Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘north carolina’

091720nc20boats

Photo: Patrik Jonsson/Christian Science Monitor
At Swan Quarter, North Carolina, shrimp boats cluster on the shore ahead of hurricane Florence in September. The town’s protective dike represents cooperation among practical people, who put aside politics to solve a serious problem.

Even when people believe global warming is only a cyclical blip, they can find common cause with others to solve a problem that affects everyone. Residents of a small town in North Carolina did just that after years of dangerous floods.

From the Christian Science Monitor: “As staff writer Patrik Jonsson began traveling the Carolinas after hurricane Florence, he came across a town that put aside its differences over politics and global warming to find a solution to chronic flooding. …

“Neighbors J.W. Raburn and Henry Williams are political polar opposites. … But the two lifelong friends – along with about 300 or so other North Carolinians who call Swan Quarter home – stood united [in September] against hurricane Florence.

“Nearby Oriental, New Bern, and large parts of central North Carolina were devastated when up to 40 inches of rain fell. … Tens of thousands of residents were displaced, and at least 23 people died.

” ‘There is no doubt that dike has saved us. It gives us a little bit of hope,’ says Raburn. His friend nods.

“The dike, completed in 2010, is a piece of political pragmatism that has gained stature as it held up well against during hurricanes Irene and Matthew, superstorm Sandy. …

“There is also growing evidence that mounting property losses, declines in property values, and threatened historical landmarks are wearing away resistance to preparedness. That common purpose might sometimes be hard to see on the national stage. But locally, people are putting aside politics in favor of practical solutions.

” ‘Working in Swan Quarter, flooding is not an ideological issue there. It is a way of life. Same with sea level rise. People have watched it happen within that lived environment. If you watch forests turn to marshland and the roads flood, the politics fade away,’ says Jason Evans, an environmentalist from Stetson University in DeLand, Fla., who worked on the dike project.

“Raburn and Williams, former bandmates, show the human side of the debate. Raburn believes that finding solutions to manmade climate change is vital. Williams, a farmer and volunteer firefighter, does not believe that humans are altering the temperature of the planet, calling it ‘a phase we are going through.’ But he is the one who cares for and maintains the dike – a job he takes very seriously. …

“In Swan Quarter, local taxes are likely to go up. The county needs to purchase pumps to help clear water that seeps through the dike. Across the sound on Ocracoke Island, county leaders are working on bolstering dunes. …

“At the same time, the dike played a role in the county investing millions in a new courthouse and fire station. The state credit union has felt confident enough in the dike to build a new branch. A critical ferry service runs from the docks to the Ocracoke Island. Inside the local gas station, a line drawn at head level shows the height of Isabel’s surge. Thus far, Florence has left no mark at all.

“The size of the town and the lean budgets mean, ‘the kind of interventions that can be done there and how we think about it is much different than thinking about New York City or Miami,’ says Evans. ‘Hyde County is a hardscrabble place trying to build a dike. Nothing solves anything forever. … But it clearly has helped with certain floods. I wouldn’t want to be in Swan Quarter during a big hurricane event without that dike being there. …

‘Whatever legislators want to do, whatever presidents want to do, it’s in the end not relevant in terms of trying to work through the facts. We have scientific understanding that can apply to all these places,’ says Evans. ‘But I have also seen over and over again – whether in the Florida Keys or in Swan Quarter – that within areas facing substantial problems, all the political stuff that we all get drawn into fades away.’ ”

Speaking of political stuff fading away, I want to do a post sometime on the fact that the divisions among us may make lively and urgent headlines but aren’t always replicated on the ground. Don’t we all interact regularly with people whose politics we know differ from ours? Would love to hear your examples to add to my own.

More at the Christian Science Monitor, here.

Read Full Post »

Photo: North Carolina Arboretum
Plant physiologist Joe-Ann McCoy extracts seeds from black cohosh collected in western North Carolina.

A plant physiologist, worried about the future effects of global warming on biodiversity in Appalachia, is not only preserving seeds but working to attract preservation-based economic development. It would be almost like getting a sponsor for one of the plants there, a plant whose roots are used in popular herbal remedies.

At Yale Environment 360, Nancy Averett writes, “When she can spare the time — away from the grant applications, journal articles, and economic reports strewn across her desk — plant physiologist Joe-Ann McCoy laces up her hiking boots and heads to the Pisgah National Forest in western North Carolina.

“Dodging copperheads and black bears, she winds her way deep into the forest, her eyes scanning the lush understory for black cohosh, a native plant whose roots have been used in herbal remedies for centuries, primarily to treat symptoms related to menopause. When she spots her quarry, McCoy gently pulls the plant’s seed pods — tiny brown orbs that rattle when shaken — off the stem and slips them into a paper envelope.

