A Lavishly Illustrated Catalog of All Hummingbird Species Known in the 19th Century Gets Restored & Put Online

If you don’t live in a part of the world with a lot of hum­ming­birds, it’s easy to regard them as not quite of this earth. With their wide array of shim­mer­ing col­ors and fre­net­ic yet eeri­ly sta­ble man­ner of flight, they can seem like qua­si-fan­tas­ti­cal crea­tures even to those who encounter them in real­i­ty. They cer­tain­ly cap­tured the imag­i­na­tion of Eng­lish ornithol­o­gist John Gould, who between the years of 1849 and 1887 cre­at­ed A Mono­graph of the Trochilidæ, or Fam­i­ly of Hum­ming-Birds, a cat­a­log of all known species of hum­ming­bird at the time. As you might expect, this is just the kind of old book you can peruse at the Inter­net Archive, but now there’s also an online restora­tion that returns Gould’s illus­tra­tions to their orig­i­nal glo­ry.

A Mono­graph of the Trochilidæ “is con­sid­ered one of the finest exam­ples of ornitho­log­i­cal illus­tra­tion ever pro­duced, as well as a sci­en­tif­ic mas­ter­piece,” writes the site’s cre­ator, Nicholas Rougeux (pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured here on Open Cul­ture for his dig­i­tal restora­tions of British & Exot­ic Min­er­al­o­gy and Euclid­’s Ele­ments).

“Gould’s pas­sion for hum­ming­birds led him to trav­el to var­i­ous parts of the world, such as North Amer­i­ca, Brazil, Colom­bia, Ecuador, and Peru, to observe and col­lect spec­i­mens. He also received many spec­i­mens from oth­er nat­u­ral­ists and col­lec­tors.” Tak­en togeth­er, the work’s five vol­umes — one of them pub­lished as a sup­ple­ment years after his death — cat­a­log 537 species, doc­u­ment­ing their appear­ance with 418 hand-col­ored lith­o­graph­ic plates.

All these images were “ana­lyzed and restored to their orig­i­nal vibrant col­ors in a process that took near­ly 150 hours to com­plete. As much of the orig­i­nal plate was pre­served — includ­ing the del­i­cate col­ors of the scenic back­grounds in each vignette.” You can view and down­load them at the site’s illus­tra­tions page, where they come accom­pa­nied by Gould’s own text and clas­si­fied accord­ing to the same scheme he orig­i­nal­ly used. You may not know your Phaëthor­nis from your Spheno­proc­tus, to say noth­ing of your Cyanomyia from your Smarag­dochry­sis, but after see­ing these small won­ders of the nat­ur­al world as Gould did (all arranged into a chro­mat­ic spec­trum by Rougeux to make a strik­ing poster), you may well find your­self inspired to learn the dif­fer­ences — or at least to put a feed­er out­side your win­dow.

via Kot­tke

Relat­ed con­tent:

The Hum­ming­bird Whis­per­er: Meet the UCLA Sci­en­tist Who Has Befriend­ed 200 Hum­ming­birds

Explore an Inter­ac­tive Ver­sion of The Wall of Birds, a 2,500 Square-Foot Mur­al That Doc­u­ments the Evo­lu­tion of Birds Over 375 Mil­lion Years

What Kind of Bird Is That?: A Free App From Cor­nell Will Give You the Answer

A Beau­ti­ful­ly Designed Edi­tion of Euclid’s Ele­ments from 1847 Gets Dig­i­tized: Explore the New Online, Inter­ac­tive Repro­duc­tion

Explore an Inter­ac­tive, Online Ver­sion of the Beau­ti­ful­ly Illus­trat­ed, 200-Year-Old British & Exot­ic Min­er­al­o­gy

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

How Scientists Are Turning Dead Spiders Into Robots That Grip

Kids who dig robot­ics usu­al­ly start out build­ing projects that mim­ic insects in both appear­ance and action.

Daniel Pre­ston, Assis­tant Pro­fes­sor of Mechan­i­cal Engi­neer­ing at Rice Uni­ver­si­ty and PhD stu­dent Faye Yap come at it from a dif­fer­ent angle. Rather than design­ing robots that move like insects, they repur­pose dead wolf spi­ders as robot­ic claws.

Very lit­tle mod­i­fi­ca­tion is required.

Yap explains that, unlike mam­mals, spi­ders lack antag­o­nis­tic mus­cles:

They only have flex­or mus­cles, which allow their legs to curl in, and they extend them out­ward by hydraulic pres­sure. When they die, they lose the abil­i­ty to active­ly pres­sur­ize their bod­ies. That’s why they curl up.

