A terrified yet occasionally optimistic environmental scientist takes a humorous look at the science behind the human and animal behaviors that make a doomed planet so interesting.
If you’ve ever wanted to get the real dirt on forest bathing without getting muddied, or on animal arsonists without getting burned, or on DIY transcranial Direct Current Stimulation without risking all those excitable neurons that already have one foot out the door, then this is the book for you. Should you be of the type, however, that has found life’s little pleasures interrupted of late by the loud ticking of the Doomsday Clock, put in some earplugs, because it’s not yet too late to have a good laugh while you learn about ‘Cat Research for Dummies,’ ‘Brain Wars – the Gender Variations,’ or ‘Boredom – It’s Not Just for the Boring.’
In these fifty essays, Bob Lorentson humorously uses science, philosophy, psychology, history, and even poetry to examine a myriad of curious subjects while waiting for the collapse of civilization.
So good I completely lost track of time while reading this. Is it still 1991? (Lucy T., Serenity Home)
This pre-apocalyptic book is not nearly as depressing as all those post-apocalyptic books that have been flooding the market lately. (C. McCarthy)
This book was the perfect size to balance a warped table leg. (Rick M. – ‘This Old Barn’)
Astounding! There were words, sentences, and even whole paragraphs in this book that jumped off the page. I wish I could find them again. (Tim O. – author of Dude, Where’s My Shrooms?)
Finally – A book worth its weight in cubic zirconia! (Honest Don – The Pawn King)
This would be a heck of a book if it had bleeping illustrations. (Jeff B. – A (not so) graphic artist)
Not as funny as The Stinky Cheese Man. (Carl, Grade 6)
If I say I like this book will people find out who I am? Do you offer reviewer protection? (The Masked Writer)
This book is either a desperate cry for help, or for more real scientists. (Homer S. – A real scientist. Really.)
I wish I had read the essay about animal arsonists BEFORE my dog burned down my house. (Homeless in Oklahoma)
THE FIRST TWO ESSAYS:
The Complete History of Mankind
When the first early humans debuted on the world stage 2 -3 million years ago in Africa, all they would have had for an audience is a bunch of almost human Australopithecus types and some other dead-enders, not exactly the kind you’d want to bring home to mother. Unless your mother was more of a smaller-brained, knuckle-dragging Australopithecus type herself who hadn’t yet fully committed to terrestrial living. Having an almost human mother would have been hard to live down, even in those times, and is likely the reason some of the new early humans started to think about moving out of Africa.
Those early humans were no prize themselves, consisting at various times and places of the likes of Homo habilis, Homo erectus, Homo heidelbergensis, and Homo neanderthalensis, among other species who never really got it. Take H. habilis for instance, whose name means ‘handy man’. He was known for being 3 ½ feet tall and for using stone tools, so how handy could he have been? What with his smallish brain, he could not appreciate the finer things in life, never progressing beyond the ‘eat or be eaten’ stage of thinking. That should have been a no-brainer, but as he was also known for going extinct some 1.5 million years ago, he obviously didn’t see the future in brains.
Before he left though, H. habilis may have been considerate enough to pass along some of his genes to H. erectus, whose name means ‘erect man’. For a time this was an apt name, as H. erectus measured 5 – 6 feet tall when he was introduced 2 million years ago. When he went extinct 110,000 thousand years ago however, he wasn’t erect, and could only be measured horizontally. It was too late to change his name by then. H. erectus had a still bigger brain and developed weapons, and so progressed from a ‘eat or be eaten’ to a ‘kill or be killed’ philosophy. His enemies just shrugged and killed him anyway.
H. erectus was the first early human to discover Europe and Asia. There was plenty of elbow room in those places then, which, oddly enough, he may not have actually needed, as the fossil record so far indicates that he may not have had any elbows. He had feet, and that’s all that mattered to him. That, and the female of the species. Females of other species may have occasionally mattered to him too, if we’re to be honest about it.
H. heidelbergensis was the Heidelberg Man, and he didn’t care who knew it because his brain had grown to 1.9% of his body weight since ditching H. erectus. He knew it and that was enough, despite those who called him an intermediate species behind his back. He was 5 ½ feet tall, controlled fire, hunted in groups, and hated to be reminded that he only lived in the Mid-Pleistocene, believing himself more advanced than he was. H. heidelbergensis made his home both in Africa and Europe, and you know how that goes. Pretty soon, or about 300,000 years ago, the families stopped communicating, the European side changed their names to H. neanderthalensis, the African side to H. sapiens, and they all went along pretending the other didn’t exist.
