If you came looking for Apple Guardians, you found it! Only the site name has changed. All else stays the same. Welcome back.

May 22, 2013

New research: Trash and Nesting Sea Turtles

Every spring, mother sea turtles come ashore under the cloak of darkness to lay their eggs on the sandy beaches of North Carolina. And every morning, volunteers look for signs of these nesting sites so they can help monitor and protect them.

Yet on most of these sunrise beach walks, volunteers find more trash on the beach than sea turtle tracks.

It’s alarming, but not surprising, considering that more than 10 million pounds of trash were removed from our ocean and waterways during the 2012 International Coastal Cleanup.

While many man-made obstacles – from coastal development and artificial lighting to fishing and hunting – threaten sea turtles, trash is one threat that travels great distances and is present both on land and in the ocean. It is also entirely preventable.


By studying dead and stranded sea turtles, we’ve learned that they sometimes eat trash in the water – especially items like plastic grocery bags, which can resemble their favorite food: jellyfish. But we don’t know much about how sea turtles interact with trash while coming ashore to nest.

The Ocean Conservancy and the Wrightsville Beach Sea TurtleProject is piloting a new initiative that will put a cleanup data form in the hand of every volunteer monitoring the beach for sea turtle nests. The data they collect will tell about the kinds of items they picked up and, eventually, which stretches of beach are most likely to have trash items that could affect the health of the sea turtles that nest there.

While I’m excited about this project, I also know that simply cleaning up trash isn’t enough. In addition to endangering baby sea turtles on their way back to sea, ocean trash is a threat to our economy and our health. And unless we change our habits, it’s here to stay.

Ocean Conservancy

May 21, 2013

Koch Brothers to Attack Democracy

After spending millions distorting the truth about climate change, buying elections and using the tea party as a political tool, the Koch Brothers are preparing for their next big move: Purchasing the Tribune Company, which runs newspapers across the country.

Over the past decade, the Koch Brothers have funded an army of shadowy organizations and pseudoscientists to drag climate science though the mud. While 97% of scientists agree climate change is real and we are causing it, the Koch brothers have used their billions to fund scientists from the other 3%.

Imagine the havoc they could wreak on public opinion regarding environmental, labor and social issues if they controlled the papers they are after.

This fight against the Koch brothers goes beyond the Tribune Company’s newspapers. To end Arctic drilling, coal mining, overfishing and deforestation, we need journalism that isn’t distorted by corporate power.

And it’s not just about public opinion. It’s about democracy. When people are purposefully misled it undermines the conditions necessary for a healthy democracy to exist.

May 20, 2013

Keystone XL Cover Up

In March, the State Department issued its environmental review of the dirty, dangerous Keystone XL pipeline. Ignoring the many studies which show that building the pipeline will accelerate climate change and endanger communities along its route, the State Department came to the outrageous conclusion that the pipeline will have minimal environmental impacts.

But it has now been revealed that the firm hired by the State Department to write this flawed review is a dues-paying member of Big Oil’s mouthpiece in Washington, the American Petroleum Institute. And, many of the sub-contractors hired by the firm to do the Keystone review have deep ties to the oil industry.

No wonder that the administration’s own Environmental Protection Agency has criticized the State Department’s report.

The fact that the State Department ignored its own guidance and allowed a dues-paying member of the American Petroleum Institute to write the environmental review of the Keystone is scandalous enough. But making matters worse, State Department employees were actively involved in an attempt to cover up this firm’s ties to Big Oil.

Thanks to some intrepid reporting from Mother Jones, we know that someone in the State Department redacted the official disclosure forms that would have revealed these ties.

The stakes in this fight couldn’t be higher. We simply cannot allow the administration to decide whether to approve the Keystone XL pipeline based on a flawed environmental report written by Big Oil.

