Deliberate Encounters with the Visible World
Photographic Appendix (for those who have read the book).
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Donella Meadow's (a great soul, author of The Limits to Growth) last book review for Whole Earth Review was of Seeing Nature. Here is what she wrote.
This book sat on my desk unopened for a long time, because I mistook it for a la-la, lyrical, nature-appreciation exercise. When I ran out of everything else to read, I opened it - and got sucked in.
It is indeed a book written by a careful observer of nature, but what Krafel observes is pattern and dynamics and enduring sytems principles. Looking at a disappearing snow pile high on a mountain, he sees that in concentric circles around the snow the alpine plants vary from squashed and dormant (right where the snow is melting) to beginning to sprout (further out) to sending up leaves (still further out), putting out buds, blooming, setting seeds. In a glance, he sees a time series, a month or two of emergence from under the snow.
Hiking in the desert on a hot day, he goes though one quart of the gallon of water he brought along by noon. He wonders why he's hauling so much water. But the next quart is needed much sooner, and by the third quart he begins to worry whether he's brought enough. He begins to muse about time lags - in the heating of the Earth each day, and in the rate at which the body stores and expends water.
He watches sand fleas hopping about on a abeach and figures that's all sand fleas ever do. But one day he sits down among them. The hopping ceases. The fleas start digging burrows, and mating, and exhibiting all kinds of complicated behavior. "The reason I had seen the sand fleas always hopping whenever I approached them was because I was approaching them. I had mistakenly assumed that the only behavior I ever saw was the only behavior the sand fleas ever had."
My favorite story is Krafel's attempt to repair an eroding
field full of gullies. He tries to block the biggest gullies to hold back
water, which involves moving a lot of dirt, and every time it rains, his
efforts are quickly washed away. He wishes he had a bulldozer, but all
he has is a shovel, so he moves uphill and starts diverting the flow in
smaller gullies. He gets better at it, and discovers that he is dissipating
the flow, so the water no longer concentrates into the big gullies. It
is dispersed thoughtout the field and sinks in instead of running off.
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