Thursday, January 31, 2008

Welcome to the Matrix

This is a complete lift (that means outright bold and brazen thievery) from Kevin Kelly over at Cool Tools . . . who stole it from Peter Warshall who is a very interesting and smart fellow who was a section editor at The Whole Earth Review . . . which itself was the brain child of Stewart Brand . . . who drove the bus for Ken Kesey and who also changed a lot of us with The Whole Earth Catalogue . . . which was, no lie, the internet before there was the internet.

Now if you got lost in that last sentence, no worries.

Just get back on the bus. The trip will start any minute now. In the interim try your hand at Life's Little Pop Quiz.

This is the one you're supposed to have been studying for your entire life.

"You live in the big here. Wherever you live, your tiny spot is deeply intertwined within a larger place, imbedded fractal-like into a whole system called a watershed, which is itself integrated with other watersheds into a tightly interdependent biome. (See the world eco-region map ). At the ultimate level, your home is a cell in an organism called a planet. All these levels interconnect. What do you know about the dynamics of this larger system around you? Most of us are ignorant of this matrix. But it is the biggest interactive game there is. Hacking it is both fun and vital.

"The following exercise in watershed awareness was hatched 30 years ago by Peter Warshall, naturalist extraordinaire." >> More here, but the essential (and humbling) questions are below.

1) Point north. [Recommendations for answer methods]
2) What time is sunset today? [Recommendations]
3) Trace the water you drink from rainfall to your tap. [Recommendations]
4) When you flush, where do the solids go? What happens to the waste water? [Recommendations]
5) How many feet above sea level are you? [Recommendations]
6) What spring wildflower is consistently among the first to bloom here? [Recommendations]
7) How far do you have to travel before you reach a different watershed? Can you draw the boundaries of yours? [Recommendations]
8) Is the soil under your feet, more clay, sand, rock or silt? [Recommendations]
9) Before your tribe lived here, what did the previous inhabitants eat and how did they sustain themselves? [Recommendations]
10) Name five native edible plants in your neighborhood and the season(s) they are available. [Recommendations]
11) From what direction do storms generally come? [Recommendations]
12) Where does your garbage go? [Recommendations]
13) How many people live in your watershed? [Recommendations]
14) Who uses the paper/plastic you recycle from your neighborhood? [Recommendations]
15) Point to where the sun sets on the equinox. How about sunrise on the summer solstice? [Recommendations]
16) Where is the nearest earthquake fault? When did it last move? [Recommendations]
17) Right here, how deep do you have to drill before you reach water? [Recommendations]
18) Which (if any) geological features in your watershed are, or were, especially respected by your community, or considered sacred, now or in the past? [Recommendations]
19) How many days is the growing season here (from frost to frost)? [Recommendations]
20) Name five birds that live here. Which are migratory and which stay put? [Recommendations]21) What was the total rainfall here last year? [Recommendations]
22) Where does the pollution in your air come from? [Recommendations]
23) If you live near the ocean, when is high tide today? [Recommendations]
24) What primary geological processes or events shaped the land here? [Recommendations]
25) Name three wild species that were not found here 500 years ago. Name one exotic species that has appeared in the last 5 years. [Recommendations]
26) What minerals are found in the ground here that are (or were) economically valuable? [Recommendations]
27) Where does your electric power come from and how is it generated? [Recommendations]
28) After the rain runs off your roof, where does it go? [Recommendations]
29) Where is the nearest wilderness? When was the last time a fire burned through it? [Recommendations]
30) How many days till the moon is full? [Recommendations]
The Bigger Here Bonus Questions:
31) What species once found here are known to have gone extinct? [Recommendations]
32) What other cities or landscape features on the planet share your latitude? [Recommendations]
33) What was the dominant land cover plant here 10,000 years ago? [Recommendations]
34) Name two places on different continents that have similar sunshine/rainfall/wind and temperature patterns to here.



Isaac Nichols アイザック ニコルス said...

I've always wanted to create a "Local Knowlege College" where people are taught these sorts of things. Too many people don't know them!

Alas, I'm stuck in regular graduate studies which suck all the time and money I might have to invest in such a project down a black hole... ;-)

PBurns said...

I love it. Wish I could teach it. Would be damn proud to have even thought up the title: "Local Knowledge College." I would take that course! So would most folks.


Chas S. Clifton said...

I give the original CQ version of that quiz as a semester-long take-home test in my nature-writing class.

Most students don't know that soils have names -- the original asks for the soil series name, e.g., Fortwingate Sandstone.

Fortunately, the library has the soil maps!