Friends of the Earth

May 18, 2013

Ways You Help Wetlands

Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge
Nearly 75% of all wetlands are privately owned, making it imperative that the public participate in wetland management and protection. Here are some things you can do:
  • Conserve and restore wetlands on your property.
  • Support local wetlands and watershed protection initiatives by donating materials, time, or money.
  • Work with your local municipalities and state to develop laws and ordinances that protect and restore wetlands.
  • Purchase federal duck stamps from your local post office to support wetland acquisition.
  • Participate in the Clean Water Act Section 404 program and state regulatory programs by reviewing public notices and commenting on applications.
  • Encourage neighbors and developers to protect the function and value of wetlands in your watershed.
  • Avoid wetland alteration or degradation during project construction.
  • Maintain wetlands and adjacent buffer strips as open space.
  • Reduce the amount of fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides applied to lawns and gardens.
"He who knows what sweets and virtues are in the ground, the waters, the plants, the heavens, and how to come at these enchantments, is the rich and royal man."

May 17, 2013

What is Destroying Our Wetlands?

Atchafalaya Basin
Human activities cause wetland degradation and loss by changing water quality, quantity, and flow rates; increasing pollutant inputs; and changing species composition as a result of disturbance and the introduction of nonnative species. Common human activities that cause degradation include the following:
Hydrological Alterations.
A wetland's characteristics evolve when hydrological conditions cause the water table to saturate or inundate the soil for a certain amount of time each year. Any change in hydrology can significantly alter the soil chemistry and plant and animal communities. Common hydrological alterations in wetland areas include:
  • Deposition of fill material for development.
  • Drainage for development, farming, and mosquito control.
  • Dredging and stream channelization for navigation, development, and flood control.
  • Diking and damming to form ponds and lakes.
  • Diversion of flow to or from wetlands.
  • Addition of impervious surfaces in the watershed, thereby increasing water and pollutant runoff into wetlands.
Pollution Inputs.
Although wetlands are capable of absorbing pollutants from the surface water, there is limit to their capacity to do so. The primary pollutants causing wetland degradation are sediment, fertilizer, human sewage, animal waste, road salts, pesticides, heavy metals, and selenium. Pollutants can originate from many sources, including:
  • Runoff from urban, agricultural, silvicultural, and mining areas.
  • Air pollution from cars, factories, and power plants.
  • Old landfills and dumps that leak toxic substances.
  • Marinas, where boats increase turbidity and release pollutants.
Vegetation Damage.
Wetland plants are susceptible to degradation if subjected to hydrological changes and pollution inputs. Other activities that can impair wetland vegetation include:
  • Grazing by domestic animals.
  • Introduction of nonnative plants that compete with natives.
  • Removal of vegetation for peat mining.
"It is a curious situation that the sea, from which life first arose should now be threatened by the activities of one form of that life. But the sea, though changed in a sinister way, will continue to exist; the threat is rather to life itself."

May 16, 2013

The Status of Our Wetlands

Axe Lake Swamp State Nature Preserve
The National Audubon Society notes that bird populations continue to decrease as wetlands are destroyed. In the past 15 years alone, the continental duck breeding population fell from 45 million to 31 million birds, a decline of 31%. The number of birds migrating over the Gulf of Mexico, which rely on coastal wetlands as staging areas (especially in Louisiana and Mississippi), has decreased by one-half since the mid 1960s. Approximately 100 million wetland acres remain in the 48 contiguous states, but they continue to be lost at a rate of about 60,000 acres annually. Draining wetlands for agricultural purposes is significant, but declining, while development pressure is emerging as the largest cause of wetland loss. Unfortunately, many remaining wetlands are in poor condition and many created wetlands fail to replace the diverse plant and animal communities of those destroyed.
When a wetland functions properly, it provides water quality protection, fish and wildlife habitat, natural floodwater storage, and reduction in the erosive potential of surface water. A degraded wetland is less able to effectively perform these functions. For this reason, wetland degradation is as big a problem as outright wetland loss, though often more difficult to identify and quantify.
"We have forgotten how to be good guests, how to walk lightly on the earth as its other creatures do."