When a sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly inclined human inserts a nee­dle into a deceased spider’s hydraulic pro­so­ma cham­ber, seals it with super­glue, and deliv­ers a tiny puff of air from a hand­held syringe, all eight legs will straight­en like fin­gers on jazz hands.

These necro­bi­ot­ic spi­der grip­per tools can lift around 130% of their body weight — small­er spi­ders are capa­ble of han­dling more — and each one is good for approx­i­mate­ly 1000 grips before degrad­ing.

Pre­ston and Yap envi­sion putting the spi­ders to work sort­ing or mov­ing small scale objects, assem­bling micro­elec­tron­ics, or cap­tur­ing insects in the wild for fur­ther study.

Even­tu­al­ly, they hope to be able to iso­late the move­ments of indi­vid­ual legs, as liv­ing spi­ders can.

Envi­ron­men­tal­ly, these necro­bi­ot­ic parts have a major advan­tage in that they’re ful­ly biodegrad­able. When they’re no longer tech­no­log­i­cal­ly viable, they can be com­post­ed. (Humans can be too, for that mat­ter…)

The idea is as inno­v­a­tive as it is off­beat. As a soft robot­ics spe­cial­ist, Pre­ston is always seek­ing alter­na­tives to hard plas­tics, met­als and elec­tron­ics:

We use all kinds of inter­est­ing new mate­ri­als like hydro­gels and elas­tomers that can be actu­at­ed by things like chem­i­cal reac­tions, pneu­mat­ics and light. We even have some recent work on tex­tiles and wearables…The spi­der falls into this line of inquiry. It’s some­thing that has­n’t been used before but has a lot of poten­tial.”

Con­quer any lin­ger­ing arachno­pho­bia by read­ing Yap and Pre­ston’s research arti­cle,  Necro­bot­ics: Biot­ic Mate­ri­als as Ready-to-Use Actu­a­tors, here.

Hat Tip to Open Cul­ture read­er Dawn Yow.

Relat­ed Con­tent 

Isaac Asi­mov Explains His Three Laws of Robots

200-Year-Old Robots That Play Music, Shoot Arrows & Even Write Poems: Watch Automa­tons in Action

MIT Cre­ates Amaz­ing Self-Fold­ing Origa­mi Robots & Leap­ing Chee­tah Robots

– Ayun Hal­l­i­day is the Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine and author, most recent­ly, of Cre­ative, Not Famous: The Small Pota­to Man­i­festo and Cre­ative, Not Famous Activ­i­ty Book. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

A Surprising Animation Revisits the Miracle on the Hudson & the Cause of US Airways Flight 1549’s Crash

Near­ly 15 years ago, US Air­ways Flight 1549 took off from New York City’s LaGuardia Air­port, bound for Seat­tle by way of Char­lotte, North Car­oli­na.

Short­ly after take­off, the air­craft plowed into a flock of migrat­ing birds, and its engines failed.

In less than four min­utes, Cap­tain Ches­ley “Sul­ly” Sul­len­berg­er guid­ed the ves­sel down to the frigid Hud­son Riv­er.

Office work­ers on Man­hat­tan’s west side were riv­et­ed by the spec­ta­cle of pas­sen­gers stand­ing on the wings, await­ing res­cue by two NY Water­way fer­ries and oth­er local boats.

Every­one on board sur­vived, and few of their injuries were seri­ous.

The inci­dent was quick­ly framed as “the Mir­a­cle on the Hud­son” and Cap­tain Sul­len­berg­er was hailed as a hero.

Cap­tain Sul­len­berg­er cred­it­ed his suc­cess­ful maneu­ver to his 42 years as a pilot:

I’ve been mak­ing small, reg­u­lar deposits in this bank of expe­ri­ence, edu­ca­tion and train­ing. And on Jan­u­ary 15, the bal­ance was suf­fi­cient so that I could make a very large with­draw­al.

Such mod­esty only empha­sized his hero­ism in the eyes of the pub­lic.

Such nar­ra­tives pre­oc­cu­py ani­ma­tor Bernar­do Brit­to, whose 2020 short Hud­son Geese comes at this his­toric event from anoth­er angle:

Nar­ra­tives become our way of explain­ing and under­stand­ing the world. They are a part of how we build our iden­ti­ties and the sto­ries we tell about our­selves. And sto­ries by def­i­n­i­tion are exclu­sion­ary. Because you can’t fit it all in a sto­ry. They’re reduc­tive. They’re sim­pli­fied, eas­i­ly digestible ver­sions of a chain of events that’s way too com­plex for us to wrap our heads around.

