Saturday, December 15, 2012

Bog Days II

(Continued from preceding posting)

 Another thing I spent quite a bit of time on at Bat Fork Bog was developing an understanding of how water worked in the Preserve.  This turned out to be a fascinating experience that involved the bog in times of drought and in times of flood Only two places on the Preserve retained water throughout the year.  We dug test ‘wells’ throughout the Preserve to find water during drought but, with the exception of the two locations noted, it was not there or it was down so far as to be useless in increasing habitat for the bunched arrowhead. In fact, water was mostly a feast or famine thing at the Preserve. When it was feast it was, literally, a movable feast because during those time of exceptionally heavy rainfall, water would flow into the bog from the surrounding uplands and adjacent Bat Fork Creek would overflow discharging hundreds of thousands of gallons into the shallow bowl of the Preserve and putting otherwise fairly dry land a meter or two underwater.  We published a preliminary hydrological study of the Preserve in Natural Areas Journal.  
Poison ivy was ubiquitous at the Preserve and I felt like I had that itching irritation going on some part of my body at least half of the time I sloshed around in those wetlands.  On the other hand, the Preserve had delightful surprises.  One of the most enjoyable of these surprises was the family of coyotes that lived in an embankment along one of Preserve boundaries.  These curious, melodic creatures would howl almost every time the siren at the nearby fire station cut loose.  They, especially the young ones, would also follow my travels around the Preserve, sometimes just moments behind me and I would see them poking their curious noses out of the thick grasses watching me.
Bat Fork Bog Preserve and other places like it may be small but they can offer exceptional opportunities for the study of specific aspects of the natural history of the vanishing wet places of our world.

Baugh, T. and R.E. Evans. 2011. Restoration of a Southern Appalachian Mountain Bog Phase II-Hydrology. Natural Areas Journal  31(1)501-504.
Baugh, T., R.E. Evans, C.J Stewart, and S. Artebane. 2011. Restoration of a Southern Appalachian Mountain Bog: Phase I. Reed canary grass removal. Ecological Restoration 9(1):13-14.

Baugh, T. and K. Schlosser. [In press]. Management considerations for the restoration of bunched arrowhead Sagittaria fasciulata. Natural Areas Journal [January 2013].

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Bog Days I

In 2010 I became the first Preserve Steward in the developing 
North Carolina Plant Conservation stewardship program.  All of my work for the program was undertaken in the increasingly rare mountain wetlands of Western North Carolina and a majority of it at Bat Fork Bog Plant Conservation Preserve, not far from my home in Henderson County.  My tenure at Bat Fork Bog was one of the more enjoyable field experiences I have had in a number of years.
Bat Fork Bog Plant Conservation Preserve is located in Henderson County in the mountains of Western North Carolina just outside of the County Seat of Hendersonville and only about 20 minutes from our home, Hidden Springs, on a rocky, forested ridge west of town.
 The Preserve is a remnant swamp-forest-bog complex that was purchased by the State of North Carolina in 1996 to protect several relatively rare plant species including a small, essentially nondescript, emergent species known as the bunched arrowhead (Sagittaria fasciculata).

The bog was, essentially, divided into two halves.  One half was forested and one half had been cleared of trees and shrubs and given over to a pasture-like area covered in reed canary grass.  Also, the reed canary grass had invaded an old canal, part of which hosted the only bunched arrowhead population on the Preserve.  Along with employees of the State of North Carolina, I spent a considerable amount of time during 2010 applying and monitoring an herbicide approved by EPA for application to aquatic sites.  

My first task was to become familiar with the Preserve.  I spent days wandering around the property rough-mapping distinguishable features and noting the location of plants of interest.   For a number of reasons, there had been very little interest in Bat Fork Bog over the preceding decade and most of that was focused on the one population of bunched arrowhead plants in the canal along the northern boundary of the Preserve. 

(Continued in the next post.)

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Ecofantasy II

(Continued from preceding post.)
The influence of Christianity is apparent from Quinn’s “fundamentally flawed” (is that original sin, Ishmael?) humanity to Berry’s new creation.  You can restate the thread developed in this thinking and see a humanity created in the image of a God, passing through cataclysm, transcending its sinful nature, and becoming part of a developing universal (or multiversal ) consciousness. 
The question has been raised so we have to ask, is it possible that humanity has arrived at a point in the human project so transformative that past patterns of behavior will be outgrown and we will find ourselves stepping toward a special era such as Berry’s Ecozoic?  These authors and their followers are  asking a lot of a species that has never demonstrated anything near this capacity and exhibits no substantial tendency to move in that direction now.  This is speculative thinking dosed liberally with hope and salted with a bit of bourgeois panic that has become a myth in its own time.  We are, however, what we demonstrably are.  We have a very long history of being us.  We need to encounter that reality and not hope for a mystical transformation.  If we’re going to survive what’s coming we’re going to have to start thinking about who we are and not who we wish we were. 

