Accidental Rewilding - In places once thick with farms and cities, human dispossession and war has cleared the ground for nature to return
The forest had entered a cycle Tomaž had not seen before, in which many of the giants had perished. Some had died where they stood, and remained upright, reamed with beetle and woodpecker holes, sprouting hoof fungus and razor strop. They looked as if a whisper of wind could blow them down. Others now stretched across the rocks and craters, sometimes blocking our path, sometimes suspended above our heads. Among the trunks lying on the ground, some were so thick that I could scarcely see over them. Where they had fallen, thickets of saplings crowded into the light. Seeing the profusion of fungus and insect life the dead wood harboured, I was reminded of the old ecologists’ aphorism: there is more life in dead trees than there is in living trees. The tidy-minded forestry so many nations practise deprives many species of their habitats.by George Monbiot [more inside]
How The Economic Machine Works by Ray Dalio actually makes a case against austerity and for redistribution, but also for money printing (and, arguably, for bailouts), while stressing the need to keep making productivity-improving public and private investments. However, it could be equally entitled: How The Industrial Age Political-Economy Doesn't Work Anymore, viz. Surviving Progress (2011)... [more inside]
A case currently before the International Court of Justice has Australia (supported by New Zealand) seeking to either stop the flagrant abuse of a loophole in the International Whaling Commission's rules by Japan, or a nasty cultural imperialist "moral crusade" attempt to suppress a sustainable, ancient tradition of killing whales with factory ships around Antarctica. You can watch Court arguments here.
A Burlingame, California restaurant, Monkutanya, that serves grilled exotic meats has announced on its facebook page that it has added lion to the menu, stirring up some controversy and publicity.
Last summer, the Museum of Modern Art took one of its best-known paintings off the wall, Jackson Pollock's One: Number 31, 1950, so that it could be conserved. They've been blogging about the process of restoring this dense, multi-layered work, including closeup photos that reveal an earlier restoration in the mid-60s before it came to MOMA.
"Hi, my name is Paul Rosolie. I'm a naturalist based out of southern Peru and today I'm headed into the jungle to show you a place that very few people have gotten to see. I'm in the Madre de Dios region of Peru, this is the far western Amazon and some of the deepest jungle on earth."
A documentary film about Norman Borlaug, the Iowa farm boy who saved over a billion people from starvation. (1:06:47) Americans have little knowledge of one of their greatest sons. Why do schoolchildren in China, India, Mexico, and Pakistan know the name and work of Nobel Peace Prize winner [His speech] Norman Borlaug while so few of his countrymen have never heard of him? How did a dirt-poor farm boy from rural Iowa grow up to save a billion people worldwide from starvation and malnutrition and become the father of the Green Revolution? What were the inherited traits and environmental factors that shaped his astonishing journey and led to successes that surprised even him? What can we learn from his life and views that might help the human race survive the next critical century? [more inside]
DNA analysis has confirmed the death, by poaching, of the last Javan rhino in Vietnam. This marks the official extinction of the Vietnamese subspecies of Javan rhinoceros. The entire species is now represented by just 35 individuals from the Indonesian subspecies, all of whom reside in Ujung Kulon National Park in Indonesia.
I think it is high time that MeFites meet Michael Forsberg, a Lincoln, Nebraska based Conservation Photographer who works primarily in the Great Plains of North America, once one of the greatest grassland ecosystems on Earth. (His bio.) His goal has been to try to capture the wild spirit that still survives in these wide-open spaces and put a face to the often overlooked native creatures and landscapes found there. His hope is that the images can build appreciation and go to work to inspire conservation efforts on the land far into the future. Here is a great 48 minute presentation that Michael gave at the California Academy of Sciences after completing his most recent book simply entitled "Great Plains". In the video he unselfishly shares not just his photographic images but also his equipment and techniques. [more inside]
"Decades ago, the Mbuti typically sold about half the meat they captured; now they sell nearly every carcass, saving only the prized entrails and heads for themselves. The hunt, in essence, has devolved into an all-out commercial endeavor, staged not for subsistence, but to feed growing regional markets. And the impact is clear."
"In March 2012, following the brutal attack of three rhinos by poachers seeking horn, Dr. William Fowlds, the wildlife veterinarian treating the rhinos, contacted WitmerLab for insight into the anatomical structure of the horn, skull, and nasal cavity of rhinos. The poachers had used machetes to hack off the horns, leaving deep wounds in the face and exposing the delicate mucous membranes of the paranasal air sinuses and nasal cavity." The result of this partnership was the Visible Interactive Rhino. For more rhinoceros anatomy, check out photos from a rhinoceros dissection from What's in John's Freezer? (previously). [more inside]
Billy Joel has now officially endorsed - The Longest Time (Coral Triangle Edition), by the Barber Lab Quartet [more inside]
Blue trees are to be seen in cities around the world, a colorful plea to save the trees. [more inside]
In 1962, Yorkshire man Brendon Grimshaw bought the island of Moyenne in the middle of the Indian Ocean for £8000. He has since dedicated his life to turning it into a tropical paradise; including planting over sixteen thousand trees, building nearly five kilometers for nature paths, and reintroducing over 100 land tortoises. It's now the world's smallest National Park. [more inside]
A Death in Yellowstone: On the Trail of a Grizzly Bear. a gripping story and a well written article in Slate, by Jessica Grose. Includes a similarly remarkable photo feature. [more inside]
Previously 1 , Previously 2)
This stealthy undertaking was not an act of robbery or espionage but rather a crucial operation in what would become an association called UX, for “Urban eXperiment.” UX is sort of like an artist’s collective, but far from being avant-garde—confronting audiences by pushing the boundaries of the new—its only audience is itself. More surprising still, its work is often radically conservative, intemperate in its devotion to the old. Through meticulous infiltration, UX members have carried out shocking acts of cultural preservation and repair, with an ethos of “restoring those invisible parts of our patrimony that the government has abandoned or doesn’t have the means to maintain.” The group claims to have conducted 15 such covert restorations, often in centuries-old spaces, all over Paris. - Wired.com "The New French Hacker-Artist Underground"
On Dec 14, 2011 Miranda Gibson climbed 200ft up a tree in Tasmania. She hasn't yet come down. [more inside]
"Probably the most important conservation statute ever enacted into America’s fisheries law".. as of 2012, all 528 federally managed fish species now have imposed catch limits. The US is arguably the first country in the world to do it. This means every species has a hard limit of how many fish can be taken - not just how many per-boat or angler - an absolute cap on the total number (actually by weight). The law was enacted in 2006 under a policy forged under President George W. Bush and finalized with President Obama's backing.(previously)
"The Western Soundscape Archive [...] features audio recordings of animals and environments throughout the western United States." "The project's geographic focus includes eleven contiguous western states - Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming - as well as baseline sound monitoring in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska." [more inside]
"Richard Lewis is director of Durrell's Madagascar programme. Here he speaks about how the team and the local villagers are working to protect the world's rarest tortoise. This includes the drastic measure of "defacing" the beautiful shells in order to make the animals worthless on the black market."
Islands make up only about 3% of the earth's land area but host about 20% of all species and 50 to 60% of endangered species. The biggest threat to islands are invasive species, mainly rats, but also pigs and cats, who feed on nesting birds and native plants. New Zealand has been the innovator in clearing islands of rats because of its endangered populations of flightless birds which are vulnerable. One species of flightless parrot, known as the kakapo, has only 131 individuals left in the "wild" - they are closely guarded 24x7 on Codfish Island, their nests surrounded by rat traps and cameras vigilantly on the lookout for invaders. [more inside]
"There is a parallel between what amphibian taxonomists do these days and what homicide detectives do. Both arrive at scenes of mayhem. Maybe they solve the crime, but they are powerless to undo it." A fungal plague is killing the world's amphibians. Hundreds of species are already gone. There is no vaccine and no cure. There is, however, an ark.
Most people know that Venice has long been threatened by chronic flooding, but in recent years the Queen of the Adriatic has faced a rising tide of a different sort: advertising. From the Doge's Palace to St. Mark's Square to the bittersweet Bridge of Sighs -- named for the grief its splendid views once inspired in crossing death row prisoners -- immense billboards lit late into the night now mar the city's most treasured places. Allegedly built to cover the cost of restoration work in the face of government cutbacks, the ads have brought in around $600,000 per year since 2008 -- a fraction of the shortfall -- and show no sign of going away any time soon. Their presence prompted a consortium of the world's leading cultural experts led by the Venice in Peril Fund to air an open letter demanding the city government put a stop to the placards that "hit you in the eye and ruin your experience of one of the most beautiful creations of humankind." Mayor Giorgio Orsoni, for one, was not moved, saying last year "If people want to see the building they should go home and look at a picture of it in a book."
Cats are apparently the culprits behind several avian extinctions worldwide. So, are cats bad for the environment?
The red-crested tree rat (Santamartamys rufodorsalis), not seen in over a hundred years, made an unexpected, nonchalant appearance at the El Dorado Bird Reserve in Colombia a couple of weeks ago. Witnesses are unavailable for comment, being too busy with squeals of "Awwwwwww" to respond to questions. Press release here; high-res photos heEEEEEEEEEEEEEE
I drive past the Meadowlands every day now for the past 2 years on the NJ Turnpike. I kept seeing construction equipment and this area of dead dumping land slowly transform into one with actual streams like out of some plan. Turns out, there was. [more inside]
In 1975, with $3,000 in savings Roxanne Quimby and her boyfriend moved to Maine. They bought a tract of land on which they built a cabin and an outhouse. Near her Guilford homestead, Quimby later met beekeeper Burt Shavitz and used his beeswax to create candles (making $20,000 in her first year selling at local crafts fairs) -- and later their (yes, the two cofounded a company together) best selling product Burt's Bees Lip Balm (it's Burt's image that still graces many of the company's products). With the phenomenal success that followed, she sold 80 percent of her shares in the company to New York investors in 2003 (eventually the company was sold to Clorox) to help fund significant land purchases. For years Maine sportsmen have been outraged with Quimby for forbidding hunters, loggers, snowmobiles and all-terrain vehicles on the 120,000 acres of woodlands she now owns. Quimby has recently offered a compromise. She wants to donate 70,000 acres to help create a new national park (Maine Woods National Park) while "setting aside another 30,000 acres of woodlands ... to be managed like a state park, with hunting and snowmobiling allowed." [more inside]
Five years ago this week, the BBC started broadcasting one of the most extraordinary documentaries ever to grace television: Planet Earth. The culmination of five years of field work, it employed the most cutting-edge of techniques in order to capture life in all its forms, from sweeping spaceborne vistas to shockingly intimate close-ups -- including many sights rarely glimpsed by human eyes. Visually spectacular, it showcased footage shot in 204 locations in 62 countries, thoroughly documenting every biome from the snowy peaks of the Himalayas to the lifegiving waters of the Okavango Delta, a rich narrative tapestry backed by a stirring orchestral score from the BBC Concert Orchestra. Unfortunately, the series underwent some editorial changes for rebroadcast overseas. But now fans outside the UK can rejoice -- all eleven chapters of this epic story are available on YouTube in their original form: uncut, in glorious 1080p HD, and with the original narration by renowned naturalist Sir David Attenborough. Click inside for the full listing (and kiss the rest of your week goodbye). [more inside]
You didn't much like Raptorize and were hoping for something about real raptors (not F-22 fighters), therefore I am pleased to give you the goods on Birds of Prey. Raptors are birds that hunt (or scavenge) for meat, not plant life, and share several physical traits (although they can vary in size from miniature (pygmy) owls to Andean condors). Eagles and hawks (accipitridae), among the largest birds of prey in the United States), falcons (falconidae), condors, harriers, kites, ospreys (pandionidae), owls (tytonidae and strigidae), secretary birds (sagittariidae) and vultures (cathartidae) are all raptors; all have hooked beaks, fantastic visual acuity and sharp talons. The word raptor comes from the Latin rapere (to seize), apt description of their hunting style. Raptor breeders abound, as do raptor associations (quite a list at the Global Raptor Information Network). Rescue and rehabilitation organizations nurse injured raptors back to health; you can Adopt-a-Bird, and even donate regularly to help the birds via your very own Raptor Center Credit Card. Failing that, you can always help others learn more about conservation of these magnificent and beautiful creatures. And if you are super keen, you can attend the Winter Raptor Fest 2011. [more inside]
The Great Unwashed: "Some people have all but abandoned the idea of soap, shampoo or deodorant and yet still have friends, relationships and jobs." Slate disagrees that this is even a trend, but The Village Voice notes it has been covered elsewhere, including The New York Observer and Hairpin. In response, The Week asks, "Can you succeed without showering?"
