what is a year worth?

Logically, Jan. 1 is just an arbitrary point on the Gregorian calendar for which to celebrate the annual circumnavigation of our warm nuclear furnace. But that’s okay, as there is no point around the sun that is any more privileged than another. Numbering the days is how we mark our place in the space-time continuum. It reminds us of our own limited existence, and pushes us to be more intentional and reflective, more thankful and forgiving.

“Earthrise” from the Apollo 8 mission, Dec. 24, 1968. The crew finished the evening reading from the book of Genesis.

A year, by definition, is solar-centered. A year on Earth is 8760 hours, during which our planet rotates on our tilted axis a bit more than 365 times. The speed of Earth’s rotation is what sets our circadian rhythms at 24 hours.

But a year on Mercury is only 88 days, less than a single season on our planet. During it’s trip around the sun, it rotates slowly, only once every 59 Earth days.

Earth’s 23.5 degree tilt gives us the seasons. Without it, every day on every space on earth would have 12 hrs of sun and 12 of darkness (though right at the two poles, the sun would be endlessly circling the horizon). Temperatures at a given place would be relatively stable throughout the year. Needless to say, life would be very different. The four seasons of winter, spring, summer, and fall are quite pronounced in the Midwestern United States, going from deadly heatwaves to deadly cold spells (it is currently -20 deg F windchill in Plymouth).

If you have ever spun a top on a table, you have noticed there is often a slight wobble. These are quick wobbles, happening several times per second but still perceptible to our senses. The Earth is also wobbling, tough it was imperceptible until humans used modern science to discover a 41,000-year wobble. Slight oscillations in the axis of our tilt has triggered climate changes throughout our planet’s history.

So, another year.

A single year brings little change to this stream in the Smoky Mountains, but a LOT of change for this little human.

We humans are faced with the challenge of using our brain power to discern the truth in our world, when these truths are often very surprising and counter-intuitive. Our brains have trouble wrapping themselves around these points of cognitive dissonance, and the speed and scale at which these new insights are revealed.

One of the major challenges is understanding what the passage of a single year can mean on a planet that is 4.5 billion years old.

For humans, it is about scale and speed.

Scale: there are 7.6 billion humans, and we feed and care for 20 billion chickens, 1.9 billion sheep, 1.4 billion cattle, and 1 billion pigs. Together we now use a full 1/4 of the world’s vegetation, doubling over the last 100 years.

The ever-brilliant science comic, XKCD (https://xkcd.com/1338/).

The speed at which technology has advanced in the last 100 trips around the sun has greatly increased our species’ ability to change the planet.

Within those 100 trips, we have built extensive economic systems around the extraction and burning of carbon-based fuels, in addition to releasing carbon from trees and soils.

Within those 100 trips, our one species has increased the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide from around 280 ppm to over 400 ppm, a level not seen for over 800,000 years, or possibly more than 20,000,000 years.

Of these facts, we are now as certain as we have ever been. It now means that we have put ourselves in a “carbon crunch,” and decisions made over the next few trips around the sun are immensely important.

So, what is a year worth?

In this 1976 article, scientists were sounding the alarm about topsoil loss in Iowa, which was at about 1/12 of an inch per year.

We’ve had 42 more trips around the sun since that article. Had erosion continued at that rate, we’d have lost another 3.5 inches of topsoil.

Consider that some areas only had 6-8 inches of topsoil left at the time.

Consider that without topsoil, we can’t grow food. Eighty years from now, my daughters will still need to eat.

In practice, over those last 42 years we have greatly reduced soil erosion across the Midwest. However, our economic paradigm continues to dictate that enormous swathes of land be dominated by just 1-2 crops, rates of erosion still exceed rates of soil formation, and short-term thinking still dominates many agronomic decisions.

Erosion for any single one of these years is tolerable, but even over short periods of time – the span of a single human life – the cumulative effects are serious.

A broken tile on our farm. The effects of ignoring this for a time would be imperceptible to our streams and crop yields, while the short-term cost in labor and money is palpable. Nevertheless, the cumulative effects of many years, acres, and drainage tiles are enormous.

What is a year worth for the soil?

In one year a decision can be made to diversify the crop rotation, to install grassed waterways, and to use cover crops.

What is a year worth for a species?

For the Florida Grasshopper Sparrow, after the accumulation of many individual bad years, a single bad year in 2018 could now mean permanent extinction.

