Green Aesthetics I

In my posts of August 8 and 15 (Color it Green I & II) I mentioned green aesthetics and suggested that the term might describe not only architectural design but also life styles.  Beauty is the heart of aesthetics and living in beauty is at the heart of a green aesthetic.

In my posts Life on the Wild Edge I & II (January 1 and 15, 2012) I discussed what, for us at Hidden Springs (our home), were some of our attempts to live aesthetically green lives.  I’d like to use this posting and to touch on these efforts again. When I say ‘our’ I’m referring to me and my artist wife Penny (

There is a spiritual beauty in living intentionally as lightly on Earth as one can and a special sense of peace in creating a habitat that has a light, even minimal impact on the environment.

Although I never thought I’d find much nice to say about energy providers I have to admit that routinely getting a comparative report of our electrical consumption from our pow…

What Mercy ? (II)

Continued from the previous posting.
Africa is no stranger to the sounds of automatic weapons fire and it is also no stranger to poaching.   Elephants are high on the list of those species slaughtered for profit and this continual massacre is prompted by the desire of some religious adherents to possess religious icons carved from elephant ivory.  
In 2012, the Religion and Conservation Research Collaborative of the Society for Conservation Biology turned its attention to this issue following an article in National Geographic by Bryan Christy titled Blood Ivory.  Christy places the responsibility for the slaughter at the door of Catholicism and Buddhism, in some parts of the world. It is the hope of the Advisory Committee of the Collaborative and others that some influence can be brought to bear on religion at the institutional stage to speak out to their co-religionists to help stop the use of ivory for religious icons and thus reduce the number of elephant who fall victim to the poach…

What Mercy ? (I)

In July of 2007 I was given permission by the Board of Governors of the Society for Conservation Biology (SCB) to form an exploratory committee to look into the relationships between conservation and religion.  A handful of society members rapidly grew to several hundred and we were granted Working Group status by the SCB ( Over the years the Working Group has involved itself in a number of tasks. Most recently those tasks have focused on a religious practice called mercy release and on the use of elephant ivory for religious objects.  I have served on the Advisory Committee for both efforts.

Fang sheng is a practice by Buddhists and Daoists for releasing captive wildlife as an act of compassion. According to SCB’s Religion and conservation Research collaborative, this type of animal release causes “…adverse effects on biodiversity including the spread of invasive species, genetic swamping, extreme animal su…

Playing In The Mud II

 Continued from the previous post

Although it can be fun playing in the mud by yourself, it is often as enjoyable to have friends and colleagues with you.  It was for this reason that in fall of 2012 I posted a message on a couple of scientific lists that I was looking for someone(s) to play in the mud with.  The response was quick and gratifying and within a short time I had gathered dozens and dozens of scientists and practitioners.  We call ourselves the Groundwater Wetland Study Group and I’m in very good company! The focus of the Study Group is on seeps, springs, bogs, fens, and other groundwater-dependent wetland systems.                                Our members are working on projects from thermal wetlands in the American deserts to perched lakes in Tasmania to projects in the Mekong Delta of Vietnam. The Study Group is an  international organization with members in Nigeria, Romania, Brazil, Vietnam, and The United Kingdom, among a number of other places. Our members represent…

Playing In The Mud I

Ever since I was a child I have enjoyed playing in the mud. I have played in the mud for six decades ranging from wetlands of various sorts on the West coast of the US to springs in the deserts of Nevada and California to the US Gulf Coast out into the Caribbean and to the mountains of the southern Appalachians. As my wife of 51 years can tell you, I still enjoy playing in the mud.  Now that I am no longer indentured to a 9-5 yoke, I can play in the mud whenever I want. I use the term ‘mud’ loosely. Perhaps playing in the water would better describe my professional interests.  Although there has been a lot of mud in the places I have worked, there have also been some pristine waters…crystal seeps and springs and streams still clear enough to look drinkable (not a good idea these days).

Several posts back I spoke of Bat Fork Bog Plant Conservation Preserve near my home in the Southern Appalachian Mountains of Western North Carolina. No crystal seeps or springs there…just mud and a littl…

Coyote Stories II

(Continued from preceding post)

Like many mammals, coyotes like to play with things. The coyotes at the preserve not only liked to play with things but they had a playground in the field right in front of where their tunnel  through the brush opened onto the meadow.  And their playground was strewn with toys.  From somewhere they had, collected a very old plastic container that once held bar and chain oil.  Another favorite was a green soda pop bottle.  They also liked the plastic cap I placed over the shallow pvc well I had installed in one of the basins or ‘pans’  in the heart of the preserve.  I used the well to check the water depth in the shallow basins or pans that wander through the Preserve and the coyotes use the cap as a toy.  If I didn’t put it on securely I was likely to find it almost anywhere in the preserve with the tiny indentations of sharp little coyote teeth all around its perimeter.  (I tried to remember to put it on securely.)   
Another item that seemed to fascinat…

Coyote Stories I

The coyote, Canis latrans has been as much a part of my family life as my brothers and my sister.  I spent my childhood in Southern California during and following the Second World War.  Early in my Middle School years my family relocated to the San Gabriel Valley at the base of the San Sierra Madre Mountains.  Things were much different in the LA Basin at that time.  There were fewer of us and much more open land.  From the back of our bright new post-war home to the base of the mountains were hundreds of acres of orange groves and thousands of acres of oak scrub and brush.  There were dove and quail, and rabbits and raptors.  There were also the coyotes.  I learned to listen for these little wolves and to watch for them along the sides of the dirt roads that, at that time, still crisscrossed the fields and orchards of Southern California.  During high school others things captured my attention, and imagination, and I didn't think so much about the coyotes.   But they were never …