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June 30, 2013

Chapada dos Veadeiros

Espen at falls of Rio Preto in Chapada dos Veadeiros 

You don’t have to have a guide anymore to go into Chapada dos Veadeiros, but it is still a good idea. It supports the local economy and the guide can point out things you would otherwise miss. Our guide was very good, although he speaks only Portuguese. 

Espen and pond in Chapada dos Veadeiros 

Local people made money by crystal mining.  It was not an ecologically benign operation.  Our guide told us that he was the son of miners and had mined himself for a time.  By the late 1980s, most of the best crystals were mined out.  Miners like our guide spent a lot of time sorting through the slag heaps.  Some crystals that were considered too small in earlier times were the best they could do later on.  Employing local people as guides gave them some income and also gave them incentive to preserve the environment.   It seemed to have worked.

Chapada falls and lake 

Our guide clearly loved the land and knew a lot about it. The only problem with him was that he could walk too fast.  We took the waterfall route. We took the canyon route when I came with Chrissy a couple years ago.  Both are really nice.  Overall, I think the canyon route is a little nicer, but it is a close call.  The waterfall route has more spectacular views, but the canyon route has more interesting ones in some ways. Maybe it would be a good idea to stay for two days and do both. Each hike takes about five hours.  That includes a significant amount of time swimming or hanging around near the ponds and waterfalls. The walks are steep in places, but not very arduous.

Espen in little falls 

The climate here is pleasant.  Because of the elevation, it rarely gets very hot and because of the tropical location it never gets cold at all. Seasons are wet and dry. Both times I visited were in the dry season. The area is semi-arid, but in a strange way. As in Brasília, it almost never rains during the dry season, but rains a lot during the rainy season, so it is very wet half the year and very dry the other half. The vegetation has to adapt to the more demanding dry season, so it looks like what you might find in parts of Arizona. As I wrote in the earlier post, São Jorge reminds me of Sedona and the area around is like parts of northern Arizona.  One big difference is that there is no cold weather here. There probably has not been any frost here for millions of years, maybe never. The other big difference is water. There is lots of water during the wet season, which keep the rivers running and the lakes full during the dry season.  It seems an anomaly to have so much water running through so dry a place.

Espen walking near little falls on Rio Preto 

The water from the Chapada dos Veadeiros flows into the Rio Preto, which empties into the Tocantins River. The Tocantins is often thought of as a tributary of the Amazon, but actually is its own basin and empties independently into the Atlantic Ocean through the Amazon delta.    

June 29, 2013

São Jorge

street in Sao Jorge 

São Jorge seems farther away because of the long and lonely road you have to take to get there.  If you had an Interstate type highway, it would be an easy day trip. Only the last twelve kilometers are dirt, but it has a lot of influence on the perception of the journey.  You cannot drive fast and it is very bumpy. The roads within São Jorge are also all unpaved and this has a lot of influence over the perception of São Jorge.  Notice in the picture below that they have well marked streets, even if the streets themselves are not well marked. Notice in the photo up top that they have a paved sidewalk, but the street is still just dirt.

Street in Sao Jorge
São Jorge is the gateway to the Chapada dos Veadeiros Park and mostly depends on eco-tourism.  There are lots of posadas, each of them idiosyncratic and more restaurants than you would expect for a town like this.  I suppose you could describe the accommodations at both as “alternative.”   There is kind of a hippie feel.  It reminds me of Sedona, Arizona – or like Sedona might have been years ago.   São Jorge was a center for crystal mining and people who believe in such things think that it is a focus of spiritual energy, so it draws some of the same sorts as Sedona.   People came to the area last year when the Maya predicted the end of the world.  Evidently this area would have survived had the Maya been right.  Locals seem undisturbed by these people, but there are new age type shops that cater to them.

Espen at Bambu restaruant 

We stayed at a place called Bambu.  It is a delightfully relaxing place with a very distinct personality.  Tranquil is the word I would use to describe it, if I had to pick one word.  It is near the edge of town.  Of course, in a town this size most places are near an edge.  But you can walk down the busy main street.  I say “busy” only half in jest.   There are a lot of people walking around.  On the corner down from Bambu is a little store where you can buy sandwiches for your day trips into Chapada dos Veadeiros.   And down the street is a good restaurant called Nenzinha, where you pay by the kilo.  The restaurant at Bambu is very nice with a wide selection of food, if you like variations on lasagna.  The pleasant ambiance makes up for the somewhat limited menu.  