Every day, our world gets a little bit smaller and a lot more complex. So much so that even minor decisions can have major consequences. Not just for trees or frogs or polar bears, but for human lives, and livelihoods. At its core, sustainability is about people. The Living Principles for Design aim to guide purposeful action. It is a place to co-create, share and showcase best practices, tools, stories and ideas for enabling sustainable action across all design disciplines. [more inside]
The American Great Plains rival the Serengeti, according to National Geographic, but unlike in apparently more progressive Africa, the USA never protected the plains on a large scale. Now private interests under the The American Prairie Foundation are buying up land in Montana hoping to create a multi-million acre preserve that would be the largest privately funded conservation land venture on the planet, bigger than Yellowstone National Park, that one day may see the return of great migrating herds of bison, pronghorn antelope, deer and elk. Not all Montana ranchers are happy with the new Serengeti neighbor.
Tasmanian Devils rebranded after Warner Bros cartoon 'ruins reputation'. The Tasmanian Devil is being rebranded in an attempt to restores it reputation, which conservationists say has been damaged by the Warner Brothers cartoon. They believe the animal has been depicted as ferocious, aggressive and bloodthirsty and are now trying to give the devils an image overhaul and portray them as shy and retiring in an attempt to convince the Australian public that they are worth saving. Wild populations of Tasmanian devils are under grave threat from Devil Facial Tumour Disease Previously Discussed Here, a type of contagious cancer that has decimated their numbers by 60 per cent in 10 years.
Today Minnesota finalizes a $44 million deal to conserve approximately 188,000 acres of forest, wetlands, and shoreline through what is known as a conservation easement. In addition to private funds from entities such as the Blandin Foundation, the easement is being paid for through the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment to Minneosta's state constitution, which just over a year ago created permanent funding for natural resource, arts, and cultural projects through a 0.375% state sales tax. UPM-Blandin Paper Co., will continue to own the land and be allowed to harvest wood, but the land cannot be developed or subdivided and the public must have access to the land. [more inside]
The International Conservation Photography Awards is the creation of Seattle, Washington-based photographer Art Wolfe: "We wanted to provide a platform from which photographers both amateur and professional alike could showcase their work in a very prestigious way. We love the idea of championing the cause of preservation and nature through the medium of photography." Winning imagery from the 2010 awards can be viewed in person at the Burke Museum in Seattle, or online here, which includes excellent slideshows of wildlife, underwater life and distinguished photographs (requires Flash support).
Attenborough's Pitcher, an "Udderly Weird Yam," a two-inch phallic mushroom already immortalized on Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me, and the "Bombardier Worm" ("Chaff worm" would seem a more accurate name) are just four of the newly described species making the International Institute for Species Exploration's totally arbitrary Top 10 New Species list. [more inside]
When Gladys and Harold Degree pulled the siding off their Colchester, VT home, they made a surprising discovery--five large, full-color posters from an 1883 visit by the Forepaugh Circus. Conservators at the Northeast Document Conservation Center made another surprising discovery underneath--posters for Forepaugh's rivals, the John B. Doris Circus. The newly conserved posters are on display at the Shelburne Museum through October 24th. (via)
April 27th is World Tapir Day! Take a few minutes to celebrate our prehensile-schnozzed fellow mammals by learning some facts, viewing some cuteness, or supporting the cause.
Opened yesterday, the Philadelphia Zoo's Lego-made exhibit, called ''Creatures of Habitat: A Gazillion-Piece Animal Adventure," features the work of world-renowned Lego artist Sean Kenney. According to Kenney, the 34 animals he created for the zoo took him over one year to complete--the largest project he's undertaken. Included in the exhibit are sculptures of endangered birds, frogs, tamarins, and a polar bear made with 95,000 Lego pieces.
A 1999 Texas electricity deregulation statute included, almost as an afterthought, a requirement that the state develop 2,000 megawatts of wind power by 2009. This past February, wind generators delivered a record 6,242 megawatts of power to Texas population centers -- 22 percent of all the electricity consumed in the Texas grid. Could their model transform the nation's utility sector?, Or will it be derailed by special interests and politics? [more inside]
Rising up from deep within the aquifer, cool clear water flows from hundreds of springs that dot the Florida landscape. Florida springs are natural wonders that are threatened constantly. [more inside]
Green tells the story of one orangutan captured and brought to a rehabilitation facility after her home is logged and converted to a palm oil plantation. This award winning documentary is a powerful indictment of the palm oil and logging industries in South Asia. It is also another voice in the crowd drawing attention to the potential ecological consequences of growing dependence on biofuels. [more inside]
Getting something permanently inked upon your body is not to be taken lightly, especially if it is a rare type of fungus. [more inside]