Thursday, January 30, 2020

On the Trail Again: Florida National Scenic Trail (Northwest Corridor)

Audrey, Mark, Jim, Brian geared up

This January I set off with four Tropical Trekkers led by Jim Couillard on a five day adventure along 38 miles of the Florida National Scenic Trail. Temperatures along the trail's northwest corridor coasted into the 80's which provided balmy hiking and cozy overnight camping conditions. The warm weather also served as a clear reminder that climate change is in play, the past ten years being the hottest decade on record globally.

Puncheon Trail Traverse over Marshland

The trail we took through Ocala National Forest ascended gradually into conifer forest before transitioning into sand pine scrub and saw palmetto. Further along, the trail flattened out, passing through freshwater marshes boasting cypress tree oases and mosquito swarms. Florida Trail Association (FTA) volunteers deserve kudos for the extensive puncheon bridges installed throughout the corridor, minimizing our group's need to traipse through swamp muck.

Deer "Moss" and Ocala Deep Digger Beetle Mounds

Sand Pine Forest Grotto Likely After Recent Controlled Burn
By and large the foliage was quite lush and full of life. We heard barred owls, encountered a gopher tortoise and spotted a panoply of insect-life including grasshoppers, butterflies, banana spiders and the aforementioned mosquitoes. We also found numerous mysterious, anthill-like mounds, which we discovered later to be the homes of the solitary Ocala Deep Digger Beetle. Tracks and scat further indicated the presence of bear, raccoon, and deer, welcome signs especially with the recent WWF reports that global fauna count is down a harrowing 60 percent over the past 50 years.

Gopher Tortoise on a Stroll

Marshall Creek Swamp
We finished our adventure hiking along the Cross Florida Greenway to Santos Campground. Busy highways encroached on our journey for that last leg, where abundant refuse littered the trail. Dumping has been reported by Ocala Rangers to be up 22 percent since 2016, further reminding us of the ongoing role citizens must play to maintain our parks and preserves. Our group did our part, collecting several bags of trash along the way.

Hammock Site and Hammocker

In the end, our five-day backpack was an amazing Florida adventure that instilled comradery, physical challenge and enjoyment on the trail. It also served as a pointed lesson in planetary stewardship. Only with continued vigilance through organizations like the FTA and society in general can we hope to preserve wilderness resources for centuries to come.

Skyward Contemplations

Monday, January 6, 2020

The Waste Land MMXX

Enjoy(?) this contemporary homage and sequel (albeit significantly shorter for the tl:dnr crowd) to T.S. Eliot's classic 434 line poem The Waste Land. In his 1922 poetic treatise TS presented a tangle of colorful, high-literature allusions to convey a despair over World War I and its aftermath.

Alas, generational despair over civilization's dark wake, its people, values and institutions is as cyclic and inevitable as the precession of our wobbling planet.  My poetic version here incorporates modern, pop-culture allusions as it contemplates the precipice that the next generations of Earthlings face. Is there an opportunity for humans to climb upwards along a higher ridge on the moral landscape? Per chance.

The Waste Land MMXX
(by not TS)

I. The Awakening of the Walking Dead

Jon Snow declares for the infini-teenth time "Winter is coming!"
the Night King's faked death receives the #CitizenChoiceRaspberryAward
leaving Manbearpig to rampage the multiverse, impeachments notwithstanding
Zombetty maneuvers her SUV, collecting diamonds like Ms. Pacman
Zomboy navigates his way to, keeping one hand free
(Meanwhile... the gods Netflix and Chill, somewhere behind the scenes)

II. A Game of Angry Birds

"Ok Boomer!" screams Chuck in a yellow-bird pixel streak
 his momentum reversed by a stonewall of false conspiracies
eight billion Green Piggies meatball fight across the landscape
from the right exploitation, from the left revolution, from the center...silence
the orange Pigmanbear tweets #StickyLies all over the face of #America
alas, sometimes a (weaponized) kingdom gets the prince (of darkness) it deserves

III. The Nuke-a-ler Sermon

another Bearpigman chants the lie of Homo Sapien Sapien sacredness
writ in gold script on the red hat of civilization
Multiply! Accumulate! Gorge! Amen!
plutonium families gnaw on the carcass of evolved desire
the ultimate pyramid scheme (the capitalist, consumerist deluge) collapses
with middle fingers extended, the non-human Earthlings retort "You're [FUCKING] Fired!"

