"Apocalyptic Planet: Field Guide to the Everending Earth" by Craig Childs

“Apocalyptic Planet: Field Guide to the Everending Earth” by Craig Childs

“The sixth mass extinction is well under way. Numbers of lost and declining species are rapidly rising with no end in sight. Some researchers offer outside estimates that as many as half of all remaining species may disappear within the next century.” xvi

The earth has died many times, and it always comes back looking different. In an exhilarating, surprising exploration of our planet, Craig Childs takes readers on a firsthand journey through apocalypse, touching the truth behind the speculation. Apocalyptic Planet is a combination of science and adventure that reveals the ways in which our world is constantly moving toward its end and how we can change our place within the cycles and episodes that rule it.

In this riveting narrative, categorized in the nature category, Childs makes clear that ours is not a stable planet, that it is prone to sudden, violent natural disasters and extremes of climate. Alternate futures, many not so pretty, are constantly waiting in the wings. Childs refutes the idea of an apocalyptic end to the earth and finds clues to its more inevitable end in some of the most physically challenging places on the globe. He travels from the deserts of Chile, the driest in the world, to the genetic wasteland of central Iowa to the site of the drowned land bridge of the Bering Sea, uncovering the micro-cataclysms that predict the macro: forthcoming ice ages, super-volcanoes, and the conclusion of planetary life cycles. Childs delivers a sensual feast in his descriptions of the natural world and a bounty of unequivocal science that provides us with an unprecedented understanding of our future.

“The word ‘apocalypse’ from the Greek apokalypsis, originally referred to the lifting of a veil or a revelation. The common definition as a destructive worldwide event is more recent. In this book, it is both.”

“A friend had been traveling in Nigeria, and he came back telling me that one year you’re taking pictures of laughing children and the next you go back and most of those children have died.” 10

Craig Childs is a commentator for NPR’s Morning Edition, and his work has appeared in The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Men’s Journal, Outside, The Sun, and Orion. Awards he has won include the Ellen Meloy Desert Writers Award, the Rowell Award for the Art of Adventure, the Sigurd F. Olson Nature Writing Award, and, for his body of work, the 2003 Spirit of the West Award.

“I asked how they found his body, faceup or facedown. Faceup, they said, which was somehow a relief to me. He had not fallen over helpless. He had stopped to rest, chosen the place with what was left of his mind.” 11

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"Food and the City: Urban Agriculture and the New Food Revolution" by Jennifer Cockrall-King

“Food and the City: Urban Agriculture and the New Food Revolution” by Jennifer Cockrall-King

A global movement to take back our food is growing. The future of farming is in our hands-and in our cities.

“Every minute in the United States, over an acre of agricultural land is lost to commercial and residential development.” 144

“The idea to write a book about urban agriculture-the practice of producing and distributing food right in cities-felt like it came looking for me as much as I went looking for it.

As a food writer with a serious passion for gardening, I had long been in the habit of stopping to talk with anyone watering a few pots of rosemary and basil, for instance, on the patio. (Several minutes later, we’d still be trading stories about what interesting edibles could be grown with the right amount of obsessive coddling.) But about five yeras ago, I started noticing more tomatoes and cucumber vines twisting around condo balcony railings where previously there had only been the usual flowerpot standards of geraniums and lobelia. Then a few maverick homeowners began ripping up their front lawns and replacing them with tidy rows of pole beans, peas, and carrots. Other urbanites were not so subtly defying city bylaws and keeping chickens and beehives in backyards. Finally, it was impossible to ignore how community gardens continued to mushroom in size and quantity, not just in my hometown, but in other cities I visited.” -Introduction, 9

“We weren’t gardening. We were growing food!” 151

Jennifer Cockrall-King is an award-winning food journalist whose work has appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times, the National Post, Canadian Geographic, Maclean’s, and other major publications. She lives in Edmonton, Alberta, and in the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia, where she founded and runs the Okanagan Food and Wine Writers Workshop.

Visit Jennifer online at http://www.foodgirl.ca and http://www.facebook.com/FoodanttheCity, and on Twitter @jennifer_ck.

“We wanted to highlight the fact that we weren’t doing this for fun. We’d rather not be doing this. The question of food is not a theoretical construct. It’s a matter of life and death.” 151

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"Comanche Midnight" Essays by Stephen Harrigan

Comanche Midnight” Essays by

Writing timeless essays that capture vanished worlds and elusive perceptions, Stephen Harrigan is emerging as a national voice with an ever-expanding circle of enthusiastic readers. For those who have already experienced the pleasures of his writing-and especially for those who haven’t-Comanche Midnight collects fifteen pieces that originally appeared in the pages of Texas Monthly, Travel Holiday, and Audubon magazines and is categorized in General Interest, Travel, Southwestern Studies, and Essays.

