30 December 2013

Save the Whales with an App

People have a strong response to whales in distress, and now, that response has gone digital.

According to this blog entry from the National Wildlife Federation, an app has been developed to let people in the southeastern United States report whales that need help. The app, called Dolphin & Whale 911, comes from the National Marine Fisheries Service.

Dolphin & Whale 911 allows people to contact a hotline that sends responders to help the whale. The app also provides a field guide to marine mammals and lists protocols for keeping distressed whales from further harm.

With this app, one of our strongest emotions meets one of our most powerful new technologies.

28 December 2013

Our Best Act

To say the Endangered Species Act (ESA) brings out the best in people would be an understatement.

On this date forty years ago, the ESA was signed into law by President Richard Nixon. Along with signing the Clean Water Act of 1972 and proposing the Environmental Protection Agency, signing the ESA was probably the best thing Nixon ever did with his presidency and his life.

Truth be told, the environmental oversight achieved during the Nixon years is probably the finest hour the entire human society has had in terms of its relationship with the environment. By responding to serious pollution threats and rapid declines in many species, the environmental movement of the 1970s put in place key standards for how we should act toward the environment.

Both the spirit of the ESA and the act itself will be needed as we move forward to address issues like global warming and other threats to ecosystems and species. We'll have to be at our best once again.

26 December 2013

The Planet Becomes the Teacher

We all have a big exam coming up.

Responding to global warming might just be the most high-stakes test we'll ever face, and the subject isn't always easy. Even teaching the science of the planet's climate can be difficult, but it's important we ace this one.

Fortunately, teachers have a growing bag of resources to draw from as they cover this issue. One of the best collections of information and suggestions for teaching about climate change comes from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The agency's Web site offers videos, activities, visual aids, and interactive resources for teachers who seek to address the science and impacts of global warming. To see the full selection of what is available, click here.

Studying up on global warming is the difference between truly learning how to live within our environment and a painful lesson.

23 December 2013

Plan Bee

A recent piece of student-led research from the University of Oregon should have people buzzing.

Declines in bee populations have at least brought the details of our relationship with these insects into the spotlight, and as this announcement of the Oregon study shows, much can be done with our new knowledge to improve the human-bee connection. The study looks at the role bumblebees play in pollination. After showing that bumblebees pollinate at a rate three times faster than European honeybees, the study lays out plans farmers can use to attract more bumblebees to their land.

The study is exciting for several reasons. First, it gives us greater insight into our interactions with bees. Second, the practical ideas it produces are beneficial to both agriculture and native species of plants and bees. Finally, it represents what can happen when people collaborate to find solutions to problems.

Fostering ideas is crucial when we are confronted with challenges. In the case of Oregon's bee study, the university empowered its students to find ideas, the students responded with research that yielded results and gave them applied experience, and the local farmers embraced the findings.

That sounds like a plan that would benefit the whole planet.

21 December 2013

Just a Few Lines

There is an art to communicating global warming.

For the Sightline Institute, that art is poetry. The Pacific Northwest organization, which does research into and communication about sustainability, recently publicized the work of oceanographer Greg Johnson, who wrote haikus to articulate the recent findings on global warming from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Johnson's poems present the findings in a simple, powerful way. To check them out, click here.

A lot has been said about global warming, but these haikus say it all.

19 December 2013

By the Sound of It

Birds are calling, and smart phones are helping us receive the message.

For bird-watchers, one of the most useful skills to have is the ability to identify birds by sound, but it's not an easy thing to do. To develop this skill, people are turning to smart phone applications.

Several apps exist for training to make sound identifications, and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology has rated them according to ease of use, audio content, expert help, and fun. For more information, click here. Below the ratings, the lab goes on to discuss other apps that help with identification.

Think of the sound training apps as caller ID for calls from the avian area code.

14 December 2013

Unstuff Those Stockings

Having nothing under the tree doesn't necessarily make for a bad Christmas experience.

