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August 31, 2012

Urgent Breaking News about the Arctic!

(Center for Biological Diversity) – Just yesterday, the Obama administration threw the doors of the Arctic open to Shell Oil, allowing it to immediately begin to drill for oil in the heart of protected habitat critical to the survival of polar bears.
The administration gave Shell initial approval for controversial and dangerous oil drilling in the Arctic Ocean off Alaska despite the fact that a critical oil-spill containment vessel is still awaiting certification.

This is a monumental mistake that puts human life, wildlife and the environment in terrible danger. The harsh and frozen conditions of the Arctic make drilling risky, and an oil spill would be impossible to clean up.
I wanted to send you the news right away and let you know that the Center for Biological Diversity is redoubling our commitment to save the breathtaking Arctic and its wildlife and keep it from becoming a dirty, deadly industrial zone. We'll take swift action to beat back other oil companies that are already lining up behind Shell, eager to bust into pristine Arctic habitat and pad their profits at the expense of polar bears, walruses and whales.

The Center has kept Shell out of the Arctic since 2007, and yesterday’s news hits hard. But our team of scientists, lawyers and advocates are deeply committed to our all-out campaign to protect the Arctic. It will mean a massive effort in the courts, Congress and the media -- and with the American people.

We all know the dangers of drilling for oil in the harsh, remote Arctic: An oil spill will be virtually impossible to clean up with the nearest Coast Guard station 1,000 miles away. The Arctic's wildlife will be left to fend for themselves, struggling to survive against long odds.

Let me be very clear about what's at stake with today's news: Once the Arctic is ruined, there's no going back. Unique animals like polar bears, yellow-billed loons, eiders, walruses, whales and ice seals that have evolved over millions of years to survive in this frozen wilderness -- and nowhere else -- will be condemned to extinction.

We'll be in touch in the days ahead about Shell's drilling operations, the Center's actions and what this means for the Arctic and its wildlife. We can only keep fighting to save the Arctic by counting on you and others to step up and take action when we need it most. Thank you for staying with us in the fight.

Stay tuned...

Underwater Video of Rocky Reef near Newport

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has developed a video lander that captured this amazing footage of the fish swimming around a rocky reef at Stone Wall Bank, 10 to 15 miles off the coast of Newport.
The lander is much cheaper than a remote-operated vehicle, designed for steep rocky terrain, and it can be deployed “like a crab pot” from a relatively small research boat.

Co-developer of the lander Bob Hannah of ODFW said not all of the ocean off the Oregon coast looks like this – other areas are “quite a bit less fishy” – and it can be tough to find such clear water.
But it shows that the state’s new lander could be useful in assessing fish populations in rocky reef habitat, he said. Some species of rockfish such as yellow-eye have very low numbers, and it’s hard to estimate their population without catching them.

“With the lander we can study an area to figure out who’s living where, and what kind of habitat they’re in,” said Hannah. “You can’t necessarily get that from catch data.”
The lander was designed with an eye toward studying fish in the state’s new marine reserves, where fishing isn’t allowed.

“We don’t have another method for doing coast-wide surveys,” said Hannah. “We need a tool for nearshore rocky areas. We need a tool for marine reserves that doesn’t require you to catch a fish.”

In the video clip above, the lander is deployed with a bait bag of chopped herring to attract fish. You can see several species of rockfish, kelp greenling and Pacific halibut swimming around the camera.

Rescuing Ben

(PAWS) - Ben, a bear kept at Jambbas Ranch Tours, has been confined for years to a tiny cell made of concrete and chain link. He has no enrichment and paces constantly, a sign of stress and frustration.

After a long and hard-fought battle, Ben the bear has been rescued and will now live out the rest of his life at a beautiful accredited wildlife sanctuary in northern California.

Victory for Ben the Bear! On August 27, the court ruled in Ben's favor, and thanks to the judge and all those who worked hard to make it happen, PAWS is now Ben's permanent home.

August 30, 2012

Pledge to Take on the Trash

Watch the new video about ocean trash and learn why your pledge matters for our ocean. Check it out and take the pledge today.

Canada's 44th national park is in Northwest Territories

Canadians have a new national park to hike, paddle and play in, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced today, but some are saying his government favored mining interests over the environment when drawing its boundaries.

The Most Amazing Humpback Whale Photo You’ve Ever Seen!

