Margaret Renkl | America’s Ugliest Confederate Statue Is Gone. Racism Isn’t. – The New York Times

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/17/opinion/confederate-monuments-tennessee-nathan-forrest.html

Ms. Renkl is a contributing Opinion writer who covers flora, fauna, politics and culture in the American South.

“NASHVILLE — God knows I didn’t visit the Tennessee State Museum last week to pay my respects to the bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest, but while I was there I figured I might as well take a look. It’s been quite a year for the Confederate general, slave trader and grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.

In June, Forrest’s remains were disinterred from their burial site in Memphis and transported across the state to the new National Confederate Museum in Columbia, Tenn. The transfer was the result of years of activists’ efforts to rid largely Black Memphis — where Martin Luther King Jr., of course, was assassinated — of any remnants of Forrest’s legacy there.

“It’s like a burden has been lifted,” Van D. Turner, a Shelby County commissioner, told The Associated Press. “It just gives us breath.”

The next month, the giant bust of Forrest was removed from the Tennessee State Capitol, where it has been generating controversy since it was installed in 1978. It was reinstalled in the Tennessee State Museum in a small temporary gallery adjacent to a permanent exhibition about Tennessee’s role in the Civil War and Reconstruction. Forrest’s role as a slave trader and Ku Klux Klan leader, among other depredations, is clearly explained in the permanent exhibition, and this historical context is very different from the place of honor the bust occupied in the Capitol. Visitors to the Tennessee State Museum, learn exactly who Nathan Bedford Forrest really was and exactly which evil he fought to preserve.

Margaret Renkl | This Winter, Snow Can Help Us Learn to Stop – The New York Times

Ms. Renkl is a contributing Opinion writer who covers flora, fauna, politics and culture in the American South.

“NASHVILLE — It was 78 degrees here on New Year’s Day, a record high for Nashville, and I broke into a sweat just packing for a weekend on the Cumberland Plateau. “Did you remember to bring your coat?” my husband asked when I got into the car.

It was not an unreasonable question, despite the heat. I hadn’t packed my coat when we left for the Cumberland Plateau last month. It was warm that day, too. In fact, it had been so warm for so long that the cherry laurels were already in bud. Who thinks to pack a coat when cherry laurels are in bud?

But the next day the temperature dropped to 45, and there I was, stranded in the woods with no coat nor even so much as a sweater. Apparently, this is how winter works now. Daffodils out of the ground, Lenten roses in full bloom two months out of time, and then wham.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT  Jan. 10,  NYT Comment:

Hi Margaret,

Thank you for another lovely post about snow and the changes in the weather. I am sharing with friends and neighbors a new 2021 video from climate scientists at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI).

This is important information, not usually so well described. Here is the link to: “Earth Emergency: Feedback Loops” available at PBS for the next 3 weeks or so. https://www.pbs.org/show/earth-emergency/ Go to the PBS site, and the right video says it is for 52 minutes and 24s or seconds.

Here is a link to access separately the 5 original shorts from a year ago, that make up the full length video, through my blog post at InconvenientNews.Net. https://inconvenientnews.wordpress.com/2022/01/01/climate-emergency-feedback-loops/ The responsible group at WHOI is the Woodwell Climate Research Center, can be found at: https://www.woodwellclimate.org/?event=national-premiere-of-earth-emergency-on-pbs I hope to write a column on this, but while my head is high, my platform is small.

David Lindsay

5 Recommended

Margaret Renkl | Halting Extinction Is an Issue We Actually Agree On – The New York Times

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/10/11/opinion/extinction-bipartisan-conservation.html

Ms. Renkl is a contributing Opinion writer who covers flora, fauna, politics and culture in the American South.

“NASHVILLE — If you’re a certain age, you may remember the snail darter, a small fish in the Little Tennessee River that caused an environmental firestorm when it was listed as endangered in 1975. At the time, the Tennessee Valley Authority was already in the midst of building a dam on the Little Tennessee. Snail darters require free-flowing water to reproduce, and the only known habitat for the entire species was about to be dammed.

The ensuing legal battle made it all the way to the Supreme Court, which sided with the fish. But Congress, pressed by Tennessee politicians, responded by making the Tellico Dam project exempt from the provisions of the Endangered Species Act. The little fish seemed doomed.

You may be wondering why I would resurrect the story of an ancient battle that ended badly for environmentalists. Why bring up the snail darter’s sad tale, especially now, with 22 species in the U.S. newly listed as extinct and one million others on track for the same grim future worldwide?

Those lost creatures are exactly why.

