38 Matching Annotations
  1. Sep 2014
    1. "the scholarly and scientific record is rapidly evolving to become a formalized web of content, in which any node must be able to be linked to any other node, with formal, typed relationships" (2)

  2. Mar 2014
    1. The attentive traveller in Egypt and Nubia cannot fail to notice many localities, generally of small extent, where the soil is rendered infertile by an excess of saline matter in its composition. In many cases, perhaps in all, these barren spots lie rather above the level usually flooded by the inundations of the Nile, and yet they exhibit traces of former cultivation.


    2. Thus, when human impatience rashly substitutes swiftly acting artificial contrivances for the slow methods by which nature drains the surface and superficial strata of a river basin, the original equilibrium is disturbed, the waters of the heavens are no longer stored up in the earth to be gradually given out again, but are hurried out of man's domain with wasteful haste; and while the inundations of the river are sudden and disastrous, its current, when the drains have run dry, is reduced to a rivulet, it ceases to supply the power to drive the machinery for which it was once amply sufficient, and scarcely even waters the herds that pasture upon its margin.[328]

      natural equilibrium vs. human drainage mechanisms

    3. The collecting of the waters of a considerable district into reservoirs, to be thence carried off by means of aqueducts, as, for example, in the forest of Belgrade, near Constantinople, deprives the grounds originally watered by the springs and rivulets of the necessary moisture, and reduces them to barrenness. Similar effects must have followed from the construction of the numerous aqueducts which supplied ancient Rome with such a profuse abundance of water. On the other hand, the filtration of water through the banks or walls of an aqueduct car[Pg 359]ried upon a high level across low ground, often injures the adjacent soil, and is prejudicial to the health of the neighboring population
    4. The substitution of steam engines for the feeble and uncertain action of windmills, in driving pumps, has much facilitated the removal of water from the polders and the draining of lakes, marshes, and shallow bays
    5. The ground buried by the drifting of the dunes appears to have been almost entirely of this latter character, and, upon the whole, there is no doubt that the soil added by human industry to the territory of the Netherlands, within the historical period, greatly exceeds in pecuniary value that which has fallen a prey to the waves during the same era.
    6. It is alleged that the same observation was made in France during the Crimean war, and that, in general, not ten per cent. of the powder manufactured on either side of the Atlantic is employed for military purposes. It is a fact not creditable to the moral sense of modern civilization, that very many of the most important improvements in machinery and the working of metals have originated in the necessities of war, and that man's highest ingenuity has been shown, and many of his most remarkable triumphs over natural forces achieved, in the contrivance of engines for the destruction of his fellow man. The military material employed by the first Napoleon has become, in less than two generations, nearly as obsolete as the sling and stone of the shepherd, and attack and defence now begin at distances to which, half a century ago, military reconnoissances hardly extended. Upon a partial view of the subject, the human race seems destined to become its own executioner—on the one hand, exhausting the capacity of the earth to furnish sustenance to her taskmaster; on the other, compensating diminished production by inventing more efficient methods of exterminating the consumer. But war develops great civil virtues, and brings into action a degree and kind of physical energy which seldom fails to awaken a new intellectual life in a people that achieves great moral and political results through great heroism and endurance and perseverance. Domestic corruption has destroyed more nations than foreign invasion, and a people is rarely conquered till it has deserved subjugation.
    7. The space I can devote to such operations will be better employed in describing the latter, and I content myself with the simple statement I have already made of the quantity of worthless and even pestilential land which has been rendered both productive and salubrious in Lincolnshire, by diking out the sea, and the rivers which traverse the fens of that country.

      "worthless and even pestilential land"

    8. The forces which produce these results are all in a considerable degree subject to control, or rather to direction and resistance, by human power, and it is in guiding and combating them that man has achieved some of his most remarkable and honorable conquests over nature. The triumphs in question, or what we generally call harbor and coast improvements, whether we estimate their value by the money and labor expended upon them, or by their bearing upon the interests of commerce and the arts of civilization, must take a very high rank among the great works of man, and they are fast assuming a magnitude greatly exceeding their former relative importance. The extension of commerce and of the military marine, and especially the introduction of vessels of increased burden and deeper draught of water, have imposed upon engineers tasks of a character which a century ago would have been pronounced, and, in fact, would have been impracticable; but necessity has stimulated an ingenuity which has contrived means of executing them, and which gives promise of yet greater performance in time to come.

