Bernie Krause

As a soundscape ecologist, I study natural sounds produced in the landscape. And for the past 50 years, I’ve focused on the collective organic sound – or the biophony – that’s generated in any wild habitat. After nearly five decades of working in the field and recording almost everywhere, I’m often asked to reveal my favorite place. ‘Alaska, by far’ I reply, because it’s truly wild .

In late spring and summer, Alaskan habitats everywhere are pulsating with the sounds of wildlife.

(Sounds of the Yukon Delta)

Just inland from the west coast of the state, the tundra of the Yukon Delta Wildlife Refuge is the nesting and breeding site for millions of marine and inland birds that converge from as far away as New Zealand and even Africa.

(Tundra sounds)

We’ve been told by politicians wanting to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge that there’s nothing there. Well…in June 2006 we found this:

(ANWR sounds)

Along the shoreline of the spruce rain forests of Alaska’s Southeast, across from Glacier Bay, American eagles scream, as humpback whales feed, rest, and blow twenty feet offshore from where we’ve set up camp on an island across from Glacier Bay.

(Sound of Humpback whale breath)

Alaska is one state where we can range over huge tracts of protected land in any direction and rarely hear another human noise, where there’s no eager ranger to tell you about the life-cycle of a grizzly, and, best of all, where there’s nothing to buy. Now that’s wild! And, to me, it’s my favorite kind of place.

With a Perspective, I’m Bernie Krause.

Bernie Krause is a naturalist, composer and soundscape ecologist. He lives in Sonoma County.

Dean Rader

April is here again, and as you may know, that means National Poetry Month. As a poet, I am a little conflicted about this. I love that we get our own month. But maybe it also gives Americans the green light to ignore poetry May through March.

While we may not need poetry the way we need other things, like food, poetry does offer a kind of nourishment. The great American poet William Carlos William writes:

It is difficult
to get the news from poems
yet men die miserably every day
for lack
of what is found there.

We turn to poetry for a different kind of information than we get from news, a deeper mode of knowing, a lyrical wisdom.

This was especially the case after November 8. Poets.Org, the website for the Academy of American Poets, reported more visits to their site in the 48 hours after the election than in the previous four years.

In times of extremis, poetry comforts and connects us. It was Walt Whitman who said, “To have great poets there must be great audiences, too.’ He knew that in order for poetry to participate in the ongoing conversation of democracy we have to make poetry part of our lives.

In fact, I think of the poem as a secular prayer. When the world deploys language at its worst, poetry delivers language at its best. Poems heighten our experience and emotions. But, as we’ve seen over the last few months, poems can also express our collective rage. I’m okay with this. Sometimes, prayers need to be angry.

Some people think that poetry is too much like the world – weird, complex, and too hard to understand. But, America, your poets have your back. Poetry is like the world: its beauty, its significance, its moments of clarity arise like the sweetest surprise.

And right now, we need some really good surprises more than one month a year.

With a Perspective, I’m Dean Rader.

Dean Rader is Chair of the English Department at the University of San Francisco.

Charlie Stuip

My mom was 21 when she got pregnant with me. She had to grow up faster than her peers, and take on a huge responsibility. Probably 10 years too early.

As a teenager, my mom ran away from home. She squatted in a warehouse in Oakland and became a performance artist. In a way I kept her from growing up on her own terms. In another way, I put her on track, forcing her to build a stable environment for us.

When I was born, she dedicated herself to giving me opportunities that she never had. And once she set me up with everything I needed to thrive, she refocused on to her own goals.

I was nine when she enrolled in community college to start her prerequisites. A few years later, she got into nursing school.

On my mom’s first day, she came into my bedroom with her backpack and her travel mug full of coffee, looking like an ecstatic little kid. I remember grabbing my phone off the nightstand to take a picture, capturing her dorky reading glasses, her bangs pinned back, and her big excited smile.

