Friday, April 29, 2011

Wanderers 2011.04.26

Peter Donovan
:: Peter Donovan ::

Looking back three days later: I'd "raced" (who with?) to Pauling House on reminder from Don, from the park where we serve, to the lap of Mt. Tabor. I hadn't remembered we had an invited speaker, from Eastern Oregon, from even beyond the high desert where Sam & Judy take care of Judy's mom (of Unity church, a New Thought manifestation of the American Transcendentalist variety).

But I wander.

Peter Donovan is what you might call a "deep ecologist" although that sounds a bit too ten-years-ago (or was it twenty?). His concern for the Earth is evident. Someone told me later he has a lot of background in the shepherding, in Hell's Canyon or one of those. Which brings me to Bill Sheppard (means "sheep killer" more like a wolf), whom many of us are visiting these days. I included Nirel in the huddle via Skype, used in IM mode (what a lot of users do, same at work).

He talked about the whole carbon cycle and went through a lot of classic experiments tying it together: where carbon comes from and where it goes. The net loss of coal to the Earth has changed the atmospheric mix and it's clearly getting hotter, humans or no humans. Lots of fires, many of them deliberate. Stewart Brand worries about the Venus future, if humans don't take self organization to a next level. And clearly humans do effect the climate in the plastics department, if we admit that climates have such a thing as plastic. The word "biosphere" was in many ways more prescient, as humans clearly are affecting that. Our presenter spent some time praising the Russian who came up with it, has had Margulis on one of her visits. It all comes down to coal and nukes and oil and solar and wind and rain. There's a vast Phase Rule computation going on, with degrees of freedom, pressure, temperature, all viscerally accessible. It's not like planetary changes can't mess with your head.

My question was about glaciation and what he felt about the remineralizing role the glaciers might have, and of returning the Earth to cold storage, after another age had burned through its metabolite and made a junkyard of the place. He seemed to agree it came down to soil richness as so critical to the equation. If we want to prolong the life of metabolite, we should maybe not worry if lots of pavement returns to grassland, simply as a natural process. The homeostatic tendency is a real one and there's no reason every mile of paved road needs to be preserved as vital infrastructure, let alone parking lot. Major ecosystems of the future will include abandoned industrial sites as much as they include sunken wrecks of seagoing vessels, many of WW2 vintage. Suburban subdivisions have their various trajectories, as campus facilities, co-housing cube farms (study studios) and whatever. People will still find ways to make use of them.

We talked a lot about those fires, those hectares of jungle sacrificed to a few seasons of growing, then grazing of scrawny beef, turning pharmacopias into carnage for the fast foodies. North Americans took the same route and denuded vast tracts, some still under cultivation, though heavily dependent on fertilizers.

The FNB crowd tends to be seriously vegan, and athletic. I kid you not when I mention a triathelete in training, who comes to us for his calories and proteins. Fresh organic produce direct from the Earth is hard to beat and Friends have a pretty nice kitchen, although that St. David of Wales one is quite a bit bigger (as is the congregation).

Our Wittgenstein Study Circle met at Lyrik next time, a variation on the theme (of a Coffee Shops Network). I became the proud tender of a larger flock of tomes by or about Ludwig Wittgenstein, to be corralled on the Time Capsule (our art deco hemicylindrical book case in the foyer). Alex enjoyed getting to meet Keiko. I showed him my corner office.