May 13, 2013

Commercial Benefits of Wetlands

Cheyenne Bottoms
Many industries, including the fishing industry, derive benefits or produce products dependent on wetlands. Part of this economic value lies in the variety of commercial products they provide, such as food and energy sources. Rice can be grown in a wetland during part of the year, and the same area can serve as a wildlife habitat for the rest of the year. Some wetland plant species, such as wild rice and various reeds, can be harvested for - or used to - produce specialty foods, medicines, cosmetics and decorative items. In many coastal and river delta wetlands, haying of wetland vegetation is important to livestock producers. In Europe, reed-growing for building materials is undergoing a revival in some countries as people realize the full potential of reeds as a roofing material. Aesthetically pleasing, thatched roofs are superior insulators to conventional tile roofs, and they have a life span of 25-40 years.
Wetlands also provide employment opportunities, including such positions as surveyor or park ranger. The production of raw materials from wetlands provides jobs to those employed in the commercial fishing, specialty food and cosmetic industries. These are billion dollar industries that depend on our wetlands to flourish.
In addition to the many ways wetlands provide economic benefits, they offer numerous less tangible benefits as well. These include providing aesthetic value to residential communities, reducing stream-bank erosion and providing educational opportunities as an ideal "outdoor classroom." By nearly any measure used, it pays to save wetlands.
"There must be a reason why some people can afford to live well. They must have worked for it. I only feel angry when I see waste. When I see people throwing away things we could use."

Wildlife Habitat in a Wetland

Long Lake
Diverse species of mammals, plants, insects, amphibians, reptiles, birds and fish rely on wetlands for food, habitat or shelter. Wetlands are some of the most biologically productive natural ecosystems in the world, comparable to tropical rain forests or coral reefs in the number and variety of species they support. Although wetlands make up only about 5% of the land area of the lower 48 states, more than one-third of threatened and endangered species live only in wetlands. An additional 20% of the country's threatened and endangered species use or inhabit wetlands at some time in their life. Some species must have a wetland in order to reproduce. Migrating waterfowl rely on wetlands for resting, eating and breeding areas, leading to increased populations.
"Away, away, from men and towns,
To the wild wood and the downs,
To the silent wilderness,
Where the soul need not repress
It's music."

May 12, 2013

Reconstructing a Wetland

Cache River
Because natural wetlands are so effective at removing pollutants from water that flows through them, engineers and scientists construct systems that replicate some of the functions of natural wetlands. These constructed treatment wetlands use natural processes involving wetland vegetation, soils and their associated microbial life to improve water quality. They are often less expensive to build than traditional waste-water and storm-water treatment options, have low operating and maintenance expenses and can handle fluctuating water levels. For example, in 1990 city managers in Phoenix, Arizona, needed to improve the performance of a waste-water treatment plant to meet new state water quality standards. After learning that upgrading the plant might cost as much as $635 million, the managers started to look for a more cost-effective way to provide final treatment to the plant's waste-water discharge into the Salt River. A preliminary study suggested that a constructed wetland system would sufficiently clean the discharged water while supporting high-quality wetland habitat for birds, including endangered species, and protecting downstream residents from flooding. All these benefits would be achieved at a lower cost than retrofitting the existing treatment plant. As a result, the 12-acre Tres Rios Demonstration Project began in 1993 with assistance from the Corps of Engineers, the Bureau of Reclamation and EPA's Environmental Technology Initiative and now receives about two million gallons of waste-water per day. This project is still flourishing, serving as a home for thousands of birds and other wildlife. There are hundreds of waste-water treatment wetlands operating in United States today.
"To halt the decline of an ecosystem, it is necessary to think like an ecosystem."

