Monthly Archives: September 2009

How India found water on the moon with American tech support (so can we send some farmers up there now?)

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Deep Space Naan
Daily Show
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Political Humor Ron Paul Interview

And now that we’ve found water on the moon, surely the meddlesome US government must help California farmers grow rice there too! I’m sure the Indians will have set up some tea shops by then…

Jon Stewart’s history lesson to Hannity on farming in the Cadillac Desert

Agriculture in the American southwest has always been a risky business, and civilizations have gone bust here trying it well before Europeans arrived. Yet our hubris continues, bolstered by dam-and-canal-building, so we continue to grow rice in California’s deserts. And what do republicans (lead by the likes of Sean Hannity) want in the face of the prolonged drought cycles forecast by the best climate models available? (Oh right… they don’t believe in those climate models anyway.) More dams and canals and more water to be released by that big meddlesome federal government! Here’s Jon Stewart reminding us of the meddlesome history of that meddlesome government in creating and sustaining what Marc Reisner so aptly named the Cadillac Desert:

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Where the Riled Things Are
Daily Show
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Political Humor Ron Paul Interview

History indeed…

Jon Stewart brilliantly summarizes the right-wing response to California’s water crisis

Just watched Jon Stewart do a brief, brilliant segment on Sean Hannity’s recent trip down into the prospective dust-bowl of California’s Central Valley (i.e., my current neighborhood – yikes!) where the latter exhorted the president and government to “stop meddling and release the waters so that the farmers can do their jobs”!

That would be water from reservoirs that are at really low levels because of the ongoing drought.

Reservoirs that were built in the 1930s as part of the then government’s stimulus spending.

Or, as John translated: “The government should stop meddling in the business of the farmers, who would actually still be living in a desert if not for government meddling!

Of course!!

I’ll share the video tomorrow when it becomes available. Meanwhile, look below the fold here for the Daily Show‘s take on last week’s UN climate summit and how the Earth may be out to get us:

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Cloudy With a Chance of Heat Balls
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political Humor Ron Paul Interview
The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Our Dead Planet
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political Humor Ron Paul Interview

On the rise and fall of human diversity

Over the past week or so, in the Human Ecology class, we’ve been doing a rapid survey of human societies in terms of their cultural/ecological core, discussing the key elements of the main types of society and its governance of natural resources: hunter-gatherer, horticulturist, pastoralist, agrarian, and industrial. As a supplement to my lecture and the class discussions we’ve had (and because my throat didn’t feel up to speaking for 75 min today), I also found three videos of TED Talks that take us through another sort of rapid tour through the trajectory of human diversity from when our first ancestors gazed upon the African savannah to the societal collapse that may soon be upon us if we don’t get our own collective together and rethink ow we govern our natural resources.

First, we have Spencer Wells taking us through the population genetics of human origins. Next, National Geographic’s Wade Davis takes us on a global tour of human cultural diversity at its peak, and laments the rapid loss of languages and cultures we’ve seen in the recent past. And to round things off, Jared Diamond speaks of the complete collapse of some earlier complex societies, and what lessons they hold for us as we rush headlong towards the cliff ourselves. Look below the fold for these videos.

Watershed 2009: Environmental Poetry Festival (also this saturday)

For my friends in the Bay area, and those from the valley who might head that way this weekend: you may want to look in on this event I learnt about via River of Words:

Watershed 2009 Environmental Poetry Festival


Berkeley–Saturday, Sept. 26–12-4pm Free

Join Robert Hass, Mas Masumoto, and other poets, writers and performers for a day of poetry, music, dance, art activities, literary and environmental exhibitors and more.

River of Words youth poets will read at 1pm.

Please visit the River of Words booth to see our wonderful art, books, and say hi.

Civic Center Park, Martin Luther King, Jr. Way between Allston & Center. The Farmers’ Market will be open, too!

View Announcement on Facebook

And visit for more information.

