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Books Environmental politics History Politics

Notes from Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel

p. 16 “Tecla [elephant] was communicating. ‘The humans are getting between you and your baby; come and do something’… When an individual knows another’s relationship to a third – as Tecla knows who the baby’s mother is -it’s called ‘understanding third party relationships’. Primates understand third-party relationships too,and so do wolves, hyenas,dophines,birds of the crow family, and at least some parrots. A parrot, say, can act jealous of its keeper’s spouse. When the vervet monkeys that are common around camp here an infant’s distress call, they instantly look to the infant’s mother….When free-living dolphin mothers want young ones to stop interacting with humans, the mothers sometimes direct a tailslap at the human who has the baby’s attention… When the dawdling youngsters are interacting with dolphin researcher Denise Herzing’s graduate assistants, their mothers will ocasiionally direct these – what could we call them reprimands? -at Herzing herself. This shows that thedolphins understand that Dr Herzing is the leader of all the humans in the water. For free-living creatures to perceive rank order in humans – just astonishing.”

p. 22 “Honeybees will interrupt a colleague’s waggledance if they’ve experienced trouble at the same flower source, such as a brush with a predator like a spider. Honey bees subjected by researchers to simulated attack show, said researchers, ‘the same hallmarks of negative emotions that we find in humans’. Even more intriguingly, honeybee brains contain the same ‘thrill-seeker hormones that in human brains drive some people to consistently seek novelty. If those hormones deliver some tingle of pleasure or motivation to the bees, it means bees are conscious. Certain highly social wasps can recognize individuals by their faces, something previously believed the sole domain of a few elite mammals.”

p. 85 “African elephants have one particular alarm call that appears to be their word for ‘Bees!’. They run from the sound of buzzing bees, shaking their head as thye go. Elephants also run away shaking their heads if they merelyhear a recording of elephants calling as they run from bees. They don’t head-shake when plated recorded voices of people… Zoo elephants in the United States who’ve never been swarmed by African honeybees do not respond to the sound of bees. Older elephants in Africa respond directly, while young ones look to their elders and copy their response… A friend of mine saw impalas run away when they heard elephants scream at a pack of wild dogs; her guide said impalas never run when elephants are screaming at people or each other. If true, that means that elephants say specific things that impala understand.”

p. 89 “Herman, who studied captive dolphins in Hawaii, found that dolphins understood the difference between ‘Get the ring from John and give it to Susan’ and ‘Get the ring from Susan and give it to John.’ They understand syntax. What most other animals don’t have – and I think we can be pretty sure of this – is complex syntax. Complex syntax characterizes human language. Dolphins mayuse some simple syntax of their own in the wild. Some apes — especially bonobos — can learn to use human syntax. That means something very striking: it means that these creatures have the capacities to mentally manipulate parts of human syntax and respond appropriately … It would make no sense …if it didn’t use syntax with others of its species or with itself.”

p. 102 “The Masai do not eat wild meat; the wild ones are considered ‘God’s cattle’… the Maasai did not tolerate poachers from outside and frequently blew their cover. Thus the Maasai kept poaching in check and Amboseli’s elephants relatively safe – and relatively free to move – compared to elephants in many places. .. Wildlife populations shrank and shrivelled as Europeans took land and shot the animals. Then emerging European pressure to conserve wildlife focused on Maasai lands, which held the highest concentration of free-living animals in Kenya. … They believe that only humans and elephants have souls… Traditionally,when the Maasai encounter the bones of a human or an elephant, they place grass on them to signal respect. This they do with no other animals.”