Cabana at Bambu in Sao Jorge 

They do have a very large variety of liquor and mixed drinks.  Espen and I had the usual caipirinha, which is Brazil’s national cocktail.   It is made with cachaça, a hard liquor made with sugar cane.  Some people prefer vodka, which is then called a caipiroska.  It is a distinctly inferior drink.  Vodka has no taste of its own.  Instead of a caipirinha, you just have a kind of sweet lime drink.  Stick with cachaça.  A warning is in order, however.  Caipirinhas are much stronger than they seem.

Me sleeping 

Notes from my first trip to this area are at this link.  Look at the ones before and after too.

 

June 22, 2013

Evolution of partnerships

Flower on tree in Vicosa, Minas Gerais Brazil 

Our most precious resource is not money; it is our people.  I don’t ask myself what I could do if I had more money; I ask what I could do with more high qualified people.   This leads to a different sort of paradigm, in my opinion a more evolved one.  Let me qualify what I am about to say by pointing out that none of these formulations are mutually exclusive.  One has evolved from the other as conditions have changed, but we still can find reasons to use all of them or combinations. 

The oldest paradigm, the one developed during the Cold War in a time of higher budgets and fewer able partners was for us to just do it.   We would bring a speaker or organize a cultural event and pay most of the cost.  At that time, it was important to be seen doing such things. We wanted to get our symbol, our logo, on events.   In many ways, it was analogous to sophisticated advertising. It was much like firms sponsoring programs in order to build their image.  Mobile Oil sponsored “Masterpiece Theater,” for example, and I still remember Mobile’s name and logo immediately followed by classy music and the erudite speech of announcer Alistair Cook. Mobile got what it wanted in convincing people like me that it was more than a greedy firm. The influence on me lasts to this day. 

We (the USG) can still do things like this, but much less frequently and with less effect than in the past for three big reasons.  First is simply money.  Sponsoring is expensive and beyond our budgets.  Second, it is less effective than it once was, since vehicles have proliferated and the market for them has segmented or maybe even shattered.  But the third reason is most important.  It has to do with the USG being a sponsor of anything.  In the years since the end of the Cold War, others have really grown up. They don’t need us to sponsor and my even resent us doing so with too much unilateral effort.  Another word for what we did was patronizing.  Patronizing can be great, but the word itself often carries a connotation that accurately conveys what it does.  Patronizing, no matter how generous, implies a difference in status.    

A newer paradigm tried to maintain the idea of patronizing (in the good sense) but using other people’s money.  This involved fund raising from private sources.   The idea is correct, that the American nation is greater than the American government alone and it is good to get other people involved in our endeavors.    This worked well about twenty years ago, when we had our program budgets cut but still had relatively large staffs of higher competent colleagues accustomed to running programs. Essentially, we provided management and got other people to provide money.  It was very much like the sponsorship of old except that there were more sponsors.  We were still clearly the lead in most cases.  It still could be patronizing (in a negative sense) however, in that it often carried the connotation that expert Americans had arrived to explain who things were, or should be. I did a lot of this in Poland in the 1990s.  Poles were eager to learn about the workings of the free market and a free press, and private firms were eager to co-sponsor to get their foot in what looked like a great market.    But even then, I could see the window closing, as Poles became savvier and thought that their experiences should be included more in discussions and we faced a problem with American presenters not understanding the quick improvements and lecturing our Polish friends about things they already knew.  

How we do public diplomacy now in Brazil reflect both our changed constraints and opportunities. We don’t need to “pitch” America to Brazil and the millions of Brazilians who visit the U.S each year and the exponentially rising numbers of academic and professional exchanging vastly overwhelm our small ability to add or detract from our overall image in this country of 200 million. There is nothing that we could bring to Brazil that Brazilians have not already seen or experienced, but this does not mean that we can do nothing.  We just need to work with the tides and currents and not fight them. 

Our paradigm is true partnerships based on the belief that you don’t make lasting friends face-to-face as much as shoulder-to-shoulder, working together toward common goals.  This works well within our constraints of budget and more importantly people, since it conserves both those resources and concentrated on what we have in most abundance – expertise and knowledge. Our task is not so much to do programs or give things to our friends, but to know how their systems work and understand their aspirations so that we can apply maximum leverage at key places and times.  This means giving up some control, since our partners will have some say, perhaps the dominant say in what is happening. We exercise our options in deciding who, where, what and when to engage. Then we work with our friends; put our shoulders to the wheel together in support of their aspirations and ours.  Since we are depending primarily on their resources and doing what they want to do, it is sustainable.  And for these same reasons produces gratitude and appreciation rather than dependency and resentment. 

