Water Politics and the Mexican Revolution

Spanish language ad for Worthington water pump
Courtesy Mikael Wolfe. An advertisement claims that “rain or no rain, farmer friend, your crops are safe with a proper Worthington pump.”

The following synopis of research out of Stanford University is quite interesting. Mexico’s water woes has its roots in the Mexican Revolution!

Stanford historian unearths greed-drenched origins of Mexico’s groundwater crisis

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Pigs, Fish, What’s the Difference? Ask the CIA

orange trigger fish
Juvenile orangeside triggerfish (credit:Keoki Stender)
File:Orangeside Triggerfish Diego.JPG
Adult male orangeside triggerfish (Photo: iNaturalist.org/Wikipedia)

Did you know that Bahia de Cochinos, translated from Spanish to English, does not really mean “Bay of Pigs?”

Although the Spanish word cochinos literally means pigs, in Cuban/Caribbean Spanish, it also refers to orangeside triggerfish. These fish inhabit the coral reefs of Bahia de Cochinos as well as other reefs in the Caribbean, including some in Baja Mexico. The CIA got it wrong: When they sponsored the 1961 invasion of Cuba via Bahia de Cochinos, they were sending their combatants not into the Bay of Pigs, but into the Bay of Orangeside Triggerfish. I wonder if any members of Brigade 2506 expected to find pigs in and around the bay as they launched their failed attack? That would have been hilarious. Imagine keeping your eyes peeled for pigs and wild boars when all along the pigs were swimming beneath your feet/boat. The CIA should have just called the place by its real name, Bahia de Cochinos; no translation necessary.

Mapa, Bahia de Cochinos (credit: Mas Historia blogspot)

No laughing matter this:

A group of captured U.S.-backed Cuban exiles, known as Brigade 2506, being lined up by Fidel Castro’s soldiers at the Bahía de Cochinos (Bay of Pigs), Cuba, following an unsuccessful invasion of the island, April 1961. (Credit: Three Lions/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Green Streets & Seals In My Backyard

CameraAwesomePhoto (44)
One winter’s day at Ano Nuevo

Green Streets: Revenue From Trash

“Damn! Am I a part of that?”

Green Streets, a film in progress, was featured at this weekend’s 2013 San Franciso Green Film Festival. The quote above is from one of the film’s participants. It illustrates the feeling that comes from doing something worthwhile. Here is a short clip from the documentary:

http://www.citizenfilm.org/green-streets/

Seals in My Back Yard

If you are no where near California’s Bay Area or Mexico’s Baja coast, you may never have heard of an elephant seal. And although you may have read about them in my earlier posts, you may still not realize how interesting and special these creatures are. I hope you enjoy learning (more) about them as you watch this very short video.

Video of elephant seals at Año Nuevo

The State of the World: Money and Art Markets

limited access open space
Limited access open space, La Honda Creek, CA (Sept 2012)

A Different Kind of Perspective

I have been an art lover and creator for as long as I can remember. And I’ve been engaged with history, looking at it from all different perspectives for quite some time now.  But art history, art criticism and their effect on the art market? I can take them or leave them. They grab me pretty much the same way my Fidelity Money Market home page grabs me.

To get to my Fidelity account page, I first have to get past the “World Markets” page. Maybe I can change that but I’m not exactly invested in figuring out how to change my home page anymore than I’m interested in figuring out what the Facebook people are up to on my Facebook page.

The World Markets Today, 5/18/13

At the very top of  Fidelity’s world markets list is the United States. No surprise there, though it may be a great surprise to China. I hear we owe them the shirts off our backs. The number ascribed to the United States’ finances on the world markets stage today is 1667.47. What does that mean? Is that the Dow Jones Industrial average? If so, what does it mean? Also linked to the United States (listed immediately below the country’s name) is this: +17.00 (+1.03%). I just want to look at the balance in my little checking account! First though, I need to navigate past this world markets list. Every once in a while I stop and look. Today I look and I wonder.

Down on the list, a little after the United States, comes two Latin American countries, Chile and Mexico. Mexico, at number four, has the number 2742.94 ascribed to it. Is that bad or good? I know that isn’t better than the United States’ world market listing: Although Mexico has 2,742.94 listed next to it, underneath it the numbers read +2.20 (+0.08%).  (The United States’ numbers are +17.00 (+1.03%.)) Listed at number four as it is, it cannot be better than numbers one, two and three – the United States, Canada and Chile – on the list.

Why These Fourteen Countries?

The two Latin American countries on this world markets list are higher up than the Olde World country, Spain, to which they owe their “genesis.” Countries like the one I’m from will never show up on this market exchange. It’s not simply because we are small or that we are New World countries. If that were the case, New Zealand and Singapore wouldn’t be on this list. But they are.

Fourteen countries in all, are on the world markets list. Does the world then, consist of  only these fourteen? Do other places not matter, not exist? Does money in places like India, Argentina, Brazil, South Africa, and Australia, behemoths because of their land mass, not exist?

The most (only?) obscure country on this list is New Zealand. Those of us from the “Third World” must be somewhere on the periphery or totally non-existent. Am I a figment of my own imagination? Are Jamaica, Africa, India, Portugal, and Scotland non-existent? All these places go into making up who I am. So forgive me when I say, “Meh!,” to the world of art history and criticism. They are pretty much like this list of fourteen world markets countries, absurd. The same is true for overpriced art works. (See yesterday’s reblogged article on this issue.) And so, I look askance as I create and define my own art and space in this world.

(The countries listed in order from 1-14 on the world markets list are: USA, Canada, Chile, Mexico, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, United Kindgom, China, Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand, and Singapore. If one were to buy into what is being said about today’s financial markets, shouldn’t China be the one at the top? Go figure.)