The Endangered Species Act of 1973 garnered the kind of bipartisan Congressional support that we can hardly imagine today. The House voted 355-4 in favor of passage. It was signed into law by President Richard Nixon, a Republican. Since then, it has saved dozens of iconic species like the bald eagle and the peregrine falcon, the Yellowstone grizzly and the American alligator, and it remains extremely popular. Despite near constant challenges from business interests and a great many elected Republicans, at least 80 percent of Americans, including 74 percent of self-identified conservatives, support it.”

Margaret Renkl | When Medical Ethics Collide With Basic Fairness – The New York Times

“NASHVILLE — It’s hard for me to describe the utter rage that filled me when I opened my local newspaper last Tuesday and saw The Tennessean’s lead article: “Vaccinated Lose Access to Treatment,” the headline read. What new through-the-looking-glass madness was afoot in this Covid-beleaguered leadership vacuum?

“The Tennessee state government now recommends nearly all vaccinated residents be denied access to monoclonal antibody treatment in a new effort to preserve a limited supply of antibody drugs for those who remain most vulnerable to the virus, largely by their own choice,” wrote the reporter, Brett Kelman.”

Margaret Renkl | Defending Nature Is a Form of Social Justice – The New York Times

Ms. Renkl is a contributing Opinion writer who covers flora, fauna, politics and culture in the American South.

“NASHVILLE — Two good things happened here recently that I didn’t see coming. First, our Metro Council passed a bill, which Mayor John Cooper signed, that increases protections for trees on city land. Second, the proposal for an outrageously terrible subdivision in Whites Creek, one of the few remaining rural tracts of Davidson Country, was rejected by the Metro Planning Commission.

Positive as the recent environmental news here may be, small-scale victories like these don’t normally rise to the level of national attention. But as a measure of what is possible, they have given me more hope for the future than I’ve had in a long time.

That’s because these particular environmental wins were not the result of lawsuits or transfers of political power. They were the result of widespread and nonpartisan public outcry. And they tell us of what can happen in any city, anywhere, when people start recognizing trees as a kind of civic infrastructure and the natural world as a public good.”

Margaret Renkl | Republicans Have Gone Too Far in the Region Hit Hardest by Covid – The New York Times

Ms. Renkl is a contributing Opinion writer who covers flora, fauna, politics and culture in the American South.

“NASHVILLE — In case you’re wondering how things are going here in the Delta Rising region of the United States, I regret to report that things are going badly. Very, very badly.

Our intensive care units are full. Our children are getting sick in record numbers. Nevertheless, a small subset of unmasked, unvaccinated humanity has taken to yelling during school board meetings, and the most extreme protesters have issued threats against nurses and physicians who dared to speak publicly on behalf of such reasonable pandemic mitigation measures as masks and vaccines.

It’s so bad that the Tennessee Medical Association had to issue a statement in support of the exhausted heroes who for the past 18 months have been risking their own lives to care for strangers. “The enemy is the virus, not health care workers,” the statement read.

This is what some of us have become here in the American South: people who need to be reminded that our doctors are not our enemies.”

Margaret Renkl | I Don’t Want to Spend the Rest of My Days Grieving – The New York Times

Ms. Renkl is a contributing Opinion writer who covers flora, fauna, politics and culture in the American South.

“NASHVILLE — Sometimes I remember how I tried to comfort my children when they encountered a setback or were disappointed that a dream they were nurturing had not yet come true.

“Life’s a long process,” I would say, echoing my father’s reassurances. “There’s still time.”

But that was long ago, when I was still young enough to believe those words of comfort. Now my father is gone, and my mother too, and I know that life is not at all a long process. Life is the glint of light on rushing water, a flash of lightning. Life is a single wink from a single lightning bug.

How brief is the season of “splendour in the grass,” as the poet William Wordsworth put it, and surely summer is the time that brings such lessons closest to home. The dog days of August crisp the spring-green underbrush to crackling tinder. The children trudge back to school under a blistering sun. We wonder: What has become of the languorous summer we longed for back in the sadness of winter? Where did the endless, grass-fragrant days go?”

Margaret Renkl | This ‘Shazam’ for Birds Could Help Save Them – The New York Times

Ms. Renkl is a contributing Opinion writer who covers flora, fauna, politics and culture in the American South.

“NASHVILLE — I spent my entire childhood playing in the woods and meadows of rural Alabama. The world back then was lush and green: cooled by creeks, carpeted by pine needles, attended by birdsong. In those days there were nearly three billion more birds in North America than there are today, and my young days played out beneath the sound of their music.

