Velvetpod Mimosa – a desert survivor

Velvetpod mimosa

Velvetpod fruit








The Velvetpod Mimosa (Mimosa dysocarpa) is an extremely drought and heat tolerant legume plant that is native to Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. It blooms during the hottest part of the summer. It occurs mainly along arroyos and washes, 3500-6500 ft. elevation.

The mimosa is a woody shrub that grows three to six feet tall. The branches have large, sharp thorns. The flowers are showy but misleading because you see the flower filaments not the petals. The petals are very tiny and fused together. (See photos here) Fresh flowers are magenta to deep pink, but fade to light pink and white as they age. The leaves are fuzzy.

The pollen is a mild allergen. Butterflies, bees, birds, and moths are the principal pollinators.

After the flowers are pollinated, the fruit is a one- to two-inch-long bean covered with tiny hairs which look like velvet, hence the name. The bean pod is also protected by four large thorns. These beans are a favorite of quails. The plant is a favorite of Coues white-tailed deer in the Santa Rita Mountains of Arizona (source).

The velvetpod mimosa is often used in xeriscape gardens.

The velvetpod mimosa is in the Mimosoideae subfamily of the Leguminosae family (Fabaceae). For some perspective, here is what the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum says about this plant group:

“Legumes are a very large family of 16,000 species in nearly all of the world’s habitats. Champion drought tolerators, they are most abundant in the arid tropics. Their prevalence in the Sonoran Desert flora (for example, there are 53 legume species in the Tucson Mountains, 8% of its plants) reflects this desert’s tropical origin. North of the Mexican border most of the common Sonoran Desert trees are legumes.”

“The family was named Leguminosae for its fruit, which in most species is a legume (the technical term for bean pod, a single-chambered capsule enclosing what appears to be a single row of seeds that is actually two rows — alternate seeds are attached to opposite halves of the pod). There are three subfamilies with flowers that look very different from one another at first glance, but arose from a common pattern: Caesalpinioideae, Faboideae, and Mimosoideae.”

Some of my other articles about plants in the legume family are:

Mesquite Trees Provide Food and a Pharmacy

Palo Verde Trees Will Turn the Desert Golden

Desert Ironwood with video

A Guide to the Geology of the Flagstaff Area

Flagstaff section

The Arizona Geological Survey (AZGS) has just released a 53-page illustrated booklet about the Flagstaff area. You can download the booklet here:

According to Michael Conway, Chief of the AZGS, Geologic Extension Service, “This 53-page, Down-to-Earth booklet includes pictures, illustrations and jargon-free text to open the geology of northern Arizona to those who otherwise lack a geology background.”

Sunset crater



General geology as described in the booklet:

The Flagstaff area is on the southern margin of the Colorado Plateau, a 130,000-square-rnile geologic province of vast plains, high mesas and buttes, deep canyons, volcanic fields and isolated mountain clusters. The landscape of this southern Plateau margin is dominated by the young San Francisco volcanic field and the underlying limestone-capped plateau.

The oldest known rocks underlying this part of the Plateau are 1.7-1.8 billion-year-old (Precambrian) granite and schist. These rocks, which make up the original crust of North America, were beveled by erosion and offset by faults that moved again during younger geologic periods.

Horizontal layers of sandstones, limestones, shales, and siltstones of the Paleozoic Era (544 million to 248 million years ago) were deposited on the ancient Precambrian rocks. These younger units, named in ascending order, the Tapeats Sandstone, Bright Angel Shale and Muav Limestone, Martin Formation, Redwall Limestone, Supai Group, Coconino Sandstone, and the Toroweap and Kaibab Formations, were deposited when this part of the continent was a shallow sea floor, a muddy tidal zone, a coastal plain crossed by silt-laden rivers, or a vast desert covered by sand dunes. The Coconino Sandstone and the Toroweap and Kaibab Formations are the only Paleozoic rocks exposed in the area covered by this guidebook.

More rock layers were laid down during the Mesozoic Era (248 to 65 million years ago). The Moenkopi Formation is the only Mesozoic rock that covers large parts of the Flagstaff area. Younger layers of sediment accumulated, but were later eroded away. The total thickness of sedimentary rock deposited during the Paleozoic and Mesozoic Eras may have reached 10,000 ft (3050 m), but much of this was stripped off by erosion.

