Wednesday, April 30, 2008
This is a link to an article in the NY Times that very much reminded me of the cat/bird dilemma we talked about in class on Monday. It's an interesting story that brings up big environmental ethical dimensions.
To summarize, Jim Stevenson, an ornithologist and huge bird lover, shot a feral cat that was attempting to eat a piping plover, an endangered species. Stevenson comments, “The American taxpayers spend millions of dollars to protect birds like piping plovers and yet here are these cats killing the birds, and nobody’s doing anything to stop it.” However, a tollbooth attendant (of the bridge where the cats live) considered those cats “his babies” and called the police on Stevenson. He was caught and thrown in jail.
If you want to see what happens in this ethical clash between cat lovers and bird enthusiasts, read on…..
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
April 29, 2008, 11:41 am
Court Forces Government to Move on Polar Bear Status
Environmental groups cheered a Federal Court ruling today that forces the Bush administration to decide by mid-May whether polar bears deserve protection under the Endangered Species Act because of Arctic impacts from the warming climate.
President Bush and members of his administration have criticized environmentalists’ moves under the endangered species law and other statutes to force federal action on climate change. As Dana Perino, the White House press secretary, put it earlier this month, in a briefing preceding Mr. Bush’s latest speech on climate, the result was a looming “regulatory train wreck.”
“This would have the Clean Air Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act all addressing climate change in a way that is not the way that they were intended to,” she said.
The polar bear issue has been a particular thorny one for the administration. It is pushing for new oil and gas drilling in polar bear habitat while biologists for Interior Department, prodded by legal action, recommended the bear be given threatened status under the species act because of the warming of the Arctic and summer retreat of sea ice.
“Today’s decision is a huge victory for the polar bear,” said Kassie Siegel, climate program director at the Center for Biological Diversity and lead author of the 2005 petition, filed by various environmental groups, seeking protection under the endangered species law. “By May 15th the polar bear should receive the protections it deserves.”
According to a news release from the Natural Resources Defense Council, which joined in the suit, the court rejected a request by the Interior Department for more time, saying: “Defendants offer no specific facts that would justify the existing delay, much less further delay. To allow Defendants more time would violate the mandated listing deadlines under the ESA and congressional intent that time is of the essence in listing threatened species.”
This is classic American environmental action, seeking leverage in existing laws to force governments to move on newly identified problems (or issues, in White House parlance). Do you think this approach can work in the long run on an issue like climate change?
The Bush administration has argued in various courts, including the Supreme Court, that such efforts will fail because, among other things, the “remedy” for limiting global warming must be applied globally, not just in the United States.
Friday, April 25, 2008
Pollan is also the author of another great book called The Omnivore's Dilemma. In it he tries to rouse the reader out of a different type of 'food coma' than most college students are used to. The vast majority of people seldom see or think about where their food comes from. Our society is full of conveniences like supermarkets and fast food restaurants that keep our minds off the topic.
My most memorable food related shock came when I was about 12. My parents' friends invited my family to their backyard to disassemble and cook up a whole goat that they had just slaughtered on some New Jersey farm. Their youngest son and I were to clean out the intestines for sausage casings. I had never really thought about where my delicious sausages came from, or even how they were made until that time. I didn't eat any sausage for about a year after that, and to this day still have trouble with it.
Later that summer we were invited over again. This time we all went to the farm together and brought back a live turkey. I sat in the backseat with the turkey in a bag and thought about every turkey I've ever eaten. Were they all as smelly as this one? When we got to the house, the dads snapped its neck and held the bird down until it stopped flapping about. I didn't eat much at this dinner either. It's strange to think that our society has moved sufficiently far from nature that even a small glimpse into the inner workings of where food comes from can be so devastating and surprising.
Despite all my coursework in nutrition and these experiences with animals I still can't find the will power to completely drop meat or dairy from my diet. I know that if I had to slaughter an animal before every dinner it would be a different story, but Pollan says this is just fine; it's impossible to get most people to stop eating meat. However, taking time to recognize the process of food production and and what went into getting the food to your table can not only lead to improvement of the quality of life of livestock, but also bring a new type of enrichment to your life.
