29 October 2013

The Thought Counts

In a society that places a stigma on "re-gifting," imagine the response to "no-gifting."

By giving presents, we are trying to say we care and that we are happy to share in an experience, yet companies seem to get the most love out of the deal. Gift registries funnel money into the hands of manufacturers and foster consumerism.

For a moment, however, let's revisit the sentiment behind those gifts. As it turns out, we can express it (and perhaps in a clearer way) without tradition gifts. SoKind Registry allows people to register for experience gifts, secondhand items, and donations to charity. Check out the video below:

This option channels the care intended by giving a present into a truly meaningful gift. For more information about it, click here.

Now, that's something to celebrate.

26 October 2013

Still Watching

It's time to find some winter projects; it's time to find some birds.

Project FeederWatch is gearing up for a new season with a new Web site. I've already blogged about the project here and here. This great bit of citizen science from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology allows people to provide important data on birds while enjoying the sight of feathered friends during winter.

The new Web site lets participants upload bird photographs directly instead of submitting e-mails. It also helps people discover what birds are most prevalent in their region and provides tools to aid in identifying species. To check out the site and learn more about the project, click here.

Many birds leave for the winter, but with a feeder in the backyard, there's always something to see. Add to ornithological data as you watch.

24 October 2013

Vicious Cycle

The United States of America is still learning to ride a bike.

In the US, it is common to associate bicycles with danger, antiquated ideas, and annoyance. In many American cities, the rhetoric about bikes has become warlike. Bicycles are the enemy of cars and the dominant way of life.

However, this issue is a great example of the saying, "Life is what you make it." If we want to see bikes as an enemy, that's what they'll turn into and remain, but we can also create a world where bicycles are an important, seamlessly integrated part of a better life. The following video of bicycle usage in Amsterdam opens our eyes to such an alternate reality:

Bicycle Anecdotes from Amsterdam from Streetfilms on Vimeo.

So many things in the video are remarkable. First, the number of bicycles is amazing. They, not cars, are the preferred (and sometimes only) mode of transportation. Second, the bicyclists aren't dressed for a space mission (they don't even wear helmets), suggesting they lack the fear we have of getting on bikes. Third, the flow of the whole society is simply stunning. People are connected to, in tune with, and responsive to each other, and even five-year-olds pick up on that flow. Cars and bikes are not at war. Clearly, people in Amsterdam are on a much different cycle than Americans.

With regard to the place of bicycles in society, the US is still using training wheels, and the video above makes it obvious that this is a self-inflicted, self-perpetuated state.

20 October 2013

Teach to the Wolf

Bringing wolves into the classroom just got easier.

One of the difficulties we have in improving our relationship with animals like wolves is that many people don't know much about them. In addition, a lot of the information people do have is inaccurate. As a result, long-held prejudices about wolves endure and heavily influence how we react to these animals.

Fortunately, technology gives us opportunities to bring wolves closer and learn about them. Wolf Haven International has begun offering lessons about wolves though Skype's In the Classroom program. This gives teachers a resource to connect their students with wolves. For more information, click here.

We're already being tested on our ability to live with wolves, so it's time to start preparing for that test by getting the information we need.

17 October 2013

Inspiring Insect Insights

It's possible that most of us only really learn one thing about insects: that we should avoid them.

Considering that many children have a natural fascination for insects and that we probably have more opportunities to interact with and learn about insects than any other type of animal, the lesson of avoidance is a problem. Still, insects can be a doorway to learning more about our environment if education encourages children to open that door.

Green Teacher, an organization that provides teachers with resources and ideas for teaching about the environment, has some tips for helping students explore the world of insects.

The early interest we have in insects should be encouraged, not scared away. As the largest animal group on the planet, insects have a lot to teach us.

14 October 2013

Wild Land, Wild Life

If you build it they will come, and if you handle that relationship well, you'll be glad they did.

As encounters with wildlife increase, the lines that separate human from nature become blurrier. The rise in these encounters has also led to an increase of reported "conflicts" with wildlife. However, encounters with wildlife don't have to be negative for humans or animals. In fact, people can do a lot to make the encounters positive for all involved.

Russell Link, a biologist with the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife, has written two books that encourage positive relationships with nature. Living with Wildlife in the Pacific Northwest gives tips for interacting wildlife, and Landscaping for Wildlife in the Pacific Northwest helps people provide good habitat. To hear Link talk about the latter book, click on this podcast from BirdNote. For more information about both books, click here.

We have an opportunity to build on our relationship with the environment. If we work to improve our interactions with wildlife, we'll be proud of how we took advantage of that opportunity.

12 October 2013

Total Cost

Cost isn't just about money, but even if it were, the bill for global warming would be a big one.

Seeing the full impacts of global warming requires us to think on an uncommonly large scale. We might think of energy bills when we consider regulating carbon emissions. However, focusing on what we might save on those bills by not addressing emissions misses many of the costs associated with inaction. For example, health, food, and disaster costs are likely to rise with global temperatures.

For this year's 24 Hours of Reality, which begins on October 22, The Climate Reality Project is shining light on the true cost of global warming. Check out the video below:

When all the other factors of global warming are considered, we might start to see the value of taking action against carbon emissions.

10 October 2013

Bye-Bye Love

We know lost loves can create pain that lasts a long time, so imagine that hurt tied to the consequences of losing something from our environment.

The Climate Reality Project (CRP) is giving people the opportunity to think about how global warming might impact the things they love, including sports, food, wine, wildlife, and places. CRP created What I Love, a Web site that allows individuals to choose the things that matter to them and learn how a warming planet threatens those thing. Take a look at the teaser video below:

Global warming is a large-scale issue that touches every aspect of our lives, and its influence will continue to grow if we don't reduce greenhouse gas emissions. By creating What I Love, the CRP gives us a better understanding of the big picture of today and the bigger picture of the future. To visit the site, click here.

Love is about connecting, and our link to the environment is our most fundamental bond. We should start to consider what we and the rest of the planet might lose if we crack that connection.

07 October 2013

Made in the Shade

The best part of waking up is hearing the morning songs of birds.

That's not exactly what the old Folgers jingle said, but coffee and songbirds are connected. Much of the coffee that is consumed is grown on land that has been logged so the beans can ripen in full sun. Removing the trees eliminates bird habitat.

Alternative means of coffee growing exist though. Shade-grown coffee keeps forests intact, merging agriculture with efforts to protect birds. The Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center has created a certification program for such practices. To learn more about the program and find shade-grown, organic coffee, click here.

It's time to wake up about the impact coffee consumption has on birds.