Archive for the ‘Conservation’ Category

A Request from the Prez

April 22, 2009

Yesterday, President Obama announced a call to service:

… I ask every American to make an enduring commitment to serving your community and your country in whatever way you can … Together, we will measure our progress not just in number of hours served or volunteers mobilized—but in the impact our efforts have on the life of this nation … We need your service, right now, at this moment in history. I’m not going to tell you what your role should be; that’s for you to discover. But I’m asking you to stand up and play your part. I’m asking you to help change history’s course.

Today, on Earth Day, as a Minnesota Master Naturalist, I pledge to volunteer at least 40 hours per year for environmental causes. My charity dollars and my free time are spent enjoying and protecting nature.

What’s your pledge?

Extreme Ice

April 8, 2009

Nova has a fantastic new documentary — Extreme Ice — about our disappearing glaciers, and you can catch it online. Time-lapse photography shows glaciers calving and receding at an alarming rate. But it is cool to watch.

Aialik Glacier, Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska, 1999

Here we are in 1999 at Aialik Glacier, Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska.

What would be the problem if there were no glaciers? Many people get their drinking water from glacial streams and rivers, not to mention the fisheries and agriculture that are dependent on these waterways. Also, if the glaciers were to disappear, plus the ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica, it is predicted that the sea level would rise enough to wipe out many coastal communities.

Currently in the news, the bridge of ice to the Wilkins Ice Shelf in Antarctica has collapsed, which could facilitate further breaking up of the ice shelf. See Wikipedia.

Grand Canyon Adventure

January 9, 2009

Grand Canyon Adventure: River at Risk is a new giant-screen film that takes you on a rafting trip down the Colorado River, showing off the beauty of the Grand Canyon and the excitement of the river, all with an environmentalist twist. The most thrilling moments of the movie reminded me of my own whitewater adventure, which I will blog about soon.

Grand Canyon Adventure shows daily at the Science Museum of Minnesota‘s Omnitheater now through June 11, 2009.

Counting Birds with the Pros

December 20, 2008

I spent this morning counting birds for Audubon’s Christmas Bird Count. This annual event occurs throughout the Americas and its purpose is to assess the status of bird populations.

This was a new experience for me, as I haven’t done much bird watching. Four men and I drove around a specified territory and we counted all the birds we saw. We went through cemeteries, trails, wooded areas, busy streets, and residential neighborhoods. We got out and walked at times. I appreciated the opportunity to learn from long-time birders.

What I discovered:

  • I can be much more observant than usual if I try.
  • I can now identify the dark-eyed junco.
  • There are several nearby trails that I didn’t know existed.
  • When birders drive a car they don’t keep their eyes on the road!

It was a very snowy day, so the birding supposedly wasn’t very good, but I was impressed with our numbers. We saw (or heard) 17 different species and a total of 369 birds.

Master Naturalist

December 14, 2008
Field trip to Interstate Park

Field trip to Interstate Park

I started the year looking for an opportunity to learn more about nature. Signing up for a college-level class was a possibility, but I couldn’t imagine enduring freshman biology. Then I stumbled across the Minnesota Master Naturalist website. Perfect!

For 11 weeks in the spring I learned about Minnesota’s natural history. The idea behind this program is that graduates will volunteer 40 hours per year toward environmental causes (education, stewardship, science, and/or administration). The official slogan is “Explore. Teach. Conserve.” Right up my alley and just the impetus I needed!

There is an article about my class in Mankato’s weekly for farmers, The Land.

Ten fun activities from the Minnesota Master Naturalist course:

  1. Searching for delicate spring ephemerals at Interstate Park.
  2. Searching for scat at Fort Snelling State Park and learning that rabbits eat their scat.
  3. Watching a classmate get dressed up like a beaver to discuss adaptation.
  4. Watching a fish dissection and learning that fish have a swim bladder to control buoyancy.
  5. Tasting sap straight out of the sugar maple, and then having homemade maple syrup on top of ice cream, thanks to a classmate.
  6. Learning to identify trees by their branches and bark before the leaves bud out.
  7. Learning about the oak savanna and prescribed burning at William O’Brien State Park.
  8. Discovering, by digging through the sludge in Snelling Lake, that lots of tiny creatures live in our wetlands.
  9. Collaborating with classmates to create a tree identification guide for a small park.
  10. Having that AHA! moment. Why wait until summer to visit our parks? Each season has something unique to offer.

The master naturalist course was a great experience which will evolve with my pledge of volunteer service.

Film Fest Review

December 10, 2008
Reusable shopping bags that fit in your purse

There are prizes such as these reusable shopping bags that fit in your purse

On Saturday night H and I went to the Wild & Scenic Environmental Film Festival. (See my pre-fest blog post.) The event lasted a little over three hours and consisted of 9 films ranging from 2 to 33 minutes each.

I plan to make this an annual event because it seems we are very lucky and win the prizes. This year H and I each won a reusable shopping bag that stuffs into a tiny sack. Last year H won an oversized duffel bag.

But the real reason to attend is that these films are so inspirational and motivational, as well as eye-opening. For a taste, check out the People’s Choice Award, Oil + Water.

Rather than Recycle…

December 8, 2008

While recycling has its merits, it is not a silver bullet. Better yet is to reduce the consumption of things that should be recycled. The New York Times reports Back at Junk Value, Recyclables Are Piling Up:

“The economic downturn has decimated the market for recycled materials like cardboard, plastic, newspaper and metals. Across the country, this junk is accumulating by the ton in the yards and warehouses of recycling contractors, which are unable to find buyers or are unwilling to sell at rock-bottom prices.”

Another strike against recycling is that it is an energy-intensive process. So when we talk about Reduce-Reuse-Recycle, REDUCE is really the first choice.

Easy ways to make a difference:

  • Buy items with minimal packaging
  • Bring a reusable bag to the store
  • Use refillable bottles instead of buying bottled water
  • Buy recycled products to create a demand for them

Meet TED

December 4, 2008

I want to introduce you to “Inspired talks by the world’s leading thinkers and doers”

This website features videotaped presentations about Technology, Entertainment, and Design. Among many other topics, there are 33 speeches about the future of our environment. I was going to watch them all and tell you about my favorites, but that is just too big of a task for now. Check it out for yourself!

Wild & Scenic Environmental Film Festival

November 25, 2008

Midwest Mountaineering is hosting the Wild & Scenic Environmental Film Festival on Saturday, December 6, 2008 at 7 pm. Order your tickets here. I went to this fest last year and found it to be a thought-provoking mix of short films. Here’s a summary of the lineup for this year:

  • Carpa Diem – Kids and a fish in the aquarium could mean tragedy…
  • Climate: A Crisis Averted – Looks back from the year 2056…
  • For the Price of a Cup of Coffee – Follow the life cycle of a paper cup…
  • Fridays at the Farm – A family joins a community-supported organic farm…
  • Gimme Green – A humorous look at the American obsession with lawn…
  • Hybrid Pedal – Biking to draw attention to the endangered wildlands in the West…
  • Oil and Water Project – A trip from Alaska to Argentina without a single drop of oil…
  • The Good Fight – At 90, Martin Litton continues his efforts of preserving nature…
  • Water Loving Doggies – Looks like we’ll end the evening on a lighter note.

A New Job for Old Shoes

November 21, 2008

If your old shoes are not nice enough to donate to a second-hand clothing store, they can be recycled into a material that soaks up oil spills! Shoes of any type and old clothing can be dropped off at Wipers Recycling in Maplewood, MN. Another option is Nike Grind, which accepts athletic shoes to make sport and playground surfaces.