Archive for category Nature

Lovers

Yesterday, I wrote about the haters. Today, I’d like to say a few words on behalf of the lovers in this world.

As I write these words, my wife, Kellie, my sister-in-law Joan, and my nephew Jackson are all on their way to New York City to raise their voices in support of efforts to deal with our climate change challenges. These challenges are significant, and to handle them it is going to take a concerted effort on the parts of individuals, organizations, institutions, and governments around the world. No small task!

I am very proud of Kellie, Joan, and Jackson. They are taking time out of their busy lives and money out of their own pockets to join in a direct way this struggle for a better world for all of us. They are doing it for love — love of their families, love of their communities, and love of our planet-home. As the t-shirt Joan is wearing today says, Love is the only answer.  And so it is.

So I humbly ask for your prayers for Kellie, Joan, and Jackson, as well as all the other participants today in the People’s Climate March that their day might be peaceful, safe, and fruitful. A simple prayer for well-being is just one way to show them back some love for the love they are showing all of us today. (You can follow the action from a distance on Twitter — @Peoples_Climate and #PeoplesClimate.

I would also ask your prayers for the abolition of ignorance and willful stubbornness and human hybris. For such prayers to be answered, of course, it will take a miracle of epic proportions! But still, I pray and I ask you to do so, also. The abolition of ignorance would mean that those who deny the simple facts of climate chaos (and the real potential for devestating ecological, economic, and political disaster) must get their heads out of the sand, and in many cases, if you will excuse me, out of their asses and face up to these facts. May it please God, let such ignorance and the complicity it engenders to be abolished!

But, like the climate that is being whip-sawed, the solution to climate chaos is complicated. To be frank, it is not just a matter of recycling your newspaper (or of a simple calculation of the environmental costs of print vs. electronic production of newspapers).

First of all, it is a global problem requiring a global solution. As with any change which carries the risk of unintended consequences, no one wants to go first. On the one hand, we all seem to be followers in search of a leader, but on the other we no longer trust leaders. Most sovereign states and not a few individuals refuse to recognize the leadership of others.  In many ways, that is understandable. We tend to think that no one knows any better than anyone else what is going on and what to do about it. We realize that, often, we follow “leaders” at our peril. I am all for that vigilance.

And yet we are sheepish followers in so many other ways that we, ourselves, refuse to recognize or acknowledge. Most of the time we live our lives unreflectively, and we are at the very least uncomfortable with having questions raised about how we live and what we value. Many times, we are violently reactive to such questioning. We think however we live, whatever we desire, and whatsoever we do is natural, and therefore right. Indeed, we fiercely defend our right to do what we do — without considering whether what we do is right or wrong. Fatally, we have lost the very notion of right and wrong, however much we pay lip service to the idea.

These are strong claims. My guess is that you do not like hearing them. You do not believe this pertains to you. You are wrong, though. It pertains to all of us (including me).

The second element to the complexity of finding solutions to climate chaos is capitalism. Capitalism is the root of this evil (indeed, it is the root of many evils). The propaganda of the nation in which I live has brainwashed us citizens into thinking that capitalism is, again, natural, and that there is no viable alternative to it, and in fact all proposed alternatives are evil. All three of these claims are patently false. They are as false as climate chaos is true — factually, demonstrably, plainly visibly true. Only heads in sand or asses cannot see these facts.

No, I take that back. Some people can’t see the truth. Some people won’t see the truth (it’s too uncomfortable). However, there are those who do see the truth but do not want anyone else to see it. Why not? Because the false serves their own selfish (and false) purposes very well. This is the ism part of capitalism at work. Capital — some seed money and tools to create additional convenience, comfort, pleasure, or wealth, is a fine and perhaps necessary thing. Capitalism is not fine, and it is not necessary. As an analogy, science is a fine and necessary thing (“All men by nature desire to know,” says Aristotle in his Metaphysics), but scientism is not a fine thing, and it is not necessary. The trouble with the isms is the same in both cases. Capital and science serve at the pleasure of us human beings, but isms demand that we bow down before them (and those that wield those isms like weapons). The isms claim to be “natural” and answer all questions and solve all problems. But in fact they create problems we never had before. And the “solutions” they offer are really only more problems rebranded in an Orwellian marking ploy as “solutions.” They never offer real solutions because the solutions we need are those that uproot the isms all together.