Beginning about 65 to 75 million years ago, western North America was subjected to intense horizontal compression during an episode of mountain building called the Laramide Orogeny. The Rocky Mountains, for example, were formed during this period. This stress reactivated old faults and created new faults and folds. Vertical movement along these faults elevated the Precambrian basement rocks and the thick sequence of younger sedimentary layers thousands of feet, eventually forming the Colorado Plateau. The exact timing and causes of the uplift are still debated by geologists.

In the Flagstaff area movement along faults deformed once-horizontal layers into long folds, such as the Black Point monocline north of Wupatki National Monument. The uplift also caused formerly sluggish rivers to cut deep canyons into the younger sedimentary layers.

Beginning about 25 million years ago, the crustal rocks of western North America were stretched, thinned, and broken along steep faults. Movement occurred again along the old faults of the Flagstaff area. About 6 million years ago, molten rock (called magma inside the earth and lava when it erupts) migrated upward along some of these fractures and flowed onto the land surface as lava flows. As eruptions continued during the period 3 million to 1000 years ago lava of the San Francisco volcanic field poured onto, exploded through, or was injected into Paleozoic and Mesozoic sedimentary layers of the plateau.

Finally, San Francisco Mountain, the high stratovolcano that towers over the volcanic field, was scoured by glacial ice several times during the last 1.8 million years. Today, running water is cutting into and wearing down this southern flank of the Colorado Plateau.


The geologic features described and illustrated in the booklet include:

San Francisco Volcanic Field

Lava Dome: Mount Elden

Stratovolcano: San Francisco Mountain

Glacial features: Cirques, Moraines, and U-shaped Valley

Young Cinder Cones and Lava Flows: Sunset and SP Craters

Squeeze-up: Bonito Flow

Cinder Dunes and Ventifacts

Moenkopi Formation: Wupatki National Monument

Blowhole: Wupatki National Monument

Fault-aligned Cinder Cones: Wupatki National Monument

Sinkhole: Wupatki National Monument

Graben: Wupatki National Monument

Folding: Black Point Monocline

Entrenched Meanders: Walnut Canyon National Monument

Kaibab Formation: Walnut Canyon National Monument

Coconino Sandstone: Walnut Canyon National Monument

Stream Displaced by a Lava Flow: Grand Falls

Meteor Impact Crater: Barringer Meteor Crater

Laccolith: White Horse Hills (Marble Mountain)

Anatomy of a Cinder Cone: Red Mountain

Tafoni: Red Mountain

Hoodoos (Demoiselles): Red Mountain

Lava Tube: Lava River Cave

Why do scorpions glow under UV light?

All scorpions glow a bluish-green under ultraviolet (UV) light. If you take a “black light” outside on a summer night, you may be surprised about how many scorpions you find. For a more general article on scorpions, see Scorpions, Vinegaroons, and Sun Spiders

Scorpion glowSo, why do they glow? There are really two questions here: 1) what is the mechanism, and 2) does it provide some advantage or protection?

The mechanism:

A hyaline coating (cuticle) on the exoskeleton of a scorpion contains beta-carboline and 4-methyl, 7-hydroxycoumarin which absorb UV light and retransmit it as visible bluish-green light. Young scorpions and recently molted scorpions don’t glow until the cuticle hardens. These chemicals may help the exoskeleton become impermeable.

“According to scorpion expert Dr. Scott A. Stockwell, this could mean that the substance that causes fluorescence is a byproduct of the hardening process itself, or it might be secreted not long after the creature molts.

“Whatever its source, the glowing property is surprisingly long-lasting. When scorpions are preserved in alcohol, the liquid itself sometimes glows under UV light. And the hyaline layer is amazingly durable: It can survive millions of years, Stockwell says; it’s often found in scorpion fossils even when all other parts of the cuticle have vanished. What’s more, even fossilized hyaline fluoresces!” (Source)

The Why (maybe):

Why scorpions developed this trait is subject to much speculation. One thing to note: moonlight transmits UV light.

Is the glow just a random act of nature? California State University arachnologist Carl Kloock thinks otherwise. Over the past few months, Kloock and his colleagues have started unraveling the mystery of why scorpions glow.

