirus pandemic has generated uncertainty about health, about best practices and about the future.

At the same time, Americans have faced uncertainty about the U.S. presidential election: first due to delayed results and now over questions about a peaceful transition of power.

Experiencing uncertainty can stress most of us out. People tend to prefer the planned and the predictable. Figures from 17th-century French philosopher René Descartes to 20th-century Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein have recognized the significance of having certainty in our lives.

With information so readily available, people may be checking news sites or social media in hopes of finding answers. But often, people are instead greeted with more reminders of uncertainty.

As Trump supporters denounce the 2020 election results, feelings of uncertainty can come up for others. Karla Ann Cote/NurPhoto via Getty Images

2. Polarization

Political polarization is stressing many Americans out.

As political scientist Lilliana Mason notes in her book, “Uncivil Disagreement: How Politics Became Our Identity,” Americans have been increasingly dividing politically “into two partisan teams.”

Many writers have discussed the negative effects of polarization, such as how it can damage democracy. But discussions about the harms of polarization often overlook the toll polarization takes on our ability to gain and share knowledge.

That can happen in at least two ways.

First, as philosopher Kevin Vallier has argued, there is a “causal feedback loop” between polarization and distrust. In other words, polarization and distrust fuel one another. Such a cycle can leave people feeling unsure whom to trust or what to believe.

Second, polarization can lead to competing narratives because in a deeply polarized society, as studies show, we can lose common ground and tend to have less agreement.

For those inclined to take the views of others seriously, this can create additional cognitive work. And when the issues are heated or sensitive, this can create additional stress and emotional burdens, such as sadness over damaged friendships or anger over partisan rhetoric.

3. Misinformation

Viral misinformation is everywhere. This includes political propaganda in the United States and around the world.

People are also inundated with advertising and misleading messaging from private corporations, what philosophers Cailin O’Connor and James Owen Weatherall have called “industrial propaganda.” And in 2020, the public is also dealing with misinformation about COVID-19.

As chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov put it: “The point of modern propaganda isn’t only to misinform or push an agenda. It is to exhaust your critical thinking, to annihilate truth.”

Misinformation is often exhausting by design. For example, a video that went viral,Plandemic,” featured a large number of false claims about COVID-19 in rapid succession. This flooding of misinformation in rapid succession, a tactic known as a Gish gallop, makes it challenging and time-consuming for fact checkers to refute the many falsehoods following one after another.

What to do?

With all this uncertainty, polarization and misinformation, feeling tired is understandable. But there are things one can do.

The American Psychological Association suggests coping with uncertainty through activities like limiting news consumption and focusing on things in one’s control. Another option is to work on becoming more comfortable with uncertainty through practices such as meditation and the cultivation of mindfulness.

To deal with polarization, consider communicating with the goal of creating empathetic understanding rather than “winning.” Philosopher Michael Hannon describes empathetic understanding as “the ability to take up another person’s perspective.”

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As for limiting the spread of misinformation: Share only those news stories that you’ve read and verified. And you can prioritize outlets that meet high ethical journalistic or fact-checking standards.

These solutions are limited and imperfect, but that’s all right. Part of resisting epistemic exhaustion is learning to live with the limited and imperfect. No one has time to vet all the headlines, correct all the misinformation or gain all the relevant knowledge. To deny this is to set oneself up for exhaustion.

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That last section, What to do?, is full of really sensible advice. In fact, the American Psychological Association has an article at the moment that appears to be freely available called Healing the political divide.

I intend to read it.

It finishes up saying:

Scientists must strive to share their research as broadly as possible. And they don’t have to do it alone. Organizations like More in Common work to conduct research and communicate findings to audiences where it can have the greatest impact.

Advocacy is essential as well. Other countries that have made strides in addressing the political divide relied heavily on government-led reconciliation efforts. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, for example, in South Africa, has been fundamental in addressing disparities and conflict around Apartheid.

Were the United States to consider similar, government-backed efforts, psychologists must be part of the call to do so. And the behavioral expertise of the field would be central to success.

“The collective mental health of the nation is at risk,” says Moghaddam. “Just as we should rely on epidemiological science to tell us when there is a vaccine ready for mass use, we have to rely on psychological science to guide us through these mental health issues.”

And following an election that, for many, has felt like the most polarized of a lifetime, this piece seems critical. “ This is what our profession is all about,” says Moghaddam.

Good advice especially if you can take time off just losing oneself in nature.

Dawn behind nearby Mt. Sexton. Taken from our deck on the 21st August, 2019.

