Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Caring "A Whole Awful Lot"

It's the kind of story you gotta love: when the 4th grade students at Park School in Massachusetts noticed that the official website for The Lorax movie had no environmental message whatsoever, they did something about it. They wrote a petition, posted it on Change.org, and watched as over 57,000 signatures rolled in.

Universal Studios was watching too, and revamped the website, incorporating many of the exact changes the students had suggested. You can see the results here.

Now if only something could be done to stop the Lorax from being used to sell--of all things--an SUV!

Oh wait--there is something being done.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Monday's Nature Quote

Photo by Fr Antunes
It is a wholesome and necessary thing for us to turn again to the Earth and, in contemplation of her beauties, to know of wonder and humility.
~ Rachel Carson

Friday, February 24, 2012

Weekend Haiku & Limericks

Your challenge: write a haiku featuring one of the subjects discussed here in the past seven days: looking for spring, red-winged blackbirds, backdoor lovers, SkyTruth, Sky King, oil spills, or a speaking acquaintance with a tree, or something else from Monday's nature quote. Feel free to mine the comments, too.

Post your haiku or limericks in the comments, below. Remember the pattern of a haiku is: 

First, 5 syllables,
the second line has seven.
And 5 at the end.

A limerick is a wee bit more complicated. Here's one description.

Kindly. post your haiku or limerick in the comments, below.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Looking for spring: red-winged blackbirds

There may be some red-winged blackbirds that remain year-round in the Pacific Northwest, but most of them have the good sense to heigh themselves off to some hot spot like Costa Rica for the winter. Around this time of year, I start watching for their return--these birds promise that spring is on the way.


Baby, I've got some prime lakefront property.
Photo by NDomer73 
The males show up first, vying for good nesting areas around ponds and roadside ditches. When a male finds a place likely to intrigue a female, he fluffs his feathers to reveal the crimson shoulder badges, proclaiming himself the law of the land and ready to defend his territory. An incoming male who doesn't want an argument travels undercover, with his own epaulets hidden under black feathers, while a challenger arrives with epaulets blazing.


The males sometimes get so riled up about their property rights that they initially run off the newly-arriving females. But the females are persistent, and will lurk around the property until he comes to his senses.

For many years it was known that male red-winged blackbirds are monogamous if there are enough of them to go around, but polygamous if there are fewer males than females. Then DNA testing revealed that many of the females do a little trysting on the sly--the young in a nest can have different daddies. Oh, those sneaky backdoor lovers!


Have you seen any red-winged blackbirds yet? (If so, where do you live?)

Monday, February 20, 2012

SkyTruth!

Photo by Vicki & Chuck Rogers 

Those of a certain age will remember a television series named Sky King that chronicled the adventures of a pilot who used his vantage point in the sky to reveal ne’r-do-wells and lay bare evil plots.
Satellites and the Internet have taken that idea to a whole new level. The website SkyTruth “uses pictures taken from orbiting satellites and aircraft to show people the impacts of our activities on the planet.”
On Feb. 9th’s blog, SkyTruth highlighted an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico that has been leaking crude oil since 2004. Both the website and the blog keep an eye on environmental concerns such as the Upper Green River Valley gas drilling in Wyoming and mountaintop removal coal-mining in Appalachia.  
It’s yet another example of the intersection of today’s technologies, communication abilities, and environmental awareness that were not dreamed of in the 1950s’ days of Sky King--which after all, were not really all that long ago.
Now “Out of the blue of the Western sky comes” — SkyTruth!

Weekend Haiku & Limericks

Your challenge: write a haiku or limerick featuring one of the subjects discussed here in the past seven days: homeless people, knock at the door, or something from Monday's nature quote. Feel free to mine the comments, too.

Post your haiku or limericks in the comments, below. Remember the pattern of a haiku is:

First, 5 syllables,
the second line has seven.
And 5 at the end.

A limerick is a wee bit more complicated. Here's one description.

Kindly post your haiku or limerick in the comments, below.

Monday's Nature Quote

The mortal who has never enjoyed a speaking acquaintance with some individual tree is to be pitied; for such an acquaintance, once established, naturally ripens into a friendliness that brings serene comfort to the human heart, whatever the heart of the tree may or may not experience.

