Video

Conservation Drones?

When I was slogging through the swamps and slipping down the mud-slicked trails of Sumatra, following orangutans, I often daydreamed about how the right tech would make the job so much easier.  I even started to write a novel about it.

Now one of those gizmos I so wished for is a reality: small aircraft with cameras that can get above the canopy to see what’s going on up there from a much better vantage than on the ground.  And a colleague and friend, Serge Wich, who worked in Zaire and then on Sumatra at roughly the same time as I did (but always much more skillfully and proficiently over much longer timeframes), got some support from National Geographic to set the things up.  Here’s some video of my buddy Serge Wich talking to Nat Geo reporters:

and here’s a TED talk by his co-conspiritor at ConservationDrones.org, Lian Pin Koh:

Great job, team!

Link

Post-capitalism? Property and money

Charles Eisenstein has a thoughtful little post about the terms and meanings of capital, property and ownership – how we construct these in the current money culture, and how that might be transformed.

…if we define capitalism as the private ownership of the means of production, and post-capitalism as ending that private ownership, we are still reifying “ownership” or property as an absolute category. But in fact, ownership like money is nothing but a social agreement, a system by which society allocates certain exclusive rights to decide how capital is used.  [read more]

Video

Biomimicry responses to climate change challenges

It’s always great to see Janine Benyus spiral forth some of the ways that nature can collaborate with us and suggest solutions to our most vexing problems.

Learn more about Biomimicry here.

California’s Climate Crisis and Carnivory

So by now you must have seen the headlines.  California is in the grips of a devastating drought:

xkcd california drought graph

And this has some noticeable consequences:

Lake Oroville drought 2014

What’s to be done about it?  Well, a while back Derek Jensen noted that shorter showers are not the real answer.  And while collective action to deal with root causes needs to be stepped up (yes, I mean things like reducing greenhouse gas emissions… what planet have you been on for the last few decades?), we can also consider how to reduce our individual impacts in ways that are most effective.

One of the most effective actions to reduce your individual role in perpetuating the drought is actually by reducing the amount of meat (especially beef) in your diet.

water footprints for various products

Do you have to give up your burgers and steaks altogether to make a difference?  Of course not: two avid-to-average carnivores who cut their meat consumption in half is just as beneficial as one person who goes all the way veg. Meatless Mondays are a way to start – just do what you can to recruit six of your friends.  You don’t have to be perfect – the less meat-eating you do, the better you’re doing:

Better health for you as individuals, better water conservation, better greenhouse gas reduction – why wouldn’t you? And then there’s the whole set of animal rights considerations.

Maybe you’re not ready to go all the way, but wouldn’t you rather at least reduce your complicity in this mess?  Sure, it’s still a good idea to take shorter showers (and catch some of that water before it just goes down the drain), lose the lawn, and do other things to reduce your direct water waste.  But remember that these won’t have as much impact as changing your diet.

Link

Palm Oil Updates from UCS

Union of Concerned Scientists is starting a new campaign to get McDonald’s to “make a firm commitment to use only deforestation-free palm oil.”

“Tell McDonald’s to go deforestation-free!” Act Now »

For more information on the fast food sector and palm oil, read [UCS's] latest blog on the issue, Palm Oil, Deforestation, and the Fast Food Industry: Would You Like a Side of Forests with That? and our new report, Donuts, Deodorant, Deforestation: Scoring America’s Top Brands on Their Palm Oil Commitments.

The living wind stilled

One hundred years ago, the once mighty species Ectopistes migratorius lost its final survivor.  Alone in the Cincinnati Zoo, on 1 September 1914,  Martha was found dead at the bottom of her cage, the last of the passenger pigeons which had outnumbered humans more than 3-to-1 a century earlier (by some estimates)[1].   Her kind had vanished from the wild fourteen years earlier [2].

The death-of-birth among the passenger pigeons was one part of the ongoing Sixth Great Extinction.  It may not have been exclusively the fault of Homo sapiens, but there can be no doubt that our species contributed and it is likely we were the deciding factor. And it’s quite likely that the loss of this species, once so abundant that a passing flock could darken the sky for days, contributed to the steep decline of the once mighty American chestnut tree, whose loss in turn contributed to the rise of moonshine and tobacco in the American southeast.

So take a moment on September 1st to contemplate the loss of this bird: fleet and gregarious flyer, shaper of continental ecosystems, a feathered message penned with a last breath a century ago.

RIP Martha | ca. 1900 – 1 September 1914

Men still live who, in their youth, remember pigeons. Trees still live who, in their youth, were shaken by a living wind. But a decade hence only the oldest oaks will remember, and at long last only the hills will know.  ~ Aldo Leopold, 1947

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The geometry of the human handprint

Take a moment to observe a scene somewhere not crafted by human hands: a forest, a creek bed, a meadow, a hillside, a leaf.  How often do you see right angles?

A snake seen near the MacRitchie reservoir on Singapore (probably a Wagler's pit viper Tropidolaemus wagleri, see Figures 5 & 6 at http://www.ecologyasia.com/verts/snakes/waglers_pit_viper.htm).  Photo by Erik S. Peterson colorjedi.tumblr.com

A snake seen near the MacRitchie reservoir on Singapore (probably a Wagler’s pit viper, Tropidolaemus wagleri; see Figures 5 & 6 at http://www.ecologyasia.com/verts/snakes/waglers_pit_viper.htm). Photo by Erik S. Peterson colorjedi.tumblr.com

There is one place you can easily find a right angle.  Hold your hand out flat, and stretch out your thumb.  Coincidence?  Maybe….

Looking a bit rectilinear, hmm...

Looking a bit rectilinear, hmm…

The human handprint has a long history of being associated with our creativity.

The human handprint has a long history of being associated with our creativity.

#inyourpalm The Power is In Your Palm - to protect wild orangutans from deforestation for palm oil production. Photos by me (M. Merrill).

“The Power Is In Your Palm” What are we choosing to do with our amazingly dexterous hands and spectacularly opposable thumbs? Choose wisely. (See http://inyourpalm.org to learn more about how to protect wild orangutans from deforestation for palm oil production.)