There is nothing particularly  magnificent or transcendent about humanity.  We are, however, a capable species and it is long past time that we apply those capabilities to reversing the environmental shambles we are creating.  Ecofantasy is not going to stop Ecocaust (1) , only difficult decisions and very hard work.
1. Ecocaust is a term reportedly coined by Mark Budz in his dystopian novel Clade.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Ecofantasy I

Those on the political Right, especially Christian conservatives, have for some time complained that various environmentalisms are actually religions.  They arrive at this conclusion through a variety of theological contortions that I have always rejected.  I still reject the contortions but a recent experience with an unfortunately mediocre and sadly outdated  university graduate seminar has caused me to wonder if the Christian radicals are correct about some of this. 
The seminar had a handful of required readings.  Included among those were Daniel Quinn’s Ishmael, David Suzuki’s The Sacred Balance, and Thomas Berry’s The Great Work. The students began with Quinn, then Suzuki, and finished with Berry.  All three authors stress their reliance on the thinking of aboriginal spiritual guides.  One didn’t have to look too hard to see white bourgeois ‘wannabees’ strutting around in loincloths, something that, although rejected by the mainline devotees of these gurus, has actually happened.
In terms of the seminar, if one applied a bit of deconstructive analysis a pattern began to reveal itself.  Quinn’s construct, the gorilla Ishmael, hints at a possibly transcendent humanity.  Suzuki  proposes a flawed but “magnificent” humanity.  Berry confirms that a magnificent, transcendent humanity is quite capable of creating a future history that will take us into a kinder, gentler, greener world.  Read in sequence, one author builds on another until we arrive at a proposed Great Work capable of implementing a new creation or a re-creation of the original creation. Where have we heard that story before? We have heard it from religious leaders throughout history. There is nothing new about this story.
(Continued in next post)

Monday, October 15, 2012

Life Is Tough II

(Continued from the preceding post)
Several subspecies of the Desert pupfish (Cyrpinodon nevadensis ssp.) are located in small spring-fed ponds in Ash Meadows. Some subspecies occupy pools about the size of a small living room and this may be the entire habitat for this fish…the only place on Earth where they live-out their precarious existence.  These pools may hold from several hundred to several thousand of these little fish.  It doesn’t take much to make most of these fish ‘happy;’ just a little water with the right chemistry and temperature range and they seem to do quite well.  I cannot tell how many times I have watched the little male pupfish in their blue nuptial colors claim a spot the size of a hand, a scoured-out depression made by a passing feral horse or burro, hold it against other males, attract a female with his colorful ‘dance,’ and spawn.  The entire genetic history of the species is replicated in a depression not much bigger than a small sauce pan, if that big.
I recently saw a television special on the habitat and wildlife surrounding the Chernobyl  nuclear reactor.  Depending on who you listen to, biodiversity is either recovering or on the wane in that radioactive area.   Regardless of what the data show, there does seem to be a robust population of some species. Humans are not allowed to spend much time in the area around Chernobyl.  Is it the absence of humans that makes for the presence of other species? It is ironic to think that biodiversity may be able to exist with exceptionally high radiation counts but not with the human population counts that existed before the reactor meltdown. 
For additional information on some of the species mentioned refer to:
Baugh, T. 1981. Observations on the courtship and reproduction of the desert pupfish (Cyprinodon macularius. American Currents 7(3):15-18.
Baugh, T.M. 1981. Adapting Salt Creek pupfish (Cyprinodon salinus) to fresh water. Western North American Naturalist 41(3).
Baugh, T.M. and J. E. Deacon. 1983. Daily and yearly movement of the Devil’s Hole pupfish Cyprinodon diabolis Wales in Devil’s Hole, Nevada. Great Basin Naturalist 43(4):592-596.
Baugh, T.M. and J.E. Deacon. 1983. Maintaining the Devil’s Hole pupfish Cyprinodon diabolis Wales in aquaria. J. Aquariculture and Aquatic Sciences 3(4) :73-75.
Baugh, T. M. 1984. In search of the Salt Creek pupfish. Part 1. Freshwater and Marine Aquarium 7 (5): 34-35, 44-45.Baugh, T. M. 1984. In search of the Salt Creek pupfish. Part2. Freshwater and Marine Aquarium  7 (6): 31-33, 54, 56.
Baugh, T.M. and J. E. Deacon. 1988. An evaluation of the role of refugia in conservation efforts for the Devil’s Hole pupfish Cyprinodon diabolis Wales. Zoo Biology 7:351-358.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Life is Tough I

