Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Exposed! (to plastic)

soaking into the rocks,
the cicada's cries.


The whole moon and sky come to rest in a single dewdrop on a blade of grass.


Men cannot see their reflection in running water, but only in still water.


I remember my first plastic straw vividly. You know, a straw: what you put in your glass and suck and the beverage comes up through it and into your mouth. It's sort of a toy too; you can blow bubbles into it and make weird noises when the drink is gone down at the bottom. Sometimes they come in wild shapes that you have to suck harder on to get the liquid all through the roller coaster ride and down your throat. You could find them in a container on the soda fountain counter but quickly they came individually wrapped in paper. We'd tear off one end, dip the other into our milk shake, and blow the wrapper up to the ceiling where it would stick...much to the manager's consternation.

Before the plastic straw they were made of paper. And they'd get soggy eventually...and you'd have to ask for another one, and they just weren't pleasant. The plastic straw could endure the rigors of the milk shake of the 1940s and 50s. It wasn't a real milk shake if the straw didn't stand straight up in the middle of it. You wouldn't even go in a place again that didn't make shakes that thick. So the plastic straw filled a need for which the American civilization cried out.

The soda fountain was the center of social activity back then. Kids went there after school. The soda fountain had other concoctions and drinks there besides milk shakes. In fact it was the dairy bar that came along later that really specialized in the milk shake. If you go from a fountain to a bar, obviously you're getting more serious. The dairy bar was outside town and you needed the family car to get there. In fact, our family used to go to Jenkins Dairy after supper as a special treat...usually to sit at the bar and have milk shakes. But sometimes when we were feeling particularly flagrant and sinful, Mom would order a hot fudge pecan sundae...with whipped cream and a cherry.

A bit later, probably after I'd gone off to college and got filled with strange ideas, I began to think about those plastic straws. I thought during the process of manufacture, teeny tiny particles of plastic must have been left on the inside...so that when you sucked on them, those particles would come up through with the beverage and go down into you somewhere. What would become of those particles? Wouldn't they eventually form a glob of some kind...like when somebody dumps a shopping cart into a creek, the sand and stuff builds up all around it? Couldn't that be like a tumor...and maybe be involved in the cancer suddenly everybody seemed to be getting? Mom, a registered nurse, said I was crazy.

I remembered how, when I became a teenager, I was a profuse perspirer. In fact all my excretions seemed to be profuse. They had antiperspirant then. It was new. It stopped you from sweating. Where did the sweat go? Well, I didn't ask that then. I was just relieved my T-shirts weren't going to be soaked anymore. I'm not sure how it worked. Maybe there were little aluminum particles that went into your skin and clogged your pores. Or maybe it was a plastic coating. I just wanted it fixed and I trusted the ads and I used it. Mennen. I didn't like the smell, but I couldn't stand it if the girls saw me sweat. But apparently it didn't stop my sweating completely...or else I put too much on...because eventually something began to happen to the armpits of my T-shirts. They changed to a sort of yellowish color...and then...and then...the armpit sections actually became brittle, like the pages of an old book, and actually broke apart. And I got a painful rash in my pits. I switched to deodorant. What's in your cosmetics, girls?

By the 1960s plastic was everywhere. It was an essential industry. Progress through chemistry! No one forgets the guy in The Graduate who tells Dustin Hoffman to concentrate on that one single word: plastic. There was the micronite filter for smokers. There was new convenient packaging in the stores. Kraft sliced your cheese for you and put each one in a plastic wrapper. You just had to peel if off and eat your cheese. There was saran wrap that covered your dishes right out of the oven. Increasingly your sound equipment had plastic parts inside...and eventually your car too---and then the whole product was encased in plastic. You couldn't even get in there to fix something. You just threw it away and bought a new one.

I noticed a problem with my earphones, my headsets. They didn't last. For my comfort they had plastic, foamy cushion things for my ears, and sometimes up onto my head too. After a few years, that foam stuff turned to a black-gray goo...or fell apart into powder. You couldn't tell that had happened until you put the earphones on and the goo got all over your ears and hair and stuff. It was even worse for the 8-track tape industry. Every 8-track cartridge had little levers with that foam on them, and it's how it attached into your machine. If you left your cartridges in the car, the transformation into goo happened even quicker...and so you'd pop it into the player, and nothing would happen except your player was ruined. The countryside became littered with cartridges people threw out their car windows in fury. The entire industry collapsed. (There were other reasons, but they involved the graphite coating on the tape...which also became a mess.)