We have done this on several occasions with spectacular success.  Science w/o Borders is a primary example.  Our Brazilian friends effuse about our help.  I recently attended an event about education at the Brazilian Senate.  On a panel of seven presenters, three specifically mentioned the U.S. as the example of what cooperation should look like.  I was only a guest sitting in the audience and was a little embarrassed by the attention, but gratified. It is much better, IMO, to be mentioned as great partners than as “generous benefactors,” no matter how beneficent.  It is part of the more mature paradigm. We are partners doing what we both want done.

When we patronize a program, no matter how grand, we can reach perhaps hundreds of people. We talk about ripple effects and word of mouth and I have no doubt they are effective.  But consider a leveraged program such as working with SwB or English w/o Borders, where we deeply and continually work with thousands of influential Brazilian and reach literally millions more directly.  Our Brazilian partners estimate that English w/o Borders will directly influence 7 million young Brazilians in the next four years.   The ripples from 7 million is bigger.

Our new paradigm requires that we be agile and opportunistic. It also requires that we have the courage and confidence to shift our resources quickly to places of maximum leverage.  This will mean that our programs are never well-balanced or well-rounded and some good programs will be neglected for a time, maybe forever.  

I liken SwB and the related English w/o Borders to the discovery of a gold mine.  The gold will not last forever, but while it serves we would be foolish to stay “balanced” by devoting equal attention to our tin mine.  In fact, the gold mine analogy breaks down and makes our activity even more urgent.  Gold, presumably, will stay in the ground until you are ready to go and get it.  SwB will have its season.  If we miss it, it will not come again.

June 20, 2013

Brazilian eucalyptus

Eucalyptus plantation in Minas Gerais, Brazil  

Pines used to be the plantation tree of choice all over Brazil. Today it is eucalyptus, at least north of São Paulo.  Eucalyptus grows very fast and it has few pests. The eucalyptus is native of Australia, but it is developed to its genetic best in Brazil. The trees were introduced to Brazil about a century ago. They are used mostly for charcoal and pulp and grow with a five year rotation in most places. South America produces about half of all the eucalyptus products in the world.

Eucalyptus in Brazil 

It is nice to walk in eucalyptus forest. They smell good and there are not too many bugs. But this has its negative side.  The reason it smells good and there are not too many bugs is that few animals can eat the leaves or bark.  They are a pretty version of a desert.  It is exacerbated by propensity for fire. The wood has oil that can explode into fire and the trees drop bark, so that the ground is covered by tinder. In any case, not much grows under the eucalyptus. This makes them a popular crop tree.

As you see in the photo, they are planted neatly like any other crop and they are planted continuously with some harvested each year and news ones planted w/o much regard for seasons of the year. It is a different sort of forestry, maybe not really forestry at all. What is attractive about forestry is the interaction among parts of the forest community. These forests of eucalyptus are much like very tall corn fields. Too neat for my tastes.

On the plus side, they cover the naked hillsides and produce valuable cellulose rapidly.

June 16, 2013

Universities in Minas 2

Hitchhiking Students in Vicosa 

Minas Gerais has more federal universities than any other state.   There are twelve federal universities, along with two state universities and various private ones, including PUC-Minas, which is the largest PUC in the world.  They are working on forming a consortium of the twelve federals, two states and PUC.  If it works, it will be a powerful combination.  

Old main building at Federal University Vicosa 

Many of the universities are outside the big cities, which is not the common Brazilian pattern.  We visited Ouro Preto, Viçosa and São João del Rei.   None of these are big cities and the universities make a big impression on them.   

Gate at UFV 

Viçosa has a population of only a little more than 70,000; the federal university (UFV) has around 14,000 students.  Viçosa was originally founded as a school of agriculture called Escola Superior de Agricultura e Veterinária, and co-founded by an American, Peter Henry Rolfs.  Rolfs was the director of the school 1927-9.   Exchanges with the U.S. were common in the 1930s and 1940s and in the 1950s, the school developed a strong partnership with Perdue University. The place has a significant American feel and a practical mission similar to one of our land grant universities.

interesting tree with Vicosa in background 

One thing that UFV has that many other Brazilian universities do not is dorms. 

