On April 29, We March for the Future

This is ‘From Truth to Justice’ Week. From the March for Science on Earth Day to the People’s Climate March this Saturday.
‘The Science March Was About Respecting Science, the People’s Climate March Is About Acting on It’
The president of the USA – who would be a joke if he weren’t so capriciously dangerous – may not care about what climate change is doing to the planet, but we do.
It is hard to avoid hyperbole when you talk about global warming. It is, after all, the biggest 
thing humans have ever done, and by a very large margin. In the past year, we’ve decimated the Great Barrier Reef, which is the largest living structure on Earth. In the drought-stricken territories around the Sahara, we’ve helped kick off what The New York Times called “one of the biggest humanitarian disasters since World War II.” We’ve melted ice at the poles at a record pace, because our emissions trap extra heat from the sun that’s equivalent to 400,000 Hiroshima-size explosions a day.
PolarBearFamily_iStock_160X150As for wildlife, look no further than the tragedy of starving polar bears. Which is why, just maybe, you should come to Washington, DC, on April 29 for a series of big climate protests that will mark the 100th day of Trumptime. Maybe the biggest thing ever is worth a day. Bill McKibben for The Nation

For some of us Washington DC is too hard to reach, but not to worry, we can still hit the streets and make our voices heard for the planet at any one of hundreds of the Peoples Climate Movement ‘sister marches’ all over the USA, and indeed, all over the world. Click here to find one near you.

If you really can’t make any of the marches, join the Virtual Wildlife Climate March here

Watch writer and environmentalist Bill McKibben, and his guests talk about climate change and climate action in this short video.

Week of Action From Truth to Justice: – Earth Day to May Day 2017

One amongst an exciting calendar of events in the Week of Action really caught my eye: an invitation to stand with the 21 youth plaintiffs suing the federal government for ‘perpetrating climate chaos’, in the case Juliana vs U.S.  It is predicted to be ‘the trial of the century’.

The youth plaintiffs will speak out from the steps of the United States Supreme Court – where their case may eventually be heard. Joined by their lawyers, supporting U.S. Senators and others, these youth will share the latest updates on their case, as well as song, fiery speeches and invitations to show your support.

Check out the full week’s program here

Find out everything you need to know about the Peoples Climate March here

Since farming livestock is responsible for 14.5% of greenhouse gases globally, you could do much worse than join the Plant-Powered Planet Protectors at the March. Says it all, in four words, doesn’t it – whoever dreamed up that group name deserves a medal! If you are serious about your interest in wildlife and in doing your bit to mitigate the grim effects of climate change – think polar bear – take the Center for Biological Diversity’s pledge to Take Extinction off Your Plate and #EatForThePlanet

Find out which species of wildlife are affected by climate change: USA here, UK here

frs17-globe

And when all the fun and flag-waving is over for the day, sign up for the free Food Revolution Summit, a week of illuminating talks from, amongst others, eminent doctors such as Michael Greger and Kim Williams. John Robbins kicks the whole thing off with “Lift-Off: Taking Action to Heal Yourself & the World”

Other experts, include Nathan Runkle who while still a boy of 15, founded Mercy for Animals. Nathan is an internationally renowned leader in the field of animal advocacy. He is talking on “How Mercy for Animals Can Transform Your Life” Check out all 24 visionary speakers’ profiles and their topics here.

For yourself, for the animals and for the planet

Happy smiles in the rain – people and posters from the March for Science here

Further reading post March for Science & Earth Day:

Julian L Wong advocate of ‘A Whole Person Economy’ tells us that science alone will not solve Earth’s problems for us. We need a much more radical solution – overturning ‘a political and economic system based on the indefinite and continuous extraction, exploitation, and wealth-hoarding of resources by the powerful few on a planet of finite natural resources. Addressing this root cause requires much more than advances in science and technology, but also requires significant advances in our understanding of how to shift patterns of human behavior on a systems and planetary scale (essentially, world cultures) so that, for instance, we collectively stop measuring success and progress through erroneous notions of “economic growth.”’

Read more of his fascinating piece here

This is of interest too Climate-induced species migrations could upend human society

But don’t get depressed! Mike Bloomberg, 3 times mayor of NYC gives us Six Reasons to Be Hopeful about Climate Change

For pics of the best posters and happy people smiling in the rain at Earth Day’s Science March, click here and here

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What You Can Do Right Now to Help the Planet

“If there are 2 things we have to do, one is renewable energy because that would solve the problem of climate change. And the other is reduce our consumption of meat because overwhelmingly it’s meat that’s destroying wildlife habitats, either in terms of grazing animals or growing animal feed to feed animals.

“And if we could tackle both of those things, renewable energy and meat consumption we would go a very long way to solving the problems.”

Executive Director of Greenpeace John Selwyn

In the run up to Earth Day, John appeared on Radio 4’s PM yesterday with Professor of Conservation Science at the University of Cambridge Andrew Balmford, and Heather Koldeway Head of Marine and Freshwater Conservation Programs at London Zoological Society.

All three agree: while we men and women in the street do need to face the truth, dire as it may be, for them as conservationists to be doing nothing but pouring out doom and gloom is counterproductive. We respond to negative messages by defensiveness and denial – burying our heads even deeper in the sand. Positive messages on the other hand, empower us. So it’s important to present the problem and the solution together. Because there certainly are answers. And we can see already lots of great conservation success stories coming in from all over the world. ¹

John Selwyn has some memorable lines:
“The optimism of action is better than the pessimism of thought.”
Even more succinctly, “Pessimism doesn’t sell.”
And reassuringly, “Every individual person is part of the solution.”