This Saturday, consider volunteering for National Public Lands Day

If you are seeking to escape the heat of the city this weekend, hoping to catch a glimpse of the elusive fall in the mountains perhaps, or to go splash in the San Joaquin – consider sparing some of your energy towards helping clean all these wonderful public lands we all get to enjoy throughout the US. For this saturday is National Public Lands Day:

National Public Lands Day began in 1994 with three federal agencies and 700 volunteers. Last year 120,000 volunteers worked in over 1,800 locations and in every state. Now, 8 federal agencies and many state and local lands participate in this annual day of caring for shared lands.

National Public Lands Day keeps the promise of the Civilian Conservation Corps, the “tree army” that worked from 1933-42 to preserve and protect America’s natural heritage.

This annual event:

  • Educates Americans about critical environmental and natural resources issues and the need for shared stewardship of these valued, irreplaceable lands;
  • Builds partnerships between the public sector and the local community based upon mutual interests in the enhancement and restoration of America’s public lands;
  • Improves public lands for outdoor recreation, with volunteers assisting land managers in hands-on work.

A number of opportunities are available right around Fresno, as throughout the country, and you can find local options here.

While on the subject of Public Lands, note also that this weekend PBS will start airing Ken Burns’ much anticipated “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea” which I wrote about a few months ago. Setting aside large stretches of land in the public realm, safe from “development” so future generations get to enjoy it: what a wonderful socialist idea that is! Celebrate it, Americans!

Fresno Forum on Climate Change – on campus tomorrow!


I just found out a couple of days ago (not sure why no one in our department knew about this, but we do now!) that the National Parks Conservation Association (which has its Central Valley field office in Fresno) is organizing a forum to talk about climate change – and they’re doing it on our campus in association with the College of Science and Mathematics’ nascent Institute of Climate Change, Oceans and Atmosphere. Find out more about this forum on the NCPA website, and join in if you can. It’ll be held from 1-5 PM, Friday, 25 Sep, in the Alice Peters auditorium in University Business Center right in front of our science building. You can also download a flyer here.

Darwin on American Public TV and in Theatres this fall!

As the Darwin Bicentennial year winds down and we approach the Sesquicentennial anniversary of the publication of “On the Origin of Species” on Nov 21, we will get two promising televisual/cinematic treatments of the torment Darwin underwent while sitting on the horns of the dilemma of whether or not to share his theory with the world! The recent drama about whether the movie Creation was going to be distributed at all in the US has now been settled as we get word today that Newmarket, a small Indie company (whose previous hit, intriguingly, was “The Passion of the Christ”!!) has picked up the US rights for the film and plans a year-end release! Hooray – although some of us are apprehensive about how “even-handed” the film will be in trying to “balance” between religion and science! The National Center for Science Education’s executive director Eugenie Scott (who has just accepted my invitation to speak at Fresno State this fall as well – but more on that soon!) liked the film, describing it in her early review as “a thoughtful, well-made film that will change many views of Darwin held by the public — for the good.

Meanwhile, NCSE also alerts us to another treatment of Darwin’s Darkest Hour – a 2-hour television special airing on PBS stations next week courtesy of NOVA and National Geographic. Here’s a preview:


Midsummer night’s drama of life and death on our back porch

One midsummer’s night a year ago, I stepped outside our backdoor to take out the garbage – and stopped in my tracks transfixed by an unfolding drama from the tapestry of urban wildlife! I saw, out of the corner of my eyes, a Junebug land in a spider’s web on one side of our not-so-clean porch. As I bent down to look at it, a Black Widow appeared from above, sliding down the web toward the struggling bug. I promptly dashed back inside, grabbed my camera, and dashed out again to capture the entire sequence in this gallery over the next 20 minutes. Except the last four portraits in this gallery, of the same Black Widow (I think) captured a few weeks later.

The Widow quickly trussed up the Junebug (beetle, actually) larger than herself, and hauled it up to her nest on the underside of an abandoned wooden stool. And when she got up there, I noticed the two egg sacs she was clearly heading towards. She maneuvered the by now immobile prey up near the egg cases (one of which is visible in this picture near the upper right corner), secured it, and left it in place. Trying to shoot a mostly black spider in darkness (so as to not disturb her) amid fairly dense cobwebs, with the camera’s built-in flash – is tricky to say the least. This is one of the clearer shots – but I have the whole sequence up on Flickr if you want to see it.