Archive for April, 2011

Earth Day discussion: The plight of polar bears and the phenomenon of global warming denial

April 30, 2011

This Is A Good Discussion That Needs To Happen On A Frequent Basis Now.
Matt
By Richard Radford | Capital City Weekly
JUNEAU – For the past four decades, Earth Day has been a time for some to reexamine the paths to a “greener” future, and others to feel a pang of guilt for tossing all those AA batteries and mercury-laced “energy saving” light bulbs into the trash. For experts in the field of climate change, eyes turn north, to the future, where the effects of global warming are the most evident.

The Alaska Wildlife Alliance held a talk at the University of Alaska Southeast (UAS) on Earth Day last Friday, entitled “Climate Change, the Plight of Polar Bears, and the Phenomenon of Global Warming Denial.” University of Alaska Fairbanks Professor of Wildlife Biology Dr. David Klein discussed the current situation of polar bear populations, and Whitman College Professor Dr. Kari Norgaard talked about the modern trend of global warming denial across the globe.

Polar bears have become the unofficial mascot in discussions about climate change, given the increased push for drilling in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas north of Alaska. It’s certainly understood why, said Klein, an iconic figure in Alaskan arctic research. The North Slope is a significant area for polar bear populations.

“Not only is that an important habitat for polar bears, but we don’t know a lot about what would happen if there was drilling there in relationship to the polar bears,” he said. “Even if the sea ice is present there in the summertime which it is not now in most of that area.”

The news media usually gets it wrong, Klein said, talking about sea ice as being a habitat for the polar bears rather than their access to their habitat, and with a focus on the more “charismatic” critters running around on it rather than the ecosystem as a whole.

There is still a lot of information missing for the bigger picture of the future of polar bears, labeled as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (passed into law in 1973) by the U.S. Department of the Interior. The term “threatened” is often misunderstood, Klein said, and often people think that it means that the polar bears are threatened with extinction; in fact, they are threatened with becoming an endangered species. According to the language of the ESA, species listed as threatened are “likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range.”

Media plays a big role in the public perception of climate change, Klein said, in a variety of ways. Polar bears often make their way into headlines, leaving out the larger ecological picture. Complex ecosystems and causal relationships are broken down into easily digestible chunks, rendered into either/or situations.

“It never is either/or when it comes to nature,” he said.

Klein said that it’s important that journalists are not simply pandering to the perceived wants of their readers.

“They’re young reporters, usually, and they’re good at seeking out information, and they’re responding to what the readers seem to like,” Klein said. “They want to hear about the complete catastrophes, big earthquakes and tsunamis … Climate change? Yeah, they want to hear the bad sides of that. They don’t seem to be focused on, well, maybe a lot of people in society are like me, they’re frustrated optimists.”

The best way forward, Klein said, is learning about the tremendous amount of advancements being made in climate change science in various parts of the world; also important is the education of the younger generation about the kind of environment they live in, and will live in the future, whether they will strive to understand it or deny any knowledge of it.

The term “global warming denial,” which tends to elicit a chuckle (and indeed did from the audience at the lecture) from both environmental professionals and dilettantes, is actually more pervasive than might be imagined. Alex Simon, Alaska Wildlife Alliance board member and UAS assistant professor, described an informal poll of students at UAS a couple of years ago.

“Eleven percent of the people who responded said that global warming was not an actual phenomenon, which is kind of alarming when you can see, like, the glacier melting and you have 18-year-old students say, ‘Boy it used to be a lot bigger when I was a kid,'” he said. “Which, in geological time … I don’t know how you break that into seconds.”

There are several factors which contribute to why people choose to deny climate change, said Norgaard, whose new book, “Living in Denial,” explores her sociological work conducted in a rural Norwegian community.

Some credit the general apathy of people towards climate change to an inherent selfishness, Norgaard said, that people are just too busy and wrapped up in their lives to care. There is also the idea that if only people knew more and understood what was happening, they wouldn’t deny climate change.

However, like understanding climate science, dissecting how people think about climate change and the phenomenon of denial is not a simple task.

“When I talk about denial, I’m not talking about the idea that people don’t believe that it’s happening, but that we are sort of numb,” Norgaard said. “What looks like apathy is instead sort of this collective difficulty and dislike of thinking about climate change, ‘We’ll do other things instead. We’ll find something nice to talk about or think about.'”