(His inter­est in look­ing beyond estab­lished nar­ra­tive bound­aries car­ries over to the land acknowl­edg­ment in his short’s final cred­its: ”Before Ches­ley, before air­planes, before the apart­ment in which this short was con­ceived, “New York City” was the home of the Lenape, Canar­sie, and Wap­pinger peo­ple.”)

Revis­it­ing the Mir­a­cle on the Hud­son in the thrall of the Rashomon effect may mute your rage­ful impuls­es the next time a flock of Cana­da geese toi­lets its way across your favorite green space.

Even though Hud­son Geese clocks in at a tight five, we get enough time with its name­less lead to become invest­ed in his trav­els, his ded­i­ca­tion to his life part­ner, Sharona, his migra­tion his­to­ry, and his con­nec­tion to his ani­mal essence:

As we take to the air, I feel a famil­iar emo­tion, a deep sense that this is where I real­ly belong, more so than the lake in Shaw­ini­gan, much more so than the golf course on the Potomac, I belong here, in the air, fly­ing safe­ly over all the noise, high above the city, that unin­tel­li­gi­ble mess of spires and sky­scrap­ers, that island that became for rea­sons unknown to a sim­ple goose like me, the very cen­ter of all the world.

Cap­tain Sul­len­berg­er and co-pilot Jeff Skiles receive ani­mat­ed cameos in Hud­son Geese, as do Tom Han­ks and Clint East­wood, leav­ing our anti-hero to won­der who will immor­tal­ize Sharona and who will remem­ber the day’s “fall­en fowl.”

(With regard to the last ques­tion, pos­si­bly, Tom Haueter, the Nation­al Trans­porta­tion Safe­ty Board’s for­mer head of major acci­dent inves­ti­ga­tion. The Fed­er­al Avi­a­tion Admin­is­tra­tion failed to imple­ment many of his pro­posed safe­ty mea­sures fol­low­ing the crash.)

The human media’s hot take was that “thank­ful­ly no one was hurt.

The goose can only con­ceive of the Mir­a­cle on the Hud­son as a “com­plete and utter mas­sacre.”

Watch more of Bernar­do Britto’s ani­ma­tions on his Vimeo chan­nel.

Relat­ed Con­tent 

Sal­vador Dalí & Walt Disney’s Short Ani­mat­ed Film, Des­ti­no, Set to the Music of Pink Floyd

Shel Silverstein’s The Giv­ing Tree: The Ani­mat­ed Film Nar­rat­ed by Shel Sil­ver­stein Him­self (1973)

The Employ­ment: A Prize-Win­ning Ani­ma­tion About Why We’re So Dis­en­chant­ed with Work Today

– Ayun Hal­l­i­day is the Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine and author, most recent­ly, of Cre­ative, Not Famous: The Small Pota­to Man­i­festo and Cre­ative, Not Famous Activ­i­ty Book. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

Death-Cap Mushrooms are Terrifying and Unstoppable: A Wild Animation

Mush­rooms are just­ly cel­e­brat­ed as vir­tu­ous mul­ti­taskers.

They’re food, teach­ers, movie stars, design inspi­ra­tion

…and some, as any­one who’s spent time play­ing or watch­ing The Last of Us can read­i­ly attest, are killers.

Hope­ful­ly we’ve got some time before civ­i­liza­tion is con­quered by zom­bie cordy­ceps.

For now, the ones to watch out for are amani­ta phal­loide, aka death cap mush­rooms.

The pow­er­ful ama­tox­in they har­bor is behind 90 per­cent of mush­room-relat­ed fatal­i­ties world­wide. It caus­es severe liv­er dam­age, lead­ing to bleed­ing dis­or­ders, brain swelling, and mul­ti-organ fail­ure in those who sur­vive. 

A death cap took the life of a three-year-old in British Colum­bia who mis­took one for a tasty straw mush­room on a for­ag­ing expe­di­tion with his fam­i­ly near their apart­ment com­plex. 

In Mel­bourne, a pot pie that test­ed pos­i­tive for death caps result­ed in the deaths of three adults, and sent a fourth to the hos­pi­tal in crit­i­cal con­di­tion.