p. 109 “In the 1960s, Iain Douglas-Hamilton found, in deep forest, a trail smoothly beaten down and at least 12 feet wide. It might have been thousands of years old. Elephant roads once connected the continent, water source to water source. When humans arose, we followed roads made by elephants across Africa, and when the time came for us to venture beyond, we probably traveled out, too, on elephant roads. Now most such ancient roads have fallen silent. Where elephants survive, they cling to islands of habitat cut off from other populations. For centuries now, they’ve been under siege. At the dawn of the Roman Empire, elephants thoroughly inhabited Africa. From Mediterranean shores to the Cape of Good Hope and from the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic, except for the bleakest lozenge of the Sahara, elephants trod… By a thousand years ago, elephants had already been wiped from North Africa. During the 1800s, southern Africa’s elephants were splintered and isolated… East Africa’s coastal elephants were swiped too… By 1900, the animal that never forgets was forgotten by most children born in West Africa. The 1970s and 80s brought the perfect storm of rising human densities, increasingly deadly weapons,escalating ivory prices, widening international markets, and worsening governments…. Since Roman times,humans have reduced Africa’s elephant population by perhaps 99 percent. Africa’s elephants are gone from 90 percent of the lands they roamed as recently as 1800, when, despite earlier losses, an estimated 26 million elephants still trod the continent. Now they number perhaps 400,000.”

p. 192 “wolf kills often attract ravens  by the dozens. Yet if humans put out elk carcasses, ravens generally ignore them. Ravens don’t trust humans. The memory of the poisoned carcasses must still be a lesson in the raven educational curriculum. In Yellowstone…they’ve taught themselves something new, how to unzip hikers’packs. The relative size of their forebrain – the ‘thinking part’ – in ravens andtheir relatives is significantly larger than in other birds, with the exception of some parrots.  A raven’s brain is the same size, relative to its bodyweight, as a chimpanzee’s.”

p. 224″we’re still uncovering dogs’ hidden abilities. At least one border collie responds to an unfamiliar word by choosing an unfamiliar object. Asked to ‘Get the dax!’ the dog apparently reasons along these lines: ‘There’s a ball here but she didn’t ask for a ball. ‘Dax’ must mean this other thing that I’ve never seen before’. Such skills of inference, scientists write, ‘have only been demonstrated previously for language learning in human children’.

“Even dogs have perceptual gaps though. Non-human great apes are good at inferring the location of hidden food by, for instance, noticing that one board is lying flat and another is tilted up, indicating that there is something under it. Dogs are terrible at that (that’s a visual clue; dogs excell at searching by smell. Ravens … are able to figure out which os several crossed strings is connected to the treat. Primates do such tasks easily. Dogs are terrible at this, too (again, it’s purely visual.)

p.270 “Years ago, while doing research that involved tagging migrating falcons, I lured the falcons to my net with tethered live starlings. The frightened starlings did not enjoy this; nor did I. So I put a stuffed starling, wings in flight position, behind the net. Of course, in nature, absolutely everyhing that looks like a bird and is covered with feathers and has a gleaming eye and moves up and down is a bird. Yet the stuffed bird never fooled one single falcon. They all sized it up, at a glance, as somehow not real and ignored it. That is impressive. Other animals are exceptionally good at identifying and reacting to predators, rivals and friends. They never act as if they believe that rivers or trees are inhabited by spirits who are watching. … other animals continually demonstrate their working knowledge that they live in a world brimming with other minds, as well as knowledge of those minds’ boundaries. Their understanding seems more acute, pragmatic, and, frankly, better than ours at distinguishing real from fake….Perhaps believing false things comes bundled with our peculair, oddly brilliant ability to envision what is not yet … No one has explained where creativity arises, but some human minds lurch along sparking new ideas like a train with a stuck wheel. It’s not rationality that’s uniquely human; it’s irrationality. It’s the crucial ability to envision what is not, and to pursue unreasonable ideas.”

p. 276 “Somehow the mirror test became the standard for determining whether an animal ‘has self-awareness’. That’s silly … A creature lacking self-concept would be unable to differentiate itself from anything … a mobile creature unable to differentiate itself from anything could hardly exist. I could not navigate the real world, escape, mate, or survive…. Maybe dogs know that the reflection in mirror is themselves and don’tmuch care. Dogs don’t mistake mirror images for other dogs; they don’t try to greet or attack them, as many birds do. Maybe dogs simply aren’t interested in examining themselves visually, because they’re so smell-oriented. … dogs can recognise images … recognise photographs of dogs, regardless of breed, as all being in the category ‘dogs’, distinct from other species.”

p.306 “Killer whales used to be thought of as one worldwide species. Not it appears that eight or so ‘types’, with differing food specialisations, are likely different species…. some of the largest undiscovered species on Earth have been hiding in plain sight.”

