Archive for January, 2009

Protected Areas and Biodiversity

January 31, 2009

This may seem like common sense to most of you but I have been reading a lot of “round about” things that reach the same conclusion: That is that protected areas are the best chance of protecting the biodiversity of an area. The larger a protected area is the more biodiversity it protects and it is helpful that the area is not like an island, surrounded by a sea of humanity.

What bought this on? I can hear you thinking that. I have read a lot about the conservation of large predators and conserving top trophic predators is much the same as conserving biodiversity.

I would say that in close to 100% of the times where you have high biodiversity the area where you have it is hard to get to or protected in its designation. National Parks, Wilderness Areas, National Wildlife Refuges or hard to get to places like the Pantanel, with poor habitats for human use, at least for now, are the kinds of areas where you have high biodiversity.

I started to read a book about tigers the other day and I could recite each chapter which was about the decimation of wild tigers as human pressure grows on them (pretty photos except the Chinese tiger farm photo. human pressure can be human populations increasing as I saw around African game parks, habitat decimation, overhunting and more. The end result is that the tiger will survive in habitats that are big, protected or isolated. The one factor that all of these areas have in commmon is a reduced, far reduced, presence of humankind.

I see this with wolves around here. Wolves thrive in places like Yellowstone National Park and the River of No Return (Salmon River) Wilderness. When wolves come into ranchlands settled by humans, but not many humans, but the humans have guns. Wolves kill livestock and wolves are then wiped out. If they stay in the huge park or the huge River of No Return Wilderness than they will be fine except for an occasional possibly regulatory pathogen.

It works that way close to 100% of the time.

So when you here labels like Ecosystem Management or types of practices like Best Management Practices be suspicious.

I would call that my ethics based opinion, based on what I observe (hundreds of examples) works. This is my thinking not backed up by hard data, but it works best for sure.


Bearzi Is Correct and A Bone To Pick

January 31, 2009

In an article entitled, When Swordfish Conservation Biologists Eat Swordfish. This is an editorial that appears in the February, 2009 edition of Conservation Biology Magazine written by,Giovanni Bearzi. This author quotes a famous Mahatma Gandhi quote were Gandhi said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”

How wise, indeed. The jist of Bearzi’s article is that some of the greatest hypocrates he sees in the world, talk a good line about changing habits,  but do not change themselves. Bearzi is talking about Conservation Biologist who want to change the world to their vision of better. They make a good argument that their vision of better is a lifestyle that is sustainable and a lifestyle that will sustain the earth.

What Bearzi is writing is that some of these same persons saying all of these good things detract from sustainability and opt for the comfort of a large SUV or the good taste of swordfish sushi.

Now this post is not about sushi and I, over an adult lifetime, have eaten my share of sushi and have done some of the wasteful things that Bearzi wags his pen about. I do not think that makes me a bad person, just an ignorant person and me, a conservation biologist who has wagged his finger at hypocrasy more than once.

Bearzi is painfully right though and many of the good persons need to think long and hard about how their role impacts the very same society they have an affinity to wag their finger at…


This is not a winer’s rag, and I am sorry if it reads like one, but here goes-a “bone to pick”.

I have been reading a lot of science articles of late. These people are some of the worst writer’s I have seen.

They must go to the dictionary and find the most confusing or the hardest word they can find to make a simple point. The other day I read through 50 pages in which a scientist merely wrote species x would go extinct if it was killed continuously. I read his paper twice to understand what he was saying…and that is what he said…PLEASE. I am no writer but it does not take me 50 pages to write a single point. 

Can we “boil” things down?  In science, that includes sciences like economics where I have seen some real “hummers” of papers, I think there is a good way of writing and a bad way of writing.

Some of the best science writing I have seen gets a topic “pealed” down to it’s essence and tell you what you should no like a punch and there is no hiding behind lots of words.

I wish most science writers would take a course in writing good science papers and leave the words in the dictionaries and the lengths on the tracks, where those things belong!!!


Butterfly Habitat and Global Warming

January 30, 2009

This was an interesting article on the Yahoo group of global warming articles I though I would share with you.


