Monday, January 22, 2018

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Reuse...Recycle and Collect


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Environmental & Science Education
Reduce Reuse Recycle
Solid Waste
Sustainability
Edward Hessler

This is where a 34-year stint of collecting from trash leads by a person who, from childhood was a "picker."  This interest led to a job with the New York  Department of Sanitation.

Treasures in the Trash, as he says.

I am reminded of the poem. What Are The Most Unusual Things You Find in Garbage Cans? (A journalist questions members of the Scavengers Protective Association, Inc.) by James Schevill.


This poem may be found in Schevill's Violence and Glory: Poems 1962 -1968 in Some Haystacks Don't Even Have Any Needle--And Other Complete Modern Poems, a compilation by Stephen Dunning, Edward Lueders, and Hugh Smith.

I've looked for the poem on the web and can't find it. It consists of 9 responses. I include one by a member of the SPA.


Hanford

Picture frames. Pictures too, sometimes,
Landscapes mostly, cows, trees.
Once I found a picture of Jesus Christ.
I've got thirty picture frames at home.
All kinds of frames from plain to fancy.
I haven't bought one since I married.
Sometimes I just put 'em on the wall.
When there's nothing in the frame.
You can see the frame real good.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Friday Poem


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Environmental & Science Education
Poetry
Art and Environment
Edward Hessler

Today's poem is by Dorianne Laux.

Everyday Guide to Sustainability

CGEE Student Voice
by Sarah Badger

Environmentalists sometimes seem to be the outcasts of society, as the nature of the work itself involves drastic change. Despite all of this, I am a firm believer that being an environmentalist and living sustainably is not as backwards as people seem to think. Living a sustainable and simple lifestyle is the true nature of human existence, rather than our material-obsessed and complex modern society. It may also seem that environmentally-friendly and sustainable practices involve a great deal of effort, but this is not the case. After overcoming the idea that environmentalists are “tree huggers,” “hippies,” or “leftists,” you will begin to realize that sustainable practices could not be simpler to integrate into everyday life. I am going to break it down into waste reduction, food choices, product choices, and falling in love with the environment.

Waste Reduction.
Make small changes to minimize your output of waste. Producing waste contributes to climate change, habitat destruction, water pollution, and dangerous chemical exposure. The good news is that living a waste-free life or even just reducing the amount of waste you produce can be easy.

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  • Become an avid thrift shopper. Purchase household items, furniture, clothing, jewelry and other miscellaneous items from thrift and consignment shops when needed. 
  • Never throw clothes away--either sell or donate. In addition, old clothes can be cut up and used as towels, reusable grocery bags, pet toys, and many other household items. 
  • Buy products in bulk to reduce packaging. In addition, most co-ops and health food markets have dispensers which allow you to purchase products in your own reusable containers so you can enjoy waste-free grocery shopping. 
  • Use reusable produce bags and opt for fruit and vegetables that aren’t wrapped in plastic. 
  • Choose recycled goods, paper, and packaging with the highest post-consumer content you can find to reduce your use of raw materials. 
  • Learn to recycle properly--you will soon be an expert and it will become second nature to you. I recommend looking through the website “Rethink Recycling,” as it is a guide to recycling in the Twin Cities. They have a very useful “Know What to Throw” guide. 
  • If you menstruate, consider exploring the many zero waste menstrual products as a replacement for disposable pads or tampons. There is everything from menstrual cups, to reusable cloth pads, to menstrual underwear.
  • Bring reusable shopping bags with you to the grocery store, and turn down paper and plastic bags when you only have a few items. Reusable bags are extremely inexpensive and sold at most grocery/department stores, and you can even make your own from old shirts. 
  • Learn to compost or bring compost to a facility. Most food is compostable at home (and all food compostable at large facilities), and check the label on packaging because often it is too. Food and compostable products can take a long time to decompose in a landfill, therefore composting this is a great way to reduce food waste.


Food Choices.
I cannot emphasize the importance of sustainable food choices enough.This includes where you purchase food, what you purchase, and what companies you purchase from.