“They may be using UV as a way to determine whether or not to come to the surface to look for prey, based on the light levels.”

Scorpions are nocturnal creatures. They abhor the heat and evaporative effects of sunlight, and it turns out they specifically avoid UV light too. In a recent issue of the Journal of Arachnology, the Cal State team reported that the arachnids adjust their activity level depending on the amount of UV shining on them. When flooded in UV, they are less active than when lights are dim.

“My thinking at this point for why they would respond to UV is that there is a UV component in moonlight,” Kloock wrote in an email. If scorpions are hungry, he explained, they’ll come out and hunt regardless of light levels. But if they’re satiated, research shows they tend to lie low on moonlit nights, especially around the time of the full moon. “(Fluorescence) may be part of the mechanism by which the scorpions respond to moonlight.” ( Natalie Wolchover, NBCnews Source)

On the other hand:

Douglas Gaffin from the University of Oklahoma has a more intriguing idea. He thinks that scorpions glow to convert the dim UV light from the moon and the stars into the color that they see best – blue-green. This could explain why scorpion eyes are so exquisitely sensitive, to the point where they can detect the faint glow of starlight against the background of the night sky. They amplify those faint signals by turning their entire bodies into light collectors.

Why bother? In the open, scorpions are vulnerable to rodents, owls and other predators. They like shelter, and they’ll instinctively flee from light in an attempt to find it. In the wild, you’ll often find them in the shade of a single twig or blade of grass. Gaffin thinks that scorpions could easily find such hiding spots by sensing light with their entire bodies. Any object that casts shade upon their skin could reduce its glow and indicate a potential hiding place. (Ed Yong, Discover, Source)

Others speculate that the ability to turn UV light into visible light acts as a sun screen. Not too useful for a nocturnal animal. Some have proposed that scorpion glow is used to “dazzle” predators that are sensitive to UV light. As you can see, the science is not settled.

A piece of fossilized lightning

The lightning accompanying monsoon storms reminded me of a curiosity I have in my collection. It is a cylinder of fused soil about 6 inches long and 2.5 inches in diameter.

Fulgurite 1

Fulgurite 2

This structure is called a “fulgurite” and it is produced by a lightning strike – it is “fossilized” lightning. The material is also called “lechatelierite” which is a mineraloid of fused quartz. It can also be produced from meteorite impacts. Fused sand requires a temperature of at least 1,800 °C (3,270 °F) and it is estimated that peak temperature of a lightning bolt can be over 30,000 °C . This particular lightning strike occurred in New Mexico. A colleague of mine saw it happen and then collected some pieces of the resulting fulgurite.

What also brought this to mind was a new paper recently published in Nature Scientific Reports. (Read full paper: )

Two researchers from the University of South Florida School of Geosciences decided to study fulgurites to see if they could developed a method to measure the amount energy expended by a bolt of cloud-to-ground lightning. Atmospheric physicists can approximate lightning bolt energy by measuring the electrical current and temperature of bolts as they occur. The numbers are usually approximations. The USF team is the first to investigate the energy in lightning strikes by using geology “after-the-fact” research, rather than measuring energy during a strike. By conducting this lightning strike “archaeology,” the researchers were able to measure the energy in a bolt of lightning that struck Florida sand thousands of years ago.

“The team collected more than 250 fulgurites – both recent and ancient – from sand mines in Polk County, Fla., at a site that is believed to have recorded thousands of years of lightning strikes, providing a way to measure the lightning strike history of what is today called the I-4 Corridor, a region near Tampa and Orlando. They analyzed the properties of the fulgurites, paying particular attention to the length and circumference of the glass cylinders because the amount energy released is revealed by these dimensions.” (By the way, the press release touts that Florida is the “lightning capital of the United States.” I wonder if they have ever been to Arizona.)

The researchers developed a statistical model based on the length, diameter, and composition of the fulgurite to help them estimate the energy in the lightning strike. You can read the paper to judge if their assumptions are reasonable.

In an earlier study, other researchers studied the gases trapped in glassy bubbles in fulgurite (see the journal Geology,) That study concluded that fulgurite gases and luminescence geochronology can be used in quantitative paleoecology. Thermoluminescence can be used to date the specimen. These researchers found that theSahel desert in northern Africa extended much farther north 15 thousand years ago.

