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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.


April 2, 2013

U.S. Rivers and Streams in poor Condition

The news from a comprehensive national survey of river and stream health is not good: only about a fifth of the length of America's rivers and streams is in good biological condition, while 55% are in poor shape. The survey, which analyzed water samples taken in the summers of 2008 and 2009 at more than 1,900 randomly selected sites, was coordinated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Excessive nitrogen and phosphorus levels, sedimentation and denuded riverbanks were among the leading problems. Unsafe bacteria levels were found in 9% of river and stream miles, and potentially unsafe levels of mercury were detected in fish in more than 13,000 miles of rivers across the country. 

April 1, 2013

Shrinking Sea Ice may cause Colder Springs

As Northern Hemisphere temperatures remain below normal more than a week into the official start of spring, a team of meteorologists and climate scientists are pointing to recent research that suggests sea ice cover is a likely culprit. Recent imaging from the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center showed a historic minimum in Arctic ice cover last fall, and current data reveals that sea ice cover – which recently reached its maximum for the year – is at its sixth lowest extent in the satellite record. In a strange twist, less Arctic sea ice – which is caused by global warming – alters atmospheric circulation in a way that leads to more snow and ice at lower altitudes. 

Millions of Prawns wash up on Beach

  A stretch of beach more than 2 miles long in Southern Chile is being overwhelmed by millions of stranded prawns. The doomed crustacens are covering a beach 300 miles south of Santiago, creating giant "red spots" on the sand. Some say ocean currents are to blame, while others say a local, coal-fired thermoelectric plant may be the culprit.


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