Opinion |  – By Margaret Renkl – The New York Times

By 

Contributing Opinion Writer

Credit…William DeShazer for The New York Times

“NASHVILLE — After what seemed like 100 years of impeachments hearings, anything uttered on Capitol Hill now sounds to my ear like the voice of Charlie Brown’s teacher. Nevertheless, a few words from President Trump’s State of the Union address managed to break through the wah-wahs last week: “To protect the environment, days ago, I announced the United States will join the One Trillion Trees Initiative, an ambitious effort to bring together government and the private sector to plant new trees in America and around the world,” he said.

Could it really be true?

You will forgive me for thinking there’s no way it could be true. The whole point of the World Economic Forum’s One Trillion Trees initiative is to reduce carbon in the environment and slow the rate of climate change by growing and preserving a trillion trees, worldwide, by 2050. But instead of addressing climate change, the Trump administration has rolled back or weakened 95 environmental protections already on the books.

The burning of fossil fuels is the leading cause of climate change, but much of this administration’s hostility to environmental protections is a result of its commitment to promoting the fossil fuel industry: allowing drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and other public landsapproving construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, encouraging more offshore drilling in the Atlantic. The Trump administration has even gutted the popular Endangered Species Act, which was passed with strong bipartisan support at a time in history when the word “bipartisan” was not an oxymoron. Is it any surprise that the Environmental Protection Agency is now widely known among conservationists as the Environmental Destruction Agency?

I’m trying to figure out how this business with trees might be different. Did the president experience a Scrooge-like conversion at the World Economic Forum in Davos last month, with the brilliant Jane Goodall, who supports the One Trillion Trees initiative, playing the role of Marley? If so, it would be a conversion narrative more potent than any since St. Paul was struck down by a blinding light on the road to Damascus. Paul went from persecuting Christians to becoming the faith’s most famous evangelist, responsible for the spread of Christianity around the ancient Western world. Donald Trump’s conversion to environmental sanity could be the start of saving the world itself.”

alan haigh
carmel, ny

If you say you want to plant more trees you offend no one in the world of commerce. If you are a politician who says you want to protect forests with a real plan, you will be destroyed. If you say that human beings have a moral obligation to defend forests and the species that rely on them, including but not exclusively sapiens, you will be ridiculed. If you point out that the human population has tripled in about 70 years you will be ignored.

Please don’t write about trees and ignore their true context- the forests, which are being destroyed at even a faster rate than the population of humans on this planet increases, pushing out so much of everything else. How much forest is destroyed to create food for every new human being, who consumes food and the very products that are warming and otherwise poisoning our planet? In the next day, a net “gain” of 200,000 people will join us on our shrinking planet- they will not live in forests but will accelerate their destruction.

Save trees by, first of all, stabilizing the human population. Until we do that all else is futile. Why isn’t that an obvious truth to all of us, including you, MS Renkl? You can’t really save the trees without saving the forests.

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Opinion | Nobody Cared When Nashville Drowned – By Margaret Renkl – The New York Times

By 

Contributing Opinion Writer

Credit…Larry McCormack/The Tennessean, via Frist Art Museum

“NASHVILLE — On the Saturday I had set aside to visit a new exhibit at the Frist Art Museum, it rained so hard I was afraid to leave the house. Nashville was built on the Cumberland River, and even those of us who live far from its banks are invariably a stone’s throw from at least one creek that drains into the great Cumberland or one of its tributaries. A deluge falling on saturated soil will flood the creeks and leave water pooling on low-lying roads. “Turn Around Don’t Drown” is a truism I conscientiously heed.

The exhibit I planned to visit that day, ironically enough, was a retrospective of the devastating 2010 flood that dropped more than 13 inches of rain on this area in 36 hours — obliterating, twice over, the previous two-day rainfall record. The Cumberland River crested more than 11 feet above flood level, leaving 10,000 people displaced in the region and 26 others dead, including an elderly couple who drowned when their car was swept off the road not far from my house.