The staggering loss of birds — nearly a third of them since 1970 — is due to human behavior: to climate change, to deforestation and ecosystem fragmentation, to insecticides and free-roaming pets, to light pollution in our skies and microplastics in our waterways, to glass-encased skyscrapers protruding into migratory flyways, among other choices that favor our own convenience over the lives of our wild neighbors.

I can’t help but wonder how much of the blame lies, too, in indifference, our failure even to notice what we’ve lost. Birds can be secretive creatures, staying high in the treetops or deep in the underbrush. Even those in plain sight often move startlingly quickly, appearing as hardly more than a flash of color, a blur of wings. Except for the background sound of birdsong, many people are never aware of how many birds — or how few — they share the world with.

Apps like iNaturalist from National Geographic and the California Academy of Sciences help to close that gap, functioning as both electronic field guides and vast data-collection devices. They learn as we learn, improving with every photo and map pin we upload, helping experts understand a planet undergoing profound change. But what of the vast number of birds we never see, those we only hear? To offer that feature — one that accurately and consistently recognizes birds by sound alone — would be the birding equivalent of finding the Holy Grail.”

She describes just such an app. “Last month, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology released an updated version of its Merlin Bird ID app, which allows users to identify birds by song.”

Margaret Renkl | For the Butterflies — and the Rest of Us – The New York Times

Ms. Renkl is a contributing Opinion writer who covers flora, fauna, politics and culture in the American South.

“NASHVILLE — For Christmas last year, my husband ordered a sign for my butterfly garden from the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, a nonprofit that works to protect insects and other invertebrates around the world. “Pollinator Habitat,” the sign reads. “This area has been planted with pollinator-friendly flowers and is protected from pesticides to provide valuable habitat for bees and other pollinators.” A note about where to find out more information includes a QR code that takes a smartphone straight to the Xerces Society’s “Bring Back the Pollinators” initiative.

National Pollinator Week begins on June 21, which is also the first full day of summer, a season we associate with bees and butterflies. What better time to launch an awareness campaign for the insects that are directly responsible for food and flowers? And what awareness campaign could be more necessary in an age when insect populations are crashing? Most of us know a butterfly when we see one, but their habits and habitat needs — and the perils they face — are another matter altogether.”

David Lindsay Jr.

David Lindsay Jr.Hamden, CT | NYT comment:

Wonderful essay, thank you. I’ve joined No Mow May, and put up a Pollinator Way sign. To my pleasant surprise, the Republicans on both side of my yard also this spring did not mow their lawns till May was almost over. Bonding with Republicans over lawn care, who would have thought. There are still dozens of neighbors not yet onboard. The best solution would be a town or state ban on pesticides for home owners. We are enjoying fireflies in our back yard, but there are just a few, when there used to be hundreds.

Margaret Renkl | We Were Called to Sacrifice as a Nation. We Didn’t Answer. – The New York Times

“. . .  In 1906, the American philosopher William James delivered an address at Stanford University that was later published as “Proposing the Moral Equivalent of War.” In it, he made the case for a form of compulsory national service that would instill the same virtues as those so often ascribed to military service. Without the fear and brutality of war, national service would be a morally uncomplicated way for young people “to get the childishness knocked out of them, and to come back into society with healthier sympathies and soberer ideas.”

Some of James’s own sober ideas have not survived the test of time. He thought, for instance, that waging “immemorial human warfare against nature” was an apt use of young people conscripted into national service, though the human war against nature has never needed reinforcements. We have been waging unceasing war against nature for the entire history of humanity.

Nevertheless, the need for some nonmartial way to nurture communitarian qualities is more urgent now than ever. We have lately been reminded of the absolute necessity for Americans to be motivated by warm fellow feeling across divides of region, race, class, politics, religion, age, gender or ability; to cultivate a sense of common purpose; to make sacrifices for the sake of others. And that reminder came in the form of watching what happens when such qualities are absent, even anathema, in whole regions of the country.  . . .”

“. . . In short, the coronavirus pandemic became a perfect illustration of James’s “moral equivalent of war.” We weren’t fighting a human enemy, but we were fighting for our lives even so. This national calamity, this invasion by a destructive and unstoppable force, was our chance to come together across every possible division. We could finally remember how to sacrifice on behalf of our fellow Americans, how to mourn together the unfathomable losses — not just of life but of security, camaraderie, the capacity for hope.

Plenty of Americans — essential workers, first responders, hospital staff, teachers and many others — lost their lives because they made such sacrifices. Millions more complied unhesitatingly with measures designed to keep the most vulnerable among us safe. But too, too many of us did not. Too many were hostile to the very idea that they should alter their behavior even in the smallest way for the sake of strangers. . . . “