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robertogreco : fire   14

When Scientists "Discover" What Indigenous People Have Known For Centuries | Science | Smithsonian
"Our knowledge of what animals do when humans aren’t around has steadily increased over the last 50 years. For example, we know now that animals use tools in their daily lives. Chimps use twigs to fish for termites; sea otters break open shellfish on rocks they selected; octopi carry coconut shell halves to later use as shelters. But the latest discovery has taken this assessment to new heights—literally.

A team of researchers led by Mark Bonta and Robert Gosford in northern Australia has documented kites and falcons, colloquially termed “firehawks,” intentionally carrying burning sticks to spread fire. While it has long been known that birds will take advantage of natural fires that cause insects, rodents and reptiles to flee and thus increase feeding opportunities, that they would intercede to spread fire to unburned locales is astounding.

It’s thus no surprise that this study has attracted great attention as it adds intentionality and planning to the repertoire of non-human use of tools. Previous accounts of avian use of fire have been dismissed or at least viewed with some skepticism.

But while new to Western science, the behaviors of the nighthawks have long been known to the Alawa, MalakMalak, Jawoyn and other Indigenous peoples of northern Australia whose ancestors occupied their lands for tens of thousands of years. Unlike most scientific studies, Bonta and Gosford’s team foregrounded their research in traditional Indigenous ecological knowledge. They also note that local awareness of the behavior of the firehawks is ingrained within some of their ceremonial practices, beliefs and creation accounts.

The worldwide attention given to the firehawks article provides an opportunity to explore the double standard that exists concerning the acceptance of Traditional Knowledge by practitioners of Western science.

Traditional Knowledge ranges from medicinal properties of plants and insights into the value of biological diversity to caribou migration patterns and the effects of intentional burning of the landscape to manage particular resources. Today, it’s become a highly valued source of information for archaeologists, ecologists, biologists, ethnobotanists, climatologists and others. For example, some climatology studies have incorporated Qaujimajatuqangit (Inuit traditional knowledge) to explain changes in sea ice conditions observed over many generations.

Yet despite the wide acknowledgement of their demonstrated value, many scientists continue to have had an uneasy alliance with Traditional Knowledge and Indigenous oral histories.

On the one hand, these types of knowledge are valued when they support or supplements archaeological, or other scientific evidence. But when the situation is reversed—when Traditional Knowledge is seen to challenge scientific “truths —then its utility is questioned or dismissed as myth. Science is promoted as objective, quantifiable, and the foundation for “real” knowledge creation or evaluation while Traditional Knowledge may be seen as anecdotal, imprecise and unfamiliar in form.

Are Indigenous and Western systems of knowledge categorically antithetical? Or do they offer multiple points of entry into knowledge of the world, past and present?

Ways of Knowing

There are many cases where science and history are catching up with what Indigenous peoples have long known.

For instance, in the past two decades, archaeologists and environmental scientists working in coastal British Columbia have come to recognize evidence of mariculture—the intentional management of marine resources—that pre-dates European settlement. Over the course of thousands of years, the ancestors of the Kwakwaka’wakw and other Indigenous groups there created and maintained what have become known as “clam gardens”—rock-walled, terrace-like constructions that provide ideal habit for butter clams and other edible shellfish.

To the Kwakwaka’wakw, these were known as loxiwey, according to Clan Chief Adam Dick (Kwaxsistalla) who has shared this term and his knowledge of the practice with researchers. As marine ecologist Amy Groesbeck and colleagues have demonstrated, these structures increase shellfish productivity and resource security significantly. This resource management strategy reflects a sophisticated body of ecological understanding and practice that predates modern management systems by millennia.

These published research studies now prove that Indigenous communities knew about mariculture for generations—but Western scientists never asked them about it before. Once tangible remains were detected, it was clear mariculture management was in use for thousands of years. There is a move underway by various Indigenous communities in the region to restore and recreate clam gardens and put them back into use.

A second example demonstrates how Indigenous oral histories correct inaccurate or incomplete historical accounts. There are significant differences between Lakota and Cheyenne accounts of what transpired at the Battle of Greasy Grass (Little Big Horn) in 1876, and the historical accounts that appeared soon after the battle by white commentators.