Useful sayings to bear in mind in animal advocacy too!

And Prof Balmford adds, “Conservation of the natural world is essentially about human behaviour. It’s not something we need to do to species out there, to places out there. It’s about changing the way in which we ourselves behave.”

Listen to the full 10 minute discussion here (Starts 42 minutes into the program)


Executive Director of Earth Day Initiative  John Oppermann pinpoints another obstacle we stumble over when we want to do our bit for the planet:

” I think the challenge is people get bogged down by lists of dozens of things they could do to green their lifestyles. So we’re making it simple with a new campaign that we’re launching as a countdown to the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. It’s aimed at cutting through the noise by asking people to do just one thing. We’re focusing in on the intersection between impact and convenience by asking people to sign up for clean energy via their utility bills.”

Disappointing that this other John has narrowed it down to one action we can take (rather than John Selwyn’s two) and focused on green energy – no mention of cutting back on meat consumption. Clearly, both are very important. But if we could only do one, considering the devastating impact meat production is having on the environment in terms of destruction of wildlife habitats, virgin forest clearance, soil degradation, greenhouse gases, and land, water and air pollution – not to mention the immense suffering of billions of animals – cutting back on the meat would definitely be my number one choice.

Read more about Earth Day Initiative and what the organisation is doing year-round to promote environmental awareness and solutions here


So be encouraged. Be empowered. Every little thing we do does make a difference. Nothing is wasted. It’s never pointless. And stamp this motto on your brain, as I am trying to stamp it on my forgetful grey matter!

“The optimism of action is better than the pessimism of thought.”

We must never give up. There is too much at stake.

If you’re ready to cut back on the meat and dairy, you might want to try the “Reducetarian Solution”

If you’re in it for the animals, just go vegan


¹ Many wildlife and conservation groups published details of their wins in 2016.  To be cheered and encouraged some more, just click here to see the Center for Biological Diversity’s list of victories. And for the WWF’s here

And the Climate Reality Project tells us There’s Still Climate Hope in America despite President Trump’s worst efforts.

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Today is Earth Day – Do Something Special for the Planet

Cover pic Environmental Council of Sacramento

“If you assume that there is no hope, you guarantee that there will be no hope. If you assume that there is an instinct for freedom, that there are opportunities to change things, then there is a possibility that you can contribute to making a better world.”

― Noam Chomsky

In the fantastical political landscape we are inhabiting right now, those in power energetically pursue their own materialistic, money-driven agenda. What if in the process their hobnail boots trample all over the environment, animals, conservation, science, public lands, people, the climate. The whole shebang. Planet Earth itself. And leave behind a footprint that is anything but small and green? Are they blinkered by greed, or do they simply not care?

Earth Day Saturday 22nd April is our chance to show the clique now in the seats of power that we hold dear what they despise. They are too shortsighted – but we are not – to see that the paths of self-interest they have chosen lead straight to doomsday, armageddon, the apocalypse. Whatever you like to call it. The end of life on Earth as we know it. Truly.

The stakes could not be higher.

So here is a selection of ways we can join over 1 billion other people and testify to our celebration of, and our firm intention to, safeguard the wonder that is Planet Earth

Show your solidarity by taking part in an Earth Optimism event near you

Dr Jane Goodall will be topping the bill in Cambridge UK, where there will be talks and activities for all ages. Not forgetting the event taking place in London.

Dallas, Washington DC, New York, Santa Fe, Miami, Chicago and many other US cities, as well as Finland, Columbia, Canada, Venezuela, Costa Rica, Hong Kong, New Zealand and Panama are all staging events and celebrations of their own. For the full program click here.


Or join the March for Science taking place in more than 500 communities worldwide

Find a March near you. If you can’t make it in person, join the Virtual March.

Find out more about the March for Science here and here

Dr David Suzuki also tells us “Why We Must March for Science”:

Because “politicians are supposed to work for the long-term well-being of people who elect them, not to advance the often shortsighted agendas of those who pay large sums of money to get their way regardless of the consequences …” Read more here

Professor Brian Cox on the Role of Science in a Democracy


“This Earth Day is all about celebrating Every Corner of the World!” says Team Sierra. They want you to
  • get outside and join in by hiking in YOUR corner this Earth Day
  • Share what is special about your corner of the earth using hashtags #EveryCorner and #TeamSierra
  • Raise funds to help protect the planet

Discover more here


Join the Earth Day Network here

Want to know more? Find out about Earth Day: Facts & History here

And don’t put those marching boots away! Keep them ready for People’s Climate March 2017 next weekend, Sat 29th April

 

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Cover pic LiveScience

Bonnie & Clyde, High Park Zoo Toronto,

Futurology Promises More Hopes than Fears for the Animals & the Planet

Futurology says you really can have too many bees!

Even the most indifferent to environmental issues and our native flora and fauna would have to be blind and deaf not to have registered the torrent of bad news about the dramatic and worrying decline in bee population numbers over the last few years.

So how could you possibly have too many bees?

We know of course that bee colonies are trucked all over the USA to pollinate crops as each comes into flower each year.

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But until I came to write this post, I for one was completely unaware that right now millions of bees are being shipped around the globe to work their pollination magic. Here in the UK it seems we import 40,000-50,000 colonies each year. And global bee commerce continues to expand.

