30 August 2013

Bee There

Think of a bee nest.

Did you picture a small hole in a piece of wood? I would guess you didn't. Most people would probably think of a honeybee hive or a paper nest made by hornets. However, not all bees choose such showy places to live.

Mason bees like to use the holes left in wood by other insects for their homes. They're kind of the apartment dwellers of the bee world, and they're quiet tenants, preferring to keep to themselves and very rarely stinging.

Their unique choice of living quarters also makes them easy to attract to a yard. People can provide mason bees with homes by drilling holes in a piece of wood and hanging it with a southern exposure. For more details about how to make a mason bee house, check out this article from the National Wildlife Federation.

We most likely have mixed feelings about getting bees as close neighbors, but then again, we usually don't think of bees living the way mason bees do.

28 August 2013

It Does a Planet Good

Chances are, if you've got milk, you've got a plastic or paper milk carton that you have to recycle when the milk is gone, but the spirit of the milkman's glass bottles lives on.

Burbach's Countryside Dairy, which is based in Nebraska, has a great program for selling milk to stores around its area. The dairy puts its milk in glass bottles, which the stores then sell. When the customer is done with the milk, the bottle can be taken back to the store, which returns it to the dairy to be used again. For more information about the dairy, click here.

This operation model deserves replication. Selling milk locally decreases the carbon footprint of transporting it, and reusing the bottles is better than even recycling.

If this kind of program were available in more places, I think we'd all have reason to smile with our milk mustaches.

20 August 2013

More Than a Memory

Remember the 2010 British Petroleum (BP) oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico? How about the 2010-present BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico?

That second one may not ring any bells, but it's more realistic than the first. The ruptured well that poured tons of oil into the gulf was never an isolated blip in time, no matter how much BP and everyone else wanted it to be. It was precipitated not by a rig explosion but by our consumption of oil, and the spilled oil's disappearance didn't end the story. Marine animals and birds continue dying in unprecedented numbers.

Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and Ocean Alliance have teamed up to remind people that the Gulf of Mexico disaster continues and to help show its larger implications. Check out a video of Operation Toxic Gulf below:

Sea Shepherd and Ocean Alliance intend to continue their work in the future and are looking for help. If you are interested, you can read more about the project here.

We can tuck our thoughts of human-caused environmental disasters into the back of our minds, but the consequences of those disasters will continue impacting us and our entire environment.

19 August 2013

Driven by a Cause

Good ideas are at their best when they spread.

Two years ago, I blogged about a way to donate cars for charity. That option was for people in the Pacific Northwest, but it appears other organizations are taking this idea out on the open road.

The Humane Society of the United States participates in the One Car One Difference program, which takes donated vehicles and sells them at auction with the proceeds supporting the charity (or other designated charities). To read more about the program, click here.

It's great to see the idea of donating cars to charity going around the block.

18 August 2013

What a Contrast

See? It's not really that hard.

Two days ago, I blogged about the approach taken by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service in deciding whether to take away the protections wolves have as an endangered species. The main issue was that FWS had removed top scientists from its decision-making panel. As a contrast to that, take a look at how Metro Parks of Summit County in Ohio has made science the centerpiece of its approach to living with coyotes:

It is clear that science is the key to how Metro Parks deals with fears about coyotes. By comparison, FWS appears rooted in a fear-based approach. The difference is stunning. Using Metro Parks' method, people learn about coyotes and the best ways to handle relationships with them. Also, listen to the language used by Metro Parks' agents. It is based on the idea of connecting to and understanding the environment. FWS, on the other hand, has excluded the sources of information needed for such understanding.

Scientific information is crucial to developing our connection with our environment and making the best decisions for the entire system. Metro Parks of Summit County sets a great example, showing it can be done.

17 August 2013

Frack-tured Morality

Sometimes, we see the physical consequences of our environmental decisions; sometimes, we don't. However, the hardest thing to see might be the moral consequences.

When it comes to fracking, which is a method of extracting energy sources from the ground, we only see a portion of the physical consequences: flammable water, sick people, and dead ecosystems. We don't see the tons of toxins fracking puts into the ground. Also hidden are the moral ramifications, but as Stephen Colbert points out in the following videos, our desire for cheap fuel makes us complicit in some very unethical actions:

Fracking eliminates entire ecosystems. It causes us to lose our health, and now, it robs us of our political voices. Putting all of this together makes for some heavy considerations each time we use energy.

16 August 2013

Silenced Science

To make the best possible decisions, we must listen to those who know most about the issues.

With this basic fact in mind, one must question whether the United States Fish and Wildlife Service really wants to make the best decision when it comes to wolves. As the following interview from the California Wolf Center shows, wolf experts were recently removed from a panel that is to help decide if wolves should have their protections as an endangered species removed. Listen to the interview by playing the YouTube video:

It turned out that objections to the removal of the scientists caused FWS to rethink its approach to the decision-making process. However, its initial decision to remove the scientists undermines the agency's credibility on this issue. No one genuinely interested in doing what is right for wolves would think of silencing those who study the species for a living.

Click here to comment on the proposed delisting and tell FWS that wolves still need protection.

Wolf experts say the species should not be delisted. This scientific perspective should lead the decision-making process, not be excluded from it.

15 August 2013

Up, Up, and Away

It is easy to think of children when we think of balloons, but after reading the following piece of good news, we may only ever again think of one child.

Cameron Koporc, a Georgia nine-year-old who has already amassed quite an environmental résumé, has created a petition aimed at protecting endangered sea turtles by banning mass-balloon releases in her home state. To read the full news article click here. If you'd like to sign on to Cameron's campaign, go here.

The story was uplifting, and I was honestly blown away by how much this girl has already done. I have no doubt she'll accomplish her goal of becoming a marine biologist. She's also a great example of the impact individuals can have when they decide to make something happen.

I applaud and thank Cameron for helping make dreams of a better tomorrow, not the balloons of today, take flight.

08 August 2013

Leafing Through

Leaders make many contributions to society, but their ability to introduce new experiences to others is especially important.

The Internet is helping leaders share their experiences more rapidly, and this comes at a great time for electric cars. For example, Sam Koblenski, who has owned a Nissan Leaf for the past year and a half, is using his blog to share the adventures and experiences he's had with the car. He made his first Leaf-related entry two days ago. Check out his entire blog by clicking here.

I like this idea. Electric cars are beginning to establish a foothold in the mainstream market, so those individuals who already have them can both raise awareness and add to the momentum. They allow a potential buyer to find and read through stories from actual owners.

The story of electric cars is beginning a new and important chapter, and people like Koblenski are helping write it.

03 August 2013

Knowing Home

Big ideas can come in small spaces.

One idea that appeals to me more and more is living a smaller life, one that requires less consumption and travel. As it turns out, Kurt Hoelting has also had that idea. In fact, he has put it into action. For a year, Hoelting stayed within a 60-mile radius of his home, never using a car or plane. Now, he has written about the experience in a book called The Circumference of Home: One Man's Yearlong Quest for a Radically Local Life.

I found out about Hoelting by listening to a recent BirdNote podcast, and his book really interested me. For one thing, the idea of cutting back helps the environment. Also, by making a conscious effort to focus on the area close to home, a person can really come to know and appreciate the details of that place.

Hoelting's idea challenges the traditional notion of bigger being better, and it gives us a new approach to living. We don't have to do things just the way he did, but we can accept the great challenge and opportunity to minimize our impact and get to know our little spot in the world better.