Monday, January 5, 2009

A couple of articles this morning on watershed protection in Central Ohio.

Volunteers hope to name streams
Monday, January 5, 2009 3:02 AM
Conservationists plan to study and name as many as 20 small streams that feed a scenic stretch of the Olentangy River in Delaware County in hopes that the state will better protect the waterways from development.

and in the Big Darby:

Monday, January 5, 2009 3:03 AM
A plan to pay for environmental protection for land near Big Darby Creek was on the fast track until the Columbus City Council slammed on the brakes. The reason: At least one council member wanted to see a traffic study for the 84-square-mile watershed. ...

In 2006, when the council approved the Big Darby Accord, detailing how the area will develop, the legislation said that a traffic analysis "should be an early priority" to determine responsibility for road and infrastructure financing.

Meanwhile, in the NYTimes, Wes Jackson and Wendell Berry--sustainable agriculture's dynamic duo--have a proposal for a "50 Year Farm Bill," the kind of long-term thinking that really deserves to be called "sustainable."

...Agriculture has too often involved an insupportable abuse and waste of soil, ever since the first farmers took away the soil-saving cover and roots of perennial plants. Civilizations have destroyed themselves by destroying their farmland. This irremediable loss, never enough noticed, has been made worse by the huge monocultures and continuous soil-exposure of the agriculture we now practice.

Any restorations will require, above all else, a substantial increase in the acreages of perennial plants. The most immediately practicable way of doing this is to go back to crop rotations that include hay, pasture and grazing animals.

But a more radical response is necessary if we are to keep eating and preserve our land at the same time. In fact, research in Canada, Australia, China and the United States over the last 30 years suggests that perennialization of the major grain crops like wheat, rice, sorghum and sunflowers can be developed in the foreseeable future. By increasing the use of mixtures of grain-bearing perennials, we can better protect the soil and substantially reduce greenhouse gases, fossil-fuel use and toxic pollution.

Carbon sequestration would increase, and the husbandry of water and soil nutrients would become much more efficient. And with an increase in the use of perennial plants and grazing animals would come more employment opportunities in agriculture — provided, of course, that farmers would be paid justly for their work and their goods.

And finally--this verges on copyright infringement, but I'm linking, too--here's a lovely piece from Verlyn Klinkenborg:


Sometimes on the train north to the country, I catch a glimpse of a heron rookery in a swamp by the tracks. To call it a rookery, now a general term for a breeding colony, is to catch a linguistic glimpse of the great colonies of rooks’ nests — raucous, brawling places — that dot the English countryside. What I see from the train should really be called a heronry, a village of well-built heron nests high in the trees. In winter, they stand out against the sky like dense clouds or puffs of dark smoke caught in the uppermost branches.

The recent ice storm left a lot of shattered trees behind, including many in the swamp. But as far as I could tell, none of the nest trees had broken. Nor had the high winds pitched any of the heron nests to the ground. I began to wonder about all the intersecting decisions that go into a heronry.

It begins with the presence of water, which is where great blue herons feed. It requires a certain height in the trees, which means trees of a certain age and branch structure. But do those qualities also give resistance to wind and severe ice storms? Or do the birds prefer certain species of tall, well-branched trees over others? After all, no respectable heron would nest in a birch.

I am used to thinking of evolution doing the selecting — blind, impassive adaptation over millions of years. That is a dispassionate way of understanding behavior. But a heronry embodies a system of knowledge present in these herons, a complete, successful and highly inventive understanding of this world around them. Grasping how it came to be does not make it any less marvelous.

The train rumbles past that swamp a couple dozen times a day. Who knows how many humans have looked up at that heronry? The hard part is learning to see nature as a dense web of interconnected knowledges. We see the dimensions of the landscape, but we miss seeing the fullness of the understandings that inhabit it. I look up at the heronry and the question that stays in my mind is this: What do herons learn from living together?

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