May 11, 2013

Wetlands and Flood Control

Grays Lake
Flood damages in the U.S. average $2 billion each year, causing significant loss of life and property. Wetlands can play a role in reducing the frequency and intensity of floods by acting as natural buffers, soaking up and storing a significant amount of floodwater A wetland can typically store about three acre-feet of water, or one million gallons. An acre-foot is one acre of land, about three-quarters the size of a football field, covered one foot deep in water. Three acre-feet describes the same area of land covered by three feet of water. Coastal wetlands serve as storm surge protectors when hurricanes or tropical storms come ashore. In the Gulf coast area, barrier islands, shoals, marshes, forested wetlands and other features of the coastal landscape can provide a significant and potentially sustainable buffer from wind wave action and storm surge generated by tropical storms and hurricanes. After peak flood flows have passed, wetlands slowly release the stored waters reducing property damage downstream or inland. One reason floods have become more costly is that over half of the wetlands in the United States have been drained or filled. The loss of more than 64 million acres of wetlands in the Upper Mississippi Basin since the 1780s contributed to high flood waters during the great floods of 1927, 1993 and 2011 that caused billions of dollars in damages and the loss of hundreds of lives. Additionally, the damage sustained by the Gulf Coast during Hurricane Katrina could have been less severe if more wetlands along the coast and Mississippi delta had been in place.
"If  there is magic on the planet, it is contained in water."

Wetlands and the Quality of Drinking Water

Alakai Wilderness Preserve
 Wetlands improve water quality in nearby rivers and streams, and thus have considerable value as filters for future drinking water. When water enters a wetland, it slows down and moves around wetland plants. Much of the suspended sediment drops out and settles to the wetland floor. Plant roots and microorganisms on plant stems and in the soil absorb excess nutrients in the water from fertilizers, manure, leaking septic tanks and municipal sewage. While a certain level of nutrients is necessary in water ecosystems, excess nutrients can cause algae growth that's harmful to fish and other aquatic life. A wetland's natural filtration process can remove excess nutrients before water leaves a wetland, making it healthier for drinking, swimming and supporting plants and animals. For example, a single swamp removes a quantity of pollutants from the watershed equivalent to that which would be removed by a $5 million treatment plant.
"When the well's dry, we know the worth of water."

May 8, 2013

Wetland Facts

Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge
Did you know?
In 1991 wetland-related ecotourism activities such as hunting, fishing, bird-watching, and photography added approximately $59 billion to the national economy.
According to the Pacific Coast Federation of Fisherman's Associations, almost $79 billion per year is generated from wetland-dependent species, or about 71% of the nation's entire $111 billion commercial and recreational fishing industry in 1997.
An acre of wetland can store 1-1.5 million gallons of floodwater.
Up to one-half of North American bird species nest or feed in wetlands.
Although wetlands keep only about 5% of the land surface in the conterminous United States, they are home to 31% of our plant species.
"A healthy ecology is the basis for a healthy economy."

May 7, 2013

Biological Productivity of Wetlands

Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge
Wetlands are some of the most biological productive natural ecosystems in the world, comparable to tropical rain forests and coral reefs in their productivity and the diversity of species they support. Abundant vegetation and shallow water provide diverse habitats for fish and wildlife. Aquatic plant life flourishes in the nutrient-rich environment, and energy converted by the plants is passed up the food chain to fish, waterfowl, and other wildlife and to us as well. This function supports valuable commercial fish and shellfish industries.
"In nature we never see anything isolated, but everything in connection with something else which is before it, beside it and over it."

Wetlands and Water Filtration

Bayou Bartholomew
After being slowed by a wetland, water moves around plants, allowing the suspended sediment to drop out and settle to the wetland floor. Nutrients from fertilizer application, manure, leaking septic tanks, and municipal sewage that are dissolved in the water are often absorbed by plant roots and microorganisms in the soil. Other pollutants stick to soil particles. In many cases, this filtration process removes much of the water's nutrient and pollutant load by the time it leaves a wetland. Some types of wetlands are so good at this filtration function that environmental managers construct similar artificial wetlands to treat storm water and waste water.
"For many of us, water simply flows from a faucet, and we think little about it beyond this point of contact. We have lost a sense of respect for the wild river, for the complex workings of a wetland, for the intricate web of life that water supports."