This is a problem for at least two reasons:

  • The colonies – provided by a handful of global suppliers – are screened for diseases and parasites, but that screening is not foolproof. And the imported bees hosting pathogens can and do spread their unwanted ‘guests’ to the local populations with disastrous results. “The effects include killing bees outright, or harming their ability to learn, which is crucial in finding food. In Argentina, imported parasites are driving native species to extinction.”¹ As the trade exports the industrious little insects to ever more locations, the danger of harmful effects on native bees and food security increases.
  • As well as putting their local cousins at risk, the imported bees, by pollinating invasive non-native plant species, are likely to accelerate their dispersion with unknowable effects on local biodiversity.

So I guess the problem isn’t exactly having too many bees per se, but too many bees on the move carrying pathogens to all corners of the world. It’s ironic but perturbing that an industry that’s mushroomed in response to an ever-widening pollinator shortage, will likely itself exacerbate the downward trend.

A big conservation problem then. One of five recently identified as global environmental risks by an international team of experts in science communication, research and horizon scanning. Horizon scanning (otherwise known as Futurology or Future Studies) is a collaborative process of assembling all available data in a particular field to identify future trends, both positive and negative.

While in an ideal world the crystal ball would reveal zero future environmental risks, it’s good to know at least that this particular expert team – undertaking their horizon-scanning in the field of species and ecosystems pinpointed just 5 key risks, but twice as many hopeful opportunities. And as I’m keen to make this week a week of hope, I’ll list the remaining 4 risks in brief so we can get on to the good stuff.

1   Sand scarcity I don’t know about you, but this is one possible problem I wouldn’t have imagined. “Sand is used in a diverse range of industries and as the human population increases so does the demand for sand. Impacts of sand mining include loss of species, degradation of habitats and social conflict”.

2  Border fences affecting wild animals The impenetrable wall between the USA and Mexico promised by President Trump would adversely affect desert bighorn sheep, the endangered North American jaguar, the ocelot – now down to the last 50 in southern Texas and the cougar (pictured here).cougar-718092_960_720

In total it’s estimated that 111 endangered species could suffer as a result of Trump’s wall, as well as 108 species of migratory birds.” Sadly the trend is not confined to the USA. The increased use of border fencing in Europe and elsewhere will have similar detrimental effects on the movement, migration and survival of wild animal species.²

3  Changes in waste management affecting wild animals Another trend that wouldn’t spring immediately to mind – closing or covering rubbish dumps. That might sound like a positive, but will be bad news for wildlife scavengers habituated to this ready food supply.

4  Wind speeds at the sea surface are increasing data indicates, and so is the frequency of gales. The effect on seabirds and migrating marine animals is an unknown, but unlikely to be beneficial.

Bad news is always unwelcome I know. But even the bad can have its good side. If it throws the spotlight on to a problem, we can start looking for solutions. Take science’s revelation about the damage to marine life from plastic microbeads. The data that surfaced in 2010 was troubling to say the least, but bringing it to light did bring about quite speedy international action in the form of bans on their use.

Now that’s out the way we can, as promised, get to the good stuff – 10 new conservation opportunities opened up to us by advances in science and technology:

1  A new biological discovery: strains of Symbodinium (unicellular algae) found in coral reefs are resistant to heat and could hopefully be manipulated to protect reefs from the bleaching effect of rising temperatures in the ocean.

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2  An underwater robot called COTSbot has been very successful at controlling the crown-of-thorn starfish responsible for 40% of the damage to the Great Barrier Reef in the last 30 years. Robotics offer the prospect of more environmental wins. Watch COTSbot in action below.

3  The portable 3D-printed electronic ‘dogs’ nose, bizarre as it sounds, works even better than the real thing. It will provide a major new asset for sniffing out illegal wildlife goods, especially at border crossings, and offers the potential to disrupt major black market trade routes. That would be huge.

4  As a result of advances in genetic screening and engineering bacteria and fungi can now be used for biological pest control and growth stimulation treatments, averting the need to use artificial chemicals that harm biodiversity.

5  Ah, we’ve hit a snag. With this one it seems like risks and opportunities might be fairly equally balanced. We’re talking floating wind farms. Right now the biggest in the world is being constructed off the coast of Scotland. Though more efficient in supplying green energy than land-based, and good for fish seeking a refuge, they would be no better than their land-based counterparts at avoiding collateral damage to birds in flight. Plus there’s a chance they could entangle marine mammals.

6  The bionic leaf that makes fuel out of sunlight and water. Forget fitting solar panels to your roof. Just get your bionic leaf and make your own ready-to-use biomass. Watch the video to find out how.

7  Lithium-air batteries. Yet another technology entirely new to me. If produced commercially, these batteries could revolutionise the clean energy industry by enabling electric cars to run on a battery a fifth of the cost and a fifth of the weight of batteries currently on the market. This means you could travel from London to Edinburgh – just over 400 miles – on a single charge. Right now an electric car can only drive between 50 and 80 miles per charge. If you’re interested in the science, click here.

8  Reverse photosynthesis uses the sun’s energy to break down rather than build up plant material. It’s potential? To transform the production of biofuels and plastics and reduce fossil fuel use and carbon emissions.

9  Carbon capture involves dissolving the carbon dioxide in water and injecting it into basalt rock, which is plentiful all around the globe. Once in the rock it undergoes a natural process. The basalts (volcanic rock) react with the gas-in-solution to form carbonate minerals. Hey presto, limestone! In the Iceland Carbfix project it took just two years for the  solution to solidify. Compare that with the hundreds or even thousands of years that was predicted. Only the lack of political will is holding this one back. Grrr.