The Lakota and Cheyenne can be considered more objective than white accounts of the battle that are tainted by Eurocentric bias. The ledger drawings of Red Horse, a Minneconjou Sioux participant in the battle, record precise details such as trooper’s uniforms, the location of wounds on horses, and the distribution of Indian and white casualties.

In 1984, a fire at the battleground revealed military artifacts and human remains that prompted archaeological excavations. What this work revealed was a new, more accurate history of the battle that validated many elements of the Native American oral histories and accompanying pictographs and drawings of the events. However, without the archaeological evidence, many historians gave limited credence to the accounts obtained from the participating Native American warriors.

Hypotheses incorporating traditional knowledge-based information can lead the way toward unanticipated insights. The travels of Glooscap, a major figure in Abenaki oral history and worldview, are found throughout the Mi’kmaw homeland of the Maritime provinces of eastern Canada. As a Transformer, Glooscap created many landscape features. Anthropologist Trudy Sable (Saint Mary’s University) has noted a significant degree of correlation between places named in Mi’kmaw legends and oral histories and recorded archaeological sites.

Opportunities at the Intersection

As ways of knowing, Western and Indigenous Knowledge share several important and fundamental attributes. Both are constantly verified through repetition and verification, inference and prediction, empirical observations and recognition of pattern events.

While some actions leave no physical evidence (e.g. clam cultivation), and some experiments can’t be replicated (e.g. cold fusion), in the case of Indigenous knowledge, the absence of “empirical evidence” can be damning in terms of wider acceptance.

Some types of Indigenous knowledge, however, simply fall outside the realm of prior Western understanding. In contrast to Western knowledge, which tends to be text-based, reductionist, hierarchical and dependent on categorization (putting things into categories), Indigenous science does not strive for a universal set of explanations but is particularistic in orientation and often contextual. This can be a boon to Western science: hypotheses incorporating traditional knowledge-based information can lead the way toward unanticipated insights.

There are partnerships developing worldwide with Indigenous knowledge holders and Western scientists working together. This includes Traditional Ecological Knowledge informing government policies on resource management in some instances. But it is nonetheless problematic when their knowledge, which has been dismissed for so long by so many, becomes a valuable data set or used selectively by academics and others.

To return to the firehawks example, one way to look at this is that the scientists confirmed what the Indigenous peoples have long known about the birds’ use of fire. Or we can say that the Western scientists finally caught up with Traditional Knowledge after several thousand years."

[See also:
"How Western science is finally catching up to Indigenous knowledge: Traditional knowledge has become a highly valued source of information for archaeologists, ecologists, biologists, climatologists and others"
http://www.macleans.ca/society/how-western-science-is-finally-catching-up-to-indigenous-knowledge/

"It’s taken thousands of years, but Western science is finally catching up to Traditional Knowledge"
https://theconversation.com/its-taken-thousands-of-years-but-western-science-is-finally-catching-up-to-traditional-knowledge-90291 ]
science  indigenous  knowledge  archaeology  ecology  biology  climatology  climate  animals  nature  amygroesbeck  research  clams  butterclams  birds  morethanhuman  multispecies  knowing  scientism  anthropology  categorization  hierarchy  hawks  firehawks  fire  landscape  place  nativeamericans  eurocentricity  battleofgreasygrass  littlebighorn  adamdick  kwaxsistalla  clamgardens  shellfish  stewardship  inuit  australia  us  canada  markbonta  robertgosford  kites  falcons  trudysable  placenames  oralhistory  oralhistories  history  mariculture 
february 2018 by robertogreco
David Fickling on Twitter: "Australian hawks carry burning twigs to START FOREST FIRES and drive out prey https://t.co/puU5u0y38I Cool story bro, but ine of the most i… https://t.co/xXHcEJZZh6"
"Australian hawks carry burning twigs to START FOREST FIRES and drive out prey ªªhttp://www.bioone.org/doi/abs/10.2993/0278-0771-37.4.700?journalCode=etbi ºº

Cool story bro, but ine of the most interesting angles was totally missed in many reports:

Indigenous people have known about this behaviour since way, way back. It's "often represented in sacred ceremonies", per the article

https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2018/01/wildfires-birds-animals-australia/
[image of text]

Three guesses how Australian officialdom deals with real-world information that Aboriginal people have known for generations and observe all the time... 🙄🙄
[image of text]

I can think of another -ism that doesn't start with "skeptic" in this instance...