David Adam, science correspondent, Saturday 7 June 2003 08.50 BST Article historyBritain’s butterflies are being hit by a double whammy of climate change and changing land use, scientists have warned.
A survey has revealed that dozens of the rarest types are in severe decline. Removal of their habitats has prevented the butterflies spreading their wings and moving north to take advantage of the warmer and wetter weather.

“The situation is bleak,” said Richard Fox, an expert with Butterfly Conservation, who co-wrote the report with Jane Hill at York University.

“We have already seen some substantial climate warming and we would have expected that to benefit all of our species. But the massive survey we have done shows most of our species have declined.”

Specialist habitats such as woodland, grasslands and heaths are being destroyed, preventing the butterflies from spreading.

The scientists used climate models to predict the distribution of future butterfly populations. Records show Britain has warmed by 1C to 1.5C over the past 25 years. This trend should help butterflies such as the ringlet, which currently live in the warmer weather of the south.

“[But] a more realistic scenario is that it will decline in the future as it will disappear from areas in the south, but fail to colonise many areas in the north,” the scientists write in the Biologist magazine.

The scientists looked at the distribution of 46 of Britain’s 56 resident butterfly species, ignoring those that migrate. Distribution of three-quarters of these had declined since the 70s.

Those most at risk include specialist species such as the high brown fritillary, which has caterpillars that only feed on plants like the common dog-violet, found in wood land clearings or underneath bracken.

Climate change should encourage these butterflies to follow the warmer weather north, but their distribution has declined by 77% since the 70s. The high brown fritillary is now one of the rarest butterflies and only found at about 50 sites.

But other woodland species such as the comma butterfly are thriving. The scientists found that its range has expanded some 79% with the warmer weather, partly because its larva can feed on a wider range of plants, including common nettles.

If these trends continue many of the specialist populations face extinction, leaving butterfly communities dominated by a few mobile and generalist types. “Most species may fail to keep track of climate warming,” Dr Fox said.

The “Wake Up Call”

January 29, 2009

This premise of this article is a paper by Solomonet. al., scientifically based, that was in the article and this paper-well respected in the science community, was the center of a fascinating debate that was quashed when Bush was our president and that debate is front and center now. There is the Clintonian view that we can have a strong economy and we can mitigate global Warming concurrently or a climatologist viewpoint who made an Erhlech (Population Bomb) type of argument that we need less people on the earth with a US standard of living on earth and what China and India do is important, as popularised by Friedman. It all gets back to what Gore said, “How hard do we want to fall”? I got the impression that we control our own destiny and must get used to climate change on some level. This was a fascinating debate on Warren Olney’s NPR “To The Point” radio show. The below cited study was the start of a great debate that used to be the converted arguing with the converted. Now I can say that the circle has expanded for the better.

Published: January 26, 2009
Many people who worry about global warming hope that once emissions of heat-trapping gases decline, the problems they cause will quickly begin to abate.

Skip to next paragraph
Times Topics: Global Warming | Carbon DioxideNow researchers are saying that such hope is ill-founded, at least with regard to carbon dioxide.

Because of the way carbon dioxide persists in the atmosphere and in the oceans, and the way the atmosphere and the oceans interact, patterns that are established at peak levels will produce problems like “inexorable sea level rise” and Dust-Bowl-like droughts for at least a thousand years, the researchers are reporting in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“That peak would be the minimum you would be locking yourself into,” said Susan Solomon, a senior scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, who led the work.

The researchers describe what will happen if the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide — the principal heat-trapping gas emission — reaches 450 to 600 parts per million, up from about 385 p.p.m. today. Most climate researchers consider 450 p.p.m. virtually inevitable and 600 p.p.m. difficult to avoid by midcentury if the use of fossil fuels continues at anything like its present rate.

At 450 p.p.m., the researchers say, rising seas will threaten many coastal areas, and Southern Europe, North Africa, the Southwestern United States and Western Australia could expect 10 percent less rainfall.

“Ten percent may not seem like a high number,” Dr. Solomon said Monday in a telephone news conference, “but it is the kind of number that has been seen in major droughts in the past, like the Dust Bowl.”

At 600 p.p.m., there might be perhaps 15 percent less rain, she said.

In 1850, atmospheric carbon dioxide was roughly 280 p.p.m., a level scientists say had not been exceeded in at least the previous 800,000 years.