There is more and more being said about the almost continuous discovery of other planets in our galaxy and the number of them that might be able to support life.  I have never doubted that there is life on other planets and have attributed the doubt of others to our human arrogance.  Life on Earth itself is tenacious and resilient.  We find life inhabiting near boiling water in many places, at depths with incredible pressure around the Black Smokers in the deep ocean canyons, and to the near airless regions at the outer edges of the atmosphere
Those of us who have worked in the more difficult and demanding climes around the world know about life’s resilience and tenacity.  Although I have been involved in conservation work with manatees, mangroves, and, most recently, mountain bogs, much of my early work in conservation biology was in the deserts of Utah, Nevada, and Southern California where the nights can be very cold, the days hot as blazes, and fresh water sources few and far between.  What was even more amazing to my friends and relatives was that I was working with fish; small, even tiny fish there in the deserts from the Salton Sea in Southern California, up through the springs and creeks of the mountain valleys of Northern Nevada and Utah, and down to the floor of Death Valley hundred feet below sea level. 
One of these systems, Salt Creek originates in a low range of hills on the floor of Death Valley.  This is the only place in the world that one finds the appropriately named Salt Creek pupfish (Cyprinodon salinus) in a spring-stream complex with water temperatures that reach over 112F in the summer, with salinities much in excess of sea water and with a spring that pumps enough Lithium out to keep a manic-depressive happy for a long time. 
(The comments will be continued in the next posting.)

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Chatting With Ishmael II

(Continued from the Preceding post)

Ishmael, you tell us that, “The world was given to man to turn into a paradise, but he has always screwed it up because he’s fundamentally flawed.”  I’m honestly not sure who did the giving.  In terms of flaws, you say that we humans are biological beings, but beings with a rather high concept of ourselves who consider ourselves an exception to the rules of life.  Actually, I think we can make a rather strong point that we are different.  Hold on now, hold on!  I didn’t say that we are an exception, but I think we can make a point for being different.  After all, your thoughts are in something called a book.  Books appear to be the exclusive artifact of humanity.  We could say the same thing about our use of computers or the roads I just took into town.  Is it possible, Ishmael, that we can do all of these things and still not be able to see where our environmentally destructive paths are taking us?  We demonstrate daily that it is indeed possible.

It was your hope that by communicating with selected students you could pass on your concerns and suggestions, and you have done that now for about two decades.  You’ll be happy to know that there has been some progress, at least in knowledge.  A handful of us now have a greater understanding of how global geological and atmospheric processes work.  But it is a small handful. The science of ecology continues to contribute to our understanding of the very intricate nature of life process on global, regional, and local levels.  But, unfortunately only a handful  understand these studies.  My own field, Conservation Biology, has begun to more carefully link human processes (e.g. population, economics, social systems, etc.) within ecosystems and bioregions. 

It is unlikely, however, even with greater knowledge, that we will be able to reverse the trends that continue degrading the quality of life on Earth and the extirpation of much of it.  You offer us hope that humanity holds the ability to become aware of and reverse the damage.  Aware, yes, but reverse, I’m afraid not.  My lifetime in conservation biology is a testimony to your warning that each of us “…contributes daily to the destruction of the world.”  I have watched that happen and I’m worried, very, very worried.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Chatting With Ishmael I

Several decades back I read a book by Daniel Quinn about a gorilla named Ishmael who was able to mind-talk with specially selected humans.  Ishmael’s sometimes  pedantic and Socratic chats were meant to describe the degraded environmental situation, reflect on why things had gotten that way, and suggest what we might do to improve the situation. I enjoyed the book then and encountered it again in late 2011.  I thought I would take this opportunity to have a chat with Ishmael.        

Ishmael my friend, it was good to talk with you again after all of these years.  I have to agree that we are, as you say, in a “disastrous cage of our own making” and once the door shuts on that cage we will pay a very heavy price. The scientific information indicates that we are already paying part of that price you mention.  During the first week of November 2011, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicted increasingly extreme weather, with its attendant destruction, injury and death, caused by planetary warming, due to human impacts.  

On the other side of the coin, however, we don't yet seem to have the ability to sterilize Earth.  Also, it does not appear as if the evolution of life may end due to humanity’s toxic actions.  The United Nations Environmental Program, however, reports, continued increases in the number of environmental refugees as land previously used for agriculture and grazing becomes seriously degraded.  Worldwide, habitat for other species (including your own) continues to be destroyed by population expansion (7 billion and counting) and human habitat continues to be degraded along with lifestyles.

(Continued in the next post)

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Color it Green II

(Continued from the preceding post.)

While many of my neighbors apply pounds of chemistry to kill the moss in their lawns, I spend time on my knees (something my very religious Mother would have encouraged) pulling the grass from the moss one small clump at a time.  Moss grows quite well under the gnarly branches of the red maple that shelters the front of our home at Hidden Springs from the often hot Southern sun.

