Category Archives for "Nature"
We are not alone on earth. There are several highly intelligent, emphatic species right here within our midst.
Carl Safina’s ground-breaking book details the richness of animals inner lives. He offers compelling evidence that large brained animals – the great apes, killer whales, bottle-nosed dolphins, elephants and wolves, have emotions and cultures that are richer than previously thought.
So strong is elephant empathy that they sometimes bury their dead, and will return repeatedly to the skeleton of a deceased matriarch to fondle her tusks and bones. When the Amboseli matriarch Eleanor was dying, the matriarch Grace approached her, her facial glands streaming with emotion, and tried to lift her to her feet.
Grace stayed with the stricken Eleanor through the night of her death, and on the third day Eleanor’s family and closest friend Maya visited the corpse. A week after the death the family returned again to express what can only be called their grief.
A researcher once played the recording of a deceased elephant’s voice to its family. The creatures went wild searching for their lost relative, and the dead elephant’s daughter called for days after.
Thomas Pakenham looks at the literature on trees, new and old, and at recent discoveries that show trees can communicate with each other through underground networks connected by fungi.
The oak has always been admired for its staying power…. No other tree is so self-possessed, so evidently at one with the world. Unlike the beech, horse chestnut or sycamore, whose branches reach up towards the sky, the solid, craggy trunk of a mature oak spreads out, as if with open arms, to create a vast hemisphere of thick, clotted leaves.
It is this copious canopy that provides a home for an astonishing number of small insects, birds, animals, lichens, ferns, and fungi. A great oak is a world in itself. The King of the Trees, the head, heart and habitat of an entire civilization.
Trees have appeared in poetry as well ancient texts (the Oak was the tree of Zeus, the Greek King of Gods). John Clare wrote of the splendid sycamore, for example. Its sticky leaves were a great gift to the world. Percy Shelley described sycamore leaves as “yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red.”
“If Winter comes, can spring be far behind?”
by Fiona Stafford
Yale University Press, 287 pp., $30.00
by Peter Wohlleben, translated from the German by Jane Billinghurs
Greystone/David Suzuki Institute, 272 pp., $24.95
Why Trees have feelings too. Your comments welcome below.
In North America forty-six common land-bird species have lost half or more of their populations since 1970.
Verlyn Klinkenborg reviews The Moth Snowstorm: Nature and Joy and writes an ode to nature, calling on humans to treat nature not just for our own means but as having value in and of itself. Now, before it’s too late.
As species crash and vanish, the world loses diversity, something it’s been doing for centuries. But the loss of abundance is even more startling. Nature is not as full as it once was. Species continue to exist but in diminished numbers, which means that the species itself has a far more tenuous hold on existence.
But it also means that the numerical robustness, the plenitude within nature, has dwindled.
It’s like looking into the sky and discovering that thunderheads are no longer dark and towering but only faint wisps of themselves.
The Moth Snowstorm takes its name from the thick clouds of summer moths that used to appear in front of car headlights on Britain’s country roads. A natural phenomenon that has now disappeared. The book contributes to the literature on environmental despair, noting the problems are too deep and systemic for anything except cautious hope. It also attempts to account for the joy and beauty and bond with nature that humans often feel.
Peter Godfrey-Smith, a philosopher, combines science, philosophy and his experiences of swimming among octopuses to illuminate the origin and nature of consciousness.
Early experiments assumed that the intelligence of animals could be estimated by their ability to carry out tasks, such as learning to pull a lever in exchange for food. Octopuses perform quite well in such tests but not as well as rats.
The anecdotes buried in research papers or related by scientists are often more revealing, however.
One researcher tells of an octopus that waits until she isn’t looking and then stuffs unwanted scraps of squid down the drain.
In captivity octopuses have also been known to keep tabs on individual human keepers, raid neighboring tanks for food, turn off lightbulbs by spouting jets of water, plug drains, and make daring escapes.
Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness
By Peter Godfrey-Smith.
Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 255 pages; $27.
Why Octopuses are more intelligent than we think. Your comments are welcome below.