10  bitcoin-1813507__340Blockchain technologyBy allowing digital information to be distributed but not copied, blockchain technology created the backbone of a new type of internet. Originally devised for the digital currency, Bitcoin, the tech community is now finding other potential uses for the technology.”

In the environmental field, these could be: “establishing a currency market for trading carbon credits, improving supply chain traceability (e.g. for sustainable fish) and tracking illegal wildlife trade.”

Which all goes to prove there are few conservation issues for which science and technology cannot find an answer. Futurology is right to see the almost limitless opportunities they offer.

But it’s not human ingenuity that is ever in question. Humankind’s will to implement preventions and solutions most certainly is, both at political and individual level.

The good news is, we have the power in our hands to act at both levels. In politics we can use our vote for the planet. We can also throw your support behind organisations actively engaged in protecting nature and lobbying governments or challenging them in courts of law.

In the USA for example, we have the altogether wonderful Center for Biological Diversity and the Sierra Club amongst others.

Here in the UK, we can support the Wildlife Trusts. We can be sure they will do all in their power to keep our government in line with the National Ecosystem Asessment. We can also join the Ecosystems Knowledge Network. They greatly value individuals’ input.

On a purely individual level Friends of the Earth has a wealth of ideas and tips for living an eco-friendly life which is well worth exploring.

It is so beyond time to stop ravaging the Earth in the pursuit of our own selfish interests. We are currently pursuing a path that is not only irresponsible and disrespectful, but ultimately self-defeating. The real interests of the human race lie not in the rape and pillage of our precious planet and all the life in it, but in due reverence, regaining a sense of wonder, and careful loving stewardship. We can do it.

After all, there is only one Earth.

“I will not dishonor my soul with hatred,
but offer myself humbly as a guardian of nature,
as a healer of misery,
as a messenger of wonder,
as an architect of peace.
I will honor all life,
wherever and in whatever form it may dwell,
on Earth my home,
and in the mansions of the stars.”

– Diane Ackerman

Read about last year’s projections here

¹Imported bees pose risk to UK’s wild and honeybee population – The Guardian

²Building Walls – Purr and Roar. Excellent post on this topic I would heartily recommend. Also Border Fences Aimed at Stopping Immigrants are Killing Wildlife – Take Part

 

Source

15 risks and opportunities to global conservation – Fauna & Flora International

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There is Always Hope for the Animals & the Planet

“If you assume that there is no hope, you guarantee that there will be no hope. If you assume that there is an instinct for freedom, that there are opportunities to change things, then there is a possibility that you can contribute to making a better world.”

― Noam Chomsky

There is no denying that the planet faces serious problems on so many levels: war, terrorism, poverty, hunger, disease, the environment, pollution, global warming and extinctions. What makes it more difficult to find solutions to even one of these intractable issues is that all are woven together in a complex nexus.

But if you’re drowning in a daily deluge of bad news like sometimes I feel I am, and losing the will to get out of bed in the morning, feeling helpless and hopeless, disempowered by the magnitude of the problems, don’t despair. Rescue is at hand!

If you haven’t already met it, it’s time to introduce you to my new discovery Earth Optimism, tagline

‘Change is positively possible’

“Earth Optimism is a global initiative that celebrates a change in focus from problem to solution, from a sense of loss to one of hope, in the dialogue about conservation and sustainability.”

Watch their inspiring little video.

Explore their home page and sample some of the great posts from their blog.


In April 2016 Sir David Attenborough

the most famous naturalist on the planet, abseiled down a green wall in the atrium of the brand new David Attenborough Building, Cambridge. The building named for him forms the campus of a new global conservation hub, the Cambridge Conservation Initiative – the largest grouping of nature conservation organisations and university researchers in the world. Big names among them include the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and the United Nations Environment Programme’s World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

At the official opening Sir David addressed those present:

“The future of our life on Earth is dependent on the natural world – for the air we breathe, the food we eat and the water we use – and for the feelings we have of awe and wonder at nature’s extraordinary riches. In this remarkable age we are learning more and more about the intricacies of our dependence on nature. Yet our natural world is threatened as never before. The threats are both numerous and interrelated, and no one institution, however effective, can hope to address them all alone.”

“It is for this reason that the work of the Cambridge Conservation Initiative is so exceptional. By bringing together leaders in research, practice, policy and teaching, we stand the greatest chance of developing the solutions required to save our planet.”

earth-day-beautiful-logoOn its campus, the Cambridge Conservation Initiative will be hosting one of the worldwide  Earth Optimism public events being held to coincide with Earth Day April 22nd 2017, and it sounds like a happening absolutely not to be missed.

We are promised inspiring stories of hope, and talks by leading conservationists and naturalists. Topping the bill will be Dr Jane Goodall. Worth going just for that! There will also be a Solutions Fair with positive ideas of practical things we as individuals can do to make a difference.

To find out more click here   

If you’re interested in joining the Cambridge event look no further for your invitation:

“Given the crisis facing nature, it is all too easy to give up hope. Yet, around the globe we are winning the fight to protect the natural world. Deforestation is slowing down. Wetlands are being rebuilt. Numbers of some of our rarest creatures are on the rise. People are making this change happen. Stand with us on Earth Day 2017 to celebrate what is working and why. Discover how every one of us can become more involved in winning the fight – come to #EarthOptimism Cambridge.”

To register your interest click here. And on the day take the kids!

London is not to be outdone. The London Zoological Society is hosting their open-to-the-public event April 20th-22nd, “during which we will showcase positive actions that are making a difference in people’s relationships to nature and much more.”

Other venues for Earth Optimism happenings on and around Earth Day include Dallas, Washington DC , Santa Fe and Panama.