I always thought plastic was some kind of inert creation. After all, they said it never biodegrades...and the quadrillions of plastic baby diapers everybody buys go in the landfill where they'll be forever. But the plastic I kept running into seemed to change and come apart over time. Think of the dashboard in your car. It's soft and pliable when you buy the vehicle, but eventually it gets brittle and even cracks. What's going on there? The sun, heat? But what's with the composition of the chemical that lets it do that? Why do plastic toys for babies and children do the same thing? Is rubber ducky really safe for baby in the bathtub...and baby's mouth?

And so it was I became aware last evening of a new book. It's called Exposed, and it's about the actual chemicals that go into the manufacture of plastic, many of which have been proven toxic and which change composition over time and exposure to the atmosphere. Terry Gross interviewed the author on Fresh Air yesterday, and it sounded as though she came away as shocked as I am. The man spent much of his research time in Brussels, which is the capitol of the European Union, a group of countries that is legislating more everyday to ban chemicals found in many American products. Most of the research on these products is being done in this country, he says, but no one here will pay attention. American companies now are producing 2 sets of their products: one that meets the lack of standards here, and one for sale in Europe and to other countries that are catching on. He said China, which produces 85% of baby toys, is considering doing the same.

Terry wanted to know why this is. Is there a different attitude in Europe than here? He said there is. In Europe there is an outlook that the government is there to protect the population from something that might become dangerous. In the United States, we prefer to continue on our way until a disaster actually happens. Then we'll analyze that and figure out who's fault it was...and maybe try over a period of years to prove it in court. Afterwards we might change something. Hmmm, seems about right. We're expecting our new granddaughter in a couple of weeks. I guess I'd better print this out for my son to read. Terry's interview with Mark Schapiro, Exposing a Toxic US Policy, can be streamed here~~~


Lauralew said...

One of my friends got me to thinking about this a couple of years ago. Due to her influence, I have put aside my Tupperware and bought a bunch of Pyrexware for food storage. I also bring my own cloth bags to the grocery store. I think plastic is pretty ubiquitous but we can be intentional about what we choose to purchase.

I have to figure out how to dispose of the Tupperware in an environmentally safe way now!

jazzolog said...

Thank you for your comment Lauralew. Great to see you again, and Happy Advent!

Two items out of Toledo, Ohio, and a Pitt essay at Truthout began my day. The news from Toledo is surprising to me, but very good~~~

Article published November 27, 2007, in the Toledo Blade
Toledo earns 3rd in global awards
Judges recognize achievements in planning, environment

LONDON — Beaming Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner praised his team’s efforts after the city came agonizingly close to being named the world’s “most-liveable community” of its size during awards presented in London last night.

At a glitzy awards ceremony at the Café Royal in London’s West End, Toledo placed third in its population category at the prestigious global Liveable Community Awards.

Toledo was judged among seven communities, and the city received strong marks across the board from all judges.

Only Malmo, Sweden, in first place, and Lyon, France, in second, were judged better places to live.

Speaking after the ceremony, Mayor Finkbeiner said: “I’m delighted. We will head home with our heads held high knowing that we have competed with the best from all around the world.

“We have come such a long way through this competition and learned a great deal about how to promote Toledo and how to make it an attractive place for people to come and live,” Mayor Finkbeiner said. “Obviously we would have liked to have finished first, but third is a great result for us.”

The city received an A grade for community sustainability and B’s across the other five criteria that include enhancement of the landscape, heritage management, environmentally sensitive practices, healthy lifestyles, and planning for the future.

The awards were handed out after a glamorous ceremony, beginning with a champagne reception that was followed by cabaret-style entertainment to keep the hundreds of delegates from the partaking cities entertained.

After a nail-biting finale, Mayor Finkbeiner was presented with a crystal trophy to celebrate his city’s achievement in gaining the third-place spot.

The awards, backed by the U.N. Environmental Program, are now in their 11th year.

They recognize the achievements of communities that embrace the environment and promote responsible future planning.

This year, the panel of judges listened to presentations from 46 communities and projects from 23 nations.

According to the award’s Web site, judges had positive things to say about the communities that were involved in the competition.

“All the groups presenting at the finals had prepared themselves well and made for a competitive event. From the judges’ perspective, there was a lot to learn from the unique approaches being taken by communities around the globe in tackling these major issues. The awards highlighted the way in which new communities are planning effectively for the future,” said Gabriel de Buysscher, chairman of the panel.

