Recreating (and advancing) pk’s censored domains: Macroinformation.org &
Knatz.com / Teaching / Society / Survival / Evolution /
@ K. 2002 08 16

Bushy Biology

Mission: to promote an acceptance of, honor for, diversity

Men who have left messages to other men for after their death, that is to say, civilized men, kleptocrats, men with more than their mathematical share of resources, show a strong predilection for believing (at least for saying ) that we’re it: the universe is for us. We’re the climax, the point, the Omega, the cat’s pajamas. We’re it!
Nevertheless, a very few civilized humans, hyper-educated, but still with more than their mathematical share of resources, demur: and say that the bacteria are it: that man is a side branch: of a minor bush: in a wilderness of bushes. More than one major religion posits man as the denouement and climax of existence. God’s theoretically at the top (but once we arrive in his heaven, God won’t be able to get a word in edgewise). (I don’t believe god got a word edgewise even into the Bible!) There are religions, definitely minor, that don’t seem to give mankind any special favors at all: the Jains, for example: you have a right to live: so does the ant, the bacterium …

But from where I sit, reading and thinking, a consensus seems to be developing, at least in the biological sciences, that, at the very least, diversity is a good thing: a natural thing: and a good thing.

My own science, at Macroinformation, is generated by thought experiments and analyses and analogy-makings with phenomena I have some experience with: information, communications … Though I took science courses both in public high school and at Columbia College, I certainly didn’t learn any science in them. My general knowledge of science comes from avid adult reading of Isaac Asimov, Carl Sagan, Gregory Bateson, Jared Diamond, Ilya Prigogine … Yes, and watching PBS (quick changing the channel if I recognize George Page’s voice) (or ID one his many pathetic fallacies). On a par with PBS, I’ve seen lectures, slide shows, read this and that “scientific” magazine: National Geographic, Scientific American … (I’ve had and valued more than one subscription to Science News.) And one memorable moment from one of those shows dealt with the Arctic summer: brief but unbelievably fecund. There’s the better part of a dozen months of ice, then a bit of a thaw, and then … kaboom! Jillions of plants, all flowering like crazy. Jillions of insects, rodents, little critters … and here and there a caribou.

In the same vein I remember a soldier’s slides of a Middle Eastern desert after abundant rain: that wasn’t a desert: it was an exotic paradise: soon desert again.

Go burn something. Start a forest fire. Wipe out a few acres of scrub. Actually, don’t: just read about it. There’s one environment. Then there’s “no environment”: just charred ashes. Wait a few beats. Then there’s … amazing fecundity! An abundance of small, brilliantly flowering stuff sprouts from the blackened ground.

The order of plant succession here in south Central Florida, as I’ve enjoyed teaching for more than a decade at Highlands Hammock State Park, is (First) scrub. The abundance of varied flowering this and that will stabilize as scrub. Over time, slash pines may establish. If they endure, then a flatwoods forms: with saw palmetto comprising a generous portion of the under story. If the land is low and can hold a lot of moisture, bay trees may predominate. If the land is underwater a significant part of the time, a cypress swamp may emerge: and endure: some individual trees living for more than a millennium! If the land is moderately high and not too dry, hardwood trees will grow up among the slash pine, shading the ground and consequently sterilizing the flatwoods denizens with their light-loving seeds. And we enter what is for our era the final stage of plant succession for this set of environments: (Last) hardwood forest or hammock.

Florida hammock
thanx floridastateparks

Man! Live oaks with limbs twisting every which way: massive boughs cantilevering oblique-to-almost-sideways for dozens of feet … Resurrection fern, orchids, bromeliads … Darkly shaded. Spanish moss. Ooo. Spooky. This Yankee can’t get enough of it.

My point is: no matter which land you burned, the soil was replete with seeds for a great variety of possible replacements. Small stuff will recover first. The most brilliantly flowered is what we will notice first. But the slow-growing, slow to mature, elephant of a tree, the live oak, may nevertheless have seeds there. Things that haven’t lived there for thousands of years may have seeds there. Some of those seeds may be viable for a millennium or more. If we killed all the men, there wouldn’t be any more, latent in the soil. But the plants? Just wait and see. (And who knows? Give it enough time, give it enough chances, and the “live oak” may come to have descendants that are bipedal, sentient, carnivorous, have an opposable thumb … use camouflage … tell lies … have elections …

Man is my subject in nearly all of my writing. This module is the first of a series I am planning which will emphasize biology even more than the other pieces in my Evolution folder have yet delivered. We all somehow have to fit into the house I designed before its present population existed: until I can recode and reedit the whole.

There is clear and growing evidence of a link
between cultural diversity and biodiversity.

Klaus Toepfer, U.N. Environment Program

Flip Side:

On the flip side, consider this: the hammock may be latent in the scrub land just as the scrub land is potentially “still” present in the mature hammock; but only one environment prevails at a time. While there is always some mixing note at the borders of environments, the heart is strictly one of the other. (See my Centers, Edges, and Borders.) That’s how life organizes itself. It would be a waste of emotion to like it or to dislike it. We must accept that part of what we are that cannot be changed. On the other hand, some things have been changed: artificially: and therefore can be changed again. I recommend that we study to be aware of which is which: and pay close attention to potential pathologies, especially to gift-horses which may be time-bombs. In his immortal Roshomon Akira Kurosawa has his characters run, run, run through thick forest. The ground is uneven. They must leap over roots. Understory catches at them, hooking hats and veils. In the current Signs M. Night Shyamalan has his characters run and run through tall corn. A monoculture. Man made. To come upon a sign: alien made. (?) We all see the sign as alien-made. I saw the corn field as alien-made: where we’re the aliens.