When I was reading the history of the Escola Superior de Agricultura e Veterinária, the parallels to today were apparent.  History doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes.  Back in the 1920s, Brazil looked to partner with the U.S. in things like agricultural sciences and Viçosa was one of the perennial fruits of this cooperation ninety years ago.  I hope our work with SwB will be as successful and sustainable.  It is good to recall that we can see farther because we stand on the shoulders of giants.  Our duty is to be worthy of those that went before.

Old fashion engine at Federal University Ouro Preto 

The Federal University at Ouro Preto grew from two practical streams: the Escola de Farmácia de Ouro Preto was founded in 1839 and the School of Mines chartered by Emperor Pedro II in 1876.  The two were united to form a federal university in 1969.   Minas Gerais means “general mines,” so a school of mines was natural in the state.

The Federal University of São João del Rei also had roots in older schools.  The Faculdade Dom Bosco de Filosofia, Ciências e Letras and a Fundação Municipal de São João del-Rei.   

We got a fantastic reception at all three university, with crowds growing at each stop.   I counted 170 at Ouro Preto.  Viçosa filled every seat in an auditorium that held 200 and had people standing.  São João del Rei met us with about 150 in the hall itself, but connected other centers via internet and we got questions from the remote locations.  In addition we did television interviews.  My colleague Vera did a really good job of answering questions and I am convinced that dozens if not hundreds of additional Brazilian students will study in the U.S. as a result of our efforts in Minas and around Brazil.  Valeu a pena ir.

My top pictures show the campus at Viçosa.  At the very top are hitchhikers.  They line up for rides.  Next is the old main building.  The engine is from Ouro Preto.  I will download pictures of São João del Rei and make a separate post tomorrow.

June 13, 2013

Road to Viçosa

Road to Viçosa 

We drove from Ouro Preto to Viçosa.  This was my first visit to this part of Brazil.  It is very hilly and it takes a long time to get a short distance. There is very little out here, which makes it pretty and empty and pretty empty.

The hillsides probably were forested but are now mostly grass covered.  You can see the signs of cattle and sometimes cattle themselves.  The signs are the grasslands themselves but also the little ridges that run along the hillsides. Cows tend to walk in paths on the sides of the hills.  In time, they form paths that you can see from a distance. 

Cats 

There were few places to stop.  We stopped at a roadside churrascaria.  Food was good but not great. The entertainment consisted of two cats begging for scraps. This is strange behavior for cats.  They usually act more aloft. My top picture the road from the restaurant and the next shows those two cats. 

June 12, 2013

Minas Gerais

Ouro Preto Panorama 

I went in Ouro Preto to talk at the local university about Science w/o Border and the overwhelming advantages of the university system in the U.S.  I will write more about that later.  Right now I just want to share a few pictures and impressions.

Ouro Preto Street 

Ouro Preto is really a pretty city in a pretty location.  It looks like Portugal and is the city of the Baroque, as I wrote during my first visit here with Chrissy.  I am glad that this time Espen came with me. He will get to see a little more of the city while I am working. Tourism is not my purpose this time, but I hope he gets to take advantage.

Tiradentes 

I can repeat over and over that Brazil is a very diverse country but sometimes it is so obvious that it is overlooked.  This part of Brazil is so very different from where I live in Brasilia or areas of the NE or ...

June 09, 2013

Drinking a greater variety of beer

I like beer and like the fact that there are lots of kinds.  Today we have more breweries than ever in the U.S.

Beer drinking in the U.S. 

I didn't know it at the time, but I evidently started drinking beer at the low point of breweries in the U.S.  Wisconsin still had a few.  We had Point Brewery where I went to school, Leinenkugel in Chippewa Falls, Heileman's Old Style in Lacrosse & Huber in Monroe, plus the bigger brewers like Pabst & Schlitz. I think they are all gone now or owned by others. 

I remember we used to make a big deal about getting Coors.  It was not sold far from Colorado because it was not pasteurized and needed to be kept cold.  Coors was also one of the first to use recyclable aluminum cans. We thought it was cool that you could crush the soft can in one hand. Steel cans were not so easy. They even made a movie, "Smokey and the Bandit," about bringing Coors east.  Now you can get Coors everywhere.  I still like it but only during the day.  I usually take a couple cans when I do work on the tree farm.  It is very refreshing on a hot day but a little to light to sit and drink in the evening.

Anyway, it is good to see that there is more variety, but it does make life complicated. In the old days, there were lots of types of beer, but they were local.  You had to travel to get them.  Today they are all or mostly all available in your local liquor store.  In some ways that ruins the fun. It was nice to have some things you had to travel to get or could bring back from a trip.

