The Watering Hole; Thursday May 26 2016; Of Mental Poverty and Shriveled Souls (aka Teabaggers)

Last Monday I received a letter from The Wilderness Society. It read:

Public lands enemy number one, Representative Rob Bishop, is back at it again! This time he intends to take down landmark sagebrush conservation plans by targeting a defenseless bird, the greater sage-grouse.

Sage Grouse

Greater Sage-Grouse. Credit: Mason Cummings/TWS

Through a national security bill, Rep. Bishop is trying to attach language that would undo publicly developed conservation plans and sell off critical sage-grouse habitat to the highest energy development bidder.

You can help us stop him in his tracks! Sage-grouse are not a threat to our national security. This is a thinly veiled anti-conservation move by Rep. Bishop that would trash one of the largest conservation successes in U.S. history. His effort would unravel years of conservation work by federal agencies, 11 western states and governors, and a diverse coalition of stakeholders. These plans, put in place in late 2015, merged the best science with local knowledge in a conservation plan for 67 million acres of sage-grouse habitat on public lands. Now years of work are in danger of being undone by one man. Tell your senators and representatives to stand up for the sage-grouse and its habitat!

Sincerely,

The Wilderness Society

The “Representative Rob Bishop” (R-UT)  to whom they refer is a wildly anti-conservation wingnut Congressional Teabagger who would, I’m sure, happily agree to kill off what’s left of the planet for the sole purpose of turning every square inch of land over to whomever can convert it into cash. Money. Because as we all know, cash is a far more useful and life-enhancing commodity than are those wastrel notions of public land and wildlife preservation. Who cares about a goddamed Sage Grouse anyway? They’re prolly not even good to eat — never seen ’em in the store, I know that for sure. Tree-huggers and environmentalists like to use the word Conservation, but Conservation ain’t got nothin’ to do with genuine Conservatism, ‘cuz look close, they be spelled differnt!

Anyway, I  immediately forwarded this, the Wilderness Society’s message, to my Senators (from whom I’ve not yet heard) and to my “Representative,” the Wingnut Conservative Teabagger Stooge aka Scott Tipton (R-CO):

Representative Bishop’s “Greater Sage Grouse Protection and Recovery Act of 2016,” a rider on this year’s House National Defense Authorization Act, is a thinly veiled anti-conservation measure. This effort would undo years of collaborative planning for 67 million acres across 11 western states and undermine the very protections that helped keep the bird from being listed as threatened or endangered. Please stand up to protect the survival of the greater sage-grouse.

The sage-grouse is not, has never been, and never will be a threat to the security of our nation. This rider has no place in the NDAA. In fact, the Department of Defense, Army, Navy, and Air Force made it clear through statements that the sage-grouse conservation efforts will not impede on the military’s readiness, operations or training.

After years of dedication by the federal government, Western governors and a diverse coalition of stakeholders, it would be a travesty if all of the plans were undone through a rider on a national security bill.

Please don’t let this or any other rider undermine the one of America’s greatest conservation achievements. Don’t meddle with the conservation plans — pass a clean NDAA!

Received this typical boilerplate reply from Tipton two days later, yesterday, on Wednesday the 25th. There was nothing even approaching a semi-salient notion in his thirty word response:

. . . the bill prohibits the listing of the Greater Sage Grouse through 2025, providing adequate time for effective state and local species conservation efforts to continue without heavy-handed federal interference. (highlights mine)

I mean, imagine it. Allow the ‘heavy hands’ of the Feds to act in the interest of a potentially  endangered species and its habitat preservation, and what’s the result? INTERFERENCE WITH THE CAPITALISTIC AMURKKKAN FREEDOM TO RAPE AND DESTROY ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING THAT’S GOT MONEY IN IT!! It’s in the Constitution, Right? Must be, ‘cuz a long time ago John Adams said this here:

[When European colonists first arrived in America] “the whole continent was one continued dismal wilderness, the haunt of wolves and bears and more savage men. Now the forests are removed, the land covered with fields of corn, orchards bending with fruit and the magnificent habitations of rational and civilized people.” ~John Adams, 1756 (as quoted by Barry Lopez in ‘Of Wolves and Men’)

Adams spoke those words some 260 years ago, back when the rape of the continent had just gotten underway. Today, however, we’ve come a long LONG way and have FINALLY reached the point where just about the only land left in the country — land that was once a “dismal wilderness, the haunt of wolves and beaus and [the archaeological remnants of those] more savage men . . .” — has FINALLY reached the point where “the forests are removed [and] the land [is] covered with . . . the magnificent habitations of rational and civilized people.”

YeeHaw. Progress. Finally. Money.

Rep. Rob Bishop is, like Teabaggers everywhere, a notorious hater of Public Lands along with the (implicit) preservation of both those lands and the wildlife thereupon. He is, unfortunately, currently the Chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, and has publicly stated that he is dead against the Antiquities Act — a law which 16 presidents of both parties have used to permanently protect public lands and historic sites via National Monument designation. The bottom line is that Bishop hates Public lands, along with any and all who might support the concept. As he recently said, anyone who supports the Antiquities Act of 1906 — the same law that was used to safeguard the Grand Canyon — should “die.” Meanwhile, in his home state of Utah, Bishop has unveiled a draft bill that would force the transfer and sale of tens-of-thousands of acres of public land in southeast Utah — a concept completely in violation of the wishes of Native American Nations in the area, including the Navajo, Ute Mountain Ute, and Zuni.

Damn Injuns. Who the hell do they think they are?

Bishop — apparently in consort with Teabaggers everywhere (including, sadly, SCOTT TIPTON of Colorado) — is determined to do whatever is necessary to rid this country of those gigantic tyrannies the gubmint has imposed on We the People: Public Lands (National Parks, Monuments, Wilderness, National Forests, etc.) along with the protections implied or imposed in re each and every wild inhabitant thereupon. Why?

Because Freedom  Money.

Rotten bastard(s). I’d rather live in a den of hungry Timberwolves than in a world filled with Teabaggers  DEFINED by the Mental Poverty and Shriveled Souls of Teabaggers!

OPEN THREAD

 

 

The Watering Hole; Thursday April 14 2016; Public Lands

More than a decade ago, I penned the following in my attempt to summarize the fears of environmentalists everywhere concerning the future of public lands — courtesy of right wing politicians — in this country:

It’s a non-arguable fact of life, so to speak, that the earth’s environment, especially the biosphere, the earth-atmosphere interface in which life exists, is critical to . . . well, it’s critical to the existence of life itself. That is, of course, unless one happens to be a Bush Republican, at which point the biosphere becomes little more than just another big word, one that sounds like something a tree-hugger might speak in the same breath as ‘ecology’ or ‘endangered species’; tree-huggers: you know, those weirdos that think trees and owls and undeveloped land are worth more than the money they can bring in.

I would only wish that last statement be hyperbole and not an understated fact.

[. . .]

In any case, the environment is under attack by this administration. Whether one speaks of global warming, or destroying wilderness, polluting the air and water, strip mining, logging, the further endangerment of endangered species, “junk” science (altered) in order to justify/sanctify misdeeds, drastic reductions in Super-Fund appropriations and hence in cleanups, or just plain selling out to business, to corporate campaign contributors – the verdict is guilty, guilty as charged, guilty before all the gods that be or don’t be.