May 6, 2013

Wetlands and Water Storage

Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve
Wetlands function like natural tubs or sponges, storing water and slowly releasing it. This process slows the water's momentum and erosive potential, reduces flood heights, and allows for ground water recharge, which contributes to base flow to surface water systems during dry periods. Although a small wetland might not store much water, a network of many small wetlands can store an enormous amount of water. The ability of wetlands to store floodwaters reduces the risk of costly property damage and loss of life - benefits that have economic value to us.
"Allowing the large fraction of wetlands in New Orleans to disappear is an extremely expensive thing."

May 5, 2013

Wetland Functions vs. Wetland Values

Ballona Wetlands
Wetland functions include water quality improvement, floodwater storage, fish and wildlife habitat, aesthetics, and biological productivity. The value of a wetland is an estimate of the importance or worth of one or more of its functions to society. For example, a value can be determined by the revenue generated from the sale of fish that depend on the wetland, by the tourist dollars associated with the wetland, or by public support for protecting fish and wildlife.
Although large-scale benefits of functions can be valued, determining the value of individual wetlands is difficult because they differ widely and do not all perform the same functions or perform functions equally well.
"I want to make sure we do all we can to make sure the wetlands are preserved."

May 4, 2013

Why Celebrate Wetlands?

Koyukuk National Wildlife Refuge
Wetlands are among the most valuable but least understood of all natural resources. They provide rich habitat for wildlife. They are places in which many animals and birds build nests and raise their young. migrating birds stop over in wetlands to rest and to feed. We celebrate wetlands each May when they are teeming with new animal and plant life.

Wetlands benefit our communities as well. They replenish and clean water supplies and reduce flood risks, provide recreational opportunities and aesthetic benefits. They serve as sites for scientific research and education, and benefit commercial fishing.

Unfortunately wetlands have been misunderstood for many years, often viewed as wastelands to be drained and converted to other uses. But if wetlands disappear, water will not be as clean, fish and bird populations will suffer and the frequency and severity of floods will increase. Americans have begun to recognize the value of wetlands, and the rate of loss has declined dramatically over the last 30 years. It is important that we continue to stop the loss of wetlands and begin to achieve a net gain through better management and restoration.

"The natural pattern of flooding supplies nutrients and sediment to wetland areas, keeping them as kind of a buffer and a natural absorber when a really big storm hits."

April 23, 2013

Nature Walk to Relieve Stress

A walk in nature can give you the small dose of wilderness you need to refresh your spirit.

Whether you see nature walks as a time for introspection or a chance to learn about wildlife, make the most of your stroll into wilderness.

Nature walk your way to sanity.

Does a hectic life leave you distracted or anxious? Nature walks are a great way to soothe your mind.

The best way to enjoy nature walks is to take your time. An ideal pace lets you appreciate nature's tranquility and subtle gifts while still getting some exercise.

Walking in the woods can actually increase your ability to focus and concentrate.

Try these tips for tuning out chatter:
  • Listen closely to birds and insects, the wind moving past different leaves, and the sounds of earth underfoot.
  • Go alone or remain silent. Talking makes it difficult to tune in to nature.
  • Draw all your senses to one thing - a tree, a flower, a rock. Pay attention to how it looks, smells and feels.
Find out more benefits of nature walking.

April 22, 2013

We Should All Go Outside and Play!

Don't let ours be the last generation to love wild places!

Take the pledge to go outside and play!

More than ever, children and adults are loosing touch with wilderness. Yet, we know that interactions with nature are one of the most powerful factors in molding future conservationists.

Video: Richard Louv from the Children and Nature Network and author of the book Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder explains why getting outdoors is important.

Make your pledge to go outside and play and bring friends and family with you.

April 21, 2013

Ten Apps for the Environment

"Mobile Technology, specifically smart phone apps, may spark the next wave of environmental engagement" according to GfK, the organization that conducts the Green Gauge US Survey (see their article, Earth Day Goes Digital). The article continues with more good news: "According to data from our most recent Green Gauge US Survey, 29% of smart phone users have used an app in the past year to help reduce their impact on the environment. "We suspected that green apps were being used and now there are numbers to confirm it."

