We always think about the effects that humans – and our technology – have on plants, but what about the effects that plants have on us?
In The Botany of Desire, Michael Pollan (yes, he’s the author of “In Defense of Foods”) walks us through the history of four different plants – potatoes, apples, marijuana and tulips – that have managed to change our lives. Each of these plants contains a defining characteristic that has played on human’s desires for hundreds of years and has enabled it to survive and expand over time.
Whether it is the sweetness of the apple or the beauty of the tulip, these plants have managed to find a weakness in our senses that has led to the mass production of these particular goods.
The style of the documentary is particularly interesting because it is a subject that is very difficult to visualize on screen. How do you show the legend on Johnny Appleseed or the 1600 Dutch economic crisis that occurred because of the desire for tulips?
- Visual reenactments – A shadowy figure of Johnny Appleseed roaming through villages with a bag of seeds.
- Interviews – Michael Pollan talking directly to the camera and telling stories of each plant.
- Aesthetics – There are so many striking visuals to hold the viewer’s attention, whether it is a long shot of carts driving endlessly around a tulip exporting business or a close shot of apples being picked and turned into hard cider. read more…
We have just passed spring, the season with love in the air, and entered summer, theoretically where love passes from the atmosphere into peoples heart. No this is not a post on dating, or America’s obsession with romance. I am, however, talking
rings, more specifically engagement rings. Here is a unique way to propose using recycled wood. simplywoodenrings is a site of designer engagement and wedding bands made of salvaged, recycled, or hand picked wood pieces.
Fern Gully: The Last Rainforest (1992) is an Australian-American animated film based off of a book by Diana Young. It is directed by Bill Kroyer, produced by Peter Faiman and Wayne Young, and written by Jim Cox.
The movie starts off explaining that once upon a time humans and nature lived in harmony. Now however, the very last rainforest is in danger of being cut down. It takes a lot of effort from Crysta the fairy, her forest friends, and a little bit of magic to stop the destruction. Even Zac, a boy who worked for the logging company, realizes the importance of trees in the web of life and says at the end of the movie, “Guys, things have got to change.”
I think that this film does a fairly good job of teaching the audience about the circle of life and the dangers of pollution and deforestation. The leveler machine is portrayed as a dark scary monster and destroys everything in its path, while the untouched rainforest is magical and full of color. On the other hand, most of what I remembered from watching the movie as a kid was the tree spirits and the rapping bat. It is an important lesson to convey, but if it is a message that will actually be remembered by youngsters, I don’t know.
If you’re in the mood for a laugh, check out The Nostalgia Critic’s very interesting point of view on the film.
Now I’ll have to go watch the sequel, FernGully 2: The Magical Rescue where the fairies of FernGully venture outside the rainforest to rescue baby animals from being captured by poachers.
South by Southwest (also known as SXSW, or Southby) is a pretty well known music, film, and interactive festival and conference that takes place in Austin, TX every year. In 2011, a new branch of the SXSW brand was created, called SXSW Eco, which focuses on the environment, sustainability, and other environmental challenges faced in a globalized economy, and world.
After a successful first year, SXSW Eco is coming back again this October, and is starting to receive some buzz. Annie Leonard, a prominent filmmaker and activist with sustainability and consumerism issues has just been announced to be one of the keynote speakers at a SXSW panel.
So, who else thinks sharks are absolutely terrifying?
When people think of sharks, images that are often conjured up are violent, ugly ones. However, while these predators are definitely scary at their worst moments, they are in great danger. The Pacific Reef sharks, for example, are being fished for their fins as they can be quite expensive and used in lavish dishes such as shark fin soup. Now, while there are many other more cute and cuddly animals in danger, we should all be deeply concerned about the sharks’ well being. The Pacific reef shark is in grave danger and this is an issue because, seeing as the reef shark is the apex predator of the Pacific reefs, if the number of sharks decline, the reef ecosystem could be severely damaged. Along with this, the benefits of keeping these sharks alive greatly outweigh the benefits of killing them as they are a big help to the tourism business of many of the Pacific Islands.
As you can see in the video above, these sharks are vital for the tourism business for many of these Pacific Islands. Along with this, these sharks are important because they help maintain the reef ecosystem which is already in danger. One of my personal favorite moments from the video is the clip from 1:33-1:43 where other fish are using the shark’s mouth for food and potential protection. It is really interesting and inspiring to see how the sharks as well as other creatures depend on each other for certain things and how they can form partnerships with one another.
