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Posts Tagged ‘Water’

The Esso Aruba, built in 1931, a water tanker as much as an oil tanker.

Just today I heard an interesting bit of Hudson River trivia from my “grandfather.” Some of you know that both sides of my family have been in tug and barge and marine contracting work on New York Harbor for about a century. But I’m blessed with a third grandfather, Jim — my childhood landlord who, along with his wife, essentially adopted my mom, brother, and me during hard times and now we’re there for him as he reaches his 90s.
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I biked over to Jim in Flushing, and he told me something from his days as a Merchant Marine, 2nd engineer aboard this kind of oil ship, in World War II. The convoys to which he belonged ran oil both from the Middle East to Europe and Aruba to Albany. Regarding the latter, he noted that when oil was delivered stateside, they pumped about half out in NYC before heading up the Hudson River to Albany, where the other half was pumped out. The ships then took on ballast water (a practice now carefully regulated to avoid introducing invasive species).
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When the ships arrived to desert island of Aruba, that Hudson River water was so precious that it was pumped out, spun through a centrifuge to remove any oil residue, and used sparingly as a precious commodity! Who knew that we once swapped Hudson River oil for water in unofficial international trade?
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It occurred to Jim then, as a young man in his 20s, that much of the world would one day treat water as covetously as oil. He moved to water rich NYC after the war, and later thought the growth of huge cities in areas that required water conservation was madness.
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Science Photo Library caption: Desalination plant. View of a mixed desalination and electricity generating plant. This is the second largest desalination plant in the world. Oil-fired turbines generate electricity using sea water which condenses and is desalinated in the process. The water is then passed over coral rocks to add minerals and pumped to the rest of the island which receives little rainfall. Photographed on the Dutch island of Aruba in the West Indies in 1999.

Today, Aruba has a massive desalination plant. The Hudson River has endured environmental assault but now Rockland County is edging closer to relying on it for life. NYC might also turn to it if times get desperate.
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Instead of obsessing over another fossil fuel, natural gas, that lies under our region’s earth, we should be grateful for the plentiful water above it. Protecting it means, at this time, choosing water over dangerously extracted fuel.

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On June 5, race across a pristine lake and then drink it from your tap!

New York City’s drinking water comes from a vast system of reservoirs and lakes stewarded by the NYC Department of Environmental Protection. They’re as picturesque as any scene you’ll find pasted across well-marketed bottled water, nestled in green ancient mountains and fed by spring thaws. Photographer Dick Bower has shared the beauty of the reservoir and lake system, and the region in which they rest, extensively in his online gallery.

Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries the municipal government and nonprofit partners purchased vast acreages of forest to naturally filter the water. The system is so effective that NYC tap water needn’t be artificially filtered at the source, which saves taxpayers billions of dollars (home filters primarily address deposits from old building pipes).

Recently public awareness of this precious resource has been raised by controversy over the demand for natural gas drilling in the same region, which is hurting economically while sitting atop a vast expanse of gas-rich shale deposits. In particular, the practice called hydraulic fracturing (or “hydrofracking”) has alarmed environmentalists because of its record of contaminating water tables and damaging wildlife habitats. Specialized groups have formed to object to the practice, and established organizations like the Natural Resources Defense Council have taken up the cause.

Cannonsville Reservoir by Dick Bower.

The Cannonsville Adventure Triathlon educates people about the New York City water supply in a brilliantly apolitical way. This event features a 10k run, 4 mile paddle, and 12 mile bike set amid the crystal waters of the Cannonsville Reservoir and rolling Catskill Mountain forests in Delaware County, NY. Whether you’re inspired to compete or would enjoy cheering the athletes through their course, you’ll have a blast getting to know each other and your water. Camping over the weekend is encouraged!

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This post has abstract charts because this beautiful sequence is expressed in nature in so many forms that Pantheism has taken the spiral as its symbol. Conscious human recognition and employment of this sequence first occurred in India 2,200 years ago in, surprisingly enough, Pingala’s treatise on Sanskrit prosody. In 1202, Leonardo Pisano Bigollo (known to us as Fibonacci) introduced this description of the spiral to Western scholars through his book Liber Abaci, which generally popularized Indian (via the Arabs) numbers as a useful replacement for Roman numerals.