~Anna Botsford Comstock, Trees at Leisure, 1916

Friday, February 17, 2012

Weekend Haiku & Limericks

Your challenge: write a haiku featuring one of the subjects discussed here in the past seven days: preying mantis, cannibalism, insect urban legends, or something from Monday's nature quote. Feel free to mine the comments, too.

Post your haiku or limericks in the comments, below. Remember the pattern of a haiku is: 

First, 5 syllables,
the second line has seven.
And 5 at the end.

A limerick is a wee bit more complicated. Here's one description.

Post your haiku or limerick in the comments, below!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Cannibalistic Preying Mantis Bride

If you've heard anything about the mating habits of preying mantises, it's probably that the female likes to dine on the male--a dinner course during intercourse. But I'd argue that the Cannibalistic Preying Mantis Bride is the first documented insect urban legend.

Oh honey, you're so cute I could just eat you up!
Photo by Eric Bégin 
Here's a translated text from J. Henri Fabre's 1907 Souvenirs Entomologiques, which probably gave the legend its start:

"The male, absorbed in the performance of his vital functions, holds the female in a tight embrace. But the wretch has no head; he has no neck; he has hardly a body. The other, with her muzzle turned over her shoulder continues very placidly to gnaw what remains of the gentle swain. And, all the time, that masculine stump, holding on firmly, goes on with the business! ... A headless creature, an insect amputated down to the middle of the chest, a very corpse persists in endeavoring to give life. It will not let go until the abdomen, the seat of the procreative organs, is attacked. Eating the lover after consummation of marriage, making a meal of the exhausted dwarf, henceforth good for nothing, can be understood, to some extent, in the insect world, which has no great scruples in matters of sentiment; but gobbling him up during the act goes beyond the wildest dreams of the most horrible imagination. I have seen it with my own eyes and have not yet recovered from my astonishment."

Now I'm not suggesting that the famed French entomologist made this up--but a crucial detail is that these were captive mantises--and the gravid females may have been famished. Experiments conducted in a natural setting, with hidden observers, show that a natural mantis encounter begins with a dance by the male to placate the female. She responds with ritualized movements of her own, which progress from a menacing stance to one of acquiescence. The male then climbs onto the female's back, deposits his sperm into a special chamber, and leaves with his head intact.

There are over 2000 species of preying mantises, so it's certainly possible that some of them are femme fatales. But most female mantises have gotten a bad rap. The legend of the Cannibalistic Preying Mantis Bride has been around for over 100 years--it's about time Snopes.com got around to debunking it.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Monday's Nature Quote

Wildness can be a way of reassuring ourselves of our sanity as creatures, a part of the geography of hope. 
~Wallace Stegner

Friday, February 10, 2012

Weekend Haiku & Limericks

Your challenge: write a haiku featuring one of the subjects discussed here in the past seven days: rude awakenings, nights at sea, or something from Monday's nature quote. Feel free to mine the comments, too.

Post your haiku or limericks in the comments, below. Remember the pattern of a haiku is:

First, 5 syllables,
the second line has seven.
And 5 at the end.

A limerick is a wee bit more complicated. Here's one description.

Post your haiku or limerick in the comments, below. Love to see what you might come up with!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

It's your watch--Greenpeace Days aboard the Rainbow Warrior

It's 3 AM and the knock comes, and someone pokes his head inside my cabin. "It's your watch," he says.
"Uuuunnnh," I inform him. He's glad his watch is over and he's heading for bed; I'm not happy that mine's about to begin.

It's black as a cave in the cabin named Cook & Boy and I want to stay here in my nice cozy bunk. But there's no way out of this, short of a mutiny. I roll out of bed and, in the pitch black, pull on the shorts and sweatshirt I'd left within easy reach. I stagger to the door and past the larger cabins to either side, where the rest of the crew bunks. (During a campaign against Russian whaling, two of these cabins will come to be known as Slobovia and Smellvokia.)

 Oh, for one more night,
steering the R Dub. 
I climb the metal steps to the main deck and already feel the slap of temperature change and the clean salt air. Now I'm feeling better about leaving the dank closeness of the crews quarters. A quick stop in the head and then in the kitchen to get something to drink, and I'm fully awake and walking down the long narrow passageway past the mess, past the hatch that leads to the noisy engine room. I walk a straight line, anticipating how the passageway tilts as the ship moves beneath me; I've got my sea legs. Before the captain's quarters at the end of the passageway, (nicely situated above water line--rank has its privileges even aboard a Greenpeace boat), I  turn up the wooden stairs to the wheelhouse.

Only the glow of the instruments lights the wheelhouse. Peter sits with his feet up against the chart table, coffee mug in hand. He tells me the course and I take my place behind the great wooden wheel--yes, picture an old-fashioned ship's wheel, spokes worn smooth by many hands over many nights and days over many seas. I check the compass in the glass housing above, and then I hold the ship on course.

Sometimes we talk during the dark hours, as we look out past the mast, past the running lights, over the bow of the Rainbow Warrior, watching the darkness of the night meet the darkness of the waves. But it's the companionable silence I remember best, the hum of the engines, the softness of the light, the spokes beneath my hands as I guided the ship with its sleeping crew through the warm Pacific night.



(Want to read more about Greenpeace days? Click on the "Search this Blog" box to the right and enter the word Greenpeace.) 

Friday, February 3, 2012

Weekend Haiku & Limericks

Your challenge: write a haiku featuring one of the subjects discussed here in the past seven days: PeopleTowels, whales, Big Miracle, Hollywood and Greenpeace, or something from Monday's nature quote. Feel free to mine the comments, too.

Post your haiku or limericks in the comments, below. Remember the pattern of a haiku is: 

First, 5 syllables,
the second line has seven.
And 5 at the end.

A limerick is a wee bit more complicated. Here's one description.

Post your haiku or limerick in the comments, below.Wonder what you clever people will come up with this time!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Big Miracle: Greenpeace meets Hollywood

I admit I've been looking askance at the commercials for "Big Miracle," the movie about the gray whales who were trapped in ice on the north coast of Alaska back in 1988. Askance because...you know, the whole Hollywood sappy-clichéd-tearjearker-free-the-whales thing. But...the story was incredible, and I'm holding out hope that Tinseltown does it justice.

The story in a nutshell? The Soviet Union, the United States, Inuits who hunted whales, and Greenpeace worked together to save three gray whales trapped by advancing ice--at the height of the Cold War.

Photo of commemorative t-shirt by Campbell Plowden
Drew Barrymore portrays the character Rachel, based on Greenpeacer Cindy Lowry, who was on the ice through much of the events. Cindy recently did an interview with an old friend from Greenpeace, Kieran Mulvaney. You can read the whole thing at DiscoveryNews, but here is my favorite part:


Even after the Russian icebreakers arrived and carved a channel, it seemed as if the whales might not be able to make it. That must have been a moment of despair.
Really, one of the most amazing experiences for me was when we knew the Soviets were coming, and they were going to make their first pass, and there was just me and one other person out there on the ice, I think it was 1 or 2 in the morning, and the icebreaker kept getting closer. I think the whales could start sensing open water, and they started swimming really fast from hole to hole, and then, where we had a light set up for the Soviet ice cutter to see where the last hole was, they started rushing that last hole, and water would come rushing out of it, like a wave. And I thought, ‘Well, this is it, I probably won’t see them again.’
And I went over and knelt down by that hole, and this one whale came up and blew on me – and because it was 30 below, I had all this whale breath that just froze on the front of my parka. And then he just rested his head on the ice, and we had this most amazing eye contact, and I just said, ‘You know what? You guys are going home.’ 

Is that sappy? Yeah, maybe. And absolutely true.
Commemorative patch photo by Campbell Plowden



(Want to read more about Greenpeace days? Click on the "Search this Blog" box to the right and enter the word Greenpeace.) 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Sharing the Love

Well, I don't believe I've won over any converts to PeopleTowels yet--but now they're offering 40% off for Valentine's Day--how can you resist?


Here's the description for PeopleTowels: "an on-the-go alternative to paper towels... reusable personal hand towels that make going green as easy as drying your hands." That's right, Bring Your Own Towel. 


Apparently folks in Japan have been doing this for years. While I've never considered that nation to be particularly environmentally-minded (yeah--I'm talking about whaling, Japan!), there are lots of eco-groovy reasons for carrying your own towel.  


And yes, you could just carry around a hand towel, but they're kinda bulky...and the PeopleTowel designs are so dang clever. I've been using mine at work, where the number of paper towels I used became evident on the days no one else was there. 


At 40% off? Maybe you should consider BYOT. 
A happy teenager with PeopleTowels.