Monday Reads: Sunflowers, Peace, and Hyperaccumulation

Sunflowers painting, Oleksandr Neliubin, Kharkiv, Kharkov region, Ukraine

Good Day Sky Dancers!

I used to spend nearly every weekend traveling between Council Bluffs, Iowa, and Kansas City. Both my grandparents lived there as well as my mother’s brother and sister and their families.  I used to love the season when Kansas sunflowers bloomed. Goodland is the Sunflower Capitol there. It was a treat to see the endless fields of Sunflowers, the state flower of Kansas.

I was yesterday years old when I learned the Sunflowers are magical.  Scientists Are Using Sunflowers To Clean Up Nuclear Radiation. Sunflowers are what environmental scientists call hyperaccumulators– plants that have the ability to take up high concentrations of toxic materials in their tissues.

After the Hiroshima, Fukushima, and Chernobyl nuclear disasters, fields of sunflowers were planted across the affected landscapes to help absorb toxic metals and radiation from the soil. New research now suggests that sunflowers (Helianthus) might be as good for the environment as they are pretty to look at.

Sunflowers are what environmental scientists call hyperaccumulators– plants that have the ability to take up high concentrations of toxic materials in their tissues. Like all land-based plants, flowers have root systems that evolved as extremely efficient mechanisms for pulling nutrients, water, and minerals out of the ground, among them: zinc, copper, and other radioactive elements that are then stored in their stems and leaves.

While the sunflower-radiation link would seem like a slow-gestating cure-all for modern environmental disasters, the research is still inconclusive as to the efficacy of all sunflower varieties to help stave off environmental pollution. Post-tsunami clean-up efforts in Fukashima, however, demonstrate a promising application of this discovery.

One of the early successes in sunflower research came almost a decade ago when a phytoremediation company called Edenspace Systems completed a successful cleanup of a lead-laced plot in land in Detroit. (Phytoremediation is a technique for using plants to clean up contamination.)

Folk Art, Maria Pryimachenko

In Ukraine, the giant yellow blooms have a double meaning. Ukraine’s sunflower becomes worldwide symbol of solidarity and peace amid Russian invasion.  These towering blooms have emerged as a sign of resistance.”  Yes, this article is from House Beautiful and the last link came from Garden Collage. Sometimes you just need unusual sources to get a perspective on things when you’re in my down the rabbit hole of discovery mode. Many of you may remember this moment from the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

‘Take these seeds and put them in your pockets so at least sunflowers will grow when you all lie down here,’ said the Ukrainian lady. ‘Put the sunflower seeds in your pockets, please. You will lie down here with the seeds. You came to my land. Do you understand? You are occupiers. You are enemies.’

Artists around the world have been posting sunflower art with hashtags including #sunflowersforukraine to show solidarity with civilians in a powerful display of artistic expression. Meanwhile, Twitter and Instagram users have been adding sunflower emojis to their usernames as a subtle nod of support as Russia continues its devastating war on Ukraine.

In America, First Lady Jill Biden showed her support for Ukraine by wearing a face mask embroidered with a sunflower during an event at The White House, while in City Plaza in Reno, Nevada, residents gathered to add sunflowers to a ‘Believe’ sculpture to express their support for the country.

Meanwhile, over in the UK, Prince Charles and Camilla placed sunflowers on the altar during a visit to the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral in London with Ukraine’s Ambassador to the UK, Vadym Prystaiko.

And at demonstrations in the city, supporters have been draped in the blue and yellow national flag of Ukraine, carrying sunflowers and wearing sunflower crowns in protests against Russian President Vladimir Putin.

This isn’t the first time the sunflower has been used as a symbol of peace. Back in June 1966, US, Russian and Ukrainian defence ministers planted sunflowers in a ceremony at Ukraine’s Pervomaysk missile base to mark Ukraine giving up nuclear weapons.

Sunflowers have been grown in Ukraine since the 1700s (the country is also the world’s major supplier of sunflower oil). According to historical records, the sunflower became deeply embedded in the Ukrainian culture when the church didn’t ban its oil during Lent — a time of abstinence. Since then, sunflower oil has become an important aspect of daily life in Ukraine, with many civilians growing the golden flowers in their gardens and eating their seeds as a snack.

And yes, today’s post is resplendent with artists of Ukraine and their take on their precious Sunflowers. Some of the works of contemporary artists are for sale. Buying art would be a great way to support Ukraine and continue its cultural contribution in arts!

I also am going to gratuitously use the infamous LBJ Daisy Ad from 1964 followed by the Mother and Child Ad. That year I was 8 and was getting quite good and the duck and dive exercises. I was hoping never to relive that kind of weirdness but here I am in my dotage, worrying about a mad man again.  Will he bury us?

What is most frustrating is watching Putin escalate the war by committing war crimes like this from the AP: “Pregnant woman, baby die after Russia bombed maternity ward.”   I do not understand what this does other than terrorize a peaceful nation and cement world determination to rid the world of the Russian Despot.

Additionally–and also from the AP–, we continue to hear that Putin is only likely to do worse things.  he’s already inkling the use of Nukes and Chemical weapons. I welcome the Ides of March tomorrow and suggest Putin consider the case of Julius Caesar. “US view of Putin: Angry, frustrated, likely to escalate war”. This is reported by AP’s Nomaan Merchant.