Here's my list of suggested environmental apps:

1. JouleBug is a social, mobile game that rewards players for reducing energy waste.
2. Avego Driver will offer your empty seats to other people along your route in real time and share the cost of the journey between you and each rider, saving everyone time and money.
3. GasHog allows you to enter the odometer reading and the amount of fuel added every time you add fuel, and it automatically calculates the fuel economy of your last tank.
4. The Meter Readings app makes it easy to monitor your household utility meters by displaying your usage, costs and savings in easy to visualize graphics.
5. The Light Bulb Finder app makes it easy to switch from incandescent to energy-efficient light bulbs.
6. The Green Gumshoe allows a user to report an environmental incident to their proper local authorities.
7. Love Food Hate Waste is a portion size planner that helps you prepare the right amount and avoid cooking too much! Reduce food waste too.
8. What's Fresh will help you to eat the freshest foods by allowing you to know anytime, anywhere what fruits and vegetables are currently in season in your area.
9. Simply pull out your phone and snap photos of the offending mail. Paperkarma will figure out what it is and how to stop it.
10. WeRecycle is a platform to facilitate communication about waste between citizens and their community.

April 20, 2013

How Many "Wrongs" Can You Find in this Post?

USFWS - "The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the Tupelo City Police are investigating the shooting of an Asian elephant in Tupelo, Mississippi, who was touring with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus. The incident occurred in the early hours of April 9, 2013 outside the Bancorp South Arena. Ringling Bros. veterinary and handling experts have examined the female elephant, Carol, and found a dime-sized point of entry on the elephant's shoulder. The elephant is active, mobile and comfortable and is being treated with medication. Carol will recuperate off the touring unit under veterinary care."

Ironically, I read this article immediately after learning about THIS.

April 19, 2013

HBO's Earth Day Documentary

Few animals hold more fascination for humans than elephants. For centuries they've been adored, inspired great works of art, and even been revered as gods, yet they have also been treated with cruelty. "An Apology to Elephants" explores the abuse of these ancient and intelligent animals and shows how some people are reversing the trend.

As a keystone species, elephants promote biodiversity, helping trees, plants and animals flourish; as highly intelligent, empathetic and social animals, they are unique and remarkable creatures. But humans have poached elephants, chained and trained them in captivity, and destroyed their natural habitats. "The first thing we need to know is that the elephants need our help," says Lily Tomlin.

"An Apology to Elephants" spotlights elephants' importance to global ecology and the environment. Known as the "gardeners of the forest," they clear large trees and branches for food, which makes way for smaller plants and animals to thrive. However, due to the ivory trade and habitat destruction, elephant species are considered either vulnerable or endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and are at risk of extinction within the next ten years. "Extinction is a part of the pattern of life on the planet, but we're amping up the rate at which extinctions occur," says paleontologist Dr. Ross MacPhee.

April 15, 2013

White Roofs to Cool the World

It could be time to get the white paint out - an American energy efficiency pioneer believes white rooftops could cool the world efficiently.

Arthur H. Rosenfeld, physicist and former Commissioner of the California Energy Commission has suggested that on a clear day, a white roof is only 5°C to 10°C warmer than the ambient air.

In contrast, a conventional dark roof can get 40°C to 50°C hotter than the outside air, he explained.

Writing in the International Energy Agency's journal, Rosenfeld said: "My latest obsession is a campaign for white roofs in climates where summers are uncomfortably hot. White roofs not only reduce energy bills and dampen the urban heat island effect, but they also cool the world."

April 14, 2013

How to Talk about the Environment

If you follow environmental issues closely, you may often feel the urge to share your knowledge with those around you for the sake of the common good. You think: "if only Gina and Joe knew about the Sargasso Sea of plastic trash in the Pacific, they'd stop buying bottled water." Or: "tomorrow's the last day for public comments on fracking. I'd better get the word out."

In theory, educating family and friends about these issues is a great idea. In practice, it's a hard trick to pull off.

If you've tried it, you know. Your lessons rarely go over as well as you'd hoped. Inexplicably, your friends yawn and change the subject or argue the points. However they react, the upshot is the same: no conversions to the cause.