By making the gift itself an experience, you can give a fulfilling present instead of the same old thing. Experience gifts replace material presents with the chance to do something. This includes concerts, lessons, and even food.

Of course, providing an experience that will be meaningful to someone is just as important as giving a present they would want, so a Web site called Unstuff is providing people with resources to match experiences to interests. The site gives general ideas for experience gifts, and it can also tailor suggestions using Facebook. For more information, click here.

The experience of Christmas is a pretty great thing, but an experience for Christmas is even better.

12 December 2013

Bee in the Garden

Gardens are becoming the last-chance places for bees.

Honeybee declines have received most of the attention, but bumblebees are also disappearing. Pesticides and habit destruction, in particular, have had devastating effects on these insects, and we are only just beginning to understand the full extent of the damage.

Gardening provides an opportunity for learning more about and doing something to stop the disappearance of bumblebees. A Web site called Beautiful Wildlife Garden gives tips for how gardeners can do both. These suggestions include avoiding the use of pesticides, tracking and reporting bee sightings, and providing habitat for bees. To learn more, click here.

We've known for a long time that gardens rely on bees, but it's becoming clear that bees are growing evermore dependent on gardens for their survival.

08 December 2013

Leave It

Contrary to modern custom, leaves don't fall in autumn to give people something to rake up.

I admire how the "waste" trees shed in the fall returns to nourish the ground. It took humans to come around for those leaves to be considered waste, and now, the nourishment leaves might provide often gets sacked up and thrown away.

This year, the National Wildlife Federation is encouraging people with trees to leave the fallen foliage. NWF provides a list of reasons why this practice is beneficial. Among other benefits, letting leaves lie provides habitat for animals, creates less waste, and, of course, keeps those nutrients in the area. The list also points out that clean-up equipment like leaf blowers pollutes (to say nothing of the awful noise it makes).

When it comes to leaves, their remains are best left to nature. However, if you absolutely have to rake them up, compost them instead of putting them in the trash.

05 December 2013

Winter Camp

Sure, summer gets all the glory when it comes to camps, but the Oregon Zoo is bringing the fun of camp to winter.

The zoo's ARcTic Adventure is a day camp where children in grades K-4 can learn about animals while building their art skills. A nice potential outcome is that the campers can discover opportunities to connect with nature through art.

Camps are scheduled for December 30-31 and January 2-3. For more information, click here.

Winter break isn't usually associated with camp and the environment, but any time is a good one for finding ways to connect with nature.

03 December 2013

Roaring Success

My present-free Christmas is off to a great start.

As I mentioned in the last two blog entries, I did not ask for presents this year. I simply requested that my family members make contributions to environmental/animal groups.

My sister took the idea and ran with it. She asked me if I had heard of Erin Henderson, a linebacker for the Minnesota Vikings whose Sacks for Cats initiative is part of National Geographic's Cause an Uproar campaign. Cause an Uproar raises funds for efforts to protect the world's big cats, and Henderson donates to the campaign each time he gets a sack. My sister wanted to know if Cause an Uproar worked as a charity, and I thought it sounded great. Check out the video about Sacks for Cats below:

This morning, I received an e-mail from my sister confirming her donation. It was really exciting and fulfilling to see my idea springing to life.

01 December 2013

Trim More Than the Tree

Less is more, but "more is more" is heard more, especially when it comes to the holidays.

Two days ago, I blogged about my present-free Christmas list. It's one of the ways I'm trying to minimize my environmental impact during the holidays. However, a lot more goes into this time of year than presents, and that means we have additional opportunities to decrease our consumption of resources.

In this green spirit of the season, The Nature Conservancy is giving people ways to "REthink the Holidays." These include buying local food, additional alternatives to giving presents, reducing waste, and several more. One is about starting green holiday traditions with a young child. I really like these ideas, and they cover just about everything involved in the holidays. Click here to see the full range of suggestions.

Of course, if you do end up with stuff, it's important to know how to deal with it. For that, the Natural Resources Defense Council has tips on how to reuse and recycle.

Cutting back may be the best gift we'll ever give to the planet.