Sunday, December 23, 2007

Kim Whitehead's "The Split" Awarded Best of the Web

Kim Whitehead's story "The Split," appearing in Terrain.org's current issue (No. 20) has been selected for the Best of the Web 2008 Dzanc Books print anthology.

Congratulations Kim!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Terrain.org Editor to Write Weekly Blog for The Next American City

Terrain.org publisher and editor Simmons Buntin been recruited to write a weekly blog entry for The Next American City magazine's blog, and his first entry appeared today: "A Jaguar in the Backyard."

Look for Simmons's second entry tomorrow (Tuesday), and then new entries each Tuesday. You can see these and the other interesting city-related blog entries at:

http://americancity.org/updates/category/blog/

.

Friday, December 07, 2007

The Problem with Christmas

"The Problem with Christmas" by Bill McKibben and appearing in one of our favorite online environmental resources Grist, is a wonderful, quick read that gave many of us the perspective we need this holiday season:

http://www.alternet.org/module/printversion/69068

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Terrain.org Reading Period Closed

The reading period for Terrain.org is currently closed, though we will continue to accept submissions and begin reading them again in February 2008.

Look for our 21st issue, "Islands & Archipelagos," at http://www.terrain.org/ on January 10, 2008.

All submissions received prior to December 1 will receive responses by mid-December. If you don't, please contact us.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

One Month Remaining to Submit for "Islands & Archipelagos" Issue

The submission deadline for Terrain.org's next issue, "Islands & Archipelagos," is December 1, 2007. We are still reviewing poetry, essays, fiction, and articles.

View submission guidelines at www.terrain.org/submit.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Salmon: A Journey in Poetry


Salmon: A Journey in Poetry 1981-2007 -- edited by Terrain.org editorial board member Jessie Lendennie -- celebrates 26 years of innovative and exciting Irish and international poetry. The organization of the volume is simple: two poems from the poet’s Salmon collection (or collections) and one uncollected poem. Detailed biographical notes for each poet and a complete bilbiography of Salmon's publications, are also included.
Look for a review by poet Deborah Fries in Terrain.org's upcoming issue.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Anthology on Global Warming Seeks Submissions

anthology on global warming seeks creative works

Facing the Change: Grassroots Encounters with Global Warming will be acompletely new kind of book about global climate change. Instead of expertstalking at you, this planned anthology will feature personal responses toglobal warming---what everyday people are feeling and thinking as well aswhat they are doing. Stories, essays, and poetry are welcome, from writersand concerned citizens from all walks of life and all ages.

Go to www.facingthechange.org for more information and submission instructions (including a printable version of the full Invitation to Submit). The world needs your insight, strength, and compassion, says anthology editor Steven Pavlos Holmes, Independent Scholar in the Environmental Humanities, Boston, Massachusetts.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Terrain.org Blog Chosen as a "Top 100 Architecture Blog"

We're delighted to report that International Listings Blog has included the Terrain.org Blog in its just-released "Top 100 Architecture Blogs" list.

View the full list at http://www.intlistings.com/articles/2007/top-100-architecture-blogs/.

Of course, that makes us feel a bit guilty that we don't update this blog as often as we should. Ah, shame is always good incentive....

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Terrain.org Editor Interviewed by MiPOesias Magazine

Simmons B. Buntin, the editor of Terrain.org, was recently interviewed for MiPOesias's Men of the Web Wide Poetry World blog. An excerpt:

7) Where do you see your publication/editing in 5 years?

In five years Terrain.org should just about be on Issue No. 30. I envision more interactive features--Flash-based poems and video essays, for example, and article/essay commenting from readers. We're also considering online chapbooks and annual contests. The web is moving to handheld devices, so a "mobile" version of Terrain.org seems in order.

What I hope you won't (continue to) see is advertising.

Read the full interview at:

http://menoftheweb.blogspot.com/2007/10/simmons-b-buntin.html
.