p. 311 “Killer whales maintain a social structure more complex than chimpanzees. And more peaceful. For all their heft and dental weaponry, when they find themselves in close proximity they either socialise or leave… Some native peoples do believe that they are people. Perhaps they intuit that killer whales’ stable, tiered, culturally self-defined groups parallel human society.”

p. 313 “At anywhere between one month and two years, bottlenose, Atlantic spotted, and other dolphins, develop their own distinctive, individual ‘signature whistles’. Signature whistles are a name they create for themselves. The sound is distinctive, and the dolphin doesn’t change it, ever. They use it to announce themselves. … Female bottlenose dolphins stay in their mothers’ groups for life. They develop signature whistles quite different from their mother’s, and thus are easy to tell apart as they travel together. Male youngsters – who will leave their birth group – develop signatures similar to moms’.

“Researchers have recently realised that various bat species, too, sing songs that include individualised calls. For instance, the European bat known as Nathusius’s pipistrelle has a song with several parts: it says, in human terms: ‘Hear ye, I am a Pipistrellus nathusii, specifically male 17. I am of this community, and we share a social identity; please land here.”

p. 338 “In 1979, Dr Diana Reiss starting working with a captive bottlenose dolphin named Circe. When Circe did the behavior thatReiss was looking for, Circe got verbal praise and some fish. When she didn’t she got a ‘time-out’, in which Reiss stepped back or turned away to indicate that Circe had not performed ‘correctly’… Circe didn’t like tail fins left on her mackerel, and by spitting out the pieces with tails, she essentially trained Reiss to cut them off. One day … Reiss absentmindedly gave Circe an untrimmed tail section. Circe waved her head from side to side they way we might indicate ‘No’, spat out the fish, swam to the other side of the pool, positioned herself upright, and just looked at Reiss for a short time. Then she came back. Circe the dolphin had given Reiss the human a time-out. … she had conceptualised the time-out as a way of communicating the idea ‘That’s not what I’ve asked for’ and used it to correct her human friend.”

p. 365 “whales leave us with questions so puzzling they are disturbing. Why would these beings declare unilateral peace with humans and not with smaller dolphins and seals, whom they attack and eat? Why would they single us out to give assistance? And why no grudge? Why, after the chronic harassment, capture, and disruption we’ve visited upno them, do they sho no learned and handed-down fears of humans such as wolves and ravens and even some dolphins seem to teach their young…. gigantic,mega-brained predators … who eat everything from sea otters to blue whales .. who wash seals off ice and curch porpoises and slurp swimming deer and moose – indeed seemingly any mammal they come across in the water, yet who have never so much as upended a single kayak and who appear -maybe – to bring lost dogs home.”

p. 373 “One foggy day, the biologist Maddalena Bearzi was taking notes on a familiar party of nine bottlenose dolphins who’d cleverly encircled a school of sardines near the Malibu pier. “Just after they began feeding,” she writes, “one of the dolphins in the group suddenly left the circle, swimming offshore at high speed. In less than an instant, the other dolphins left their prey to follow.” To abruptly stop feeding, that was pretty odd. Bearzi followed, too. “We were at least three miles offshore when the dolphins stopped suddenly, formed a large ring without exhibiting any specific behaviour.” That’s when Bearzi and her assistants spotted an inert human body with long, blond hair floating in the centre of the dolphin ring. “Her face was pale and her lips were blue as I pulled her fullly dressed and motionless body from the water.” Warmed with blankets and the researchers’ bodies, she began to respond. Later, in hospital, Bearzi learned that the 18-year-old had swum offshore to commit suicide. She survived. Such things are profound.”