I’m sorrowed that humans would be so careless as to allow these marvels to perish, after occupying and evolving with this home for millions of trips around the sun.

And yet, we appear to be the only species in which many of our members, themselves assembled into coalitions and organizations, are working to save another distantly-related species for no apparent purpose other than love.

Photo by Mac Stone.

We now live in the Anthropocene.

All signs appear to be pointed towards some sort of enormous inflection point for our planet.

We are back again to our rather counter-intuitive, paradoxical conclusion. We, fragile motes of carbon whose choices will now reverberate for millennia.

We commit ourselves again to the long game, and fast.

What is mankind that you are mindful of them,

human beings that you care for them?

You have made them a little lower than the angels

and crowned them with glory and honor

You made them rulers over the works of your hands;

you put everything under their feet:

all flocks and herds,

and the animals of the wild,

the birds in the sky,

and the fish in the sea,

all that swim the paths of the seas.

Lord, our Lord,

how majestic is your name in all the earth!

(Psalm 8:4-9)

“Water is Life”

One ecology blog definitely worth following is that of Stephen Glass, a restoration ecologist at the University of Wisconsin Arboretum in Madison, WI. The arboretum is something of a “mecca” for U.S. restoration ecologists and played a foundational role in our discipline (and continues to do so).

Stephen is the President of the Midwestern chapter of the Society for Ecological Restoration. I’ve been to all but one of the regional conferences over the last 5 years, and the gatherings are always encouraging.

Anyway, let’s get to his blog. He recently posted a reflection his titled “Water is Life.” The little I’ve interacted with him, he’s proven to be humble and personable, as well as a respected scientist. His words in this post are incisive and frank. They are poignant, value-laden words (as the entire discipline inescapably must be) without resorting to hyperbolic rhetoric beyond what science is pointing us towards.

Sometimes we do need to have our values and practices recalibrated, (literally) brought back down to earth, to the essence and substance of our sustenance. Stephen does that wonderfully in this reflection.

An old bathtub once served as a cattle drinking trough to catch spring-fed water. An earthen dam was constructed and cattle excluded to rebuild this wetland near Moontree Studios. The groundwater still flows.

 

2017 seed harvesting

Now that winter has truly arrived, I took some time to clean and organize our 2017 seed collection. This year, we received help from college students, Maria Center residents, Moontree volunteers, members of the grounds crew, and others.

We collect seeds (and plant them) to increase the plant species diversity in our restoration areas. Biodiversity is a fundamental value of conservation biology, and it’s a cornerstone of ecological functioning.

Yes, seeds can spread themselves, and they have many ways of doing so. It seems that for every species I get in the targeted collection bag, I pick up another one on my coat, pants, or shoelaces.

 

Seeds of Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) bear little white elaiosomes, nutritious bribes for ants who move the seeds to their nests, where a new plant may start growing.

However, it’s important to remember that seeds evolved their dispersal mechanisms in the context of unbroken natural areas. Even though the land was modified by indigenous peoples for thousands of years, it has only been in very recent history that so many acres have been so regularly plowed, drained, sprayed, paved, and mowed. We have selected for a very narrow suite of native species (and alien imports like dandelions) that can withstand this regular onslaught. The less tolerant species have retreated to fencerows, field edges, and islands of small forests.

Just having a single representative plant of a given species “somewhere around here” is not sufficient for ecological function, or to support robust populations of the insects, fungi, bacteria, mammals, birds, etc that rely on them. Yes, it may eventually spread… but “eventually” on the nature’s timescale may be decades or centuries.

We don’t have that kind of time. But we do have brains, hands, and Excel sheets. Even though much of restoration ecology remains something of a black box (especially the microscopic biophysicalchemical world in the soil), we know enough to get started.

I’ll post an update later on the 2017 prairie plantings, but here I’d like to just list the species we were able to harvest in between all of our other tasks. They matured throughout the growing season, most of them ripening in late summer or fall. They grew on dry sand to wet muck. A few are small and inconspicuous, others send new shoots up 10 feet in the air each year.

Butterflies alone are reason to disperse seeds, don’t you think?

This year we gathered around 43 species. Together with 24 additional species off-site from a much-loved volunteer, we have 67+ unique species that we will be sowing this winter and into the spring.