There is something about the repetitive task sometimes associated with caring for the moss that is very meditative.  Our moss garden responds best to sweeping rather than raking. I use a broom with soft bristle to brush away the acorns and leaves that, at various times of the year, coat the surface of the moss.  Each sweep of the broom not only moves the leaves and nuts along but also restores the unity of the green velvety surface.   The rhythmic whisper as the bristles move back and forth across the surface of the moss is the background to a profound meditation…one whispered sweep of the broom at a time.

Perhaps someday Aesthetics will turn its attention to other natural beauties.  For example, the beauty of evolutionary biology as a species comes into being or the beauty of a natural system feeding the cycle of life and death…that would indeed be a substantial transdisciplinary leap into the connections that bind and liberate us all.


Shallow depressions in the sandy mud alongside woodland pond. 

Depressions made by a wandering raccoon, an animal so well adapted to feed on the clams buried beneath the surface of the sand that they fish by touch alone.


The clams strain minute plankton, clarifying the water, cleaning it until it sparkles--growing inside their shells until a passing raccoon senses their presence beneath the sand, and....


Plankton--tiny children of the sun using the basic elements of nature to create the stuff of life, to build their own living plant-selves from the sun and minerals that surround them in the water.


Standing -- on the verge of the glassy waters watching the connections unfold, watching the interconnectedness take place. 

Stepping -- carefully least I erase the trace of what has passed here...of the connections that have taken place here.

Wondering -- where I and mine belong in this web of life. 

Sensing -- in those shallow wanderings the elements of nature flowing through me.   

Knowing -- that someway, somehow I and mine have become separate from the primal patterns shifting and blending in the waters of the woodland pond. 

Understanding-- that the separation is only temporary, can only be temporary, is only illusion. 

Standing -- again-- in the shadows at the edge of the pond.

Watching--in my delight and in my fear.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Color it Green I

The Aesthetics of Environment

Things change and old words take on new meanings.  Green for example has come to mean many things other than a color…nature, environment, products, politics, and many more.  Here in the mountains of western North Carolina we have a lot of green.  The mountains are clothed in a cloak of green, the meadows, fields, and lawns are green and gold, and it is beautiful. We are told by philosophers that Aesthetics is the study of beauty.  Apparently, the root of the word is derived from the Greek terms for sensing or feeling or perceiving.  I sense and perceive that a healthy world is a green, fecund, and growing world...a beautiful world.  These mountains are beautiful but my professional work has taken me from the deserts of the American West and Southwest to the Gulf Coast and Caribbean and, now, to the Southern Appalachian Mountains and I have seen a great deal of beauty in all of these places.

In recent decades Aesthetics has expanded its scope to investigate the questions of beauty in nature.  We now talk about environmental aesthetics. What is it that we sense when we look at a beautiful river valley or the winding rows of corn stubble cut for silage in the fall, or a small park in a concrete and steel city?  Something happens. We can feel it, we can sense it.  Sometimes that feeling is very powerful and often it is shared. A lot of work is being done on what it is that we feel by neurophysiologists, psychologists, biochemists, and other specialized fields such as cognitive studies.  Perhaps, one day they will tell us all about it in the often sterile, reductionist words of science.  But there is nothing sterile about our individual or, very often, our collective response to these things. 

We are moved by nature to paint it, write poetry about it, to emulate it in our gardens. In terms of the issues addressed by conservation biology, why is it important what we find beautiful?  A number of observers have made the point that the kinds of natural settings we find beautiful often make a substantial difference when it comes to reaching that collective decision of what places we wish to set aside, to save, to restore or enhance and which to surrender to other, perhaps more consumptive uses.

We most often perceive of transformation to a green world in a mega-sense…for example the greening of government programs…corporate greening…and organizational transformation. But, in fact, critical transformation can only take place one person or even one action…one blade of grass, if you will, at a time.

(Continued in the next post.) 

(The literature on the aesthetics of environment and nature pertaining to the world  environmental crisis has grown considerably over the past several decades with numerous journal articles and books.  Over the years, The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism and Contemporary Aesthetics have published a number of articles on the subject. Arnold Berleant, Allen Carlson, John Fisher and others have contributed significantly.  Books addressing this subject include those by  J.B. Callicott, T. Morton, and others. I also suggest Lance Hosey's The Shape of Green: Aesthetics, Ecology, and Design)