Books Environmental politics History

Notes from An Oakwoods Almanac by Gerry Loose

p. 37 “the story is told of a fox trotting down the hillside here and along the road past the house over by. The man of the house sees the fox, bold as brass, and fearing for the hens, runs into the housefor maybe a gun, but comes out only with a hearth brush, which he lobs anyway at the fox.The fox, nonchalant, turns, throws a look, grabs the brush in his smirking teeth and trots on his way. When the farm is having a new shed built, two-three years later,a fallen trunk needs to be moved,in a den underneath, dry and in good condition, is the red hearth brush. I think it is in use to this day.”

p. 52 “the naming of animals can have unsettling effects. A ewe by here …. with black and white markings has only an unofficial descriptive name. To burst into the bar to announce’the badger’s had a lamb’ can be the occasion for some perplexed looks among tourists. Likewise, to encounter a man as it’s getting dark, slamming the door behind him and setting off down the road yelling ‘Whisky’ is something summer visitors find only too believable of west-Highland men. They don’t stop long enough to learn it’s his dog’s name.”

p.66 “Frances Pitt, writing in 1946, had seen the last nesting place of the sea eagle in Britain, the west cliffs of North Roe in Shetland. A pair nested there every year until 1908, when a local farmer shot the male. The female, a partial albino,returned each spring until 1918, after which she was seen no more….on Rum, sea eagles were reintroduced in 1975, breeding from 1985. … there’s still only about 200 individuals across the Small Isles, Mull and thereabouts.”

p.73 “At Ardoe, what I took to be a fish hatchery (it’s that too) turns out to be breeding sea urchines… The plan, with the aid of the millions of eggs these urchins produce, is to stock the waters around farmed salmon cages, where they will eat particles of fish food which escaped the salmon in such large quantities, that together with their excreta, make the seas murky for divers. The urchins will also be fed seaweed … bred specifically for the purpose. … the urchins(and seaweed) … can be eaten by us (and in harder times were) where mightthat leave the salmon and the farmers if we all took to eating them. How would Tesco market small purple spiny creatures and sea vegetables that would be pungent in a very short time from harvest?”

p. 89 “Juniper … In the 19th century it was so common here that sacks of berries were sent to market in Inverness and Abedeen, where they were bought by merchants to send to Holland to make their gin, jenever….This plant, to thrive, needs a certain lack of competition from heathers and grasses when seeds set; a controlled grazing provides that; but latterly the glens and corries have suffered from the sheep and are very much overgrazed, meaning the sheep (and deer) will eat the seedlings as soon as they appear. The fact that this has happened for more than one generation means that all the juniper is old and making little, if any seed. The future may only hold extinction; juniper might only be found in captivity – churchyards, botanic gardens.”

p.112 Brecht also wrote: You can’t write poems about trees when the woods are full of policemen.
Fences are absentee policemen.

p. 142 oak trees seem now to need a great deal of light if they are to grow from acorns which fall from trees onto the woodland floor. Sometimes around 1900 there was an accidental introduction into Europe of American oak mildew, which spread to every deciduous oak in Europe. While not deadly in itself, its effect is to add to the burden of oak saplings attempting to grow under a heavy canopy; the combination of mildrew and absence of light does mean death to the saplings … Acorns carried by jays or squirrels outside the woodland, buried and forgotten, grow percectly well. Oaklings now grow happily anywhere except in oakwoods.”

Books Environmental politics Science

Notes from The Soil, By N.K. Davis, N. Walker, D.F. Ball and A.H. Fitter

p. 49 A mycorrhiza is a root infested with a particular type of generally beneficially fungus … The most widespread and ancient type, although not the most familiar, bears the cumbersome name of vesicular-arbuscular mycorrhiza (VAM)… form no visible external structures, so it is impossible to tell if a plant has the association without microscopic examination of stained roots. VAM are formed by a small group of fungi… can only survive in association with the roots of a plant. Their principal distinction is the size of their spores, which are quite enormous by fungal standards – in one species of Gigaspora they are over half a millimetre across, compared to a typical figure for most fungi of around 1/100th of a mm. … most plants that can form VAM do so nuder natural conditions because the fungus appears to offer a solution to an otherwise sever problem – the acquisition of the essential nutrient phosphorus… occurs in soil as phosphate ions which are so sparingly soluble that they move only very slowly through the soil… normally less than a millimetre through soil in a day … Remarkably, fossils of one of the first land plants Rhynia, about 400 million years old, have fungi associated with their rhizomes that appear almost identical to modern VAM fundgi.

