Monday, May 10, 2010

The Ecolympics Challenge for World Environment Day, June 5, 2010

If it takes a village to raise a child, then it takes a civilization to look

after its species. Of course, the species, all thirty to one hundred

million of them, are no more ours than the wind is. But we humans

control the destiny of life on Earth and if we hold to our present course

of action, which includes high consumption of natural resources

leading to habitat destruction and pollution, not to mention climate

change, then by mid-century we’re going to have a much poorer planet: historic numbers of species will become extinct and we humans will have lost a significant part of our heritage and

quality of life.

That’s the bad news.

The good news is that we can each do something about it.

But I’m not an activist, you say. Fine, neither am I. At least so


However, you and I both lead active lives and each day we have

opportunities to reduce our footprint on the environment. That’s

why last month my colleague, Alex, and I, together with a

dedicated team of students, organized the Boston University’s

first-ever Ecolympics. We were hoping to get at least one

hundred people to participate in our twenty-three events like

recycling, powering down computers, turning off lights,

taking shorter showers, using re-usable cups, eating less meat,

avoiding plastic, driving less and taking the stairs more.

Our motto was “Competing for Team Earth.”

We finally signed up more than two hundred people. Most of

the participants were from Boston University, but we also had

several people compete from other universities and from

Canada and Germany. The most common comment I got

from the participants was, “I enjoyed the challenge.” I’d

love to say that each of our actions saved a species, but it

doesn’t work that way. We have, however, engaged in the

struggle – against our own habits and attitudes and against

our ignorance.

We are ignorant about the long term consequences of our

present consumption of natural resources though our situation

seems like if in the story about the flood, Noah began

burning the floorboards of the ark to keep warm at night.

There has to be an alternative.

Check out the UNEP’s site for World Environment

Day on June 5, and see that people around the world have made

hundreds of suggestions for things to do to reduce our impact

on the environment and to protect species. The motto for World

Environment Day is “Many species. One Planet. One Future.”

You can also review our Ecolympics events and partake

in one of the events that you missed on your own. Or, if

you’re looking for a real green-medal challenge, here is

something you can do on World Environment Day:

organize your own Ecolympics for your work place or

school. Use our events as a guide. All you need

are a few green prizes as incentives, or a friendly bet

always makes a good challenge.

We need more Ecolympics and more Ecolympians. Next

year, we’re going to run the Ecolympics again, probably

for two weeks instead of one. We’re hoping for at least

double the number of participants: four hundred. But if

we really want to make a difference and get serious about

saving species, then we need four hundred million participants.

We need an Ecolympics that runs year round with everybody

participating every day.

Think about what it will mean for us all to be

Ecolympics champions! Clean air, clean waterways

healthy wetlands, thriving forests and diverse ecosystems.

This is why we need to Compete for Team Earth. This is

our future. The challenge is ours to accept.


Friday, May 7, 2010

Prizes, prizes, prizes!

Starting on Monday of this week, we've been drawing for our
awesome prizes in our various point tiers (above 200 points, 100-200
points and up to 100 points).

Here are the winners and their prizes:

Arianna Rizzo Planet Earth DVD
Abby Cote Yoga mat from
Maryne Shephard $75 gift certificate to Vee Vee in Jamaica Plain
Stephanie Kubala $50 gift cert to Ten Tables in JP
Jennifer Greene $50 gift cert to Ten Tables in JP
Christina Coffey Planet Earth DVD
Jaime Silverstein Yoga mat from
Jessica Vogele Planet Earth DVD
Jasmine Freehoff Museum of Science Double Pass
Stephanie Nelson Ecolympics Tshirt
Megan Peet Museum of Science Double Pass
Hannah Walters Museum of Science Double Pass
Sydney Lindberg $25 Trader Joe's gift card
Quincey Lewinson Yoga mat from
Tait Forman $25 Trader Joe's gift card

Congratulations to all our winners!
We have a few -- stay tuned!


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Photo Contest Winner!

We got some nice photos for our photo contest, from the colors of spring to life in the aquarium. Even in the handful of photos that we got you can see how much biodiversity adds to the simple visual aesthetic of our lives.

The photo that co-judge Alex Coverdill and I decided to go with for our contest winner is shown at left, by Camille Dupaquier.

Look at this old stump of a tree. Is it still living? There's a few twigs here and there that don't seem to have gotten the message that the tree is done for and they're still giving it their best. And in a hollow niche in the center, passing through the eye of the tree, as it were, a squirrel has been momentarily caught. You know that in the next instant the squirrel will be gone, but here it is framed by the tree. On its own, the tree is fascinating and full of character but I find it poignant that the squirrel is caught in the spotlight.
The Tree of Life (Darwin's metaphor for how species are related) is full of niches that different species specialize in. In this International Year of Biodiversity, we should become aware of which niches are disappearing and what we can do to halt it. Thanks for a provocative photo Camille!

Speaking of provocative, here's another image that I've been meaning to post regarding endangered species (click on the image to enlarge it). Apart from the disturbing facts at the bottom (the global population of tigers has fallen 97% in the last century), the figure shows that Ecuador and the USA have the most endangered animal species, with 2211 and 1203, respectively. As the subtitle says, here's a look at some countries with the greatest potential for both disaster and improvement.

Let's hope it's the latter.