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Journey Back in Time II

(Continued from the preceding post)
Writing and publishing has been so much a part of my life in conservation biology and has so much to do with developing a transdisciplinary perspective about things, I thought I might list a dozen or so publications from over the decades that had a particular interest for me. I’ve leaned more heavily here on natural history writing than scientific journal publications.
Baugh, T.M. 1972. The muskrat - Nature’s mini-engineer. High Country News 4(24):10.
Baugh, T.M. 1973. The lonely land. Nevada Outdoors 7(3):l0-12.
Baugh, T. Michael. 1975. Land at river’s end. Pacific Search 9(9):44-45.
Baugh, T. 1978. Beyond the seventh dune. Pacific Discovery 31(3):16-21.
The Naturalist series published by Freshwater and Marine Aquarium Magazine were well received and represented very good natural history.
Baugh, T. 1981. Southern comfort: A naturalist on the Gulf Coast, Part I. Freshwater and Marine Aquarium Magazine 4(11):40-43, 69. (The entire five-part series.)
Baugh, T.M. 1985. The edge of the sea, Part I: Rocky shores. Freshwater and Marine Aquarium Magazine 8(9):68-72. (The entire eight-part series.)
In the 1980’s I published fairly frequently in the scientific literature and the following manuscripts made some contribution to the information on the conservation biology of threatened and endangered species.
Baugh, T.M. and James E. Deacon. 1983. Daily and yearly movement of the Devil’s Hole pupfish Cyprinodon diabolis Wales in Devil’s Hole, Nevada. Great Basin Naturalist 43(4):592-596.
Baugh, T.M., J.A. Valade, and B. Zootsma. 1988. Manatee use of Spartina alterniflora in Cumberland Sound. J. Marine Mammal Science 5(10):26-27.
Magazines stop the presses, insitutes close their doors, and things get lost in the shuffle.  With that in mind, I want to briefly slide into the most recent past decades and the present so that these things don't get lost.

During my fellowship with the Green Institute, I began to publish online at the Institute’s web site.  Online publication was a new departure for me feeling as I did that if it wasn’t on paper, it wasn’t published.  Some of the Green Institute material is archived and some has been offered in this blog in an abbreviated version.  Several not offered on the blog are noted as follows:
Baugh, Tom. 2006. A politics of plague. The Green Institute.

Baugh, T. 2007. Ecocaust and ecological wisdom. The Green Institute.

More recently, among many other things, I have been working on the restoration of a Southern Appalachian Mountain Bog. The manuscripts noted here reflect my continuingly active field and research orientation.
Baugh, T. R.E. Evans, C.J. Steward, and S. Artabane. 2011. Restoration of a Southern Appalachian Mountain Bog: Phase I. Reed Canary Grass Removal. Ecological Restoration 29(1&2): 13-14.
Baugh, T. and R.E. Evans. 2011. Restoration of a Southern Appalachian Mountain Bog:Phase II-Hydrology. Natural Areas Journal 31(1):88-91.
Returning to the decade beginning in 1971 and into the mid-1980's, in no way can the above fully represent my work during this period, But it does skim the surface of what was an enjoyable and challenging time…filled with high professional productivity and adventures throughout the American West, Southwest, Rocky Mountains, the Gulf Coast, and out into the Caribbean. 

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Journey Back in Time I

How about a little time travel?  In looking back over the past year’s postings I see that I have done myself, and my mentors over the earlier years of my professional life a disservice and lopped-off a decade of creativity and productivity…and it was a good decade.  I tend to lump all of my work under the definition of conservation biology, and most of it was.  But from the early 1970’s through the early 1980’s much of that work was represented by science education and natural history explorations and writings. 
Over this period my bibliography shows that I published several hundred natural history articles beginning with Wyoming Wildlife Through the Lens in High Country News in 1971.  Unfortunately, this is also the time just before humanity stepped off into cyperspace and much of this material doesn’t seem to be archived anywhere.  (Perhaps life didn’t exist before the WEB?).
Some of this was pipeline time, a period of smoke-filled flights, chock-full of oil field humanity, flying back and forth from Oregon to Alaska. During this decade, as part of my US federal agency work, I was instrumental in publishing the very popular brochure Land at River’s End: The Copper River Delta that was later made into a natural history program for television.  I was also deeply involved in a publication called the Forester’s Almanac.

This is also the time of expeditions into what were then still some very remote corners of the American West. Toward the end of this period my fieldwork began to be reported not just in popular magazines but more and more in the technical and scientific literature such as the Western Naturalist, Great Basin Naturalist, and Southwest Naturalist.
Much of my early work was with small fish, many of them called killifish, and the American Killifish Association lists a dozen and half published articles on this subject alone during the latter part of this period from 1979 into the early 1980’s (see below). But not all of the articles dealt with fish. One example would be my study of the dune lakes systems along the Oregon coast that begins “Back beyond the seventh dune…” and was published in Pacific Discovery magazine.
During this time I wandered from Southern California’s Salton Sea, to pocket-sized lagoons on the California coast, to high mountain valleys in Nevada where, as one of my field partners said, it was so cold it felt like there was “…nothing between us and the north pole but a two-strand barbed wire fence.”  I worked with strangely-name species such as pupfish, chub, and mummichog.
My contributions to the popular literature were good work. But it was my increasing contributions to the scientific literature that got me thinking and that sent me from my federal job back to Weber State University in Ogden, Utah for a second undergraduate degree, this one in Zoology. From there it was on to a graduate student stipend in the laboratory of Professor James E. Deacon at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and, into what we call these days, conservation biology. Jim has become a life-long friend.