There were days, when she would leave me at the apartment for hours. Every time she left, she’d remind me ‘not to put metal in the microwave!’ I remember being jittery with excitement at having the house to myself. I also remember the nights where the trees whipped the windows, and I wished she was home with me.

Being students at the same time gave us a common goal. My mom and I became each other’s dedicated cheerleaders. Before big tests she would get paranoid, convinced she’d get a C. When she inevitably came home with A’s, I’d shout, ‘I told you so!’

Just like the way my mom grew up faster for my sake, I did the same for her too. I lost my entitlement early. My friends sometimes seem to forget all of the sacrifices their mothers have made for them.

My mom has made countless sacrifices for me. I’m just glad that giving up on her on dreams wasn’t one of them.

With a Perspective, I’m Charlie Stuip.

Charlie Stuip is a high school sophomore and lives in Alameda. Her commentary was produced by Youth Radio.

Didem Arslanoglu

When I was seven years old, I loved winter because I believed the sun was sleeping and therefore my olive skin would fade under the thick sky. I believed that by the time winter ended, I would be a beautiful ivory and come back to school white like the rest of my friends.

My mother told me, “You’re always going to be brown. Your hair will always be brown. Your eyes will always be brown. Your parents will always have rich accents and you can’t change it. Start accepting it.”

Even now, as I stare in the mirror and think about how easy it could be to get my hands on colored contacts or hair dye, it’s difficult to accept. Growing up in the suburbs of Illinois, I wasn’t familiar with kids like myself. I came home from school to a weird loneliness, a wicked feeling under my skin that I was special in the wrong way.

Moving to the Bay Area, I was smacked in the face with an unaccustomed air. It was diversity beyond the brown kid’s imagination. 15 minutes into orientation, surrounded by kids like myself, I already knew I was going to be okay. In Cupertino, accommodating diversity was an easy feat: kids felt welcomed in a variety of clubs, amongst hospitable teachers and students, and most importantly, in an environment where we talked about ourselves-our culture, struggles we face, and ways that we defeat racism and help achieve awareness in the modern day.

I’ve always maintained a positive mindset about representation and working towards diversity for our growing generation when it comes to the media, our classrooms, and the workplace. I am proud to be brown, proud to carry my rich culture and ethnicity on my back, knowing that “terrorist” and “bomber” is not who I am or what defines me. I am here in Cupertino, a diverse and accepting environment, where I will continue smashing stereotypes and helping people like myself realize that we will rise above.

With a Perspective, I’m Didem Arslanoglu.

Didem Arslanoglu is a senior at Cupertino High School, studying theater and attending Temple University in the fall.

Peggy Hansen

It’s noisy in there, and hot — 90 degrees no matter rain or shine, freeze or thaw. I lift the lid and they rise to greet me, each one a tiny, fuzzy genius. Though disturbed by my intrusion, they are, happily, mellow and unmilitant. Eleven pounds of them swirl around the hive, or cling to combs inside tending to business more important than my arrival. That’s roughly 40,000 honeybees, and they make quite a buzz.

They are dancers, architects and alchemists, making gold — it seems to us mere primates — as if from the very air. I know there’s more to it but I love the thought of my bees spinning sunlight and flowers into viscous treasure. Brushing them away gingerly, I lift up the combs, one and then another, checking them for eggs and brood and honey before replacing each one back, carefully and with no undue haste.  The bees are patient with me and my intrusion, and for that I’m grateful.

Gratitude, however, doesn’t begin to cover what we owe to bees collectively: they pollinate 70 of the top 100 food crops humans cultivate, supplying 90% of our nutrition world-wide. They’ve been part of agriculture for some 4,500 years and we’ve all benefited from their work. We need them, yet consider them — if we think of them at all — as a resource to exploit, or maybe even as a nuisance. They’re stressed and dying, mostly due to pesticides and habitat destruction.