Fibonacci Numbers” calculate the growth of phenomena as diverse as buds on a stem to hurricanes and the Whirlpool Galaxy. Generation of it is as simple as starting with zero or one, and then arriving at each subsequent number by adding the previous two.

Here are the first 50 numbers in the sequence:

F0= 0 F1= 1 F2= 1 F3= 2 F4= 3
F5= 5 F6= 8 F7= 13 F8= 21 F9= 34
F10= 55 F11= 89 F12= 144 F13= 233 F14= 377
F15= 610 F16= 987 F17= 1,597 F18= 2,584 F19= 4,181
F20= 6,765 F21= 10,946 F22= 17,711 F23= 28,657 F24= 46,368
F25= 75,025 F26= 121,393 F27= 196,418 F28= 317,811 F29= 514,229
F30= 832,040 F31= 1,346,269 F32= 2,178,309 F33= 3,524,578 F34= 5,702,887
F35= 9,227,465 F36= 14,930,352 F37= 24,157,817 F38= 39,088,169 F39= 63,245,986
F40= 102,334,155 F41= 165,580,141 F42= 267,914,296 F43= 433,494,437 F44= 701,408,733
F45= 1,134,903,170 F46= 1,836,311,903 F47= 2,971,215,073 F48= 4,807,526,976 F49= 7,778,742,049

Put into action, we take squares (or tiles) built upon each other by the same rule and then draw a line bending opposite corner to corner:

In a transient and humble way, I was reminded of the eternal ideal form of this sequence when kayaking from Manhattan’s west side to Sandy Hook, NJ. Each paddle stroke created a little vortex, a spiral, as is demonstrated by this photo by Björn Olin I grabbed off the Web.

By pondering the mathematics behind the swirls, I felt the presence of our predecessors who revealed the sequence. I was no longer alone. Drawing upon another poetic tradition, I wrote this Haiku:

 

 

Paddle dip and stroke.
Pier 40 to Sandy Hook
with Fibonacci.

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Alchemy at Gowanus Studio Space.

Alchemy at Gowanus Studio Space.

TONIGHT: Free admission to a party of environmentalists and art lovers!

Beer by Kelso of Brooklyn!

DJ Dave “Roosting Box” Nardone!

What’s all the fuss about?

Well, sometimes hardened urbanites think that it would take green alchemy to create habitat on our mean streets. The good folks at the Gowanus Studio Space in Brooklyn (119 8th Street, between 2nd and 3rd Avenues. Subway: F or G to Smith/9th St. or F, M or R to 4th Ave./9th St.) have conjured just that, featuring reclamation artist Atom Cianfarani’s guerilla habitat restoration, “Suspended Nurseries” and “For the Birds.”

The Alchemy show focuses on how discarded commodities can be reused to investigate our relationship with nature, and perhaps even benefit it. “Suspended Nurseries” and “For the Birds” make use of our waste and ignored resources like rainwater to quietly overlay our city’s hardscape with sustaining ecological niches. Native species rejoice!

And you too!

Poke around these websites for directions and more information:

http://www.gowanusstudio.org/

http://www.atomsdream.com

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600px-orion_nebula_-_hubble_2006_mosaic_18000.jpg

by Erik Baard

If Nature Calendar holds any value, it will be measured by how much it nurtures the feeling that your life is woven into a whole, a kinship that won’t be walled within a name. May I then call you to witness, this first weekend of spring, the birth of suns and worlds and seas?

Tonight, turn away from the busy glare of dutiful streetlamps and hurtling headlights. Climb the stairs to the roof, crawl out onto the fire escape, or stroll into the open green of a park and look to the southern sky for square-shouldered Orion. Better yet, join the star party hosted by the Amateur Astronomers Association of New York at Great Kills Gateway National Park, next Saturday, April 12.

But quietly defy millennia of tradition and see before you not a mythological hunter, but a mother.