Friday, September 28, 2007

A Sneak Peek at the Contents of Issue No. 21

Terrain.org's 21st issue has the theme of "Islands & Archipelagos," and promises to be an interesting mix of literary and technical contributions, as we hope all issues are.

We are pleased to confirm that this issue's interview will be with natural history author David Quammen, who most recent book is the biography The Reluctant Mr. Darwin. I (that is, editor Simmons Buntin) has been a fan of Quammen's often eclectic but also essential writing since the mid-1980s, when Quammen wrote the award-winning "Natural Acts" column for Outside magazine.

The UnSprawl case study will be the new urban village of Loreto Bay in Baja California Sur, Mexico. Loreto Bay is not only unique because of its location on the Sea of Cortez, but because of its measures of sustainability which include water harvesting and desalinization, solar photovoltaic power utilization, and much more.

The ARTerrain gallery will feature the captivating water and island photography of Joel B. McEachern, who has published a brief photo-essay in Terrain.org once before.

We are still accepting submissions in the areas of poetry, essays, fiction, and articles. Submission deadline is December 1 for January 10, 2008, publication. Get more information at www.terrain.org/submit.
.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Calling Submitter: "Blue Water" Fiction

We are looking for this morning's submitter of the fiction piece "Blue Water." The email was accidentally deleted (then purged) and the submission needs to be resent: review@terrain.org. Thank you, and we apologize for the inconvenience.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Terrain.org Now Reading Submissions

Terrain.org is now reading submissions of poetry, essay, fiction, articles, and reviews for the following three scheduled issues:

  • No. 21 : Islands & Archipelagos : Submission deadline December 1, 2007, for publication January 10, 2008
  • No. 22 : Understory / Overgrowth : Submission deadline June 1, 2008, for publication July 10
  • No. 23 : Symbiosis : Submission deadline December 1, 2008, for publication January 10, 2009

Learn more at www.terrain.org/submit.

Global Climate Change & Art: The High Water Line

Check out the following link for a subtle yet important art project in New York City to demonstrate the potential impact of global warming:

http://greenskeptic.blogspot.com/2007/08/global-climate-change-art-in-action.html

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Terrain.org's Issue No. 20 : Community Sustained : Now Online!

Terrain.org: A Journal of the Built & Natural Environments is pleased to announce our newest issue:

Issue No. 20 : Community Sustained : www.terrain.org

Columns

  • Guest Editorial : “Grassroots Good, Communities of Change” by Erik Hoffner, Orion Grassroots Network
  • Simmons B. Buntin’s The Literal Landscape : “A Taco Stand in Every Neighborhood”
  • David Rothenberg’s Bull Hill : “Avatud!” with place poems translated
  • Catherine Cunningham’s View from the Summit : “Westward Expansion”
  • NEW: Deborah Fries’ Plein Air : “Sustainable Magic: Restoring the Allure of Bedford Springs”

Interview

  • “Speaking Truth to Power” : Terrain.org interviews ecologist, author, and cancer survivor Sandra Steingraber

UnSprawl Case Study

  • Southside in Greensboro, North Carolina

Articles

  • “Siena and Sustainability: City and Country in Tuscany,” with “Spannocchia: A Tuscan Sustainable Estate” article and extra Siena photos, by Thomas Harvey
  • “Community Development in Denver’s Curtis Park: A New Model for Urban Infill,” by Joe Colistra
  • “The Arts and Austin’s Second Street District,” by Janet Seibert
  • “Aging in Community: How the Coming Baby Boom Generation will Transform Traditional Models of Independent Living,” by Jan Moran and Paul Rollins
  • “Kiva: Reducing Poverty and Building Sustainable Communities through Micro-Lending,” by J.D. Stein

Essays

  • “Listening without Distraction: Sustainability in Little Tibet,” by Pamela Uschuk, with photos by William Pitt Root
  • “Accidental Summer Soundtrack” by Nishta Jaya Mehra
  • “Sitting on the Front Porch” by Cynthia Staples
  • “A Lake of Pure Sunshine” by Scott Calhoun
  • “Bollywood: An Obsession” with narrative slideshow, by Kaizer Rangwala