June 08, 2013

The problem of getting too much for free

Most of us are willing to do things we like to do for little or no money. The payoff may be simple recognition. Passionate amateurs have made many great discoveries. Crowdsourcing lets us to tap into even wider expertise. It's great if people are willing to contribute their time to worthy endeavors like Wikipedia, the search for intelligent life or other collective projects? Maybe not. 

I take lots of pictures and post articles. All my stuff is "creative commons." Sometimes people ask my permission to use my words or pictures; sometimes they just use them. I am happy just to be useful. Many of us are like this and it has been good. But the Internet's capacity to aggregate information and make it available on massive scales may be making this virtue into a vice.

Think about those pictures. Some people used to make a living as photographers. Most of them really liked to take pictures, which is why they were in the business, but they WERE in business. They got paid for what they did.  Those at the very top of the photography world still make lots of money. The rank and file photographers are being pushed out of the business by people like you and me providing similar quality at an unbeatable price - free.

This goes for lots of other creative people, such as writers, musicians or speakers and even teachers. The Internet dynamic here is similar. People don't need to pay for the middle quality writing or music because it is all free on Internet. On the other hand, the Internet enhanced the power of the superstars. With the cost of each additional iteration of the product approaching zero, everybody will buy only from those they consider the very best.

There once was a market for artists who were imitative of the star musicians or writers. This niche is gone with the electrons. These semi-talented artists were subject to ridicule; they supplied the characters for comedy shows or Twilight Zone episodes, but they were able to earn a living. Today they give it away on Internet in the usually futile hope that their talent will be recompensed.

They may get significant numbers of fans or followers, but the currency of Internet fame rarely translates to real bucks in the pocket. There are enough winners in this game to keep the legions of suckers running the rat race, but it is a lot like basing your retirement planning on lottery tickets.

The danger is coming to teaching and universities with effective distance learning. We love the concept of being able to learn at our own rates, maybe to do so for free. This is great. But consider how it works. Take the Khan Academy. This is a great step forward in many ways. Millions of people will learn things they would not otherwise have known. A talented teacher like Sal Khan can reach millions of people. Never in a lifetime could he reach as many people as he can in a half-hour of recording. And this recording will never get tired. It can go on almost into infinity. It replaces millions of math and science teachers. It replaces millions of math and science teachers. Few of them were as innovative as Sal Khan, but they were part of a math and science community. The community which was once networked and diverse is now gone. Advocates will say that the Khan students are networked to each other and that is certainly one of the great strengths, but they are tied to the top.

Perhaps resistance is indeed futile and we should all assimilate into the greater good. More people will learn math or science. More people will hear great music or see great writing. But fewer people will be creating it. More correctly, lots of people will dronishly be creating things that nobody appreciates enough to pay for. A few, happy few, will be reaping the rewards of all this Zuckerburg style. Millions of Facebook users work for him and don't expect to get paid. In fact, most don't even know they are working for big Mark. I am not sure that Zukerberg knows they are working for him. He thinks he is giving them a free service. It is a perfect deception when even the deceivers are deceived.

I don't have a solution to propose. I am guilty myself; I am an enabler. A few hundred people will read this blog. I have never met most of you; none of you would be willing to pay me for what I write and I don't expect it. But I am aware of the dilemma. I am writing essays that in an earlier age would never be read by anybody at all. If I wanted to be "published" I would start with short essays or stories that few people would read, but my goal would be to find a big enough audience to make some money from writing. There would be a vetting process, but some people would make money for the type of thing I give away for free. I have a good job that makes me a "gentleman of leisure" who can engage in the luxury of writing w/o expectation of profit. But is it perhaps immoral NOT to make a profit? We dilettantes put would-be professionals out of business. Wouldn't it be better if some poor suckers with talent but w/o a day job could aspire?

Those of you who were amused enough to read to the end perhaps can answer the question. You spent a few minutes with me. Thank you. We shared ideas. That is great. But maybe the hour I took to write this and the minutes dozens of you took to read it put some poor slob out of work. Not only that, it used to support an industry of others who were paid for what they did, critics, editors, printers etc. Now it's just you and me. You can tell there is no editor. You can be a critic if you want, but you will get paid the same as I do and if you want to print this for any reason just push the button.

One of the promises of technology was that everybody could be published. But technology cannot promise that everybody will be read much less appreciated or paid.

