Tag Archive | Ecology

Positive Steps Towards Preserving Our Pollinators!

An article recently posted by SAVES, Student ActiVists for Endangered Species, reports that the U.S. government is banning the use of bee-killing pesticides and genetically modified crops within wildlife refuges. The products can be used by spraying, but have typically been used in the seeds. The seeds are soaked in the pesticides so that when they grow, all parts of the plant contain the pesticide internally. This greatly effects the plant, targeted animals, and now admittedly, non-target animals as well.This is to be phased out in refuges and in animal feed by 2016.

Pollinators, like this bee, are an integral part of agriculture. Pesticide's toxicity has been depleting the pollinator population. Banning pesticides and GMO's will help to reverse the damage we have caused and protect our future ecosystem.

Pollinators, like this bee, are an integral part of agriculture. Pesticide’s toxicity has been depleting the pollinator population. Banning pesticides and GMO’s will help to reverse the damage we have caused and protect our future ecosystem.

Given our recent post about the negativity of neonicotinoids, this is pleasing to hear – a positive step towards a more balanced and symbiotic ecosystem. Read their full article here, and follow their blog for more ecological news on endangered species, or to join their club for protecting endangered species!

Great Bear Rainforest Agreement another step closer to full implementation

Great Bear Rainforest

Five forestry companies and three leading environmental groups have agreed on recommendations for a world-class conservation plan to protect and sustainably manage BC’s Great Bear Rainforest, the largest coastal rainforest in the world.

Established in 2000 and dubbed the Joint Solutions Project (JSP), the collaborative effort has already positively influenced land-use planning and reduced conflict over logging throughout the region.

The latest recommendations would implement ecosystem-based management throughout the region, affecting the scope of future logging along BC’s central and north coasts, while ensuring extensive conservation measures to protect the area’s natural ecology.

Read the full story here.

A New Coral Reef Species from the Gambier Islands, French Polynesia

A variety of shapes, ornaments and coloration in smaller colonies of Echinophyllia tarae.

The new speciesEchinophyllia taraeis described from the remote and poorly studied Gambier Islands, French Polynesia. Although the new species is common in the lagoon of Gambier Islands, its occurrence elsewhere is unknown.Echinophyllia taraelives in protected reef habitats and was observed between 5 and 20 m depth. It is a zooxanthellate species which commonly grows on dead coral fragments, which are also covered by crustose coralline algae and fleshy macroalgae.

This species can grow on well illuminated surfaces but also encrusts shaded underhangs and contributes to the formation of coral reefs in the Gambier. It is characterized by large polyps and bright often mottled colourations and it is very plastic in morphology like most hard corals. Patterns of partial death and recovery of the species were often observed and could be due to competition with other benthic invertebrates like the soft-bodied corallimorpharians or zoanthids which can co-occur with this species.

Read the full story here.

Getting Inspired

Image from 'Twelve Little Girls,' another book still sitting on my back burner, getting slightly singed.

An image from ‘Twelve Little Girls,’ another book still sitting on my back burner,
getting slightly singed.

After the success of our Moose in a Maple Tree Series, I was supercharged by the idea of doing my own book. I knew a bit about the industry now, and had a pretty good grasp on what would sell and how to do it. It suddenly seemed more viable, less daunting. But what would I write about first?

The obvious choice was a book I’d been working on for some time, a true passion project for me. A few years ago I walked into a clothing shop belonging to a friend of a friend, and discovered a series of gorgeously-rendered paintings of  young girls tangled up in a dark forest. Each painting featured a single girl who had somehow become integrated into the woods around her. One was sitting high in the crook of a black, bent tree bough, looking angrily down at some unseen thing below her. Another sat on a carven throne atop a ‘tree ladder,’ in a forest hung with tiny mirrors, the largest of which she had fixed with a rapt gaze .

Vain

The ‘Forest of Mirrors’ image from ‘Twelve Little Girls.’