If you like to eat — and who doesn’t, really? — you’ve got a part to play. Plant flowers that will nourish them: natives are best but clover, alfalfa, and many others are good too, even weeds like dandelions. Don’t use insecticides or buy plants treated with them. Buy organic, when you can. And buy honey, or other bee products, from a local beekeeper.

You and the bees will be the better for it.

With a Perspective, I’m Peggy Hansen.

Peggy Hansen is a photographer and organic farmer in Santa Cruz.

Michael Ellis

Recently in my local physician’s office, I noticed a large sign asking folks to not wear any perfume or strong scents.

I jog on a nature trail near my home every morning and as I pass other people I play a game. I try to smell them. Not surprisingly fellow joggers often have a pungent, musty smell. Teenagers often smell like gum or rarely marijuana. And many of the women, rarely men, have the strong whirling odor of perfume. I can still smell them long after they have passed me by.

Mammals mostly communicate by smell. Foxes urinate to define their territory. Deer use special glands between their toes to lay down a scent as they walk along. House cats use glands located under their eyes and along the rear flanks to rub and mark their owners. Your cat owns you; you don’t own your cat.

Humans have lost the excellent smelling ability of our ancestors but it still plays an important, albeit subtle, role in our lives. We have special scent glands located in our armpits and in our genital area. The reason we have axillary hair is to trap and enhance the odors emitted by our own bodies. These glands must be important. They respond when we are frightened, aroused or excited. The smell of competition, nervousness and sexual arousal are all distinctly different odors. Research indicates smells are intimately involved in mate selection. The chemistry of love is just that.

These odors can be strong and the advertising industry has convinced us that our own body smells are evil, nasty and must be washed away or disguised. One irony of perfume is that one of the common chemicals used by the industry is musk oil from other animals. We cover own scent with compounds collected from the anal gland of the Abyssinian civet. I did not make that up!

Personally, I prefer the smell of a sweating jogger and bay-scented air to the smell of someone drenched in Estee Lauder. Let’s leave perfumes for special occasions and celebrations, not for daily strolls in the forest or in waiting rooms.

This is Michael Ellis with a Perspective.

Michael Ellis is a naturalist who leads trips throughout the world. He lives in Santa Rosa.

Bill Baird

When I first moved to Oakland, Lake Merritt smelled funny. Like that puddle of murky water at the bottom of my fridge after it’s been unplugged for a week. But soon, the smell went away. Turns out, Oakland was in the process of cleaning the lake. Making it nice again.

The lake had been reconnected to the bay, they said on the news. Reconnected to the bay? You mean, it was originally part of the bay. The internet told me Lake Merritt was actually a tidal lagoon. Curious, I decided to find where Lake Merritt met the bay. I read a tide chart, saw when the tide would be retreating, hopped in a kayak and paddled on the lake towards Alameda, where I heard the lake met the greater bay.

Eventually I reached a scary looking pipe, its insides were lined with clams, through which the lake’s retreating tidal waters were being sucked. The idiot part of my brain promptly took over. “Looks great,” I thought as the tide pulled me in. I ducked down as the clams and moss whizzed by my face.

If I’m seeing clams, doesn’t that mean this is normally underwater? Gulp.

After a tense minute, I got dumped out the other end, over near Laney College. Wow! Sunlight! Air! I paddled on, letting the tide pull me towards my destination. And I made it!

It was a large metal grate underneath the 880, the metal bars caked with brown sludge and faded Dorito’s bags. This was it!

Going back through the tunnel against the tide was much harder. Especially the part where I got chewed out by a patrol boat who told me I was in a restricted area. But I did it. I found the spot where Lake Merritt empties into the bay. Lake Merritt got reconnected, in my mind, and, yes, to the bay.

I hope the 21st century is defined by people reclaiming their relationship to their neighborhoods, parks, cities, country and one another. As for myself, I will continue reclaiming and investigating the spaces I inhabit.

Hopefully, next time, without getting sucked into a mossy pipe.

With a Perspective, I’m Bill Baird.

