29 November 2013

Short List

I knew what I wanted for Christmas weeks ago.

Last month, I decided that instead of gifts for me, I would ask my family members to donate to environmental or animal charities. I don't need anything, and quite frankly, the world doesn't need any more consumerism either.

The fact becomes clearer every day that our consumption of resources is pushing the world toward a crisis that promises to disrupt the global climate and threatens species around the world with extinction. As a result, environmental and animal groups have a far greater need than I do this holiday season.

What I really want is action by people to improve our relationship with the environment, so I decided my Christmas list would be part of my contribution.

27 November 2013

What Really Counts

Counting birds sounds like a lot more fun than counting presents.

For the 114th year, the National Audubon Society will hold its Christmas Bird Count. This is a great opportunity to experience some birds during the winter and contribute to citizen science.

Counting takes place from North America to South America, December 14 to January 5. You can find a counting site near you and sign up to participate by clicking here.

This count is a lot more fun than six geese a-laying.

24 November 2013

Otter Be Good

In any form, citizen science is fun, but when it involves river otters, the enjoyment is off the chart.

Not many species get as much fun out of life as river otters. Even with habitat loss and pollution decreasing its range, the species continues on with a bounce in its step and a twinkle in its eye.

San Francisco Bay is one place where the otter population has been decimated. However, recent signs have suggested a new beginning for the species in that area. To study the hopeful comeback, The River Otter Ecology Project has turned to citizen science, asking people to document and report sightings of river otters through its Otter Spotter program. For more information, click here.

Seeing river otters is cool. Witnessing their return to a place is truly special.

22 November 2013

On the Right (Bike) Path

There are no accidents when it comes to bicycles.

Of course, I don't mean bicyclists are never hurt or killed. What I do mean is that creating a place where bicycles are a priority and a success is not magic. If people commit to making bicycling a viable and respected form of transportation, it will become one; if people want to make bicycles a contentious issue, it will become one.

This video of Portland, Oregon's, bike-to-school efforts illustrates the successful results produced when governments and individuals come together to create infrastructure and systems for bicycling:

In Portland Every Day is Walk & Bike to School Day! from Streetfilms on Vimeo.

The citizens of Portland have made a commitment to bicycles. Consequently, bicycling has flourished, and people's lives have been improved. Meanwhile, people elsewhere continue to fight bikes, and those efforts have created strife and endangered cyclists.

When it comes right down to it, the direction bicycling takes is more of a reflection on us as people than it is on bicycles themselves.

20 November 2013

Let's Go to the Tape

All too often, the sound of a bird hitting a window is the sound of death.

Birds see windows as open space to fly in, so they usually hit at full speed. Sometimes, they are just stunned, but many times, they die.

The American Bird Conservancy has been working on ways to reduce bird collisions with windows, and it is introducing BirdTape as one such option. BirdTape is applied to windows. It makes portions of the windows visible, deterring birds from thinking they can fly through. Check out the video below:

Considering an estimated 300 million or more birds die from window collisions each year, BirdTape is a welcome idea. For more information, click here.

If I never again hear the sound of a bird hitting a window, that would be music to my ears.

10 November 2013

Start the Year on a BirdNote

No day can have enough birds, but there's an easy way to ensure you'll see at least one more every day in 2014.

The 2014 BirdNote calendar, featuring a different bird each month, is now on sale. It contains cool photographs of species like the ruffed grouse and the great gray owl. Pictures were taken by Gerrit Vyn, a conservation photographer from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Along with ensuring you get a daily dose of birds, the calendar helps support BirdNote. For more information, click here.

If you're in need of a calendar for the coming year, give it wings.

08 November 2013

Picture Forever

Think of the world without tigers.

Considering how iconic they have become, it is hard to imagine tigers disappearing forever. Yet these awe-inspiring animals are among the most endangered cats on the planet. Fewer than 3,200 remain in the wild. Three subspecies have already become extinct.

Panthera, an organization co-founded by noted biologist Alan Rabinowitz and dedicated to creating programs that ensure the survival of the world's wild cats, has a more positive vision in mind. Check out a video from the organization below:

About Panthera from Panthera Cats on Vimeo.

Tigers are one of the species Panthera has focused on most heavily. Efforts like Tigers Forever have emphasized the study and protection of the species and the conservation of its habitat.

To tell the story of Tigers Forever, Panthera media director Steve Winter has put together a book, Tigers Forever: Saving the World's Most Endangered Big Cat. The book provides information about the program and contains more than 100 pictures (Winter is also a photographer for National Geographic). Available now for pre-order, the book begins shipping on November 12. Part of the proceeds from sales of the book support the Tigers Forever program. For more information, click here.

We can either learn to live with tigers now or live with their extinction forever. Winter's book and Panthera's programs show us how to do the former.

05 November 2013

Spot On

As if watching and photographing birds weren't cool enough, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology is giving prizes for doing those things.

I recently blogged about the upcoming season of Project FeederWatch, a citizen-science effort run by the lab. A connected contest is BirdSpotter. Now through February 12, BirdSpotter participants can upload a photo that meets the weekly theme. Each entry is eligible to win gifts from the lab and Bob's Red Mill Natural Foods. The grand prize is a trip to Oregon. For more information, click here.

All that's left is to get the camera and find a good spot.

03 November 2013

Save the Date

As Captain Barbossa would say, "They're more like guidelines."

It turns out that the "best by" dates on food are no less arbitrary than the pirate code in a Disney film. Arbitrary is good for a laugh on the silver screen but bad for the amount of food waste we produce. As the Natural Resource Defense Council points out on its Switchboard blog, the expiration dates on food aren't governed by any regulation, so they are relatively meaningless.

The problem is that people are throwing away good food because those dates tell them it has expired. As a result, food is wasted, and so is the energy used to produce it. In addition, unless the food waste is composted, it becomes part of our trash.

Standards are needed to preserve the usefulness of expiration dates, and until we have that, saving good food comes down to our own judgment.