Norgaard described the various types: literal denial (“It’s just not happening”), interpretive denial (“It’s happening, but human beings aren’t causing it”), and implicatory denial.

Implicatory denial – the focus of Norgaard’s work – is not about ignorance or manipulation, but rather acting as if something doesn’t matter, like putting blinders on to be able to completely ignore something negative, a natural disaster or human rights atrocity. Something incredibly unsettling, like a human-exacerbated ecological crisis, is not what we want to think about, Norgaard said.

“It is disturbing to us,” she said. “I do not like to think about climate change. I spend a lot time thinking about it, and I really do not like to. And I don’t imagine that there’s very many people that enjoy thinking about … what’s going to happen in this community, or what’s going to happen to different species that are very disturbing, destructive situations.”

Norgaard said that it’s easy to be outraged at someone who doesn’t believe in climate change, but it is not a productive use of time.

“Just as the Norwegians can say ‘We aren’t as bad as the Americans’, it gives us a way to say the real problem is those who don’t believe climate change is happening,” she said. “Which I think is the wrong debate to have. We need to figure out how to respond to it.”

For more information about this and other Alaska Wildlife Alliance projects, visit the organization online at http://www.akwildlife.org.

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Thinking Like A Mountain

April 28, 2011

Fact: I took 2 classes on Aldo Leopold when a junior and a senior in college. One class was on leopolds writings one was a graduate seminar on the “land ethic” called, Thinking Like A Mountain.

Well last evening at the Musesum of the Rockies some of my favorite Bozeman Based Conservation groups sponsored a new documentary on Aldo Leopold called, Green Fire, refering to when Leopold shot a wolf and saw in the dying wolves eyes the seeds of his epic idea for a land ethic.

This is a central tenant of conservation that requires all of “the cogs of conservation” to be used to protect the land that supports the focus of what is to be conserved.

The film was about Leopold’s evolution of a Land Ethic in his thinking and about Aldo Leopold the man…I give the documentary a big thumbs up and I think this film should be seen by all.
Matt

Top US court considers major climate change case In Yahoo News, April 27

April 27, 2011

If these guys are reluctant…than who is next?
Matt
Supreme Court justices appeared reluctant Tuesday to take a definitive stand in a key global warming case on the right of US states to regulate carbon emissions as a “public nuisance.” People wait to enter outside the US Supreme Court in March
Enlarge photo .In considering an appeals court ruling in favor of a lawsuit filed by environmentalists, eight states and New York City, allowing them to sue utility companies over their greenhouse gas emissions, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said the courts may not be the best forum for the fight.

“The relief that you’re seeking, asking a court to set standards for emissions, sounds like the kind of thing that EPA does,” she said, referring to the US Environmental Protection Agency.

Ginsburg said the environmental groups and states seem “to set up a district judge, who does not have the resources (or) the expertise, as a kind of super EPA.”

Justice Samuel Alito noted also that the court did not know “what Congress may do down the road,” and that there was possible conflict with action government agencies are working on.

Under President Barack Obama’s tenure, the EPA has started a process of setting standards for emissions from fossil fuel power plants and petroleum refineries, the source of nearly 40 percent of US greenhouse emissions.

But with Republicans maintaining that carbon restrictions would drive up fuel prices and costs for businesses, Democrat lawmakers have been unable to pass a law mandating such restrictions.

The companies involved in the case, among others the American Electric Power Company and Tennessee Valley Authority, are responsible for 10 percent of US emissions, said the team representing the environmental groups and states.

The case, said the advocates, comes down to “the fundamental authority of the states to protect their land and citizens.”

However in defense of the companies, Justice Anthony Scalia complained the environmentalists were “lumping them (power companies) all together.

“Suppose you lump together all the cows of the country. Would that allow you to sue all those farmers… cow by cow?” he asked.

The case could have a significant impact on the US approach to fighting climate change, with the power companies pressing to overturn the lower ruling, which the firms claim created a “regime for setting caps on greenhouse gas emissions based on ‘vague and indeterminate nuisance concepts.'”

The potential compensation for the impact of climate change, the companies have argued, could “make the tobacco payouts look like peanuts.”

In their view the move would allow an individual court’s assessment “of what is ‘reasonable'” compensation to the potential damage their output caused.