Another judge, Rob Small from Australia, said the judges noticed this year that many communities were reacting to climate changes in ways they had not seen before.

Mayor Finkbeiner said he was excited about showing Toledoans the multimedia presentation that secured the third place.

He said: “We are going to take this presentation to all the clean and green groups around the city to show them why we were recognized. We may be back here next year looking for that gold win and, having learned the lessons this time around, I think we will be even tougher to beat.”

The mayor said despite the loss, Toledo would still benefit immensely from the publicity generated from the event.

Expectations had been high after the Ohio delegation put in a polished performance before an international panel of judges on Saturday.

Toledo’s presentation on Saturday focused on the city’s 11,000 acres of parks and its prime riverside location, opening with a flashy video showing scenes of Toledo life with the message: “It’s the heart and soul of America.”

A video message from M*A*S*H star Jamie Farr ended the presentation, who said his hometown was “a really wonderful American city.”

The process bore similarities to Olympic Games hosting bids — on a smaller scale — as delegations from finalist cities competed to convince the judges that they deserved the title.

Mayor Finkbeiner made a stirring speech declaring Toledo “one of America’s great cities” as images of Fifth Third Field and the Veterans’ Glass City Skyway flashed behind him.

Toledo had been short-listed for the prestigious U.N.-endorsed award along with the six other cities with a population between 200,001 and 750,000.

In addition to Toledo, Malmo, and Lyon, the other finalists were Edogawa City, Japan; Manukau, New Zealand; Niagara, Canada, and Wenjiang, China.

The 13-member delegation from Toledo is due to fly home today.

The day before, on Monday, a somewhat desperate editorial appeared in the Blade, imploring Americans to wake up to the facts of the Warming~~~

Article published November 26, 2007
Climate alarm

The final report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is a fire-bell in the night that the world can ignore only at its peril.

Scientists from around the world, working under the rubric of the IPCC for five years and drawing on the latest data on global climate change, had previously published three reports. The first was on the science of the matter, the second on possible means for mankind to adapt to climate change, and the third on steps that could be taken to mitigate the effects.

The fourth report, delivered last week in Valencia, Spain, synthesized the first three. It warned that if the world's people and governments do not take urgent steps to control carbon emissions, climate change is going to alter lives around the world drastically.

It says that the melting of polar ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica will raise sea levels steadily and, eventually, by very significant levels. Some islands will end up under water. Certain species will be eliminated.

The next move on all of this will be a meeting of energy ministers next month in Bali, Indonesia. The aim will be to develop a successor to the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012, but the most important element is to get national and international action behind the effort to try to head off or at least mitigate this coming profound change.

The attitude of the U.S. government is not encouraging. The United States, China, India, and Saudi Arabia led a fight at the Valencia meeting to soften some of the language of the report. The prominent role of fossil fuels in climate change is clear; so is the reason for the opposition of the Bush Administration and Saudi Arabia to measures that would limit their consumption. With India and China, it is a question of wanting to continue untrammeled their current economic leap forward, without regard to the global impact.

Legislation in Congress called America's Climate Security Act would require cuts in U.S. emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. Although the bill has bipartisan support its chances of passage are dim. If it were passed, President Bush would veto it.

It is no comfort that America would share the blame with other nations for not taking steps to fend off a coming environmental disaster.

The alarm sounding at Valencia was unmistakable. The United States and the world need to act on it now.

At the same time Michael Rivers Pitt's column for Truthout on Monday is guaranteed to bum you out, but at least the thing is gloriously written~~~

Bad, Worse, Worst and Beyond
By William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t | Columnist

Monday 26 November 2007

Fear is just another word for ignorance.
- Hunter S. Thompson

Once upon a time there was Bad, and there was Worse, and there was Worst, and that used to be it. Those were the only parameters necessary when the time came to assess the severity of a given situation and decide if the thing was merely wrong, actually dangerous, or just plan ridiculous. Bad, for example, was Gerald Ford's full pardon of Richard Nixon, which came in tandem with his decision to let Nixon keep the tapes. That's pretty straightforward, and the provided example should be clear enough: Bad means something is pretty damned bad.