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  • Adopt a plant-based diet or limit your consumption of animal products. If you cannot give up animal products completely, consider reducing your consumption or replacing several meals a week with plant based meals. 
  • Buy local. Purchasing from local farms and markets means that your food didn’t have to travel thousands of miles to get here, drastically cutting transportation emissions. In addition, local farms generally use less pesticides, making for more environmentally friendly farming practices. 
  • Plan meals in advance to avoid food waste. 


Body, Makeup, and Household Products. 
Reconsider the body care, makeup, and household products you are using. It is important to know what companies you choose to spend your dollar on and whether they are choosing environmentally-friendly practices. You are voting with your dollar and promoting the continuation of the company’s practices. In addition, by choosing environmentally-friendly products, you are reducing the amount of harmful chemicals put into the environment.

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  • Opt for natural body care and makeup products. These are much easier to find than you may think; almost every co-op, market, grocery store, and even department store carries options. 
  • Check that the product is certified by environmental organizations, or better yet, do some research on the company to learn about their environmental practices. 
  • Consider purchasing castile soap and making products in reusable containers. This soap is versatile and can be used to make all-purpose household cleaners, shampoo, body and hand soap, shaving cream, facial cleanser, pet shampoo, floor cleaner, dish soap, and has many other uses. There are endless recipes online, however many of these simply involve diluting castile soap and water. 

Philosophy.
Fall in love with the environment. Stand up for it. Become its protector and do everything in your power to conserve it. This will make it easier to live a sustainable life because you’ll be standing up for something you truly care about.

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  • Read books about the environment to expand your knowledge and spark interest. 
  • Try to get outside at least once a day. If you are a busy person, it can be as simple as a short morning/evening walk or eating your meals outside. 
  • Visit parks and foster a relationship with the land, water, and animals around you. 
  • Participate in environmental activism. Join an environmental group, protest corporations taking part in environmental destruction, or educate others about their impact on the environment.

While it may seem overwhelming at first, I promise living sustainably is easy after developing a habit. Baby steps are the best way to go. Perhaps today you can learn how to recycle properly today, and tomorrow you can choose a plant-based meal. Once your current household and body products are used up, you can opt for environmentally-friendly ones and bring your own reusable containers to fill them with. When you need a new item or feel like some shopping therapy, you can check out your local thrift shop. You can redefine what it means to be an environmentalist: a forward-thinking, compassionate, and motivated individual. Lead a sustainable lifestyle with grace, and people around you will be inclined to follow your example. Your lifestyle doesn’t have to come at the expense of the environment, and the good news is it is entirely possible for the two to coexist in harmony.

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My name is Sarah and I am a student worker at the Center for Global Environmental Education. I am studying Criminal Justice and Psychology, and I hope to someday begin an animal rights non-profit organization along with an animal sanctuary. I am in the Hamline University Honors program and spend much of my time participating in volunteer work and activism. In my free time, I enjoy travel, dance, yoga, exercise, cooking, being outside, and hanging out with animals. I hope you enjoy my blog posts!

Thursday, January 18, 2018

King Tut's Trumpets


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Environmental & Science Education
STEM
Culture
Edward Hessler

Two royal trumpets (known as sheneb) were found in the tomb of the boy-king, Tutankhamun. Both were used to signal attention to important events.

These are horns without mouthpieces and valves. They made a single harsh note. The Greek Plutarch compared the sound to that of "a braying ass." Each trumpet included a decorated wooden insert--a stopper--to protect them from damage and to preserve their shape.  The horns fell silent in 1323 BCE when King Tut died from either illness or injury.

The royal tomb of King Tut was disturbed three times by robbers. The last plundering, the worst, was made by the English archeologist, Howard Carter on November 4, 1922 but it wasn't until February 26, 1923 that the Carter archeological team officially opened the burial chamber. One of the horns was noticed, cleansed with an ammonia solution and the wooden core coated in celluloid. It ended up in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. Carter, of course, blew it, managing he said "to get a good blast out of it which broke the silence of the valley."

