More Earth-like Exoplanets Found

A Fantastic Time For Discovery, and for SETI

by Carl Kruse

The journal NATURE’s website reportedly crashed after it announced the NASA  discovery of seven Earth-like planets orbiting a star near us, some 40 light years away in the Aquarius constellation.

The star known as TRAPPIST-1 (Transiting Planets and Planetisimals Small Telescope) was observed by a Belgian research team with data collected from NASA’s space-based Spitzer telescope .

 

Kruse image via NASA - TRAPPIST-1
This graphic provided by NASA/JPL-Caltech shows an artist’s illustration of what the TRAPPIST-1 planet system might look like.  The planets circle about the dwarf star  Trappist-1, about the size of Jupiter. Three are in the so-called Goldilocks zone, where liquid water and, possibly life, could exist. The others are right on the doorstep.

 

Three of the seven planets are in the “Goldilocks” range, or possibly habitable, as they are the right distance from the star so that liquid water could exist on the surface. That gives the star system the record for the largest number of goldilocks-zone planets found orbiting a single star.  TRAPPIST-1 is a dwarf star and will continue to burn for trillions of years, potentially more than enough time for life to develop, especially on those planets in the habitable zone.

Our Milky Way is 100,000 light years wide, the visible universe billions of light years in every direction, and so a distance of 40 light years makes TRAPPIST-1 our cosmic neighbor.

Twenty years ago we didn’t know there were planets outside the solar system. Now, every day,  seemingly everywhere, we find new planets, including some with Earth-like qualities. Is it just  a matter of time before we find a planet, or many planets, where what happened on Earth — the rise of life and intelligence, also happened there?

We live in times where too often we fall short of our full potential. And it is during these times that the joy of discovery never smelled sweeter.

Carl Kruse

Contact Carl Kruse :    info AT carlkruse DOT org

P.S.  With the wave of exoplanet discoveries, especially of Earth analogues,  it’s a beautiful time for SETI.  Check out the former blog posts regarding the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence:

Carl Kruse Reviews SETI
From Carl Kruse – Help SETI

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Carl Kruse Reminder – PLN Fundraiser To Protect Lands In PR Coming Up

Fundraiser At the Home Of Maria Celeste Takes Place This Thursday

By Carl kruse

A reminder that the fundraiser to benefit “Para La Naturaleza,” takes place this Thursday, February 9th at the Miami residence of Maria Celeste Arraras. (See original Carl Kruse  Nonprofit Fundraiser for Para La Naturaleza here).

Para La Naturaleza seeks to protect ecologically important lands in Puerto Rico with the ultimate goal of having 33% of all such lands protected by the year 2033. This is the organization’s “33 by ’33” objective. To date, more than 30,000 acres have been protected through the group’s efforts, representing about 16% of the total goal.

Para La Naturaleza fosters conservation but also provides immersive experiences in nature, educational resources via citizen-scientist programs and archaeological projects, and helps rehabilitate historically important properties such as the Haciendas La Esperanza and Buena Vista, several lighthouses and other vital installations.

In Miami, a gathering of ecologically minded people wanting to help Para La Naturaleza have joined forces to create “Group 33.” It is Group 33, spearheaded by Maria Celeste, that is organizing the February 9th fundraiser.

All donations to Para La Naturaleza are deductible to the full extent allowable by the U.S. I.R.S. Code. The organization can be contacted via its website at paralanaturaleza.org

To contact Carl Kruse :
Info AT carlkruse DOT org

Many thanks!
Carl Kruse

Find Your 1,000 True Fans

Whatsoever You Do –- Find Your 1,000 True Fans.

By Carl Kruse

A friend today asked me for a good book on marketing, as if I would know, but I then remembered the impact Kevin Kelly’s essay “1,000 True Fans,” had on me some years ago and suggested to my friend he start his research reading it.

As I myself went back to re-read “1,000 True Fans,” it now struck me as one of the sanest and best approaches to reaching people, e.g., marketing, especially if you are starting out, like my friend. Kelly’s essay is perhaps the ultimate anti-branding approach to branding.
In looking around the web, I see the essay has found champions such as Tim Ferriss, who has included it in his latest work, “The Tools Of Titans” (another fantastic read for all things life-hacking, to not say life-changing) and dovetails with the spirit of people like Seth Godin who advocate the idea of starting out by marketing to one or two people and taking it from there; a super condensed notion of 1,000 true fans.