As the ani­ma­tors feast on mush­rooms’ lim­it­less visu­al appeal in the above episode of The Atlantic’s Life Up Close series, author Craig Childs deliv­ers some sober­ing news:

We did it to our­selves. Humans are the ones who’ve enabled death caps to spread so far beyond their native habi­tats in Scan­di­navia and parts of north­ern Europe, where the poi­so­nous fun­gi feed on the root tips of decid­u­ous trees, spring­ing up around their hosts in tidy fairy rings.

When oth­er coun­tries import these trees to beau­ti­fy their city streets, the death caps, whose frag­ile spores are inca­pable of trav­el­ing long dis­tances when left to their own devices, tag along.

They have sprout­ed in the Pacif­ic North­west near import­ed sweet chest­nuts, beech­es, horn­beams, lin­dens, red oaks, and Eng­lish oaks, and oth­er host species.

As bio­chemist Paul Kroeger, cofounder of the Van­cou­ver Myco­log­i­cal Soci­ety, explained in a 2019 arti­cle Childs penned for the Atlantic, the inva­sive death caps aren’t pop­ping up in deeply wood­ed areas. 

Rather, they are set­tling into urban neigh­bor­hoods, fre­quent­ly in the grass strips bor­der­ing side­walks. When Childs accom­pa­nied Krueger on his rounds, the first of two dozen death caps dis­cov­ered that day were found in front of a house fes­tooned with Hal­loween dec­o­ra­tions. 

Now that they have estab­lished them­selves, the death caps can­not be roust­ed. No longer mere tourists, they’ve been seen mak­ing the jump to native oaks in Cal­i­for­nia and West­ern Cana­da.

Childs also notes that death caps are no longer a North Amer­i­can prob­lem:

They have spread world­wide where for­eign trees have been intro­duced into land­scap­ing and forestry prac­tices: North and South Amer­i­ca, New Zealand, Aus­tralia, South and East Africa, and Mada­gas­car. In Can­ber­ra, Aus­tralia, in 2012, an expe­ri­enced Chi­nese-born chef and his assis­tant pre­pared a New Year’s Eve din­ner that includ­ed, unbe­knownst to them, local­ly gath­ered death caps. Both died with­in two days, wait­ing for liv­er trans­plants; a guest at the din­ner also fell ill, but sur­vived after a suc­cess­ful trans­plant.

For­agers should pro­ceed with extreme cau­tion.

Relat­ed Con­tent 

The Beau­ti­ful­ly Illus­trat­ed Atlas of Mush­rooms: Edi­ble, Sus­pect and Poi­so­nous (1827)

A Stun­ning, Hand-Illus­trat­ed Book of Mush­rooms Drawn by an Over­looked 19th Cen­tu­ry Female Sci­en­tist

Alger­ian Cave Paint­ings Sug­gest Humans Did Mag­ic Mush­rooms 9,000 Years Ago

– Ayun Hal­l­i­day is the Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine and author, most recent­ly, of Cre­ative, Not Famous: The Small Pota­to Man­i­festo and Cre­ative, Not Famous Activ­i­ty Book. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

Behold the Bridges in India Made of Living Tree Roots

Liv­ing green walls and upcy­cled build­ing mate­ri­als are wel­come envi­ron­men­tal­ly-con­scious design trends, but when it comes to sus­tain­able archi­tec­ture, the liv­ing root bridges made by indige­nous Khasi and Jain­tia peo­ple in the north-east­ern Indi­an state of Megha­laya have them beat by cen­turies.

These tra­di­tion­al plant-based sus­pen­sion bridges make it much eas­i­er for vil­lagers to trav­el to neigh­bor­ing com­mu­ni­ties, mar­kets and out­ly­ing farms by span­ning the dense trop­i­cal rainforest’s many gorges and rivers.

Their con­struc­tion requires patience, as builders train the aer­i­al roots of well-sit­u­at­ed, mature rub­ber fig trees into posi­tion using bam­boo, old tree trunks, and wire for sup­port, weav­ing more roots in as they become avail­able.

This mul­ti-gen­er­a­tional con­struc­tion project can take up to 30 years to com­plete. The care­ful­ly-tend­ed bridges become stur­dier with age, as the roots that form the deck and handrails thick­en.

The vil­lage of Non­gri­at has one bridge that has been in place for 200-some years. An upper bridge, sus­pend­ed direct­ly over­head, is a hun­dred years younger.