Most of the seeds have a dormancy mechanism that prevents them from germinating immediately in the fall. The cold weather and freeze/thaw forces on the ground unlock this mechanism and allow them to sprout in the spring. Most take a couple years of growth before flowering.

For those wanting to learn more, here are a few resources:

http://michiganflora.net/

http://illinoiswildflowers.info/

http://bonap.net/napa

 

Scientific Name Common Name
Achillea millefolium yarrow
Aletris farinosa colic root
Amorpha fruticosa indigo bush
Andropogon scoparius little bluestem grass
Angelica atropurpurea great angelica
Arisaema dracontium green dragon
Asclepias amplexicaulis sand milkweed
Asclepias syriaca common milkweed
Asclepias tuberosa butterfly weed
Aster azureus sky-blue aster
Aster ericoides heath aster
Baptisia australis blue wild indigo
Baptisia leucophaea cream wild indigo
Bouteloua curtipendula side-oats grama
Carex comosa bristly sedge
Carex grayi common bur sedge
Carex hystericina porcupine sedge
Carex pellita broad-leaved woolly sedge
Carex vulpinoidea brown fox sedge
Cassia fasciculata partridge pea
Cassia hebecarpa wild senna
Coreopsis palmata prairie coreopsis
Corylus cornuta beaked hazelnut
Echinacea purpurea broad-leaved purple coneflower
Elymus canadensis canada wild rye
Elymus virginicus virginia wild rye
Eryngium yuccifolium rattlesnake master
Eupatorium maculatum spotted joe pye weed
Euphorbia corollata flowering spurge
Filipendula rubra queen of the prairie
Gaura biennis biennial gaura
Gentiana crinita fringed gentian
Geum laciniatum northern rough avens
Heracleum maximum cow parsnip
Juncus tenuis path rush
Lespedeza capitata round-headed bush clover
Liatris cylindracea cylindrical blazing star
Lobelia cardinalis cardinal flower
Lobelia siphilitica great blue lobelia
Lupinus perennis occidentalis wild lupine
Lycopus virginicus bugle weed
Monarda fistulosa wild bergamot
Parthenium integrifolium wild quinine
Penstemon digitalis foxglove beard tongue
Petalostemum purpureum purple prairie clover
Physostegia virginiana obedient plant
Polygonum sagittatum arrow-leaved tear-thumb
Potentilla arguta prairie cinquefoil
Ratibida pinnata yellow coneflower
Rosa carolina pasture rose
Rudbeckia triloba brown-eyed susan
Sabatia angularis rose gentian
Sanguinaria canadensis bloodroot
Scirpus cyperinus wool grass
Silene regia royal catchfly
Silene stellata starry campion
Silphium laciniatum compass plant
Silphium perfoliatum cup plant
Sisyrinchium angustifolium stout blue-eyed grass
Solidago graminifolia nuttallii hairy grass-leaved goldenrod
Solidago rigida stiff goldenrod
Sorghastrum nutans indian grass
Tephrosia virginiana goats rue
Thalictrum dasycarpum purple meadow rue
Tradescantia ohiensis common spiderwort
Verbena stricta hoary vervain
Veronicastrum virginicum culvers root

Yellow River Watershed meeting coming to Plymouth Dec. 19th

“In the fall of 2014 the Marshall County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) received state and federal funds to produce a watershed management plan for the Headwaters Yellow River Watershed.

The Headwaters Yellow River Watershed encompasses approximately 187,423 acres of land across Marshall, Elkhart, St. Joseph and Kosciusko Counties.  Plymouth, Bremen, LaPaz, Lakeville and Nappanee are all located within the Headwaters Yellow River Watershed.

Multiple streams and lakes within the watershed have been listed on IDEM’s 303d list of impaired waterbodies for E. coli and excess phosphorus. The project will identify critical areas within the Headwaters Yellow River Watershed that are contributing to these impairments and work with local landowners to install a demonstration best management practice in one of these critical areas to improve local water quality. ”  —Marshall County SWCD

A final watershed meeting will be held to “review work completed to date on the project and discuss future efforts within the Headwaters Yellow River Watershed… we will discuss the data and goals that have been developed for the Watershed Management Plan and determine processes for implementing work within the watershed.”

The meeting will be held on December 19th at 2:00 PM EST in Laramore A room at the Plymouth Public Library (201 North Center Street).