Climate Madness 6

“There is no scientific basis for believing that modest increases in atmospheric levels of CO2 will have catastrophic effects despite the misdirected efforts of the UN and alarmist scientists. Attempts to restrict human CO2 emissions serve no useful purpose for anyone except wind and solar industries looking for customers, sensation-seeking news media looking for readers, environmentalists looking for a cause to attract contributions, climate scientists looking for more government grants, and politicians looking for increased government revenue to spend on their favorite boondoggles.” – Alan Carlin

Global warming hysteria is not really about the climate or the environment. UN officials admit that it is about redistribution of wealth:

Christiana Figueres, the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), has admitted the real reason for the climate hysteria: to transform the world economy, redistributing income from rich nations to poorer ones. At a press conference in Brussels (2015), Figueres stated: “This is probably the most difficult task we have ever given ourselves, which is to intentionally transform the economic development model, for the first time in human history.” A similar point was made in 2010 by United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) official Ottmar Edenhofer: “But one must say clearly that we redistribute de facto the world’s wealth by climate policy…One has to free oneself from the illusion that international climate policy is environmental policy. This has almost nothing to do with environmental policy anymore.. ” (Source)

The July winner for the stupidest climate claim goes to Secretary of State John Kerry. He actually has two really dumb claims:

Kerry: Climate Change as Dangerous as Terrorism

By Matthew Lee

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Friday that climate change is as dangerous as, if not more, than the threats posed by the Islamic State and other extremist groups.

Speaking Friday in Vienna at an international climate change conference, Kerry said the issue might not get as much public attention as terrorism but that the meeting is as important as a gathering he hosted only Thursday in Washington on combating the Islamic State. (Source)

Kerry: Refrigerator chemicals are just as bad as ISIS

By John Siciliano

Air conditioners and refrigerators pose as big a threat to “life on the planet” as the threat of terrorism, Secretary of State John Kerry said Friday. Kerry was in Vienna negotiating a global climate deal to phase out chemicals used as refrigerants in basic household and commercial appliances such as air conditioning and refrigerators, called hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs. The chemicals are a potent source of greenhouse gas emissions that many scientists blame for contributing to global warming. (Source) Could it be that John Kerry’s naivety and ideology are threats to western civilization and he is being used as a “useful idiot” ? Here is a petition to remove all air conditioning from State Department property: link.

Runner up for dumbest of the month:

Democratic Platform Calls For WWII-Scale Mobilization To Solve Climate Crisis [link].

Second Runner up for dumbest of the month:

Green EU Commission President Claims ALIENS are Worried about Brexit

by Eric Worrall

Its not just Greens who are worried about Europe – the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker stated in a speech that leaders of other planets are worried about the direction Europe will take, in the wake of the Brexit vote. Read more (The Eu is worried about Brexit, in part, because it would disrupt the Paris climate agreement.)

NASA: Global Warming Observations Need a Further 19% UPWARD Adjustment

by Eric Worrall

NASA researcher Mark Richardson has completed a study which compares historical observations with climate model output, and has concluded that historical observations have to be adjusted, to reconcile them with the climate models. Read more

Climate science or climate advocacy?

by David R. Legates

For almost thirty years, I have taught climate science at three different universities. What I have observed is that students are increasingly being fed climate change advocacy as a surrogate for becoming climate science literate. This makes them easy targets for the climate alarmism that pervades America today. Earth’s climate probably is the most complicated non-living system one can study, because it naturally integrates astronomy, chemistry, physics, biology, geology, hydrology, oceanography and cryology, and also includes human behavior by both responding to and affecting human activities. Current concerns over climate change have further pushed climate science to the forefront of scientific inquiry.

