Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Man and Nature, George P. Marsh

Man and Nature or, Physical Geography as Modified by Human History by George P. Marsh published 1864. 
 
FIVE STARS 
 
America's first environmentalist, George P. Marsh's encyclopedia sized report on the planets status holds answers to human impact. This timely old book critically looks at alterations to the environment over the entire span of mankind's involvement.. Consequences of atmospheric, oceanic, topographic, and even socially are examined in great detail from contrasting views using documented sources.
Though the book is huge in scope it approaches each subject with scientifically minded objectivity. The book impacted the mindset of many powerful thinkers who took Marsh's message to heart.
The battle of environmentalism versus man's insatiable drive to exploit every earthly resource beyond extinction and total plunder is balanced on a tipping scale favoring the greedy money hungry.
The book is in the public domain and downloadable for free from Amazon.com and Project Gutenberg.

Excerpts:
"Wherever he plants his foot, the harmonies of nature are turned to discords. The proportions and accommodations which insured the stability of existing arrangements are overthrown. Indigenous vegetable and animal species are extirpated, and supplanted by others of foreign origin, spontaneous production is forbidden or restricted, and the face of the earth is either laid bare or covered with a new and reluctant growth of vegetable forms, and with alien tribes of animal life. These intentional changes and substitutions constitute, indeed, great revolutions; but vast as is their magnitude and importance, they are, as we shall see, insignificant”

“Since the invention of gunpowder, some quadrupeds have completely disappeared from many European and Asiatic countries where they were formerly numerous. The last wolf was killed in Great Britain two hundred years ago, and the bear was extirpated from that island still earlier. The British wild ox exists only in a few English and Scottish parks, while in Irish bogs, of no great apparent antiquity, are found antlers which testify to the former existence of a stag much larger than any extant European species.”

If man is destined to inhabit the earth much longer, and to advance in natural knowledge with the rapidity which has marked his progress in physical science for the last two or three centuries, he will learn to put a wiser estimate on the works of creation, and will derive not only great instruction from studying the ways of nature in her obscurest, humblest walks, but great material advantage from stimulating her productive energies in provinces of her empire hitherto regarded as forever inaccessible, utterly barren.”
About George P. Marsh (from Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Perkins_Marsh

George Perkins Marsh (March 15, 1801 – July 23, 1882), an American diplomat and philologist, is considered by some to be America's first environmentalist and the precursor to the sustainability concept,although "conservationist" would be more accurate. The Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park in Vermont takes its name, in part, from Marsh.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

To Have or To Be by Erich Fromm

Erich Fromm (1900-1980), a prolific twentieth century author with and immense collection of profound essays and books too long to list here...a pleasure to read and ponder. 

To Have or To Be by Erich Fromm
Book Review, Five Stars
A compendium of philosophical insights into what generates humankind's driving forces.
Filled with thought provoking comparisons from political, religious, and environmental powers, Fromm states his analyses that are eye opening and relevant. I loved the books presentation of original perceptions that will make you ponder his power of thinking. This is the kind of book that will leave a lasting memory. 

Excerpts:
Erich Fromm on faith.
Faith, in the having mode, gives certainty; it claims to pronounce ultimate, unshakable knowledge, which is believable because the power of those who promulgate and protect the faith seems unshakable. Indeed, who would not choose certainty, if all it requires is to surrender one’s independence?

Erich Fromm on owning material things:
The greatest enjoyment is perhaps not so much in owning material things but in owning living beings. In a patriarchal society even the most miserable of men in the poorest of classes can be an owner of property—in his relationship to his wife, his children, his animals, over whom he can feel he is absolute master. At least for the man in a patriarchal society, having many children is the only way to own persons without needing to work to attain ownership, and with little capital investment. Considering that the whole burden of childbearing is the woman’s, it can hardly be denied that the production of children in a patriarchal society is a matter of crude exploitation of women.

