About this blog...

Here you will find information, musings, and pictures about life, the natural world and writing.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

New baby at Oregon Zoo!

After the moody post below, it's a pleasure to report Good News: Rose Tu gave birth today at the Oregon Zoo. http://www.oregonlive.com/news/index.ssf/2008/08/zoo_elephant_rosetu_begins_lab.html

It's her first calf and the other cows have little experience with new-borns, so there is still cause for worry. Take a look at that calf, though. What a great little guy!

This brings back memories of Honaka's two calves born at the Oregon Zoo when I was a keeper there. Those were very stressful births--each calf was born with ailments and their mom was excitable, to say the least. I (and lots of other staff) spent many hours in the barn and then at the nursery working with the calves. Alas, neither survived.

I wish Rose Tu and her baby all the luck in the world.

Have to have a habitat

Most of my energies have gone lately to promoting Night Kill, the first in the Iris Oakley "zoo-dunnit" series. I took a break and read The World without Us by Alan Weisman, a fascinating account of what might happen to plant Earth if we humans suddenly vanished. He works through what would soon return to natural conditions (and why that might not be what you expect, given invasive species and global warming) and what just won't. Oil refineries and nuclear power plants aren't going to be pretty for a long, long time. He describes human effects on air, water, and land in dismaying detail.

I also attended a ceremony today in Vancouver, Washington, opening one of the sites of the Confluence Project (http://www.confluenceproject.org/), public art along the Lewis & Clark trail. Sam Green, poet laureate of the state of Washington, read a poem titled What We Carry On The Trail that ends:

Like Lewis, like Clark, we have set our feet
on a bridge into the future, intending to arrive
with everything we've come to love--including
the brown pelican, Kincaid's lupine,
Fender's blue butterfly. We teach our children
each step is a name that matters.

We have traveled a long, long way & are traveling
still. We carry the cost of failure, the lengthening list
of what is gone already, of all that might be lost, knowing
what we have to do, believing that we will.

(quoted with permission http://www.arts.wa.gov/projects/poet-laureate.shtml)

Which all leads me to this question: don't we need a lot fewer of us, so that other lives can survive? Logic leads me toward an international one-child per woman strategy, despite the multitude of ugly issues around that. Not Chinese-style coercion, not just birth control for "those people", instead some undefined, improbable miracle of realization around the world that we will all live better with fewer of us. Mind you, I crave grandchildren and bore two children myself. I am aware of how very hard this is. What alternatives are there? Hint: it's not recycling plastic bags.

Let me know your thoughts.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Where I think this is going... Cows??

Here's your chance, folks, to set a new blogger straight. I envision this as an experiment in tying together the discoveries, delights, and dismay of publishing a new mystery (Night Kill), my environmental angst, and loosely related thoughts, events, and opinions. Where it gets trivial, I'll try for entertaining. Where it gets weighty, I'll still try for entertaining. Your part is to let me know when it works for you and when it doesn't. Arguing, supplementing, and cheering are also welcomed.


Last weekend, we (husband and myself) had the pleasure of visiting a friend's land, a new aquisition near Molalla, Oregon. We admired rolling hills of oak and fir, cattle up to their bellies in grass, a redtail hawk and turkey vultures circling overhead. During a walk through the property, I remembered a bit in a book by Temple Grandin, I think it was Animals in Translation, where she says that, if you lie down in a field, the cows will come up to you and maybe even lick your face. Of course we couldn't resist, so the three of us lay down in tall grass under trees, a few dozen yards from the cows (no bulls!).

My ass gradually got sodden, but otherwise it was about as bucolic as you can get, in the warm late afternoon. And sure enough, two of the cows succumbed to curiousity. They do not slip silently along (neither do deer, actually). They crashed on over and stood a few yards off, blowing sharp puffs through their big shiny noses. 514, per her ear tag, came to within five feet of me. I could hear her belly grumbling. She was a handsome lady, a black Angus with a shiny coat and a mellow eye.

I had two thoughts: one, that I wasn't up for face washing on our first date, and two, that this would be a highly inappropriate time for the cell phone in my pocket to ring. Which it immediately did. 514 and her buddy, 712, did not stampede and trample us. They barely flinched (modern cows!) and seemed to be wondering why it was taking me so long to answer the wretched thing. (I had a nice chat with our son in Boston.)

We roused after that and moved on, pleased with our experiment, and 712 and 514 resumed converting grass to beef.

Our management of cows often causes significant environmental damage as they trample creek banks, eat vegetation down to the ground, and generate massive amounts of manure in stockyards. Wildlife and native plants lose out big time in many cases. I didn't brood on that during my encounter with 514. She was in lush grass that can withstand grazing and our friend will fence his creek soon to create a riparian corridor. She was a fine beast on a beautiful afternoon and we both were simply curious and inclined to be well disposed toward one another.

Saturday, August 9, 2008