Earth Day‘s own website is also most definitely one worth checking out.

On Earth Day’s Take Action page there are – obviously – things we can take action on. But also a counter that has registered 2,023,369, 216 ‘Acts of Green’ – more than 2 billion, and with your help on the way to 3!

Earth Day invites you to join the movement here

community-1769575__340This is the wonderful thing the internet can do for us now – we can join a worldwide network of activists working together, encouraging and supporting each other. A trite thing to say, perhaps. But it’s good to remind ourselves that we are not as insignificant, alone and powerless as we feel in our blacker moments.

Together we can make a difference, and there is always hope.

Join the March for Science on Earth Day April 22, 2017 at the National Mall in Washington DC.

Get Involved. Join the movement. Act Now
Give To The Cause. Help power the movement. Donate
Spread the Word. Stay Connected.
Make your own contribution to fighting climate change by supporting Earth Day Network’s tree-planting Canopy Project here

Postscript

Many wildlife and conservation groups published details of their wins in 2016.  To be cheered and encouraged some more, just click here to see the Center for Biological Diversity’s list of victories. And for the WWF’s here

And the Climate Reality Project tells us There’s Still Climate Hope in America despite President Trump’s worst efforts.

Update

24th February 2017 – From Stephanie Feldstein, Population and Sustainability Director for Center for Biological Diversity: “It’s been just over a month since Inauguration Day. I wish I could say the news has gotten better since then, but it hasn’t. With one exception: the resistance keeps getting stronger. To keep building the movement, the Center is looking for volunteers to help bring the message of resistance to Earth Day festivals in every state. If you’d like to represent the Center at your local Earth Day event, send me an email.”

Buy your Earth Day tee here5939b1fcb6a83daf38a856d6_342x400

Sources

Sir David Attenborough opens global hub for nature conservation

A global movement to celebrate ‘the most precious thing in the world’: introducing #EarthOptimism

Join us to celebrate #EarthOptimism in Cambridge on 22nd April 2017

The Smithsonian Earth Optimism Summit

Earth Day Network

Read more Has hope become the most endangered species on the planet? – The Guardian

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Step into a Miniature World of Animated Paper Wildlife

This is mesmerising. Pure magic.


"We are all connected"

I recommend multiple viewings to appreciate the incredible detail and get the full benefit.

Paper predators and prey spring to life in this visually stunning short from directors Dávid Ringeisen & László Ruska. An ordinary desk and typical office supplies are the backdrop for this micro-universe that carries the macro-message of wildlife conservation. While humans are left out of the piece, their impact is still present in a discarded cigarette butt that sparks an imaginary forest fire and an overflowing wastebasket that pollutes a fantastical rolling-chair river. This piece is part of the filmmakers’ MOME thesis project, the animation department at Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design in Budapest, Hungary and was created for WWF Hungary.

The Short Film Showcase spotlights exceptional short videos created by filmmakers from around the web and selected by National Geographic editors. We look for work that affirms National Geographic’s belief in the power of science, exploration, and storytelling to change the world. The filmmakers created the content presented, and the opinions expressed are their own, not those of National Geographic Partners.

Source

National Geographic

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16 + 1 Dazzling facts about Hummingbirds

These little creatures are as fascinating as they are beautiful. In fact, they are SO amazing, they’re inspiring a futuristic design for harnessing green energy. Look out for the new fact I’ve added to this article, no. 17!

Melissa Breyer

Melissa Breyer (@MelissaBreyer)
Science / Animals
January 19, 2017 for Treehugger

These psychedelic pixies of the bird world are all magic and moxie.

beija-flor-de-orelha-violeta-jpg-662x0_q70_crop-scale
CC BY 2.0 Nortondefeis

There are a lot of magical creatures on this planet, but it’s really hard to outdo the hummingbird when it comes to enchantment. They are the nectar-fueled, jewel-hued fairies of the bird world – and they have the moxie to match. These teeny wee things display some of the most vivid colors in the animal kingdom and have prodigious talents unique to themselves – like, you know, they hover – all in a Lilliputian package that weighs as little as a paperclip. I’m not sure they could be anymore bewitching – but if you need convincing, start here.

1. They’re not called hummingbirds for nothing

While they could have been named purringbirds or whirringbirds, the fact remains that they create quite the buzz, befitting of their onomatopoetic name. A hummingbird beats its wings around 70 times per second in direct flight and over 200 times per second while diving.

fiery-throated
Francesco Veronesi/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

2. They are aerial acrobats

Hummingbirds can fly up, down and all around – forwards, backwards and even upside down. They can beat their wings in a figure-eight pattern, which makes them the only vertebrates capable of sustained hovering. They can fly 30 mph, and exceed 45 mph during courtship dives.

3. They put their flying to good use

Hummingbirds are found only in the New World, from southeastern Alaska to southern Chile – and of the 340 species of hummingbirds, many of them migrate at least 500 miles every year. The rufous hummingbird migrates 3,000 miles (4,800 kilometers) from Mexico to Alaska every year; ruby-throated hummingbirds can fly 18 to 20 straight hours to get across the Gulf of Mexico.

4. And of course, they are tiny

Much of the enchantment of these spectacular birds is that they pack so much magic into such a small creature. And in fact, the bee hummingbird of Cuba (pictured below), is around two inches long and weighs in at under 2 grams, is the smallest bird in the world. Theoretically, 16 of them could be mailed first class using a single stamp.

bee-hummingbird-jpg-650x0_q70_crop-smart
charlesjsharp/Wikimedia/CC BY 2.0

5. They are remarkably flamboyant

Those of us east of the Mississippi only get to enjoy the ruby-throated hummingbird, and in all, only 17 species regularly nest in The States – but in the tropics? The place is humming with them. And like other creatures who live in the lush habitats of South America, many of them are vividly candy-colored with all kinds of frippery to add pizzazz – as can be seen in many of the photos here.

