January 31, 2008

Calendar: Weeks of February 4 and 11, 2008

If you hurry, you can catch the tail end of Focus the Nation's national climate change teach-in at the International House on the UC Berkeley campus. But if you miss it, check out tomorrow's townhall meeting on Barack Obama's energy plan sponsored by Boalt Hall Law School. There are several events in my calendar over the course of the next two weeks. Thursday the 7th poses a challenge with two events being held at the same time! Monday, February 4 Manufactured Landscapes documentary* Geballe Room, 220 Stephens Hall, UCB campus Starting at 7 p.m. (more information) *A friend, a photographer and professor in the East Asian Studies at UCB, recommended this film. The event sponsor, The Townsend Center for Humanities, describes the film in this way:
Manufactured Landscapes is the striking new documentary on the world and work of renowned artist Edward Burtynsky. Internationally acclaimed for his large-scale photographs of “manufactured landscapes”—quarries, recycling yards, factories, mines and dams—Burtynsky creates stunningly beautiful art from civilization’s materials and debris. The film follows him through China, as he shoots the evidence and effects of that country’s massive industrial revolution. With breathtaking sequences, such as the opening tracking shot through an almost endless factory, the filmmakers also extend the narratives of Burtynsky’s photographs, allowing us to meditate on our impact on the planet and witness both the epicenters of industrial endeavor and the dumping grounds of its waste.
Wednesday, February 6 Paul Davidoff Award reception to honor the work of two UC Berkeley professors* 2nd Floor Lobby, Wurster Hall 6 - 8 p.m. Sponsored by the Center for Community Innovation *Randolph Hester and James Corburn, both of the College of Environmental Design, received the award in 2007; Hester for Design for Ecological Democracy and Corburn for Street Science: Community Knowledge and Environmental Health Justice. For more information about the reception click here and for more information about the award click here. Thursday, February 7 All in This Tea documentary film screening with director Les Blank, followed by a tea tasting Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology (Main Gallery) Starting at 7 p.m. (more information) Native Bees – What’s the Buzz? lecture by entomologist Gordon Frankie, PhD Redwood Gardens at the Clark Kerr Campus, 2951 Derby Street 7 - 9 p.m. Sponsored by the Berkeley Path Wanderers Association (more information) Friday, February 8 Championing Sustainability The ArtHouse, 1360 Mission Street, Suite 200, San Francisco 9 a.m - 5 p.m. [via Urban Alliance for Sustainability] Labor and California Climate Change Legislation: Can Cooling the Climate Also Create Jobs? Center for Labor Research and Education, Conference Room, UCB campus 12 - 1:30 p.m. (event poster) Tuesday, February 12 Leading the Way: A Look at the Sonoma County North American Climate Initiative Randy Poole, Chief Engineer, Sonoma County Water Agency 250 Goldman School of Public Policy (2607 Hearst Avenue), UCB campus 5:30 - 7 p.m. (event poster) Love at First Sight, America's Affair with the Rose film screening UC Botanical Garden 6 - 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, February 13 The Cultural Politics of Climate Change 575 McCone Hall, UCB campus 4 - 5:30 p.m. (a lecture in the Geography Department Wednesday Colloquium) Friday, February 15 The Economics of Climate Change in California and Globally 2319 Tolman Hall, UCB campus 2 - 4 p.m. (UCB/SPH Lecture series on Climate Change for Health Scientists)