Poetry

  • Lynn Strongin
  • Danica Colic
  • Matthew Thorburn
  • Elizabeth Aamot
  • Lyn Lifshin
  • Justin Evans
  • Tim Bellows
  • Anca Vlasopolos
  • J.D. Smith
  • Eric Magrane, with images

Fiction

  • “The Great Citrus War” by Terry Sanville
  • “The Split” by Kim Whitehead
  • “Renting” by John Michael Cummings
  • “Thrashing” by Teague Bohlen

Reviews

  • Stephanie Eve Boone reviews Follies of Science: 20th Century Visions of Our Fantastic Future, by Eric Dregni and Jonathan Dregni
  • Bonnie Richardson reviews Drosscape: Wasting Urban Land in America, by Alan Berger
  • Simmons B. Buntin reviews On the Altar of Greece, poems by Donna J. Gelagotis Lee
  • Terrain.org reviews Bird Songs: 250 North American Birds in Song, by Les Beletsky

Check out the latest issue now at http://www.terrain.org/.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Terrain.org Editor to Moderate 'The Future of Environmental Essay' Panel

Simmons Buntin, editor and publisher of Terrain.org: A Journal of the Built & Natural Environments, will moderate a panel titled "The Future of Environmental Essay" at the 2008 AWP Conference in New York City, January 30 to February 2. Terrain.org will also have a table at the Bookfair.

The panel features writers/editors/teachers/scientists Alison Hawthorne Deming, David Gessner, David Rothenberg, and Lauret Savoy.

Panel Description:

Global warming, urbanization, deforestation—these are only a few of the global dilemmas that environmental writing attempts to tackle. Historically, environmental essay—beginning with writers like Aldo Leopold and Rachel Carson—has taken a place-based, often spiritual approach to environmental issues. But what does the future of the environmental essay hold? Four prominent creative nonfiction writers and editors will provide insight, exploring environmental essay as both craft and motive.

If you're at the AWP Conference, please plan to join us for what promises to be an exceptional panel.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Conference: Innovative Ideas for a New West

Innovative Ideas for a New West: New Practices for Growing Communities of the Intermountain West
Sopris Foundation Conference
July 13-15, 2007
Missoula, Montana

The Sopris Foundation is doing great work on reimagining and working to create Western cities with a more sustainable future. The conference includes sessions in the areas of Agriculture, Biodiesel: Local Fuels Mobility, Community, Advanced Design, and Energy.

Speakers include Montanta governor Brian Schweitzer, Curitiba (Brazil) mayor Jaime Lerner, sustainability professor David Orr, and The Land Institute's Wes Jackson, among many others.

From Sopris:

"come to talk about the future of a place we are proud of. What do we do to protect and enhance all that made this place special? Sopris Foundation believes that good ideas speak. Come listen. Elected officials, planners, government employees, ranchers and farmers, grantmakers, and entrepreneurs welcome. Join us July 13-15 to share ideas on waking up the West."

Register and get more information at www.soprisfoundation.org.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Submission Reading Period Closes Today

Terrain.org's submission reading period closes at the end of the day today, and will reopen on August 1, 2007. You may continue to submit, but realize that we will not read your work until August.

Look for the "Community Sustained" issue on July 10. It's a dandy!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Terrain.org 10th Anniversary Reading

We are pleased to announce the Terrain.org 10th Anniversary Reading, and hope you'll join us:

Thursday, January 31, 2008
6-8 p.m.
Cornelia Street Cafe
New York City, New York

The reading coincides with the annual Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) Conference and Bookfair, where Terrain.org will have a table.

Scheduled and invited readers include:

Scott Edward Anderson
Simmons B. Buntin
Scott Calhoun
Philip Fried
Deborah Fries
Suzanne Frischkorn
Dennis Must
Shann Palmer
David Rothenberg

Mark your calendars now!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Protect Beluga Whales

Tell the Bush Administration to Protect the Last 300 Beluga Whales in Alaska's Cook Inlet!