Unfortunately, the U.S. Global Change Research Program’s definition of climate science literacy raises the question of whether climatology is even a science. It defines climate science literacy as “an understanding of your influence on climate and climate’s influence on you and society.” Read more

Global Warming Expedition Stopped In Its Tracks By Arctic Sea Ice

by Craig Boudreau

A group of adventurers, sailors, pilots and climate scientists that recently started a journey around the North Pole in an effort to show the lack of ice, has been blocked from further travels by ice. Read more

$14,000 per MWh – the price South Australia Pays for Renewables Madness

by Eric Worrall

The South Australian Government been forced to beg fossil fuel operators to bring mothballed plants back online, to contain wild swings in electricity spot price caused by unstable renewable production, prices which last month peaked at $14,000 / MWh – up from more normal prices of $100 / MWh which prevailed before political favouritism towards renewables messed up the market. Read more

Diablo Canyon Nuclear Units to Shutter: What Are the Consequences?

By Chris Warren

This week, the Institute for Energy Research released an analysis on the consequences of Pacific Gas and Electric’s (PG&E) decision to shutter two Diablo Canyon nuclear units in 2024 and 2025. PG&E plans to replace the nuclear units with intermittent wind and solar energy, an endeavor that could cost billions and increase carbon dioxide emissions.

In their infatuation with wind and solar energy, PG&E and the state of California are making decisions that will prove costly to energy consumers.

Key considerations include:

Diablo Canyon produces 9 percent of California’s electricity and 20 percent of Pacific and Gas and Electric’s power. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission indicates that the Diablo Canyon units are well run and among the best in the country. The utility indicates that they are able to withstand earthquakes, tsunamis and flooding.

Decommissioning Diablo Canyon is expected to cost $3.8 billion and replacing all its power with solar energy could cost $15 billion based on current prices.

PG&E is expecting to only need to replace half of Diablo Canyon’s power, 9,000 gigawatt-hours. The utility expects to get 2,000 gigawatt-hours from improved energy efficiency by 2025, leaving a gap of 7,000 gigawatt-hours that it is expecting to fill with wind and solar power. However, when nuclear plants have been shuttered thus far, their energy has been replaced almost entirely by natural gas.

Natural gas consumption could increase by 34 percent in northern California between 2023 and 2026 when Diablo Canyon is shuttered despite the company’s renewable energy and efficiency goals. Some have estimated that the carbon dioxide emissions from the replacement power are equivalent to putting 2 million cars on the road.


Only California would consider closing a perfectly good nuclear plant that emits no carbon dioxide emissions and replace it with intermittent renewable energy that needs back-up power from a flexible fuel such as natural gas.

California’s laws to get 50 percent of its electricity from renewable energy and to double its energy efficiency–both by 2030–are driving these decisions that will prove costly for electricity consumers in the state. Click here to read the full analysis.

Using Children as Political Pawns to Fight Global Warming

Hundreds of moms and their children gathered on Capitol Hill Wednesday (July 13, 2016) to hold a unique “Play-In” protest event. The moms and their kids focused on the need to address climate change and air pollution, and also demanded climate solutions like renewable energy and federal limits on greenhouse gas emissions. (Source)

India to Fight Climate Change Through Less Flatulent Livestock

by H. Sterling Burnett

Despite its recent announcement it may not adopt the Paris Climate agreement before the end of 2016, India is moving ahead with a unique effort attempting to reduce the greenhouse gases its agricultural sector emits into the atmosphere: creating cows and livestock that burp and fart less.

India is home to more than 280 million cows, and 200 million more ruminants, including sheep, goats, yaks and water buffalo. According to an analysis of satellite data from the country’s space program, these animals’ emit 13 million tons of methane into the atmosphere every year. Since, methane traps 25 times as much heat as carbon dioxide does on a per molecule basis, reducing animal flatulence could make a difference in India’s emissions accounting, where it is actually likely to increase its carbon dioxide emissions in the coming decades, due to increasing demand for energy. The country expects to double its coal production by 2019. Read more Even if they succeed, it will make no measurable difference in global temperatures.

Green Travel:

There was much celebration when Solar Impulse (A solar powered airplane ) finished its $177 million task by flying around the world in only 16 months (Source). Meanwhile, a 65-year-old Russian Orthodox priest made a solo, non-stop flight around the world in 11 days in a hot air balloon. (Source)


More climate madness:

Climate Madness 1

Climate Madness 2

Climate Madness 3

Climate Madness 4  

Climate Madness 5


Roadside Geology – Wupatki and Sunset Crater Volcano National Monuments

The Arizona Geological Survey has just released another booklet in its “Down to Earth” series.