Worse, by comparison, was Oliver North's sale of missiles to the same Iranian government that killed more than two hundred Marines in Beirut back in '83, followed by his illegal funneling of that sale's proceeds to fund a pack of kill-crazy fascists in Central America who shot some nuns and other non-combatants down like dogs using the good bullets they bought with thrice-laundered American tax dollars.

All of which was taking place as Reagan slid further into the senility that eventually left him capable only of pretending to be the president. Rather than deal with the reality of the situation, however, the decision was made to hand the entire hyper-weaponized machinery of the federal government over to a bunch of wild boys nobody ever voted for, whose abuse of that power rapidly devolved into a mind-bending crime spree that almost got their uncomprehending boss impeached.

As for Worst, well ... that's simple enough. Worst was a box in the cargo hold of Air Force One that left Dallas with John Kennedy inside of it, and was the blood pooling beneath Robert Kennedy's head as he lay dying on a dirty kitchen floor in California, and was Martin Luther King Jr. shot dead through the throat on some inconsequential Memphis hotel balcony, and was Medgar Evers shot dead in his driveway while his wife and children watched and wailed, and was Malcom Little who became Malcolm X who became El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz before a dozen gunshots put him down like Evers to die before the eyes of his wife and children.

That is a fair sampling of Worst, but only for openers, because this file is the biggest of the three by orders of magnitude, fairly bursting with names and events that sound in the reading of them like a roll-call of doom and nightmare, for that is precisely what they are.

Worst was as terrible as it could get, or so it was believed, until now, until the creation of a new fourth category became unavoidably necessary. The bewildering and terrifying fact of the matter is Worst has been fully and completely trumped by the times, relegated to silver-medal status and the lower podium. The grim reality of this brave new deranged world is that the nation is now swarming with so many new and different horrors, which were upon us in one brief and ravaging eyeblink of time. It went beyond Worst just that fast.

As such, the new category is titled Beyond.

Beyond, for starters, is the fact nearly every American citizen stands surrounded by a confluence of mortal perils that threaten to completely unravel and eviscerate their country. Nearly every American will be severely and painfully affected should these dangers turn lethal ... and yet hardly anyone in America actually knows this. Almost nobody understands or recognizes the cocked and loaded gun pressed against their collective head, even as the trigger is slowly yet steadily squeezed and there are live rounds sitting in the chamber waiting for the hammer to drop.

One of those bullets is named George, just like his father, and he is an unimaginably dangerous fellow. People still don't know that the man sitting in the Oval Office of the White House is actively working to destroy all the American government he can get his hands on, because doing so is literally the bedrock of what passes for his political ideology. Many newsroom pundits saw him veto legislation to provide twelve million children with health insurance, but brushed it off as nothing more than the act of a standard-issue fiscal conservative. A renegade few on other news shows believed his veto was actually motivated by the need to snatch the cash set aside by the bill, so he could keep feeding the financial beast his disastrous Iraq war has become.

Both opinions were almost entirely wrong, but had just enough gristle on the bone to pass muster. Of course, Bush dropped the veto on two Democratic domestic spending packages; and, of course, he needs more money so he can keep losing two wars at the same time; and, of course, these trains of thought reinforce the conventionally-accepted story line of American politics; and that's nice for the TV people, but has nothing to do with the truth of the deal.

Bush vetoed those bills for one reason and one reason only: They were going to create government programs that worked. The very idea is rank heresy for privatizers like Bush, whose ultimate goal is to privatize everything from Social Security to health care to the pigeons in the park, because that's where the money his friends and constituents have been lusting after can be found.

A government program that actually and effectively serves the people is an intolerable thing to George, because that is the single best argument against privatization. If we know anything at all after all these gruesome years, it is that Bush simply will not tolerate the existence of any fact or idea that might disrupt the spinning, clanking, gear-grinding clockwork inside that craven pretzel-dented bone-sack that wobbles above his spindled, slumping shoulders. If he doesn't already believe in something, or if something contradicts the popsicle-stick infrastructure of his beliefs, whatever it is can basically go to Hell, because it isn't going anywhere else.

He vetoed those bills because they were going to work, period, end of file.

There is a man in the Oval Office of the White House working an agenda for the destruction of American government. His partner, Mr. Cheney, has been just down the hall taking care of the rest of the job. Subpoenas are ignored, documents are not delivered, Americans are put under surveillance without warrants by the NSA with assistance from nearly every phone company in the country, deep-cover CIA spies are blown to silence critics and whistleblowers, American citizens are imprisoned and denied rights that have been around for a thousand years, direct orders to fraudulently elevate terrorism threat levels are issued to provide cover for uncomfortable news reports, like the report on how many blunt warnings came in before 9/11 but were ignored got itself bounced to the back pages after the White House began yowling about the imminent destruction of the Brooklyn Bridge and the Statue of Liberty.

That is not even close to the half of it all, and this basic truth cuts to the heart of the matter: The quickest way to destroy the functionality of American government is to destroy the rule of law itself. Declare the Executive supreme and beholden to nothing, flood the Department of Justice and the federal courts with lickspittle political loyalists with no personal code of honor, upend the balanced counterweight of the separation of powers, terrify the populace into submission to avoid any hue and cry, roll out the grand distraction of war to get the flags waving and the newsrooms into line, and never obey any law or regulation imposed by anyone, ever.

This is what has been done to America, and it turned out to be a frightfully simple task. Once the rule of law is gone, there is nothing left to defend American rights and freedoms, nothing left to bring justice to the unjust, nothing left to stop those powerful few who aren't about to let quaint anachronisms like the Constitution, or pesky ideas like the ones that became the United States, get in the way of their work.

None of this information has ever been reported by the smart people on the cable TV news shows. Much of it may not have even occurred to most of them. Pundits don't get paid to think or be smart, so much as they get paid to shout and have stupid hairstyles and deliberately miss the point of every pressing issue they address. This guarantees nobody accidentally provides real and valuable information to the American people during any news broadcasts, and that is what mostly keeps many Americans dumbly frightened and easily managed.

The final product of this process is today's American body politic, almost completely unaware of the gun at their head, a body politic that is without the protection of law or basic rights and does not know it, a body politic that is altogether lost and wandering and afraid, for reasons they don't begin to understand. That is an unbelievably dangerous state of affairs, a real threat to the very survival of the United States. It is, simply, Beyond.

This barely scratches the surface of the situation as a whole, and that fact alone is pretty much Beyond even Beyond all by itself. If the national economy doesn't collapse before springtime now that debt has again become a bad thing and the dollar is turning into pudding, if Pakistan doesn't fall apart and lose control of its nuclear weaponry, if Iraq and Afghanistan magically stop being lost causes, and if George and Dick actually decide to obey the law and leave office next year, there will only be fifty more disasters left sitting on our national plate.

Only fifty? Boy, that would just be wild, almost like a vacation, really. It's good to have something to look forward to. I guess.

William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of two books: "War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know" and "The Greatest Sedition Is Silence." His newest book, "House of Ill Repute: Reflections on War, Lies, and America's Ravaged Reputation," is now available from PoliPointPress.

Anonymous said...

"In the United States, we prefer to continue on our way until a disaster actually happens. Then we'll analyze that and figure out who's fault it was...and maybe try over a period of years to prove it in court. Afterwards we might change something."

Yup, seems about right. Sounds very much like libertarianism, too.

"Pollution of other people’s property is a violation of individual rights. Strict liability, not arbitrary government standards, should regulate pollution. We demand the abolition of the Environmental Protection Agency."

Source: National Platform of the Libertarian Party Jul 2, 2000

I must confess that Libertarians philosophies are hard for me to take seriously. All the formulaic application of property rights dogma is often unpractical and verges at times on the ridiculous.

Take Rothbard's twilight-zone arguments favoring abortion, for example. There are people who reject abortion off-hand, of course, and there are people who support it, within reason. But, among those who support abortion unconditionally, no one does it quite like in the style of Murray Rothbard (For a New Liberty) who viewed the fetus as an invader of the mother's property:

"What the mother is doing in abortion is causing an unwanted entity within her body to be ejected from it: If the fetus dies, this does not rebut the point that no being has a right to live, unbidden, as a parasite within or upon some person's body."

Once the child is born, it cannot be killed or maimed, but it is the absolute property of its parents in any other regards. They can do as they please with it, even sell it on a "flourishing free child market."

While advocating liberty and peace libertarians often mask a hostility and prejudice towards the less fortunate, that echoes those of Ayn Rand. Mises and Rothbard, for instance, believed that society is filled with "ineducable masses" who, through public school, are "being dragooned into an institution for which they have little interest or aptitude."

Libertarians are a little vague on what these ineducable masses might be suitable for: perhaps cheap and exploitable labor? And all the more exploitable, lacking the education needed to understand and combat their plight.