So I pray that those acts of love today in New York City (and around the world) that are directed at the climate chaos challenge will also sow additional seeds of love that will take root and uproot the stifling miasma of the isms that are killing the planet. Today is also International Peace Day. Let us make peace with the planet as well as with each other. The only way to do that is to bring the freedom back to the fake-free markets of corporate (i.e., fictitious entities) capitalism and to recognize the ignoble lie of infinite desire that is the core of the capitalist system.

To meet the challenge of climate chaos, we must first face the fact that it is real and threatening. Then we must admit that the economic monstrosity that is consuming the globe is at the root of the problem and work to uproot it. But we must go further and reconsider the very notions of work and wealth. Any basic understanding of capitalism includes the idea of the intense pressure for efficiency leading to profit. Efficiency and profit: are these really the goals of our labor? Although they have real world effects, both are abstractions. I pose just two questions for your consideration. First, if you were to enjoy your labor (because you chose it, it is creative, and you reap the benefits of it yourself), why hurry or try to get it over with quicker? Second, why can’t your labor and anything it produces be their own reward? If you can imagine satisfying answers to these questions, you will have rejected central tenets of capitalism. Of course, such satisfying answers would slow the world way down, and life as we currently experience it (if indeed we can catch our breath long enough to experience it) would evaporate. Such a transformation of wage-work into meaningful labor, however radically disruptive such a change would be (and it would be severe!), would very likely contribute to diminishing substantially our climate threats.

Are we willing to do this? I doubt it, quite frankly. Yet I fervently pray we will give it a try and be patient with each other as such change plays itself out. Except for the “one-percenters,” perhaps, we’d all be much happier in days to come.

To find the courage and the resources for such a transformation, you have to look inside yourself. Not the capitalist-consumerist generated fake-self that is a function of the current system, but your true self. And that means finding your true self. And that means finding a way to find your true self. We lack that way, for the most part, and so the prospects for finding our true selves are dim, and thus the solutions we need are unlikely to be immediately forthcoming. That is how hard our problems are!

It is a matter of a certain kind of faith. They say that faith is lacking today, but I disagree. I find that most people today are fervent believers. Alas, the object of their faith is a lie, a false god, an idol. What most of us worship is the beast, the monstrosity of capitalism. And capitalism has no more loyal adherents than those who are religious in the usual sense of that term. I admit, I’ve become seriously disillusioned with the religions (plural) of the world, mainly because of the stupid, mean-spiritied, and violent things they lead so many to do. Religion is conservative in the attenuated sense of that term, meaning only bound to the status quo (“It’s god’s will.”). That’s why capitalism loves religions.

It does not love religion (singular), however, because religion in that sense is not just another consumer good to market and sell or social networking club to join. Religion, in that sense, is about the transcendent, that which cannot be packaged, that which is not for sale. Religion, in that sense, recognizes that there is eternity as well as quarterly accounting statements and daily stock reports, and all makes sense only in terms of the eternal. Religion in this sense is, paradoxically, both a powerful and a weak thing, both a dangerous and a salutary thing. It is powerful in that it drives people who sense the transcendent to live and love not only for themselves and for today. It is weak in that uncontrollable and uncontrolling. It does not lend itself in any necessary way to be wielded as a sword or as surgical knife. And it is therefore dangerous for the same reason: it is easy to be mistaken about it, to think it is something that can be mastered and used for one’s own purpose. Yes, people do use “religion” as a club to beat others, but this weapon is not really religion, which is a weak force. The religions of this world are a masquerade, an often dangerous one. Real religion is salutary. It compels us to find our true selves, to find the real truth and meaning of our lives.

To deal with our climate issues, we will need to recover real religion. We will need to rediscover that we are bound to something that transcends the quotidian concerns of capitalist consumerism, that we are and ought to be in its service and not in the service of the priests of Baal of the current economic system. Because — again paradoxically — to be in the service of a transcendent weak force is to be free indeed; to be in the service of capitalism is to be a slave, watching from our chains as the planet is ever-more rapidly degraded.

So I pray we find this God…or let this God find us willing to be transformed, to have a change of mind and heart. To learn to love our world, our neighbors, and our true selves. That love would be true religion.

