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October 30, 2011

Snow in October! Extreme Weather and Climate Change

Snowfall on Autumn Street.

My big red oak in my backyard isn't finished turning colors, yet we had big wet snow flakes falling.  The entire northeast U.S. yesterday was hit by a freak fall snowstorm.  My area, at least, normally isn't due to see our first snowfall for another 4-6 weeks.  The forecasters said it was going to happen, but I didn't believe them (after all they have been wrong before).  Then the snow came. 

The whole world lately has been seeing extreme weather more and more often.  No matter where you live you can't deny it.  Climate change is real.  Scientists have long predicted that climate change would bring about more violent weather, from droughts to ferocious storms.  Now we are learning precisely what that violent weather feels like. 

I was sent these comical (and very real) postcards of cities all over the U.S. representing the effects of climate change.  Check them out and use one - or all - to send to someone who needs more convincing:

Hurricanes and global warming:  Higher sea surface temperatures fuel storms.  Scientists warn that climate change will increase the frequency of the most intense hurricanes.

Blizzards and global warming:  Warmer air holds more water vapor, setting the stage for monster snowstorms when the warm, moist air meets a cold front.

Flooding and global warming:  Warmer air holds more moisture - and then releases more precipitation.  Intense rainfalls swell rivers dangerously.

Drought and global warming:  Scientists warn that our warming climate will leave the American southwest locked in permanent drought within 40 years.

Wildfires and global warming:  In drier regions, extended periods of hotter temperatures and lower rainfall are key to factors causing wildfires.

Send one of these postcards to your friends, and help break through the denial.

Tell them that they can help by standing with us as we work to cut pollution, and show why it's so important to fight climate change.

"Postcards from the Edge" courtesy of Environmental Defense Fund.

October 26, 2011

Annual List of Candidates for Endangered Species Act

The wekiu bug was recently removed from the candidate list.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced yesterday its Candidate Notice of Review, a yearly appraisal of the current status of plants and animals considered candidates for protection under the Endangered Species Act.  "The candidate list offers the Service and our partners a unique opportunity to address the threats to these species through voluntary conservation efforts on public and private lands," said Service Director Dan Ashe.  "We will continue developing conservation strategies and programs that guide these conservation efforts and provide predictability to landowners undertaking actions to conserve non-listed species."

Read the news release.

See the full list of Candidate Species.

Learn about the wekiu bug and the conservation efforts that led to it being removed from the candidate list.

October 25, 2011

Dunes Sagebrush Lizard causing Controversy

Widespread destruction of the lizard’s New Mexico and Texas dune-oak habitat has prompted the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to propose protecting the lizard under the Endangered Species Act.

The oil and gas industry is trying to block the creature’s protections with misinformation and scare tactics so it can drill and pollute the lizard’s last pockets of habitat.

Appearances can be deceiving.  At first glance, you’d never think the rolling white sand dunes of southeastern New Mexico and west Texas held the largest stand of oak in the country.  The region’s shinnery oaks are only four or five feet high, but they provide food, shade and a breeding ground for the small, brown dunes sagebrush lizard – otherwise known as the sand dune lizard.  Under the shade of these oak trees, the dunes sagebrush lizard buries itself in the cool, white sand, avoiding predators and regulating its body temperature.  However, when it comes to oil and gas development and livestock grazing, there’s nowhere for the lizard to hide. 

Controlled studies have found that relatively small numbers of oil and gas wells have dramatically lowered dunes sagebrush lizard populations.  Under former President Bush’s energy policy, oil and gas development rapidly increased on federal lands, resulting in dramatic losses of dunes sagebrush lizard habitat.  This habitat loss is compounded by efforts of ranchers to remove shinnery oak – which is toxic to cattle – by using an herbicide spray. 
Refusing to let the dunes sagebrush lizard be another casualty of cattle grazing and Bush’s energy policy, the Center for BiologicalDiversity petitioned for the animal to be listed under the Endangered Species Act in 2002.  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service made the dunes sagebrush lizard a candidate for listing, thereby avoiding a grant of full protection.  Finally, at the end of 2010, the Service proposed to list the dunes sagebrush lizard as endangered.  However, so far this year, Rep. Steve Pearce (R-NM) began to spread baseless claims that protecting the lizard would have a detrimental effect on Mew Mexico’s oil and gas jobs.  That information has been debunked in a full report.

You can help save the lizard by signing this petition to White House policymakers.  It asks the administration to put in place the protections federal biologists have already proposed.

We need 25,000 signatures by November 19 for policymakers to review this petition.

