Monday, March 30, 2015

Lobbyist defending Monsanto insists Roundup Is safe to drink, but refuses to drink it

Dr. Patrick Moore speaks to CANAL+ (image screen grab)

You've probably seen this man's image in the headlines recently. His name is Dr Patrick Moore who is a major lobbyist & defender of Monsanto. But it seems he is all the rage in discussion these days because he made the outrageous claim that Roundup was safe to drink, but then refused to drink it when offered it by the French interviewer. He made this statement after insisting that the major ingredient in Roundup was not responsible for any of the increases in cancer rates in the country of Argentina. Here is a transcript of what was stated between the interviewer and Dr Moore:
¤ Moore: “You can drink a whole quart of it and it won’t hurt you.”
¤ Interviewer: “You want to drink some? We have some here.” 
¤ Moore: “I’d be happy to, actually. Not really. But I know it wouldn’t hurt me.”
¤ Interviewer: “If you say so, I have some.”
¤ Moore:  “I’m not stupid.”
 ¤ Interviewer: “So, it’s dangerous?” 
¤ Moore: “People try to commit suicide by drinking it, and they fail regularly.” 
¤ Interviewer: “Tell the truth, it’s dangerous” 
¤ Moore: “No, it’s not. It’s not dangerous to humans”
¤ Interviewer: “So, are you ready to drink one glass?” 
¤ Moore: “No, I’m not an idiot”- “Interview me about golden rice, that’s what I’m talking about.”  -  At that point, Moore declares that the “interview is finished”
¤ Interviewer: "That's a good way to solve things"
¤ Moore: "Jerk"
 I would also like to point out that as a scientist he also believes Global Warming is a natural phenomenon, similar to how Yosemite was once under ice during the ice age. He denies humans are causing any harm to the global climate. This interestingly seems to be a common stand of those who back and promote the Industrial Ag business model
Dr Patrick Moore: "Confessions of a Greenpeace Dropout" 
This post is not really about about Dr Patrick Moore in particular, but what often happens when people for whatever reasons defend any product they have an emotional or even financial attachment to. I have often found the same to be true regarding people who distribute many health products. They have a tendency to go well beyond the manufacturer's recommendations and make unprovable claims which cannot be verified when attempting to contact with the manufacturer. I'm definitely no fan of the manufacturer of Roundup, but I have confidence that they do not recommend their product be used for human consumption, even if their distributors and promoters are trying to defend their business model and it's products through exaggeration. The scary thing though is that many people do take these arguments seriously and somewhere down the road may be careless when using the Roundup product by neglecting safety concerns and precautions as recommended by the actual label on the container. Many a manufacturer of health items have gotten themselves into lawsuit legal problems for not reigning in their people. This eventually could be the case for Monsanto. The outrageous claims about drinking Roundup are not specific to Dr Patrick Moore. Long before this News Report, I have personally seen in print, numerous defenders on the Net make that same exact claim while also challenging others. Many of these types of people  are anonymous commenters utilizing various "Sockpuppets" in defending Monsanto with the same exact claim as Dr Moore long before his interview. But what is more serious is that many of the champions [Farmers] of GMOs and Monsanto pesticides who are well written about in various Media outlets like Huffington Post and others are held up as fine examples on a few of the GMO Apologetics websites like the infamous , & websites. Articles written by many of these Farm family individuals are featured on those websites, but they probably are unaware of some of the incredible claims made by these champions of GMO technology and the pesticides they use. In particular, the same almost exact word for word claims Dr Patrick Moore made, but well before his interview.

The danger of course is when people who are used by corporations as outstanding examples of success, they are in great position of influencing others, can make outrageous claims for which those who admire & follow them and hang onto every word uttered from their mouth so to speak, can potentially cause great harm. I first followed this case with one Farmer's wife last year who is from a small town in North Dakota where she and her farmer husband raise wheat. The article that Jenny Dewey Rohrich wrote in her own blog, ,was about the usage of Glyphosate on Wheat. It's true, Glyphosate is used on wheat as a desiccant to dry out the wheat crop into harvest quicker. Even Monsanto has a recommendation for this on their own website Monsanto Roundup - Preharvest Staging Guide . But as she truthfully stated, the Glyphosate is mostly used by far northern hemisphere farmers because they have such a short growing season. But many other Wheat Farmers do not because they have a longer growing season which allows wheat to harden off or dry out naturally for harvest. She also mentioned that this is not used to spray on wheat for weeds as other Roundup Ready crops. This is also true as wheat is not a GMO crop. If wheat gets wet before harvest, it could lower the quality of the crop and downgrade it's value on the market, potentially to a lower livestock grade feed standard if the human consumption standard is not met. Where she made her error however was in the comments section where she stated almost the same identical thing Dr Patrick Moore said:
"It is all about the dose. While vinegar and salt are indeed chemicals we can cook with, glyphosate isn’t labeled to be cooked with. But yes, you could more than likely drink it and be perfectly okay. 
As I said in the post, you are more than welcome to disagree with me and purchase certified organic wheat. That is your choice and thank goodness for choice in our food system!" (Made on November 17, 2014) 
The other farmer's wife who lives in Wheatland County of Alberta Canada is Sarah Schultz who writes a blog on her own website called, where she posts articles and takes comments about her championing the modern day biotechnology. She likewise wrote an article back in November 16, 2014, about Glyphosate and Wheat, but she wrote an interesting take on Glyphosate being safer to ingest than vinegar or Caffeine. What was odd about what she wrote on this comparison, I had seen it somewhere before and others who were Pro-Biotech-Chemicals had also used the same exact wording as she did:
"Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) sets and monitors maximum residue levels (MRLs) using scientific methodology far below the amount that could produce health problems. It is a very safe herbicide to use, even safer than vinegar as a herbicide. Caffeine is ten times more toxic than glyphosate! If accidentally consumed, glyphosate is excreted mostly unchanged in feces and urine, so it doesn’t stay in the body and accumulate. There have been no legitimate studies linking glyphosate to any human health ailments."
So where in the world did she get her info from ? Commenters called her on the carpet for claiming it was safer to drink Glyphosate than caffeine or vinegar, which she denied, yet her argument was mostly about dilution in making the comparisons to the caffeine, vinegar and salt arguments and that was what gave people the impression of drinking safety. Her main point had been that the chemical alone, Glyphosate, is not at all harmful in low doses and that it runs through the human body in feces and urine unchange. And yet I had heard or read this somewhere before. That last part in her paragraph was key and I did in fact remember where I had seen this before. 