Australians still vastly underestimate how intensively Aboriginal people cultivated the landscape through fire agriculture: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zGO2GbLRWcQ

One other thing: Cooperative hunting with dolphins was also quite common among Aboriginal people in eastern Australia: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.2752/089279302786992694?journalCode=rfan20

I wish people would more often call this applied knowledge what it is: "technology" https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/technology [image of text]

BTW the paper abstract starts "We document Indigenous Ecological Knowledge and non-Indigenous observations..." so it's hard to argue this angle is a minor element of the research

The theme of the paper is literally "we should pay more attention to Indigenous knowledge" but somehow in translation it's become "LOL hawks are mad"

BTW here's a non-journalwalled summary of the research themes: https://blogs.crikey.com.au/northern/2015/11/08/ornithogenic-fire-raptors-as-propagators-of-fire-in-the-australian-savanna/ "

[via "This behavior is fascinating and the thread that follows on both Aboriginal technology and colonialist racism is important."
https://twitter.com/Dymaxion/status/951172611391795200

via "cc: @rogre And now, for the rest of the story..."
https://twitter.com/symptomatic/status/951198470848819205 ]
animals  multispecies  moethanhuman  aborigines  davidfickling  via:sympotomatic  australia  human-animalrelations  human-animalrelationships  technology  racism  colonialism  ecology  indigeneity  knowledge  erasure  indigenousknowledge  hawks  fire  landscape  dolphins 
january 2018 by robertogreco
How Civilization Started | The New Yorker
"In “Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States,” James C. Scott, a professor of political science at Yale, presents a plausible contender for the most important piece of technology in the history of man. It is a technology so old that it predates Homo sapiens and instead should be credited to our ancestor Homo erectus. That technology is fire. We have used it in two crucial, defining ways. The first and the most obvious of these is cooking. As Richard Wrangham has argued in his book “Catching Fire,” our ability to cook allows us to extract more energy from the food we eat, and also to eat a far wider range of foods. Our closest animal relative, the chimpanzee, has a colon three times as large as ours, because its diet of raw food is so much harder to digest. The extra caloric value we get from cooked food allowed us to develop our big brains, which absorb roughly a fifth of the energy we consume, as opposed to less than a tenth for most mammals’ brains. That difference is what has made us the dominant species on the planet.

The other reason fire was central to our history is less obvious to contemporary eyes: we used it to adapt the landscape around us to our purposes. Hunter-gatherers would set fires as they moved, to clear terrain and make it ready for fast-growing, prey-attracting new plants. They would also drive animals with fire. They used this technology so much that, Scott thinks, we should date the human-dominated phase of earth, the so-called Anthropocene, from the time our forebears mastered this new tool.

We don’t give the technology of fire enough credit, Scott suggests, because we don’t give our ancestors much credit for their ingenuity over the long period—ninety-five per cent of human history—during which most of our species were hunter-gatherers. “Why human fire as landscape architecture doesn’t register as it ought to in our historical accounts is perhaps that its effects were spread over hundreds of millennia and were accomplished by ‘precivilized’ peoples also known as ‘savages,’ ” Scott writes. To demonstrate the significance of fire, he points to what we’ve found in certain caves in southern Africa. The earliest, oldest strata of the caves contain whole skeletons of carnivores and many chewed-up bone fragments of the things they were eating, including us. Then comes the layer from when we discovered fire, and ownership of the caves switches: the human skeletons are whole, and the carnivores are bone fragments. Fire is the difference between eating lunch and being lunch."



"It was the ability to tax and to extract a surplus from the produce of agriculture that, in Scott’s account, led to the birth of the state, and also to the creation of complex societies with hierarchies, division of labor, specialist jobs (soldier, priest, servant, administrator), and an élite presiding over them. Because the new states required huge amounts of manual work to irrigate the cereal crops, they also required forms of forced labor, including slavery; because the easiest way to find slaves was to capture them, the states had a new propensity for waging war. Some of the earliest images in human history, from the first Mesopotamian states, are of slaves being marched along in neck shackles. Add this to the frequent epidemics and the general ill health of early settled communities and it is not hard to see why the latest consensus is that the Neolithic Revolution was a disaster for most of the people who lived through it.

