The Natural Neighborhood
When I began making street work about seeing the natural neighborhood my interest was in pointing out wilderness in the urban landscape. I wondered if making "signs" about what was in the neighborhood helped it be more easily seen: does being able to name something help it be more easily seen? I hoped that seeing would beget more seeing.
My process has evolved since I began this project in 2009. The natural history of LA has become part of my dialogue; I have become deeply aware of all the other signs in the public space and how this shapes what we see; I think a lot about what is shared space and private space in the outdoors. What has changed the most is my own recognition of the importance of temporariness in the event of the work. There is a psychological event of putting something of value, even if its only in my estimation, out into the public space. I see it as a representation of the value of the subject I am talking about. Sometimes the signs disappear, sometimes they are destroyed. Those that remain I recollect, sometimes putting them in new spaces. This for me represents a reversal of the original event of putting the work on the street. What I have added as value (I hope) in the signs information, can disappear, just as wildlife and wild places can, and is, disappearing.
The Pigeon Paradox
From Conservation Biology, April 2006
"We are faced with the potential extinction of thousands of species and with radical changes to many of the world's ecosystems in the next 50 - 100 years. Paradoxically conservation may increasingly depend on the ability of people in cities to maintain a connection with nature. We term this concept the "pigeon paradox" because ...under the status quo a great deal of future conservation will rely in part on our interactions with urban ecosystems and the organisms, including non-natives such as feral pigeons, (e.g. Columba Livia), that call them home. The paradox lies in the dependence of conservation action worldwide on people's direct experiences with urban nature."
As city dwellers its not often that we consider what the city was before it was concrete, billboards and parking lots. I read recently that in 1769 when a group of European explorers reached the Los Angeles basin, a priest in the group, Father Juan Crespi said of the basin " through a pass between low hills we entered a very spacious valley, well grown with cottonwoods and alders, among which ran a beautiful river..." Los Angeles! Bears and fish frolicked here!
The Lost fliers, about extirpated species, is an homage to what was here before. Perhaps tribute to the natural identity of a place, whether it is lost, protected, or being restored can be a point of civic pride and a motivator for civic action to care for where we live.
Explanation of Terms
When a species is CRITICALLY ENDANGERED
more than 80% of its population has been lost either during the last decade or the last three generations (whichever is longer);
or the number of mature individuals is less than 250;
or the habitat extends less than 10 square kilometers (3.9 miles).
Critically endangered animals have about a 50 percent risk of going extinct in the wild within 10 years, or three generations.
ENDANGERED species carry a 20 % risk of extinction in 20 years.
VULNERABLE species have a 10% risk of extinction in 100 years.
(from Sustaining Life: How Human Health Depends on Biodiversity, 2008)
In 2008 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed 609 animals and 744 plants as threatened or endangered in the United States. Worldwide the number of animals and plants facing high degrees of threat, according to the IUCN Red List, is well in excess of 10,000 species. Some evidence points to the beginning of a mass extinction. There have been five such waves of extinction in the geologic record, all caused by cataclysmic events (the last was the extinction of the dinosaurs). The cause of this sixth wave will be human activity. In fact, the current rate of extinction is one thousand times higher than prehistory rates. For a summary of endangered species visit www.endangeredspecieshandbook.org. For more specific information about species see www.iucnredlist.org.
Butterflies and Moths
In California butterfly demographics are changing quickly due to climate change. Many species are disappearing from the coast and the inland lowlands. Nationally many moths and butterfly populations are losing their habitat.
To learn more about butterflies and moths: the website for Butterflies and Moths of North America has maps, species accounts, checklists and photographs. The address is www.butterfliesandmoths.org.
The Butterfly Conservation Initiative also has a good site: www.butterflyrecovery.org.
If you want to plant a butterfly garden all you need to know, including a list of nurseries, is at www.naba.org. This is a regionally specific compilation of plants and butterflies.
To view the astonishing process of transformation from a pupa to an adult visit lifecycle.onenessbecomesus.com.
THE OCEAN IS RISING
Sea level rise is due to two main factors: 1) thermal expansion: the sea is warming and as it does it expands; and 2) because of the melting land based ice sheets. A one meter rise in sea levels by 2100 is well within projections. If melting ice interacts in the process in a kind of feedback loop, rise levels could be more like four to six meters by 2100: that's nearly twenty feet.
In terms of their productivity, biodiversity and integral contribution to ocean health coral reefs are likened to the rain forests of the sea. It is estimated that 20% of coral reefs have been destroyed by human activity and an additional 50% are threatened and at risk of collapse. It is believed that the global pressure on reefs will translate into large numbers of extinctions.
The greatest threat comes from global warming. Warmer sea temperatures cause coral bleaching while the acidification of the seas from a higher degree of carbon dioxide dissolving in the water interrupts the growth of coral. Other serious threats include:
overfishing and damaging fishing practices such as trawling
coastal development and sewage pollution
agricultural runoff including nutrient pollution from fertilizers.
Information about coral restoration at www.globalcoral.org
Critically endangered worldwide, the Leatherback's severe decline is due to a variety of reasons including by-catch and pollution. Another significant reason has to do with the turtle's diet which consists largely of jellyfish. Injestion of floating plastic bags, which look a lot like jellyfish in the water, is lethal to the turtles. So think of the leatherback and remember to bring a re-useable bag shopping (or try not using a bag if possible!). One last note. Some models of climate warming suggest that rising temperatures will cause ocean populations to become imbalanced and jellyfish numbers will explode. Preserving species like the leatherback is vital to preserving ecological balance.
Since 1960 the Bluefin Tuna population has declined by 97%. Their decline began when they became a valuable fish for the Japanese commercial fishery. Toro is the belly cut of Bluefin. Currently they are fished at four times the sustainable level, largely for the sushi trade.
Because they live in the high seas and migrate widely, beyond international borders, legislating their protection has not happened. The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) has ignored scientific data and upheld unhealthy fishing levels because of powerful commercial fishing lobbies.
Recently (March 2010) European fisheries agreed to join in support for listing the Bluefin as endangered under CITES. The initiative failed because of protest from Japan, Canada, Austrailia and Greenland. search 'tuna' at southasia.oneworld.net/.../bluefin-tuna…
The Bluefin is really an amazing creature. It is one of the most evolved of fishes, and largest and fastest. It is warmblooded: they thermoregulate to keep warmer than surrounding ocean waters. Mature, they can grow to lengths of 14 feet.
Skipjack and Albacore Tuna are listed as best choices for eating by Seafood Watch (both are the tuna for canned tuna) if they are polecaught. The reality though is that most commercially exploited tuna is fished on longlines which are devastating to the tuna population as well as a number of other species in bycatch.
read more about bluefins at www.bigmarinefish.com
and to learn more about long line fishing see www.birdlife.org/action/science/species…
Also please see my links page. There is a link to learn more about the tuna fishery and find out how you can get involved for ocean health.
The Passenger Pigeon
It is estimated there were once as many as five billion Passenger Pigeons in North America. Flocks passing by overhead could darken the sky for days. There were so many, it seemed inconceivable that they could disappear. They resembled the Mourning Dove, but they were larger and more colorful - and they could fly at sixty miles an hour. In the late nineteenth century as many as 50,000 birds were killed a day, barreled for meat in urban markets and for use as fertilizer. When at the turn of the century their precipitous decline prompted legislation for their protection it was too late. The last Passenger Pigeon, Martha, named after George Washington's wife, died in the Cincinnati Zoo in 1914.
read more at www.si.edu/encyclopedia_SI/nmnh/passpig…