Saturday, June 28, 2014

Animals are selling what? (Part 1)

Bored Panda, a site I haven't really interacted with before, recently posted a list of very powerful ads from around the world that show animals in a different light than we are used to.  The ads are meant to make people think about animals, or their situations, in a different way.  The whole page is here, but I brought in some of my favorites below:

The first ads that I want to talk about, represent less than charismatic species.  When biologists talk about charismatic species, we are talking about animals that the public, in general, finds cute, attractive, or are otherwise drawn to, in some way.  This means that the organizations that represent their causes often get more money.  And those that are not as "attractive" are often underrepresented.

Commissioned by Sea Shepherd, this ad wants you to think of something "cute" being over fished, instead of less attractive tuna.

The next ones, from WWF, tackle the same topic, but in a less bloody way.

Tuna as rhino.

Tuna as gorilla.

In my opinion, the first one is more powerful, but then, Sea Shepherd is known for being more aggressive, and trying to get attention for the cause.

The next ads, and there are many on the Bored Panda page, deal with extinction.  My favorites are the ones that have a picture of every animal of a certain species, in one ad, such as this one:

From Endangered Wildlife Trust, this poster shows ALL 153 dugongs left in African waters.

Again, from Endangered Wildlife Trust, this poster shows ALL 91 Riverine Rabbits left on the PLANET.

I think it's easy for us to forget that extinction rates are extremely high, and unnatural.  These are a good way for people to visualize what is actually going on in the world.  It's one thing to read these facts, but to know that you are looking at the individuals has a much more powerful impact.

From Bund, a German organization that I haven't previously heard of.
Another from Bund.

These ads from Bund play on the time factor involved in trying to save these animals.  Most times, people don't realize how close some species are to being extinct until they hear on the news that they are gone for good.

From WWF.

Another from WWF.

A couple from WWF.  A well known organisation that uses a charismatic animal as it's icon, turns to less than charismatic animals to bring attention to the loss of species.

What I'm not sure most people realize about extinction is that once these animals are gone, they are gone.  Okay, that sounds cliche, but it's true.  Now, once these animals are gone, it leaves a hole in the web of life.  That means that when an apex predator such as a shark goes extinct, or even has low population numbers, then all the other animals that were their food, or dependent on scraps from them, have trouble.  For instance, with a decline in the shark population, seal numbers could significantly increase, resulting in pressure on the resources they, and others, depend on.  This causes a chain reaction that could change the environment they depend on.

(All the above ads are copyrighted to their original owners.  I have no ownership over these images.)

Thursday, June 19, 2014

'Tis the season!

Blue "jelly" balloon

No, this isn't a poorly timed post.  I'm talking about the season of balloons.  That's a thing, right?  Sure!  With all the parties, BBQs, graduations, and fairs/markets, there are bunches of them around.  Now, I don't have anything against balloons, per se.  Mylar balloons don't bother me, but I really don't like latex balloons.  Now, I'm not here to stomp on anyone's good time.  Balloons are fine in certain situations, but where there is a problem is when people do balloon releases.  This can be done for many reasons: school events, memorials, even by accident when they are in use outdoors.

Balloons that are released outdoors are a problem for the environment.  What happens is, the balloons make their way to various habitats, including the ocean from a surprisingly inland distance, and animals mistake the balloons for food, or get caught up in the ribbon.

Below are some graphic photos of what can happen to animals that get caught up in bunches of balloons, or that ingest the balloons.

The following photos were found at the blog for Balloons Blow, a group that works to educate the public on the dangers of balloon releases:
Black-footed Albatross killed by latex balloons & cotton string
Dead Black-footed Albatross entangled in latex balloons & cotton string on Zmudowski Beach, California.
Photo: C.Miller/P. Brown (BeachCOMBERS)
This Albatross was clearly tangled in the string from the balloons wrapped around its body.  When this happens, it can impede the bird's ability to fly, and feed.  Occasionally, the string can get caught around the beak, making it impossible for the bird to even eat, slowly starving it to death.

