29 June 2013

Bee Minus

At least 50,000 bumblebees were killed in less than a week in a single Oregon parking lot. They died just because someone wanted to get rid of some aphids.

According to this article from The Xerces Society, which advocates for the conservation of invertebrates, an insecticide was applied to some non-native, flowering trees in a Target parking lot because the aphids were dripping a sticky substance. After the poison was applied (it is illegal to apply it when plants are in bloom), bees, not sticky aphid residue, began falling from the trees. And they just kept falling.

The Xerces Society is providing ways people can help, and it is also joining scientists in calling for bans on the cosmetic use of insecticides.

How ridiculous have we become? We indiscriminately throw around toxins to stop stickiness from trees that we introduce to habits. At every turn of this story (right up until it sped off the cliff), we see examples of humans' blindness to their impact on the environment. Such negligence gives us a failing grade in our responsibilities to the environment and should be treated as a criminal act.

27 June 2013

It's a Gas

We have reached a point where water on fire isn't surprising.

In 2010, Gasland, a documentary about the environmental and health impacts of fracking, showed us how new methods of natural-gas extraction are poisoning water supplies. Despite those revelations, fracking has increased since then.

Now, Gasland Part II, which premiers on HBO July 8 at 9 p.m., tries to explain why the concerns about fracking have made little impact on lawmakers. Watch below to check out a clip of the filmmaker being interviewed on The Daily Show last night:

The main focus of the film is the influence the natural-gas lobby has on elected officials and how that influence trumps the environment and the voice of people whose health is put at risk by fracking.

In the first Gasland film, seeing people's water catch on fire was shocking, but the current political situation makes it more likely that flammable water will become the norm.

25 June 2013

Deep Impacts

Trash may leave our homes, but that doesn't mean it goes away.

A video from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute gives new insight into the far reach of human actions on the environment by revealing the trash on the ocean floor. Watch it below:

Chances are pretty good that something each of us once bought and owned now lies at the bottom of the ocean (or floats on the surface). That will be part of our legacy.

Instead of going, going, gone, our trash just keeps going.

16 June 2013


Most films have to create a buzz to draw an audience, but a recent documentary looks at an issue that people are already buzzing about.

More Than Honey examines the worldwide phenomenon of honeybee die-offs and the major implications they have for humans. To view the trailer and learn more about the film, click here.

The honeybee deaths force us to consider our connection with the environment. Pesticides have been identified as a major factor in the die-offs, and the possible extinction of bees threatens our food sources. In other words, we're deeply entwined at all levels of this issue.

By contributing to the buzz around the bee deaths, More Than Honey helps us explore this vital connection.

15 June 2013

Sound Buy

Bird sounds have something special about them.

Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, one of the works that helped propel the modern environmental movement, took its name from the unnerving quiet that came from DDT's devastating impact on bird populations. An art exhibit in Sydney, Australia, plays the songs of birds that used to inhabit the city. Then, on a personal level, the song or call of a species I am familiar with is enough to give me a smile.

Bird sounds are also important for identification purposes, and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology has a great collection of songs and calls from North American species. The lab is now making the complete set available for purchase as MP3 files. A smaller, less expensive collection is also available. Both can be purchased for a limited time at a discounted rate. For more information, check out this entry from the lab's Round Robin blog.

Bird sounds occupy an important place in our world, and getting to know them makes their impact all the more meaningful.

14 June 2013

A Truly Smart Phone

My cell phone is eight years old. In other words, it's from a time before smartphones were all the rage.

I don't like to buy a lot of stuff, and despite all the cool gadgets on smartphones, I have thought the smartest thing to do was stick with my old phone. After all, I really didn't need what a smartphone could give me. In addition, smartphones seem to be another piece of technology that requires, either through software or hardware updates, constant replacement.

Admittedly, smartphones do provide some benefits and can actually eliminate the need for other devices, so if they could be made to last with easy fixing and updating, they might become truly smart options.

FairPhone is a new idea that is taking steps in the right direction. Watch the video below:

Fairphone: Buy a phone, start a movement from Fairphone on Vimeo.

I like that FairPhone is working to put consumers back in control of their stuff. The company is also addressing concerns about resource use, pollution, fair trade, and the entire life of a product. Importantly, the phones are made to be opened up and fixed. For instance, an owner can easily replace the battery when it dies. For more information, visit the company's Web site.

It would be great if the company applied its approach to other devices (like computers) as well.

Hopefully, FairPhone is successful. Maybe it'll be the option I turn to when it's finally time to replace my current phone.