H. sapiens remained busy throughout Africa and the Middle East, then at the beginning of their Grand World Tour they thought they’d be the bigger species and went first to Europe to pay a visit. They were shocked by what they found. H. neanderthalensis had simply become Neanderthals, with limited speech capabilities, a receding forehead, and a double-arched brow ridge to go with a stocky, short-limbed body. The Neanderthals may have been apex predators and cooked their food, with a larger brain even than H. sapiens, but as evidenced by their low reproductive rate, it didn’t even impress the women. It certainly didn’t impress H. sapiens, and before long they were fighting like relatives everywhere. DNA testing indicates they did kiss and make up on occasion.
Homo sapiens, as we all know, is the Wise Man, and he knew that stone tools were so Middle Paleolithic. He also knew that he couldn’t let the Neanderthals drag him down while transitioning to the Upper Paleolithic around 40,000 years ago. So he did what he had to and demonstrated what a big brain is really good for as he helped the Neanderthals on their journey to extinction. What can you say, he had that kind of talent. Still does to this day.
At some point around then H. sapiens became alternately known as the Early Modern Humans, or Cro-Magnon Men, because they all lived in a cave in France. They were also known for telling stories around the fire, singing, and drawing pictures on the cave walls of the other creatures they were helping on their journeys to extinction, like the wooly mammoth, the wooly rhinoceros, and other wooly animals. They were not wooly themselves, and were not about to let some new Ice Age turn them into sheep.
Anyway, time passed as it usually does, and the Early Modern Humans became the Modern Humans, who are known for inventing things like pollution, over-population, pandemics, a new type of global warming, nuclear weapons, and conspiracy theories. Interestingly enough, at this very moment the Modern Humans are on the cusp of becoming the Late Modern Humans.
Coyotes – Get Used to Them
The coyote is largely a solitary, nocturnal creature. Because it has nothing better to do, it goes around marking its territory with urine. I suppose that explains pretty well why it’s solitary and nocturnal. Its pelt is so undesirable that it is worth more to it than to a hunter. The coyote is also susceptible to more diseases than any other carnivore in North America. One could easily conclude from all this what even Mother Nature thinks of the coyote.
And in case that’s not enough to put you off, coyotes do not make good pets. For one thing, their breath is terrible, likely because of their diet, which includes skunks, porcupines, cats, dogs, week-old carcasses, roadside trash, egg salad sandwiches, and the odd human. Odd humans would include sleepwalkers, owners who forget to feed them, and people who spray themselves with deer scent before prowling the woods at night.
Coyotes will also, more often than not, wake you up from a sound sleep by howling for no good reason. At least if they have a reason, they’ve never shared it. It could be just because they know it gets under our skin and gives us the heebie-jeebies, and is that the kind of animal you’d want in your house? Aren’t children and relatives enough?
Another thing about coyotes is that you can’t trust them. They don’t walk so much as slink, which practically announces their guilt about something. The only other creatures that slink are weasels and cat burglars, and you know you can never leave your best silver out with them around. Or your cat. And believe it or not, coyotes can tiptoe. Ask yourself why they would do this if they weren’t up to something. The old Navaho had a saying: Trust a coyote once, shame on me. Trust a coyote twice, don’t ever make a deal with a white man.
The very idea that coyotes might make good pets probably comes from two things. The first of course is that they look like dogs. In fact their scientific name, canis latrans, means “barking dog”. Don’t let that fool you. The Aztecs tried naming them too – it’s where the name coyote originated. They also tried taming them. Just ask yourself when the last time was you remember seeing an Aztec. Just saying.
The other thing is that coyotes have become largely habituated to humans, and have even been mating with our dogs, trying for some reason to get still closer to us no doubt. As large predators like wolves became eliminated from areas, coyotes moved in to pick up the pieces. I guess somebody had to before we were up to our ears in skunks and animal carcasses. But they have become so adaptable that they now appear comfortable with us to the point that they can be found pretty much everywhere these days except for the lingerie section of department stores.
All this is to say that while coyotes have accepted us, it doesn’t seem like the reverse will be coming true any time soon. Even their conservation status is noted as “least concern,” although I don’t believe this to be entirely accurate. For years, the U.S. Government has periodically engaged in all out campaigns to reduce their populations, spending over $30 million and killing at least a half million of them. From each however, the coyote has emerged more numerous than before. I believe this has caused quite a lot of concern.
No less a figure than Mark Twain even weighed in, when he said of a coyote, “It is so spiritless and cowardly that even while his exposed teeth are pretending a threat, the rest of his face is apologizing for it.” In my opinion, coyotes have something in common with Mr. Twain. You can never take either of them seriously. It might be what kept Twain back as a writer. It might also be what keeps coyotes from being respectable animals.