Friday, January 7, 2011

Native Plants for Urban Gardens

Urban yards are often small, with micro-climates or soil conditions vastly different from the surrounding area. Sites in urban yards can be dry with poor soil, shady or sunny with relatively fertile soil. For successful urban gardens, grow plants well-suited to their planting sites.


# Suitable for dry sites or in low-maintenance xeriscapes, native American grasses make excellent urban garden plants. Plant tall grasses such as big bluestem, switch grass and Indian grass, or shorter specimens including little bluestem, western wheatgrass, buffalo grass and blue grama grass. Note that the taller varieties require more moisture than shorter ones.

Flowering Perennials

# The Great Plains are home to a variety of flowering perennials, also called wildflowers, many of which are suitable for use in urban gardens. Black- or brown-eyed Susans, coneflowers in purple, pink, orange and red, goldenrod, and perennial sunflowers are just a few of the many wildflowers planted in urban gardens. Most wildflowers are low-maintenance, requiring little fertilizer or supplemental moisture.

Shade-loving Woodland

# Indigenous to the forest floors, shade-loving woodland plants are ideal for moist, shady locations in urban gardens. Most of these plants bloom in spring and contribute interesting foliage to the shade garden the rest of the growing season. Trillium, lady's slipper, jack-in-the-pulpit, lily-of-the-valley, wild violets and ferns grow well in low-maintenance, shady urban gardens.

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Union of Concerned Scientists

History of Union of Concerned Scientists:

The Union of Concerned Scientists was founded in 1969 by faculty and students of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, located in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Scientists formed the organization to "initiate a critical and continuing examination of governmental policy in areas where science and technology are of actual or potential significance" and "devise means for turning research applications away from the present emphasis on military technology toward the solution of pressing environmental and social problems." The organization employs scientists, economists, engineers engaged in environmental and security issues, as well as executive and support staff.

One of the co-founders was physicist and Nobel laureate Dr. Henry Kendall, who served for many years as chairman of the board of UCS. In 1977, the UCS sponsored a "Scientists' Declaration on the Nuclear Arms Race" calling for an end to nuclear weapons tests and deployments in the United States and Soviet Union [4]. In response to the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), the UCS sponsored a petition entitled "An Appeal to Ban Space Weapons".

In 1992, Kendall presided over the UCS' Warning to Humanity, which called for "fundamental change" to address a range of security and environmental issues. The document was signed by 1700 scientists, including a majority of the Nobel prize winners in the sciences.

According to the George C. Marshall Institute, the UCS was the fourth-largest recipient of foundation grants for climate studies in the period 2000-2002, a fourth of its $24M grant income being for that purpose.

According to Charity Navigator, an independent, non-profit organization that evaluates American charities, the UCS maintained $20,575,731 in assets, $5,514,946 in liabilities, $15,060,785 in net assets, and $14,112,057 in working capital, as well as $10,058,784 in program expenses, $813,335 in administrative expenses, and $1,703,907 in fundraising expenses in fiscal year 2006. In 2007, the Union of Concerned Scientists received a four (out of four) star rating from Charity Navigator.

The Union of Concerned Scientists is member of the Sustainable Energy Coalition.

Darwin and medicine

Abstract: Darwinian principles have been remarkably successful in explaining otherwise puzzling features of the living world. The human body surely qualifies as a part of the living world.

It would therefore be surprising if Darwinian principles were not helpful in explaining how our bodies work, and why they so often fail to work as we think they should. However, only recently have evolutionary biologists teamed up with physicians to try to understand the evolutionary causes of "why we get sick". The result is the new science of "Darwinian Medicine". This talk is a brief introduction to this exciting new field of research.

Introduction: What is "Darwinian Medicine"?

At present Darwinian Medicine is largely theoretical. It takes as its point of departure the oft-repeated saying by the geneticist Theodosius Dobzhansky: "Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution." Evolutionary biology is the theoretical foundation for all biology, and biology is the foundation for all medicine, so it is natural that there should be a connection. But it has taken a long time to appreciate this fact because of the very different time perspectives typically adopted by physicians and medical researchers, on the one hand, and evolutionary biologists, on the other.

The immediate and primary aim of medical research is to understand the human body's anatomical and physiological mechanisms as they currently exist, and to devise treatments to counter whatever malfunctions may arise. Medical research focuses on the proximate causes of illness, i.e., those causes operating on and in presently existing individuals. Evolutionary biologists, on the other hand, want to know why any organism has the characteristics it does in the first place.

They seek the ultimate causes of an organism's characteristics in its evolutionary history. Present organisms have the basic characteristics they do because their ancestors acquired these characteristics. Darwinian evolutionary biology does this by asking how a small set of processes leads organisms to have the characteristics they do.

At least some of the traits of living things can be explained by noting that such characteristics conferred a survival or reproductive advantage on their ancestors. In other words, such characteristics are a result of natural selection. A key strategy in framing Darwinian explanations has come to be called "The Adaptationist Program".

Essentially this means that when trying to explain some widespread biological characteristic, ask what adaptive function this characteristic has, or might have had in the past, and then seek a plausible selectionist explanation of this function. Of course, there is no guarantee beforehand that every characteristic is adaptive, or that a plausible selectionist explanation will be forthcoming. But as a research strategy the Adaptationist Program has enjoyed a great deal of success.

Despite its success, however, no Darwinian believes that all features of all organisms are adaptations. Selection is not the only evolutionary force at work shaping organisms. Chance, historicity, and constraints combine with natural selection to shape organisms.

The result is that while all organisms are incredibly well-adapted in some respects, in others they represent "trade-offs" and compromises, jury-rigged contraptions that succeed despite, rather than because of, the way they are constructed. Taking into account the various ways in which evolution designs organisms helps to explain why the human body is simultaneously a glorious work of art and a Rube Goldberg device that seems patched together by craftsmen lacking both wisdom and foresight.

I will follow Ness and Williams in distinguishing evolutionary explanations for human ailments into the following categories: evolved defenses, conflicts with other organisms, novel environments, trade-offs, and design flaws. I will conclude with some remarks on the future of Darwinian Medicine.

Daniel Rhoads

Daniel Rhoads (December 7, 1821, Paris, Illinois – December 4, 1895) was a California, USA, pioneer and rancher who helped rescue the Donner Party.

He grew up in Illinois, but he became interested in an account of General John C. Frémont's first trip to California, and decided to go to the West Coast. In 1846, he and his wife Amanda Esrey and other family members made the 5-month journey across the country, arriving in Wheatland, California on October 4, where they stayed for about a month before settling near Sutter's Fort in the Sacramento Valley.

While working on a ranch there, word of the Donner Party's plight reached them and Rhoads was a member of the first group of rescuers. They had to carry supplies and provisions on foot for 80 miles (129 km) through the snow, but were able to return with eighteen people.

During the California Gold Rush, Rhoads mined the American River, making about $8,000 in gold. Using this money, he purchased a ranch outside of Gilroy, California. During a drought in 1857, he took his livestock to the Kings River. 

His family joined him 1860, moving into an adobe he constructed in Kingston. El Adobe de los Robles Rancho ("the adobe of the oaks ranch"), still standing, is the second oldest in San Joaquin Valley and has been continuously occupied since its construction. It is registered as California Historical Landmark #206.

During his time in Lemoore, he became involved with local banks, serving as the vice-president of the Bank of Hanford as well as the president of the Bank of Lemoore. He enjoyed banking so much that he eventually moved to San Francisco, serving as one of the directors of the Grangers' Bank of San Francisco. He died in San Francisco, and is buried in Lemoore.