Sadly, the current destruction is only the half of it; it’s very likely that the other hammer will drop one day in the not too distant future. The ultimate atrocity remains: the conversion of public lands into saleable assets, into that single most valuable of all earthly commodities, money. All arrows are slowly beginning to point in that general direction. Could it really happen? Could the Grand Canyon be sold and opened for development? Sadly, the answer is very likely ‘yes.’ Consider:

There are upwards of 100,000,000 acres of wilderness set aside in the United States, along with hundreds of National Parks and monuments which protect and preserve tens of thousands of square miles of the nation’s most awe-inspiring lands. From the Grand Canyon to Yellowstone and Glacier, from Yosemite to Zion and Rocky Mountain National Park, places unlike anywhere else in the world are protected for perpetuity – or so we’re told. Denali, Big Bend, Petrified Forest, Haleakala – each and all are jewels in the American crown. And we must not forget, too, the National Forests, National Grasslands, wetlands, wild rivers – the list goes on and on and on – multiple-use lands which themselves enjoy at least a modicum of protection from private business interests. Altogether, the dollar value of America’s public lands must be nearly inestimable, and to think said lands are not coveted by speculators and developers, both foreign and domestic, perhaps even by other nations as the most solid possible investment, would be naive to say the least. As Will Rogers said, “Invest in land, they’re not making it anymore.”

[. . .]

At one time, the American currency was the world’s standard, backed by the word, the resources, and the robust economy of the United States. For foreign investors, the dollar was as safe a haven as a mother’s arms. But no longer; today it is not. Today the dollar is a risky investment at best, and apparently is destined to become riskier and riskier with every passing month. What if America has one last asset, and it’s a big one. Imagine the boom if:

✓ Wilderness areas were offered for purchase by private developers?
✓ National Parks were sold to the highest bidder?
✓ Forests were to become the property of timber companies and/or land developers?

Those are just three aspects of what may well become a reality, a way to bail out an otherwise heavily indebted America, plus a way to spur development (read: create jobs) on prime and pristine lands especially across the west and in each Alaska and Hawaii. The travesty is unimaginable – perhaps that’s why it just may happen, why it may even be part and parcel to an already-existing plan. “Starve the beast” – turn America over to the private sector. Could this be what George Bush means when he speaks glowingly of his “ownership society”? A nation where even that which we today call Public Land is destined for private ownership? Remember, today’s current head of public lands is a mining industry lobbyist who believes that public lands are unconstitutional.

We can hope for sanity to reappear, but dare we hold our breath in anticipation?

That was written WAY back in April 2005, just months after G.W.Bush began his second term as the POTUS whose aberrant first term fiscal policies had already completely reversed the financial debt-reduction progress his predecessor had initiated. Bush had also made it clear that land preservation and environmental issues including designation of wildlife refuges, of Wilderness, of National Monuments would not be on his docket because, after all, there’s no money, no profit, in ANY of that, so why the hell bother? And as Reagan’s Interior Secretary (and fundamentalist Christian) James Watt reportedly once noted, “God gave us these things to use. After the last tree is felled, Christ will come back.”

So that was then. THIS is NOW:

Tea Party Wave Washes Up ‘Anti-Parks Caucus’ In Congress

A group of 20 senators and representatives has formed a de facto “anti-parks caucus” in Congress and is waging the most significant legislative and ideological challenge to America’s national parks in decades, says a new report released Monday by the Center for American Progress. The analysis finds that this anti-parks caucus is composed of less than five percent of Congress but is responsible for introducing dozens of bills to block the creation of new national parks, end America’s most effective parks program, and sell off public lands.

Eight anti-parks caucus members also participate in the Federal Land Action Group, a group formed last year with the sole purpose of developing land grab legislation that would transfer federal land to state and local control.

[. . .]

Such partisan politics ring true with the 20-member anti-parks caucus which includes Reps. Rob Bishop (R-UT) and Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), and Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Ted Cruz (R-TX).

Surprise surprise. Right? Yeah, right.

I personally find that to be the most vividly disgusting anti-intelluctual and anti-American Congressional premise I’ve run across in the roughly 64 years I’ve been paying attention to their collective nonsensicals, and I find it to be insurmountably incomprehensible that ANYONE would ever vote FOR such a treacherous and treasonous voice for ANY elective office, POTUS and DOGCATCHER included.

I’m reminded of the words of Author John C. Van Dyke who, more than a century ago, wrote this excellent summation:

“…with the coming of civilization the grasses and the wild flowers perish, the forest falls, and its place is taken by brambles, the mountains are blasted in the search for minerals, the plains are broken by the plow and the soil is gradually washed into the rivers. Last of all, when the forests have gone the rains cease falling, the streams dry up, the ground parches and yields no life, and the artificial desert – the desert made by the tramp of human feet – begins to show itself, Yes; everyone must have cast a backward glance and seen Nature’s beauties beaten to ashes under the successive marches of civilization…”

When, I wonder, will enough people figure all that out and take steps to curtail the greed and idiocy that’s come to define this country?
Not until it’s too late, I’d guess.

OPEN THREAD

The Watering Hole, Monday, November 23rd, 2015: NatGeo, Take Me Away!

I can’t deal with “Ugly Americans” [of course, “Ugly Americans” = “Republican Presidential Candidates and their Fans/Supporters”] anymore; we keep thinking, “How can these guys sink so low?”, then, the next hour or day or week, one or two or several of them come out with such outrageous shit that we really need a new word to define what circle of hell lies beyond “outrageous” or “horrific” or “despicable” or “abhorrent” or “inhuman” – sorry, I need more words!

And I’ve had it up to HERE with the holidays being turned into meaningless “shop-’til-you-drop” commercialism [how about if “Black Friday” could be turned into “Black Lives Matter Friday” – hell, make every day of the entire Thanksgiving/Christmas holiday shopping season a day of protests]. So I’m going with some beautiful photos from National Geographic to start the week.

Here’s some pretty birds, from “A Flight of Birds”, a section of NatGeo’s Photo Ark, including a photo capturing the iridescent plumage of the Purple Glossy Starling, such as seen below,
purple_glossy_starling
and a more close-up shot of the Javan Rhinoceros Hornbill, like the one seen below:
javan rhinoceros Hornbill

And if you prefer a larger gallery for leisurely viewing, here’s more from NatGeo’s 2015 Photo Contest. The “Week 10” group includes a brooding sunset photo of Godafoss Waterfall in Iceland – here’s a chilly winter shot of the falls, just to start the calming process:
waterfall-godafoss-iceland

This is our daily Open Thread – enjoy the views or rant away – or you can do both!

The Watering Hole, Monday, October 5th, 2015: Mixed Bag Monday

Let’s start off with a bang:  According to Foreign Policy magazine, the same idiots in Congress who tried to stop the Iranian Nuclear Agreement now want to ‘make it up to Bibi’ by giving Israel bunker busters.  An excerpt from this excellently-written article by Jeffrey Davis:

Since the battle over the Iran deal was largely fought over the question of whether proponents loved Israel or not, both sides are talking loudly about providing the country with a big arms package. Those who supported the deal are eager to make it up to Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, while those opposed have to find ever more extreme proposals to prove they love Israel more.

This absurd competition — which is primarily about political posturing, not Israeli security — has reached an almost perfect level of absurdity. There is now a growing chorus of people arguing that the United States should give Israel the Massive Ordnance Penetrator — a huge conventional bunker-buster bomb — and a fleet of heavy bombers to drop it.