The number of known macrofungi in Indiana just doubled with this recent publication

The Indiana Academy of Science is a badge of pride for our state. Since 1885, it has been the professional membership organization for Indiana scientists, “dedicated to promoting scientific research and diffusing scientific information; to encouraging communication and cooperation among scientists and to improving education in the sciences.”

I’m a member and try to read what I can from the Proceedings of the Indiana Academy of Science. Since it covers every scientific discipline, there is plenty that I don’t really understand, or isn’t relevant to my discipline, but I’d do good to read a little more broadly.

I was intrigued by an article in Volume 126, #1 that just hit my mailbox, Checklist of Indiana Fungi 1: Macrofungi by Purdue researcher Scott Bates and his students (you’ll need to become a member to find the text). I don’t know much about the organisms in Kingdom Eumycota (Fungi), other than they are ubiquitous, species-diverse, and critically important to nutrient cycling and ecosystem function. Some species called mycorrhizal fungi are symbiotic with plants. They grow into the plants themselves (even into their very cells) and help transport nutrients from the soil to the plant in exchange for sugars. They exert a huge influence on soil ecology, a revelation now becoming  appreciated at a public level.

Fungus on a beech tree in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, May 2017. It may be Fomes fomentarius, but I’m not sure.

There are estimated to be 1.5-5.1 million species of fungi, of which only 100,000 have been formally described by science. There may be around 18,000 species in Indiana, of which we know only 3,000.

In a three-part series, Bates and his team first tackled just the macrofungi, which include bracket fungi, mushrooms, and puffballs (molds, rusts, and lichens will have to wait). They examined 19,000 specimen records from 72 public collections dating back to 1804. Mycology is certainly a field for the patient and systematic!

They published a list of 1,410 species of macrofungi with official records in Indiana, 54% of which (757) being officially noted for the first time. The checklist alone spans 17 double-columned pages!

Ok, it’s time for another picture. Here is a fungus I found on a rotting downed tree next to a wetland on our property. I have no clue what species it is, but I do know that it is recycling the carbon in the tree back into the web of life for re-use.

a fungus among us (sorry, couldn’t resist)

We don’t need to know everything about every species in order to know that they all play a role.

Back to Bates and company. Their work is important because it highlights that we are still in our infancy of describing major parts of the tree of life on this planet. We’ve discovered and documented essentially every species of bird and mammal in North America (though some life histories are still mysterious to us). But when it comes to small organisms – bacteria, fungi, even insects – the unseen is still largely the unknown.

The authors also noted that “many species of fungi absent from our Indiana checklists likely represent taxa already known to science.” Bates established such a new Indiana record simply by walking out of the lab and around the campus of Purdue University Northwest! Not only are there plenty of “missing” Indiana records right under our nose, “it is equally likely that a number of fungal species new to science await discovery in the state. These facts highlight the great need for continued mycological research within the state.”

Given our absolute and utter dependence on this thin layer of life hurtling through the void of space, such basic research is as urgent as ever.

The good news is that I will never run out of work to do as long as I live!

Update on solar net metering in Indiana

Earlier this year, the Poor Handmaids joined thousands of other Hoosiers opposing SEA309, which curtailed solar net metering for customers of Indiana’s investor-owned monopoly utilities. Here’s the original statement from our Provincial Team (our leadership council of four Poor Handmaids). Some of the worst provisions were removed or edited, but the bill ultimately passed.

Joining hundreds of other citizens to lobby against SB309 in the Senate chamber, with Sr. Loretta and Sr. Mary Baird.

The legislation spurred several “solarize” campaigns throughout the state (including Northern Indiana), where homeowners and businesses used group-purchasing to get solar panels installed before terms changed at the end of the year.

Further good news is that the press and attention generated by this bill accelerated the formation of a constituency that is now paying attention to energy policy in the state, which is still far behind where we need to be. The science tells us that where we need to be, within my lifetime, is zero carbon.

This year, several important press pieces have put these pieces together. Rather than commenting on each of them, I post them here for your review.

Vice news recently did a great piece (and video!) on Franciscan sisters in Oldenburg, IN who are helping deploy solar in southern Indiana. Very inspiring, and I called Sister Claire to arrange a meeting to see if I can replicate her strategy! “A Franciscan nun is leading a fight for solar energy in Indiana.

David Roberts at Vox does a phenomenal job at capturing the scale and breadth of the current energy transition, as well as updating readers on the latest with climate science and policy: “Utilities fighting rooftop solar are only hastening their own doom.”