Some References at (

Baugh, T. M. 1979. In search of the desert pupfish: Part One. Freshwater and
Marine Aquarium (FAMA) 2 (9): 44-45, 63, color photos; Part Two. 2 (10): 35, 82-83.
Baugh, T. M. 1981a. Adapting Salt Creek pupfish (Cyprinodon salinus) to fresh water.
The Great Basin Naturalist 41 (3): 341-342.
Baugh, T. M. 1981b. Apparent cleaning behavior of two killifishes. Journal of the American
Killifish Association 14 (5): 170-171.
Baugh, T. M. 1981c. The aquarium maintenance requirements of 4 species of genus Fundulus.     
The Journal of Aquariculture 2 (3): 73-77.
Baugh, T. M. 1981d,e. Southern Comfort, a naturalist on the Gulf Coast, Part One.
 Freshwater and Marine Aquarium (FAMA) 4 (11): 40-43, 69, photos; Part Two. 4 (12): 15-18.
Baugh, T. M. 1982a,b,c. Southern Comfort, a naturalist on the Gulf Coast, Part Three.
Freshwater and Marine Aquarium (FAMA) 5 (1): 16-18, photos; Part Four. 5 (2): 18-20, 84-87, photos; Part Five. 5 (3): 14-17, 76-79.
Baugh, T. M. 1983a,b. In search of Crenichthys nevadae. Part I. Freshwater and Marine
Aquarium (FAMA) 6 (10): 16-17, 77-78, photos; Part II. 6 (11): 14-16.
Baugh, T. M. 1984a,b. In search of the Salt Creek pupfish. Part 1. Freshwater and Marine
quarium (FAMA) 7 (5): 34-35, 44-45, color photos; Part 2. 7 (6): 31-33, 54.
Baugh, T. M. and J. E. Deacon. 1983a. Daily and yearly movement of the Devil's Hole pupfish
Cyprinodon diabolis Wales in Devil's Hole, Nevada. The Great Basin Naturalist
43 (4): 592-596, 5 figs.
Baugh, T. M. and J. E. Deacon. 1983b. Maintaining the Devil’s Hole pupfish Cyprinodon
Diabolis Wales in aquaria. Journal of Aquariculture and Aquatic Sciences 3 (4): 73-75.
Baugh, T. M. and J. E. Deacon. 1983c. The most endangered pupfish. Freshwater and Marine
Aquarium 6 (6): 22-26, 78-79, 12.
Baugh, T. M. and J. E. Deacon. 1988. Evaluation of the role of refugia in conservation efforts
for the Devils Hole pupfish, Cyprinodon diabolis Wales. Zoo Biology 7 (4): 351-358.
Baugh, T. M., J. E. Deacon, and D. Withers. 1985. Conservation efforts with the Hiko White
 River Springfish Crenichthys baileyi grandis (Williams and Wilde). Journal of
Aquariculture & Aquatic Sciences 4 (3): 49-53, 3 figs.
Baugh, T. M., et al. 1986. New distributional records for Cyprinodon nevadensis mionectes,
an endangered pupfish from Ash Meadows, Nye County, Nevada. Southwestern
Naturalist 31 (4): 544-546.
Baugh, T. M., J. E. Deacon, and P. Fitzpatrick. 1988. Reproduction and growth of the Pahrump
poolfish (Empetrichthys latos latos Miller) in the laboratory and nature. Journal of
Aquariculture & Aquatic Sciences 5 (1): 1-5, 6 tables.

(Continued in the next post.)

Friday, June 15, 2012

Thinking About Tomorrow II

(Continued from the preceding post.)
In general, Christian Reconstructionism calls on adherents to create an Earth ready to receive the return of the Christ and the redemption of those found, by this theology, to be deserving of redemption.  How does one do this? How does one go about ‘reconstructing’ those areas of the human experience dominated by sin? There are a number of different approaches to this. One of primary concern to those involved in Earth care is Dominionism supported by Dominion Theology, an expression of Reconstructionism (often used as synonyms). This theology is based on Genesis 1:26 of the Hebrew Scripture (Old Testament) that reads “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”
Reconstructionist theologians and adherents are increasingly active on the social and political fronts.  They feel called by God to establish a utopia on Earth. This utopia will be based on a strict, literal interpretation of biblical law as portrayed in Hebrew Scripture and interpreted by Reconstructionist theologians. The reconstruction of biblical law will apply to all aspects of life, and that includes how humanity relates to biodiversity and the environment. The thought behind the establishment of this utopia is referred to as postmillenialism. This utopia might look different to a Reconstructionist than to those who do not follow these theologies.
It is hard for those not caught up in the End Time myth to realize how potentially influential these theologians and their millions of adherents are. However, today, there are millions of Christian evangelicals in the United States. The Reconstructionists among these Christians are more powerful than one might think and potentially dangerous to democratic forms of government, the environment, and world peace.
Millions of people throughout the United States and millions more throughout the world are adherents of a theology that not only expects apocalypse as a component of their own metaphysical salvation, but actively encourages apocalypse and may be working to see that it happens. These adherents live work, and play in most sectors of US society including the military, Congress and the Executive Branch. They feel called by their deity to bring about the End Time defined in their mythology and theology. This calling may well include widespread destruction of habitat and biodiversity, through political manipulation, if not directly.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Thinking About Tomorrow I