16300451622_c972b01dae_b-jpg-650x0_q70_crop-smart
Francesco Veronesi/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

6. The men are dandies

Purple cheek pompoms, exuberant crests, wildly burdensome-looking tails – along with some of the most beautiful colors known to nature, male hummingbirds come with all kinds of wild add-ons to woo the ladies. The tails of species like the long-tailed sylph (Aglaiocercus kingii) and the booted racket-tail (Ocreatus underwoodii) – who also sports some perfectly poofy pantaloons – are completely improbable. (Both pictured below.) Which is also the point; the males who can survive with such beautifully burdensome tails prove to the females how hearty they are and what splendid mates they would make.

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Joseph C Boone/CC BY 2.0
sylph
Francesco Veronesi/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

7. Their nests could be the work of fairies

Hummingbird nests are the tiny homes of the bird world, usually not exceeding the size of half a walnut shell. They are velvety little cups formed from moss, leaves and plant bits, woven together with spider silk. And into the nests, mama birds deposit one to three tiny eggs the size of small pearls.

hummingbird-eggs
Yerandy1990/CC BY 2.0

8. They have the quickest hearts in town

With heart rates exceeding 1,200 beats per minute, hummingbirds have the fastest beating hearts in the animal kingdom.

9. They are gluttons for nectar

To keep their exuberant metabolism fueled, these little guys and gals need a prodigious amount of food, mostly in the form of nectar. One study noted that a hummingbird of 3 grams can devour 43 grams of sugar water in a day; that’s 14 times its body weight. They also eat tree sap, as well as insects.

wire-crested
Bill Bouton/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

10. Bill, please

One of the hummingbird’s hallmarks is its long crazy bill that is specialized to fit into tubular flowers to get the goods. Different species have differently shaped bills in accordance with the flowers they prefer. Some are dramatically curved, others are very long. In the case of the remarkable sword-billed hummingbird, pictured below, so long that they have to hold it upright in order to stay balanced when perching! In fact, it is the only species of bird with a bill longer than its body.

sword-billed
Francesco Veronesi/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

11. Their tongues would demolish a lollipop

Hummingbirds have a long, split tongue that they use to vacuum nectar from flowers; it is such a fast-working tongue that it can flick at a rate of up to 13 licks per second.

12. They never forget

Believe it or not, those wee heads hold a lot of brainpower! One study found that the hummingbird’s hippocampus is significantly larger, relative to telencephalic volume, than any bird examined to date. Why? Because of their extraordinary nectar lust, they visit hundreds of flowers each day. “In order to feed efficiently,” notes the researchers, “they must remember what flowers they have visited, the locations of high nectar-rewarding flowers and a host of additional spatial–temporal information. A combination of field and laboratory studies demonstrate that hummingbirds can remember the nectar quality and content of individual flowers, nectar-refilling rates, spatial location and distribution of flowers, avoid revisiting recently sampled flowers and rely on ‘episodic-like’ memory for daily foraging.”

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Francesco Veronesi/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

13. They find walking passé

Have you ever seen a hummingbird walk or even hop? Probably not, since they don’t bother. Their feet are so small and their flying so adept that they have pretty much done away with using them for anything other than perching.

14. They have great eyes

While hummingbirds can’t smell very well, they can see a whole array of colors that we can not, thanks to their ability to process ultraviolet light.

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Francesco Veronesi/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

15. They have built-in flying goggles

Hummingbirds are one of the lucky animals that come complete with a third set of eyelids. These “nictitating membranes” are like a translucent curtain that can be drawn to protect the eyes during flight. They’d be all set for Burning Man.

16. Their collective name is a “charm”

Just like we have flocks of sheep and packs of dogs and gaggles of geese, we have charms of hummingbirds. Because, of course – few creatures are as charming as a hummingbird, let alone a group of them!

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Francesco Veronesi/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

Epilogue: Amazingly, hummingbirds were almost rendered extinct in the 19th century thanks to the Victorian penchant for vibrant feathers and the fashionable collecting of specimens by nature connoisseurs. Thankfully we’ve come to recognize the folly in that, yet these most beautiful of birds, like so many of the planet’s species, now face other risks. Namely, habitat loss and destruction. We can only hope that future generations will be able to admire hummingbirds and look back feeling grateful that 21st century humankind wised up before it was too late.


My comment: How grateful future generations will be to us humans alive today remains to be seen. The best step we can take individually to ensure that there will be left of this wondrous planet something to be grateful for, is to move towards a more plant-based diet. Check out Take Extinction off Our Plates and Eat for the Planet. As lovers of wildlife, we do owe it to Planet Earth as a matter of urgency.

And here’s my no.17. Let’s hope this will help with a greener future for us all.

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Artist impression of a field packed with hummingbird-like wind turbines. Credit: TYER WIND

A design for wind turbines inspired by the world’s only bird capable of hovering and backwards flight — the gorgeous hummingbird.

It’s a world first in biomimicry says Tyer Wind, the company trialing this design. The hummingbird’s flight dynamics have never been reproduced in a mechanical device before.

How is this an improvement on the standard turbine model? “This design is a highly efficient wind converter. Million of years of natural selection have turned hummingbirds into some of the world’s most energetically efficient flyers.”