It was an article I read almost exactly a year ago which was written by XiaoZhi Lim who is a graduate student of the Boston University Science Journalism on the Genetic Literacy Project site, but this was back further around April 2014. So she wasn't a scientist, but rather a science journalist. She listed references, but many were old references from the early 1990s from Cornell University and even their paper had references as far back as the early 1980s. It'll get clearer in a moment. She wrote several paragraphs in that post which made it obvious where these people [Farmer's wives & Dr Patrick Moore & various assorted internet trolls] today were getting their debate material from. The same exact wording in this piece is being used all over the internet with the same stupid challenging by Pro-GMO types who said they would drink the Roundup stuff with no reservations. 
"Let’s take a closer look at glyphosate. Glyphosate is derived from an amino acid, glycine. It acts against plants by suppressing an essential biochemical mechanism commonly found in plants, but not in animals. According to the Extension Toxicology Network, a joint pesticide information project by Cornell University, Michigan State University, Oregon State University and University of California at Davis, and funded by US Department of Agriculture, glyphosate is non-volatile, minimizing exposure through inhalation, and undergoes little metabolism in the human body. If accidentally consumed, glyphosate is excreted mostly unchanged in feces and urine, so it doesn’t stay in the body and accumulate."
Recognize the same exact words used elsewhere around the Internet ? So as I stated, she is citing a study put together by the people at Cornell University back in May of 1994. Now what's funny about the information from that 1994 Cornell summary on the potential for toxicity of  Glyphosate is it's date. And as I stated before, you could scroll down and view the Cornell paper's references and where & when the Cornell researchers got their own informational references and they date back from 1984, 85, 87, 89, 91 & 92. But even those papers got their own references farther back than that. Here's my point. When the Cornell Glyphosate safety study was published, did they know that Monsanto's Roundup was NOT biodegradable at that time ? Well I would have to assume they did not or otherwise they were lying. Do you think if they had today's information on Roundup, that they would have published the same results ? Of course not. In 2009, a French court found Monsanto guilty of lying; falsely advertising its Roundup herbicide as "biodegradable," "environmentally friendly" and claiming it "left the soil clean." Seriously, that's exactly what it said when I was using it. New York's attorney general back in 1996 sued Monsanto over the company's use of "false and misleading advertising" of it's produt Roundup. That case ended with Monsanto agreeing to stop calling Roundup "biodegradable," and to pull ads claiming that Roundup was "safer than table salt" and "practically nontoxic." As one such advertisement put it, "Roundup can be used where kids and pets play." (Lawsuit Info Source) BTW, both ladies I referenced above also brought up the "Table Salt" argument as did the defenders of the Roundup in the Genetic Literacy Project article in the comments section. Still, 1996 is two+ years away from the May 1994 Cornell report. The question is, why are the Genetic Literacy Project authors still pimping these old archaic antiquated flawed arguments ? Because they figure no one will do their homework and mostly they are correct on that. 
"Caffeine is over ten times more toxic than glyphosate. Is this cause for concern? Should we stop drinking coffee? No, the main reason being that a typical dosage of caffeine is not high enough to cause toxicity. Let’s look at the numbers. With LD50 of 192 mg/kg, it would take 12192 mg of caffeine to kill an average 140 lb human being. A typical 8 oz cup of coffee only contains 95 mg of caffeine, much lower than the dose required for acute toxicity. The same reasoning applies to glyphosate. Following the same calculations, it would take 12.5 oz of glyphosate to kill an average 140 lb human being. That means drinking about three gallons of Roundup Original."
Source: "Genetic Literacy Project - "Is glyphosate, used with some GM crops, dangerously toxic to humans?"
"Glyphosate is poorly absorbed from the digestive tract and is largely excreted unchanged by mammals. Ten days after treatment there were only minute amounts in the tissues of rats fed glyphosate for three weeks"
(Source: Cornell University - Glyphosate Toxicology Report 
Sound familiar ? That was not only the wording of the May 1994 Cornell Report, but also the words of Genetic Literacy Project's journalist, Xiao Zhi Lim, the Farmer's wives referenced above and no doubt Dr Patrick Moore. Why didn't any of them do their homework first ? Especially a graduate student like Science Journalist Xiao Zhi Lim ? There is clearly no excuse for that, especially on a supposedly intellectual information promotion website like "Genetic Literacy Project" who promote themselves above all of this disinformation & propaganda mission ? Further below here in another paragraph, Ms Xiao, after referencing the potency of caffeine sarcastically asks the readers: 
"Caffeine is over ten times more toxic than glyphosate. Is this cause for concern? Should we stop drinking coffee? No, the main reason being that a typical dosage of caffeine is not high enough to cause toxicity. Let’s look at the numbers. With LD50 of 192 mg/kg, it would take 12192 mg of caffeine to kill an average 140 lb human being. A typical 8 oz cup of coffee only contains 95 mg of caffeine, much lower than the dose required for acute toxicity. The same reasoning applies to glyphosate. Following the same calculations, it would take 12.5 oz of glyphosate to kill an average 140 lb human being. That means drinking about three gallons of Roundup Original.
In the comments section, one opponent of the use of Glyphosate takes up the challenge from the article. The individual, who unlike many of the pro-gmo proponents who cowardly hide behind sockpuppets in the comment section uses his own name to answer the challenge. Tito Castillo says this:
"I'm curious, if it is so safe, safer than coffee as this paper suggests, then how about we conduct a test with two live subjects. I volunteer to drink the coffee... the other, preferably a chemical company scientist hired to defend their industry, can drink a cup of roundup and lets see what happens?"
Then one of the most notorious sockpuppets of them all ['Hyperzombie' with over 15,000+ posts on just the GMO topic alone] who also claims to be a Hockey playing Farmer from Alberta Canada accepts Mr Castillo's challenge, but with the usual derogatory style snarkiness for which is the only way he apparently can discuss a science topic. Seriously, the quote below is one of the cleanest I can post of his.
"It says that it is safer than CAFFEINE, not coffee. You drink a cup of pure caffeine (equivalent to 190 cups of coffee), and I will drink a cup of roundup. I will call the ambulance for you after i finish rinsing out my mouth (tastes like weird soap). You will most likely be very ill or die, i will be fine.  Only about 8% of people that try to commit suicide with glyphosate actually die, baby aspirin is more effective."
This Disqus user with the sockpuppet, "Hyperzombie" then proceeded to provide a link which supposedly provides proof that Glyphosate was safe to drink because of how most people who tried to commit suicide by drinking Roundup failed, although some did die (HERE) . This was supposed to be proof positive that Roundup could be drank and a person wouldn't die. I've seen the same link given over and over by other Biotech proponents in justifying why it would be safe to drink Roundup. It's a stupid stunt to win a dumb argument, but it is what it is. So for all those with eyes glued to the Dr Patrick Moore debacle, there is a deeper dirtier history to this than you can imagine. Dr Moore, the two Farm Ladies and the Science journalist Xian Zhi Lim just didn't do their homework. Oh, BTW, the other argument made was that Glyphosate leaves no residues in human or mammal tissues. Even the Cornell 1994 paper admitted there were trace amounts in tissues detected back then. Here is a link to the recent residual studies in human and animals which they said never happened: - "Detection of Glyphosate Residues in Animals and Humans"
In Conclusion
I have to say that, while I abhor the adolescent behaviour of the GMO proponents and have mostly left off reading and following the comment sections, I also don't agree with the behaviour of some of these Organic folks who are equally insulting, foul mouthed, derogatory and making false accusations. The two ladies I referenced were pummeled by the idiots on the Organic side. There was no reason for that and while I may not agree with their position on industrial Ag because of my experience with learning and observing how nature actually works and making practical application by means of biomimicry, those two ladies do appear pleasant and respectful with the guests on their pages. This post of mine was never about GMOs, but rather the disingenuous arguments given on Roundup safety. There also appears to be some safety concerns regarding the surfactants used in blending and emulsifying the glyphosate with water [otherwise it floats on the surface in oil beads]. This actually adds to the toxicity of Roundup, especially for aquatic environments. I'm also very much still blown away by the people being used to promote Monsanto's interests. Many are a sorry lot and have been used and abused by a hideous organization for corporate profit and don't even know it. Why didn't  any of them do their own homework on whether or not these outrageous claims were true ? Instead of blindly accepting old outdated research material and fraudulent labeling and advertisement talking points meant to sell massive amounts of product that Monsanto was actually sued for as fraud back in the 1990s. It's a beautiful set up. Monsanto get's the same selling points and at the same time disconnects and disavows themselves of any false advertising because it was other Sheople who said such things. The two nice ladies I mentioned, Dr Moore, Science Journalist Xaio and a plethora of Sockpuupets are the latest instantiation of the old fables and myths from Monsanto's fraudulent labeling and advertising schemes of the 1990s. They are being used and abused and are not even aware of it.
Some final interesting stats and facts on many on many of the internet Biotech proponents out there
One final point on the same commenters often seen always posting on these articles. Many of them have 10,000-20,000 [one individual has over 40,000+] posts and mainly on this topic. Tracing many, they also post as climate change deniers on other sites as well. When I've pointed this out, many have blocked access to their own posting history in the Public Profile section page. No problem, just Google the sockpuppet's username and the subject you are looking to connect them with. If you know how to research, you will find that many of the ones with sockpuppets or abbreviated names are actually utilized on the Monsanto, the, and the website as shining examples and/or authors as article contributor in promoting GMOs. All of these internet sites are industrial agriculture backed and it would seem many of the ones who have been called Trolls or Shills by others do have some type of vested interests in the Biotech industry. One interesting gal is Mary M. who always appears to somehow show up at the right time when new articles come out. I seriously don't know where any of these people get the time for all of this posting. Don't they have some kind of farmimg chores to do ? She is Mary Mertz of . She and her husband Robert Mertz along their extended family run a large corporate Beef & grain farming operation in the state of Kansas. Here is their website:
However just for fun, here is another interesting thing you can research. Find out where all the government subsidies these farmers receive go. I first found this out from researching my own family back in Iowa who also make a substantial amount with subsidies which makes them a living as grain farmers. Many, not all, but many need those US Gov subsidies to survive or at least break even. You may have read recently in the well known Forbes magazine journal how many of the well known U.S. Billionaires who just happen to own industrial farms also receive substantial payouts. Nevertheless, look up this link and see the history of payouts to the various Mertz family members who all have various ownership percentage of River Creek Farms Inc. It's all publicly  recorded and available, nothing secret. But remember, you can Google any of these folks and find out their history regarding government entitlements. To be honest, Mary Mertz has for the most part been mostly respectful, though very determined and dogmatic in her beliefs.
BTW, just for fun again, here is that Forbes list of Billionaire farmers being subsidized by taxpayers from the same exact website above. FAT CATS COLLECT TAXPAYER-FUNDED FARM SUBSIDIES: FORBES 400 SUBSIDY RECIPIENTS (1995 – 2012)

