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Editor's letter 10/2/19

In the new PBS documentary, Octopus: Making Contact, Alaska Pacific University professor David Scheel poses a trippy but meaningful question: “Do octopuses dream?”  

A clip from the film shows a sleeping female octopus pulsing with color—from ivory white to burnt orange, vivid yellow-green, and back again. During her waking hours, this is a form of camouflage against predators. At rest, it hints at the possibility of a rich inner world we might call the subconscious mind of the mollusk. 

This issue of The Tulsa Voice is full of stories about our connection to the flora and fauna of our environment. You’ll meet local artist Tyler Thrasher, who blends science and art to document our disappearing biosphere by crystallizing the carcasses of cicadas, beetles, snakes and scorpions with chemical solutions he cooks up in the back of the STEMcell Science Shop on Admiral Boulevard. 

Next you’ll meet “Jungle Boy” Solofa Halley, whom you may have seen strutting through downtown Tulsa with a python around his neck. Featuring photography by September Dawn Bottoms and prose by M. Molly Backes, you’ll learn how this local animal advocate went from being fascinated by snakes to becoming one of their biggest defenders, traveling the country to educate others about these misunderstood creatures. 

You’ll also hear from young people in Tulsa and beyond who are mobilizing for a serious response to the climate crisis threatening all life on earth. We’ve got a dispatch from the Tulsa chapter of the youth-led Global Climate Strike that rocked Guthrie Green on Sept. 20, along with the complete transcript of 16-year-old environmental warrior Greta Thunberg’s historic speech to the U.N. Climate Action Summit. That’s followed by an illustrated feature from The Guardian’s Susie Cagle, who breaks down the alarming climate data on Summer 2019—the hottest on record—which cooked Pacific Coast mussels in their shells and pushed our planet even closer to the brink of mass extinction.

We’ve also got a Q&A with David Portner (aka Avey Tare), co-founder of the psychedelic art-pop band Animal Collective, whose latest release is an audiovisual exploration of coral reef habitat loss. I talked to the Baltimore native about his connection to nature, climate anxiety and recording on the banks of the Amazon River ahead of his band’s Oct. 7 performance at Cain’s Ballroom. 

Before we part, consider the dreaming octopus. Whether these cephalopods are actually able to achieve the REM sleep of humans is debatable, but Dr. Scheel is clear about a more primal and urgent connection to these alien creatures of the deep—a lesson we should apply to all living things in this beautiful, bonkers world we’re in danger of losing forever. 

“You look at them, and you feel like they’re looking back,” he says. “That’s not an illusion. They are looking back.” 

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