30 May 2014

Report of the Non-native

For Washington state, the invasion of non-native species stops in cyberspace.

A new app called WA Invasives, which the Washington Invasive Species Council just released, allows the public to report sightings of invasive species. The app gives individuals the ability to send photographs of and location information for their sightings to the council.

By involving the public, the app increases the possibility of removing invasive species from the state. The Washington Invasive Species Council uses the information sent to them through the app to verify the presence of non-native species and eliminate them. Without the public's participation, many invasive species would go unaddressed.

WA Invasives runs on both iPhones and Android phones. For more information about the app, click here.

Let's help the app spread, so the invasive species won't anymore.

28 May 2014

Amphibian Art

The Baroque Period has nothing on the Croak Period.

Populations of frogs and other amphibians continue declining, and an organization called Save the Frogs! is making art a key piece of its efforts to address the issue.

Save the Frogs! holds an art contest each year from January 15 to October 15. The contest raises awareness of the problems facing amphibians in two ways. First, those who participate gain knowledge about the issue, and then, they produce art that helps spread the message. Check out some art from previous years in the video below:

With its art contest, Save the Frogs! takes a smart approach to a worldwide problem. The contest is open to people around the world. Consequently, it lets any individual become a voice for amphibians in her or his country, and it allows children to engage in the issue. In other words, Save the Frogs! employs a long-term, big-picture perspective. For more information about the organization and its art contest, click here.

Creating a world where amphibians are celebrated and safe is what I would call a masterpiece, and we can all wield the brush.

26 May 2014

Graduating with a B

For graduation gifts, I turned to Plan B (as in B Corporations).

One of my cousins graduates from high school this year, and my gifts to her are slightly out of the ordinary. First, I made a donation to the Arbor Day Foundation, which will now plant 20 trees in her name. (To learn more about this program, click here.) In addition, my cousin will receive products from Klean Kanteen, which I previously blogged about here, and Ecobags, which I covered here.

What Klean Kanteen and Ecobags represent led me to choose them to celebrate my cousin's accomplishment. Both companies are B Corporations, which commit to socially and environmentally ethical ways of operating. Check out a video describing B Corporation certification below, and click here for more information:

In college and her life beyond, my cousin will make a positive impact on the world, and I wanted her graduation gifts to do the same. The Arbor Day Foundation's trees will stand and mark her achievement for years, and she'll have responsibly made, reusable items that replace disposable ones, decreasing her planetary footprint.

If you're still searching for graduation gifts, consider taking this opportunity to "B" different.

24 May 2014

Full Recovery

There's no need for waste, but waste does lead to need.

Americans throw away tons of food each year, yet many in our country do not have enough to eat. That points to a problem with our current system. However, it also suggests we have what we need to make things better.

The Food Recovery Network helps feed those in need with food that would otherwise be wasted, and now, the organization provides a certification for universities and businesses that participate in the program. Check out a video about the certification below:

By offering the certification, the Food Recovery Network spreads awareness of its program and recognizes the organizations that participate in it. The idea is to promote a system that gets the most out of our food resources. The more recognition participating organizations receive and give to the program, the more popular the program becomes and the more food is recovered for those who need it. For additional information about the Food Recovery Network, click here.

The elimination of food waste isn't just a good idea; we need it.

22 May 2014

Going Wild

When things get out of control, sometimes, the best response is to go a little wild.

For years, the United States Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services agency has operated without oversight, killing thousands of wild animals, especially predators, in the process. Predator Defense, an environmental group based in Oregon, helped bring Wildlife Services' operations to light with last year's documentary, Exposed. Watch it below:

By revealing the negative impacts of Wild Services' illegal techniques, Predator Defense provided both a need and an opportunity to address the issue of how we interact with wildlife. The Natural Resources Defense Council took that opportunity to introduce alternatives that foster coexistence. Picking up where Predator Defense left off with Exposed, the NRDC recently released a documentary called Wild Things. The film looks at the problems with Wild Services' handing of wildlife and shows how ranchers and other landowners have successfully turned to nonlethal means of responding to the presence of predators. Check out the trailer below:

With its emphasis on people adapting to wildlife, a concern for the larger ecosystem, and the questioning of humans' domination of nature, Wild Things calls on us to rethink the blind eradication of animals. Just as importantly, it gives us a new vision and provides examples of how to achieve that ideal.