“For many years I’ve thought the Greeks got it wrong,” said astrophysicist Mordecai-Mark Mac Low, who uses supercomputers to simulate and study stellar evolution in nebulae at the American Museum of Natural History. “If she’s giving birth to stars below her belt, Orion’s a woman.”

The Orion Nebula (a faint smudge of light reaching us across 1,600 light years of space but seen in the photo above with the Hubble Space Telescope‘s crystal clarity) had been imagined to be the center of the constellation’s sword. In fact, the Orion Complex, composed of the nebula and billowing gases and dust behind it, doesn’t resemble the clean lines of a blade so much as the hazy shape of an ultrasound, and for good reason. You’re gazing into a cosmic cloud womb.

Planetary scientist David Grinspoon also dismissed Orion’s “macho hunter dude” image and asserted, “That stellar womb has the right placental nutrients to create life. As sure as I can be about anything without direct empirical evidence, I am sure that’s where our star brethren are being born.” Grinspoon is the astrobiology curator of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science and author of Lonely Planets: A Natural Philosophy of Alien Life. He is also the interdisciplinary scientist of the European Space Agency’s ongoing Venus Express mission and a lead investigator for a radiological instrument on a coming NASA rover mission to Mars.

Our closer stellar family, from the sun to the far-flung tumble of ice worlds and comets and sister stars, may have been born in just such a place 4.65 billion years ago.

“It’s almost like a view to our own origins, and it’s happening all over the universe. Because it’s so close and we have such a good view, the Orion Nebula gives us a wonderful chance to peer outward and at the same time feel like we’re peering backward and peering inward,” Grinspoon said.

Mac Low agreed. “That’s an increasingly well supported idea,” he said.

Natural philosophers Immanuel Kant and Herbert Spencer intuited the “Nebular Hypothesis,” that there was a seamless evolution from dust to intelligence. Scientists now recognize that it’s quite a rough and uncertain ride over that arc, but the beauty and utility of that vision endures and instructs.

The Orion nebula, visible to the naked eye and lovely through binoculars or a telescope, is a scrim of hot, ionized gases blown about by the jets, shock waves, and ejected “wind” of stars birthing, churning, and dying. It twists into, and partially obscures, a trillion-mile wide molecular cloud containing hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, carbon, silicon, iron, and hundreds of compounds including organic substances like ammonia and methane. It’s a deep space ecology, of sorts.

Much of the material is collapsing under gravity to form new stars. The youngest and brightest of them is estimated to be a mere 10,000 years old. When it ignited, the artist from Germany’s Aurignacian culture who carved an apparent Orion star map and pregnancy chart into a sliver of mammoth tusk was already dead for over 20,000 years. Contemporaries of that star birth might have wished they could feel some of that new heat. In what would become New York City, villagers were then huddled between the foot of a receding ice sheet and rising seas.

Other juvenile stars are accreting protoplanetary discs. So far astronomers have counted what appear to be 2,300 of them in the Orion Complex, using the Spitzer Space Telescope. Heavier elements in the dust are fossils of ancestral stars that synthesized them in their increasingly strained, aging fusion generator cores before catastrophic deaths. Not only does the grittier stuff coalesce to form rocky worlds, but by shading hydrogen and oxygen from energetic ultraviolet light, it allows water to form.

According to readings from an infrared space telescope survey, the Orion cloud complex is producing water at a daily rate that would fill all of Earth’s oceans 60-times over, and already contains a million times more water than our planet. Casting our vision billions of years forward, fantasies can readily conjure a great harbor city showing as a beacon on the night side of a “lonely planet,” in a dark region of space where the Orion Nebula has long been consumed away.

How precious our moment is, a time when carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen have been formed into our brains and sensitive fingertips, to enjoy caressing striations carved into Central Park’s exposed silicate bedrock by glaciers of hydrogen and oxygen.

We are a single pulse in the body of what my murdered friend, science maverick Eugene Mallove, celebrated as The Quickening Universe.

May we at Nature Calendar never fail to remind you that this single cosmic pulse is your season to bloom.

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