Monday, July 30, 2007

How not to save the Planet

Here's a fabulous idea someone came up with to combat our dependence on oil: liquid coal.
Could anything be MORE what we do not need than this? Coal on its own is one of the dirtiest things we can burn, and the process by which it becomes liquid produces TWICE as much carbon dioxide as the coal itself, not to mention the additional pollution created when we USE it. Only the coal exec's who would stand to make even more of a fortune on his venture would think it was a good idea. They're right up there on my list along with the Big Oil exec's, and the politicians who support them.
Carbon emissions aside, the environmental impact of coal mining is staggering. Coal mining makes clear-cut logging seem like child's play. In my home mountain ranges of Appalachia strip- and mountaintop mining techniques are used, both of which leave the mined areas completely devastated, the open pits and neighboring valleys filled with overburden and slag. Many an iconic skyline has changed drastically due to mountaintop mining. Even in underground mining, years after a mine has been closed underground tunnels may collapse, causing drastic changes in topography and damaging nearby infrastructure such as roads and power lines. Furthermore: "Historically, coal mining has been a very dangerous activity. Open cut hazards are principally slope failure, underground mining roof collapse and gas explosions. Most of these risks can be greatly reduced in modern mines, and multiple fatality incidents are now rare in some parts of the developed world."
SOME parts, it says. But if you've been keeping even a remote eye on the news ticker in the past several years we seem to have at least one, usually more instances of mining explosions, cave-ins and floods in the U.S. every year. 2004 reported 28 deaths in mining accidents. This means that the high cost of cheap coal is more than just environmental impact. It's human life.
Let our government know that this is NOT the solution we're looking for!

Author's Note: Still working on mustangs! I found a list of all of the BML roundups scheduled for this year but I've misplaced it, I'll have it up as soon as I can!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Pet Peeves

I know I promised to do a follow-up on the Mustangs, but I keep getting distracted! Hopefully I'll have time to put that one up later tonight. For now I have to do a quick rant.
What is up with people who get pets when they apparently have no desire or intention to take care of them? My neighborhood has always had its share of 'stray' cats that weren't really strays. People just let them wander where they will, despite the dangers of traffic, wild animals, other domestic animals and exposure. Up until now though all the cats I had seen had been clean and well fed. Now we have these two little grey and white kitties wandering about...I'm not sure who they belong to. I see them out in the street or up on the hill behind the house. I didn't like them very much because they stalk the baby bunnies who live up there. But after meeting one up close today I no longer blame them. These kitties aren't chasing rabbits for sport, like the other cats we've had around here. These kitties are STARVING.
The one I met had a flea collar on. Who bothers to buy a flea collar for their cat and then doesn't even bother to feed it?! He was rail thin, his coat a bit scraggly, and has a wound on the inside of one foreleg that looks like it might have been a bite from another cat/animal that got infected, but seems to be healing now. He isn't fixed. And the saddest thing is, he seems to be a really nice cat. He saw Pie (my dog) and I walking up the hill and sat and watched us warily. We crept closer slowly, not wanting to scare him away. Then when we were close enough I told Pie to sit and the cat just walked right over and they sniffed each other, and now they're friends.
Now I will say, some domestic cats are perfectly capable of surviving on their own. One of our barn cats disappeared once, was literally gone for three years, then one day she showed up at dinner time, ate some food, lay on the coffee table just like she used to, and the next day she wandered off into the wilderness again. That was the last we saw of her. She was a bit thinner than she was in her Katchow days, but she was also considerably older. Let me mention also that this was in Florida, where it hardly ever is cold enough for a creature to freeze to death, especially one with a coat like that Maine Coon had. Alas for my little grey and white kitty, he's not so furry, so thick bodied, or so lucky has to live in such a mild climate.
Come on people. Is it really so hard and so expensive just to FEED the animals you bring home? Cats are cheaper than dogs! Males are cheaper to fix than females! If you can buy a damned flea collar, you can buy a bag of Meow Mix for crying out loud.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Arrr, more squid!