Lastly, the IndyStar just released four pieces covering the SEA309 saga and some subsequent investigations:

New Indiana solar law could cripple small businesses and customer saving

How Nevada ruined its solar industry – and what it’s doing to fix it

How other Midwestern states treat solar consumers (with video)

Indiana politicians got thousands in gifts while pushing solar policy

Where did Frida Kahlo park when she came to Plymouth?

Last fall,  I’ve attended an Active Living Workshop in Plymouth, hosted by Discover Plymouth. It has sparked a group of local residents to talk about ways we can make Plymouth safer and healthy by accommodating all modes of transportation, not just cars. To the extent that walking, cycling, and mobility are incentivized with infrastructure, we become a healthier community.

The group has already submitted applications for a couple grants. We recently attended a Complete Streets Workshop in Nappanee. What are complete streets? “Complete Streets are streets for everyone. They are designed and operated to enable safe access for all users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and transit riders of all ages and abilities. ” Click here to learn more.

One of the spin-off groups focused on artwork and decided to spruce up the alleyways. Frida Kahlo in Plymouth… who wudda thunk it?!

Photo by Yolanda’s Bar and Grill

But, on to the more pressing manner at hand. In re-imagining mobility around Plymouth, we need user input for people who live, work, or visit downtown. Is that you? Click here. It only takes a minute. This was posted 2 weeks ago, and I’m not sure how long they’ll keep it up, so don’t do it later, click now 🙂

fall seed sorting

It’s harvest time. Not just for pumpkins, soybeans, and corn. Many native grasses and wildflowers have mature seeds ready for the picking.

It’s a big job, so we always appreciate some help.

Ancilla College students lending a hand

Seeds are picked according to species (carefully!), dried, and stored.

Fresh seeds of Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis)

“Letting nature take it’s course” is a common refrain. As a rule, there are many that are worse. But it’s not a good excuse for being scientifically lazy. What we do know is that humans, as they’ve been doing for thousands of years, have an active – not passive – role to play in managing landscapes. We can do it foolishly or wisely. Seed collection, mixing, and planting allows us to help usher in diverse communities of native plants that would not otherwise be present, even with many decades (or centuries) of waiting.

 

Maria Center residents and staff helping with seed cleaning.

When native seeds are collected, there are unwanted pods and chaff that it is helpful to remove. In order to “make hay while the sunshines,” we don’t often have time to do that in the field… it’s more effective to just get the seeds inside and dry before they fall to the ground.

This leaves rainy day work to be done. I appreciate having help from the residents of our independent living community, the Maria Center.

 

Think you extract the Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) seeds without sending the feathery pappus flying? Good luck!

Seeds are organized by species and stored in a cool, dark place.

Lots of future Monarch butterflies… we hope!

The next step is creating custom mixes of seeds based on soil type and land management goals. Sow during the dormant season. Then do it again!

 

LimeBike – a review of South Bend’s new bicycle rental company

When I first heard about LimeBike, South Bend’s new bicycle-rental business, I’ll admit that I grimaced a bit through a curious smile. I really want initiatives like these to succeed, but watching several of them stumble has tempered my enthusiasm. Ideas are a dime a dozen. Details and execution are everything.

After my first ride, I think LimeBike has as good a chance as any to succeed. I enjoyed it thoroughly, and had a hard time coming up with a complaint.

I’ll let LimeBike themselves introduce the concept:

It’s a challenge. Indiana does not (yet) have a well-developed cycling culture. South Bend is flat, but hot/cold temperatures and precipitation can be hurdles to entry. For LimeBike to success, several things need to be in place at once:

*affordability

*ease of use (renting/returning/user experience)

*cycling infrastructure

*availability of bikes

South Bend is the closest city of any scale to The Center at Donaldson. As such, it’s where many of us visit for food, healthcare, sporting events, and arts. My review here is of a daytime visitor, not a resident. Though you shouldn’t ask me actually fix a bicycle, I have a lot of experience biking year-round in Indiana towns and cities.

I had driven to downtown South Bend to celebrate Mass with a friend on a Sunday morning. Afterwards, I had one hour to burn until an event that was also downtown. I walked about 0.7 mile to a grocer to grab a bite to eat. On the way, I passed about 5 LimeBikes. Availability and distribution of the bikes is key for users to develop the expectation of bikes always being convenient.