Young Screech Owl hanging by balloon & its ribbon
This young Screech Owl was found in Pinellas County, Florida hanging by its wing, for who knows how long, at Sawgrass Park. Fortunately, they were able to get a ladder & cut him down & bring him to Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary.
Photo: D. Sauvageau
This poor owl was in a bird sanctuary, and still wasn't able to escape the balloon string.  Balloons end up everywhere!  There is no magic that keeps them from getting places they shouldn't be.

Blue "jelly" balloon

This, despite looking like a jelly fish, is a shredded balloon floating in the water.  Much like sharks can mistake surfers for seals, sea turtles will look at this, and think they have found themselves a tasty snack.  But, this is what happens:

Green sea turtle dead from plastic & balloons
“This green sea turtle died from ingesting marine debris, including balloons and plastic bags. We find debris in 3 out of every 10 turtles.”
Both items at the bottom right are balloons. One purple and one white.
Photo: Kathy Townsend, Turtles in Trouble
April 2014
We end up with dead sea turtles.  All sea turtle species are considered endangered.

It's not just dead animals that suffer from balloon detritus.  Beaches become littered with old balloons because they are brought there by winds.  Imagine walking along a dune, and getting your ankle caught in the balloon ribbon.

Traveling great distances
This is a bouquet of blue latex balloons, falsely marketed as “biodegradable”, with plastic ribbons from Nashville, Tennessee found on the East Coast of Florida over 800 miles away.
All I ask is that you use balloons responsibly.  If you must have them, keep them indoors, and then dispose of them properly.  There are plenty of other ways to celebrate an occasion than balloon releases:

  • plant a remembrance garden, adding to it every year
  • volunteer
  • make a donation in the name of the person, or event you are memorializing
  • blow bubbles
  • light a candle
  • use pinwheels
  • journal
  • throw an eco-friendly fundraiser
So, please, think twice before using balloons at your celebration.  Not only do they have devastating effects, but there is also a helium shortage.  More on that later . . .

This one is just for irony's sake:
Mylar Lorax balloon
Community Cleanup Project, Seattle, Washington

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

So much you can do to save the Earth!

OK, OK, I know.  We're not technically saving the Earth, here.  It's not like the planet is going to implode if you throw that can into the trash, instead of the recycling bin.  I think I finally realized the silliness of this statement when I read "Jurassic Park" for the first time.  Ian Malcom actually points it out.  Of course.  Although we won't be able to keep the planet from eventually destabilizing, and crashing into the sun, there are things that we can do to help keep the it clean.

I received my copy of 50 Simple Things Kids Can Do To Save The Earth when I was around 10 or 11.  I still have it with my mini library that is currently packed away, awaiting the day that my daughter can read.  There are so many great ideas in this book that I can't list them all, but there are ideas on saving water, recycling, and reusing items.  This book was actually the impetus for my family starting to recycle in the early 90s.  As annoyed as they were, my encouragement has paid off, and now my mother recycles EVERYTHING.  She "blames" me for this.

I noticed recently that there is now (and may have been then) an "adult" version of this book: 50 Simple Things You Can Do To Save The Earth.  I haven't read it, or even looked through it, but based on the children's version, I imagine there will be plenty of ideas.  Some you may already know about, and even employ, but I'm sure there will be some surprises.  I promise, though, there will be no suggestions of using only one square of toilet paper.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen of 2014

Every year, the Environmental Working Group puts out two lists.  One is a list of the most pesticide contaminated produce (Dirty Dozen), and the other is a list of the cleanest (Clean Fifteen).  Both lists have grown beyond their initial numbers, and there are now 51 items listed in the Dirty Dozen/Clean Fifteen, this year.