Photo: Bill Bouton

(Surfrider Foundation) - A photographer driving along the coast in California pulled over and managed to capture some unbelievable shots of a humpback whale rising from the water as stunned spectators looked on just a few feet away. Retiree Bill Bouton was driving in San Luis Obispo, California on Saturday when he glanced over at the coast to see a group of the massive mammals feeding in the shallow waters, which has been occurring occasionally in the area over the past few days. The 69-year-old managed to pull his car over and set up his camera tripod near the water’s edge to capture breathtaking snapshots of the event. Boaters and kayakers in the waters had cameras of their own poised to take pictures, fearlessly advancing toward the hungry animals, which measure from 39–52 ft in length with an average weight of around 79,000 lbs.

August 29, 2012

Put Climate Change in the First Presidential Debate

What’s on your TV right now?
Cable news chatter about the Romney family’s dancing horse? A bunch of talking heads yelling about President Obama’s birth certificate?

Let’s face it, from now until November, you and every other voter will be bombarded with non-stop coverage of the presidential election. But the question is: what will we be hearing about? Will we be learning where the candidates stand on serious issues like global warming — or will the news media focus on frivolous gossip and insignificant issues?
The choice is in your hands. We have a plan to make sure that climate change is at the top of the issues list this election, but we need your help.

Will you sign our petition calling on the moderator of the first presidential debate, Jim Lehrer, to ask President Obama and Governor Romney about the climate crisis? We need 50,000 signatures in the next month.
Millions of voters will get their information about the presidential candidates by watching the debates this fall. With a moderator like Jim Lehrer — whose show, the PBS NewsHour, has often covered climate change with the gravity that it requires — we have a real chance to generate a substantive discussion about global warming on the national stage…if he asks the candidates about the issue.

The first debate, on October 3rd, is focused exclusively on domestic issues. With the effects of climate change causing hardship for people across the county — from flooding in the Southeast to drought in the Midwest to the wildfires in Colorado, where the debate is being held — it’s only natural to assume that Mr. Lehrer should ask President Obama and Governor Romney to discuss how they plan to address global warming. 
Unfortunately, experience has taught us that we can’t assume much when it comes to climate change coverage in the national media. Despite the fact that July was the hottest month ever recorded in the U.S., only 8.7 percent of television segments that reported on the record-breaking heat waves made the connection to climate change, according to an analysis by Media Matters for America. But we can change that if we work together.

Will you help us reach our goal of 50,000 signatures? Add your name to the growing list of people calling on Jim Lehrer to make the climate crisis a priority in the first presidential debate!
No matter how many climate change deniers stick their heads in the sand, the climate crisis will keep getting worse until we do something about it. The first step towards making that happen is ensuring that voters know where their elected officials stand on moving us towards a clean energy future.

So, I hope you’ll join us in signing this petition today and sharing it with your community.

Big Win for Clean Cars

This is a historic week for U.S. consumers and for the future of our nation's costly oil use. The Obama administration just finalized fuel economy and global warming emissions standards for cars and light trucks sold in model years 2017-2025, which will roughly double the fuel efficiency of these vehicles.
The standards will save drivers of a new 2025 vehicle nearly $8,000 over its lifetime, compared to driving a typical vehicle on the road today. In addition, the standards will reduce global warming emissions by as much as 270 million metric tons in 2030—the equivalent of shutting down 65 coal-fired power plants for one year.

These standards represent the biggest single step our country can take to reduce oil use, cutting consumption by 1.5 million barrels a day in 2030 and putting us on the path towards halving our projected oil use over the next 20 years.

Underwater Sculptures to Rebuild Coral?

(Surfrider Foundation) - Located near Mexico's famous diving spot, Manchones Reef, you'll find a collection of over 400 underwater statues that comprise one of the world's most unusual museums, the Cancun Underwater Museum. Despite being an artistic project, the park has conservation at is core. In addition to being a tourist attraction, the statues double as a conservation effort by drawing divers and snorkelers away from the Mesoamerican Reef, the second-largest barrier reef system in the world. The sculptures end up as homes for corals, sponges and other marine life.

August 28, 2012

Climate Change part 2

What is causing climate change?