Israel’s air bases don’t even have runways that can accommodate heavy bombers, though apparently one base — Nevatim — could be modified.**

[**Personal note:  the engineer for whom I used to work had earned the money that enabled him to buy a nice house and start his own business from a contract constructing the Negev Air Base runways.]

Next, let’s go back to the Pope’s meeting with Kim Davis.  Although most news reports agree that the Vatican’s ambassador to the U.S., Carlo Maria Vigano, arranged the visit, so far none seem to have specifically asked or answered “Why?”  Was it solely Reverend Vigano’s idea?  Or – yeah, I’m the suspicious, cynical type – did someone with a stake in a Papal stamp of approval of Kim Davis and her ilk, someone perhaps running for the Presidency, arrange this very, very quietly?  Yeah, I’m looking at you, Huckabee.

Only the Washington Post appears to be curious about the backstory of this now infamous meeting:

Church leaders in the United States and in Rome have been resolutely tight-lipped about the meeting, perhaps concerned about the prospect of appearing to publicly rebuke or challenge the pope, particularly on such a sensitive issue. At the same time, church-watchers have debated and swapped rumors about who set up the meeting, whether it was at the behest of the pope himself, or whether it was an idea pushed by other bishops or religious freedom advocates or donors.

Among those who declined to comment was the Rev. Carlo Maria Viganò, the Vatican’s ambassador to the United States, at whose residence the meeting took place.

Rev. Thomas Rosica, an English-language spokesman for the Vatican, told the Associated Press. “And in the pope’s characteristic kindness and warmth and hospitality, he shook people’s hands and gave them rosaries. We should understand it as that. In terms of why this person was invited, you have to ask those questions of the nunciature.”

A controversial figure both in Rome and in the United States, Viganò has gone further than other church leaders in his campaign against same-sex marriage. Among other things, he appeared at an event this year with the National Organization for Marriage, a group that vocally opposes same-sex marriage and with which U.S. bishops typically don’t publicly ally.

And, of course, Liberty Counsel, and through them Kim Davis, are more or less calling Pope Francis a liar.  According to Christian Today’s article, “Kim Davis denies Vatican account of her meeting with Pope, says she was invited”:

“Disturbed by statements coming from the Vatican, gay marriage nemesis Kim Davis would like to set the records straight that it was the Vatican that extended an “unsolicited invitation” for her to hold a “private meeting” with Pope Francis at the Vatican embassy in Washington D.C. last Sept. 24.

Liberty Counsel, the group representing Davis, said the Kentucky county clerk—who spent six days in jail for defying a court order for her to issue marriage certificates to same-sex couples—had spoken with papal representative Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano before she met the Pope.

“This meeting was a private meeting. No other members of the public were present,” Liberty Counsel said.

Davis, accompanied by her husband Joe and lawyer Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, arrived in Washington on the night of Sept. 23, the Liberty Counsel statement said.

The following day, the Davis couple were met by people with “heavy Italian accents” who led them to the Vatican embassy.

“Kim and Joe Davis were placed in a room with no one else present. Later Pope Francis arrived with only Vatican or Embassy personnel and security,” the Liberty Counsel statement said.

“He stretched out his hands. Kim clasped his hands, and he asked her to pray for him. She said she would, and she asked the Pontiff to pray for her, to which he said he would.

“Pope Francis then thanked Kim for her courage. They embraced. The Pope said, ‘Stay strong.’ He then presented Kim and Joe with two rosaries. There was no line of people or other members of the public seen anywhere,” the statement said.

Liberty Counsel said the Vatican requested Davis to keep the meeting a “secret” until the following Tuesday.”

Really?  In this particular case, I have to say that, since Liberty Counsel and Kim Davis are already proven liars, I tend to doubt their account of the “meeting”, which seems to be just another pathetic attempt to keep Liberty Counsel’s pet martyr for Christianity in the limelight.  But I still want to know, who really arranged this on Davis’s behalf with the Papal Ambassador?

Last, a belated birthday present for our resident Turtle:  from National Geographic, glowing sea turtle!

“The critically endangered hawksbill sea turtle is the first reptile scientists have seen exhibiting biofluorescence—the ability to reflect the blue light hitting a surface and re-emit it as a different color. The most common colors are green, red, and orange.”

This is our daily Open Thread–go on, discuss things!

The Watering Hole, Tuesday December 16, 2014 – Environmental News and Food Politics

Supposedly MIT scientists have found new insight as to what killed off the dinosaurs 66 million years ago. The more important question is why are there still Republicans around?

 

Open thread. Discuss.

The Watering Hole; Friday April 25 2014; A Win for Biological Diversity

O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!
It wad frae monie a blunder free us,
an’ foolish notion
What airs in dress an’ gait wad lea’e us,
an’ ev’n devotion!
(Robert Burns from “To a Louse”)

Yesterday, I received this uplifting note from the Center for Biological Diversity (an environmental-and-wildlife-activist organization HQ’d in Tucson, Arizona):

Public Opposition Helps Defeat Arizona Wolf-kill Bills — Thank You

Mexican gray wolf After an outpouring of public opposition from Center  activists and others, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer this  week vetoed two anti-wolf bills, including one that  would have allowed ranchers to kill endangered  Mexican gray wolves on federal land, contrary to  federal law.

Thank you to all who answered our call to action against these bills, especially those who flooded Brewer’s office with phone calls this week.

There are just 37 Mexican gray wolves in the Arizona wild. This struggling population desperately needs protection to survive — and some state lawmakers are intent on making sure it doesn’t get that protection. We’re happy to see Brewer veto these disastrous bills, but we also know that wolf-haters in Arizona remain a potent force. We won’t relax our vigilance.

Read more about the Center’s long battle to save Mexican gray wolves from extinction.

Much as I detest AZ Governor Jan Brewer’s politics, I do give her credit for occasionally making the right and proper decision. I also maintain the hope, no matter how faint, that SOMEONE, or some agency, will act NOW to stymie the idiots in the state of Idaho (and elsewhere, of course) and thus prevent the entire wild wolf population there (and anywhere else, for that matter) from being completely wiped out . . . by idiots.

I know, I know, common sense is an alien notion amongst both idiots and wingnuts (assuming there’s any difference), but still, we of un-shriveled mind can dare to hope, right?

In that vein, remember the words spoken by Mitt Romney in advance of the 2012 elections? “Corporations are people, my friend,” he said in all seriousness. Gives me an idea: if corporations which are in no way definable as “people” can be legally designated as people, then why not also so-designate wolves, polar bears, eagles, dolphins, whales, coyotes, owls, puma, tortoises, butterflies . . . etc., et al., as “people”? Why can’t we insist the SCOTUS also legally grant wildlife all the protections that both idiots and corporations now enjoy?

Time for a vote. Choose A or B (in order of presentation below) as either “people” or “non-people” — I’ll forward your votes to the SCOTUS (If I can find their email somewhere).

Bundy

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Oh, and in the process of deciding said issue, maybe the Scotussians could also agree to define wingnuts as non-people, and then let the chips fall where they may? Now THAT would be a definite job-creator, one that prolly even the NRA might support!

I know. My bad (on rare occasion). Oh well. Clearly some critters deserve protection, some don’t. It’s so simple.