I’m not a marketer but I would not start any new venture – business, artistic or otherwise – without becoming real close to 1,000 True Fans. Find the essay at http://kk.org/thetechnium/1000-true-fans/

Keep Doing Goodness,
Carl Kruse

Contact  Carl Kruse  –  info AT carlkruse.org

 

 

Carl Kruse: Support Land Conservation in Puerto Rico

Support of Land Conservation in Puerto Rico

By Carl Kruse
I am delighted to share with  you news from my friend Maria Celeste Arraras who is involved in preserving the natural and historic charms of Puerto Rico, and in promoting sustainable development and ecotourism on the Island.  Mari’s efforts focus on an organization called Para la Naturaleza, a dynamic non-profit organization dedicated to environmental conservation and historic preservation.

Para la Naturaleza seeks to transform the future development of Puerto Rico by insuring that 33% of the island’s most valuable lands are protected by 2033.  For almost five decades, the Para la Naturaleza team has worked tirelessly on  behalf of the environment of the Islands of Puerto Rico and, thanks to their hard work 31,000 acres of precious, ecologically valuable lands are now protected; conservation has risen from a 8% to 16% over the last few years, getting closer to the 33% goal in 2033; more than 80,000 people – young and old – actively participate annually in its educational and citizen scientist programs; and, over 16,000 volunteers work hand in hand to keep Puerto Rico’s environment healthy. Moreover, the first land-use plan in the history of Puerto Rico, long promoted by Para la Naturaleza, was adopted in 2015.

In addition to its invaluable environmental work, Para la Naturaleza has restored and made available to the public six sites, from the 18th and 19th centuries, rich with Island history and culture.

Mari recently visited one of these sites, Hacienda La Esperanza, in the town of Manatí, a former sugar plantation and now a 2,137-acre natural protected area, one of more than 40 natural areas, managed by this organization throughout Puerto Rico, which combines the environmental, the historical and cultural. The ruins and restored manor house at La Esperanza, brings to light the roles that sugar — and  slavery — played in the Puerto Rico’s history and economy. La Esperanza is also home to the world’s only remaining, working, steam sugar mill.
Mari has joined her efforts with the recently created Group 33 – a group that brings together people committed to helping Puerto Rico reach the goal of 33% of protected lands by 2033.  This group believes in the conservation of cultural identity, through historic preservation and ecological conservation.

As part of Mari’s commitment to and support of Para la Naturaleza, she will be hosting a reception and silent auction at her home to raise funds for Para La Naturaleza ‪on Thursday, February 9, 2017.  For further details please see:

http://hosted.verticalresponse.com/1512393/d602e8da1d/573412473/ed8ad02be7/

Thank you for your support.
Carl Kruse

For another project helping the environment in the Caribbean and Southern Florida please check out the Carl Kruse blog post on the Urban Paradise Guild.

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Princeton University Global Forum in Berlin

Upcoming Princeton Forum In Berlin

By Carl Kruse

On March 20-21, 2017 the  Princeton University Global Forum presents in Berlin:

“SOCIETY 3.0+: CAN LIBERTY SURVIVE THE DIGITAL AGE?”

Presentations: Vinton Cerf, Chief Internet Evangelist, Google

Christopher Eisgruber, President, Princeton University

Brad Smith, President, Microsoft

Neelie Kroes, Member of the Board, Salesforce

Roger Dingledine, Project Leader, The Tor Project

David Sanger, The New York Times

And many others.

For more information:  https://fungforum.princeton.edu/

Contact Carl Kruse – info AT carlkruse.org

Princeton-Global Forum- Carl Kruse Site

Agenda  – Princeton-Fung Global Forum

Carl Kruse Celebrates MLK Day

Re-reading A Letter From A Birmingham Jail
by Carl Kruse
In what has become now a tradition, ( see Carl Kruse Talks About Martin Luther King ), every Martin Luther King Day I re-read King’s now classic “Letter From A Birmingham Jail,” an essay written as a response to King’s critics who at the time called his activities of nonviolent resistance against racism “untimely and unwise.”

 

His essay is one of best justifications for civil disobedience found outside the writings of Gandhi.

