What’s the first thing you think of when I say Humboldt? If you’re from California you could be thinking of the county, college, bay, fort, state park or wildlife refuge. If you’re from Nevada you might think of the river, the national forest, wildlife area, sink, saltmarsh, lake, mountain ranges, county or creepy ghost town. Dewy-Humboldt in Arizona, Humboldt Illinois, Humboldt Kansas, Humboldt Iowa, Humboldt Ohio, Humboldt Wisconsin, Humboldt Saskatchewan, it’s hard to escape Humboldt. Humboldt is everywhere. The Humboldt name graces multiple mountains and mountain ranges, forests, national parks, waterfalls, glaciers, an ocean current. and a giant sinkhole Animals and plants including, penguins, squid, bat, monkey(s), skunk, snail, an entire genus of flowering plants, legumes, endangered cactus, a beetle, river dolphins, a carnivorous plant, oak, orchid, lily and mushroom all bear his name. Humboldt is in outer space, the Mare Humboldt on the moon and two asteroids bear the name. That doesn’t even touch the organizations, institutions, monuments and other random things that are all called Humboldt.
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A field of tomatoes wilts. A stand of tanoak trees dies. A forest of bay laurels and manzanita withers. An orchard of citrus yellows and decays. A wildland restoration project crumbles into dust. Potatoes turn rancid and spongy. These are the calling cards of Phytophthora, the destroyers of plants
In their natural state riparian corridors are rich in vegetation and wildlife. A presentation by the the Santa Clara Water District states that “native plants are ecologically best suited to the creek environment.” Plants and wildlife benefit from the sediment and organic material that streams transport and deposits on their banks. In this way, soil is enriched, erosion offset, and aquifers replenished. Native plants and aquatic life are adapted to seasonal variances in river flow, including annual flooding. As F. Thomas Griggs writes, “Cottonwood and willows, as well as all other riparian plant species, are directly dependent on patterns of sediment erosion and deposition.”
We need diverse viewpoints in science, public policy and the environmental movement not only because to do include these viewpoints is more egalitarian. Environmental issues often affect minorities disproportionately. The water crisis in Flint Michigan isn’t the first time this has happened to a community of color. It’s happened time and time again, locally in Alviso, San Jose, on Native American Reservations and on the East Coast from Chester Pennsylvania to the South Bronx. On an organizational level, Our City Forest targets areas in San Jose that have been disproportionately impacted by freeway construction and air pollution and low-income, tree-denuded neighborhoods. We recognize that we cannot do this alone.
February is Black History Month in the US and Canada. (In the UK it is observed in October). With the spotlight on Black History, it’s especially imperative that we take the time to focus on African American biologists, ecologists, conservationists and environmentalists (although we environmentalists should be doing this all year).
As the Ordovician period progressed the environment changed. Atmospheric CO2 plummeted from 7000 to 4400 ppm and the Earth cools. This may have been partially caused by green, aquatic algae and land plants as they sucked and sequestered atmospheric CO2.
I have a lot of memories tied up in the sensoria of real holiday trees. The smell of pine evokes sap on my fingers. The feel of spruce in my hands puts me back in New England with November snow crunching under my boots as I pick around half-buried stumps, the smell of gasoline and sound of chainsaws. Memories beget more memories. Harry Connick Jr croons out of the stereo while dad untangles strings of lights. Mom corrals us as my siblings and I tear through the boxes of ornaments to find our favorites. My brother’s, a firefighter dog with a Christmas present. Mine was a chimpanzee Santa with a sleigh of bananas.