Earth Matters

Every two weeks, the Hitchcock Center publishes a column, "Earth Matters: Notes on the Nature of the Valley," in The Daily Hampshire Gazette. Writers include Hitchcock staff and board members, former board members, presenters in our Community Programs series, and friends of the Center. Look for the column at the end of Section C of the weekend Gazette or on their website. We will keep a complete list on this site, so if you miss seeing a column in the newspaper, or want to see it again, come here at any time.

‘What is a bird?’ Easy question, complicated answer

By Henry Lappen

When I do my educational performance “A Passion for Birds,” I always ask the audience “What is a bird?” Depending on the age of the audience, I get quite a variety of answers. Someone usually starts with “It’s a flying animal.” I respond by pointing out, “Under that definition, bees and bats are birds.”

Published in Earth Matters on August 14, 2017.

What Thoreau can tell us about climate change

By Patrick O’Roark

Recently, Ted Watt, my colleague at the Hitchcock Center for the Environment in Amherst, said something that really stuck with me: Naturalists, the experts on the plants and animals sharing the land with us, are important figures in the struggle to curb and adapt to climate change.

Published in Earth Matters on July 28, 2017.

A ripple effect: Henry David Thoreau turns 200

By Reeve Gutsell

July 12 marked the bicentennial of Henry David Thoreau’s birth. Though not widely read in his day, this essayist, abolitionist, naturalist, tax resister, land surveyor and native son of Massachusetts is now well known throughout America and the rest of the world for his influence on both modern-day environmentalism and civil resistance movements.

Published in Earth Matters on July 14, 2017.

Creating a new normal in a ‘living’ building

By Katie Koerten

As an environmental educator at the Hitchcock Center for the Environment, I do most of my work outside. Until our recent move to our new “living” building I didn’t consider that our nature center itself could help me teach about the environment as well.

Published in Earth Matters on June 30, 2017.

How birds and other organisms can tell us where we are

By David Spector

The ways birds use the sun, the stars, their own internal clocks, the Earth’s magnetic field, odors, and other cues to navigate are well documented. Birds can also help a human to know his or her location.

Published in Earth Matters on June 19, 2017.

‘Tikkun olam’: An ancient expression for our time

By Benjamin Weiner

At Ellis Island, years ago, I was struck by an exhibit listing some of the contributions made by immigrant languages to American English, though I realize now that at least two important Jewish offerings went unrecorded. The more colorful of my ancestors’ Yiddishisms were probably deemed unfit for inclusion in a family museum. But the other gift I’m thinking of, Hebraic, has more dignity and has more recently entered fully into the specialized vernacular of social activism.

Published in Earth Matters on June 2, 2017.

Peace, love and bonobos: How a great ape can lead us to a better world

By Sally Jewell Coxe

Do you know what a bonobo is? Have you ever seen one? If you answered “yes” to either of these questions, you are an exception. Bonobos, closely related to chimpanzees, were the last great apes discovered by Western science, and still remain largely unknown to most of the world. Found only in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, bonobos inhabit the heart of the world’s second largest rainforest.

Published in Earth Matters on May 19, 2017.

Reverence, resistance and the climate crisis

By Margaret Bullitt-Jonas

Suppose you deeply loved this planet and were also deeply concerned for its future. And suppose you wanted to hold an event to give voice to those feelings. What would you call it?

Published in Earth Matters on May 5, 2017.

A glimpse of the lions of the insect world

By Elizabeth Farnsworth For the Gazette

Have you ever noticed a line of funnels dotting the sand at the base of your house, just inside the drip-line of your gutter or roof? Funnels about an inch across, and so regular that they could not possibly be due to raindrop drips?

Published in Earth Matters on April 21, 2017.

Singing the bluets: Counting on a spring wildflower

By David Spector

At this time of year I count on one of my favorite spring wildflowers, the little bluet (Houstonia caerulea), for a lovely show. Depending on exact location, altitude and microclimate, anytime from early April (even late March after mild winters) to early May, I see lawns covered with a late “snow” of these flowers. A highlight of my commute is a lawn a few miles from my house that has ideal conditions for this species and is often covered with bloom before the flowers appear elsewhere.

Published in Earth Matters on April 7, 2017.
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