Friday, June 24, 2016

Friday Poem

Art & Environment
Edward Hessler

Image from
First, the poetry news. An old English poetry book has been granted the UNESCO Memory of the World Status. What an evocative name and what a wonderful idea. I didn't know about this designation.The book is known as The Exeter Book. The BBC has an illustrated story about it and the Poetry Foundation's blog devoted to poetry, Harriet, also discusses it.

UNESCO maintains a Memory of the World Register which includes a full listing, access by region/country, by year and by organization. Take a look.

Today's poem is by Jennifer Michael Hecht, the author of Doubt: A History:  The Great Doubters and their Legacy of Innovation from Socrates and Jesus to Thomas Jefferson and Emily Dickinson. Hecht holds a Ph.D. in the history of science/European cultural history from Columbia University. She teaches at the New School, New York City.
Eva Rinaldi
[CC BY-SA 2.0 (],
via Wikimedia Commons

The poem, Rapture, starts with these lines.

"The two-tone girl, mouth wide open, head-back/ squinting blind at the rock-stars on the stage. Screaming"

Thursday, June 23, 2016


Environmental & Science Education
History of Science
Edward Hessler

Biomedical Research & Breakthroughs
See page for author
[CC BY 4.0 (],
via Wikimedia Commons
The Breakthroughs in Bioscience series is a collection of illustrated articles that explain recent developments in basic biomedical research and how they are important to society. They are developed by the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) to educate the general public about the benefits of fundamental biomedical research.

The most recent issue is "Vaccines: Essential Weapons in the Fight Against Disease." One of the illustrations is a vaccines timeline from smallpox (1796) to Human Papilloma Virus (2015).

Benjamin Franklin on Variolation
A boxed statement that could serve as an epigraph to the report is from Benjamin Franklin's autobiography in which he advocated for inoculation or variolation, which is inoculation with the live smallpox virus.

David Martin [Public domain],
via Wikimedia Commons
He wrote:

"I lost one of my sons, a fine boy of four yeas old, by the small-pox, taken in the common way. I long regretted bitterly, and still regret that I had not given it to him by inoculation. This I mention for the sake of parents who omit that operation, on the supposition that they should never forgive themselves if a child died under it; my example showing that the regret may be the same either way, and that, therefore, the safer should be chosen." (emphasis added)

Electronic versions of these articles are available in html and pdf format at the Breakthroughs in Bioscience website above. Hard copies are available upon request. In addition to these publications, one page documents, Horizons in Bioscience, describe scientific scientific discoveries on the brink of clinical application.

Remembering the Mississippi's greatest flood with author John Barry

Water & Watersheds
By John Shepard

Interviewing an icon
While creating media for CGEE's soon-to-debut Mississippi Multimedia Gallery program, I had the pleasure of interviewing John Barry last fall along the Mississippi River levee in New Orleans. The author of Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and how it Changed America, Barry is today's most authoritative published voice on the river's history. Building on his understanding of the past, recently he has been working through the courts, in what the New York Times Magazine describes as "The Most Ambitious Environmental Lawsuit Ever," to get the oil and gas industry to make good on their commitments to take responsibly for their impacts on the region's natural resources.


The video
Here is John Barry's recouting of another betrayal: how in 1927 city leaders in New Orleans betrayed their rural downstream neighbors in St. Bernard and Plaquemines Parish by dynamiting the levee, inundating their communities, and then failing to make good on their promises to make them whole.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

STEM Opportunities

Environmental & Science Education
Edward Hessler

STEM Jobs and Careers
See page for author [Public domain],
via Wikimedia Commons
I'm a very irregular listener of NPR's "The Takeaway" but listened to most of it on November 18.  One segment in particular captured my attention. It is one in a continuing series, "The Community College Challenge." A while ago there was a feature on the  Lake Area Technical Institute. It is an amazing place and the energy of the students, faculty and president was visible.

I don't recall hearing anything about STEM but I heard a lot about STEM related careers as well as about careers that support STEM and are important in communities everywhere. Programs at this college lead to great jobs, jobs that demand and make use of minds and hands. We can't do without these kinds of jobs/careers.

STEM Workers with less education
By National Science Foundation
[Public domain],
via Wikimedia Commons

The segment reminded me of a report on STEM education, a side of STEM too often ignored and overlooked. Eyes turn too quickly to 4-year programs, graduate and professional schooling as though this is the only kind of STEM education to which to aspire. Nothing wrong with this of course but there is so much more to STEM than this. A year or so ago, the Brookings Institution published a welcome report on "the strong potential workforce of those with less education but substantial STEM skills."

Take a look.

    Friday, June 17, 2016

    Friday Poem

    Art and Environment
    Edward Hessler

    I, Luc Viatour [GFDL
    CC-BY-SA-3.0 (
    or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0
    via Wikimedia Commons

    Today's poem, "Ways of Speaking," is by Linda Grace Weldon

    Wednesday, June 15, 2016

    Probable First Mammal Extinction--Climate Change

    Environmental & Science Education
    Endangered Species
    Edward Hessler

    Huffington Post reports on the first mammal extinction likely due to climate change. The critter is the Bramble Cay Melomys, Melomys rubicola a small rodent that was restricted to a small island at the northern end of the Great Barrier Reef.

    Bramble Car Melomys
    In 1978, its population numbered in the 100s but in the last decade the rodent suffered a 97 percent habitat loss.