Another showed a claw foot bathtub, supported by ascending roots, gauzy bath curtains hanging from the tree-branches above, blowing in the wind. Half-submerged in the bathtub lay a beautiful girl with greyish skin, hair hanging lankly over the tub’s rim, her thin, frail limbs dangling corspe-like over the edges. Yet another depicted a girl whose hair had grown into tree branches, and intertwined with the boughs above her, that had reached down and dragged he up off of her feet so that she dangled in the wind like and uprooted weed. Another showed a tall, bent girl carrying a treehouse on her shoulders, with branch-like hair that grew up through the porch and chimney.

Drain Forest Bath

‘Drain Forest,’ another image from ‘Twelve Little Girls.’

This images screamed at me, demanded my attention. I asked the store owner, Gabrielle, who was also the artist, if she had ever considered making this series into a children’s book. She hadn’t, but she loved the idea, and I offered to write stories for the illustration. She was thrilled by this, so I got to work. Soon a new book concept was born, ‘Twelve Little Girls.’ It was told in rhyming couplets, a cautionary tale about 12 young girls who enter a dark forest as friends, and end up separating, straying from the path and becoming entwined in separate fates of their own making. It was dark, it was mysterious, and it rhymed. Gabrielle loved it, and offered to create new artwork to flesh out the full twelve stories (she only had eight paintings to start with). Together we came up with four new girls to add to the mix, and the story became an exciting project. The trouble was Gabrielle had a day job, and these paintings had been done over several years, so it was not a quick process. Again, the back-burner loomed.

And then I heard about the Northern Gateway Pipeline proposal.

When I first discovered that an oil pipeline was being planned by a major oil company to run through an old-growth rainforest in Northern BC, I was pretty stunned. Was this real? Could our government seriously be considering this? They were talking about the Great Bear Rainforest. From what I understand, this area is pretty famous for being a bit of an ecological relic–a true old-growth forest that has never been logged or developed. A place where biodiversity has been allowed to flourish to the point where a unique subspecies of bear has emerged–one that sports a coat of pure white. Where else on earth could you find that? Nowhere, it turned out.

I think that I, like most Canadians, harbour a sense of pride in the natural, often pristine beauty of our country, and have always felt as though Canada had its head and heart in the right place in terms of conservation. It turns out that it just seems that way because we have such a tiny population in relation to our land mass, so we’ve always had so darned MUCH wilderness that destroying it all hadn’t really become a viable option as of yet. But now, it seemed, things were changing.

Grizzlies in the Great Bear Rainforest

Grizzlies in the Great Bear Rainforest

In the wake of this new, unsettling information, I began to educate myself. I leaned about Enbridge, the corporation that wanted to build the Northern Gateway Pipeline. I read about the Tar Sands, with their massive tailings ponds filled with toxic leftovers from the oil extraction process. I learned what bitumen was. Dirty. Sludgy. Super-carcinogenic. Oh, and in order to make it fluid, it’s cut with super-toxic solvents before it enters the pipelines, so that in the event of a spill, you’ll have a caustic mix of chemicals injected into your water supply that will give otherwise healthy people migraines, seizures, and over the long term, cancer. Not the best news I’d heard all day.

I read about the Enbridge bitumen spill down in Michigan. How the Kalamazoo River had more than a million gallons of this stuff pumped into it over a weekend. How it took eighteen hours before a Michigan utilities employee noticed the spill and reported it to Enbridge, who had yet to detect a problem. I watched documentaries about people suffering the after-effects of having a 40KM stretch of river contaminated with this ‘black gold.’ I saw a video made by an ex-Enbridge employee who had been a part of the ‘cleanup effort,’ and had decided to come forth and tell the truth about what had really happened. Cover-ups. Threats. Complete extinction of all life in the river. Rocks and sand poured over oil they knew they couldn’t remove from the environment (or didn’t want to spend the money to do so). Canvas and grass seeds thrown over top. The appearance of a complete and total renewal of the waterway. But dig down a foot or two, and dark, glistening bitumen oil blooms to the surface. The river was ruined. Lifeless.

This terrified me. Could our government actually be considering running a substance this dangerous through an ancient BC rainforest??