Bill Baird is a writer and musician. He lives in Oakland.

Richard Friedlander

A pledge to make America great again implies that America was great the first time. It has been, in fact. Twice. No, make that three times, if you include the transition from colonies to country. America came into being as an idea, so its greatness depends on its living up to that idea. That idea was the liberty and equality of opportunity, which in the beginning applied only to white, propertied men. Imperfect as it was, merely to record as a promise the pursuit of a hitherto unheard-of ideal gave the moment greatness.

The half a century that followed seemed to be almost a deliberate attempt to undermine that idea. We wallowed in a trough of slavery and unenlightened self-interest before the status quo became so intolerable-whether the abominable institution itself or the sectional differences that made slavery possible-that people were willing to die to keep the idea alive even if it conflicted with their personal interests. Following its bloody triumph, the idea was then shelved for close to a century, buried under a tidal wave of economic banditry, international aggression and isolation, before the rise of Naziism made us reluctantly remember what we stood for.

When Tom Brokaw called those who fought the Second World War, the “greatest generation”, he wasn’t talking about exceptionally skilled, courageous or bright people, but those who had put aside their own prejudices and preferences to meet a challenge bigger than themselves. After this relatively good war, however, Americans sank back into their old ways, forgetting the responsibilities for which they had fought: to protect and expand the liberties we enjoyed at home, and by our example, be the beacon so much of the world believed we were.

Instead, we interpreted greatness as having the power to bully: to try to turn back the clock at home, while using force to bring a corrupt form of our ideas into places unwilling or unable to receive them. Making America great again does not refer to lording or coming out on top of every deal. Being great was and is the willingness to rise to any challenge to “liberty and justice for all,” whether from abroad or right here at home.

With a Perspective, this is Richard Friedlander.

Richard Friedlander is a mediator and actor. He lives in the East Bay.

Colleen Patrick-Goudreau

I was 16 years old when a classmate threatened to kick my…well…butt. I had done nothing to provoke her, but for weeks in our high school hallways, she terrorized and terrified me until finally she named the day – the day she was going to find me and hurt me.

Friends warned me not to go to the promenade that Friday. She would be waiting for me, but that’s where I went every day, and I figured getting beaten up was better than living in fear of getting beaten up.

That was 30 years ago, and I remember it like it was yesterday, because it was the day I learned what I – and the world – was made of.

A crowd had already gathered by the time she arrived to find me sitting on a bench. She approached aggressively. A few friends who had been sitting next to me got up and left me by myself. She cussed and screamed at me to get up and fight. With a shaking voice, I told her I wasn’t going to. She hit me hard across the face. Another friend walked away.

Tears welled up in my eyes from the pain – and from feeling utterly alone.

Voices from the gathering crowd yelled out for me to hit her back. I wouldn’t.

Before I knew it, she punched me hard across the other side of my face. At this, the crowd began turning away. Fights aren’t fun when they’re one-sided. At that point, it’s just blatant cruelty.

She left me alone after that, “because,” she said, I “wasn’t going to play.” I saw it differently. I saw a coward whose cruelty became clear to her that day, and to everyone else who bore witness.

I also saw cowardice in those who didn’t stay with me, and I vowed never to be passive in the face of violence. Two years later, I became an advocate for animals after learning about the violence perpetrated against them on a daily basis – unprovoked and unwarranted. Ever since, I’ve been sitting next to them on the proverbial bench holding up a mirror to the one-sided fight they endure every day, and I’m proud to be their witness and their defender.

With a Perspective, this is Colleen Patrick-Goudreau.

Colleen Patrick-Goudreau is an animal activist and author living in Oakland. 

Robert Farina

On April 22, scientists and science supporters will march for science. As a retired chemist I’m hoping my participation will bolster support for the practitioners of science and its methodology. But it’s a fair question to ask why such a march is necessary.