As for the environment, they offer nothing, besides the usual formulaic free-market laissez-faire dogma.

That... and obfuscation, as usual.

Quoting Rockwell (the president of the Mises Institute):

"Environmental regulation has been among the worst offenders in recent years. Nobody can calculate the extraordinary losses associated with the Clean Air Act or the absurdities associated with wetlands or endangered species policies."

The "extraordinary losses," no doubt, refer to corporate profits. The fact of the matter is that in the hundred years before the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts, the environment grew increasingly polluted. In the two decades since, it has grown cleaner, and I don't think that we owe that to the virtues of free-market laissez-faire.

jazzolog said...

I had a professor once who pronounced with conviction that future archeologists (if there are any) will dig us up and come to the conclusion our religious centers were what-we-call The Mall. After all, at least once a week the whole family takes its paycheck and places it on the altar and miraculously are rewarded with more stuff to take home to worship in daily devotions. The similarity of the architecture too will convince future interpreters this Church of the Free something-or-other was vastly successful and its doctrine was spreading over the entire globe.

At this festive time of year, let us consult one of the ancient scribes who wrote in the tumultuous days just as The Big Sleep descended~~~

"And the Grinch,
with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow,
stood puzzling and puzzling,
how could it be so?
It came without ribbons.
It came without tags.
It came without packages, boxes or bags.
And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before.
What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store.
What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more?"

~Dr. Seuss

Nausicaa said...

Ah! Speaking of Dr. Seuss, imagine this: I just received some early Xmas presents already, and apparently someone thought that I would enjoy reading Darwin Country: Or How the Funch Stole Christmas by Frank Atwill.

I know nothing about the book, but there is something about the title that made me feel like a kid all over again.....

You're a mean one, Mr. Funch.
You really are a heel.
You're as cuddly as a cactus,
You're as charming as an eel.
Mr. Funch.
You're a bad banana
With a greasy black peel.

Something very Proustian about this.

Yes, I know, I wasn't supposed to open it until Xmas --- I didn't mean to, actually, I just didn't realize what this was until I opened it and then, well, you know how it is.... In any case, I don't believe that the sender reads jazzoLOG, so she doesn't need to know... LOL. (I placed the book under the tree, where it belongs, so no one will be any the wiser.) The funny part is that, regardless of how very trivial the whole thing really is, I still actually do feel a little bit "bad" about this. This goes to show how parts of early childhood tutelage/coaching/guidance/education/(indoctrination?) linger with us over the years. Well, I still put up a Xmas tree in the living room - even if it is, this year, an Halloween Tree that has been slowly morphing into a Xmas tree.

Anyway, the book's premise seems interesting enough:

Darwin Country spans literary styles of adventure travel, nature and satire. In the grip of a mid-life crisis, the author voyages from a world where Hollywood stars live in “environmental black holes” on private beaches to one where endangered wildlife shows no fear of man.
The Galapagos once again become the epicenter for a clash of beliefs. Frank’s search catapults him from the cult religions of his California youth to the edge of science. Not for the faint of heart searching for a “page turner,” Darwin Country is full of biting commentary and humor, a physical and philosophical roller coaster.

Looks promising!

Tom Bombadil said...

Your secret is safe with me, Nausicaä - lol.

btw, that would be "FINCH" - not "FUNCH": Galápagos finches, are basically the birds that have come to be associated with Darwin's concept of natural selection. After his famous visit to the Galápagos Islands, Darwin speculated that "one might fancy that, from an original paucity of birds in this archipelago, one species had been taken and modified for different ends."

Here is a relevant article about it. (I don't know what the relation to the title of the book is; I haven't read it):

Speciation--how one species gives rise to another--is easiest to grasp for populations that become isolated. Imagine that an earthquake upends enough rock to create rapids in a formerly sluggish stream (a common event in South America). The new stretch of rapids could keep fish upstream of the rocks from mating with their downstream counterparts. Inevitably, over the generations, the two groups will have to contend with differences between the two habitats--whether in dissolved oxygen levels, water temperature, food availability, or the presence of parasites. Those selection pressures--as well as the simple accumulation off diverse mutations--may be enough to genetically isolate the upstream from the downstream population.

Speciation without physical separation, however, is a trickier concept. Species arising by such a process are known as "sympatric," a term whose Greek roots mean "of the same country." The finches of the Galapagos present a textbook example of sympatric speciation. One common ancestor gave rise to fourteen distinct species, even though members of the ancestral population were within easy flight of one another--in other words, even though there was no geographical barrier to interbreeding.