But I’m a realist, and it’s hard to be optimistic. If you’re reading this, you’re probably “doing well-enough” — maybe even very well. You look out your window and see the weather looking more or less like it always has (as if weather and climate are synonyms). You can’t or don’t see the problem, so for you there is nothing to fix. This little plea of mine is some left-wing claptrap that Fox News has sufficiently “debunked” for you. If all that’s accurate about you, I can hardly expect you to make changes or even want to make changes. But I say we’re like the frog in the pot of water that is slowly being heated. It’s all good…until it isn’t. But then it will be too late.

So maybe it doesn’t matter to you after all. But take a good look at your kids and your grandkids, and think again. Please. Make a change for love’s sake.

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Birding Daily Blog

Okay, I talked myself into it. I’ve started up a new blog just for my nature stuff: birding, bugs, wandering about aimlessly, and some bad photography to boot. It’s called Birding Daily, and if you like the pics, etc., they’ll be over there. I may migrate some old stuff over there, too. Meanwhile, Peripatetic Praxis will be reserved for philosophical-type musings.

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Summer recap and some recent birding pics

Since I worked most of the summer (for a change…and for [pocket] change), I didn’t get out as much as I would have liked. We participated in a friendly birding contest in June — who could see the most species in a single county. We picked Delaware Co., PA, and came up with 77 (not enough to win, but not too bad).  We had a little time in Cape May, where we split our time between birding and beaching.

On the philosophy front, I worked pretty steadily on a book that I hope will be finished by New Year’s Day.  And I taught (and taught).

I also lost a few pounds, but need to keep it going.

In all, not a bad summer.

Now, for some recent pics.  [I am thinking of starting a new blog: Eric’s Bad Birding Blog. What do you think?]

First up, a veritable plethora of Tricolored Herons…well, five, to be exact, but that’s a large number all at once:

5 Tricolored Herons in flight (CMPSP 20120801)

Here’s a close-up of two of them:

Tricolored Herons

Here’s a shot of a Tricolored Heron, an immature Little Blue Heron, and a Forster’s Tern:

More bird pics:

Great Egret

Black Skimmer

Ruddy Turnstone

Spotted Sandpiper (sans spots)

Great Crested Flycatcher

American Redstart

Sometimes in nature, like in the rest of life, things do not work out as planned. Here’s a Greater Yellowleg (not a typo):

Greater Yellowlegs with a missing foot.

Sometimes half-a-rack’ll have to do:

Deer with 1 antler

Here are a few non-bird pics:

Muskrat with salad

Locust!

Finally, I love a good juxtaposition (don’t you?):

Non-monarch on Monarchs (it’s a Red Admiral, I think…)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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How many worlds are THE REAL world?

There is an interesting and very informative conversation going on here about the implications of quantum mechanics and the plausibility of the multiple worlds interpretation. The discussion was seeded by a brief, informative, and mercifully clear article by physicist Stephen Barr. Barr is also participating in the discussion for the next couple of days, so check it out.

This particular bit of the exchange caught my attention, making me wonder about its implications for the project of Speculative Realism (particularly Quentin Meillassoux‘s complaints about “correlationism”):

Steve Barr to Josh Weiner:

I think I know what is bothering you, Josh.  As I said in reply to Wallace Forman (in the third paragraph), it all comes down to what the wavefunction of a system is.  One would like to be able to say that it is just a straightforward description of what is happening in the world, of the world as it really is, apart from what you or I know about it.  That leads straight to the Many Worlds picture, because the wavefunction typically contains descriptions of many alternative branches.  In the traditional or Copenhagen interpretation, one has a more modest view of what the wavefunction is: It is not simply “the world as it is”, but rather it encodes what some observers know or are in a position to assert about the world.  that is why heisenberg himself said that the mathematics of quantum mechanics “represents no longer the behavior of elementary particles, but rather our knowledge of this behavior”. And it is why Rudolf Peierls said, “the quantum mechanical description is in terms of knowledge.”

That raises a very important question — which, I think, is your question: What DOES describe “the world as it really is”?  Even if the wavefunction does not describe it, there must be some comprehensiove and complete and accurate description of physical reality — call it the “God’s eye view of things” (even though I don’t want to drag God back into the discussion).

In other words, what IS really going on when no one is looking? What if beings such as ourselves had never evolved?  What about regions of the universe that no human or other sentient organism is ever going to observe or make measurements of? What about what will be happening in the universe after all life has died out?  Good questions! The wimpy answer is that science cannot speak about things that cannot be observed, and what is going on in places that will never be observed is, by definition, something that cannot be observed! But that seems a pretty unsatisfactory answer.  The traditional Copehagen interpretation doesn’t give an answer.  I have an answer that satisfies me, and I give a very brief sketch of it in my reply to jrd261.  Here I will only say that I think that even in the context of the traditional interpretation of quantum mechanics there does exist an answer to the question “what is really going on in the world even when no observers are looking”. In other words, the traditional interpretation does NOT commit one to some form of subjectivism or Berkeleyan idealism, but can be consistent with a robust philosophical “realism”. But this is a tricky business, and probably beyond what can be discussed in such a forum.

FYI, this is, I think, the relevant part of Barr’s answer to jrd261, mentioned above:

In particular one could take the view that whenever there is a branching of the wavefunction (which happens when different parts of the wavefunction “decohere” from each other, in the technical jargon) all consciousness in the universe proceeds down just one branch. The wavefunction would continually branch, exactly as MWI says, but there would never be a situation where the same observer existed in several conscious versions in distinct branches.  In this picture, the wavefunction itself is constantly branching, like train tracks; and what happens at the “collapse of the wavefunction” is not really any change in the wavefunction — all the tracks are still there — but rather all consciousness proceeds down a single track, so to speak.   (What I have just described is my own speculative view of quantum mechanics, for what it’s worth.)

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Back to Birding

The weather has been HOT lately, but now that it has broken a little…and a bunch of grading has been completed and some writing has been accomplished…it’s time to get back to a little bit of birding. And some photos.

We (ahem) spotted this Spotted Sandpiper at Okehocking Nature Preserve, just the second sandpiper of any kind we’ve seen there (the other was a Solitary Sandpiper back in April). Unfortunately, this bird was clearly injured, favoring its right leg. It was nevertheless active, both walking and flying. It’s hurt, but managing, I think.

Spotted Sandpiper

This was an interesting scene: A flycatcher of some kind appeared to be either feeding or stealing food from a juvenile cowbird (unless you have a better guess at what we’re looking at).

juvenile Cowbird and unidentified flycatcher (and butterfly-snack)

We were involved in a friendly competition during the month of June (well, we worked hard at it during the beginning of the month) to see how many birds we could see (not just hear) in Delaware County during the month. We got up to 79 species. Not bad, but I’m sure not the winning total. We tried very hard to add the Marsh Wren to our total, but we only managed to hear them (lots of them!) at the John Heinz Wildlife Preserve in Delaware County. Of course, just over the line in Philadelphia, where it doesn’t count in the competition, no problem:

Marsh Wren

And here’s a Great Egret in flight (Philadelphia – John Heinz “Impoundment”):

Great Egret in flight

And just for fun, can you count how many Great Blue Herons are in this picture?

Great Blue Herons galore!

 

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Barred Owl

As you can see, we finally got up close and personal with our Barred Owl. I took over 80 pics, as the bird was very cooperative about posing. We were thrilled, but the Tufted Titmouse, Red-Eyed Vireo, and White-Eyed Vireo were not amused by our friend’s presence. They kicked up quite a fuss, but the owl seemed to pay them no mind. We got to see the bird pretty close up…and then, thanks to the owl, we got to see it very close up.  Scroll to see. Click to enlarge.  (Ridley Creek State Park – Bridle Trail, about 4pm est)

Barred Owl

Barred Owl

Barred Owl

Barred Owl demonstrating what my neck can’t do.

Barred Owl looking me right in the eyes.

After watching the bird at a distance of about 30 yards, the owl flew directly towards me and landed in a tree just a few feet away. Stunning!

Barred Owl – close up

All good things have to come to an end, and our friend finally flew off.

Like something right out of Harry Potter.

See you next time….

Barred Owl flying away.

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“E-A-G-L-E-S… EAGLES!”

Okay, it’s not football season yet (actually, I’m still trying to figure out what this year’s Phillies baseball season is all about…). But that doesn’t stop me from getting excited about eagles, especially when it’s an American Bald Eagle flying around near here.  Some photos from today’s walk around Okehocking Nature Preserve:

BAEA

BAEA

BAEA

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