December 2: Millard Fillmore’s Guano Day! 2017 edition

December 2, 2017

Why December 2?

(You couldn’t make this stuff up if you were Monty Python.)

English: Millard Fillmore White House portrait

Millard Fillmore’s White House portrait, via Wikipedia

President Millard Fillmore, in the State of the Union Address, December 2, 1850

Peruvian guano has become so desirable an article to the agricultural interest of the United States that it is the duty of the Government to employ all the means properly in its power for the purpose of causing that article to be imported into the country at a reasonable price. Nothing will be omitted on my part toward accomplishing this desirable end. I am persuaded that in removing any restraints on this traffic the Peruvian Government will promote its own best interests, while it will afford a proof of a friendly disposition toward this country, which will be duly appreciated.

Did any other U.S. President spend so much time thinking about guano?  Did any president ever mention it in a State of the Union Address?  The curious case of Millard Fillmore, Seer, just grows.

Guano, or bird poop (and its relative, bat poop), contains phosphorus, which is an essential element for life.  Consequently, it turns out to be a key ingredient in effective agricultural fertilizers.  In international competition for supremacy in farming and farm exports, guano became a key resource to fight over, in the 19th century.

It’s almost safe to say the fights were economic; but guano did play a key role in wars in South America (see Andrew Leonard’s article, noted below).

Fillmore figured out that the substance had great importance, coupled that with the rather esoteric knowledge that sea birds tended to deposit guano in great abundance on certain islands, often unoccupied, and ordered the U.S. Navy to claim islands found to contain guano deposits that were not claimed by other nations.

By the American Civil War, the importance of phosphorus to the production of gun powder became an issue for the armies of the North and South.  Millard Fillmore had set the stage for the North to win an important advantage in gun powder production, just one of many that led to the defeat of the South.

It’s one more thing we should thank Millard Fillmore for doing. Our study of history should inform us that it is, indeed, important for politicians to understand the importance of guano.

Fillmore knew his guano.

Take a moment on December 2 to toast Millard Fillmore’s prescience, on Guano Day!

More:  

You can purchase Peruvian guano today, from Amazon, GrowOrganic.com, and other sources. It's roughly $15 per pound in the U.S.

You can purchase Peruvian guano today, from Amazon, GrowOrganic.com, and other sources. It’s roughly $15 per pound in the U.S.

This is an encore post.

Yes, this is an edited encore post. Defeating ignorance takes patience and perseverance.


Annals of Global Warming: Octobers in the U.S. are 2°F warmer

November 2, 2017

Octobers are warming across the U.S. with the increasing accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Since 1970, October temperatures have risen about 2°F. Warming throughout the fall is even stronger in some parts of the country, with the Northeast and the West warming the most. This warming can delay the start of some of the traditional cold season activities in cooler and mountainous climates, such as skiing. The warming trend also means first freezes occur later in the year, which can allow more insects to survive later into the year and make for a longer fall allergy season.

From Climate Central: Octobers are warming across the U.S. with the increasing accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Since 1970, October temperatures have risen about 2°F. Warming throughout the fall is even stronger in some parts of the country, with the Northeast and the West warming the most. This warming can delay the start of some of the traditional cold season activities in cooler and mountainous climates, such as skiing. The warming trend also means first freezes occur later in the year, which can allow more insects to survive later into the year and make for a longer fall allergy season.

Since 1970, Octobers are 2 degrees warmer? No big deal?

See the caption. A lousy 2 degrees is a lot. It’s enough to:

  • Reduce the number of freezing days, allowing pine bark beetles in Colorado to escape death by freezing, and thereby kill more pine trees, faster.
  • Change October precipitation from snow, to rain. Rain instead of snow may cause regional flooding due to the rapid water dump; it may reduce snowpacks that provide water through the warmer months, effectively adding to drought threat.
  • Keep some prairie flowers alive longer, delaying migration of butterflies triggered by reduced food supply; ultimately this could cause butterflies and other migrating beneficial insects to migrate too late in the year.

No big deal, unless you live on Earth.

“What did you do when you learned CO2 was hurting the planet, Grandfather?” our grandchildren will well ask. Got an answer?

Shake of the old scrub brush to Climate Central’s Twittering, with a clever .gif.

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December 2: Happy Guano Day! (Thank you, Millard Fillmore)

December 2, 2016

Why December 2?

(You couldn’t make this stuff up if you were Monty Python.)

English: Millard Fillmore White House portrait

Millard Fillmore’s White House portrait, via Wikipedia

President Millard Fillmore, in the State of the Union Address, December 2, 1850

Peruvian guano has become so desirable an article to the agricultural interest of the United States that it is the duty of the Government to employ all the means properly in its power for the purpose of causing that article to be imported into the country at a reasonable price. Nothing will be omitted on my part toward accomplishing this desirable end. I am persuaded that in removing any restraints on this traffic the Peruvian Government will promote its own best interests, while it will afford a proof of a friendly disposition toward this country, which will be duly appreciated.

Did any other U.S. President spend so much time thinking about guano?  Did any president ever mention it in a State of the Union Address?  The curious case of Millard Fillmore, Seer, just grows.