The world’s Harrigan describes in these essays may be vanishing, but his writing invests them with an enduring reality. He ranges over topics from the past glories and modern-day travails of America‘s most legendary Indian tribe to the poisoning of Austin’s beloved Treaty Oak, from the return-to-the-past realism of the movie set of Lonesome Dove to the intimate, off-season languor of Monte Carlo.

If the personal essay can be described as journalism about that which is timeless, then Stephen Harrigan is a reporter of people, events, and places that will be as newsworthy years from now as they are today. Read Comanche Midnight and see if you don’t agree.

A former senior editor of Texas Monthly magazine, Stephen Harrigan writes full-time from his home in Austin.

“In assembling a book like this one, there is a natural tendency for the writer to think of it hopefully as more than the sum of its parts, as a solid coherent statement rather than a scattershot collection. I’ve tried not to saddle Comanche Midnight with aspirations it cannot fulfill, but on the other hand I don’t believe that the components of this book came together by accident. For every piece I’ve included, there are two or three others that are still mouldering in the lost-magazine graveyard. Some of them don’t deserve to be resurrected, and in fact it would pain me to think anybody would ever read them again. Others, though, are pretty good. I left them out because, in some vague way, they didn’t belong. There is no great theme to this book that I can decipher, but it seems to me that all the pieces at least share the same frequency. They address my old preoccupations with worlds that have vanished, communication that is sealed off, perceptions that are out of reach. There is an air of mystery about them, and it is that mystery that finally emboldens me to think of them as true essays. They are a record not just of certain events and people and places, but of the mind that witnessed them, and that is still trying to grasp what it beheld.” -Introduction, xi

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"Ecology of a Cracker Childhood" by Janisse Ray

“Ecology of a Cracker Childhood” by Janisse Ray

Janisse Ray grew up in a junkyard along U.S. Highway 1, hidden from Florida-bound travelers by the hedge at the edge of the road and by hulks of old cars, stacks of blown-out tires, and primeval jumbles of rusted metal. Ecology of a Cracker Childhood, published by Milkweed Editions, The World as Home, tells how a childhood spent in rural isolation grew into a passion to save the almost vanished longleaf pine ecosystem that once covered the South.

This book categorized as a nature memoir includes photos from Ray’s life, each with their own caption.

Janisse Ray was born in 1962 and is a native of the coastal plains of southern Georgia. Naming the Unseen, her chapbook of poetry about biology and place, won the 1996 Merriam-Frontier Award from the University of Montana, where Ray earned an MFA in creative writing in 1997. A naturalist and environmental activist, Janisse has published essays and poems in such newspapers and magazines as Wild Earth, Hope, Tallahassee Democrat, Missoula Independent, Orion, Florida Wildlife, and Georgia Wildlife, among others. She lives on a family farm in Baxley with her son.

The World As Home, the nonfiction publishing program of Milkweed Editions, is dedicated to exploring our relationship to the natural world. Not espousing any particular environmentalist or political agenda, these books are a forum for distinctive literary writing that not only alerts the reader to vital issues but offers personal testimonies to living harmoniously with other species in urban, rural, and wilderness communities.

Milkweed Editions publishes with the intention of making a humane impact on society, in the belief that literature is a transformative art uniquely able to convey the essential experiences of the human heart and spirit. To that end, Milkweed publishes distinctive voices of literary merit in handsomely designed, visually dynamic books, exploring the ethical, cultural, and esthetic issues that free societies need continually to address. Milkweed Editions is a not-for-profit press.

“We have to set to the task of repairing the damage done by and to us.” 103

Contents

  • Introduction
  • Child of Pine
  • Below the Fall Line
  • Shame
  • Built by Fire
  • Iron Man
  • Forest Beloved
  • Junkyard
  • Crackers
  • Native Genius
  • Timber
  • Heaven on Earth
  • Clearcut
  • How the Heart Opens
  • Longleaf Clan
  • Clyo
  • Hallowed Ground
  • Poverty
  • The Keystone
  • Beulahland
  • Indigo Snake
  • Mama
  • Bachman’s Sparrow
  • Light
  • Flatwoods Salamander
  • Altamaha River
  • Pine Savanna
  • Driving and Singing
  • The Kindest Cut
  • Leaving
  • Second Coming
  • Afterword: Promised Land
  • There Is a Miracle for You If You Keep Holding On
  • Appendixes
  • Acknowledgments

“By day the sun, close in a paper sky, laps moisture from the land, the gives it back, always an exchange.” 3

Outside Resources

“Words rise out of the country.”
-Iain Crichton Smith

“There’s just as many fish swimming in the ocean today
luscious and beautiful in every way
than have ever sputtered and spewed in the saucepans of yesterday.