OPEN THREAD

The Watering Hole; Friday March 21 2014; Monarch Roundup

Sometimes it only takes a simple one page email letter to tell it like it is. This one, from the Natural Resources Defense Council popped up in my inbox just yesterday, and it took me maybe thirty seconds to act, to add my name to the petition of protest.

Monarch butterflies are in crisis, and we must take immediate action to protect them!

Less than 20 years ago, an astounding 1 billion monarchs migrated to Mexico for the winter. This year, a mere fraction of that — just 33.5 million — made the journey.

Why? In large part it’s because industrial agriculture is killing off the native milkweed on which monarchs depend with a new generation of potent herbicides.

Tell the EPA to adopt tough new restrictions on the weed killers that are wiping out monarchs!

By placing commonsense limits on Big Ag’s rampant use of herbicides like glyphosate — marketed as Roundup by Monsanto — the EPA could dramatically increase the monarch’s chance for survival.

But the EPA is unlikely to do that unless it hears from hundreds of thousands of us!

Monarchs can’t live without milkweed — it is the only plant on which they lay their eggs.

What’s at stake here? One of the most astounding and extraordinary migrations on the planet — a true natural wonder.

Each year, as they have for countless generations, North American monarchs undertake an epic journey, flittering upwards of 3,000 miles across the U.S. and Canada to just a relative few wintering grounds, including Mexico’s Sierra Madre mountains.

But as industrial agriculture has ramped up its use of genetically engineered crops resistant to weed killers like glyphosate, it has also dramatically escalated its use of herbicides — and monarch populations have plunged.

This is the ninth year in a row that the population of monarchs wintering in Mexico has fallen below its long-term average, and this year it hit an all-time low.

Please tell EPA the time to act is now!

Thank you for joining NRDC at this critical moment in our fight to save the monarchs.

Sincerely,

Frances Beinecke
President
Natural Resources Defense Council 

So: a common agricultural herbicide (Monsanto’s Roundup) is very likely a major player in the apparently impending destruction/extinction of the Monarch Butterfly. Good old Monsanto. From herbicides to pesticides to genetically modified seeds, the destruction of the biosphere continues unabated . . . because there’s a lot of money in it. And nothing else matters, dontcha know.

I do hope that everyone who reads this will (a) sign the petition, and (b) spread the word far and wide. It’s time that we find the means to destroy something other than butterflies. As for Monsanto? — great place to begin the undoubtedly interminable process of destroying the destroyers. Gotta start somewhere, though.

0718-Butterfly and shadow on sunflowers

OPEN THREAD

 

Watering Hole: Tuesday February 4, 2014 – Tidbits (bite-size morsels on food and environmental politics)

Is Monsanto giving up on GMO Foods? Well maybe not cash cows like corn and soy, but veggies don’t seem to want to respond in ways that make them better through genetic manipulation. Mother Jones has the whole story… No GMO Monsanto!

House votes to de-fund food stamps in Blue States. After de-funding the left, the Right’s next goal is to make the poorest among us grovel for food on the street. I guess getting free food when so many Americans are working for theirs is just too much for them to bear.They would much rather have the poor begging in the streets (again)

Monarch butterflies drop, migration may disappear. The famed annual migration of monarch butterflies to Mexico is at an all time low and may be history. Who to thank? Start with the big M. Urban sprawl is a boogeyman here as well. Read on…
Flight canceled.

And now for some good news…
Slow Cities: The Growing Movement Putting Sustainability and Community Back in the Forefront. It all starts in Europe, of course. First it was the Slow Food movement, and now out of Italy again Cittaslow, an expansive vision of how smaller places can remain viable. Here are the variables in play:

Contain fewer than 50,000 people
Commit deeply to preserve and sustain the environment.
Encourage thoughtful development and use of new technologies for sustainability.
Foster local culture and preserve heritage traditions.
Promote healthy eating and lifestyle.
Support local artisans and businesses.
Welcome visitors.
Encourage active participation in community life.
Read on…
Create a slow city (or neighborhood) near you.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, January 25th, 2014: Animals, Birds and Kites – Oh My!

As always, The Weather Channel is great for more than just checking the forecast. Since I’m suddenly standing in for Wayne, today’s thread is going to explore a few recent articles from TWC:

First, from “A Race Against Time: Photos Capture Animals Before They Disappear”, by Michele Berger:

“Joel Sartore has ambitious plans: To photograph all 10,000 or so animals currently in captivity before they go extinct. Over the course of nine years, this National Geographic photographer has made great progress, capturing some 3,300 animals to date. Still, he thinks getting the remaining creatures will take the rest of his life — and he’s ok with that because he believes in this project.

It’s called Photo Ark, and Sartore sees it as both a snapshot of our time and as a call to action.” … “We really need to show people that this is a tragedy and it is the issue of our time,” he said. “It is folly to think that we can doom half of all species to extinction and think it won’t harm humanity.”

Among the animals included in the 15-photo slide show is the adorable Coquerel’s sifaka:

Coquerels sifaka (from the Bronx Zoo Gallery)

Coquerels sifaka (from the Bronx Zoo Gallery)

Next, we’re going to the birds with “Stunning Bird Portaits from Around the World”, also by Michele Berger. The 41 photos by Andrew Zuckerman include representations of such oddities as:

~ The Silkie Bantam Chicken, “…one of the few breeds with five toes instead of four.”

Silkie Bantam Chickens (photo courtesy keepingchickens.com)

Silkie Bantam Chickens (photo courtesy keepingchickens.com)


~ The Wattled Curassow:
Wattled Curassow (source psms29-com)

Wattled Curassow (source psms29-com)


~ The Lilac-Breasted Roller
Lilac-Breasted Roller

Lilac-Breasted Roller


~ And the Twelve-Wired Bird of Paradise
Twelve-Wired Bird of Paradise

Twelve-Wired Bird of Paradise

Finally, apparently I was unaware of the recent week-long international kite festival in parts of India, but there’s a photo gallery of 40 pics to prove it. (Some Bollywood actor is the subject of too many of the photos, but the kites are unusual.)

This is our daily open thread–if you’re somewhere freezing like Wayne and I, stay warm today!

The Watering Hole, Monday, May 13th, 2013: ‘Hu-mons’ and Animals – I’ll stick with the Animals

Well, the argument over gun legislation isn’t going to go away anytime soon, especially as long as Americans are being shot, deliberately or in tragic “accidents”, every day.

First, a frightening story from a commenter at TP:

“My son tried to make plans with a few friends to see the new Batman movie in Aurora. His plans fell through. The next day we talked. Grateful that he wasn’t there, I just felt sad. Then he told me about how hard to tried to be there. It jolted me awake. I kept thinking of how different my day, his day and our lives would have been had he been in that movie theater. I am more grateful for my son’s life than I have been since he was quite young. Gun regulation is personal to me. It is time. I will stick with this movement. It is time.”

Next: From a (somewhat outdated, as it was from November 2012, therefore does not include the Newtown shooting nor the 3000 or so gun deaths since December 14th) Mother Jones article listing mass shootings in the U.S. from 1982 to 2012, excerpts from the comment section:

Someone trotted out the “hammers kill more people than guns do” bullshit story (the report actually said that hammers were used to kill people more often than rifles, not guns); when another claimed disbelief, a pro-gun person who had been the main commenter on the thread responded:

#1.. proof of hammers.. GOOGLE IT.. in under 10 seconds you will find links showing proof..