Enough said!

On your bike!

Some videos of Alex, my son, and others taking a bike tour.

Now I would be the first to admit that the following videos will not be to everyone’s taste.

But there is a strong link to my son and his bike riding, and to my own bike riding. For over 5 years ago Alex persuaded me to get a better cycle than I already had. I chose the Specialized Sirrus and have been delighted with it ever since. I purchased it from the local Don’s Bike Center. There is a photograph of the bike below.

To be honest, riding the bike more or less every other day has been crucial in me staying as fit and healthy as I am.

On to the videos.

I was speaking to Alex recently and he was talking about the tour of the Isle of Wight off the south coast of England that he and friends took. That was Alex and Darren and Claire and their 14-year-old son Tom.

He mentioned the YouTube videos that had been taken and I asked Alex to forward them to me.

I reckoned that a few of you would be interested!

They are a total of 26 minutes spread across the 4 videos

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Enjoy!

Finally, Alex and I still stay connected with our riding courtesy of Strava.

This uses a small GPS, in my case a Garmin EDGE 20, to upload and show the route to the Strava dashboard. We each give each other what is known as Kudos for our respective rides.

The following is my afternoon ride of a little under 13 miles around the local roads, grabbed when the rain ceased for a while. It shows me taking our driveway, a quarter-mile long, to Hugo Rd; about 10 o’clock in the diagram below. I then turned left and two miles later turned right into Three Pines Rd. then a further right into Russell Rd. and down to Pleasant Valley Rd. and back home with a small diversion along Robertson Bridge Rd. and Azalea Dr. and to the bottom of Hugo Rd. Precisely 3 miles up Hugo Rd. and back to our driveway.

That will be shared automatically with Alex when he wakes in the morning.

And this below was Alex’s recent ride; all 83.78 miles!

Technology, eh!

The dark of the night!

This recent post from EarthSky is a fascinating read!

By some amazing luck when we came to Merlin, Oregon some eight years ago we found these acres distant from any form of light pollution. Frankly, light pollution at night never crossed our mind at the time.

But almost every evening, when it is dark, I go outside to call in the dogs and look up at the night sky. At this time of the year the Big Dipper is high in the sky. Also the Milky Way can be seen as a faint ‘smudge’ of light. It is a glorious sight and one that I will never, ever tire of seeing.

Which is my introduction to today’s post Why we need darkness.

And, please watch this TED Talk given by Paul.

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Paul Bogard on why we need darkness

Posted by in ASTRONOMY ESSENTIALS, October 29, 2020

Light at night may be a sign of life on Earth, but the darkness will proclaim our true intelligence. Check out this video on why we need darkness, from Paul Bogard. In his captivating talk Paul describes what we call “light pollution,” the overuse and misuse of artificial light at night. In cities and towns, in suburbs and villages all over the world, we are using more light than we need, and we are using it ways that waste money and energy, harm our physical health, harm the environment, and yes — rob us of the stars. What are the solutions for this problem? A native Minnesotan, Paul Bogard loves night’s natural darkness. So much so that he wrote two successful books about it. He is author of The End of Night: Searching for Natural Darkness in an Age of Artificial Light and editor of Let There Be Night: Testimony on Behalf of the Dark. He also likes to walk through the woods, surrounded by the trees and birds and hidden animals. For 15 years he had a dog who would come with him on these walks. Her name was Luna, like the moon. He misses her a lot. He loves coffee in the morning and red wine at night. Paul is now an assistant professor at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia, where he teaches creative writing and environmental literature.

The dark is good for our sleep, our biology, and the health of our ecosystems. It’s good for our creativity and our spirits, and, yes, it’s even good for our safety and security. That’s the message of Paul Bogard, who has written extensively on the importance of darkness. His book is titled “The End of Night.” His TEDx Talk – above – focuses on why we need darkness. I’ve spent time mulling over both the book and this video and recommend them highly. In this pandemic year – as many wondered whether lockdowns gave us darker skies – you might enjoy thinking about it, too.

Bogard researched night-shift workers, those who are exposed to light during the hours that most bodies crave darkness and sleep. Humans have a circadian trough from approximately midnight to 6 am. The absence of darkness and sleep during this trough contributes to night-shift work being labeled a probable carcinogen, with workers more likely to suffer from obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular issues, depression, substance abuse, and especially breast and prostate cancer. Light at night disrupts the body’s production of melatonin, which is thought to be needed to keep these types of cancers at bay.