Tom Bombadil said...

Ecological balance...

1."a state of dynamic equilibrium within a community of organisms in which genetic, species and ecosystem diversity remain relatively stable, subject to gradual changes through natural succession"

2. "a stable balance in the numbers of each species in an ecosystem."

...is a delicate thing.

Take the Peacock Bass, for instance. That species was introduced in South Florida both in man made waterways and in the Everglades. It turns out that it is a rather aggressive fish which preys on smaller native fish. It has been identified as a potential cause for ecological imbalance in its adopted habitats.

But returning to Richard's professor's point about "The Mall," over-comsumption is of course a major and growing concern with regard to the threat it represents for ecological balance. Report by World Wildlife Fund says humanity is consuming 20% more natural resources than Earth can produce.

Researcher who retraced Darwin's footsteps have been reporting that humans are overwhelming evolution, wiping out some animal species 300 times faster than new species can evolve. And - returning to Nausicaa's finch - let us note that the Galapagos island are threatened too. Some of the species of finches which used to live there, like the sharp-beaked ground finch and the large ground finch, are actually extinct. The Galapagos Conservancy is currently supporting a comprehensive project to halt the decline of the mangrove finch and get this species off the endangered list.

A little bit farther down the globe the Morai of Easter Islands are staring at us.

Tom Bombadil said...


soaking into the rocks,
the cicada's cries.



Anonymous said...

Meanwhile in the City....

An advertizing Parable for the Holidays


jazzolog said...

Finches tend to be noisy but I've never thought of them as particularly mean. Funchs aren't mean either, but can be extremely aggravating. I think much of the success of the finch is due to all the noise. If there's a huge funch of finches, the din is deafening. It keeps predators away---at least those that can hear. Snakes sniff rather than listen so it doesn't work so well on them.

One doesn't think of warblers as mean either, but their evolutionary strategy can be insidious. I once set a goal for myself to identify the various warblers of summer around here. Most of these birds like to conceal themselves in the midst of a shrub, behind a twig or next to a leaf that looks exactly like them. There they sing their amazing songs, often flying a few inches immediately upon conclusion and before you can spot precisely where the music came from. This keeps the listener standing in the middle of a road or field for half an hour, looking in the same direction in vain. Once you turn away the bird flies to another bush, maybe slightly in front of you and off to the side and again engages you. But this can go on for weeks, years, and you never really see the bird.

A very experienced birder told me once that if you actually see a rare warbler and identify it exactly, it will go mate with another similar kind and produce a hybrid. There probably are warblers that are unique to your area...and they exist only because they can't stand to be watched. This trait accounts for most of the eccentricity and madness in birders. You don't think that's mean? Is it any wonder we prefer plastic to the real thing?

Tom Bombadil said...

I don't know about the snakes and other predators, but, yes, finches can be very territorial birds, indeed, especially when they get in a funch.

This is a fascinating topic, and I have been working on my own diary, and so, of course, I get very curious about what others, with a similar interest, have been able to observe. The author of one finch diary, here, reports that she often view the complex interpersonal relationships between finches as being similar to those between people.

With that perspective in mind, it's easy for her to view herself and the people around her mirrored by the goings-on within the aviary.

There was a time when for the most part, the inhabitants of her finch community cooperated remarkably well. They took turns at the seed dishes, for example. On many occasions throughout each day, finches of different species would groom each other. And when the activity cycle winded down for a mid-morning or an afternoon nap, the social waxbills would snuggle together.

More recently, however, finch territorial disputes and pecking order disputes arose, just as they do in human society.

She relates that Introducing new finches to the aviary has got to be one of the most stressful endeavors of finchkeeping.

Like her, I have been truly empathetic to the plight of new potential finches.

She found that introducing only one finch at a time has been more upsetting to the established community (as it has been to the new finches) than introducing two or more. She also usually changes a few perches around just prior to the introduction. By doing this, the whole community has to readjust, not just the new bird(s). Everyone is on a little more even playing field when it comes to perch selection and such, so the new bird(s) is/are not the odd one out.

Maintaining a stimulating and as natural an environment as is possible to ensure optimum mental and physical health is also a necessity for thriving communities.
This goal is achieved by furnishing ample space for communities of inhabitants, as well as by adding full spectrum lighting, privacy and natural perches in the indoor aviary.

jazzolog said...