According to one of the environmental groups that brought the case, Open Space Institute, the appeals court’s ruling set a “major precedent in that it gives citizens — in the absence of climate change legislation — the right to take action against big business pollution.”

The lawsuit was brought by the groups, New York City, and the states of Connecticut, California, Iowa, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Wisconsin.

Places I Like For Birds

April 26, 2011

Two areas in North America that are excellent for warbler watching are the C and O Canal along it’s entire length and the Sabine Woods along the gulf coast of North America. Both areas are migration habitats. There are many other good areas for warblers but the two I mention are among the best.

If you are looking for shorebirds you cannot go wrong with Snake Bite, in the Florida Everglades. You might go to Bolivar Flats in the Texas portion of the gulf coast.

If you are looking for waterfowl I would look in the “headwaters” around Yellowstone National Park during the migrations or look at the wildlife refuges during the migrations along the known flyways of North America.

Two areas I like for gulls are Santa Cruz, California and Hoboken, New Jersey.
For Raptors I like Bensten Rio Grande County Park in Texas and nearby where I live, the Bridger Ridge.

For sparrows I like Southern Florida and Annuac National Wildlife Refuge in Texas.

For birdy places in the US to visit I would go to Cape May New Jersey, Dauphin Island, Alabama, Santa Anna National Wildlife Refuge in Texas, Point Reyes, California, most of Southwestern and Western Alaska along the coast.

Its spring migration and their is good birdng all throughout North America.
Matt

Battle over polar bear habitat heats up, In The Summit County Citizens Voice, Posted By Bob Berwyn

April 25, 2011

This case goes right to the heart of global climate change issues, so read on.
Matt

SUMMIT COUNTY — The legal wrangling over critical polar bear habitat in Alaska will probably go into the history books as one of the fundamental battles over endangered species, global warming and energy politics.

At stake is the very survival of the magnificent Arctic ursine, and the lines are clearly drawn. Living up to its obligation to protect endangered species under the law, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declared polar bears as threatened, citing the impacts of global warming.

Last month, the The Alaska Oil and Gas Association and the state of Alaska challenged the critical habitat designation for polar bears in court, complaining that the protections for the bears would plans for Arctic oil drilling.
Alaska Native corporations separately notified Interior of their intent to challenge the critical habitat rule but to date have not filed a lawsuit.

This week, the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife and Greenpeace intervened in the lawsuit.

“If polar bears are going to live to see the next century, we have to rapidly reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and preserve the Arctic, not turn it into a dirty industrial zone,” said Rebecca Noblin, the Center for Biological Diversity’s Alaska director. “To protect polar bears we must protect the places they live, both from dangerous climate change and from oil spills.”

The polar bear was listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act in 2008 because of the rapid melting of its sea-ice habitat. In November 2010, Interior designated 120 million acres of sea ice, barrier islands and coastal areas in Alaska as critical habitat for the bear. The Endangered Species Act prohibits federal agencies from authorizing activities that will destroy or harm a listed species’ critical habitat.

“With their homes literally melting beneath their feet, polar bears need all the protection they can get,” said Jason Rylander, an attorney with Defenders of Wildlife. “If polar bears are to survive the impacts of climate change, we have to protect the habitat that is critical to their ability to find food and raise their young.”

Despite protecting great swaths of the Arctic Ocean as polar bear habitat, the Interior Department is currently moving forward with plans to allow oil companies to drill in that very same habitat.

Earlier this year the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon and Offshore Drilling released a report concluding that the oil industry is not prepared to deal with a large spill in the Arctic and recommending that no drilling be allowed until the industry can demonstrate the ability to clean up spills in the harsh conditions of the Arctic Ocean.

“If we protect polar bear critical habitat, we are by extension also protecting the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the Chukchi Sea and other important areas of the Arctic,” said Melanie Duchin, a climate campaigner with Greenpeace. “The state and oil industry’s lawsuits are a threat not just to the polar bear but to the health of the Arctic ecosystem.”

Is It Too late For Polar Bears, By Earth Talk In HealthNewsDigest.com

April 24, 2011

This may be the way it is-a slow (by our standards) death for the polar bear species.
Matt

Its getting harder for polar bears due to global warming. Polar bears live within the Arctic Circle and feed primarily on ringed seals. The bears’ feeding strategy involves swimming from the mainland to and between offshore ice floes, poaching seals as they come up to breathe at holes in the ice.