 You should also know that most Organic Wheat Farmers do not qualify for Farm Subsidies. That's because they actually make a profit.
"Ideology prevents wheat growers from converting to more profitable methods, new study shows"
References on authors mentioned above on corporate sponsored Pro-Biotech sites
Genetic Literacy Project: - Jenny Dewey Rohrich - "Farmers say they do not feel ‘forced’ to buy GM seeds" - Jenny Dewey Rohrich (New York sues Monsanto)
Other extremely important & revealing references regarding the Biotech Public Relations strategies
Pro-Biotech Industry Authors at News Media Journals
The online journal "The Guardian" has several authors tied to Biotech Industries. Over the past couple years, there have been articles by various science groups pointing out the strong scientific disconnect between Pro-GMO Farmers and Anthropological Global Climate Change. In an effort to twist this embarrassing revelation around, pro-gmo "The Guardian" authors, Nina Federoff, Peter Raven & Phillip Sharp on March 9, 2015, wrote a co-authored article to turn the tables on the anti-gmo groups and deflecting attention away from their own client's science disconnect issues: - "The anti-GM lobby appears to be taking a page out of the Climategate playbook" 
Incredibly, today March 31, 2015, the organization "U.S. Right to Know" just published information on just who all three of these authors are beholding to. They clearly have a vested interesting in disseminating misinformation:

Monday, March 2, 2015

Astrobiology or Earth's Biology - which ?

If all of the dire News Reports on the Earth being in trouble ecologically are true, where have all the research funds & grants gone to correct this ? Take a look at the image below. It was everywhere in all the News a while back & people ate it up like candy.

Alien Seed ???
Typical World Headlines Lately
"UK Scientists: Aliens May Have Sent Space Seeds To Create Life On Earth"  
"Antifreeze on Titan Could Affect Its Chances for Life"

Of course I can go on and on and list countless headlines and papers over the last few years where these very  words "could" and "may" are used repeatedly in the astrobiology literature. But isn't biology by itself supposed to tell everyone the just what "does" happen or what "did" happen in the past ? Years ago as a kid in the 1960s and later 1970s, I was intrigued by the fantasy of the possibility of life on other worlds. Hollywood actually helped a whole lot with that fantasy, as they still do today. Of course I'm not exactly on speaking terms with Hollywood anymore. Today the world faces crisis after crisis which are very very real and foretell dire consequences if this world doesn't change them. Many of these problem reports are of of an ecological nature. But when it comes to astrobiology, supposedly these people know what it takes for life to exist right here on Earth, right ? That's why they got the job in the first place, right ? Then why can't regular biologists find real world solutions to reverse climate change & restore damaged ecosystems and wildlife habitats that go beyond mere token protection ? How about eliminating pollution caused by Industrial Science-Based agriculture ? Etc, Etc, Etc ? The fact is they don't know or we wouldn't be in the mess we are in at present. So how can anybody believe the almost weekly dosage of storytelling we are receiving in the News Reports on a daily basis on life on other imaginary earth-like worlds ? Of course I still think it would be kool, but mankind has more pressing priorities now down here. 