Blazing Bicycle Saddles

Blazing Bicycle Saddles by James Clarke
Five Stars
This book is a collection of humorous cross-country bicycle trips by a group of South Africans.
In actuality this is about pub-crawling at a pleasurable and enjoyable pace. When their outlandish antics became humiliating they always claimed they were from Australia. Being a life-long bicycling person who loved to go through life having as good a time as possible without suffering to impress I loved the book.
It was a pleasure to read James Clarke’s lighthearted narratives. This is a fun book to read even if you are not an avid bicycler.
Excerpts from Blazing Bicycle Saddles
Pray for forgiveness
A bicycle is probably the first serious material thing a child earnestly pleads for in its prayers. Canadian comedian, Emo Phillips, said he used to pray every night for a bike until he realized that the Lord doesn’t always work that way, so he stole one and then prayed for forgiveness.
First class
Here they place bright red PRIORITY labels on my bags and with deep respect direct me to the business lounge. There are armchairs in the business lounge and one gets free snacks and drinks, and I sometimes have to be restrained. This agreeable feeling wells up again when I am ushered into the front section of the aircraft where they have reclining seats and offer French champagne and a hot towel before take-off. Sometimes I wonder how I’ll ever be able to descend again to the level of my family and friends. One shouldn’t feel guilty of course. After all, it’s not just me who is getting a free ride. Nobody in business class or first class is paying. Businessmen charge the fare to the company and politicians and officials have their fares paid by the taxpayers sitting at the back. But sometimes, when in business class, I am overcome with compassion and a strong desire to scatter my superior business class cashew nuts among the peanut-eaters in economy class, but I suppose this would simply cause an unseemly scramble – possibly even a midair riot. 


Thursday, September 29, 2016

My favorite Books by German Authors – September, 2016

Dreaming in German by Claudia Poser
This is the best book I have read in years. It is a memoir of the author's experiences from Communistic East Germany, West German, and America as they evolved into the 21st century from post WWII. This life story is seamlessly related in a style and method that makes you lament the end of the book.
Excerpts from Dreaming in German:
“The stories about war did nothing to make me feel confident that I could handle such a catastrophe. They left me certain that you needed luck to survive. But luck I already had. I was alive now, after the war, in a time when the world had just learned a lesson it could never forget. Nationalism had been exposed as a curse. Everyone had learned war brought no glory, only misery. I hoped that would be enough.”

“I tried to turn back, but I no longer fit and the home I longed for had vanished along with the child I had been.”

The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt's New World by Andrea Wulf
Alexander von Humboldt was an exceptionally brilliant, insightful man. He was painstakingly thorough in his research, and he delivered his monumental message two centuries ago. This one of a kind scientist pioneered his research with an original approach. He saw the need for an ecological balance between nature and mans ever encroaching plunder of new frontiers.
I loved the book’s aspects of discovery, enlightenment, and consciousness. Andrea Wulf delivered Humboldt’s message which the world desperately needs to heed now. This huge volume captivated my attention all the way through and I was sad to see it come to an end...it is memorable! 

Author Andrea Wulf writes of Alexander Humboldt:
"During much of his long life, he was the nexus of the scientific world, writing some 50,000 letters and receiving at least double that number. Knowledge, Humboldt believed, had to be shared, exchanged, and made available to everybody. Humboldt ‘read’ plants as others did books – and to him they revealed a global force behind nature, the movements of civilizations as well as of landmass. No one had ever approached botany in this way."

"Humboldt talked of ‘mankind’s mischief … which disturbs nature’s order’. There were moments in his life when he was so pessimistic that he painted a bleak future of humankind’s eventual expansion into space, when humans would spread their lethal mix of vice, greed, violence and ignorance across other planets. The human species could turn even those distant stars ‘barren’ and leave them ‘ravaged’, Humboldt wrote as early as 1801, just as they were already doing with earth."