Christian belief conceives of time as linear. There is a beginning and there is an end. How one looks at the ending depends greatly where one is located under the sacred canopy of Christianity. These beliefs may have significant impacts on the conservation and preservation of biodiversity.  In terms of Christian eschatology, it is the ending, or actually the period of time just before the ending that most concerns us when we think of human responsibility for caring for Earth and life on Earth. How one perceives the end of history and when one perceives that happening, is where the concern lies when this aspect of theology intersects with issues relating to ecosystem health and the conservation and perpetuation of biodiversity.
There are about 77 million fundamentalist Christians (biblical literalists) in the United States. Between 20 million and 30 million adult Americans follow dispensational theologies, while a much smaller number of Dispensationalists are in the Reconstructionist (or Dominionist) camp. While the dispensationalist might be willing to wait for the Apocalypse, Rapture and other projected End Times events, the Reconstructionists are motivated by theologies that require that they prepare the way for the return of the Christ. These adherents are socially, culturally, and politically active and influential in the development and application of current US government policy and laws.
When encountering Christianity, conservation biology and efforts to preserve habitat and biodiversity do not usually find themselves in conflict. However, the more ‘fundamental’ the adherent the more likely one is to stress apocalypse and eschaton in one’s beliefs. And it is here that we run into conflict.
While there are millions of evangelical Christians who are active in their concern for earth care, millions more, especially in the fundamentalist camps, actively oppose such support.  According to many of them, humanity is approaching the End Time, God’s end game. The core of this theology is a subset of Dispensational theology often referred to as Christian Reconstructionism. 
(Continued in the next post.)
(For a fully referenced version of these thoughts go to and scroll down until Interdisciplinary Institute appears on the left and click.)

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Cracks in the Ice II

(Continued from the preceding post.)

‘Better Late Than Never’

Would no response from religion have been better than being late and short?  No. The response has, at least, provided some foundation for a potential recovery following collapse. Has enough of a foundation been laid to carry a green theme through the coming collapse and into an undefinable future? That is hard to tell. Authoritarian governments have in the past incorporated strong ‘green’ themes. This is not to imply that environmental advocates could work easily with authoritarian, even fascist governments as collapse progresses. In the US, the situation becomes even more complex because of religion. Having watched the situation during the Bush Administration of 2000-2008, and currently, it is not stretching the point to perceive of an increasingly close alignment between rightist governments and the Christian Right. With one exception, it is hard to see a green component in such a comingling. The exception might be the increasing vilification and demonization of environmental advocates, much as has been done to ethnic and religious groups by rightist advocates. As some of the environmental tipping points actually tip we might also see a tendency to blame the messenger.

All governments require control. While consent of the governed might be the basis of democratic government, command and control is the essence of authoritarian governments and the hidden heart of organized, institutional religion. In the US the years from 2000-20008 have demonstrated how quickly the electorate will surrender its civil rights in time of threat and the period since then has demonstrated how easily the Congress can be neutered. In addition, the rage of those attracted to the jack-boot set will grow as the global food crisis deepens, the economic situation worsens, and job loss continues. In the US, this rage may, as it has with other authoritarian governments at other times, provide ready recruits for those movements that tend to support the political right. Energized by methamphetamine, the sacrament of the poor ‘heartlander’ and Southerner (although not limited to these regions) and whipped into a hate-filled fury by those thousands of preachers whose messages are broadcast nightly from hundreds of radio stations scattered across the United States, there is little question that conditions are rapidly becoming such that these movements may find fertile ground for rapid recruitment and development.

This note is a comment on the belated response of religions and theologies to Earth in Crisis. The work undertaken in the field of ecotheology should, however, indeed must continue. As an institution, religion has many tragic failings but its response to the world environmental crisis isn’t one of them, it is simply late; no more belated, however, than any other institution of society and a bit ahead of some. Depending on the length and ‘depth’ of societal collapse, the work in ecotheology, if it survives, may provide a partial foundation for recovery. We have all been a day late and a dollar short and now we will pay the price. How much we can salvage for the future remains the question. In his book Black Mass, author Ronald Wright tells us that “…this new century will not grow very old before we enter an age of chaos and collapse that will dwarf all the dark ages in our past.”