But climate change is heating up the atmosphere and substantial amounts of offshore sea ice are melting. The result is that bears must swim further and further out to sea in search of ice floes; some expend all of their energy in doing so and end up drowning. Scientists first noticed this deadly phenomenon in 2004 when they noticed four drowned polar bears in the Beaufort Sea off Alaska’s North Slope.

More recently, researchers from the United States Geological Survey (USGS) fitted several Alaskan polar bears with tracking collars to find out the extent of their travels and document how much trouble they are having hunting in a warmer Arctic. One of the bears, a mother with a yearling cub on her back, made what researchers are calling an “epic journey in search of food” during September-October 2008. “This bear swam continuously for 232 hours and 687 km and through waters that were 2-6 degrees C,” reports USGS research zoologist George M. Durner. “We are in awe that an animal that spends most of its time on the surface of sea ice could swim constantly for so long in water so cold.” During the rest of the two-month tracking period, the bear intermittently swam and walked on ice floes for another 1,200 miles.

But while the mama bear survived the ordeal, she lost 22 percent of her body fat during a crucial time of year for fattening up before a long winter’s hibernation. And her cub was not so fortunate. “It was simply more energetically costly for the yearling than the adult to make this long distance swim,” said Durner, whose findings were published in the January 2011 edition of Polar Biology. The case of this one polar bear and the failure of her offspring to survive in the new environmental conditions of the Arctic doesn’t bode well for the future of the species, especially as Arctic sea ice continues to retreat at a record pace.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which maintains the international “Red List” of threatened species, considers the polar bear “vulnerable” due to climate change-induced retreating sea ice. For its part, the U.S. government listed polar bears as “threatened” in 2008 under the Endangered Species Act. The IUCN website also points out that, while the polar bear has come to symbolize the impact of global warming on wildlife, many other species are similarly affected, including the ringed seal and well-known species like the beluga whale, arctic fox, koala and emperor penguin.

Some argue that, since it is illegal to engage in activities that could harm or kill threatened or endangered species, Americans should be forced to cut their greenhouse gas emissions to preserve polar bear habitat. While such a notion hasn’t forced many of us to voluntarily drive fewer miles or turn down our heat, it might be just what it will take the world’s largest land carnivore from going the way of the dodo.

Greetings And A Plug

April 22, 2011

Happy Earth Day…go see, African Cats at a theatre near you…take a girlfriend, boyfriend, wife, husband or the children or just yourself. You will not be sorry.
Matt

The WeLoveBirds Photo Contest

April 22, 2011

This is from a great website that you should check out. Last year was the second photo contest on this site, WeLoveBirds.org. The photos get better every year.
Matt

Welcome to the 3rd WeLoveBirds.org photo contest! Welovebirds.org boasts nearly 32,000 member-contributed photos, and the collection only grows week after week, and the collection is growing daily.

To participate in the WeLoveBirds.org photo contest, please read the Terms and Conditions, and then submit your ONE photo. We will be accepting photos up until April 29; then community voting will take place from May 3 to May 7. Winners will be announced on May 9. The contest is open to members of WeLoveBirds. If you are not yet a member, we invite you to become one. It’s free and easy – just visit the homepage and click to join.

Photo Submission Instructions – PLEASE READ
• Send your wild bird photo (one per member) to Welovebirdsphotocontest@gmail.com as an attachment
• The subject line of your email will be displayed as the title of your photo
• Write your WeLoveBirds user name in the body of the email, and a caption if you wish
• Photo may not exceed 10MB in size, accepted file types: .jpg, .gif, and .png
• Email info@welovebirds.org with any questions

Judging
• Final judging will take place within the community. NRDC and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology will select the top 100 photos, and the top ten will be determined by community voting. All members will have the opportunity to vote for their favorite photo. In the event of any ties, NRDC and the Lab will break the tie in their sole discretion.
• The winning selections will be posted online after the close of the voting period. Winners will also be notified via email.

As Companies Gather for Shareholder Meetings, Opposition to Bristol Bay Mine Mounts By Robert Redford, For NRDC, onearth Magazine

April 22, 2011

Redford, One of the greats, on Alaska bad idea…The Pebble Creek Mine.
Matt

I am not against mining. I am against putting mega-mines where they don’t belong. Near my home in Utah, Rio Tinto’s massive Bingham Canyon Mine is one of the biggest man-made excavations on Earth and has rendered a large area of local groundwater too polluted for human consumption.

