On David Quammen's "Spillover," Today's Election, and the Great Horned Owls Beside Me

So I’ve been reading David Quammen’s new book, Spillover (2012), on emerging diseases (and particularly zoonotic viruses, a la Ebola, Marburg, HIV, SARS, etc.), and I keep feeling sicker and sicker. It’s like I’m catching Ebola from reading this book. But a little bug is not going to stop me. It’s an excellent (and spooky) read, detailing one virus after another that has “emerged” or spilled over (from animal hosts to human infection) in the last few decades. I’m on page 215, and I don’t care if I start weeping tears of blood—a symptom of Ebola reported in Richard Preston’s The Hot Zone (1994), which Quammen debunks—I’m going to finish it. I don’t care if the Zombie Apocalypse happens tonight—or Romney wins, same thing—I’m going to finish it.
Meanwhile it’s another in a list of terrific but exhausting books of nonfiction I’ve read this year, works that are dramatic, exciting, about important ecological developments—and long. Alex Prud’homme’s The Ripple Effect (2010), about our 21st century water crisis, and Edward O. Wilson’s The Social Conquest of Earth (2012) are also in this category. Good but they take reading stamina.
Meanwhile it’s been unusually warm in this part of southern Colorado, and a friend recently termed it “the Other Season,” because it’s not really like fall or winter, more like a displaced spring. (And the planet isn’t warming, really.) Everyone in this area of Colorado mentioned how warm Halloween was. At this rate next year we’ll be wearing shorts on Christmas Day.
Meanwhile it’s election day! Thank god this ordeal is finally coming to a close. Readers can probably guess I favor Obama, who hasn’t done enough on environmental issues (like Climate Change), but I begrudgingly realize he has a recalcitrant (and backward-looking) Republican Congress, and that he has taken some tangible steps in the right direction, such as the improvement of fuel-efficiency standards in the future, while Romney is a total sellout to the climate-change deniers in his party, and everything else, except worshipping the almighty dollar.
Meanwhile I’ve been trying to photograph a pair of Great Horned Owls on my mountainside here, who hoot in my backyard almost every night, and I keep getting tantalizingly close, but they’re shy enough that if they hear my footsteps crunching in the fallen aspen leaves, they swoop and silently fly away. Yesterday at dusk I managed to get this photo, not exactly award-winning, but they’re beautiful (and for rabbits and their ilk, terrifying) birds. Note that he (or she) is looking away from me, so we’re looking at his/her backside.

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