King also wrote here about the need to act sooner rather than later, what makes for just versus unfair laws, and ruminates on the connection between all of us in a beautiful discussion of ethics found in few other modern American letters.

At the time King had urged the local authorities in the American south to obey U.S. federal anti-discrimination laws but at the same time encouraged violation of local ordinances that were discriminatory. That is to say, he advocated following some laws but breaking others, and found a need to reconcile this contradiction and he does so in this letter.

King’s words are dated, perhaps a good sign of how far the U.S. has come in race relations in the 50 years that he wrote, in spite of any recent indication to the contrary in recent U.S. politics.  If you’ve never read anything  by King, I recommend his letter, if nothing else to get a sense of the courage and moral fortitude of the man.

King’s original typed version of the letter is provided courtesy of the Stanford University archives. http://okra.stanford.edu/transcription/document_images/undecided/630416-019.pdf

Happy Martin Luther King Day to everyone in the U.S.A. , well, to everyone everywhere.

Carl Kruse

http://carlkruse.org

To contact Carl Kruse: info@carlkruse.org

P.S  I hear some celebrate a home-brewed and half-baked “Robert E. Lee” day in lieu of  MLK day, something I do not understand.

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Spotlight: Urban Paradise Guild

UPG Sends Seeds To Families In Haiti

by Carl Kruse
The Urban Paradise Guild (UPG) headed by Sam Van Leer is a nonprofit group based in Southern Florida working to bring back natural habitat and make our urban environment more green and livable.   The group introduces more native plants into local areas, organizes clean-ups, engages in coastal remediation, operates three tropical nurseries that supply fruit trees and other plants to the  community, conducts seminars,  and does all other goodness.

Since 2008, UPG has been sending seeds and plant cuttings to Haiti, to help small villages feed themselves and recover from several natural disasters. These seeds include native plants for reforestation, and edibles, such as fruit trees and vegetables.

This weekend the UPG is working on packaging seeds for 10,000 people in Haiti. The seeds are of 20 types of heirloom vegetables for each family. UPG volunteers need to calibrate the weight-to-volume measurements to select the right sizes of scoops for each package — tiny seeds, such as tomato and eggplant, weigh as little as 250mg per family package, while group seed packages can weigh up to 5 ounces.

kruse-seeds for haiti
Seed packets for Haiti – Photo by Carl Kruse

For this ongoing work they need a precision scale that costs $645. If you can help in any way, no donation too small, please head over to http://urbanparadiseguild.org/donate/   This is a small project that could have a big impact. I like it. Thanks for taking the time to read and for any help.

Scale used for seed measurement
Scale used for seed measurement

If you have some extra time and would like to roll up your sleeves and help the UPG with its work, please contact Sam at http://urbanparadiseguild.org.

Thanks again!
Carl Kruse
http://carlkruse.org

For another Miami-based organization working to help  better understand and improve our natural environment check out the Fairchild Tropical Botanical Gardens.  I wrote about them in an earlier blog post.

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From Carl Kruse: Help SETI@HOME

SETI Project  Can Use Our Help

by Carl Kruse

One of my favorite nonprofit groups is the SETI Institute, which is the world’s top organization that is looking for life elsewhere in the universe. I love SETI because it’s the chance to get involved in answering one of humanity’s last remaining big questions – Is there anyone else out there? And while we have yet to find anyone, it’s an exciting time as new discoveries, such as those of the Kepler mission, paint a universe larger than we once imagined. The odds look good that what happened on Earth, which is to say life, also happened elsewhere.

Assuming there is intelligent life out there, it is could be that it has developed radio or similar technologies whose use would send electromagnetic signals in all directions through space at the speed of light, and over time travel vast distances.  One SETI project is to tune in and see if we can “hear” any of this. The movie Contact was inspired by such work, and the protagonist played by Jodi Foster is a character based on Dr. Jill Tartar, formerly head of research at the SETI Institute.

In 1999, a SETI team at the University of California, Berkeley, launched a project called SETI@HOME. The idea was that anyone with a computer could download a screensaver so that whenever their computer was idle the software would get data from the Arecibo Radio Telescope in Puerto Rico and analyze it for extraterrestrial signals. Combining small computers to perform a large task is known as “distributed computing” and SETI@HOME today is the largest distributed computing project in human history.  Lassoing thousands of personal computers together brings computational power  surpassing that of even advanced supercomputers, and today this approach has extended from SETI to other projects, such as weather predicting and cancer research.