Guano, or bird poop (and its relative, bat poop), contains phosphorus, which is an essential element for life.  Consequently, it turns out to be a key ingredient in effective agricultural fertilizers.  In international competition for supremacy in farming and farm exports, guano became a key resource to fight over, in the 19th century.

It’s almost safe to say the fights were economic; but guano did play a key role in wars in South America (see Andrew Leonard’s article, noted below).

Fillmore figured out that the substance had great importance, coupled that with the rather esoteric knowledge that sea birds tended to deposit guano in great abundance on certain islands, often unoccupied, and ordered the U.S. Navy to claim islands found to contain guano deposits that were not claimed by other nations.

By the American Civil War, the importance of phosphorus to the production of gun powder became an issue for the armies of the North and South.  Millard Fillmore had set the stage for the North to win an important advantage in gun powder production, just one of many that led to the defeat of the South.

It’s one more thing we should thank Millard Fillmore for doing. Our study of history should inform us that it is, indeed, important for politicians to understand the importance of guano.

Fillmore knew his guano.

Take a moment on December 2 to toast Millard Fillmore’s prescience, on Guano Day!

More:  

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Save

Save


Urban sprawl works differently in China

October 27, 2015

Much of our flight to China we fond the ground, or ocean, obscured by clouds. About an hour out of Beijing, we caught glimpses of China’s countryside.

It’s different there.

If you’ve flown much over the U.S., you’re familiar with agricultural regions having identifiable features such as the large circles created by irrigation systems, or the grid-pattern fields laid out across much of the American Midwest. Those fields are punctuated, especially at night, by farmhouses, smaller crossroads featuring a few more buildings, small towns, and increasing urbanization along the highways going into bigger cities.

In China, north of Beijing, human habitations are much more dense than small U.S. farm towns, and the fields themselves appear almost wholly absent of human habitation.

Semi-rural area north of Beijing, from 30,000 feet or so. Note new, high-rise apartment buildings in the small town. Photo by Ed Darrell

Semi-rural area north of Beijing, from 30,000 feet or so. Note new, high-rise apartment buildings in the small town. Photo by Ed Darrell

Here’s a photo I took from our airplane window, looking to the west, over China at least 100 miles north of Beijing. ChinaCom’s system doesn’t identify locations to my iPhone as Verizon’s system does in the U.S.; I have not yet identified the river, though I think it may be the north-flowing Songhua-Amur Rivers complex.

Agricultural fields are neatly laid out. Notice there is no room left for wild lands, where wildlife might find a home.

Agricultural fields are neatly laid out. Notice there is no room left for wild lands, where wildlife might find a home.

I was struck by the lack of uncultivated, unplowed or undeveloped land. Fields abut each other tightly, without even hedgerows between them. We noticed a marked lack of wildlife on other parts of our trip; without even space for weeds to grow between the fields, wildlife habitat is reduced essentially to nil. Does that harm or benefit agricultural production, and other production?

Not a perfect comparison, but here is a nearly-randomly-selected USGS aerial photo of farmland in the U.S., near Jerseyville, Illinois (from much lower airplane elevation):

USGS photo of land near Jerseyville, Illinois, near the Illinois River. Hills are unplowed now (they may have been farmed in the past), and waterways have banks of brush and trees for some distance, partly to control erosion. Notice wild tree and shrub growth between some fields.

USGS photo of land near Jerseyville, Illinois, near the Illinois River. Hills are unplowed now (they may have been farmed in the past), and waterways have banks of brush and trees for some distance, partly to control erosion. Notice wild tree and shrub growth between some fields.

This photos are not an exact comparison, but you can get the idea that worries me.

China’s tightly-controlled development policies over the past five decades, coupled with a thousand years or so of continued, developed and intentional habitation on these lands, leaves little room for something that is not planned.

Little room for nature. Someone would argue China’s land use is required in order to feed a massive population. Is that so?

On the trip I ran into a fellow working for a company trying to figure out ways to bioremediate polluted rivers in China, since the government came to realize polluted water harms human health and agricultural and riparian production downstream. One way would be to establish buffer lands along the banks of rivers. Can China change policies to allow that to happen, in time?

Pretty from an airplane window. Reflective of wise land use policies? There’s a rich discussion.

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César Chávez Day, 2015

March 31, 2015

features a portrait of Cesar against a background of empty grape fields. It was painted by illustrator Robert Rodriguez from a 1976 photo,

Postage stamp honoring Cesar Chavez in 2003. “The stamp features a portrait of Cesar against a background of empty grape fields. It was painted by illustrator Robert Rodriguez from a 1976 photo,” according to the Cesar Chavez Foundation.

President Obama declared March 31, 2015, César Chávez Day, as he did in 2014.  Here’s the press release version of the proclamation.