NASA image of Amazon
If they actually know how live works on other planets, then why aren't they down here helping correct this mess ? Well, NASA has shown us good productive viable results through meteorological satellites which have helped identify the important cloud formation mechanisms like the old growth trees and shrubs from rainforests and other ecosystems. This is imperative for helping the world to reverse climate change. But the fact is, while NASA does a number of great things to help us identify climate mechanisms like what creates cloud formation like this recent photo over the Amazon where clouds always form over healthy vegetation, the Astrobiology division appears to be nothing more than a fund raising distraction which deflects attention away from our miserable reality of life down here on Earth. And most folks like that. But the reality is, NASA needs to recall all astrobiologists back down here to earth to research and create real world viable solutions for the Earth's problems. Let me tell you what the real science was behind the equipment Astrobologists use for their diving of the stars. For me, the real science was done by the men and women scientists, engineers, mathematicians and others who created and designed the Hubble telescope, even though they later had to give it a contact lens for better universal eyesight. The real science were the scientists, mathematicians and engineers who designed and built the rocket ship which blasted from the Earth and released the Hubble Satellite in orbit above us. Where the science fails is when Astrobiologists make up stories about what they think is out there based on personal bias, presupposition and metaphysical gut feelings of how they wish things to be. Now as I've stated, I would love for there to be other places in the universe where untouched pristine life could be existing and waiting to be explored, but the fact that Scientists are incapable of fixing things down here on Earth leaves me extremely doubtful that these astrobiologists are even close to knowing what they are talking about. Had our planet been managed and maintained more responsibly based on accurate knowledge of how nature really works, I'd be much more willing to allow them more leniency for their published stories. Recently, the world lost one of the great actors who helped all of us escape the reality of the miserable world around us, even if it was momentary. This was actor Leonard Nimoy. Many of the basic myths of what could be out there as far as lifeforms were actually breathed life by episodes of this very television series. For example you will often here people talk about how real Silicon based lifeforms are possible somewhere out there. However, such a myth has "life" because of one or two key episodes of "Star Trek." Leonard Nimoy was an actor, and the other cast and crew were also just plain people on a movie set. None were scientists on an actual star ship which in of itself doesn't yet exist. But Leonard Nimoy also narrated some interesting science programs. I wish he had done more, he had a great voice for it making science interesting.

The fact is, there never really has been any bio (Greek for life) in the field of Astrobiology. The articles that come out in various journals are simply loaded with stories and myths inspired by fantasy. You know what you get when you take the 'bio' out of the word Astrobiology ? Astrology. Know what Astrology was to the ancient Babylonian civilization who invented it ? Divination. What these ancient priest did was simply gaze at the stars and divine the stars to tell out future fortunes and happenings not yet realized or discovered. Know what Carl Sagan had to say about Astrology ? Listen to this 9 minute video on just what he said about astrology, especially at the very beginning:

"There are two ways to view the Stars. The way they really are and as we might wish them to be"
You know, I really miss Carl Sagan. I may not have agreed with a few things he said, but he made Science far more interesting than those who have made claim to take his place. Today there are Science Gurus who want to trip you off into multi-universes land where reality is not what we know it to be here. Seriously people, do you really like that kind of distraction to take you away from finding real world solutions for correcting things down here on Earth ? At the end of last year 2014 a fantastic article came out about Climate Change which was far different from the other dumb boring political spitting contest ones by opposing sides of the issue that we generally read. It dealt with reality and viable options for solutions. I commented on it the first day it came out. I revisited it three days later to find out what others commented on and there were only 5 or 6 comments. At that same moment, there was another typical modern day asinine article whose subject matter was something like, "Honey Boo boo's Mama June has affair with Uncle Poodle who molested her Sister". Seriously ??? That article at the time had been out for only 4 hours and already had almost 2000 comments. Idiots! People like being distracted from reality and slipping off into fantasy. Now more than ever the words below have more meaning:
"And they took no note until . . . " 
Okay, you fill in the blanks! No references this time. just think about it!

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Squaw Tea (Ephedra californica) or maybe something else ?

Funny how some images can trigger totally unrelated information than what you were originally Google researching for

Face Palm
Finishing some work on one of my latest articles on the Canary Islands, in particular Tenerife, I was researching some of the names of plants I had photographed on a recent visit. I hit Google images for Plants of Tenerife and one image stood out which immediately brought up one common name for a high desert plant native to the region where I come from in Southern California. The infamous Squaw Tea. The plant I was familiar with grows abundantly in an area east of Terwilliger Road in the Anza area. The plant is Ephedra californica, but it is known by common historical common names as "Mormon Tea" and the other common name which immediately rushed through my brain, "Squaw Tea". Yes, Yes, I know, I know. We don't call it that anymore, but old common names and terms are hard to shake off. This particular Spanish Model was on a website with other girls in outdoor Canary Island nature settings. But the pattern of the shrub and the Native American styling of the girl just fit like a glove. Most foreigners reading here won't understand the comparison, but Southwesterners will put two and two together. I don't believe the common name with the Native American reference is encouraged these days, but never the less the old names are hard to shake. So I thought, why not, write a short piece on the plant. I'm not particularly partial to Mormon Tea either. Desert Tea appears to be another preferred name for Ephedra californica. But the similarities of structural patterns in foliage, branches and habitat are where it ends. The flowering time of year will yield radical differences. The southwest has a few varieties of Ephedra. In many desert locations both species (E. californica and Ephedra virides) exist together. I'll post the Green Mormon Tea plant in full bloom below and contrast it with Teide Broom when it is in full flower to illustrate some difference.

Teide Broom, Tenerife - (Spartocytisus supranbius)
The plant I was actually looking for when doing my Google search is native to the area of the volcanic caldera on Tenerife and it's listed as the Teide Broom (Spartocytisus supranubius) shrub. It thrives best on the dry xerophytic lava and scoria zone (2000-2500 meters above sea level). But it bares a striking resemblance to the southwestern desert Mormon Tea shrub of those high desert regions. The Ephedra californica that I am familiar with grows in the eastern reaches of Terwilliger Valley on down to Anza Borrego State Park. Throughout the world there are several species of Ephedra, which are related to the Ephedra sinica which is from the region of Mongolia, Russia and northerneastern desert regions of China. This plant is well known to Chinese medicine, but by a more familiar botanical herbal name called "Ma Huang". Here is how one reference describes it's usage and I'll post the reference under the Caution heading:
"A shrub, the stem of which contains ephedrine, which is a bronchodilator, diaphoretic, diuretic and vasoconstrictor; it is used to treat asthma, bronchitis, fever, fluid retention, hypotension, paraesthesias, to stimulate the central nervous system and to suppress the appetite."
This plant is responsible for providing the raw ingredient for the well known weight loss drug called ephedrine. In the USA, many of these drug potions which added Caffeine and other powerful stimulants for weight loss have been outlawed because they caused dangerous health conditions in some folks with heart trouble, high blood pressure, rapid breathing issues, etc. This is why many probably get a lot of Spam email advertising Ephedrine as an appetite suppressant. People want a quick fix pill to rapidly take care of a situation for which they have no patience in making lifestyle changes. While there is evidence of short term weight loss, there is really no evidence of any long term keeping the weight off. As far as the Tea from the Mormon Tea, for me it has a sort of mild Alfalfa taste to it and the potency is not near as strong as the Ma Huang drug manufactured for Chinese medicine. 
image Bert Wilson: Green Mormon Tea (Ephedra viridis)
image: Mundani Gardens - Teide Broom (Spartocytisus supranubius)
I think the Canary Islands are my new favourite Nature region. I have been here many times and it feels more and more with each visit more like Home to me than where I originally come from. There are so many interesting plants here and each time I want to know more and more about them. Technical and mechanism type stuff really. I always walk away with more questions than I came with. The chaparral environment is so familiar with where I come from, especially when so many plants here are so common in most California urban landscape. Anyway, tomorrow I have some fascinating information on Pinus canariensis, fire ecology and it's influence with the island's hydrology. Stay tuned.
Some interesting as well as important links

