- The Big Picture shares shocking photos of the Portuguese forest fires.
- blogTO notes that, happily, Seaton Village's Fiesta Farms is apparently not at risk of being turned into a condo development site.
- Centauri Dreams notes a new starship discussion group in Delft. Shades of the British Interplanetary Society and the Daedalus?
- D-Brief considers a new theory explaining why different birds' eggs have different shapes.
- The Frailest Thing's Michael Sacasas commits himself to a new regimen of blogging about technology and its imports. (There is a Patreon.)
- Language Hat notes the current Turkish government's interest in purging Turkish of Western loanwords.
- Language Log's Victor Mair sums up the evidence for the diffusion of Indo-European languages, and their speakers, into India.
- The LRB Blog notes the Theresa May government's inability post-Grenfell to communicate with any sense of emotion.
- Marginal Revolution's Tyler Cowen wonders if the alt-right more prominent in the Anglophone world because it is more prone to the appeal of the new.
- Personal Reflections' Jim Belshaw wonders if Brexit will result in a stronger European Union and a weaker United Kingdom.
- Seriously Science reports a study suggesting that shiny new headphones are not better than less flashy brands.
- Torontoist reports on the anti-Muslim hate groups set to march in Toronto Pride.
- Understanding Society considers the subject of critical realism in sociological analyses.
- Window on Eurasia notes how Russia's call to promote Cyrillic across the former Soviet Union has gone badly in Armenia, with its own script.
- Centauri Dreams notes new studies suggesting the flares of red dwarf stars damage potentially habitable planets.
- The Crux notes that the wild apple is going extinct.
- D-Brief notes that recent high winds in Europe helped push energy prices there to negative territory.
- The Frailest Thing considers Neil Postman's thoughts on the intersection of mass media and childhood.
- Inkfish argues in favour of accidental wetlands in urban areas.
- Language Log looks at the trope of the repeated character in some recent Chinese advertising.
- The LRB Blog considers the costs, environmental and otherwise, to the United States' leaving the Paris climate agreement.
- Marginal Revolution wonders what assumptions about deep history the news of Homo sapiens' longer history overturn.
- The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer notes that, in the area of energy costs, mid-20th century Uruguay was worse off than New Zealand.
- The Russian Demographics Blog looks at polling on Russian opinions about the Russian Far East and its future.
- Yorkshire Ranter Alex Harrowell is skeptical about Jeremy Paxman's claims about privacy in modern journalism.
I took the long way home last evening, taking the subway west of my stop as far as Dundas West and then walking east to home. On my way, still on Dundas West, I came across this tree, with fresh green leaves turned golden by the ambient light. Taking a photograph of this was an obligation for me.
In a sponsored post, Torontoist's Catherine McIntyre looks at the importance of Toronto's urban forest as a source of financial and other benefits.
When a resident from Kleinburg, a heritage district in York Region, proposed a plan to build an underground garage on his property, the City signed off with little dispute. The car park, complete with a hydraulic lift, would be close to the property line, but would offer just enough clearance from the neighbour’s mature trees to avoid causing any damage. Soon after the resident started excavating, however, the City was inundated with calls from a frantic neighbour. Major roots that stretched from their property into the excavation area were severed, cutting off a significant means of water and nutrient uptake, and the neighbour feared, correctly, that their trees would die.
It turns out the resident building the garage had mislead the City by submitting plans for the above-ground area of the project—a fraction of what was being excavated below the surface.
But according to Philip Van Wassenaer, a seasoned arborist and tree consultant for municipalities, knowing the construction would have damaged the roots wouldn’t have mattered anyway. “What’s below ground—40 to 50 per cent of the tree’s biomass—is the most important part,” says Van Wassenaer, “But if my tree is growing a metre away from the property line and you get permission to excavate to that point, then you’re going to be doing significant damage to a portion of the roots in my tree, and I have no recourse.”
Indeed, while municipalities have the mandate to protect the trunks, branches, and leaves of mature trees, the vital root systems remain largely ignored by policy, leaving them vulnerable to development.
It’s just one of the many limitations in the efforts to protect the GTA’s urban forest—a critical asset for healthy cities, and one that is increasingly under threat, from climate change, disease, and the built environment.
Torontoist's Ryan O'Connor reports on terrible ecological news for Toronto.
The emerald ash borer is an invasive species of beetles first spotted in North America in 2002. Since then the metallic-green insect has destroyed tens of millions of ash trees across the continent. When it was detected in Toronto in 2007, its devastating effects were widely known. Simply put, once the emerald ash borer takes root in a locale, it is nearly impossible to stop its spread, and the subsequent destruction of the entire ash tree population.
According to a study undertaken by the City of Toronto’s Urban Forestry department, there were 860,000 ash trees at the time of the infestation, with approximately 40 per cent located on public land. The City implemented a mitigation and replacement strategy to limit the damage, including planting new trees and using an injection to protect existing ash trees. The injections, which use the insecticide TreeAzin, manage to protect the trees from the emerald ash borer, but must be reapplied on an annual basis. As of the end of 2015, there were 11,479 trees located on public lands that had received these life-sustaining injections, while 48,400 ash trees have been removed by Urban Forestry. Although there are no firm figures available for ash trees located on private property, Sarah Doucette (Ward 13, Parkdale-High Park), Council’s tree advocate, estimates that just 300,000 remain in the city. This number will continue to dwindle, with all but the injected ash expected to be dead by 2020.
The National Post carried Faiz Siddiqui's Washington Post article describing a bonsai tree now nearly four centuries old that survived 1945.
Moses Weisberg was walking his bicycle through the National Arboretum in Northeast Washington when he stopped at a mushroom-shaped tree. The first thing he noticed was the thickness of the trunk, estimated at almost a foot and a half in diameter. And then there was the abundance of spindly leaves, a healthy head of hair for a botanical relic 390 years old.