As vil­lage head and life­long res­i­dent Wis­ton Miwa told Great Big Sto­ry, above, when he was a child, peo­ple were leery of using the new­er bridge, wor­ried that it was not yet strong enough to be safe. Six decades lat­er, vil­lagers (and tourists) tra­verse it reg­u­lar­ly.

Archi­tect San­jeev Shankar, in a study of 11 liv­ing root bridges, learned that new struc­tures are loaded with stones, planks, and soil to test their weight bear­ing capac­i­ty. Some of the old­est can han­dle 50 pedes­tri­ans at once.

Humans are not the only crea­tures mak­ing the cross­ing. Bark deer and cloud­ed leop­ards are also known trav­el­ers. Squir­rels, birds, and insects set­tle in for per­ma­nent stays.

The Khasi peo­ple fol­low an oral tra­di­tion, and have lit­tle writ­ten doc­u­men­ta­tion regard­ing their his­to­ry and cus­toms, includ­ing the con­struc­tion of liv­ing root bridges.

Archi­tect Fer­di­nand Lud­wig, a cham­pi­on of Baub­otanik — or liv­ing plant con­struc­tion — notes that there is no set design being fol­lowed. Both nature and the vil­lagers tend­ing to the grow­ing struc­tures can be con­sid­ered the archi­tects here:

When we con­struct a bridge or a build­ing, we have a plan – we know what it’s going to look like. But this isn’t pos­si­ble with liv­ing archi­tec­ture. Khasi peo­ple know this; they are extreme­ly clever in how they con­stant­ly ana­lyze and inter­act with tree growth, and accord­ing­ly adapt to the conditions…How these roots are pulled, tied and woven togeth­er dif­fer from builder to builder. None of the bridges looks sim­i­lar.

The bridges, while remote, are becom­ing a buck­et list des­ti­na­tion for adven­tur­ers and eco­tourists, Nongriat’s dou­ble bridge in par­tic­u­lar.

The BBC’s Zinara Rath­nayake reports that such out­side inter­est has pro­vid­ed vil­lagers with an addi­tion­al source of income, as well as some pre­dictable headaches — lit­ter, inap­pro­pri­ate behav­ior, and over­crowd­ing:

Some root bridges see crowds of hun­dreds at a time as tourists clam­ber for self­ies, poten­tial­ly over­bur­den­ing the trees.

The Liv­ing Bridge Foun­da­tion, which works to pre­serve the liv­ing root bridges while pro­mot­ing respon­si­ble eco­tourism is seek­ing to have the area des­ig­nat­ed as a UNESCO World Her­itage Site.


Relat­ed Con­tent 

1,100 Del­i­cate Draw­ings of Root Sys­tems Reveals the Hid­den World of Plants

The Secret Lan­guage of Trees: A Charm­ing Ani­mat­ed Les­son Explains How Trees Share Infor­ma­tion with Each Oth­er

Daisu­gi, the 600-Year-Old Japan­ese Tech­nique of Grow­ing Trees Out of Oth­er Trees, Cre­at­ing Per­fect­ly Straight Lum­ber

The Tree of Lan­guages Illus­trat­ed in a Big, Beau­ti­ful Info­graph­ic

– Ayun Hal­l­i­day is the Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine and author, most recent­ly, of Cre­ative, Not Famous: The Small Pota­to Man­i­festo and Cre­ative, Not Famous Activ­i­ty Book. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

Watch Young David Attenborough Encounter Animals in Their Natural Habitats: Video from the 1950s and 1960s

Expe­ri­ence long ago con­ferred the man­tle of author­i­ty on broad­cast­er, biol­o­gist, nat­ur­al his­to­ri­an and author David Atten­bor­ough, age 97.

In his late 20s, he land­ed at the BBC, pro­duc­ing live stu­dio broad­casts that ran the gamut from children’s shows, bal­let per­for­mances and arche­o­log­i­cal quizzes to pro­grams focused on cook­ing, reli­gion and pol­i­tics.

When an edu­ca­tion­al show star­ring ani­mals from the Lon­don Zoo became a hit with view­ers, the pow­ers that be built on its pop­u­lar­i­ty with a fresh take — a show that sent the intre­pid young Atten­bor­ough around the world, seek­ing ani­mals in their native habi­tats. He was accom­pa­nied by cam­era­man Charles Lagus and two zool­o­gists, whom he quick­ly sup­plant­ed as host.

It made for thrilling view­ing in an era when wildlife tourism was avail­able to a very few.