The Biogeography of California Jointfir (Ephedra californica)
Chris Clarke: "On the Dry Side" 
Some Caution

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Greece, Democracy & Humankind's failure at Self-Rule

"Greece is the birthplace of democracy, Western philosophy, the Olympic Games, Western literature and historiography, political science, major scientific and mathematical principles and Western drama including both tragedy and comedy. Greece is a democratic and developed country with an advanced high-income economy, a high quality of life and a very high standard of living."
(Source: Wikipedia)
Image: Idyllic Harbour Town of Symi, Greece
The above idyllic harbour scene above is what most foreign tourists may think of when they ponder making a trip to the Mediterranean country of Greece. Indeed, it is beautiful, laid back and a slower easy going paced life style. Well, sort of. Many northern Europeans love going on holiday to such hidden Mediterranean places for relaxation. I have many friends and family who love to go there on holiday. But it's anything but relaxed in Greece these days and it's been that way for a very long time now. 
National Socialism Movement in Greece calling for
the removal of all immigrants
Over the last couple of years you've no doubt heard of the financial crisis in Greece which came to a head back in 2012/2013 when finally the European Union agreed to bail out the Greek Banks and government. Greek unemployment as of October 2014 was around 25:80%. That has created much anger, resentment and protest in the streets of Athens against the failed leadership of the Greek government during this time. During the height of the anger and riots in Athens, my wife and I were watching the news on CNN Europe which was highlighting the strong resurgence in not only Greece, but all  Europe of these Nationalist Socialism movements and the usual backlash blame game against immigrants [both legal & illegal] who of course were said to be at fault for Greece's political and economic woes. We saw one popular very large Greek Politician who had a following of over 7,000 supporters in the streets giving the "Heil Hitler" salute after one of his speeches in which he emphatically demanded that all African and Middle East immigrants be sent back to their homelands. It was creepy. But not uncommon as many countries over here in Europe have this kind of political mentality going on and that is something I don't think the USA Media is reporting on over in the United States who are also dealing with their own immigration issues. Clearly when I go back home in the USA to visit, the European Socialistic model of democracy is still being touted as the poster child of everything wonderful about true democracy. [whatever that is] At least when I spoke of this when visiting over there the past couple of years, no one I spoke with had any clue this was happening in Europe. Even here in Sweden National Socialism has gained greater support. But there are also other Mediterranean countries in the news who also experience much of the same economic and political crisis as well. Italy, Spain and Portugal all have issues. Well, after the bail out by Germany, France and other E.U. members, things seemed to quiet down, but now there is talk once again of Greece leaving the European Union for good. So what really happened anyway ?

Europäischen Parlament
When I first came to Sweden, my wife told me about the reasons behind the formation of the European Union. She said there were numerous justifications for it's so-called necessary creation. The one that mostly stood out to her was when she visited her brother who married a girl from Spain. Her sister-in-law said that it was necessary that Europe unite and fight and compete against the United States. Basically it was mostly an economic one. But it effected all the Mediterranean countries in a very different unique way. Part of admittance or acceptance into the European Union is that countries applying for application must meet certain social welfare criteria towards it's citizens. Keep in mind now that this European Union with strong socialist government leanings was for the most part a strictly central and northern European creation. The belief is that government takes care of the disadvantaged and elderly. Nothing wrong with that. But traditionally, in most Mediterranean cultures, family always did this. Government responsibility was never considered and most governments there had never budgeted or structured their governments towards such heavy social welfare programs. Hence they would have to heavily invest to pay for such programs. They would have to grow a large consumer economy and charge higher taxes for such welfare entitlements. Although the E.U. is Socialist, it's also very Capitalistic. So the Mediterranean countries bought into the consumerism agenda of the E.U. program. Traditionally, most cultures in the Mediterranean were never previously obsessed with acquiring many consumer goods. They were contented with earning a simple living and taking care of family, not that they were perfect, but like everyone else they have their faults as well. But prior to the E.U., families for the most part were close to each other and content. They took care of one another well beyond their immediate family circle. This is something Northern and Central Europe hasn't experienced in decades. World War II took care of that by shattering many traditional family values and traditional ways of life. Frankly, they were stumbled by the war which is also why most are not very religious. Fact is, the churches are at fault for that. And know there are many who don't wish to hear that, but it's nevertheless the truth.

(Just Add Feta)
When I first came to Sweden in early 2006 almost 9 years ago, I was at my Bank at Nordea here in Gothenburg. The Bank teller at the window who waited on me was a girl from Greece. We spoke about her country and I asked why she came to Sweden to live when she already lived in such a beautiful country with far superior climate. She said it was because of work. She said unemployment was bad in Greece. [keep in mind, this was 2006, long before the crisis] She said it had been a mistake for Greece to enter into the European Union. She said as a result of Greece obtaining E.U. membership, most families were being torn apart, they were becoming distant because of the need to work more. Any country that entered the E.U. had an immediate inflation on prices for all goods and services. She said that before the E U, Greek families only had the Father going to work and the mother stayed home with the children. She said after the E.U. membership, the mother also had to go to work and that Fathers often had to have two jobs. She said when it came to Social Welfare programs that were required by the E.U., they had to be paid for and Greece had to borrow money to pay for such services demanded by the E.U. Before the E.U. families took care of their elderly. It was never considered the government's responsibility. The traditional family of most Mediterranean cultures has always been about extended families [Uncles, Aunties, Cousins, etc], much the way Africa, Asia and South & Central American countries still are in some places. Even small towns and villages looked out for one another. But the Bank Teller told me that much of the stable cultural structure which held families together was gone for the most part. She said that life was better before the E.U was brought on board. And yet, at the same time there appears to be a change now where younger people who went to Athens to become wealthy consumers are coming back to smaller communities or islands and taking up traditional work to get by and actually becoming successful and more happy about their newer simpler way of life. Some of that traditional family can still be found about Greeks countless island communities if you get away from the bigger cities. In fact, last year I watched an interesting documentary by reporter Philip Williams of ABC News Australia where he interviews a few Greeks who have gone back to a more traditional simpler lifestyle of generations past and are successful and happier for it.