Area landmarks were shut down for months. Opry Mills, a massive mall on the banks of the Cumberland, was closed for nearly two years. Nearby, the Opryland Resort & Convention Center had to evacuate 1,500 hotel guests, and the first floor of the Grand Ole Opry House itself was completely submerged. Twenty-four feet of water entered the Schermerhorn, Nashville’s transcendently beautiful symphony hall, where the losses included two Steinway concert grand pianos. Soundcheck, a sprawling rehearsal and equipment-storage facility in East Nashville, took a nearly fatal blow, with millions of dollars of instruments — belonging to both session musicians and industry superstars — lost to the water. It all felt almost personal: What would Music City be without the music?”

Opinion | An Open Letter to John Lewis – By Margaret Renkl – The New York Times

By 

Contributing Opinion Writer

Credit…Damon Winter/The New York Times

“NASHVILLE — Dear Mr. Lewis, I write with a heavy heart. Stage 4 pancreatic cancer is a brutal diagnosis, so it’s no surprise that last Sunday night the internet erupted with anguish as news of your illness became public. Treatment may give you a “fighting chance” to continue working “for the Beloved Community,” as you wrote in a statement, but it’s painful to think of what you will be called on to bear in the coming months. You have already borne so much for us.

In the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, a massive screen plays a montage of film and still photos from March 7, 1965, a day now commemorated as “Bloody Sunday.” The images were made at the beginning of a planned march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama’s capital, to claim voting rights for the African-American citizens of the state. I grew up in Alabama, not far from Selma, and I’ve always known the story of Bloody Sunday, but knowing the story is not the same thing as watching it unfold on a life-size screen. Standing in the National Civil Rights Museum on Martin Luther King Jr. Day a few years ago, I watched in horror. What you and your fellow marchers, 600 strong, found waiting for you on the other side of the Edmund Pettus Bridge was 150 state police and local law-enforcement officers armed with billy clubs, bullwhips and tear gas. They gave you two minutes to disperse.

As the chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, you were standing at the very front of the march. You were wearing a light-colored trench coat, and that coat is what makes it possible to follow you in the black-and-white footage of those next chaotic moments. One minute and five seconds after the two-minute warning, evil advanced and the carnage began, even as you knelt in the road to pray.

The beating you took that day from an Alabama state trooper may have fractured your skull, but it didn’t crack your resolve. National news stories carrying photos and film footage from Bloody Sunday finally woke this nation to what was happening in the Jim Crow South, and that awakening ultimately led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act five months later.”

Opinion | How Not to Kill an Animal – By Margaret Renkl – The New York Times

By 

Contributing Opinion Writer

Credit…Amanda Andrade-Rhoades for The New York Times

“NASHVILLE — Last week, Walden’s Puddle, a nonprofit wildlife rescue organization in a rural area of Nashville, posted a set of photos of a barred owl caught in the jaws of a leg-hold trap. The first photo, which featured the owl on the ground, its wings spread wide and its eyes cast down, was emblazoned with the words “Graphic images ahead.” I didn’t click through to see the rest of the pictures. The sight of that magnificent creature of the air tethered to the ground was graphic enough to break my heart. I didn’t need to see what the rest of the images would inevitably reveal: sinews torn, bones splintered, flesh bloody and swollen, great yellow claws mangled beyond repair.

Walden’s Puddle rehabilitates and releases orphaned and injured animals, and its Instagram account is normally a feel-good feed of squirrels, songbirds, turtles, deer, raccoons, opossums, snakes, rabbits, foxes, skunks, groundhogs, bobcats — pretty much everything that flies or crawls or walks or swims — and all of them on the mend. The caption to the post about the barred owl, which had to be euthanized, was uncharacteristically fierce:

These traps are cruel, evil, disgusting and should be illegal, causing unimaginable suffering to any creature who gets caught in its unforgiving jaws. While it is illegal to harm protected bird species such as this one (though these situations rarely result in criminal charges), these types of traps are sadly still legal to use in the state of Tennessee and in many other places, though they’ve been outlawed for many years in other parts of the world. Because the law requires they only be checked every 36 hours, any animal stuck in its grip will experience unimaginable pain and fear, possibly for hours or days.