“Don’t take more on your heart than you can shake off on your heels.”
-Walter Lynn Woodard “Pun”

“Through the acres of wrecks she came
With a wrench in her hand,

“Through dust where the blacksnake dies
Of boredom, and the beetle knows
The compost has no more life.”
-James Dickey, “Cherrylog Road”

“The landscape that I was born to, that owns my body: the uplands and lowlands of southern Georgia.” 13

Thought-Provoking Questions

Of what use to humanity, is a man who cannot see beyond his own hurt? 64
What is entity? 109
Where are the eastern bluebirds, winter chickadees, yellow-rumped warblers, white-eyed vireos? 268
Where are tree swallows and savanna sparrows? 268
Where is yellow colic root and swamp coreopsis? 268
Where is bird’s-foot-violet and blue-eyed grass? 268
Where are meadowlarks? 268
What happened to the cougar and the red wolf? 268
Eighty to 95 percent of the metals of vehicles of that era are recyclable, but what do you do with the gas tanks? 268
What about heavy metal accumulations in the soil, lead contamination, battery acid leaks, the veins of spilled oil and gasoline? 268
The topsoil would have to be scraped away: where would it go? 268
What about the rubber, plastic, and broken glass? 268
Would we haul it all to the county dump? 268
Where would we find all the replacement parts for this piece of wasted earth? 268
Might they not come, slowly, very slowly? 268

Awards

  • Winner of the American Book Award
  • Winner of the Southeastern Booksellers Association Book Award for Nonfiction

Praise

“The forests of the Southeast find their Rachel Carson.”
New York Times

“Janisse Ray knows that her region’s story and her own story are inseparable; in many ways they are the same story. To tell that story as well as she tells it here is at once to show what has gone wrong and to light the way ahead. This book, clearly, is only a beginning. It is well done and very moving.”
Wendell Berry

“Janisse Ray is a strong and imaginative writer.”
Peter Matthiessen

“[Ray’s] tale of growing up poor and white in backwoods Georgia is suffused with the same history-haunted sense of loss that imprints so much of the South and its literature. What sets Ecology of a Cracker Childhood apart is the ambitious and arresting mission implied in it’s title….Heartfelt and refreshing”
-Tony Horowitz, New York Times Book Review

“In this time of unparalleled cynicism, any writer capable of imagining Paradise rebuilt on the ruins of a junkyard ought to command our attention, if not our humble gratitude.”
Phillip Connors, Newsday

“Ray has given us a gift with Ecology of a Cracker Childhood….This is like the best of Annie Dillard and Dorothy Allison combined.”
Boulder Weekly (Great Books of 1999)

“A child grows up poor in a junkyard in Baxley, Ga., and writes a terrific book about her life, her family, and the ecology of the longleaf pines.”
Florida Times-Union (Jacksonville)

“The South’s Rachel Carson….Her voice needs to be heard.”
Greensboro News & Record

“This is no ordinary book that fits into an easily defined category….Ecology of a Cracker Childhood deserves to be out on the main shelves of any bookstore.”
Winston-Salem Journal

“A tellingly honest tale of a girl who has grown up, against all odds, to become not only a lover of nature, but a spokeswoman for her place of origin and her ‘Craker’ kin.”
-Thomas Rain Crowe, Rain Taxi

“Every page of her book is equally vivid, whether she’s describing the South Georgia junkyard where she grew up or the longleaf pine forests of today.”
-Sharon Rauch, Tallahassee Democrat

“A hauntingly beautiful work that explores the themes of loss and the redemption to be had through connection to family, culture, and nature. Seamlessly weaving memories of her poverty-stricken childhood with musings about the destruction of the longleaf pine forests that once blanketed Georgia, Ray creates a tapestry of the landscape she carries ‘inside like an ache.’ She deftly spins the connections, offering what she’s learned: That her personal story is inseparable from the story of her land.”
Charleston Post and Courier

“In Ray’s Ecology of a Cracker Childhood, you can open any page and out will fall words like pressed flowers and autumn leaves, vivid souvenirs of joy and loss.”
-Glenda Burnside, Bloomsbury Review

“She writes poignantly and movingly about herself and her colorful kin, and equally so about the red cockaded woodpecker, the gopher tortoise, the indigo snake and the flatwoods salamander. In the over-tilled fields of memoir and nature writing, Ray has conjured a joyous green shoot of a book.”
-Michael Swindle, Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Ray’s descriptions of the idyllic forests capture their beauty….The stories are enthralling.”
Durham Herald-Sun