The Greenhouse Effect:

The Earth receives most of its energy from the sun in the form of short wave radiation. Much of this incoming solar radiation passes through the atmosphere to reach the Earth's surface. The Earth absorbs some of this energy and radiates the remainder back into the atmosphere in the form of infrared radiation.

The outgoing infrared radiation has a longer wavelength than incoming solar radiation. This allows it to be absorbed by certain gases in the atmosphere. The main gases that absorb infrared radiation are carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O) and haloflourocarbons (HFCs).

These gases trap some of the infrared radiation and re-radiate it back to the earth's surface as heat, causing a warming effect known as the "greenhouse effect."

the greenhouse effect is necessary to life on earth as we know it; without it, the earth's surface would be about 35° C cooler on average.

While the greenhouse effect is necessary to maintain the earth's climate, it is possible to have too much of a good thing. For over the past 200 years, the burning of fossil fuels and destruction of forests has caused the concentrations of heat-trapping greenhouse gases to increase significantly in our atmosphere.

With more gases in the atmosphere, more radiation is absorbed and re-radiated back to earth. Scientists call this the enhanced greenhouse effect.

Claire Parkinson at Earthsky.org

As the concentrations of these gases continue to increase in the atmosphere, the earth's temperature rapidly climbs.

In the 20th Century, global temperatures have increased by 0.7° C (1.3° F). If concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere continue to increase, the average temperature at the Earth's surface could increase from 1.8 to 4°C (3 to 7°F) above 2000 temperature levels by the end of this century.

In the past, the planet has gone through cycles of warming and cooling, but the changes seen today are occurring much more rapidly than during a natural cycle.

More on this series:

Climate Change part 1 - What is climate change?

Help Stop Soot Pollution

(Rainforest Action Network) - The EPA has proposed stronger air quality standards to control soot pollution, which would protect the environment, improve public health, and save billions of dollars in health care costs.
But of course, industries that dump soot pollution into our air are pushing back against these standards. For them, it's all about the bottom line, public health and the environment be damned.

Thought you might want to sign this petition urging the EPA to adopt stronger air quality standards to reign in soot pollution.

August 27, 2012

Bats and Plants Living in Harmony

A Hardwicke’s woolly bat settles into a pitcher plant. Photo by Michael Schöner
(Bat Conservation International) - The "pitcher" of pitcher plants is a death trap for insects and other small invertebrates. These vine-like plants of the genus Nepenthes grow in the nutrient-poor soils of peat-swamp forests. To compensate for the lack of nutrients, the plants developed trapping structures shaped like pitchers and partly filled with liquid. When small creatures fall into the trap, they drown in the liquid and are digested by enzymes produced by the plant. So what are bats doing roosting in these lethal pitchers?
Professor Ulmar Grafe at the University of Würzburg in Germany discovered that Hardwicke's woolly bats were regularly roosting in pitcher plants in Brunei (on the tropical island of Borneo). Grafe wanted to investigate that peculiar relationship and invited students Caroline and Michael Schöner to join his team.

The researchers traveled to Brunei and quickly found Hardwicke's woolly bats roosting in pitchers. They attached miniature radio-tracking transmitters to the backs of all captured bats and followed each bat for up to 12 days through the dense, swampy jungle. The Schöners said they were astonished to find that all the woolly bats in the study area roosted only in pitchers of Nepenthes hemsleyana plants. Each bat was settled in, head first, above the digestive fluid in a well-defined region – a girdle-like structure below which the pitcher tapers significantly. The bats fit so perfectly that they don't even use their feet to hold on the pitchers' walls.

Unlike other Nepenthes species, the digestive fluid inside the Nepenthes hemsleyana pitchers is limited to the lowest part of the cone, so the bats never contact it. Normally these bats roost alone, but some pitchers provide enough space for a mother with its pup.

While roosting in the pitchers, bats can hardly be seen from the outside, the students report. Thus, the pitchers provide a secure roost that helps bats avoid detection by predators. All things considered, pitcher plants seem well adapted for the bats. But what's in it for the plant?

Previous studies had found that Nepenthes hemsleyana captures seven times less prey than other, closely related species. Perhaps bat feces serves as a kind of fertilizer that compensates for the lack of nutrients. To test this hypothesis, the team collected tissue samples of plants that had been occupied by bats and compared their nitrogen content to pitcher plants that did not host bats. They found that plants used by bats gained more than 33 percent of their nitrogen from bat droppings. "We now have strong evidence that the relationship between pitcher plants and woolly bats demonstrates a mutualism that benefits both partner species," the Schöners said.