I'm reconstructing a comment from yesterday. O golly, we dial-uppers know the frustration of forgetting to copy something...and then watching it disappear into the limbo of cyberspace. I've often thought of writing a children's book about the lives of deleted items.

Anyway, I've never kept birds...although I know the delight they bring to city dwellers, reminded constantly of the songs of Nature over the din of car horns and sirens. I had a friend in The Bronx who built a huge terrarium for exotic finches he collected. He thought it would be safe to put a small boa constrictor in there with them...and then watched in horror as the serpent snuck up on an expensive one, actually licked it with flickering tongue, and then in a flash ett it! A great stream of invective followed. (He was Texan.)

Fish I've had...and still do. But never too big for the tank---IMHO. Chinese restaurants have tanks because they say the swimming aids digestion. I have to say mine is terribly disturbed when there are huge, weird fish barely able to turn around, like caged elephants pacing and swaying in the oldtime zoos.

I used to keep caterpillars but always released the winged results of cocooning. Except once. I couldn't bear to part with a Polyphemus moth that hatched...and was amazed the next morning to find a couple of males sleeping on the screen over the big box I had her in. I put the males in there and she laid eggs. (Those massive magical moths have to accomplish all that attraction and egg-laying in just the few days of their flying lives. In fact some female moths don't fly at all, depending only on their irresistible perfume that males can sense miles away.) But I had to give up on this next generation of tiny caterpillars: the whole god-thing was too much responsibility for my young self.

I have cats usually, but only those that show up...apparently having chosen me for some reason. They often are amazing relationships---and quite un-catlike. Those are the ones I like. I had a cat in The Bronx who thought he was a squirrel. Sadly, I had to put him down when he tried to make a squirrel jump off the top of the apartment and broke his jaw.

I have bad luck with dogs. My mother was a country woman and wouldn't allow chained-up dogs at our house downtown. She said dogs must run free. Since we moved to the country a few years ago, there's usually been a dog or 2 around the house. The ones I like don't make it though. The law of redneck neighbors is shoot dogs that you see on your land first and ask questions later. The locals are in denial about their mania, always saying they thought it was a deer.

I don't know what any of this has to do with plastic, but I'm sure it does somehow. After all, this thread got us here.

Nausicaa said...

The word derives from the Greek "plastikos": "fit for molding." So, who knows?...LOL

Of particular concern has been the recent accumulation of enormous quantities of plastic trash in ocean gyres, particularly the North Pacific Gyre, now known informally as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch or the Pacific Trash Vortex.

jazzolog said...

Nausicaa has become the great blog reviver---and what a valuable service to the Internet that is! I had forgotten this article completely. And will somebody please tell me how to get the date put on comments? Who cares what time it was?

Hopefully we've all learned a bit over the last year. For instance, we've tracked our disposable diapers, a misnomer if ever there was one. Americans, who prefer never to abort anything, now "throw away" 570 diapers a second, or 49 million a day. In the landfill that accounts for 4 1/2 million tons of solid waste a year---waste, don't forget, filled with fecal matter soaked in urine. Mmmmm, here's an article~~~ http://libaware.economads.com/ddiapermyth.php Are we learning at least that nothing ever can be truly "thrown away"? It just gets thrown around.

And thanks too for reminding me of the Sea of Plastic. Everytime I hear about it my mind just stops. I Googled a bit and found a terrifying article at a scuba diving site(!) complete with a photo of a tangled glob of floating plastic. Get this~~~

"As if the potential for cancer and mutation weren't enough, Dr. vom Saal states in one of his studies that 'prenatal exposure to very low doses of BPA increases the rate of postnatal growth in mice and rats.' In other words, BPA made rodents fat. Their insulin output surged wildly and then crashed into a state of resistance—the virtual definition of diabetes. They produced bigger fat cells, and more of them. A recent scientific paper Dr. vom Saal coauthored contains this chilling sentence: 'These findings suggest that developmental exposure to BPA is contributing to the obesity epidemic that has occurred during the last two decades in the developed world, associated with the dramatic increase in the amount of plastic being produced each year.' Given this, it is perhaps not entirely coincidental that America's staggering rise in diabetes—a 735 percent increase since 1935—follows the same arc." http://www.cdnn.info/news/article/a071104.html Hey Ma, maybe my idea about plastic particles clogging up our bodies wasn't so crazy after all!