As for where are the stats from? The FBI… national crime stats. The same thing can be had via StatsCan as well as other sources.

It sounds absurd to ban or regulate hammers as well. Why? not only are they used for non-malicious purposes an uncountable # of times every day (the same as firearms are) it again would NOT actually accomplish anything good at all.

It would not stop the rapist that uses the hammer to subdue his victim.. it would not stop the “armed robber” from robbing the local 7-11.. it also won’t stop the moron whom wallops his thumb with it either. Instead it would make “work” and waste of $ within gov regulation.. so you have to prove you are “competent” etc etc to put a nail in the wall with a “deadly and dangerous hammer”. Meanwhile criminals would just get an illegal hammer and use that… while the law abiding home owner has to wait to hang up a picture for gov approval.

As for the Nuclear bomb.. no.. that is not a fair comparison at all.. it is a very stupid comparison.

Explosives (Nuclear or otherwise) are already highly regulated to try to prevent lunatics such as Timothy McVeigh from causing mass destruction.

Why? Simple.. what practical use would a nuke be for people to have? You You can’t take it to a range to and practice with it.. you can’t carry it for personal protection and the protection of others. Not to mention it is a BOMB

You also neglect the fact that the lunatics such as McVeigh and Lanza are not stupid. If they did not have access (legal or illegal) to firearms they would find another way to inflect the damage they are intent on. It’s not hard to learn how to build a bomb online.. (though I won’t help educate anyone here how.)

As for pools and accidents.. yes they matter. But the anti’s love to pull the “if it saves one kid” crap. It’s crap since those saying such don’t care that a kid dies.. they care HOW they die. otherwise they would actually look at the real problems and try to find a solution. Such as education. We teach our kids safety with a pool.. why should they not be taught safety with a firearm? That alone is the single most effective way to reduce accidents (same for some adults). We also do not rely on the gov to regulate education about swimming pools. it is COMMON SENSE. The absurd stigma the uneducated use with firearms is unbelievably ignorant. Something sadly only made worse by the sensationalized BS spewed by the media.

Contrary to the media’s typical BS such as showing “Hollywood” scenes and constantly mislabeling firearms.. as well as the lie of “assault weapons” (There is no such thing btw as I’ve explained before… or do I need to explain it again?).. they have been caught flat out bold face LYING to the public. (Wolf Blitzer for one prime example and he was called on the carpet and publicly embarrassed for it)

So once again.. the aim of your post is to in effect place blame upon the inanimate objects and to punish those whom have done no harm. You aim to make those same people less able to defend themselves and others from the very people whom do cause harm. That is insanity to say the least since we already know the lunatics and criminals don’t obey the law. So it is completely destined to failure as gun control always has been. (Unless you are the dictator wanting control such as Hitler etc etc)

Once again the proof of the inanimate object doing no harm: http://montego.roughwheelers.c…

You were tempted to “refute every major contention” I’ve made. Sorry but the only way to try to do so would be to LIE. I am only telling the truth. Not trying to twist and cherry pick like the Anti’s do constantly. It is a cold hard and realistic view of the issues and the world. I for one refuse to fall for “feel good” legislation that does only harm to the general public. It is the absence of emotional rhetoric so commonly found with incidents such as Sandy Hook

It is not a lack of compassion for the victims of such either. It is the opposite. I would much rather those teachers had been armed and shot Lanza in the head on the spot. I would much rather the rapist is killed by the would be victim. I would rather the armed home invader that raped and robbed an 80 yr old woman last yr instead be shot by her.

As for incidents such as Lanza.. if I had been there I’d have attacked him even unarmed.. because it is the right thing to do. If I had been armed I’d have not even blinked at the need to shoot him on the spot.

Remember it is about personal responsibility. Unlike those blaming the firearm(s).. or blaming hollywood movies.. or video games etc etc.. none of those matter. I have played those games, watched those movies and I’ve been around firearms for most of my life. Funny.. I’m not a rampaging murderer… nor are you (I assume). They are all merely objects that are easy and conveniently to blame when trying to blame anyone or anything but ourselves.

Society failed for Sandy Hook not due to lack of moronic gun control… or lack of game control etc etc.. but they failed due to mental heath system in the US. His mother was trying to get a conservatorship of her Adult son (very hard to do).. and to have him committed. Also her firearms were locked up and he apparently got the code(s) w/o permission. If the system had not failed her, him and everyone else that incident could very well have been avoided entirely. And not a single “gun control” law would have been needed to accomplish such.

If you want to actually accomplish something good.. stop focusing on the object.. focus on the actual problems.

There is evil in the world.. and all the well wishing, idiot laws and tantrums by the anti’s won’t make that go away.

Oh and something I posted elsewhere you also should read:

You cannot child proof the world… but you can try to world proof your child.

“It is the Soldier: Not the minister Who gave us freedom of religion. Not the reporter Who gave us freedom of the press. Not the poet Who gave us freedom of speech Not the campus organizer Who gave us freedom to protest Not the lawyer Who gave us the right to a fair trial Not the politician Who gave us the right to vote It is the soldier who salutes the flag,Who serves beneath the flag, Whose coffin is draped by the flag, Who allows protesters to burn the flag” – Adapted from Charles M. Province

and

“I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.” – Voltaire

That which was fought for and died for you have the privilege of enjoying. Do not waste such a gift by spitting in the faces of those whom fought and died so you have it in the first place.

You enjoy the 1st and 2nd in the US… it comes from the Magna Carta. Learn history and defend it since the rights you do not defend you loose.

And the same commenter later:

“Of course they are not telling the whole truth. They are cherry picking stats in order to try to twist the truth. Sadly very typical of the anti’s to try to promote their own agenda.

As for Oz [I believe this refers to Australia].. Deaths / injuries via violent crime and suicides have climbed and remained relatively stable respectively after GC. South Africa skyrocketed after GC. etc etc… it has all been thoroughly listed.. though they refuse to accept the reality still.

GUN CONTROL is a failure and always will be.”

A commenter for gun control:

One more thing, speaking of gun defense…I find it interesting, that we have the most guns of any “developed” nation..we have the least restrictive laws…and we don’t have this “gun paradise” of less crime because armed vigilantes saving the day.

We have the opposite. More gun deaths than any other developed nation.

Yet gun ownership seems to be declining. So if we don’t have a “safer” country with the amount of guns we have now, and less people want/have guns…then that hypothesis will never come to pass.

Unless this is the safe society we get with an armed citizenry?

And that same commenter also said later:

“Ugh, the “guns don’t kill people”, is such a trite argument.

I keep having to reference the stuff you throw out there. First off, we regulate cars in all sorts of ways. We regulate at the federal level of what a car maker can make. We regulate what safety features must be had. If you want to drive the car, even once, you are required to register with the state regularly. You have safety inspections regularly. You have to have insurance. You are required several months of intensive training. The state can revoke your license at will, including your Alzheimer’s patient. There are school zones where you have different rules to follow. All done to protect people. So let’s do all that in a mandatory way on every gun.

As you said, it’s just an object. Let’s treat it like every other dangerous object, which is to minimize the damage and casualties.

And once again, your premise is wrong. Guns do kill people, because they were designed to. Near the Newtown shooting, there was a school stabbing in China where 20 kids were attacked. How many died by the gun here? 20. How many died in China with the stabbing? 0. So…the gun does kill people. It kills people that otherwise may have lived.

