Deserts to Grasslands to Forest

The famous TED Talk by Alan Savoy about changing deserts to grasslands was first on my YouTube watchlist today. This was after I read this wonderful blog post by Sacred Sueños, a darme un the Andes where the forest was burnt down in 1999 to bring in cattle… And afterwards was used for corn and other crops, until the land was unusable anymore and it came into their hands.

The message is this:

After we have brought grazing animals to the land, whether it be desert land that is unusable, or grasslands, if we want it to become forest again or even crop land, we need another step.

We have to give it chance for succession if we want it to be productive again. We need to allow it to feed and for the soil to grow with mulches and leaves from trees and bushes, for the microbes and organisms to live within it.

It really makes sense. There is a wonderful video about a professor from the US going back to his native land in Africa, where the people were struggling to eat from the land, and creating a new biome with water and forest through agroforestry.

The traditional way of agriculture isn’t working for us. It will be our undoing, as it has been for so many cultures before ours. This is the power of history: let us learn from it and not make the same mistakes.

Crane’s Call

I learned a new Japanese idiom today. It is 鶴の一声. It means “the decision that has been made by the highest ranking official or person.” It sounds so stiff in English. The literal translation is, “the single call of a crane.”

So I decided to write a poem, a haiku.

美白氷河の鏡 鶴の一声 私らの血を呼ぶ。

The whitening glacial mirror

Crane’s solitary voice

Calls our blood.

People often don’t get my poems… They are too symbolic. I end up having to explain them… Can anyone guess the meaning?

Prickly Joshua Tree Blanket

This is a positive story from Southern California.

https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.theguardian.com/environment/2020/aug/20/joshua-tree-endangered-species-california-opposition

Even as developers and politicians in California attempt to thwart efforts to save Joshua Trees, a few people have begun to show that even though they are protected by needing a permit to cut them down, all 200+ permits passed last year. One person started a bill to protect the tree further, after 42,000 acres burnt down last year. You can see the details in the article.

What is heartening to me is that even though things may seem dark for the tree, there are people who are moving forward doing what they can in their own little ways.

It reminds me of the Bible story of David and Goliath. No matter how big the bully may seem, there must be a way to defeat it. Let us put our hearts and our heads together to move forward in whatever ways we personally find passion in. The world needs us. We may be small, but we are not weak.

Also, strength is not just literal fighting. It is following your joys, what makes you feel happy, while doing something for the world.

Of course, we need to be smart about it. My father told me I couldn’t study Art in university because I wouldn’t be able to make a living off of it as an adult. It was practical advice, and so I chose Biology, and that has been a really good decision I think, throughout my life. I studied two extra years for things that interested me, and was able to study Sumi-E in Japan. I think this helped me in the long run; my grades and my self-esteem were raised by doing things that I was good at while studying difficult subjects… I guess what I want to say is that just because we want to do something, doesn’t necessarily mean it is the best thing.

I think we should think carefully about the consequences of not acting right now in certain respects. I hope that my posts make a difference. Getting a Ph.D. was important, but I don’t know that anyone will ever read my dissertation. It’s a shame, because five years went into it, but the most important thing for me was the wisdom I got out of doing it. As I write posts that are related to my research, I think they reach many more people than my studies ever will, unless I get famous. But during those five years of studies, I did a lot that I felt was good. I saved a lot of little animals, I was a volunteer at Kizuna Baby (an orphaned baby massage organization), I helped fellow students, organized community music events, and other social events for students…

But right now, for me, writing blog posts is one of the most powerful things I can do right now, I think. I also think that making videos about edibles and medicinals would be fun and well-appreciated.

What can you do for the world, something that you think you are good at and love to do? I’m sure you are full of treasures. 🌟

Rainforest Burning Investors

Here is a report by Amazon Watch of beneficiaries to the burning of the Amazon Jungle. Yes, folks, it’s happening again.