In the case of Wildlife Services, it makes sense that we turn to the wild to restore order.

20 May 2014

Sound of Success

Unexpected sounds ring the loudest.

After three years of inactivity in the bat house I purchased for my parents at Christmas 2010, I'd pretty much given up on having tenants in the house's current location. That's why when a strange clicking from its direction arrested my attention last Saturday evening, I didn't initially think about bats. I wondered if a bug or a bird made the sound, but once I determined it was coming from the bat house, I began to realize we'd finally succeeded in enticing a bat. The next day, I was able to confirm at least one bat had taken up residence.

Finding the bat fulfills a plan set in motion several years ago. Even before 2010, we'd talked about setting up a bat house. Then in fall 2010, I blogged about the efforts of the Organization for Bat Conservation and decided to buy one of its houses. We knew we didn't have an optimal placement for our bat house because it didn't have full, direct sunlight, but we decided to wait and see if the bats would eventually come. Happily, they did.

With bat populations continuing to decline, our little victory carries even more meaning for us. We're happy to support these crucial and amazing animals in a time of uncertainty.

From the sound of it, they appreciate the help.

18 May 2014

Knowing the Unknowns

In the animal world, for every star species, many exist that receive little or no attention.

We love animals like whales, penguins, and big cats, and when we consider how environmental issues impact nature, we tend to do so by focusing on these charismatic species. While this provides an important connection with nature, it limits our understanding of the environment and neglects many species.

Carly Brooke works to widen our scope of understanding by drawing attention to unusual, unnoticed, unpopular, and ignored species on her Web site, The Featured Creature. Species by species, the site gives the spotlight to animals that ordinarily wouldn't have it. To check out Carly's great work, click here. You can also watch her encounter with and discussion of a giant sea hare below:

Beyond highlighting species that we don't know much about, The Featured Creature lets us fill in the pieces of the bigger picture. We can only learn so much about the environment if we concentrate on charismatic species. By becoming more familiar with the entire world of animals, we better understand how all species, including humans, interact with each other.

Nature has no bit roles, so we should get to know all its actors.

11 May 2014

Everything You Want and Less

In a culture of consumerism, it's not needless to say that we need less.

We've been told to consume, how to consume, and what to consume. With these messages everywhere, it's not hard to know what we want, and we learn quickly where and how to get those things. Consumption becomes second nature.

On the other hand, the notion of not buying things seems foreign. We become so out of practice with this idea, that we forget how to do it, so we need a little help. Luckily, All You Need is Less, a new book from environmental blogger Madeleine Somerville, offers us some guidance.

The book provides tips for getting by without buying. Somerville explains how to make, substitute for, or completely reject the things we ordinarily don't think twice about purchasing. In the process, she gives us a way of disrupting the cycle of wanting, replacing it with a focus on less. The book is available now.

In the spirit of its message, look for it at your library or consider purchasing a used copy and sharing it with friends.

08 May 2014

Beast Friends

Chimpanzees have Jane Goodall; gorillas had Dian Fossey; and jaguars have Alan Rabinowitz.

Some fortunate species have had amazing human ambassadors that connected them with humans everywhere, and Rabinowitz's work with jaguars has revolutionized our understanding of and connection to jaguars. Two years ago, I blogged about some of the previous contributions he has made to the study and protection of big cats. Now, he's back with a new book called An Indomitable Beast, which he'll release in September.