If you’re interested in the biodynamics of this remarkable little bird’s flight, you can see more in the video.

Sources

16 dazzling facts about hummingbirds – TreeHugger

Flapping wind turbine mimics hummingbird to produce electricity – ZME Science

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Plant-Powered Woman to Race Vegan-Themed Car at Daytona

Vegan outreach with a vengeance. Way to go Leilani!

Feature by Kat Smith for One Green Planet

If you were to imagine a race car driver on the spot, then Leilani Münter probably isn’t the first person you would picture. First of all, she’s a woman who competes alongside men in a male-dominated sport. That’s never stopped her from being successful — Sports Illustrated actually named her as one of the top 10 female race car drivers in the world. What else is surprising? She’s a biology graduate, a vegan, and an environmental activist.

In a sport where cars are decked out with advertisements from fast food, gas companies, and more, Münter “does not work with companies that produce fossil fuels, meat or dairy products, fur or leather, or any companies that test on animals.” Back in 2014, she teamed up with the Oceanic Preservation Society to deliver a message of conservation to millions of viewers by driving a Blackfish-themed car. Münter also adopts one acre of rainforest for every race she completes, a tradition she started back in 2007 – and she has shared the story of how she got into racing and why she fights for the planet with audiences across the United States. But this is hardly where the extent of her dedication to raising awareness for animals and the planet ends!

Next month, Münter will be debuting a new car at Speedweeks at Daytona International Speedway – one that will deliver a vegan message while also providing hunger relief to families and provide care to rescued farm animals, thanks to A Well-Fed World

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How will she do it? By driving this snazzy-looking, leather-free car, which is decked out with the words “VEGAN POWERED.” You can’t miss it and millions of viewers certainly won’t, either.

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A car with a cause — according to the Vegan Powered website, they intend to debut the car with “a large display tent with free food, vegan starter guides with recipes, coupons, and more.” 

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Check out the video below to see the car being assembled:

When asked what inspired her to sport a vegan-themed car at the upcoming Daytona races, Münter told One Green Planet, “I have been dreaming of driving a vegan-themed race car and giving away vegan food at the racetrack since I went from vegetarian to vegan 5 1/2 years ago.”

She also revealed where she got the idea to set up a tent that will distribute vegan food to attendees at Daytona next month. “I brought vegan chicken wings for my race team to the track and they were really shocked to find that they loved it!” said Münter, “… about two weeks later I got a text from my tire carrier asking me what company made the vegan chicken wings because he was going camping with his friends and wanted to bring vegan wings instead of chicken wings and that was when I knew getting people to taste the food was key to growing this movement. I want to do that same experiment but on the scale of 100,000 race fans at Daytona Speedweeks.”

In addition to sharing awesome vegan food for all the racing fans, Münter is also looking for sponsorships from vegan meat, cheese, milk, and ice cream brands in an effort to “feed the race fans all the standard types of foods they would normally find at the racetrack — just vegan versions of it.” She continues, “We want them to understand that going vegan doesn’t mean you are eating salad (although I love salads) for the rest of your life.”

The car will be debuting during the ARCA Racing Series season opener for Speedweeks at Daytona International Speedway on February 18th (live broadcast on Fox Sports 1), but A Well-Fed World, the charity that has sponsored Münter’s car, is still accepting donations in order to make the vegan food tent possible– and continue Vegan Powered as an ongoing initiative.

To learn more about the car, visit Vegan Powered, here.

Follow the racing here

Source

Leilani Münter to Race First-Ever Vegan-Themed Car at Daytona – One Green Planet

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9 Creatures Named After the Outgoing President. Obama Will Be Honored – Or Will He?

Two gruesome parasites, an extinct lizard, some blotchy lichen, a mean-looking fish – as well as two quite pretty ones. And a particularly hairy scary spider known to ambush unsuspecting snakes passing by its hidden trapdoors. (A political metaphor? We can but hope!)

What’s not for the President to love?
Seriously though, the discoverers of these new-to-science species have found some pretty cool reasons for honoring Mr Obama in this way. I’ve highlighted them because they are good.

 Jessica Boddy for Science magazine Dec. 29, 2016:

From the extinct Obamadon to the barackobamai spider, the outgoing U.S. president is a taxonomic inspiration.

Though U.S. President Barack Obama is leaving office soon, he will be forever immortalized in taxonomy thanks to scientists who have named species after him. Nine different species from extinct lizards to trapdoor spiders got their names from the 44th U.S. president, which is more than any of his predecessors. (Theodore Roosevelt comes in as a close second with seven.)

Here are the creatures that are saying “Thanks, Obama,” for their presidential names.

Aptostichus barackobamai (trapdoor spider)

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Jason E Bond/Wikimedia Commons

In 2012, biologist Jason Bond of Auburn University in Alabama declared the existence of 33 new trapdoor spider species in the journal ZooKeys. He named many of them after celebrities like Stephen Colbert (Aptostichus stephencolberti) and even one after the aggressive desert-burrowing menace from Star Wars called the sarlacc (A. sarlacc). But Bond named one spider A. barackobamai in appreciation for Obama.

“I feel like his presidency is noteworthy,” Bond told Wired. “He’s been a true statesman in the face of ridiculous opposition.”

You can find A. barackobamai among the redwoods in north-central California, ambushing countless dim-witted insects, frogs, and even snakes that venture past its hidden trapdoors.

Etheostoma Obama (spangled darter)

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Blake Markwell/Flickr

The longest river in Tennessee is home to the darter, a tiny fish named for its tendency to zip around cold, clear waters. When examining color variation in the common speckled darter, biologists Steve Layman from Geosyntec Consultants, an environmental consulting and engineering firm based in Atlanta, and Richard Mayden at Saint Louis University in Missouri realized they weren’t looking at just one species, but five. As they describe in their November 2012 paper in the Bulletin of the Alabama Museum of Natural History, the duo named one Etheostoma obama, or the spangled darter. Only about 45 millimeters long, the fish is wonderfully colored with iridescent blue and orange spots and stripes.

The biologists say they decided to name the darter after Obama because of his focus on clean energy and environmental protection.

Obamadon gracillis (extinct insectivorous lizard)

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Ben Hanelt, Matthew G. Bolek, Andreas Schmidt-Rhaesa/Wikimedia Commons

Five million years ago, a fearsome lizard roamed the land … well, fearsome to insects, anyway. The now extinct Obamadon gracilis, or just Obamadon, was only a third of a meter long and devoured insects using a set of impressively tall and straight teeth. Paleontologists discovered an Obamadon fossil in Hell Creek Formation in Montana and published their finding in the December 2012 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

They were fascinated by the lizard’s impeccable choppers, which they say reminded them of President Obama’s smile.

Paragordius obamai (hairworm)

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Ben Hanelt, Matthew G. Bolek, Andreas Schmidt-Rhaesa/Wikimedia Commons

Hairworms are gruesome parasites that grow up to 30 centimeters long inside the bodies of their hosts. Lucky for you, they only infect crickets. One particular hairworm species, the African hairworm, was discovered in Kenya in 2012. Biologist Ben Hanelt of the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque was splitting open some crickets to check out their parasites, but was baffled when an entire population turned out to be female. Turns out he found the first species of parthenogenic hairworms—meaning the female parasites can reproduce without any male assistance, as noted in his PLOS ONE study published in April 2012.

Hanelt named the parasite Paragordius obamai in honor of Obama, as the president’s father and stepgrandmother are from a Kenyan town just 19 kilometers away from where he found the parasites.

Baracktrema obamai (turtle blood fluke)

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J. R. Roberts et. al. Journal of Parasitology 102, 4 (August 2016) © 2016 American Society of Parasitologists

Earlier this year, Obama had the honor of being named after a second parasite, this time one that lives in the blood of Malaysian freshwater turtles. As described in the August issue of the Journal of Parasitology, Baracktrema obamai are as thin as human hair and reside in the turtles’ lungs, where they lay their eggs. Thomas Platt, a biologist who retired from Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Indiana, this year, assures the public this is meant as a compliment to Obama, not an insult.

He told the Associated Press B. obamai reminded him of the sitting president of the United States (POTUS) because of its resilience throughout its life cycle, in addition to the fact that “it’s long. It’s thin. And it’s cool as hell.”

Nystalus obamai (western striolated puffbird)

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Illustration by Hilary Burn from: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J. & Christie, D.A. eds. (2013). Handbook of the Birds of the World. Special Volume: New Species and Global Index. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.

In 2008, biologist Bret Whitney at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge was doing field work in the Amazon when he heard a bird sing a song he’d never heard before. After analyzing its DNA, Whitney realized he’d found a new species of puffbird: stout, fluffy birds with exceptionally large heads that live mostly solitary lives in the Amazonian treetops.

Whitney named it Nystalus obamai in a June 2013 Handbook of the Birds of the World paper in honor of Obama’s impact on the development of green technology—particularly solar energy—that could help preserve ecosystems like N. obamai’s.

Teleogramma obamaorum (African cichlid species)

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Melanie L.J. SJassny

Along just 40 kilometers in a stream in the African Congo swims another Obama-monikered fish: Teleogramma obamaorum. The cichlid was discovered in 2011 when a drought caused water levels to dip down low, exposing the populations to researchers who were sampling the area. As noted in her April 2015 study in American Museum Novitates,

Melanie Stiassny, an ichthyologist at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, chose to name the fish the plural obamaorum in reference to both Michelle and Barack as a nod to their commitment to science education and environmental conservation in Africa.

Caloplaca obamae (firedot lichen)

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J. C. Lendemer

One species of orange-red lichen grows only on Santa Rosa Island off the coast of California: firedot lichen. Discovered during an ecological survey in 2007, Caloplaca obamae was the first organism to be named after the 44th president.

Researchers made their final collections of the lichen for research at the suspenseful tail end of Obama’s presidential campaign,so they chose C. obamae in support of Obama’s appreciation for science and science education.

They reported their discovery in the March 2009 issue of the journal Opuscula Philolichenum.

Tosanoides obama (coral reef basslet)

sn-obamalist
Richard L. Pyle

The newest organism to bear Obama’s name is a pink, blue, and yellow coral reef fish. Tosanoides obama was discovered in June of this year, and given its name in the journal ZooKeys.

Obama is the only fish to live exclusively in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, a protected reserve that President Obama expanded to 1,508,870 square kilometers this year in August. That decree made it the largest ecologically protected place on the planet, and it prohibits any commercial extraction like fishing or deep-sea mining within the monument.

Richard Pyle, a marine biologist at the Bishop Museum in Honolulu, discovered and named the fish, and insists, like other biologists before him, that it’s meant as a compliment to honor POTUS’s respect and protection of the natural world.

Source: These nine different creatures have been named after Barack Obama | Science | AAAS

To find out more about President Obama’s environmental legacy by protecting sacred Navajo land at Bears Ears, click here

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