In their paper, Dr. Solomon and her colleagues say they confined their estimates to known data and effects. For example, they based their sea level estimates largely on the expansion of seawater as it warms, a relatively straightforward calculation, rather than including the contributions of glacial runoff or melting inland ice sheets — more difficult to predict but potentially far greater contributors to sea level rise.

The new work dealt only with the effects of carbon dioxide, which is responsible for about half of greenhouse warming. Gases like chlorofluorocarbons and methane, along with soot and other pollutants, contribute to the rest. These substances are far less persistent in the atmosphere; if these emissions drop, their effects will decline relatively fast.

Michael Oppenheimer, a geoscientist at Princeton, praised the report in an e-mail message as a “remarkably clear and direct” discussion of whether it would be possible to temporarily exceed a level like 450 p.p.m. and then reduce emissions in time to avoid catastrophic events like the collapse of a major inland ice sheet.

Dr. Oppenheimer said the new analysis showed that “some dangerous consequences could be triggered and persist for a long, long time, even if emissions were cut radically.”

“Policy makers need to understand,” he continued, “that in some ways once we are over the cliff, there’s nothing to stop the fall.”

Dr. Solomon said it would be wrong to view the report as evidence that it was already too late to do much good by reducing carbon emissions. “You have to think of this stuff as being more like nuclear waste than acid rain,” she said.

Acid rain began to abate when pollution contributing to it was limited. But just as nuclear waste remains radioactive for a long time, the effects of carbon dioxide persist.

“So if we slow it down,” she said, “we have more time to find solutions.”

For example, engineers may one day discover ways to remove the gas from the atmosphere. But “those solutions are not now in hand,” Dr. Solomon said. “They are quite speculative.”

Bones To Pick

January 28, 2009

Why was a windfarm built in eastern Montana and the power was sold in the US and the profits to this venture went to Spain? Alternative energy needs to be developed. The profit needs to be pocketed by an American company. I read about this at the height of financial “Armageddon” in our country, back in October, and many Americans were being laid off from their jobs.

I know the world has to move to alternative forms of energy but this is the kind of thinking that got us into the financial mess we are in now!!! Isolation, smitolation. As we convert to alternative forms of energy and I so support that, let’s not forget this countries strong history of innovation and lets do this (develop alternative forms of energy) and bring the “bacon” home as we do this!!!!

A friend told me he was frustrated. He has been developing solar energy for twenty or so years. Three times he got serious about solar power development to the point he was going to make a living on solar power.

There were no incentives for him to do solar for a living and our infrastructure was not set up for solar power. He had children so he did not take a risk because infrastructure was not there for him to rely on so he became an electrician and made money at that. What a loss to us as a society because he would have gone solar, and helped many others go solar, if he could.

The other day I was in a fair trade coffee shop. I was drinking coffee and talking to an old ecologist friend…we were both amazed that the evangelical Christian community was very strong on issues like global warming for Christian reasons…working with the poor and being good stewards of God’s gifts.

I first heard about global warming and the “greenhouse effect” about 30 years ago and it took several world catastrophes and 27 years before I paid attention to global warming as one of the real issues that will impact our world.

The front page of a home-town paper about this part of the west drying out and how the average person does not notice this as they hike somewhere. Myself, and this ecologist, notice the scourge of global climate change!!!!I see the drying out, pine bark beetles lasting through the winter, exotic plants and so on…each time I go out. I can’t help but think this will be a different looking place in 20 years. My heart is already sad!!!!

Speaking (writing) of bones to pick I was watching a news show this morning and Exxon-Mobil was the sponsor and their spokesperson said as we jump to alternative energy we can spend trillions of dollars on gas and oil and by doing this we increase taxes into infrastructure…made you want to stand up and put your hand on your chest and hum the National Anthem. Do persons actually fall for that stuff? Are we (USA) going to be lulled into this joke on society; a stranglehold on our neck as Exxon-Mobil laughs all the way to the bank!!!

Two adds later GMC was selling an SUV that got all of 16 miles to the gallon (that miles to the gallon was in small letters quickly pulled off of the screen). The sticker tag for the GMC SUV was 40 grand. You can stand in line at the soup kitchen and I will do an add trying to sell you water in a desert. That is how out of touch GMC sounded.