The horn was blown in 1933 by Percival Kirby, a professor with an interest in the musical instruments of Africa. In 1939 a military trumpeter fitted it (stuffed may be a better word) with amouthpiece and in the presence of King Farouk of Egypt ended up cracking and nearly destroying the trumpet. Thankfully, it was not broken beyond full restoration.

The horn has been played three more times since (again in 1939, then 1941 and January 1975). Here is British bandsman James Tappern playing two ornate trumpets, one of silver and gold, the other, a copper alloy during a BBC radio broadcast in April 1939.  The BBC announcer makes as much as he can of the occasion with his announcement: "The Trumpets of Pharaoh Tutankhamun! Lord of the Crowns, King of the South and North, Son of Ra."

Frank Holt, a historian at the University of Houston has written a popular account as told by the horn in AramcoWorld (beautifully illustrated with watercolors by Norman MacDonald). I owe the short description above to Holt's essay.

I disagree with Plutarch. Both horns have pleasing sounds, sounds that are perfectly suited to precede announcements and to demand the attention. While the horn has not been blown again, the horn notes in its account that "I have been on tour for some time now."




Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Conversations About the Nature of the Universe


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Environmental & Science Education
STEM
Edward Hessler

Professor Clifford Johnson, University of Southern California (LA), has been blogging for what seems to me a long time although I've not been reading him, even irregularly, for several years.

His blog was always a delight, for Johnson's interests are wide. He is a first-rate cook/baker, an advocate of science fairs (he has the ability to step out of his professional role to see the world as a very young science enthusiast/non-enthusiast might and then to judge them fairly and helpfully), a trumpet player, a Brompton bike enthusiast, and also a talented artist (drawings). He is also the founder of the African Summer Theory Institute "which brings teachers, researchers, and students of all levels together for a month-long conference on a science topic--a different one each year."

He has a new book titled The Dialogues: Conversations About the Nature of the Universe which deals with some of the theoretical topics that are his daily work. The book is not written for theoreticians but for the rest of us who are curious, want to learn more about science works and what it is. This book is a graphic novel, one that took him some six years to write and draw.

At his home page you can learn more about him, find a link to his new book (sample pages, a book trailer) and a link to his blog, Asymptotia. I link you to an entry from the blog entitled "Kitchen Capers" where you can see him at work in the kitchen.

I include a review of The Dialogues from the Los Angeles Review of Books which includes more drawings and also an interview with him.


Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Last Act: Death of a Young Techologist/Violinist.


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Environmental and Science Education
Death
Music
STEM
Edward Hessler


The film linked below is based on a touching profile in the New Yorker, titled "The Virtuoso: A tech pioneer's unexpected last act"(January 1, 2018), by James B. Stewart. 

If you don't have time to read the article, here are a few comments I extracted from Stewart's essay about Eric Sun which provides insights about Mr. Sun's short life.
--Sun started playing the violin when he was four but didn't enjoy the lessons.
--At age 13, Sun's father joined the University of Washington (Seattle) as a faculty member. Sun was placed in a high achiever's program and also started taking lessons from a violinist with the Seattle Symphony and Seattle Opera orchestra.
--Sun pursued computer science and economics (Stanford) after high school and took a job with Facebook in 2008.
--While graduating with honors, his grade-point average was below 3.0. One course he didn't do well in was taught by Professor Jerry Cain, a software engineer who invented Facebook's "like" feature. Sun had many job rejections and finally started working at an economics consulting firm.
--After graduation he stayed on in the Stanford orchestra where he met Karen Law. She had just completed her master's in thermal engineering.  She too was a vilinist. Stanford has an annual Viennese Ball and the waltz choreographers paired the two of them. They fell in love and later married.
--While midway through his master's in mathematical statistics, Sun applied to the summer internship at Facebook and was later hired (One of his papers, a prizewinner was how information spreads on Facebook.)
--Sun did ask, according to Stewart, "Wouldn't it be phenomenal if they (Facebook) turned out to be worth something?"
--Sun had success at Facebook and was asked to move to London to work on a large project. There he made a large purchase, a violin made by Vuillaume.
--Upon his return to California he saw a doctor about his periodic bouts of nausea. Eventually this led to an MRI which showed enough to indicate the need for a biopsy from which Sun learned that he had a brain tumor. This was followed by surgery and chemotherapy and radiation. Sun's brain cancer was an aggressive glioblastoma (VP Joe Biden's son and Senator John McCain were similarly struck.). A characteristic of glioblastoma is its resistance to any kind of treatment.
--Sun pursued several musical dreams following his diagnosis. Six weeks after the last performance of Fiddler on the Roof, he went into hospice care and, less than forty-eight hours later, died on November 23 2017, just fourteen months after his diagnosis. The piece in Fiddler was written by John Williams for Isaac Stern and is a challenging piece.
Here is the link to the video where you can also find a link to Stewart's essay.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Wildfires: California