Sunset crater cover

The geologic setting in Wupatki National Monument is distinctly different from that in Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, even though the monuments are side by side. At Wupatki, sedimentary rocks that were deposited by ancient seas and river systems more than two hundred million years ago during the Permian and Triassic Periods dominate the landscape.

The landscape at Sunset Crater is dramatically different. Although underlain by the same rocks

exposed at Wupatki, the Sunset Crater area is covered with cinders and cooled lava flows from intermittent volcanic eruptions during the last few million years. The most recent eruption was that of Sunset Crater Volcano, only about 900 years ago.

Sunset crater map
This guide provides only a glimpse of what can be found in these areas. By hiking the trails and perusing the displays at the Visitor Centers, you will get a much more in-depth view of the monuments.

Most visitors to these monuments travel north from Flagstaff, enter Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, and drive north on the Loop Road to Wupatki. This road log, therefore, is organized to follow the Loop Road in that direction.

You can download the 36 -page booklet (34Mb) here:


For other booklets in this series see:

AZGS Down to Earth series available

Down-to-Earth: Making geology accessible to the Arizona public

Article Author(s):

Michael Conway

Down-to-Earth Series (DTE) — addresses geologic concepts in a “down-to-earth” manner with a minimum of jargon. These nontechnical booklets are suitable for high-school and college earth science students, as well as adults who want to learn more about the fascinating world of geology as manifested in the Arizona landscape.

Dr. Larry Fellows, Director of the Arizona Geological Survey from 1979 to 2006, was the first to envision AZGS’ Down-to-Earth popular geology series. In 1991, the series kicked off with ‘Energy Resources of Arizona’, by John Duncan and Frank Mancini. Since then, DTE booklets have ranged widely over natural hazards (radon and earth fissures), to Pleistocene megafauna grazing on the savannah of the San Pedro River Valley, to prominent geologic features at Catalina State Park, Oak Creek Canyon, Sabino Canyon, Petrified Forest and Organ Pipe Cactus National Parks, to Sunset Crater, Wupatki and the Chiricahua National Monuments.

When Larry Fellows retired in 2006, Dr. Lee Allison became State Geologist and Director of AZGS. Under Lee Allison’s watch, AZGS has published five additional DTEs, rounding out the series of 22.

Until recently, all DTE’s were released in printed form, either as 9”x6” or 8.5”x11” booklets. Our two latest products, Arizona is Earthquake Country and A Guide to the Geology of the Santa Catalina Mountains, were designed for digital release at the AZGS Document Repository.

With our recent move to the University of Arizona and the shuttering of our Arizona Experience Bookstore, we no longer have a venue for selling or distributing books. But fortune passes everywhere; our misfortune provides an opportunity to release our remaining DTE publications online as freely accessible, high-resolution PDF documents.

Please note that DTE-19, Geologic and Natural History Tour through Nevada and Arizona along U.S. Highway 93 (2012), by J.V. Tingly, K.A. Pizarro, C. Ross, and P.A. Pearthree is a joint product of the Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology and AZGS and is not available online.

We hope you enjoy these informative, illustrated texts and share them with your family, friends and colleagues.

Currently Online

Private Property Rights vs Environmental Feudalism

We have seen, especially over the last 40 years, a determined assault on private property rights. It is not coincidental that the passing of the Endangered Species Act marks the beginning of this period. Preservationist groups have accomplished through government coercion what they could not get people to do voluntarily. Increasingly, the cost of perceived societal goals are not borne by society as a whole, but by individual property owners. This situation is nothing more than legal plunder, or as Frederic Bastiat put it, “See if the law takes from some persons what belongs to them, and gives it to other persons to whom it does not belong. See if the law benefits one citizen at the expense of another by doing what the citizen himself cannot do without committing a crime.”

The U.S. Constitution states that “..nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation.” The problem of late, is that the definition of “taking” has been subject to debate in the courts. If government condemns private land for a public project, the issue is straight forward and the owner is usually compensated. But it has been less clear in the courts for the situations where a property owner has been denied beneficial use of all or part of a property through zoning ordinances, “growing smarter” schemes, conservation easements, habitat plans, ecosystem management districts, or for the alleged protection of endangered species, wetlands, historic districts, heritage areas, conservation areas, wilderness areas, wildlife preserves, buffer zones to the foregoing, or for the many other excuses government uses to restrict land use.