Now, the Rio Tinto and Anglo American companies want to put a mine even bigger than Bingham at the headwaters of our planet’s greatest wild salmon river systems in Bristol Bay, Alaska. It’s an environmental tragedy waiting to happen.

Their Pebble Mine would be gouged out of an American paradise — filled with salmon, bears, moose, caribou, wolves and whales — that has sustained Native communities for thousands of years.

Imagine a pit two miles wide by 2,000 feet deep, and an underground mine a mile deep. This gargantuan gold and copper operation would produce an estimated 10 billion tons of contaminated waste — 3,000 pounds for every man, woman and child on Earth.

Massive earthen dams — some taller than the Three Gorges Dam in China — would be constructed to hold back that waste forever. Now imagine all this in an active earthquake zone at the headwaters of the largest sockeye salmon runs in the world. The threat to Bristol Bay just below is unimaginable.

No wonder the Pebble Mine is opposed by nearly 80 percent of Bristol Bay residents. The growing coalition to stop this disaster-in-the-making is led by Native village corporations, associations and tribes from around Bristol Bay. They’ve partnered with commercial and recreational fishermen, sportsmen and conservation groups to protect the thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars that come from Bristol Bay’s renewable economic engine: wild salmon.

Anglo American’s history is littered with one pollution disaster after another: from Zimbabwe to Ireland to Nevada. Rio Tinto has left a trail of toxic contamination that spans the globe: from Indonesia to Bolivia to Utah. Do you trust these companies to take a catastrophic risk with one of our last and greatest wild places?

In February, the Mitsubishi Corporation did the right thing by ending its participation in this misguided venture.

Now it’s time for Rio Tinto and Anglo American to do the same. Both companies are holding their annual shareholder meetings this month in London.

Conservationists Intervene In A Lawsuit That Aims To Take Away Polar Bear Habitat

April 21, 2011

These Oil and Gas companies epitomize greed and here is an example of that greed!!!
Matt

ANCHORAGE, Alaska— The Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife and Greenpeace today intervened in a lawsuit in order to defend polar bear critical habitat against challenges from oil companies and the state of Alaska.

The Alaska Oil and Gas Association and the state of Alaska are challenging the Interior Department’s 2010 designation of more than 120 million acres (187,000 square miles) of critical habitat for the polar bear in Arctic Alaska. The plaintiffs complain that the protections for polar bear habitat will be an impediment to oil drilling in the Arctic.

“If polar bears are going to live to see the next century, we have to rapidly reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and preserve the Arctic, not turn it into a dirty industrial zone,” said Rebecca Noblin, the Center for Biological Diversity’s Alaska director. “To protect polar bears we must protect the places they live, both from dangerous climate change and from oil spills.”

The polar bear was listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act in 2008 because of the rapid melting of its sea-ice habitat. In November 2010, Interior designated 120 million acres of sea ice, barrier islands and coastal areas in Alaska as critical habitat for the bear. The Endangered Species Act prohibits federal agencies from authorizing activities that will destroy or harm a listed species’ critical habitat.

“With their homes literally melting beneath their feet, polar bears need all the protection they can get,” said Jason Rylander, an attorney with Defenders of Wildlife. “If polar bears are to survive the impacts of climate change, we have to protect the habitat that is critical to their ability to find food and raise their young.”

Despite protecting great swaths of the Arctic Ocean as polar bear habitat, the Interior Department is currently moving forward with plans to allow oil companies to drill in that very same habitat. Oil drilling and polar bears do not mix. Earlier this year the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon and Offshore Drilling released a report concluding that the oil industry is not prepared to deal with a large spill in the Arctic and recommending that no drilling be allowed until the industry can demonstrate the ability to clean up spills in the harsh conditions of the Arctic Ocean.

“If we protect polar bear critical habitat, we are by extension also protecting the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the Chukchi Sea and other important areas of the Arctic,” said Melanie Duchin, a climate campaigner with Greenpeace. “The state and oil industry’s lawsuits are a threat not just to the polar bear but to the health of the Arctic ecosystem.”

The Alaska Oil and Gas Association and the state of Alaska filed their challenges to polar bear habitat in federal district court in Alaska last