I think we are seeing a kind of "Show businessization (new word)" of our world. Some actors and singers make fantastic fortunes, but the average actor or singer makes little or nothing from the profession. Many waitresses are aspiring singers and cab drivers have dreams of acting fame. The vast majority never succeed. It is not lack of talent alone. Many talented people never make it and some talent-free individuals become famous. There is a big element of luck, being in the right place at the right time. This is why all these aspirants spend time trying to be seen or kissing the asses of people who might give them a break. It is not pleasant and it is not a good society.

When you get this kind of competition, you end up with a tournament society where a few winners get fabulously successful and most of the others get bupkis. It is great in sports, movies and American Idol, but it is no way to live for most people.

BTW - I have been reading a book called Who owns the Future. That is what stimulated lots of these ideas and I suggest you read the book too. Give the guy a little money for his work and don't depend on the free media.

Maybe we should be willing to pay a little for what we take and don't expect somebody else to give it to us for free.

June 02, 2013

Green Infrastructure

Me in the 1970sNature provides lots of valuable services. Unfortunately, it is often hard to value them and even harder to figure out how to pay for them. Most of us have come to believe that things like water & air are free and/or belong to nobody. That attitude is what gets us in trouble. Things that are free or belong to nobody get wasted and ruined everybody. We need to think more systemically.

I just finished reading a good book called "Nature's Fortune: How Business and Society Thrive by Investing in Nature" by Mark Tercek, head of the Nature Conservancy. I suggest you read the whole book, but I will expand on some of the ideas here.

The quote I liked is "Nature is not just something to preserve in a few places and degrade in others. Nature is everywhere. Yet nature is also not just a source of tangible benefits to people. It has a deeper meaning to people around the world."

The main idea is that we can and should work with nature. Nature provides fantastic infrastructure, which the author calls "Green Infrastructure". I will go into examples below, but first let me quote the other passage I found useful and true. "Contrary to popular opinion, companies can be better at making long-term plans for those resources than governments, which often get hamstrung by political divides and short term thinking driven by the next election cycle." That is not to diminish the indispensable role of government, but often the point of leverage is working with businesses. I found this true when I worked in Europe in the 1980s and 1990s. Governments talked and promised, but you could get things done faster in private spheres. Where private business was weak, as in communist countries, the environment was in the most miserable condition. He gave an example of Coca-Cola working to preserve water resources.

But the example I liked best, one I heard before, was New York City's green infrastructure. New York has some of the best quality tap water in the world. They began planning for its water needs way back in 1837. The system depends on forested watersheds in the Catskill Mountains. Most of this land is in private hands. Instead of building more treatment plants (i.e. gray not green infrastructure) NYC worked with landowners upstream, providing them advice on stream and water protection and sometimes money to help them do the right things. As a result, almost everybody is happier. Money has been pumped into rural communities that allow them to maintain a way of life they want that also provides clean water to NYC at a price lower than it would have otherwise to pay. And it is good for the environment. Smart all around.

Another example of great green infrastructure is restored oyster reefs. Restoring reefs was one of the good uses of Federal Stimulus Money and the RESTORE Act. It costs about $1 million a mile to restore oyster reef, about the same as the cost of a seawall. But an oyster reef is better. A seawall is as good as it gets on the day it is finished, then it starts of deteriorate and needs maintenance. An oyster reef improves with time; it is self-maintaining. And all the time it exists it filters the water, provide habitat for aquatic life and even sequesters carbon and potentially provides food for people. If there is a choice, why would anybody go with a concrete seawall?

I have been interested in the environment for as long as I can recall. I studied ecology back in the 1970s. Much of what I learned then has been overtaken by new knowledge. There really is no such thing as a climax forest, for example. I also imbibed the error that humans are separate from nature and that as one gains the other loses. Experience since then has demonstrated that both nature and humans can benefit at the same time from smart activities based on understanding relationships. I have also concluded that humans MUST manage nature. It is too late to try to keep hands off. As the head of TNC says above, nature is not just something to preserve in a few places and degrade in others. I wrote a couple years ago something I think is a good close here too.

Human interaction does not always profane nature; the interaction done right can ennoble both. Conservation is a higher order activity compared with mere preservation, which is an abdication of responsibility in the guise of wisdom. Conservation demands that you apply intelligence and ecological factors to sustaining a system that works for man and beast. We humans live in this world. If/when there is a world w/o us, it really doesn't matter anymore. As long as we are here, however, it is our job to do things right. .

The picture is me in the 1970s. My sister just sent me a bunch of pictures she scanned. I had to post it to show people who know me that I once had hair. Notice the long hair, confident smile and kick-ass boots. Back when I knew everything it was easier to make judgments.


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