"Greece - The Odyssey, Reporter: Philip Williams. We've seen and heard a great deal about the economic apocalypse thumping Greece. Violent protests, enormous pain, staggering job losses, lives destroyed. But that's not the complete picture. Meet the Greeks turning national disaster into personal triumph. They're not sitting around under the thunderheads of austerity waiting for the economy to turn and the sun to shine again. They're taking matters into their own hands."
(Source: ABC News Australia)

There were some great suggestions and experiences by those who came back that showed a resilience to a bad economic situation and how they were able to adapt. They admitted that the consumerism and lifestyle of the bigger cities brought stress and that the life promised and promoted by it's leadership was false and fake. They found eventual happiness in a simpler way of life when they moved back to their smaller villages where they grew up which brought less stress. Pity that most of the world doesn't believe in a simpler way of life. But there were also some great points to come away with from this documentary about what many of these Greeks had to say about their own culture's invention of a type of government called Democracy which is championed today worldwide  as mankind's savior and what they think of it now. For example, there was this one woman, Eleni Boubouli, who left her career and urban lifestyle and moved from the second largest Greek city of Thessaloniki to the countryside where she now has created an Herb business. 
The reporter, Philip Williams asked her, "I've talked to many Greeks who say, you know, first of all it's the politicians, it's their fault." 
Eleni Boubouli's response: "No, okay, but the politicians I think are people who we voted for. So if we people hadn't voted for them to do all this bad stuff that they did . . . some Greek people take responsibility and others don't, but we voted for them."
Christos Rozakis being scolded by
an elderly neighbour woman in his
hometown for not taking care of
business and having a child.
Another man that reporter Philip Williams interviewed was Christos Rozakis who also was one of those disappointed with politicians and the decisions they have made which forced him to close his sports car automotive shop and move back to the small town rural life. There was a funny cute scene where Christos was being scolded by an older woman inside his boyhood town who said he should be taking care of business by having a child. He explains that he does want a child, but cannot afford one. Next, the reporter Philip Williams interviews him at his small town carwash where he still works with and details cars. Christos admits that he is not opposed to any type of work. Washing Cars or shining shoes, he says just let me do it. Later Philips interviews Christos behind closed doors at his private home and as Philip says, the real raw emotions takes over. Christos explains that he comes from a people and culture who invented Democracy. But then he says that he is wishing that Greece could rather have some kind a dictator now instead of democracy. He of course blames the present politicians for Greece's problems and then with tears and more raw emotion he explains how Greeks are not a lazy people. They are strong honest hard working tax paying people who simply wish to make an honest living, but that they bought into the propaganda of the wealth consumerism utopia promised by E.U. membership. It may seem odd that he would say such a thing as wishing Greece had a dictatorship, but I do understand what he meant. In many ways, most of the world's historical dictators held absolute power like ruling Monarchs of the past. As bad as many dictatorships were and are, they do have one common outcome of their iron fist type of rulership, they keep a sense of order, even if  much of their personal warped ideology is twisted. In other words people tend to know where they stand with a dictator. A couple of examples. When the Yugoslavian dictator Tito died, the once varying cultures who lived along side each other as peaceful neighbours eventually had their country fall into chaos and anarchy over self-rule sovereignty rights. Same with Soviet Union and the present Arab Spring crisis which not only has failed, but situations have become far worse. Christos of course isn't looking for a psychopath type of dictator, but someone with good ideas who will stay in power keeping Greece stable and rejecting democratic elections as long as his ideas work. The main trouble is however, as time pants on to the end, this is impossible with any human ruler.

Today, Democracy is still hailed as mankind's only saviour. But often it has become a mask or cloak for something else. When Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990, the justification for the Gulf War was said to be for democracy and not oil, except there never was any democracy ever in Kuwait as they always had a ruling monarch called an Emir. In fact, when Kuwait was finally liberated, the first order of business for their Emir was to replace the gold fixtures stolen by Iraqi soldiers from his bathroom toilet & shower while his subjects were left with a ruined infrastructure of public services like water, sewer, electricity, etc. You know how most ruling monarchies are ? But the funny thing about democracy is that it is supposed to be by people and for people. There are these so-called free elections and whatever party is elected, all sides have previously agreed to accept that outcome and obey the rule of law under that nation's constitution no matter which side is elected to be in charge. Except that things have never really worked that way and it's getting worse. Each side wants to blame someone else's side for the problems and woes. So it was interesting to watch that documentary on Greece and most of the people interviewed actually blaming themselves for putting failed leaders in power which brought on the miserable consequences they are all suffering now. Not many people who are driven by the democratic animal are prone to admitting such a thing. It's always the other side's fault. But there is a historical warning which shows that putting trust in human leadership has always had consequences as well as any supposed good. The warning is not hard to understand and most people [even non-religious] could agree with what is said in an ancient historical account. Oddly enough, it's the majority of the religious folks within Christendom who should be adhering to this advice, but they completely ignore it by heavily immersing themselves into this world's politics no matter what country they reside in.

The setting is in the original nation of Israel where the Jews are wanting a King over them just like all the other Nations around them. They are apparently restless and dissatisfied with the simple arrangement of judges within their cities and communities offering guidance, settling disputes and generally keeping the peace among the people. So they are not content with their own God being their King as was originally set up. It would seem in their mind such a system of governance and direction was primitive and unsophisticated. They wanted a more modern trendy type of rule with all the pomp, ceremony and bragging rights that goes with it. The Prophet Samuel was appalled and displeased at the demand of the people. He took it as a personal failure, but was told that the people had not rejected him, but rejected their own Hebrew God Jehovah as King. The Prophet Samuel was told to warn the people  of their collective community responsibility for insistence on having a King and the consequences they would experience under such a harsh ruling human king. Here is how one modern day, easier to understand contemporary translation "The Message Bible" renders the account:
1 Samuel 8:10-18
So Samuel told them, delivered God’s warning to the people who were asking him to give them a king. He said, “This is the way the kind of king you’re talking about operates. He’ll take your sons and make soldiers of them—chariotry, cavalry, infantry, regimented in battalions and squadrons. He’ll put some to forced labor on his farms, plowing and harvesting, and others to making either weapons of war or chariots in which he can ride in luxury. He’ll put your daughters to work as beauticians and waitresses and cooks. He’ll conscript your best fields, vineyards, and orchards and hand them over to his special friends. He’ll tax your harvests and vintage to support his extensive bureaucracy. Your prize workers and best animals he’ll take for his own use. He’ll lay a tax on your flocks and you’ll end up no better than slaves. The day will come when you will cry in desperation because of this king you so much want for yourselves. But don’t expect God to answer.”
The predictable response of the people to the warning was this:
But the people wouldn’t listen to Samuel. “No! they said. “We will have a king to rule us! Then we’ll be just like all the other nations. Our king will rule us and lead us and fight our battles."
So those Israelites wanted to be a great and mighty Nation. They wanted to establish national pride and economic prosperity in competition with surrounding nations. Where have we heard that before ? Whether humans call their leader King, Emperor, Dictator, Premier, Prime Minister or President, the citizens of all nations bear a measure of guilt when their leaders go wrong. How well did things go for the German people who gave majority consensus to the Führer of Nazi Germany who restored German pride and National economy ? Incredibly, even the Churches [who should have known better] supported and helped in establishing that failed government. Now, I understand folks don't like hearing that. They never have when I've brought it up before, but it's a matter of documented historical fact. 
Typical Facebook Blame Game
Today, my Facebook's timeline feed is littered with all manner of political posters of all ideological persuasion blaming the another side's politics for the economic, social and environmental woes that their various countries are experiencing. Nobody accepts personal collective responsibility for their participation in a failed political system. There are times it is so bad that I have to unfollow someone's postings. Under the definition of democracy people agree by their participation in such a system that they will accept whatever the political outcome results of any election. Unlike those Greek citizens interviewed by reporter Philip Williams who were very honest and open, admitting that the Greek woes were their own fault, these other people blame another side's leadership within that democracy for getting their country involved in a War or bringing the country down to economic ruin as a result of what they see as failed environmental policies. Hence, when you turn on the nightly News Reports, all you see is angry protest and raw hatred towards other fellow citizens. This same observation was made by Salman Rushdie. My wife and I saw him interviewed live on CNN Europe in 2013 where he stated this:
“We live in an age of identity politics in which people have been encouraged to define themselves by what makes them angry. You know, I mean, I would say that the more healthy definition of the self is to define it in terms of the things you value and care about and love, you know."   
"But now, we seem to be—or many of us—seem to be defining ourselves by what we hate. You know, and that rage, as you say, becomes a badge of identity—becomes a kind of selfhood." 
(Source: India Currents)

