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Posts Tagged ‘environment’

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Photo: South West News Service
Pat Smith, married mother of two, grandmother, and owner of a B&B in Cornwall, cleaned plastic from 52 English beaches in 2018 and is still going strong.

Doesn’t 2019 feel like the year that environmentalism will pick up more proponents than ever? Thanks to activists and journalists, people are really up in arms about the plastic that’s defacing our beautiful beaches and about what fossil fuels and giant agribusinesses are doing to the climate. Humanity seems to take steps forward and then take steps back, but I feel like this is a forward year.

Consider these three anti-plastic, anti-litter stories.

Maddy Foley writes at Inverse about the origins of plogging, which is a “mash-up of ‘jogging’ and plocka uppa, the Swedish word for ‘picking up.’ …

“Plogging first emerged in 2016,” she says, “started — or at least branded — by Erik Ahlström, following his move from a resort town to Stockholm. Ahlström was reportedly struck by the amount of trash he passed by during regular runs — so he began picking it up along the way, often sporting medical gloves. Soon Ahlström was organizing community runs throughout the city, marrying environmental advocacy with sensible amounts of exercise.

“The practice supposedly grew from the long-standing Swedish philosophy of lagom, the Goldielocks of lifestyle tenets. Meaning ‘not too much, not too little.’ Lagom values moderation; it heralds the pleasure of existence, without being seduced by the lure of consumption.

“In plogging, those tenets translate to picking up some trash (not every single piece), while jogging (not sprinting). It’s about being out in the world, while accepting that it’s become a world beset by trash.” More at Inverse.

There’s also a nice story at Public Radio International’s The World about Ripu Dama, a long-distance runner in India who caught the plogging bug and who recently spread the word on a run through Europe.

Marco Werman reports on Dama’s efforts in India, “Dama, who is being called ‘India’s first plogger,’ is spreading a message of physical activity and environmental protection in Mumbai while participating and organizing clean ups — documenting everything on social media @ploggersofindia.

“ ‘I’m a runner. I run marathons and ultras. When you’re a runner and you run in the mornings, the thing that you observe most is trash and plastic. So [members of my running group and I] were already cleaning up individually. In 2017, we came across the term “plogging” and we thought “this is exactly what we do.” It was kind of becoming a global trend.’ …

“Dama hopes to make an impact on the younger generations. … ‘Schoolchildren take it up like fish to water. And that’s been the biggest high out of all of this. When we are doing this activity in our local parks or somewhere and kids see us doing it … they just come and join us and the habits that get inculcated at this young age will last a lifetime.’ ” Listen to the PRI interview here.

But wait! You don’t need to be a runner or a kid.

As Ed Riley writes at the Daily Mail, an English grandmother walked 52 beaches in 2018 cleaning up plastic, and she has no intention of slowing down.

Pat Smith, “founder of the environmental campaign group Final Straw Cornwall, said: ‘Doing 52 beach cleans in 2018 was my New Year’s Resolution and it’s finally done. I won’t stop as our beaches need me.

” ‘A lot of the rubbish I have picked up consists of everyday items. These things are used by all of us and it is shocking to find them polluting our beautiful beaches. …

” ‘I’m driven to try and protect our living planet for my children and grandchildren, and I will continue to do everything in my power to achieve that. …

” ‘I grew up in the generation where plastic use was at its worse. … [But] even though it was everywhere, we had no plastic at home — we would walk to the shops or get the bus to get groceries.’

“Mrs Smith said that she was often joined by other volunteers who were determined to keep our beaches clean. But she said not everyone understood, and on some occasions, she would be mistaken for doing community service.

“She said: ‘People don’t understand I’ve been doing this voluntarily. We should all take responsibility for picking up the litter, as well as ensuring we don’t drop litter in the first place.’ ” More at the Daily Mail, here.

If you are ever in Cornwall, you might consider staying at Mrs. Smith’s B&B. She sounds like a good person to know.

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Photos: Recycled Island Foundation
This prototype for a floating park in Rotterdam is open to the public. It’s made of recycled plastic and is welcoming to many species, including homo sapiens (who is less than sapiens, it would seem, considering ongoing planet damage).

With the activities of humankind causing animal populations to decline 60 percent since 1970 and massive loss of essential insect species, I’m looking everywhere for more leadership in the environmental arena. So far, what I find are relatively small activities of isolated groups. But thank goodness for that! Small activities add up.