Nature needs no administration. It’s civilization that must be regulated within an inch of its life. Perhaps four or eight or more years of Republicans or of Democrats is as inevitable as hardwood forest in this era, sea shore in some other. note But watch out for monoculture.

Do either the Republicans or the Democrats hear a single word the anarchists say? Not so I can tell that they’ve heard anything.

A healthy human society would need no president.

Then again, there’s this “other hand” too: Thoreau took Jefferson’s “That government is best which governs least”: turning it into “That government is best which governs not at all.” The kleptocracy winds up teaching Civil Disobedience as disobeying clearly immoral laws: like those of some foreign government like the Third Reich; while obeying domestic laws: like Let’s go kill Vietnamese: or Afghans. Isn’t that wonderful? Maybe the Germans of the 1930s should have refused to obey American laws instituted under T. Roosevelt or W. Wilson.

For the last dozen years I’ve lived on Brunns Road in Sebring. Brunns Road runs for one mile: south and north. It runs through what was pine flatwoods: within a mile or two from some scrub land. (The hammock is just a few miles west: a good walk, or a not-too-bad bike ride.) I’ve watched the pines sicken and die. Junk hammock tangles the understory. Alien plants obliterate the prickly pear and the saw palmetto. The other day I watched a “neighbor” carefully deposit his candy wrapper behind a saw palmetto. Once upon a time you’d have to watch for the cactus spines. Now you have to watch for the broken glass, the abandoned car transmissions … But the worst thing of all – even worse than that hundreds of homes are tucked in behind what looks superficially like a rural road – is that the pines are dying. And the residents – all transplants (like me) – don’t even notice! We felled the pines to put in this development. Then we felled more pines to put in that. A millionaire can tell his workmen to build around the elm or the oak. But developers (for the hoipoloi) just bulldoze everything. Then we plant exotic (alien) trees, shrubs, vines … And on our shoes, our tires, our clothes … come seizerweed, kudzu, airpotato …

Oh … Good … Diversity. No. Soon it’s just kudzu: and beer cans. With here and there a windblown festooning of plastic supermarket bags.

A little Spanish moss would drift in and drape a dead pine. That’s long been the case. Now though all the pines are chocked with this and that kind of vine. Now some beetle has gotten at them. In nature, individuals sicken. Individuals age and die: all inevitably: but not all at once. Right now, all the pines are sickening and dying: before they can age: and all at once.

When fire got hold of a flatwoods prior to the human development of this area (mostly in the last sixty years: most of that in the last twenty), it would burn itself out before it had gone far. Slash pine are fairly well fireproof. The lower branches burn. Some of the understory burns. The bulk of the junk wood and ground fuel burns. And then there’s not enough fuel left. The fire expires, not the flatwoods. Man, if first ever gets hold of this junk forest now … Hard rain ain’t gonna put it out till nearly everything is gone.

2012 03 11 I’ve been posting on diversity, on monoculture, recently, on wildness. The above was an early module using the word diversity. Whatever the words, they’ve been my themes forever.


Some Mixing:

The building of Highlands Hammock State Park has in itself modified its environments. Laurel Oaks were planted in what had been flatwoods for what was to be the picnic area. Hammock has had sixty years of development around the rangers’ houses as no control burning has substituted for natural forest fires there.

Still. I love to pause people by the sign that announces the hammock itself and point out that just behind us the slash pine are numerous. Just ahead of us the slash pine dwindle rapidly. Just behind us, the oaks are few. Just ahead of us, the oaks dominate. And just where we’re sitting is bayhead: with a few pines and a few oaks mixed in.

I love to point out on the South Canal road that pine trees suddenly appear in the bay head as the ground rises merely a few inches. A few inches more and the bay trees rapidly disappear.

The transitions are very clear at the cypress swamp. We emerge from hammock: into a clearing. On the far side of the clearing, a few citrus trees mix with some bays. Just beyond, tupelos mix with popash: with here and there a cypress, the cypress knees appearing before the cypress trees themselves. Then, only a hundred feet further: very few tupelos, and no popash, no citrus, and absolutely no oaks. Just cypress, cypress, and more cypress.


Four Years of Republicans:

You know what I wish? I wish we not only got rid of the president every four years (if we’re not going to get rid of him altogether), I wish we used the same occasion to get rid of the bureaucracy. New president? New cops, new postal workers, new lady at the motor vehicle bureau. Would the new one maybe be less annoying? Less nasty? At least we should have a different nasty lady.


And how about a little theological diversity? If God only values Jewish men wearing shawls and little beanies, the hell with him, what should we goyim care? Monsanto for Pope? No thank you.

2014 10 14 I’ve loved the Jains since childhood. Jainism is an Indian religion, seems to be related to Buddhism. I am pleased to report that I just heard of another religion, also Indian, which also emphasizes interralatedness of all life, practices nonviolence against ants and mosquitos as well as against human enemies. This religion proves to be a form not of Buddhism but of Hinduism!


About pk

Seems to me that some modicum of honesty is requisite to intelligence. If we look in the mirror and see not kleptocrats but Christians, we’re still in the same old trouble.
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