January 29, 2008

Garden goodies from Sunset magazine

Courtyard, Casa de Pilatos, Sevilla, Spain House & Garden was canceled last fall. The publisher, Conde Naste, offered to complete my subscription with issues of Domino. I read an issue of Domino; it's nice, but I miss reading new H&G issues. Plus, the H&G editor is a graduate of my college. Still searching for a replacement, I read several issues of Sunset Northern California edition. I like the focus on where I live - Northern California - and the magazine offers some great gardens finds. Here are some of my favorite:
  • Flora Grubb Gardens in San Francisco sells plants and supplies for creating “environmentally responsible landscapes.”
  • SafeLawns.org Foundation helps lawn owners tend their greensward without chemicals and pesticides.
  • What a great idea: Urbanweeds in Seattle will pot your plants! It helps if you live in Seattle, around Fremont Avenue.
  • Back to Berkeley, order your spring plants from Bay Flora (bayflora.com). My spring list includes lettuce, spinach, peas, violet, foxglove, and hollyhock.
  • More on gardening? Check out Heavy Petal for advice on “not tak[ing] gardening so seriously” and Suburban Habitat – online and in Novato – for “environmentally conscious” garden supplies.
  • I have a bamboo cutting board, live black bamboo in a planter, and I gave bamboo kitchenware as Christmas gifts. I like bamboo. I would not mind a bamboo bike, but at $2,695 and up, Craig Calfee’s bike is out of my budget.
  • Local ecology is not featured in Greenopia San Francisco Bay Area - The Urban Dweller's Guide to Green Living, but we do offer services for “green” organizations: newsletter design and grant development.
  • If you’ve been following Michael Pollan you know his prescription for eating is “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” Last spring, in his 10x20 foot front yard garden (it used to be lawn), he grew string beans, carrots, broccoli, kale, cucumbers, herbs, potatoes, and chard.
  • Hope from Nell Newman, co-founder of Newman’s Own Organics:
I was a frustrated fundraiser for a small nonprofit environmental group. I saw what my dad was doing with Newman’s Own foods. I thought, I could do that with organic foods and raise money for environmental groups.

January 27, 2008

Weekend headlines

Note: The first article was printed a couple of days before the weekend, but its topic is very salient, especially with a regional push for green jobs that does not mention tree-care related careers. Sunnyvale homeowners told to cut redwoods that block solar panels San Jose Mercury News [via TreeHugger] Rethinking the meat-guzzler New York Times ‘Green’ buildings don’t have to be new Times Creeks rising in Bay Area, more rain forecast San Francisco Chronicle In Richmond, kids getting lesson in play Chronicle Albany opposes tree removal, aerial spray Berkeley Daily Planet A walk in the inimitable woods Daily Planet First 'green' homeless shelter opens Oakland Tribune [via Re-Nest]

January 24, 2008

Photo du jour: Berkeley library master plan

The Berkeley Public Library is seeking public input for its facilities master plan. As a first step, the Central Library has a poster board on which you can mark the libraries you regularly use. Visit the Central Library to make your mark. Read the master plan fact sheet.

January 23, 2008

Tree Walk: Eating the fruits of city trees

Fruit trees in the city. You are probably thinking of quince or lemon, apple or pear, peach or plum trees that grow in residential yards. But street and park trees also bear fruit. The yard tree and the public shade tree are part of the urban canopy and have important ecosystem roles. However, the fruit of yard trees like those mentioned above are typically grown for market. The quince or Chaenomeles speciosa (flower pictured above) certainly has an ecosystem role in my backyard; its flowers attract and feed the hummingbirds, who were noticeably absent after the roses faded. Based on an Agroforestry Research Trust fact sheet, I will also look out for honeybees; the quince flowers provide nectar. The fruit will follow the flower. Although it is not Cydonia oblonga - the quince used to make the jelly I ate in Madrid, Spain - the C. speciosa fruit can be made into jelly. I have not had much success with harvesting the fruit in the past. My taste buds rebelled the first time I bit into the fruit. This was three years ago. Since then I have learned that you must prepare the fruit (like making jelly), not eat it raw. Although it’s related to the pear (genus Pyrus) you cannot simply take a bite of it straight from the tree. So this year I’ll prepare quince jelly, slice it, and eat it with cheese. Typical public shade trees bear fruit. The drupe of the hawthorn, the capsule of the horsechestnut, the nut of the oak, the pome of the (callery) pear, and the samara of the elm and maple. But market fruit trees can also be used as street trees. Both Jen of Walking Berkeley and I have posted about public fruit trees (here and here). Despite the presence of public fruit trees, the City of Berkeley does not have a formal market fruit tree as public shade tree program. Orange trees are planted in the sidewalks near downtown Sacramento pictured above. The trees might be part of a design program to honor the origins of the city. According to a Wikipedia entry on Sacramento, Swiss pioneer John Sutter began the region's agricultural industry with the receipt of 2,000 fruit trees. Orange trees are also planted in the sidewalks of Sevilla, Spain (pictured below). Wondering why the Sevillanos were not picking the fruit, I bit into one of the oranges (Citrus aurantium), picked from a tree near the Casa de Pilatos. Perhaps the salted almonds sold by the vendor outside the Casa de Pilatos or the roasted chestnuts sold by the vendor outside the Plaza Nueva were better tasting. However, once I tried the orange, known colloquially as sour or bitter orange, I had the answer to my question. Despite the oral displeasure, I remain a fan of Citrus aurantium. The streets and plazas lined with this tree were beautiful to explore and to linger. Also, the bitter fruit provided another good story from my trip to Andalusia. Related