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Culture
STEM
Climate Change
Sustainability
Edward Hessler

Lauren Tierney has an excellent article with graphics in the Washington Post on California's wildfire season to date. There is also a chart of the largest and most destructive fires.

Stephen J. Pyne is a prolific writer about wildfires in the United States and the world. In 2015 Between Two Fires: A Fire History of Contemporary America was released.  It is about management, fire policy and public perception of fire, topics he wrote about in a much earlier book.

The Thomas fire began December 4, 2017 and was declared 100% controlled on January 12, 2018

Friday, January 12, 2018

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Field Studies


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Environmental & Science Education
Edward Hessler


In a beautifully written text on ecology, one that challenges students to think about this area of study while learning about it--hard to believe it was first published some 40 years ago--Paul Colinvaux comments on a distinction between being out in the field studying plants and animals and being an ecologist.  This is his description.

"It is common English usage to talk of larks; of singing like a lark, being happy as a lark, or larking about; an this usage comes from poetic musings about the habits of the North European skylark, Alauda arvensis. In the early summer skylarks trill beautifully, high in the sky over meadows and wheat fields. They start from the ground with a swiftly rising, fluttering flight, singing the while, and climbing up and up until they almost vanish against the blue, then they stop singing and plummet down to earth before repeating the whole performance. You may lie on your back in the sun for hours lulled by this pleasant serenade. Many poets have done so, and for many centuries. Some came to know the birds well, to sense on what days the larks sang, to know where to find larks, to see their nests and eggs and, in short, to be good field naturalists.  And yet, for centuries there was no attempt to look at the lark's beautiful performance with the eye of reason, to realize that here was something odd that required explanation, and to ask the question: 'Why does the skylark behave in this fetching but peculiar manner?' When that question is asked, the field study of the skylark becomes ecology. But reflect on the myriads who have watched skylarks without asking that questions; naturalists all, but ecologists none."

To this end, recommend a blog,Nature Puzzles: Of Forests, Fields, Ponds and Geology. Here, a keen observer and questioner of the natural world, Bob Bystrom, describes an occurrence in the natural world that can lead us to ask the mostly "W" questions of newspaper fame. What? Where? When? How? and Why?

These puzzles can stimulate us to create our own as well as consider how we might investigate the puzzle to provide evidence--a tentative explanation, for the puzzling phenomenon. And they are fun largely because their requirement if noticing and then asking.

I plan to comment on one of them sometime because it reminded me of how two teachers engaged students in exploring small plots on their school grounds to learn about ecology and also to do original investigations.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

See Ya' Later, Gator


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Biodiversity
Biological Evolution
STEM
Environmental and Science Education
Edward Hessler

I was amazed to learn this.

Alligators became iced-in at Swamp Park an alligator preserve in North Carolina. It is currently at the edge of their northern range.

Alligators can survive for about 24 hours submerged but this period was longer.The first response to cold is to slow down their metabolism (e.g., their breathing rate). However, when the surface of the ice begins to freeze the stick their noses out of the water and let ice form around them.

And after, all is well. All 10 of them survived.

Pictures and videos as welll as the story here from the Washington Post.