I write about all of this because I recently received a letter from the Berkeley team of SETI@HOME seeking help. And before sharing the letter I had wanted to explain my involvement with SETI.

Now the letter from SETI@HOME:

“In recent years it’s become clear that planets are common about stars in our galaxy and the number of possible abodes of life number in the billions. The number of civilizations that inhabit our galaxy is still unknown, but thanks to SETI@home anyone can help search for them using their home computer or mobile phone. But SETI@home still needs your help.

It’s been an exciting year for SETI@home. In addition to our ongoing search for extraterrestrial radio signals at the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico, we’ve started analyzing data collected by the “Breakthrough Listen project” at the Green Bank Observatory, the largest fully steerable radio telescope in the world. “Breakthrough Listen” will soon start collecting data at the Parkes Radio Telescope, the largest steerable radio telescope in the Southern Hemisphere, and SETI@home could analyze these data. To do so, SETI@home needs two things. First, we need you and your friends. The current flood of data requires more processing power than SETI@home volunteers currently provide. Please spread the word about SETI@home.

Second, SETI@home needs the funding to obtain hardware and develop software required to handle this new data source. SETI@home has only obtained one third of the $450,000 in funding needed for this coming year. If SETI@home doesn’t meet these funding goals, expansion to new telescopes may not be possible. I’m hoping that you will give generously.

Together we can reach the stars. Happy Holidays!

Eric Korpela,

Director of SETI@home

P.S. Donors contributing $250 or more will receive invitations to the Berkeley SETI Research Center Holiday Party to be held December 16 in Berkeley, CA. The event will feature behind the scenes tours of our labs, talks on the latest developments in the search for advanced life from BSRC Researchers and special guests. There will also be giveaways of one-of-a-kind souvenirs of Berkeley SETI history. Those unable to attend in person will be given access to an exclusive online question and answer session with BSRC Researchers.

The University of California is a nonprofit educational and research organization governed by Section 501(c)(3) of the IRS Code. Donations are tax deductible to the full extent of the law for residents of the United States and Canada. (Your tax situation may vary – please consult your tax advisor – Carl Kruse ).

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I have had SETI@HOME on my computers since its inception, and I hope anyone reading this can lend a hand to a project that does so much with so little. The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence is one of the great remaining questions facing humanity and speaking from experience, I think anyone getting involved — even if just downloading the free SETI@HOME software — will feel enriched, joining part of a grand quest.

Many thanks!
Carl Kruse

See also Carl Kruse Take On SETI

Kruse: The Electoral College

One More Voice Calling For The End Of The Electoral College
by  Carl Kruse

For whatever reasons it was established way back when, and whatever benefits it might have today, that the Electoral College in the U.S. contravenes the will of the people is a great blow to Democracy.

The winner of the votes in any election should win.

If the Electoral College contravenes this, as it has done in two of the last five U.S. elections, then it’s time for the Electoral College to go.  Fairness calls for it.

The benefit argued for the Electoral College today: smaller states will not be forgotten by candidates who in theory would only target large population centers because that is where all the votes are. But, it’s a complete failure in this regard. Because of modern U.S. demographics — as opposed to those in 1787 when the Electoral College was instituted — many states vote predictably- for example, California and New York always vote Democratic, Texas and Utah always vote Republican, and so forth. What this means is that every U.S. election comes down to the SWING STATES – those states that are not predictable, such as Ohio, Florida, North Carolina, Virginia and a few others. What we now see today is a tyranny of the swing state. California and Texas, the two largest and arguably most important states in the USA, receive precisely zero presidential visits or attention, while the 50,000 residents of Cayuga County, Ohio are showered with money and visits. Does this make sense?

By the way, not only are the big states short-changed by the Electoral College, the small ones, which the Electoral College was designed to shelter get screwed as well. You see, few small or rural areas get attention either- Montana, Alabama, the Dakotas, Idaho, Alabama, Mississippi. They get nothing also. So who gets attention? Only the swing states. Insanity, And why? Because of the Electoral College.

Why would a politician campaign anywhere where the vote of that state was predictable? Why would either side waste time in California? Or New York? Or Alabama? Or in any of the states where they had no chance? They wouldn’t. And they don’t. Because of the Electoral College.