As a CNN article stated yesterday, Bolsonaro called it lies, but “evidence shows differently.” There is illegal logging and slavery happening. China is the biggest buyer of products from the Amazon… but who buys the end products? The report gives advice for governments on how to deal with the issue, and long lists of companies that are investing in the carnage. Some of ways we can combat it:

1. To write to the companies with which we are investing and express our dismay at their irresponsibility… and if at all possible boycott them if they don’t respond.
2. To reuse and recycle, not buy new furniture.
3. To invest with green investors and companies that are trying to go green.
4. To donate to NGOs like this one, so that we can get more quality information and someone is out there working to stop what is happening.

The Amazon Rainforest provides us with many things that we need — Alive. Not in our kitchens or living rooms.

Click to access 2019-complicity-in-destruction-2.pdf

https://www.cnn.com/2020/08/19/americas/brazil-amazon-fires-bolsonaro-intl/index.html

Subdivisions & Ranches

This is a fascinating story on the complicated relationship of the stakeholders in Florida’s wilderness, explaining pretty well the issues faced on all sides. It isn’t a new story, either, as it is a problem in many developing areas. However, as I see it, developers are antiquated in their planning methods. As a planner, I think that the story could change if there were a combination of subsidies for farmers so that they have some support and don’t have to sell their land, and of environmentally conscious developers considering the wildlife corridors and absorptive qualities of the land they buy that triggers water issues when developed. After all, as the population grows (and Americans aren’t into micro cities), people need more places to live. So to design places in such a way as to:

  1. Do no grading or limited grading to retain native plants, microbes, seeds, and mycology.
  2. Create wildlife corridors within suburban complexes to allow for other creatures to exist
  3. Plant only native species in landscaping and avoid classic-style lawns
  4. Create and retain more places for wildlife within subdivisions, and not cut down big trees
  5. Design houses higher above the ground and with less of a footprint, making them higher quality than quantity. For example, getting creative, like using recycled or locally-sourced materials or with designs, like pools and gardens on the rooftops.
  6. Subdivisions with a central area having a small kiosk or shops, community center, and park — basically centrally located places to interact with one’s neighbors in order to improve community, as seen in classic cities such as Barcelona and small towns in Mexico.

… And I’m sure there are a lot more ideas we could all come up with if we tried.

What I do know is that for a long time, everywhere in the world, developers have been in it for the money, and it’s time that changed. They should be put to the bar as responsible for the futures of communities and areas (in this case wildlife areas), and as Spider-Man said, “with great power comes great responsibility.”

https://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/raising-nature-florida-ranchlands?suppress=true&utm_source=greenlife&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=newsletter

America’s Ridiculous War on Agenda 21

America – increasingly impoverished, with little social support for the people. Why would I write this? Because I care. Why do I think this?…

Well, most Americans — and I was one of them before — don’t see it. It is hard to see how things are ruined when you live somewhere for years. But when you come back like me and can make comparisons, it is shocking.

It is unbelievable to me that due to lack of funding there were only three people working at the 12-window tax office when I went (and only for a couple of hours in the morning), with a long line of people waiting outside. The long lines at the DMV and lack of offices. The lack of funding for libraries and teacher’s salaries at schools, while administrators make much more. The lack of convenient public transportation. No publicly supported Health Care System for everyone — at least where you don’t have to pay a billion dollars for an ouchy (Here ambulances are FREE! Yes! Why? Because they are used in emergencies!).

With the level of social support it has, America reminds me of Mexico, but with good roads, rich people, and less direct corruption.

Now, I’m not saying Japan is perfect, by any means. It has its own very long list of social problems, and the result of that can be seen if you click on the World Happiness Report link later in this post. Japan ranks a very low #58 on the report, and for good reason. I also recognize that each place has its good points and its bad points, and that often these are a balance. For example, we could take Japan and say the people are so polite here, yes, they are but it is because they need to be, or else they get ostracized. It is very difficult to work in here. I could write an even longer post on Japan, but that wouldn’t be very Japanesey of me 😉

Without limitations in the US, corporate heads get huge salaries, Congress gets paid for life, insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies make unbelievable amounts of money off of an increasingly taxed people, and the list goes on.