The New York Times notes that many of the crea­tures who cropped up onscreen in these ear­ly Zoo Quest episodes were shipped back to Lon­don Zoo:

It is not the kind of mis­sion we approve of nowa­days, but with­out it the West might nev­er have got­ten inter­est­ed in wildlife to begin with. We start­ed by shoot­ing exot­ic species for their skins and bones and trap­ping them for our zoos, and only recent­ly moved to wor­ry­ing about their sur­vival in the wild and the health of the plan­et in gen­er­al. This his­to­ry is sym­bol­ized by the trans­for­ma­tion of Atten­bor­ough him­self from a talk­ing and writ­ing croc­o­dile hunter to the great­est liv­ing advo­cate of the glob­al ecosys­tem.

In Bor­neo in 1956, in search for Komo­do drag­ons, he paused for an encounter with an orang­utan, above, and also a big whiff of duri­an, the spiky, odif­er­ous fruit whose aro­ma famous­ly got it banned from Singapore’s ele­gant Raf­fles Hotel, with taxis, planes, sub­ways, and fer­ries fol­low­ing suit.

Soon there­after, the six-episode hunt for the Komo­do drag­on finds Atten­bor­ough in Java, mask­ing his nerves as he uses a cut­lass, a will­ing­ness to climb trees, and a cloth sack to get the bet­ter of a ful­ly grown python.

(Once the ser­pent was set­tled at the Lon­don Zoo, he made the trek to the BBC for an in-stu­dio appear­ance.)

You’ll note that this episode is in col­or.

Although Zoo Quest filmed in col­or, it aired ten years before col­or broad­casts were avail­able to UK view­ers, so most of the folks watch­ing at home assumed it had been shot in black and white.

In 1960, Atten­bor­ough used the lat­est — now severe­ly out­mod­ed-look­ing– tech­nol­o­gy to cap­ture the first audio record­ing of the indri, Madagascar’s largest lemur for Attenborough’s Won­der of Song.

This audio vic­to­ry led him to won­der if he could be the first to film an indri.

Frus­trat­ed by the thick canopy over­head, Atten­bor­ough resort­ed to play­back, suc­cess­ful­ly tempt­ing the ani­mals to not only come clos­er, but do so while vocal­iz­ing.

Mat­ing calls?

No. Atten­bor­ough deduced that they were the indris’ “bat­tle songs”, issued as a warn­ing to the per­ceived threat of unfa­mil­iar indris.

In 2011, Atten­bor­ough returned to Mada­gas­car, lis­ten­ing respect­ful­ly to Joseph, a local hunter turned con­ser­va­tion­ist, who explains how the local pop­u­lace no longer think of indri as a food source, but rather a sym­bol of their com­mit­ment to pre­serv­ing the nat­ur­al world around them. Joseph’s rela­tion­ship with the indri affords Sir David a rare oppor­tu­ni­ty, as the indri feed from his hand:

Fifty years ago, I spent days and days and days search­ing through the for­est, with these fir­ing their noise over­head but now this group is so accus­tomed to see­ing peo­ple around that I have been right close up to them, some­thing I nev­er believed could have be pos­si­ble. 

Read more about David Atten­bor­ough’s Zoo Quest expe­ri­ences in his mem­oir, Adven­tures of a Young Nat­u­ral­ist, and watch a playlist of doc­u­men­taries for the BBC here.

via TheKidsShould­SeeThis

Relat­ed Con­tent 

Net­flix Makes Doc­u­men­taries Free to Stream: Design, Pol­i­tics, Sports, Sir David Atten­bor­ough & More

David Atten­bor­ough Reads “What a Won­der­ful World” in a Mov­ing Video

Björk and Sir David Atten­bor­ough Team Up in a New Doc­u­men­tary About Music and Tech­nol­o­gy

– Ayun Hal­l­i­day is the Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine and author, most recent­ly, of Cre­ative, Not Famous: The Small Pota­to Man­i­festo and Cre­ative, Not Famous Activ­i­ty Book. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

Discover Edo, the Historic Green/Sustainable City of Japan

When you pic­ture mod­ern day Tokyo, what comes to mind?

The elec­tron­ic bill­boards of Shibuya and Shin­juku?

The teem­ing streets?

The maid cafes?

The robot hotel?

A 97 square foot micro apart­ment?

Bernard Guer­ri­ni’s doc­u­men­tary Natur­opo­lis — Tokyo, from mega­lopo­lis to gar­den-city describes Tokyo as “a giant city, a city which nev­er stops grow­ing:”

It has destroyed its nat­ur­al spaces. It has cre­at­ed its own weath­er. It’s too big for its own good. They say Tokyo is like an amoe­ba that absorbs every­thing in its path.

