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The FeuerThoughts blog offers the meandering thoughts from the brain and fingers of Steven Feuerstein. Me. Let's see...I am known primarily for my writings and trainings on the Oracle PL/SQL language, having written ten books on the topic. I am also involved with the Refuser Solidarity Network (www.refusersolidary.net), which supports the Israeli refuser movement. For even more of me, check out www.stevenfeuerstein.comSteven Feuersteinhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/16619706770920320550noreply@blogger.comBlogger386125
Updated: 14 hours 54 min ago

A natural born tree right in my own backyard!

Wed, 2015-06-17 06:33
As some of my readers may have noticed, I spend a lot of time these days among trees, paying attention to trees, cutting back invasive trees to save native trees, etc.

And one thing that I came to realize is that at least in an area like Chicagoland, humans tightly control the reproduction of trees. 
I live on a lovely tree-lined street. Big trees - 100 ft tall or more. Maples, oaks, ash....but there are no baby trees, except for smallish trees that the city plants when they have to remove diseased trees (such as all the ash trees, under assault from ash borers).
It makes me sad to think of how impoverished my immediate surroundings are, how unnatural. We don't even let trees - majestic living things that make our lives possible, that live through many of our own generations - live out natural life cycles. 
In fact, I have come to accept that trees planted singly along streets to enhance our lives are really just ornaments. If "a man is not an island" then certainly a tree is not a forest. And very few trees live naturally outside of forests of many, many trees.
Well, enough of sadness. Veva and I were sitting on our patio last week, enjoying the (finally) warm weather and our lovely garden (thanks to Veva), when she pointed out something truly wonderful:

Can you see it? We planted the birch trees years ago. They are now 40 feet tall, but nestled in between? A natural born baby birch tree! Can't see it? Here maybe this will help:

I feel so much better now. The (minimal) wildness of our garden (as in: no grass) made it possible for a birch seed to take hold and grow. A tree that humans did not plant and hopefully will allow to grow to maturity.
Humans love to debate things like "Do plants feel?" Of course, it is terribly difficult for us to imagine such a thing - because the way that plants would think and feel would be so different from us. So we will likely never really be able to answer the question.
Which means it would make a lot more sense to err on the side of caution and assume that trees and plants and creatures do feel, do think in their own way, do take joy in life.
And watching this natural born tree grow, it is certainly easy to believe that it is joyful. I sure am.


Categories: Development

The human being is the only animal that...

Sat, 2015-05-16 07:41
Last night, I decided to re-read Stumbling on Happiness, a book I'd discovered a few years ago and was (then) delighted with. 
I chose that over one of my (back then) favorite books of fiction, because I'd been thinking yesterday and how odd it is that lots of left-leaning humans are all upset about climate change and really pissed at their elected officials about their non-action on this literally world-changing issue at a time when radical action is necessary - yet they don't take radical action in their own lives.
It's pretty clear that politicians will not change direction (will not override the influence of the source of their funding), until their constituents demonstrate a deep desire for change, backed up by action.
Anyway, there I was wondering once again about humans and why we behave the way we do. And so I sought out some answers in SoH. After all, the renowned Malcolm Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point, says right on the cover: "If you have even the slightest curiosity about the human condition, you ought to read it. Trust me."OK, so fine. If a person says "trust me", usually you want to run in the other direction. But hey....
So I started reading and soon found Daniel Gilbert talking about psychologists are expected sometime in their career to finish The Sentence that starts with "The human being is the only animal that..." and now it was his turn.
Exciting! And then he finished the sentence:"The human being is the only animal that thinks about the future."And then you know what I did?
I stopped the reading book - and tossed it into the recycle bin. Yep, I threw the book away. That's how much Gilbert disgusted me, right then and there.
Why? Because of all the things we know about the world and the way it "works", the one thing we can never know is what another animal - even another human - is actually, truly thinking
All we can know, all we can see, all we can measure, and then draw conclusions from, is how an animal manifests their thinking into the world.
Gilbert cites as one "proof" of his Sentence that squirrels will, ahem, squirrel away nuts in advance of winter even in places where they will then find, winter after winter, that nuts or other food remain abundant. 
Go, Gilbert, go! Apply a human frame of judgement onto other animals, sure, why not? Why not assume that means that squirrels don't think about the future, rather than saying: "Maybe they do think about the future and know that they cannot trust what the future will bring, because they are not willing to destroy forests to build houses to hide them from the vagaries of the future."
So I threw out the book, but that got me thinking about The Sentence. I thought I would offer my own variations on that statement and invite others to do the same. Here goes...
The human being is the only animal that:
  • creates garbage, including vast "islands" of plastic in the middle of our oceans
  • causes the extinction of entire species, year in and year out
  • poisons water, the source of all life on this planet
  • learns multiple languages
  • holds it in
And just to pre-empt some typical responses:
The human being is the not only animal that:
  • creates art - lots of birds do, too. Just check out nests of bowerbirds.
  • has a sense of right and wrong - black bears do, too. Just check out Among the Bears. Seriously: READ THIS BOOK.
  • uses tools - birds, chimpanzees and others repurpose stones, branches, etc. as tools
  • is altruistic - again, black bears, and even more so ants. Many species of ants are way more altruistic than humans.
So what can you think of that only a human does? And please don't tell me about your belief about internal states of mind. That's just an opinion. Tell me about what humans do.


