The patient genius of transmutation

Adaptation: whole-leaf rosinweed (Silphium integrifolium) and one of the hundred species of grasshoppers at the Konza Prairie Biological Station by Betsey Crawford

“All is flux,” the Greek philosopher Heraclitus said 2500 years ago. “Nothing stays still.” He offered us a perfect description of transmutation, one of the great powers that cosmologist Brian Swimme ascribes to the universe. This is the third of those powers that I have explored, and one of the most intriguing. Since the first …

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Saving seeds

Vietnam market by Stephan Valentin

There are legendary people and places in the drive to save seed diversity, and then there’s the legend. Nikolai Vavilov was a Russian plant geneticist who was active in the 1920s and 30s. Urbane and erudite, full of charm and curiosity, Vavilov made friends with everyone from local farmers to government officials. On a quest …

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The brilliance of seeds

Common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) seeds ready to take off by Betsey Crawford

These gorgeous seeds and their vast number of relations are the foundation of life. Certainly for the plants that grow from them. And for the entire animal kingdom, which is completely dependent on them for food. Herbivores eat their plants and the seeds themselves. Carnivores eat animals that eat plants. We human animals have a …

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The season of creation

Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta, Canada by Betsey Crawford

For the past two years, I’ve celebrated September 1, the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, with a collection of quotes from Pope Francis’s 2015 encyclical, Laudato Si. It was he who launched the day in 2016, joining a tradition started by the Orthodox Church in 1989. This has grown into the …

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The power of radiance

Tall purple fleabane (Erigeron peregrinus) with butterflies in Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta, Canada by Betsey Crawford

We humans have brought ourselves to a fascinating and challenging point. By our numbers and our choices, particularly in the last 200 years, we’ve grown into an equivalent of the geological forces that have shaped our planet over its 4.5 billion year life. Our effect on the thin layer of atmosphere blanketing the earth means …

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Pursuing mystery: how we found out lichen has a third partner and is saving the earth

For 150 years lichen has been known to be a combination of two life forms. The outside is a fungal matrix, rather like the crust of a baguette,  which gives structure and protection to the softer, more filamentous inside, formed by one of the algae family, or occasionally a cyanobacteria. These latter two provide nutrients …

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