I worked as a research scientist for a large oil company for 30 years and I’m aware that science can be a tool to promote institutional agendas. But my respect for science and scientists is profound. I was born in 1950 and grew up in a time of unwavering support for science. That support enabled a young boy, whose parents never completed high school, to pursue an advanced degree in chemistry and be part of an unparalleled period of scientific discovery. The basic sciences of physics, chemistry and biology vastly increased our knowledge of the natural world and greatly improved our quality of life.

Science is increasingly a collaborative endeavor housed in large institutions. But the public mistrusts large institutions and that mistrust is exploited by cynical people in government, industry and media to delegitimize science when it benefits their own agendas.

My confidence in science and its institutions comes from a lifetime of interaction with other scientists. Overwhelmingly they are ethical, competent, thoughtful people who have trained long and hard to make their contribution. Cynical portrayals of them as tools of an institutional agenda are simply wrong. Neil Gorsuch, President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee found attacks on the judiciary “demoralizing and disheartening.” I feel the same way about my own profession.

We need more and better science to cope with the global risks of climate change and infectious disease. Increasingly it is up to the individual scientist to engage the public and define for themselves who they are and what they stand for, or risk having the cynics do it for them.

With a Perspective, I’m Robert Farina.

Robert Farina is a retired research scientist living in Berkeley.

CarolArnold

When I was a child, more than anything I wanted to live in Yosemite National Park. I got the idea from my favorite book, Michael and Anne in Yosemite Valley, by Ansel Adams. The photos in the book are of course spectacular, and the simple story about Adams’ children living in Yosemite was compelling to my five-year old self. The children explore and play in the Valley until one day, a thunderstorm comes along, forcing them to run for their lives. They make it home in the nick of time before the rain could wash them away, at least that’s the way I imagined it. From my vantage point in the safe Bay Area suburbs, their adventures beckoned.

I remember my own family’s first trip to Yosemite. The park was sufficiently undeveloped at the time that we had to get out of the car to remove boulders from the dirt road leading into the campground. My sister and I ran and played just like Michael and Anne did, exploring every nook and cranny until the sun got low and our parents called us back.

I don’t remember any thunderstorms during that trip, but I have since experienced many when backpacking the High Sierras. There is nothing like a clap of thunder and a flash of lightening in the mountains to remind me I am only a tiny part of this grand universe. I have never been washed away by the rain that follows like I imagined Michael and Anne might, but am always reminded that respect for nature is a principle true to my heart. I enter the high country full of myself, and come away humbled.

My favorite childhood book now sits in a box in my sister’s house. I looked at it recently and realized we didn’t treat Yosemite with the respect it deserves. Red and blue scribbles adorn the pages next to the photos of Half Dome and Bridal Veil Falls, a far from humble testament to my ego centered five-year old view of things. It was in growing up and experiencing the real Yosemite and other wild places that I learned to care deeply about the planet and in doing so, try my best not to scribble it up.

With a Perspective, I’m Carol Arnold.

Carol Arnold is an environmental planner. She lives in San Francisco.

Karina Moreno - player

There has been much hype about the super bloom in the California desert this year. But you don’t need to splurge on a trip to Anza Borrego or Joshua Tree to get a spectacular view of wildflowers right now. The East Bay hills will do the trick.

All this rain has created a natural canvas in our very own backyard: blue-eyed grass, Mariposa lilies, Indian paintbrush. Golden poppies blanket the hills around Mt. Diablo, but they’re also popping up through concrete median strips and freeways on-ramps.

I’m partial to this East Bay bounty. I’m a native, too. I grew up traipsing — sometimes trampling — the hills along the 880 Corridor: Berkeley, Oakland, San Leandro.

My Mom would drag me and my sister, usually eyes rolling, to walk the Labyrinth at Sibley, plow the stream trail in Redwood, or run through the meadows at Tilden.

In 1986, when we lived off Golf Links Road near the Oakland Zoo, Mom forced me out of bed at 3 am to see Haley’s comet. I begrudgingly went along then, but of course I relish the memory now.