      Noting relatively new importance of harbor and cost improvements due to maritime commerce

    9. The planter of a wood must be actuated by higher motives than those of an investment the profits of which consist in direct pecuniary gain to himself or even to his posterity; for if, in rare cases, an artificial forest may, in two or three generations, more than repay its original cost, still, in general, the value of its timber will not return the capital expended and the interest accrued.[304] But when we consider the immense collateral advantages derived from the presence, the terrible evils necessarily resulting from the destruction of the forest, both the preservation of existing woods, and the far more costly extension of them where they have been unduly reduced, are among the most obvious of the duties which this age owes to those that are to come after it. Especially is this obligation incumbent upon Americans. No civilized people profits so largely from the toils and sacrifices of its immediate predecessors as they; no generations have[Pg 328] ever sown so liberally, and, in their own persons, reaped so scanty a return, as the pioneers of Anglo-American social life. We can repay our debt to our noble forefathers only by a like magnanimity, by a like self-forgetting care for the moral and material interests of our own posterity.
    10. In fertile countries, like the United States, the foreign demand for animal and vegetable aliment, for cotton, and for tobacco, much enlarges the sphere of agricultural operations, and, of course, prompts further encroachments upon the forest. The commerce in these articles, therefore, constitutes in America a special cause of the destruction of the woods, which does not exist in the numerous states of the Old World that derive the raw material of their mechanical industry from distant lands, and import many articles of vegetable food or luxury which their own climates cannot advantageously produce.

      an international economy places extractive pressures on America's forests, a problem unique to the New World

    11. In America, economy in the consumption of fuel has been much promoted by the substitution of coal for wood, the general use of stoves both for wood and coal, and recently by the employment of anthracite in the furnaces of stationary and locomotive steam-engines. All the objections to the use of anthracite for this latter purpose appear to have been overcome, and the improvements in its combustion have been attended with a great pecuniary saving, and with much advantage to the preservation of the woods.
    12. Upon the whole, the importance of this class of vegetables, as physic or as food, is not such as to furnish a very telling popular argument for the conservation of the forest as a necessary means of their perpetuation. More potent remedial agents may supply their place in the materia medica, and an acre of grass land yields more nutriment for cattle than a range of a hundred acres of forest. But he whose sympathies with nature have taught him to feel that there is a fellowship between all God's creatures; to love the brilliant ore better than the dull ingot, iodic silver and crystallized red copper better than the shillings and the pennies forged from them by the coiner's cunning; a venerable oak tree than the brandy cask whose staves are split out from its heart wood; a bed of anemones, hepaticas, or wood violets than the leeks and onions which he may grow on the soil they have enriched and in the air they made fragrant—he who has enjoyed that special training of the heart and intellect which can be acquired only in the unviolated sanctuaries of nature, "where man is distant, but God is near"—will not rashly assert his right to extirpate a tribe of harmless vegetables, barely because their products neither tickle his palate nor fill his pocket; and his regret at the dwindling area of the forest solitude will be augmented by the reflection that the nurselings of the woodland perish with the pines, the oaks, and the beeches that sheltered them.[267]

      need to come back for a closer look at this passage: "where man is distant, but God is near"

    13. As an illustration of the mutual interdependence of the mechanic arts, I may mention that in Italy, where stone, brick, and plaster are almost the only materials used in architecture, and where the "hollow ware" kitchen implements are of copper or of clay, the ordinary tools for working wood are of a very inferior description, and the locust timber is found too hard for their temper. Southey informs us, in "Espriella's Letters," that when a small quantity of mahogany was brought to England, early in the last century, the cabinetmakers were unable to use it, from the defective temper of their tools, until the demand for furniture from the new wood compelled them to improve the quality of their implements. In America, the cheapness of wood long made it the preferable material for almost all purposes to which it could by any possibility be applied. The mechanical cutlery and artisans' tools of the United States are of admirable temper, finish, and convenience, and no wood is too hard, or otherwise too refractory, to be wrought with great facility, both by hand tools and by the multitude of ingenious machines which the Americans have invented for this purpose.

