Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Who cares about biodiversity?

According to scientific observation of geologic records, the process of  species dying out existed long before humans. Wherever there is life, it is seemingly destined to end. Does protecting biodiversity really matter?

"At least 40 per cent of the world’s economy and 80 per cent of the needs of the poor are derived from biological resources. In addition, the richer the diversity of life, the greater the opportunity for medical discoveries, economic development, and adaptive responses to such new challenges as climate change."
The Convention about Life on Earth, Convention on Biodiversity web site.
One of my interests is medicinal herbs. When you destroy biodiversity in favor of human development, you might be destroying a cure for disease. It may sound trite, but our hope may lie in distant rain forest rather than in a high tech lab. An even greater, barely tapped, area of biodiversity are the coral reefs. Pollution of coastal areas has severely threatened coral reefs to the point that in 30 years or less some coral reefs may be completely dead.

How much biodiversity is really necessary for human life? Nobody knows. Do you really want to wait to find out? Positive changes and careful protection of habitats is worth the effort, but sometimes in the hustle and bustle it seems like life is all going on indoors. It's easy to forget that the important things, those things that will hopefully continue for millions of years beyond your own life, are all going on outdoors.

If only for today:

*Be thankful for whatever living creatures share their lives with you so you can eat.
*Don't rush from your home or office to your car. Stop for a moment and notice a flower, an insect, a tree, a bird in the sky, or even the weed peeking through the crack in the sidewalk.
*When you drive your car or heat your home, consider the long extinct creatures giving their energy to you.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Love Your Feline Neighbor

The threatened extinction of several species of big cats (tigers, leopards…) is seen as an entirely separate issue from the overpopulation of the domestic house cat. I don’t think so. Compassion for one equals compassion for the other, and compassion starts at home.
To start, big cats are in serious trouble. Many species are nearing extinction. It’s not just “survival of the fittest” or other natural causes. The problem is that large predators (a misunderstood necessity in the food chain) require vast amounts of undisturbed territory to hunt. Humans destroy their territory, mainly for lumber. Even worse, due to folklore and the mystery surrounding these animals, big cats are frequently killed by poachers for their fur, teeth…
 If you want to learn more and you have a Netflix account, watch Tigers of the Snow.

Far more visible to human society is the domestic version of the cat. Many people consider them friends, and may share their home with a couple of them. Many other people consider them a nuisance. Most communities kill a significant number of abandoned (often due to landlords who refuse to allow pets or to highly treatable allergies), lost, and feral domestic felines in the name of animal control. This is totally preventable. First, breeding should be strictly restricted to breed preservation. Providing free/low cost spay neuter services in every community is just as important as providing birth control clinics for people.
The current system euthanizes “unadoptable” healthy cats. This teaches that life is worthless and expendable. If Earth as a society is to be “humane” to companion animals and promote a compassionate relationship with wild neighbors, there needs to be a new standard. Some domestic cats were not exposed to humans in their early lives and are feral and therefore cannot be adopted into a human home. Killing millions of these feral cats is not humane nor does it solve the problem because millions of animals are born to replace those killed. The now widely adopted standard is TNR (trap, neuter, release). Feral cats are trapped in live traps, altered so they can’t reproduce, and returned to wherever they were found. These altered animals take the place of those who will reproduce in vast numbers, leading to overall population reduction.
No loving, friendly companion animal needs to be homeless. We live in a world of lonely, stressed out people. With supportive services, disabled, elderly, and struggling families can learn love and responsibility. Pet food banks, low cost veterinary clinics, and low cost adoption of older pets all help pets get and keep homes. I also think therapy cats should be donated to group homes, nursing homes, and others who need companionship.
What can you do to be a good friend to felines?
*Donate to wildlife conservation funds.
*See Petfinder for adoptable cats at local shelters and rescues.
*If you have an unaltered cat on your property, get them fixed. See Low Cost Spay Neuter Resources  
*If you own rental property, please, please allow pets. Pets don’t destroy property like people do. Keep in mind that carpet is not the best flooring choice anyway (consider easy clean linoleum, wood laminates, or replaceable carpet tiles). If you provide furnishings, offer either secondhand furniture or durable metal furnishings.