Although their use has been banned or severely curtailed in more than 120 countries, leg-hold traps are indeed legal in Tennessee and in most other states in this country. Traps are sometimes used by farmers and ranchers to catch livestock predators, but the primary use for leg-hold traps is to catch an animal in a way that preserves the value of its pelt. Fur-edged down parkas, a fashion trend kick-started by a 2013 Sports Illustrated cover featuring the model Kate Upton wearing a bikini and a fur-trimmed Canada Goose parka, are now so prevalent among the affluent that they have caused a boom in backwoods trapping.”

Opinion | Why I Wear Five Wedding Rings – by Margaret Renkle – The New York Times

Margret Renkle is not like any other journalist I follow. She writes today mostly about gratitude to her mother and her female ancestors It might be iimpossible to read this and not insert yourself into the story she weaves, with your own losses and loves, and family heros.
She writes,: “I’m the keeper of other family rings: my great-grandmother’s, my grandmother’s, my mother-in-law’s. From time to time I would take them out to ponder for a moment, but I never thought to wear them. Along with my mother, these women are at the very heart of the essay collection that was about to send me out on a book tour, and one day it finally dawned on me that their wedding rings would make the perfect talismans against fear. They would remind me that worry is pointless, that fretting about my own shortcomings as a public speaker would not in any way make me a better public speaker. I took out the wedding rings of all my treasured forebears and put them on.

In what might be another minor miracle, for we are clearly in the realm of magical thinking here, it worked. I stood in front of microphone after microphone, spinning the thin bands around my fingers, and I looked out upon all those strangers, and, lo, I was not afraid.”

Opinion | The Last Hummingbird – By Margaret Renkl – The New York Times

By 

Contributing Opinion Writer

CreditCreditLuisa Gonzalez/Reuters

“NASHVILLE — From inside my air-conditioned house, the light through my windows looks the way October light is supposed to look — mild, quiet, entirely unlike the thin light of winter or the sparkling light of spring or the unrelenting light of summer. In normal years, October is a month for open windows in Middle Tennessee. For cool, damp mornings. For colored leaves that quake in the wind before letting go and lifting away. For afternoon shadows so lovely they fill me with a longing I can’t even name.

Relief is on the way, the forecast tells us, but all we have had of autumn so far is the right slant of light, for this year the mild October light has not brought the usual mild temperatures. All over the Southeast, and much of the Midwest, October came in like August, breaking heat records. For all of September it was August in the South, and for all the first week of October, too — severe drought, temperatures near 100 degrees day after day.

My own yard is as drought-tolerant as I can make it, planted with native trees and shrubs that evolved for this growing zone. Hardly a blade of water-craving grass is left in what passes for a lawn here; to my delight, self-seeding wildflowers have gradually crowded out the grass over the years. But the wild ground cover is so dry now that it crackles when I walk on it, and little puffs of dust lift from the parched soil with my every step.

The once-fragrant piles of damp earth that moles turn up in the night are as dry as anthills, and the robins that like to pick through their leavings in the morning seem to have given up all hope of worms. I finally went to the hardware store to buy a sprinkler, partly to save the new berry-bearing trees and shrubs I planted last spring for the songbird migration, and partly because I take so much pleasure from watching all the neighborhood robins darting through the edges of the spray, catching insects desperate for moisture. I know their dance is nothing more than survival, but to me it looks exactly like joy.”

David Lindsay: I put this lovely piece into my category, Flora and Fauna, and then panicked. Are insects also considered Fauna. What is Fauna. It turns out it is the entire animal kingdom, which includes insects.

From http://www.quora.com:

Are fish, invertebrates and insects categorized as fauna?

2 Answers
Jonathan Jeffreys
Jonathan Jeffreys, Educator, Author, Creator of BiologyCoachOnline

Thank you for your interesting question. Many of my first-semester biology students are taken aback when they first hear me refer to fish, birds, and insects as animals (fauna). The fact is that there seems to be a stream of belief that only mammals–lions and tigers and bears and the like–are animals. The animal kingdom, however, is vast and varied.