October 6, 2011

Green Your Halloween

Halloween is the perfect holiday for a greenie.  It's an opportunity to reduce, reuse and recycle.  So go for it.  Impress the neighborhood with your ghastly green ways.  Check out these tips below and get started.

Make your own costume.

Is your alter-ego a warrior princess, a giant vegetable, or a scandalized politician?  Whatever your cover, Halloween is the time to get creative.  Browse thrift stores and yard sales for funky hats or cool fabrics that can be cut and re-crafted.  Dust off that old sewing machine, or just grab a needle and thread.  You don't have to be a master-crafter to put together something funny, bizarre, scary or sweet.

And adults, don't think that homemade costumes are just for kids... this is your opportunityto be a role model for the younger generation of greenies.  Need some ideas?  The Daily Green has 25 homemade costumes that are fun and do-it-yourself from recycled materials - like a bat made from old black umbrellas and a samurai made from cardboard boxes.

The bottom line is, don't buy pre-made plastic or vinyl costumes, which are likely to contain toxic chemicals that can harm you and nature.  Instead, go the DIY route and make use of materials found at home, at yard sales or thrift stores.

Homemade costume and decorating ideas

Grow your pumpkin, and eat it, too.

Find local sources at localharvest.org.  Or better yet - grow your own.  Organic is still important even if you don't plan to eat your pumpkin (though you should) because pesticides from conventional farming are huge polluters of streams, rivers and lakes, causing all kinds of nasty side-effects like dead zones and deformities in wildlife.

When Halloweeen is over, use your organic pumpkin in delicious dishes.  Scoop out the seeds and roast them, and cut up the pumpkin and bake it, then use the flesh for pumpkin muffins, breads and stews.  At the very least, add your pumpkin to your garden compost bin instead of just trashing it (if you don't already compost, here are some easy tips for getting started).

Yummy recipes
Collect your loot in reusable bags.

Don't buy plastic pumpkins - just use old pillowcases or reusable cloth shopping bags.  To make them festive, decorate them to match your costume.

Be picky about the candy you give out.

This is a tough one.  It's pretty difficult to reduce the waste involved with individually-wrapped candies.

So let's work with what we can control.  There are more organic candy choices out there than ever before, which again helps reduce pesticide run-off.

Also, keep an eye out for brands that use fair-trade ingredients or donate some of their profits to conservation, wild animal research and other eco-charities, such as Endangered Species Chocolate.

Check out this list of organic and Earth-friendlier candy options.

64-count Endangered Species "bug bites"
Decorate with homemade crafts.

Whether your tastes lean toward Martha Stewart or the Addams Family, there are lots of ways to make your own Halloween decorations.  Here are just a few ideas.
  • Grab some tin cans from the recycling bin and paint them with pumpkins, skulls or bats.
  • Use grandma's old dress mannequin as a dead body.
  • Or, kill two birds with one stone by raking the leaves in your yard and stuffing them inside old clothing to make a dead body.
  • Cut creepy silhouettes out of paper shopping bags or newspapers and hang them in your window.
  • Recycle the decorations you bought last year - or ten years ago.  Halloween decorations are even scarier the older and more worn they are.
For more ideas of decorations you can make out of materials found at home, check out this DIY crafting site.

Light up the night.

Take this opportunity to save electricity and turn off all the lights in your house - except the front porch light to let trick-or-treaters know you're home.

If you want to light up with some candles, use petroleum-free ones made from soy or beeswax, which produce less soot than traditional paraffin lights.  And light your walkway with solar-powered lanterns.  Finally, when it comes to torches for the monster parade, stick to flashlights with reusable batteries or LED glow sticks.

LED glow sticks

And have a safe, spooky, and green Halloween!

October 5, 2011

Awesome Scientific Calendar

The Union of Concerned Scientists held a cartoon contest for their annual calendar.  Here's the winner (I love it) and my other 4 favorites that will be featured in the 2012 calendar.  For all 12, order yours today!

October 4, 2011

Red Tide = Glow-in-the-Dark Blue Waves on San Diego Beaches

Who knew red tide caused blue waves?

San Diego's beaches are captivating many with an eerie nighttime phenomenon.  It seems that "red tide" is causing bioluminescent glow-in-the-dark waves in the area, a sight that's almost too eerie to believe.

But you can see it for yourself in the videos below.

According to the Los Angeles Times, an unusual algae bloom has turned the surf red by day, and provided this effect at night. 

"The electric blue glow is caused by an algae bloom commonly referred to as a "red tide."  the organism, a phytoplankton claled Lingulodinium polydrum, has bloomed since late August, turning the water a brownish-red color in the daytime, according to UC San Diego scientists."

