Life at Mt. St. Helens
September 29, 2006, 3:45 am by Jess. Filed under: explosions, love those goofy b*st*rds.

On May 18, 1980, Mount St. Helens lost 1,314 feet of elevation. In the largest landslide in recorded history, the top and north side of the mountain rolled down into the surrounding landscape. A huge bulge of magma burst sideways through the dome and released a hot, ash- and rock-filled wind that tore through the forest at 350 miles per hour.

The 1980 eruption; USGS photo from wikipedia commons

The blast scorched and ripped up surrounding trees, but no fires started because there was no oxygen. The landslide dammed streams and rivers, creating many new lakes, and left behind whole chunks of the mountain on the landscape. The extreme heat from the eruption melted snow and ice, creating enormous mud flows that took out buildings and bridges. Hundreds of millions of tons of ash were released that day; a vertical column of ash reached fifteen miles up into the atmosphere. 250 square miles of surrounding land were damaged.


Announcement: we dig a good screed
September 26, 2006, 11:13 am by bottleman. Filed under: best environmental blogs, bottleworld.

When you start a a new writing project it’s natural to spend a lot of time checking out the competition. Who has little to say, and who awes you with their wit and savvy?

And for myself, I spend time thinking about how this genre of writing can and should be different than journalism, magazine features, etc.

Here at bottleworld we’re trying, slowly but surely, to do something original and worthwhile, and on occasion I think we succeed. At the same time we’ve initiated a major new project: a review of other environmental blogs out there. We’re not just going to list them, we’re actually going to read them and rate them according to some insidious system of our own devising, and find the champions, be they ever so humble, like the good old Kenora Thistles.

Image from kenora_pix, thanks!  See

Yes, it’s a competition, with the prize being “props”! And maybe a bag of Stumptown coffee. I’m not sure yet what the prizes and criteria are going to be, but I’ve discovered this in my explorations so far: …more

Ecological footprint cage match!
September 21, 2006, 1:25 am by bottleman. Filed under: ecological footprints, making a difference, simple living.

A month or so ago I was both pleased and disturbed to get a letter asking for advice on “green living.” Pleased because somebody was reading this site. :) Disturbed because the question was a good one and I didn’t have some slick-assed-smug-mouthed answer.

“Nick” wrote about a cage match of sorts, between two lifestyles that are getting the hard sell nowadays. Who would come out on top, or might these enemies kiss and be friends?

photo by zach slootsky - thanks! see

Hey bottleman..[Nick wrote] ..I am stuck between two conflicting views of “going green.” …more

Your Chance to Eavesdrop
September 19, 2006, 10:54 pm by Jess. Filed under: invasive species, making a difference.

“Can I ask you folks a coupla dumb questions?”

I turned around abruptly, and gasoline overflowed from the weedwhacker tank I was filling. “Shit,” I mumbled automatically, flash-imagining the whole field going up in flames. “Yes, sir,” I said, more loudly, to the man coming up the path.

“Why are you all weedwhacking around these trees? Why don’t you just leave this to Mother Nature?” That day we (a watershed restoration crew) were rigging the competition for our underdogs before they became underneaths. We were cutting the tall invasive grass away from young willow, ash, and ninebark seedlings that we had planted, before it could grow as tall as a basketball player and then fall on top of them like a mattress onto a bottle of wine. (Wink wink)


Plants: Nastier Than You Thought
September 12, 2006, 6:04 pm by Jess. Filed under: love those goofy b*st*rds.

A fly happens into a fly trap’s sticky leaves, and within seconds the Leaves of Death close over the fly. Who knew a plant could hustle so fast? This rapid plant movement is called haptonasty (from the Greek for nasty happenstance).

The gaping maw of the Venus fly trap--thanks, flickr member swimboy1

I’ve mentioned in another post that in our animal imaginations, plants don’t get credit for being fully alive. Why? Partly, because we think of them as unmoving. However, many plants exhibit rapid movements, like the leaf-closing mentioned above, or the instant collapse of leaflets in the shy Mimosa, or the closing of flowers at night. These “nastic” movements are caused by rapid chemical or pressure changes in the cells.

Nastic movements remind us of the twitchings of our own nervous systems. Add carnivorism to that, and a plant like the Venus fly trap gets elevated to near-animal status. But to really appreciate plant movement, we have to think a little differently. Most plant movements are tropisms, or growth movements. It is an elegant concept: instead of running, creeping, crawling or skedaddling, plants grow toward or away from a stimulus.


Why efficiency isn’t so efficient
September 10, 2006, 10:44 pm by bottleman. Filed under: energy, monster houses.

While normally I don’t flog anybody’s work, it’s time to make an exception. Deep breath. Here goes:

Gee, what a super article in the new E magazine (see this reprint on Alternet) about monster houses! Could that guy possibly have been reading this blog, or even, I dare say, writing for it?

The article points out a strange fact: despite the fact that American houses have more energy efficient devices — light bulbs, windows, and so on — than ever, they’re also using more energy than ever. From space America positively radiates!

photo of usa at night from

(If I squint, I think I can see my house.)

On the face of it, it doesn’t make sense. Doesn’t higher efficiency mean using less energy? …more

Torn from the pages of VARIETY: r.i.p. Steve Irwin
September 8, 2006, 5:21 pm by redpen1000. Filed under: obituaries!.

Here’s the headline:


Not having cable television, I learned of Steve Irwin primarily through his regular appearances on broadcast television shows such as The Tonight Show With Jay Leno and Live With Regis and Kelly. No Animal Planet junkie here. Still, I know this much: the guy is dead, brought down by a stingray and not a parrot as he once prophesized.

“I have a deep-seated respect for parrots. …more

The Nu Austerity (or, the filthy rich vs. the cleanly so)
September 4, 2006, 6:01 am by bottleman. Filed under: magazine watch, simple living.

Welcome to the “Nu Austerity“!

That’s the buzzword one marketer/designer came up with to summarize the apparent trend of people intentionally living simpler lives, more focused on the quality of experience than the quantity of goods they consume. If it’s real, it’d certainly be good news for the environment. But is it real, or is it just another accessory to buy and throw away?

pictures from mags and real estate ads

This simpler lifestyle’s been linked with a resurgence of interest in “clean” “elegant” modern design like the stuff you see in the design porn above [click pic to enlarge] — something that affects me since I’m remodeling a house. The industry, in the form of mags from Dwell to Cottage Living, is pushing a dream house based on a fantasy of a simple life. Is it really different than the other dream houses for other fantasy lives?