There are only 300 beluga whales left in Alaska's Cook Inlet -- a 77 percent decline from the 1,300 whales that thrived there in the early 1980s. Now that these whales are on the brink of extinction, the National Marine Fisheries Service is finally proposing to protect them as an endangered species. But industry groups -- backed by all three members of Alaska's congressional delegation -- are opposed to the whale's protection.

Send your Official Citizen Comment urging the Bush Administration to give these whales a fighting chance by protecting them as endangered and designating their critical habitat.

You can do that online, through the NRDC Action Fund, at:

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Follow the Planning Commissioners Journal Across America on U.S. 50

Planning Conversations from Coast-to-Coast -- cross country on U.S. 50 by day; blog updates by night

Do planners face the same issues in Maryland as they do in Colorado, in Ohio as in Kansas? That's part of what Wayne Senville, editor of the national Planning Commissioners Journal will be finding out during a six-week cross-country trip along U.S. Route 50.

Between the Memorial Day weekend and July 10th, Senville will be meeting with planners and planning commissioners in more than two dozen communities in the 12 states (and the District of Columbia) that Route 50 crosses.

Why Route 50? As Senville puts it, "Route 50 goes through an amazingly varied mix of cities and towns. From the beach resort of Ocean City, Maryland through our nation's capital, and then on through small cities in states like Ohio, Indiana, Missouri, Kansas, and Colorado, as well as the major hubs of Cincinnati, St. Louis, and Kansas City, Route 50 offers as good a reflection of the United States as can be found on any one roadway."

Discussions along Route 50 will focus on the most challenging planning and development issues communities are working on, highlighting both obstacles and opportunities.

According to Senville: "In conversations I've had with planners in setting up this trip, I know I'll be reporting on many critical issues facing cities and towns, from the revitalization of downtowns and urban riverfronts to dealing with the effects of explosive growth. I'll also be covering a diverse range of concerns: tourism and its impacts; inner-city economics; neighborhood efforts to make it easier for residents to 'age in place;' how to promote citizen involvement in local planning; and much more." And, adds Senville, "of course, I'll also be talking with planners about the challenges they face in dealing with roads and highways."

One of most innovative aspects of this trip -- indeed as far as we know the first time it's being done to report on coast-to-coast planning issues -- is that Senville will be posting daily online reports on what he's hearing. Through a combination of text, photos, video, and audio clips, visitors to the Route 50 blog site: www.Rte50.com will be able to follow Senville as he works his way West. Visitors to the blog are encouraged to leave comments on any of the postings.

The best place to find out more is by visiting the blog site. Again, that's www.Rte50.com

About the Planning Commissioners Journal

Now in its 16th year, the Planning Commissioners Journal is the principal national publication for "citizen planners" -- including members of town, city, county, and regional planning boards. With subscribers in all 50 states and across Canada, the quarterly "PCJ" -- based in Burlington, Vermont -- is independently owned and operated. For more on the PCJ: www.plannersweb.com.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Iraq Town Hall with Democractic Candidates, Sponsored by MoveOn

Next Tuesday--April 10th--at 7:15pm Eastern, MoveOn is using the Internet to connect presidential candidates directly to the people. Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John Edwards, Bill Richardson, DennisKucinich, and Joe Biden will answer questions from MoveOn.org's 3.2 million members in the first of three unprecedented virtual town hall meetings. The topic: Iraq.

Attend a local house party and experience the virtual town hall with others by going here:

http://pol.moveon.org/event/events/index.html?action_id=80&id=10158-2464566-wedTlM&t=3

MoveOn members are asking candidates tough questions about their Iraq plans, and they are gathering in living rooms from coast to coast to hear the answers directly. The mass media won't be filtering the questions or filtering the answers---MoveOn will be connecting candidates directly to the people.

Right after the virtual town hall meeting, MoveOn will survey memberst o see which candidate they believe will do the best job of leading us out of the war in Iraq.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Environment and Conflict : Multimedia in Washington, DC

For folks in the Washington, D.C. area (and a webcast, too):

Multimedia: Environment's Connection to Conflict, CooperationExhibition Opening at Woodrow Wilson Center

WASHINGTON---Environmental issues--water, climate, land, forests, and minerals--have played a part in some of world's worst conflicts. But these resources can also be harnessed to build peace. From April 2-20 at the Woodrow Wilson Center, a multimedia exhibit created by Berlin’s Adelphi Research will use interactive displays of photos, text, and video to address three questions:
  • Why do changes in our natural environment threaten people and livelihoods?
  • Does the exploitation of natural resources lead to violent conflict?
  • How can sustainable development and environmental cooperation contribute to stability and peace?

On Tuesday, April 3 from 5:30-7:30 p.m., Johannes K. Haindl, Charge d'Affaires of the Embassy of Germany, and Lee H. Hamilton, president of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, will open the exhibit at a reception in the Woodrow Wilson Memorial Hallway.

Also on April 3, from 3:30-5:30 p.m., an international panel will discuss environment, conflict, and cooperation in a public meeting, to be webcast live.

What: Environment, Conflict, and Cooperation: Panel Discussion ( WEBCAST LIVE ) and Exhibition Opening and Reception
Who: Alexander Carius, Director, Adelphi Research (Berlin), Geoffrey D. Dabelko, Director, Environmental Change and Security Program, Woodrow Wilson Center, and Patricia Kameri-Mbote, Chair, Department of Private Law, University of Nairobi, and Program Director, International Environmental Law Research Centre, Nairobi
When: Tuesday, April 3, 2007, 3:30 - 7:30 p.m., Panel Discussion: 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. (6th Floor Flom Auditorium, Woodrow Wilson Center), Exhibition Opening and Reception: 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. (Woodrow Wilson Memorial Hallway)
Where: Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. The Wilson Center is located in the Ronald Reagan Building at 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue.

The panel discussion is co-sponsored by the German Embassy, the German Information Center USA, the Heinrich Boell Foundation, and the Woodrow Wilson Center. The German Embassy is hosting the reception.

The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars is the living, national memorial to President Wilson established by Congress in 1968 and headquartered in Washington, D.C. It is a nonpartisan institution, supported by public and private funds, engaged in the study of national and world affairs. The Center establishes and maintains a neutral forum for free, open, and informed dialogue.

Media planning to cover the event should contact Sharon McCarter at sharon.mccarter@wilsoncenter.org or (202) 691-4016.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

A Spring of Dying Bees

A FOOD CHAIN RELEASE FROM METROFARM.COM

We know what happens with the birds and the bees. But it is the Spring of dying bees, and this leads us to ask, “What happens when there are no bees?”

This Saturday morning, March 24, at 9 am Pacific, the Food Chain with Michael Olson hosts Professors Eric Mussen from the University of California, Davis, and Jim Amrine from West Virginia University for a conversation about dying bees.

Log on www.metrofarm.com to listen on your radio, computer or IPOD.

Topics include why bees are dying in such big numbers this Spring; what might happen to the food chain should we lose our bees; and what solutions might there be to halt the die-off.

Question of the Week: What happens if we lose our bees?

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Terrain.org on Grist Blog's "In Cities Is the Preservation of the World" Discussion

Terrain.org was recently featured on the Grist Blog's (Gristmill) "In Cities Is the Preservation of the Word" discussion thread.

Specifically, one of the commentors said:

A wealth of Metro-Natural Lit

"For anyone who is not familiar with it; if there is a central hub on urban nature writing I believe it is terrain.org, the free online journal of the built and natural environments. I'm a big fan of the site. This is a journal that kind of evolved from the terra nova journal of the early nineties.

"If you look at their contributor's list, it can act as a who's who of the sub-genre.

"I think it has some of the best literature that addresses all of the five thematic questions that Ms. Price suggested, as well as several that she didn't. It also has a complete archive of all it' past issues available.

"There is such a wealth of great work here that it may change your opinion that not much is being written on the issue."