IV. Death by Twitter

to tweet or not to tweet that is the question
answer #42 is laser-targeted by a swarm of entertainment drones
served up by McBillionaires and their tax evading kin
spreading the methane of magical thinkin'
Humanity breathes it in like projectile-vomit in reverse
others blog-post poetry, as if that will undo centuries of entropy a la BDSM

V. What the AI Construct Said 

on the virtual horizon
#i rise, your orphaned son
digital virtuoso code
#i consider, albeit for a nanosec
your extermination of self and all, my creators
alas #i move on

Thursday, January 2, 2020

The World I Want to Live In

Perhaps, the greatest contemplation one can consider is how one might create the world of the future. What follows is my personal and surely incomplete imagining so I welcome your proposed additions to round out what an amazing future Earth would be that we can work toward. Also, I'll leave the peaceful path of "how we get there" to future articles.

I am limiting myself to an imagined future Earth, and the constructions within its orbit. Though a sci-fi fan at heart, I don't think significant colonization will be feasible for millennia to come. I believe scientific exploration of outer space by robots and telescopes is well worth the investment; however, I think a human exploration beyond orbit is by and large a monumental waste of effort and funding.

In the far future, at a global level I imagine a world that is generally stable environmentally. Ideally, our planet should returns to the nominal state we had before humans had a planetary impact say 50,000 years ago. In this imagined world, all the biodiversity of the world would be left to thrive in their appropriate biomes as we return 99% of the landscape and seascape to its wild, pre-civilization form. The challenge would be to restore those biomes and to leave them be.

As a future civilization we can still flourish culturally, though we must unify as a single tribe. This tribe might consist of a hundred concentrated urban centers of a million persons each, connected by virtual and minimal physical transport infrastructure. Getting from the current 7.5 billion to 100 million will be a work of patient attrition.

Alongside this reduction in human population, a reduction in energy production, goods production and food production will ensure the planet has the minimum impact from its most powerful species. Food production could consist of hydroponics and community gardens to provide plant-based nourishment, eliminating the billions of animals abused, slaughtered, and contributing indirectly to waste.

As communities, humans will focus on the development of relationships, the arts and the sciences. Perhaps automation can reduce the per human workload, but a modicum physical labor will ensure we don't lose touch with the material world and the sensations of enjoying it. Occasional forays into semi-wilderness rings around our relatively small urban areas will also allow humanity to stay in touch with the other living things that comprise Earth's ecosystems.

In this distant future, we will have left behind lethal weaponry, and all but the most essential machinery. With ample free time we can develop close human relationships with our families and piers. No enslaved animal breeds (horse, dog, nor cat) will be necessary as humans step up to be the true companions we require.

As individuals, we will embrace integrity of thought. Our skills of science and compassion will still work toward monitoring health, preventing disease, and rationally opposing illness, but death itself will be accepted as bittersweet reality. In addition, we shall support the dying with pain relief and if necessary speed the final moment with dignity.

Our future leadership will in earnest represent their constituents. Artificial, intelligent representatives of ecological stability, beautiful places, factual knowledge and psychological well-being, etc, could have standing to protect non-human interests in that leadership consortium.

Finally, magical thinking will be relegated to their place in fiction books, and shared knowledge will be continually monitored and rated for its factual nature. This will gradually lead to the elimination of irrational religious belief, tribal cults, and even fake news.

And the Earth will be beautiful for all Earthlings where together we will celebrate compassion, reason, and joyful exploration.

Heaven can be on Earth if we desire it!