      Interesting note on the relationship between environment and human technical capacity, as well as the incentives that various materials provide for developing technology

    14. In the popular mind, the forest was associated with all the[Pg 284] abuses of feudalism, and the evils the peasantry had suffered from the legislation which protected both it and the game it sheltered, blinded them to the still greater physical mischiefs which its destruction was to entail upon them. No longer protected by law, the crown forests and those of the great lords were attacked with relentless fury, unscrupulously plundered and wantonly laid waste, and even the rights of property in small private woods were no longer respected.[262] Various absurd theories, some of which are not even yet exploded, were propagated with regard to the economical advantages of converting the forest into pasture and plough[Pg 285]land, its injurious effects upon climate, health, facility of internal communication, and the like. Thus resentful memory of the wrongs associated with the forest, popular ignorance, and the cupidity of speculators cunning enough to turn these circumstances to profitable account, combined to hasten the sacrifice of the remaining woods, and a waste was produced which hundreds of years and millions of treasure will hardly repair.

      forests in the popular mind, esp. post French Rev., as representing the "abuses of feudalism". Hard to recreate this sensibility in a modern day American culture that venerates the forests as a place of secular religious experience / nationality. I guess from a libertarian perspective the national parks could represent abuses of federal power. Or: not THAT long ago in the American West: 1970s - 80s Sagebrush Rebels: federal holdings ought to be transferred to state/local authority — read: mining, ranching, real estate interests

    15. The causes of forest waste thus far enumerated are more or less common to both continents; but in Europe extensive woods have, at different periods, been deliberately destroyed[Pg 279] by fire or the axe, because they afforded a retreat to enemies, robbers, and outlaws, and this practice is said to have been resorted to in the Mediterranean provinces of France as recently as the time of Napoleon I.[253] The severe and even sanguinary legislation, by which some of the governments of mediæval Europe, as well as of earlier ages, protected the woods, was dictated by a love of the chase, or the fear of a scarcity of fuel and timber. The laws of almost every European state more or less adequately secure the permanence of the forest; and I believe Spain is the only European land which has not made some public provision for the protection and restoration of the woods—the only country whose people systematically war upon the garden of God.[254]
    16. The escape and spread of camp fires, however, is the most devastating of all the causes of destruction that find their origin in the operations of the lumberman. The proportion of trees fit for industrial uses is small in all primitive woods. Only these fall before the forester's axe, but the fire destroys, indiscriminately, every age and every species of tree.[246] [Pg 273] While, then, without much injury to the younger growths, the native forest will bear several "cuttings over" in a generation—for the increasing value of lumber brings into use, every four or five years, a quality of timber which had been before rejected as unmarketable—a fire may render the declivity of a mountain unproductive for a century.[247]
    17. I do not mean to assert that all the rocky valleys of the Alps have been produced by the action of torrents resulting from the destruction of the forests. All the greater, and many of the smaller channels, by which that chain is drained, owe their origin to higher causes. They are primitive fissures, ascribable to disruption in upheaval or other geological convulsion, widened and scarped, and often even polished, so to speak, by the action of glaciers during the ice period, and but little changed in form by running water in later eras.[225]

      Sounds like he's been reading his Agassiz...

    18. "Important as are the causes of impoverishment already described, they are not to be compared to the consequences which have followed from the two inveterate evils of the Alpine provinces of France, the extension of clearing and the ravages of torrents. * * The most important result of this destruction is this: that the agricultural capital, or rather the ground itself—which, in a rapidly increasing degree, is daily swept away by the waters—is totally lost. Signs of unparalleled destitution are visible in all the mountain zone, and the solitudes of those districts are assuming an indescribable character of sterility and desolation.

      destruction of agricultural capital

    19. It has been often proposed that the State should declare the remaining forest the inalienable property of the commonwealth, but I believe the motive of the suggestion has originated rather in poetical than in economical views of the subject.
    20. The only legal provisions from which anything is to be hoped, are such as shall make it a matter of private advantage to the landholder to spare the trees upon his grounds, and promote the growth of the young wood. Something may be done by exempting standing forests from taxation, and by imposing taxes on wood felled for fuel or for timber, something by premiums or honorary distinctions for judicious management of the woods. It[Pg 234] would be difficult to induce governments, general or local, to make the necessary appropriations for such purposes, but there can be no doubt that it would be sound economy in the end.