“More than her passion for the wilderness, her activism or her outrage, it is her capacity for wonder that wins us to her fervent environmentalism-a capacity born and bred, ironically, not in the college biology lab or the naturalist’s notebook but in the brier patch of a junkyard adrift with car guts, old lawn mowers, broken glass.”
-Amy Godine, Orion

“Ray’s redemptive story of an impoverished childhood brings to mind the novels of Dorothy Allison and the nature writing of Amy Blackmarr, but the stunning voice and vision are hers alone.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Every endangered ecosystem should have such an eloquent spokesman.”
-Bailey White

“One theme of this smart book hit me particularly hard: there are no wastelands on this planet, only places that could regain some of the balance and beauty that lies not so far in their past.”
-Bill McKibben

“What impresses me most about this astonishing book is the seamless interweaving of personal memoir and natural history-an interweaving the more remarkable in view of the jolting differences between the junkyard of the author’s childhood and what is left of the natural landscape of her beloved south Georgia.”
-Jim Kilgo, author of Deep Enough for Ivorybills

“Janisse Ray is a role model for countless future rural writers to come.”
-Wes Jackson

“Vivid….In Janisse Ray, the region has found a worthy and eloquent advocate.”
-E: The Environmental Magazine

You can find several videos of Janisse Ray speaking in formal settings on YouTube, but I enjoy the casual setting as she reads from her book in the forest from this video:

More Books on Nature:

<- Nature & the Quest for Meaning #25 | Nature & the Quest for Meaning #27 ->

"The Geography of Childhood: Why Children Need Wild Places" by Gary Paul Nabhan Stephen Trimble, Introduction by Rober Coles

“The Geography of Childhood: Why Children Need Wild Places” by Gary Paul Nabhan Stephen Trimble, Introduction by Rober Coles

The Geography of Childhoood is a collection of essays written by conservation biologists and seasoned naturalists, Nabham, and Trimble. These essays explore the needs of children to experience nature firsthand and deliver surprising statistics, such as the fact that more than half of American children get their environmental information from the media. Included in the book are childhood experiences of the authors and their own personal experiences with their own children. They describe how their own children react to the world of nature and look at cultures that are closely tied to nature. This book is an interesting read, especially for those who live or work with children. It can also bring about questions about your own childhood experiences with nature. Many of these questions will remain unanswered.

This book, categorized in psychology and nature, also includes photographs that were taken by Stephen Trimble. The photographs are speckled throughout the book, generally appearing on each cover page of each new chapter. The photographs generally feature children in nature and show their joyful expressions and contemplative statures. These photographs only enhance the inner message of the book.

Personally, I enjoyed this book as it brought up many interesting thoughts about children and their experiences with nature. I found myself underlining and highlighting as I read and contemplating over what I had just read. Many questions were brought up that I enjoyed thinking over. I enjoyed the scientific research and statistics that this book provided and was intrigued with Gary Paul Nabhan and Stephen Trimble’s findings. As a future educator, I was very interested on their thoughts on public education and how formal education is often thought to be more valuable than personal experience. As a future educator and possible parent someday, I hope to implement some of what I’ve learned from this book in my teaching and parenting styles. Children need nature in their lives and I hope to preserve that belief.

“Simply put, we are concerned about how few children now grow up incorporating plants, animals, and places into their sense of home.”
Nabhan and Trimble, xi

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Skyrim Cover

As I’ve mentioned, my favorite video game of all time right now is The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim for the PC, Xbox360, and Playstation 3. Skyrim is an open-world role-playing fantasy game, which hits many of my favorite things about video games. One of my favorite things about the game is the vast amount of wildlife found roaming the open lands.

The Elder Scrolls series always aims to create living, breathing, believable worlds filled with lore and history, so they create expansive open worlds and fill these worlds with animals and creatures that make sense living there. There are fish in the waters, deer in the woods, and even dogs in the homes of the citizens. I love exploring the lands of Skyrim and seeing all of the wildlife just makes the world even better.

What’s even better about these animals and wildlife is that they can truly enhance the Skyrim experience. Not only do they offer enemies to fight, but they can also be hunted for food, skinned for leather or parts of their bodies, such as their claws and teeth, and be used in alchemy to brew potions and poisons. All of this realistic interaction really helps make Skyrim an enjoyable experience full of life and realism.