It is amazing to me how many Americans still haven’t figured out they are being led around by a carrot by the false two-party system, and instead support conspiracy theories in their fear.

It is time that Agenda 21 was taken out of the closet.
American politicians get your acts together, and voters, look around at the other successful countries in the world, or there will be problems due to simple hygiene issues. Let me explain.

Just like someone who doesn’t take a shower or brush their teeth, buy new underwear when needed, and eat properly, America is not doing the basics to maintain what is necessary for a healthy economy. Instead, like an internet gamer waking up, eating junk food and spending hours watching TV and playing video games rather than working towards getting a job, the efforts are badly placed and will ultimately result in a negative balance for the country.

Living in Japan, I have seen some things that make me really reconsider moving back. Here, there is funding support for government entities. Not that they are wallowing in it; the buildings are old but clean. That being said, there are always people to help you at the Japanese DMV, the city hall, and all other branches I have visited. Almost never a long line, and if so people really complain indignantly.

There is funding for teachers, not only administrators, and for libraries to buy books. There is a cap on salaries, so most who would make $700k+ in the States don’t make more than $150k to $200k, and all jobs are respected because it is a job and someone is working hard every day at whatever they do.

The government has a working health insurance system, and the payment is based on how much money one makes, so no one is left without health insurance and can afford their medicine. If you can’t pay now, you can pay later, but the cost is within reason. The list goes on.

In Europe, my friend just posted that he saw 11 different political parties in Denmark discussing how to deal with their problems, not just two parties pretending to deal with problems while making an easy road for their friends in the back room or waiting for their incumbency term after 8 years. Denmark, by the way, is 2nd in the World Happiness Report.

In the US, people of course want to live in beautiful places where there are good schools and infrastructure. But sadly, I don’t see it on a whole, and it is not the government’s fault (they are just doing what they do best…); it is the people themselves who do not see how their decisions are creating problems.

Maybe you think I am simple-minded, but remember, the constitution and the bill of rights can be read in less than an hour. I have done it. Resolving many issues doesn’t have to be complicated and long. It has to be clear, have breadth and depth and logic. It has to have the qualities of the intellectual standards of critical thinking.

Here are my recommendations. They are not many, and definitely don’t cover most topics, but they are a start. If you have other things you would like to see change, write them in the comments section!

I think we need to encourage bike lanes. It isn’t bad to have bicycles, and it is dangerous for people riding them. Encourage public transportation. Encourage putting money into the DMV and schools, so that you don’t waste time in line, and your children grow up healthy in body and mind.

It’s time for America to grow into America The Beautiful from America on crutches.
Please read this Wikipedia article on Agenda 21 and find out where America stands, and why you should care.

Finnish Ed & Humanizing Math

https://medium.com/@sunilsingh_42118/you-really-want-to-rehumanize-math-education-build-a-new-ship-8aa6fe6b43d0

Had this hopeful future been the case when I was in school, I might have become a physicist.

But because my ability in math was based on time, not actual ability, I was even derided by the teacher in my precalculus class.

That being said, the Fractal of Life, in all its complexity and confusion has led me here, and actually anywhere is really okay. It is the journey, and feeling it, that matters.

At some point maybe the world education system will realize that there is a reason Finland’s education system (wherein children are not given homework and are allowed freedom after only three hours of school) has been top-rated worldwide. Maybe they will see that rather than trying to control and test what has been literally crammed into delicate grey matter, it is ultimately better to allow our infinitely more-intelligent-than-us yet extremely naive children to explore their world. After all it is theirs, and they will all tell you their concerns for the future, which are very real… Actually, there may be a correlation with the education system and the fact that Finland is also famous for its social support and peace in its society. It is consistently rated one of the top happiest countries on Earth according to the Happiness Index.

But it may take destroying all we have for reasons included in the Seven Deadly Sins (there is a reason they are called that), before we change our idiotic ways from control and fear of the unknown, to trusting and allowing guided growth. In that healthy future, people might choose very different careers. They might choose happiness instead of money, an in doing so really be alright financially.