Northern Elephant Seals

Northern Elephant SealWhat are Elephant Seals? We are deep sea divers and long distance travelers. We fast for long periods of time while on land. Our food sources, skates and squids, small sharks and other seafood are so far away – thousands upon thousands of miles – that once we arrive on land, we have to wait a very long time before eating again.

Northern and Southern Elephant Seals

There are two types of elephant seals: the northern (found along the Pacific islands and coasts of Mexico and California); and the southern (found along the Atlantic islands and coasts of Patagonia, Chile, Tierra del Fuego, et al). This article is only about the Northern elephant seal.

Northern Elephant Seals

Northern elephant seals spend most of their time in the ocean, coming ashore twice each year, once to mate, breed and give birth, and the other time to molt (shed and grow new skin/fur). Between the molting and breeding seasons, the northern elephant seal is at sea for six to eight months, swimming, diving and feeding. Incredibly, they remain submerged for nearly ninety percent of their time in the ocean, surfacing a mere two to four minutes during dives.

Season Change at Ano Nuevo

Now that the breeding/mating/birthing season is over, so too are the guided hikes at Ano Nuevo. That means pretty soon we will be entering the roving season. This is when the public can access areas that up to two weeks ago, were only accessible by guided hikes (led by volunteer naturalists like me). The roving season will be less hectic, more laid back and so, I am hoping to do some sketching and painting while volunteering out by the coast.

Breeding Season

During the breeding season (December to March), many of the adult males (the alphas, for sure) are on the beach for about 100 days without food. The mature females are on land for about five weeks. The females who are coming in pregnant during the breeding season give birth within 4-5 days of arrival. They nurse their pup for about 24-28 days, mate during the last 3-5 days of nursing and then head back into the ocean to find food to eat.

Elephant Seal Pups

A colony of  young elephant seals (early Spring 2013)
A colony of young elephant seals (early Spring 2013)

Elephant seal pups weigh about 70 pounds at birth. They quadruple their birth weight while nursing, but lose about 1/3 of that weight during the weaning period.  The common belief is that the mom weans her pup, leaves it all alone and it then has to figure out how to survive. The mom in me thinks this cannot be! Momma elephant seal, while nursing her baby is saying things, teaching him/her how to survive and us dumb humans don’t even realize it. That is what I think. I watch mom and pup bonding during those 28 days before weaning occurs and I imagine mom passing on the following tidbits: “Baby, you see that far side of the island over there? Don’t stray there, my love. There are these pretty white sharks who are just waiting to greet and eat my plump little baby. Steer clear my love. Swim in the open. Swim toward the deep my love. Head in that direction over there. If you pay attention to what I’m saying, you’ll be just fine. Good luck my baby. I love you.” That is what I think the mom is telling her baby all the while that she is nursing him or her.

Incredible Divers and Swimmers

Elephant seals dive as deep as 2,000 t o 5,000 feet for food. The average dive lasts about 20 minutes, but they can dive for an hour or more. They resurface for 2-4 minutes and continue this diving pattern 24 hours a day! The females eat mostly squid; the males eat small sharks, rays and bottom-dwelling fish.

The male elephant seals from Ano Nuevo typically travel 5,000 miles round trip, towards the Aleutians where they feed along the Continental Shelf. They make this trip twice per year. The female elephant seal travels a shorter distance, about 3,000 miles along the Northeast Pacific, in the direction of Hawaii. She too, makes this trip twice per year.

Remarkable Comeback

The northern elephant seal was hunted to near extinction for their blubber. By the early 19o0s, only a small group of between 20-100 managed to survive the hunts. Protected first by Mexico (where this small group was found) and later by the United States (as they multiplied and expanded their range), the elephant seals have managed to multiply and increase their population. Today’s population is estimated to be around 175,000 to 185,000 seals. All of them are from the bottleneck, the same gene pool, that was discovered on Guadalupe Island, Mexico, a little over 100 years ago. Researchers at the nearby University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC), are tracking and building a database on the movement and habits of the Ano Nuevo population of elephant seals. With each year comes new revelations. For a brief overview of the work being done on elephant seals by the UCSC, visit their site at http://news.ucsc.edu/2012/05/elephant-seals.html.

Interesting Facts

The adult females can weigh up to around 1,700 pounds and the males, up to around 5,000 pounds. The mature male has a bulbous appendage for a nose. It is called a proboscis. He uses it to honk and to assert dominance. For more interesting facts about the northern elephant seal, visit the National Marine Mammal Laboratory’s site at:

http://www.afsc.noaa.gov/nmml/education/pinnipeds/nelephant.php

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About the Photographs

Photo credit for the male juvenile elephant seal at the top of the post belongs to The Marine Mammal Center. You can see his proboscis is just barely starting to form. Only the males of the specie grow this nose and it seems to serve no other purpose except for asserting dominance, which is crucial in the breeding season. (Not all males get a chance to mate.)

I took the second photograph of a colony of what is mostly young pups, at Ano Nuevo State Park, two weeks ago. The seals in this photograph will be heading out to the ocean soon. They will have many challenges along the way, including figuring out where to go, what to eat, and how to avoid predators like the great white sharks that lay in wait not too far from where they are now. The mortality rate for young elephant seals is extremely high. Only about twenty six percent of them make it to age two. Some of the young die at the rookery but the majority of deaths occur at sea. For more details on elephant seals’ mortality rate, see the UCS”s 1971-78 Ano Nuevo study at:

http://neophoca.ucsc.edu/leboeuf/pdfs/Eseals.1994.LeBoeufMorris.7.pdf

No wonder then, that once a female is mature enough to have a pup, she continues to have one every year, for the rest of her life.

The old guy below is an alpha male. He has been in many a battle as is evident from the scarring on his chest shield. This photo is the property of Marinebio.org.

Northern Elephant Seals

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