Silverside Perch

Silverside Perch

River Betty

River Betty

Cyrodilic Spadetail

Cyrodilic Spadetail

Histcarp

Histcarp

Abecean Longfin

Abecean Longfin

There are several fish in the land of Skyrim. Many are small and look exactly alike, besides their coloring and are very common. These fish can be found in lakes and rivers and cannot be eaten. They can, however, be used in alchemical potions and poisons. Silverside Perches are obviously silver. River Bettys are a light purple-pink color, while Cyrodilic Spadetails are more of a rich pink-red color. Despite their names, River Bettys are not more common in rivers than any other body of water and Cyrodilic Spadetails cannot be found in the land of Cyrodil, but can only be found in Skyrim. River Bettys are very poisonous and make great ingredients for deadly poisons. Histcarps are a bright yellow-orange color, and, lastly, Abecan Longfish are a soft blue color, matching the waters they swim in.

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Kay Fedewa and her Russian domesticated fox, Anya

Kay Fedewa and her Russian domesticated fox, Anya

At what point does an animal depend on a human rather than his wild, natural instincts? When should an animal live undisturbed in his natural habitat and when should humans keep animals as their personal companions? What distinguishes a wild, dangerous beast from a tame, domesticated pet? “Hey, Anya! Hey, Anya!” exclaims Kay Fedewa in a high-pitched voice, expressing maternal adoration to her beloved pet like any dog-owner would. In response, Fedewa’s fluffy friend rolls over on her back and excitedly wags her tail while panting heavily and whining for attention (Fedewa). The symbiotic relationship between the two is clear as they both feed off of the other’s energy, increasing each other’s happiness. Anya, like most dogs, seeks human contact and is happiest when with her owner, though Anya isn’t a dog; she’s a fox. Anya, a Russian domesticated fox, is just one of the victims of the ongoing domesticated pet controversy.

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My favorite video game of all time right now is The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim for the PC, Xbox360, and Playstation 3. Skyrim is an open-world role-playing fantasy game, which hits many of my favorite things about video games.

Skyrim Cover

  • Open-World: I love when games are open-world because there’s more freedom to them. You can go where you want and do what you like. You’re not constricted to platform jumping or limited to levels. The whole world is open for you to explore. This makes the world, itself, a character for you to explore, discover, and get to know. Open-world games have much more replay value and are much easier for me to get lost in and spend hours with. They are my absolute favorite.
  • Role-Playing: Now role-playing is like an open-world, but for your character. Role-playing allows you to customize your character how you want and often allows you to level up and progress through the game how you want. You can make decisions, choose options, and sometimes even change the gameplay or your character’s fate. Role-playing adds that bit of customization and also allows for more re-playability.
  • Fantasy: One of my favorite genres is fantasy because I love mythical beasts, medieval times, and a little bit of magic. My favorite part of fantasy is the bestiary, and Skyrim has the best fantastical creatures: dragons. Not only does Skyrim have dragons, but it also has mammoths, sabre-toothed tigers, werewolves, horkers (fantasy walruses,) and other strange creatures. Skyrim is set in the right style for me.

Now, as I mentioned, the open-world aspect of Skyrim is probably my absolute favorite thing about the game. I can spend hours just exploring the landscape and viewing the wildlife. What makes Skyrim so special is the land, itself. Skyrim, the home of the nords, is a masterpiece and is a joy to roam.

All of the pictures within the post are in-game footage of the world you can explore, meaning that none of these photos are artwork or were touched-up in any way. These photos are straight out of the game, what you could see by simply venturing Skyrim.

Not only does Skyrim offer a beautiful landscape, it also offers a variety of landscapes. There are many natural features in Skyrim making it interesting to explore as the land changes from hold to hold.

Mountains

Mountains

Of course, the most common features in Skyrim are the mountains. Skyrim is the northern province of Tamriel, home to the rugged and hardy nords. Nords are strong people who are used to cold, rugged, snowy climates, so it makes sense that most of Skyrim is frigid, rocky, and white. Skyrim is incredibly mountainous, offering thousands of stunning views. At just about any moment, one can climb upon a hill or cliff and look out upon the beauty that is Skyrim.

Cliffs

Cliffs

Not as mighty as majestic as mountains, cliffs are still incredibly common in Skyrim. These steep angles can create a challenge when battling animals, creatures, and monsters, or when trying to traverse the land. They can create quite the beautiful view, though.

Valleys

Valleys

Wherever there are mountains and cliffs, there are bound to be valleys. Most of the valleys within Skyrim have rivers and streams flowing through them, adding even more to the beauty of the landscape. Surrounded by the tall, towering mountains, one feels even smaller in the already vast land of Skyrim and can even spot dragons flying overhead at times.

Tundra

Tundra

Skyrim is incredibly well-known for being a cold climate filled with snow and ice. These lands can be rugged and challenging to travel through as snowstorms rage on continuously. These storms can blind travelers as they struggle to follow the few paths.

Plains

Plains

As valleys open up, you’ll come across the wide, open plains of Central Skyrim. Home to herds of mammoths and elk, the plains stretch for as far as one can see, a blanket of wavering yellow foliage. In the center of the plains is the magnificent city of Whiterun, a neutral area during the time of Skyrim’s civil war and home to the great castle, Dragonsreach. While I don’t enjoy the plains as much as some of the other areas, they’re still a sight to see.

Birch Forests

Birch Forests

Forests are scattered all throughout Skyrim, but there are different forests to see. Along the Southern border of Skyrim around the shady city of Riften, the land glows with an Autumn feeling as warm colors invade the eyes. Birch trees with canopies of gold and copper fill the land and shed their leaves upon the forest floor. This area is home to lots of deer and bear, giving them plenty of shade, food, and shelter.

Pine Forests

Pine Forests

Along the Northern reaches of Skyrim reign the pine forests filled with ancient, looming pine trees. These forests can be found all across Skyrim, sometimes dry, sometimes snowy, and sometimes completely snow-covered. I would say that the pine forest is the second most common feature in Skyrim, after the mountains. They are pretty standard and home to a wide variety of wildlife.

Rivers

Rivers

Spread all throughout Skyrim are rivers. I love following the rivers to see where they lead. There are often paths alongside rivers, but occasionally there are smaller, more hidden rivers within the forest. One of my favorite rivers flows through the Hold of Whiterun and is the main staple of the town of Riverwood. Nestled on this river, Riverwood relies on its waters to run its watermill to help with their wood-cutting business.

Waterfalls

Waterfalls

One of the most majestic sights in Skyrim are the many waterfalls. These waters can be quaint, like the tiny waterfall just outside of Riverwood, or can be massive such as the large collection of waterfalls to the east of the Throat of the World. I enjoy listening to their soothing sounds and taking in the view from atop these impressive sights. It can also be enjoyable to chill at the bottom of the falls.

Lakes

Lakes

Also hidden throughout Skyrim, usually in forests, are many lakes and ponds. Water is not uncommon in Skyrim as there are several lakes, streams, and rivers. There are two very large lakes in Skyrim, one centrally located, and another in the Southeast. The lakes in Skyrim are home to a wide variety of fish including salmon, histcarp, and even slaughterfish, a kind of carnivorous fish that resembles an alligator and feeds upon human flesh like a piranha.

Swamps

Swamps

As you draw closer to the Northern coasts of Skyrim, you begin to enter swamp territory filled with marshy ponds and puddles. Often filled with fog and dimly-lit, the swamps are probably my least-favorite natural feature in Skyrim. The swamps surround the city of Morthal and stop right up on the edge of the capitol of Solitude. Many creepy things can be found in Skyrim’s swamps, so I usually like to travel elsewhere.

Coves

Coves

One of my favorite cities in Skyrim is Solitude, a large city sitting on a cliff overlooking a large cove. This cove is home to a trading business that relies on ships to carry goods from hold to hold. Sunsets are particularly beautiful when setting over this body of water.

Oceans

Oceans

Because Skyrim has other regions surrounding its Eastern, Western, and Southern borders, you can only find the ocean on the Northern shores of Skyrim. Filled with glacial masses of land and icebergs, I imagine the waters are extremely frigid. Stretching out until the water meets with the sky, the oceans contain mystery and wonder beneath their deep, blue depths. They’re usually very still, not splashing or creating waves. There was at one time, however, when a massive storm of waves overcame the coastal city of Winterhold and dragged most of it to the ocean floor. Once the most powerful city in Skyrim, Winterhold is now the smallest and most fragile within the region, all because of the powerful ocean.


Beautiful Skryim World


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A Dog's Life Alisa, one of two Novosibirsk foxes living as pets in a wealthy home outside St. Petersburg, is friendly with her human companions and with the family's yellow Labrador too. Photograph by Vincent J. Musi

A Dog’s Life
Alisa, one of two Novosibirsk foxes living as pets in a wealthy home outside St. Petersburg, is friendly with her human companions and with the family’s yellow Labrador too.
Photograph by Vincent J. Musi

National Geographic, March 2011

National Geographic, March 2011

In National Geographic’s March 2011 article, “Taming the Wild,” writer Evan Ratliff and photographer Vincent J. Musi travel to the Russian town of Novosibirsk to unveil the scientific discoveries made by the Institute of Cytology and Genetics of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Over the last six decades, the Institute has been selectively breeding silver foxes, a color morph of the common red fox, Vulpes vulpes, in order to discover the relationship between genetics and domestication. Under the leadership of Dr. Lyudmila Trut, the fox farm experiment has carefully bred generations of foxes by selecting only for tameness. Although only a single trait was singled out, several traits began to change throughout the generations until the animals began to act and even look like dogs.

In 1959, Dmitry K. Belyaev, a Russian biologist inspired by the writings of Charles Darwin, became intrigued in animal domestication, particularly the presence of shared traits among different species of domesticated animals, such as changes in body size, fur coloration, and the timing of their reproductive cycle. As director of the Institute of Cytology and Genetics at the time, Belyaev composed a hypothesis and began an experiment to find a connection between the hormonal and chemical changes. Balyaev proposed his hypothesis to local fur farms who appreciated the idea of caging calmer foxes, agreeing to donate 100 female foxes and 30 male foxes to the cause. Belyaev began his fox domestication experiment with high hopes, but would end up even more surprised than he had hoped.

The experiment began by selecting for tameness and against aggression. Three groups of foxes were bred within the experiment. One group of foxes included the most aggressive around humans, biting and lashing out at researchers as they approached the cage. The second group of foxes was a control group, allowed to breed randomly. The final group was the main focus of the experiment, the domesticated group. These foxes were tested for tameness and only allowed to breed if the fox showed no fear or aggression towards people.

After several generations, the researchers were amazed to find that the foxes were not only calmer around humans than wild foxes, but also acted and even looked similar like dogs. By the fourth generation of foxes, the animals began wagging their tails, licking the researchers, and even coming when called. “All of them want human contact,” explains Trut. They also began showing physical changes as their tails grew shorter and curled over their backs, their ears stayed floppy, and white markings began appearing within their fur. These white markings, commonly found on other domesticated animals, were later found to be a result of a lack of melanin, a control of pigmentation that is directly linked with adrenaline levels. Further research discovered that the foxes with lower levels of aggression also had lower levels of adrenaline, a hormone that is produced in response to stress, in their hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axes. An organism with less adrenaline will be less fearful, thus explaining why the foxes were becoming more tame. Belyaev and his colleagues had discovered that changes in behavior, anatomy, and physiology could arise simply by selecting for the single characteristic of tameness towards humans.

Improbable Pets Foxes bred through generations to be as human-friendly as dogs get a boost from Lyudmila Trut (center) and other staff at the Institute of Cytology and Genetics, in Novosibirsk, Siberia. Photograph by Vincent J. Musi

Improbable Pets
Foxes bred through generations to be as human-friendly as dogs get a boost from Lyudmila Trut (center) and other staff at the Institute of Cytology and Genetics, in Novosibirsk, Siberia.
Photograph by Vincent J. Musi

Today, the Institution continues to breed foxes, though Balyaev has passed and leadership of the program has been given to his assistant, Dr. Lyudumila Trut. Unfortunately, the Russian economy has impacted the Institute in a negative way, depleting its funding and its resources. In order to sustain its fox farm, the Institute has resorted to selling its prized foxes to both fur farms and to potential pet-owners, leading to controversy. Although these foxes are said to be similar to dogs in several ways, many people disagree with the decision to sell them as pets. “The animals are suffering. The animals have the instincts for living in the wild but they are limited to small flats and they develop diseases because of selection,” states Irina Novozhilova, President of the Vita Animal Rights Centre. She and many others believe that the foxes are still wild animals and should not be kept by humans. This counterargument does not stop the Institution, however, as several foxes have already been sold to a number of happy owners.

Kay Fedewa and her domestic fox, Anya

Kay Fedewa and her domestic fox, Anya

“Sales to private individuals support the important and insightful research from the Institute, but more important is saving these surplus foxes from being sold to fur farms and giving them a chance to have the companionship from a loving family that they were bred to desire,” expresses Kay Fedewa, a current owner of a domesticated fox named Anya. Determined to introduce these environmental wonders to Americans, she has established “The Domestic Fox,” at http://www.domesticfox.com, a company and website dedicated to importing the foxes from Russia into the United States. Because of the complex United States importation regulations on exotic animals, Fedewa has teamed up with Mitch Kalmanson, a U.S. Department of Agriculture-licensed expert in Florida who specializes in importing exotic animals. Together, the two offer the successful and healthy importation of a Russian domestic fox into the United States for $8,900 an animal, despite color or gender. Although Texas state law bans the ownership of foxes, whether they are domestic or wild, two Russian domestic foxes can be viewed at the Austin Zoo and Animal Sanctuary, Mikhail and Nikolai.

As an avid fox-lover myself, I continue to support the domestication of foxes and would someday like to help the Institution, myself, by adopting a domesticated fox. I appreciate the effort the Institute of Cytology and Genetics takes in order to ensure that its foxes end up in loving homes and honor the research and data they are providing in the area of genetics. I disagree with statements that these animals are wild because they are genetically different, specifically bred to be pets. These animals strive for human attention and would benefit more within homes than on farms or in coats.