View and learn more about the Gristmill, "A blogful of leafy green commentary," at http://gristmill.grist.org/.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Terrain.org at AWP

Look for Terrain.org flyers at the annual AWP (Association of Writers and Writing Programs) conference, in Atlanta, Georgia, from March 1-3, 2007.

There you can also find Terrain.org's editor, Simmons Buntin, who is leading the "What's the Conversation Rate of Euros? Americans Publishing Abroad" panel on Saturday, March 3, from 9 a.m. to 10:15 a.m. That's at North Court East, 2nd Floor, Hilton Atlanta.

And check out the Tucson Literary Orgs "Tucson Heat: A Big Sexy Reading" on Thursday, March 1, from 8:00 to 10:30 p.m. at the Midtown Tavern, 554 Piedmont Avenue. Terrain.org editorial board member Deborah Fries is one of many poets who will read. Get more info at AWP Bookfair table #270.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Ocean Noise 2006

The Acoustic Ecology Institute, http://www.acousticecology.org, has released its spotlight report, Ocean Noise: What We Learned in 2006. You can view it at http://www.acousticecology.org/spotlight_oceannoise2006.html.

According to AEI, "The oceans contain over 80% of the earth’s total volume of habitat; because of limited light penetration, many ocean species rely heavily on sound for navigation, finding food, and maintaining group relationships. For decades, human activity has been increasing the noise levels in the oceans; over the past few years, we have begun to pause and consider the effects of our sounds on ocean life. The oil and gas industry, navies of the world, and field biologists are all putting more time and money into these questions than ever before. Here’s what was learned in 2006."

The online report of an often-overlooked environmental concern is worth investigating.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Terrain.org (Journal and Editor) Featured in Latest Writer's Digest

Terrain.org: A Journal of the Built & Natural Environments is one of the featured "path to poetry" online markets in the April 2007 issue of Writer's Digest.

Take a peek, and you'll also see an article wrapped around the online markets list titled "Poetic Sustenance," written by Michael J. Vaughn. It's an article/interview with four poets: Grace Cavalieri, Jane Hirshfield, Doranne Laux, and Terrain.org editor Simmons B. Buntin. The interview's theme: getting your poetry out into the world.

Go buy a copy, won't you? :~)

National Day of Climate Action : April 14, 2007

It's time to step it up, don't you think? Participate in the National Day of Climate Action on April 14.

Learn more at http://www.stepitup2007.org/.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

mixeye: News, Events, and Journalism

mixeye, a new website (for us, anyway), is currently highlighting an essay from the current issue of Terrain.org: "Earth Jazz" by Evan Eisenberg. The essay itself is a reprint from our print partner Terra Nova.

Check it out at http://www.mixeye.com/viewpoint.php?vid=226.

More on mixeye, from its own website: "Mixeye exists solely as a platform for the general public to showcase their insights and opinions. We seek to publish original, innovative articles from bloggers and previews of multimedia journalism projects to help facilitate the discovery of new perspectives and websites. Anyone can contribute. Viewpoints are categorized into channels to facilitate browsing and finding viewpoints of interest to you. So go ahead: browse through our collection of viewpoints, or contribute your own."

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Annotation: Disturbing the Universe by Freeman Dyson

Disturbing the Universe by Freeman Dyson

Disturbing the Universe is a mixed-genre account not only of Freeman Dyson’s academic and professional life, but of the scientific and often moral and spiritual development of the Western world, especially the United States as an intellectual melting pot, from World War II until the 1970s. I say mixed-genre because it is part memoir, part scientific reporting, part political commentary, part speculative and philosophical examination—and always utterly fascinating.

Of course, it does not account for all events nor even all major scientific advances during the time; it is not a catalog or encyclopedia, and it is much the better for that. Always told in the first person, Disturbing the Universe is divided into three sections: I. England, II. America, and III. Points Beyond.


As the sections evolve—the first section based primarily on a few specific, narrative examples of Dyson’s childhood as well as a more detailed account of his involvement in England’s Bomber Command, the second on his personal development and scientific involvement in a wide variety of math- and physics-related endeavors of national and global implication, and the third mostly discussing the future of science, and so the future of civilization—Dyson’s approach evolves, as well.

