Monthly Archives: January 2009


Low-key blog maintenance stuff: I’ve created a new membership type, “Moderator,” which is exactly like being a regular member with one exception: Moderators can edit or close other people’s comments.

I did this because every once in a while there are stray trollish comments that pop up, climate change denialists and right-wingers only looking to start comment fusterclucks. (To be distinguished from right-wingers looking to have actual conversations.) I’m not always around to nuke the trolls, and I know how tempting it can be to respond to people like that. I like the constructive conversations and disagreements we have around here and I suspect some of the rest of you do as well.

If you’re a regular around these parts with a good sense of the difference between honest disagreement and bad-faith trolling, not to mention the difference between actual comments and the new outbreak of individually crafted spam comments, and you wouldn’t mind making the occasional easy single click to send a comment into moderation, lemme know. Moderators will also be able to edit comments to fix broken links and such. Signing up implies no obligation on your part: it’s just a way of giving a few folks the ability to make constructive contributions that they probably already wish they could.

Creek Running North cob-loggers Theriomorph and Kat and Stephanie already have this special power and are welcome to use it if they like. (No obligation, of course.) Space Kitty’s been added to the list of moderators. Two or three more helpful people would be nice.

Interested? .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
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Using Google Earth, researchers find unmapped Mozambique wilderness

From Birdlife.Org:

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…scientists who recently discovered a hidden forest in Mozambique show the uncharted can still be under our noses. BirdLife were part of a team of scientists who used Google Earth to identify a remote patch of pristine forest. An expedition to the site discovered new species of butterfly and snake, along with seven Globally Threatened birds.

Things Environmentalists Get Wrong

In the spirit of self-criticism, here’s a non-exhaustive list of things people on the green side of the fence say, with all good intent, that are demonstrably wrong.

“We can protect the environment without jeopardizing economic growth.”
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed individuals can change the world. In fact, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
“Population is not a problem. We have enough food to feed everyone well. It’s merely our current economic system, which distributes food inequitably, that is responsible for hunger. If we distribute food equably there will be enough to go around.”
“As Chief Seattle said, ‘How can you buy or sell the sky?’ [or] ‘This we know; the earth does not belong to man; man belongs to the earth. This we know. All things are connected like the blood which unites one family.  All things are connected.’  [or] ‘Man did not weave the web of life: he is merely a strand in it.’ [or]  ‘I have seen a thousand rotting buffaloes on the prairie, left by the white man who shot them from a passing train.’ [or insert lyrical poetical environmental sentiment here.] ”
“Man [sic] is the only animal that hunts for sport.” (Alt: “…kills for pleasure.”)
“If the world were a village of 100 people: 6 of them would possess 59% of the wealth… (etc)”

Rebuttals are below the fold. Suggest your own in comments! This may turn into a sporadic series.

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Mining Sacred Land

From Indianz:

A federal judge on Monday refused to grant a preliminary injunction against a gold mine in Nevada that would impact sacred Western Shoshone sites.

A group of tribal and environmental plaintiffs sued the Interior Department to block construction of one of the largest gold mines in the U.S. They want to protect Mount Tenabo, a sacred site.

But Judge Larry Hicks said tribal members will be able to access the site even if Barrick Gold Corporation of Canada proceeds with construction. He said his decision was based on precedent set by 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in the San Francisco Peaks case, which tribes are taking to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The plaintiffs include the South Fork Band Council of Western Shoshone, the Timbisha Shoshone Tribe, the Western Shoshone Defense Project and Great Basin Resource Watch.

(Via Wampum.)

In Hagen Canyon

It makes no sound. If it did the wind would mask it, keening through the sere canyon. Look the wrong way and your mouth fills with dust, with flecks of gravel. It is constant, the wind, and it raises whistles across the crenellated canyon walls. One must almost shout to be heard above the wind.

It does not shout. It does not whisper.

It does have a voice. There are times that voice is the loudest thing around. The skies open up, they glower, and a sheen grows on the cliffs. The whole valley gathers it and it rages, drowns the canyon floor, drowns the wind. It carves the rock like clay slip under a knife. It churns up bones, the remains of monsters dead 13 million years, and scatters them down toward the dry lake. Sometimes its voice is the world ending.

Today is a bright dry day in March, and the Hagen Canyon watershed is mute. Rain has not fallen for some weeks.

Hiking in the canyon is not as deadly as a few timid souls would claim:

How many of you desert riders have ever seen a hiker anywhere????  If you are on foot, you are going to die out there!

…but it is thirsty work. The sand in the bone-dry wash shifts beneath your feet, and walking uphill is strenuous enough as it is. The wash is braided, the ghosts of floods long past marked in old scours, fossil plunge pools.

It flows silent, unseen, an unremembered dream beneath the desert’s harsh waking surface.

Once the rock here flowed like water. It seared the grassland, incinerated the old river delta, killed everything in its path. It cooled and the earth healed over, built new lake above the old. Basalt is harder than the lakebed sediments. Its outcrops run for miles across the desert, cliffs of dark rock exposed as their mantling sediment is washed away. A basalt outcrop cuts this canyon in two, a sheer hundred-foot wall and narrow chokepoint separating lower canyon from upper.


Basalt is impervious to water. The chokepoint is a dam across the dry wash, and the Hagen Canyon Watershed—unseen, untasted save by those that live beneath two meters of sand—is forced to the surface. It finds the lowest point in the wall of basalt, a niche in the clifftop above a precarious sandy shelf.


It flows over the wall, one drop per minute.


Stand there long enough and you will see it carve the canyon deeper, the seep’s slow rasp and the flash flood’s scour in turn. Ten thousand years should do it.

The management of Red Rock State Park is weighing the possibility of opening more of its lands to those timid souls, like the one quoted above, who fear meeting the desert on its own terms, who cannot venture out into it without their gas-powered security blankets. Whether or not Hagen Canyon is open to them legally, they would come here. One would need to strain to hear the constant wind over their din. Their exhaust stench would mask the fragrance of sun-warmed basalt, the wind-driven smell of baking rabbitbrush fringing the wash at the base of this dry fall, stretching downhill and east toward the dry lake.


[To do something about it: go to Larry Hogue’s post here.]

Reminder: Carnival of the Arid, February 1

We’ve gotten quite a few wonderful submissions for the upcoming, first-ever Carnival of the Arid, which I’m already thinking of as a rousing success. But that doesn’t mean we’re full! Send me a link to your desert-related blog post by January 30 and you’ll almost certainly be included.

A note for the biogeographers: We’re accepting submissions about a couple places not usually classified as deserts, such as the Colorado Plateau and the Kalahari. If it’s a desert in the popular imagination, we’ll allow it.

To submit, leave a link either here or in comments at the original post, or email it to me at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
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Nosy Parker

I have an anniversary coming up next week, as many of you know, and it’s been on my mind as one might expect. Still tough, you know?

This year, though, I have a little bit of emotional support, and so the prospect of remembrance doesn’t seem quite as bleak. De tail’s below the fold.

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