At least, that's often been my experience.

There's is a simple reason, and we all know what it is. Outside the classroom, people don't like being lectured to. Even less do they like being told how to live, except perhaps by real preachers, and then only on the Sabbath. At worst, they're offended; at best, they write us off ("There's Amanda going on about the environment again...")

So how can we get our message across more effectively to our family and friends?

We begin by being mindful of the nature of these relationships. Our nearest and dearest are not potential recruits, but people who trust and care for us. To speak to them otherwise, even in the service of a good cause, would distance them from us, which can't be good.

We consider each person's interests, just as we do in ordinary conversation. (None of my friends would think to talk to me about sports, nor would I bring up science fiction or fantasy to many of them.) If there's no point of connection on an environmental issue, we don't bring the subject up. If there is, we make it as relevant to the person as possible.

We avoid talking doom and gloom at get-togethers where our seriousness would be out of place. It never pays to be a killjoy.

When it comes to green practices, we talk about what we do, not about what others should do. and to the extent possible, we rely on our friends to see what we do, rather than make a point of telling them. After all, our reusable water bottle and cloth napkins don't really need commentary, nor does our habit of biking to the store. These things really do speak for themselves.

When raising a particular issue, we explain why it matters to us. Do we want to save forests because our father loved trees? We tell that story. Do we fight for clean air standards because our child has asthma? We tell that story too. Was it an essay by Thoreau that got us living more simply? A film about factory farming that made us stop eating meat? The memory of once common butterflies that have disappeared from our garden which got us campaigning for a carbon cap to reign in climate change? When we relate these stories, we dwell on our Eureka! moments, knowing they will make a greater impression than a recitation of facts alone.

Of course, we bring facts to the table too, solid ones we're sure of, but not too many at a time. People will ask if they want to know more.

If a friend disagrees with our position, we ask why and listen with an open mind, remembering there is something to be learned on both sides from every exchange.

We are not strident and we know when to stop. If we've described the issue, tied it to the person's interests, told our personal story, and got no reaction, we put the subject to bed.

But if we see a spark of interest, we fan the flame.

In the end, we let the other person decide whether he or she is interested. And we respect the person either way, just as we hope to be respected in turn.

We know there will always  be another opportunity for conversation. We keep the doors open.

Tar Sands a Possible "Game Over" for the Climate

Stopping Keystone XL is key to stopping the deadly tar sands, no matter what Big Oil and its allies say. Alternative tar sands pipelines are running into equally stiff opposition and have been delayed. TransCanada executives openly admit that without Keystone, production will be slowed. So if the tar sands don't need Keystone, why is Big Oil spending millions on lobbyists to ram it though?

The tar sands are a disaster, from start to finish. Not only are they absolutely toxic for the climate, the mining process destroys the pristine Boreal Forest and threatens Canadian First Nations.

Then, because the tar sands are so heavy and corrosive, the export pipelines are more likely to spill than conventional pipelines - we saw this several days ago when rivers of oil poured through Arkansas backyards where children usually play. Two other spills happened that same week in Canada and Texas, and the first Keystone pipeline spilled 12 times in its first year alone! The 2010 Michigan tar sands spills, which sickened children and killed family pets, still hasn't been fully cleaned up.

Ask yourself: Do you want this in your home? So you want it in your town? Do any Americans deserve to live in a community with these risky pipelines - or in a world with a threatened climate?

TransCanada executives get the profits, the rest of us get the risks.

Tar sands will not help our energy security. Keystone XL is almost assuredly an export pipeline that would send oil through America, not to America - its destination refineries export 60% of their products. Furthermore, top scientists say the tar sands are "game over" for the climate - and the pentagon has routinely identified climate change as a threat to our national security.

There are countless reasons to oppose the tar sands, one of the most extreme fuels on earth. Stopping Keystone XL will be a huge step forward in that effort.

