Posts of Note: Nature, art and the side of human nature we often don’t like to acknowledge

Valerie Hayes
A murmuration of starlings.

A murmuration of starlings.

…or, natural history is eternal, and those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it until they do.

The Blue Angels put on a pretty impressive airshow, but nothing quite like a murmuration of starlings.  Watch the video.  What is possible?

I stumbled across this  beautifully designed website–The Natural Histories Project, dedicated to furthering conservation through natural history and the sense of wonder that it inspires.  It got me to thinking about E.O. Wilson’s idea of biophilia.  While at Cornell, I’d become acquainted with Dr. Harry Greene, one of the interviewees on the site (he was a faculty adviser to the Herpetology Club).   While there, I’d also had the privilege  of taking the best animal behavior class to be had anywhere, co-taught by one of Wilson’s old friends, the late Tom Eisner.  He was a proponent of  stereomicroscopes as a window into an unseen world for children and their parents, and saw the connection between art and science and nature.  He wrote a wonderful book called For Love of Insects.  Natalie Angier wrote this tribute/obituary .

Citizen Science projects are a great way to put your biophilia to work.  Record sightings of butterflies and moths in your area.  Listen for frogs.  Watch for pigeons.

We are in the midst of the largest-scale crisis humanity has ever known–the Sixth Mass Extinction.  It’s already too late for the black rhino.  What can we save?

The observer, observed.

The observer, observed.

I learned a Japanese word that I wish I hadn’t–hokenjo.  Such places exist in the same country where a writer made this delightful observation. It’s not all that different from ancient Egypt, where people revered cats and  deliberately killed them for purposes of mummification, or from ourselves.   We love animals and our “shelters” kill 4 million of them a year, often abusing them in the process, and our donations to large national groups go towards protecting the people who do this rather than the animals they do it to.  It is the shadow side of expression.

This article reminds me of the time my husband and I attended a talk by noted cave art expert Jean Clottes, author of (among other things), The Cave Beneath the Sea.  Clottes related a story of how Courtin, one of his colleagues, sent him a fax of a newly-discovered incised drawing found in the cave.  Upon witnessing the image emerge from his fax machine, Clottes initially thought this was some sort of joke, and immediately called Courtin and said so.  The image bore a striking resemblance to drawings of the same subject matter I’d seen incised into desks in high school, but scientific dating techniques revealed it to be many thousands of years old, making this one of Man’s (or at least Adolescent Boy’s) oldest artistic traditions.  Once visible only by the flickering light of torches in ancient painted caves, it is now visible by the 1 meter pixels of modern space satellites, going where no man has gone before.  Alien anthropologists will doubtless consider it some sort of ritual symbol.

No Kill News

This was a big news week in the No Kill advocacy world–it was National Shelter Reform Week, the ASPCA confirmed what many had suspected, and Detroit Animal ‘Services’ really drove home the point of why we need CAPA in every state, when it defied a judge’s order and the will of thousands of animal lovers and rescuers by killing Ace.  It was also the second anniversary of the ASPCA killing Oreo, in a case very similar to that of Ace–variations on a theme of abusing power and killing pit bulls.  One of Winograd’s all-time best posts sheds some light on how and why this is.


This is the second in a weekly series in which I  highlight blog posts, articles and such in keeping with the theme of this blog.  If you have suggestions for posts to include in the next installment of this feature, please leave them in the comments below or use the contact form.

Leave a Reply

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.