From a much more comprehensive review of the book:
On Friday, I went with Craig and my good friend Lauren to The Little Owl for dinner. Famous for their pork chop, I was suggesting she and Craig order it—I’ve had it before—while I settled upon a lamb T-bone. Having gone on a pre-dinner tirade about “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” and the provenance of meat, Craig felt compelled to ask the server where all this meat was coming from.
And, lo and behold, there was an answer. “Our pork chops come from,” and she named the farm, "where they're fed a diet of acorns and honey." The lamb was "grass-fed, free-range, organic lamb from Colorado.”
Wow. All we had to do was ask and suddenly the plate of food we were served had a story, a compelling narrative that not only alleviated my tortured conscience, but actually—magically or not—made the food taste better.This is a great book to check out if you're writing your paper on anything related to food, or if you're just looking for a good read.
‘Cute’ animals, like baby harp seals, get much more attached to then other animals. Now keep in mind that many environmentalists want to protect all species and the ecosystem as a whole, not just the ‘cute’ animals. Yet, let’s face it, harp seals and polar bears are always going to get more attention and therefore more funding and support from a majority of the public, rather than an insect species or a three-towed sloth. Yes, some are devoted to protecting all wildlife. But to get the masses interested, animals that resemble human babies, or are considered beautiful and majestic like a lion or tiger, are going to get more support. These animals get more media coverage, which translates into more awareness.
Take the controversy in Alaska regarding the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the possibility of oil development: much of this comes down to aesthetics for the general public. Yes, the ecosystem is valuable, but I feel many people oppose it based on the fact it is a beautiful landscape supporting arctic and sub arctic animals. But is this a bad thing? Other ecosystems that may be just as valuable but not as aesthetically pleasing do not get the same amount of media coverage or support. I think how people view what should be protected is greatly based on aesthetics, as we have discussed in class. I think this is an interesting thing to think about in regard to protecting ecosystems and wildlife. Just as the first national parks were picked based on their appeal, are people more likely to support the pretty animals and ecosystems? Is this a bad thing or is it ok?
Thursday, April 24, 2008
I encourage people to watch and maybe comment on how they felt after watching this video as compared to how they felt after Bambi's mom died.
I got this email about
Linda Weintraub, an eco-artist, who will be on in Ithaca, April 25th. I thought it would be of interest since we have discussed nature and art numerous times in class. Below is some of the information:
Linda Weintraub, author of the first college eco-art textbooks -
"Avant-Guardians: Textlets in Art and Ecology" - looks forward to talking with students and others sharing her commitment to addressing environmental challenges through the arts. She is in Ithaca to speak at the GREENING THE ARTS Symposium (Friday 10-5, Tompkins County Library, Saturday 10-1, Holiday Inn Downtown) and will be at the Cornell Store on Friday afternoon from 2- 4 pm.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
So on my way back to Cornell on Sunday, we hit really bad traffic on 81 in Scranton. It took us about 20 minutes to go less than 1/2 mile, so we got off the highway and took route 11. We were driving down route 11 enjoying the scenery when suddenly we encountered one of the Lackawanna Rail Road viaducts (further down 11, we passed under another viaduct). In person, the viaduct was an absolutely amazing sight. The structure is absolutely huge and looks to be in almost perfect condition. The structure is truly second nature. Although man made, it seems to almost enhance the landscape, making that river valley in that town different from other river valleys in other towns. Here are some pictures.
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Monday, April 21, 2008
NYT Article by Pollan
This article in Sunday's New York Times was written by none other than Michael Pollan, on, you guessed it, gardening. Kind of a strange coincidence that it should be published right when we're covering Second Nature in class.
The article itself is about global warming, probably the single greatest environmental problem we face today. His name caught my eye in the by-line, and I couldn't help but smile when a few paragraphs down I read his prescribed palliative measure: gardening. A lot of what he says in this article seems to come straight from the ethic he espoused in Second Nature. He condenses a lot of his developed arguments into concise sentences, like talking about the satisfaction of giving away your vegetables to your neighbors and getting your hands dirty. He even talks about compost, another point at which I couldn't help but smile.
That everyone should garden is a sort of if-everyone-does-a-little-bit-it'll-turn-into-a-lot argument, which is basically the measure that everyone takes to persuade people to combat global warming. But it makes sense in the same way that his book is "the most important
ecological book of the last twenty years;" it's relevant to most people, and it bridges the gap between what is effective and what is feasible a large amount of people might actually do.
Sunday, April 20, 2008
Talking about Garrett Hardin on Wednesday brought up an interesting point about the controversial nature of Hardin’s work. We’ve probably all read “Tragedy of the Commons” without really questioning the argument as Professor Tantillo was saying in class, but it is nearly impossible to read “Lifeboat Ethics” without seriously thinking about the moral implications of the argument that Hardin is making. Hardin argues against providing aid to people in poor countries basically to curb population growth by not making resources available to those who can’t obtain them for themselves. Hardin argues, that as long as the oceans, air, land, and water are treated as commons, they will continue to be polluted and degraded. Similarly, he argued against a world food bank by stating that creating a world food bank is like creating a commons where poorer nations constantly draw from the resource at the expense of more affluent nations who put into the system, ultimately causing degradation of the food bank commons. This, Hardin states, will cause the poorer countries who constantly withdraw to never “mend their ways” which will only lead them to suffer to a greater extent in greater emergencies. Hardin states, “without some system of worldwide food sharing, the proportion of people in the rich and poor nations might eventually stabilize.” It is interesting to see, that even though this argument may be warranted, the costs to humankind, by not allowing others resources which are in existence seems to have some serious moral implications.
Here’s the link to “Lifeboat Ethics,” to get a taste:
Friday, April 18, 2008
This first one is set to Pink Floyd's "Welcome to the Machine" and shows some sad images, but some which may be over-dramatized.
The second two, for me, are more compelling, especially after hearing that pigs are about as intelligent as dogs.
There ARE solutions to this moral dilemma, maybe even ones that allow us to still eat meat. I read an article by Micheal Pollan (yaa!) that changed the way I think about eating meat. Check it out if you're interested, it's amazing!
"An Animal's Place":
Also, here is one last video clip that is much more lighthearted and gives some more factual info on factory farming as well as a link to ways you can help out. It's pretty amusing:
If you don't have time to read the whole Pollan article or surf the web here are some quick potential solutions I've come across:
-Go vegetarian, or vegan even
-Buy free range
-Substitute beans, soy products, and other forms of protein for meat a couple times a week to cut down on overconsumption.
Also, on campus, Moosewood at Annabell Taylor and Manndible Cafe offer local, organic options! Happy eating!
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
2008 JILL AND KEN ISCOL DISTINGUISHED ENVIRONMENTAL LECTURE
The New “New International Economic Order”
4:30–5:30 pm,David L.Call AlumniAuditorium,Kennedy Hall
Senator Timothy E.Wirth will explore how rapid population growth and resource consumption in the 20th century have transformed humanity’s relationship with nature and profoundly affected th e agenda of the 21st century. Where human history once unfolded subject to the forces of nature, humanity has acquired the capacity to and is now fundamentally altering the Earth’s natural systems—with profound implications for the global future. Current trends are not sustainable. It is estimated that human activity now consumes 25% more resources than the Earth produces annually. Senator Wirth also will explore the ways in which global climate change are magnifying and/or complicating the prospects for preserving the world’s life support systems.
Welcoming Remarks by Dr. Susan A.Henry
Ronald P. Lynch Dean of Agriculture and Life Sciences
Immediately following, lecture attendees are invited to meet SenatorWirth
at a reception in the David L. Call Alumni Auditorium Foyer.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
If anyone is still working on their essay topic (even though most of us have already written our 3rd drafts..right) I would highly recommend the site for some really fascinating ideas. I'm working on mine based on the human interest in ruins and have found some really cool ideas on the site.
The next time I come across a good post I'll let everyone know about it. The site is one that I honestly go to for fun and I would highly recommend it to anyone looking to kill some time and learn a little bit, too.
Sunday, April 13, 2008
meat in vats.
It raises a lot of interesting questions about what is natural and
what is environmental. Raising animals for human consumption creates
a whole host of issues, both environmentally and, even if you're not a
vegetarian, ethically as well. The carbon, pollution, and water use
footprint of consuming 100 beef calories versus 100 wheat calories is
pretty outrageous; from nature.org's carbon footprint calculator,
eating meat at almost every meal versus never eating meat adds around
5 tons of CO2 to your carbon footprint annually. US livestock produce
3 tons of manure for every American alive per year. We've been
consuming more and more meat over the last century, and when you
factor in increasing demand for meat and quality protein by developing
countries in Asia and elsewhere, we're facing a pretty serious problem
for the future. Based on this, eating meat grown independently seems
like a pretty good solution for the environmental side of the problem.
Despite this, there's just something that seems wrong about eating
"meat" grown in a vat, and I'm sure I'm not alone on this. I'm sure
that once they figure out the kinks in the technology and make it
solvent, that it'll become a viable alternative to the real thing, if
not in the immediate future than at least in the next 10 or 20 years
or so. It just seemed wrong to me on a visceral level when I first
read the article. But then I got thinking about our current system
for producing meat. What makes genetically engineering animals cooped
up in sickeningly huge feedlots, slaughtered oftentimes inhumanely,
then frozen and shipped out absurd distances wrapped in plastic that
much more "natural" than something grown in a vat? I eat chicken
mcnuggets already, and those things are pretty unnatural. We're
already at a pretty unnatural place with our meat consumption; the
least we can do is make it a little better for the world to eat meat.
On page 244, he says "The theory (paradigm) that continuous evolutionary change marks the history of life required many decades to displace an earlier theory of stasis."
To the best of my knowledge it is the other way around. Paleontologists originally explained gaps in the fossil record as a result of incomplete data, a flaw that had to be ignored. They believed that the incomplete data belied the historical fact of continuous, gradual evolution. Then, in 1972, Eldredge and Gould published "Punctuated equilibria: an alternative to phyletic gradualism," which explained that gaps in the fossil record are real and represent long periods of relative stasis, punctuated by relatively rapid bursts of evolutionary change (rapid on a geologic time scale). This theory was met with resistance at first and took time to become more widely accepted.
Perhaps Barbour was simply referring to the rise of the original theory of evolution by natural selection. In any case I think it is important to clarify that many scientists today do NOT believe in continuous, gradual evolutionary change, but instead adhere more closely to the theory of punctuated equilibrium.
Monday, April 7, 2008
1840 - "Tippecanoe" Harrison is elected to office and dies within a month of beginning his presidency from a cold/stomach flu.
1860 - Abraham Lincoln: assassinated by John Wilkes Booth
1880 - James Garfield: assassinated by Charles J. Guiteau
1900 - William McKinley: assassinated by Leon F. Czolgosz
1920 - Warren G. Harding: died from a stroke while still in office
1940 - Franklin D. Roosevelt: only president to be elected to a third term in office, dies in his third term from a cerebral hemorrhage
1960 - John F. Kennedy: assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald
1980 - Ronald Reagan: survives an assassination attempt
So those are the facts. I personally am not sure what to believe, but it is pretty interesting in itself to see the kinds of superstitions people come up with. Perhaps it is another way of painting Native Americans as "Noble Savages" - mystic people, deeply connected with nature and spirituality which we can never hope to understand. If nothing else it certainly speaks to the atrocities of the U.S. government in their interactions with Native Americans.
Friday, April 4, 2008
Celebrating Greensward: The Plan for Central Park
Public Events and Activities Planned to Honor the 150th Anniversary of Design Selection
If anyone is interested, or might be in NYC soon, the Central Park Conservancy and the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation are holding a series of public events and activities to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the design for Central Park. The Greensward plan for the park was chosen on April 28, 1858. The name "Greensward," comes from the English word for "unbroken stretch of turf or lawn."
- Creating Central Park panel discussion at The Metropolitan Museum of Art:
Saturday, April 26, 2:30 pm
- Celebrating Greensward exhibition in the Arsenal: April 23 through June 19; click here for more information
- Behind the Scenes free walking tours of Central Park led by Central Park Conservancy staff: Sunday, April 27, 12:00 pm to 4:00 pm
- Renaming the 72nd Street Cross Drive as "Olmsted & Vaux Way" at an unveiling ceremony at Bethesda Terrace on Monday, April 28, 2008 at 11:30 am
Some interesting quotes about the influence and significance of Central Park:
"The urban parks movement of the 19th century was the result of the immediate success of Central Park; every major city in the nation created parks based on New York’s exemplary public space," says Douglas Blonsky, President of the Central Park Conservancy and Central Park Administrator. "Today, it is one of the world’s great urban spaces, and we are pleased that in its 150-year history the Park has never looked more beautiful or been better managed."
Blonsky continues, "The restoration and maintenance of our nation’s historic parks has become today’s challenge, and once again Central Park, through the Conservancy, is at the forefront of that movement. In 2008, we will celebrate the significance of this American masterpiece as well as its phenomenal recovery."
"A great social experiment was begun in New York City 150 years ago when Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux designed Central Park," says Parks & Recreation Commissioner Adrian Benepe. "Over the last 28 years, the Central Park Conservancy and the City of New York have teamed up to restore this masterpiece of landscape design and manage it as the great public backyard for New Yorkers and visitors — 25 million a year."
This picture is of Bass Pond in the Biltmore Forest Estate
Silviculture aka arboriculture--The care and cultivation of forest trees; forestry, planting trees!
Thank you Olmsted for your great skills in silviculture!
(the words are fun to say, I think I'm going to try to work them into a conversation soon!)
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
"The New York Times ran a picture of a Monarch on its front page and called it 'the Bambi of the insect world'. On National Public Radio, the butterfly was 'the Elvis of insects,' referring to the butterfly's gaudy garb. It was a story that grabbed the public's attention and fixed in many minds an impression of risk and danger linked to genetically engineered crops." (pg 244 in Lords ofthe Harvest: Biotech, Big Money, and the Future of Food)
I found the references to Bambi quite intriguing. While the monarch butterfly is a majestic creature, its cause was aided by linking it to Bambi. It is interesting that Bambi's presence extends throughout the animal world, even to insects.
Video exclusive: First-ever images of the world's only flying penguins**(see bottom...)
Exclusive by Mark Jefferies 1/04/2008
Skimming just feet above the waves, a colony of rare penguins takes to the air - proving they can FLY.
The incredible snap for a new BBC nature series, Miracles of Evolution, shows the birds zooming across the sea hunting for food.
They launch themselves down steep icy slopes with an upward curve to get the momentum to take off.
Then they flap their tiny wings to reach a steady cruising speed before eventually crashing back into the water
"It's the perfect example of Darwin's theory of evolution working in reverse."
The flying penguins - filmed at King George's Island, 1,200 kilometres south of the Falklands - are just part of the TV crew's astonishing discoveries.
They also found a lizard that swallows itself to deter predators and a species of rapping frog that attracts mates by rubbing its hind legs together to make music.http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/topstories/2008/04/01/video-exclusive-first-ever-images-of-the-world-s-only-flying-penguins-89520-20369322/
**DISCLAIMER- Keep in mind YESTERDAY'S DATE! april fool's!
Does writing about natural resources and the environment excite you? Does the prospect of winning a prize for your writing excite you even more? Then consider joining the Charles Lathrop Pack Foundation Essay Contest! The Pack Essay Contest is open to Natural Resource students and any undergraduate student who has enrolled in a Natural Resources course during the Fall 2007/Spring 2008 academic year. Total prize money available is $930, which will be distributed among the top winners.
The purpose of the contest, as expressed by the donor, is "to encourage young professionals to write articles that will arouse in the public an interest in natural resource management and an appreciation of what resource management means to the nation." Essays should be in a style that would be suitable for publication in a lay readership journal or magazine. The essay should not exceed 2,500 words in length. It should be double-spaced, and printed on 8 2 x 11" paper, single-sided, and stapled. The first page should include a title, student's major, advisor's name, and an assumed name for the author, to preserve anonymity during the review process. If you aren't a Natural Resources major, indicate which Natural Resources courses you have enrolled in this academic year. The real name of the author and the author's e-mail address should be enclosed in a sealed envelope labeled with the assumed name. You must submit a hard-copy entry. Only one submission per person is allowed.
All entries (essay and name envelope in the format as outlined above) should be submitted no later than 3:00 PM, Wednesday, April 30th, 2008, to Marian Hovencamp, NTRES Undergraduate Program, 12 Fernow Hall. The essays will be judged by a committee. The competition is open to any undergraduate who has enrolled in a Natural Resources course during the 2007-2008 academic year, and to all undergraduate students in the field of Natural Resources.