Category Archives: Biology

Your House Ain’t Property, it’s Habitat

“We can reclaim biodiversity and habitats within human landscapes.”
– Thomas Rainer

That scaly fellow swaying from our coast rosemary (Westringia) is a San Diego Alligator lizard. He was kicking it in the bush midday, most likely on the hunt for the airborne critters visiting the purple flowers that bloom winter through spring. It’s been cold here for LA, and I suspect food is tricky to come by. The sighting was a victory of sorts. One year ago, our yard was a dirt hole. Now, there’s a lot of things like that lizard creeping, crawling and flying around here. The yard is alive, and I don’t mind saying, I’m proud of that fact. Turning our property into habitat has been a dream since the day we set eyes on the place.  I feel strongly about this. In fact, if I could, I’d make it a law: Anyone lucky enough to own a home with any amount of land should be required to make 50% of that property habitat for the local flora and fauna. That’s right, a law, punishable by death…or…no internet access.

Continue reading Your House Ain’t Property, it’s Habitat

On The Theory of Natural Selection As It Pertains to My 10 Month Old Daughter

Two Great Thinkers: Alfred Russel Wallace, and my kid, Aniko J Newsom
Two Great Thinkers: Alfred Russel Wallace, and my kid, Aniko J Newsom

My wife recently returned from a pre-school presentation thrown by a local “mommies group”. Here in LA, as in most other places in the USA, one is expected to begin panicking about school immediately after your kid parts ways from her placenta. I get it. Now that 1% percent of the population has successfully procured most of the booty, its kill or be killed at the waterhole. But man, even lion cubs spend a LOT of time messing around, chasing flies, scaring dogs; you know, kid stuff. When do our kids get to wander in the woods, turn over rocks, and chase frogs along creek banks and lie on their back, staring at clouds? Since when  did we adopt the imperative to fast-track toddlers toward their degree? Don’t all kids need time to wander? Were it not for wanderers, who would have brought us the theory of natural selection? Darwin? No! Well, not entirely…

Continue reading On The Theory of Natural Selection As It Pertains to My 10 Month Old Daughter

Agriculture, Pesticide Choices, and Path Dependency

Are You Eating Plastic? …From National Geographic

A very smart, very compelling short from National Geographic, on the impact of plastic on our oceans, our planet, and ourselves.

Welcome to The Jungle…Hard Lessons From a Small Garden

Seth Brundle: You have to leave now, and never come back here. Have you ever heard of insect politics? Neither have I. Insects… don’t have politics. They’re very… brutal. No compassion, no compromise. We can’t trust the insect. I’d like to become the first… insect politician. Y’see, I’d like to, but… I’m afraid, uh…

Ronnie: I don’t know what you’re trying to say.

Seth Brundle: I’m saying… I’m saying I – I’m an insect who dreamt he was a man and loved it. But now the dream is over… and the insect is awake.

Ronnie: No. no, Seth…

Seth Brundle: I’m saying… I’ll hurt you if you stay.

– The Fly (1986, Dir. David Cronenberg)

When we bought our house , our yard was a sloppy rectangle of dead pomegranate trees, dried earth and a riddle of busted pipes.  Sian was 6 months pregnant, so the priority was that which lay under the new roof, but my heart was focused on the yard. I was, my wife might say, obsessed. Well, I had a dream. I dreamed of creating a magical, urban jungle that my daughter could get lost in, critters would flock (or crawl) to, and friends would wander, drinks in hand,  fully inspired. I dreamed of creating a habitat that would be boldly in-sync with the great Mediterranean Chaparral ecosystem that surrounds Los Angeles, and be a model for bridging man and nature in the 21st Century. Ten months later, I’m not even close. Nature, it turns out, has no regard for my wants. Continue reading Welcome to The Jungle…Hard Lessons From a Small Garden

E.O. Wilson’s Bold Vision to Save the World- National Geographic Interview

PHOTOGRAPH BY ROBERT CLARK, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC
PHOTOGRAPH BY ROBERT CLARK, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

The great evolutionary biologist, EO Wilson, has a new book out, titled, THE MEANING OF HUMAN EXISTENCE. Speaking about it in this 3 page, frank but nakedly optimistic interview for National Geographic, Wilson makes a simple but powerful point about why, perhaps, we are not hot-wired to ruin our race and our planet: because we make art…

“…what will be of enduring interest, because it’s going to be unique and continuous in its creativity, is the humanities and in particular the creative arts. I realize that may sound strange, because, after all, scientific knowledge is still doubling every 10 to 20 years, carried forward by the immensity of the digital age and the hyperconnectivity of all disciplines and the people within them.

But suppose there were aliens, and they sent in their robots maybe 200 to 300 years from now, which is not even an eyeblink in the geological history of the Earth. And they begin to study surreptitiously what we’re up to. What would they be interested in? Not our science.

Whereas the human species originated only about 200,000 to 300,000 years ago, their own civilizations could have originated a million or even a hundred million years ago, when dinosaurs were on Earth. They’ve had all this time to perfect the generalities of the physical science, and probably biological science too. So what would they be interested in?

They’d be interested in the humanities. How the human mind and emotions work, and what the history of the achievements of that particular organ have been over the brief history of this planet. The humanities are like the soul of humanity, the thing we produced that is probably absolutely unique in the universe. The creativity of humanity is guaranteed in the humanities. It is not guaranteed in the sciences. I realize I’m beginning to slip off the cliff of science fiction here, but I hope I made my point.”

You can read the rest of the interview here. It’s short, rich in ideas, and though blunt, still gives you a little shot of optimism during this profoundly complicated time in history.