Categories: Development

In what ways is buckthorn harmful?

Sun, 2015-04-12 16:54
I spent 10-15 hours a week in various locations of still-wooded Chicago (and now nearby Lincolnwood) cutting down buckthorn. Some people have taken me to task for it ("Just let it be, let nature take it's course, etc.). So I thought I would share this excellent, concise sum up of the damage that can be wrought by buckthorn.
And if anyone lives on the north side of Chicago and would like to help out, there is both "heavy" work (cutting large trees and dragging them around) and now lots of "light" work (clipping the new growth from the stumps from last year's cutting - I don't use poison). 
It's great exercise and without a doubt you will be helping rescue native trees and ensure that the next generation of those trees will survive and thrive!
From The Landscape Guys
Buckthorn should be on America's "Most Wanted" list, with its picture hanging up in every US Post Office! Here are a few of the dangers of Buckthorn:
a) Buckthorn squeezes out native plants for nutrients, sunlight, and moisture. It literally chokes out surrounding healthy trees and makes it impossible for any new growth to take root under its cancerous canopy of dense vegetation.
b) Buckthorn degrades wildlife habitats and alters the natural food chain in and growth of an otherwise healthy forest. It disrupts the whole natural balance of the ecosystem.
c) Buckthorn can host pests like Crown Rust Fungus and Soybean Aphids. Crown Rust can devastate oat crops and a wide variety of other grasses. Soybean Aphids can have a devastating effect on the yield of soybean crops. Without buckthorn as host, these pests couldn't survive to blight crops.
d) Buckthorn contributes to erosion by overshadowing plants that grow on the forest floor, causing them to die and causing the soil to lose the integrity and structure created by such plants.
e) Buckthorn lacks "natural controls" like insects or diseases that would curb its growth. A Buckthorn-infested forest is too dense to walk through, and the thorns of Common Buckthorn will leave you bloodied.
f) Buckthorn attracts many species of birds (especially robins and cedar waxwings) that eat the berries and spread the seeds through excrement. Not only are the birds attracted to the plentiful berries, but because the buckthorn berries have a diuretic and cathartic effect, the birds pass the seeds very quickly to the surrounding areas of the forest. This makes Buckthorn spread even more widely and rapidly, making it harder for us to control and contain.
Categories: Development

Consumer Reports guide on which fruits and veggies to always buy organic

Mon, 2015-04-06 09:32
First, I encourage everyone reading this (and beyond) to subscribe to Consumer Reports and make use of their unbiased, science-based reviews of products and services.

It is the best antidote to advertising you will ever find.

In their May 2015 issue, they analyze the "perils of pesticides" and offer a guide to fruits and vegetables. When you should buy organic? When might conventional be OK for you?

[or, as CR puts it, "Though we believe that organic is always the best choice because it promotes sustainable agriculture, getting plenty of fruits and vegetables - even if you can't obtain organic - takes precedence when it comes to your health.]

Here are the most important findings:

ALWAYS BUY ORGANIC

CR found that for these fruits and vegetables, you should always buy organic - the pesticide risk in conventional is too high.

Fruit

Peaches
Tangerines
Nectarines
Strawberries
Cranberries

Vegetables

Green Beans
Sweet Bell Peppers
Hot Peppers
Sweet Potatoes
Carrors
Categories: Development