“The seeds inside those pods — which will be cleaned, vacuum-packed, and then stored in a freezer at -20 degrees Fahrenheit — give McCoy hope. As the director of the North Carolina Arboretum’s Germplasm Repository, her job is to preserve native seeds in this highly biodiverse area in southern Appalachia before climate change makes it impossible for some native vegetation to survive there.

“But the black cohosh holds another promise, as well. The plant’s roots are used in top-selling herbal remedies, and, if someone could succeed in growing black cohosh as a crop and manufacturing supplements here [it] could help drive economic development in this job-scarce region. …

“North Carolina [is] special in terms of biodiversity. Studies have documented more than 4,000 species of plants, 2,000 species of fungi, and 500 species of mosses and lichens in the region. Unlike much of the U.S. East Coast, during the last three ice ages the ground in this region did not freeze, which means the plants here have a much longer genetic history and more diversity than in other areas.

‘If I had to pick one place in the entire U.S. for this project,’ McCoy says, ‘it would be here. This is the ultimate spot.’ …

“When she first came to the arboretum, she focused on black cohosh and creating a robust seed collection from the plant’s entire geographic range — she has 22 different strains — and then growing plants from each strain so she would have enough seeds to back up her collection in three different repositories. These include two federal storage sites — in Ames, Iowa and Fort Collins, Colo. — plus the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway.”

After cataloging the seeds, McCoy turns her attention to the economic possibilities. Read here about her work with investors. The Yale article also describes her ginseng efforts and her assistance to Cherokees who value plants used in traditional medicine.

Read Full Post »

To me it’s tragic that languages are disappearing and, with them, unique cultures.

Small, determined efforts can bring attention to the problem, as I noted this morning when the filmmaker behind Marie’s Dictionary retweeted this from North Carolina’s Pilot Mountain Elementary School (@pilotMtnElem).

Third grade students are learning about Marie’s Dictionary and endangered languages. @goproject #scsed #pmespirates @UNESCO

Excellent. Third graders are sure to spread the word.

Recently, I came across an article on another threatened language, Hawaii Sign Language.

“In 2013, at a conference on endangered languages, a retired teacher named Linda Lambrecht announced the extraordinary discovery of a previously unknown language. Lambrecht – who is Chinese-Hawaiian, 71 years old, warm but no-nonsense – called it Hawaii Sign Language, or HSL.

“In front of a room full of linguists, she demonstrated that its core vocabulary – words such as ‘mother,’ ‘pig’ and ‘small’ – was distinct from that of other sign languages. …

“The last-minute arrival of recognition and support for HSL was a powerful, almost surreal vindication for Lambrecht, whose first language is HSL. For decades, it was stigmatised or ignored; now the language has acquired an agreed-upon name, an official ‘language code’ from the International Organization for Standardization, the attention of linguists around the world, and a three-year grant from the Endangered Languages Documentation Programme at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. …

“An initial estimate of up to 280 surviving HSL signers was soon revised down to 40, then down to just 10 or so old-timers still likely to be competent in HSL. ASL had made deep inroads even among these signers, but there was evidence, especially from Lambrecht’s signs, that HSL was distinct, and lay close enough to the surface to be recovered. Spoken languages such as Basque, Welsh, and Hawaiian have come back from the brink of extinction – could HSL be the first sign language to do it?”

The article is from the Guardian by way of the blog Arts Journal. Read it here.

Photo: Eugene Tanner Photography, LLC
Linda Lambrecht, left, teaches Hawaii Sign Language.

 

 

Read Full Post »

121115-ICA

 

Until January 24, you can see at the ICA in Boston an exhibition on the artistic legacy of one of the most interesting colleges ever. It couldn’t last, but while it did, it burned with a bright flame.

Let me drop a few names of people who worked and studied there: Robert Rauschenberg, Josef Albers, Robert Motherwell, Cy Twombly, Jacob Lawrence, Willem de Koonig (painters); Buckminster Fuller (architect); Merce Cunningham (choreographer); John Cage (music); and Robert Creeley (poetry). I am leaving out too many, including the women, whose names are not as well known.

I went on my lunch hour and so swept through the exhibition too fast. I confess I am not crazy about much of the art from this period. My favorites here are Motherwell, Lawrence, Cunningham, and Creeley. But how amazing that they all gathered North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, energizing one another across disciplines and making the school their life for a while, even pitching in with the chores.

Surprisingly, the things I took away with me were two ideas I’d like to apply to art with grandchildren.

I’ve done photographic paper before (you put objects like leaves or shells on the paper, leave it in the sun a few minutes, then run in the house and rinse it in water), but someone in the show did a full body. I might try a hand or a face. I also loved the textures of one piece of art I saw. Not quite a collage, it used string and bumpy surfaces in imaginative ways that reminded me of a project I watched Earl Gordon do when I was a child. He sliced the seed pod of a flower and used it as a stamp. Got to try more of that.