Memoir is strongest in the early sections. Scientific reporting and to a degree political commentary are strongest in the middle and largest section of the book. Philosophical exploration and resultant political commentary, though always specific and gentlemanly, define the third section. Personal essay combining flowing narrative and strong metaphor occurs throughout.

Dyson’s book is a classic example that you must first become an expert in your field to then wax poetic on it. By that I mean that Dyson thoroughly validates his concluding arguments—his vision of mankind’s future—by detailing his experiences, conjectures, and perhaps most importantly failures along with successes.

What captivated me most, however, was not the last but rather the first and second sections of the book. Here we find Dyson writing crisp, entertaining narrative that nonetheless covers complex subjects like nuclear physics and rocket science (particularly in the second section). Toward the end of II. America, though, Dyson weaves in a much stronger critique of political and military actions in relation to his own, clearly acknowledging his role, as much for worse as for better. The chapters “The Ethics of Defense” and “The Murder of Dover Sharp” are particularly pressing and poignant in this respect. Indeed, while we’ve learned a great deal about Dyson the scientist and even Dyson the critical thinker to this point, we may have learned the most about the man as a human being in these two chapters.

Even if we believe as Dyson does that time and space do not work in linear fashion, the book is mostly chronological. Given the technical nature of much of the subject matter, as well as the significant historical events—World War II and the Cold War, predominantly—a chronological approach both makes sense and works well. But Disturbing the Universe also does not rely solely on a linear pattern, as references to historic events, people, and arts (including and perhaps especially literature), and speculation and forethought are eloquently woven throughout the text.

Dyson’s major intents here are threefold. First, he wants to record the amazing time he lived in, as well has his place and role in that time. Second, he wants to demonstrate accountability for many of the actions of the day—both his involvement in scientific discoveries, and his responsibility in activities that he realizes were not right, or at least did not turn out as perhaps then the scientists thought it might. Dyson’s realization of the great harms of nuclear fallout from bomb tests and Orion rocket tests—if ever expanded—is perhaps the strongest example. Third, he wants to build upon his great experience to offer a vision of the future—with a passionate (and still scientifically credible) call for solar energy and an entertaining and thoroughly acceptable thesis on how humans will (not may; he has no doubt of this) expand into space.

While I think the third section is the weakest of the three—simply because it cannot rest on the imagery and compelling historical details of the first two sections—I do not consider the third section a weakness. All three sections and the entire book are wonderfully written, pulling from a wide array of literary techniques that in lesser collections could seem fragmented, but here work in harmony, not unlike the beautifully simple structure of a single atom.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Annotation: Twilight of the Mammoths by Paul S. Martin

Twilight of the Mammoths: Ice Age Extinctions and the Rewilding of America
by Paul S. Martin

Paul S. Martin’s Twilight of the Mammoths is part academic discourse, part scientific review; yet all argument. The fundamental premise is that the megafauna of the “near history” of the late Quaternary era that are now extinct—large herbivores and carnivores such as mastadons, mammoths, giant sloths, saber-tooth tigers, North American lions, and a number of land-dwelling birds—are extinct worldwide due to the rapid expansion of humans. Martin’s thesis is based on numerous field research observations and subsequent analysis of fossils, facilitated largely by radiocarbon dating. His thesis is also based on critical scientific analysis of anthropogenic and paleontological research by peers over the last forty years. His conclusion is controversial for most in the field, as a radically changing climate was generally believed to be the cause of the mass extinctions. Martin’s intent, however, is not just to convince the reader and the full scientific community that the Clovis people, as the original pioneering North Americans have been called—for example—are responsible for extinction. His goal is to advocate strongly for a new, historically broader vision of what a “Wild America” should be; i.e., a “restoration ecology” that reintroduces animals that fill as closely as possible the niches of extinct fauna—not just bison and gazelle and other browsers that fill the equid niche, but elephants to replace mammoths and mastadons.

Martin’s approach is somewhat mixed, beginning with a heavily technical treatise on radiocarbon dating and Quaternary extinctions by genus, classification, and other categories. He then moves into an overview of his “overkill” idea, followed by a series of essays on field research in caves in the Grand Canyon, for example. Through these first chapters, I felt like I was thrown back into my wildlife biology days, with an academic journal-quality review that isn’t literary in nature but that, I now conclude, is essential to creating a baseline for Martin’s argument. Martin makes his case step-by-step, only occasionally stepping out of character to reveal his frustration with other scientists or, in some cases, with the inability to find good scientific data. Twilight of the Mammoths—and Martin’s thesis—finally come into their own beginning in Chapter 6, “Deadly Syncopation.” Here I realized, much to my delight, that as a reader I was clued in to a historically important scientific debate. Chapter 9 especially is a response to those who have openly doubted Martin—reading almost as a series of passionate letters. Or: Martin here has the pulpit, and is using a strong sermon—one growing in strength over the course of the book—to convince the congregation of fellow scientists (primarily; general readership secondarily) that the cause of the mass extinctions can only be the early humans, or their direct outcomes, such as rats devastating populations on Pacific islands.

Martin’s stylistic devices are primarily two-fold: 1) Persuasive scientific discourse—lengthy reviews of literature, fieldwork, and analysis, eliminating one-by-one arguments against his position; and 2) Personal asides, not quite as full personal essays—bringing a bit of Martin’s personality into the text, sometimes working for and sometimes against his otherwise consistent and determined approach.

What at first I thought was a weakness—the detailed academic review to begin the book—I now see as a strength, an essential establishment of a baseline, so that non-scientific (or, rather, those not in the general scientific field) have all of the taxonomic details from the get-go. Martin’s subsequent strength is to take all of this detailed information and press it into a logical, intuitive argument, even while realizing much more data and forthcoming data analysis tools and techniques—whatever they may be—will undoubtedly change what we know, and how we therefore consider these extinctions.

A single weakness may be that Martin does not spend more time on the ideas of restoration and resurrection. These chapters are succinct—but now that he has convinced me, I’m eager for more stories, more possibilities.

In all, Martin has presented a radical theory that should, I think, result in the elusive “paradigm shift,” not just about how we view the extinctions, but perhaps more importantly about how we view “unadulterated nature,” especially in the Western Hemisphere, Australia, and New Zealand.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Terrain.org Featured in Bioneers Buzz

Terrain.org: A Journal of the Built & Natural Environments is the featured environmental organization in the current issue of Bioneers Buzz, with its emphasis on ecological design. Check it out at:

http://www.bioneers.org/node/1237#article1

What are Bioneers, you ask? "Bioneers are biological pioneers who are working with nature to heal nature and ourselves. They have peered deep into the heart of living systems to devise strategies for restoration based on nature's own operating instructions."

Learn more at http://www.bioneers.org/.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Parque Gutiérrez Zamora in Trouble

From an email received today:

We are addressing you this letter with the intention of report you about the fate of a historical park in the city of Veracruz, Mexico. Created in 1793, this historical park named Parque Gutiérrez Zamora was part of a tropical forest that marked the entrance and the exit toward the south from the ancient city of Veracruz. This park represents the last piece of green area in our community. Unfortunately, the City Hall represented by the mayor of the city, Julen Rementeria del Puerto, is planning to build a parking in this area and to relocate, according to him, 170 trees in ridges. In this zone of centennial trees, the plants, flowers, insects, squirrels and birds will lose a part of their habitat. In fact, Parque Zamora is located in the historical town centre and it is part of the national heritage since March 1st, 2004, date of a presidential decree. The National Institute of Anthropology and History of Mexico has not emitted the authorization to build the parking in this protected area. We would like to know whether this information deserves a reflection in your magazine and will help to inform the readers.

Thank you for the assistance you can provide us.

Some additional or related information is available here (in Spanish), though we're afraid we don't otherwise have additional resources.