There are nine major animal phyla. In order from simplest to most complex, then, they are the:

1. Porifera or the sponges;

2. Cnidaria which includes the jellyfish and corals;

3. Platyhelminthes, or the flatworms, includes tapeworms and flukes;

4. Nemotoda or the roundworms;

5. Annelida, or the segmented worms, includes earthworms and leeches;

6. Mullusca includes the terrestrial snails as well as marine bivalves, squids, and oysters;

7. Arthropoda, or the arthropods, are animals with external skeletons (or exoskeletons) and include both terrestrial and aquatic and marine forms including insects, spiders, crabs, and lobsters.

All of the aforementioned phyla include animals without backbones. In other words, invertebrates. So to answer one part of your question: yes, invertebrates (which includes insects) are animals.

The final two animal phyla are the vertebrates (or animals with endoskeletons). They are the:

8. Echinodermata, or echinoderms, are animals with “spiny” skin and include sea stars (or “starfish”), sand dollars, and sea urchins;

9. Chordates include the most complex animal forms; they have endoskeletons that protect internal organs while providing shape and structure, backbones that surround and protect spinal cords, and skulls that surround and protect brains; they have complete digestive systems, closed circulatory systems, and tails at some point in their development.

There are six classes of vertebrate chordates including the:

1. Chondrichthyes, or fish with skeletons made of cartilage like the sharks and stingrays;

2. Osteichthyes, or fish with skeletons made of bone, includes salmon, perch, trout, sea bass, catfish, etc;

3. Amphibians are semiaquatic vertebrates and include frogs, toads, and salamanders;

4. Reptiles are vertebrates with scaly skin and include snakes, lizards, and turtles;

5. Aves are the birds;

6. Mammalia are the mammals and include animals with hair and mammary glands; the mammals include those lions and tigers and bears mentioned in the very beginning. And oh yeah, humans are mammals as well.

https://www.quora.com/Are-fish-invertebrates-and-insects-categorized-as-fauna

Opinion | Three Billion Canaries in the Coal Mine – By Margaret Renkl – The New York Times

Margaret Renkl

By 

Contributing Opinion Writer

A Magnolia Warbler found recently on a suburban lawn in the northeast.

NASHVILLE — During the nearly quarter-century that my family has lived in this house, the changes in our neighborhood have become increasingly apparent: fewer trees and wildflowers, fewer bees and butterflies and grasshoppers, fewer tree frogs and songbirds. The vast majority of Tennessee is still rural, and for years I told myself that such changes were merely circumstantial, specific to a city undergoing rapid gentrification and explosive growth. I wasn’t trying to save the world by putting up nest boxes for the birds or letting the wildflowers in my yard bloom out before mowing. I was hoping only to provide a small way station for migrating wildlife, trusting they would be fine once they cleared the affluence zone that is the New Nashville.

I was wrong. A new study in the journal Science reports that nearly 3 billion North American birds have disappeared since 1970. That’s 29 percent of all birds on this continent. The data are both incontrovertible and shocking. “We were stunned by the result,” Cornell University’s Kenneth V. Rosenberg, the study’s lead author, told The Times.

This is not a report that projects future losses on the basis of current trends. It is not an update on the state of rare birds already in trouble. This study enumerates actual losses of familiar species — ordinary backyard birds like sparrows and swifts, swallows and blue jays. The anecdotal evidence from my own yard, it turns out, is everywhere.

You may have heard of the proverbial canary in the coal mine — caged birds whose sensitivity to lethal gasses served as an early-warning system to coal miners; if the canary died, they knew it was time to flee. This is what ornithologists John W. Fitzpatrick and Peter P. Marra meant when they wrote, in an opinion piece for The Times, that “Birds are indicator species, serving as acutely sensitive barometers of environmental health, and their mass declines signal that the earth’s biological systems are in trouble.”