So what is the big deal about property rights anyway? Karl Marx: “The theory of Communists may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property.” The big deal is that private property rights are essential to a free society. These rights confer upon the owner the fruits of his labor, the right to the benefit from his work, his investments, and his ideas. Notice that places without private property rights are generally totalitarian regimes where the citizens are slaves to the government.

The concept of private property rights has a long history in western thought. Our founding fathers, particularly Madison and Jefferson, equated property rights with individual rights. In the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson wrote of the inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The later part of this trinity refers to property rights and seems to have been taken from philosopher John Locke’s “life, liberty and estate.” Jefferson goes on to write, “a right to property is founded in our natural wants, in the means by which we are endowed to satisfy those wants, and the right to what we acquire by those means without violating the equal rights of other sensible beings.”

Other western philosophers and statesmen reinforce these principles. For Jeremy Bentham, there were four inalienable rights: liberty, property, security (in the sense of the 4th Amendment) and the right of self-defense. Georg Hegel: “Right is in the first place the immediate embodiment which freedom gives itself in an immediate way, i.e., possession, which is property ownership.” Pope Pius XII: “Private property is a natural fruit of labor, a product of intense activity of man, acquired through his energetic determination to ensure and develop with his own strength his own existence and that of his family, and to create for himself and his own an existence of just freedom.” Friedrich von Hayek: “The system of private property is the most important guaranty of freedom, not only for those who own property, but scarcely less for those who do not.” U.S. Supreme Court (Lynch vs Household Finance, 1972): “The dichotomy between personal liberties and property rights is a false one. Property does not have rights. People have rights. The right to enjoy property without unlawful deprivation, no less than the right to speak or the right to travel, is in truth, a ‘personal’ right…a fundamental interdependence exists between personal right to liberty and the personal right to property. Neither could have meaning without the other.”

Individual and property rights have long been under assault by governments. A warning by George Washington applies as well today as it did when he wrote, “The time is now near at hand which must probably determine whether Americans are to be freemen or slaves; whether they are to have any property they can call their own…”

The current great assault on our rights derives from environmental laws and their unconstitutional application. We have entered a state of Environmental Feudalism. As Karol Ceplo writes in Land Rights: “The ever-increasing use of regulation to restrict private property rights represents a profound change in the politics of land use. This movement has been described as a ‘new feudalism of regulation.’ The management of environmental resources has shifted from the private owner to a centralized bureaucracy, much as land use in medieval times was controlled by centralized royal or ecclesiastical powers, rather than by the people who lived on and worked the land.”

Local manifestations of environmental feudalism came in the form of draconian rules concerning the pygmy owl, in county interim regulations requiring set aside of 80% of land as mitigation to build on the remaining 20%, and in the scheme called the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan.

These changes did not happen over night, but evolved incrementally, just as James Madison warned, “I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.” The road back may also be in small steps. The U.S. Supreme Court seems to have rediscovered the Constitution in many recent decisions, but so far, these decisions deal only with individual circumstances and form no overarching return to Constitutional government.

With the coming change in federal administration, we must insist that environmental laws be tempered with just notice to our rights, and that our representatives and senators return to the principles upon which this nation was founded.


See also:

The Flaws in the Endangered Species Act

Endangered Species Act administration changes bode ill for property rights

Environmental Sophistry


American Association for the Advancement of Science forgets the Science

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and affiliated professional societies just shot themselves in the foot with the letter to U.S. policy makers. Dr. Judith Curry explains on her blog why this is both foolish and unscientific.

AAAS say: “In a consensus letter to U.S. policymakers, a partnership of 31 leading nonpartisan scientific societies today reaffirmed the reality of human-caused climate change, noting that greenhouse gas emissions ‘must be substantially reduced’ to minimize negative impacts on the global economy, natural resources, and human health.”

Curry counters: This statement is a blatant misuse of scientific authority to advocate for specific socioeconomic policies. National security and economics (specifically called out in the letter) is well outside the wheelhouse of all of these organizations. Note the American Economics Association is not among the signatories; according to an email from Ross McKitrick, the constitution of the AEA forbids issuing such statements. In fact, climate science is well outside the wheelhouse of most of these organizations (what the heck is with the statisticians and mathematicians in signing this?)