January 21, 2008

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

Update BET is now showing Boycott (check your local listings). Read more about the film. Listen to Barack Obama's tribute speech to Dr. King in which he describes himself as a "hopemonger." For a more floral, but no less hopeful, tribute to Dr. King, read a post about leis and civil rights marches on the Human Flower Project website.

January 20, 2008

Weekend headlines

January 17, 2008

Bird Watch: Tri-city bird spotting

Yet another series, but this one is about birds. The first post in the series explored the link between bird bills and their food and habitats. This post is more pictorial; during the past three weeks I have been in three cities and was able to photograph three bird species. In Caceres, Spain, I observed many white storks (or ciguenas blancas in Spanish) (Ciconia ciconia). The storks construct large nests on the highest points in the town of Caceres: steeples and crosses, bell towers and old watch towers, and chimneys (pictured above). Wooden roosts have been installed in the fields on the outskirts of the town. North of Caceres, in the city of Sevilla, I spied a couple of doves in the crevice of a planetree (pictured above). More locally, I observed several wild parrots at the Ferry Building on Monday (two pictured below - note a seagull at the far left). To be accurate, I heard them before I saw them. The sound is like a screech; Mark Bittner describes the parrot's vocalization as a scream. After watching the The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill documentary I look up not so much to see the architecture but to spot wild parrots and other birds in the city.

January 15, 2008

Tree Walk: Blake Street beeches

Tree Walk Wednesday has been renamed Tree Walk. The series is inspired by the Take a Tree Walk guide book for children written by Jane Kirkland and the Tree Tuesday series published by Spacing Wire. I do take purposeful tree walks, but most of my tree walks are accidental in nature. European beech (Fagus sylvatica) leaves (the American beech leaf has more serrate margins) One Saturday last fall, I walked along Blake Street to get to Lanesplitter Pizza on San Pablo. On the walk, I noticed four blocks of beech trees. I am accustomed to seeing beeches in parks (especially on the East Coast) but not in sidewalks. The tree can attain a height of 70 feet, but sidewalk conditions would certainly constrain this growth habit. I did not have my camera that day, but made a return trip in late December. My second walk down Blake Street, between Sacramento and San Pablo, was more purposeful and in addition to the beech I noticed several other species, especially between Mabel and Mathews Streets. Each block between Sacramento and San Pablo has a different species composition. Between Sacramento and Acton, the beeches are located mostly on the north side of the block with a more continuous canopy than the previous block. Infill trees, red maples in this case, are also located on the north side of the block. Similarly, on the next block (between Acton and Mabel), there are more beeches on the north side. This is surprising because the majority of overhead wires run along the north side of Blake Street. I assume that the more established beeches were planted before the "right tree in the right place" policy became very popular with municipalities. One of the recommendations of this policy is that short stature trees (under 25 feet) should be planted below overhead wires. However, the presence of recently planted red maples below the wires does not fit the policy recommendation. Ginkgo at Blake and Mabel The most diverse block along Blake Street is between Mabel and Mathews Streets. The beech trees are younger than on the two previous blocks while the red maples are more established. I identified two sweetgums, two red oaks, one purpleleaf plum, one butterfly bush (a shrub), and one cherry. Finally, the beeches south of Mathews were mixed age and were evenly distributed on both sides of the block with the younger trees in fair to poor condition. I identified one magnolia on this block as well as a two-needle bundle pine tree (below) at the corner of Blake and San Pablo. I did not find a cone, so I cannot identify the species. Can anyone identify the species?

