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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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After my two half-Swedish grandchildren were off breast milk — or even before — they started on bottles of a ground-up oat concoction that I’m told all Swedish children drink rather than cow’s milk. Välling. We can’t get along without it.

So the following story from the Guardian is not as curious to me as it might be to others.

Tom Levitt reports, “Adam Arnesson, 27, is not your usual milk producer. For starters, he doesn’t have any dairy cattle. Our first photo opportunity is in the middle of one of his fields of oats.

“Until last year all these oats went into animal feed, either sold or fed to the sheep, pigs and cows he rears on his organic farm in Örebro county, central Sweden.

“With the support of Swedish drinks company Oatly, they are now being used to produce an oat milk drink …

“ ‘The natural thing for us would be to increase our livestock numbers, but I don’t want a factory,’ he says. ‘The number of animals has to be emotionally right so I know each of them.’ …

“The rearing of livestock and meat consumption accounts for 14.5% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Alongside carbon emissions from deforestation (for pasture or crops to feed animals), the livestock sector is also the single biggest human-related source of methane (from cattle) and nitrous oxide emissions (from fertiliser and manure), two particularly potent greenhouse gases. …

“ ‘I had a lot of arguments on social media with other farmers, because I thought what Oatly was doing could bring better opportunities to our sector,’ says Arnesson, who decided to contact the company in 2015 to see if they could help him switch away from livestock. …

“After the first year of producing oats, analysis by researchers at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences found that Arnesson’s farm was producing double the amount of calories for human consumption per hectare and had halved the climate impact of each calorie produced. …

“ ‘I don’t want to take pride from having a tractor or producing 10 tonnes of wheat or a sow with 10 piglets, but in feeding and preserving the planet – that is one of the big things I want as a farmer to be involved in changing,’ says Arnesson.

“Oatly said it plans to work with three more farmers to demonstrate the environmental benefits of switching from livestock to more crop production. But Arnesson says livestock farmers need government support in order to do so in large numbers.”

More at the Guardian , here.

Photo: Tom Levitt for the Guardian 
Adam Arnesson in a field of oats at his organic farm in Örebro country, Sweden.

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