It’s a far cry from the urban space Toku­gawa Ieya­su, founder of the Toku­gawa Shogu­nate, intend­ed when plant­i­ng the seeds for Edo, as Tokyo was orig­i­nal­ly called.

As the above excerpt from Natur­opo­lis explains, the 16th-cen­tu­ry city was inno­v­a­tive in its incor­po­ra­tion of green space.

The daimyō, or mil­i­tary lords, were required by the shogu­nate to keep res­i­dences in Edo. Each of these homes was fur­nished with a gar­den­er and a land­scap­er to main­tain the beau­ty of its al fres­co areas.

Mean­while, crops were cul­ti­vat­ed in all com­mu­nal out­door open spaces, with irri­ga­tion canals sup­ply­ing the nec­es­sary water for grow­ing rice.

These plant-rich set­tings pro­vid­ed a hos­pitable envi­ron­ment for ani­mals both wild and domes­tic. The care­ful­ly curat­ed nat­ur­al zones invit­ed qui­et con­tem­pla­tion of flo­ra and fau­na, giv­ing rise to the sea­son­al cel­e­bra­tions and rites that are still observed through­out Japan.

Whether admir­ing blos­soms and fire­flies in spring and sum­mer or autumn leaves and snowy win­ter scenes in the cold­er months, Edo’s cit­i­zens revered the nat­ur­al world out­side their doorsteps.

Bashō did the same in his haiku; Uta­gawa Hiroshige in his series of ukiyo‑e prints, One Hun­dred Famous Views of Edo.

Some­what less poet­i­cal­ly cel­e­brat­ed was the impor­tance of night soil to this bio­dy­nam­ic, pre-indus­tri­al shogu­nate cap­i­tal. As envi­ron­men­tal writer Eisuke Ishikawa del­i­cate­ly notes in Japan in the Edo Peri­od — An Eco­log­i­cal­ly-Con­scious Soci­ety:

A long time ago, when excre­ment was a pre­cious fer­til­iz­er, it nat­u­ral­ly belonged to the per­son who pro­duced it. Farm­ers used to buy excre­ment for cash or trade it for a com­pa­ra­ble amount of veg­eta­bles. Fer­til­iz­er short­ages were a chron­ic prob­lem dur­ing the Edo peri­od. As the stan­dard of liv­ing in cities improved, sur­round­ing vil­lages need­ed an increas­ing amount of fer­til­iz­er…

(Any­one who’s shoul­dered the sur­pris­ing­ly heavy interactive–not THAT interactive–night soil buck­ets on dis­play in Tokyo’s Edo Muse­um will have a feel for just how much of this nec­es­sary ele­ment each block of the cap­i­tal city gen­er­at­ed on a dai­ly basis.)

The Mei­ji Restora­tion of 1868 brought many changes — a new gov­ern­ment, a new name for Edo, and a race toward West­ern-style indus­tri­al­iza­tion. Many parks and gar­dens were destroyed as Tokyo rapid­ly expand­ed beyond Edo’s orig­i­nal foot­print.

But now, the Tokyo Met­ro­pol­i­tan Gov­ern­ment is look­ing to its past in an effort to com­bat the effects of cli­mate change with a push toward envi­ron­men­tal sus­tain­abil­i­ty.

The goal is net zero CO2 emis­sions by 2050, with 2030 serv­ing as a bench­mark.

In addi­tion to hold­ing the busi­ness, finan­cial, and ener­gy sec­tors to envi­ron­men­tal­ly respon­si­ble stan­dard, the zero emis­sion plan seeks to address the aver­age citizen’s qual­i­ty of life, with a lit­er­al return to more green spaces:

Accel­er­at­ing cli­mate change mea­sures is impor­tant to pre­serve bio­di­ver­si­ty and con­tin­ue to reap its boun­ty. In recent years, the idea of green infra­struc­ture that uti­lizes the func­tions of the nat­ur­al envi­ron­ment has attract­ed atten­tion. It is one of the most impor­tant con­sid­er­a­tions for the future: achiev­ing both bio­di­ver­si­ty con­ser­va­tion and cli­mate change mea­sures.

A Unit­ed Nation report* point­ed out that COVID-19 is poten­tial­ly a zoonot­ic dis­ease derived from wildlife, such infec­tious dis­eases will increase in the future, and one of the rea­sons is the destruc­tion of nature by humans.

