Robert (gurdonark) wrote,

Survival of the Soft-hearted

Toucan in a Tree, originally uploaded by gurdonark.

I love the idea--and the actuality--of science bums. Costa Rica's jungle is an amazing Venus' fly trap to lure in young biologists and environmentalists. I've never been much for ski bums or beach bums, although I have known creditable folks who killed a few years in those pursuits. Yet I applaud sciecne bums.

Science bums are an admirable breed. They follow a familiar pattern. They come down for a research Summer after a bachelor's or a master's. They come into contact with so much wildlife and so many mysteries. Before you can say "a bushmaster bite kills in less than a day", they've gone and fallen in love with the rainforest, and perhaps with a thin, educated and compassionate fellow scientist from Costa Rica. The internet is litttered with descriptions of how innkeepers, snorkel guides, and bug tour ladies
are really environmental engineers, master's level biologists, or
ecological consultants.

This has many advantages, as the person who serves one juice might be able to identify which subspecies of tanager sits on the
veranda, or the genus and species of the tree thorn upon which one is aboub to impale oneself on the curious ride in which one floats over the jungle canopy in thie kind of wire contraption previously known only to the cast of the children's films "Spanky and Our Gang".

Rather than worrying about finding the ability to medicate a need to ride down a slope or to mount a killer wave, these folks seek ways to help and to minimize their impact. They name waystaions we would call "bed and breakfast" establishments with names like "biological station". They never complain about the vagaries of troublesome wildlife. They keep trying to make "off the grid" mean "solar" rather than "fossil fuel generator".

What do people do in the jungle?, one might ask. I believe the answer is that they work and rest and play and dream, just as they do in the city. I notice the folks I met spent a lot more time practicing what they preach rather than preaching what others should practice.

Today the weather broke out in warmth. I drove to our town library to pick up some things to read. As I read fairly quickly, I made a sizable dent in the book "Analog Days: The Invention and Impact of the Moog Synthesizer ". Mr. Moog developed the machine that altered music forever. He lived "off the cultural grid", a theremin salesman with only basic piano training and an education in engineering. He took a love for theremins, harnessed it to a knowledge about analog transisitors, and a few chance meetings with little-known avante-garden musicians. Soon he was one of a generation of people who solved problems never before solved about sound and music generation. In some ways, he went from being a novelty kit salesman--a radio bum, or a theremin bum, if you will. Then he
changed everything.

Thus, I'm not sure that science bums are bums at all. Someone must be in the rramparts where civilization and the jungle meet. I am pleased that Costa Rican and emigre scientists are in there watching over things as best they can, and learning all they can.
I trust in that kind of force for change more than folks who say much more and do much less.

My only regret, really, is that our prairies, our woodlands, and our
buttes and plains lack the toucans and coatis necessary to lure more folks to fight this same fight in our neglected places.


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