      George Perkins Marsh's suggestions for taxes and policies to incentivize forest preservation

    21. It is certain that a desolation, like that which has overwhelmed many once beautiful and fertile regions of Europe, awaits an important part of the territory of the United States, and of other comparatively new countries over which European civilization is now extending its sway, unless prompt measures are taken to check the action of destructive causes already in operation. It is vain to expect that legislation can do anything effectual to arrest the progress of the evil in those countries, except so far as the state is still the proprietor of extensive forests. Woodlands which have passed into private hands will everywhere be managed, in spite of legal restrictions, upon the same economical principles as other possessions, and every proprietor will, as a general rule, fell his woods, unless he believes that it will be for his pecuniary interest to preserve them. Few of the new provinces which the last three centuries have brought under the control of the European race, would tolerate any interference by the law-making power with what they regard as the most sacred of civil rights—the right,[Pg 233] namely, of every man to do what he will with his own. In the Old World, even in France, whose people, of all European nations, love best to be governed and are least annoyed by bureaucratic supervision, law has been found impotent to prevent the destruction, or wasteful economy, of private forests; and in many of the mountainous departments of that country, man is at this moment so fast laying waste the face of the earth, that the most serious fears are entertained, not only of the depopulation of those districts, but of enormous mischiefs to the provinces contiguous to them.[214]

      George Perkins Marsh points to economic principles, paired with European emphasis on individual, civil rights, as providing little incentive for preserving forests.

    22. But the comparative exemption of the American people from the terrible calamities which the overflow of rivers has brought on some of the fairest portions of the Old World, is, in a still greater degree, to be ascribed to the fact that, with all our thoughtless improvidence, we have not yet bared all the sources of our streams, not yet overthrown all the barriers which nature has erected to restrain her own destructive energies. Let us be wise in time, and profit by the errors of our older brethren!
    23. In England, however, arboriculture, the planting and nursing of single trees, has, until recently, been better understood than sylviculture, the sowing and training of the forest. But this latter branch of rural improvement is now pursued on a very considerable scale, though, so far as I know, not by the National Government.

      arboriculture vs. sylviculture

    24. Trees, considered as organisms, produce in themselves, or in the air, a certain amount of heat, by absorbing and condensing atmospheric vapor, and they exert an opposite influence by absorbing water and exhaling it in the form of vapor; but there is still another mode by which their living processes may warm the air around them, independently of the thermometric effects of condensation and evaporation. The vital heat of a dozen persons raises the temperature of a room. If trees possess a specific temperature of their own, an organic power of generating heat, like that with which the warm-blooded animals are gifted, though by a different process, a[Pg 157] certain amount of weight is to be ascribed to this element, in estimating the action of the forest upon atmospheric temperature.

      What characterizes the inorganic vs. organic?

    25. Influence of the Forest, considered as Inorganic Matter, on Temperature. The evaporation of fluids, and the condensation and expansion of vapors and gases, are attended with changes of temperature; and the quantity of moisture which the air is capable of containing, and, of course, the evaporation, rise and fall with the thermometer. The hygroscopical and the thermoscopical conditions of the atmosphere are, therefore, inseparably connected as reciprocally dependent quantities, and neither can be fully discussed without taking notice of the other. But the forest, regarded purely as inorganic matter, and without reference to its living processes of absorption and exhalation of water and gases, has, as an absorbent, a radiator and a conductor of heat, and as a mere covering of the ground, an influence on the temperature of the air and the earth, which may be considered by itself.

      ! early theories on connection btwn. forest and atmospheric conditions: forest as conductor of heat and water

    26. To a being who instinctively finds the standard of all magnitudes in his own material frame, all objects exceeding his own dimensions are absolutely great, all falling short of them absolutely small.

      A general problem to be tackled in discussing big history. Could relate this back to Walter Alvarez's article on constructing timescales;

    27. The equation of animal and vegetable life is too complicated a problem for human intelligence to solve, and we can never know how wide a circle of disturbance we produce in the harmonies of nature when we throw the smallest pebble into the ocean of organic life.
    28. Fortunately the larger birds which are pursued for their flesh or for their feathers, and those the eggs of which are used as food, are, so far as we know the functions appointed to them by nature, not otherwise specially useful to man, and, therefore, their wholesale destruction is an economical evil only in the same sense in which all waste of productive capital is an evil. If it were possible to confine the consumption of game fowl to a number equal to the annual increase, the world would be a gainer, but not to the same extent as it would be by checking the wanton sacrifice of millions of the smaller[Pg 98] birds, which are of no real value as food, but which, as we have seen, render a most important service by battling, in our behalf, as well as in their own, against the countless legions of humming and of creeping things, with which the prolific powers of insect life would otherwise cover the earth.

      I guess George Perkins Marsh doesn't have too mystical a view of nature-in-itself, but largely values smaller birds insofar as they promote human interests by keeping the insect population in check.