War, slavery, rule by élites—all were made easier by another new technology of control: writing. “It is virtually impossible to conceive of even the earliest states without a systematic technology of numerical record keeping,” Scott maintains. All the good things we associate with writing—its use for culture and entertainment and communication and collective memory—were some distance in the future. For half a thousand years after its invention, in Mesopotamia, writing was used exclusively for bookkeeping: “the massive effort through a system of notation to make a society, its manpower, and its production legible to its rulers and temple officials, and to extract grain and labor from it.” Early tablets consist of “lists, lists and lists,” Scott says, and the subjects of that record-keeping are, in order of frequency, “barley (as rations and taxes), war captives, male and female slaves.” Walter Benjamin, the great German Jewish cultural critic, who committed suicide while trying to escape Nazi-controlled Europe, said that “there is no document of civilization which is not at the same time a document of barbarism.” He meant that every complicated and beautiful thing humanity ever made has, if you look at it long enough, a shadow, a history of oppression. As a matter of plain historical fact, that seems right. It was a long and traumatic journey from the invention of writing to your book club’s discussion of Jodi Picoult’s latest."



"The news here is that the lives of most of our progenitors were better than we think. We’re flattering ourselves by believing that their existence was so grim and that our modern, civilized one is, by comparison, so great. Still, we are where we are, and we live the way we live, and it’s possible to wonder whether any of this illuminating knowledge about our hunter-gatherer ancestors can be useful to us. Suzman wonders the same thing. He discusses John Maynard Keynes’s famous 1930 essay “The Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren.” Keynes speculated that if the world continued to get richer we would naturally end up enjoying a high standard of living while doing much less work. He thought that “the economic problem” of having enough to live on would be solved, and “the struggle for subsistence” would be over:
When the accumulation of wealth is no longer of high social importance, there will be great changes in the code of morals. We shall be able to rid ourselves of many of the pseudo-moral principles which have hag-ridden us for two hundred years, by which we have exalted some of the most distasteful of human qualities into the position of the highest virtues. We shall be able to afford to dare to assess the money-motive at its true value. The love of money as a possession—as distinguished from the love of money as a means to the enjoyments and realities of life—will be recognized for what it is, a somewhat disgusting morbidity, one of those semi-criminal, semi-pathological propensities which one hands over with a shudder to the specialists in mental disease.

The world has indeed got richer, but any such shift in morals and values is hard to detect. Money and the value system around its acquisition are fully intact. Greed is still good.

The study of hunter-gatherers, who live for the day and do not accumulate surpluses, shows that humanity can live more or less as Keynes suggests. It’s just that we’re choosing not to. A key to that lost or forsworn ability, Suzman suggests, lies in the ferocious egalitarianism of hunter-gatherers. For example, the most valuable thing a hunter can do is come back with meat. Unlike gathered plants, whose proceeds are “not subject to any strict conventions on sharing,” hunted meat is very carefully distributed according to protocol, and the people who eat the meat that is given to them go to great trouble to be rude about it. This ritual is called “insulting the meat,” and it is designed to make sure the hunter doesn’t get above himself and start thinking that he’s better than anyone else. “When a young man kills much meat,” a Bushman told the anthropologist Richard B. Lee, “he comes to think of himself as a chief or a big man, and he thinks of the rest of us as his servants or inferiors. . . . We can’t accept this.” The insults are designed to “cool his heart and make him gentle.” For these hunter-gatherers, Suzman writes, “the sum of individual self-interest and the jealousy that policed it was a fiercely egalitarian society where profitable exchange, hierarchy, and significant material inequality were not tolerated.”