The research continues as the Schöners work toward doctoral degrees at the University of Greifswald. "We hope to learn whether Hardwicke's woolly bats and N. hemsleyana plants have co-evolutionary adaptations for one another, and exactly what each partner gains from this relationship – and what price each pays for it," they said.

August 26, 2012

Climate Change part 1

For those of you who would like a more clear understanding of the facts - or you know someone who needs to be convinced - I've put together this series about climate change basics. My attempt is for this to be interesting to read for all ages while including facts and links to more official evidence.

What is Climate Change?

Climate change is any significant change in measures of climate (such as temperature or precipitation) lasting for an extended period of time (typically decades).

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) further defines climate change as "a change of climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere."

Scientists around the world have stated that climate change is real and it is happening now. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) a group of thousands of scientists convened by the United Nations, issued the following statements in their Nobel Prize-winning 2007 report:

"Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global average sea level."

A look at some of the most significant signs that climate change is occurring:
  • Increasing global temperatures - Average global temperature has increased 0.74degreesCsince 1850; 11 of the last 12 years have been the warmest on record since 1850.
  • Changes in precipitation patterns - Precipitation has increased in the eastern regions of North and South America, Northern Europe, and Northern and Central Asia, but has decreased in the Sahel, the Mediterranean, Southern Africa, and parts of Southern Asia.
  • More extreme weather events - More intense storms, droughts, heat waves, and rains occur more frequently.
  • Rising sea levels - Sea levels are rising due to thermal expansion and melting glaciers and ice caps. Average global sea levels have risen 17 cm during the 20th century and may rise 28-58 cm by 2100.
  • Decreasing snow cover and melting glaciers -
Mt. Kilimanjaro in February 1993 (top) and again in February 2000 (bottom)
  • Warming poles and loss of sea ice - Arctic sea loss: greater than land area of Texas, California, and Maryland combined. Watch the ice decline on Nasa's Satellites.
  • Warming and acidification of oceans - Ocean temperatures have increased around the world which leads to coral bleaching. Additionally, increased CO2 uptake by oceans leads to acidification which further impacts marine animals.
  • Changes in ecosystems - Early timing of spring events, poleward and upward shifts in plant and animal communities, loss of polar and montane habitats. 
More on this series:

August 25, 2012

Brazil's Indigenous vs. Belo Monte Dam

I just sent a letter to Minister Carlos Ayres Britto, Chief Justice of the Brazilian Supreme Court, in support of the rights of the indigenous people of the Xingu who are fighting for their survival in the face of the monstrous Belo Monte Dam. I asked him to uphold the landmark decision of the regional court on August 14th that overturned approval of the license to build Belo Monte.

Please watch this moving video and then join me in taking action right away:

Visit International Rivers to understand more.

August 20, 2012

Wyoming Attempts to Exterminate Wolves

EarthJustice - The anti-wolf crowd in Wyoming has this irrational fear of wolves, and no amount of evidence can calm them. These are the folks who want to turn back the clock to the Wild West days where they could kill every wolf they see – and, unfortunately, the Interior Department is going to let them do just that in most of the state.
It’s hard to believe that, in this day and age, recklessly killing wolf pups would be encouraged by a state government, but that is what we are facing. The state of Wyoming is openly discussing taking dogs from a dog pound to the backcountry, staking them dead or alive until wolves arrive, and then killing the wolves on sight. The sad part is that this would be perfectly legal in most of the state.

After we wiped wolves out in the western United States, they were listed as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act. Wolves were the missing link in Yellowstone. Without wolves, elk became too abundant and overgrazed grasses and shrubs. With wolves back, everything from ground squirrels to songbirds have been positively affected and we now have a fully functioning ecosystem.

I am fighting so that wolves will survive and prosper, and so that Yellowstone and other special places will have wolves on the ground for centuries to come. (See how you can help.) I want to ensure that, in the future, my grandchildren and people from around the world can go to Yellowstone and see nature as it existed for centuries.

Once you hear the call of a wolf in the wild, you are hooked. They remind us what wilderness is all about; they teach us about the natural world. I want future generations to be able to hear a wolf howl in the wild, and learn the importance of protecting these special creatures.


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