The link between adverse impacts such as more wildfires, ecosystem changes, extreme weather events etc. and their mitigation by reducing greenhouse gas emissions hinges on detecting unusual events for at least the past century and then actually attributing them to human caused warming. This is highly uncertain territory – even within the overconfident world of the IPCC. And the majority of the signatories to this letter have no expertise in the detection and attribution of human caused climate change.

The signatories whose membership has some expertise on the detection and attribution of climate change are only a few: American Geophysical Union, American Meteorological Society, University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, Geological Society of America. The rest are professional societies who are not involved with the physics of climate but explicitly profit from the alarm.

Interestingly, since January 2014, 770 peer-reviewed scientific papers have been published in scholarly journals that how unsettled the “consensus” science is regarding claims that anthropogenic or CO2 forcing dominates weather and climate changes, or that non-anthropogenic factors play only a relatively minor and inconsequential role.

Instead of supporting the “consensus” science, these 770 papers support the position that there are significant limitations and uncertainties apparent in climate modeling and the predictions of future climate catastrophes. Furthermore, these scientific papers strongly suggest that natural factors (the Sun, multi-decadal ocean oscillations [AMO/PDO, ENSO], cloud and aerosol albedo variations, etc.) have both in the past and present exerted a significant influence on weather and climate, which means an anthropogenic signal may be much more difficult to detect or distinguish as an “extremely likely” cause relative to natural variation. Papers questioning the “common-knowledge” viewpoints on ocean acidification, glacier melt and advance, sea level rise, extreme weather events, past climate forcing mechanisms, the “danger” of high CO2 concentrations, etc., have also been included in this volume of 770 papers. (Source)

In 2014, there were almost 250 papers that may support a skeptical-of-the-consensus position. see here.

In 2015, there were over 280 papers that may support a skeptical-of-the-consensus position, see here.

240 papers already in 2016

Now updated for the first 6 months of 2016, a review of the literature has already uncovered a list of 240 papers published in peer-reviewed scholarly journals that support a skeptical-of-the-consensus position, see here.

UPDATE 07-21-16:
The latest ”Consensus” Letter on Climate Change, allegedly signed by leaders of 31 scientific organizations and published on the websites of the AAAS, AGU, AMS, and others, appears to be a forgery. The letter consists of few sentences of alarmist “content” (which is beyond the scope of this paper) and the names of 31 organizations, printed at the end of the letter and having the appearance of signatures. The press release and the accompanying article , published on June 28,
2016, stated that the letter was signed by all 31 named organizations. In fact, some of the listed scientific societies did not sign the letter prior to its publication, and their alleged signatures on the letter were forged. This forgery was revealed by some routine fact-checking the author conducted, which this paper details. See analysis by Ari Halperin.

A Guide to the Geology of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument and the Pinacate Biosphere Reserve

Organ pipe coverThe Arizona Geological Survey has released one of their more popular booklets as a free download: “A Guide to the Geology of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument and the Pinacate Biosphere Reserve.”

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in SW Arizona and the Pinacate Biosphere Reserve in NW Sonora protect two magnificent yet geologically distinct parts of the Sonoran Desert. Rocks of the Organ Pipe-Pinacate region have been faulted and eroded into mountains and basins typical of the Basin and Range Province of SW North America. The Biosphere Reserve contains young volcanoes, basalt lava flows, and giant maar craters on the Pinacate Volcanic field. This booklet is your field guide to the geology of these splendid desert landscapes.

Organpipe map

This 66-page booklet contains many great photos and illustrations. The first part gives a general description of the region. Parts 2 and 3 provide road logs and detailed descriptions and photos of specific geologic features of Organ Pipe and Pinacate respectively.

You can download the booklet here:

Some other recent releases from AZGS:

A Guide to the Geology of the Santa Catalina Mountains

A guide to geologic feature of Petrified Forest National Park

Catalina State Park – Geology for the layman

AZGS Guides to Northern Arizona Geology

A guide to the geology of the Sedona & Oak Creek Canyon area of Arizona