There was a LimeBike at a bike rack right at the grocer. I pulled out my cell phone, opened the app, made a few taps, and a lock over the back wheel made a metallic “click” as it unlocked. I quickly adjusted the seat, tried out the bell (rung by a quick twist of the handle bar), and was off…

South Bends network of “Complete Streets” are designed to safely accommodate all users: pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists. This lowers one “barrier to entry” for wary cyclists.

The bicycles have a single, fixed gear. Your top speed is therefore limited, as well as your ability to climb hills. Adding 3-speed models would expand the usability of the bikes, but I quickly learned to simply adjust my cycling effort to the road conditions.

I wondered if they would eventually add an electric assist drive to the bikes, expanding their speed and utility even further. Of course, that would add cost and complexity. Hmm… could they be powered by photovoltaic solar cells on the bike? Perhaps too expensive?

As I pondered all this, I saw a pop can on the side of the road and figured I would throw it in the cup holder in the basket over the front wheel (which was very handy by the way). Looking closer at the basket, I realized that it did indeed appear to have a PV solar cell integrated into it.

The cell doesn’t power the bike’s propulsion, but presumably this is how power is supplies to the modem somewhere in the frame, which makes the networked, smart-sharing feature possible. Something has to also power the lock to be opened and closed. This should take relatively little power. Smart solution.

I was coming up on 30 minutes, the end of my ride. The service is $1 per half hour, but new users get a free ride to try it out. I ended up at the Century Center, and found another LimeBike parked between the bike lane and the road. I figured I would just leave mine next to the other in case two folks wanted to ride together. Not having fixed docking stations really increases the flexibility of the network. You just leave the bikes… anywhere.

I took out my phone, made a few more taps, and ended the session. The bike wheel locked up again. I was provided a summary of my ride, including distance and route traveled.

In the end, it delivered exactly what I wanted: affordable, clean, healthy, and convenient transportation.

LimeBike recently announced that they received a fresh infusion of investment and will be expanding. They also have a job posting in management in South Bend. I look forward to seeing what they can do.

If you want to take a ride, ask me for a referral so you can try for free 🙂

a warning on shifting baselines

It is only on the condition of humility and reverence before the world that our species will be able to remain in it. -Wendell Berry

The Guardian recently highlighted a very disturbing trend: the potential widespread loss of insects across massive swathes of the world (Germany in this study, but trends are similar in the U.S. and elsewhere). Subsequent Guardian posts can be found here and here. In sum, there was a 75% drop in insect mass within the last 27 years.

Insects (class Insecta), of course, are among the planets most successful group of organisms and form the base of the food chains for many vertebrates, like ourselves. The are millions of species, still millions of which have not been formally described by Western science.

One particular phenomenon we must guard against is the idea of “shifting baselines.” As a child growing up in the 90’s, I saw occasional monarch butterflies here and there during the summer. I did not see, however, the massive clouds of many thousands that would roost overnight at my grandparent’s Iowa farmstead. What I consider “natural” or “normal” is in fact a much diminished state, or may even be a temporary stopping point in a trend of long decline. Ask anyone over 50 years old about driving through the country in the summer… they would describe a windshield splattered with bugs, fireflies in great numbers, swarming moths around the outside lights.

(Here’s a TED talk on shifting baselines as it relates to ocean ecosystems).

We are trying our best to aid pollinators and insects in our land management. We are sowing filter strips along the waterways with native grasses and flowers. A pollinator patch is being installed. Additional plants species are being added here and there. On tillable acres it is more difficult.

Sr. Mary reaches for the seeds of Joe Pye Weed (Eutrochium maculatum), a purple-flowered native plant that supports dozens of insect species.

I don’t want to dwell on the topic too long, for the news is not good, especially as I think of the baseline we’ve left for my kids to discover. Instead I should return back to the work there is to do. However, I came across another article that I thought provided an interesting addition to the news on insects.

Black butterfly wings offer a model for better solar cells.” The idea of biomimicry is imitated nature’s design into our human products, services, and systems.

Biomimicry has a history in many commercial products. Whether or not this particular design eventually turns into a commercial product is besides the point. I found the poignancy and symbolism of a solar cell based on a butterfly too powerful to resist. It encapsulates some of the fundamental challenges of our time. Fatalism can too often be an cop-out. The world we build is to a large degree our own choice.