You can read about the school and the exhibit here.

Photo: Craig F. Walker/Globe
I liked “Female Figure” on sun-exposed photographic paper, by Susan Weil and Robert Rauschenberg, left.

Read Full Post »

On Sunday, I got to the Peabody Essex Museum early and decided to walk around Salem before going in to see the Thomas Hart Bentons. I thought I might take a look at the hotel where I stayed when DeAnna and Mairtin got married.

I hadn’t gone very far when what should I spy but some very strange constructions made of sticks. Turns out the sculptures, by Patrick Dougherty, were also a PEM exhibition: “Stickwork.”

From Dougherty’s website: “Born in Oklahoma in 1945, Dougherty was raised in North Carolina. He earned a B.A. in English from the University of North Carolina in 1967 and an M.A. in Hospital and Health Administration from the University of Iowa in 1969. Later, he returned to the University of North Carolina to study art history and sculpture.

“Combining his carpentry skills with his love of nature, Patrick began to learn more about primitive techniques of building and to experiment with tree saplings as construction material. In 1982 his first work, Maple Body Wrap, was included in the North Carolina Biennial Artists’ Exhibition, sponsored by the North Carolina Museum of Art. In the following year, he had his first one-person show entitled, ‘Waitin’ It Out,’ in Maple at the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

“His work quickly evolved from single pieces on conventional pedestals to monumental scale environmental works, which required saplings by the truckloads. Over the last thirty years, he has built over 250 of these works, and become internationally acclaimed. His sculpture has been seen worldwide—from Scotland to Japan to Brussels, and all over the United States.” More at http://www.stickwork.net.

Aren’t artists something? They just follow where it leads. Nobody gets them into windowless rooms to discuss strategy, goals, subgoals, benchmarks, measures, or evaluation.

Although, I suppose, if Dougherty started out in hospital management, he was subjected to lots of that sort of thing.

071215-Dougherty-Sticks-Salem

071215-lilies-and-sticks

071215-more-Stickwork

071215-thru-the-sticks-darkly

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

071215-Pat-Dougherty-Stickwork-Salem

Read Full Post »

Where was mime-matics when I was a child convinced I was bad at math? Pretty sure I would have changed my mind after a few laughs at this comedy show.

Robert Strauss describes it for the New York Times.

“Without saying a word, a man walks on stage carrying a case full of small plungers. Each time he reaches in the case to take some plungers out, he tries to array them in order on a table in front of him, but he always has one left over. Five, seven, 13: No matter what number, there is still that one left alone, and the man gets visibly, but silently, more exasperated at each turn.

“The man is a mime named Tim Chartier, whose day job is associate professor in the department of mathematics and computer science at Davidson College in North Carolina. The plunger skit and many others that he and his wife, Tanya, have developed are part of their Mime-matics business. Having learned from the master of the craft, Marcel Marceau, they use their skills in mime to teach mathematics in a decidedly unconventional way. …

“At Davidson, he teaches a course called Finite Math, which often fills the math/science requirement for history and English majors.

“ ‘It is probably the last time these students will ever take a math course, so I see myself as the last chance they have to have a good experience with math,’ he said. ‘On the first day, I tell them that many of them will one day sit at a table where their kid will ask whether he or she should like math and science. I tell them I want them to get one story to tell that kid that will be positive in the next 16 weeks. It is an important moment in that class. They start looking for a good experience.’

“The Chartiers, who themselves have two children, 8 and 12, said they wanted their approach to Mime-matics to deliver the same positive experience. Even when they perform at colleges, the audiences are filled with children and their parents.

“ ‘Kids start laughing at the sketches and that frees up their parents, who might have long been afraid of math. The kids break the ice,’ said Ms. Chartier, who added that she particularly wants to fight the perception that math is for boys and writing is for girls, and hopes that Mime-matics entices girls to become more attracted to math.” More here.

Photo: Andy McMillan for The New York Times
Tim Chartier practicing a skit. He and his wife perform at colleges, math conferences, festivals and schools across the country.
 

Read Full Post »

Adele Peters writes at FastCoExist that some schools, “like Ward Elementary in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, are starting to fill classrooms with exercise bikes, so students can work out while they learn.

“The Read and Ride program at Ward began five years ago. One classroom is equipped with enough exercise bikes for a full class of students, and teachers bring students throughout the day to use them. As they ride, they read. The combination burns calories, but it turns out that it also helps students learn better. As the elementary school analyzed testing data at the end of school year, they found that students who had spent the most time in the program achieved an 83% proficiency in reading, while those who spent the least time in the program had failing scores–only 41% proficiency.” More here.

The concept, which I learned about at Andrew Sullivan’s blog, is interesting. I hope most such efforts are in addition to recess, not instead of, but I know from experience that physical motion can helping with learning. And if the kids like it, so much the better.

Photo: Read and Ride

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: