Sunday, January 27, 2013

Imagining Nature

imagining nature, cultural value of species, environmental activism, environmental imagination, kids and the environment

I recently wrote about the cultural values of species. Here's a slightly different take on the same thing. In this month's issue of Brevity, Brian Doyle writes a piece called "Imagining Foxes" in which he remembers going for a walk deep into the woods with his siblings as children. They try to hear the sounds of cars and traffic in the distance but they are so deep in the woods that they can no longer hear these man-made sounds. Doyle recounts the animals that they saw, and much as they wished to see a fox, they did not. But the woods were so alive with creatures that he imagines they smelled the fox with his "scent of old blood and new honey, and we heard his sharp cough and bark, and if you looked just right you could see his wry paw prints in the dust by his den". By the sound of the essay, this memory is 30 or 40 years old but because of the vibrancy of the woods, it still lives in his mind. Doyle goes on to say:
"[I]f we never take our kids to the little strips of forests, the tiny shards of beaches, the ragged forgotten corner thickets with beer bottles glinting in the duff, they’ll never even imagine a fox, and what kind of world is that, where kids don’t imagine foxes? We spend so much time mourning and battling for a world where kids can see foxes that we forget you don’t have to see foxes. You have to imagine them, though. If you stop imagining them then they are all dead, and what kind of world is that, where all the foxes are dead?"
What kind of world, indeed?  Read Brian Doyle's complete essay here.

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Monday, January 21, 2013

Climate Change and Biodiversity

climate change and biodiversity, bark beetles, coniferous forest
Pine damage in Rocky Mtn NP due to bark beetles

You've heard of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (the IPCC). This week we're going to start hearing about the Intergovernmental Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (the IPBES). If only the powers that be could have come up with a name that would lend itself to a better acronym. Nevertheless, in the midst of the sixth mass extinction, it's high time nations met to start dealing formally with the crisis and begin rolling back the high rate of species extinctions.

During President Obama's second inauguration speech today, he paid special attention to climate change Though his measures, like increasing home appliance efficiency, reducing emissions from power plants and making the federal government itself more effective, are progressive, they fall short of the sweeping changes that are necessary to prevent the planet's temperature from increasing by 2 degree celsius. As Thomas Lovejoy describes in his NY Times Op-Ed, we're already seeing the nasty effects of climate change at the current global warming of 0.8-0.9 degrees Celsius. For example, the present temperature increase has now tipped the balance in favor of bark beetles in western North America that are now decimating coniferous forests. Most of the 900 known extinctions since the year 1600 were caused by the introduction of invasive species, habitat destruction, pollution, and over-exploitation. Given the sensitivity of ecosystems to small changes in temperature, we could soon see climate change vault to the front of the list as the cause of species extinctions, particularly if we see the predicted 2 degree Celsius rise.  It's time to get serious about this stuff.

 Read the rest of Lovejoy's op-ed here. As for the IPBES, bring it on!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Appalachian Salamanders

Who knew that Appalachia was a hotspot for salamanders? I saw a couple of brillian orange fellows on the Appalachian Trail last summer. Here's a nice little video from the Smithsonian describing what they're about.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

An Overpopulation Primer

World Population Day only comes around once a year, so it's great that actress and activist Alexandra Paul has taken the time to spell out the overpopulation problem is in this great 8-minute TED talk.

The sooner we take this topic out of the closet and start talking about it the better! Ready to do something? Check your state's reproductive health report card here.