The Owl of Minerva by Gustav Regler
Gustav Regler was an exceptional intellect with a brilliant mind. He was a compassionate humanitarian, politically just and publicly empathetic.
Many events impacted this man’s life beginning with his mother introducing the Bible into her bed-time stories. He wanted to trust and came away with memories of his foolish heroism in WWI. He wished he could talk to one of the dead and was conscious of the utter finality of their end. He was imprisoned because he would no longer endure the war.
Hitler’s fascism of the 1930s which he found frighteningly lethal drove him and his social conscience to communism.
Joe Stalin’s twisted and oppressive degradation of the Soviet people drove him away from communism to fight Franco’s fascism in Spain, and ultimately he was imprisoned in a concentration camp in France for being anti-fascist.
He and a shipload of anti-fascist refugees from the camps in France were shipped off to the U.S. and refused entry…Mexico took them in.
The following are quotes from The Owl of Minerva.
Regler to his wife: “We could each think our own thoughts, and we would not let this mad, merciless century drive us apart.”
Regler about his wife:
“It is the only temple that has any link with the cosmos." She loved the Mexican pyramids because they were not graves but altars speaking to Heaven.”

Regler relates how the Russian Communists went to absurd extremes to destroy Regler, his wife, and their adopted home in Mexico.
This is a powerful book of an extraordinary man’s struggle through the tribulations of the 20th century. I have read it twice.

Gustav Regler wrote many books. Another of my favorites by him is A Land Bewitched: Mexico in the Shadow of the Centuries. I recommend that you read the Owl of Minerva first.

Steppenwolf by Herman Hesse
This is a novel originally published in 1927 is a stand alone classic...memorable and unforgettable. My favorite line: “Not for everybody.”


Erich Fromm, a prolific twentieth century author with and immense collection of profound essays and books too long to list here...a pleasure to read and ponder.
One of my favorite quotes: “Modern man, if he dared to be articulate about his concept of heaven, would describe a vision which would look like the biggest department store in the world, showing new things and gadgets, and himself having plenty of money with which to buy them. He would wander around open-mouthed in this heaven of gadgets and commodities, provided only that there were ever more and newer things to buy, and perhaps that his neighbors were just a little less privileged than he.”

The World As I See It and other essays by Albert Einstein
Physically the book is relatively small, but intellectually it is a giant. I positively loved this compilation of essays with accompanying commentary that give insight into one of the world's most profound thinkers.
All of mankind needs to listen up and be aware of Einstein's scholarly advise.
This book is one of my favorites and the messages within are intense.
I recommend “The World As I See It” only to those who are interested in a harmonious world of peaceful coexistence.
In the introduction to this collection Neil Berger, Associate Professor Emeritus of Mathematics, University of Illinois at Chicago wrote in August of 2010:
Einstein characterized himself as a supporter of cultural and social Zionism, but not political Zionism, thus attempting to stay true to his distrust of nationalism. He wanted the Jews to “solve the problem of living side by side with our brother the Arab in an open, generous and worthy manner.”
Einstein did not have the unquestioned support of the Jewish community in America, and his backing of the Zionist movement was criticized by many who felt that Jews should assimilate to society in America.
The economic and social essays of Einstein reflect his almost wholesale adoption of the current socialist and anti-capitalist views of the 1930s. They were based primarily on his notion of “surplus value of labor.” These views are currently out of favor with the pro-market, capitalist economists of today.
Quote from Albert Einstein:
“This topic brings me to that worst outcrop of the herd nature, the military system, which I abhor. That a man can take pleasure in marching in formation to the strains of a band is enough to make me despise him. He has only been given his big brain by mistake; a backbone was all he needed. This plague-spot of civilization ought to be abolished with all possible speed. Heroism by order, senseless violence, and all the pestilent nonsense that goes by the name of patriotism—how I hate them! War seems to me a mean, contemptible thing: I would rather be hacked in pieces than take part in such an abominable business. And yet so high, in spite of everything, is my opinion of the human race that I believe this bogey would have disappeared long ago, had the sound sense of the nations not been systematically corrupted by commercial and political interests acting through the schools and the Press.”

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Hops Fresh from the Vine
















photo; Helga Stuermer in Nordhorn, Germany.