p. 51 The best-known nonVAM mycorrhiza “is the ectomycorrhizal or sheathing mycorrhiza, characteristic of many forest trees, especially the Pinacae (pines, spruces, larchs firs), the Betlaceae (birches, alders) and the Fagacae (oaks, beeches).. almost all are toadstools, members of the Basidiomycetes. Some are well known and distinctive, such as fly agaric which forms a mycorrhiza with birch…. Ectomycorrhizal roots are stubby and often fork dichotomously, giving dense clusters. Each root tip is surrounded by a sheath of tightly woven fungal hyphae and other hyphae radiate away from this int the soil… The fine fungal threads penetrate the soil, picking up the immobile phosphate ions and transporting them back to the sheath. Meanwhile the fungal hyphae beneath the sheath, which are in contact with the root cells, obtain sugar from them to feed the fungal tissues.”

p. 52 It does seem that extomycorrhizal trees are better able to colonize poor soils than VAM trees, and this is probably because the former get more benefit from the more active fungi. Of course there is a cost to this: the ectomycorrhizal tree probably has to give up more of the carbon that it fixes than does the VAM tree so the latter may be at an advantage on better soils.
Another remarkable feature of mycorrhizas that has recently come to light is their ability to link plants together. .. BY labelling trees with radioactive isotopes, it has been found that materials can pass from plant to plant by means of these links… there is intriguing evidence that seedlings establish in swards more readily if they become mycorrhizal than if they remain uninfected… If this turns out to be widespread and important phenomenon t may force us to rethink our view of plant communities: ecologists have in the past tended to view them as dominated by intense competition between plants; it may be there is more cooperation than we thought.”

p. 57 Soil fauna – flatworms, rotifers or wheel animalcules, hairy backs, land nemerteans, eelworms, earthworms, bear animalcules (Tardigrada), woodlice, terrestrial sand-hopppers, mites, spiders, millipedes, centipedes.

pp. 158 Like an unpredictable genie, pesticides have proved to be a somewhat mixed blessing, for their overall effects can seldom be fully predicted. There are few if any pesticides that are completely specific to their target organisms: discrimination between harmful and harmless organisms is rarely adequate.

Books Environmental politics History Science

Notes from The Running Hare: The Secret of Farmland by John Lewis-Stempel

p. 25 All farms used to have an untidy corner where machinery went to die, and where thistles and nettles grew. Intensive farming has all but done away with these little no-man’s-land nature reserves; modern farms are as obsessively tidy as showroom Hygena kitchens.”

p. 26 “The Romans, who may well have introduced the hare to Britain, were keen hare-eaters. … Pliny the Elder advocated a diet of hare as a means of increasing sexual attractiveness…. Pliny’s ther proposition concerning hares was almost entirely contradictory: he declared the animals were hermaphrodites – a belief which eventually got worked into Christianity. Hares are a recurrent motif in British church architecture, standing for reproduction without loss of virginity .. p105 As with many animals sacred to older religions, medieval Christians changed the hair into an animal f ill-omen, saying witches shape-shifted into hare form to suck cows dry. Sailors considered hares so unlucky they could not be mentioned at sea. And not just sailors; country folk refused to call the hare by its name. p. 227 Hares have large hearts to enable them to achieve such speed. Up to 1.8% of body weight, compared to 0.3% for a rabbit.”

p. 56 “how ploughmen used to tell whether the earth was warm enough to sow (they’d drop their trousers and sit on the ground: if the bare bottom could bare the earth it was warm enough.”

p. 84 To walk behind a horse and harrow is to bring one into accord with all the ages. .. In harrowing half an acre Willow [Shetland pony] and I walk five miles. No one except kings and clergy was fat in the time of the horse… I am happy harrowing, an emotional state which may, according to scientists at the University of Bristol, be enhanced by soil itself. A specific soil bacterium, Mycobacteriyum vaccae, activates a set of serotonin-releasing neurons in the dorsal raphe nucles of the brain, the same ones targeted by Prozac. You can get an effective dose of Mycobacterim by walking in the wild, or gardening. “
p. 126 “The first wildflowers in my personal ploughland … are scarlet pimpernel, and common field speedwell, both delicate bejewelled creepers over ground, one red, the other blue. Their seed has been harboured safe in the earth for years: common field speedwell can germinate after 20 years. … as common on roadside verges as it is in arable fields, and travellers in years gone by sewed the flower into the lining of their coats as a charm.”