But it’s not just night-shift workers who suffer from exposure to lights at night. Any quick look at a photo of the Earth at night shows the great glows of cities and suburbs spilling across the land and down highways into the edges of the countryside. Even when we keep the lights dark outside our own home, the light from our neighbors’ homes seeps around the cracks in our blinds and splashes across our back patio.

Earth at night, via NASA.

The light we see on maps of Earth at night isn’t just interrupting our sleep or blinding us on a late-night walk with our dog. It’s also wasting money. Bogard claims that billions of dollars are wasted each year throughout the world on light that illuminates nothing on the ground, but instead points straight up.

He points out that proper lighting directs illumination toward the ground, away from the sky and out of the eyes of those nearby. Bright lights near someone’s front door create an illusion of safety, but not true safety, according to Bogard. That’s because the glare shining into our eyes makes it difficult to impossible to see what is hiding in the deep shadows cast by the light.

Policing in some communities has been made much easier with the replacement of constant lighting by motion lights. For example, Bogard recounts how Loveland, Colorado, changed their schoolyard lighting to motion detectors, which made it simple for patrols to see if someone was present or not determined by whether or not the area was dark or light.

The issue with safety and lighting isn’t black or white, or darkness or light. It’s choosing proper lighting for each situation, which helps to make an area safer, saves money, preserves sleep, and protects the dark night sky.

When we protect the night sky, Bogard says, we’re also protecting not just ourselves and our biology but those of the ecosystem around us. In his book “The End of Night,” Bogard writes:

I remember Pierre Brunet arguing in Paris that the presence of an astronomer was the sign of a healthy ecosystem; that when the sky grows too bright for astronomy and the astronomers go away, you know you have a light-polluted sky, and whatever has polluted that sky will eventually pollute other resources, given time.

Countless animals are dependent on darkness, Bogard points out. More than 60% of invertebrates and 30% of vertebrates are nocturnal, having evolved to find food and mates in uninterrupted darkness.

Sea turtles are a well-known example of animal life that needs darkness to survive. Anyone who has been to the oceanfront has seen the lighting adapted to help the sea turtles find their way back to the sea. At my parents’ condo in Florida, the ocean-facing side of lamps have been blacked out so that the newly-hatched sea turtles, upon leaving their nests, are not lured onshore by false light but find their right paths into the water.

When you examine the night sky map of the United States and consider where most of the population lies, it’s not hard to believe, as Bogard tells us, that more than 80% of Americans can no longer see the Milky Way from their home. I live in the suburbs of a large city, for example, and my location on a map of light pollution is nearly bright white.

Recently, I spent some time about three hours west of Chicago in a quiet patch of countryside that is a rare blue shade of darkness on light pollution maps. When I stepped out onto the deck on a crystal-clear evening, I looked up at the stars and was immediately lost.

I’ve been observing and writing about the night sky for two decades, but my familiarity with the sky is linked to recognizing what I see nightly above me, which is usually a dim cousin to the depth and wonder of a truly dark sky. None of the conventional patterns were popping out at me like I was used to: the Big Dipper, the Summer Triangle, the V-shape of Taurus’s head. Instead, a brilliant orange Mars was bright enough to wash out the stars around it, yet the lush Milky Way held her own and a thousand normally unseen stars twinkled in a chorus.

For the first time ever, I witnessed the fuzzy oval glow of the Andromeda Galaxy with nothing more than my eyes. I saw star clusters dig out patches of sky and anchor their surroundings instead of having to hunt them down with binoculars. Cassiopeia and Perseus were nearly swallowed up by the sea of stars flowing from the Milky Way behind them.

We need darkness for moments like that. We need darkness to feed our spirit, protect our health and protect the health of our planet. Light at night may be a sign of life on Earth, but the darkness will proclaim our true intelligence.

Bottom line: A video on why we need darkness from Paul Bogard, author of the book “The End of Night.” The video explains why light pollution is detrimental and why darkness is good for our bodies, our world and our spirits.

Via Paul Bogard

Via YouTube

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Yes, we need darkness!

So, please, take a moment to view the night sky. If you are somewhere where there is excessive light pollution then plan at some point to get away to the darkness. Also make sure you sleep in a dark room. It’s too easy to let a light or two get in the way of a properly darkened room.

Finally, amongst my many photographs I do not have is one of the night sky. And, frankly, if I did it wouldn’t be as fantastic as the one below. So let me close with a Pexels photograph of the Milky Way by Sam Kolder.

Photo by Sam Kolder from Pexels

Stunning and what a brilliant photograph.