In fact, people would be much happier because they would have been training since a young age to follow their interests instead of what they are force-fed to think is what they have to do. In this, the overall quality of everything, from furniture to management would improve, because only those who thought that they were good at something would pursue it, and they would know it from their elementary education. 

I was once told by Dr. Fujii, the Japanese traditional garden specialist, that the reason Japanese garden trees have changed so much is this. In ancient Japan, the trees were pruned for the way they wanted to grow. This style of pruning can still be seen in Kyoto, and the most beautiful example I have ever seen is the tiny private garden in the imperial palace there.

Now they are pruned to force them into what is considered the proper form, or what is most convenient for the space. They are caricatures of what they could be, and the gardens suffer for it visually.

The trees, like the children, are being stunted, forced to fit into a mold, and not allowed to become the greatest they could be.

Rainforest Commons

Happy birthday to me.

The last of the Amazon Rainforest is being torn down and scorched to ashes. I can feel it. It is a horrible. It is a classic example of the Tragedy of the Commons. The Rainforest has no physical owners… That anyone with power RESPECTS anyway. They are too wise for their own good in this small-minded modern world, and instead call themselves “Guardians of the Forest”. Also, they have no money, and in this story, people with money are greedy assholes who want more. So with guns, bulldozers, and flamethrowers, they take it. It’s not hard. Because to be a guardian is to understand that nothing in the world is yours. Not your children or your spouse. Nor your pet or your house. Philosophically speaking, we own nothing. We are born with nothing, and we die with nothing. Ownership is an illusion formed by society so that we can create rules and systems… But the rainforest does not work inside our little boxes.

The sad thing is that, we are so obsessed with what we have and what we want, that we have forgotten that what is shared is our greatest treasure. Our greatest moments of humanity are spent when we are together in some way, sharing an experience. A concert, an exhibit, an awestriking view, a traditional family dinner, an anniversary, a trip to the park. It is when we give to each other. When we forget “this person is MINE” and instead stare in wonder at the person we love after they have done something that strikes us at the depths of our souls… The sad thing is, the Rainforest and its Indigenous inhabitants are a gift to us all. Like the artists at an exhibit, or the band at the concert, or our loved-one who is not ours but is there for us out of simply being there. We could have sat at dinner with the Rainforest and enjoyed her wonders, and instead we rape her and steal and burn. So that we can have a steak dinner with our loved ones who we know so much better. We don’t need the steak dinner… because just like too much sugar, the loss of the forest is going to kill us. Because we are so small, in our little societal boxes, we fail to see that this is going to be our undoing. Our individual greed translates to a colossal demon that is ripping the forests out, vomiting on the oceans, and creating agricultural deserts of nothing but “green”, because it is something inedible that does not contribute to the global ecosystem — meaning no one else can use it except for us. At the same time we increasingly commit atrocities within the social system, underneath our own noses and behind closed doors in the name of “science” for the next LD50 or to test the physical testicular load on rats so that we can see the best supplement for testosterone production. Ridiculous!!! What a joke. The Tragedy of the Commons is no less ridiculous than it was when first coined, and no less deadly. Because whatever is not owned by someone more powerful than anyone else, is going to be abused and destroyed in the name of…. Whatever anyone feels like saying!! “We are going to test on all sorts of little animals, because, well, they aren’t human.” So WHAT?! “We need more cows, so uh, we’re just going to build this farm right here where thousands of species are living now but will disappear.” What if it were OUR SPECIES?!

What.If.It.Were.Our.Family?

The Indigenous people’s religions in the USA and Mexico were misconstrued 450 years ago. They did not believe in this Father Sun God or that Mother Rain God. They believe that actually, the rain is their family member, the plants are their family members also. Because they are. Even in the Bible it says that man is to be steward; that means a guardian, not an abusive owner.

And if humanity is able to survive the next hundred and fifty years, it will be because we were somehow able to move past our little boxes, into a wider philosophy that protects the Commons, we found some sort of protection for the Commons, or we lost everything we had and somehow from the garbage left over from our ancestors, we built a new philosophy. One about being sisters and brothers with everything around us, because in the end, that is the only way we can maintain the world “for seven generations” after our own. And the land we stole, we took from the wise who had lived here 20,000 years already, and would live indefinitely, in their family of man and sky and land, enjoying concerts, exhibits, traditional family dinners, and trips to the park, had we not come.