For Immediate Release                                                         March 30, 2015

Presidential Proclamation — Cesar Chavez Day, 2015

CÉSAR CHÁVEZ DAY, 2015

– – – – – – –

BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
A PROCLAMATION

For more than two centuries, the arc of our Nation’s progress has been shaped by ordinary people who have dedicated their lives to the extraordinary work of building a more perfect Union.  It is a story of achievement and constant striving that has found expression in places where America’s destiny has been decided — in Seneca Falls, Selma, and Stonewall, and in the golden fields of California where an American hero discovered his mighty voice.  Today, we honor César Chávez and his lifetime of work to make our country more free, more fair, and more just, and we reaffirm the timeless belief he embodied:  those who love their country can change it.

A son of migrant workers and a child of the Great Depression, César Chávez believed every job has dignity and every person should have the chance to reach beyond his or her circumstances and realize a brighter future.  When no one seemed to care about the farm workers who labored without basic protections and for meager pay to help feed the world, César Chávez awakened our Nation to their deplorable conditions and abject poverty — injustices he knew firsthand.  He organized, protested, fasted, and alongside Dolores Huerta, founded the United Farm Workers.  Slowly, he grew a small movement to a 10,000-person march and eventually a 17-million-strong boycott of table grapes, rallying a generation around “La Causa” and forcing growers to agree to some of the first farm worker contracts in history.  Guided by a fierce commitment to nonviolence in support of a righteous cause, he never lost faith in the power of opportunity for all.

As a Nation, we know the struggle to live up to the principles of our founding does not end with any one victory or defeat.  After César Chávez fought for higher wages, he pushed for fresh drinking water, workers’ compensation, pension plans, and protection from pesticides.  He strove every day for the America he knew was possible.  Today, we must take up his work and carry forward this great unfinished task.

When immigrants labor in the shadows, they often earn unfair wages and their families and our economy suffer — that is one reason why we have to fix our broken immigration system and why I keep calling on the Congress to enact comprehensive immigration reform.  We need to continue to defend the collective bargaining rights countless individuals have fought so hard for and ensure our economy rewards hard work with a fair living wage, paid leave, and equal pay for equal work.

César Chávez knew that when you lift up one person, it enriches a community; it bolsters our economy, strengthens our Nation, and gives meaning to the creed that out of many, we are one.  As we celebrate his life, we are reminded of our obligations to one another and the extraordinary opportunity we are each given to work toward justice, equal opportunity, and a better future for every one of our sisters and brothers.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim March 31, 2015, as César Chávez Day.  I call upon all Americans to observe this day with appropriate service, community, and education programs to honor César Chávez’s enduring legacy.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirtieth day of March, in the year of our Lord two thousand fifteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-ninth.

[signed] BARACK OBAMA

No call for a flying of flags, but you may certainly fly your Old Glory, if you wish.

More: 


December 2: Millard Fillmore’s Guano Day!

December 1, 2014

Why December 2?

(You couldn’t make this stuff up if you were Monty Python.)

English: Millard Fillmore White House portrait

Millard Fillmore’s White House portrait, via Wikipedia

President Millard Fillmore, in the State of the Union Address, December 2, 1850

Peruvian guano has become so desirable an article to the agricultural interest of the United States that it is the duty of the Government to employ all the means properly in its power for the purpose of causing that article to be imported into the country at a reasonable price. Nothing will be omitted on my part toward accomplishing this desirable end. I am persuaded that in removing any restraints on this traffic the Peruvian Government will promote its own best interests, while it will afford a proof of a friendly disposition toward this country, which will be duly appreciated.

Did any other U.S. President spend so much time thinking about guano?  Did any president ever mention it in a State of the Union Address?  The curious case of Millard Fillmore, Seer, just grows.

Guano, or bird poop (and its relative, bat poop), contains phosphorus, which is an essential element for life.  Consequently, it turns out to be a key ingredient in effective agricultural fertilizers.  In international competition for supremacy in farming and farm exports, guano became a key resource to fight over, in the 19th century.

It’s almost safe to say the fights were economic; but guano did play a key role in wars in South America (see Andrew Leonard’s article, noted below).

Fillmore figured out that the substance had great importance, coupled that with the rather esoteric knowledge that sea birds tended to deposit guano in great abundance on certain islands, often unoccupied, and ordered the U.S. Navy to claim islands found to contain guano deposits that were not claimed by other nations.

By the American Civil War, the importance of phosphorus to the production of gun powder became an issue for the armies of the North and South.  Millard Fillmore had set the stage for the North to win an important advantage in gun powder production, just one of many that led to the defeat of the South.

It’s one more thing we should thank Millard Fillmore for doing. Our study of history should inform us that it is, indeed, important for politicians to understand the importance of guano.

Fillmore knew his guano.

Take a moment on December 2 to toast Millard Fillmore’s prescience, on Guano Day!

More:  


How can this be controversial? The Water Cycle

August 26, 2014

Water Cycle poster formerly available through NRCS of USDA.

Water Cycle poster formerly available through NRCS of USDA.

Here’s a video guaranteed to tick off the anti-Agenda 21 crowd, and anyone else who hates American farmers and their work to make their farms last for centuries — what is known as “soil and water conservation” to Boy Scouts, and “sustainable practices” to agronomists.

But for the life of me,  I can’t find anything offensive in it.

From USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service, the descendant of the old Soil Conservation Service.

 


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