But it was only when he learned the full history of the tree, a Japanese white pine donated in 1976, that he was truly stunned. The tree, a part of the Arboretum’s National Bonsai and Penjing Museum, has not only navigated the perils of age to become the collection’s oldest; it survived the blast of an atomic bomb, Little Boy, dropped over Hiroshima, Japan, during the Second World War.
“For one, it’s amazing to think that something could have survived an atomic blast,” said Weisberg, a 26-year-old student at the Georgetown University Law Center. “And then that by some happenstance a Japanese tree from the 1600s ended up here.”
The bonsai tree’s history is being honoured this week, as Thursday marks the 70th anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing. But visitors can see the tree as part of the museum’s permanent collection throughout the year.
The tree, donated by a bonsai master named Masaru Yamaki, was part of a 53-specimen gift to the United States for its 1976 bicentennial. Little was known about the tree until March 8, 2001, when — with no advance notice — two brothers visiting from Japan showed up at the museum to check on their grandfather’s tree.
A post on Discover magazine's Inkfish blog alerted me to some interesting research.
The Toronto Star's Geoffrey Vendeville went into more detail.
What’s a tree worth to you? According to a large study in Toronto, trees may increase both how healthy you feel and how healthy you really are. Having some extra foliage on your block could be as good for your health as a pay raise–or an anti-aging machine.
It’s a complicated relationship to figure out, because variables that affect how many trees you see each day could also affect your health. The population of a concrete, inner-city apartment complex may have socioeconomic differences, for example, from the population of a leafy, well-tended suburb. University of Chicago psychologist Marc Berman and his colleagues used a detailed analysis to try to tease out the impact of trees themselves.
They started by going to Canada. In a country with universal health care, they figured, access to doctors isn’t as much of a variable as in the United States. Since socioeconomic status can still affect how people use doctors, the authors also gathered information on their subjects’ income and education. And rather than comparing people from multiple areas, they focused only on the city of Toronto.
From a large-scale, ongoing project called the Ontario Health Study, the authors collected data on over 31,000 adult residents of Toronto. In addition to household income and years of education, they looked at subjects’ sex, diet (self-reported servings of fruits and vegetables per day), and neighborhood. The Ontario Health Study questionnaires also asked subjects whether they’d ever been diagnosed with various physical and mental health conditions.
The final measurement was health perception: how healthy do subjects feel they are, on a scale from 1 to 5? It sounds vague, but this measurement has been found to strongly predict actual health, the authors write.
The Toronto Star's Geoffrey Vendeville went into more detail.
Using data from Toronto, a team of researchers has found that having 10 more trees on your block has self-reported health benefits akin to a $10,000 salary raise or moving to a neighbourhood with a $10,000 higher median income or being seven years younger.
By comparing satellite imagery of Toronto, an inventory of trees on public land and general health surveys, the team, led by University of Chicago psychologist Marc Berman, found that people who live on a tree-lined block are less likely to report conditions such as high blood pressure, obesity, heart disease or diabetes.
Their findings appeared last week in the open-access journal Scientific Reports.
The study suggests “pretty strongly” that planting 4 per cent more trees would have significant health benefits, Berman said.
Researchers don’t know why, exactly, trees seem to be good for people’s health.
“Is it that the trees are cleaning the air? Is it that the trees are encouraging people to go outside and exercise more? Or is it their esthetic beauty? We need to understand that,” he said.
- Al Jazeera notes the breakdown of the Libyan state.
- Bloomberg mentions Finland's new interest in NATO, notes European Union plans to strengthen sanctions against Russia, takes note of China's vetoing of democracy in Hong Kong and looks at China's strengthening of its South China Sea holdings, and in West Africa notes the unburied bodies in the street in countries hit by Ebola and observes the apparent spread of the epidemic to Senegal.
- Bloomberg View observes how the crackdown on democracy in Hong Kong is alienating Taiwan, notes that Scotland may secure its future in the European Union by leaving a United Kingdom hoping to leave, looks at the frightening military theories of Russia, considers whether taxation may spur corporate consumption in Korea, wonders if France's Hollande can pull off Mitterand's turn to the right, examines secular stagnation, considers the issues of Macau, and warns Israel about economic issues ahead.
- CBC looks at how walking bichir fish may explain how vertebrates moved onto the land, notes that Canadian federal government roundtables on the sex trade aren't inviting sex workers, and notes that convicted serial killer Russell Williams has settled lawsuits made by some victims and their families.
- Defense One notes that the Islamic State controls mainly areas around roads (but then, the roads are usually the areas that are controlled).
- The Inter Press Service examines the settlement of Somalian refugees in Istanbul, considers the future of Ukrainian agriculture, looks at the spread of jihadi sentiments in Tajikistan, points out that the United States and Brazil will soon improve genetically engineered trees, examines anti-gay persecution in Lebanon, and looks at the legacies of the balsero migration from Cuba 20 years later.
- National Geographic examines the positions of Yazidis in northern Iraq versus the Islamic State, notes the mobilizatin of Assyrian Christian refugees in the same region, and notes that more trees in the mountains of California means less run-off.
- Open Democracy notes the precedents for Russian policy in Ukraine two decades earlier in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and provides a critical tourist's perspective on Belarus.
- Universe Today notes an ancient star that preserves legacies of the first generation of stars to form, and observes the preparation for the landing of the Philae probe on the surface of its comet.
- Wired examines sriracha and maps where future roads should be placed.
Heidelsheimater umbrella tree taken all the way from the Rho Eridani system by Freihafener merchants who managed to sneak it past Orbital Quarantine Control?