In his first book, Jaguar, Rabinowitz impressed me with his ability to communicate the experiences he's had with jaguars. Most biologists have close contact with the species they study, but Rabinowitz shares Goodall's ability to put the public in those experiences through strong storytelling. For this reason, I'm looking forward to his new book.

An Indomitable Beast tells the story of the jaguar's successes and its threats and the work being done to protect it; but the book also promises to further explain how Rabinowitz earned his knowledge of these cats (the stories about this in Jaguar took hold of me and haven't let me go). It's this blurring of the human and the animal that makes Rabinowitz's work (and that of others like him) so valuable. The stories provide common ground with nature. For more information about An Indomitable Beast, click here.

By communicating their connections with animals, researchers like Rabinowitz show us the ways to develop our own relationships with nature.

06 May 2014

Here and Now, There and Then

A new Web site on global warming suggests we can use images and interaction to communicate things too big for words.

Global warming challenges us with its size and scope of time. We often struggle to express and understand its complexities, and it requires us to make sense of a timeframe extending back hundreds of thousands of years.

To complicate matters further, we have to understand the issue now. The National Climate Assessment, a report released today from the United States government, details the impacts already underway because of global warming.

While it placed this huge issue squarely in front of our faces, the National Climate Assessment also gave us a tool for comprehending the situation. This Web site communicates the report's findings in an amazing way. It uses images, charts, and interactive graphics to communicate the full scope of global warming. Along with showing the current impacts, the site looks at future issues. In addition, it breaks down the effects by region and by the systems they impact. Finally, it outlines various ways of responding to global warming.

The site impresses me with its ability to address the whole issue. It's also visually appealing, and it allows visitors to share the information they find through social media. All in all, it's a great piece of environmental communication and a wonderful resource to use as we address the biggest issue we've ever faced.

Rhetorical scholars know the importance of matching communication to the situation, and we're finally reaching that goal in relation to global warming.

04 May 2014

Always Another Bend in the Road

Turning a new corner means having the chance to see some unfamiliar sights.

My experience of Earth Week this year opened up a lot of uncharted territory. As I blogged about last month, I helped in efforts to boost sustainability and environmental engagement at the University of South Dakota and in the city of Vermillion, South Dakota. With its various activities, Earth Week on campus and in the community was a big success and laid the groundwork for more to come.

My favorite experience of the week served as both a celebration of this year's work and a hope for the future. On the Saturday following Earth Day, I participated in a guided nature hike at North Alabama Bend, a piece of land the US Army Corps of Engineers owns and works to preserve. The hike included information about the land's relationship with the Missouri River and the resident eastern cottonwood trees, the people who had tried to homestead it, and the work being done to keep it in a natural state. Special thanks to Tim Cowman for guiding the hike. To learn more about North Alabama Bend, click here.

Despite a strong wind blowing for the full two hours, I enjoyed the hike. I'd never been to the property before, but the experience left me with the urge to explore it more in the future. It was the perfect way to cap the week and look ahead to new projects and experiences.

There's a place up ahead, and I'm going just as fast as my feet can fly.

02 May 2014

Bee Aware, Bee Connected

The buzz about looking out for bees continues to grow.

Declines in populations of bee species, both domestic honey bees and wild bumblebees, have sparked a need to better understand these insects and what is happening to them. A project called Bumble Bee Watch turns to citizen science to collect data about bumblebee sightings.

Bumble Bee Watch works through a simple process. Individuals take pictures of the bumblebees they see, log in to the project's Web site, post the pictures, identify the species, and get expert verification on the identification. By posting the pictures, people contribute to science and conservation efforts and develop a virtual collection of the bees they've encountered. For more information about the project, click here.

I love that Bumble Bee Watch gives us insight that can help bumblebees survive. However, the project also allows us to connect with bumblebees and better understand their story. That's a key ingredient for a successful relationship.

It's great to gain knowledge of nature, but really getting to know it is even better.