So, why protect these creatures that tend to strike fear in all of us whenever we see a rouge fin stick out of the water? The answer is simple. If we protect these swift animals that have ample negative connotations about them, we are able to maintain two beautiful things. First, the economies of many of these Pacific islands will be maintained. Secondly, the beautiful, colorful reefs which I personally have fond memories of witnessing first hand, will remain intact. All in all, in order to maintain these two things, I will gladly face my fears and swim with the sharks.
Have you ever heard of a brinicle?
Yeah, neither had I. At least not until I stumbled across this headline: Nature’s ‘icy finger of death’ captured on tape for first time. I was doubly intrigued as I am always interested in these kinds of firsts plus I had images of snow tornadoes ravaging the countryside dancing through my head. The article is accompanied by this video clip.
The first thing that comes to mind when I hear field trip is a large yellow bus full of noisy kids on the way to a museum. However, when I received the April issue of Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine I came across an article titled Get Outdoors and Explore Wisconsin’s Wild Places that painted a different picture from what first came to my mind when I thought of field trips. Instead of noisy kids on a yellow bus, there were noisy birders on a yellow train heading into the heart of the Tiffany Bottoms State Natural Area off to check out some of the best birding in Wisconsin. When I saw this I couldn’t help but grin.
While I always enjoy reading through Wisconsin Natural Resources this months issue was especially interesting due to their article on cool field trips in Wisconsin. The article highlighted 34 of 118 field trips available through the Natural Resources Foundation. The focuses of the field trips ranged from amphibians to avians, and catered to all activity levels. A couple of the trips that I found particularly interesting were bat night at Maiden Rock and the trumpeter swan cygnet roundup and banding. While bat night is offered every year, this is the last year that the Trumpeter Swan trip will be available, if you are interested you had better sign up soon.
Last year I asked for a Kindle for my birthday, using the justification that it’d be better for the environment. However, considering how few books I buy in the first place, and now this article from The New York Times, my rationalization couldn’t be more incorrect. According to this short opinion piece by Daniel Goleman and Gregory Norris, e-readers and iPads are dooming our planet. In this breakdown, the authors compare the environmental pros and cons of e-readers to paper books and offer some pretty compelling stats in favor of traditional books, or even better, the library.
It is becoming more and more difficult to deny that the world’s climate is changing, and it seems to be changing faster and faster as the years go by. As the global temperature rises, something else does too: sea levels. And with rising sea levels comes with increased destruction of coastlines worldwide.
NPR put together an interactive map of coastlines around the world that would be most affected by significant rises in sea levels. The map shows the lengths and depths of the lost coastlines at different levels of loss, demonstrated by a deepening of red color as the time lapse occurs.
Even seemingly insignificant changes in sea levels would prove disastrous to many major cities around the world. A half-inch of vertical sea level rise would mean a three foot of land lost on a sandy coast, due to erosion. Slightly higher numbers would result in more dramatic tides in deltas and much stronger storms. A worst case scenario would be if the Greenland ice sheet melted entirely, resulting in a sea level increase of 20 feet around the world.
According to the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development the ten most affected cities by rising sea levels would be: Mumbai, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Miami, Ho Chi Minh City, Calcutta, greater New York City, Osaka-Kibe, Alexandria and New Orleans.
Another article by NPR cites Carol Auer, and oceanographer for the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration, saying, “Flooding wouldn’t be a problem if people moved back from the water.” To me, this seems a little ridiculous. If global warming is indeed occurring, caused by man, the people of the world should not merely move away from coasts, but try to fix the underlying cause of rising sea levels: rising atmospheric temperatures. Additionally, it is not realistic to move people away from these coastal cities, because from an economic standpoint, they are vital to global trade.
What do you think? Is flooding only an issue when people are in the way? Or are coastal populations just victims of natural occurrences of nature?
Birds, birds, birds! Hiking in the woods on a cold chilly day and holding a pair of binoculars ready to look at the bird that flies by – sound too extreme and intense? Allow me to introduce you Project FeederWatch, organized by Cornell Lab of Ornithology for everyone to participate! It is a backyard bird survey project that starts from every November to early April where participants should put up their bird feeders and count the birds that visit! Not too difficult at all. Grab your snacks, and maybe beers; sit down, relax and count!
Photo by Alice Kahn(Project FeederWatch), taken from Cornell Lab of Ornithology website
We’ve all seen dumpsters overflowing with cardboard, trashbags, plastics, and all different kinds of trash. We have also seen all of these things littered in the streets, possibly staining our beautiful city. Because of this, many people have the connotation that trash is something that we should hate and something that we should think is ugly. However, many artists have taken trash on as their materials to create masterpieces that not only look magnificent, but help raise awareness to environmental issues.
For example, the “Waving Wall” is a street art piece that uses 1200 19-liter water bottles to create this “waving wall” and to highlight how the issues of how there are hidden quantities of water used to produce the products we buy. For example, 1200 19-liter water bottles can be used to produce only two pairs of jeans. In my opinion, I prefer seeing the “Waving Wall” over wasting that much water on only two pairs of jeans.
This sense of using street art made out of garbage helps shape the public’s opinion. It not only shows them something cool and unique by using garbage to create art, but it raises awareness and gets them thinking about their consumption choices and how they get rid of/use their own garbage and trash. As you can watch in the video below, turning trash into art is something that many people find interesting and cool and it shows how there are better, more interesting ways to use trash than to just throw them in the nearest alleyway.
In my opinion, while it is clearly unrealistic for every person to create something with their old garbage and trash, I think that this shows that there are some uses for trash that many people may be overlooking. While we might not all be artists, there are ways for us to reuse certain household items in order to reduce the ever growing amount of pollution.
For more examples of cool art made from garbage, follow this link: http://edition.cnn.com/2012/03/16/world/environmental-green-art/index.html
Who likes Leonardo DiCaprio? I do!
In the documentary The 11th Hour, co-directors Leonardo DiCaprio, Leila Conners Petersen, and Nadia Conners discuss the environmental threats of our time. Global warming, deforestation, mass species extinction, and depletion of the oceans’ habitats are all addressed and potential solutions to these problems are proposed. The film’s main message is that the future of humanity is in danger because there are too many of us using too many resources too fast. In the film over 50 politicians, scientists, environmental activists, economic historians, and medical specialists share their perspectives.
I have always been under the assumption that real change, effective change happens when a lot of people stand together. While that is true I have come to realize that individual change is as equally important. Such as when individuals plant gardens in their backyard, or bike to work, take short showers, or use as much natural light as possible. Going green is also being extended to things like cleaning solutions and the big F word, Fashion.
Eco Fashion World is a website devoted to environmentally friendly clothing and accessory brands.
The website lists brands that are Vegan, Ethically Produced, organic and recycled. While this website looks good it doesn’t function very well. Some of the links in the brands section are broken, and the website lacks information about its green criteria (i.e the eco criteria section is pretty basic). It does say however that it lists non-certified brands that are also environmentally sound (gaining certification is difficult and many businesses do not want to go through the trouble of obtaining them).
As a person who loves to shop, this website is really cool but as a serious conservationist this attempt seems really ineffective because:
- It presents things in such a way that buying from these brands will make a big difference. In reality it takes changing many aspects of your lifestyle.
- Most of these brands are in other countries so for U.S citizens that means ordering online, and using a lot of energy to get it to your front door
- Many of the brands are a little pricey. On a Student-like budget, these brands are impractical and so the incentive to buy environmentally friendly clothing is reduced.
Over the last decade eating local has evolved from an idea into a movement, locavorism, with farmers markets, CSAs, and community gardens, at the forefront. While the locavore movement has emphasized the values of eating local food and getting to know your farmer, it often overlooks one local food source that we all have access to, wild food. What is wild food? It is edible plants and other food that can be harvested from our natural environment free of charge aside form a little bit of sweat and elbow grease.
In his book The Forager’s Harvest, Sam Thayer guides us on an adventure into the wild and explores many types of edible wild plants, some of which many of us regard as weeds. With a focus on education the book is perfect for anyone who is interested in or learning about foraging and serves as a good field guide for identifying, harvesting, and preparing wild plants. With almost 40 different types of edible plants, from gooseberries to wild rice, Thayer shows us how plentiful nature’s bounty can be. The Forager’s Harvest, is not just a simple field guide, it covers a range of topics from forage to storage, cooking methods, and foraging as it relates to conservation.