Monday, May 12, 2008

Unfettered Polygamy

I walked by a TV today and a story about the recent raid on a polygamist community in Texas was on. It made me think how in the Long Emergency, after gasoline has become very scarce, there will likely be lots of communities doing odd things out in the boondocks. Law enforcement authorities will no longer have the resources to patrol and investigate out in the vast backcountry of places like West Texas and Utah. Charismatic leaders of all kinds will be able to establish compounds and communities and no one will bother them. Lets hope there is more good than evil among these leaders.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Glowing in the Dark

Signs of the impending Long Emergency are everywhere I look. In the Boston Globe this morning, two articles caught my eye.

In one story it was reported that mining claims for uranium have increased exponentially in the past few years as the price of uranium has skyrocketed. Most claims are in the western U.S., particularly around the Grand Canyon National Park. Needless to say, environmentalists are concerned, but as threats to the American Lifestyle increase quaint notions like environmental protection will be brushed aside. (Watch as they authorize drilling in ANWR in the next few years.) As the oil runs out, our reliance on nuclear power can only increase.

In another piece, we learn that Amish salvage stores are doing a booming business. These little shops in Amish communities in places like Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana sell items such as packaged food and medicines that have been discarded by big stores because of damage or expired use-by dates. Americans from all walks of life are looking for ways to tighten their belts as energy prices go up and home values fall. Heaven knows, we throw away enough stuff in this society and I like to think that some of it is getting used by somebody. It has also occurred to me that cultures such as the Amish and Mennonites may have a lot to teach the rest of us about how to survive and thrive in a world without fossil fuel. Come to think of it, when the stuff really hits the fan, it might not be a bad idea to settle near some of these folks and watch how they tie their shoes.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

They're Baaaack!

The chimney swifts have returned to the skies over my house. Every year, they arrive on about May 1st and can be seen every day swooping and zooming in formation, happily chattering all the while. They were a little late this year, and I wonder if they were delayed by bad weather this past weekend. All summer, they are the background music on my backyard soundtrack and then, just as suddenly as they arrived, the disappear on about September 1st. I worry that all the chimney caps that are getting installed around here these days may reduce the number of potential nesting sites, but so far, I can almost set my calendar by their comings and goings.

Check out ChineySwifts.Org to see an interactive map of the swifts' northward migration. Submit the date of your first swift sighting . Be sure to look for the mark in eastern Massachusetts!

I stole an hour to have breakfast on Moose Hill this morning. It was a perfect clear, warm, calm May morning and I wanted to see and hear some new arrivals. I heard my first ovenbird and saw catbirds, tree swallows, a pair of blackburnian warblers and a black and white warbler. A couple of other birders with the same idea were kind enough to help me spot and identify some of the tiny creatures so high up in tall trees. The orioles are back, too. I saw my first one yesterday and heard and saw a few more today.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

More Pandering

A few weeks ago, John McCain proposed a gas-tax holiday for the summer driving (read voting) season. It didn't take long for the desperate Hillary Clinton to jump on the bandwagon to prove just how in touch with the common people she is. Barack Obama had the political courage to to call the proposal a "gimmick."

Meanwhile, back at the White House, George Bush proudly proclaimed that he's always been an "ethanol man." What a surprise. Of course a scheme that won't work (All the energy inputs to produce ethanol would be nearly as great as - or greater than - the energy produced.) and that has all kinds of nasty unintended consequences (Like escalating food prices.) would be favored by this twisted man as long as it makes him look tough and decisive and it provides big tax subsidies for his big-corporation buddies. Gee, that sounds a lot like the Iraq war.

We are in deeps weeds, people. The oil is running out and there are no technological fixes on the horizon. Extreme conservation is the only measure within our grasp that will lessen the blow. The American people will not see the wisdom and necessity of this on their own and very few public figures will have the spine to provide the needed leadership. Rather than a tax holiday, we need HIGHER gas taxes to stimulate price-driven conservation efforts with the revenue committed to developing alternative energy systems and further conservation.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Blink And Miss It

We returned from our annual trip to Arizona on Monday. I was gone most of the last half of April and was not happy about missing the transition into full-blown Spring. I returned to find flowers in bloom and leaves busting their buds. Work and weather have conspired to keep me from spending any significant time on Moose Hill, but I did get to drive over a couple of times, taking the scenic route while running errands. This morning, I parked in the visitor center lot long enough to take a short walk down the Vernal Pool Trail beyond the old home site, through the old wall and into the white pine forest. The weather was cool and drizmy and the light was bad, but I wanted to see just one bird of the forest.

I was a little surprised at how quiet the forest was on the second of May and I heard and saw little for the first five minutes. Finally a blue jay broke the ice and a hairy woodpecker joined in with a healthy tapping high in the trees. Then, off through the oaks, a movement near the forest floor caught my eye and a hermit thrush, complete with rufous tail, was moving through the undergrowth. The bird was silent but I hope to hear its song soon so I can contrast it with the well-known wood thrush ee-o-lay flute-like call. Seeing a hermit thrush after only a few minutes in the woods was enough to brighten even a dreary morning so I headed back to the car.

Back at the little field by the parking lot I got a good look at a few chipping sparrows. It looks like it may be a good year for them. I've been seeing and hearing them everywhere since I've been home.