This egalitarian impulse, Suzman suggests, is central to the hunter-gatherer’s ability to live a life that is, on its own terms, affluent, but without abundance, without excess, and without competitive acquisition. The secret ingredient seems to be the positive harnessing of the general human impulse to envy. As he says, “If this kind of egalitarianism is a precondition for us to embrace a post-labor world, then I suspect it may prove a very hard nut to crack.” There’s a lot that we could learn from the oldest extant branch of humanity, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to put the knowledge into effect. A socially positive use of envy—now, that would be a technology almost as useful as fire."
jamescscott  fire  technology  hunter-gatherers  2017  anthropology  johnlanchester  anthropocene  sedentism  agriculture  nomads  nomadism  archaeology  writing  legibility  illegibility  state  civilization  affluence  abundance  jamessuzman  bushmen  kalahari  namibia  khoisan  mesopotamia  egalitarianism  humans  self-interest  jealousy  greed  inequality  accumulation  motivation  society  happiness  money 
october 2017 by robertogreco
El Diablo in Wine Country « LRB blog
"The big picture, then, is the violent reorganisation of regional fire regimes across North America, and as pyrogeography changes, biogeography soon follows. Some forests and ‘sky island’ ecosystems will face extinction; most will see dramatic shifts in species composition. Changing land cover, together with shorter rainy seasons, will destabilise the snowpack-based water-storage systems that irrigate the West."



"This is the deadly conceit behind mainstream environmental politics in California: you say fire, I say climate change, and we both ignore the financial and real-estate juggernaut that drives the suburbanisation of our increasingly inflammable wildlands. Land use patterns in California have long been insane but, with negligible opposition, they reproduce themselves like a flesh-eating virus. After the Tunnel Fire in Oakland and the 2003 and 2007 firestorms in San Diego County, paradise was quickly restored; in fact, the replacement homes were larger and grander than the originals. The East Bay implemented some sensible reforms but in rural San Diego County, the Republican majority voted down a modest tax increase to hire more firefighters. The learning curve has a negative slope.

I’ve found that the easiest way to explain California fire politics to students or visitors from the other blue coast is to take them to see the small community of Carveacre in the rugged mountains east of San Diego. After less than a mile, a narrow paved road splays into rutted dirt tracks leading to thirty or forty impressive homes. The attractions are obvious: families with broods can afford large homes as well as dirt bikes, horses, dogs, and the occasional emu or llama. At night, stars twinkle that haven’t been visible in San Diego, 35 miles away, for almost a century. The vistas are magnificent and the mild winters usually mantle the mountain chaparral with a magical coating of light snow.

But Carveacre on a hot, high fire-danger day scares the shit out of me. A mountainside cul-de-sac at the end of a one-lane road with scattered houses surrounded by ripe-to-burn vegetation – the ‘fuel load’ of chaparral in California is calculated in equivalent barrels of crude oil – the place confounds human intelligence. It’s a rustic version of death row. Much as I would like for once to be a bearer of good news rather than an elderly prophet of doom, Carveacre demonstrates the hopelessness of rational planning in a society based on real-estate capitalism. Unnecessarily, our children, and theirs, will continue to face the flames."
mikedavis  2017  fire  fires  winds  diablowinds  santaanawinds  bayarea  napa  sonoma  sandiego  oaklandhills  santarosa  santacruz  stephenpyne  nature  urbanism  urban  capitalism  greenland  climatechange  lacienega  pacificnorthwest  cascadia  vanouve  britishcolumbia  phoenix  jerybrown  california  oakland  carveacre  mcmansions 
october 2017 by robertogreco
Bonobo builds a fire and toasts marshmallows - Monkey Planet: Preview - BBC One - YouTube
"Programme website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01r52gr Kanzi the bonobo lives in America and has learnt how to build a fire, light it using matches and toast marshmallows on it. It shows just how like us some primates really are."

[via: https://twitter.com/ziyatong/status/890765475688439808 ]
bonobos  apes  multispecies  tools  2014  fire  classideas  animals 
july 2017 by robertogreco
Onibi - Wikipedia
"Onibi (鬼火) is a type of atmospheric ghost light in legends of Japan. According to folklore, they are the spirits born from the corpses of humans and animals, and are also said to be resentful people that have become fire and appeared. Also, sometimes the words "will-o'-wisp" or "jack-o'-lantern" are translated into Japanese as "onibi.""
japan  spirits  folklore  fire  legends 
january 2017 by robertogreco
Bringing Back the California Grizzly | KCET
[See also: http://ww2.kqed.org/science/2016/05/02/grizzly-bears-are-everywhere-in-california-but-the-woods/ ]

"They once ruled most of California, mountains of tooth, claw, and tawny fur that changed the landscape just by living there. Now they exist only on the state flag. The California grizzly, which once roamed the state’s open hills and numbered in the tens of thousands, was finally exterminated in 1924, when the last known griz was shot in Tulare County.