January 14, 2008

New books at The Printed Leaf

Photo du jour: biodiesel and bicycles

Outside Caceres, Spain Last week I saw a Smart car with Arkansas plates on Telegraph Avenue. Also last week, Indian car company, Tata, revealed the Nano, the cheapest four-door car in the world at $2500. The Berkeley Biodiesel Collective is moving to its new location on Ashby Avenue this spring. Sevilla, Spain If you live in Oregon, you can order pro-bicycling vanity plates for your car [via Spacing Wire]. Finally, if you cycle in London, you might be required to license your bicycle. Lady Sharples was almost hit by a misbehaving cyclist and has sparked talk in the Parliament of a bicycle registration system.

January 13, 2008

Weekend headlines

January 11, 2008

On the environment in politics

The presidential candidates did not adequately address environmental issues (with the possible exception of energy independence) in Iowa and New Hampshire. I wonder if this will change as they prepare for the California primary on Super Tuesday, February 5. (Read Grist's candidate fact sheets for the environmental perspectives of the presidential candidates.) Yesterday, Governor Schwarzenegger proposed severe funding cuts to parks and the environment - among other services - to balance the state budget.
The governor's proposal allocates $17.4 billion for state agencies that protect the environment, down from $1.76 billion this year. The departments also would get less money from bond funds: $5.55 billion in 2008-09 compared with $5.59 billion this year. The proposal also seeks emergency reductions in the current budget. San Francisco Chronicle, January 11, 2008
The governor also wants to close many of California's parks. Under his budget, 48 of the state's 280 parks would be affected: 43 parks would be temporarily shut down - among them nine in the Bay Area, including Portola Redwoods in San Mateo County, Tomales Bay in Marin and Candlestick Point in San Francisco; two parks would be partially closed; and the openings of three new parks would be delayed. San Francisco Chronicle, January 11, 2008

January 9, 2008

There is a season

Tuesday's New Hampshire Primary illustrated that there is a season for everything and everyone. In Berkeley, quince trees are blossoming, like the one in my yard, and with them come hummingbirds! Speaking of birds, Sandra Steingraber writes in the recent issue of Orion that sparrow (Passer domesticus) populations in the Americas and urban Europe are declining. Sparrows are
found on six continents, [and] they are the world's most widely distributed bird. Urban or rural is immaterial to them. Except for this: they are never found more than four hundred meters from a human structure.
I am intrigued by Steingraber's observation that while sparrows do not exhibit a preference for urban or rural habitats, they are directly associated with human structures. Her comments remind me of the work of artist Daniel McCormick. McCormick's sculptures are tools for landscape restoration. In the same issue of Orion, McCormick writes about his installations of "healing sculptures" in "comprised environments." Specifically, McCormick designs sculptures made of riparian plants that are installed in damaged watersheds. The sculptures support re-vegetation by trapping silt from runoff and stream flow which then serve as nurseries for riparian plants, but their presence fades away:
Eventually [the sculptures] disappear completely, and a succession of erosion-controlling growth takes hold and stabilizes the stream bank. In time, the artist's presence, absorbed by the recovering watershed, is no longer apparent.
With the arrival of the the rainy season, I organize my schedule around the daily probability of rain. It is challenging to run errands in a downpour! Yesterday I spent much of the day indoors, wishing for dry weather until I remembered that Australia "is suffering through its worst dry spell in a millennium, according to Wired. The effect on the Australian landscape is quite dramatic. Furthermore, Australians are "getting sad." Dr. Glenn Albrecht, professor at Newcastle University in Australia, has observed that the dramatic changes in the landscape are having a depressing affect on the mental health of Australians. Dr. Albrecht (and Dr Gina-Maree Sartore) have coined the term solastalgia or the "homesickness you have when you are still at home" (University of Newcastle press release). The symptoms of solastalgia have been identified in communities that have experienced large-scale landscape changes, for example, the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina or open-cut mining. The title of the Wired article is "Global Mourning," a clever play on global warming. Coincidentally, UC Berkeley will host a symposium titled "Focus the Nation - Global Warming Solutions for America" on January 31. Chancellor Birgeneau has great expectations given the university's "long and rich history of pioneering knowledge and action on the most urgent issues."