The front page of the local paper yesterday said Obama told American auto leaders they must change (not sure what the title was but this captures the jist of the article). The jist  of the article was that Obama said US auto makers must stop making gas hogs just because of the security of our country and convert their auto building to build smaller autos that are more efficient and use no oil and gas. Do you think US automakers are way, way out of touch with what persons are now willing to buy. Obama, by far, is on the right track. His largest detractors were the US automakers, if you can believe that, almost as bad as the prior post.

I read an article yesterday that said the US could do its share to mitigate global climate change by building efficient cars, with efficient cafe standards by 2030 (again this is the jist of what I read)… My thinking was that China and India need to be on board also or all the good work of the USA can be wiped out.

This beats the hell out of the Bush Administration who did nothing about climate change except try to refute this reality.

Man Freezes To Death For Not Paying His Power Bill

January 27, 2009

Check this out it almost doesnt seem real.

Mon Jan 26, 3:32 pm ET Play Video AP – WW II Vet freezes to death inside his own home BAY CITY, Mich. – A 93-year-old man froze to death inside his home just days after the municipal power company restricted his use of electricity because of unpaid bills, officials said.

Marvin E. Schur died “a slow, painful death,” said Kanu Virani, Oakland County’s deputy chief medical examiner, who performed the autopsy.

Neighbors discovered Schur’s body on Jan. 17. They said the indoor temperature was below 32 degrees at the time, The Bay City Times reported Monday.

“Hypothermia shuts the whole system down, slowly,” Virani said. “It’s not easy to die from hypothermia without first realizing your fingers and toes feel like they’re burning.”

Schur owed Bay City Electric Light & Power more than $1,000 in unpaid electric bills, Bay City Manager Robert Belleman told The Associated Press on Monday.

A city utility worker had installed a “limiter” device to restrict the use of electricity at Schur’s home on Jan. 13, Belleman said. The device limits power reaching a home and blows out like a fuse if consumption rises past a set level. Power is not restored until the device is reset.

The limiter was tripped sometime between the time of installation and the discovery of Schur’s body, Belleman said. He didn’t know if anyone had made personal contact with Schur to explain how the device works.

Schur’s body was discovered by neighbor George Pauwels Jr.

“His furnace was not running, the insides of his windows were full of ice the morning we found him,” Pauwels told the newspaper.

Belleman said city workers keep the limiter on houses for 10 days, then shut off power entirely if the homeowner hasn’t paid utility bills or arranged to do so.

He said Bay City Electric Light & Power’s policies will be reviewed, but he didn’t believe the city did anything wrong.

“I’ve said this before and some of my colleagues have said this: Neighbors need to keep an eye on neighbors,” Belleman said. “When they think there’s something wrong, they should contact the appropriate agency or city department.”

Schur had no children and his wife had died several years ago.

Bay City is on Saginaw Bay, just north of the city of Saginaw in central Michigan.


Information from: The Bay City Times,

Computer Glitch

January 26, 2009

I have a computer glitch. Nothing new there. Back tommorow.

A Paper About Trends In Environmental Economics

January 24, 2009

I have just read a paper entitled, Trends in the development of ecological economics from the late 1980’s to the early 2000’s by Inge Ropke, and the paper was about papers that show economics as an artifact of ecology. Then I discussed the paper with a friend who is an ecologist, telling him that he will find that the greatest disbelievers in what reads like a very plausable way of looking at economy will come from sectors that should be allied with that way of looking at the world.
Oh well!!That is what makes the world go round.
I could not help but think some of the largest gadflies on global climate change come from the environmental sector, ala Laren…

Polar Bear Bone To Pick

January 22, 2009

I have just read an ecological paper that does not show polar bears surviving the changes they face.

Disney and World Wildlife Fund are using this sad occassion to make a buck and this really bothers me!!!!

Fatigue for Sure.

January 21, 2009

I was in a heaven yesterday as Barak Obama was inaugurated. I did feel very fatigued as Bush and Cheney left Washington. I am a hardcore enviro and have been for many years and have yet to see anyone like them and I made it through Watt. It was kind of like crawling over a finish line. No one wins, but I barely did. At least in my mind I did.