What a great paper.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Aeromicrobiology


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Environmental & Science Education
Edward Hessler

While reading The Amoeba in the Room: Lives of the Microbes by Nicholas P. Money (Oxford University Press, 2014) I learned something about Charles Darwin's voyage to which I'd never paid any attention, his collection of some dust which fell on his ship.

I loved Money's book. If you want to know more about what it means to be alive read this enchanting book. Microbes are us and much else.

While the H. M. S. Beagle was at anchor in the Cape Verde Islands, Charles Darwin collected samples of dust that had settled on the ship--he noticed everything and wondered about what he saw.  He sent these samples to an Charles Darwin collected samples--he noticed everything and wondered about what he saw--and sent them to an expert on "infusoria." 

In A Naturalist's Voyage Round the World: Journal of Researches into the Geology and Natural History of the Various Countries Visited by H. M. S. Beagle, Under the Command of Captain Fitzroy, R. N. from 1832 to 1836 (Henry Colburn, 1839) wrote about this dust event.

"Generally the atmosphere is hazy; and this is caused by the falling of impalpably fine dust, which was found to have slightly injured the astronomical instruments. The morning before we anchored at Porto Praya, I collected a little packet of this brown-coloured fine dust, which appeared to have been filtered from the wind by the gauze of the vane at the masthead. Mr. Lyell has also given me four packets of dust which fell on a vessel a few hundred miles northward of these islands. Professor Ehrenberg4 finds that this dust consists in great part of infusoria with siliceous shields, and of the siliceous tissue of plants. In five little packets which I sent him, he has ascertained no less than sixty-seven different organic forms! The infusoria, with the exception of two marine species, are all inhabitants of fresh-water. I have found no less than fifteen different accounts of dust having fallen on vessels when far out in the Atlantic. From the direction of the wind whenever it has fallen, and from its having always fallen during those months when the harmattan is known to raise clouds of dust high into the atmosphere, we may feel sure that it all comes from Africa. It is, however, a very singular fact, that, although Professor Ehrenberg knows many species of infusoria peculiar to Africa, he finds none of these in the dust which I sent him. On the other hand, he finds in it two species which hitherto he knows as living only in South America."

In addition, Money mentions air samples collected by Charles Lindberg at the request of U. S. Department of Agriculture F. C. Meier who was interested in the spread of cereal rusts. The results were published in a paper by Fred C. Meier and Charles A. Lindberg in "Collecting Micro-Organisms from the Arctic Atmosphere" published in The Scientific Monthly,  

Colonel Lindberg designed the collecting device known as the "sky hook."  The collecting surfaces were petroleum coated glass slides, twenty-six of which were ultimately exposed to the atmosphere. Mrs. Lindberg flew the ship when her husband was occupied "with manipulation of an instrument new to transatlantic airplanes."

In addition to the findings, the paper contains  handwritten field notes and drawings by Lindberg and a description of the construction of the "sky hook."  This is a fascinating paper.

I loved and strongly recommend Money's book.  Our attention is mostly to macrobiota--the big things many of which are soft and fuzzy or are beautifully dressed plants. But microbiota as charismatics miss our gaze and attention.They do the biosphere's heavy lifting. If you want to know more about what it really means to be alive read this enchanting book.  You are likely to wonder what we mean by the idea of "self."  And the tree of life appears to be more like a very tangled network.      

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that each chapter begins with an epigraph from John Milton's Paradise Lost.  Did you know that Charles Darwin included this in his library on H. M. S. Beagle?  I didn't.  Dr. Money has chosen these carefully. Each is tightly bound to the content of the chapter, indeed informs it in the way of a poet.  Money notes that both Milton and Darwin stood in awe of "the wonder of life."

Reading poetry eluded Darwin following his return to England. Late in life Darwin wrote about poetry and music and a regret.  The following passage from a letter to a friend is found in Charles Darwin: His Life Told in an Autobiographical Chapter & in a Selected Series of his Published Letters edited by his son, Francis.