    There is a link to the scientific research leading to the conclusion that it is extinct. The link to the cause, global climate change, is inferred (and likely). The report's title is "Confirmation of the extinction of the Bramble Cay melomys Melomys rubicola on Bramble Bay, Tover Street."

    The obituaries begin.

    Tuesday, June 14, 2016

    Particle Physics Everywhere

    Environmental & Science Education
    Edward Hessler

    Particles are us although I'd never thought about it...ever.

    Ali Sundermier who writes for Symmetry Magazine tells us about the "particles within."  Our joints are jumping!

    Maybe you've wondered where in the world your mass comes from?  Sundermier writes that "Scientists believe that almost all of your body's mass comes from the kinetic energy of quarks and the binding energy of the gluons."

    We also make particles...interact with particles and if you want to take a deeper look on the inside of us see here.

    This leads, though, to the question of what IS a particle. Matthew Francis who writes for Symmetry Magazine provides some ways of thinking about this question.

    By Tammcd7 (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons
    In Ode to a Flower, the late Nobel prize awardee in physics, Richard Feynman made some comments about aesthetics and science. He said "science knowledge only adds to the excitement, the mystery and the awe of a flower. It only adds. I don’t understand how it subtracts." 

    This is one more example, a beautiful one.

    Friday, June 10, 2016

    Friday Poem

    Art and Environment
    Edward Hessler

    Muhammad Ali died last week. He was 74.

    Two remembrances say a lot about Mr. Ali and his life. The first is by New Yorker editor, David Remmick. Ali lived, according to Mr. Remmick, "an outsized life."

    The second is the Statement from President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama on the Passing of Muhammad Ali.

    By Pete Souza [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
    At the end of an interview in Ireland, Ali was asked to recite a poem about the Prisoner's Rights Movement which was escalated into a confrontation at Attica Prison between enforcement officials, the Governor of the State of New York, and the prisoners. This confrontation is often described as a riot which hides way too much.

    Friday, June 3, 2016

    Friday Poem

    Art and Environment
    Edward Hessler

    Poet and author James Harrison died in March this year. This master poet...master writer...master human was 78 years old. I learned about a poem I'd never read in a piece about the many (many) facets of Mr. Harrison by John McIntyre for Poetry Magazine (True Bones).

    I didn't expect to find this poem since he has written so many--several hundred--but I finally found it on several blogs. I'm glad I looked because it led to a recent interview about what books have meant to Minnesota author Louise Erdrich in the New York Times.

    By PrimaEvera (Own work)
    [CC BY-SA 4.0
    via Wikimedia Commons
    In response to a question about her favorite poem she said "I covered the vinyl walls around my soaking bathtub with poems written in permanent marker--- James Harrison's 'Counting Birds' is my favorite. His work is bold, consolatory; like Harrison, I wonder if there is a bird waiting for me in the onrushing clouds."

    What a strong recommendation!

    One of Harrison's many fans is writer Laura Munson. In a letter to him titled "Ode to Jim" posted on her blog, she signs off with "Yrs."  She then explains, "(my sign off, which I lifted from you. I’m not sure if it means Years or Yours, but I’ll take both.)". Who wouldn't?!

    So, here is the poem from the blog Prairie Ice.

    Wednesday, June 1, 2016


    Environmental & Science Education
    Edward Hessler

    By villy [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

    I didn't read Henry David Thoreau's Walden; Or Life in the Woods until long after the time I "should" have, i.e., in college. My guess is that it had something to do with course selection, interests or it could have been before the book became a standard assignment for seminars/introductory courses.

    When I did read it, I was sorry it had taken me so long although I found Thoreau to be exactly whom Edward Abbey so aptly characterized as the "village crank." But, man, could Thoreau see the natural world and also approach it in a systematic, evidence-based way.

    A Critique of Thoreau 
    By Splitwoman (Michael Polito)
    [CC BY-SA 3.0
    ( or
    GFDL (],
    via Wikimedia Commons

    Kathryn Schulz has written a provocative critique--this is being kind; it is a to-the-mat-take down--of the author of the book for a recent issue of the New Yorker. The title is a two-word abstract of what is ahead: Pond Scum. I suspect it has led to some sharp rejoinders, correctives and advice to Ms. Schultz.

    Still, read it, especially if you use the book in your teaching or if you just want to think about Thoreau or if you like good writing. As a counterpoint to Schulz's critique is this long essay by Edward Abbey. It is loving, perceptive, less pointedly critical and in Abbey's iconoclastic tradition, funny.

    Image from
    Walden through Haikus
    Ian Marshall, following Basho's lead decided to experiment with Thoreau's prose. The result is found in Walden by Haiku. The book consists of 293 haiku derived from Walden. In the introduction, Marshall draws attention to a poet standing by a pond, noting that this poet is two poets--Thoreau and Basho--standing by two ponds--Walden Pond and Basho's "old pond." Marshall's purposes are "to offer a primer on haiku, to provide fresh insights into Walden, and to demonstrate the pertinence of haiku aesthetics as a theoretical basis for understanding the nature writing tradition in English." It is a wonderful, slanted way of reading Thoreau's classic book and not to be missed.

    Thoreau as a systematic Ecologist
    Schulz does tell us that Thoreau was "wonderful at actually seeing" but says nothing about his contributions to our understanding of how the natural world works. He was often very systematic about collecting data. Frank N. Edgerton who writes wonderful columns about the history of ecology for the Bulletin of the Ecological Society of America, describes Thoreau's contributions to ecological science in Henry David Thoreau, Ecologist.