22 June 2011


CARIN BONDAR. My gratitude to Andrea Kuszewski for her Facebook post promoting biologist Dr. Carin Bondar, whose eponymous indie blog is a delight to explore. Carin has written, networked, and published extensively, and she is an informed, clever, and articulate advocate for the environment. Her book, The Nature of Human Nature, is available both through her website (personalized and signed), and also may be ordered through major bookstores. I invite you to visit the blog link above -- you're in for a treat !

DEATH ROW. Imagine the burden on families if a funeral for a deceased loved one cost $308 million. That is precisely the burden on California taxpayers for each of the 13 executions carried out since the death penalty was reinstated in 1978, according to an article in the Los Angeles Times. I've long struggled with the ethics of capital punishment. From a moral standpoint, it seems that we as a society lower ourselves to the level of the criminals we execute. From a practical (read fiscal) standpoint, $308 million exceeds by a factor of 20 the cost of incarcerating someone who is an irredeemable danger to society. From the standpoint of justice, where is the fairness of letting a murderer live, after having taken the life of another human being, perhaps multiple other human beings? From the standpoint of the offender, is it not possible (assuming a justice system built around true rehabilitation, which we do not now have, nor have we ever) for an offender to come to understand the wrong committed, and to make restitution to society and the families involved without the loss of yet another life?

I don't claim to have a coherent answer. I know that if anyone murdered someone I love, I would gladly throw the switch that would end his/her life. But that's why we have laws and courts and juries -- the victims of crimes, while they must be accorded justice, are not in a dispassionate emotional state to decide the fate of the accused with any degree of objectivity. Still, isn't something horribly amiss when the appeals process drags on for decades, and when the actual execution of a convicted felon involves attorneys' fees, heightened security, and an elaborate and loathsome method of execution whose financial cost is so exorbitant? Just asking.

AVIAN ARCHITECTURE. Quite by accident I came across a NYTimes book review of Peter Goodfellow's Avian Architecture: How Birds Design, Engineer and Build. Each chapter in the book covers a different type of nest, as well as step-by-step construction sequences and over 300 color images of the nests of over 100 bird species worldwide. The sheer variety of birds' nests, adapted to the specific needs of size, access, and protection in a range of environments, provides unstated yet eloquent evidence of the presence of evolutionary adaptation. From the scrape nests of piping plovers to the excavated hole nests of red-cockaded woodpeckers, from the little-fingernail-sized cup of a hummingbird nest to the 6-to-10-foot tall avian skyscrapers of bald eagles, from the aquatic nests of grebes to the intricately-woven enclosures of cape weavers (see image below, click to enlarge), the homes of our winged cousins make many human structures look awkward and ungainly by comparison.

No comments:

Post a Comment