You know, Salman Rushie is absolutely correct. People's modern day beliefs and support of any cause is generally based on something they hate or what makes them angry. Rarely does anyone anymore champion something positive that they love. Of course there are exceptions, but when you watch the nightly global news reports, things really are moving more towards raw unbridled hatred. People of every side will point the finger blaming others with neither side admitting personal responsibility of guilt by association for their participation in a failed system. I think what many of the common people from both political sides often times really want is absolute dictatorial rule as long as it's their side in the position of absolute power, with democracy as a smokescreen. You know who else was right ? Margaret Thatcher, who gave a speech at the 40th Anniversary Session of UN General Assembly with the President of the United States, Ronald Reagan on October 24, 1985 where she put the blame of the failure of the United Nations squarely on the shoulders of all it's member Nations. 
"Secondly, when we ask about shortcomings we should start by looking at ourselves."
"The United Nations is only a mirror held up to our own uneven, untidy and divided world. If we do not like what we see there's no point in cursing the mirror, we had better start by reforming ourselves."
(Source: Margaret Thatcher Foundation)

When the next election [any country] comes up, the participants will fall for the next round of Manifesto after manifesto, piles upon piles of empty promises and the usual political rhetoric that goes with these party atmosphere election festivities. They will dance and cheer Viva this or that politician and totally ignore any personal responsibility on their part to actually read the fine print before purchase. Those celebrity politicians will reach out towards their political life-support constituents with promises of change, even though that change is really nothing more than the same old political pendulum swinging back and forth. Participants will once again allow themselves to be suckered into that new call for change, maybe even get the rare privilege of touching or even posing for a picture with their beloved Secular Messiah and not once considering the consequences that will follow, because for just that one precious euphoric moment, all is well. But like the United Nations flaws which come from various member Nations around the globe, couldn't the same be said about failure of Democracy of any country in which a leader is democratically elected by a population that is no more qualified to understand, problem solve or lead, than the one elected ? All humans have the same identical imperfections and flaws as anyone they elect, but they by nature are not humble enough to blame themselves, but the guy they ALL election put in power, even if he/she wasn't their personal choice. See, it's called community responsibility.

This is not to say there are not good viable ideas and solutions out there. Things to do with environment, economy etc all do really exist, but they never seem to be implemented. Why ??? They just always seem to be at an arms length away and yet still out of reach. Sometimes it just feels like some evil extraterrestrial alien force may be out there pulling the leadership strings over our globe whether that leadership is political, religious or economic to keep things from reaching that happy conclusion. Maybe folks should be more like some of those Greeks, start questioning what they've been putting their trust, loyalty and faith in for most of their lives.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Coastal Sage Scrub & Chaparral Exhibit @ San Diego Safari Park

image mine: San Diego Safari Park Chaparral Nativescape Exhibit

I've visited here many times in the past and I've always known that the Sage Scrub exhibit was the least visited of all the Park themes. But this time was worse and I actually will fault those in charge. While they certainly way back at the beginning of creating & constructing the exhibit, it's apparently that not a lot of attention to design planning went into the idea. This isn't unique to San Diego Safari Park (former Wild Animal Park), I found some of the same identical gross errors at the Mission Trails Park, particularly near the old Padre Dam parking area. Take note of the photograph below of a native California Sycamore planted within an Oasis setting with California Fan Palms in the San Diego County native plants Chaparral/Sage Scrub exhibit. Can anyone tell me what's wrong here with this picture ???

image mine: San Diego Safari Park Chaparral
 exhibit @ Oasis setting 
Let me help you out. Below here are just three examples of Sycamores which have a characteristic Maple leaf shape:
Mexican Sycamore (Platanus mexicana)
American Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis)
London Plane (Platanus acerfolia)
At worst it's one of these above species of Sycamores with the characteristic Maple Leaf pattern or at best a cross breed with one of the above examples and one of the Southwestern native Sycamores listed below here:
California Sycamore (Platanus racemosa)
Arizona Sycamore (Platanus wrightii)

This is the same exact mistake blunder at the San Diego Mission Trails Regional Park near the Padre Dam Parking area when I visited there in June and along also the old winding Mission Gorge Rd in the Mission Gorge Canyon. I have also seen this same mistake in many of the common conventional retail Nurseries with a label  advertising California Sycamore when clearly it was one of the  eastern North American or European varieties. Now I could almost excuse a mistake of Arizona Sycamore being mislabeled as a California since both these Western Sycamores have a long fingered leaf design as opposed to the obvious maple leaf pattern, but there is no excuse for the other mistaken identity. The other thing is the east North American and European [maybe even Eurasian Sycamore] are a darker green instead of the lighter green of characteristic of the western. Also their leaf is thicker and smoother & has more of a gloss texture on the surface than the western.  I can forgive a rookie gardener or greenhorn landscaper for this type of mistake, but it's irresponsible of those caliber of people in charge of exhibits or displays at public locations where biologists and botanists are supposed to be in charge of oversight and nature education of the public. Even Landscape Company owners or supervisors and owners of Retail Nurseries should have a measure of responsibility for the glaring mistakes where I often see California Sycamore labels on what clearly is a London Plane or American Sycamore tree. At times I have stumbled upon a mistaken label and mentioned this to Nurserymen. but my experience has been that they don't exactly appreciate you pointing this out and dismiss the complaint as nonsense. Whatever !!! It should be noted however that at Native Plant Nurseries, I have never seen this since their reputation is at stake and they pretty much know their specific plant subjects. Another give away of incorrect tree identification is the tree's overall silhouette, shape and form. California Sycamores as well as Arizona have a more picturesque twisting shape or form and often can be multi-trunked with competing leaders, but of course as in anything, it's not always the rule. In the urban landscape where most of the non-natives with Maple-like leaves are found, they are generally a long single straight trunk tree with rounded ball-like crown or  conventional tree form that most people consider in the landscape. Even when young the differences are obvious. But back to the other problems I had with the chaparral display at the San Diego Safari Park. They unfortunately use an inappropriate exposed drip irrigation system on the ground's surface which is normally a horrible idea for native California plants anyway. The result is an  unsightly, in decline and rangy dead appearance of the shrubs on display for the public to view.

