Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Musings: Another Planet

Such a glorious, planet-packed morning, with a fat half moon producing enough light to walk, Jupiter crouching atop Makaleha and Saturn, Venus and Mercury aligned in the pale blue eastern sky. And as the sun rose, the dew and remaining raindrops sparkled like a trillion diamonds cast onto grass and trees.

A recent piece on NPR reports on the observations of a science writer Craig Childs, who camped for a long weekend in a 300-acre Iowa cornfield to see what is living there. Childs was inspired by the work of photographer David Liittschwager, “who spent a few years traveling the world, dropping one-cubic-foot metal frames into gardens, streams, parks, forests, oceans, and then photographing whatever, or whoever came through.” In the upper reaches of a Strangler fig tree in Costa Rica, for example, Liittschwager recorded more than 150 different plants and animals living in or passing through that one square foot.

But in the corn field, Childs reports:

"I listened and heard nothing, no bird, no click of insect."

There were no bees. The air, the ground, seemed vacant. He found one ant "so small you couldn't pin it to a specimen board." A little later, crawling to a different row, he found one mushroom, "the size of an apple seed." Then, later, a cobweb spider eating a crane fly (only one). A single red mite "the size of a dust mote hurrying across the barren earth," some grasshoppers, and that's it. Though he crawled and crawled, he found nothing else.

"It felt like another planet entirely," he said, a world denuded.

Yet, 100 years ago, these same fields, these prairies, were home to 300 species of plants, 60 mammals, 300 birds, hundreds and hundreds of insects. This soil was the richest, the loamiest in the state. And now, in these patches, there is almost literally nothing but one kind of living thing. We've erased everything else.

It made me think about the similarly pesticide-drenched corn fields that now stretch from Lihue to Mana, and the sugar cane plantations that preceded them, and the tremendous diversity of Hawaii's original native landscape, which has been largely diminished and silenced, just like the Great Plains.

How much longer, do you suppose, can we live apart like this, separating ourselves from the beautiful, complex workings of the world, destroying anything and everything that gets in our way?

And given the magic of a bee turning nectar into honey, a spider spinning a web, a bird weaving a nest, why do we even want to? 

As Robert Krulwich concludes in his piece for NPR:

There's something strange about a farm that intentionally creates a biological desert to produce food for one species: us. It's efficient, yes. But it's so efficient that the ants are missing, the bees are missing, and even the birds stay away. Something's not right here. Our cornfields are too quiet.


Anonymous said...

Gary Hooser talked about pesticides as a priority yesterday. Its about time. It is hard to fathom that our "leaders" have allowed companies who engineer plants to withstand significantly higher applications of pesticide to set up here - and then proceed to douse our "garden island" in toxic spray. This seems like a no-brainer. They are literally poisoning the aina. And Mel spoke of listening to the Hawaiians yesterday too ... so I would think Gary and Mel end up on same page on this one.

I don't care about spots on my apples, leave me the birds and the bees, please.

Anonymous said...

The great uncoupling: man from Nature. And the bottom line? Money. Aue.

Anonymous said...

Apparently, Hawaii without water is Mars.


Anonymous said...

More like infuriating.

Anonymous said...

"This seems like a no-brainer"

Yes the people who run our government who allow these companies to pollute the land, rivers, and oceans....have no brain!

Why do we continue to vote for the "bottom feeders" of our community to run government, then blame everything on the F'n Haoles?

Dr Shibai

Anonymous said...

Dr Shibai, gmo, syngenta pioneer monsanto etc are the f'n haloes

Anonymous said...

Pioneer, Syngenta, Dupont,Monsanto can only do what they do because we have government that is complicit. State and County government is run by mostly non-whites. On a bigger scale, Congress and the White House approve and perpetuate the crimes of these global corporations that are hijacking our food system.

Anonymous said...

Well, Dr. Shibai, our former and current governors are white folk from the mainland. Gary Hooser was the head of the Office of Environmental Quality Control. He's a white guy from the mainland Gary Gill is the Deputy Director of Health in charge of Environmental Health. Tim Bynum has been on the Council for how many years now and I haven't heard him do anything about these companies. I think you and the other commenter are racist dickheads.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe dee Morikawa is supporting joe SOUKI and john Mizuno. Both of them are bigots and john Mizuno wants to take away food from needy children. Although it sounds good to drug test welfare recipients guess who gets screwed. Is it the messed up parents screwing up. No it's the keikis who can't control their parents. The west side is screwed with her and Sagum. Dee Morikawa is nothing but a puppet.