Hops fresh from the vine:
A beer lovers dream come true.
Savor them by giving them a chew.
They will satisfy your yearnings for a brew.
They don’t make you fat.
They don’t make you drunk.
You won’t wake up feeling like a skunk.
Hops season is a reason to be jolly!
A clasified substance in Mexico.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Minimalism: What is it?

What minimalists have in common:
   The “enough is enough” moment
   A desire to live with less
   Making the decision to change
           Courtney Carver

Forty-four years ago Jane and I set sail on our home-built sailboat. We sold everything that would not go aboard. We sailed across distant horizons where the wind blew us, when the spirit moved us, and the price was right.
Sailing away was like leaping off a tall building, it might have seemed like the right thing to do at the time but once airborne our fate was sealed, and no matter how much remorse we might have had turning back was not an option.
Living out of the sea and off the land and foraging for food became a thrilling way of life.
We wrote four books covering these precious years: Sailing Beyond Lake Superior (our inspiration and motivation that made it happen,) Sailing the Sea Islands and Sailing the Florida Keys (our bicycling and boating adventure,) Sailing to St Augustine, (what we did to survive the economic rollercoaster rides.)
Like our favorite German author Herman Hesse so aptly put it when he described the Magic Theater: “Not for everybody.”
We became minimalists before minimalism was coined.
Attempting to leave the world a better place than we found it, we strive to make a positive environmental impact.
A final thought:
WHEN ASSETS BECOME A LIABILITY
Youthful dreams and aspirations whet your appetite for the unlimited acquisition of material things, and buying something shiny becomes irresistible because heaping more worldly positions on your pile is justified as asset building.
In your twilight years after you have played with your toys and time has removed their glittery luster those youthful assets become burdensome liabilities.

June 25, 2016 copyright John M. Grimsrud

WHEN ASSETS BECOME A LIABILITY

Youthful dreams and aspirations whet your appetite for the unlimited acquisition of material things and buying something shiny becomes irresistible because heaping more worldly positions on your pile is justified as asset building.

In your twilight years after you have played with your toys and time has removed their glittery luster those youthful assets become burdensome liabilities.  

Monday, February 1, 2016

Alexander von Humboldt



Five Stars for
The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt's New World by Andrea Wulf


Alexander von Humboldt was an exceptionally brilliant, insightful man. He was painstakingly thorough in his research, and he delivered his monumental message two centuries ago. This one of a kind scientist pioneered his research with an original approach. He saw the need for an ecological balance between nature and mans ever encroaching plunder of new frontiers.
I loved the book’s aspects of discovery, enlightenment, and consciousness. Andrea Wulf delivered Humboldt’s message which the world desperately needs to heed now. This huge volume captivated my attention all the way through and I was sad to see it come to an end...it is memorable! 

Author Andrea Wulf writes of Alexander Humboldt:
"During much of his long life, he was the nexus of the scientific world, writing some 50,000 letters and receiving at least double that number. Knowledge, Humboldt believed, had to be shared, exchanged, and made available to everybody. Humboldt ‘read’ plants as others did books – and to him they revealed a global force behind nature, the movements of civilizations as well as of landmass. No one had ever approached botany in this way."

"Humboldt talked of ‘mankind’s mischief … which disturbs nature’s order’. There were moments in his life when he was so pessimistic that he painted a bleak future of humankind’s eventual expansion into space, when humans would spread their lethal mix of vice, greed, violence and ignorance across other planets. The human species could turn even those distant stars ‘barren’ and leave them ‘ravaged’, Humboldt wrote as early as 1801, just as they were already doing with earth."

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Mérida, Yucatan's very best dentistry

After over thirty years of experience here in Mérida, Yucatan, Mexico, my wife Jane and I have definitely found a dentist that does quality work, is reliable, and trustworthy.
Let’s face it, going to the dentist is not something most people eagerly look forward to. That is why when dental problems present themselves it is reassuring to have the very best.