April 8, 2013

A Proper Bird Box

If you put out a bird nest box and nobody moves in the first year, don't give up; you'll probably get takers the second nesting season. But here are four important points to consider:
  1. Make sure the nest box is made of untreated wood.
  2. Do not put a perch on it (so other birds aren't tempted to land there).
  3. Place the nest box in an area that is protected from wind, rain and full sun (chicks die if they get overheated).
  4. Make sure it doesn't contain any nesting materials (birds like to provide theri own).
Happy bird watching!

April 5, 2013

KFC reduces Rainforest Destruction

Rainforests are worth a lot more than greasy napkins and chicken buckets. And finally KFC is starting to agree.

Yum! Brands, the parent company of KFC, has officially released new policies that - if they stick - would prevent its restaurants from using throw-away paper packaging made from rainforest destruction. It's a huge shift that will affect almost 40,000 restaurants around the world.

This is a big deal for the 400 Sumatran tigers left in the Indonesian rainforest.

Only weeks ago Asia Pulp & Paper, a major rainforest destroyer, had announced its commitment to end its deforestation. Now one of the world's biggest fast food companies is taking another huge step forward to protect the world's forests, making two big breakthroughs for the forest in this year alone. With this momentum, imagine what is possible in the years ahead.

Yum! Brands also has a long way to go to phase out palm oil, which is linked to rainforest destruction. Turning a blind eye to the problems with palm oil - from pushing orangutans to extinction in Indonesia to trashing rainforests and people's rights in Africa - is not an option, especially when solutions to those problems are beginning to grow.


April 4, 2013

Don't get Sick on Vacation

Heading to the beach? Check out the beach water before you go! We Americans take almost two billion trips to the beach every year, but people who swim at the beach sometimes get sick because the water is polluted. The good news is in the state where the beach is located, you can check with the state office to find out about the beach water - before you go.

Arkansas Tar Sands Spill a Preview to Keystone XL

"Thanks" to ExxonMobil, dozens of Arkansas families were forced to spend their weekend breathing in toxic chemicals like benzene from their own backyards. 84,000 gallons of toxic tar sands crude from Exxon's latest pipeline spill poured down the street and continue to threaten Lake Conway. Officials have no idea when it will be safe for residents to return home.

Keystone XL would carry nine times more tar sands than the broken Arkansas pipeline.

Big Oil's track record speaks for itself. A similar tar sands spill happened in Michigan's Kalamazoo River in 2010, and nearly 3 years later, it still hasn't been fully cleaned up. Families faced toxic health effects for months, and some even lost their pets.

Extreme fossil fuels mean extreme risks - enormous public risk for enormous private profit. This was actually the second tar sands spill in the same week, and comes right as ExxonMobil was fined nearly $2 million for yet another 2011 spill in the Yellowstone River.

When it comes to tar sands, spills and other painful accidents aren't a matter of "if," but "when." For the residents of Mayflower, Arkansas, "when" was a holiday weekend evacuation.

Enough is enough. We can stop the tar sands by stopping new tar sands infrastructure.

Sierra Club

April 3, 2013

Plant Trees around your Home this Spring

Trees are humankind's best friends. They remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere via photosynthesis, store it as cellulose in their trunks, branches, leaves and roots, and release oxygen back into the air as a byproduct. They also cool our cities and homes and reduce energy usage. Pines and other evergreens planted on the north side of a home serve as a wind block during cold months. Deciduous trees planted on the south side provide shade in the summer but don't block out light in winter.

The Ocean in a high Carbon Dioxide World

It's easy to take for granted the many ways that the ocean keeps us alive; it sustains much of the air we breathe, the food we eat, the water we drink and the climate that surrounds us. The complex ocean systems that produce these benefits - from currents and photosynthesis to food chains - are often chaotic and unpredictable at smaller scales, but at large scales they come together in a dynamic equilibrium to ensure that life can thrive. One of the ocean's most important life-giving functions is its absorption of carbon dioxide emissions. but, we have increased the amount of carbon pollution pumped into the air, and in turn, the ocean has absorbed more and more of it. As a result the ocean's chemistry is changing.



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