      Hmm. but "evil in only the same sense in which all waste of productive capital is an evil" <-- probably still more important to a 19th century Protestant than it is to me in the 21st century? Ask Klein about this one.

    29. The modern increased facilities of transportation have brought distant markets within reach of the professional hunter, and thereby given a new impulse to his destructive propensities. Not only do all Great Britain and Ireland contribute to the supply of game for the British capital, but the canvas-back duck of the Potomac, and even the prairie hen from the basin of the Mississippi, may be found at the stalls of the London poulterer.

      Nice! Collapsing the notion of the local, tying species to the tastes of distant consumers. Ex. Parisian fashion trends and the beaver pelt cap. Reminds me of William Cronon's Chicago hinterlands in Nature's Metropolis (1991).

    30. The power of flight and the restless habits of the bird enable it to transport heavy seeds to far greater distances than[Pg 88] they could be carried by the wind. A swift-winged bird may drop cherry stones a thousand miles from the tree they grow on; a hawk, in tearing a pigeon, may scatter from its crop the still fresh rice it had swallowed at a distance of ten degrees of latitude,[73] and thus the occurrence of isolated plants in situations where their presence cannot otherwise well be explained, is easily accounted for.

      Compare Perkins Marsh's explanation of birds as seed carriers w/ Alexander von Humboldt's earlier questions about "plant migration" in Essay on the Geography of Plants (1807)

    31. Wild birds form of themselves a very conspicuous and interesting feature in the staffage, as painters call it, of the natural landscape, and they are important elements in the view we are taking of geography, whether we consider their immediate or their incidental influence. Birds affect vegetation directly by sowing seeds and by consuming them; they affect it indirectly by destroying insects injurious, or, in some cases, beneficial to vegetable life.

      Birds also within the purview of geography; G. P. M. distinguishes between an animal's direct and indirect effect on the environment

    32. But it is alleged that the reproductive power of the yew is exhausted, and that it can no longer be readily propagated by the natural sowing of its seeds, or by artificial methods. If further investigation and careful experiment should establish this fact, it will go far to show that a climatic change, of a character unfavorable to the growth of the yew, has really taken place in Germany, though not yet proved by instrumental observation, and the most probable cause of such change would be found in the diminution of the area covered by the forests.

      Along with scarcity due to demand, notes difficulties of propagating the yew tress. Contemporaries point to an "exhausted" reproductive power of the yew. G. P. M. hypothesizes a change in climate he can't explain yet.

    33. It was a narrow view of geography which confined that science to delineation of terrestrial surface and outline, and to description of the relative position and magnitude of land and water. In its improved form, it embraces not only the globe itself, but the living things which vegetate or move upon it, the varied influences they exert upon each other, the reciprocal action and reaction between them and the earth they inhabit.

      G. P. M. indicates a transition in the purview of geography. What brought about this shift from "terrestrial" concerns to include organic life?

    34. The ravages committed by man subvert the relations and destroy the balance which nature had established between her organized and her inorganic creations; and she avenges herself upon the intruder, by letting loose upon her defaced provinces destructive energies hitherto kept in check by organic forces destined to be his best auxiliaries, but which he has unwisely dispersed and driven from the field of action.

      Not altogether unlike an angry Old Testament God unleashing his wrath on humans transgressing limits...

    35. It has been maintained by authorities as high as any known to modern science, that the action of man upon nature, though greater in degree, does not differ in kind, from[Pg 42] that of wild animals.

      Consider: Chakrabarty on humanity post-Industrial Revolution constituting a geological force in "Climate of History: Four Theses" in Critical Inquiry, 2009.

    36. But with stationary life, or rather with the pastoral state, man at once commences an almost indiscriminate warfare upon all the forms of animal and vegetable existence around him, and as he advances in civilization, he gradually eradicates or transforms every spontaneous product of the soil he occupies.[26]

      Civilization as primarily constituted by a transgressive relationship with nature?

  3. Sep 2013
    1. The purpose of multitasking had gone from supporting multiple users on one computer to supporting multiple desires within one person at the same time. The former usage resolves conflicts among the many, while the latter can introduce internal conflict; when you think about it, trying to fulfill multiple desires at once is the opposite of concentration.

      Not all work streams are a matter of barreling from A to B. If producing the best work involves incorporating or comparing multiple points of view, then the introduction of this kind of technology is certainly an aid, not a hindrance.