image mine: chaparral display with exposed improper irrigation
One of the main goals of any public landscape exhibit is to educate  and instill deeper appreciation of the subject being displayed. The Chaparral Plant Community in general gets bad press from an ignorant public relations land management service whose loyalties generally lay within groups with vested interests in money making ventures of various sorts. The rangy appearance and degradation of the Chaparral and other native plant area altogether has only reinforced these negative views of the native plant life of Southern California in my opinion. I have hit hard time and again how imperative deep pipe irrigation is to California Natives and an irrigation which should not be used all the time. The other factor which hurts many of these plants they have selected is it's southern slope exposure over a geologically shallow soil with massive granite bedrock below a few inches of soil in some places. One of the things they could have done in preparation prior to planting is something home builders  do in rural environments where soil percolation for septic lines needs vast improvement. They drill fairly deep holes in strategic locations within an area and place enough dynamite charge in each hole to simply fracture the ground down deep. Had this preparation been done here, the chaparral and other native tree roots would have had an easier time of penetrating more deeply through  the surface to subsoil layers. Water would also have a better chance at percolating down into deeper layers of the earth where native plants prefer it. Now here was another disappointment for me below.

Image Mine: Former Tecate Cypress display which contained at least half a dozen trees which are all now dead and removed.

This was sad. All Tecate Cypress with the exception of the small one to the right here are all dead and removed. There are still some Cuyamaca Cypress, but even some of them are gone and the ones that are left are unfortunately defoliating. Once again the culprit is poor maintenance and an inept irrigation system which had an "enabling effect" on the trees which probably grew to fast and out performed the root system which could not later support the needs of the larger trees. Despite the present California mega-drought, the power of an urban landscape garden is that it doesn't have to reflect how poorly things are doing in the wild. This doesn't mean they need to water during summer, but they could have supplemented the poor showing of winter rains by irrigating slowly and deeply during the cooler months of the season. Below here is an example of what is left from the Cuyamaca Cypress display in the garden which was always right next to the Tecate Cypress location along the service road.

Cuyamaca Cypress 

Unfortunately, this Cuyamaca Cypress above is also in dire straights as it sheds foliage to weather the drought period until the next winter season's rains offer some hopeful respite from the heat. But the main purpose and idea is that behind an educational display such as this nativescape should always reflect the beauty of a Chaparral and other native plant landscape which will draw the average person to appreciating such ecosystems more fully. After all, this is a replica not so much of the wild, but of an urban landscape where people have the power to control the climate settings. Heat is no obstacle to chaparral and other native plants as long as they have deep access to available subsoil moisture. In fact that was the very purpose of creating the Nativescape Gardens in the first place. As their own website states, their goal is to influence as many visitors as possible  to replicate this Nativescape Garden in their own urban landscape back home. This is what the website and page on Nativescape project actually says:
"The garden's 4 acres (1.6 hectares) show off Southern California's plant communities: chaparral, coastal sage scrub, cypress, desert transition, high desert, island, low desert, montane, palm oasis, and riparian. With names like Apache plume, California buckeye, and monkey flower, these intriguing but often overlooked plants show that there's considerable variety and splendor to California's native landscape. Once you've experienced these unique plants, you can help restore some of California's botanical heritage by including them in your own garden!"
San Diego Safari Park: Nativescapes Garden

One exceptionally bright spot in this garden was the health and vigor of the Parry Pinyon which once numbered in the 1000s up in and around Anza Valley where I lived for 20+ years. Unfortunately as I last informed readers on their condition and survival up there in Anza, they are in a major steep decline. Many Parry Pinyon skeletons are everywhere on the southeastern end of the Thomas Mountain range where they once dominated. But it's still nice to see this one could indeed inspired landscape designers in building a nativescape and using this tree as a choice addition. I've always considered the Parry Pinyon the most beautiful of all the Pinyons and yet under used as a potential landscape tree. The closest pinyon competitor which is also beautiful would be the darker green Pinus edulis which is native to New Mexico thru Arizona on into the Mojave Desert's backyard. But still, the Parry is so unique and probably has smallest concentrated locations more than many of the  Pinyons.

Parry Pinyon (Pinus quadrafolia)

There were of course some other bright spots like many of the Native Oaks which looked healthy and some Manzanitas which also looked to be in healthy peak condition, but could have done with a bit of trimming and sprucing up. There were also some other negatives like the California Holly, Lemonade Berry, Dudleya and other plants needing cages around them to prevent the local wild Mule deer population from eating the display. Well you can't blame them, like the opportunistic gopher, they just do what they do. Every living thing is desperate in California at the moment. Again, while I understand the need to show or illustrate the wildness of the chaparral and other native trees and plants, the idea is to impress and inspire the public to develop deep appreciate for a beautiful but misunderstood and often demonized plant community. The demonization has always been unfair and the motives behind the Critics [who generally have no expertise on the subject] have always been influenced by power and money. I admit that I've been a critic myself of the way things are done at the San Diego Safari Park in other areas before, but not because I dislike what they are attempting, which I believe goes well beyond entertainment and a mere profit making venture. But I'm just jealous for things to succeed and work out towards a positive outcome. But I do hold what clearly must be the cream of the crop highly educated ones whom the Park hired in the first place because of their specific education and expertise in certain areas who were hired and placed in positions of  responsibility and oversight, for making what I consider countless rookie greenhorn mistakes that one would find at a high school level. If it's a landscape workers or laborers issue, then educational programs should be mandated as a requirement for anyone hired for a specific area of maintenance. Deep appreciation has to be in the figurative heart of those assigned to care for such an area or the result is exactly as what exists now. In fact it should be a employment hiring qualification. Again, this is the area of that entire massive Safari Park which has always been the least visited. I have been there maybe 100s of times, often as a yearly member since 1972 and people will stop short of the Baja exhibit and turn right around and go back to Park Central because nothing inspires beyond that point. Below here is a website which offers Garden Tours and one of them was this past season's winter period when moisture how ever slight greened up the area a bit. It illustrates how beautiful the area could be. And using the wrong plants and labels ? go figure - rookie stuff

 Just so that everyone is aware, this region up on that hill is still my favourite area of the entire Safari or Wild animal Park whatever you want to call it. I'm a freak for native chaparral woodland environments and so again if I'm critical, it's because I want their entire program up there to succeed and not fail. Generally when I come with family I have to tolerate several hours of seeing all the bottomland exhibits with the birds and animals before climbing up the hill to where I wanted go in the first place. But at least in the end I get my way anyway. *smile*
Further Reading Educational References of Interest
Deep Irrigation Methods for Training Deeper Rooting networks 
California Native Plant Resources
Tree of Life Nursery: California Native Plants