And so the fate of the entire nation is often held in check by benighted areas of Ohio or Florida all because of the Electoral College.

This institution was hatched in 1787. Back then there were 13 states. And these included New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut and Delaware — today some of the smallest (the smallest?) in the union. There was slavery. A black person was legally counted as 3/5 of a person. Women could not vote. And in 1787 the USA did not even have a president. George Washington was voted in on 1789. We are in 2016. A few things have changed since 1787. Let’s change too.

Carl Kruse

http://carlkruse.org

Carl Kruse Stands With Kazhir Khan

Jumping into the fray I’ll say Kazhir Khan’s speech at the 2016 Democratic National Convention was a beautiful lesson in ethics, civics, loss, honor and sacrifice. A speech of power and raw emotion. I cried during it and I don’t remember crying in a long time over a speech.

Shortly after he finished, the shameless Ann Coulter had the following to say and in a few words made clear that the divide in the USA isn’t just about politics.

kruse-coulter

I know race-baiters roam freely everywhere but how does this woman  have a following in the U.S.A.?  A national commentator. Can simple troll-ism generate such popularity?  Are we still such a hive of racism? Have we so much further to go?

Donald Trump fueled the fire by suggesting Khan’s wife stood silently next to her husband during the presentation because of Muslim strictures on women being silent before men, yet later she explained that she stood silent because of grief, discomposure and being unused to standing before a large audience.

Is it America that fuels the Ann Coulters and Donald Trumps or is it the other way around? Or is it symbiotic?  Whatever gives their ideas ground to flourish is disheartening and a diminishment of us.  Sure,  many people quickly voiced the opinion that they would rather live in Mr. Kahn’s America rather than Trump’s (or Coulter’s) but the reality remains that retrograde ideas remain vibrant and alive and that people like Coulter and Trump continue enjoying a large measure of popularity.

Martin Luther King wrote, “I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality…I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.”

For now we’re a far ways off from Mr. King’s sentiments.  And Coulter and Trump would happily take us backwards. But here’s hoping that MLK will have the final word.

Carl Kruse

http://carlkruse.org

Carl Kruse is based in Miami, Florida.

A Memorial Day Wish

A Memorial Day Wish From Carl Kruse

This weekend the U.S.A. celebrates Memorial Day, a time the country honors those who died serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.

People often forget the myriad sacrifices of those in uniform, which includes writing a blank check for “up to and including my life”.

As I do every Memorial Day, I take a moment to reflect on war and death, wishing that in some future — which today seems distant — we no longer see brave men and women of any country killed in war, and that we see an end to wars themselves. Until that unforeseen and far-off day my wish (and hope) is that leaders place the lives of soldiers in harm’s way sparingly, only in the utmost of need and for the highest purpose. Perhaps one day we could also create a Memorial Day saluting those who move humanity forward in peaceful and cool ways, a completely tangential thought on what also might be good to honor during this moment of reflection.

Carl Kruse

Carl Kruse Dot Org

Carl Kruse Dot Org Profiles “No More Tears”

Carl Kruse remains on break but his friend Daniela Frewa would like to tell you about “No More Tears,” a non-profit organization that aids victims of domestic violence, most who tend to be disproportionally women and children. The person who founded No More Tears, Somy Ali, is an amazing woman who has dedicated her life to helping others. Nobody in the organization makes a salary, and 100% of all funds go directly to the programs that help victims. These programs include the cost of doctors, immigration lawyers, rent, food, basic needs products, and often English lessons, driving lessons, and courses to help with job placement.

This year Daniela (Carl Kruse ‘s friend) has decided to organize a large event to raise funds for No More Tears to take place in September. Until then, the organizing committee is focused on promotional event opportunities that will help spread the word about this cause.

The first event will take place Thursday, February 28th at Jimmy Choo, at the Shops at Merrick Park in Miami. Somy will give a short speech about No More Tears and Jimmy Choo ( Miami )has agreed to donate a percentage of all purchases to No More Tears.  So if you were thinking of getting some bling-bling shoes now is the time to do it and help a great organization at the same time.

The committee is tasked with bringing a great crowd to this event, it’s possible that Jimmy Choo will want to do more events with No More Tears which would be a wonderful opportunity.