Now, a wildlife advocacy group is getting press for a campaign to bring California’s top carnivore back, or at least to get the state’s government to take the idea seriously. And it’s all part of a broader vision of helping grizzly populations recover across the west.

In a public petition campaign, the Center for Biological Diversity is asking fans of the big bear to urge the California Fish and Game Commission to explore options for bringing the grizzly back to the Golden State. If the Commission decides to heed the petition, that would likely mean ordering the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to conduct a study on the feasibility of reintroducing the grizzly to California."



"“California is key,” says Jeff Miller, a longtime conservation advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity and a fan of large carnivores. “We knew when we petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that any plans to bring back the grizzly would need support from the state of California. So now we’re approaching the state directly.”

One thing’s for certain: even if the bears are reintroduced to the southern Sierra Nevada, the life of a typical California grizzly will be very different from that of its average bear predecessors. Both proponents and opponents of reintroduction agree that the best old-school habitat for California grizzlies just isn’t available right now. That’s because the habitat California grizzlies liked best back in the day is also the habitat California humans like best: the temperate, fertile valleys and hills within a hundred miles of the Pacific coast.

As filmmaker Laura Purdy shows in this short documentary, featured on KCET’s Lost LA, humans and grizzlies were able to coexist for centuries in coastal California mainly because humans hadn’t altered the landscape quite as radically as we have now. In fact, some traditional landscape alterations, such as planned burning, actually made it easier for bears and people to get along.

[documentary embedded]

Planned burning is a little more complicated in prime California grizzly habitat like San Luis Obispo these days, and there are several million more humans in the state now than there were in 1491. Until things change dramatically along the coast, even hypothetical grizzly reintroductions will be restricted to the southern Sierra Nevada and similarly remote places in the state. Grizzlies there won’t be able to dine on dead marine mammals the way their 19th Century forebears did, but between the Sierra’s whitebark pines, whose nuts are a staple for the bears elsewhere, and other food such as meadow bulbs, small animals, and carrion, the Range of Light may well prove a suitable home for the brown bears.

In fact, there’s some thought that grizzlies may even benefit the Sierran ecosystem, by dispersing tree seeds and creating the kind of moderate soil disturbance that is generally lacking in the mountains nowadays.

What about public safety? The thought of bringing back an occasionally cranky, carnivorous species that can reach almost a ton in mass, and which can maintain a speed of 30 miles per hour for a quarter mile of more, has raised a few human hackles in California. But most of the people likely to come into contact with bears transplanted into the southern Sierra seem to be taking a “wait and see” stance. Casey Schreiner, editor and founder of the popular Southern California outdoor recreation website Modern Hiker, says he hasn’t heard a whole lot of reaction to the Center for Biological Diversity’s petition.

"I think you'd probably find that a lot of hikers prefer dealing with the more docile black bears," Schreiner told me. "Black bears, I'm confident around. Grizzlies give me a bit of pause."

“But I think that most of the people who are for the reintroduction are hikers who are more holistically-habitat-minded and understand that it would be good for the overall ecosystem."

For some lovers of large mammals, the return of the grizzly to California might have the ring of inevitability. In a landmark 2001 essay, a team of wildlife biologists — Reed Noss, Paul Paquet, Carlos Carroll and Nathan Schumaker — discussed whether the reintroduction of grizzlies, wolves, and wolverines to California might well be feasible. The gray wolf, which recolonized Northern California in 2014, and the wolverine, which was discovered already living in the Sierra Nevada nearly a decade ago, would seem to have answered part of that question on their own.

Perhaps it's just the grizzly's turn."
california  bears  grizzlybears  2016  history  wildlife  nature  plannedburning  fire  anthropology  edwardwinslowgifford  nativeamericans  nativecalifornians  alfredkroeber  jeffmiller  laurapurdy  documentary  chrisclarke 
august 2016 by robertogreco
My Favorite Vacation: Summer Camp - The New York Times
"Camp days unfurled through hours of things utterly foreign to me: tennis, and beadwork, and operetta (yes, we sang farces, in French, of course) and swimming, miles of swimming in water so cold we would feel as if our hearts and lungs would explode in those first few weeks of summer. Water so dark we couldn’t see our fingers as they pulled through a stroke.