Read Tokyo Met­ro­pol­i­tan Government’s Zero Trans­mis­sion Strat­e­gy and Update here.

Relat­ed Con­tent 

The Met Puts 650+ Japan­ese Illus­trat­ed Books Online: Mar­vel at Hokusai’s One Hun­dred Views of Mount Fuji and More

Down­load 1,000+ Beau­ti­ful Wood­block Prints by Hiroshige, the Last Great Mas­ter of the Japan­ese Wood­block Print Tra­di­tion

Wabi-Sabi: A Short Film on the Beau­ty of Tra­di­tion­al Japan

See How Tra­di­tion­al Japan­ese Car­pen­ters Can Build a Whole Build­ing Using No Nails or Screws

The Entire His­to­ry of Japan in 9 Quirky Min­utes

Cats in Japan­ese Wood­block Prints: How Japan’s Favorite Ani­mals Came to Star in Its Pop­u­lar Art

– Ayun Hal­l­i­day is the Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine and author, most recent­ly, of Cre­ative, Not Famous: The Small Pota­to Man­i­festo and Cre­ative, Not Famous Activ­i­ty Book. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

Behold an Astonishing Near-Nightly Spectacle in the Lightning Capital of the World

Extreme weath­er con­di­tions have become a top­ic of grave con­cern. Are floods, earth­quakes, tor­na­does and cat­a­stroph­ic storms the new nor­mal?

Just for a moment, let’s trav­el to a place where extreme weath­er has always been the norm: Lake Mara­cai­bo in north­west­ern Venezuela.

Accord­ing to NASA’s Trop­i­cal Rain­fall Mea­sur­ing Mis­sion’s light­ning image sen­sor, it is the light­ning cap­i­tal of the world.

Chalk it up to the unique geog­ra­phy and cli­mate con­di­tions near the con­flu­ence of the lake and the Cata­tum­bo Riv­er. At night, the moist warm air above the water col­lides with cool breezes rolling down from the Andes, cre­at­ing an aver­age of 297 thun­der­storms a year.

Watch­ing pho­tog­ra­ph­er Jonas Pio­ntek’s short film doc­u­ment­ing the phe­nom­e­non, above, it’s not sur­pris­ing that chief among his tips for shoot­ing light­ning at night is a point­ed warn­ing to always keep a safe dis­tance from the storm. While view­able from as far as 400 kilo­me­ters away, the area near­est the light­ning activ­i­ty can aver­age 28 strikes per minute.

More than 400 years before Pio­ntek shared his impres­sions with the world, Span­ish poet Lope de Vega tapped Cata­tum­bo light­ning in his epic 1597 poem La Drag­ontea, cred­it­ing it, erro­neous­ly, with hav­ing  thwart­ed Sir Fran­cis Drake’s plans to con­quer the city of Mara­cai­bo under cov­er of night. His poet­ic license was per­sua­sive enough that it’s still an accept­ed part of the myth.

The “eter­nal storm” did how­ev­er give Venezue­lan naval forces a gen­uine nat­ur­al assist, by illu­mi­nat­ing a squadron of Span­ish ships on Lake Mara­cai­bo, which they defeat­ed on July 24, 1823, clear­ing the way to inde­pen­dence.

Once upon a time, large num­bers of local fish­er­men took advan­tage of their prime posi­tion to fish by night, although with recent defor­esta­tion, polit­i­cal con­flict, and eco­nom­ic decline dec­i­mat­ing the vil­lages where they live in tra­di­tion­al stilt­ed hous­es, their liveli­hood is in decline.

Mean­while the Eter­nal Storm has itself been affect­ed by forces of extreme weath­er. In 2010, a drought occa­sioned by a par­tic­u­lar­ly strong El Niño, caused light­ning activ­i­ty to cease for 6 weeks, its longest dis­ap­pear­ance in 104 years.

Envi­ron­men­tal­ist Erik Quiroga, who is cam­paign­ing for the Cata­tum­bo light­ning to be des­ig­nat­ed as the world’s first UNESCO World Her­itage Weath­er Phe­nom­e­non warns, “This is a unique gift and we are at risk of los­ing it.”

See more of Jonas Piontek’s Cata­tum­bo light­ning pho­tographs here.

– Ayun Hal­l­i­day is the Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine and author, most recent­ly, of Cre­ative, Not Famous: The Small Pota­to Man­i­festo and Cre­ative, Not Famous Activ­i­ty Book. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

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