By Mary W Maxwell
Cancel your trip, if you have signed up for one of those expensive private Space tours. Get your feet back on the ground. All is well here on the beautiful planet. No need to leave. Let’s review a few hot books.
Hands and Feet — and Smarts — Thanks to Trees
- Here is what Alfred Romer had to say in a very hot book in 1926, The Nature of the World and of Man:
“Walking on all fours along the branches as the earliest primates did, and jumping from limb to limb, requires agility and coordination and this in itself postulates a greater ability to learn. [Wow, wouldn’t it be nice if we could learn today.]
“In most true arboreal species the hold on the tree is accomplished by digging sharp claws into the bark. Primates, however, grasp the branch by the four fingers and thumb or the four smaller toes and the big toe. In the lower primates the grasping power is more true of the big toe. A newborn human infant still shows traces of this primitive arboreal character.”
(Makes you want to go out and have a baby, just to check on that).
Aboriginal Ecological Ethics
- This is from Reg Morrison’s The Spirit in the Gene (1999):
“Since the survival of hunter-gatherers was wholly dependent on the ecological health of the tribal territory, their belief system also incorporated a complex code of behavior that included respect for the environment and practical prescriptions for conservation.
“Australia’s Aborigines epitomized these principles. Spirituality and mysticism governed every aspect of their lives. For the past 10,000 arid years especially, their survival depended on adhering rigidly to well-proven, mystically sanctioned behavior in their dealings with each other and with the fragile ecology.”
(Morrison added: “In this way our gods have always served as the high-profile executive arm of our shrewd but secretive board of genetic directors.”)
Give Me Your Tired Soil, Your Poor Soil, Yearning To Breathe Free…
- Here is a passage from Charles Walters (founder of Acres USA which has a good website): Fertility from the Ocean Deep (2005), page 69:
“In 1963, Maynard Murray looked at human population areas that had low cancer rates. Such areas always had soils rich in multiple trace nutrients. (The study was made before the debauchery of agriculture was complete, before most vegetables were grown in four states for the entire US).
“The old Albrecht formula reserved only 5% of the soil colloid for trace nutrients. Physician Maynard Murray found that he could use ocean solids to bypass deficient soil. Rich gravel could anchor the plants. It would be Century 21 before even a token number of farmers took seriously the absence of trace minerals in the soil.
“Every organic substance has to have a carbon atom attached. This is the supreme function of the plant. It manufactures organics. Man cannot do it. Plants will take that trace and install a carbon atom with it so the human being can intake inorganic food…. Carbon is, of course, disposed of when we exhale, returning to plants. Plants in turn dispose of their oxygen in order to capture the atom.”
(Maybe don’t need a carbon tax?)
What a Wise Thrush!
- From Robert Browning’s Home Thoughts, from Abroad
Oh to be in England,
Now that April’s there,
And whoever wakes in England
Sees, some morning, unaware,
That the lowest boughs and the brushwood sheaf
Round the elm-tree bole are in tiny leaf .…
And after April, when May follows,
And the whitethroat builds, and all the swallows! …
That’s the wise thrush; he sings each song twice over,
Lest you should think he never could recapture
The first fine careless rapture!
Welcome to My Household
- The next gem is from a multi-gemmer, Lewis Thomas, MD, in The Fragile Species (1992), page 144:
“The oldest fossil record indicating any form of life on earth is in rocks assuredly dated 3.7 billion years old. It was not until 600 million years ago that macroscopic forms were large enough to leave fossils visible to the naked eye.
“Fossilized stromatolites are similar to today’s algal mats. These contain live colonies – anaerobes living off sulfur, others using carbon and producing methane, other species living off the methane and producing new organic nutrients for the next layer up – blue-green algae (now called cyanobacteria) living off the sun and producing oxygen — all housed in what can only be viewed as an immense household.
“There seems to be no argument about two outstanding features of the earliest forms of bacteria. They must all have been anaerobes, in view of the firm geological evidence that the earth’s early atmosphere contained little or no oxygen, and they must have lived off the ground, literally, for lack of any other organic matter around them (such as trees) except themselves.”
(Our atmosphere with no oxygen! Coming again soon?)
Paramagnetism Is Not Woo-woo Stuff
- You will want to obtain a copy of Philip Callahan’s Paramagnetism: Rediscovering Nature’s Secret Force of Growth:
“We have all heard of the ‘Halls of Ivy.’ Why does ivy love old red-bricked walls? Why do weeds grow out of deserted concrete roads or plants from old stone castles? It is the paramagnetic force in brick, stone, and concrete that stimulates such growth. Plants do not grow in diamagnetic limestone walls.
“If crops grow on soil that is well aerated, composted, and filled with those little critters that stabilize it but fail to grow well, attracting insects and disease, then what is missing in such soil is probably the mysterious magnetic force called paramagnetism.
“Excellent soil comes from paramagnetic volcanic soil. All really good soil is volcanic. This force can be added to soil, where it has eroded away, by spreading ground-up paramagnetic rock such as basalt, or granite, into the soil.”
Can a Tree Feel Love?
- Sir Jagadis Chandra Bose of India published, in 1906, Plant Response a Means of Physiological Investigation. Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird wrote about Bose in The Secret Life of Plants (1973), page 93:
“In 1917 a knighthood was bestowed on Bose. Even more gratifying to him was the opening of his own Institute for Research in Calcutta. He said any discovery made there would become public property. This was consistent with his past refusal to patent the device which could have made him, instead of Marconi, the inventor of wireless telegraphy.
“Later he devised a new instrument, the crescograph, which produced a 10,000 magnification of movement, far beyond the powers of the strongest microscope. It recorded the rate of growth of plants. Bose showed that growth proceeds in rhythmic pulses in countless plants.
“By watching the progress on this chart Bose found that growth in some plants could be retarded and even halted by merely touching them, and that in others, rough handling stimulated growth, especially if they were sluggish and morose….
“All his life Bose had emphasized to a scientific community steeped in a mechanistic and materialist outlook, the idea that all of nature pulsed with life and that each of the interrelated entities in the natural kingdom might reveal untold secrets could man but learn how to communicate with them.”
Today is Earth Day. Kiss the earth. Speak nicely to a tree. Stimulate your love muscles. Don’t think about politics and injustice. Just be glad it all happened.
— Mary Maxwell is the author of Human Evolution (Columbia University Press, 1984) and is working on a book about electricity, based on the work of George Crile, MD.
Adapted photo from est.inc (L) and sourced from Scientific American (R)