My childhood had been one of public school days, then hours at the piano practicing for the competitions in which my mother would enroll me, then hours and hours of homework. I didn’t have “play dates” — what a waste of time, and besides, these American girls weren’t properly raised, and their mothers! They wasted time playing tennis, and gardening. I certainly wasn’t allowed to participate in anything that involved balls hurtling at me at high speeds. I might break a finger.

Suddenly, my life was one long, wonderful play date. I developed deep friendships, with people of my choosing, and we not only talked about everything, a first for me, but we did things together. Active, sporting things."



"I am a creature of habit. When I find somewhere I like, I settle. I don’t have a bucket list of places I want to see before I die. But I do have a bucket list of ways I want to live until I die. When I visit any new place, I’m filled with fantasies of how, exactly, I could live in a cottage on the coast of Wales, or a beach shack on the shores of Baja. Easily. What I learned at camp was that I love the absorption into a communal culture, with its structures and values, but that I also enjoy that as a springboard for testing my limits, and that engaging with the magic and beauty of our natural world is deeply meaningful, and comforting, to me. I never want to be far from water, and I need a fireplace.

Eventually, the camp closed down. On its site is a state park. But a few times in my life, I’ve fallen in love with houses in which I could recreate some sense of the freedom, discovery and splendor of those days. Houses that were rough and creaky and could be opened to the outdoors without worry of what damp air might do to them. Houses against which I could bank up kayaks and canoes. Houses where I could garden, because I can give myself permission to get my hands dirty.

Continue reading the main story
One of the first things I do, wherever I spend my summer vacations, is to find the spot for a campfire. Nothing gives me greater pleasure than to mix a Manhattan, head into the woods surrounding my house in Rhode Island, set up my campfire, and watch it burn.

I have a dear friend from camp days who lives nearby in summer. She and her spouse came over one evening with their young children. I had all the activities planned: the walk on the mossy path, the search for a salamander that had mysteriously appeared on my doorstep, and a campfire.

I had piled it high, carefully structured, just as I had been taught. I lit a match to it while the children sat on a couple of big rocks I had had dragged up to form a circle, and as the sky darkened, and the flames began flicking high up into the air, my dear old camp friend and I burst spontaneously into the song that always started campfires, a song neither of us had sung out loud in front of anyone in, who knows, probably 40 years. “Entendez-vous dans le feu”:

“Entendez-vous dans le feu, Tous ces bruits mystérieux?” (“Do you hear, in the fire, all those mysterious noises?”)

The children were saucer-eyed. So this is what grown-ups do at night. So this is the magic and mystery and pleasure of a fire to guard against the dark. And I was enthralled, too, watching those dear faces gathered around the fire. So this is love. And this is being a grown-up camper in the world, forever young enough to wonder at the mystery and magic and pleasure of it all."
summercamp  dominique  browning  2016  fire  campfires  camp  homes  exploration  learning  howwelean  independence  freedom 
july 2016 by robertogreco
Birds Deliberately Spread Wildfires Because Birds Are Dicks
"Crazy news from the outback, folks. Certain birds of prey are picking up burning sticks from brush fires and dropping them in dry grass. Why? Because then all the little critters will run away from the fire and out into the open, where the birds can snatch them up. Birds are dicks!

But even dicks have to eat. The birds of prey in question here—black kites and brown falcons—have apparently been doing this for ages. Both aboriginal populations in northern Australia and local firefighters say they’ve seen them do it. Aboriginal advocate Bob Gosford, who’s interviewed over a dozen firefighters about the trend, described the behavior, “Reptiles, frogs and insects rush out from the fire, and there are birds that wait in front, right at the foot of the fire, waiting to catch them.” (The above image is a reenactment of this grisly scene that I made in Photoshop.)

The phenomenon has never been caught on photo or video. However, it’s a relatively accepted belief that this happens. As of right now, Gosford’s research basically amounts to self study based on accumulated observations. According to IFL Science, he’s presented the research at both the Raptor Research Foundation and the Association for Fire Ecology’s annual conferences.

What a bunch of jerks. This, after a blaze in London was started by a pigeon dropping a lit cigarette onto the roof of a house back in 2014. This, after realizing that diabolical falcons trap their prey in stone prisons so they can eat them later while they’re still alive. This, as crows are getting so smart they can solves complex puzzles with a basic understanding of the size, weight, and density of stones. This, as we know that sparrows are just plain evil.

