Current Event

February 24, 2016

Dixon Stoddard

The article I looked at this week was on the record breaking heat during the month of January. In the article “January Smashed Another Global Temperature Record” it talks about how this January was the warmest January EVER! It looks at the average temperature around the world and talks about how this is related to climate change and global warming. It first looks at how the average temperature has risen from 1.11 degrees Celsius above average from the month of December to 1.13 degrees Celsius above the normal temperature during the month of January. This would not be such a concern but as they state in the article, “It marks the fourth month in a row where the globe has been more than 1°C”(Kahn). They also talk about how one of the telltale signs of this warming is the El Nino which is due to the warming sea temperatures. But what is most disturbing is that “According to NASA, temperatures in some parts of the Arctic averaged up to 23°F above normal for the month.”(Kahn) In this article they also talked about how this is contributing to the loss of sea ice.

 

Kahn, By Brian. “January Smashed Another Global Temperature Record.”LiveScience. TechMedia Network, 16 Feb. 2016. Web. 24 Feb. 2016.


Nature: Part II

February 24, 2016

As I read the second half of Coates’ Nature, I had the following overarching conclusions of the book:

  • We are an important part of nature’s history just as we are an important part of this history of nature.
  • Going back to Coates’ original argument of the five definitions of nature I think we can now conclude that nature is not a simple, objective idea, but instead a concept that is shaped in historical context by time, culture, and place.
  • We must separate our perception of nature as a physical place and recognize how cultures are not in opposition of nature, but shaped by them by their attitudes toward nature and utilization of it.
  • Nature is a foundation for religion, science, and social attitudes (gender, ethnicity).

One thing that I found interesting was the objectiveness of the book. Coates was acting only as a historian, providing context only in the sense of facts. He does not elude to his own opinions of what nature is or is not, which I found both frustrating and admirable. I felt that this is what made the book so difficult to read in places – you had no idea what the author actually believed or agreed with because he continuously contradicted his passages by providing different perspectives.

Aside from this realization, my opinion of the book did not changed. I remained to be simultaneously fascinated and bored. I found chapter 6 to be one of the driest in the book while chapter 9 was quite powerful.

One passage in particular I would like to bring forward from chapter 8:

                “According to the deep ecological world-view, ‘we the people,’ who drive too many cars, use too many disposable nappies and eat too many hamburgers, must shoulder direct responsibility for our ecological predicament, instead of palming it off onto some wicked military industrial complex, fat-cat elite, or exploitive economic order. ‘Real’ solutions are sought at the individual level.” (154)

I found this passage particular provoking when reflecting on the lecture on Monday. The speaker definitely did not have a deep ecological world-view in a sense. While she (rightfully) blames people for the environmental crises of today, she does not think solutions can be found at an individual, stating that we only participate at an individual level for personal ethic, not because we can find solutions on such a small scale. What would Coates have to say about this?


Superbloom & Nature

February 24, 2016

Coates Nature Part 2

The book investigated the difference between the rich and poor’s need or want for natural as a relief from daily stress. The rich does not need nature because they see it as wild and shocking to their delicacy while the poor see it as a beauty unknown in their industrial living.

“The needs of working-class people for relief from the pressures of modern urban-industrial life were arguably even greater than those of the literati with their delicate sensibilities.”

He also discussed the purpose of humans and their place in the world. Using Darwin’s evolution, he explained that everything is connected, humans are great but they are still tied to all things natural. This section sort of reminded me of Pocahontas’s Colors of the Wind.

“His [Darwin] evolutionary model did not insist that humans were directly descended from the apes.  Instead it stressed divergence from a common progenitor, a relationship conveyed by the idea of parallel but separate limbs of a tree, united by trunk and roots”

I think the idea of humans playing God is very interesting. I do animal research and fully believe that animal research is necessary for medical advancements. When he was talking about cloning Dolly, I was particularly intriguing because from my point of view, we barley know anything about the world, even with all the amazing findings we have had, we are just scraping the surface. Therefore our cloning research is just us trying to better understand biology. It is not used as a tool for profit.

Current Event: Death Valley’s Superbloom of Flowers 

In the California national park, Death Valley, there has been a boom in flowers that has not been seen since 2005. Apparently due to heating after rainfall in the area and little wind, the valley looks beautiful with millions of flowers. There are more than 20 different flower types, including Brittlebush, Desert Five-Spot, Gravel Ghost, Notchleaf Phacelia, Golden Evening Primrose, Rock Daisy, Sand Verbena, and Desert Gold. Apparently, the flowers will stay as long as the rain stays. Right now, El Nino has brought more rain to the area, allowing it to thrive. If the area returns to it’s normal drought weather, the flowers will soon fade. Normally, the area is barren and uncomely which detracts from it’s popularity but it is surrounded with snow capped mountains that make the superbloom just that much more beautiful.


Current Event: Palau Vs. the Poachers

February 24, 2016

By: Ian Urbina

This article appeared in the New York Times, and it brings to light the struggles and accomplishments of the small nation of Palau against the onslaught of the poaching industry, an nation of archipelago islands. Their use of new technologies, outside help in locating poaching vessels in timely manners, so that the poachers can be caught within their jurisdiction, and their willingness to protect their protected waters is aspiring.

Without a military, the poor nation of Palau has only a handful of police officers to protect its people and its waters, and it has one deep sea vessel, the Remeliik, to run down poachers and pirates. The Remeliik alone patrols 230,000 miles of protected Palauen ocean, and is only able to do so with outside help from organizations such as Greenpeace, satellite feeds, and two Australian Navy officers who are on loan from the Australian government.

This article documented the seizing of a poaching vessel through the help of all of these parties including the help of a satellite analyst who was in West Virrginia analyzing satellite feeds. The successful capture of the Taiwanese ship fishing in Palauen waters proved to be well worth it, as Palauen officers confiscated several hundred shark fins.

In Palau, the successful switch from a fishing economy to a ecotourism economy has impacted the nation in positive ways, and can lead to small nation out of its poor state. The realization in Palauen government officials that the value of sharks alive heavily outweighs the value of them dead was a major driving factor in making the world’s first shark sanctuary. However, the threat to Palau does not stop at poaching, due to the nations water housing some of the most diverse population of sea creatures and corals, ocean acidification, rising sea surface temperatures, mega-cyclones, and a massive expanse of floating trash.

The article also delves into the issues with legal fishing, and how the increase in efficiency of catching fish is leading to them becoming scarce in areas they used to flourish. Designating more marine conservation areas, and being able to monitor and protect those areas from poaching is going to play a large part in the survivor-ship of many fish species, and ensure that the ocean stays healthy for years to come.

-Ashley Tims


Nature- Part two

February 24, 2016

The concept of the deer parks Coates discussed shows how humans like to control ecological relationships. Though we don’t particularly call them deer parks anymore, their concept still persists today. We have areas that lack predators and allow hunters to come in and control the deer/other herbivore populations. I, however, think this is a better option that purchasing factory farmed meat.So, while I wish we could reintroduce wolves into areas like these, I think in theory these are actually an okay idea.

In my island biology class we learned a lot about Charles Darwin as he talks about the Galapagos Islands a lot in his Origin of Species book given the large amounts of evolution and adaptation that has occurred on the islands. Fun fact: Charles Darwin actually made fun of a lot of the species that live in the Galapagos. He called them dumb and stupid and found the flora ugly. He also killed a lot of animals while there since the animals were so unaccustomed to predators. Anyway, I was very intrigued by the section about Darwinism and ecology that started on page 139.

One of the most relevant findings Darwin had that relates to environmentalists isn’t concerning evolution or natural selection, rather the relationships animals and plants have on one another. He gave an example of how a bee fertilizes a red clover. Without the bee the red clover could not grow. The bees’ population was controlled by mice, as the mice destroyed their hives. The mice population was controlled by cats. Therefore, more cats=less mice, less mice=more bees, more bees=more clover. This type of population control is called top-down. Predators determine the amount of flora. So another example, as we kill top predators like wolves, deer and elk populations are increasing, which in turn eat all of the flora. This leads us to realize that picking and choosing which species we like and which can survive is not always a realistic task. When we mess with one population the entire community can be affected.

This part of Darwin’s theory is also much easier for people to take in. Those who don’t believe in evolution are able to accept this part of his theory as it is very logical and doesn’t interfere with their given set of values and ideas. Believing in ecological relationships between animals is a good starting point as it can be used to start an argument of why we need to protect top predators, not just the ones we find cute and charismatic.

The use of the word “nature” and “natural” obviously brings up a lot of questions. What does it really mean? For example, the Nazis attempted to claim that those who were weak and degenerate as unnatural and therefore should be extinguished as we shouldn’t have unnatural things on our planet. The Nazis obviously didn’t put much thought into what’s natural. Many animals become weak and degenerate, some species have homosexual tendencies, and there are many types of subspecies and variations of species that could be compared to different races of humans, so are those unnatural? It’s very interesting how a general word like “natural” can become something so different.

I like the section at the end where he discusses the things animals can do that are similar to humans or even past it. Darwin claimed that, “there is no fundamental difference between man and the high mammals in their mental faculties” (pg 182). This is a good point, as evolution does  not work towards something. It just selects the most successful traits, so we are not necessarily made up of all the most successful traits. Elephants communicate over long distances with stomach rumbles, dolphins are extremely intellectual species with larger brains that us, and fish can breath under water. Many,if not all, species can do something humans cannot, so we should not be able to claim superiority over all of them.


Nature part 2

February 24, 2016

Nature is something that is immersive.

It can not be framed.

In this chapter once again we see the privatization of nature with the nature.

The black acts of 1723 this made non whites from using these hunting grounds.

Here we also the see the discussion of superiority over some animals in the animal kingdom. This can be seen by George Orwell’s book animal farm in 1945.

Environmentalism- is to preserve what we haven’t already destroyed in nature. I think most of these beliefs stem from the guilt that is associated with damaging the environment.

Nature is often romanticized by taking backpacking trips  to become closer to nature. This is how gain the appreciate nature and its beauty.

Here we see nature being displayed as this idealistic place.

Nature is often romanticized by writers and in paintings as well.

Coates also points out that the slums of the inner city and we see how they are put into modern day slavery.

Much our nature is often man made and is not as is it is as an original whole.

Moral of the story Capitalist economic power has short term goals in mind without taking into account the long term damage that is being done.

It was interesting to see Coates to discuss the slums of the inner city.

I think that people continue to move away from nature because it is for our own self serving interests.

 


Current Event: LEGOs and environmental ethics

February 23, 2016

When on the topic of plastics in consumerist culture we often think of plastic bags, excessive packaging, and once used drink bottles. Many companies have tried to reduce their carbon footprint (and jump on the “go green” trend) by using vegetable based compostable plastic alternatives like corn starch. I remember when these were big a few years ago there was a general consensus of distaste towards these products. Complaints revolved around the firmness of the new materials like “the chip bag is too loud now” and “this bottle is too stiff.” Although I knew it was for the greater environmental good, I was even bothered by the changes based on touch sensation and the lack of flexibility in the materials. It makes you think about how accustomed we are to these plastics. Aside from the product itself, we develop attachments and rituals to the packaging as well. I recall that my distaste for the way the corn starch bottle felt in my grip or the way the chip bag pulled apart made the product inside also less appealing in my immediate reaction. After the brief moment of consumerist entitlement I of course came to my senses and told myself “Wow, this is messed up…I’m brainwashed” and continued purchasing the compostable plastic alternative packaging.

1082094802I didn’t realize until today, after reading a few articles about LEGO committing to the product development of sustainable, non-petroleum product blocks, that this corn starch packaging is completely gone. I assume that I wasn’t the only consumer who was off-put by the packaging changes, because I can’t remember the last time I encountered one of these products since I’ve been in college. While most articles regarding the LEGO changes praised the green commitment, one in particular (aptly titled “Sorry, But the Perfect Lego Brick May Never Be Eco-Friendly”) brought up the inevitable consumer push-back of these changes. While everyone is theoretically on board with all-green products, in practice, these changes will alter the “perfect” LEGO experience. The chemical nature of the petro-based polymers is what allows the blocks to achieve that satisfying “perfect fit.” They are known for their ability to click into place and create their trademark seamless structures. All plant-based alternatives, according to the critic, would make the materials too rigid to achieve the seamlessness, non-warped product that LEGO is known for. Although LEGO has committed $15o mil and 15 years of product development to create their new product, the thought of any downgrades from LEGO’s tactile perfection would be like putting out an off-brand product. The writer suggested a campaign to simply pass-down LEGOs generationally, as opposed to even trying the new product. I didn’t grow up in the LEGO religion, but I get it–as a consumer who has experienced tactile distaste, I couldn’t imagine naturally downgrading. I would probably just subconsciously boycott it and move on–and that is a disturbing thought! It makes me wonder, as more information about the hazards of plastics in our daily lives surfaces, what will it take to make our consumerist culture prefer safety and ethics to satisfaction?


Current Event: Invasive Pigments

February 23, 2016

Ellie Irons is a contemporary artist based out of Brooklyn, who is making pigments out of invasive species. The plants are sourced from around her neighborhood, weeds that have thrived despite the environmental impact of the city. The work she creates with the pigments largely trace the source of a specific plant, depicting its various points of human interaction that led to its migration. In doing so, she seeks to confront the societal implications of deeming a species “alien”, “exotic”, or “invasive.”

Screen shot 2016-02-23 at 9.07.17 PM

Oriental Bittersweet, imported to U.S. around 1860

It’s interesting, as most of the plants she employs were introduced for ornamental purposes, over the course of several centuries. It speaks to an innate recognition that objects, in this case imported ones, have the ability to assert status. It also speaks to the pointless detriment we’ve caused the environment, much like the market for ivory.

Irons’ specifically uses the descriptors “exotic” and “invasive”, which I find interesting, as these plants were once deemed exotic, implying rarity. Over time, we’ve come to regard the same species as “invasive”, as it has continued to spread, thus making it increasingly common, and likely resulting in decreasing popularity. This shift occurred over the course of several centuries, and made me consider how that span of time is shrinking, as technologies are improving exponentially faster in similarly shorter spans of time.

Below is a video of how Irons’ makes the pigments, which is also explained in this guide.


Project Proposal: Amanda Marshall

February 23, 2016

Meek Retention Pond Native Plantings

Project Participant: Amanda Marshall

Project Overview:

The goal of this project is to plant a rain garden(s) near the retention pond outside of Meek Aquatics Center at Ohio Wesleyan University. This project will not only add to the aesthetic value of a relatively barren area of campus, it will lessen Ohio Wesleyan’s and Meek’s environmental footprint. The aquatic center’s roof is made of nonporous material. As a result there is more rain runoff, risk of intensified floods and possibly an increase in local water pollution. To mitigate these impacts, the retention pond was build to catch some of the runoff water. However, adding a rain garden will help filter pollutants and absorb rainwater back into the soil. Additionally, planting native species of plants will attract and provide habitat for native Ohio wildlife.

These ecological benefits especially go hand in hand with Meek Aquatic Center because the center embodies low impact, and eco-friendly development. The building is Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified, features a geothermal heating system, a reflective clay tile roof and the building materials are either local, recycled, low-voc (volatile organic chemical). The building plans were made to fit conservation and sustainability goals on campus. It is appropriate that the nearby grounds support the environment and wildlife as well.

This project was initiated by Caitlin Mcnoughtan and Cynthia hastings and continued by Luke Steffen in 2015. My role in this project would be evaluate, finish and execute the plans they have laid in place. The Building and Grounds Department has approved of two areas where we can plant the rain gardens. These areas are around the semicircular patio on the northwest side of the pond and around a dead willow tree on the sloping area on the north point of the pond. The garden around the patio will border (with a three foot clearance) the side of the patio facing the pond, and semicircular in shape. The extremities will be 2 feet wide and the middle of the semicircle will be 8 feet wide. The second garden will span a twelve-foot radius around the willow tree. This garden will be circular in shape, excluding where the pond is. Due to their gentle slope, these areas work well for the purpose of a rain garden. The water will trickle down the slope and enter the garden areas. Additionally, they follow the pre-existing architecture of the grounds and will add to the aesthetic beauty of the area.

To build the gardens, a six-foot ditch will need to be dug where they will be placed. Hopefully grant money from FLOW will be able to pay for this expenditure, materials, and plants. The ditch will then need to be filed with sand, silt, and topsoil moisture. A wall will also need to be put in place to border the garden. This wall will likely be made of rocks and will help protect the plants within the garden, and preserve the topsoil. Then with the help of volunteers from the Treehouse SLU and EW club, we will plant the garden!! The plants previously suggested are nodding pink onion, white wild indigo, purple prairie clover, purple cone flower, stiff golden root, ironweed, joe pye weed, turtle head, prairie blazing star swamp milkweed, fox sedge, and new England asters. These native plants were specially picked for the soil and topography of the area. They will also add to the quality, health, and beauty of the area for years to come.

Project Outline:

I think it would be nice to do a PowerPoint presentation on the project with photos of the process, planting, and before and after images of the grounds.

Goals of this project – First I would explain why this project benefits the environment and the Ohio Wesleyan community. I would describe how rain gardens in general are implemented to mitigate the environmental impacts of non-porous construction materials. Then I would go into how this particular rain garden helps Ohio Wesleyan. I will talk about the runoff from Meek, percolation of that runoff into the soil, and adding aesthetic value to a kind of barren area of campus.

Process – I will first briefly describe what my predecessors accomplished for this project. Then I will go into detail about my role. I will describe and show how we acquired funding, plants, the building process and the fun planting day!

Impact – I would like to add a slide to the presentation on what we can do as individuals to promote native wildlife health at our own property. Specifically, I would like to bring up the importance of planting native plants in our yards.

Conclusion – I will conclude my presentation with photos of the finished product. I may include photos of fully-grown rain gardens to give the class an idea of what the garden around Meek pond will look like when fully grown (and not just as dirt and saplings/seeds)

Read the rest of this entry »


Current Event: A Devil of a Disease

February 23, 2016

What’s new?

A recent publication by the Save the Tasmanian Devil Program announced that a second cancer, dubbed DFTD2, was identified in several individuals. There have only been two species to ever develop a transmissible cancer – a single species being susceptible to two of these cancers in almost unfathomable. There is now a high likelihood that the species will go extinct in the wild and management programs are redirecting funds to captive programs to reflect this difficult decision.

What are Tasmanian Devils and DFTD?

The Tasmanian devil (Sarcophilus harrisii) is the largest carnivorous marsupial, found only on the island state of Tasmania, Australia. They are an endangered species with a recorded decline of over 60% in the last decade. The devil is under immense ecological pressure due to a rare infectious disease known as Devil Facial Tumor Disease (DFTD).

The devil’s name is partly derived from the highly aggressive nature of the animal; biting in defense, play, and courtship is part of their daily routine. In cruel irony, saliva through biting is the vehicle of transmission for DFTD. When an uninfected devil is bitten, the disease manifests itself in the animal and causes rapid cell division and tumor growth on the face. Ultimately, the tumors inhibit the ability to eat and the devil dies of starvation.

This disease is exceptionally unique in that it is not a viral disease, but instead a transmissible cancer – one of only two ever recorded. Furthermore, DFTD is particularly anomalous because not only is this cancer transmissible, but immortal. The cancer is a parasitic organism in itself; DFTD1 has its own DNA that is discerned to belong to the first female devil discovered to have the disease, known as an immortal cell line. The recently discovered DFTD is rooted to an unknown male. Human activity annihilated the mainland populations and pushed the few remaining survivors back to the indigenous Tasmania. Now, there is so little genetic diversity, they have no mechanism to create a natural resistance to DFTD. (Images of the disease are very graphic. To view click here, here, and here.)

However, one may ask, if the devil can go extinct on the mainland, why is it so crucial to protect the few remaining in Tasmania? The answer is complex, much like Tasmania’s ecosystem. Essentially, the devil is a scavenger species and without it disease would spread rapidly as no other animal is able to fill this niche. In other words, the ecosystem of Tasmania could fall into chaos without direct intervention to save the species.

Current efforts to save the species are to create quarantine facilities with captive breeding programs for future reintroductions which have been moderately successful in the past. This species is a hotspot for research in several fields and there has been great progress in vaccine development for DFTD1 (prior to the discovery of DFTD2). The Save the Tasmanian Devil Programme is continuing to monitor wild populations in hopes to keep the species alive despite this devastating news.

For two months this summer, I will be working with the Save the Tasmanian Devil Program at their Cressy facility; the largest captive breeding center for Tasmanian Devils in the world.