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."