Let’s get away from self-destructive ‘hu-mons’ (“ugly bags of mostly water”) and hang out with Nature:

While depressing, this photo gallery of rare and endangered animals is worth the look; on a brighter note, check out “Earth as Art”, shown just below the linked article, for a different look at our world.

Next, unusual albino animals; and, in somewhat the same vein, a few rare dog breeds.

This is our Open Thread. Please feel free to comment on any claims made above, or on any topic on your mind.

The Watering Hole, Friday Feb. 8 2013; “Of Man, Of Wolf”

Of Man, Of Wolf

of man of wolf

As mountain throws its livid purple haze 
As waning sunlight strays across the skies
And skims a craggy ridge, Man’s towers rise
From valley’s darkened floor as if ablaze
In ego – soaring – bluster unconstrained
By reason – or by feigned humilities.

Beyond the morrow’s sunrise where the trees
Stand tall, the lone wolf’s paw print, water-stained,
Impales his visage on a sandy trail.
Instinctive stealth, the weapon of his choice,
And fearsome howl – man’s bête noir in voice –
Expound on reasons men, themselves, must fail:

“My birthright is to live!  Run wild!  Run free                
Of shackled chains! . . . No wonder YOU fear hate ME!”

Man’s completely irrational fear and hatred of wolves is obviously boundless, as evidenced in a most disheartening letter I received a few days ago from Defenders of Wildlife. It read, in part:

We’ve reached a heartbreaking milestone:

The 1,000th wolf has died from hunting and trapping in the Northern Rockies since Congress stripped gray wolves of their Endangered Species Act protection in 2011. 

Mothers, pups and packs have fallen to hunters’ bullets and traps – 1,001 at last count in Wyoming, Idaho and Montana. It’s a tragic, unsustainable toll, and it cannot be allowed to go on.

Among the most recent victims of this reckless killing was OR16, an Oregon-born male wearing a radio collar. He was shot on January 19th in Idaho.

OR16 was a remarkable wolf. His wanderings took him through three states and he even swam the Snake River. Yet, after his astonishing journey, he made the tragic mistake of crossing into Idaho. He lasted only 33 days there, and was the second Oregon wolf to be killed in Idaho.

Now we’re looking at the loss of over 1,000 wolves in just two years. This accelerated killing is an example of how states like Wyoming are managing wolves as vermin to be eliminated, not as wildlife to be managed responsibly. There is no basis for allowing this many wolves to be killed this quickly. It’s 100% politics that is driving state management.

The restoration of wolves in the Lower 48 is one of the greatest success stories of the Endangered Species Act. It’s tragic that in this day and age we are still fighting myths, misconceptions and old hatreds toward these magnificent animals.

Let me be frank: I am an environmentalist. A RADICAL environmentalist, at least in the perception of a great many of the intellectually unwashed who see no virtue in any concept that might somehow define the realm which lies just beyond the narrowness of their own existence. I’ve been called a tree hugger, an eagle freak, a wolfer, a greenie, a screwball, nutcase, communist, socialist . . . you get the drift. Oddly enough, in said context all those epithets might well be reasonably accurate. Sort of, more-or-less, generally speaking, etc.

In any case, because my sympathies generally lie within the wild and natural world and NOT within that realm imposed upon this planet by my own species, I pay attention to and am a member of various ‘environmentalist’ organizations.  included are Defenders of Wildlife, the Wilderness Society, the Center for Biological Diversity, plus a variety of other organizations which dedicate their efforts to preserving (and restoring) that which is natural, that which we humans have diminished or destroyed for no good reason other than our all-too-common notion that we are . . . ummm . . . created in the image of some sort of ‘god’ who granted us “dominion” over . . . well, over everything. The old “It is written” ploy.

But other things, too, have been “written,” and in words which make far more sense to me, the Radical Environmentalist, than virtually any that pretend to bless the presence of humans here on this speck of galactic dust we like to call “Earth.” So I shall, for the moment, defer to some of those others who have proven far more able than I to pen the words that most accurately describe and enhance recognition of environmental realities and concerns. Following are a few quotes selected from the sizable handful I’ve accumulated over the years, specific source(s) attributed when available.

First, the Idiot shouts:

“It’s the funnest thing I’ve done in years!”
So spoke a gleeful Montana TV ‘Reality Show’ host after shooting and killing a wolf with a high-powered rifle (his idiotic comment was forwarded to the world by the Center for Biological Diversity on August 21, 2012)

Next, Intelligence adds its soft-spoken but ever-varied voice:

“One of the problems that comes with trying to take a wider view of animals is that most of us have cut ourselves off from them conceptually. We do not think of ourselves as part of the animal kingdom. Indians did . . . not because [they] did not perceive the differences but because they were preoccupied with the similarities.” ~Barry Holstun Lopez, in Of Wolves and Men, 1978

[To the Lakota]  “The animals had rights — the right of man’s protection, the right to live, the right to multiply, the right to freedom, and the right to man’s indebtedness — and in recognition of these rights the Lakota never enslaved an animal, and spared all life that was not needed for food and clothing.  This concept of life and its relations was humanizing, and gave to the Lakota an abiding love . . . The Lakota could despise no creature, for all were of one blood.”  ~Lakota Tribal Chief Luther Standing Bear

“What monstrous folly, think you, ever led Nature to create her one great enemy — man . . . And how instinctively she taught the fear of him to the rest of her children!”  ~John C. Van Dyke, in The Desert, 1903

[When European colonists first arrived in America]  “The whole continent was one continued dismal wilderness, the haunt of wolves and bears and more savage men.  Now the forests are removed, the land covered with fields of corn, orchards bending with fruit and the magnificent habitations of rational and civilized people.”  ~John Adams, 1756 (as quoted by Barry Holstun Lopez, in Of Wolves and Men, 1978)

“[Man] was born and equipped as an excellent animal, but he sold his birthright for a mess of pottage called culture and took on fear and a whimper as a part of the bargain.” ~John C. Van Dyke, in The Desert, 1903

“Wilderness . . . the love of wilderness is more than a hunger for what is always beyond reach; it is also an expression of loyalty to the earth, the earth which bore us and sustains us, the only home we shall ever know, the only paradise we ever need — if only we had the eyes to see.  Original sin, the true original sin, is the blind destruction for the sake of greed of this natural paradise which lies all around us.”  ~Edward Abbey, in Desert Solitaire, A Season in the Wilderness, 1968

“The precise origins of man’s unusual fear of the wolf are obscure. The wolf is human’s most feared animal, even though there has never been a verified account of a healthy wild wolf attacking and killing a human in North America. There have been many maulings caused by bears, and many a diver has experienced a shark attack, but never a wild wolf attack. So why are wolves so feared and hated?”  ~Jill Missal, in Wolves, Humans, and the Myth

“We reached the old wolf in time to watch a fierce green fire dying in her eyes.  I realized then, and have known ever since, that there was something new to me in those eyes — something known only to her and the mountain.  I was young then and full of trigger-itch; I thought that because fewer wolves meant more deer, then no wolves would mean a hunter’s paradise.  But after seeing the green fire die, I sensed that neither the wolf nor the mountain agreed with such a view.”  ~Aldo Leopold, in A Sand County Almanac, 1949

“Only the mountain has lived long enough to listen objectively to the howl of a wolf.”  ~Aldo Leopold, in A Sand County Almanac, 1949