Jeremy Berke writes at Business Insider, “Rotterdam’s Floating Park — which is now open to visitors, though the park is just a prototype of what may become a much larger installation — is made out of plastic recycled from Rotterdam’s waterways.

“The recycled plastic is constructed into hexagonal pods, which mimic the landscape of Rotterdam’s Maas River before humans altered the landscape, according to the Recycled Island Foundation, the group behind the park.

“The pods can be used to create gardens, as habitat for wildlife, or for chilling out, and they can be molded into different seating arrangements.

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The Recycled Island Foundation says the park’s plastic hexagons were designed to provide habitat for native waterbirds, plants, fish, and even algae.

“On top of that, plastic dumped into the city’s canals is collected by ‘litter traps,’ which prevent plastic from flowing into the ocean.”

Pretty sure that dynamic and broadly effective leadership in the global-warming arena is going to come from people who are now only teenagers or even in middle school. Kids know what’s what.

More at Business Insider, here.

A litter trap in Rotterdam collects plastic waste, which can be recycled to make a floating park.

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Photo: Arco Images GmbH/Alamy
Crows at a park in France have been trained to pick up cigarette butts and trash. 

You may have already heard about crows in France that are improving the environment. The stories were all over the news in August. I include two articles here — the first from the Guardian and the second from USA Today.

” ‘The goal is not just to clear up, because the visitors are generally careful to keep things clean’ but also to show that ‘nature itself can teach us to take care of the environment.’ said Nicolas de Villiers of the Puy du Fou park, in the western Vendee region.

“Rooks, a member of the crow family of birds that also includes the carrion crow, jackdaw and raven, are considered to be ‘particularly intelligent’ and in the right circumstances ‘like to communicate with humans and establish a relationship through play,’ Villiers said.

“The birds will be encouraged to spruce up the park through the use of a small box that delivers a nugget of bird food each time the rook deposits a cigarette end or small piece of rubbish.” More from the Guardian.

And from USA Today, “Crows have been trained to collect other items in a similar way. In 2008 a man created a ‘crow vending machine’ — a box that would dispense a peanut every time a crow found a coin and put it in the machine’s slot. The inventor, Josh Klein, surmised at the time that if a crow can be trained to collect coins it can be trained to help improve human lives, such as picking up trash or sorting electronics.

” ‘Don’t hate the crows,’ Klein told NPR in 2008. ‘Just let them save you.’ ”

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Photos: Indonesian Marine Affairs and Fisheries Ministry
Children on the island of Bangka in Indonesia receive free goggles in a bid by the maritime affairs minister to engage them early in caring for endangered reefs.

It’s never too early to get children interested in nature. And anyone who has contact with young children can help provide experiences that will one day make them want to protect the environment. I’m sure reader Will McM. does that in his Making Music Together classes, and I know my kids and their spouses do that.

Meanwhile across the world, a maritime affairs minister sees hope in her country’s very youngest. Kate Lamb reports for the Guardian, “Indonesia’s maritime affairs minister has come up with an unconventional way to help preserve precious reefs from marine pollution: distribute boatloads of free goggles to children in the archipelago’s remote coastal regions.

“An avid snorkeler who is known for blowing up illegal fishing boats, minister Susi Pudijastuti said she wanted to give the next generation of Indonesians ‘the eyes’ to fully appreciate their marine environment.

“During visits to Indonesia’s remote eastern areas, home to the ‘Coral Triangle’ and some of the most diverse marine life in the world, the minister said she noticed Indonesian children watching tourists snorkelling for hours, not fully understanding what they were doing.

“ ‘I just realised in one moment: how can we ask them, how can we push them to take care of the beauty of the underwater world if they don’t even see how beautiful it is,’ she said, ‘I realised, what we see, they don’t see.’ … Visiting Banggai Laut in Sulawesi, one area where goggles had been distributed, the minister said children were swimming and jumping around, amazed by their reefs. …

“In a country suffering from chronic maritime waste, the minister hopes the initiative will encourage young Indonesians to appreciate their reefs, and in turn inspire them to protect their marine environment. Indonesia is the world’s biggest marine polluter after China, discarding 3.22m metric tons of waste annually. …

“Susi said she was angered when she saw plastic ‘at the beach, on the shore, on the reef, everywhere,’ and took measures to reduce usage in her own ministry. Single-use plastic is banned at Indonesia’s maritime affairs and fisheries ministry, and at all its ministerial events.