The headline reads "Voracious Jumbo Squid invade California!"
What a load of codswallop.
Sure, the Humboldt Squid is usually found in warmer more southerly waters, but it's not as if this is some foreign creature. Living at depths of 600 to below 2000 feet (only surfacing to hunt) and not well researched because of it, Humboldt Squid can none the less be found in numbers in the Baja region of California/Mexico where they're heavily fished by Mexican fisherman. A recent documentary showed the devastating impact this heavy fishing has on the species. While always aggressive on the hunt, the Humboldt Squid is normally a cooperative hunter, hunting its natural prey of anything from krill to hake and anchovies in groups. But when squid are being hooked and hauled aboard left and right the opportunistic predators go into a frenzy, attacking and eating anything in sight...including researcher's camera equipment. There are documented reports of Humboldts attacking divers, and famed videographer Scott Cassell has even made himself a 'squid suit' designed to protect him against their razor sharp beaks and chitinous teeth ringed tentacle suckers. Humboldt Squid only live for an estimated maximum of 4 years (sometimes only 1), growing in that time to a documented 7 feet in length. Researchers conclude that this is the reason for their sometimes uber-aggressive behavior. With such a limited time span the Humboldt Squid has to do whatever it can to survive and progress. This is also the reason why the Humboldt Squid is so adaptable, and therefore a 'problem' to California fishermen.
But let us consider the facts, kids. Why are Humboldts moving north? Could it be the pressure from fishing in the Baja region and the coast of South America? Could it be that Humboldts natural food sources in their historic ranges (aside from other humboldts) has been damaged? Or (my bet) could it be that commercial fishing has so decimated stocks of fish, both predator and prey, that the Humboldts are now filling a gap that was never there before? While the Humboldts feed on anchovies and hake (normally prey of the tuna in this region) the fishermen would love to catch, their numbers increase more dramatically because their natural predators (tuna, swordfish, shark) have been fished into a steep decline.
Why is it that when Nature is out of balance we always try to blame Nature, when really we should be taking a closer look at ourselves?
Unfortunately I can't find any organizations directly dedicated to Squid Conversation, so today you'll just have to suffice with educating yourself!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Random Rant on Global Warming, Alternative fuels

I've been wanting to get this off my chest for some time. All right. Assume we listen to all the theories about global warming; it's caused by human actions, it's a natural cycle; we can do something about it, we can't do anything about it. Al Gore is an idiot, George Bush is an idiot (I won't argue that second one.) You can believe whichever side of the argument you want to, and it makes no difference when you come right down to it. Say, just for argument, that global warming is a natural cycle and humans can't make any real difference at all. So what? Why is that a reason to not do things that would help our entire planet and ultimately ourselves anyway? How is this a logical argument? At this point there is nothing logical about the debate over global warming. With elections just around the corner and all its nothing but political mudslinging and one-upping these days. So let's pretend global warming just doesn't exist at all. Should we then just go on belching harmful chemicals into our atmosphere, chemicals that cause childhood asthma, acid rain, and ugly smog, just because hey, its not making the planet any hotter, so why not? Is there a good reason to rape our National Parks and public lands for fossil fuels that, lets face it, though it may not be in the foreseeable future are going to run out anyway some day, or become too expensive to extract, when we could be developing and embracing cleaner burning, renewable fuels? The fact that at this point in time (and I have no doubt this will change for the better!) it is no less expensive to make and use alternative fuels such as Ethanol is no excuse not to do it! Its not MORE expensive, and its better for the planet and ourselves. What do you have to lose, people? The problem is people seem to want Ethanol to be a cure all for all of their problems...they want it to solve the problem with the cost of fuel, with global warming, with our agriculture, with jobs...and it's possible that some day it can do all these things. But we're just starting out people. Change like that doesn't happen over night.
The bottom line I'm trying to get to is that there is absolutely no good reason why everyone should not do what they can to keep our planet, animals, and ourselves clean and healthy. It just makes sense.
Author's Note: While I find Earth Day Energy Fast (.org) to be a radical group, I've gone ahead and included their link in the picture above...since I stole the picture from them. haha.

Random Blog Sharing

A friend of mine told me about this blog and I thought I'd check it out. Warning, the author uses lots of bad language and is generally rude. I find her comments to be overly critical and snarky, but she's also pretty funny at times, occasionally right on the money, and she makes a good point. Why not to breed your horse:
Fugly Horse of the Day

Monday, July 23, 2007

Save the Bay, and stop Aerial Gunning

Hello and welcome back. My lack of updates can only mean one thing: I'm back on dialup! It is amazing how easy highspeed makes my research. Anyhow, I'll get to the point!
Petitions are flying far and fast this time of year for some reason. Two of note, one perhaps of more interest to my fellow Marylanders (though it should be important to you all!) being a petition from Environment Maryland urging Governor O'Malley to live up to his campaign promise to protect the world's largest estuary, the Chesapeake Bay. The other is a petition from Defenders of Wildlife that may help put a halt to the brutal practice of aerial gunning all together! Both very important goals.
For the Bay, unfortunately, Environment Maryland doesn't seem to have an online petition to sign, and perhaps the due date has passed (I can't find a date anywhere on the letter or envelope!) but there are many other actions you can take from their website to help protect the Bay, our countryside, even the entire country and the entire world. I urge you to check them out!
While their letter cites mostly land development along the Bay as the major threat, my personal vendetta is against the poultry factories. The Eastern Shore of the Free State is checkered with chicken farms and processing plants, and much of the waste from these facilities gets dumped straight into the Bay. The immediate result is probably a feast for blue crabs, but the chicken waste brings with it bacteria, including those that can cause flesh-eating diseases in humans. 40 some percent of the Bay becomes a 'dead zone' every year due to heavy runoff of agricultural and developmental pollutants, and more and more development grows every year. We must tell our government that we "Treasure the Chesapeake" as the license plate says, and we need to protect it!
My second petition would close a loophole in a previous Aerial Hunting law and stop the Alaskan, Wyoming, and Idaho governments from using this cruel practice to decimate their Grey Wolf population. As I've reported before, aerial gunning is the inhumane practice of chasing the animal to exhaustion with airplanes and sometimes helicopters and then shooting them, or shooting indiscriminately from the air. Not very sportsmanlike conduct if you ask me, and people do consider hunting to be a sport! Visit the Defenders of Wildlife website and sign the petition today! The goal is 40 thousand signatures by Labor Day, and we're already a third of the way there!
If nothing pressing comes up in the next week, I plan to recap my Wild Horse article. We're into roundup season now, and it is important to keep on top of things!

Monday, July 2, 2007

Arizona Sonora Desert Museum

Blogger was having a mental problem about the length of my post/title/ wouldn't tell me which. So I truncated it and will post the end part here!
If you live in the Tucson/Marana, Phoenix/Mesa areas or are planning a vacation in the Southwest any time soon I HIGHLY suggest a trip to the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum. They have WONDERFUL exhibits, animal, mineral and historical, from a walk-through hummingbird aviary to an underground adventure in fossil excavation and gemstones. Hike, bike, or drive around their 8-mile wildlife loop road and see everything from roadrunners to tarantulas, javalina, coyote and mule deer. Climb on the Really Big Rocks (official name, just kidding) because its a blast! And if you stop by the gift shop get me some cactus candy. Please? I'm begging you.

Wolves and Polar Bears and prairie dogs? oh my!

I'm finally getting a chance to go through some piled up mail in my box, so pardon me if these 'announcements' are a bit late...I'm sure there are still plenty of ways you can help and a lot you can learn!
All in trouble this month: Southwest or "Lobo" wolves, Polar bears as always, and a funny little rodent you probably never think about: Prairie Dogs.
First the wolves. I've had the privilege and pleasure to meet these creatures up close at the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum outside of Tucson, Arizona, where a staff member invited us to stay a bit past normal closing time, in order to give a howling demonstration. The Coyotes started it off, but the wolves joined in quickly, and the Ravens over in the aviary added their voices as well. To a Raven, Coyote and Wolf talk probably means dinner! I've also seen them in the wild, in New Mexico while visiting family near White Sands. New Mexico Representative (R, of course) Pearce recently attempted to undermine the Southwest Wolf Recovery Program by spreading misleading and often outright untrue information about wolves to his fellow New Mexicans, calling for the termination of the recovery program. Thankfully, he was thwarted! The man actually went so far as to tell people that 'nothing is more appealing to a wolf than the sound of a baby crying.' How outlandish! Everyone knows politicians lie, but really. Despite the recent win for Lobo Wolves, we must remain vigilant that the government continue to support the Endangered Species Act and not allow sensationalism and fantasy sway them.
Meanwhile Polar Bears continue to face threats from every direction...poaching, global warming, habitat loss. For the sake of todays argument I'm not even going to open the Global Warming can of worms. I'm focusing on destruction and disturbance of habitat and LOCAL pollution. Big Oil has been pressing for years to open up arctic wildlands to drilling, lands that include several key wildlife areas, national parks and refuges in Alaska. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is the largest wildlife refuge in the United States, and a key denning and breeding habitat for animals from Polar Bears, to Caribou, to migratory birds you can find in your own back yard! Polar Bears den here, Caribou cross thousands of miles to drop their calves, and Arctic Wolves hunt. Oil company development along the coastal plain would have a drastic affect on all local wildlife, including fish and marine mammals such as the endangered Bowhead Whale living in the Beaufort Sea. To understand the impact of drilling and exploration in the arctic refuge, one only need to look as far as nearby Prudhoe Bay.
And last but not least on todays ranting agenda the Prairie Dog. Prairie Dogs get a bad rap. They (as well as numerous other rodents in the mid and southwest) can be carriers of Bubonic Plague, dig holes that old time ranchers will always blame for the breaking of a prize bull or cutting horse's leg, and (heaven forbid!) make use of ranchland that should rightfully belong to cows, ain't that right folks?! There has been noise from many plains states about using poison to destroy up to 2/3 of the prairie dog population in some places. On its own a Prairie Dog might not seem like much. But consider: Prairie Dog's provide food for some of our most endangered small predators, the Black-footed Ferret and the Swift Fox, both of which are currently being managed by recovery programs. If the Prairie Dogs were destroyed, these other key species would also suffer. Also, vacant Prairie Dog burrows are used by Ferrets, Foxes, Owls and snakes, as well as the rodents providing food for other animals such as Coyotes, Bald and Golden Eagles, owls and many species of hawks. The effort to exterminate the Prairie Dog not only highlights the government's serious lack of understanding the impact of its 'management' actions, but costs tax payers billions of dollars a year. Do YOU want to pay for these misguided schemes? I don't!
Visit Defenders of Wildlife and WorldWildlifeFund to find out what you can do to help them in their efforts in these areas. And if you happen to see a Polar Bear, Wolf, or Prairie Dog today tell him I said "Hi! and Good Luck!"