The East Bay trails are where I find my Mom.

Even though she still lives in her San Leandro bungalow of 25 years, she can’t be found there anymore. Not really. Alzheimer’s has taken her away, steadily, in slow motion.

So outside is where I go to be with Mom – the damp earth and pungent eucalyptus, a comforting presence that she can no longer provide.

My family and I live within walking distance of the Huckleberry trail now. What I’d give to walk its mile-loop with her and my two children today. Huckleberry is known for its narrow path lined with Pacific Madrone, a tree that I learned recently is “a delicacy for mourning doves.”

The perfect place to mourn loss, but also to celebrate life.

With a Perspective, I’m Karina Moreno.

Karina Moreno works for a San Francisco-based non-profit that fights poverty in the Bay Area.

Paul Wolber new

Data are the facts scientists measure, while interpretations are the stories scientists tell to make sense of those facts and predict new facts they might measure. I believe that the failure to understand this important distinction lies at the core of much of the public confusion over scientific issues like climate change and evolution. Scientists argue over interpretations of data with a ferocity that can be startling. But data that have been reproduced by multiple researchers rule the roost, and an interpretation that ignores the data is bogus.

Politicians of all philosophies try to spin or suppress scientific interpretations that disagree with their agendas, such as the interpretation that the measured fact of climate change is due to human activities. But the very worst interfere with the collection of data that might lead to inconvenient interpretations, or even hide or destroy repositories of such data. Today, there is great fear in the scientific community that the US government may stop collecting the data that has documented climate change for over a century, and may even erase collections of such data.

It is important that the public strongly resist such actions. Changing climate helped make humans what they are. It could also wipe us out. For our own protection, it is important to be aware of what is happening, regardless of the cause. And if, as I believe, humans are responsible, and if, as I fear, our leaders are dithering away the chance to blunt or reverse human impact on climate, then it is important that history tattoos the responsibility for whatever happens on the faces of today’s leaders in the indelible ink of data.

Hopefully, someone will still be around to learn the lessons.

With a Perspective, I’m Paul Wolber.

Paul Wolber is a scientist and technical manager in Silicon Valley’s biotech industry.

Jane Shamaeva

On the first day of my course, “American Voices,” I give the students two poems called “America.” Walt Whitman, a nineteenth-century white poet, describes America as,

“Centre of equal daughters, equal sons,
…Perennial with the Earth, with Freedom, Law and Love.”

Yet, Claude McKay, a Harlem Renaissance poet, writes about America:

“She feeds me bread of bitterness,
And sinks into my throat her tiger’s tooth,
Stealing my breath of life.”

As a class, we explore the way writers see our country through the lens of their experience. We focus on the importance of lifting all American voices. Afterwards, students create posters that express their own views of America.

What would be on my poster? I came to the U.S. from Russia at the age of 12, when Russia was struggling to preserve its fledgling democracy. Despite not knowing who Madonna was or how to play softball, I knew that I was welcome at my San Francisco public school. Since then, as an immigrant, I have not encountered any adversity and was even able to become an English teacher.

But this year, my 12-year-old daughter, whose name is recognizably Russian, hesitates to reveal at school that she is a child of Russian immigrants. On the one hand, she senses, Trump’s policies are anti-immigrant; on the other, Bay Area liberals criticize Russia because of its interference in the presidential election.

Knowing that my daughter’s immigrant family pride is waning, I realize that my view of America has shifted. Lines from Beat poet Allen Ginsberg’s poem resonate with me. Initially, he is sarcastic:

“America its them bad Russians.
…The Russia’s power mad.”

But he concludes with,

“America this is quite serious.
America this is the impression I get from looking in the television set.
America is this correct?
I’d better get right down to the job.”

For me, this job is about preserving the acceptance and encouragement I have felt as an immigrant.

With a Perspective, I am Jane Shamaeva.

Jane Shamaeva is a high school English teacher. She lives in Oakland.

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