30 May 2013

Going Beyond No

As a lover of ideas and the environment, one of the most frustrating things for me to hear is, "No, we can't do that."

That's why I love people who just blow past no, especially when they have the environment at heart, which brings me to Elon Musk, co-founder of Tesla Motors. Musk got fed up with major car companies finding reasons why electric cars could not work as products and started making his own, the Tesla.

Even after Tesla began making fully electric cars, people said the company would never work on a large scale. It doesn't seem like Musk and his company are paying much attention to those doubts either because Tesla is enjoying much success lately with the promise of a lot more to come.

First, Consumer Reports called the Tesla Model S the best car it's ever driver (see the video below). Then, Tesla paid off its government loan nine years ahead of schedule.

Additional great news came today with this report that Tesla (1) was expanding the availability of its charging stations and (2) intends to have a model that's half the price of the Model S by 2017. Together, these developments suggest Tesla's cars are on their way to reaching the mainstream.

For Musk, the question about electric cars was never whether they could be done successfully. It was whether they ought to be made. The former question led to a lot of no, the latter to an unequivocal yes, and once Musk realized that, he ignored anyone who told him no and simply did it.

27 May 2013

Learning on the Fly

The study of birds isn't just for ornithologists.

Because we interact with them so frequently, birds offer a lot of things to learn about our environment.

One of the best teachers about all things feathered is the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. The lab provides online courses and webinars on birds and bird-watching. Its newest offerings include webinars on waterfowl identification and tutorials for beginning birders. For more information about this online instruction, click here to read an entry from the lab's blog, Round Robin.

With resources like these, the next time a bird flies by the window might be the start of a lifelong study.

25 May 2013

Something Borrowed, Something Green

The impact nature photographs have on us cannot be denied but neither can the effect photography has on the environment.

As a photographer, I am concerned about the resources I use in getting camera equipment and storing photos. For instance, a read through this National Wildlife Federation article on improving landscape pictures reveals the variety of lenses available to photographers. Each lens uses natural resources, and as technology advances, a photographer may need to buy newer versions, magnifying the impact.

Changing our perspective on the things we have can help address the issue of photography-related consumerism. While the NWF article provides some nice tips on better landscape pictures, I think its best idea comes at the end. By introducing BorrowLenses, the writer gives photographers a chance to use the right lens at the right time without buying.

BorrowLenses rents photography and video gear. The equipment is rented through the Web site and shipped or made available at certain pick-up locations. When the rental period is over, the photographer sends the equipment back or returns it to the pick-up site. It is important to note that the company receives an A rating from the Better Business Bureau.

Photography certainly impacts the environment, but equipment sharing through companies like BorrowLenses shifts the effect from consumption to appreciation, where it belongs.

21 May 2013

Inside the Void

Nature abhors a media vacuum.

Traditional news media outlets appear ready to abandon environmental reporting. As I explained in an earlier post, despite 2012 being the hottest year on record in the United States, news media coverage of global warming decreased. That post also mentioned the decision by The New York Times to drop its division for environmental reporting.

Different new media have moved in to fill the void. One of those groups, InsideClimate News, provides reporting on energy issues and climate change.

News sources like InsideClimate News have more importance than ever because the media vacuum on environmental issues would be deafening without them.

17 May 2013

Spreading My Wings

Spring is the time for growth, so I am expanding my blogging.

For the last two years, I have tracked the bird species I've seen and identified. I did this using electronic presentation slides. However, I decided that I could turn the experiences into a blog, so a few days ago, I created envirofinn birds, which I will use to reflect on and record the bird species I've seen in my life.

The blog will, of course, be about the birds, sharing information about them and using labels to describe where I've seen them and at what time of year. Another label will identify whether the species is a native of Washington state. However, because the entries are about my experiences with the bird, they are also about me.

I won't neglect my original blog, but I am excited for this new idea to take flight. It's a topic of particular interest to me, and I was able to play with one of the new, dynamic blog templates.

14 May 2013

Traveling Show of Resistance

What's legal is not always right, and what's illegal is not necessarily wrong.

The case of Tim DeChristopher, who was arrested and jailed after protecting thousands of acres of public land, is one of those stories where the good guy must become an outlaw. DeChristopher effectively sabotaged an auction for oil and gas leases by bidding $1.7 million to protect 22,000 acres of land. Bidder 70, a recent documentary that has been traveling the country, tells the story.

Watch the trailer below:

Bidder 70 - Trailer from Gage & Gage Productions on Vimeo.

For more information about DeChristopher, Bidder 70, and where to see the film, click here.

10 May 2013

Hitting 400

Hitting .400 in baseball is cause for celebration, but when it comes to carbon in the atmosphere, hitting 400 parts per million (ppm) signals problems in our relationship with the environment.

As this news article reports, on May 9, we reached 400 ppm for the first time in human history.

Baseball's .400 is significant because of its rarity. In fact, no Major League Baseball player has hit .400 in 72 years. By comparison, the planet has not hit 400 ppm in about four million years.

Human activity continues to release tons of carbon into the atmosphere, and that carbon makes the planet warmer. One way or the other, our relationship with the environment will change. Either we make the alterations necessary stop our carbon emissions, or we prepare for a much hotter existence filled with growing weather and health challenges.

05 May 2013

Time for Organics

Organic food may not be as trendy as it was a couple of years ago, luckily.

More than a trend, organic farming appears to have enough demand to sustain the industry even if individual organic farmers are subject to the same fluctuation in fortune as regular farmers. This news story provides insight into the world of organic farming in Washington state.

What stood out most to me in the article is that organics are no longer a novelty--the story is less about introducing the reader to them and more about checking in on their current state. That's encouraging. Another positive sign is that prices for organic produce are dropping. This suggests that more people are buying organics and that more people will have the chance to do so.

If you haven't made the switch to organic yet, now might be a good time to get your feet wet. You can start slowly by identifying the fruits and vegetables that are exposed to the most pesticides through regular farming. The Environmental Working Group ranks produce by pesticide content, a list topped by apples.

With the EWG list to acquaint you, organic produce might just become an old friend in no time.

03 May 2013

Count Earth In

With the need to have an online presence increasing, Earth has decided to join cyberspace.

Social media are about having mediated relationships that are personal and in the moment, and now, people can get daily reports about the rising amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the planet's atmosphere.

A Twitter account called @Keeling_Curve (named for the man who helped begin the process of measuring CO2 levels) provides daily tweets that track atmospheric CO2. It's as if our planet is keeping us up to date on its life.

Perhaps a trip through cyberspace will bring the environment closer to us.