And finally, one of Universal Truth’s most abject pinnacles:

“We have doomed the wolf not for what it is but for what we deliberately and mistakenly perceive it to be: the mythologized epitome of a savage, ruthless killer — which is, in reality, no more than the reflected image of ourself.”
~Farley Mowat, in Never Cry Wolf, 1963

Indeed. The essence of “We the people” was most ably summed — some fifty years ago — by Canadian environmentalist and wildlife biologist Farley Mowat. Consider, if you dare, only today’s murderous iceberg tips, the ones in view right now as we speak: in the United States, within just the last two years, more than 1000 wolves have been slaughtered in the northern Rockies, most by gunfire, and not a single one of them for any good reason; less than two months ago twenty children, ages 5 and 6, plus six educators were murdered — by gunfire — in Newtown, Connecticut; and nationwide, assuming gruesome averages continue to hold true, at least 1000 people will die every month in the United States. From gunfire . . . gunfire which can no longer even be heard over the screams(!) of anguish emanating from those for whom gun possession is the only ‘sacred’ adherence.

We are a nation with a shriveled soul. We are a nation OF shriveled souls. I realize it’s far too late to overturn the Second Amendment, to confiscate and destroy all guns in the land and thereby save tens upon hundreds of thousands of human lives and millions more in the wild kingdom, but perhaps we could at least rewrite the Second Amendment to make it a bit more accurate, more palatable? How about this:

A non regulated Militia, being unnecessary to the security of a free State, the right of Shriveled Souls to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Wolf Cubs, photo credit ©ODFW (from Defenders of Wildlife)

Wolf Pups, photo credit ©ODFW (from Defenders of Wildlife)

This is today’s open thread; go for it!

The Watering Hole, Thursday, December 6th, 2012: Close Encounter of the Bald Eagle Kind

Bald_eagle_warwick2
According to the DEC’s website regarding the bald eagle population in New York State, back in 1976,

“One pair of bald eagles still nests in New York, but there are no young birds. In fact, year after year eggs are laid in the nest, but they collapse during incubation, their shells thinned by DDT in the parent birds’ bodies.”

But here’s some good news:

“Through the work of New York’s program and those in other states and Canada, the magnificent bird that symbolizes our nation is coming back from the brink of extinction. Higher population levels and successful reproduction mean the bald eagle is on a firmer footing today than it has been for half a century. In fact efforts have been so successful that the bald eagle has been removed from the federal endangered species list.” [However] “Its status in New York has been changed from Endangered to Threatened.”

The DEC project took pre-fledgling bald eagles from other states and transplanted them to suitable habitats in New York; through a process called “hacking”, the fledglings were raised on specially-built nesting platforms and carefully fed from behind a blind to avoid human contact. The project, started in 1976, achieved its goal of ten nesting pairs in 1989. The DEC’s website reports that “Conservation efforts have increased that number to 173 pairs in 2009.”

Although the nearest habitats where bald eagles populations have been increasing due to the DEC’s program are along the Hudson River (about 30-35 miles to the west of our area), on very rare occasions over the last dozen years or so, I have spotted one or two bald eagles here in southeastern New York, close to the Connecticut state line. On the first occasion, two eagles were flying high above Interstate 684; luckily, I was driving on a fairly straight part of the highway, with little traffic, so I was able to observe the birds long enough to ascertain that they were, indeed, bald eagles. The second occasion occurred when I was getting out of my car at the grocery store, and I stood and watched as the eagle flew south over a nearby hillside.

Yesterday morning was quite different from my previous sightings. I had slept late, and was heading to work a little after 10:00am. Fortuitously, I had decided to cut over to the highway (I-84) via one of the local county roads, rather than go straight down NYS Route 22 – one of those “six-of-one, half-a-dozen of another” decisions, as both routes normally take about the same time. So, heading west toward the highway, I suddenly became aware of a huge bird with an amazing wingspan flying almost directly toward me over the eastbound side of Route 311. As the bird began to angle toward the fields and trees on the southern verge of the road, I spotted the white head and tail (along with whatever prey it was carrying–I tried not to study that) and realized that it truly was a bald eagle. It was flying low enough that, had the usual earlier-morning traffic of school buses and 18-wheelers been heading eastbound at that moment, the eagle might have been hit from behind. Luckily, there was no other traffic on the road; unluckily, I didn’t have a camera with me, and, even if I had, there would not have been time for me to pull over and try to locate where the eagle had headed so that I could try to photograph it. All in all, though, the experience helped to lift my spirits by a brief, up-close glimpse of such a glorious sight.

This is our daily open thread — seen anything inspirational lately?

The Watering Hole: Wednesday, June 20, 2012: Does it really Matter?

Ok, so for the next few months, if you’re in a “swing” State, you’ll be inundated with SuperPAC commercials designed to get you to vote against your own best interests. We will also be systematically bombarded with messages from the Mainstream Media designed to influence our thinking.

IT’S ALL A SHOW. IT REALLY DOESN’T MATTER.

If the Powers That Be really want Obama out, all they have to do is raise gas prices to about $5.00/gallon. Instead, gas prices are going down, heading into the summer vacation season. That’s not to say they won’t go up between now and the election – but they are an accurate predictor of where our economy will head. So, pay attention to the pump, not the talking heads.

Ok, that’s my $0.0199 cents. And you?

OPEN THREAD
JUST REMEMBER
EVERYTHING I SAID
DOESN’T REALLY MATTER

 

Sunday Roast, August 21st, 2011: Just Say “NO” to Oil

Amidst all of the beer, car, cell phone, erectile dysfunction and other pharmaceutical commercials, lately I’ve been seeing a lot more commercials for various oil and natural gas companies, touting all of the research they do or how ‘clean’ their product is. The latest push from Exxon/Mobil is for “oil sands” technology.

“Oil sands” or “tar sands” according to Wikipedia, are defined as “a type of unconventional petroleum deposit. The sands contain naturally occurring mixtures of sand, clay, water, and a dense and extremely viscous form of petroleum technically referred to as bitumen (or colloquially “tar” due to its similar appearance, odour, and colour).” One of the largest deposits is located in Alberta, Canada, and a proposed pipeline, the Keystone XL, to run from Alberta to Texas, is currently the center of a whirlwind of controversy, involving the State Department, Congress, the EPA, ranchers and landowners, environmental activists, protests and arrests, and opposing labor unions.

Whooping Cranes

The Keystone XL, owned by the TransCanada company, starts in Alberta, Canada, home of the magnificently beautiful but endangered Whooping Crane, of which there are only about 400 left. The process by which the oil sands are accessed starts with bulldozing forests, then stripmining, then steam-heating the bitumen product. The proposed 36″ diameter pipeline would run through several states, and more importantly, would run through the Ogalalla Aquifer, the “largest underground reservoir on the planet”, part of which is located under the Sandhills of Nebraska. Existing pipelines from the Alberta oil sands facility to parts of the U.S. have already had a history of leaks, including last year’s spill into the Kalamazoo River. Why would anyone even entertain the notion that the 2000-mile-long proposed pipeline would be less likely to be plagued by the same problems? I seriously urge everyone to read the entire Incite article (also linked to above), as well as related articles in this month’s edition of the Audubon magazine, as this post cannot encompass all of the pertinent information, including the sleazy and despicable actions of TransCanada in their efforts to force affected landowners off their lands.

