Last Sunday was cartoonist Walt Kelly’s birthday. He created Pogo, a mid-twentieth century political comic strip that featured a possum and his pals in the Okefenokee Swamp. Porky Pine was the resident philosopher who once said: “Thar’s only two possibilities: Thar is life out there in the universe which is smarter than we are, or we’re the most intelligent life in the universe. Either way, it’s a mighty sobering thought.” Unlike Porky Pine, the folks at the Starship Congress held in Dallas last week can hardly wait to get out of our solar system and meet the neighbors. This week’s edition of What We’re Reading includes a report from the Starship Congress on extraterrestrial protocol, a map that charts over 60 years of large fires near Yosemite, including the Rim Fire, and finally, 155 years after they were recorded, Henry David Thoreau’s botanical notes are being used in current day climate studies.
Last week, Dallas played host to the Starship Congress – a gathering of people who hope to move humanity toward the stars and membership in interstellar civilization. We’ve envisioned our first meeting with intelligent life in the universe in many ways – Vulcans who just happened to be passing by during the first warp engine flight, mysterious Monoliths, a stranded ET and some not so friendly encounters like The War of the Worlds or Independence Day, to name only a few. Is it too early for humanity to start thinking about a Prime Directive? Ian O’Neill of Discovery News reports on The Ethics of Interstellar Alien Encounters at the Starship Congress.
The Rim Fire is growing larger every day and is now in Yosemite National Park. Frank Jacobs, creator of the blog Strange Maps, has a new post on The Fire Last Time: Mapping Blazes Past, Present – and Future. He’s found a map – The Rim Fire and Large Fire History – compiled by Jim Lawrence of the Modesto Bee, which brings home the recurring nature of wildfires in the American West. “The Rim Fire has them all beat when it comes to devastation. By the time this fire-breathing dragon has been slain, it will have overlapped the perimeter of virtually every major fire in the region since 1949.”
Henry David Thoreau started collecting and pressing plant specimens in 1850. His aim was to create an Herbarium that he could use to identify plants found in the fields and woodlands surrounding Concord. He also kept records of the first flowering dates for 500 wildflowers in the area. Fast forward to the 21st century and Thoreau’s records are no longer just relics of a great American author. Richard Primack and Abraham Miller Rushing “realized how useful they would be for pinning down the impact of the changing climate over the last century and a half.” Alison Flood tells the tale in Scientists use Thoreau’s journal notes to track climate change in The Guardian.
This is one in a series of posts about what we’re reading at Whole Earth: stories about the environment, ecology, travel, outdoor living, ideas, art, writing, history, science, and creativity, and the people who make it happen. Have a suggestion? Please leave us a comment so we can add it to our reading list.