More specifically, the color is caused by a chemical reaction that results from the movement of the algae.  Move a whole lot of algae at once (in say, the crash of a wave) and a brilliant flash of light becomes visible.

The event is mildly toxic, GrindTV reported, but isn't really harmful to humans beyond making a swim a bit uncomfortable.  However the phenomenon has brought out sll sorts of adventurous types, especially surfers who can't wait to say they rode glow-in-the-dark waves. 

How much longer the blue surf will last is unknown.  According to the LA Times, while some spots have cleared up, others remain colored.

Watch (A quick clip of glow-in-the-dark waves) :

Watch (A more theatrical compilation of the waves):

What causes red tide?

The occurance of red tides in some locations appear to be entirely natural (algal blooms are a seasonal occurance resulting from upwelling, a natural result of the movement of certain ocean currents), while in others they appear to be a result of increased nutrient loading from human activities. 

The growth of marine phytoplankton is generally limited by the availability of nitrates and phosphates, which can be abundant in agricultural run-off as well as coastal upwelling zones. 

Coastal water pollution produced by humans, and systematic increase in sea water temperature, have also been implicated as contributing factors in red tides. 

Some red tides are associated with wildlife mortalities of marine and coastal species of fish, birds, marine mammals, and other organisms. 

Though red tides are a natural occurance, they are consistently monitored due to the increased frequency of the past several years caused by human impact, therefore impacting ocean ecology.  In some instances in the Gulf of Mexico (where there are more unnatural occurances than natural),  a red tide produces dead fish and wildlife along the beaches.

October 2, 2011

Join me at the White House on November 6.

The groundswell of opposition to the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is something I hope you’ve been following closely since last month’s sit-in at the White House, which saw the arrests of 1,252 brave people in protest.
But the work is not over.

You are invited to stand with fellow supporters in Washington, DC on November 6.  Exactly one year before the election, you are being asked to join us to encircle the whole White House in an act of solemn protest.  We need to remind President Obama of the power of the movement that he rode to the White House in 2008. 
We’ve already shown we have the courage and the fortitude for civil disobedience.  Now we need to mix it up and show a different side of the campaign.  Many of us were sincerely moved by Barak Obama’s campaign for president.  We’re not yet ready to concede that his promises were simply the talk of politicians.  We’re not going to be cynics until we absolutely have no choice. 

It will be a beautiful and brave sight, the White House enclosed by the kind of people that put President Obama there.  Since he’s said he’ll make up his mind by the end of the year, now’s the time.  I know it may be hard to get to Washington, but if you can – this is the moment.
No arrests are expected at this action, but with your involvement we can send an unmistakable, unavoidable message.

It’s clear that it’s now or never for President Obama to make good on his promises to end “the tyranny of oil.”  He can start by saying “no” to the Keystone XL pipeline, a 1,700-mile fuse to a carbon bomb that is slated to run through America’s heartland.
Join me at the White House on November 6.

October 1, 2011

Commit to Real Food by October 24

Food Day is October 24, 2011.
Food Day seeks to bring together Americans from all walks of life – parents, teachers, and students; health professionals, community organizers, and local officials; chefs, school lunch providers, and eaters of all stripes – to push for a healthy, affordable food produced in a sustainable, humane way.

The goal is to transform the American diet.  It's about time that we all started eating real.  Right now there are far too many people eating diets composed of salty, overly processed packaged foods clad in cardboard and plastic; high-calorie sugary drinks that pack on pounds and rot teeth, but have no nutritional benefit; and fast-food meals made of white bread, fatty grain-fed factory-farmed meat and French fries. 
Americans need to start cooking real food for their families again.  There should be fewer people at drive-thrus and bigger crowds at farmers’ markets.  We need to celebrate fresh fruits, vegetables, and healthy whole grains – and to support the local farms and farmers that produce them.  Food produced in a sustainable manner helps to keep pesticides and other toxics out of our water and ecosystems.  When you buy food locally you also help reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation of non-local food sources. 

Food Day is a commitment to:
·         Reduce diet-related disease by promoting safe, healthy foods
·         Support sustainable farms & limit subsidies to big agribusiness
·         Expand access to food and alleviate hunger
·         Protect the environment & animals by reforming factory farms
·         Promote health by curbing junk-food marketing to kids
·         Support fair conditions for food and farm workers

Transforming our diet is a big step in transforming the way we live so that we may be better stewards of the earth. 
Start now and be committed to these principles by October 24th.  Don’t wait till Food Day to begin.


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