Monday, November 1, 2010

How to Support the Earth Without Being a Hippie

* Buy frozen juice concentrate instead of bottles. Most bottled juices are from concentrate anyway. You'll save money and energy.
* Run all your errands in one trip.
* Eat a meatless meal at least once week.
* Use reusable shopping bags.
* Donate usable items instead of throwing of them away. Freecycle is a great way to offer your items to local individuals via email.
* Check the tires on your car. Tires that are overly worn, underinflated, or unbalanced will cost you and your planet in terms of gas mileage.
* Make sure your heating/cooling systems in your home are clean and in good repair. (Even if you don't own your home, insist on efficient heating and cooling and regular maintenance.)
* Make conscious buying decisions. (Do I really need that?)
* Turn off your computer. Don't leave it on hibernate or standby mode all night. If it takes too long to boot up, you need to change your startup programs.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

What Is Clean Coal?

Developing new cleaner technologies for refining and burning coal seems like a step in the right direction, but really it's just a way of holding on to something that must pass.  The real problem starts with coal mining. I've personally seen strip mines, where layers of soil are stripped from the Earth to get to the coal. It leaves a lifeless hole.  Mountaintop mining involves the blasting off of entire mountaintops to get to coal. The environmental effects are devastating, but in many areas people depend on mining jobs and will fight very hard to keep these practices going. (This is why offering comparable jobs in renewable energy is absolutely imperative.)

Clean coal relies heavily on some thing called carbon sequestration, which is storing carbon dioxide in geologic formations. The truth is that nobody on Earth knows how this will actually work on a large scale and a long time frame (especially in terms of geologic time where nothing is really staying put). And nobody has a clue how to pay for such a massive undertaking.

CO2 emissions are not the biggest waste product from using coal. Massive amounts of coal ash is produced. Currently, the dumping of coal ash is not regulated. We're talking about tons of solid waste that contains toxins, like mercury, which is known to be devastating to humans, the younger the human the more devastating the effects.

Most inhabited planets don't have the massive fossil fuel resources that Earth does. Other planets developed without fossil fuels. You can do it on Earth too. It just requires a shift in attitude.

*Watch your elected officials. Let them know it's not okay to give greater support to coal than to renewable energy.
*When clean coal comes up in your local news, write a letter to the editor.
*As always, use energy wisely. The less electricity you use, the less coal needs to be mined, processed, and burned.

To learn more read TIME magazine.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Why monocropping is stupid

Nature tends to favor diversity. Without very serious human intervention, you would never see acres of corn or soybeans. By human standards, more is better. At least most people seem to think so. What if nature had the better idea all along?

In a University of Wisconsin study, organic farming involving planting multiple crops in a given area to ward off pests is actually more profitable than monocropping. One of the big problems with monocropping is that food is then transported hundreds or even thousands of miles overseas. In most developing nations, the people who grow the food can't afford to buy it. An even bigger problem is all the chemicals needed to sustain a monocrop. There are fertilizers to enhance depleted soil (at least temporarily), pesticides to keep insects away, and herbicides to prevent weeds. All these chemicals are very dangerous to human health (it's just a matter of quantity and toxic chemicals have a cumulative effect  because they can stay in the body for many years.)

Why then are we doing it? Government subsidies have a lot to do with it. Corporate monopolies also are part of the problem, but it's not a big conspiracy. It's a habit people got into. Habits can be changed. It starts with an appreciation for where your food comes from.

What can you do?

*Grow a garden. If you don't have available space, check and see if your community has a community garden.

*Buy locally grown, organic foods when possible.

*Visit a local farmer's market. Better yet, visit a local farm.

*Choose to eat less processed food wherever possible.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Greetings From Planet Erith

Hi, I'm Freiya. I'm from a planet called Erith. It's in another solar system not too far from your Earth, but far enough that you haven't seen it yet. I'm doing this blog because I want to see you protect planet Earth. It seems like an impossible task, but I truly believe that with a little care the Earth can sustain a large population, and everyone on Earth can have food, clean water, and shelter.

First, I should tell you my planet's story. A long time ago, before we learned the ways of other planets, we had the richest soil possible. We could grow anything. There was such an abundance of plants and wildlife that we had more food than we could ever eat with little effort. Then we met people from other planets who promised us things we didn't know we wanted, but we wanted it. We sold a little land to grow some very rare species that go for lots of money on the intergalactic market. Unfortunately, those plants didn't stay in the designated area. Within a few years, our crops were nearly completely decimated. Many species of animals died out because of lack of food.

Now,we are dependent on food aid from other planets. With few resources it is difficult to recover from the planet wide devastation of our food supplies. Many of my people live on spaceships. No planet will take them in. I'm lucky. I'm living on Earth on a science visa. If you saw me, you wouldn't notice me. You'd be surprised how many extraterrestrials could walk around unnoticed.  

Please feel free to comment here or ask any question about planet Earth. If I don't know the answer, I'll do my best to find out. I'm with you and your planet!
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