In my years at Uni we had made trips up to Carmanah Valley and Clayoquot Sound to study these old-growth forest systems. I had seen them. I knew how they worked.  How precious, rare, unique and invaluable they are to life on Earth. How everything in the system is connected with every other thing, and how losing even one element would compromise the entire system. How these places were precious jewels, the lungs of the planet. And they wanted to bring this deadly, life-extinguishing oil into one of these places?

Surely this was not possible. It seemed like madness.

Potential devastation from a spill by tankers for proposed Northern Gateway project.

Potential devastation from a spill by tankers from the proposed Northern Gateway project.

There was talk of jobs. Of new safety standards. Of the importance of Tar Sands oil in the new economy, of its importance to Canada. And of tankers longer than the Empire State Building navigating treacherous waterways inhabited by humpback whales, orcas, spawning salmon, and this crazy white bear that no one seemed to have heard of before, even though it was one of the mascots for the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. And there were more spills. And more cover-ups.

And there were outright lies. Like when Enbridge created a map for their website that showed  tankers gracefully cruising through a wide bay to alight in Kitimat, undeterred by the pesky network of islands that the map illustrator had conveniently chosen to erase.  Surely this was a joke.

It wasn’t. They believed that people really were stupid enough to swallow all of this propaganda, and shrug their shoulders and look away, as they far too often do.

My first instinct was to DO SOMETHING. This hit me hard. I lived in Toronto now, but I grew up in Vancouver, and BC’s wilderness had been my childhood playground. It was in my blood. I wasn’t going to let anyone spill oil all over my nice, white bears and pretty rainforest.

My first thought was to write a children’s book. It was the one thing I knew how to do (sort of) that might have a little impact. I envisioned a story that took place in the Great Bear Rainforest after an oil spill had hit the area. I was serious about it. I discussed it and workshopped ideas. And then, as so often I have done in my life, I lost faith in my own idea. ‘Who’s going to listen to me?’ I thought. ‘What impact could my book possibly have? It won’t make a difference.’ And with that, I dropped the whole plan.

Months passed and the issue didn’t disappear. My guilt gnawed at me, but my negativity was far stronger. ‘What good can one person do? No one will care about what I have to say,’ I told myself.

That summer I went camping with some friends on a long weekend. We discovered this pristine little lake a few hours North of Toronto, with no buildings or boats, and very few people. Walk-in campsites near the lake, no cars. It was heaven. As we lay on the smooth rocks on the water’s edge looking up at the stars one evening, we began pontificating on the virtues of wilderness. How important it is to the soul. How it’s strange that something so natural, so wonderful, should be so difficult to find and have access to. And something clicked in my head. I brought up the pipeline issue and the rainforest in BC. Everyone agreed it was a horrible plan. Disgusting. Ruinous. How could our government be so greedy, so corrupt?

‘I have to do something,’ I said that night.

‘I have to write this book.’

An inspirational moment.

The actual night that I decided to write ‘Spirit Bear.’

Suddenly it dawned on me that if everyone took the attitude I had been taking, we would certainly fail as a species. Evil would run rampant, since good people preferred to remain silent and feel powerless. I wasn’t going to go down that path. Not anymore. I was going to do whatever I could do, as ONE person. If only a handful of kids read my book and got inspired, I knew it would be worth it. If every person in the world decided to do SOMETHING–whatever that something was–to make the world a better place, then we’d have a better world. Simple. So I wasn’t going to worry about what other people thought. Or whether or not I was ‘good enough’ to put an idea into print. I was going to do this. Because this issue was bigger than me. And it needed my attention.

No more shrugging, shuffling and looking away. That night I decided to write Spirit Bear.

Next Blog: The Birth of a Little White Bear

Forest Ethics

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This is Forest Ethics, a conservation organization devoted to the protection of forests. To date they’ve secured protection agreements for 65 million acres of forests and helped move billions of dollars of corporate buying towards environmentally responsible market solutions.

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Recently the Canadian government has been conducting an unprecedented dismantling of environmental laws and review processes — heavily scrutinizing environmental groups, and attempting to limit the public’s ability to advocate strongly and oppose these attacks. In response, Forest Ethics created two independent nonprofit entities in Canada, ForestEthics Solutions Society and ForestEthics Advocacy Association, in April 2012. ForestEthics Solutions continues to craft world-renown environmental solutions such as the Great Bear Rainforest Agreement and the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement. ForestEthics Advocacy is able to devote an unlimited amount of its time and resources to environmental advocacy-to ensure that destructive projects and weakened environmental laws are vigorously and successfully opposed.

For more on Forest Ethics, please click the link below.

Forest Ethics

Guarding the Gifts

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The ancient Great Bear Rainforest is one of the largest tracts of temperate rainforest left in the world (21 million acres), and is home to thousands of species of plants, birds and animals. In this lush rainforest stand, 1,000-year-old cedar trees and 90-metre tall Sitka spruce trees. Rich salmon streams weave through valley bottoms that provide food for magnificent creatures such as orcas (killer whales), eagles, wolves, black bears, grizzlies, and the rare Spirit bear.

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Close to sixty percent of the world’s original coastal temperate rainforests have been destroyed as a result of logging and development. North America’s ancient temperate rainforest once stretched the Pacific coast from southeast Alaska to northern California. Today, more than half of this rainforest is gone and not a single undeveloped, unlogged coastal watershed 5,000 hectares or larger remains south of the Canadian border.

For more on the Great Bear Rainforest, visit Guarding the Gifts, a charitable organization located in North Vancouver, British Columbia. Founded in 2010 by members of the Gitga’at First Nation and King Pacific Lodge (a resort operating in Gitga’at territory), Guarding the Gifts has established itself as a world class model for youth empowerment and environmental conservation. Click link below to visit website.

Guarding the Gifts

To the Last Drop – a Tar Sands Documentary

A great way to educate yourself about the issues surrounding the Alberta Tar Sands. A two-part documentary.

Scientists and doctors reveal pollution caused by Tar Sands development to be linked to exponentially high rates of cancer in the Athabasca region, and to deformed fish found in the river. Government and Industry are quick to refute their research, and to deny any responsibility for pollutants in the air and water adjacent to the Tar Sands project.

A revealing documentary that should be seen by everyone.

Click link below to see documentary.

To the Last Drop

Plastic-Eating Fungi Found in the Amazon May Solve World’s Waste Problem

fungi

A fungi has been discovered in the Amazon rainforest that can degrade and utilize the common plastic polyurethane (PUR). Polyurethane is a big part of our mounting waste problem and this is a new possible solution for managing it. The fungi can survive on polyurethane alone and is uniquely able to do so in an oxygen-free environment. Please click link below for full story.

Plastic-Eating Fungi Found in the Amazon May Solve World’s Waste Problem

Pangolins: The extraordinary mammal going extinct but nobody’s noticed

pangolin-getty

Pangolins, a unique order of mammals, consisting of eight species spread across Africa, India & South-East Asia, are rapidly going extinct due to illegal poaching. The meat and scales are used for all manner of ‘delicacies’ and ‘natural medicines’ for a rising Asian middle class. The world’s only scaled mammals, this dog-sized cross between an anteater and a pine cone has sheathes of scales made of keratin covering most of it’s body. They are able to curl up into a tight ball like a hedgehog when sleeping or threatened, making the pine cone resemblance seem even more noticeable. Please click the link below to read the full story.

Pangolins Going Extinct

 

Rural Bees

La Paz Group

Our soft spot for bees is self-evident. We also have a soft spot for Greece in general and the Peloponnese in particular, the southern part of this southern European country that forms the “sweet spot” for olives, olive oil, wine and yes, honey.

Unblended honey is one of the world’s amazing taste experiences, with sensory “notes” as varied as herbal, floral, citrus and wood. The Peloponnese and the rest of the country provides a wide range of habitats with distinct blooming periods because the majority of its land is home to forests and wild ecosystems with less than a third of it allocated to farming.

“Colony collapse disorder”,  a problem in the United States and some European countries has not yet reached Greece, partially because the beekeepers are still able to maintain a safe distance from commercial farming, and the pesticides so frequently used there.

Beekeeping is a way of life in…

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