Throughout National Geographic’s March 2011 article, “Taming the Wild,” writer Evan Ratliff and photographer Vincent J. Musi explain the scientific discoveries made by the Institute of Cytology and Genetics through the progression of its fox domestication experiment. Through selective breeding, the Institute has managed to create another perfect pet, the fox. Offering these animals for sale, the world now must decide whether the fox is a wild animal or a tame pet.


Fox in a Box – New Pet Craze


More on Fox Domestication

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Imagine a technology that would allow you to convert a traditional piece of artwork into a digital piece of art, create and compile compositions and sketches easily, and even add an “undo” button to the world of art. When teaching art to children, this technology would allow one to give their students increased freedom, flexibility, creativity, and security, ensuring that they feel challenged, privileged, and safe within the classroom. With this sense of pride and self-efficacy, students are more likely to succeed as they overcome challenges and feel accomplished with their art.

Adobe Photoshop is an innovative technology that can be utilized in the art room to broaden the opportunities students have. Adobe Photoshop, commonly shortened to just “Photoshop”, is a graphics editing program developed and published by Adobe Systems. First released in 1989, there have been several new editions, with Creative Suite 6, or CS6, being the final version released on August 30, 2012. With each new upgrade comes new features and new possibilities as Adobe continues to improve each year.

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Students are individuals. Although they are grouped together within classes, I strongly believe that it is our responsibility, as teachers, to address them individually and customize our teaching to best aid them. We must not only consider students’ varying strengths and weaknesses, but also vary our instruction in order to target each difference. I believe that teachers have the greatest success with students’ achievement when they teach with diverse learning styles and recognize each student as a single person capable of learning.

I firmly believe that every student has their own strengths and weaknesses and that each individual excels in their own way. I believe that teachers should recognize these strengths and enable students to develop their weaknesses. Popular in education, Howard Gardner also recognized this potential within each individual and wrote about his theory of multiple intelligences context (Gardner, 1983, p9). I support this theory with the belief that everyone possesses all of the intelligences but excels in one or more in particular. I believe that teachers can use this knowledge to help their students excel. By identifying the areas in which students shine, teachers can help them conquer their weaknesses.

Another theorist who recognized the individualism of students is Robert Gagne. Gagne discerned that students tend to learn more effectively through a certain style of teaching. He introduced conditions of learning and proposed that students not only excel in different ways, but also learn in different ways. “It is probably the case that some learners can benefit from less complete instruction, i.e., certain events may be omitted from the stimulus materials without seriously affecting the effectiveness of the instruction,” he theorized, addressing the fact that teaching can be personalized and tailored to each individual (Wager, p8). This supports my premise that teachers will be most effective when they seek to teach students personal and individualized methods that allow every student to find success in their own way.

When we see students as individuals, we must also not forget that learning takes place in a social environment. “One is a unique individual, who still must grow up in a social context-an individual of feelings and striving, who must rely on others to furnish the tasks and to judge one’s achievements,” states Gardner, recognizing that although students are individuals, they must still be related in a social context (Gardner, 1983, p254). Students are collected into classes and classes are paired with teachers. This allows students to communicate with peers and mentors and interact in social activities. I believe that it is through collaborative help that students are best able to learn and grow. Collaboration with others allows them to witness ideas and viewpoints separate from their own and create new understanding. This belief is supported by Lev Vygotsky’s social development theory in which he describes the zone of proximal development. “The zone of proximal development defines those functions that have not yet matured but are in the process of maturation, functions that will mature tomorrow but are currently in an embryonic state” (Vygotsky, 1978, p86). Students are learning in the zone of proximal development when under guidance, in collaboration, or in groups and are able to function at higher levels within this zone. Vygotsky noticed that what children could only do in collaborative efforts at one age, they could do at a later age independently (Vygotsky, 1978, p87), demonstrating that through social guidance, such as the aid of an effective teacher, students inherit and develop skills that they will use later in life.

Teachers are instilled in classrooms to help and guide their students. Through this interactive relationship, teachers are able to create learning experiences in which students are able to succeed. I believe that each student possesses the ability to achieve. By identifying the individual strengths of our students and adjusting our teaching techniques to encompass a variety of learning styles, we can affect all of our students and help them each flourish. We must simply recognize students as individuals and understand that they each have their own intelligence and learning style that will develop when given guidance.


References


One cannot truly experience Impressionism without actually witnessing a painting from the movement in person. This became apparently clear to me after I visited the McNay Art Museum, located in San Antonio, Texas, and found myself before Claude Monet’s Water Lilies painted within 1916 and 1919. This grand piece is a prime example of the Impressionism period and allowed me to truly experience the movement and understand the techniques that comprised it.

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