Friday, April 15, 2011

Know Your Local Ecosystem, #1

A couple streets over from our house there is this really, really magnificent tree.  Our neighborhood seems to have wisely left a number of big trees growing smack dab in the middle of its streets.  This is annoying for motorists but brilliant once that fierce midday sun starts to beat down.  Our street is home to a mango tree, but it is a mere shrub compared to this baby.

This is an ent-tree.  The trunk is worthy of a Giant Sequoia, the canopy is like a cathedral roof.  This would be the perfect tree for climbing were I somehow three times larger - it's like an apple tree on steroids.

At the close of a great article entitled "How Species Save Our Lives" Richard Conniff offers a list of 13 practical ways we can work toward saving species and preserving biodiversity.  One of them was this:
7. Learn to identify 10 species of plants and animals in your own neighborhood, then 20, and onward.
Now the amount of biology I don't know and never learned would fill, well, a lot of biology textbooks. But since we're now living in a new ecosystem I thought I would try to see if I could actually identify 10 species.

So this is the first one: our neighborhood arbolón is more properly known as the ceiba or kapok tree (Ceiba pentandra, if you want to see what the Encyclopedia of Life has to say about it).  It probably evolved in the Americas but has since spread to the tropics in Africa and Asia.  In Mayan mythology, the world tree was a ceiba.  We've seen a couple other ones around Managua (there's another in the parking lot of the fancy mall) and it's nice to see that at least sometimes people try to keep them around rather than just bulldoze 'em.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Reading Material

I wrote an article for the Global Ministries website about climate change and God's call for us to do justice in the world.  You can read it here; it's basically a more polished version of some earlier blog posts on the subject.

Also, if you just can't get enough of climate and religion, check out the cover of Sojourners magazine this month.  They have a bunch of articles on talking to climate skeptics and overcoming denialism (free w/ registration).

Touristy Stuff

Here's a bunch of photos that I haven't blogged about because they were taken while we were having "fun" rather than "working" -- although sometimes its hard to tell which is which =)
I really love this one of Quinn and Laura Jean floating in the Laguna de Apoyo, which is a nearby volcanic lake that is just about perfect for swimming. Warm, calm, little bits of pumice floating along with you.

The Volcán Masaya is an active volcano located about a 20 minute drive from our house. You can drive right to the rim, park you car (facing outward, for safety) and look right in. It's totally awesome, but you can't really linger up there thanks to the toxic gases.

There's not a ton of tourist attractions in Managua itself, but the Plaza de la Revolución is pretty cool (if usually weirdly deserted). Looming to one side are the remains of the old cathedral, destroyed in the 1972 earthquake and never properly rebuilt.

The Laguna de Tiscapa is the highest point in Managua and was the site of Somoza's mansion. So naturally after the revolution they erected a giant statue of Augusto César Sandino in its place.

The Laguna is also the perfect spot for great views of Managua and the lake behind. Here's my sister Jessica and Quinn watching the sun set.

The view of beautiful Granada from a church bell-tower.

Amy and Laura Jean having lunch.

Jess trying out the swinging chairs.

Quinn in the garden.

Some guy with a bell.

Another view of Granada from above, with the volcanoes of Ometepe rising in the distance.

Volcán Mombacho rising over Granada.

Margaret and Brendan in front of the cathedral in León.