This is the man worthy of all my praise. Dr. Rudy Santos Mendez. He will make you happy and make you smile.
Odontologia Integral
Dr. Rudy R. Méndez Santos
Tel. 926-24-52
Cel: 9999-00-96-41
Calle 15, No. 101 x Calle 28, Dept. 2
Col. Itzimná

Email: rudyms05@gmail.com




My wife Jane is another satisfied customer. Dr. Rudy makes sure that you have the very best cutting edge technology and will not prescribe unnecessary procedures. That is why we keep going back.
Believe me, we have had some comparative analysis of what is available so we are especially thankful to Dr. Rudy.

Somebody who truly cares enough to give you the very best makes for a relaxing atmosphere.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Dead Zones of the Seas - Plus Red Tides

Fishermen selling their catch on the waterfront at Progreso, Yucatan.


Dead zones and red tides have similar attributes but are different entities; both feed on sea born nutrients and destroy marine life.

Dead zones are hypoxic areas.  Hypoxic refers to low oxygen concentration that cause living creatures to suffocate and die.

The world’s largest dead zone is in the Baltic Sea. The Baltic Sea is surrounded by ten countries including St. Petersburg, Russia St. Petersburg has a population of eight million.

The Gulf of Mexico is in second place.

Rain water runoff from the Midwest washes nutrient rich fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides plus excrement into rivers causing inorganic deserts down stream. Eventually the runoff reaches the Mississippi River and then the Gulf of Mexico.

Dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico have occurred naturally. Spanish Conquistadors observed red tides associated with dead zones when they arrived in the Gulf of Mexico. They were caused by rain driven purges of rivers and wetlands in the early 1500s.

Nutrient pollution is the cause of dead zones. Excess nutrients running down rivers stimulate growth of algae, which then sink and decompose. This process consumes oxygen resulting in a deadly imbalance.

Dead zones are found along the East Coast, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Great Lakes.

A dead zone begins in Sarnia, Ontario, known as Canada’s chemical valley in southern Lake Huron. This dead zone flows south in the St. Claire River to Lake St. Claire, the Detroit River, and south into Lake Erie.

There is no part of the country or the world that is immune.

Global warming expands the growth of ocean dead zones. Warmer water holds less oxygen, and the world's dead zones are in areas where yearly temperatures are increasing.

In 1960 there were 49 dead zones world-wide, now there are well over 400 according to the Scientific American. Some say the count is 1,000-plus globally.

More land has been converted to agriculture since 1945 than in the 18th and 19th centuries combined.  Synthetic fertilizers, herbicides and insecticides made expansion of agriculture possible.

Excess nitrogen from burning coal, oil, and natural gas plus all fecal matter add destructive amounts of nitrogen to marine ecosystems.

Phytoplankton and seaweed expand explosively. Discharges from the Amazon and Orinoco Rivers of South America where deforestation coupled with reckless agriculture practices generate out-of-control growth of Sargassum seaweed. This is naturally carried across the Caribbean Sea by the currents to the Yucatan Peninsula, 1,700 miles away. Recently the Sargassum piled up to three meters high on the beaches from Cancun south to Belize. It dried, rotted and killed tourism.

Toxic algal blooms known as “red tide” create conditions where most marine life cannot survive.

In high concentrations, the toxin of the bloom paralyzes the central nervous system of marine life.

Red tide is harmful to human health. Eating contaminated shellfish can kill. It even kills manatees and dolphins, warm blooded mammals breathing air.

These algae- phytoplankton are single-celled organisms that form thick surface patches. Some of the many species are brown to red or discolored and murky.

Eye and respiratory irritation are serious but lung disease or asthma suffers fare worse.

In Yucatan, Mexico, our second red tide passed this year devastating marine life. Hordes of people rushed to scoop up dead or dying lobsters and fish. Some of this pestilence found it its way to markets and restaurants. The health department issued statements regarding the danger of eating seafood contaminated by red tide but they were largely ignored.

In July my wife and I swam in the first red tide contaminated waters, became extremely sick, and are still recovering after potent medications.

Amazingly the tourist industry lobby trumps the health department so no warnings are posted on the beaches.

We love the sea and seafood…but can’t trust it!