Burns is a former U.S. ambassador to Moscow who has met with Putin many times. He told lawmakers in response to a question about the Russian president’s mental state that he did not believe Putin was crazy.

“I think Putin is angry and frustrated right now,” he said. “He’s likely to double down and try to grind down the Ukrainian military with no regard for civilian casualties.”

Russia’s recent unsupported claims that the U.S. is helping Ukraine develop chemical or biological weapons suggest that Putin may himself be prepared to deploy those weapons in a “false flag” operation, Burns said.

There’s no apparent path to ending the war. It is nearly inconceivable that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who has won admiration around the world for leading his country’s resistance, would suddenly recognize Russia’s annexation of Crimea or support granting new autonomy to Russian-friendly parts of eastern Ukraine. And even if he captures Kyiv and deposes Zelenskyy, Putin would have to account for an insurgency supported by the West in a country of more than 40 million.

“He has no sustainable political end-game in the face of what is going to continue to be fierce resistance from Ukrainians,” Burns said.

European leaders are still trying to maintain dialogue with Putin. Prime Minister Xavier Bettel of Luxembourg spoke Monday with Putin and “pleaded for an immediate ceasefire,” according to Bettel’s tweet. A spokesperson said Bettel was encouraged to contact Putin by other leaders who “wanted to make sure Putin would continue talking with them.” Bettel also spoke with Zelenskyy.

Avril Haines, President Joe Biden’s director of national intelligence, said Putin “perceives this as a war he cannot afford to lose. But what he might be willing to accept as a victory may change over time given the significant costs he is incurring.”

Intelligence analysts think Putin’s recent raising of Russia’s nuclear alert level was “probably intended to deter the West from providing additional support to Ukraine,” she said.

In hopeful news, a real freedom convey of 160 cars filled with civilians left the besieged city of Mariupol. Ukrainian families begin their life as refugees throughout Europe.  Ted Cruz and those truckers driving circles around the District need to get a life.

Maria Primachenko,
May I Give This Ukrainian Bread to All People in This Big Wide World
Maria Primachenko
Original Title: Дарую українську паляницю всім людям на землі
Date: 1982

Project Syndicate‘s Richard Haas writes how this War has changed.  “From War of Choice to War of Perseverance.”  He elucidates the issues that may help end it.

“Ripeness is all,” noted Edgar in Shakespeare’s King Lear. When it comes to negotiations to limit or end international conflicts, he is right: agreements emerge only when the leading protagonists are willing to compromise and are then able to commit their respective governments to implement the accord.

This truth is highly relevant to any attempt to end the war between Russia and Ukraine through diplomacy. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has any number of reasons to end a conflict that has already killed thousands of his citizens, destroyed large parts of several major cities, rendered millions homeless, and devastated Ukraine’s economy. And his standing has grown by the hour, giving him the political strength to make peace – not at any price, but at some price.

Already, there are signs he might be willing to compromise on NATO membership. He would not recognize Crimea as being part of Russia, but it might be possible for him to accept that the two governments agree to disagree on its status, much as the United States and China have done for a half-century concerning Taiwan. Similarly, he would not recognize the independence of the Donetsk and Luhansk “people’s republics,” but he could sign on to their being given significant autonomy.

The question is whether even this would be enough for Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has demanded the “de-Nazification” of Ukraine, a phrase that seems to call for regime change, as well as the country’s total demilitarization. Given that he has questioned whether Ukraine is a “real” country, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that he remains uninterested in coexisting with a legitimate government of a sovereign, independent state. So far, Putin has demonstrated he is more interested in making a point than in making a deal.

What could change this? What could make the situation riper for a negotiated solution? That is actually the purpose of the West’s policy: to raise the military and economic costs of prosecuting the war so high that Putin will decide that it is in his interest (he clearly cares little about the interests of Russia) to negotiate a ceasefire and accept terms that would bring peace. Again, this seems unlikely, if only because Putin almost certainly fears it would be interpreted as a sign of weakness, encouraging resistance to his continued rule.

Alternatively, he could be pressured to negotiate. In principle such pressure could come from below – a Russian version of “people power” in which the security services are overwhelmed, much as they were in Iran in the late 1970s. Or pressure could come from the side, from the few others who wield power in today’s Russia and could decide that they must act before Putin destroys more of Russia’s future than he already has. The former does not seem to be in the offing, given mass arrests and control of information, and there is simply no way of knowing if the latter might happen until it does.

There are more situations discussed at the link.

Well, that’s it for me!  I’m going to go plant some sunflowers to hide the back fence! It’s always fun to watch them follow the sun!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

22 Comments on “Monday Reads: Sunflowers, Peace, and Hyperaccumulation”

  1. dakinikat says:

    Have a good week everyone! I’m trying to not watch TV so much! Right now, I’m a daylight savings zombie so heaven help my students this month! Take care!!!! We’ve been through a lot and we can get through this together!!!

    • bostonboomer says:

      You take care too. Thanks for the sunflowers! I remember them fondly from my Kansas childhood. They grew so big there.

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    Meanwhile, CNN acting like that Saturday Night Rally was just super normal.

  7. dakinikat says:

    Next Level Crazy:

  8. dakinikat says:

    Wonder what they’re up to with this?

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