On Competence

As human civilization becomes ever more technologically complex, the average competence of each person declines. When a society operates using a suite of technologies that a single adult can learn in his or her lifetime—building a house from scratch, farming, spinning cotton, making medicines, having babies, hunting, fishing, singing and dancing—then it is possible to […]

Reading Sci-Fi with Astrobioloigist David Grinspoon

David Grinspoon is a comparative planetologist and an astrobiologist. He’s also a big book nerd, and his love for both fiction and nonfiction are proudly on display in his own new book, Earth In Human Hands: Shaping Our Planet’s Future. Grinspoon’s book uses insight from the study of the other planets in our solar system […]

Creating With Nature: Ice Ornaments

If it is still freezing hard during the night where you live, you can try this easy and fun art project. Find some paper plates, cups, tupperware containers, anything with an interesting shape that you can get ice out of in one piece pretty easily. I like the paper plates because you can kind of […]

A Bird’s Foot: Death in the Forest 

I find a stick and use it to break up the dry twists of coyote scat I have found on the trail. Shit is nature’s obituary page. In each pile are the traces of lives recently lost. In this particular excreta I find a sprinkling of little white brittle bones—bird bones. And then I pull […]

The Great Eucalyptus Debate

The Tasmanian blue gum, Eucalyptus globulus, is a magnificent tree. That is perhaps the only thing that everyone agrees on. It is, as Jake Sigg puts it, “a big, grand, old tree.” Tall, gnarled, stripey-barked, with white flowers like sea anemones, blue gum eucalyptus are characteristic of the San Francisco Bay area, despite being native […]