While billions upon billions of dollars are being poured into this proposed pipeline, estimates of U.S. jobs the project could purportedly create are only around 20,000 – a mere drop in the bucket considering the millions of unemployed right now. Are 20,000 jobs really worth the possibility of a slow leak or spill in such a varied and important range of ecosystems through which the pipeline would pass, and especially the possibility of a catastrophic leak into an underground reservoir which serves as a water supply to eight states? The Final Environmental Impact Statement is due out around now, and, once it is published, the Obama Administration has 90 days to review it and make a decision. I sincerely hope that they come to the conclusion that a mere 20,000 jobs is not worth the potentially disastrous risks, and give this proposed pipeline the thumbs down that it deserves.

This is our Sunday open thread — What do you think?

The Watering Hole: August 11 – The Mayan Calendar

The Aztec calendar, an adaptation of the Mayan calendar

August 11, 3114 BCE in the Gregorian calendar marks base 0 or creation on the of the Mesoamerican Long Count or Mayan calendar. December 12, 2012 marks when the 5th creation is slated to start.

That is when all shit hits the fan. It is not clear whether the new creation is in a new universe or the one we live in will be replaced in its stead. In any case, plan for a short Xmas shopping season and be sure to turn out the lights if you are the last to leave.

This is our Open Thread. Please feel free to present your thoughts on any topic that comes to mind.

The Watering Hole – February 19- Evolution

Creationists have used the argument that Real time evolution has never been demonstrated. In fact, I watched an online video that rebuked the creationists.

Now, we have a recent event that should put the creationists into the dustbin of history. The common Atlantic tomcod has shown a resistance to PCB’s in the Hudson River that is isolated to individuals who inhabit that water system. No where else in the world is that trait observed.

What is even more dramatic is that the release of PCB’s into that water system has been isolated to the last 64 years. PCB’s were not released into that watershed nor any other watershed before then. No other populations of that species exhibit that resistance.

For the full story, look here.

This is our Open Thread. Please feel free to present your thoughts on any topic that comes to mind.

The Watering Hole: February 17 – Revival?

I mentioned in an old post or comment that the GD had a special spot in her heart for Monarch Butterflies. Her efforts may be bearing fruit. The Monarch population may be in rebound. I could not locate that particular entry.

We can only hope that an endangered population is on the rebound.

This is our Open Thread. Please feel free to present your thoughts on any topic that comes to mind.

whoopers

Whooping cranes eat blue crabs almost exclusively as they winter over at the Aransas NWR on the Gulf of Mexico. The tide was going out as we came along and this pair was busy feeding.

There were about 14 cranes in view as the boat worked up along the edge of the refuge, two more can be seen in the background. About 290 birds exist in the wild, up from 15 total in existence in the world back in the late 60’s.

It was unusually cold this morning, and only 11 people on the boat. The captain is an avid birder and a happy progressive. His deckhand hadn’t shown up, so being a former sailor I volunteered. I was able to assist a top heavy birder up from the deck after his apparatus took him down when the boat made a sudden maneuver to avoid ramming a grebe.

The Watering Hole: September 28 – Me and my Segway

Jimi Heselden, the owner of Segway drove one off a cliff and into a river. He did not survive. Not wanting to make light of this tragedy, it still brings to mind this video clip of a former president on a similar device:

This is our open thread. Please feel free to offer your own comments on this or any other topic.

CH4 + 2 O2 = CO2 + 2 H2O and more dead zones result from it

The balanced formula above shows what happens if methane encounters oxygen. It is not a spontaneous reaction, boys wouldn’t need to light farts if it was, but is helped along either by fire, catalysts or by methanotrophic microorganisms which metabolize methane into CO2 and water.  Methane is found in the permafrost environment e.g. in Siberia and, as global climate change warms up those areas, poses a great risk, because it’s 25-30 times more effective a greenhouse gas as CO2. Here those microorganisms live on top of the permafrost ice and are really beneficial.

The permafrost in the Lena Delta begins only a few centimetres below the surface and extends down to a depth of 600 metres. The ice in the polygon pools starts 50 centimetres below the water surface. Methanogenic micro-organisms live directly on top of the ice and convert organic carbon into methane – almost one third of the organic carbon stored throughout the world is locked up in Arctic permafrost soils. However, methane gas has an extremely large influence on the climate: the greenhouse effect of one molecule of methane is 25 to 30 times greater than that of one molecule of carbon dioxide. (read article)

Methane can be found in arctic mud volcanoes like the Haakon Mosby mud volcano, too. And here, as well, the said methanotrophs exist. At the rim of the volcano.

In the central region, scientists discovered a new bacterium species that use oxygen to feed on methane. In sediments of the sulphur bacteria region, the team found a new group of methanotrophic Archaea (archaic bacteria) that form a symbiosis with bacteria and use sulphate to oxidize methane, a process called the anaerobic oxidation of methane (AOM). (read article)

Unfortunately Methane is one of the major components of the BP oil spill, too. A methane explosion is said to be the cause for it.

The deadly blast on board the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico was triggered by a bubble of methane gas, an investigation by BP has revealed.

A report into last month’s blast said the gas escaped from the oil well and shot up the drill column, expanding quickly as it burst through several seals and barriers before exploding. (read article)

Biologists now found new dead zones in the Gulf (additionally to the existing ones) caused by the above mentioned effect. This discovery offers a good explanation why unusually many fish and sharks are being seen in the shallow waters off the Gulf of Mexico’s coast. The migration of the fish is obviously only the part that we can really see, what we won’t see ist the extinction of all living things in those oxygen depleted zones that are not able to just swim away. Add the methanotrophs to the oil eating bacteria, that will eventually clean up the (then probably dead) Gulf who also need oxygen for their metabolism and we are looking at another facet of the destruction, which may yet reach extinction level after all.

The Watering Hole: May 17 – The Oil Spreads

This maps shows how the Loop Current in the Gulf of Mexico merges with the Gulf Stream will ultimately affect North Atlantic fisheries for years to come:

The Loop Current and its Interactions with other North Atlantic Currents

Some of the spill has already entered the Caribbean Current which also feeds the Gulf Stream.

This is our open thread. Please feel free to offer your own comments on this or any other topic.

For the big Picture:
Continue reading

Beaver Shot from Space

Using Google Earth and NASA pictures, a Canadian based scientist  (ecologist) on the lookout for receding arctic permafrost, came across what’s possibly the largest beaver dam on earth.

“It might be hard to believe, but there are a few things that are visible from space, and beaver dams are among the few animal-made structures that are,” said Thie.(read story)

Discovered in 2007 using the online satellite imaging system, this beaver dam exists in a national park in nothern Alberta, Canada and measures almost 3,000 feet long. Apparently, it’s been showing up on NASA satellite images since 1990; and is estimated to have taken more than 20 years to build.

add to del.icio.us : Add to Blinkslist : add to furl : add to ma.gnolia : Stumble It! : add to simpy : seed the vine : : : TailRank : post to facebook

Hidden world

Maintaining a forest trail in the Gila National Forest this summer, I found a short stretch of stream that has a remnant population of native Gila trout.

If not for the stream restoration work of crews 25 years ago, this fragile, one mile long stretch of stream would no longer exist.

Most of the fish are between 3 to 6 inches long, the largest I saw was 9 inches.