Indigenous Lives are at stake… by our own hands. Please be conscious of your purchases, buy reused goods, eat more vegetables and fruit, and breathe in the moment. “This is OUR Earth, most friendly Earth and fair, daily her sea and shore, through sun and shadow, faithful she turns robed in her azure air…”

Grazing that Stimulates Growth

I was taught as a bio major that certain grazers feeding on plants stimulate them to grow more.

I never suspected that it could extend into the insect family!!

ススメガの幼虫がクチナシを食べる。 Sphyngidae “Hawk Moth” feeding on gardenia

For several years, I have been growing two gardenias. They are native to Japan, but due to my lack of fertilization, perhaps, they have been scraggly since sprouting about four years ago.

This year I found a cute little caterpillar near my plants. And another one. I tried to see which ones they would eat by putting them on different plants, because, you see, caterpillars turn into beautiful flying creatures that pollinate our flowers and fruits. So I didn’t want them to die. I found that they liked my gardenias, and knowing it was early spring and they would grow their few leaves back, I put the little guys to graze on them. They chose only the tenderest sprouting greens, and we’re quite picky… They turned out to be SuzumeGa (Hawk Moth, or Sphyngidae, Larvae), who eat pretty much only gardenias. They are lovely, huge moths with a shape like an arrow that hover while sipping nectar from flower to flower. I hope they survived because I haven’t seen many gardenias around here.

The Hawk Moth baby likes only the tenderest leaves… That will soon grow back much fuller!
The gardenia before consumption on the far right in the tall pot. Isn’t it scraggly? I think I could probably count the leaves on it, and they are evergreens!
A Hawk Moth in the Sphyngidae family. I didn’t take this amazing photo (I got it from the free pile) but I wish I had!

Gardenias, by the way, come in two types. The horticultural variety, with many petals, and the native to Japan, with only five. That being said, the one with only five petals, also called Kuchinashi (meaning “No Mouth”) produces an orange, almost flavorless fruit. This fruit is used as a natural coloring agent, and rather than using carcinogenic Yellow Five, the Japanese use Kuchinashi to color everything edible from candy to everyday packaged foods.

Where did the petals go? Rather, where did the seeds go… The seeds were turned into petals over time, as in many flowers, by gardeners who wanted more elaborate flowers. And the seeds disappeared, meaning that all of those plants have to be propagated vegetatively by cuttings, and cannot have their own babies. They can flower but not fruit. So of we plant them rather than the ones that can seed, they can never make their own… Well, that’s another story for another time.

Gardenia, the many-petaled Kuchinashi
Kuchinashi – the Gardenia that fruits

Anyway, lo and behold two months later, the places that were chomped on my Kuchinashis by those colorful babies are now full of leaves!! The moths, I believe, stimulated the leaves to produce more in response. Maybe it is similar to the technique that is being studied for stimulating crop production (see one of my earlier posts); bumblebees bite leaves to stimulate flowering earlier than normal. Anyway, food for thought. Don’t let your friends kill the caterpillars! Especially the cool-looking ones!!

Major companies, permanent work-from-home, and the future of humanity

https://www.cnbc.com/2020/05/01/major-companies-talking-about-permanent-work-from-home-positions.html

Yes. Let’s fast forward about 10 years. Because there are less people in cities, there is less chance for people to spread disease. Also, with more people in localized areas, local business flourishes again. Small businesses, mom and pop shops, and true pride through craftsmanship are given a new beginning. We also find space (in my wholesome and imagined future) for public edible landscape where everyone can meet their neighbors and chat while picking the red raspberries. Because people can get out more freely, there are more local social networks, and there’s also a deeper relationship with the landscape, as well as the inhabitants of it, the birds, the butterflies, and the bees. We move forward into another, more mature stage of humanity.