p. 137 Corn marigold is as old as British agriculture itself, since it was probably brought here by the Neolithic people. Arable farmers, however, have never warmed to its sunny splendour, since the fleshy leaves impeded the harvest reaping. Henry II issued an ordinance against “a certain plant called Gold”, requiring tenants t uproot it, which was probably the earliest enactment demanding the destruction of a weed. In A Boke of Husbandry, 1523, John Fitzherbert included ‘Gouldes’ in his blacklist of plants that ‘doe muche harme’.”
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Books History Women's history

Notes from Women and Political Insurgency: France in the Mid-Nineteenth Century by David Barry

p. 51 “The evidence about women arrested in June 1848 confirms in detail what contemporary writers say in general terms about accessory roles, but also reveals that some female participants plated a determined and assertive role … Forty of the 118 women convicted on the list in register F 2585 are known to have plated what may be termed a primary role in the June Days: specifically they built barricades, appeared armed on them, fired on troops from barricades or windows, sounded the alarm by ringing the local steeple bell, and organised the defence of their own quarter, including inciting men to battle. Undoubtedly some of these militant women were acting on political motives, and a few had a past history of insurgency. A 76-year-old veteran of previous revolutions, Veuve Anne-Marie Henry, a retired dressmaker, led women in the fighting on the barricade of Rue des Trois-Couronnes in Belleville. Described by the historian Pierre Dominique as ‘an old virago’, Veuve Henry demanded arms at the Mairie de Belleville with the dry ‘Kill and assassinate’. She threatened to stab those who dismantled the barricades, exclaiming ‘There they are, the brigands who took down the barricade, kill them.’ And declared that, had she had her knife to hand, she would have plunged it into their stomachs. In particular, she designated the home of a chandler named Lhomme for attack. A wood-carver, Elisabeth Guibal, of the Faubourg St Antoine, who had been wonded in the shooting on the Boulevard des Capucines on 23 February, lost her claim to a state pension when it was discovered that during the June Days she had run around the streets carrying a sabre, smashing gunshop windows in order to steal arms. Arrested on 25 June, Guibal was denounced by her whole neighbourhood for being constantly at the barricades of the Faubourg St Antoine, and attempting to terrorize the tenants of the quarter into joining the rebellion by threatening to set their houses on fire. … Augstine Falaise, a young piano-teacher of the Place des Vosges, (then still referred to as the Place Royale) tore up a pavement in the Rue du Temple with her two cousins, in Febrary 1848, for which action they earned the nickname Depauvesues; in June the three women helped erect barricades in the Rue Jarente and Rue du Val Ste Catherine, their radical affiliations leading many later to testify against them. Another woman with a revolutionary past who may well have participated in the June Days before evading arrest and disappearing for two years was Louise Bretagne, the veteran of 1830 and 1832. In 1848 she was living in the Rue Mouffetard and working as a washerwoman and was reported to be very poor and frequently drunk.
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Books History

Notes from Ancestral Journeys: The Peopling of Europe from the First Venturers to the Vikings by Jean Manco

p. 129 China also gained domesticated sheep, horses and wheeled vehicles via this trail across the steppe. … A team investigated sheep DNA from four Bronze Age archaeological sites in nothern China. All but one of their camples carried mtDNA A, the most common today in all Chinese sheep and most Mongolian sheep. This haplogroup is found in the Near East and seems to have undergone an expansion around the time of domestication there. It is common in the North Caucasuses and middle Volga region. So it would appear that long-wool sheep arrived in the Far East in the Bronze Age via the nomads of the Eurasian steppe. Wool was to come a staple of nomadic life.”

p. 197 The estimate of the total number of Roman slaves over the 1,000 years of the rise and fall of the empire is over 100 million people. The majority were born into slavery.This limits the use of isotope analysis to identify the origins of Roman slaves, for it can only tell us whether an individual had travelled to the place where they were buried. An isotope study of the cemetery at the imperial estate of Vagnari in Iralty did tease out a few foreigners. Their mtDNA haploagroups were not particularly informative … the sample did contain at least one far-travelled individual from East Asia.”