"Up to the age of thirty, or beyond it, poetry of many kinds, such as the works of Milton, Gray, Byron, Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Shelley, gave me great pleasure…But now for many years I cannot endure to read a line of poetry;…My mind seems to have become a kind of machine for grinding general laws out of large collections of facts…and if I had to live my life again, I would have made a rule to read some poetry and listen to some music at least once every week…The loss of these tastes is a loss of happiness, and may possibly be injurious to the intellect, and more probably to the moral character, by enfeebling the emotional part of our nature."

Saturday, January 6, 2018


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National Parks
Environmental & Science Education
Edward Hessler

Vintage photographs of national parks and public lands from the United States Library of Congress.

Sarah Gilbert of the Guardian writes that in the late 1800s the beauty of American public lands were first shown by means of "a photographic technique called photochrom...which allowed color to be introduced to black and white negatives. The process was used extensively by William Henry Jackson, whose early pictures of Yellowstone helped convince Congress to make it the first national park in 1875."


Tuesday, January 2, 2018

MacArthur Foundation Awards


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Sustainability
Early Childhood
Health
Medicine
Sustainability

100&Change was a competition for a $100 million grant from the MacArthur Foundation to fund a single proposal that "promises real and measurable progress in solving a critical problem of our time." Proposals from any field or problem area were welcome

So who won the competition?  

The announcement was made December 20, 2017. There were four awards.

--Sesame Workshop and the International Rescue Committee for educating children displaced by conflict and persecution ($100 million),

 --Catholic Relief Services for changing how society cares for children in orphanages ($15 million),

--Harvest Plus for eliminating hunger in Africa by fortifying crops ($15 million), and

--Rice 360^0 Institute for Global Health (Rice University) for improving newborn survival in Africa ($15 million). 

You may learn more about them here and view short films on each project. In addition you will find short descriptions of the problem, key facts, changes made to the final proposal, the solution and the project teams. The MacArthur Foundation is committed to finding additional funding for the smaller grants.

Words Are Ideas


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Environmental & Science Education
Literacy
Biodiversity
STEM
Edward Hessler


On March 29 2002, four Cambridge University professors in the Department of Zoology—Andrew Balmford, Lizzie Clagg, Tim Coulson and Jennie Taylor published a paper in Nature entitled Why Conservationists Should Heed Pokemon.

The researchers reported the results of an investigation of whether British school children knew more about Pokemon critters (fictional) than British plants, birds and insects (real). The eight-year-olds were more likely to know more of the fictional Pokemon characters than actual species. Furthermore, knowing Pokemon critters did not indicate that the children knew more about real species.
 
Robert MacFarlane is a well known British environmentalist and natural historian who is a collector of words. His 2015 book Landmarks is a compilation of thousands of words and phrases from British dialects that are used to describe places, large and small.  These are falling out of use. 

In a review Kristy Gunn provides a sample of those words. "At the end of every section," MacFarlane includes "a swath of words cut and lifted from dictionaries and phrase books, from common usage, idiolect, slang and poetry. Words for stones and rubble, chucky, clitter and fedspar; for ice, pipkrares and shuckle; for hill and gully and lifestock and branches and leaves and weathers and, in 'Ways of Walking,' for a certain kind of mud--muxy rout and slunk."

In his just published, The Lost Words, MacFarlane restores words that are falling out of use by children. In a discussion between MacFarlane and illustrator, Jackie Morris on the construction of the book, MacFarlane describes the intent: Jackie and I have always thought of The Lost Words not as a children's book but as ‘a book for all ages’ - or perhaps a book for children aged 3 to 100. We wanted it to be quite unlike any other book that exists: to catch at the beauty and wonder - but also the eeriness and otherness - of the natural world.

Jackie Morris was the instigator of this book and I urge you read her account of its beginning. When she received a letter asking her to sign a petition about returning words that had been culled from the Oxford University Press Junior Dictionary. She wondered how words such as acorn, conkers and heron could possibly be removed. Morris writes, It wasn’t the fault of the dictionary that these words were not included, but the culture in which we live which seems to give more importance to the urban than the wild. The dictionary was a symptom of this, and a timely reminder that we should take a good, long look at what we value.

The Lost Words is a book of spells which Morris describes "is to cast spells of language to summon the words back into common usage."