“Susi told the Guardian she looked forward to the day when Indonesia could ban single-use plastic altogether.” More at the Guardian, here.

Speaking of single-use plastic, I have recently learned that straws are dangerous to sea turtles and intend to stop using them. But recently at an earthy-crunchy juice bar, plastic straws were all they had. Disappointing. Everyone needs to do their bit.

Indonesian students on the island of Belitung receive free goggles.

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Photo: The College Crusade Rhode Island
At Great Salt Pond, young students from Rhode Island cities learn how to make and tow plankton nets and test water quality.

There’s a lovely story at ecoRI News that I wanted to share with you. It makes me both happy and sad — happy that some underserved urban kids are getting an inspiring engagement with nature in the summer but sad that it’s unusual for them. The experiences are those that my own children and grandchildren have had almost every year of their lives, experiences that really should be accessible to all children.

Frank Carni writes, “Most of the teenagers arriving on Block Island this summer, at least those affiliated with The College Crusade of Rhode Island, are coming from communities covered in pavement. Many had never been on a boat before and most had never set foot on New Shoreham.

“The students are making a good first impression, with their observations, curiosity, and passion for the environment, despite living among more gray and black than green and blue. The island community has embraced the out-of-towners from Providence, Central Falls, Pawtucket, Woonsocket, and Cranston.

“ ‘We throw a lot at them and it’s amazing what they absorb,’ said Valerie Preler, program director for the Block Island Maritime Institute (BIMI).

‘I learn a lot by watching what they see and what they say.’

“For the past 10 years the BIMI’s Dolphin Program has worked with and learned from students from underserved communities from Rhode Island, New Jersey, and New York City. Last year BIMI partnered with Providence-based The College Crusade of Rhode Island, as Block Island hosted a group of students from the college-readiness and scholarship program for middle-school and high-school students in low-income urban school districts for a week of learning and fun. …

“The mission of The College Crusade is to increase high-school graduation, college and career readiness, and college completion for youth in Rhode Island’s low-income communities. The organization supports about 4,200 students in middle school, high school, and college annually. Students join the program in grade 6 and continue through the early years of college, if they attend a public college in Rhode Island. …

“They learn to problem solve, study ecology by exploring the Great Salt Pond, and discuss the island’s different levels of biodiversity.

“During their visit to the museum at the Block Island Historical Society the students learn how colonists deforested in the island in the 1660s, how the island’s swordfish population was depleted by overfishing, how the introduction of deer in the 1960s for hunting purposes has led to the island’s current overpopulation problem, and why there is less bird migration to the island — more people and a growing population of feral cats.

“ ‘It’s an eye-opening experience for these kids, and for some it’s life-changing,’ [Lauren Schechtman, director of middle-school operations for The College Crusade] said. ‘Our kids don’t normally have access to these type of educational resources.’

“This Block Island adventure, like The College Crusade program, is free to the students and their families. They stay in a house rented by The College Crusade, enjoy dinners with Block Island families, and some New Shoreham restaurants help feed the island’s young guests for free.

“Besides visiting the island’s Great Salt Pond, the students go bird banding with The Nature Conservancy, learn about the Block Island Wind Farm, take a night-sky walk, tour New Harbor on the island’s west side, and conduct a beach cleanup. They also enjoy kayaking and/or paddle boarding, a beach visit, and fishing by the Coast Guard Station.”

I hope they loved the whole experience. Great Salt Pond is an especially intriguing place, where just this past weekend John, with family and friends, went seining and pulled up some real treasures: three pipe fish, a baby flounder, shrimp, and many minnows. They threw them back for another day.

More at ecoRI News, here. Be sure to check the other photos, including the one of bird banding. Our family has many great memories of bird banding with the woman who would have taught the kids in the story.

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Photo: Aeromate
An urban farm flourishes on a rooftop in the heart of Paris.

I never can resist a story about urban rooftop gardens, which not only bring fresh produce to city dwellers but also make use of empty space and help reduce carbon in the atmosphere.

I have blogged about them a lot. There was the post about a rooftop garden in Montreal, here. Another about Higher Ground in South Boston, here. Suzanne and Erik’s former church in San Francisco, Glide Memorial, made its rooftop garden a community-building activity for Tenderloin residents. And this was an article about a Whole Foods that aimed to harvest 10,000 pounds of food a year from its rooftop in Lynnfield, Mass.

Today’s story comes from Paris.

Freelance blogger Aimee Lutkin writes at the World Economic Forum blog, “The mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, was elected in 2014 with the intention to improve the city’s green spaces as a part of her platform. …

“In 2016, her administration launched Parisculteurs, a campaign that is working to cover 247 acres of rooftops and walls in Paris with greenery by 2020.

“One third of that greenery will specifically be set aside for urban farming. To date, 74 organizations have signed a charter to work with the city on planning this enormous enterprise. The city has already approved 75 projects for development, which are estimated to produce more than 500 tons of vegetation.

“The deputy mayor of Paris, Penelope Komites, [told CNN] … ‘Citizens want new ways to get involved in the city’s invention and be the gardeners.’ …

” ‘Three years ago, people laughed at my plan. Today, citizens are producing [food] on roofs and in basements. We are also asked by numerous cities around the world to present the Parisian approach,’ she said.

“And they already have their success stories. … La Chambeaudie started shortly after Parisculteurs was announced in 2016, but now grows over 40 varieties of plants and herbs using a hydroponic system …

” ‘We’ve seen a real craze among Parisians to participate in making the city more green,’ said Komites. ‘Urban agriculture is a real opportunity for Paris. It contributes to the biodiversity and to the fight against climate change.’

“And it also means jobs. According to Komites, Parisculteurs has created 120 full-time jobs.”

More at World Economic Forum blog, here.

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Photo: Kathryn Scott Osler/Denver Post via Getty Images
Black-footed ferrets are the most endangered mammal in North America. Scientists in Montana are trying to save the ferrets by saving their main food source, prairie dogs.

Never doubt the power of a research report written in elementary school. Maybe I would have become interested in conservation anyway (my mother headed up a local conservation group for years), but a report I wrote in 6th grade about the devastation to birds caused by fancy hats pre-WWI made me pay particular attention to birds. John, an environmentalist today, really got into the cause of endangered black-footed ferrets when he wrote a report on them in elementary school.

Although once-threatened birds like the snowy egret and the great egret have been saved, the black-footed ferret, alas, is still endangered. At National Public Radio, Nate Hegyi reports on how scientists are addressing the problem today.

“In central Montana, drones are dropping peanut butter pellets on prairie dog colonies. It’s part of an effort by biologists to save North America’s most endangered mammal — the black-footed ferret (or as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service calls it, the BFF).

“Prairie dogs make up the vast majority of a BFF’s diet. Save the food and you save the ferret, biologists wager. …

“Kristy Bly, a senior biologist with the World Wildlife Fund, [said] there are only about 300 black-footed ferrets left in the wild, and they depend almost entirely on prairie dogs to survive. And protecting the prairie dog population is beneficial to species beyond the ferrets.

” ‘Prairie dogs are Chicken McNuggets of the prairie, where so many species eat them,’ Bly said.

“But in recent years, prairie dog towns across the American West have been exposed to a deadly disease called sylvatic plague. While it’s treatable in humans, sylvatic plague can wipe out entire prairie dog towns in less than a month. And that means no more food for endangered black-footed ferrets.

“So Bly, [Fish and Wildlife biologist Randy Matchett] and a team of scientists and engineers have spent this year vaccinating prairie dogs in central Montana against the plague using drones.

“Drone pilots fly the machines across the prairie, dropping blueberry-sized pellets about every 30 feet. They are flavored to taste like peanut butter, and prairie dogs love peanut butter. The kicker is that they’re laced with a live vaccine that protects them from the plague. …

“By the end of [one] day, they hope to expose more than 4,000 prairie dogs to the vaccine. Past field trials have shown that prairie dogs living in vaccinated areas survive waves of the plague.

” ‘Without [the ferret], do we really have a complete ecosystem?’ Bly asked. ‘You start taking those pieces apart, it’s like a domino effect. When we have ferrets on the landscape the piece of the puzzle that is the American prairie all fits.’ ” More here.

I like the idea of using drones this way. Makes me wonder if the technique could be adapted to handle the overabundance of deer in areas suffering from tick-borne disease. Couldn’t a deer contraceptive in salt pellets be scattered by drones? Just asking.

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