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.
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