It’s not so much that birds are dicks. Birds are dicks, and they’re super smart. Hitchcock warned us. We have been warned."
birds  animals  nature  fire  australia  kites  falcons  hunting 
february 2016 by robertogreco
The Value Of Wild, Risky Play: Fire, Mud, Hammers And Nails : NPR Ed : NPR
"Something that's hard for us to accept is that safety, security, is a myth to a degree. There's no such thing as complete safety; it's impossible, unfortunately. But we are interested in being as safe as possible. So that is reflected very obviously in children's culture in America these days. Certainly fear culture is a barrier to adventure play in the U.S. But my sense is that people are growing bored of that. [They are] exhausted by worrying about everything all the time, constantly trying to preempt disaster and enjoying the permission to let go that comes from this adventure play movement."



"Children are an indicator species, in a way. And if kids are stressed out and confined and constrained, they're living in the world we created for them. So really this should really be an opportunity for us to look at ourselves and what we're doing in a larger cultural capacity.

[Q] It's still weird to me that we just don't have more of these in the U.S.

The biggest barrier now is staffing fees. The key ingredient to an adventure playground is a staff that is specifically using a playwork approach to support the kids. You never see a parent at a European adventure playground. But you see parents all over the America play sites.

Another serious barrier is the ugly factor. Junk playgrounds are junky and they don't look cute. They aren't tidy. So for that reason it's a tough sell — even to people who easily get on board with the self-directed and risky play ideas. Of course, that's where the fence comes in. The Land is surrounded by an 8-foot privacy fence that protects neighbors from an eyesore while enabling kids their own independent experiences — playful ones like we remember fondly from our own childhoods."

[Embedded video is here: https://vimeo.com/89009798 ]
children  play  society  culture  fear  parenting  danger  risk  risktaking  playgrounds  adventure  securiy  wales  fire  erindavis  adventureplaygrounds 
april 2015 by robertogreco
Convenience | Near Future Laboratory
"The newspaper is called Convenience and it’s based on the hypothesis that all great innovations and inventions find their way into the Corner Convenience store. Take for example, the nine we selected to feature in the newspaper, amongst a couple dozen:

AA Battery (Power)
BiC Cristal Pen (Writing)
Eveready LED Flashlight (Light..and laser light!)
Durex Condom (Prophylactic)
Reading Spectacles
Map (Cartography/way-finding)
BiC Lighter (Fire)
Disposable Camera (Memory)
Wristwatch (Time)

It’s a hypothesis designed to provoke consideration as to the trajectory of ideas from mind-bogglingly fascinating and world-changing when they first appear to numbingly routine and even dull by the time they commodify, optimize and efficient-ize…"

[Follow-up post: http://nearfuturelaboratory.com/2012/03/04/corner-convenience-near-future-design-fiction/ ]
nickfoster  rhysnewman  nearfuturelaboratory  nicolasnova  2012  cornerconvenience  electricity  power  writing  vision  glasses  cartography  wayfinding  fire  cameras  memory  time  wristwatches  batteries  maps  innovation  inventions  technology  commodification  convenience  design  julianbleecker  designfiction 
march 2012 by robertogreco
Fireplace
"Type words to interact with Fireplace or just sit back and enjoy. The logs burn to ashes in about 30 minutes each.

I really wanted a big-pixeled fireplace to keep in my bedroom and thought other people might like it, too. If you have any feedback or photos, you can contact me here.

I hope you enjoy it.

— Ted Martens

Some basic commands to try: log, match, marshmallow, smore, eat, hotdog, fireworks, photo, paper"
pixelart  pixels  fun  windows  applications  mac  fireplace  art  artgames  games  fire 
december 2011 by robertogreco
futuratronics: Buenos Aires bajo humo: un pequeño simulacro apocalíptico
"Demostró, encima, cuan rápido puede cambiar la realidad de una ciudad. Es como una prueba en miniatura de una catástrofe climática a nivel global. Un pequeño Apocalipsis pintoresco. Después vendrá el de verdad. Vayamos practicando."
buenosaires  argentina  sciencefiction  scifi  yearoff  smoke  air  pollution  fire  glvo  comics 
april 2008 by robertogreco

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