Aside from hoping that you can join us, it would be great if you could share this invitation with any friends/clients/acquaintances that might be interested in shopping at Jimmy Choo. If they don’t want to come to the event or can’t make it, they can still shop (any day until the 28th) and mention No More Tears or show the invitation and the percentage will still be donated.

If you cannot attend, or have limited interest in Jimmy Choo, it would be great if you could consider a direct donation to No More Tears.  No amount is too small.

Many thanks!

Carl Kruse – Supporting people doing good stuff

Poems – Carl Kruse Dot Org

Carl Kruse is taking a break.  This is from the Carl Kruse Dot Org archival clutter.

During the summer of 1988 Tammy Kaup shared a short poem by Roger Shattuck which has stayed with me all this time, at times being more salient, only to fade away and then later reappear.  As 2016 begins this short poem returns anew.  Fresh.  As if encountering it for the first time.  Isn’t a classic that which stands the test of time? I have never been able to find it in a web search and the only copy of it is the scribbled note Tammy left me in New York back during that summer of ’88.

Our future depends

on an endangered species of love-intensive persons

willing to walk not drive

the second mile

to use their naked hands to touch

the quick of things inside

their packages.

I yearn for these love-intensive persons,  willing to walk not drive the second mile and who use their naked hands to touch the quick of things inside themselves, as the poet alludes to. We need more of them.

Another scribbled note emerged from the archives, which likewise I could not find on the web but is attributed to Dianne Young of McLean, Illinois, talking about Route 66.  Well it’s talking about more than Route 66.  What makes for the best roads?

All the good roads lead nowhere.

They aren’t a direct route or a shortcut to anyplace,

and they hold no attraction for those bent on making time.

These byways, instead wander far over the map,

meandering through the mind,

not stopping till they

arrive at the heart.

Some view stashed away papers as clutter, perhaps as  the antagonist of clear thinking and tidy souldom.  But when long forgotten writings yield beauty and wonder I happily forgive  the clutter that contain them.

What might lie in your cluttered corners?

Carl Kruse

http://carlkruse.org

To Martin Luther King From Carl Kruse Dot Org

Carl Kruse is on break.  This is a guest post from Brent Harrison.

Some time ago I got together with a friend on Martin Luther King Day and to honor the man we read together his “Letter From A Birmingham Jail” in which King answered his critics who called his activities “untimely and unwise” with one of the best justifications for civil disobedience found anywhere.  As King urged local authorities in the South to obey federal anti-discrimination laws but at the same time encouraged violation of local ordinances that were discriminatory, e.g., he advocated following the law on one hand but breaking it on the other, he found the need to reconcile both actions and does so in his letter.

King also wrote here about the need to act sooner rather than later,  what makes for just versus unfair laws, and ruminates on the interconnectedness of all of us in a beautiful discussion of ethics found in few other modern American letters.

In what has now become something of a tradition,  on every Martin Luther King Day I re-read his “Letter From A Birmingham Jail” and encourage everyone who can to do so.

The link below is provided courtesy of the University of Pennsylvannia.

http://www.africa.upenn.edu/Articles_Gen/Letter_Birmingham.html

Happy Martin Luther King Day in the U.S.

Carl Kruse

http://carlkruse.org

carlkrusemlkOriginal rough draft of “Letter From A Birmingham Jail” by MLK

Carl Kruse Recommends Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden

“What’s a great place to visit in Miami that has nothing to do with partying,” ask several friends arriving in the city.  I send one and all to Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden (FTBG). There are few places like it.  Exotic plants A to Z.   A research and education facility.  A festival venue.  A laboratory.  Conservation inspirer.  Home to the world’s largest palm collection.  An oasis.  A uniquely Miami institution that serves the world by studying and encouraging conservation of tropical plants. It’s one heck of a place to spend an afternoon.  And more.
Just walking the 83 acres, if you did nothing more, is a beautiful experience, at once invigorating and contemplative. You love plants?  Multiply what I just said by ten.  You don’t like plants?  You will still love Fairchild.
There are four ways to take in the gardens. I like them all.

 

My first suggestion is to catch the guided tram tour, a docent-driven, train-like vehicle that spirits you around all the while regaling you with what’s afoot at Fairchild. It is a great way to get an overview of the place, its history, layout and of some of the more interesting features, such as the rain forest, butterfly garden, Window To The Tropics as well as an introduction to its landscape architecture.