Now, however…

the world waits
for events to

for cities to

for plagues to

(For a fully referenced paper on this subject please access scroll down the left side of the page to the note on the Interdisciplinary Initiative and click.)

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Cracks in the Ice I

From the mid-1990's to around 2004, I had the opportunity to continue my work in conservation biology while studying religion and theology at Emory's Candler School of Theology and Columbia Theological Seminary,two fine schools in the Atlanta area.  I also spent quite a bit of time flyinjg back and forth to the San Francisco Bay area to pursue studies in the Wisdom Traditions at Wisdom University.  These studies, combined with my fellowship at the Green Institute led to a series of articles on environment, religion, theology, and eschatology. For a fully referenced papers on this subject please access, scroll down the left side of the page to the note on the Interdisciplinary Initiative and click.

As a child, in an American blue collar family I was exposed to the frequent use of common, often colorful sayings. Two that I remember establish the dimensions of the impact of the response of religions and theologies to Earth in crisis. Someone was either ‘a day late and a dollar short,’ or ‘better late than never’ (it seems that both frequently applied to me, especially during my teens). These two sayings appear to set the boundaries of the response of religions and theologies to environmental crisis and establish the polar tensions acting on those responses.

In 1967 historian Lynn White published a much acclaimed and much abused article stating, essentially, that the roots of our ‘ecologic crisis’ were found in the fundamentally exploitive nature of Judeo-Christian theology. I did a project listing the number of titles dealing with what we might now call ‘ecological theology’ or ‘ecotheology.’ I used White’s article as a starting point in time. Regardless of what position one may take to White’s claim, and the fact is that many took positions, the dialogue on this subject became rich, and the citations rapidly grew in number. The dialogue spawned a number of manuscripts and articles ranging from stern disavowal to reluctant acceptance of White’s thesis, including a number of acquiescent mea culpa’s.

‘A Day Late and a Dollar Short’

The academic speculation gave way to praxis, the doing of things, as church after church launched Earth-friendly projects to reduce energy consumption, replace Styrofoam cups with pottery, xeriscape the church grounds, and dozens of other well-intended eco-friendly actions. Stiffly resistant denominational hierarchies slowly began, in the light of new information about Earth in crisis and pressure from the pews, to develop and publish denominational positions on environmental issues. Even the usually resistant Roman Curia weighed-in to tell the world that pollution is a sin. Religious groups now study ‘God’s Gift of Water’ and ‘Protecting and Healing Rivers,’ under the guidance of Psalm 24:1 (KJV) and other guidance from religious teachings.

Academics, even less likely to change than the Roman Curia began, sometimes painfully, to develop theological foundations from ancient texts. These newly discovered threads were sometimes woven together with newly discovered ‘truths’ into social and cultural fabrics such as ecofeminism. Everybody (except the most conservative Christians) seemed to buy-in and stake out turf and conservative religionists have also lately started to come around. As I have said in a previous posting, “The growing interest in the relationship between religion and ecology is nowhere more apparent than the recent efforts of Harvard University's Center for the Study of World Religions to codify these relationships.” The project has produced a number of books on the subject in what is called the ‘Religion and Ecology’ series. Educational institutions offer study in the field of religion and nature. The American Academy of Religion’s biannual meetings have very well-attended sections that deal with papers in ecological theology. The religious focus on the environment appears to be an irreversible theme of theological inquiry and religious life.

All of this time, however, Earth has been warming and people are talking of ‘tipping points.’ The ice is cracking and melting. Even the most optimistic scientific prognosticator is less and less optimistic with each day that passes without significant action from the governments of the world. An increasingly strong case can now be made for catastrophes of such magnitude that the collapse of societies may be anticipated. It is increasingly apparent that for all that we have hoped, for all the new paradigms and the carefully (and sometimes carelessly) woven theologies, it may be too late.

I explored this concern in a note titled ‘Creation Spirituality as a Post-Apocalyptic Paradigm’ available online at In the article I pointed out that we live in possibly fatally challenging times in which:

“Three factors have come together to fashion, in our time, a crisis with potentially staggering dimensions. For the first time in history our weapons have grown in number and capacity so that humanity is now capable of near total destruction. The second factor of grave concern is the rapidly changing environmental condition of Earth. Humanity has so severely damaged natural systems that recovery is most likely impossible. We are now only on the outer edge of an ecocaust of staggering proportions. The Ecozoic Era had a relatively gentle birth as a concept in the latter part of the last century but it will have a very difficult adolescence in the coming Dark Age. The third factor in this tragic trinity is religion.”

(Continued in the next post.)