The Dirty Dozen (in order from heaviest pesticide load to lightest) and Clean Fifteen (read from bottom to top if you want to find the cleanest produce first):

  1. Apples
  2. Strawberries
  3. Grapes
  4. Celery
  5. Peaches
  6. Spinach
  7. Sweet Bell Peppers
  8. Nectarines - imported
  9. Cucumbers
  10. Cherry Tomatoes
  11. Snap Peas - imported
  12. Potatoes
  13. Hot Peppers
  14. Blueberries - domestic
  15. Lettuce
  16. Kale/Collard Greens
  17. Plums
  18. Cherries
  19. Nectarines - domestic
  20. Pears
  21. Tangerines
  22. Carrots
  23. Blueberries - imported
  24. Green Beans
  25. Winter Squash
  26. Summer Squash
  27. Raspberries
  28. Broccoli
  29. Snap Peas - domestic
  30. Green Onions
  31. Oranges
  32. Bananas
  33. Tomatoes
  34. Watermelon
  35. Honeydew Melons
  36. Mushrooms
  37. Sweet Potatoes
  38. Cauliflower
  39. Cantaloupe
  40. Grapefruit
  41. Eggplant
  42. Kiwi
  43. Papayas
  44. Mangoes
  45. Asparagus
  46. Onions
  47. Sweet Peas - frozen
  48. Cabbage
  49. Pineapples
  50. Sweet Corn
  51. Avocados
So, when you are rolling through the aisles of the grocery store, be sure to choose organic produce for most items, if it's possible.  If it's not, then use this guide to choose the best options for you, and your household.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Green on the level

I feel like there are many environmental blogs, and publications that alienate a good number of people by trying to guilt them into doing more, or not even giving alternatives to help make better decisions.  It seems to be either you are an environmentalist, or you're not.  I think that approach does more harm than good.

Because people have varying levels of interest in the environment, I will be using a system to help people determine which articles they may find more interesting, practical, or accessible.  Of course, this is purely subjective, based on my own interpretation.  I hope everyone will read most of what I post, but I understand that not everyone will be interested in certain topics, or depth of coverage of a topic.

Without further ado, the levels of green that will be used as tags on articles from now on:

Mint Green - These will be easily accessible articles.  They will have easy steps to take at home, or will be a quick read.  More often than not, they will be lists.

Pistachio Green - These articles will have a little more substance.  More than just a simple list, they will have some back ground information, but not a lot to make it easier to take in the information.

Emerald Green - Again, these will get a little deeper, and may be more technical in regard to the subject matter.

Jade Green - Getting to be deeper reads now.  These will be more scientific in nature, and will have references for your own review.

Forest Green - These will be pure science reads.

Posts will probably fall more into the Mint, Emerald, and Forest categories, but for ones that are in between, Pistachio and Jade will be the go-tos.

Which category are you most interested in?

Monday, October 8, 2012

Welcome back!

The past year has seen a big change on my end.  I had a baby, and my schedule exploded accordingly.  I feel ready to jump back into the world, and figured I would add this back onto my list of obligations.  To celebrate my return, I am posting a great clip of Bill McKibben on Bill Mahar.  Enjoy. :)

Monday, June 13, 2011

Dirty Dozen 2011

So, the other day, I posted the "Dirty Dozen"; a list of fruits and vegetables that more readily retain pesticides versus those that do not.  I saw today that the Environmental Working Group has released an updated list:

1. Apples
2. Celery
3. Strawberries
4. Peaches
5. Spinach
6. Imported nectarines
7. Imported grapes
8. Sweet bell peppers
9. Potatoes
10. Domestic blueberries
11. Lettuce
12. Kale/collard greens
The group also lists the "Clean 15," or those that rank lowest in pesticide residues. These are:
1. Onions
2. Sweet Corn
3. Pineapples
4. Avocado
5. Asparagus
6. Sweet peas
7. Mangoes
8. Eggplant
9. Domestic cantaloupe
10. Kiwi
11. Cabbage
12. Watermelon
13. Sweet Potatoes
14. Grapefruit
15. Mushrooms
Again, this something to keep in mind when allocating your food budget.  Try to go organic where you can.