 

Another way of exploring is to take a guided walking tour accompanied by an experienced staff member.  Here you get up close with a deeper look at the gardens.  I have taken the tram and walking tours many times, each time learning something new.

 

A third way of seeing Fairchild is on a self-guided tour.  Here you are on your own and I suggest doing this only after a guided tour with a docent.  And as I am invariably asked, Carl Kruse, can’t you simply visit the gardens diving in solo sans guide?  Yes of course, which is the last of the ways I suggest visiting.

 

Going at it alone is still great given the majesty of the place, and if just to be surrounded by beautiful flora is all you need and a break from the city, this will do fine.  You will see why so many people choose to get married here, and hey, while you are at bring a picnic, a bottle of wine, settle in, and see if you catch a glimpse of the local iguanas at play. But do try one of the guided tours if you can for your own enrichment.
There’s just so much goodness. Say hello to  unique treasures such as sausage trees, banyan trees, chicle trees, baobab trees, ylang-ylang trees (whose essence provides the oil for Channel #5 perfume), more palms than you can shake a branch at,  and the world’s largest cycad collection, which are themselves time machines to prehistory as some of them lived in essentially unchanged form when dinosaurs roamed the planet.  And if you time your visit right you might encounter some seriously unique specimens such as the Sumatran Titan Arum, a six-foot tall plant straight from Little Shop of Horrors that rarely blooms but when it does smells like a dead animal. Nicknamed Mr Stinky, back in 1998 it became the first of its kind to bloom in the U.S. in decades, doing so at Fairchild.

 

kruse-mrstinkyAmorphophallus titanum, a.k.a, Mr Stinky

Some exotic specimens serve as more than curiosities of the natural world. For example, there are more Haitian Kowos palms (Attalea crassipatha) at Fairchild than are found in the wild in its native Haiti, of which probably less than three dozen remain in what is perhaps the most endangered palm on the planet.  Researchers at Fairchild are studying ways to breed the Kowos and of possible re-introduction to its native home, generating some serious good karma for Fairchild.

Kowos Palm- KruseThe Haitian Kowos Palm at Fairchild (Photo: Carl Kruse)

Locally, Fairchild has helped reintroduce some 20 endangered species of native South Florida plants, from the Sargent’s Cherry Palm to the Broad Halberd fern, and in the process help reclaim habitat from non-native invasive species.  More good karma.

If you live in Miami or nearby, and love (and have space) for plants, consider checking out the yearly Plant Sale, where plants grown by Fairchild staff are sold to members during one weekend a year, usually the first week in October.  This is no normal plant affair.  And those doing the selling are not your typical horticulturists. You have to be a member to attend but becoming a member is a good idea as it gives access to the gardens all year around for free, among other goodies.  Examples of plants sold in previous sales include the exotic Bailey Palm (Copernicia baileyana) from Cuba, whose trunk looks like a concrete column, and the Silver Palm (Cocothrinax argentata), native to the Bahamas and South Florida, whose leaves have a silverish underside. You won’t find these plants anywhere near a commercial nursery, and certainly not at Home Depot.  At my house several Baileys grow in the backyard, courtesy of the Fairchild plant sale.  Serious goodness and life improvement. And a continuing accumulation of good Karma for Fairchild.

 

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Bailey Palms at Fairchild (Photo: Carl Kruse)

Besides the punch it packs as a botanical garden and world-class research center, Fairchild knows how to let its hair down.  It is home to several festivals, such as the Mango Festival, the Chocolate Festival, and the Orchid Festival. During Valentine’s Day, it organizes a dinner and concert guaranteed to warm any lover’s heart and throughout the year hosts a number of art exhibits, concerts and other goodness. And at any time there are lectures, chats and classes given by experts in such fields such as botany, painting, photography and such.  I will say it again – I like this place.

I ( Carl Kruse ) have been a member of Fairchild going on 25 years and there are few institutions I am more proud or happy to be associated with.  It is one of my favorite nonprofit organizations anywhere, combining heart, purpose, beauty, fun, knowledge, discovery, and showcasing the best of South Florida and elevating all of humanity.  Who said Miami was just about partying?

Carl Kruse